Sunday, April 15, 2018

Earth Day Ideas, Activities, and Freebies

April is the perfect time for celebrating nature and the beauty of our planet. Also, it is the perfect time to remind our students of our responsibilities to keep our planet healthy. My family and I live on a small farm, and a big part of farm life is striving to be good stewards of our land. We personally strive to take care of the earth, conserve, and simply do our part in preserving our beautiful world. One of my personal pet peeves is for people to throw trash out of car windows. In our area, this is a big problem, and I'm always saddened to find that so many students find this act normal and ok. Because of this, I always try to find the time whether it is in April, or even at the beginning of the year, to encourage students to make changes in their habits to keep our planet healthy and beautiful.

Here are some ideas that are not only great for April and Earth Day, but they are also perfect for anytime of the year when you are studying ecology, protecting the environment, or reduce, reuse and recycle.

✔️Ask permission from your administration for your class to participate in acts of environmental kindness around your school campus. Take 15 or 20 minutes to do one or more of the following activities.
  • Pick up trash around your school.
  • Water a flower garden at your school.
  • Plant flowers around your campus.
  • Set up a recycle bin.
✔️Encourage students to promote environmental kindness. Discuss simple changes that students can make to help our earth.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Turn off water while brushing teeth.
  • Plant trees, plants, and flowers with your family.
  • Place a trash bag in your family vehicle and encourage everyone to use it instead of throwing trash out of the windows.
✔️To encourage students to make changes to help the environment, download this freebie from my store. Students can document their environmental acts of kindness for one week and write a poem to celebrate Earth Day. Also included are brag tags for Earth Day. Use these brag tags for students who document their environmental acts of kindness or simply give each student a brag tag as a reminder to take care of our earth.

✔️Each year our fourth grade attends a Water Festival sponsored by our local water boards. It is a fun day filled with experiments and activities centered around learning about the water cycle and our environment. At the Water Festival, the highlight of the day is always the magic of Steve Trash. His show is funny, amazing, as well as educational. He combines magic with a lesson on reducing, reusing, and recycling in such an entertaining way that he is always the topic of conversations on the bus ride back to school. Another great thing about Steve Trash is that he offers free videos on his website that are perfect to show around Earth Day. His free videos include "Renewable-Nonrenewable", "The Water Cycle", "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle", and "Pollution." Check them out HERE. Your students will love them!

✔️For even more great activities in honor of Earth Day, try out my fun Earth Day Packet. This packet includes Earth Day themed print and go language arts activities as well as activities centered around Earth Day. 15 fun and easy printables that can be used in your reading, language, as well as science classes are included. Activities that center around adjectives, grammar, synonyms and antonyms, creating an environmental bumper sticker, and more are included. Colorful reduce/reuse/recycle posters can be used for bulletin board or wall displays, and coloring sheets/booklet are all included for your students. This easy to use packet is just what you need this spring.

Have a blessed and beautiful day!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Informational Writing Tips- Writing Introductory Paragraphs

I'll admit, I've had a love/hate relationship with teaching writing over my teaching career. Teaching students to write can be exhausting, frustrating, and demanding, but it is also very rewarding to see students develop into young authors. Years ago at a writing workshop, a presenter shared a statement that freed me and allowed me to view my job as a writing teacher in a new way. Her secret, "Don't think that you have to read entire papers and/or grade every piece that students write."

What? How will students improve? How will their writing be perfect? That's just it. It doesn't have to be perfect. Students are growing as writers, each at her own pace. Instead of expecting perfection, celebrate each child's growth as a writer.  In order to grow, students must do a lot of writing. Now, writing is one of my favorite things to teach, and one of my favorite parts of teaching writing are the mini lessons.

The Focus

Recently, I spent several days presenting mini-lessons on writing introductory paragraphs for expository (informational) writing. Yes... For 3 days, we focused only on the first paragraph. I know that seems like a long time, but I wanted to give students a firm foundation on ways to introduce papers, not just for today, but for future papers as well. For our writing lesson, I used writing prompts and graphic organizers from my Month by Month Writing Prompts and Posters Packet. I love using these prompts, graphic organizers, and posters throughout the entire year to help teach my students how to write narrative, opinion, and informational writing. My students love choosing from these fun, out of the ordinary, writing prompts, but sometimes for focus lessons, I like to give everyone the same writing prompt.

