Sunday, January 29, 2017

Groundhog Day Activities

One thing I just adore about teaching in the primary grades is that we have the ability to expose students to fun themes and holidays throughout the year.  These things are always fun and of high interest to the students.  Even more important though, I really love expanding on these themes and holidays with activities that are jam-packed with learning.  It's a win-win because the kids are working on topics that are fun and interesting, the teachers have fun planning and also get to hit the standards at the same time, and of course administrators are happy that it's not all just fluff.  

When I create a pack, I try to be sure I am including activities that are exciting for the students, but also worth your instructional time.  With this pack I started with some informational reading about these little guys we call groundhogs, or as they will learn are also called woodchucks or whistle-pigs. 

I started including these Fact Cards with real photos in some of my other thematic units like Reindeer and Penguins, and I have gotten tons of comments and feedback from teachers that this was their students' favorite part of these packs!  I have to agree -- my kiddos love it too!  These sheets can be printed off and laminated to show students, or can be projected from your computer so students can read along.  The second option is what I usually do because it offers students a different media to learn from and switches things up a bit.  After reading and learning together, we move on to some comprehension.  I kept the comprehension simple in this pack because I know we don't have all that much time to devote to only groundhogs, but I think you'll find that it is just enough to show students how to gather information from texts.  

The next part is an informational mini-book about the actual day of Groundhog Day.  This is perfect for shared reading and can be followed by buddy reading or independent reading for further practice. 

 Once students are thinking about whether or not the groundhog will see his shadow, we start making our predictions.  I use these chart pieces to create a class graph where students can predict what they think will happen on Groundhog Day.  Then we all fill out a graph to show what the class chose.  I also have the students do a quick writing about their prediction.  I included this writing page, along with two other options without a sentence starter and different writing lines.

Along with the informational reading I do, I always like to tie in some fictional reading as well.  There are some really cute read alouds for Groundhog Day, but my favorite is Go to Sleep, Groundhog! by Lucy Cox.

I made two different sequencing activities to go with this book.  One is a quick picture cut and paste worksheet, and the other is a cute flip book which is also cut and paste with events from the story.  Choose whichever one you have time for and fits your students' abilities.  I also made a blank sequencing flip book that you could use with any groundhog read aloud you choose.

Finally, I like to have some filler activities for these days to use either in centers, for morning work, or just for fun.  I made a couple printables for math and sight words.  I also made a groundhog page topper if you'd like to use it for a bulletin board or it can also be used as a cute hat.  

I can't wait to get started on the Groundhog Day fun tomorrow in my classroom.  If you think you could use some of these activities too you can grab it in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store by clicking on the picture below.  

I don't know about you, but I am ALWAYS hoping Puxsutawney Phil DOES NOT see his shadow so we can have an early spring.  Where I live that really never happens though.  We're happy if it stops snowing by April (sometimes May).  So if you are someplace warm -- send me some of that! :)

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Animals in Winter: Hibernation, Migration, and Adaptation

Hey friends!  Just popping in to tell you about one of my favorite units we do this time of year - Animals in Winter.  It's pretty cold up here in my neck of the woods right now.  So I figure if it has to be sooooo cold outside, we might as well have a little fun with winter inside.    Here is a quick overview of what this unit looks like.  And if you stick around till the end you will find a little FREEBIE too :)  

 First up in this unit is an Informational Mini-Book for shared reading.  There is a color copy for you to use as the teacher and a black and white copy to make for students to have their own.  I packed in a ton of important information in this book so your kiddos will be learning a lot.  Good time for an impromptu observation by your principal.  
Here's what it looks like in action:

Speaking of being observed. . . I'm sure your principals like to see the Common Core standards in action. So I included a bunch of practice to hit those reading for information standards.  You're welcome!

Included in those standards is learning new vocabulary, so that's in there too.  There's pieces to use when teaching the vocabulary and then a student book to fill in.  

Next up - writing.
There's papers for your students to write about what they learned and make their own book.  There's also templates for a class book about what kind of animal your kids would want to be in the winter and why.  

I also wrote a little fact filled song called Winter's Here.  

Finally, I included some center activities and printables to complete this thematic unit.   

 I hope you will find this a useful unit too.  Click on the cover below to check it out on TpT.  

And as I promised - here is a little sampler freebie for you.  To grab this freebie, just click on the picture below.

