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Monday, April 22, 2013

Summer Literacy Centers

Since I teach at a year round school, I teach during the summer. (Don't feel too bad for me, I get the whole Spring off while my students are still in school). Our summer school is more academic than the summer schools I went to growing up (that was mostly art and computer class). I get my new students for the year during summer and we hit the ground running starting in June. That means we start literacy centers starting the second week of school. So for those of you who teach summer school OR are looking for some summer-themed centers for the end of the year, I present my latest centers:

 One of the packets I made focuses on synonyms. First, students match sunshine synonyms together and write their answers.

The second activity students play the game concentration with synonyms.
To check summer synonyms out of TPT click here or on the pictures below:
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I also created an antonym packet with the same activities as the synonym packet. Students match the antonym sunglasses:

Then students can play the game concentration with antonyms:
To see the summer antonyms on TPT click here or on the pictures below:
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I also created a packet to work on long and short vowels, something I know my newly minted second graders will need a LOT of practice in.
 First students will practice making short vowel words using onset and rime cards.

Students then practice making long vowel words using onset and rime cards.

Once students have practiced working with long and short vowels, they will play the memory game concentration by matching either long or short vowel words. Students turn the cards face down, then turn two over at a time. If the cards match (either they are both long vowels or both short vowels) students get to keep the cards. If they don't match, they will be turned back face down.
To see this pack on TeachersPayTeachers, click here or on the pictures below:
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 In order to practice identifying consonant clusters, students will do a seashell word sort by beginning consonants (either one, two, or three beginning consonants).

To check it out on TPT click here or on the pictures below:
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My last center I created focused on those tricky "oo" words. Students sort words into either oo sound in moon or uh sound in look. (I love this center just because the clipart is so adorable. Who doesn't love ice cream?)

To see this on TPT click here or on the pictures below:
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Anyone else here teaching summer school? Have some fun ideas to share?

Fossils Lesson

I am very lucky to have an awesome classroom aide/ science teacher. He comes in for an hour in the morning and teaches science for an hour twice a week. I really love having someone teach science separately because good science instruction takes a lot of prep and I've got my hands full as it is!

Anyway, for those of you who do teach your own science class, my aide thought of a great way to teach fossils! Also, if you teach Open Court, this is a great connection to a 2nd grade Open Court unit. (I don't use Open Court, but I have on good authority this works well). My students were learning about dinosaurs and how we have learned so much about them using bones and fossils. My aide was able to get some fossils online to show the kids and then told them they were going on a dig. You can imagine how excited they were. 

The kids were shown pictures of the tools used in a fossil dig, particularly the brushes and picks. the students then got their own "tools." In order to simulate digging for fossils, the students used toothpicks (picks), paint brushes (brushes), and chocolate chip cookies. The cookie portion was the "rock" to dig in and the chips were the fossils. Once students dug all of the chips/fossils out of the cookie using the toothpick, they brushed the chips off with the paintbrushes. The darker the color, meaning the less cookie/rock on it, the better.

The kids LOVED it! And they also did a good job not eating their fossils. They were allowed to eat another cookie on their way home for their restraint. 

Anyone else have a fun science lesson to share? 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Polar Bear Non-Fiction Writing

After a lot of work on personal narrative and opinion writing, we started to work on non-fiction writing. I really love Hope King's style and purchased her Polar Bear unit. Check out her Winter Writing Bundle on TeachersPayTeachers by clicking here. It is really cute and my examples here use her product.

First, we filled out the K and W in a KWL about polar bears. Using the "want to know" section, we brainstormed different topics that the kids could research. I wanted it to be VERY specific so students could manage the research independently. Once students chose their topic, either habitat, diet, or body (physical attributes), we went to the computer lab.

If your students have access to the Internet, National Geographic for kids has a great website for non-fiction research. I gave students the direct link to the polar bear page and asked them to find three facts about their topic, using a simple tree chart to take notes. (Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of Hope's super cute sheet).

This is a screenshot of National Geographic Kids website for polar bear. Click here to access the NatGeo Kids animal site.
Next, we used the stoplight paragraph strategy to organize their writing. (Click here to check out how I taught this concept to my students.) They first took the facts that found and wrote them in the supporting details section, highlighting them in yellow. Next, after another class discussion about what a topic sentence is and looking back to our cookies example, I asked students to develop their green topic sentence. The main idea I kept going back to with them was, "what do your facts tell you about the polar bear's (habitat, diet, or physical characteristics). With that in mind, many students were able to do this independently. Many other needed conferences, but that makes sense! Isn't the topic sentence the hardest part for all writers?

Once the had their topic sentence, students were asked to write their red closing sentence. Most of them were able to do this once their topic sentence was written.

After mapping out their writing, the traditional 1st, 2nd, final draft process began. I asked students to write their first draft using the colors to help them practice visualizing their writing, but by the time they were on the 2nd draft they were writing in normal pencil. I used my usual writing conference strategy I wrote about here and discovered one other handy trick.

Students who are rewriting another draft often skip lines accidentally. I've found that using an extra piece of paper to stay on the correct line helps kids stay on track.

I felt that the kids wrote really well and I was very proud of their work! Anyone else have some great writing they would like to share?

