Guided Reading Survival Guide Part 4

Guided reading challenging, even to veteran teachers because there are so many factors to consider. In my 4 part blog series, Guided Reading Survival Guide, I explain how to go beyond the basal and provide engaging, authentic supplemental texts; teach research-based strategies using our unique cast of strategy animals; and incorporate hands-on tools to motivate and engage students. In this last blog, I will explain how to integrate multiple strategies within the context of authentic text.

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Guided Reading Survival Guide Part 4: Integrating Strategies

Skills and strategies should be taught within the context of high-quality text rather than isolated splinter skills. Explicitly teach each strategy and provide ample practice for students to apply the strategy using authentic text during guided reading lessons and independent practice. As students demonstrate mastery, introduce additional strategies. The goal is for students to integrate and apply multiple strategies to develop deeper meaning of the text.

In my classroom: During whole group instruction, the class and I read the text at least 3 different times on 3 different days, each with a different strategy and purpose. For the first read, I focus on overall comprehension and retell of the literary elements or main ideas. During the second read, I focus on a specific skill such as character analysis or cause and effect. After the third read, I prompt students to make inferences, determine author’s purpose, and make connections. I practice the same strategies during small group instruction using leveled text.

Reading Strategies Poster_web

During whole group instruction, my students read, “Animals Building Homes” from our Journey basal and the Reading A-Z leveled text, “What Lives in This Hole?” during guided reading time. Each day, we practiced a different strategy.

supplemental-collage

Here are some samples of the graphic organizers that students completed to practice and apply strategies:

quinn-answer-questionsquinn-vocabularysharonvern

Word work should also be incorporated during reading instruction. I use Sally the Sounding-Out-Snake and Charlie the Chunking Chipmunk to incorporate word work from both the basal and guided reading texts. Students also use the Sounding-Out and Syllable Slates during spelling center to practice their weekly words or word work from the selected text.

sallycharliespelling-scaffolds

Reading Response Logs also help students synthesize strategies while they respond to text in written form. I first provide opportunities for discussion for students to formulate their thoughts. This can be difficult for young students, especially with students with language issues so I like to provide scaffolds and supports to help them be successful. I use Reading Response Sentence Stems (specific to each strategy) to help students respond to text.reading-response-log

While the Guided Reading Survival Guide blog series aimed to help teachers go beyond the basal, use research-based strategies, motivate and engage, and integrate multiple strategies, guided reading looks different on each campus. Check out our FREE Ultimate Guided Reading Templates to help streamline planning and instruction. Plus they are completely customizable! Each strategy unit can be purchased separately and all include detailed lesson plans, I Can posters, graphic organizers, printable hands-on tools, assessment options and much more! Check out our bundle options and our new hands-on tools as well.

I’d love to hear your experiences, successes, and questions about guided reading. Please comment below or email me at Jessica@astutehoot.com

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Master Meet the Teacher in 5 Easy Steps

Just the mention of Meet the Teacher or Curriculum Night makes most teachers break out into a cold sweat. Why is this? We speak in front of people all day, every day, but the difference is their age. Children will still love us if we make a mistake, get nervous or act silly (they especially love when this happens). Adults by nature are more judgmental and harder to win over. Stop the dread and take back control with these 5 easy steps.

Master Meet the Teacher in 5 Easy Steps

1. Prepare, prepare, prepare: Plan your handouts and student activities at least 2 days before the big event. Don’t wait until last minute–that’s when the copier breaks or the computer runs out of ink.  On each student desk, I place a student information card along with a Welcome to 2nd Grade form that outlines everything students will need on first day of school. Before I start my presentation, I have parents complete the card and read the Welcome to 2nd Grade form as we wait for everyone to get to the classroom. Many schools now combine Meet the Teacher and Curriculum Night and this can be so overwhelming to all parties involved. Parents are often in and out of your classroom during Meet the Teacher, making it difficult to listen to a full curriculum presentation. At Meet the Teacher, I explain that on the first day of school, I will send home a comprehensive Welcome to Second Grade folder. In one pocket of the folder, I include all of my policies and procedures. This includes an introduction, Meet Mrs. Murphy, curriculum overview, grading procedures, specials and classroom schedule, and much more. Parents read these and keep at home as a reference throughout the year. In the other pocket of the folder, I include all the paperwork that needs to be signed and returned. This includes office paperwork, volunteer form, and the classroom directory. Parents return the signed paperwork by Friday. I show them an example as I explain the folder so they know what to look for on Monday.Welcome to second grade 2Welcome to 2nd Grade paperworkWelcome to 2nd Grade folder

