Sunday, October 27, 2013

Who has time to teach with all this testing? Harvest Time Activities -- Centers with a Purpose!

I've just developed a new fall themed set of literacy and math centers -- Harvest Time Center Activities. The 10 centers are all based on great children's literature, which I have read to the class and then provided to them to read, as well.

Here's an overview of the set. To keep it all organized, I included center display signs and student name tags. That way, I can assign them to the center I want them to work on.  Each activity also include activity cards and storage labels, assembly directions, directions cards, and a student response sheet.

My students are loving these center activities, and I'm loving the enrichment they are getting out of their independent time.  You can find this set here in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

Falling into Autumn with Apples, Pumpkins, and The Little Red Hen!

Good morning! It has been a busy month in the Apple Tree Room!  As we've shifted from summer to fall, I've been immersing my kiddos in wonderful children's literature. We have had so much fun exploring seasonal changes through integrated thematic units. These three units were part of our farm theme.

We started in September with a 2-week unit on apples. Here is an overview of the units and the books that could link to the instructional activities.
Throughout the unit, we studied the life cycle of the apple and learned about the seasons of apple trees.  We did a lot of writing, studied globes and maps and used apple math to reinforce key 1st grade number skills.  I got to use some of my favorite apple themed books, including The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree and How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World.

Here are some sample images from the unit.

Take a look at my tpt page for a more detailed overview!

We continued our farm theme with a unit on the The Little Red Hen. I love teaching with familiar folk tales because there are so many versions available.  It's a great opportunity to compare story elements. At the same time, I stock our classroom library with non-fiction texts so we can study the animals featured in the folk tales.   

I wanted my students to have lots of opportunities to read the story independently, so I wrote an emerging reader that all my students could easily decode. I also include a more advanced reader with my own southwestern version, The Little Brown Roadrunner.  We spent some time circling the sight words the kids have learned so far, and they were amazed by how much they've learned. It was a real confidence booster for some of my more reluctant readers.

I've included a read-aloud version you can use with your students to compare it with traditional versions.

To give my students practice with retelling the story, I set up a center with sequencing cards (color and black and white versions) that they put into order. They wrote a summary under each of the 8 cards to give them more practice with summarizing beginning, middle and ending parts of the plot.  They also worked on retelling using laminated story pieces.  

In addition, there were many writing opportunities with this unit. My kids wrote their own versions of The Little Red Hen with the "Build a Book" lesson. They also wrote opinion paper about their favorite version of the folk tale, and wrote informative papers about chickens.  We also delved more deeply into "how to" informative writing with this unit.  I included brainstorming, drafting, editing and final draft papers for each writing activity so that my students would have plenty of practice with the writing process.

Take a look at my tpt page for a more detailed overview!

 The Three Little Pigs unit rounds out our farm unit.  In this unit, my students sequenced the story, retold it with sequencing cards and story pieces, and wrote their own versions of the folk tale.

We read lots of different versions of the Three Little Pigs in class. Their favorite was The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, but my personal favorite is The Three Pigs by David Wiesner. I love the illustrations (and it's a Caldecott winner)!  Of course, I had to include The Three Little Javelinas by Susan Lowell.  That gave us the perfect excuse to write comparative papers about domestic pigs and wild pigs. We learned that javelinas are not pigs, which led to another discussion about animal classifications!

I wanted my students to read the folktale on their own, so I wrote an emerging version and a more advanced version for my students in a reproducible format.

Take a look at my tpt page for a more detailed overview!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Teaching with Non-Fiction Texts

This week, we've started our study of animals and their habitats.  We'll be spending the year exploring habitats of Africa, the American Southwest Deserts, the Amazon Rainforest, the Arctic and Antarctic polar habitats, and ocean habitats.  So much fun!

The habitat units merge perfectly with the common core emphasis on non-fiction texts and informative writing.  We've spent the week talking about non-fiction text features.  That means I've introduced a whole new set of terminology to my growing readers.  I had so much success teaching my kids about story elements with my Story Elements Poster Set that I decided to do the same thing with the non-fiction features.

I made up a set of posters to help my kiddos with the new terminology we're using.  I've got a display of the posters where the kids can refer to them when we talk about the parts of non-fiction books that we are reading.  I'm finding the posters are making a huge difference in solidifying the students' understanding the parts of the books and the non-fiction text terminology.

