Thursday, January 28, 2016

Presidents' Day: Celebrating the Gifts from our Leaders

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new
nation, conceived in Liberty, and
dedicated to the proposition
that all men are
created equal.
~Abraham Lincoln
Just think how Abraham Lincoln's words and leadership impacted our country and the path that it would take. Knowing our history and understanding the contributions each of our leaders has made starting with Washington is so important for ourselves as well as it is for our students. To help you out, today's Thematic Thursday post will include a collection of ideas for you to use as we approach and celebrate Presidents' Day.
To begin, I want to share two books that I feel give a pretty decent synopsis of Washington and Lincoln's presidencies. I looked at quite a few that honed in on a specific period of their lives, but these told the full story in a way that I think young readers can understand. George Washington's Teeth tells about the various stages in his life as he loses his teeth, and Abe Lincoln Loved Animals explains Lincoln's life as well as his love of his pets. Did you know that a turkey is pardoned each year because Lincoln just couldn't shoot a turkey for Thanksgiving. He was also broken hearted about leaving his dog, Fido, in Illinois when the family traveled to the the White House. 

I also loved the book, Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek. It tells more about his life as a boy, and I think many kids would enjoy hearing some of the silly stories.

Finally, Abe Lincoln's Hat is a nice one to show that even this great leaders had trouble with organization. I think it's great for showing that you don't have to be perfect to have wonderful ideas.

To honor George Washington, two of my favorites are John, Paul, George, & Ben and George vs George. Both give a great explanation of the history.

If you're working with biographies, I also recommend the picture books by David Adler (A Picture Book of  Abraham Lincoln and A Picture Book of George Washington). You can easily find one for each of the presidents for class research work.

In my store, I have recently added this resource for Presidents' Day. It included guided reading materials for George Washington's Teeth and Abraham Lincoln Loved Animals. There are youtube read alouds for both of these books as well as a few of the others I shared. It also includes a lapbook that explores both presidents further. Students can extend their learning about these men with other biographies, the encyclopedia, or nonfiction from your library. Finally, it includes a class book option where students write about what they would do if they were the president. It has a cover with it and can be bound for the kids to read later or for parents to view as they're waiting for your next conference.


There are many activity options for Presidents' Day. on Pinterest as well as on Teachers Pay Teachers. I started the board below, and I'll continue to add to it with other freebies and ideas. I just love some of the great art options that you can tie in with any writing project.
Follow Comprehension's board President's Day on Pinterest.
From this board, there are a few activities and blog posts that I want to highlight. They are linked to the original URL.

Presidents' Day
The first is from my friend, Sandy over at Sweet Integration. She just created this adorable resource for students to explore being president for the day. You must hop over and grab this great little freebie from her store.

In the second photo is from Classroom Compulsion. I think this idea is so adorable, and I think honestly it could be modified to include other presidents as well. With a change in hair color or clothing shapes.
The third choice was not linked unfortunately, but I think the idea could be recreated without much difficulty. You could have your students record facts they've learned, pretend to be either George or Abe and describe their day, or write about their achievements as president. 

Picture Books About Presidents  Elections from No Time for Flash Cards: The last pin is handy as we're gearing up for an election year. I love learning about new books, and I thought this pin would be a great one to share in case you'd like to weave in the discussion of voting and elections. Grace for President is one I've used with my students,and it is nicely done. Of course, Duck for President may be a great comparison book too. No matter which you choose, hopefully you'll get great discussion about what qualities we'd all want for our leader. 
For tech resources, I am going to share a few youtube links to the books I mentioned earlier.  I know we all like to mix things up, and sometimes, a video read aloud may work better for showing the pictures, right? Just click on the book images below.
What do you have planned for Presidents' Day? Please share your ideas below in the comments. Better yet, let's link up!  Just grab the image at the top of the page for your post and add the link below. Pressed for time but have a free resource to share?  You can add that link in the linky below too. Have a great week!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Henry's Freedom Box...A Must Read for Upper Elementary

See how Henry's Freedom Box can be used in your upper elementary classroom over on Comprehension Connection.Henry's Freedom Box...
A Must Read for 
Upper Elementary 

Imagine falling in love, marrying, and having a family with someone and watching your spouse and children get taken away from you. That is what happened to Henry "Box" Brown. He was born into slavery, had a close relationship with his mother, was sold away from her, was told he could work for his freedom, but instead, he went on to lose what he loved most of all. 

