Monday, December 17, 2012

What's Mr. Giso Making "Room to Read?" Pick #5

Auntie Claus
Written and Illustrated By:  Elise Primavera

This is by far, my favorite Christmas read aloud.  This story is set among the hustle and bustle of life as it exists among the skyscrapers and towers of New York City.  The Kringle family lives atop the luxurious Bing Cherry Hotel.  Of course, they love Christmas.  They keep up their Christmas tree all year.  Mrs. Kringle even owns the Mistle-Toe-to-Nail Salon on 56th and Fifth.

Sophie and her litter brother have everything, but of course, they are not satisfied.  Their great-aunt, Auntie Claus often wondered if Sophie and her little brother had too many presents.  No one loved Christmas more than Auntie Claus, who lived in the penthouse of the hotel.  Each day Sophie would have tea with Auntie Claus and get the latest advice.

"Always pick a nice full one, darling, with springy needles."  

"You must dr-a-a-a-ape the garland, darling, one strand at a time..."

Each tea time would end with Auntie's most important piece of wisdom.

"And darling, always remember my first and final rule-- whether it's birthdays, Christmas, or Halloween, it is far better to give than to receive!"

Auntie Claus is quite prim, proper, and fancy.  She is tall, thin, and always made-up.   Auntie Claus is also very mysterious as she always has a diamond key that hangs from a sliver ribbon around her neck.  Every year she leaves after Halloween and does not return until Valentine's Day.  Each time Sophie would question her Auntie about these oddities she would say, with a twinkle in her eye, "That, darling, is something for me to know and you to find out."

This book takes us through the twists and turns of Sophie's adventure in finding out the truth behind her Auntie Claus.  Through Sophie's journey we travel to the North Pole, learn about "elf rules and vital information," and discover the secrets behind the "B-B-and-G list" (Bad Boys and Girls).  Does Auntie Claus reveal her true self and finally get Sophie to realize the true meaning of giving?  Read to find out.

The illustrations by Primavera are marvelous!  Each page illuminates with the spirit of holiday lights.  Scale is cleverly used to show the high-rise hotel in all its glitz and glamour.  Deep blues, holly greens and vibrant reds dazzle each page.  Auntie Clause is long-lashed, painted tall, slender and dressed to the nines.

I love reading this book each year the day before the winter break.  I enjoy the look on my first grade's faces and the sound of their giggles when I say "darrrrrling" in my raspy voice the way I imagine Auntie Claus to sound. This book was given to me by my Auntie Dee ten years ago this Christmas.  Her message on the inside cover adds the perfect personal touch to this story.  


Friday, November 16, 2012

In November Pattern Poems

The leaves may have been falling, but poetry was in bloom among my first grade poets this week.  Each November, I kick off our new month with the book entitled In November by Cynthia Rylant.  It's a quick, yet powerful read that really paints a picture and appeals to all five of our senses.  The running text reads like a poem.  The illustrations by Jill Kastner paint a watercolor-like tour through the images, sounds and traditions that November brings.  Trees without arms spread their branches "like dancers."  Food in November is "better than any time of the year," and animals "sleep more."

Many of the pages begin with "In November..."  This was my inspiration to make pattern poems with my first graders that paint just as clear of a picture in our minds as does Cynthia Rylant.  Another inspiration for this product was this neat dollar store find of the stationary on which we published our poems.

Here's the directions for this writing workshop.
1.  I read aloud the book and had the children recall the images that the author and illustrator described as happening "In November."

2.  I asked children if they noticed any patterns about the way many of the pages began.  They were able to, right away, tell me that the words "In November" repeat.

3.  We discussed the meaning of the word "pattern" and applied it to the fact that a poem that starts the same way, repeatedly, is called a pattern poem.

4.  Students watched me model writing a few lines of my In November Poem.  I noted how I used the book for help and also was sure to come up with my own ideas, too.

5.  Students went to their desks to complete drafts of their poems.  The template was copied on white paper.  Grab your template here--free all November.  I had picture books about Thanksgiving, fall, etc. everywhere.

6.  We had writing conferences and edited accordingly.  Thank you to my editors for all your help.

7.  Students copied their final drafts onto the template printed on the fancy fall stationary.

8.  We had a celebration!  Students read aloud their poems sitting on the author throne.  Click here to read my post on making your own author throne.  It was a Mr. Giso's Room to Read Bright Idea (#3).

I'm really happy with the results!  I hope you will be too.  I'm please to announce that I have passed the "5 Star Blogger" challenge from the Organized Classroom Blog.  Check it out!  Best wishes to all my friends for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving week!  

