Winter Fun Hop and Rain forest Writing in the Primary Classroom

We’re having a Winter Fun link up hosted by Mrs. D’s Corner. You can participate in the fun by downloading our free Winter E-Book and entering the rafflecopter below for the chance to win a fabulous prize!

Birthday Celebration

To beat the winter blues, we dove into our informational writing unit with the topic of the rain forest. Interesting topics are a sure fire way to engage students in informational writing in a primary classroom. Since we recently read about the rain forest, I introduced informational writing using a fascinating rain forest bird. Our rain forest writing project was a huge success in our classroom.  

Informational writing in a primary classroom

One of my favorite mentor texts for teaching point of view in reading is The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry.  If you aren’t familiar with the text, it is basically a story which depicts the deforestation problem in the rain forest as told through the voices of the various rain forest animals.  A second grade standard is understanding point of view and being able to read texts using different voices to depict characters.  It is so much fun to share this wonderful book to kids of all ages by reading the various voices of the rain forest inhabitants.  You can grab the book at Amazon by clicking below.  This is an affiliate link, but does not add any cost to you. 

Informational writing is our focus this grading period.  To kick off the unit I introduced my students to a simple layout to plan their writing.

informational writing

I selected a passage from Enchanted Learning about the Toucan.  You can find it by clicking the word Toucan.  We did a close read using this passage. I built their schema through the use of google images and a You Tube video of the Toucan singing. Did you know that they croak like a frog! 

Next I used this graphic organizer to develop the topic and details students would add to their writing.  You can grab it for free here!

graphic organizer informational writing

After completing our writing we did a directed drawing activity which you can find at We Draw Animals.com. To get the students started on their page I created a body template for them to trace using a file folder.

Tucan directed drawing activity

We loved how unique and cute each one turned out!

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Be sure to enter the rafflecopter below and hop on to the next blog for more great tips to use in your classroom this winter! Just click the free Winter E-Book image to grab this fantastic prize!  You will find my secret word below.

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Year-End Blowout Sale on Educents

Are you busy planning for the coming months?  I know I am!  I was excited to see these deals coming up on Educents and thought I would share them with you.  Be sure to use the code SAVE15 or FREESHIP on  orders 49 dollars or higher!

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Out with the old, in with the new! Our friends at Educents have come through with an end if the year blowout sale that’s too good to miss! These deals won’t be around after the first week of 2016, so you have to act fast.

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Shop the Educents Year-End Blowout Sale

On top of these already awesome deals, you can use the code SAVE15 for an extra 15% off sitewide, or FREESHIP for free shipping on orders over $49.

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Life of Fred Elementary Math SeriesThe wildly popular Life of Fred books are a great way to get your child excited about math. I know it sounds crazy, but kids everywhere love the misadventures of math genius Fred.

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National Geographic Kids World Atlas | Space Encyclopedia – National Geographic is one of the most trusted names when it comes to education about our world. Through brilliant photography, the National Geographic World Atlas can help educate your entire family.

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5 Kit Magic School Bus Variety BundleThe Magic School Bus has spent decades educating children about all facets of science. Now, with this variety bundle, the lesson can continue in a fun and engaging way. Perfect for kids aged 5-10, this bundle will be more than enough for a whole school year of learning fun.

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Freestyle Building Kit – Children have loved building toys as long as the simple wooden block has been around. The Freestyle Building Kit pushes that creativity even further with this kit. The kit includes thousands of blocks of various vibrant colors; the kit will be more than enough to help.

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Spanish Course – Buy 1 Get 1 Free – Learning another language is one of the most valuable skills you can have, and countless studies have shown that the earlier you start, the easier it is to learn. This buy-one-get-one-free Spanish package is already a great deal, and now you can get it for even less.

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Scholastic Beginning Reader Boxed Sets – When it comes to supplying books for young students, not many do it better than Scholastic. From LEGO, to Star Wars, to Clifford, these books are a great way to get your littlest learners excited about reading.

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Scholastic Young Reader Boxed Sets – And for the slightly older readers, you can continue their education with some more classic books. With topics ranging from Harry Potter to Minecraft, any young reader will be sure to find something they like.

Whether you are a parent hoping to turn playtime into learning time, a teacher stocking up supplies, or a homeschooler starting new lessons in January, there’s something on Educents for you.

Shop the Educents Year-End Blowout Sale

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Note: This post contains some affiliate links which do not add any cost to you.

Currently January 2016

Currently Jan. 2016

 

I’m happy to be linking up with Farley at Oh’ Boy Fourth Grade for this month’s Currently Linky!