This story, although very sad, explains well how the Underground Railroad worked. You see, Henry climbed into a wooden crate and shipped himself to Philadelphia with the help of a few. It was because of his determination that he found freedom, and imagine how sweet freedom was once he found it.

Use these Before, During, After materials in your guided reading block or with a class read aloud to model skills.The unit I developed for this book addresses both ELA standards and standards related to the Underground Railroad, slavery, and bits of the Civil War. For the ELA standards, I include a schema builder and vocabulary organizer for before reading, two organizers for sequencing events (note taking) and visualizing using text events as well as question task cards using the QAR strategy, and a quiz and written response for after reading. You can use these with guided reading groups or as a class read aloud (mentor text lessons)

Use this lapbook to learn more about the Underground Railroad and about Henry "Box" Brown.
To extend the themes of the story, I also created a lapbook to go with it. It includes the following topics:
  • A Timeline
  • Cause/Effect examples from the text
  • Then and Now comparisons
  • Key Vocabulary
  • Underground Railroad flipbook
  • About the Author
  • How I Visualize the Story
  • Beginning, Middle, End
Use with your social studies lessons on the Underground Railroad or as a post reading activity.
Finally, you can use the "What Freedom Means to Us" Class Book during your writing block, as a response to your social studies lesson, or as part of your guided reading lessons. 

If you're interested in this unit, you can get more details with the image below.  

Henry's Freedom Box
Have a great day, and until next time, happy reading!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Black History Month: Reflecting on the Past and Planning for the Future

History, despite it's wrenching pain, can not be unlived, but if faced with courage need not be lived again.
~Maya Angelou
What an important message for us! As we reflect on the past errors in our history and move to the future, it is critical that we recognize and celebrate the achievements and contributions of all, especially the brave men and women who risked their lives to have the right to be free.

Today, for Thematic Thursday, I thought pulling together ideas and resources that can be put into use easily will help you emphasize perseverance, effort-based thinking, kindness in the classroom, and other character traits we wish to see in all of our boys and girls. I am even thinking you might tie each trait to the literature suggested below. As we look to our leaders from the past and admire their accomplishments despite horrendous situations, we must also consider our current state and what we want for our kids in the future. Just imagine what it was like for famous African Americans in history and what extraordinary people they are/were. Just having polio as a child without appropriate medical care is an overwhelming thing, but to become an Olympic champion simply had to come from within. The challenges these people faced and overcame is nothing short of amazing. Our students need to know these stories.

To begin Black History Month, you have to begin with Martin Luther King Jr. and Martin's Big Words.  What a wonderfully written biography! I love the organization, word choice, and important quotes our students need for life lessons.

Next, I'd use The Story of Ruby Bridges just because it is from a similar time period and backtrack to studies of the Underground Railroad with Henry's Freedom Box, Sojourner Truth's Step-Stomp Stride (omitted accidentally) and When Marian Sang. These books help our students understand just how challenging life was back then. Even with these stories, it is hard to imagine the challenges faced.

After that,you can use Salt in His Shoes and Wilma Unlimited to demonstrate perseverance and
determination. Plus, these books tap into the interest of our students since many will recognize the names, Wilma Rudolph and Michael Jordan.

Finally,  I'd work with Jacqueline Woodson's books, Each Kindness and The Other Side and Alice Hoffman's Amazing Grace. These books provide our students with inspiration. They teach kindness, spirit, and the idea that with hard work, you can do whatever you decide. This is huge in my mind because kids do not grow when we limit them. It is with modeling and goals that they achieve greater things than we imagine.

