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. 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Martin Luther King Jr. : Let's Be Dream Catchers!

Martin Luther King Day is right around the corner. 
Here is Kid President's thoughts on the day: 

I love his message..isn't it cool that we can change things? 
I love this kid too.
Check out his other videos.
They all have positive messages that kids today need to hear. 

Recently, my students celebrated New Year's Day.  We read a procedural text on how to make a Dream Catcher. We followed the directions to make them.

 Then we brainstormed the dreams we wanted to "catch" in 2019.

My kids had so many different ideas.

Here is one of my favorites:
What a sweet kid!

We displayed them all so they could share their dreams with everyone!

Here is a different template I have used with my kids before.
In this one, kids brainstorm three different dreams:
One for themselves,
for their school and for the world. 

I use this Dream Catcher lesson as a springboard into learning about Martin Luther King. 
Here is a poem that I like to use during our Poetry Station Time. 

You can find all these activities bundled in this "Let's Be Dream Catchers" set. 
Click the link below to check it out!

We are Dream Catchers: Martin Luther King Poem, Writing Ideas and Craft

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Making Inferences: What's My Teacher Been Up To?

Ready or we go! 
The calendar has been turned to January. It's time to think about getting back into the classroom. 
I will begin 2018 by teaching the very important, but difficult reading skill of making inferences. 
This is a tricky skill and I know my kids (and myself) will be struggling to deal with being back at school after our break. A couple of years ago I came up with an introductory lesson for the skill of Making Inferences. It will be perfect for our first day back. It is a fun activity that I call, " What's My Teacher Been Up To?"  It is a great one to use on the first week back from winter break, but can also be used any time of the year.  
I prep and prepare a number of "evidence" bags that contain clues about what I spent my Winter break doing. 

Inside each bag are clues that tell one of the things I did during my days off.  Students work in a small group to evaluate the clues and connect them to make an inference. 

I added multiple clues to each bag. One had a ticket to a museum I visited, a map of the metro we took to get there, and a photograph of my son in front of one of the exhibits. 

Receipts make good clues.  They often include a location plus a date and time. 
I included one for the bowling we did. Students could find clues and make inferences about the number of people who played based on the shoes we rented. 

Students recorded clues and background knowledge on a recording sheet and made inferences. 

Working in a small group helped them to practice 21st Century Skills such as communication and collaboration.  Each group got a chance to share their inferences and were able to give each other feedback. 

It was a great way to introduce a tough skill in a concrete and fun way. 
Choosing high interest activities helps my students and myself get back into our school routine. 
I'm looking forward to hearing and seeing my students work through the clues. 
So, if you are dreading going back, think of a way to make it fun!

I have put other "Making Inferences" lessons and materials together and have added them to my TPT Store.  You can click the link below to check it out. 

What are some of the activities you plan on your first day back from break?
Please share!