Grabber Leads: A Must for Introductory Paragraphs

On day 1 we began with learning how to write the grabber lead. Students were already familiar with writing grabber leads for narrative writing, but writing a grabber lead for informative or expository writing can be slightly different. We used an anchor chart to discuss five great ways to write a grabber lead for informative writing: questions, dialogue, onomatopoeia, personal opinions, and strong persuasive statements. There are many other ways that I could have also included, but I limited our study to five, so that hopefully, the students would internalize these five ways and be able to use them in future writings as well.

We spent time discussing and reading examples of each type of lead. Then each student practiced writing great grabber leads by creating sentences for each type. Of course, students shared their leads with their partners, and I shared some of the best on our document camera. I firmly believe that our sharing time in writing is a very important step. I encourage students to listen to other students writing styles and ideas to help them become better writers.

For day two's mini-lesson, students wrote 1 to 3 more sentences expanding on their grabber leads. We simply spent a lot of time talking, sharing ideas, and modeling what these sentences should sound like. We discussed what worked, what didn't, and how to improve.

The Thesis Statement: What It's All About

On day 3 we focused on the thesis statement, the last part of the introductory paragraph. I explained that the thesis statement is the main idea statement that lets the reader know what the paper will be about without saying, "I'm going to tell you about..." To help students begin the thesis statement, they referred to this anchor chart. The idea for this chart was borrowed from the amazing Teaching with a Mountain View. Students chose one of the four ways to begin their thesis statement. I must admit, I was surprised at how well they did! I was expecting a lot more questioning looks, but the students got busy, and Wow! What some great results!

Glow and Grow

Finally, students shared their finished introductory paragraphs with their partners. Then each partner shared a "glow and grow." They shared one glow (one thing they like about the writing) and one grow (one thing the writer could improve).

Hopefully, my students are now armed with strategies for writing excellent introductory paragraphs for their informational writing, and I hope you have a new idea or two for your writing lessons as well!

Have a blessed day!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Fun Ways for Your Students to Respond to Reading

My students hardly ever notice a new bulletin board, and if they do notice, they rarely say anything about it, that is, unless the bulletin board is filled with their own creations. Students love seeing their work displayed. When I recently began creating these Flip Its! Reading Response Flipbooks, my students loved seeing their flipbooks displayed on the bulletin boards. Not only did my students enjoy seeing these flipbooks displayed, so did my coworkers. Flip Its! Reading Response Flipbooks make gorgeous bulletin board displays, but more importantly, they are a fun way for your students to respond to their reading. These Flip Its! are perfect for responding to independent reading, classroom read-alouds, basal stories, literature circles, picture books, chapter books, and more!

Flip Its! Reading Response Flipbooks are seasonally themed flipbooks that your students will love using to write about their reading. Providing students with opportunities to write about their reading helps students connect ideas, analyze, summarize, and interpret key ideas from the text. Once complete, you will have a colorful bulletin board display. 

Flip Its! Reading Response flipbooks come with 3 versions of the same shaped flipbook. Most packets contain two types of fiction flipbooks (usually story elements and sequence) and one version for nonfiction. Each packet also contains letters that can be printed on colored paper to create an eye-catching bulletin board display. There are also bulletin board pictures and suggestions for adding elements (not included in the packet) to create a bulletin board that will be the talk of your hallway. Some of the Flip Its! packets include:

Acorn Flip Its! Flipbooks are perfect for fall.

Turkey Flip Its! Flipbooks create a neat November display!

Christmas Tree Flip Its! Flipbooks are fun for December!

Winter Mittens Flip Its! Flipbooks are perfect for winter!

Your students will enjoy all of these seasonal flipbooks. These and more Flip Its! packets are available in a bundle that you can find here

Your students will love these flipbooks! Look what teachers have said, 

"This was by far a hit! My students worked on this for our fall themed bulletin board and people loved it! I don't want to take it down! Super cute, thank you!"

"My students really enjoyed doing this activity. I got a lot of compliments from staff and parents. Thank you!"

