Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Going Nuts about Squirrels with Thematic Thursday

During the fall, one thing that I find just fascinating is to watch squirrels flit around collecting nuts. This fascination with squirrels kind of started with our dog, Shadow, a golden retriever we had up until three years ago.  You see, Shadow was determined to catch one of those little furry beasts, but he was just too slow. He'd chase them right up the tree and then just turn and look at me as if to say, "Do something!" Anyway, kids love watching them too, and as fall comes, a squirrel week might be lots of fun. 

Of course, when I think about squirrels, my favorite series by far is the Scaredy Squirrel series. Who wouldn't love scaredy squirrel?  The vocabulary is rich. The plot is entertaining, and the character development??  Well, scaredy squirrel is scared of EVERYTHING.  If you love scaredy squirrel, you might check out these resources to go with it. Just click the images below to download the activities.

Scaredy Squirrel ActivityScaredy Squirrel makes a friend: a back to school craftivity  
Nuts to You by Lois EhlertAnother favorite from this list is Nuts to You. Lois Ehlert is a wonderful author to study in the fall, and Nuts to You shares how and why squirrels gather nuts. These books are best for late first grade to early second grade level. The unit to the right is free for Thursday only. The Lois Ehlert Author Study I have with Nuts to You, Growing Vegetable Soup, and Feathers for Lunch will be $5.00 all week. [HERE] is the link for it.
Kids really do love watching squirrels, and there are many activities that you can enjoy whether you spend a full week or just a few days.  I made a Nuts about Squirrels Pinterest board, and you can check that below. 

Follow Comprehension's board Going Nutty about Squirrels on Pinterest.

Squirrel Counting Numbers FreebieAcorn Alphabet Match FreebieIn addition to the activities I've pinned, I also thought these freebies looked well done too.  The first two come from A Special Kind of Class.  The first is an alphabet matching activity which is really great for kindergarten this time of year, and the second will support your kinders with math.

Squirrely Story Starters
I love these squirrely story starters.  They can be used with journals for all ages. I think they can be used as a stand alone or as a book companion. As you work with the Nuts to You unit, you will also research squirrels as part of the unit, and I'd encourage an equal amount of nonfiction and fiction as well as poetry.  [HERE] is the link to squirrel poetry on Can Teach Songs and Poems.

Looking for ways to include technology or for media ideas?  This week, I'm going to share a few video clips I found, and I am hoping others who link up will know about computer apps dealing with squirrels or websites that work well.  I just love Arwen Sharp's readings, and I'm sure you will too.

The first choice is Scaredy Squirrel of course!

This clip is for the book, The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri.

What ideas do you love to do for fall with squirrels and nuts?   I would love for you to link up. Simply grab the blog post header and this pinnable image, write up your post, and link it below. 

Comprehension Connection

I look forward to see what you all have to share.  I hope you'll enjoy these activities too. Have a happy day and an even better weekend!

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Five Fun Fire Safety Finds

Did you know this is National Fire Prevention Week?  I thought today, I'd share a collection of ideas I found that look to be lots of fun.  

Of course, I have to start with books. With the primary grades, you can not go wrong with Marc Brown's Arthur books, the Berenstain Bears, or Clifford, but this is also a great time to tie in nonfiction with Gail Gibbon's Fire book or the Rookie Reader, Fire Safety.  Keeping a collection together for students to page through after you've shared them is a great way for children to take in the information at their own pace.

As you share these books, working in role playing of what to do if your students hear an alarm or smell smoke in their homes. For most children, this is the first time they've learned about fire safety, so helping the kids understand not to be scared of the fireman. I remember going with my daughter's preschool, and that was one point the firemen shared.  Many children are frightened by their protective clothing.

To help my readers plan, I did put together a Pinterest board of Fire Prevention Week options.  Check out the board below.

Follow Comprehension's board Fire Prevention Week on Pinterest.

The National Fire Prevention Association has shared many of the videos that they've created to help children.  You can use the link below for the first video, but there is a collection of nine of them to choose from.  

Teachers can use this opportunity to work on literacy skills too.  These freebies are fantastic, so be sure to add them to your collections.
Fire Safety Freebie! Fire Safety Freebie 
Fire Safety Crowns FREEBIE  Freebie: Firefighters Pete and Dave are Brave  Firefighter Character Traits FREEBIE

Okay, I think I shared more than five, but I bet you won't be upset with that.  Have a great week, and I hope these fun ideas will help your little ones learn how to stay safe in the event they experience a fire.

See you tomorrow...

