Sunday, November 27, 2016

Using Elf on the Shelf in the Classroom

For the past five years or so, I've brought the Elf on the Shelf into my classroom each December. My students absolutely love it each year and it brings a little holiday magic into our room! They love looking for the elf each morning and it's a great behavior incentive as well. They never want the elf to  see them doing anything "naughty"! But here's the thing - it may seem like a big chore to implement a few elf activities into your day, but it doesn't have to be anything time consuming for you unless you choose to do it that way!

On the first day the elf arrives at our classroom, I usually wrap the box up and cover it with super gaudy, sparkly bows and ribbons. I then put it somewhere in the classroom and don't say anything about it until someone notices! I then, of course, act completely surprised that there is even a gift in our classroom.

We open it, the students are excited (understatement of the year), and then we read the book. After reading, we brainstorm potential names for our elf and vote on them to choose.

The winner last year was Snowflake! Every year, my students end up picking a different name. Sometimes the name doesn't even have anything to do with Christmas or winter, as evidenced by the list pictured above.

I don't usually do anything too huge in regards to the elf. I move him every day so the kids can find him.


He can also be a little bit mischievous... going on joyrides while we're not at school!

And sometimes he brings us special treats... like candy canes!

Then we have a mini-candy cane day! We observe them and describe them using our 5 senses and create a web of all the adjectives we came up with.

Using an elf in the classroom is also a great opportunity for students to write in a variety of ways. My students always love to write their own notes and letters to our elf telling him their Christmas lists, how much they love him, and any other little sweet things they want to "tell" him.

One of my favorite writing activities to do with my students is a persuasive writing project. Students write a letter to their elf to try and convince him to tell Santa why they've been good this year. 

The stuff they come up with is always so funny! They come up with reasons you wouldn't even think of as to how they've been nice all year. If your students need help coming up with ideas, you can create a group thinking map together to brainstorm ways they've been kind to others, followed directions, or worked hard all year.

After they write their letter, they create a craftivity of our elf and pair it next to the letter. They always turn out absolutely adorable.

You can find the elf in the classroom persuasive writing activity by clicking on the picture below! It has differentiated writing paper options for you to choose from to best fit your students' needs.

Once Christmas break begins, our elf returns back to the North Pole. Sometimes I like to get a gift from the "elf" for the kids to find when we return back to school in January. In years past, I've gotten supplies for our kitchen/home living center, a holiday book, or a stuffed animal like the Grinch. The kids are always sad to see our elf go, but finding a special gift from him is a great way for them to say goodbye. Having an elf in the classroom can be such a special, magical experience for your students!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Veterans Day Activities

November has arrived... and I think we all can agree that this is the first official start of the holiday season! From now until December, teachers everywhere will be attempting to fit holiday themes into their teaching including Thanksgiving, Winter, and holidays around the world... and it's tough to fit it all in! However, I will be kicking off the month of November by teaching about a holiday that is often overlooked amidst all the hubbub of the last two months of the year: Veterans Day!

I usually don't have more than a day or two to devote to teaching my students about Veterans Day, so in the past, I've tried to find quick, low-prep activities that are still engaging for my students to learn about this important day.

The easiest place to start is by finding some great books that tell the history of Veterans Day in kid-friendly language. Here are some fantastic books to start your collection:

My two favorites pictured above are H is for Honor and the Rookie Read About Holidays: Veterans Day

Videos are also a great way to get students interested in new topics. I found this great little video on Youtube that tells about Veterans Day in a way that young students will understand. I'll definitely be showing this one to my first graders this year!

I also love implementing fun little songs and creating movements to go along with them. My students love them and end up singing them all day long! I sang this adorable song last year, courtesy of this freebie from First Grade Wow! I wanted my students to have access to a version that they would be able to use and read themselves, so I added a little Melonheadz clipart and turned it into a poster that the kids could refer to. Love it! 

After researching facts about Veterans Day together, we usually do a fun little activity together. I used this coloring sheet with my kindergarten kiddos last year and had a sentence for them to trace and tell about the meaning of the holiday.

We also made a Veterans Day hat with three badges on it to tell about the importance of the day.

You can download the hat for FREE by clicking on the picture below!

 photo veterans day link pic_zpsn3hcfdoa.png

Monday, October 3, 2016

Compare and Contrast with The Three Little Pigs!

I'm in the midst of teaching a big fairy tales/folk tales/fables unit at the moment and it's been one of my favorite units to teach so far! There are so many fun, classic, high-interest stories that kids love to read. Before we began reading any fairy tales, we created this schema chart together of all the things we thought we could find in a fairy tale. Their ideas were actually pretty dead-on!

One of our big standards to teach during this unit is comparing/contrasting similar stories. There are so many great versions of the classic fairy tales to choose from! One of my favorite fairy tales to use for comparing and contrasting is The Three Little Pigs.

For this unit, I read three different versions of The Three Little Pigs and my students compared and contrasted each one by analyzing story elements such as characters, setting, and plot.