Listening:  to silence and loving it!  My grandson, whom I love, is back home and soon I’ll be back in the noisy hub bub of learning with all my sweet second graders.  Until then…I’ll take some quiet when I can get it!

Loving:  the extended break teachers have over the Christmas holidays.  The time off gives me time to relax, reflect, and refresh for the remainder of the school year.  I feel I accomplish so much and enjoy my family to the fullest knowing I don’t have to set the clock or be on a tight schedule.

Thinking: I need to review resources I purchased over the break and plan some fun, yet meaningful, learning activities these last few days of break.  I need to print, laminate and cut out materials for centers too.  Oh boy, it makes me tired just thinking of all the cutting and organizing.  Glad I still have a few days!

Wanting: yes, another week would be totally awesome!  I know you want that too!  Since that isn’t happening, I better get motivated to start all of the laminating and cutting!

Needing: to keep in mind that there are so many things to enjoy in life!  I want to keep a healthy balance between work and home so that I enjoy my time spent with my “littles” as well as my family. 

One little word: Hope. New Year brings a promise of hope and renewal.  I plan to do so many positive things in the coming year both in my work, personal, and business life.  Knowing that success requires hard work, I am willing to do what it takes.  My hope is that each and everyone of us will be blessed this coming year!

Tips to Combat Teacher Fatigue

Tips to Combat Teacher Fatigue

Let’s face it.  Being a teacher is hard work.  Finding simple ways to combat teacher fatigue can be a game changer!  I published this post on Classroom Tested Resources today, but thought I should share it on my blog as well. Now that school is back in full swing you might notice your energy waning.  Me? Well, I’m changing positions a month after school started, so I am in full “back to school tired” mode!  This led me to investigate ways to beat teacher fatigue.

It goes without saying that we need to maintain good sleep habits once school starts.  It is so easy to work long hours, hoping to get caught up.  The ugly truth is there will ALWAYS be something else to do, especially in today’s world.  Getting enough rest will keep your body healthy and your mind active during the long days at school.  Being overly sleepy is your body’s way of saying, “Hey! Get some more rest!” When I ignore this signal, I often find myself fighting a nasty cold.

Test your sleep IQ by taking this interesting sleep quiz from the National Sleep Foundation.

You can find it by clicking {HERE}.

I know many of us toss and turn keeping us from falling asleep at night.  We simply have too many things running through our minds.  The best way I have found to combat this dilemma is by:

  1. Make a “To Do List.” Write down the things you need to accomplish or remember. This will free your mind to relax at night.  Try to prioritize and only list must do items.  Remember, this isn’t a wish list!
  2. Unplug from social media about an hour before bed.  Research states that computer usage before bed can decrease our ability to go to sleep.
  3. Keep a bedtime routine and time schedule.  Our bodies get used to falling asleep and waking at certain times.  Keeping the schedule even on weekends is helpful.
  4. Investigate essential oils. In a glass spray bottle combine a few drops of your favorite relaxing essential oil, like lavender, with water.  Spritz over your linens just before bed.  Check out The Prairie Homestead for recommended oils geared for getting and staying asleep.
  5. Let your linens dry on an old fashioned clothesline.  This is my absolute favorite!
Linens drying on a clothesline
Bring fresh air in for a restful sleep.
I found this affordable essential oil on Amazon.  It has some great reviews, including the use as a sleep aid for children.  Note: This is an affiliate link.

 

 

Healthy lunches that look and taste good, are a wonderful “pick me up” during the afternoon.  I am famous for throwing a container of  Greek yogurt in my bag, then hoping for the best.  While most yogurt is good for you, it can get a little boring.  Having a fun, tasty lunch gives you more incentive to take the time to eat.

Photo and recipe can be found at Family Fresh Meals

Foods that keep blood sugar steady, provide long lasting energy, and trigger your brain to feel good are the best choices for lunch.

1.  Choose whole grains, keeping an eye on the amount of sugar listed in the ingredients.  These carbs are good for boosting energy and the feel-good chemical serotonin. Whole grains are absorbed in your body slowly, so your energy doesn’t spike. Sugars cause blood sugars to spike and then plummet. Avoid high fructose corn syrup.

2. Add nuts, beans, lentils, fresh lean meats, and eggs.  These protein packed foods absorb in your body slowly and provide extended energy throughout the day.  Nuts, as well as whole grains, contain magnesium. Magnesium deficiency drains your energy. Meats contain Vitamin B-12 and boost dopamine levels which keep you alert and focused.