Saturday, November 10, 2012

What's Mr. Giso Making "Room to Read?" Pick #4

Memoirs of a Goldfish
Written By: Devin Scillian
Illustrated By: Tim Bowers

I grabbed this book on when it came up in my book recommendations.  Admittedly, I judged a book by it's cover.  I did, however, buy this book in hopes that it would be handy to teach students about point of view.  I was right.

Written by Devin Scillian, this book tracks the thoughts of two weeks in the life of the main character--a goldfish.  On day one, he swims around his bowl.  On day two, he swims around his bowl, twice.  Fun, huh?  Soon, the mundane life of the goldfish changes when over the next week, he gains company.  Mr. Bubbles, a bunch of plants, Mervin the snail, Fred the crab, Rhoda and Clark the guppies, a pirate ship, Cha-Cha the angelfish and more soon intrude his once peaceful bowl.  The goldfish can't take his crowded surroundings and one day, loses it.  He exclaims, "I want my bowl back!"  His wish is granted as he finds himself in a tiny bowl all by himself with a whoosh and a splash.

Soon, the goldfish wonders.  As annoying as they may have been, he misses his friends.  He wonders if they even realize that he is gone.  On day fourteen, with another whoosh and another splash, the goldfish is reunited with his friends.  Why you may ask?  What had happened while he was gone?  Read the book to find out.

The illustrations by Tim Bowers are remarkable!  The look on the sea creatures is priceless.  The perspective of the illustrations is done in a way that clearly depicts the crowded nature of the bowl.  The looks on the goldfish and his friends as their home becomes more and more crowded is startling, annoying and shocking.  There eyes are hilarious.

Yes, this book is great for teaching children point of view in a concrete manner.  You can clearly place yourself in the "shoes" of the goldfish and understand what he's feeling throughout the course of the story's plot.  In addition, this book is appropriate for teaching sequencing in a fun manner.  I've added it to my book picks from at the bottom of my blog.  It's a book choice from the International Reading Association.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Spooktacular Ghosts

Well, it's still not midnight!  This means I can get this post in as part of what went on in my classroom this Halloween Week.  I wanted to make sure I added this simple craft I have done every Halloween for years--Making Cheesecloth Ghosts.  Here are the directions so you can file them away for next year.  I have to give credit to my Mom's friend Ms. Maddy for originally sharing this project with me.

Cheesecloth Ghosts

Cut up pieces of cheesecloth (1 per child)
2 cups white school glue
1/2-3/4 cup of water
16 OZ plastic cups (1 per child)
plastic (not paper) plates (1 per child)
google eyes
black foam (for mouths)
Halloween decorations (optional)

1.  Dilute the white glue with 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water.  I do this in a one of those dish washing tubs.  Mix well.

2.  Dip a piece of cheesecloth in the mixture. Get it saturated!

3.  Take out the cheesecloth and squeeze out the mixture until it stops dripping.

4.  Drape the cheesecloth over a cup (the cup should be turned over, on top of the plate.  Stretch out the cheese cloth so it is over the plate's edges.

5.  Let ghosts dry (on humid days, this make take up to three days).

6.  Remove the cup and plate.  Pop up the head of your ghosts gently with your fingers, so it's not flat from the cup.

7.  Decorate ghosts.  I usually add a ribbon to hang the ghost, google eyes, a black foam mouth, pom pom nose and other Halloween decorations. 

There you go!  I usually am lucky enough to have a parent come in to help with this project.  Once the materials are set up, the children can do their ghosts in small groups.  Have a good week everyone!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mr. Giso's Class Celebrates Halloween with Pumpkin Globes

The first grade in my school (all three classes) was fortunate to have pumpkins for each child donated this year.  WOW!  I had always wanted to make pumpkin globes, so this was my chance.  It was definitely a project!  I was very careful and knew it would be important to test each step ahead of time.  Also, my two grade one team members and I put our heads together to come up with a variety of solutions when we ran into trouble with this project.  The result is these fool proof directions for you to enjoy.  They look fantastic, so save this blog post for next season.  

First the pumpkins got cleaned with a bleach wipe.  After they dried, we used a small sponge to dab on acrylic blue paint.  Water based paint will not stick to the pumpkin.  We even did the bottoms of the pumpkins and lay them back right on the newspaper.  I placed the paint in cleaned meat trays for easy disposal.  Also, each desk was covered with a sheet of newspaper. 