We learned that in fairy tales, things usually happen in "threes", and of course the 3 Little Pigs is no different! I had the idea for my students to create Compare/Contrast Story Houses to create one big book. I absolutely love how they turned out and my kids had a blast creating them!

First, I created a little graphic organizer and my students filled one out for each story.

My students loved the fact that I included a "villain" square on our graphic organizer since there was a different villain in each version we read! We glued the graphic organizer to a piece of construction paper to create the first book page, then flipped it over and added the front cover to the opposite side.

To complete the first page, we added a roof by cutting a piece of 4.5x6" construction paper into a triangle shape and gluing it to the top of the page. This is where we wrote the title and author for each story we read!

We repeated the same process for each book we read and matched the book page colors to each "pig house" from the original story: yellow for straw, brown for sticks, and red for bricks! Each time we finished a new story page, I attached it to their book.

By the time we were done, we had 3 pages to complete our compare and contrast story house! I stapled the rest together to create an accordion book.

Creating the story house book was such a great, creative way to compare and contrast the different stories. My students absolutely loved making them as well! They really added so many details to their illustrations and were able to practice writing story summaries in the plot section.

There are many different versions of The Three Little Pigs to choose from, but here are the versions we read to create our compare/contrast story houses: The Three Little Pigs by James Marshall, The Three Little Javelinas by Susan Lowell and Jim Harris, and The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas.

To end our unit, we read one of my all-time favorite versions: The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka. It's the story of The 3 Little Pigs from the Wolf's point of view!

The most unique version we read was The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig. The houses and settings were completely different from the original, and it had a happy ending too! Because the settings were so unique (and there were 4 of them!) I had my students split themselves up into groups of 4 and use giant whiteboards to create four window notes. Each student was responsible for drawing a picture of the four different houses the wolves built in the story. Then they took turns retelling the story to their fellow group members. Such an easy and engaging activity!

If you're interested in using the Three Little Pigs Compare/Contrast Story House with your fairy tale and folktale unit, you can grab it here in my TPT store by clicking the picture below! Differentiated graphic organizers, the cover page, and directions for making the book are all included in the pack. The great news is, you can create it using as many or as few versions of The Three Little Pigs as you want! It's such a versatile activity. Click below to check it out!


Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Quick Update: Blends!

When students are beginning to grow their reading skills past simple CVC words, blends are one of the next basic phonics patterns to introduce to young readers. They begin to blend the letter sounds together and combine them with short vowels to read more complex words.  Since you say both sounds in blend patterns, they are very easy for students to pick up and master. When you're introducing a new blend pattern, it's important for students to work with the words in a variety of ways - and you don't just have to use worksheets to accomplish that!

When introducing a blend pattern, I always started off by creating an anchor chart for each one. I drew bubble letters and wrote words that began with the blend inside of them. Then I hang them up around the room for students to refer to throughout the year.

This allows students to brainstorm words that begin with each blend to help them become more familiar with the pattern. I drew my own pictures to go with each word, but you could even have students take more ownership of the anchor charts by drawing the pictures themselves!

When introducing different blend patterns, it's always fun to come up with related art projects or crafts for students to create to practice writing and spelling their words with blends. For the FL- blend family, I gave my students a piece of construction paper and they created their own FLags and wrote their blend pattern words onto the flag. So simple and the kids loved it!

If there's one thing students love to do, it is getting to write on the big teacher whiteboard or smartboard! Don't ask me why... I think it's because they love pretending that they are the teacher for a small moment in time! There are so many patterns for S-Blends that I like to introduce lots of word sorts for students to become more familiar with the patterns. I drew a chart on the board and had students brainstorm a word that fit with each blend pattern. Then they wrote their word on the board in the section with the correct pattern!

Of course, there are always times when using a worksheet really helps students identify phonics patterns, spelling words, letter formation, and sentence structure. When introducing a new blend pattern I like to have my students begin by using an activity sheet from my No-Prep Phonics Word Work Pack. With these, students read, write, and highlight the words as well as read sentences to practice fluency and create their own sentences using words from the blend pattern they are practicing.

This video shows a sample from my diphthongs pack, but I use the same format for every pack.

For blends, I currently have packs created for S-Blends, R-Blends, L-Blends and Triple Consonant Blends, which can be found in my SUPER-discounted Word Work Bundle (over 60% off!). Just click on the picture below to find out more!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Teaching Early Literacy Skills With Nursery Rhymes

At the beginning of kindergarten, I always start off our year with a mini-unit on nursery rhymes. I love using nursery rhymes to introduce early literacy skills to my students because they are familiar "stories" that most of the kids will have heard before. Most kindergarteners enter school unable to read on their own, but using nursery rhymes can help them feel successful and build confidence in reading because they have memorized the rhymes. Here are some of my favorite activities and resources to teach when introducing nursery rhymes.
A print-rich classroom is vital to have in the primary grades. When introducing nursery rhymes, I'll usually focus on one rhyme per day, so the unit ends up being about two weeks long. First, we will read the rhyme together using posters. Sometimes I'll project them on the smart board and other times we will hang them on the wall.
To switch it up a bit, I also love using the interactive nursery rhymes on Literactive! If you haven't been to this website... go now!!! It's got amazing literacy resources for K-1 with interactive games, books, and more! You have to register to use the site, but it's completely free. They have a bunch of different nursery rhymes on there, so chances are you'll find the one you need! Each rhyme is interactive and can be read aloud in different ways. There are also games included as well. When you go there, you'll see a page like this:
The kids love seeing the nursery rhymes come to life and participating in all of the activities. 

