Fidget spinners in the classroom is a hot topic. While many parents and teachers see the benefits of fidget spinners and their controlled use in the classroom, their popularity with students has led to some backlash – especially as many students have been using them as a toy and not a tool for focus.
Put a Positive Spin on Fidget Spinners
Regardless of your feelings about using fidget spinners in the classroom, I do think there is something there with the trend that educators should not ignore. I always try to know and incorporate student interest into the classroom as it helps build classroom community and engagement. Fidget spinners are no different then the bottle flipping and blow cup challenges that get students so excited!
While I think that unfettered access to fidget spinners in the classroom is a distraction, instead of getting fed up, I try to learn something from it and put a positive spin on it! In fact, I think it is rather refreshing that students have gravitated towards hands-on items. The more things change, the more they stay the same – who remembers marbles, Pogs, rubric cubes for example.
Controlling Fidget Spinners in the Classroom
However, unless a student has a documented need for a fidget, I suggest having spinners in backpacks except for designated times. I have a brain break corner of my classroom with puzzles, stress balls, and STEM materials for building where a fidget spinner would be right at home.
Like all materials in the classroom, I think it is important to stress that in class, fidget spinners are a TOOL, not a TOY. Just like technology, it is what you do with it that matters. Without the proper guidance, restrictions, and expectations, an iPad could just be used for Flappy Bird for example.
Fidget Spinner STEM
I created a STEM activity that is based on the scientific method and will have students collecting data then thinking critically about the data and what it means.
Using my Fidget Spinner STEM project as a guide, students will be:
- observing their spinners.
- developing a spinning technique.
- investigating the length of time of their spinner stays spinning.
- finding the average spin length.
- graphing the spin times.
- comparing and graphing class data of all of the spinners.
- repsonding to critical thinking questions looking at how human error can influence the data.
- using what they learned to design their own spinner.
- creating a slow-mo video of their spinner (just like with the Blow Cup Challenge, slow motion video can help students observe motion and understand more of the science behind how things work).
I also included a summary of the science behind how fidget spinners work.
For this particular project, I recommend having a least 4 spinners for students to use. You can group students into teams of 4 to share one spinner. You can use the same type of spinners to do the project or if students have spinners at home to bring in, they can test a variety.
I purchased spinners from Amazon – click the affiliate link to view the ones we used.
Students will graph their data and then will calculate the average length of the spinner with human error included and a second time without.
Students will notice that including the outliers will skew their data. After doing this project, a student commented that people selling fidgets will probably omit any trials that were messed up, which led into an entire discussion about advertising, studies, and raw data versus processed data – all very sophisticated topics for elementary students. However, because of the buy-in, they were completely engaged!
Students then compare their technique and spinner to the class data and use everything they learn to draw a spinner of their own design.
Designing Fidget Spinners
You can take the design process one step further and actually have students create the fidgets they designed. If you have access to a 3D printer, check out this free project on Tinkercad. Teacher Ryan Read, Herc78 on Instagram, shared spinners he created with Perler Beads:
There are also countless YouTube videos for how to create spinners out of a wide variety of materials – including paper and even ice, many of them created by teens and tweens that will appeal to students. If you decide to show these videos TO students, be sure to paste the video link into Safeshare TV to remove ads and comments.
Another way to incorporate fidget spinners into the classroom is by using them as…spinners. Whether you are discussing probability or fractions or even designing board games, you can have students use a fidget spinner as the spinning part of a spinner to increase student buy-in. If you aren’t dizzy yet, keep reading to find out how to use spinners as a spinner and get your free download!
To make a fidget spinner work like a regular spinner, just use a piece of tape (washi tape if you’re fancy, masking if you’re not) to mark one of the prongs on the fidget spinner. I created a set of FREE editable spinner templates that fit most standard fidget spinners.
Fill out the spinner template to suit your needs, place the fidget spinners in the center of the circle and spin. Wherever the taped end lands, is the result of the spin.
The free download includes 10 blank fidget spinner spinners (students loved the goofy name too!) in halves through tenths for students to use. It also includes directions and tables for a mini probability experiment to record where each spin landed.
Students can use the results of their spin to compare probability with raw data.
Other ideas for using these FREE Fidget Spinner Spinner blank templates:
- Reward Spinner
- Spinner with different ways to practice spelling (rainbow write, pyramid write, write in a sentence, etc)
- Spinner with points to use alongside a set of task cards
- Spinner with math problems
- Writing prompt spinner
- Spinner with finished early activities
- Brain break or energizer spinner (Do 10 jumping jacks, Stand on 1 foot for 10 seconds, etc)
- Morning meeting greeting spinner
Download my Fidget Spinner Spinning Templates Here FREE:
Have fidget spinners taken over your classroom? Tag me on social media with any tips for managing fidget spinners in the classroom or incorporating them into learning!