3.  Plan dinner meals which can easily be incorporated into wholesome lunches.  It is easy to cook a little extra during your main meal, then pack the leftovers for lunch.  Another great alternative is to make simple tweaks to your main meal for a fresh take as a lunch choice.  See the recipe below as a great example. Not only do you use the crock pot (“win-win”), but it would be so easy to add the leftover chicken to create a delicious lunch salad or wrap.  Have roast?  Shred it for an easy barbecue sandwich.

Find this photo and recipe at Family Fresh Meals.

4.  Seasonal fruits and vegetables are an easy, nutritious addition to your lunch.  They are low in fat, sodium and cholesterol. They do provide complex carbohydrates, fiber, nutrients and natural sugar. It is important to make sure you “eat the rainbow” when making choices.

fruits and vegetables color choices for health

Check out my Pinterest board for some easy lunch recipes.
Follow Sebrina Burke’s board Easy, Healthy Lunch Ideas on Pinterest.

Take the advice of someone who has been teaching for 21 years, and is still NOT caught up!  Work will always be there.  Prioritize.  What needs to be done to keep your students safe and reaching their potential?  What deadlines are looming?   Does it really matter if every corner of your classroom looks like it came off a Pinterest board?  NO!  But your health, happiness, and family do depend on you to realize that you simply “Can’t do it all!”

Be kind to yourself, get some rest, and enjoy your coming weekend!

 

Back To School Pick 3

Back To School Pick 3

Back to school season is upon us already!  Summer just seemed to fly by!  I’m linking up with those fabulous girls from PAWSitively Teaching and Inspired Owl’s Corner again for the August Pick 3 Pinterest Linky. Even though it is hard to get back into the swing of things, the structure and routine, back to school is an exciting time of the year. It is always fun to meet your new students and welcome them into your safe and caring classroom.  Building a caring community ensures that your classroom management is firmly established.  With that in mind, I choose some pins that help establish the sense of community in classrooms. back to school pick 1 My first idea comes from Our Small Town Idaho Life.  (Click their blog name to see the original post and ideas.)  Her room looks so warm and inviting.  

back to school 1a

Click the image to visit the site.

I love the idea of the students doing a self-portrait at the beginning of the year.  This is a great way to get some student produced work up as a cute bulletin board.  (Hey, one less bulletin board you have to put up!)  Plus the students are more likely to appreciate a board with their work vs. one you pre-made. This serves as a great board to leave up for open house. How fun is that for the parents!  Students could do a writing assignment to accompany their self-portrait. back to school 2 My second idea can be found at Mrs. Robinson’s Classroom Blog

back to school 2a

Click the image to see the site.

Providing opportunities for talk and collaboration from day one builds a sense of community and learning.  How awesome is this idea of providing the chance to develop and talk about classroom rules that are positive and build success.  This is a very interactive activity that is sure to leave students excited to be in your classroom!

back to school 3

My third pick is eye catching and visually demonstrates the community you are building in your classroom.  The pin origination is unknown, but ELSA Support in the U.K. is the site that contains the photo below.

back to school 3a

Click image to visit site.

 Is that not stunning and precious!  

I hope you have discovered some useful ideas.  Be sure to check out the other blogs participating to gather more August ideas for you classroom and life!

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Reflect and Refresh Part 2

I’m joining with Mrs. D’s Corner for her Reflect and Refresh series.  Yes, I’m a little late as I didn’t participate in Part 1.  Life just gets too chaotic sometimes.  I decided to take some time to reflect and refresh AND rest!  Plus I have been super busy with summer school and other projects. So, that being said…

reflect and refresh part 2

Communication

This year I am making it my goal to beef up my communication with families.  I have been putting together binders, which I hope will hold up better than the paper folders we have used in the past.  I call them my HOT Binders (Home Organizational Too). I am including a calendar for behavior and homework, a tabbed section for newsletters, a spiral notebook, a pencil pouch, and a sheet protector for papers to sign and return.  The spiral notebook will be used for daily written communication on an as needed basis.  This is what my dining room table looks like tonight!  

Reflect and Refresh Homework Binder

 

Reflect and Refresh Homework Binder 2

 

Reflect and Refresh Homework Binder 3

If you could use this in your class, the editable binder covers are free in my TPT Store.   Just click {HERE}.

Organization

I brought home a huge tub of various task cards that I used and need to sort by season/standard.  I bought several of the lidded containers from Really Good Stuff, as well as the cart shown below. 

My goal for the next week is to get these things organized in time for back to school in August.  I am leaning toward a system such as this one by Third Grade Thinkers

Reflect and Refresh Third Grade Thinkers

 

Content

Not only do I collaborate with colleagues in my school/district, I love my online friends.  Periscope has opened up a whole new world of learning for teachers who wish to learn and collaborate.  If you haven’t taken time to check out this form of social media, I highly encourage you to do so before the mad school rush days begin!  Recently I have watched several by teachers at the Ron Clark Academy.  Hope King has had some fabulous scopes.  I hope to continue to have time to watch some of these once school starts.  Just remember, the scopes are only available for 24 hours, unless the person scoping saves their broadcast.

