Sunday, October 28, 2012

I'm in Love...

...with Anansi the Spider!  I admit it openly - - -It's been a long term love affair!  That tricky little arachnid has stolen my heart time and time again.  If you have not yet grabbed any of the Anansi the Spider Books, I beg of you to give him a try!  These West African Ashanti folktales are absolutely hilarious!

My favorite?  Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock

This week, my students worked on character analysis, retelling, and finding the moral of the story (all Common Core State Standards).  

We started by looking at a real spider that one of my students brought in from his basement.   Next, I gave the students a little background knowledge on West African Ashanti Storytelling with this free powerpoint:  

Then I used my favorite SIOP strategy of Interactive Read Aloud to read/tell the story.  The kids loved saying "KPOM!"  I was so impressed with the independence that the students were able to show when doing the retelling component.  
Anyhoo - lots to do tonight so I won't delay in sharing.  Grab the file for the 3 comprehension activities here FREE at TPT.  Happy Reading!

I'm linking up with Teaching Blog Addict's Freebie Friday on this one.  How magnificent is the weekly list of freebies?  
Freebie Fridays

Ohhh... almost forgot!  In an effort to bring my beloved Anansi to life... I had the kids make their own Silly Spiders using the template from Doodle Bugs Teaching.  Not only did my students really all memorize that spiders have eight legs, but the little buggers turned into an adorable way for them to display their work!  Win-Win!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pumpkin Goo and Roses Too

I am so excited for tomorrow... Pumpkin Carving Day!

 Thanks to an amazing family in our community, all of our first graders get to carve pumpkins again this year. The children are always so creative with their pumpkins. In years past we've had three eyed beasts, toothless pumpkin grins, and even robot head jack-o-lanterns! All of the parents are invited and it is just a chance to connect and enjoy building our classroom community.

 With that said, I have a confession... pulp and goo make my heart pound! I have a slight fear of cleaning out melons. Seriously folks... it's a real thing. Ever hear of cucurbitophobia? It's the fear of pumpkins and other creepy pulpy seed and juice filled melon-ish characters! Granted, that is a self-diagnosis... but I know I'm not alone in feeling a slight gag reflex when I reach my hand down into the depths of the deep dark pumpkin belly!

 Hee Hee! The trick is in the A list acting ability - - - with a joyful smile - - - "Wow, boys and girls - This is so neat! I just love scooping out the inside. Don't you?"


 At any rate, I AM looking forward to using my new investigation journal with my students. It's a little packet for measuring, counting, weighing, using the five senses, writing a how-to, and reflecting on the experience. GRAB IT HERE AT TPT.

In other news, yesterday was my birthday! So fun! My husband, Joel, brought me delicious desserts from a fancy bakery downtown... scrumptious. BUT the best part came today when one of my former students came to my apartment with his mom and brought me a dozen roses! I wasn't home, and he claims that my dog tried to answer the door (which I wouldn't put past my Leroy Brown). Even though my student has flown up to third grade now, it made my heart smile that I meant enough to him to come make an event out of my birthday flower delivery. SOOOOOOO sweet!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I've Been MIA... So Have A BIG FREEBIE!

Yep... It's Official... October has buried me!  This month I started my new class at the University, which is focused on working with Preschool and Kindergarten English Language Learners.  It has been wonderful to be able to address the concerns of how to focus on big ideas within the early childhood setting, and I have spent time working on meaningful examples for my class of teachers....  Primarily focused on how to elevate the level of purposeful planning to make a true Sheltered Environment.  Stay tuned for a post later this week on my feelings on tissue paper apples.  This proved controversial in class and I have no doubt I ruffled a few feathers!  Eek!

Beyond that, I have been working on a few ideas for my own class.... so I thought I'd take a quick minute to share one - - -

One of my favorite strategies?  HUMAN GRAPHING

This gets students talking, but even better, sets up a situation where everyone gets to share their opinion.  With a question posed (usually projected), students stand in line behind their chosen response.  From there, I like to snap a photo and project it with my iPad.  Students can see our visual bar graph right away.  I also LOVE the free graphing site CREATE A GRAPH.  Check it out!

Grab 10 Monthly Human Graphing Prompts and Signs HERE!  Happy 62 Page FREEBIE!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Integrated Content - Reading, Writing, and Digging

One of the key components of Sheltered Instruction for English Language Learners is a focus on the big ideas.  When students have exposure to repeated vocabulary, hands-on experiments, and literacy in relation to content, they are more successful than when navigating a day that is compartmentalized/departmentalized.

In addition to the student benefits, it is clear to me that an integrated curriculum makes more sense in teacher planning and preparation as well.

All roads lead to student learning of the big idea!

This month, my students are beginning to learn about living things.
The big ideas being:
All living things grow and change.
Living things have needs.
Organisms have adaptations that lead to survival.
Living things rely on their habitat.  
Living things co-exist in their environment.

Last week, I "made" a soil experiment in the classroom to encourage student exploration and interaction.  I thought I would link up with Tara at Fourth Grade Frolics for The Monday Made It Party!  I jumped out of the window and grabbed two buckets full of dirt.  Students dug through to see how many living and nonliving things they could find. It was completely engaging and they have been digging in soil ever since...

(Don't mention it parents!  I love telling them to dig in mud and sending them home to their mommy's to do so!  Hee hee!)

Grab the soil experiment sheet free here.

I included the soil experiment as part of a larger pack of visuals and printables for the living things unit introduction.  Grab it here on TPT.