You can check out the posters at Teachers Pay Teachers. There are 17 posters in this set, but here's a quick preview of a few of the posters!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Learning School Rules with David! and My Mouth is a Volcano!

In addition to learning all about my new kiddos, our first week focuses on setting up our classroom behavior guidelines and reviewing school rules.

  • I launch the school rules discussion by reading the David books, by David Shannon. You know LOVE No, David!, David Goes to School and others.  
    • Angie Neal at Fall Into First  has an awesome craftivity to go with this David Goes to School. The results are hilarious, and they give me a quick preview of my kids' abilities for following directions, fine motor skills, spatial reasoning, and writing.
  • Next up is a series of discussions to set up our classroom guidelines. This year, thanks to some awesome bloggers, I found a series of books that I'm using. I'll be sharing my thoughts on how things went with these books in the coming weeks.
    • First up...My Mouth Is a Volcano by Julia Cook. This one is about a kiddo who's mouth keeps "erupting."  The focus of the story is how it feels to be interrupted, and how to keep yourself from interrupting during conversations. Perfect for 1st grade!  
    • I found related activities at Teachers Pay Teachers. "teach4real" offers a set of writing activities that were a great follow-up to the book.

I'm off to school! Have a great day!

Back to School FUN with Chrysanthemum!

I have to say, I LOVE my class! Such a bunch of cuties!

The first week is always such jumble of excitement, nerves and anticipation -- and that's just for me! I can only imagine how my kiddos and their parents feel knowing that they are headed off to start a new year.

I like to open the year with a few activities to get us focused on learning about each other. Here are some of the things we did on the first day of school!

If you haven't read this picture book, find a copy!  It has a great message about learning to embrace our individuality. Love it!

I read it to my kids on the first day of school, and talk about how Chrysanthemum felt when she was teased for having a unique name. Of course, that leads to all sorts of discussions about bullying, being kind, etc.

I found a great suggestion a few years ago for a lesson that incorporates retelling the events of the story and brings in the theme of treating each other with kindness.

  • Prior to the lesson, I draw a poster size version of the main character. 
  • After reading the story, I have the kids retell it to me. 
  • As they retell, I crumple the poster (the kids are horrified) each time they mention teasing. 
  • When they get to the part about the kids saying nice things to her, I try to smooth it out -- of course that doesn't work, and I'm left with with a wrinkled, torn mess. 
  • That leads to a discussion about how cruel words don't just go away with "I'm sorry." They leave a lasting mark. 
  • I post the wrinkled picture in my classroom as a reminder to be kind.

I follow up this lesson with name games. So much fun, and it sure helps this teacher to learn names!

  • Matching names to photos. We add these to the word wall.
  • Name puzzles 
    • I scramble the letters of their names. They cut out the letters and put them in order.
    • Using the same letters, they make new words out of their name letters.
  • Decorating name tags (written on large pieces of tag board) with beads, sequins, etc. Later in the week, they make face plates (with yarn for the hair, scraps of material for the lips, etc.). We match the name tags and face plates.
  • Name Graphs - the kids participate in answering questions such as, 
    • How many letters are in your name?
    • How many syllables are in your name?
    • How many vowels are in your name?
Finally, one of my favorite activities of the week is learning the Name Stories of my kids.

  • I send home a letter to parents asking them to share the story of their children's name (how did they choose the name, why is it perfect for the child). 
  • We spend the week reading their name stories -- the kids just beam when they hear their name story.  

There are some great resources to go along with Chrysanthemum.

  • There's a great story mapping sheet from "travel teach and love" on Teachers Pay Teachers. 
  • Amanda Peavy offers Chrysanthemum Name Activities, also on Teachers Pay Teachers. 
  • Kelly Hallahan has Name Activity to download.  
  • Of course, I love Kevin Henkes' website.  He offers a host of connected activities to go along with many of his his books.
Have fun and Happy Teaching!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Back to School Sale This Weekend on Teachers Pay Teachers!!

Thanks to the 3am Teacher for creating this button! Check out her awesome graphics!

Get your shopping carts ready, because it time for an awesome Back to School Sale at tpt!  Be sure to enter promo code BTS13 for your discount.

While you're there, check out my new 1st Grade Assessment Journal. It's Common Core aligned and ready to go!  Starting tonight at midnight, it'll be 20% off the regular price of $10, but only through Monday, August 19!