My Big Summer Project

I worked on my updating my blog, and had great plans for adding many new products in my store.  I did get to add a Back to School Paper Bag Book activity which you can find {HERE}.  So next to my binders are the beginnings of our first week Back to School Writing Journals.  I know my family wonders when they will be able to eat sitting down again!

reflect and refresh all about me book

Since some of my students will be looping with me, I needed a fresh back to school idea.  I really want to focus more on writing.  With this project I will have a formative assessment/baseline based on where they are after summer break.

I taught summer school in a center school that serves students with severe physical and mental handicaps.  I enjoyed working with these students.  They taught me as much as I taught them.  

Be sure to share your refresh and reflect ideas in the comments below.  Hop over and check out some other bloggers who have participated with us!

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Turn Your Education Beliefs into Action

Turn Your Education Beliefs into Action

Summer is the perfect time to reflect on your education beliefs. This is the time we dream and plan for the coming year. Having a strong belief system in place ensures your plans don’t go astray.

Education Beliefs

 

Why don’t you take the challenge with me! 

Educational beliefs to action challenge

 

Taking time to identify your education beliefs pays off huge dividends at the end of the day. These beliefs are a starting point as you plan or reflect on past lessons. They are my “go to” when I need to step back and adjust or fine tune lessons. Beliefs guide the vision we share for our students.

I want to share my beliefs with you.  

My education beliefs

 

Believe in your students.

Being an advocate for your students is one of the most important roles teachers play.  An advocate goes beyond collaborating with professionals to ensure rights and safety.  As classroom teachers, we advocate for our students by ensuring they reach their full potential right in our classrooms.  We believe in students and find ways for them to be successful based on their individual needs. We don’t set limits on what our students can learn and do, but believe in their potential.  My education beliefs start with this key point:

quote education beliefs 2

This belief in action:

 

Be sure to check out the other education beliefs teachers like you and I share.  The next link in this series is from Lisa.  Just click on her button below! 

 

 

Believing in my students leads me into my other education beliefs.  What are your education beliefs?  Which one do you feel most strongly about?  I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

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The Wonders of Science

Two little girls with magnifying glass outdoors in the day time


For the past 8 years I was a reading intervention teacher, but now that I’m back in my own full time classroom, I’m loving all the core curriculum I missed out on! Let me tell you…my kids LOVE Science! Nothing excites them as much as seeing me set up with hands on materials for a science lesson. Well, maybe except for cupcakes and party favors!

Science quote


This is from a post I wrote on another blog when we were studying matter. I thought I would share it here today.  The kids loved this simple and CHEAP experiment we did that clearly illustrated the concept of water surface tension. We had been reading about the skin, or surface tension of water, in language arts. I could tell they didn’t grasp the concept. So a quick Google break netted this gem. Basically all you need is some water, a container, black pepper and some dish soap. All things we had access to that day. Since I always forget to take pictures, I recreated the experiment at home so you would have a visual. 


Water surface tension  Step 1. Materials needed. Step two Step 2. Add pepper to the water. Be sure the water is still.
Step 3 dip soapy toothpick into the center of the water filled container.

 

What you can’t tell by the pictures is how dramatic this experiment is, even though it is so simple. The pepper races to the edge of the bowl. One thing I did learn by doing this at home, is that the restaurant style pepper with the larger grains, is going to allow some of the pepper to sink. Using regular style pepper is best to demonstrate how the pepper floats on the surface.

Free Science Experiment

Click to download

 

I’m leaving you with your own downloadable copy of the experiment, as well as several response sheets your students can use as part of the scientific process or within your ELA block. You can click the experiment, or {HERE}, to download your copy. I hope your class enjoys this as much as mine did!

Until next time!

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Reading and Role Playing

Reading and Role Playing


As part of my PD this summer I’m joining The Sunny Side of Second Grade and some other teacher bloggers in a book study.  I’ll be sharing Unit 7: Reading and Role Playing from Lucy Caulkins’ book,  A Curricular Plan For The Reading Workshop Grade 2

Lucy Caulkins Book Study

Click the image above to be taken to the beginning of our book study.

 

Unit 7 Lucy Caulkins

The author recommends spring {April/May} as the perfect time for engaging our young readers and writers through tales that so easily spark the imagination. This unit is perfect for beating the winter blues through engaging activities that invite readers and writers to delve deeply into the text.  It is the perfect time to bring witches, princesses and fairies into the classroom.

