Sunday, March 5, 2017

Benefits of Using Graphic Organizers in the Classroom

Graphic organizers are charts, graphs or diagrams which encourage students to see information as a component of systems rather than isolated facts. After many years of using graphic organizers in my classroom, I am a firm believer in their benefits. Graphic organizers can certainly be used as a teaching tool, but I would like to focus on the benefits as a learning tool for reading comprehension.

Here are 3 great reasons why using graphic organizers is a benefit to your students.

Improves Comprehension

The most obvious reason that I use graphic organizers in my reading classes is because of their benefit of improving reading comprehension. Using graphic organizers helps students to visualize and internalize the material they are reading/learning which leads to a better understanding and a deeper understanding of the material. We want our students to "think deeply" about their reading, but how do we help them do that? Graphic organizers is one way. Graphic organizers can help students organize and prioritize what they are comprehending, and through this visual organization, students are actually able to see the relationships and connections to the information they are reading and learning which leads to improved comprehension.

Benefits All Students

Sometimes, finding materials to benefit all of your students with all of their learning abilities can be difficult. No matter the learning ability of each child in your classroom, graphic organizers can benefit them all. Graphic organizers can be easily changed and altered to help with differentiated instruction for RTI or ELL's. Also, they are a perfect tool for ELL students and students with learning disabilities because they provide a hands on approach to learning. They also help all students to connect new material to prior knowledge, draw conclusions, make inferences, identify main ideas and details and to summarize.

Increases Student Engagement

Students love using graphic organizers. Because of their graphic nature in representing information in a pattern, students tend to stay focused. I know my students are highly motivated and excited to use graphic organizers. I enjoy seeing their excitement in learning.

As with any tool of instruction, modeling how to use each graphic organizer is a key component. We cannot simply expect to assign a story and distribute graphic organizers with the instructions of, "Ok. Read this story and complete the graphic organizer." Teacher instruction on how to use the graphic organizer is vital for success of graphic organizers as a learning tool. Modeling each new type of g.o. is very important to the success of your students. This can be done whole group with chart paper or a document camera. Another key component is feedback. Without proper feedback, students will not improve their responses to reading. I like to have partners or tables share, but to ensure that students are seeing and hearing high quality responses, I like to choose 2 or 3 students' responses to share with the class. (I usually place these under my document camera so the student can see the responses as well.) This has proven to be a very effective way of helping all student improve on their writing responses on their graphic organizers.

If you are not using graphic organizers in your reading class, I highly recommend trying them in your classroom. Over the years, I have definitely seen the benefits of this reading comprehension tool, and they have become one of my favorite strategies that I use in my classroom.

If you are looking for some great free graphic organizers to use with your students, I have some in my store.

Also, be sure to check out my best selling graphic organizers. They are one of my favorite sets, and I use them in my own classroom!

Have a blessed day!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Valentine's Day Activities for Upper Grades

Valentine's Day can be a lot of fun, even for upper elementary students. I know that my fourth graders still love exchanging cards and candy, but here are a few other fun activities that your students will enjoy in addition to cards on or around this fun holiday.

Valentine Cities in U.S.

My students had so much fun with this map activity. Working in groups, students were given 3 or 4 specific states to research and find cities with names associated with Valentine's Day. Then they visited this website to find cities in their assigned states. Next, on heart cutouts they wrote the name of the city and state. They then searched for each city on google maps to find the exact location of the city. Finally, they took each heart label and attached it to our large U.S. map located in our hall. This was an enjoyable activity that gave students a chance to improve their map skills. 

Hershey Kiss Descriptive Writing Activity

I have used this writing activity in my class for several years, and I am uncertain where I originally found this idea. It is great to use around Valentine's Day. Give each child a Hershey's Kiss and instruct the students to not touch and only look and to imagine that he/she has never seen this object before. Students will then "jot notes." On a piece of paper jot details, words, or phrases to describe how this object looks: ex. size, shape, color, etc.

Next, have the students pick up the object and feel, but do not open. Now write descriptive words and phrases that would explain how this object feels. 

Then have students to listen closely as they open up the object. Write words and phrases to explain and describe the sound that is made.

Finally, it is time to taste the object and write how this object not only tastes, but how it feels in their mouths.

On another piece of paper, have students use their jot notes to complete a paragraph or essay to describe this object (Hershey's Kiss). Once finished, let students share their descriptive essays. For a fun twist, give students a variety of flavors of Hershey's Kisses. After sharing the essays, students could guess which flavor of Kiss was being described.

