October 23, 2016

Keeping Track of Guided Reading with Lesson Plans

Don't get me wrong, I love my Erin Condren planner, but the space I had to write down my plans for my guided reading time just weren't cutting it. I always knew I could do better...better at planning my groups and really looking into what I wanted to get out of them. 

So to help me combat that, I made my own lesson plan template!

Let me just say, they have been working beautifully!
I check out books from our fabulous literacy library and go through them to see what I want to work on with my groups. I record what we will do before, during and after reading. On the days we do word work, I can choose what skill we will be reviewing and the activity that corresponds.

I pull out the plans in my binder and have them in front of me for each group.

The lesson plans are editable and you can add your own text. Or if you are simple like me, I just print them out and write on them. 

You can find the pack in my TpT store
It comes with 4 different templates depending on how you structure your groups and what strategies you use.
It also includes a letter to parents explaining decoding strategies and their rules.

October 19, 2016

Creating Their OWN Book of Non-fiction Features and a Freebie

Non-fiction may be one of my favorite things to teach all year!
Students just happen to get so engaged and absorbed in non-fiction that it drives my teacher heart to want to teach more and more of it!

Each year, we start off by identifying the features and making a class chart. 

You can find all the parts I use for our anchor chart by clicking on the picture below.
It will take you to my TpT store where you can download them for FREE!

This anchor charts hangs by our guided reading area. We refer to it often throughout the year when we are reading non-fiction in our groups.

After learning about the features, we went through our book boxes and labeled some features we found with sticky notes. 

This student found a photograph and an illustration.

Another fun activity we love to do is similar, except I hang posters around the room. Each poster has the name of a feature on it. Students hunt through their books again. When they find a feature, they write down the page number it was on and go and stick it to the poster. 

We also make our own book of non-fiction features. I just take a few pieces of manila and add a cover.
Here is an example of one student's book.

Each student glued in their own photograph and wrote their own caption about their photo. 

We do something similar to this for each feature.
After we have added them all, they can't wait to take them home!

October 17, 2016

Trick or Treat with Turkey

There are SO many great books out there for the month of October. A new one I just so happened to purchase with my latest book order was Turkey Trick or Treat. It's a companion to Turkey Trouble and Turkey Claus. If you have those two and love them like I do, you can't pass this one up either!

In the book, Turkey tries to dress up in different costumes so he can get candy from the farmer.
I wanted my littles to create their own costume for Turkey so I came up with this cute and fun craft!

After the story, students will complete the creative writing response...
"The turkey should dress up like a _____ because..."

They will also complete the turkey craft pictured below and design a costume for the turkey. 
Example: a pumpkin

You can find this craft available in my TpT store now!

October 16, 2016

Engaging and Integrating: Bats

Interested in what happened inside our bat cave? You're in the right place! 
If you missed how I transformed my room into a bat cave last week, you've got to visit my post HERE.

All week long, we integrated science, reading and math.
Here are just a few of the activities we focused on.

I had the kids bring flashlights and we worked with the lights off the majority of the time.

We had read a little bit about bats and already had some schema about them. Find that lesson HERE.
Before reading more non-fiction about bats, we recorded our schema on sticky notes and shared on a chart.

While I was reading, they had to write down a new fact. We shared our new learning & put it on our chart also.

During our bat snack (cheese balls from Sam's in a batty bag), we made hanging bats.
We used this can/have/are chart and recorded them in the squares.

They cut them apart and glued the facts to string hanging from the bat template.

During science, we labeled the parts of a bat.

Students had to draw their own bat the next day and label the parts.
FUN TWIST: tape their drawings under their desk and let them work "upside down" like bats!!!

We conducted 2 experiments. The first was an echolocation experiment.
This is a darling video/song we watched and got stuck in our heads.

All you will need is 2 toilet paper rolls and a tin pie pan.
Student 1 will hold the pie pan. Student 2 will be the speaker and Student 3 the listener.  Have Student 2 speak through the toilet paper roll. The sound will bounce off of the pie pan and will travel through Student 3's toilet paper roll to their ear. This simulates how sound travels for bats. It hits the object and bounces back to the bat informing them how far the object is away. Each student had the chance to experience and be each of the 3 parts. 

Bat mothers have a very good sense of smell and the ability to tell which baby is theirs out of hundreds of bat babies. You will need cotton balls and several different oils for this experiment.

Each student will be a "mother bat" who is looking for her baby by smell. Give each one a cotton ball with a dab of oil on it (I used peppermint, thieves, orange, lemon). Have a plate with cotton balls with each oil on them and have the students sniff the cotton balls to find their "baby". 