How does this help my students master the standards?

It is natural to seek answers to this question.  Through teacher modeling and practice, students will develop a love of role play.  To bring richness to their acting they will  delve deeper into the text to infer character motives and purpose. Students will learn to question, discuss, understand point of view, and develop retelling skills. 

Tim Rasinski, well known for his work on reading fluency, has opened our eyes to the need of developing fluency as an aid to comprehension.  We know students in second grade need to progress from reading 30 to 50 w.p.m. in short chunks, to more fluent readers who read in phrases of 70 to 100 w.p.m. by the end of second grade. Building fluency happens naturally through role playing, reader’s theater, and other forms of acting out text.  Speed, as well as expression and prosody will blossom with these activities.

 

 

Reading and Role Playing to build fluency

 As you will notice, there are plenty of opportunities throughout this unit to build fluency:

  • Teacher modeling
  • independent reading for a purpose
  • partner re-reading
  • expressive reading
  • readers theater

How do I find the time?

Caulkins suggests daily opportunities to allow students to think about and discuss text. By forming partner and reading club groups students can spend 5 to 10 minutes daily engaging in these activities.  This still allows plenty of time for independent reading.  Students will be more engaged during independent reading because they are looking to contribute to the group and they have group accountability.  This time supports the speaking and listening standards common in many states.

Readers Becoming Actors

Caulkins suggests starting this unit by comparing well known read alouds/stories with their cartoon/animated counterparts.  Share in the marvel with your students as they understand how characters come to life through expression and gestures. Model with a well known book by using expression, gestures, and voice changes.  Invite students to join you as they are sitting on the rug.  

Think, Pair, Share Activities

  • What is the character thinking in his head?
  • Say the character’s thoughts aloud to your partner.
  • Why did the characters act the way they did?
  • What can we learn from the author’s lesson?
  • What was the moral of the fable?

Invite students to step into a character’s shoes.  Model noticing and interpreting details that offer information about the character.  Use anchor charts to chart character traits and teach vocabulary that allows students to express character traits more accurately, i.e., frustrated instead of simply mad.  

Character Traits

Image from Scholastic.com. Click the image to view the site.

Using post its will help students mark text that helps them analyze characters.  Students can discuss and reread marked places with their partners.  The texts in this unit usually have exaggerated character types.  Children will often recognize these tales have similar characters with similar traits.  This aids in building understanding of plot structure, author’s purpose, theme and morals.  Caulkins recommends closing the unit by letting the students read and role play or perform a favorite tale. 

For more resources on readers theater, check out my pinterest board below!
Follow Sebrina Burke’s board Readers Theater on Pinterest.
Be sure to check back on July 17 for the final post in this series: Unit 8 & Conclusion by The Sunny Side of Second Grade!  Just click the image below!

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Preparing for Parent Communication

I blogged over at Classroom Tested Resources this week, but thought I would share the post here also.  I feel parent communication is vital. This summer I have taken time to reflect on ways to establish a solid connection with my families. Research and experience have proven this an invaluable way to support our students emotionally and academically.

Parents often feel alienated from schools.  They may have had a bad experience while they were in school, or an unfortunate school based experience with their own child.  By opening our classroom doors and welcoming families, we gain valuable allies.  It is important to provide a method of two-way communication.  This communication is not the school informing the parent, rather is is an ongoing communication in which both parties share valuable information.

One way to build this relationship is through daily communication with families.  This summer I decided to ditch the ragged, torn, and dirty take home folders.  I am going to put together binders for each student.  Binders will be more durable, organized, and provide multiple ways for daily communication.

Below are the items I used, minus the page protectors and a one inch binder.

I am using a one inch binder that will be labeled for each individual student.  I found a pack of 8, one inch, white binders for $10.00 at my local Sams Club.  I chose these Avery page tabs because they were colorful, had a large space for labeling, and they are made of a heavy plastic.  I am only using two per child.  I found all of the materials, even the individual white binders, at Wal-Mart.

I decided to give it a cute acronym, H.O.T.  Which stands for Home Organizational Tool.  These binders should last the entire year and keep my students and families organized throughout the year.

Let’s look inside to see what is included!

 

I like to use Vertex Calendars for free calendars, the excel version is editable.  You can also find cute ones through Teachers Pay Teachers.  You can find this free one by The 2 Teaching Divas by clicking HERE.

You can grab a set of editable binder covers and spines in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. Currently they are free!  Simply click {HERE}.

I’d love to hear ways you provide parent communication!

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