Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Let's Research: Using the Table of Contents, Index and Glossary

My kids have begun researching and I absolutely love it!
It makes my teacher heart happy to see them hard at work finding the answers to questions they have about subjects they are interested in.  
They are finding out that they don't need their teacher to learn...they just need books!

They are collecting information and organizing it in research folders and having a blast doing it. 

Along the way, we have been fine tuning our research skills with mini lessons on how to use a nonfiction book. 

My students are quickly understanding that knowing how to use parts of the book such as a Table of Contents or an Index can make their job of locating specific information a whole lot easier.  It is much more efficient to search for the facts they need by using an index  rather than flipping randomly through the pages of the book.  

I created a slide show for teaching the Table of Contents, Index and Glossary.  

It includes practice pages and resources. It made covering these important and necessary reading skills quick and easy. 
I added it to my TPT store. 
You can click the link below to check it out: 

Nonfiction: Let's Learn about the Table of Contents, Index and Glossary

Now I can just coach them as they use these text resources while they research.  
 Real life practice is the best!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Creating and Solving Addition and Subtraction Story Problems: A Lesson Plan for Success

We have been working on solving addition and subtraction story problems. Students are gaining a better understanding of when to add and when subtraction is the necessary operation. Now it's time to raise the bar. It's time for students to begin creating their own. Explicit teaching and modeling of this type of skill is always my approach. Most students need support and guidance in the transition from being the solver to being the writer.

I begin the process by activating my students' prior knowledge.  
We need to review these two operations and when and why we use each one.  

I created a sorting activity involving key words and example problems.  
Students repeat this sort often as we gain proficiency in identifying types of problems. 

Then students are ready to begin tackling the job of writing their own!
We take this slowly with lots of explicit modeling. 

To help students with the task of creating problems and to make it more fun, I use problem solving picture cards and number spinners. 

Students pull a card.  They use the picture as an idea or the basis for their story problem.   

Then they spin the spinner to determine the numbers they will use in their problem.
They can spin once, twice or even three times depending on whether they will use a one, two or three digit number in their problem.

Using the problem solving graphic organizer breaks the process into concrete steps. 
All students can be successful. 

We started by solving our own. But now many kids are such pros at it, they can switch off papers and read and solve each others!

We had great fun using the winter set since we are still celebrating this cold and frosty season. 
Another set is ready for use at any time of the year. 
I'll put this out as a math station or for my fast finishers to use. 

Creating Story Problems: A Guide and Resources for Story Problem Writing

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Celebrating Academic Success with Topic Brag Tags

I started using Brag Tags this year as a way to reward my students' positive behaviors.
Students have earned tags for being excellent listeners, helping others and great citizenship along with lots of others.

They were so into earning these tags that I wondered if it would also encourage them with their academic progress. 

I started previewing the tags they could earn for showing good mastery of content area learning.
  Students keep a learning log that includes notes on our content area learning. If notes were complete and neat and they demonstrated a good understanding of their science and social studies learning, they would receive a topic tag.

I also like how the collection of topic tags helps students keep track of ALL the learning they did this year!

Our students cover A LOT of learning in just a year's time!

Students are so proud of their accomplishments!

I hang student brag tags on the side of a filing cabinet.
They collect them all week and then get to wear them on Fridays.

I've added these to my TPT store.
You can click the link below to check them out!

Academic Brag Tags: Social Studies and Science

Academic Brag Tags

How do you celebrate your students' academic success?
Would love to hear!

Monday, February 4, 2019

It's Valentine's Day! Let's Write a Friendship Poem!

It's February....time to celebrate friendship!
 Friends are really important to our students.   I like using the topic of friendship as a writers workshop piece right before Valentine's Day. 
My kids are writing up a storm and I love using their writer's folders to manage all the writing they are doing. 

I posted about these folders in a past entry so scroll back a bit if you are interested in hearing more about these.  I have the printables available on my TPT store.  
You could check here:

Doubling the folders allow students to have a section to glue notes and another section for references.

I use these "Slice and Stick" note sheets in this front section. 

Writing Slice and Stick Note Sheets  

We use them to document our learning and  they serve as a reminder of our writing responsibilities.

Two folders mean lots of pockets to put drafts they are working on.
Here are some examples

I LOVE using mentor texts when teaching writing.  Here is a super book to use to jump into the topic of friendship.  This is a great read for the month of February! After reading this one we will create an anchor chart on "How to be a True Friend".  I also focused on identifying causes/effects in this one since that is our reading focus but this book could be used for MANY teaching points!  Use it for what your kids need.  

The next day I introduce a patterned poem by Jessica Crum entitled: Friends.  I use the technique of "Guess the Covered Word" to get students to practice using context clues when reading.  Then this one is glued into the poetry journal where they will get much practice reading it multiple times.   The next day I tell students we are going to borrow Jessica Crum's pattern to create our own patterned poems about friends.   We work through the writing process together as we brainstorm, draft, revise and edit.  I am sharing this eight day lesson plan with all graphic organizers, mini lesson notes, drafting paper, and grading rubric in my TPT store. 
So check here if you are interested:

Writer's Workshop: Friends: A Patterned Poem
Graphic organizers like webbing and brace maps helped my writers generate and then organize ideas. 
 I work my teaching of complete sentences and fragments, subjects and predicates into my writing block. It just makes sense to teach it there.  We analyze Jessica's sentences for completeness and then make sure we don't include fragments in our drafts.   I also teach how to edit for spelling through this writing lesson.

