Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Common Core in December: 3 Reindeer

Reindeer: Research, Comparing texts, and Opinion Writing (with some fact checking!)

If you are looking for a fun activity that will last about a week, hit several standards, and be a little quirky, look no further! The following activity begins with a read-aloud of a fiction book, moves into researching using nonfiction texts and short video, and then takes a sharp right into opinion writing. Let's start from the beginning. 

Read-aloud: Fiction book The Great Reindeer Rebellion. This book is lovely on its own. It's a rhyming book, which is always a lot of fun to read. The storyline lends itself to a great review of story structure (characters, setting, problem, events, solution RL1.3.) There is even a lesson that Santa learns in the end that you could turn into an author's lesson (RL1.2)to you (appreciate what you have.) In this book, the reindeer want changes, but Santa thinks he can replace them. He tries out several other animals, who obviously fail, and Santa realizes his reindeer are the only ones who can do the job. This brings me to my big question...

It's our job at this point to help kids realize that in order to answer this question, we need to do some research! We need to learn facts about reindeer back up our reasoning for them being good helpers.  Choose a nonfiction book about reindeer to read to the class. Point out how this book is different than the Great Reindeer Rebellion (RL.1.5). After reading the nonfiction book as a class, model how to take notes by rereading to find important information. Write important facts about reindeer on sticky notes. Display for the class to see all the note-taking. 

Go back to your question: Are reindeer the best animal to help Santa? Tell students that in order to answer this, we need to think about what Santa needs the reindeer for (use the fiction book to help brainstorm.) Lead them in this direction: They need to work together, they need to pull a heavy sleigh, they need to land gracefully on a rooftop without falling through, they need to go out all night in the cold, winter air. (Point out that flying is not a fact that we will find for reindeer. I avoid this by playing dumb. I say, I know regular reindeer cannot fly. I don't know about Santa's magic, so I'm leaving that out of my reasons. Let's assume his magic is what makes the flying.

At this point, you can go one of two way. You can make it an independent writing activity, or a shared writing activity. Pretend this is a Choose Your Own Adventure book that I loved as an 80s kid. (I apologize if you are not an 80s kid and/or if you did not experience the joy of these books and therefore, do not get my cheesy reference.) 

CHOICE #1 Make it an Independent Activity

Step 1: If you decided to make it an independent writing activity, I would have them read another book about reindeer. There are two good beginning readers listed above and below. There is also a video! You could have them read one book, writing 4 sticky notes with facts. Then you could watch the video as a class. Have them check the sticky if they hear the same fact. Have them add a sticky if they hear something that might  be more important to our question. 

Links to resources:
  • Epic! has two nonfiction reindeer and a video! (That way kids can compare facts from book to video. Awesome!) Click here to go to their site, then search Reindeer.
  • Reindeer can be found here.
  • Readinga-z :(my personal fave) has THIS shared reading book about reindeer
  • Book: A Day in the Life Reindee
  • National Geographic Reindeer (to read together using projector) 
  • (For an extension activity, you could read THIS which talks about reindeer in danger.)
Step 2: Next, make two columns on their desks or in their writer's notebooks: Helpful to Santa or Not helpful to Santa. As a class, talk about a few of the sticky notes that you modeled for them. Discuss the things that Santa needs and decide if the facts about reindeer would help with that. Sort a few together using chart paper with the two columns. Then, have students go to their seats or work in small groups to sort their own sticky notes with information. 

Step 3:
Gather them back and have them choose just one or two from the helpful column. Share the ones they chose to make sure they really work. Discuss as a group.

Step 4:
Introduce the graphic organizer to help them structure their opinion writing. Remind students that the structure of our writing helps our reader understand what we are writing. Model how to fill out the graphic organizer. Point out that their sticky notes will become their reason that they can add detail to. Explain that when they are writing their draft, they should explain what how that reindeer fact helps Santa. For example, Reindeer have fur. This helps keep them warm when they are out all night in the cold.  Reindeer travel in herds. They need to work together to pull Santa's sleigh in together. 

Step 5: Now it's time to transfer to writing. 

CHOICE #2: Shared Writing (I did this with my first graders.)

Follow all the same steps as above, just do it together instead! It's basically one big opportunity to model, guide, and practice together. The goal is to build those skills as a group so that when you are ready to do an independent writing activity, they will have this experience to draw upon. 