Here are the pumpkins set out to dry on my kidney table.  The children thought they looked like Smurfs... so true.  After they were fully dried, I sprayed the pumpkins with a clear, acrylic spray.  Make sure it is low odor!  Also, I used the gloss can because I wanted the pumpkins to shine.  I let the pumpkins dry and resprayed them two more times (see below).  For about 20 pumpkins, I bought two cans and had plenty left over.

In the meantime, I conducted a few geography mini-lessons.  My goal was to introduce my students to the following points.
•Maps and globes show our planet in different ways
•Our planet has more water than land
•There are 7 main continents
•There are 4 main oceans
•Being a cartographer (map and globe maker) means being as accurate as possible. 
I used these catchy poems by Evan-Moor.  They came from an old big book of poems.  I tried to find the item, but I don't think it's made anymore.

Next, students colored a set of labels for the continents green.  You see them in the photograph above.  I printed these out from a geography blackline I had.  I printed them on full page labels made by Avery.  The box said they worked in copiers.  After that, the students cut out the labels and stuck them on.  We did this together, label by label.  I had plenty of maps and blow up globes around.  I also used Google Earth on my ENO board.  If you have not checked that out yet, let me say WOW!  I was able to spin the globe around and zoom in and out.  Click HERE to download this.

Before the labels were put on, I had a helpful parent cut out leaves out of foam board and write each child's name on them for me.  I punched a hole in the leaf and tied it on with two shades of green curly ribbon to look like vines.

Here is the finished project.  I love these!

Simply click HERE to printout a free set of the globe poems and directions for making this terrific project.  Happy Haunting to All!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

It Looked Like Spilt Milk--Art and Science Integration

I'm sure many of you are familiar with this handy book with the repetitive text on which early readers rely to be successful as a beginning readers.  It's called It Looked Like Split Milk by Charles G. Shaw (scroll to the bottom of my blog to order it from Amazon).

In the first trimester of first grade, we study weather.  A fabulous colleague of mine shared this my first year as a first grade teacher. It's a fun and quick writing and art project that supplements our learning of cumulus clouds.  In the book, we are given "ink-blot like" images of things that look like an ice cream come, tree, birthday cake, etc., but really aren't.  After sharing the book in a read aloud, we make the connection on how the white and puffy clouds known as cumulus clouds, often look like different things in the sky.

Now, the fun begins!  I have students use an eye dropper to suck up and drop a few drops of white tempera paint on blue construction paper.  They fold it in half and rub the paper.  Next they open it up.  If they are satisfied with their creation, they are done.  If not, I let them add no more than two drops of paint in the center a final time.  They repeat the rubbing process.  

After that, students examine their paintings and imagine they are cumulus clouds.  What do they look like?  Students fill in a cloze prompt that copies the repetitive text in the book.  The end result is an interactive bulletin board.  I have students predict what each student said his or her cloud looked like and then lift the flap to confirm their predictions.  Here's the final products.

How about you try to guess a young artist or two's creations?  No peeking!

Ready for the answers?  The first one is a fish, the second one a spider and remarkably, the last one...check for yourself...

What's Mr Giso Making "Room to Read?" Pick #3

Sammy in the Sky
Written by Barbara Walsh
Paintings by Jamie Wyeth

"His name was Sam.  But I called him Sammy.

He had black and tan fur, large brown eyes, and a snout that could sniff three-day-old smells.  My dad said Sammy was the best hound dog in the world.  All I knew was that I loved Sammy and Sammy loved me."  

The above starts this poignant story about an unnamed girl and her beloved best friend named Sammy.  Sammy didn't mind wearing a pink bonnet to play house or being bandaged up to play doctor.  Sammy always seemed to know when the girl in this story was sad; he had a way of nuzzling his nose in his proud owner's lap and handing her his paw.  The love between the girl and her best friend Sammy was so powerful, she though it would last forever.

On Sammy's twelfth birthday, the girl's father found a lump on Sammy's neck.  A lump that made Sammy sick.  A lump that had no medicine to fix it.  Turning away to hide his tears, the girl's father says "We've got to love Sammy as much as we can because he's not going to be with us much longer."

One day Sammy was no longer able to stand up in the kitchen.  In an emotional, child friendly manner, mother explains the reality that Sammy is going to die.  She describes his body as an "empty shell," but his spirit as something that will be kept alive forever.