Spending time on prewriting sets students up for a successful drafting session:

Student writing is graded with a rubric.  Here is an example of the one I use for this particular piece of writing:

Here are the completed pieces we have done in the past: 

Some more! You will be surprised at the variety of ideas they come up with!
This is one of my favorite writing lessons.  It is simple to carry out and all students will be successful in producing a great final product.  It also introduces the basics about what good writers do.  This was my fifth year in a row using this lesson and I never tire from using it and seeing what the kids produce.
If you try it let me know how it goes! 
Happy writing!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Writing Through the Curriculum: Snowflake Adventures

I think all kids should learn how to make a paper snowflake...don't you? 
It's just one of those childhood memories that I have held onto.  
We would make a ton of them, big and small, detailed and simple.  It was great fun. 
I wanted to relive this joyful activity with my class so I came up with a way to integrate snowflake crafting,writing, and science. 

First we made snowflakes.  Many of my kids had never done it before. 
Now they are hooked and want to make an endless number of them!
We choose our favorite and turned it into a character for a story we were about to write. 
We added eyes, mouth two arms and some mittens. 

Our snowflake characters were ready to go on an adventure!
We reviewed our learning about the water cycle and how snowflakes are formed. 
We recorded this on our brainstorming sheets. 

We decided to write an adventure story about our snowflakes in three parts. 
The first scene would have the snowflake falling from the sky. 
The second scene the snowflake would land. 
And finally, in the third scene, he would melt and evaporate...up he would go!

Students drew three pictures detailing what would happen in their stories. 

In  this one, the snowflake landed on the wing of an airplane!

This snowflake never did melt and got made into snowcream, placed in the fridge and made friends with the milk and baby bottles!

Before actually writing down the story, students met with a writing partner to tell their stories. 
We call this the oral rehearsal.  It gives students a chance to think through their entire story and get feedback from a peer before writing.  This step really helps my young writers. 

Then students were ready to write!

They loved seeing their writing displayed and enjoyed reading each others!

I have added the materials for this lesson to my TPT store. I threw in a bonus snow poem and nonfiction passage and question set about snow too. 
You can check it out here: 

Water Cycle and Winter Writing: The Adventures of a Snowflake

Happy Writing!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Keep them Curious! Ideas for Integrating Hands On Learning and Test Prep

I believe children are innately curious creatures. I spent some years working with preschoolers.  I would take them on walks and would watch and listen to their inquisitive minds at work as they found little treasures along the way.  An odd looking rock, worms wriggling about after a storm, even their own shadow would set the wheels in their brains turning.  Observations and questions would come spilling out. Many I had no answers for.  They had such joy and fascination with the world around them. Such little scientists!

Now I teach 8-9 year olds in a public school setting. 
Our days are full, our schedule is tight, our pace is fast. 
Is there time for curiosity between the reading groups, the math lessons, the many tests? 

An April 2018 article published in Pediatric Research suggests that curiosity may be an important, yet under-recognized contributor to academic success.  

I feel strongly that it is up to the adults in the school setting to find the time to allow students to observe and wonder, to think and ponder. 
Isn't that what school is supposed to be about? 
The state curriculum guides and pacing charts are going nowhere. 
How can we get creative with our time and find space in our day to let kids be kids. 

One way that has worked for me is to set up an Observation Station in my room. 
It is a designated place that houses our science tools, books and interesting natural or manmade objects or artifacts.  
Students have a scheduled time to go to the observation station twice a week during our Reading Round time.  

The items I put here can vary.  Many times, they are somehow tied to a science or social studies unit we are working on. 

Students can examine the materials here.  I give them a sheet to record a picture and any notable
observations they have made.  Magnifying glasses, rulers and scales are available to help them. 

I leave out clipboards, sketching pencils and coloring tools.  
They amaze me with their detailed diagrams. 
They are even adding those nonfiction text features I've been teaching them about: 
captions and labels. 

Working alongside other students allows them time to communicate their observations and questions. 

Their second day at the station is centered more on reading and research. 
Many times I will have a print out of information with some questions to answer. 
This serves a double purpose: I get the reading comprehension practice in  and they get to discover some possible answers to questions they may have thought of during their first day. 

Many of the objects that I put out in our Observation Station are natural and easy to find. 
Last week we examined snow. 
Students "played" with it....yes, they actually got to play...and isn't that how kids learn best. 
 Through touching it, they got to witness it change states - from a solid to a liquid. 

They got to watch the mercury in the thermometer drop as they covered it with snow. 

We scooped some snow out into little dishes.  By the end of the day it was liquid water. 
When we came back the next day, the dishes were nearly dry. 
A solid, a liquid, a gas... the water cycle at work. 
The perfect lead into our next science unit. 

Students read an article about snow the next day along with other nonfiction books about the topic. 

Students love the observation station and often help me figure out what I should put out next. 
Now I just need to figure out how to find those dinosaur bones they keep asking about!

I've put together some of the materials I have used in this station and have added it to my TPT store. 

Keep them Curious! Observation Station Materials and Reading Passages

I would love for you to try these materials out yourself and I'd love your feedback. 
Email or comment if you would like me to continue adding this resource to my store.