For this lesson, here are skills you could teach as mini-lessons:
  • Opening Sentence: Include your topic and your opinion.
  • Reasons for your opinion: Include facts to back up your reasoning. 
  • Closing: Wrap up your writing by restating your opinion and topic. 
  • Structure: What does opinion writing look like? (Color coordination helps!)
  • Elaborating to add detail that will be helpful to the reader.
  • How to use facts or things we know (schema) to help us back up our opinions with reasons. 

All in all, it was a fun lesson that peeked kids interest. :)

Some more common core standards:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.1.5 With guidance and support from adults, focus on a topic, respond to questions and suggestions from peers, and add details to strengthen writing as needed.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.1.8 With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.1.1 Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or name the book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply a reason for the opinion, and provide some sense of closure.
Identify basic similarities in and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., in illustrations, descriptions, or procedures).

You don't really need anything to complete this activity, but if you want the graphic organizers and writing pages pre-made, you can get them here for FREE today and tomorrow only. After that, you can get these pages in my Christmas Ready to Go Printable Pack. Click HERE to get this.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Common Core in December Part 2

I can't believe it! Two days in a row of blogging. Well, I'm sort of cheating because these are from old posts. ;) I did update my freebie from years ago, so I thought it would be a good time to repost. This is a short one today. Come back tomorrow and the next day to see a Polar Express activity (craft freebie) and a fun reindeer writing activity. 

Santa Writing

One of my favorite activities during this time was this interactive writing story. It was a great way to scaffold and teach certain writing skills for writing a narrative story. As we went, the students gave me all the ideas for what to write. My job was to ask the class questions to make sure our story had a sequence  that was easy to follow, no gaps in the story, some detail to elaborate, strong verbs, a clear beginning where the characters and setting are introduced, an ending, and dialogue used appropriately.  We reread and stop often to make sure we are sequencing the story in a way that makes sense. When we glued the chart paper to the chimney and added Santa's legs, it was the cutest display, too!

If you would like your students to do this independently, you can use this FREEBIE:

Write narratives in which they recount two or more appropriately sequenced events, include some details regarding what happened, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide some sense of closure.

Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

To see more printable activities like these, check out my Christmas Printable pack. 

The activities included are below. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Common Core in December: Gingerbread

December is always so much fun at school, but unfortunately, also crazy busy! When I taught first grade, there were always SO many themes I wanted to integrate into the curriculum. There's gingerbread, Polar Express, reindeer, Christmas around the world... The list goes on. For the next week I will share some of my favorite activities for December. First up... GINGERBREAD! :) Check back for two more posts coming very soon!

Gingerbread Reading Literature 
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.9 Compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in stories
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.3 Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.

I know it's not the prettiest gingerbread house around, but the kids ate. it. up. (ha! Get it?) I wanted to make it easy, so I just tore white paper and glued it on for frosting. Then I colored circles on the frosting. The squares are supposed to be windows. As we read different versions of the Gingerbread Man, we filled in the squares. Since then, there has been a boom of even more amazing gingerbread stories. There are SO many out there, you could have a lot of fun with them. 

Some things to get talk about to get your kids thinking:
  • How does the setting affect the story?
  • How does the setting change the characters from story to story?
  • Evaluate the ending of each story. Which ending did you like best and why? 
  • Were there any endings you didn't like? Why? 
  • What characteristics describe the gingerbread chargers? (Provide text evidence) Do they all have these same qualities?
  • How are these stories different? the same?
  • Were all the stories' events similar? Was there a pattern to all the books?
  • Who is telling the story?  (Most have a 3rd person narrator, but The Gingerbread Man Loose in School is from the perspective of the gingerbread.)

(This is from a 2011 post you can find here.)

You could also make a Venn diagram. I made it into an interactive writing lesson.

This is hard to see but we did another interactive writing activity to demonstrate how to write a comparison paper. We worked on this as a class in first grade. The first two sections talk about the differences and the last part shows the similarities. You could compare two books as a class and then have them do their own comparing with two other books.

These four things are all part of my gingerbread unit (see below)

Just to give you an idea of all the options for comparing...

(I'll be adding this updated chart to my gingerbread unit- see bottom of post)

Gingerbread Writing (freebie)
A follow-up activity that I loved was to write our own gingerbread stories. First, I told them to choose a setting for their story. Next, think of characters that would likely be found in a story with that setting. Then, use the same pattern of events to make the story.  Finally, decide how you want your gingerbread story to end. 