Not sure what to say at Meet the Teacher and Curriculum Night? Download our Welcome Back to School Parent Packet for several important customizable letters and forms. Use the coupon code hoot50 for 50% off all of our digital files!

2. Post directions & agenda for the night: Write specific directions for parents to read as they come into the classroom. Make sure they know they must fill out transportation form, room parent slip and student information card. Plus it gives them something to do (other than staring at you) while waiting for the presentation to start. Many parents must attend more than one Meet the Teacher on the same night. Help these parents by posting an agenda (with times) for the night so they can determine the best time to quietly exit and go to next session.Meet the Teacher Agenda

This year, I placed 4 owl rugs around the classroom at the 4 centers I wanted parents to attend before leaving. These centers included OWL About 2nd Grade, Helping is a Hoot, OWL About Transportation and Volunteer Opportunities and WHOOO’s Hungry? (refreshments–see below). On the board, I wrote, “Learn OWL about 2nd grade by traveling to each center marked by an owl rug.” This visual made it easy for parents and students loved discovering each owl center.

Transportation InformationOWL About 2nd Grade3. Serve refreshments: It is polite to serve refreshments for guests in your home and the same etiquette applies in the classroom. I purchase inexpensive cookies (from Target or Walmart) and place on serving trays. Add decorative napkins and flowers as a finishing touch.Whooo's Hungry

4. Provide engaging activities for students: At the beginning of the night, I need to address just the parents and don’t want students talking or running around the room.  While parents are completing necessary paperwork, I gather students (and their siblings) and bring them to the carpet area where I give them a word search, pencil and white board. I explain directions and set expectations for their behavior. I also pass out lollipops to eat–this keeps their mouths busy while I am addressing parents. Be sure to put a garbage can there as well or you will have wrappers and sticks all over the room.Meet the Teacher engaging activities Meet the Teacher student activities

After I speak to parents, I give the kids a scavenger hunt with 9 boxes of items to find in class. I glue small, round stickers to each scavenger sheet; students place a sticker on the box after the item is found. When students are finished, they get to help themselves to refreshments (I set a limit on number of cookies or you will have a couple that will try to take the whole tray–trust me, I’ve learned from experience).

Classroom Bingo

5. Create suggested supplies visual: Each year students come in with random bags of supplies and rarely want to share them with the rest of the classroom. To alleviate this problem this year, I listed specific supplies I wanted to students to bring and then created a visual of what the supplies should look like. I simply purchased a medium-sized pencil case and glued the requested supplies inside and showed it during the presentation, reminding parents to unwrap items and place inside case as shown. This year all the students brought their prepared pencil cases just as I had shown and it was a HUGE time-saver! They simply put inside their desks and we were able to move on to other procedures.

suggested supplies 2

6. Helping is a Hoot: Parents love to donate supplies at the beginning of the year, so I created a Helping is a Hoot tree; each owl has a needed supply written on it. Remind parents to pick an owl or two before they leave for the night. They return the owl with donations during the first week of school. Be sure to thank them for giving a hoot!

Helping is a Hoot 2Helping is a Hoot! owls 2

Most importantly, remember to smile, breathe and believe in yourself! You’ve got thi

jake at meet teacher

Helping other teachers and students is our passion and we are excited to contribute to your classroom success! We know Back to School time is so expensive for teachers and we want to help! Use the coupon code hoot50 for 50% off all of our digital files!

Check out our other Back to School blogs for additional tips and tools: Back to School Organization 101, Back to School Cooking, The Art of Active Listening, and Classroom Management Keys and many more. Happy New Year!

