The Earth is in our Hands

30 April 2011

We continued our Earth Day activities at school this week, reinforcing to the students that every day is Earth Day. I found this fun, free activity on another seller's site on TeacherspayTeachers, and knew it would be perfect. Click here to download your own copy.

My grade 6/7 class is reading buddies with the junior kindergarten class at my school. I've done reading buddies before with my classes, but I had a very selfish reason for taking it on this year. This year my little girl (my middle daughter) is in the junior kindergarten class. Reading buddies has taken on a whole new meaning for me! I take such joy in creating and finding activities that will both engage my own students, and be fun and educational for our "little buddies". Although my daughter has her own buddy in my class, this week her buddy was away and I got to take on the role. Such FUN!

We've been studying inferring and point of view as our language focus the last few weeks, so my students wrote Earth Day poems from the Earth's point of view. We talked about personification and metaphors, and I was very impressed with how my students were able to include both in their poems. We left the title line blank so our buddies could write the title (is there anything cuter than a 4 year-old's printing???). My students traced and cut out handprints, little and big, and our little buddies glued the handprints around the Earth. We posted them on a large bulletin board in our school's lunch area, and titled our display, The Earth is in our Hands. I think it looks fabulous.

Katie, I had a blast being your "big buddy" this week, and I'm so proud of what we created together!

It's In The Bag ...

26 April 2011
Paper Bag Character Study
OK. I've got my evaluation coming up this week. So ... I've spent the last week sprucing up my bulletin boards and posting new student work. And I must admit, the classroom is looking FANTASTIC (I hope). My Word Wall makeover was just the start. I'm very excited about my "It's In The Bag" bulletin board. I wasn't sure the student projects would work as a bulletin board display - I was planning to display the projects on a table - but it worked ... well!

This year I've been reading the Shadow Children series, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, as my oral read to the class. Normally, I would just read the first book of a series, knowing I'd spark enough interest for at least a few students to continue the series independently. Not this year, though. I have a boy in my class who has Aspergers and can be quite difficult to engage. He has sat, entranced with the novels, from the day I started the first book. Although he can't read indendently at this level, he is definitely comprehending the material at a very deep level, and his insights often WOW me! How could I not finish the series???

I use my oral reading sessions to spark deep conversations about the novel, and I model aloud the reading strategies I use. The only thing I require from my students during our reading of the novel is participation in our discussions. This has never been a problem. In fact, I often have to cut our conversations off 5 to 10 minutes AFTER the bell. At the end of each oral novel, I do have a summative task. These tasks are varied. We've had comprehension quizzes, book talks, made comic strips, written reading responses, etc. For our last novel (our fifth in the series), the students completed my Paper Bag Character Study.

Paper Bag Character Study
For this assignment, students were given a plain paper bag. On the front of the bag they had to draw an illustration of the main character. On one of the side panels they had to write about the character's likes and dislikes, and on the other side panel they had to write about how the character interacts with other characters in the novel. On the back panel the students had to write about how the character changed throughout the novel, and what events were responsible for the changes the character made. Our current reading focus is inferring, so this assignment fit perfectly. My favourite part of the assignment was what was "in the bag". Students had to put 10 objects in their bags that represented or reminded them of the main character. On the day the assignments were due, students orally presented the 10 objects they chose. I was amazed by some of their choices. One student pulled a box from her bag, stating it represented the symbolic box the character had previously been trapped in. Another student included a poppy to symbolize the courage and bravery the character displayed. Yet another student (my student with Aspergers) pulled a book about Hitler from his bag, telling the students the autocratic regime in the book reminded him of Hitler and his control of Germany during WWII. (Did I mention his insights often WOW me?!). These are eleven and twelve year olds ... chills, I tell you!

This Paper Bag Character Study is available in my TpT store.  You can take a peek at it by clicking HERE or on the picture to the right.

A smaller, more condensed version of this assignment can be found in my Characterization Bundle. The 29 page resource includes: a set of 3 mini-posters, bookmarks, a full page of activity ideas, a full page of reading response prompts, a page of internet resources, and a book list. It also contains many different reading and writing graphic organizers, as well as two full ready-to-use assignments, success criteria, and rubrics (1- paper bag character analysis, 2- character journal writing).
Characterization Bundle

This characterization bundle is also included in my much larger resource, Literary Elements Resource. This HUGE 156 page resource contains creative resources and assignments to support your students’ learning of literary elements. Resources can be used to study ANY text. Literary elements included in this resource are:
• Author's Purpose
• Characterization
• Figurative Language
• Point of View
• Tone and Mood
Each literary element section (30 pages in each section) contains a set of colorful posters, bookmarks, a full page of class activity ideas, a full page of reading response prompts and questions, a page of internet resources, and a book list. Each section also contains a variety of resources for oral language, reading, and writing (anchor charts, handouts, graphic organizers, etc.), ready-to-use student assignments, and rubrics.