This version is for beginning writers:

And this is for more experienced writers: 

This more advanced version is perfect for 2nd/3rd grade but definitely doable for advanced first graders. There are so many great mini-lessons you could do for this!

Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to narrate a single event or several loosely linked events, tell about the events in the order in which they occurred, and provide a reaction to what happened.

Write narratives in which they recount two or more appropriately sequenced events, include some details regarding what happened, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide some sense of closure.

Write narratives in which they recount a well-elaborated event or short sequence of events, include details to describe actions, thoughts, and feelings, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide a sense of closure.

Last year, I posted this idea for classroom management. 
We are always looking for ways to motivate our students, keep learning interesting and fun, but also manage the craziness. The holidays can get crazy. It's so fun and I always look forward to it, but let's face it, the kids can get a little too excited sometimes. :) Here's an idea to reward good classroom behavior:

Have your class work together to retell a story by having good behavior. Set out the parts of your favorite story. Here, I used Whimsy Workshop's adorable clipart, but you could also just have your students draw these cards. (That way you could do for any story.) When you want to reward the class for great (or "sweet") behavior, add a story card to the story board. Call on a student to choose which card goes next. This way, you are reinforcing sequencing. When you fill up the chart, you could give the class some sort of reward. Now, mind you a reward can be as simple as an extra recess. It could be a small gingerbread cookie. You could even be a youtube Gingerbread "movie". If you search "Gingerbread" on youtube, a bunch comes up. Mostly there are people reading the book but for some reason this feels more special, right? Sort of a movie? The reward can be as big or tiny as you want. The point is to get them working together to build the story.

Download this idea with the template here. 
Note: The clip art does not come with this. You can buy the gingerbread clip art here. Like I said earlier, you could also draw it though. :)

For more gingerbread activities, check out my Gingerbread Unit:
Click HERE to get to my TPT store.

  •  My own adaptation of The Gingerbread Man. This has been kid-tested and it passed the test. I printed it out for my son and he asks me to read it over and over. We love our gingerbread books, so it was fun to add one to our collection. :)

This story has some great comprehension questions. This is perfect for a close reading lesson!

  • 3 Reading passages, each with about 3 reading levels (so it could work for 1st and 2nd with varying ability levels). There are also comprehension question and some close reading prompts.
  • 2 read, think Match pages
  • 2 Read, Visualize, Draw (one with two levels)
  • 2 Read and Sequence (one is from my December literacy packet. I had to include it since it's gingerbread related. But there is a second one that is new)

I wrote a gingerbread man poem. This will be a lot of fun to do with my firsties! There is a student sheet and pocket chart strips so you could do some rebuilding.  I also made a much simpler one that I will use with my kinders and one of my first grader groups.

8 word work centers:
  • Rhyme match
  • Cookie Jar Sort: Sounds of Y
  • Syllable match: Matching up two-syllable words
  • Frost the cookies: TWO versions: matching consonant blends with word endings OR matching word to a suffix
  • Ginger Sound Count: Counting phonemes
  • Baking Words: This looks similar to something in my kinder menu. I loved it so much and wanted to have something like this for my firsties and 2nd graders. So I made the word options harder so it works for them. They can build words with oo, ai, or short i. 
  • Gumdrop Sort: Sorting long and short vowels (again, it looks like a kinder center, but it's different. I just loved the clip art so I tweaked it for older kids.)
  • Blend the Batter: Matching onset and rime

  • 4 Sentence Scramblers
  • Super Sentence Gingerbread story: two options (the harder one includes adjectives and adverbs. The easier one only has adjectives, when and where)

  • Sentence Enders
  • Fill a Sentence: prepositional words

  • Gingerbread Opinion writing: 3 prompts
  • Reader Response: retell with planning page
  • Sticker story
  • Describe a Cookie


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Alphabet Intervention

Intervention. We all use this word and hear it on a daily basis. As teachers, when we hear "intervention resources" our ears perk up a little. That's because we all stay up at night thinking about those students who struggle to master certain concepts or skills. I'm obviously a believer in intervention. I've seen what can happen when a student receives good intervention that works. It's amazing to watch a child reach their goals and make real progress. This is my fourth year as a Reading Resource teacher for students in kindergarten through 3rd grade. I love my job. Yes, it can be heartbreaking to watch kids work SO hard but make slow progress. That's the nature of my job, but I remind myself that slow progress is progress. Goals met and reached should be celebrated, no matter how small. Many of our students reach benchmarks easily or with a little extra nudge. Still, there are some that need intensive intervention to reach those benchmarks. Over the years, I've slowly added to my alphabet "toolbox." The following activities can be used with any student learning their alphabet, but they are designed for your students who are struggling to master these letters and their corresponding sounds.  