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Guided Reading Survival Guide Part 2

Yesterday in part 1 of my blog series, Guided Reading Survival Guide, I explained how teachers must go beyond the basal to provide several authentic, high-quality supplemental texts ranging in complexity and genre to promote a deeper understanding of content. In part 2 of the series, I will explain how to select research-based strategies for guided reading groups.

guided

Guided Reading Survival Guide Part 2: Selecting Strategies

Now that I have broken the bond with the basal, let’s talk strategy. My students used to struggle with transferring and applying learned strategies across settings, curricula, and various genres of authentic text. I partnered with Jennifer Zoglman, a veteran special educator, and her sister, Tina Rataj-Berard, an award-winning graphic designer, to create a unique cast of strategy animals that make learning safe and fun while teaching critical strategies in an engaging way. Each animal teachers a research-based strategy using a short, rhymed poem and child-friendly language.

Reading Strategies Poster_web

Animals were specifically chosen because animal characters are present in children’s lives from the very beginning in toys, books, and cartoons. Children learn to associate animals with comfort, safety, and play. When animals are personified, children readily understand and apply the lessons and messages from the animals. Brain research shows that when material is presented in a novel way, it ignites curiosity and interest in learning new topics and leads children to readily grasp and internalize the information.

Students first meet the strategy animals in the read-aloud, “Hazel Meets the Reading Strategy Animals.”  Hazel Hoot, an adorable green screech owl, is a struggling learner as she lacks the strategies needed to help her succeed. Hazel stumbles upon a magical tree in the forest. Out of the tree appear 10 colorful woodland animals that each introduce a reading strategy. These animals guide Hazel to become a proficient reader.

reading book banner

Students in all academic settings make an immediate connection with the animals and love to practice new strategies using the animals’ special tools. Read more about how animals help children learn here. Meet our complete line of strategy animals here. Watch this short video to see our strategy animals in action.

In my classroom: I select one comprehension strategy animal to use for both whole group and small group instruction. This strategy animal is introduced and modeled as we read the basal during whole group time. I use the same strategy animal during guided reading groups where students can practice and apply the strategy within leveled text.

In the Journeys basal text, “Animals Building Homes” the strategy was to answer questions in the text. I selected Quinn the Questioning Quail as the focus strategy animal. I read through the text and wrote a list of text-dependent questions, separating them into 3 categories: I Do, We Do, You Do.

quinn-poem

I did the same thing for my guided reading text, “What Lives in This Hole?”, a multi-level book from Reading A-Z. Since this was the first lesson on this strategy, I created only text-dependent questions where the specific answer was clearly stated in the text. As students become proficient with answering specific text-dependent questions, I will incorporate questions that require students to use inference skills as well.

text-dependent-questions

I use puppets to introduce the strategy animals. The students always greet the animal and then I read the poem which explains the strategy in a child-friendly way. Many students actually believe that the animals are real and often go home and tell their parents all about them. Tying the animals to strategies makes learning more concrete and helps students effectively apply and transfer across settings.puppets

Read tomorrow’s blog, Guided Reading Survival Guide Part 3: Incorporating Hands-On Tools to see how students practice the strategies in a motivating, engaging way. Be sure to read part 1 of the Guided Reading Survival Guide: Going Beyond the Basal.

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Guided Reading Survival Guide Part 1

Guided reading can be daunting, especially with the new instructional shifts and standards. Teachers are asking themselves such questions as: “What texts do I use?” “What strategies do I teach?” “How do I motivate and engage?” “How do I integrate multiple strategies?”

As educators with a combined total of almost 30 years spend in early childhood and special education, Jennifer and I have cultivated four instructional practices that incorporate our effective animal-based curriculum to maximize guided reading time. Read our four part blog series that outlines these practices and show how students enthusiastically embrace them.

guided

Guided Reading Survival Guide Part 1: Going Beyond the Basal

Most teachers are required to use district-prescribed curricula, which often includes a basal and a series of leveled readers, many of which are dry and designed to fit the weekly basal skills. The basal can be used as an anchor text, but it should not stand alone. Provide several authentic, high-quality supplemental texts ranging in complexity and genre to promote a deeper understanding of content.