Thanks for stopping by and joining me for a little cleaning break this weekend.  

Monday, August 22, 2016

Setting up a new classroom...again!

8 times!!!

That's the number of times I have changed classrooms in the 14 years I've been teaching.  

That's a lot!  

You would think that I would have it down to a science by now, but it still takes me forever to get things just the way I want them.  And inevitably, halfway through the year, once I've spent time moving throughout and living in the new room I want to change it ALL.  I clearly have problems.  ;)

So here are a few pictures of how my new room looks (so far).  

It's hard to see specifics in the pictures above, so I will try to take more detailed pictures for some future blog posts to explain my reasoning behind each part of my room.  But you can get a general idea of our space.  I try to create as many different areas in the room as I can including: a teacher desk area (for all my mess that will happen on busy days), guided reading/small group table, our whole group meeting area with smart board, and a some center areas you can't really see in these pictures.  I think the kids move better in a room with specific areas for different activities.  

Here is my calendar bulletin board below.  

This bulletin board always take me so long to create it just the way I want it.  I put this up and took it down at least 3 times before I settled on this arrangement.  This year I created some calendar ten frames for us to count our days of school each day along with the counting straws.  I felt like I needed another visual that the kiddies could see and use each day, because you can really never have enough visual teaching aides.  When I posted this picture on Instagram I had some sweet folks ask if I had these for sale.  I really just made them quick for myself so I decided to just post them here as a FREEBIE instead of putting them in my store.  If you'd like them, go ahead and download them below.

And here is my word wall.  

 A new classroom means adjusting what you might normally have on your walls to what space you now have.  Last year my word wall looked like this...

That classroom had zero wall space and only two small bulletin boards which needed to have my calendar/morning meeting items on them.  So I used the cabinets and I LOVED the way this word wall worked for us.  The colors helped visually separate the letters and students could easily locate words.  This year my cabinets were smaller and I needed to change the size, but I wanted to keep the same general idea.  I also plan on making it interactive....more on that to come.  

So there is just a little peak into my classroom for this year.  I don't know about you, but I LOVE looking into other people's classrooms.  In fact, I often pop into my colleagues' rooms in the summer to see how they've arranged things.  I love exploring Pinterest for this very reason too!  Every teacher has such a wonderful way of organizing things for their students and creating a fun learning environment.  If you have any links to some great classrooms to check out, leave a link in the comments so I can take a peek too!  It's kind of an addiction :)

On a different note, I wanted to mention quick that Teachers Pay Teachers is having a SALE for today only and everything is 28% off.  I just uploaded TWO new products too!  These are perfect to use during guided reading, as a center, or a fast finisher activity.  Your kids will love this Spot the Rule Breakers game!!!  Two versions are currently available with more to come.  I hope you'll check them out.  

Happy back to school to all of you!  I know we all love our summers, but there's something so exciting about getting ready for a new school year.  Soak it up!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Reading Comprehension for Beginning Readers

I used to teach 3rd grade, for 8 years, and before that I taught 4th grade for 2 years.  I liked how independent the kids were.  I liked how I could joke with them and they actually got my jokes.  I especially loved how those years were such a huge turning point in a child's elementary life and I was the one to help them through it.  Students in those grades actually remember, for years, the things you do in the classroom....and come back to tell you ALL about it!  It really is a great age to teach!!

What I didn't love, however, were the state assessments.  Yuck!  They really sucked the fun out of teaching for so many weeks leading up to the tests.  Then when Common Core was adopted and the tests consequently changed to being so much harder, so much longer, and frankly - so much more unfair....I decided I needed a change too.  That was when I took the opportunity to move to 1st grade.  This was the best decision I could have ever made because 1st grade is just ME.

First grade and me go together like peanut butter and jelly.

I could go on and on about the things I love about my little firsties, but what I love the most of all is knowing where my students have to get to in a few short years and being confident that I can be the person to help them get there.  I feel effective!  And isn't that what all teachers want to feel?

You might be wondering why I went on and on about all that and how it has anything to do with reading comprehension.  Well I'll tell you.  When I watched my little third graders - and yes, they are still little in 3rd grade - struggle through a reading test for HOURS and feel defeated, it broke my heart.  I wanted to do anything I could to try to prepare them for the stamina they would need and the strategies to get through it.  Now that I'm in 1st grade I feel like I can help them on this journey by providing as many opportunities to practice strategies they will need but at their level and with my support.  It is my hope that I can give them the foundation that will help them down the road.