When teaching the alphabet, we want to think about how to help our students really learn these letters and sounds. We don't just want them to know how to sing the alphabet song.  First, we introduce the letter. We show them the grapheme (visual representation) and tell them the name and sound associated. There is debate about the order of when to introduce each letter as well as upper case or letter case first, and sound or name first. I have no research to back me up- just my own experience. I teach upper and lower case together. I don't believe there is a sequence that necessarily works better than another. I just try to introduce in a way that doesn't have too many of the same looking letters together (so b and d are not learned at the same time.) I am also very systematic and explicit about how and when I teach them. Get a sequence that works for you and stick with it. It's always good to have them learn the letters in their name first, but in a small group, I use a pre-deterined sequence. I introduce 4 at a time, upper and lower case. We do several activities with these letters, then I introduce another set. I always review the previously learned letters. Every. single. day.

What usually comes next is your student can recognize the letter among other letters. This takes both memory and visual discrimination. Visual discrimination is the ability to identify differences in any visual image. In this case, we need students to see the differences between each letter. Many of these differences are so minor. At first, the letters of the alphabet look like random squiggles, curves, and lines. Kids must first identify the random shapes that make up a letter and the placement of these lines and curves (p, b, and d all have the same shapes but in different places.) Then they have to remember this imprint in their minds and remember the name and sound that matches that imprint. When students struggle to recognize letters, we need to determine if it is a memory issue (in my experience this is most common) or a visual discrimination issue. 

After kids can recognize the letter, we want them to retrieve it from their memory. This is slightly harder because they have make their own visual picture of the letter shape in their minds and remember the letter sound and name. 

Finally, we want our students to be able to write the letters, forming the shapes correctly. 

I put together some resources that I use with my students. This is the first set of activities that I will be posting on TPT. The next set will be printable activities and games. These are mainly visual aides. 

Having a visual picture to go along with graphemes really helps your students remember them! All of the visuals are the same throughout this pack. 

I use these picture cards to help students master the sound/symbol correspondence. With these and the grapheme cards, you could do sorting activities and play Memory. More ideas of how to use these are included. Here are a few ideas below:

I love using these cards when I introduce a letter. I slowly add the letters to the ring. Each student has their own ring. These have tiny letters, showing them where to start tracing. I keep these out when we are doing our handwriting too. I have them trace the letter card before writing, which reminds them how to form them correctly. 

This is packed with ideas for parents.  You could put it all together for a little take-home kit!

One of my favorite resources. I use this daily with students. We use it to learn how to write new letters as well as review other letters. I'll introduce a letter as a groundhog letter that goes underground, a shorter letter that is the same size as squirrel, and a tall letter like a deer. This visual has really helped my students with letter formation using lines. 

I also use this activity daily. I use the letters that I've introduced so far. I call out a name or sound. My students pull down the grapheme that represents that sound. This is good for practicing letter recognition. Students also like to take turns calling out the letter names and sounds for their classmates to find. That way, they are practicing retrieval. At the end, each student points to the letters and says their sounds. Once I am confident that the group has mastered a certain letter, I "retire" that letter and put in a new one. (I never retire vowels though.) When I start this activity, I just start with four letters. In the picture above, students had been working on b, s, m, t and a for a while. Then I introduced p, r, f, and c. After that, I introduced h and n. In order to add in another letter, I need to retire some letters. My students are now all solid with s, b, and m, so I will probably put those aside and add in one new one at a time. 

I also practice blending sounds with this. In the picture above, the students have learned only the letters shown. That is plenty of letters to make words with though! I start with two-phoneme words or word parts. I explain that "ap" is a part of a word like cap, map, and tap. We practice sounding out these words and word parts (blending sounds) and we practice building the words and word parts (segmenting. ) For example, I'll say "Pull down the letters that make ap." We'll stretch that word part with our invisible slinkies, then finger spell the word. Finally, they grab the letters that make those sounds. 

You can get all of these activities HERE.