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Author Studies...More Than Just Story Time

Read aloud time is a common practice in nearly every elementary classroom, but did you know that your read alouds can be more than just story time?  Classroom schedules are tight aren't they? Because time is always an issue, today, I challenge you to take that read aloud time and make it count for more than one purpose. Let's go a step further. Pull out your pacing guide, look at the writing prompts or types of writing you need to address as well as the comprehension skills your students learn, and carefully map out our year matching these skills to authors whose work will help you get the job done. So...why use author studies?
There are many reasons to use author studies in the classroom. Of course teachers will have their favorites, so some coordination may be required in order to prevent duplication, and it should be noted that grade levels should not be limited to chapter books in the upper grades, and picture books in the primary grades. Look carefully at the language used in the books you choose to match the needs of your students.
As you choose the authors you wish to highlight, consider authors that will motivate your students. The authors chosen need to have a collection of published books so that your students can select some titles for reading independently. Author studies require lots of reading which provides plenty of opportunities to observe each author's writing style
With author studies, students think deeply about the author's craft including language choice such as figurative language and sentence fluency. choice of illustrations, common themes across multiple books, and connections to the author's own experiences helps students connect with the author's specific writing style. What better way to see how writing develops?
Think back to your own school experience. Do you recall your favorite books? Perhaps you remember where and when you first heard the book or when you read it yourself. If we celebrate our book choices, we attach special memories to those books for the long term. By working with the text, students are able to fully appreciate what makes them quality literature and even connect with the author so that they anticipate when the author publishes something new. Just think about the Harry Potter craze or how you looked forward to the release date of the next book in your favorite series.
There is much research showing how mentor texts model writing traits. Do you ever use a template when you create a letter to parents or with a form you need. Few of us start from scratch with anything, so why would we expect our students to start from scratch.  Naturally, their response is often, "I don't know what to write." One of the best tips I received in my reading education training is to tell a story to get a story. By sharing a book with the same format you wish to teach or with a style you want your students to use, you demonstrate how to get there. 
Are you part of a book club?  If so, then you know how things go when you get together with your fellow book club members. You share the parts you love, complain about the parts you hate, and everything in between.  Kids need that experience too, and author studies give them a common topic to discuss at recess and around the cafeteria tables. 
Do you have students who are stuck in a reading rut?  They read the same style of book over and over again. If you try to sway them, they reject your suggestions. Well, by using author studies in the classroom, you open their eyes to other options, and it's important to point out that your choices need to be varied including informational texts, fractured fairy tales, tall tales, realistic fiction, and more.
An important piece of author studies is researching an author's life which is a standard for all. Learning how to research is just one skill that can be taught through an author study. Comprehension skills and strategies are easily modeled with Think Aloud, and honestly, an author study does not have to last a month long. One week may be sufficient for some. The time needed depends on the depth of your study.
Finally, author studies can make learning fun for our students and planning streamlined and easier for the teacher. Students love hands on activities, and book celebrations are the perfect way to bring in writing projects, themed crafts, book talks, and more.  As teachers, it may make it easier to locate materials if you have certain authors you wish to search out.  

Authors for Kindergarten and First Grade:
When I think about the skills taught in kindergarten and first grade, the primary focus is on letter recognition and sounds, rhyming, building a sight vocabulary, concept of word, and decoding skills. There are certainly authors who target beginning readers by keeping true to this list of beginning reader needs as well as the interests of beginning readers.  My favorites for this age group include:
Mo Willems
Arnold Lobel
Dr. Seuss
Norman Bridwell
Mercer Mayer
The National Geographic Readers
Syd Hoff
Donald Crews
Lois Ehlert
Alan Fowler

Frog and Toad Bundle by Arnold Lobel  Lois Ehlert Author Study  Syd Hoff Unit (Danny and the Dinosaur, Sammy the Seal, Chester)

Author Studies for Second and Third:
For this age group, the shift is moved to fluency, comprehension, and writing.  Students at this level enjoy books with interesting vocabulary, an engaging plot, and discussions at a higher level. Again, a mix of topics is important. 
Eric Carle
Kate DiCamillo (Mercy)
Cynthia Rylant (Henry and Mudge)
Ezra Jack Keats (First-Second)
Mary Pope Osborne
Dan Gutman
Karma Wilson
The National Geographic Readers (level 2)
DK Readers (nonfiction)
Mem Fox
Steven Kellogg 
James Marshall
Jan Brett
Leo Lionni

Mem Fox Author Study  Leo Lionni Author Study  Ezra Jack Keats Author Study for Six Books