Other Language Arts Activities

You and your students will enjoy these easy to use printables for Valentine's Day. They are perfect for that "little extra" during the month of February and will take very little of your time to plan. Simply copy these printables for your students to use as a whole class, in groups, or at stations. These are perfect to review ABC order, parts of speech, grammar, synonyms, and antonyms in a fun way during the month of February. Students will also enjoy decoding puzzles, writing acrostics, and going on a classroom scavenger hunt. Simply click on the link here or below to purchase. 

Valentine's Day Language Arts Activities

I am so excited to announce that I am once again blogging along with my friends on Upper Elementary Snapshots. For some more great ideas for Valentine's Day, visit HERE to read my blog post at Upper Elementary Snapshots. 

Have a Blessed Day!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Snowman Bulletin Board and Free Mitten Clipart

This simple bulletin board was very easy and quick to create. I think it turned out cute as a button, and my students loved it! I simply cut a large circle from white bulletin board background paper, an orange triangle shape from large construction paper, small black circles from black construction paper and two eyes. I printed the letters from my computer and finally, pinned cotton balls for snowflakes. Cute, bright, and easy, and such a nice change of pace in my classroom.

If you have no visited my store lately, I have added a lot of fun and new clipart packets to my store and even have a nice freebie just for you! (Your feedback is always greatly appreciated!) Just visit my store by clicking on the link below and download this set for FREE!

Thanks for stopping by, and have a blessed day!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Snowflake Themed Reading Lesson

A Winter Reading Lesson for Upper Elementary Using Picture Books, a Reading Passage, and a Simple Similes Activity

Here in the South where I live and teach, snow is not a common winter event, so when it does snow, or there is potential for snow, our students get a little excited. I knew that a snowflake themed lesson would be the perfect way to engage my students and create a little excitement over our reading and learning. I used these lessons during our short week back from Christmas break, but they could be incorporated anytime during the winter season.

To introduce our snowflake theme, I began with some wonderful picture books about snow. There are many wonderful choices, but I chose to use Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, and Snow by Cynthia Rylant.

I first read Snowflake Bentley. As I read, I modeled my thinking and we discussed this amazing man and his photographs.

Next, I used the nonfiction article "Cool Prize" from  (There is also a fabulous lesson for Snowflake Bentley that you may choose to use on this website.) If you don't already have a free membership to Readworks, it is very easy to join, free, and packed with amazing articles, lessons, and passages with question sets. My students "chunked" the text "Cool Prize", which means that we broke down the article as we read it in order to read closely and understand the text. This is a guided whole group lesson that helps students read with purpose. I have included the directions and questions that I gave to my students as we broke this text down, but of course, you can guide your students to search for key information or ask skills related questions that best meet the needs of your students.This is a strategy that my students and I love.

Here is how I chunked this passage:

We numbered the paragraphs. Then students followed the directions below.
1. After reading paragraph 1 silently,  predict what you think this passage will be about, and write your prediction in the margins. (Once students are finished, we stop and discuss.)

2. After reading paragraph 2 silently, circle who this paragraph is about, underline what he is doing (the main idea), and number the steps in the process. (When students are finished, stop and discuss.)

3 and 4. After reading these paragraphs, underline the honor that Libbrecht received and circle the reasons why he received it.

5-9. Before reading the section Winter Wonders, we discussed the text feature of bold faced words. Students found the word artificial. Then they skimmed the text for clues to its meaning and circled these clues. We then discussed their findings. Next, they found the word water vapor, skimmed the text, and circled clues for its meaning. We then discussed. We repeated this for the last two bold faced words. I then had students to partner read this section.

10-15 Snow Days. Students read this section silently and wrote two facts in the margins that they learned. When everyone finished, they turned to their partner and shared their facts.

Frosted Flakes- We discussed this play on words. Then we choral read the paragraph. Next we discussed the text feature, a chart.

I chose to stop my lesson here. Students simply read the rest of the passage with a partner. After reading the remainder of the passage, we then watched a wonderful video clip on Discovery Education called "Snowflake".  This shows Dr. Libbrecht photographing snowflakes. If you don't have Discovery Ed., or if you would like to show another video clip this video clip from youtube is another great choice that goes along with "Cool Prize" that you may wish to show.

Next, in our journals, we compared and contrasted Snowflake Bentley and Libbrecht, the scientist in "Cool Prize." Students simply drew a Venn diagram and wrote similarities and differences.

The following day, I read aloud the book Snow by Cynthia Rylant and discussed figurative language found in this book. This book contains several similes and examples of personification. I then reread the two examples of similes found in Snowflake Bentley. My students then created Snowy Similes posters. We simply took a large sheet of white construction paper, folded it in half 3 times, and opened it back up to create 8 sections. In the first section, students wrote Snowy Similes. In the remaining spaces, students created 7 similes about snow or winter and drew pictures for each. These turned out so cute and look fabulous displayed in the hallway.

Thank you so much for stopping by! Have a blessed day!