Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thematic Thursday-Dog Days

Thematic Thursday is a weekly teacher linky party focused on the sharing of ideas for a different theme each week. This week's theme is "Going to the Dogs", and bloggers are asked to share their favorite resources, book ideas, activities, and suggestions to help students learn about dogs.  Please grab the image above, write up your post sharing your ideas, resources, and anything that fits the theme, and link up your blog name and intended grade level for the resources and ideas you share.  (Example-Comprehension Connection-4th and 5th)  Please remember that this link up is for blog posts only.  No store links will be allowed even with freebies as the hope is for readers to return to these themes later in the year or when they wish to focus on the theme.  Many themes can be used any time of year. The image below can be used to pin your posts.  I will form a dog themed Pinterest board as well for resources that are shared.

I thought I'd share the story of Molly, our Old English Sheepdog, as part of today's post.  After all, aren't our pets woven into the memories we have made with our children and for ourselves?  Our pets, whether you have dogs, cats, gerbils, or fish, are valuable to the children we teach and help us to form connections to them.  I can honestly say that every child I've taught has enjoyed the Shadow and Molly stories I share, and when I tell a story, I usually get one back.  

So Molly was a rescue dog.  Supposedly, she was rescued twice, but I would argue that she was rescued just once by us.  Here is Molly and here is how Molly's story goes....
Molly was adopted by us after losing our golden retriever, Shadow. We were all devastated by his loss, but not terribly surprised as he was getting up in age.  He suffered a stroke while on a walk with me and had to be put to sleep a few days later.  Unfortunately, the timing of Shadow's loss was less than ideal because my father passed a few weeks later which was even more devastating, especially to Catherine, my youngest, so we waited for about a month before we began thinking about another dog. Although we loved our golden, we knew we wanted a dog with a little more manageable shedding.  We visited our local animal shelter and scanned the newspaper.  Eventually, I came across Molly on Craigslist.  Lesson learned.  Molly was advertised as "fully vetted", but upon visiting our vet for her initial checkup, I learned that she was overdue with all of her vaccinations by about six months.  In that amount of time, she contracted heart worms.  After $1500 in treatment expenses, I am happy to report that Molly is a healthy dog once again, and she is absolutely the best dog ever.

Now, I will move on to resources you can use in your classroom to share your love of dogs with your students.  For K-2 readers, my favorite choices come from Cynthia Rylant. The Great Gracie Chase reminds me so much of Shadow and his love for chasing squirrels.  I swear he would spy them from a quarter of a mile away. If he got off the leash, the chase was on.  He never could catch them though.  Still, he always tried! I do have a paid unit to go with this book that readers may be interested in.  [Here] is the link to it. I also found a free activity that I will list below. Bad Dog Marley is another favorite of mine.  In this book, Marley is one destructive animal, especially with storms.  Again, this one reminds me of Shadow.  He was terrified of storms, and we have drywall marks to prove it. LOL!  Both of these books could be used with young children, but would also work well as mentor texts for older readers for writing.  If you are working on voice, I think these are fantastic.  

In the primary grades, there are a zillion dog themed options to build reading interest too.  For my students in the primary grades, we start off with Biscuit, move on to Clifford and Sam (by Mary Labatt), and by the time they've gone through Clifford and Sam, they are ready for Mudge.  Using 
books in a series that stays true to the developmental level of the child helps build confidence and fluency.

Children in the upper grades love dogs too, and by third grade, many are responsible for the care of a pet at home.  Choosing pet themed books helps the students form text to self connections making the reading meaningful and memorable to them.  If you can tie in writing themes, even better!  As I pulled together my picks for the upper grades, I realized they all have a sad tone to them.  I wonder why??  Perhaps I love a good love story??  Who knows, but honestly, isn't that what makes the stories great?  The sheer love the characters show for these animals.  Sigh... I think that's why Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, and Shiloh are on the must read lists for elementary. 

In addition to these three, I also love Love that Dog by Sharon Creech, and I would recommend it as a read aloud for the middle grades too.  It's written in poetic verse, so it's best read orally.  It's not that long either, so the kids really would hang well with you.  I first heard it read by Nancy Patterson, author of A Simple Gift and Winner's Walk and instructor of my Young Adult Literature class.  She had a southern twang about her when she read it which I really enjoyed.  I still hear her voice.  

