Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Whoooo Loves Owls?

Whooo loves owls?  My class does!  This week was a super short week for our students (not us).  Short, as in, the kids had two days of school.  This meant that our regular curriculum was put on hold and I took full advantage of the opportunity to do some fun thematic activities centered around owls.

We did lots of learning over our two short days.  Here's a peek at our "week."  **Warning, you are about to be photo bombed.**

To get the week started off right, I sported this theme appropriate sweater that I found at Old Navy one day.  It's so cute (and so different for me)!!


I read Owl Moon to the students.  They were really into this book, like really into it; whenever I glanced up from the book to sneak a peek at their faces they were all fixated on the book, no one was fidgeting or staring at the wall.  I think it was the poetic nature of the book. 


After reading the story, we sequenced the story events and identified the setting of the story.



These activities are both from Little Red's Schoolhouse on TpT. 

Next, I led the students through a directed drawing of an owl.  I found a really great set of free directions {here}.  I cut out each of the students' drawings and placed them on two branches that I made out of butcher paper.  I am in love with this display and it may stay up for a while.




In writing, we worked together to gather information about owls.  We focused on gathering "big idea" facts (where owls live, what kind of animal they are, etc).  The students then used this anchor chart to write a paragraph about owls.




We read Owls Overhead, a Reading A-Z book.  We read the book together, talked about some of the text features present in the book (there were a few), and also discussed the text.  Then, the students were paired up and they had a discussion about the book using some discussion cards that went with the book.


The following day, we used the A-Z book to gather more facts about owls.  This time, I encouraged the students to recall any kind of fact and I recorded their suggestions on this chart.


The students used the two anchor charts to complete this can/have/are organizer by Loreen Leedy.  It was a preview freebie on TpT (you can purchase the entire file, or you can access this page as a freebie via the preview file).



We also revisited Owl Moon and the students identified some "facts" from the story and then wrote some opinions about the story.  Again, this activity came from Little Red.


My teaching buddy and I really, really, really wanted to order owl pellets (we wanted to get one each so we could use it for demonstration purposes), but we just didn't think about it soon enough.  But, we decided that we may just get one down the road and share it with the kids anyway.  I think they will love it!!


We had lots of fun breaking out of our routine and the theme was perfect for our short week.  Next week, we're back into our regular routine.  How do you plan for short weeks?

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Corn-tastic Writing

A few weeks ago a friend of mine had her students shuck corn. They read a story about corn and she used the activity make the story a bit more interesting (I was told that it wasn't very high interest).  Well, the idea of shucking corn stuck with me and I ran with the idea.

This week I went hands-on with our writing and gave my kiddos some corn to shuck. Before they started their shucking, we talked about the parts of the corn and what they could expect to encounter as they worked.  I paired the students up and they worked together to get to their corn.



They loved it! One student described the experience as being "a blast." 

After the students shucked their corn, we talked about the steps taken in order to complete the task: remove the husk, peel off the corn silks, and clean up the mess that was created (I wrote this on the board-no pic, sorry).  The students then used this organizer to write about how they shucked the corn and I encouraged them to add details when appropriate (click the image to grab a {free} copy of this organizer and writing paper to match).


The next day, we ate our corn.  I cooked it for them the night prior.  It was seriously the best corn I have ever had, so sweet and so very, very fresh.


Then, I shared this paragraph with my students. 


My purpose for sharing a model paragraph the next day, was to encourage the students to go back to their own writing and look for opportunities to add detail, whether it was in the form of an adjective, or a short phrase.  So, before they did that, I had the students tell me which parts of my paragraph provided detail/information.  I underlined the words/phrases that they told me provided them with more detail/information.

I then tasked the students with going back to their organizer from the previous day and to add more detail to their writing, in two places.  Then, I paired the students up and they shared their writing with their partner.  They were told to help each other add one more piece of information/detail to their writing.  This went surprisingly well (which makes me all kinds of happy because I will definitely be using it again and again and again...).


Finally, the students sat down and started writing their paragraphs.


I was really pleased with how their paragraphs turned out.  They were completely invested in this writing assignment simply because they got to do something fun and engaging that they were then able to reflect upon as they wrote.  I'm definitely looking forward to providing more hands-on writing opportunities this year!

Toodles!

