Friday, January 25, 2013

Room 120's Snowy Day

Recently, I saw this terrific writing project that my teaching buddy/ neighbor did with her first graders.  I immediately went to TpT and  purchased the item by Laurie Gibbons (get it by clicking here) and was not disappointed in the results.  I had to share what my talented firsties created all inspired by our first heavy snow of the season.  Look at this view from our classroom window.  How could we not take advantage of this teachable moment?  Shh!  No core program today.

This week long writing workshop began with a shared reading experience.  Students had copies of the Caldecott Award winner, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.  I'm very fortunate to have an ENO board in my classroom, so I played the book's actually snowed on the screen.  My firsties enjoyed the book and noted some of their favorite snow words from the text such as "crunch," "plop," "deep" and "heaping."  I love talking about an author's craft and word choice so that my young writers can be inspired to use similar descriptive language.  It's so important to me that they know what author's do, and that they see themselves as authors.

After enjoying the book, I tied in comprehension of course.  I used the provided organizer that asked students to record what Peter did in the snow.  We referred to the text to make sure we were remembering all the details  (my readers are trained well).  After that, we discussed the story's setting, again using the graphic organizer included in this item.  We listed images from the text in three categories using our sense of sight, hearing and touch.  This tied in nicely, as I had done some minilessons on categorizing weeks before.

Now comes the fun part.  It's something I have never done in 15 years of teaching.  I took my firsties to our all-glass stairway, and we sat and watched the snowstorm.  It was magical.  We probably should have had a snow day, but we didn't.  As we watched the snow fall heavily, we recorded descriptive, "juicy" words to depict the beauty of the snowstorm.   I even went out and collected a snow sample.  We kept track of this fun "matter specimen" all 
day-- I was introducing our new science unit on the states of matter.  Talk about a throwback to thematic teaching!  Check out all these snow words.

In the next lesson, the students were introduced to the writing prompt.  "If this day was full of snow, What would I do?  Where would I go?"  Students first drew a picture of what they would do on a snowy day.  Check out this budding artist of mine in action.

After illustrating, students wrote about their snowy day.  I told them they had to use a minimum of three snowy words from our brainstorm.  As they were writing, students got to observe the snow sample with their hand lenses to add even more rich detail to their writing.  These "sloppy copies" were then edited while the students worked on their publishing craftivity included, too.  They created themselves bundled up just like Peter from the story.   I was sure to have my multicultural-colored markers at hand.  Snow sample anyone?

By the end of the day, our solid had changed to a liquid.  We had a text connection to discuss; the same thing happened to Peter's snowball after he had placed it in his pocket before returning home

I whipped up a "Peter" out of poster board for my outside bulletin board display.  How cute?

Look at this finished project.  My first grader captured the style of The Snowy Day and the mood of our snowstorm perfectly.

Here are the finished projects.  How impressive are these?

I'm proud to share this terrific idea by a fellow TpT seller with you, and how I turned a writing assignment into a complete week of activities incorporating reading, categorizing, use of the senses, author's craft, adjectives and science!  

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Good Reader Strategies at Work in Room 120

For those of you current or former first grade teachers out there, I definitely enjoy how well my students can "suddenly" read after the winter break.  Months of phonics, word work, guided reading and sight word practice just seems to click this time of year.  That's when I choose to formerly and explicitly teach our good reader strategies.  We use them all year, but by this point in the year they are ready to better express, through writing, their use of each strategy.  Each strategy is introduced one by one with the following steps.  Click here for a former blog post where I had  introduced these teaching tools.  Here they are again at the top of my bulletin boards.

Step 1:  Interactive Read Aloud-- 
I select a book that is perfect for introducing the good reader strategy.  I discuss the strategy, provide examples and model using the strategy as I do my read aloud.  I use the same activity sheet they will be using to do this (this is key).  We use the appropriate visual for the strategy to reinforce what we are doing.