Another favorite of mine is Strider by Beverly Cleary. It has short chapters and a strong theme. It is the sequel to Dear Mr. Henshaw, and in the book, Leigh's companion, Strider, helps him cope with growing up through a divorce.  

Finally, one of my all time favorites is Because of Winn Dixie,  It's another "coming of age" book with more depressing challenges, but what a great introduction to the work of Kate DiCamillo.  Every time I use this book, the kids run to the library searching for others by her.  Opal is new to town, and she's not really feeling very happy about it.  She befriends several unique "older" friends who help her acclimate to the community, adjust to life without her mother, form a bond with her father, and an everlasting friendship with the stray dog, Winn Dixie that wanders into her life.  (of course, my readers probably know this story well).  [This freebie] for Because of Winn Dixie would work well if a teacher wanted to use it as a read aloud.  

As far as resources for a dog theme go, I am going to share with you a writing freebie I put together. You can download that at the end of my post, but I will also share a few dog themed links I found that I loved on TPT.  

Dog and Cat Craft TemplatesDog With A Blog: Whole Class Writing MotivatorIf You Give A Dog A Donut...Laura Numeroff
Readers' Theater: Dogs Don't Wear Sneakers partner & trio playsLove that Dog - Before, During, AfterComprehension Test: The Great Gracie Chase - First or Seco

Here is my freebie.  I used this with the book, The Great Gracie Chase and Marley Goes to School. The children came up with wonderful stories last year, and I hope you get the same results if you decide to use it.  
Dogs at School Writing Prompt


Wow!  As you can tell, I LOVE using dog themed resources, and I hope you do too.  If so, please link up below any time this week, and feel free to tack the linky code to the bottom of your post so that others may access the linked resources too, but remember that this link up is intended for posts only. You posts do not need to be as lengthy as this one, but it's always great to read about the interesting activities and ways themes are extended throughout the curriculum.  

Next week's theme will be...


Tomorrow, I will be blogging over at Adventures in Literacy Land about blogging with students.  I am starting a blog with the students at our school called, "Where Wild Readers Roam".  Once the blog is fully launched with our students' work, I'll share more about that.  I am really looking forward to sharing the excitement of blogging with them.  Please drop by and share your experiences about blogging with students if you do or feel free to comment here.

I look forward to reading the other linked posts about how your classrooms students are going to the getting excited about dogs!  Have a happy day, and until next time, happy reading!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mentor Monday on Tuesday

I am linking up with my friend, Emily at The Reading Tutor/OG for her Mentor Monday.  I love this linky because, well, I love books!  I love hearing about new titles that I might use for modeling various skills for both reading and writing.  Modeling with literature is a wonderful way to introduce young readers to the best authors, titles, and new topics.  

cornmazeBins in retail (1)This week's topic is Apples, perfect for this time of year.  In Virginia, we're just getting ready for apple season, and our family loves visiting local orchards for apple picking and the Apple Butter Festivals that come with it. Just look at all the variety! The kids love face painting, the music, and of course, the corn maze!

During the apple season, of course Johnny Appleseed is introduced, but along with Johnny, we can teach nonfiction text structures and elements, how to writing with apple pie and apple butter making, and many other reading and math skills with apple themed games and activities.  These books by Gail Gibbons is fantastic for demonstrating nonfiction text structures. [Her website] offers lots of information about her life as a writer, a few resources for her books, and her latest publishing. Teachers might use [this video interview] with her as well.

Another nonfiction favorite of mine is this book by Megan Faulkner.  I purchased it in a set with A Day at the Pumpkin Patch.  Our students enjoy a trip to the orchard in first grade, and this book is a great follow up to the visit.  The photos in the book are well done, and the story follows the sequence of how apple cider is made.  It is a great choice for How-to writing or a site visit follow up.

