I gathered a wide range of items that you might find around a household or classroom. I brought it into class and told students that we were going to use it to learn our vocabulary terms. After introducing a new term and defining it, I asked students to pick something from the junk drawer collection that they could relate to the term and explain their thinking.
Here are some real student examples for the term “ecosystem”:
- A piece of string because in an ecosystem everything is tied together
- A Rubix Cube because there is variety in an ecosystem and if you change one thing, it effects the other things
- A key - balance is the key to an ecosystem
- Colored sticky dots because there are different things in an ecosystem but they all kind of stick together
- Scissors make me think of the game Rock, Paper, Scissors which operates kind of like an ecosystem. Some have more power in some situations, but they're kind of interdependent.
Students enjoyed interacting with the hands-on materials, and I saw evidence of deep comprehension in their connections. Most importantly, I love this strategy because it is easy for any teacher to do - just empty your junk drawer!