Well, these are my choices for Black History Month, and I am excited to follow this plan with the intervention groups I am working with. If you like this idea, my bundle is discounted through tomorrow night (and will not be priced this low for a while). It includes 8 lapbook projects, guided reading materials for each title including question task cards which work well for games, and class book/writing prompts. Each of the titles are in the image below, but you can also get them individually too.

There are many activity options for Black History Month. on Pinterest as well as on Teachers Pay Teachers. I started the board below, and I'll continue to add to it with other freebies and ideas. Certainly, you'd want to add Harriet Tubman, Thurgood Marshall, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Maya Angelou, Jackie Robinson and so many others to your list, so I'll be searching for activities and books about them too.
Follow Comprehension's board Black History Month Literacy Options on Pinterest.
From this board, there are a few activities and blog posts that I want to highlight. They are linked to the original URL. The first looks easy enough to do with younger students if the hand shapes are precut for them. I can see these looking really nice on display outside of the classroom.

In the second photo (author unknown), you'll see it's a pizza box biography project. I LOVE this idea. Research reports can be a little tedious, but this adds in the element of creativity that I love to see. I think kids would enjoy making them and pizza companies will typically donate the boxes.
Tomorrow is international peace day, which means... I am doing peace wreathes with the art class !  Similar to this activity, except we will decorate craft sticks "popsicle sticks" and make peace signs by gluing them in the right positions onto the rims of paper plates.  Hope it comes out nice.     Biography-in-a-Pizza-Box  We made these for Black History Month. This was a class project favorite!:
The third choice I am sharing comes from Rockin Resources. I love weaving in poetry any time I can, and this writing project looks like lots of fun. I think it'd be another great way to help our kids research without a long paper to write.

The last pin comes from Amy Lemons, Step into 2nd Grade. It shows just a part of her wonderful bulletin board which displays all the great projects she did during the month. For more information, definitely check out her post [here] or click the image of the bulletin board.

Free!     Updated: QR code!  Students will enjoy browsing the website given and selecting a person from our Black History. Once selected, they are to read about that person and fill in the biopoem template. There is a frame provided for an illustration. There is also a teaching template to put on your smart board for directions! Enjoy learning about our black history!:   Black History Month (Ruby Bridges):

As you can see, there are so many options. I am quite sure your students would learn a lot with just a portion of them. :-)  
To take advantage of kids' interest in technology, you might use these sites.

The Underground Railroad

African American Inventors

Now I am off to complete my shopping on Teachers Pay Teachers. The sale runs through midnight tonight, and then...I will be preparing for the epic storm that will be hitting us tomorrow and Saturday. Yep, not looking forward to the 2 feet of snow we will be getting, especially since I will be the one shoveling it all. (grouchy face) The positive though...I will be earning lots of fit points with weight watchers. LOL!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Lapbook Learning...It Just Makes Sense

With Project Based Learning and Genus Hour the new additions to the classroom routine, it's not surprising that using lapbooks and interactive notebooks continue to be highly effective teaching tools. I am not sure when I actually started using interactive notebooks and lapbooks with my students (probably five years ago), but I continue to love using them today. 
How Interactive Notebooks and 
Lapbooks Help Our Kiddos Learn
Kids of all ages enjoy hands on activities, and by using lapbooks, we can research, categorize information, expand thinking with creative writing, tap into our artistic talents, and use the finished projects for presenting and sharing with others. I love the polished look of a finished project, and the pride children feel with their work is worth the time used to create them. Plus, as students create projects, they are able to exchange information about the topic while they're working. Those little conversations clarify information for those who need help, and provide time for rereading and reviewing what's been taught, and the final project works well as a study guide for the unit test.
Getting Started with Lapbooking
If you haven't created lapbooks with your students yet, you might check out this video tutorial from Confessions of a Homeschooler. Her post is dated 2013, so truly, these things have been around a while. Again...there is a reason for that. They are helpful to kids. So, check out Erica's video. 

