Saturday, November 23, 2013

Hootie-Our Class Pet

Okay, so Hootie is not really a live pet; I found this cutie at Target over the summer. My kiddos truly love him and can't wait to see who will be taking him home on Friday for the weekend. Taking Hootie home for the weekend is part of our Class Notebooks. You can read about those here. It is amazing how much influence Hootie has on classroom behavior and motivation. All I have to say is, "I wonder who Hootie will be selecting this Friday." On Friday afternoon, before dismissal, I pretend like Hootie is whispering in my ear the child who he wants to go home with and viola---Magic happens! I really like the opportunity it provides at home for my kiddos to do shared writing with their families. Here is a pix of Hootie's latest adventure--it sure looks like Hootie had fun. I wonder if what happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas?

Do you have any other ideas that would help provide authentic shared writing experiences at home?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Turkey Mania

This time of year is just so much fun! Everyone is so cheerful and friendly. My kids are so excited about the Thanksgiving Break (AND so am I) and spending time with their families. It is so fascinating to hear my kiddos talk about how they celebrate Thanksgiving. Many of their retellings sound so much like the traditional Thanksgiving day portrayed in ads and books, but many of them, their families have made it into their own unique tradition that includes cultural food and music.

With Common Core such a BIG push in our district, it is wonderful to know that there are so many engaging and motivational activities that kiddos can enjoy doing while still meeting CC rigor. I love the rigor. It drives me and pushes me to become a better teacher. Sometimes I tend to be too academically driven. I know it has to do with the fact that for my kiddos, just as it was for me, education is the vehicle that opens up many doors and gives us the opportunity to create our own success story. Therefore, the challenge for me is to create a balance in class. Okay, off my soapbox.

We have been very busy reading informational texts about the first Thanksgiving and Squanto.

  These are perfect for factual information, timelines, and text-dependent questions.

  I know these are both fictional, but who doesn't love cool art and Pete the Cat. We used it to compare and contrast the many different ways people celebrate Thanksgiving.

If your kiddos love Pete the Cat as much as mine, they will L.O.V.E.  Pete the Cat-The First Thanksgiving. It is very simple to follow and provides enough information in a very student-friendly format. The kids love the flaps. At the very end, they all say what they are thankful for. This was a perfect segue into our circle map. Their responses were more about family and special items, than about material things-they're so cute!

We also used this version of Pete the Cat to make cute little boats and placing the events of the 1st Thanksgiving in order using Sarah's Read & Sequence Mega Pack. The pack comes with many seasonal themes. My kiddos love reading them and placing the strips in order. The kids can check their work in partners. This leads to great discussions in which they have to back up their thinking. Did I hear any one say Common Core?

One of my kiddos favorite story this year was Gracias- The Thanksgiving Story. In this warm holiday story, a young Puerto Rican boy saves the life of his pet turkey with help from his close-knit New York City family and neighborhood. My kids were very touched. I will warn you though, one of my parents said her son is now refusing to eat turkey for Thanksgiving.

In this story, Turkey finds himself in a bad predicament as you can guess. After many hilarious attempts at disguising himself, he finally finds the perfect disguise.

We then decided to make some signs for our turkey friends in the hope they might survive this holiday season. They had to provide an alternate food item that would be more appealing.

Another vary popular activity out there is the turkey in disguise. There are so many versions and spinoffs of this floating around on Pinterest. This year's firsties really did extraordinary work. They came out so cute. Because they have so many opportunities to write, beyond writer's workshop, I have seen such growth in their writing pieces.

mrsgarciascorner's Turkey in Disguise album on Photobucket

Do you like pumpkin pie?
Well, you know we have to do math (I love math), so why not have some math that is super yummy, engaging, and fun. Many of my kids had never tried pumpkin pie, therefore this was a very appropriate question to pose. They each got to taste a piece of pie. First we did a picture graph and then transferred the data to a pie graph. This was their first encounter with a pie graph and they got it!

It is amazing how exhausting it can be to make learning so much fun!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

October Learning

October was a whirlwind. There was so much learning to do, and it was all a lot of fun. Here is a quick summary of some of the activities we did.

Pumpkin Unit
I used a combination of ideas form different units (Pumpkin Patch Palooza-Deanna Jump & Pumpkin Unit-Nicole Ricca) and ideas I found on Pinterest. My kiddos really had a lot of fun and their interactive notebooks--stapled together paper--really helped to cement the information into their schema.
 Some books we read. Big Pumpkin was their absolute favorite-Mine too!

As part of the reading, we planted our own seeds. They were so convinced that they would not sprout, if we didn't first put them in soil.
 Tada! As soon as we observed the root, students transferred them to a cup with soil in it. We are now making observations for growth of our baby seed. This might take a couple weeks.

These are some charts we did. 
Some Student Notebook Pages

Students had the opportunity to use their five senses once the pumpkins were cut open. They wrote about their learning in their journal.

After we carved out the pumpkin to see the insides, I placed it in a small container to have them observe the rotting process. They were able to see how little by little the pumpkin gets moldy, mushy, smelly, black, watery, gooey...and they will never forget the word "Decomposition"!

Halloween Activities
 We did a pumpkin glyph. It was very interesting to find out that many of my students had never carved a pumpkin.

We read, acted out, and retold the story of There was an Old lady Who Swallowed a Bat.

I was really able to see who could retell the story by having them do a picture retell in their reader's notebook. They first labeled on their own (great assessment on phonetic spelling) and then matched the word cards provided.

My kiddos got to do their own old lady and practice retelling with the picture cards. Click here or the picture above for your FREE templates.

One of our tasks during writing workshop was reading and responding to the book My First Ghost.

  It is a very cute story about what friendship truly is. What discussed the qualities of a good friend. They created their own ghost friend and then wrote a creative piece about the things they like to do with their ghost friend. I was so impressed. I got a variety of settings and activities....lots and lots of details. The progress I have seen from the beginning of the year is truly impressive. I know it is due to writer's workshop, great literature, and practice, practice, practice.

My favorite activity was their pumpkin project. They decorated a pumpkin as the character from their favorite book, and then wrote an opinion piece about why that was their favorite character.  They were just too cute! One of the pumpkins eyes even lighted up. Here are a few of my kiddos.

 Like I said before, it was a busy month. 

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