The girl's younger sister serves as a foil character in this story.  She didn't understand why Sammy couldn't come back--even if they got a really TALL ladder to get him down from the sky.  Before the summer ends, the healing family takes an emotional journey to Sammy's favorite spot.  They send up bubbles to the sky for him and share some of their favorite memories.  A cloud that looks exactly like Sammy floats by.  They all know that Sammy will always be with them.   Together, they grieve.

This book is worth reading in honor of all dogs loved and lost.  It's perfect for buying young readers who have suffered the loss of a loved family member.  It provides a springboard for talking about death and offers children comfort in coping with it.  The paintings radiate the illustrator's love of our furry friends.  Coming from a dog family adds a personal connection to this fine piece of literature.  Grab this read by scrolling down to the end of my posts.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mr. Giso's Room to Read's Bright Idea #10

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Make a Story Necklace

You may have seen this idea before.  I've created a new graphic organizer to get the most out of my students this year, as shared on Classroom Freebies, Manic Monday.  I had such great results, I wanted to share.  Like usual, I selected three books for my guided reading book groups.  Each one is fiction with a predictable narrative structure.  Check them out in this photograph.

Next, I had a group of students read "A Job for Clown" with me, another group read "Spider's Web" with my fabulous student teacher and a third group read "The Chick and the Duckling" by themselves.  I was thrilled to have an extra adult for support.  Her job was to check in with the group reading independently.

After reading was completed, we each did a minilesson on what it means to retell the important parts of the story.  We made sure to stress that you need to pick the three most important events.  A trick I like to say is pick how it began and how it ended.  THEN, pick one thing you found interesting in the middle.  This works great with my first graders.

For the next step, each child got 4 index cards.  They completed the following.
•Card 1:  Write your name, title, author, illustrator
•Card 2:  Number it "1" and draw how the book began
•Card 3:  Number it "2" and draw an event from the middle
•Card 4:  Number it "3" and draw how the book ended

Check this out!  "A Job for Clown"

Here's another example.  "Spider's Web"  How fun!  Can't you tell Spider's despair by the look in Spider's eyes in illustration #2?

Next, students used the illustrations to help them record on a graphic organizer what happened in the beginning, middle and end.  This was the new part for me.  They wrote the retelling rather than simply using the pictures to do an oral retell.  After these were checked over, the students recorded this information on the back of the matching index card (using the lines).  See. . .

Lastly, we punched holes in the cards and tied them using a ribbon.    When this was complete, I paired students up with a buddy that read a different book.  Each student read the book over to his or her buddy using a reading wand (for fluency, of course!).  Then, students used their necklaces to retell what was read for each other.  My first graders liked this part the best.  They love sharing good books with friends.  Here's my Bucket O' Reading Wands.

This project ended up taking me two days.  Click here to printout the directions and the graphic organizer.  Enjoy this month's freebie.   I'd love to hear how this works out in your classroom.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Introducing My Newest Item: 20 Reader Response Activities

Here's a bundle of 20 of my favorite Reader Response Activities.  I've created these over the years and have decided to give them a makeover with some fancy fonts and borders.  I enjoyed going through my binders upon binders from my former years in fourth grade to create these for my upper elementary educator fans.  I've put them together in a bundle which can be found by clicking HERE.

The activities are geared for grades 2 through 5.  They cover all the essential reading skills such as these:
•asking questions
•making predictions
•point of view
•sensory images
•analyzing story setting
•making connections
•and...much more!

Here's a preview of a few of the activities for you.

Here's a telephone poem.  Using your phone number, a poem is created.  If the first number in your phone number is an 8, they the first line of your poem (based upon your reading) needs to have 8 words.  I think you get the idea!

This is a character map.  Students turn the stick figure into their character and record their thoughts as to what the character thinks, feels, does, etc.  It's a real comprehension booster and reaches the visual learners.

This setting map reminds students that the setting of the story is not only where, but WHEN the story takes place.  It also makes them think about if they'd enjoy a visit to the setting in the story.

This activity asks students to record their thinking in response to selected passages in the text. They record the text on the book icons and their thoughts in the speech balloon icons.

I hope you find this bundle useful.  Hope you all have a great week!  

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Mr. Giso's Room to Read Takes Part in the Magical Product Swap!

I'm pleased to have been a part of the swap put together by Mrs. Stanford from the blog Mrs. Stanford's Class.  My talented swap buddy has been Mrs. Foxwell from the blog First Grade in Foxwell Forest.  

The Teacher Wife

For the past month or so, Mrs. Foxwell and I have been trading messages and ideas back and forth to prepare for our Magical Product Swap blog entries.  We have been pretty bust getting each other's products printed, assembled and photographed.  It's been a lot of fun.  Here's the must have item I received in the swap.  Look at all the printables!