So this year I started creating some opportunities to guide my students through the process of reading comprehension.  It definitely is a PROCESS - am I right?  So besides being able to read (kinda important) - what DO children need to be able to do when answering reading comprehension questions?

Here are 5 things that I think young readers need to learn when it comes to reading comprehension:

One of the hardest things for students is just knowing what exactly a comprehension question is even asking.  I spend time teaching those question words: who, what, why, where, when, and how.  I teach them how to read those words, of course, and then also what kinds of questions they might see with each of them.

As with anything we teach, it's important to start out with some modeling and guided practice.  I use my whole group reading time to model using our read alouds.  I use my guided reading time to practice with texts at their level.  When it comes to practicing independently I wanted to give my students the opportunity to just work on the questions, so I made these Picture Comprehension pages with some basic questions like: Who is in the picture? What are they doing? Where are they?  And then also some inference questions like: Why do you think they are doing that?

These allow the students to practice reading those question words, but keeps it quick and simple for independent work.

The next skill that children need to learn is to read ALL of the choices when answering multiple choice questions.  They need to get used to being tricked by similar answers and not just pick the first one they read.  So again, I use the Picture Comprehension to practice this, but I also made these simple Sentence Comprehension pages for that as well.

Many of the choices are similar and students really need to pay close attention to the answer they choose.

It's important for us as teachers to understand that children don't naturally know how to answer comprehension questions.  We need to start out simple in order to help them practice and be successful from the get go.  When students get into reading longer passages they will need to pay close attention to detail and be able to search for important clues in the text.  Again, I like to provide the support of pictures to help students practice this.  Important clues can be found in the text and also in pictures.

These Picture Match Books have become a favorite in our classroom.  The kids cannot get enough of them!!!

I also use these CLOZE Comprehension pages for practice.  Children need to fill in the missing words and then answer a couple questions about a short passage.

One of the hardest parts of reading comprehension for beginning readers is the amount of time it takes to get through a reading passage and THEN they have to go back and find answers to the questions.  Teaching students to find the key words in questions and then skim through the text to search for the answer is one of the best skills they can have in their back pocket.   This takes TONS of modeling and guided practice.  When I am working on this with students I really like to have a short passage with questions to answer.

I teach them to read all the choices first, pick out key words to search for, and then skim to find those words.  In the Earth Day example shown I would have students read #1 and the choices.  Then we would skim for the numbers 2 or 22 in the passage since numbers are easy to skim for.  The next questions in this passage involve a little more inferring, but we would still search for key words to give us clues that help us answer the questions.

The final strategy I teach my first graders really goes along with #4.  When they are skimming for key words, they then need to underline where they find the proof for their answers.  We try to make this more interesting by using crayons or highlighters when we practice.  This also lets me see quickly if students are actually using this strategy and doing it correctly.

When we take the time with our beginning readers to model, model, model, then guide, guide, guide, and finally practice, practice, practice -- it gives them the time they need to internalize these strategies.  They do so with manageable texts and are able to build up their comprehension confidence.  I strongly believe that providing these opportunities for them early on is the key to helping them further develop these skills in later years.

So for a quick recap, here are the 5 strategies again:

You can find these reading comprehension pages in my seasonal Building Readers packs.

The ones pictured here are from the Spring Edition (March-May).  I also have Fall (September-November) and Winter (December-February).


I have plans to make more of these packs as well because I've seen such a difference in my students as readers this year.  These have become an important part of our reading routine and I think they could do the same for your class.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Back from Maternity Leave

If you've followed me along my journey, whether here or on Instagram, then you might know that I recently not so recently welcomed my third daughter into the world.  On October 10th to be exact.  Almost 6 months ago - wow!

 If you are a mom (or dad),  then you understand how having a baby can completely consume your life.  And since this was my third child and I already had two other girls at home, it's safe to say that I was completely and utterly consumed by family for the last 6 months.  


I'm not here to apologize for it, but definitely wanted to explain my absence from this little blog.  I've missed blogging and am ready to try to get back into it after my so-called maternity leave.  

So stay tuned for another post about TEACHING (go figure) hopefully very soon :)