Insect Fun at Home

As you know, I've been having some fun at home doing "summer school" with my son. Its's not at all structured or intense, just some extra learning with mom. :) One thing he really wanted to learn more about was bugs. He was all about the bugs! I narrowed it down to insects, telling him that spiders were left out of this club. That got his attention! Of course he wanted to know why, so that led to our big question, "What is an insect?" 

Of course we went to the library and got some insect books. 
I also made this simple little card:

I had these plastic insects for him to use (but you could also use pictures of insects. He looked at each bug and counted the legs and looked for 3 body parts and antennae. To add a little more hands on fun, he used "puff balls" too. He filled in the circle with the pom-pons when he found the characteristics of an insect (sort of like a checkmark). When he got to the spider, centipede and scorpion, he realized that they were not insects because they did not get to use most of the pom-poms.   

If I were in the classroom, I'd put kids in small groups to do this activity, or I would do it whole group and put insects under the doc cam one at a time while all the kids used pom-pons at their desks with this sheet.  

Be still my heart! He thought of this next part! He wanted to group them so we made circles using pipe cleaners. He loved that. It's the little things my friends. :) 

To really help us remember what makes an insect an insect, we created one using play dough. He had to include antennae, wings, 6 legs and 3 body parts. 

I would definitely do this in the classroom with kindergarten or first graders. Kids love when you bust out the play dough and it could be a quick authentic assessment too. 

He ended up making a few...

Then used the dot marker to make another.  

The teacher in me couldn't resist... I made a little chart to review the things we learned. I actually had this chart made and read it to him with the blanks not filled in. Then we came back to it after reading/learning about insects. He used his special pointer (uh popsicle stick with a pom-pom glued on the tip) to reread it. In class, I would use this as an interactive reading/writing activity. This would be my visual aide that I always refer back to. I would make it fancier with a diagram too. :)

Then he filled in the blanks (with some help). 

We went on many many bug hunts over the past week! 

When he found a bug, he loved getting out that magnifying glass to count the legs. 

A lot of these ideas I could bring to my classroom if I ever do an insect unit. Simple, but fun!

This all spurred on a little dragonfly close reading set. I've been studying close reading a lot this summer, practiced it during the past school year, and went to a couple of trainings. I learn best by doing, so I created this just as much to help myself along the process. I'm practicing it on Shawn and can't wait to go use it in the classroom with my students! I hope to work out all the kinks before showing you all. ;) 

Teaching Ingredients Linky

I'm linking up today with my sweet friend Christina from Sugar and Spice. I have loved her blog forever and I was lucky enough to be able to spend some time with her in Vegas. She is obviously an amazing teacher! I've always loved the name of her blog, but after reading her most recent post, I love it even more! (She blogged about why she chose her blog name.) She's having a great linky right now that's all about our "teaching ingredients". Love this! 

I sort of want to print and frame it in my classroom! 

Head over and read about Christina's teaching ingredients and link up to tell us all what your teaching ingredients are! I'd love to learn more about what kind of teacher YOU are in the classroom. If you don't link up, please leave a comment telling me about your ingredients! :)

A Fun, Easy Way to Practice Reading

I recently updated my Read, Think, Match pack. For those of you who bought it way back when, let me just say... sorry! I think I've updated this thing once or twice already. I'm not trying to drive you crazy with all these updates. Let me just explain for just a sec. :) First of all, clip art is just amazing these days. It just keeps getting better and better my friends. When new clip art comes out, I get inspired! Secondly, I learn something new every time I use a product. I am always wanting to make it better. Sooo... this update has SEVERAL new pages and some old pages with new clipart and some old pages that are just the same. :) For those of you who don't know about this yet, let me give you a little preview:

It's pretty basic. You cut, you read, you match, you paste. Boom! Mind blown, I'm sure. :) 

Seems simple, but it's been such a great resource for me. I started making these during my first year as a first grade teacher circa 2006. Oohh, I will not show you a sample of those. Not pretty my friends. The format and the idea was same, but I did not have it going on back then. Not that I think I do now, but let's just say, I've learned a few things. I created these originally because I was trying to get my kids to think about the text. Originally, these were inferencing activities. I would give clues like, "I am made of snow and can melt when it's hot. Who am I?" It evolved into a mixture of those inferential matches and just plain match a sentence to a picture (still using decoding skills and strategies to match to the picture for our beginning readers though!) 

