Sunday, October 30, 2011

November Creative Writing

I'm going to have to make this post short and sweet, because of course I'm running a little late.  I wanted to share my November Create Writing today, because November is almost here!  I cannot believe how quickly October flew by, and I'm sure it will only speed up through November and December.

I hope you enjoyed the October Creative Writing and that you like the November version too!  You can just click on the picture for your copy.  (I'll have a December one for you soon:)   

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Nonfiction Reading

I have a wonderful group of students this year, so I was shocked to see just how much they struggled with science and social studies.  It felt as if no matter how many projects, experiments, and activities we did my students still had an extremely difficult time with any traditional pencil/paper assignments.  After a lot of thought and collaboration with other teachers, I finally realized that the trouble wasn't with the content area-it was that my students did not have strong nonfiction reading skills and strategies.  I shifted gears and began to think as a reading teacher and began compiling ideas to create a nonfiction reading unit.  I used the Common Core Standards as my guide and eventually created an entire unit on nonfiction reading.  After using these lessons with my students for several weeks now, I have seen a dramatic improvement in their nonfiction reading skills.

I started out with several lessons on what is nonfiction
We also talked a lot about nonfiction text features, and one of my favorite activities was the nonfiction text features sort.

I've also started using anticipation guides for prereading questioning, which you can read more about here.  We started focusing on types of questions, which I never really realized was such a challenge for students until I began this unit.
I then began working on teaching my students to find the main idea of a nonfiction passage.  We did several activities and graphic organizers on this, as well as a main idea task cards.

The next focus of the unit was on text structure, which will really be useful when we get to move into nonfiction writing.  We focused primarily on sequencing, cause and effect, and comparing and contrasting.  We had posters, graphic organizers, and other activities for each of these text structures.
I ended the unit with a focus on using context clues to identify unknown words, but I definitely believe in challenging nonfiction text students will also need specific vocabulary instruction.  (I'm really excited about some of the things I'm doing with vocabulary this year, and I'll be sharing a few games soon:)
At over 100 pages, the unit ended up being much, much longer than I anticipated, but I feel that nonfiction reading instruction is essential for success.  I hope to share more ideas with you through pictures, and if you're interested in checking out the entire unit on TpT, you can click on the link.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Camouflage Day

This week I started teaching about plant and animal adaptations which is one of my favorite science units, so I hope to have several fun things to share over the next couple of weeks.  We started the unit by learning about camouflage, and to cap off the week we had Camouflage Day on Friday.
This is just a small group of my camo kids!  It ended up being an event for the entire grade level, and all of my former students were so jealous!

My students also hid butterflies around the room, and they colored butterflies, so that they would blend in to their "environment".  This was such a fun activity, and since I teach two different groups of students, each group got to go on a butterfly hunt to try to find all of the hidden butterflies.

I was so impressed with their creativity, and both groups really grasped the concept of camouflage.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Anticipation Guides

I've been working on a nonfiction reading unit for the past several weeks and recently stumbled upon anticipation guides.  Apparently they're widely used, so I have no idea how I had never heard of them.  I am really excited about incorporating them into my reading and science instruction, because my students have a difficult time understanding the complex material.

We're currently studying Ancient Greece, so I've started using the anticipation guides for the Magic Tree House Ancient Greece and the Olympics.  Since it's a chapter book, I made a different anticipation guide for each chapter, and my students really seem to enjoy using the guides.  

You can click on the picture for the anticipation guides that I've made, and I'll share whatever I make when we get to our new units.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

PDFs & Macs

I am not a techie.  Sure I love creating things for my classroom, and I really do enjoy integrating technology into my lessons, but when things don't work correctly I am lost.  That's why it was so frustrating for me when my school Mac wouldn't open any of the PDFs I created on my personal PC.  Almost every document would have sections of black fuzzy lines or there were portions with no text at all.  It took me hours, even days, to finally find how to solve this problem (and maybe a little help from the husband after he noticed my extreme frustration with this).

I knew that I had to download the most recent version of Adobe, which is Adobe X, which you can download like any other program.  It is a free program and you can download it here.

I did this, but my documents were still not showing up correctly.  I remembered reading something about opening the documents with Adobe instead of preview, but to be perfectly honest I had no clue what that meant.  I finally noticed that at the top left of my documents it said 'preview', so I knew that I had to find a different way to open the documents.

After A LOT of trial and error, I finally found how to open the document in Adobe rather than preview.  I went to 'file' and then clicked 'open with' and selected 'Adobe Reader 10.1.0'.

It finally worked!  I've been able to open any document since them, so hopefully this will help anyone else out there who has experienced the same problem!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Habitats Menu

One of my largest science units of the year is on Georgia habitats, and I've always had a really hard time with this unit, because I had absolutely no resources for teaching these specific habitats.  I wanted to find a way to teach the habitats that involved multiple learning styles and gave students choices in the activities they completed.  To accomplish this, I created a Habitats Menu that students use to create a habitats book that I have used for the past several years, and my students and I absolutely love it!  I use the menus specifically for Georgia habitats, but they are designed so that they can be used for ANY habitat.

To make the books, I use 6 pieces of 12x18 construction paper for each student  (5 pages are for the habitats we study and 1 page is for the cover).  For the 5 habitats pages I hold the paper vertically and fold the bottom 1/4 up to make a pocket, and then I staple the sides of the pocket.  The height of the folded construction paper should be about the same height as a piece of notebook paper.

I add a cover page to each book that is the same height as the other pages, but it does not have a pocket.  I attach the pages together by punching 3 holes in the left side and tying the pages together with yarn.  I had my students decorate the cover of their book with a map of the habitats we are learning about.
Each page in the book is for each of the different habitats we learn about, and I have students keep all of their notes, research, and menu activities in the pocket of the specific habitat.
The menus are designed so that there are 3 appetizer activities, 3 main course activities, and 3 dessert activities that students can choose from.  I spend a week on each habitat and students have to complete 1 activity from each category.
The activities range from creating a collage, drawing a detailed picture, designing a cartoon, writing a report, writing a letter, to writing a song, and more.

This student wrote a report.

Collages are always the class favorite. I preprint a lot of pictures of specific animals.
I liked this student's cartoon.

The menu is on TpT, and if you'd like to see it just click on the link.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Day After Halloween

I've come to the conclusion that one of the only days more challenging than Halloween is the day AFTER Halloween.  There is nothing quite like a room full of children who've eaten nothing but candy over the past 24 hours.  I've heard many teachers say that November 1st should be a school holiday, and I think that sounds like a great idea!  However, I don't see that happening, so I've tried to find ways to go with it rather than fight for my students' attention all day.  I've combined a few of the activities I like to do with my students for a new product on TpT that you can check out here if you're interested.
I like to use the Nutrition Facts math lesson to show students exactly what they are putting into their bodies with this math activity.
I also do a little scientific observations and descriptive writing using the candy they got trick-or-treating.
I'll also have my students graph their candy, and even though it's not technically time to introduce the concept, I'm going to do a supply and demand lesson on Halloween items by comparing the prices of Halloween goods before and after Halloween.

Hopefully this will make the transition of going back to a regular school day a little easier for the students and for me!

For more ideas, check out this linky party!