Be sure to check these out and for more fun ways to respond to reading check out my blog post at Upper Elementary Snapshots! Have a blessed day!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Christmas Bulletin Board Ideas

Our school is looking merry and bright this December with cheerful bulletin boards and colorful Christmas displays that are "decking our halls." Our teachers and parent volunteers have been busy creating a festive mood at our school, and I think these bulletin boards and displays turned out adorable! If you are looking for some holiday bulletin board or display ideas, then take a peek at the pictures below.

This first display was created by our parent volunteers. A sweet little elf sits on top of a Christmas mantel to greet children and visitors as they enter our school. Red bulletin board paper was wrapped around boxes that were stacked to create this fun mantel. My favorite part is the fire made from tissue paper and bulletin board paper.

This adorable bulletin board was created by my sweet teacher friend. I just love this Santa's Clothesline bulletin board, and the "Merry Christmas" undies are just too cute! I love how she used a real Santa hat and real shorts along with the coat and pants that she drew and created.

Whimsical Christmas trees on a black and white polka dot background create a simple, but eye-catching bulletin board. I love the simplicity of this board. It is so bright and colorful and will definitely catch your attention.

If you are looking for a holiday display that is student-created, then this board is for you. Create a beautiful student-made bulletin board with this packet from my store. Students will create flipbooks to respond to books that they have read.  Included in this packet is one Christmas tree pattern with 4 different choices for responding to fiction or non-fiction books. The flipbooks and the lettering are inlcuded in this packet. Simply print the letters out on colored paper and cut out. All other pieces in this picture are NOT included in the packet. Your students will love creating these adorable flipbooks, and your bulletin board will be the talk of the school. Check it out. 

Have a blessed day!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Fall Bulletin Board Ideas and a Freebie!

I absolutely love fall! Fall leaves, fall colors, cooler weather, and fall bulletin boards! Pretty fall bulletin boards can definitely make your classroom stand out, but I know that teachers do not have a ton of extra time for creating new bulletin boards. That is why I designed these easy to print bulletin boards. Your students will help you decorate by creating these fun and adorable flipbooks to display on your boards or in your hallways. Not only are the flipbooks fun and cute, but they are an excellent way for your students to write about their reading. Display the flipbooks alone, with the included letters, or add extra details to make these boards as simple or as detailed as you like.

The first bulletin board is my Acorn Reading Response Bulletin Board. This adorable board comes with flipbook pieces to print and copy for your students. Students complete the information about a favorite book, a literature circle book, or a classroom read. Pint the letters included and hang for a visually pleasing bulletin board display. I have included a photo with ideas for little "extras" that you may wish to include on your board. You may decide to create a tree from brown bulletin board paper and purchased dollar store fall leaves. Borders and burlap ribbon can also be added to finish out your display. Your students will love seeing their work displayed. Find this in my TpT store.

If you are looking for a decorating idea for Thanksgiving, then let your students create these turkey flipbooks. Two sizes of flipbooks are included in this packet. Hang with the letters that are included in this set for a beautiful November display.

This next easy fall bulletin board can be yours for free! Simply click HERE for the link and download the printables to create this colorful scarecrow bulletin board for your classroom! You may even want to use some of the pieces with the other bulletin boards. For example, I used the fence that is found in this freebie in my turkey bulletin board. Be creative! I hope you enjoy this little fall gift!

Have a blessed fall!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Creating a Vocabulary Rich Environment in Your Classroom

Creating a classroom environment in which words are loved, valued, and enjoyed is an important way to help students discover and use new vocabulary. When students see your love for vocabulary and are immersed each day in a word-rich classroom, their personal vocabularies will increase. Here are a few suggestions to help you create a word-rich environment in your classroom. (Continue reading for a freebie for your classroom!)

Share your favorite words.

Talk about why special words are important and interesting to you. Invite students to share their favorites. (Personally, I love the words gossamer, luminescence, eloquence, ominous,  and zephyr-which happens to be the name of the first car I owned.)

Apply sophisticated words in the classroom.

Use sophisticated words with your students. For example, ask students to illustrate instead of draw, tidy, instead of clean, collect, instead of take up. Talk about the din, raucous, or  cacophony of noises heard in the hall or lunchroom. My favorite sophisticated word to use with my class was just a happy accident. After reading the word accolade in a story with my class, I now record on the board any accolades that my students receive from other teachers or adults in our school. My students now know and use the word accolade every day

Play games and do fun vocabulary activities.