Reading A-Z is the ideal resource because its vast library of more than 2,500 downloadable books allows teachers to search by strategy, skill, or topic, making differentiation much easier. Several titles are part of a multi-level series, making quality content available to all readers. Plus, the printable books allow students to practice test-taking strategies, such as highlighting answers in the text, while using authentic text rather than mundane practice tests or contrived passages.

reading-a-z-books

In my classroom: I select Reading A-Z books that complement the weekly basal story, complement the current science unit, or focus on a specific reading strategy that I am teaching. In a recent unit, I chose, “What Lives in This Hole?” because it aligned to our Journeys basal story, “Animals Building Homes.” This was a great supplement to deepen student understanding, apply learned strategies, and build academic vocabulary.

supplemental-collage

Tomorrow check out part 2 of our Guided Reading Survival Guide blog series to see how I incorporate various reading strategies across multiple texts.

Astute Hoot's Reading Strategy Animals

 

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5 Tips to Survive Science Fair

The Science Fair usually brings a mix of emotions. Students love the hands-on learning but for teachers, the Science Fair can be nightmare. What project(s) should the class do? How can I organize students’ work samples? How do I involve parents?  Use these 5 tried-and-true tips to survive the Science Fair.

PicMonkey Collage1. Select experiment: Since my students are required to learn the life cycle process, I bought caterpillar and tadpoles for them to study. I also picked a variety of leveled text on butterflies and frogs to use during my guided reading groups to make it a cross-curricular project.  It may to tempting to choose an experiment that just seems fun and interesting, but always be sure that it aligns to your grade level standards and curriculum.  This helps to extend learning and create a richer learning experience.

ButterfliesFrogs2. Provide scientific tools: Use a variety of hands-on tools and materials. Allow students to use magnifying glasses and rulers and they observe their specimens. I bought a few men’s white button-down dress shirts and called them “lab coats’ which the students absolutely loved. They felt like real scientists!

Science tools 1.5Lab coats 3

 

3. Teach journaling skills: The Science Fair is the perfect opportunity to teach vital journaling skills. My students learned how to tell time to the nearest minute, write a detailed observation in complete sentences, and draw a scientific diagram. They also highlighted new vocabulary terms which they compiled into a glossary. Plus, I used their observations as writing grades. Download this journal here

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Journal 2.5Journal 3.5Butterfly procedures 1.5Science glossary 1.54. Showcase students’ work: Dedicate a bulletin board or showcase table to display students’ learning and scientific work samples. Creating a portfolio of their work is another great option.

Showcase student workMy students made these “Meet the Scientists” for our Science Fair night. They were a huge hit!

Meet the Scientist 1.55. Invite families: Have students create a formal invitation inviting families to the Science Fair. This is a great opportunity for students to share their new learning; parents are always so proud and impressed. You may also want to consider providing probing questions for parents to ask their children and an activity for children to showcase their skills. Be sure to provide refreshments (I bought inexpensive cookies from Target).

Invite familiesRefreshmentsI’d love to hear your great Science Fair ideas!

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Creative Ways to Teach Character Analysis

Authors use many different types of characters to tell a story.  Characters help us feel like we are a part of the story and give us an opportunity to see into their hearts and examine their motivations. Since characters play such an essential role in literature, character analysis is critical in developing a deeper understanding of the text. While the author may explicitly include character traits, often readers are required to make an inference about these traits, using textual evidence and background knowledge. Clearly using textual evidence to analyze and describe character traits is an important comprehension skill, but often a difficult one to teach. Try one of these four creative ways in your classroom:

1. Model through read-alouds: Young students don’t have a lot of experience with character traits and this needs to be built through read-alouds that include strong, memorable characters. Select a read-aloud with a character that students can easily relate to such as Alexander from Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. As you read each of Alexander’s bad experiences, describe how you think he feels by pointing out specific textual evidence. After modeling, encourage students to participate in the conversation. Provide think time by incorporating a Stop and Jot or Think-Pair-Share before discussing with the class.