If you are a kindergarten teacher, I have a resource to share with you too. Ten Apples Up on Top by Theo LeSieg is used pretty often, and I came across this cute Jason Mraz style song using Ten Apples Up on Top.  I think it'd be a fun one to teach Kinders.  You might even teach a little jig to go with it.  After all, movement is great to get the brain ready for learning.  

For more great apple themed ideas, check out Emily's page for additional link ups.  

Happy reading!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thematic Thursday-Fall Fun with a Freebie

Thematic Thursday is a weekly teacher linky party focused on the sharing of ideas for a different theme each week. This week's theme is Fall Fun, and bloggers are asked to share their favorite resources, book ideas, activities, and suggestions to help students learn during this time of year.  Please grab the image above, write up your post, and link up your blog name and intended grade level for the resources and ideas you share.  (Example-Comprehension Connection-4th and 5th)  Please remember that this link up is for blog posts only.  No store links will be allowed.  
Fall in Virginia is one of the most beautiful times of the year, and I believe that's why my husband and I came to love it so much.  We grew up in Iowa, and we're still Cyclone fans deep down, but Virginia is home for us.  We've called Virginia home for 23 years now which is so hard to believe.  I was just starting my teaching career at the time, and we'd just gotten married the year before.  We had no children, and we got to spend our weekends hiking and camping in the mountains, water-skiing at the lake, and exploring this beautiful state.  Life was so carefree back then (and if you're newly married without children...enjoy the quiet time you have together!!)  I think that's why I love this season so much today, and we've really enjoyed sharing our love of fall with our children.  Not all children get to experience all that nature has to offer though, so we as teachers may wish to weave fall fun into our instructional day.  

When I think of fall literature, so many books come to mind.  I will highlight a few of my favorites and authors.  For kindergarten through second grade, the highlight of course is Halloween, but they also enjoy exploring pumpkins, apples, bats, spiders, leaves, squirrels, Veteran's Day, school routines, football, and life cycles.  
Lois Ehlert has written quite a few wonderful books for the primary grades, and the text is fairly controlled.  I love the beautiful photographs she uses in her books and even the feel of the pages. Nuts to You, Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf, and Leaf Man are three to put on your list. 

Andy Shane and the Pumpkin Trick is a newer series great for the primary grades.  I love the shorter chapters and adorable story themes.  They are written at a 2nd grade level and work well for transitional readers.  

Anne Rockwell is an author that I seem to be coming across more lately.  She writes mostly nonfiction for the lower grades, so if you're trying to weave in more nonfiction, check out her books. Apples and Pumpkins has been around a while.  The vocabulary is controlled, and it's a great book if you're getting ready to take a group to the pumpkin patch or to pick apples. 

Upper grade students need and enjoy picture book read alouds too, and there are so many wonderful options that truly have meat to them.  They work beautifully for mentor text lessons which means we do not have to sacrifice comprehension when we share them.  With my 4/5 kids, I used In November and Scarecrow by Cynthia Rylant to introduce writing projects we did last year, and I was so pleased with what the children produced.  

There are many other great options, and the writing ideas are endless.  What better way to teach children about the Six Traits of Writing than through descriptive books like these.  Of these books, two were written by Eve Bunting.  I have used several of her books as mentor texts too.  In the spring, we enjoyed Butterfly House and Sunflower House.  The themes in One Green Apple make it one of my very favorites, and as I looked through my collections, I discovered Peepers.  I haven't used it, but I thought it might make a great personal narrative lead.
Beyond reading and writing lessons, students can learn and practice with these great Fall Fun centers and activities.  
Fall Fix-It ~ an editing activityFall Fact or Opinion FreebieFall Scarecrow Writing Craftivity (English & Spanish)
Fall Synonym Match-Up {FREEBIE}Fall Prepless (NO PREP) Printables - 2nd Grade Common CoreFall-Themed Subject & Verb Agreement

Before you go, take a moment to grab my freebie for you too.  This Fall Fun writing prompt will work well for grades 2 and up.  
Fall Festival Writing Prompt Freebie
What special activities do you enjoy with your students in the fall?  I would love to hear, and I'm sure other readers would too.  Please link up below, and feel free to grab the linky code to tack onto your post too so that you're readers can access the links too.  

Next week's theme will be...