Visit my Upper Elementary blog post on 10 Engaging Vocabulary Activities that your students will love. Find fun vocabulary activities for your classroom.

Vocabulary Spotters

My students love spotting vocabulary words that we have learned in class in their library books and personal books. Encourage this vocabulary search by making a big deal when words are found. Give brag tags for Vocabulary Spotters (freebie found here or click the image below) and students will search diligently for these words.

Varying vocabulary instruction and activities will help keep lessons new, fresh, and exciting for your students. For more ideas on creating a vocabulary-rich environment in your classroom, visit my blog post at Upper Elementary Snapshots.

Have a blessed day!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Seven Fun Ways to Use Index Cards in the Classroom

I don't know why I like index cards so much. I mean, I like them almost as much as Post-Its, pretty note cards and papers, and fancy notebooks. Yes, I admit, I hoard index cards! No, they are not very pretty or fancy, but they are the perfect size for so many quick and easy classroom activities that are sure to get your students motivated. Also, they are so inexpensive that it is easy to keep a lot on hand.

I realize that technology is all the craze in classrooms across the country. In fact, I am so proud to be a 1:1 classroom this year! I love technology, and my students love it, too! Even with all of the technology that we have available, I think it is important to provide students with a variety of fun activities to keep them motivated and excited about learning, and sometimes, even a simple index card can generate excitement in a lesson. Here are 7 ideas for using these inexpensive little cards.

1. Two Truths and a Fib.

 I have used this activity for many years on the first day of school, but this is also a great way to continue to get to know one another throughout the year. It is also is a fun way to cover some of the Common Core speaking and listening standards. If you have never played this fun activity, give each student an index card and instruct her to write 2 truths about herself and 1 fib. Then let each student share all three statements with the class and call on a classmate to guess the fib. You can also use this as an after activity for a lesson by having students list 2 truths and 1 fib about a topic they just learned or read about. Let them share with a small group and have group members tell the fib about the topic. This is a great closing for a lesson or unit of study.

2. Random Name Picker

I realize there are wonderful and cute random name pickers on the web that are fun for the students, but sometimes as teachers, we just don't have time for all of that! Give each student an index card and instruct him/her to write his/her name in bold letters. Then draw and color pictures around to decorate the card. Take up the index cards to store in a container all year. Then, the next time you need to quickly and randomly select a student, simply draw one of these cards. Use these throughout the entire school year.

3. Student Passwords

O.K. This idea is not so much fun as it is a necessity. I don't know if your school is like mine, but my poor students have at least a half a dozen passwords that they are suppose to keep up with. To help them out, we have printed out passwords on stickers and placed on index cards for each student. These index cards are kept in special containers or in the students folders (depending on how often the passwords are needed). This has helped us out tremendously and kept searching for passwords to a minimum.

4. Yes/NO Cards

Let each student write "Yes" on one side of an index card and "No" on the other. Use these cards as a quick wrap up to a lesson or a quick review. Call out a question related to the topic of study that has a yes or no answer. Students hold up the card to show the correct answer. You can quickly assess who understands and who may need to be pulled for small group instruction. True and false cards can also be made and used the same way.

5. Sequence Strips

Use index cards to create a fun way to review sequence. After a read aloud, give students 4 index cards. On the first, write the title and on the other 3 write the beginning, the middle, and the end of the story. These make a great hall or bulletin board display! Read more about this fun activity here.

6. Vocabulary Strips

Give each student an index card. Students should draw a diagonal line from the bottom left corner to the top right corner. On the top left side, students will write the vocabulary word and definition. On the bottom right side, students should draw a picture of the vocabulary word and use the word in a sentence. Just like the activity above, students can complete 3 or 4 cards and glue on a long strip of construction paper to display in the hall or on a bulletin board. This is a fun way for students to review vocabulary.

7. Reading Response Activity

Your students will enjoy summarizing a read aloud, a book from lit circles, or a book from independent reading when you give them an index card and one half of a 8.5 x 11 inch piece of paper. Let them draw a scene from the book on the piece of paper and write a summary of the book on the index card. Then simply attach the index card to the paper for a quick and easy hall display.

Certainly, there are many other ways that index cards can be used in the classroom. I hope you have found one or two here that you may want to try with your class!

Have a blessed day!