During literacy last week, the students read about Animal Moms and Dads (from our Macmillan Treasures Series).  They practiced finding the main idea and details of text.  This was easier said than done, but after lots of prompting that the main idea must be a sentence that tells the WHOLE POINT... they got it!  We practiced with other pieces of nonfiction animal texts by the brilliant Steve Jenkins.  His books are perfect for English Language Learners, since they follow a clear pattern of repetition in the way he delivers the content.

The biggest hit was What Do You Do When Something Wants to Eat You?  The students each wrote one of the paragraph main ideas by using the frame: Somebody Wanted... But...So...

Next week, we will continue to read nonfiction text.  I created some before, during, and after reading activities to go with my shiny new hard cover Steve Jenkins original:  Never Smile at a Monkey

Below is a glimpse at 3 of the 5 activities included.
Grab it here at TPT.

As the living things unit unfolds, I will continue to post the elements of integration and the visuals that are critical to the success of my ELLs.  How does your content integration meet the needs of your English Language Learners?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Community Helpers

I have always been fond of teaching about community helpers. There is something so inspiring about listening to the future dreams of your students! I imagine my chit chat queen someday sitting in a chair on The View, or my doodle buddy one day drawing amazing images for Disney. I envision my quiet listener one day sitting at her first poetry book signing or my wiggly boy kicking in the winning goal at the World Cup. Perhaps my daring debater will one day be entering the courtroom to prosecute a criminal, or my sensitive animal lover will be hopping aboard the Whale Wars ship! Will my tech savvy student be creating the thing that is better than the iPad, or will that constant humming sound from the girl at table two lead to the next billboard hit?

 As my students imagine their own futures as "batman, a jet fighter, or a pop star"... I do too! There is nothing more inspiring than the realization that if we do our jobs right as teachers... if we help create educated, confident students... we are making those future dream jobs a possibility for each child.

This week, the students in my classroom are starting to do some research. I have given them each a job to learn more about, and they are using some bookmarked sites and my glog to click, read, learn, record. Grab the community helper booklet free at my TPT store.  Just copy, slice down the middle, and staple. Perfect for multiage and ELLs, since I did not put any lines on the pages. Students write as much or little as they are capable of. Many of my students also drew pictures to express their learning. Here is what the beginning of the research booklet looks like:

I like to use glogs for research on the laptops.
 Here is the link to my Community Helpers Glog.
 Feel free to use it with your students... but the Big U Books will require a subscription.

My students will report out using paper and charts from The Bubbly Blonde... I am totally a blog stalker of hers!  She has amazing work.  Here is the link to her community helpers packet.

Here is what our research looked like in the classroom:

I know it is early in the year, but it is never too early to work on digital literacy skills. While my class works to increase stamina for reading and we watch our time go up... I also push them to decrease login time on our devices and watch that number go down!

 Tomorrow as you stand in front of your class... let your mind imagine what they might be when they grow up... then be the best teacher you can be so that their future dreams become reality!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Happy International Dot Day!

Today is a day inspired by Peter Reynolds' book, The Dot. I thought it would be the perfect day to tell all my new bloggy friends how much YOU MATTER to me! Thank you for embracing my new blog and connecting with me through your wonderful teaching!

This week, I celebrated Dot Day with my students. They created digital dots, which is very fitting in our techie classroom! They used the Mimio Studio Notebook Tools to draw, highlight, stamp, and color creatively. It was such a fresh change to give them such an open-ended assignment with no rules or boundaries. That is an unexpected, but lasting lesson that I will hold dear as I continue to plan instruction this year.
The message behind The Dot, is that all people, big or small matter. That each bit of creativity we put out into this world, can make a difference. Check out the completed dots... They are so CREATIVE!

For my class, the message of YOU MATTER took us in a second direction. To further think about the idea of creativity, we brainstormed ways we could use creativity to solve real problems in our school, our community, and the global world. The students kept coming back to the idea that they really care about saving wild animals. They also kept asking the important question of HOW they could make an important mark on the world. We will continue to go back to our list this year and ask ourselves HOW we can demonstrate our creative problem solving skills to really make a mark!

With the message of "We Matter", and along with two inspiring teachers in my building, we used classroom budget money to adopt a dolphin through the Defenders of Wildlife Organization. Our school mascot is a dolphin, so we felt that it really connected to our classrooms. I was so excited to tell the students! They went CRAZY!

Here is our dolphin adoption certificate:
I created a one page dot drawing and reflection activity to go along with this celebration. It's never too late to read the book and celebrate the message of creativity behind The Dot! Grab it free here.

Happy Dot Day! Learn more on the Dot Day Website!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Summer Vacation Story Updated

Have you seen the book, How I Spent My Summer Vacation, by Mark Teague? It is so clever! The main idea is that the boy comes back to school and is asked to tell what he did over summer vacation... Classic! Only in this version, the main character lets his imagination get the best of him and ends up really, really embellishing his tale.

I thought it would be great fun to have my students do a play on this. They planned by drawing two pictures: 1) The real summer adventure they had (2) Their fake summer vacation idea.

Click here to grab the planning sheet!

Then the students used the Photobooth Application to bring their ideas to life. While students were rotating to our laptops to make their pictures, the rest of the class wrote two versions of the stories! Take a peek at a few of our outcome photobooth pictures! They are so silly!

True or Lie???

Swimming with a shark or playing on a princess castle?

Snorkeling in the ocean or going to a farm?

Hanging at the pool or hanging on the moon?

Here are the steps to doing this project on photobooth: (Click to download)