Structuring School Opportunities

Step-Chart Activities

Step-chart activities bridge free discovery and adult demonstration.

When I provided children with at least one step-chart activity per week it blew me away how much it changed the culture of the classroom and fostered interdependence — boys working with girls and everyone working with others who were not their best friends. Step-chart activities follow a set sequence: (1) demonstrate, (2) freely do or not do, (3) represent. In large group time the leader demonstrates step by step how to make something she thinks all of the children might like to make for themselves — within their ZPD — and simply sets the materials out in free play for the children to use as they wish without help from adults; other children become the go-to resources. Later, the leader reviews the sequence in a reflective large group time, or if the children are capable, the children represent the sequence in oral descriptions, drawings, or photos to guide other children and share the sequences with the community.

It is important that the leader demonstrate each step clearly referring to the step-chart by page number as the children simply watch and discuss. Each action is referred back to the image, so the image begins to make sense. (At this demonstration the children have no materials at all.) The images do not convey what to do, they represent what they have seen done. The images make sense only after the children have made the product and the images are reviewed at a later time. I also happily demonstrate mistakes and fix them.

  1. demonstrate (group time)
  2. do (free time)
  3. represent (group time)

Each completed step-chart is linked to a separate page.

Booklet Binding

A step chart for adults I made for my Project Approach class. It works for children age five and up. Using scissors, scoring, folding, tucking, gluing.


A helicopter master has to be cut apart into four helicopters the children cut, fold, and attach a paper clip. Essential skills.


spiderpage-06Polymer clay (Sculpey III) and long chenille sticks both of good spider color. Having photographs or scientific drawings of spiders enable the children to look more closely at the parts of a spider. Molding, bending, sculpting.

Ghost or てるてる坊主

Teru teru bōzu is an amulet or doll from Japan, the same as a Western ghost, which is a humorous bald-headed appeal to the gods for sunshine. Rubber bands.


Eyedroppers and folding.

Wrapping a Box

Tape dispenser and wrapping

Cleaning Clay Tables

Drywall knife, wet paper towels


Scissors, tape dispenser, hole punch


Rolling, attaching file folder label to toothpick

Pressing Leaves

Alternating layers



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