Jan Brett Author Study  Mercy Watson Series Bundle  

Author Studies for Fourth and Fifth Grades:
By fourth and fifth grade, students are fluent, so developing comprehension strategies, study skills, vocabulary, and deeper writing skills is extremely important.  It's easy for teachers in the fourth and fifth grades to select a chapter book and stick with it a full six weeks by reading a chapter at a time. I would encourage you to not write off picture book studies.  There are several that target upper elementary as their audience.  Here are my favorites:
Cynthia Rylant
Tomie dePaola (3-5)
Jan Brett (3-4)
Patricia Polacco
Chris VanAllsburg
Patricia MacLachlan
Kate DiCamillo (chapter books
Roald Dahl
*** Gail Gibbons***
***Seymour Simon***
Gary Paulsen
Sharon Creech
Judy Blume
Beverly Cleary
Richard Peck
(and so many, many more)

Cynthia Rylant Author Study  Patricia Polacco Author Study  Jan Brett Author Study

As you can tell, I love using author studies with my students. If you are looking for options for tying your writing to them, you might look at The Writing Fix for unique lesson ideas, and of course, there is a multitude of resources available on TPT that will help you weave these authors into your routines.

Which authors do you enjoy sharing with your students?  I would love to hear what you love as well as ones your students enjoy.  It's good to include them in your choices too.  

Until next month, happy reading!

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

How You Make the Most of a Rainy Day

Okay, so this is a stock photo, but you see, I'm writing this post on Friday, and the game we will be watching in the rain comes tomorrow.  Yes, we are crazy! We toyed with the idea of canning it, but alas, why not go? It appears that the "bad stuff" is coming on Sunday now, and that right there, is lesson number one. You can not predict the weather now matter how hard you try, so you just as well go with it, right?  I mean it seems like we won't have a flooded basement now, so it might do us some good to get out and play a bit. Again, another lesson we can take to the classroom.  We teachers need to find a way for kids to play on these crummy days.  So, I thought I'd pause to share some rainy day options you might try to help you "go with the flow" and to help your kids play in the during the rain. 
10 Books about Rainy Weather | perfect for a Preschool Weather Unit or Spring Time | Bambini Travel: The first thing I'd recommend for rainy days is a large stash of rainy day books. There are many great titles that celebrate rain, so why not take advantage of the moment.  Here is a collection to get you started. (The link to this image on Pinterest was not correct though, so I will not share here.). Of these, I just love A Letter to Amy.  You might also pull Come on, Rain by Karen Hesse, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett, and my all time favorite, Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco. 

Once you've gathered your stash of books, you will want to have some print and go options.  If you have these put together ahead of time, you will be completely relaxed when you're stuck inside for the third day in a row. (well, maybe not completely, but more relaxed at least.).  For printables, I like these freebie options. The first is a class book with graphic organizers.  It is adorable!
Rain Class Book  Spring Rain Poem and Writing Freebie

Weather Freebie  Happy, Fluffy, Stuffed Cloud FREEBIE Craftivity & Printables
If you wish to work in a little deeper work with a few of these books, I do have two units that include more specific book information as well as writing options as well as a Weather Close Reading Pack if you'd like to check them out.

After a few days of rain, we all know the energy level is high in the classroom, so keeping your kids busy is wise.  Here are a few rainy day craftivities you might use. Combine them with a writing prompt, and a wahlah, you have a nice hallway display.  One go-to plethora of ideas for a rainy day is on First Grade Parade.  The image below is just a glimpse of what she's shared, so be sure to click on the image and visit her weather post. 
  eenvoudig zelf te maken leuk idee:  40 Weather Crafts from Rainbows, to clouds, to sunshine and wind. Once you have talked with your students about different weather patterns you can let them be crafty and create what they have just learned about to take home to their parents or to display in the classroom.:

And for hands-on science fun, check out these great experiments from Fantastic Fun and Learning.
Weather Activities for Kids
Finally, you have to have some movement options.  Here are a few links  to rainy day games and activities. 
35 rainy day games for kids:     Lots of active indoor games for kids when it's too cold to go outside.  Perfect for cold weather and snow days!:     Rainy Day Rhythm Games - Lots of fun exploring the sounds and rhythms of the rain! Easily adaptable for a pre-k/kindergarten homeschool curriculum!:
I also put together a brain break board which might come in handy.  These are great for any day.
Now, we tried to make the best of the mess and went to the NC State game yesterday. Here's a glimpse of the half-time show.  Yep...we were in this crowd, and we were all soaked.  I thought you'd enjoy seeing the downpour.  Eesh!  And...they ended up losing...sad face!  BUT...we did get to see our son. (happy face)

Of course, there are many other rainy day lesson ideas, but in honor of the mess we have in Virginia, I thought I'd share just a few.  What's your favorite way to spend a rainy day?  (Probably not in school, right??  Make the best of it though, and have a happy Sunday!
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PS...Did you go through the Flipping for Fall Mentor Text Hop yet?  Today is the LAST day of the raffle.  The lessons may make your week easy, so we're hoping you'll join in.  [HERE] is the link to my post with all the details.


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