Mayflower Facts Book: In my experience, colored file folders work well, but they are not essential if manilla folders or construction paper is more plentiful. What you choose as your "base" may depend upon how long you plan to keep/refer to them. I have also folded them different form/portrait, book form/landscape, and folding the "doors" into the middle. I loved this idea I saw on Pinterest from First Grade Parade for using unique materials, and although this is more of a book than lapbook, it made me think that you could use paperbags as your "base" for them, The bags can be cut on both ends to store handouts or manipulatives. I also love punching a hole on the "doors" to add a tie closure for a polished look. I am thinking you could also glue a page sized envelope to the back for storage too.

How to Use Them Most Effectively
For my students, I typically use lapbooks as an alternative to a traditional book report, but their use goes far beyond that. I see the greatest application of them in the content areas and even with math. There is such a wide variety available now, and with the rigor in the content our students must know in science and social studies, it's nice to make them and be able to refer back to them later for review as I mentioned previously. Below, you will find the Pinterest board I've created with helpful blog posts, links to free lapbooks, and some very creative variations. I have added a few into my store to go with a few favorite books that extend the theme, and I've pinned these to the board as well.  
Follow Comprehension's board Lapbook Ideas on Pinterest.
Whether you are a teacher who loves hands on projects or not, I hope you'll bring the idea into your classroom from time to time. If time is short, then at least include parts of them into your interactive notebooks. Your students will really enjoy them, and when learning is fun, children remember it long after the project is complete.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Martin Luther King Jr.: Leading Us Now and Always

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.
~Martin Luther King Jr.

Take a moment and flip through the many quotes from Martin.  Can you imagine what he'd say today with all of the conflicts going on in our world? There is so much to learn from his life and words, so today for Thematic Thursday, I'm hosting a MLK link up. If you'd like to link up a blog post, simply grab the image above for your post.

There are so many powerful books in this list, and highly recommend you either pull them from your library or  search for your own copy. Some are specifically about Martin Luther King Jr., and others are will help explain the Civil Rights movement and what it was like to live during the time of Martin Luther King Jr. Our kids really need these in order to comprehend why Martin was such an important person in our history.

To begin a study of MLK and the Civil Rights Movement, I'd recommend starting with Martin's Big Words and I Have a Dream. Tying these to a video clip of his speech/speeches will give your students a full image of the time.

Next, I'd use The Story of Ruby Bridges, Child of the Civil Rights Movement, and Freedom on the Menu. These books help students understand how divided our country was at this time.

Finally, I'd end with Jacqueline Woodson's books, Each Kindness, The Other Side, and This is the Rope. Her books are powerful in helping children understand the importance of acceptance of others and treating others as we want to be treated.

This month, I've created resources to use with two of these books, Martin's Big Words and Each Kindness.  They are discounted $2.00 for the next 2 days. You can check them out using the preview images below.


There are many activity options for teaching about Martin Luther King Jr. on Pinterest as well as on Teachers Pay Teachers. Last year, I started this Pinterest board.
Follow Comprehension's board MLK Day on Pinterest.
From this board, there are a few activities and blog posts that I want to highlight. They are linked to the pins to make it easier for you to repin if you wish.
All about MLK (Martin Luther King, Jr.) poster activity {FREE}!:   Martin Luther King, Jr. Anchor Chart.:

high school classroom organization ideas | ... Tech: If MLK Jr Had Instagram... | Tales of a 6th Grade Classroom:   Martin Luther King craft-each kid traces their hand, writes their name and place together on the board with heart in middle:

I also love these literature based options. Expanding a theme into your ELA block really makes concepts stick. Using close reading techniques with informational articles or tradebooks deepens understandings.

FREE Ruby Bridges Character Traits Activity  {FREE!} Martin Luther King, Jr.: Create a Mini-Book
MLK Mini Bundle
To take advantage of kids' interest in technology, you might use these sites.

I hope you and yours enjoyed the much deserved winter break. Feel free to link up activities you've enjoyed or wish to share. 


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