P.S. Hope King did not ask for any sort of endorsement, I just loved her product and wanted to share how I used in my classroom. Please feel free to use any of my strategies, but if you want to finished product to look as cute as hers, I recommend purchasing the unit. I've loved it and it is totally worth it :)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Stoplight Paragraphs: Helping Structure Writing

 My students spent a long time on narrative and fiction writing, ad it was time to move on to non-fiction. While my students are working on non-fiction writing, I wanted to really zone in on structure.  I used to edit papers in college and graduate school and I cannot tell you how many people do not know how to structure writing! If I can begin the process of good structure, I am a happy teacher.

To teach the concept I used the Stoplight Paragraph method. 
I found this great image on Greenville Unified's Website.

The basic gist is:
Green= Topic Sentence, go
Yellow= Supporting Details, slow down
Red= Closing Sentence, stop

In order to introduce this concept to my students, we did a shared writing activity about cookies. I wanted to topic to be simple and engaging. Who doesn't love cookies?

First we made a quick bubble map of all the things that we knew about cookies. 

After we filled out our thinking map, I asked students to vote on the three things we wanted to put in our paragraph. I then took out our shared writing paper, and wrote the three sentences under "supporting details." At this point I explained to the students to concept of a stoplight paragraph: In every there is a topic sentence telling you what the paragraph is about, supporting details that add details about the topic, and a closing sentence that retells what the paragraph was about. 

The cookie facts that we had voted on were our supporting details: Chocolate chip cookies are chocolaty, they're delicious, and they're sweet.  I highlighted them in yellow. Now came the tough part: figuring out a topic sentence that covered all of our details. At first they offered ideas that covered only one detail, like, "Cookies are made of sugar" or "There are chocolate chips in cookies." I asked them to think: "What do all of these facts tell you about cookies?"

They thought for a while and then the hands shot up. I got several more accurate ideas, "Cookies taste sweet," but we decided as a class that "Cookies are fantastic to eat" was the most appropriate.

Once we wrote that in green for the topic sentence, I asked them to think of another way to say our topic sentence. One of my funnier students raised his hand and said, "Cookies are yummy in my tummy?" The whole class loved it, so we wrote it in red for the closing sentence. Now that they were exposed to the concept, they were ready for their own non-fiction writing next week.

Does anyone else use stoplight paragraphs? How do you introduce it?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Teaching Adverbs: Part 2

I've been very MIA for the last few weeks! Since I'm on a year round schedule, I've been preparing to go off track. Man, it is a lot of work! I aspect extra time packing up my classroom is an organized fashion so I can find my things easily in June, on top of report cards, parent meetings,  parties, and student awards.  Not complaining now since I am done and on break! 

Before we went off track, I was working furiously on adverbs with my students. We first started with sorting different types of adverbs. (You can check out my post about the process here). Next I decided to put my theater training into action. 

I wrote a sentence up on the board with a blank space for an adverb. For example, I finished my homework__________. At first, I wrote in the adverbs, focusing on where and when adverbs, the tricky ones. (I finished my homework yesterday/I finished my homework today or I slept outside/I slept inside). Then I asked students to come up and act out the sentences. How would a student look if they finished their homework yesterday (calm perhaps) vs today (frazzled)? What would sleeping inside look like vs outside? 

Once they got the idea, I allowed students to come up with their own adverbs, focusing on the slightly easier "how" adverbs. I wrote the sentence: The student danced _________. I asked for student volunteers to fill in the sentence and then I had the entire class act out the sentence.  I wish I had pictures, because they were hilarious! Unfortunately, I was laughing too hard and forgot to grab the camera.

To wrap up, I asked students how adverbs changed the meaning of the sentences. What did they notice? Since we have been working on using details in our writing, many students made the connection to our writing goals and the lesson (yay). Others just enjoyed thinking about how much fun language can be.

Does anyone else have a good strategy for teaching adverbs or parts of speech in general? 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Teaching Adverbs

This past week we've started to dive into adverbs, a fairly tricky concept for my EL students. When I first introduced the concept in the fall, I realized that most of my students don't use them correctly in spoken language ("I walked to the store quick") and I decided to revisit at a later date.

 Now that it is Spring, I found a word sort strategy that has helped introduce the various uses of adverbs. Students sort words according to what the modify in a sentence: "How" adverbs, "Where" adverbs, and "When" adverbs. Once we have sorted the words, I asked students to come up with their own examples of the different types of adverbs.

"Where" adverbs were the most difficult because the kids got too specific and started naming nouns, but once I gave them a few more examples, they got the hang of it.

Anyone else have some strategies they use to teach adverbs?

Monday, March 4, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Literacy Centers

With St. Patrick's Day coming up, I've been working hard to make some centers that were relevant to the skills we're working on. I'm finally finished! Yay.

For the next few weeks we're working on distinguishing between open and closed syllables. I've noticed that many of my students are struggling to decode multi-syllable words. Some were even having trouble with unfamiliar two-syllable words! I decided we needed some work on breaking words down.


Students cut the words in half into first and second syllables. This allows them to see the difference between open syllables (ending in a vowel) or closed syllable (ending in a consonant). 

After practicing breaking apart closed and open syllables, my students will work on a syllable sort. Open syllable "gold coins" go into the open syllable "pot of gold," closed syllable coins go into the closed syllable pot of gold.

One other skill we're working on right now if those lovely common-core aligned adverbs. I created an activity where students modify sentences using either "How," "Where," or "When" adverbs. They write three different adverbs in the same sentence and draw illustrations to show how the adverbs changes the meaning of the sentence.

I'm so excited about these activities I decided to link up with Sharing Kindergarten's St. Patrick's Day Linky Party! Click on the link to find all the wonderful St. Patrick's Day activities!

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