After reading the rhyme together, I like to give my students a copy of their own to follow and read along with me. Reading and tracking print is such an important skill to teach new readers, so I like to use printables that have dots or some other marker underneath the word so that students can follow along with me. Otherwise they will point all over the page (bless their hearts)!
It always makes it more fun for the students to add an exciting reading pointer into the mix as well. I've even given students something as simple as a colored popsicle stick - and they love it!

If you implement interactive notebooks into your reading time, you can also use interactive notebook printables for students to read and respond to a nursery rhyme. For each rhyme, I'll give students their own copy of the rhyme where they can hunt and highlight letters, sight words, or rhyming words. Then, I have a story response strip with a comprehension question about the rhyme as well. At the beginning of the year, most responses will only be with illustrations, and that's fine!
I also like to do a lot of sequencing activities with my students. Whether it's sequencing words, or pictures, both are great activities for students to learn how to retell a story. You can have your students sequence events in so many different ways! They love making flip flap books - these ones I use are a great way to sequence the nursery rhymes with the words as well as the pictures.
You can also use picture cards to help students sequence events together. Then they can complete their own version!
Once your students become more familiar with the nursery rhymes, they can begin to use resources to recite, retell, and act out the rhyme on their own. One thing I created for my classroom was Storytelling Folders. Inside each folder, I put in different resources for students to interact with the nursery rhymes in an engaging way. Here's what you'll need to put them all together (all pieces except for the folder and popsicle sticks are included in my nursery rhyme literacy pack).
For each nursery rhyme storytelling folder, you'll need: a 2-pocket folder, popsicle sticks for the character puppets, a nursery rhyme poster, cover page, and setting page printed out. When you put it all together, it will look like this:
These folders can be used in small groups for students to read and retell the rhyme. You could add any other resources you want to the folders! The options are endless.
To turn the storytelling folders into more of a comprehensive center activity, I might add an activity for them to complete as independent practice such as "Sort-a-Rhyme". With this activity, students will use one of the nursery rhyme posters to help sequence the verses in each rhyme. Students will cut the sentence strips out and glue them back in order on the graphic organizer. This helps students work on skills such as sequencing, understanding print, and reading text aloud.
Another great literacy center activity I always love to include in my weekly rotations is a pocket chart station. Students love building sentences or sequencing pictures in pocket charts - I think it makes them feel like they're the teacher! This pocket chart activity is a step above the previous activity pictured above - students will have the individual words cut out onto separate cards where they will sequence and build the nursery rhyme. This helps with sentence structure and fluency!
Students can refer to these printable black and white posters (that I jazzed up with some neon cardstock!) to help build the rhymes in the pocket chart.
To continue practicing their nursery rhymes at home, you can send home these little mini-booklets that they can color and practice reading at home with their parents! So easy to print, fold, and put together!
I love using art projects and craftivities as a hands-on, fun project for students to create during themed units. For all 10 nursery rhymes that I teach my students, they'll be creating a craft for each one.
Now, I know creating all of these projects can create piles of art everywhere around the classroom - after all, there is only so much space to hang student work up in our classrooms, and we can't keep everything (even when the work is as adorable as these craftivities!). I wanted to create a way for students to keep all of their projects in one place. With that, the nursery rhyme art portfolio was born!

I'll tell you a secret - it's not rocket science to put these puppies together. ;) Simply take a 9x12 piece of construction paper and fold it up in half. Staple the sides shut so that you are just left with an opening at the top. Print out the provided cover page, and boom! It's ready! Each time your students complete an art project, they will store it in their nursery rhyme art portfolios.

Step-by-step directions and templates are included for all crafts!

If you'd like to implement these activities - and more! - to your nursery rhyme teaching themes, every last one of these resources is available in my Nursery Rhyme Literacy Pack! It's nearly 400 pages long and filled with 15 different activities for ten different nursery rhymes: Hey Diddle Diddle, Humpty Dumpty, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Hickory Dickory Dock, Little Miss Muffet, Jack and Jill, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Mary Had a Little Lamb, and Row Your Boat.

You can find this teaching resource pack in my TeachersPayTeachers store - just click on the picture below to take a closer look!

Want to try before you buy? You can grab a 40 page sampler of this unit for FREE by clicking the image below! You'll get a ton of activities for the nursery rhyme "Hey, Diddle Diddle!" It's a great way for you to see if the full resource will be beneficial to your students!