Model with read-alouds

2. Use a Trait Tree: Young students have a limited vocabulary and often need support to select an appropriate character trait. Use Sharon the Summarizing Squirrel’s Trait Tree as a word bank scaffold. Pre-made and customizable versions are available allowing you to differentiate to meet the needs of your students. My students have this in their reading folders and binders and reference it often.

Use a Trait Tree

Trait Tree 1

3. Incorporate written response: It is so important for students to respond to text through writing and Sharon the Summarizing Squirrel’s Character Analysis Graphic Organizers allow students to record their thinking and textual evidence. These are perfect to use during guided reading groups, centers, and homework.

Character map Character analysis

4. Embed art: Written responses don’t have to be limited to reports, they can include murals, posters, poems, or dioramas. During our Charlotte’s Web study, my students used our Trait Tree to analyze Wilbur’s personality, citing textual evidence for support. Afterwards, they made these adorable crayon-resist Wilbur portraits. I hung them up on our “Some Pig” bulletin board. My principal came in as we were creating these and was so impressed with students’ character analysis and loved the integration of art. These were a hit!

Collage 4

I recently completed a similar project after reading Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type from our second-grade basal, students analyzed the cows’ character traits and cited textual evidence. On Friday, they made cows to hang up with their traits.

Cow trait 1.5 Cow traits 2.5

Character traits spotted

Love these ideas? Download Sharon Summarizing Squirrel’s Character Analysis unit to help your students master character analysis within authentic text! This Character Analysis Unit is a sub-skill unit which is also part of our Sharon Summarizing Squirrel Bundle including the following sub-skills: Cause & Effect, Central Message & Lesson, Character Analysis, Compare & Contrast, Main Idea & Key Details, Retell, and Sequencing.

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Flash FREEBIE Friday!!!!

 

 

Flash FREEBIE Friday:   Beginning of the School Year Ice Breakers and Community Building Activities

You know the horrible feeling when you walk into a room and you don’t recognize a single soul? Even worse, everyone else already knows each other, happily mingling together. Most adults shudder at the thought, yet as teachers, we fail to consider how these situations make our students feel. Many students come to school on the first day without knowing anyone, much less bathroom and cafeteria locations. We fill the first days with procedures, rules, and other endless explanations without taking any time to help students feel comfortable and safe, two basic conditions required for learning.

Here are my top 3 icebreaker activities:

  • Student Scavenger Hunt: Make a Bingo board and write an interesting fact in each (e.g.,Went to Disneyland this summer). Students will hunt for a classmate who matches the fact and record his/her name in the box. This activity gets students moving and talking, both of which they are hesitant to do the first few days. It also allows time to practice important transitions and procedures such as freezing at teacher’s signal, cleaning up and active listening.

 

Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger Hunt
  • Me Bags: Me Bags are a great way to build community. Send home a brown bag with a cute label asking students to bring 3-5 items that represent them. These items can be favorite toys, colors, pictures or special treasures. All items must fit in the bag. Set aside 10-15 minutes each day to share the Me Bags. The students will love learning about each other and discovering all the similarities they have! This is also a great activity to strengthen listening and speaking skills.
Me Bag
Me Bag
  • Friendship Salad: Purchase 3 cans of fruit, bag of marshmallows, 1 large container of yogurt and an old, very rotten banana. Read a friendship book (Horace, Morris But Mostly Delores is a great choice) and stop right after friends get in a fight. Discuss possible strategies to solve the disagreement. Then make the Friendship Salad. Show the bowl and tell students this represents the classroom; it is empty and needs many things such as good friends, happy days and lots of learning. Pour in one can of fruit—these are kind kids in the room who help others (can elaborate). Pour in the second can of fruit—these are the hard workers in our room—they always give their best effort and complete their work. Pour in the third can—this represents students who share. Dump in the bag of marshmallows—these represent respectful, polite words used with each other. Add the yogurt—this is for smooth, happy days. Stir together and walk around to let the kids see and sniff. Then show, the secret ingredient—the rotten banana! Start to peel and put in and students will start to scream in disgust. Explain that it only takes one person with rotten behavior or a rotten attitude to ruin the whole classroom. Extend the explanation to the story (i.e., Horace and Morris were being rotten friends when they excluded Delores). The moral of the lesson—don’t be a rotten banana!
Friendship Salad
Friendship Salad

Like these ideas? Download our Beginning of the School Year Ice Breakers and Community Building Activities on Teachers Pay Teachers for 85 pages of engaging plans and exercises.  Please follow us on TPT!  We appreciate your ratings and feedback.  Thanks!!