Literary Elements Resource

Earth Day Fun ... At HOME!

22 April 2011
A day off with the kiddies at home! Being Earth Day and all, the teacher in me wanted to have a theme day. My inspiration came from my sister, who has this absolutely fantastic blog called Meet the Dubiens. She does this great feature called "Fun Food Fridays", so I decided to create my own Fun Food Friday in honour of Earth Day. My girls were soooo excited!

After lunch we decided to make play doh globes. Again, another idea I stole
ummmm ... borrowed from my sister. The girls loved this and were wowed when I showed them the cutaway containing all the Earth's layers. After a quick science lesson (which I'm sure went over their heads), I let them make their own. Aren't they cute? My three year old made the first one (she called it her "Earf", my five year old made the middle one, and my seven year old made the last one (I think the other two had used all the blue and green play doh by then).

We finished off our day making Earth Day cookies. Add a few icing mountains, and you've got some very happy kids! (now to peel them off the walls to bring them up to bed) ;)

Happy Earth Day!

Word Wall Makeover

21 April 2011
It’s Spring cleaning time in my classroom and I started with my Word Wall. Lately, I’ve been talking a lot about Word Walls with other junior/intermediate teachers in my area. I was afraid my Word Wall was becoming stagnant. Sure, I diligently added my alphabetized words as they came up during lessons and discussions, but the students didn’t seem engaged anymore. And what’s worse, they weren’t using it anymore. The same spelling mistakes kept popping up in their work even though the words were posted on the wall.

Some of the teachers in my division had begun to abandon their Word Walls – arguing the valuable wall space could be put to better use. I didn’t want to give up just yet. Another teacher and I decided to change the format of our Word Walls – giving them a “makeover” to hopefully renew the students’ interest. I stripped my old word wall down, removing the alphabetized squares, and started fresh. I decided to organize my words into three columns: Confusing Words, Contractions, and Commonly Misspelled Words. My words are written on colourful polka-dots, which really make my Word Wall “pop”! I finished setting up my new Word Wall today and was very impressed with the final product. The students loved the updated look and I even had one student bring her sister to our classroom at the end of the day to show off our new Word Wall. We’re off to a good start!

My Word Wall words are posted in two separate products: Grammar Dots has over 24 polka-dots for confusing words and contractions, and Grammar Dots 2 has over 50 commonly misspelled words. Check them out by clicking on the links below.  Both contain full color and black and white options (these black and white versions can be printed on colored paper to save ink).

Earth Day Ideas ... Buried Under ALL This SNOW!

19 April 2011
     Our school will be celebrating Earth Day on Thursday.  One of our tried and true activities is our annual community clean-up.  The entire school is divided into groups, and each group is responsible for cleaning up an area around the school and main road.  It's a great activity that gives students a real feeling of ownership over the community.  Unfortunately, this year there is new snow on the ground, and the forecast is calling for more.  YIKES!  So, it's back to the drawing board ... indoor activities it is!
  • Do you make the grade?  Last year my students completed a "Green Report Card" for the school.  They surveyed the school, interviewed the teachers, support staff, principal and custodian.  They graphed the results, and gave suggestions for improvements over the announcements.  It was a fantastic activity and really got the students involved in the school.  Print out your own copy here:
  • Get planting!  We start our seeds (indoors) for our school garden on Earth Day.  We plant them a few weeks later (if the snow ever goes away, that is). 
  • My absolute favourite poem to read to the class on Earth Day is "Lost Generation".  I have typed out the words and give handouts to the students for shared reading (this can also be done over the projector).  We discuss the tone and mood of the poem as is.  THEN ... (and this is the exciting part) I show them the youtube video that has the poem being read forwards and then backwards.  The reaction from the students is priceless!!!  At least half my class bring the poem home to share with their parents.  Check out the youtube video here:                                                                                            This is an effective poem for Earth Day, but is equally effective ANY DAY.  It's a great poem to use when discussing mood and tone.
Students want to get involved and feel they have made a difference.  Show them they can on Earth Day!

17 April 2011
Let the journey begin ...

When setting up my blog, I had to choose a tagline for my header.  I thought about all my favourite quotes ... I thought about something relevant to my classroom ... I thought about my philosophies about life ... I thought and thought ...
And then, when I was putting my middle daughter to bed last night, inspiration struck.  She has a picture on her wall (which I made for her when we were decorating her first "big girl" room), with four of the most important words in the world - live, love, laugh, learn.  I knew I had my tagline - favourite quote, relevant, and important philosophy all in one!  THIS is how I live my life, parent my children, and run my classroom.

Join me and let's live, love, laugh and learn ... together.