Step 2:  Guided Practice--
I give my students time to practice using the new good reader strategy in a book that is at their instructional reading level.  Students either work with a partner, myself (in their guided reading group) or independently with a paraprofessional checking in and guiding them along the way every so often.  Again, they use the same activity sheet as I did in my introduction in step one.

Step 3:  Independent Practice--
I give my students their "Good Reader Strategies" book which you can get by clicking here.  Using a book from their browsing boxes [(a box of books too easy (for fluency), a little challenging (for scaffolding purposes) and just right], they read a book of their choice and perform the reading strategy.  Again, the "Good Reader Strategies" book has the same activity sheet at steps 1 and 2.  The key here is that I provide minimal support.

This week we are well into our "Asking Questions" strategy, so I have some pictures I'm excited to share with you for the more visual learners (like myself).

To model this strategy in my interactive read aloud, I used the Reading Rainbow book entitled Lion Dancer Ernie Wan's Chinese New Year.  First, I read the cover and the inside title page and made my question sentence.  "I wonder why there is a dragon."

Next, I read a little more, noting the features of informational text such as the photographs, captions, labels, etc.  As I read, I decided to stop and model a few more of my questions.  If my "I wonder" statement was answered, I circled yes.  When I got to the end of the book, there was one question that did not get answered.  There was a red mixture rubbed on the lion costume's face.  I wondered why, but the book didn't tell me.  Does anyone know?

Note how I have a glitter-foam arrow that I cut out and hot-glued  to a clothespin clipped on the "Ask Questions" strategy.

After some guided practice with a partner where I closely monitored what I needed to reteach, clarify or celebrate, we used our "Good Reader Strategies" books to use the strategy independently.  One of my firsties read the book Marvin's Woolly Mammoth by Jill Eggleston (Sails program by Rigby).  Here is the student's book and "I wonder" statements.

If you read the second one, this student wrote (spelling fixed of course) "I wonder what's a mammoth."  Pretty spot on question, based on the title!  Upon reading further, this reader encountered this text on the eighth page.

The reader was delighted to discover that woolly mammoths were like elephants, had long hair and long tusks.  A "yes" was circled right away noting that the text had answered the question.

Although this student also wanted to also see if they live in the Arctic, that question never got answered.  Next week my first graders are very excited to move on to our next strategy... visualizing!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Magical Swap Number 2 for Mr. Giso's Room to Read


For the second time, I have been fortunate enough to take part in the Magical Swap created by Mrs. Stanford author of her blog, "Mrs. Stanford's Class."  For this swap, my partner was Danielle, the author of the blog "Crayonbox Learning."  Among the many items offered at her TpT store, I chose the item entitled United States Activity Pack which you can download by clicking here.  It was hard to pick from her many tempting products, but I went ahead with this one.  I'm glad I did!  Here's what the title page of this almost two hundred page resource (in color and black and white) looks like.

Choosing this item was an easy decision, as I need to teach many of its components in my History and Social Studies unit on American Symbols.  I went right to work printing and cutting as you can see here.  I love this Fiskars paper cutter, by the way.

Three of my favorite parts of this item are the original nonfiction, informational texts entitled "American Symbols," "The American Flag" and "Happy Birthday America!"  All three of these books that I printed out, trimmed and stapled on the left side are perfect reads for my first graders.  They contain accurate information written in an appropriate text level--so hard to find out there.  Check out these terrific books all assembled.  I'm having the parents help me assemble these.

One of the things I do as part of my Calendar Time is to create a 100 Day Puzzle.  When complete, it creates the United States of America.  As we put on a puzzle piece each day, we go over the state and capital if there happens to be one on the puzzle piece.  My students really enjoy trying to memorize the states and capitals.  Some even take it upon themselves to study them at home.  This item includes a set of state cards with their capitals--perfect for my kids to check out. 

Also included in this item is an ABC order sorting activity.  This is a skill I just taught right after our winter break, so this item will come in handy.  I used a set of alphabet mini-posters included in the item as category headers.  I plan to, in a center, have my students place all 50 states in alphabet order using the alphabet cards.  They will really love this.  I started to do this myself.  I was off to a good start.  No states that start with the letter "B?"

