Alphabet Activities for Winter

After a little holiday break, I'm back at it. I needed to get this done before returning to school next week. Breaks always fly by, don't they?! I'll be using these activities with my kindergarten small groups. I'm working with students who need more practice to master their letters and sounds. They loved the activities from the fall set, so I went ahead and made a winter set of alphabet activities

A few things to know about these activities:

1. They can be used as centers, but were created to be used as an intervention resource guided by the teacher with a small group or one-on-one. The feedback and guidance from a teacher assures that the students are getting much needed repetition and exposure with correct identification of letters and sounds. If you students are proficient with these skills, then these are perfect for centers! Even kids who know their letters need review and practice to gain automaticity with sound/symbol recognition  needed for fluent reading. 

2. There are several options for each activity. I split the letters into smaller groups. Each activity follows the same groupings of letters. For example, there is a board in the letter race with six letters and 3 other boards with different sets of six letters. These same combinations of letters are used for the Find it, Cover it boards. Why? With my students, I've found more success with grouping letters and teaching them in a sequential, systematic way. I teach letters in smaller sets, so I wanted to make sure this product followed that model. I'll be making all of my seasonal sets with the same groupings, so no matter where your students are at different points in the year, they will have a set ready for for them to use (for all 6 activities/games.) Note: Some activities have 2-3 letters as a review from the previous set as a review.

3. I also included an editable version so you could put in any letters you want for these activities (when it is applicable.)

There are three versions of the Find it, Cover it activity. One is with pictures, another with a spinner, and the third just with the board and a teacher. 

You can find this HERE:

To see all of my alphabet activities, click HERE.

Want more posts about the alphabet?

To read a detailed post about teaching the alphabet to your intervention groups, check out this post HERE:

Common Core in December: Polar Express Sequencing

This week I got to go into the first grade classrooms and help out with one of my favorite projects. They turned out so cute! 

With this activity, students will choose five the main events from  the Polar Express, write and illustrate them, and sequence them onto a train. Keep in mind, my directions are for a first grade class. If you do this with 2nd or 3rd, you wouldn't have to do so much scaffolding. 

RL.1.3, RL.1.7


L.1.1, L.1.2

Here, students will use the notes you took as a class and the who/did what/where prompt to write complete sentences about the main events. They will write one event on each page. 

Finally, they will cut and glue all of the events on to the train. The front side has the first two events and the back side has the last three. Last, glue your train head onto the front of the train. 

If you would like to try these out, you download the directions for free HERE.  (All that you see here is included, exempt for the train head. You can make your own or get the one I used here.)

For more Polar Express activities, check out my Polar Express Unit.

Make sure you grab this freebie in the PREVIEW on TPT:

You can get this pack HERE

Common Core in December: 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.

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. 

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.

Here are some photos of some of the options:

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 
  • 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