Here is a picture of a more basic version (for your beginning readers):

Here's a sample of a slightly more challenging page with some opportunities to make inferences:

Why do I love these?

I also added the updates to my Reading Skills Bundle, which includes this pack, my sequencing pack, and my visualizing pack. 

I'd love your input for a kinder version!  I thought of having just a word to match to a picture to get them used to the first strategies of beginning reading: using the pictures and looking at the first letter in the word. Then I thought I'd include another with some simple sentences. What do you think? I know that for most, at the beginning of the year, this would be difficult...I'd love to hear your thoughts! :)Thanks!


Text Evidence for New Readers, a Simple Game, and a Freebie

I've always been a big fan of requiring our students to find evidence in the text to support their thinking. I am new to close reading. This is NOT a post about close reading. BUT I have been quietly practicing and studying close reading because I really think it is so powerful! The reason I bring up close reading is because a big part of it is using text evidence. I think I've got that part down, but I still need to learn so much more! For today, I'm just going to focus on how we can help our beginning readers to refer back to the text.  

You can do this even with the simplest of texts. I love to empower my students to read something on their own, with some scaffolding. I want to give them opportunities to practice their reading skills and fluency, while working on comprehension skills. (Side note: These simple passages or stories do not work for true close reading because the text and vocabulary are not complex enough. However, you can always find ways to make your students go back to the text to "prove" an answer.)

Wait a minute! Is that kid shirtless? Yep, that's right. We did some crazy slip-n-sliding then took a break to do some "summer school". 

I've always felt like I was meant to be a teacher. Then I had kids and thought, "Man, this is even better." Well, let me tell you what is the best of the best. Teaching your own kid! I am LOVING it. I'm so spoiled with Shawn. He humors me and totally goes along with the summer school thing. Although, I think he thinks that every 5 year old has to do summer school with their mom. Shhh! 

On this morning, he woke up and wanted to do his "homework" right away. (I know, not. normal.) Isn't he adorable in those slippers with his tiny little legs. Hilarious. These pages I made are all very simple passages for beginning readers. They have a sight word search to begin each page. He loves that part! My goal with these pages is to get him ready for the rigor of close reading. These passages do not have the text difficulty or vocabulary required for true close reading, but I'm hoping to get him used to going back to the text to find answers. 

Here is our process:
1. Sight word search (and additional activities if we need to master those sight words)
2. Read through the text (using knowledge of sight words, picture clues, context, and phonics skills)
3. Questions: Each question requires students to go back and find the answer in the text. These are such basic texts and questions but it is so empowering for them to be able to read it independently (mostly) and go back and search for that answer. 
4. Throw in a game (see below Guess What I'm Thinking): I want to get my students used to thinking while they read. This is a learned skill for most! To teach them how to think while they read, I want to show them how I think while I read. 

All you need for this is a few sticky notes and a fun pointer. I did not have a fun pointer so I just took a popsicle stick and glued a triangle button to the top. Anything to make it special to point to a sticky note. If you want to get them moving more, you could put circles (or sit spots) on the ground and have them hop to the answer.

If you want to try this out, you can download this passage for free. Click on the picture to download!

If you want more like it, you might want to check out my 

Disclaimer: My blog is a place for me to "work things out" in my head. I'm always learning new things, trying out new ideas, and then I reflect on that process. So don't quote me on anything here! Ha! My goal is always to find ways to teach, inspire, and support my students. I'm so glad you are here to cheer me on along the way! I love how we are all here to support each other in our mission to touch the lives of our kids. Just thought I'd throw that out there! :)

Sequencing Practice in Kindergarten and First Grade

Do your students need practice with sequencing? As you know, this is such an important comprehension skill. In addition to practicing sequencing while reading books together, we do a little activity that we call, "Read and Sequence". I know, not very original. ;) I started making these years ago to go along with my literacy centers. Last year, I bundled all of my Read and Sequence pages into a year-long pack. It was targeted toward first grade but also worked well for 2nd. Most recently, I modified the pack to work for kindergarten. The kindergarten version has picture clues for every sentence. There are also fewer words used. I tried to use mostly sight words, sound-out words, or words that were content-related. 

Here is a list of the topics. 

Most have a 4 step option and a 6 step option.


You can get this along with the first grade version HERE