Going to the Dogs

Would you like a picture to go with it?  Of course you do!  We all love humor right??  
My owner assured me it would strike fear into the hearts  of the other dogs - A Place to Love Dogs
Have a fun Friday, and thanks for dropping by!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Thematic Thursday: Space

Thematic Thursday is a weekly teacher linky party focused on the sharing of ideas for a different theme each week. This week's theme is Space, and bloggers are asked to share their favorite resources, book ideas, activities, and suggestions to help students learn about Space concepts.  Please grab the image above, write up your post, and link up your blog name and intended grade level for the resources and ideas you share.  (Example-Comprehension Connection-4th and 5th)  Please remember that this link up is for blog posts only.  No store links will be allowed.  
If this is your first visit to Comprehension Connection, welcome to my blog! I am so excited to share with you a few ideas I've found related to Space.  In Virginia, our students' study of space systems happens in fourth grade, so for my post, I am going to share content area reading ideas that I will try to use with my students to help them get a "double dip" of science. Here are a list of the specific standards our state uses:
The student will investigate and understand the relationships among the Earth, moon, and sun.
a) the motions of the Earth, moon, and sun (revolution and rotation);
b) the causes for the Earth's seasons and phases of the moon;
c) the relative size, position, age, and makeup of the Earth, moon, and sun; and
d) historical contributions in understanding the Earth-moon-sun system. 
Some of the books I've used to help my students with these concepts are:

The great thing about all of these books is that they include the nonfiction text features that my students are required to know and understand.  I am also able to select sections of these books that are relevant to their needs, showing them that with nonfiction we do not need to read from cover to cover. We read nonfiction to learn, discover, and explore, a little more than to inform. Of these books, we have multiple copies of the So That's How the Moon Changes Shape, Our Earth, and Planet Earth.  They are all wonderful and written at a 3rd grade level, perfect for my students.

Children are fascinated by space exploration, and there are so many fun extension activities available on Teachers Pay Teachers and Pinterest. Here are a few of my favorites:
Space: Model of Earth & Moon's orbitSpace Information Flap BookMoon and Space Unit Writing Prompts
Moon Phases FlipbookMoon Craters ExperimentMoon Phases Poem
Now, it is your turn.  If you would like to share Space resources you have made (free or paid), I hope you will grab the images above and link up.  The linky will be open until next Thursday, so feel free to work it into your schedule.  

Next week, the theme will be...
I am secretly hoping for cooler weather.  Anyone else??  

Thanks for visiting, and keep in more day until we reach the weekend!  This short week seemed long to me!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Markdown Monday Linky...Scarecrow Resources

Happy Labor Day readers!  I hope you're enjoying your day off with picnics, pool time, and family fun. I know that's what I plan to do at least part of the day.  

I am linking up today with Kelly and Kim's Kindergarten Kreations for Markdown Monday.  We were asked to choose one item to mark down and blog about it. 

$2.00 for Monday 9/1/14 only

I am choosing my Fall Poetry for Your Pockets set, and from the set, I thought I'd share "A Scarecrow's Job" and how I use the poems along with few other resources that could be used with it.

The poems come in black and white and color.  Each is intended to be used several times over the week for a brief fluency practice session as part of guided reading.  Other activities I've done with these include:  marking phrases, timed repeated readings, partner reads, and acting them out.

The target age group for these poems would be 2nd-3rd.  

If teachers are wanting to use the poem in conjunction with other scarecrow themed books, one of my favorites is Scarecrow by Cynthia Rylant. It has wonderfully poetic language.  The unit I designed to go with the book will be 1/2 price for Monday too.  It includes materials for reading comprehension and writing. 

$2.00 for Monday 9/1/14 only

Other options for Scarecrow themed books include the following:

For Scarecrow themed freebies from Teachers Pay Teachers, click on the preview picture below:

Scarecrow Glyph & Puppet Pattern CraftivityScarecrow Paper PlateScarecrow Art & Writing
Scarecrow Writing & Craft Activity FREEBIECompare & Contrast with the Lonely Scarecrow

I hope your day is more exciting than a Scarecrow's.  Until next time, happy reading!


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