In addition, this item comes with a bonus set of printable to make a Patriotic Bulletin Board , a flag puzzle, as well as a set of cards to utilize in a United States Card Game, also a lot of fun and perfect for my students to play during indoor recess in these snowy months.

It was a pleasure taking part in this swap for the second time and exchanging resources with Danielle from Crayonbox Learning!  You can stop by her blog and learn many neat tips on creating bulletin boards, scrapbookinng for teachers and tips for "thinking outside of the box."  Bring your snow shoes because her blog appears to be going through a blizzard.  BRRRR!  Danielle also has an etsy shop where you can purchase many of her products and literacy bags already assembled for the teacher on-the-go!  Stop on over by clicking here.

I'm always pleased to meet a fellow blogger and share ideas.  To celebrate, I am hold a 20% off sale throughout my TpT store all week long!  Be sure to stop on by by clicking here.

Also, check out all the other swappers by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What's Mr. Giso Making "Room to Read?" Pick #6

Beatrice's Goat
Written By:  Page McBrier
Illustrated By:  Lori Lohstoeter
Afterword By:  Hillary Rodham Clinton

"If you were to visit the small African village of Kisinga in the rolling hills of western Uganda, and if you were to take a left at the crossroads and follow a narrow dirt path between two tall banana groves, you would come to the home of a girl named Beatrice."

"Beatrice lives here with her mother and five younger brothers and sisters in a sturdy mud house with a fine steel roof.  The house is new. So is the shiny blue wooden furniture inside.  In fact, many things are new to Beatrice and her family lately."

"And it's all because of...?"

If you haven't guessed yet, the answer is a goat.  A goat that Beatrice names Mugisa which means "luck."  See, before Mugisa, Beatrice spent her days taking care of her younger brother and sisters, hoeing and planting in the fields, tending the chickens and grinding the cassava flour they took to the market to sell.  All Beatrice wanted most was to be a schoolgirl.  In fact, she would often hide behind a jackfruit tree and, carrying her younger sibling, Paskavia, would pretend she was a student too.  Unfortunately, Beatrice knew this was not a reality, for she was unable to save enough money for two essential requirements--a uniform and books.  Here is Beatrice in Uganda at the age of nine.

One day while pulling the weeds, Mama comes to Beatrice.  Mama had a different look on her face; her eyes almost sparkled which never happened.  She explains, "...some kindhearted people from far away have given us a lucky gift.  We are one of twelve village families to receive a goat."  Beatrice thought that was sort of nice and was a bit curious, but knew this would mean more work for her.  Being the devoted daughter that she is, Beatrice helped prepare for this "gift" without even knowing what magic it would bring.  This goat would change her life forever!

Mugisa, the goat and Beatrice the young girl from Kisinga are both  real.  This poignant book recounts the hope brought to Beatrice's family and countless other families thanks to the charity known as Heifer International which strives to help families like Beatrice's have a better tomorrow.  Just one goat provided Beatrice and her family with nourishment, a roof, an education and a dream.  This picture book takes you on the journey of a young girl who is granted her wish--an education!  In fact, after earning scholarships, Beatrice attended Connecticut College and graduated in 2008.  In May of 2010, she earned her Master's degree from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.  Here she is at her first graduation.

Both from Connecticut, the author, a teaching artist and arts-in-education consultant and the illustrator, an art teacher, were given the uplifting experience of traveling to Africa to meet the real Beatrice before creating this book.  The way that the magical prose and illustrations come to life truly attest to the fact that they know Beatrice and Mugisa personally.

This picture book was given to me by one of my first graders.  It quickly instilled upon me the true meaning of giving.  It's one of my new favorite reads, so I hope you have a chance to enjoy it.  As always, just scroll to the bottom of my blog to find this and my other favorites.  A portion of buying this book goes to helping families like Beatrice's.  To learn more about Heifer International, click here.

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