My final project was allowing students to explore different tools we use in our classroom. One day we went outside and looked for things in nature that could be used as writing tools instead of pens and pencils. My students got very excited and started picking up sticks and rocks that could be used. We discussed which sticks would be most useful depending on their shape, size, and point. Then the following week, we put several tubs in writing center that contained soil (a vocabulary word of the week), sticks and rocks, and letter tiles in them. This student got really excited about using his new tools to write the sight words that were posted on the wall!
I redid my sensory box for our new unit: Things That Grow. I put a lot of animal food in it (seeds, corn, hay) and put sight word butterflies and matching sight word "caterpillars" (made from clothespins) in it as well. I tried to use a play, debrief, play model when I introduced this center. I first just let them have at it by exploring the different elements and observing the different foods and textures. Then in centers meeting and during later center times, I asked some questions to get students thinking more critically about what they were playing with. They explored how animal food was different from and similar to people food, and observed that corn and seeds had similar characteristics. The conversation among students in this center was much richer following the debrief, and I found that they were much more engaged with the actual materials even though they weren't necessarily doing the sight word matching.