Obviously, I went right to work cutting, laminating and bagging away--all while catching up on some of my favorite reality television shows (Survivor, Project Runway and Dance Moms).  Here's my at home laminator hard at work.

For one of the activities, I got to make these fun tennis rackets.  This was right up my alley!  I love fun ways to get my students to learn concepts.  As Mrs. Foxwell suggested in the preparation directions, I used those paint mixer sticks to keep them nice and sturdy.  Of course, I had a bunch in my garage, just in case of something like this!  You never know when you are going have to make tennis rackets.  Yes, you see a different laminator, this is my at school one. 

Each set of materials came with amazing directions for preparation.  I can't believe how organized things were presented.  Look at this!

And this...

I guess I should interrupt to tell you about Mrs. Foxwell's item.  It's called "Tennis Long e Teams for /ee/ and /ea/" (found by clicking here).  It's a "phonics unit including learning activities, characters, and a long e gesture for the /ee/ and /ea/ pattern."  As you can see from the Table of Contents below, it has 6 "sets" or components, all tennis-themed.  How fun?  

This item includes a way to introduce the students to the /ee/ and /ea/ patterns in "Meet and Greet."  Here I explained to my first graders the Dream Team and the Sweet Team's favorite animal, food, beverage, hobby and color.  Through these introductions, we see words that have /ea/ for the Dream Team and words that have /ee/ for the Sweet Team.  Here's what the first activity looks like ready to go.  Check out the adorable bag labels included.

The next Set in the activities is called "Pick the Teams."  This is a word sort that gives the students practice with the /ea/ and /ee/ words.  They can sort just pictures, words or both onto the colorful sorting mats.  My students loved this.  Mrs. Foxwell suggests, for an extension, using the picture and the word cards in a memory game.  I'm adding this to my list of things to do when "You're Done" in my classroom.   The sorting materials are second from the left in this pic.

The third Set is a whole class game in which my first graders got to identify /ee/ and /ea/ words called "What's the Racket?"  Here's where those tennis rackets were needed.  I was the most excited to try this activity out because of the props needed!  I lined the children up into two teams.  Words on tennis balls were put up on the front board.  I called a word, gave a series of clues, or used the word in a cloze sentence.  The first player to hit the correct word earned a point.  This activity got rave reviews!  You can clearly see why when you check this item out below.

I am a huge fan of Read and Write the Room Hunts.  They are perfect for supporting and reviewing newly learned phonics patterns.  Mrs. Foxwell includes one of these as the fourth Set.  It's titled "Tennis Tournament."  Here I hid a different set of words on tennis balls around my room.  On an very cute record sheet with two tennis courts, my first graders "read" and then "wrote" the /ea/ and /ee/ words in the correct places.  This item has a bonus "Cool Off" class book activity too--WOW.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any batter, there is a homophone component to this bundle of activities too!  Totally Awesome!  Using a homophone poster, students learn what a homophone is.  Then you distribute MORE colorful cards with words and pictures and students find their homophone buddy.  For example, "meet" pairs with "meat."  Then, there's a handy sheet for them to write sentences for a pair of homophones for reinforcement.

Last but not least, is the Creative Writing option which is now in my Author Corner.  Students get to design a pair of sneakers for both tennis teams.  The catch is the theme of the design must connect to either the /ea/ team of the /ee/ team.  For example, the sneaker for the Sweet Team can include trees all over it.  This is a very creative extension and terrific way to end the unit.  Check it out.

Mrs. Foxwell was nice enough to share her newest unit on Fancy Y (long /e/ spelled "y") with me too.  Lucky me.  What a score!  It's just as good with the same high quality printables, detailed directions and instead of tennis rackets, we get to assemble wands this time.  I'm all over this.  Don't miss out on this item too by clicking HERE to be directed to her TpT store.

It was so rewarding getting to share ideas with Becca, and I can't wait to share more in the future.  Please stop on by her blog to see more of her ideas.  Also, you have to see her review a product of mine.  Check her blog regularly for updates, as she often puts many things up for free if you're on top of her posts!  You will be inspired by her talents.  Why not grab her button?

The Teacher Wife

She is also has a sale going on, so you're in luck.


I'd like to also give a special "shout out" for Mrs. Stanford for taking all the precious time required to set up this Magical Product Swap.  Click the button below to read all about the other swappers and their experiences.  Grab some new ideas, too!


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