During this week in math we had been discussing 2D shapes. I came across this activity where students had to put shapes together to make a bat. I made it a little more challenging for my kiddos...I took away the example picture on the handout and made them think, shocker! They found it fun!

Try this fun Geometric Bat Halloween Craft activity with your students. It's a great way to talk shapes with every age!

We finished off the week reading Stellaluna. We discussed the plot of the story and used Smitten with First's plot activity to go along with the book. 

It was such a fun week and I can just imagine the disappointment when they walk in tomorrow and the bat cave is gone. Time to start thinking of ideas for another room transformation!

October 11, 2016

Transform Your Classroom into a Bat Cave!

I knew October would be the perfect month to try my first classroom transformation.
I saw a blog post from Fun in First that sparked my interest and I knew exactly where I was headed.

Transformation mission=Bat Cave!

That same night, I literally drug my husband to Walmart to get all the goodies.
Here's what I came away with, and all for under $20....$17 to be exact!

Welcome to the Bat Cave! 
Here are 2 main focus points, our entrance and our SmartBoard, both covered with table cloths.

 If you're interested in what we did with the GIANT bats, read more about it HERE.
I hung them across our word wall and added the purple Halloween lights. 

I put some of the table cloths over each set of tables.

Last week we also made bats with our hands. I hung them from the ceiling, because bats DO live in our cave!

And when the lights are off, our cave comes alive!

It honestly did not take much time to transform at all and it was totally worth it!
Check back later this week for more ideas and activities from our Bat Day!

October 10, 2016

Non-fiction and New Learning

Our focus in reading the past 2 weeks has been identifying non-fiction features, their purpose and reading LOTS of non-fiction text. I love teaching non-fiction in October because there are so many great "themed" things you can pull in during this time.

I began reading my firsties ONE single book about Bats.
Ummm...1 book and they were hooked.
I knew since I found something they were interested in that we were completely and wholeheartedly diving in! 

I put my class into small groups (each with a strong reader) and had them read a short non-fiction book on bats. Look at those cuties! They were SO into it! 

Next, they had to discuss and record 4 new facts they learned from the text.

 Instead of recording on sticky notes or paper, as we usually do, we recorded our learning on GIANT bats!

Little did they knew, their interest sparked an interest in their teacher as well!
Operation transform the classroom into a Bat Cave takes place tomorrow.
Check back for more about that SOON!

Read all about our classroom transformation into a bat cave HERE.

October 4, 2016

Spiders, Bats & Pumpkins Oh My! It's OCTOBER!

t's October!
I'd love for you to go back and read my past posts on all the great things I do in this fun month.
For the sake of time, there's no need to do that because I've brought it ALL to you right here in one post!

Pumpkins {check}
Bats {check}
Spiders {check}
Halloween {check}

Let's dive into all of the great activities I do in my classroom using Pumpkins first!

I love bringing in a real pumpkin for my class to explore. It's hands-on learning at it's finest.
It's all about the math and science when it comes to the class pumpkin.
We also read some non-fiction books about pumpkins and record our pumpkin schema beforehand. 

{If you would like to read more details about each activity, click on it's link}


Next up, Bats!

We go batty for bats!
We again read some non-fiction about bats and record our schema and new facts on a large bat.
We also use labels to label a giant bat!
We read other books like Stellaluna and craft it up using plot. 

{If you would like to read more details about each activity, click on it's link}


These creepy, crawly things are so interesting to firsties. Here's a few spider ideas!

When learning about spiders we always fill out a KWL chart because there is always so much they already know but even more that they want to learn! We read plenty of non-fiction during our study of spiders.
Making our spider web shaped book is always a hit and a few fun spider shaped crafts are always fun too!

{If you would like to read more details about each activity, click on it's link}


The very end of the month brings us Halloween. We don't necessarily celebrate it at our school, but we still do a few fun things. Check out the Halloween ideas!

{If you would like to read more details about each activity, click on it's link}

October 2, 2016

Homework or Not to Homework?

I'm sure you've heard the recent headlines about teachers all over completely doing away with homework. While that sounds great (especially for the parents I'm sure), I'm not quite sure I agree.

How do you get better at anything you do?
Do you just wake up one day knowing how to drive?
What about tying your shoes?
Practice folks, that's how! Repetition after repetition. 

So here is my take on homework this year.
That's it, practice reading to become a better reader.

My students have sight word flashcards and 2 readers. They are to practice each Mon.-Thur.

Here is the reading log I am sending home.

You can download the pdf version if you want to print it from my TpT store or I am also including an editable version for those of you who need to tweak it. 

All this teacher wants is to instill a love for reading in each and every one of my students.
Let's get them reading!