P.S. You can grab a copy of the organizer and writing paper by clicking {here}. No need to ask me to share the file, I've already done so.  Simply select "download" from the File pull down menu and save it to your computer.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Spider Time!!

Warning: this post has lots of pictures...lots. You've been warned; hehe.

Last week we kicked off our spider unit!  It was a hit from the get go.  I don't know what it is about these creepy, crawly, hairy little creatures that fascinate kids so much.  I don't question it, I just roll with it!

We kicked off our unit by creating this graph.  As you can see, the majority of the kids like spiders!  I gave each student a piece of black construction paper that I cut into 3 x 3 inch squares (I may want to make them a smidge smaller next time).  They used a white crayon to write the word "yes" or "no" and then I let them come up to the board and glue their card on the chart.



Then, we made these fun spider hats.  If you've been reading this blog for a while, then you know that I love making hats. Thankfully, so do the kids!  I tried to convince them to keep the hats at school for the duration of the unit, but they weren't having it and voted to take them home that night. I love how some got creative with the legs.  So cute!



On day two, I read a book about spiders and then we started this anchor chart recording spider related nouns, verbs, and adjectives.  Of course, some of the words they suggested weren't from the text (scary, creepy, etc).

In case you're wondering, the weird looking blocked out section in the adjective column is blocking the word predator.  As we were brainstorming, I didn't catch that mishap fast enough.  Oops! We've also continued to add words to this chart.

Next up, we read/completed this interactive mini book about spiders.  It's a fairly challenging little book, so we completed it whole group so that I could guide them through each page.  They enjoyed drawing a spider diagram, creating an illustration with a caption, comparing and contrasting spiders and insects, and more.  I had the students refer back to the text repeatedly (still trying to drive home this important skill).


This week we continued learning about our lovely little arachnids.  On Monday and Tuesday, we gathered information about spiders, as a whole group.  First, I read a book and then lead the students in a brainstorming session where they shared facts that they recalled from the text.  During this process, I like to model the process of going back to the text to confirm that we are recalling the facts accurately (I don't do this for every fact during the brainstorm, just a few).


I record the facts on an anchor charts (sorry, I only managed to get a picture of one of them), and then I task the kids with using that information to complete a graphic organizer (see below). We ended up making one anchor chart each day.  All of this fact gathering is done to equip them with the knowledge they need to write an informative paragraph about spiders. 

I had the students use the "notes" from our fact charts and turn them into complete sentences with this activity.  So, not only did we participate in shared information gathering, but we practiced writing complete sentences using those facts.


Once we have gathered just about every spider fact imaginable, the students set out to write an informative piece about spiders.  Below is a picture of the prewriting organizer I decided to have them use for this assignment.  They will write their paragraphs tomorrow using spider themed writing paper.


We also spent some time sorting through various statements about spiders and determining whether the statement was true or false.  I always love sorts like this because they challenge the students to think in a different way.  Evaluating is a tough skill, but oh so necessary!


I have a few more activities planned for the next two days. First, we will practice using a number line to add and subtract. These little plastic spider rings are the perfect prop for this activity!  I cut the ring part off and the kids will use them to hop up and down the number line as they solve various addition and subtraction problems.  I realize that the spider prop is sheer novelty, but let's be honest, they need that sometimes!


Finally, we will wrap up our unit by playing my all time favorite game: Scoot!  As the students scoot from desk to desk, they will determine whether the statement written on the card at each desk is a fact or an opinion.  They love this game so, I already know that it will be a hit!  At the end of any Scoot game, I go over all the answers with students.


I'm sad to see our spider unit come to a close, but all good things must come to an end. 

These activities (and more) are from my Spiders! unit, which is available on TpT. (Note: the anchor charts and number line activity are not included).

Toodles!

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fallin' for Fall Leaves

This is a quick post to share a new mini writing unit that I've created and posted to TpT.  Introducing, Fabulous Fall Leaves!


This unit includes a writing prompt for each of the CCSS genres (opinion, narrative, and informative) and also includes a template for a poem about fall leaves.  Also included are a few different craftivity options (with templates and directions/sample photos).





I love variety and I love options, so I kept that in mind as I created this unit.  The contents can be used year after year to create impressive student work displays.

Fabulous Fall Leaves will be on sale for the next 24ish hours, so be sure to head on over to TpT to grab a copy for yourself!


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