Back to School Ice Breakers
Back to School Ice Breakers

for one day only: Friday, August 13, 2014Fr

Free for one day, August 13, 2015! Check out the rest of our store and use code owlk3 for 20% off of all digital files. Check out our accompanying hands-on tools at Really Good Stuff and use coupon code ten15 for 10% off!

 

We hope you have an amazing start to your school year!

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Blast Off Back to School Sale!

As veteran teachers, we know that the beginning of year often means countless meetings, endless hours of preparation and a great deal of stress. Let us alleviate some of your stress with our tried and true back to school resources guaranteed to help you work smarter, not harder. Plus, everything’s ON SALE!!!!

 

 

 

 

Best of Back to School Lesson Plans & Activities:  This unit focuses on establishing procedures, explaining expectations and building classroom community while creating an organized, efficient schedule with minimal preparation. Our comprehensive first week lesson plans  include 50+ interactive, engaging activities with objectives & detailed instructions, homework ideas,daily math lessons and art projects.

Best of Back To School Preview

Golden Keys to Success Classroom Management Plan: Golden Keys to Success is an efficient behavior management program that builds character, promotes self-monitoring and ensures high behavioral expectations. This program has made a huge difference in my students’ behavior because it teaches them to be responsible for daily choices. Golden Keys to Success focuses on 5 important life skills and qualities that students need to become successful citizens. This 90 page unit includes 21 detailed lessons with essential questions and quality literature, 34 engaging activities and projects, a Weekly Responsibility Chart (for students) and a parent brochure with overview of program, consequences and helpful parent tips.

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Common Core Math Problem-Solving Essentials Bundle: This ultimate bundle provides an entire year’s worth of differentiated Common Core problem-solving activities to give students the strategies they need to solve word problems. Perfect for general education, special education, RTI and math intervention! This 636 page file has all of the lessons, activities, worksheets and printables you need for comprehensive problem-solving instruction. It is the perfect supplement to any existing curriculum or can be used as a stand alone resource.

Problem solving bundle preview

We hope that these products reduce that dreaded back to school stress and make your life easier.

Happy New Year!

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Vegas Baby!

We just wrapped up our first TeachersPayTeachers conference in Vegas and we had a blast! We learned so much, especially about Pinterest, data and marketing and we are so excited to apply it as soon as we get back.  All of the presenters were so inspiring and informative. The best part was meeting other teachers who share our passion and creativity.  We look forward to collaborating with them in the near future! Some other fabulous TPT sellers we met were:

S.T.E.M.agination Station
Diapers, Dollars, and Diplomas
Surfing to Success
Second Grade Sugar and Spice
Journey of a Substitute Teacher 

There were a lot of fun scavenger hunts going around; we loved the idea and created our own. We had the BEST people watching spot at Cabo Wabo at Planet Hollywood. Here are a few photos we took from our scavenger hunt:

People watching at Cabo Wabo
People watching at Cabo Wabo
A "celebrity" siting
A “celebrity” sighting
The first Elvis of the trip
The first Elvis of the trip
Our favorite crazy hair do
Our favorite crazy hair do

(And a few other unpostable items….)

After the conference ended, we were ready to dance and ended up The Bank at Bellagio. It was the perfect ending to an amazing weekend!

Celebrating a fantastic weekend
Celebrating a fantastic weekend

Check out our upcoming Back to School Bootcamp blog series that will cover such topics as Organization 101, Mastering Meet the Teacher & Curriculum Night, Dress for Success, Keep Calm and Teach On and many more!

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Ready to Research

 

 

We are nearing the end of the year (seriously summer can’t come soon enough) and my students are growing more hyper and less productive by the minute.  In an effort to increase engagement and keep my sanity, I channeled their love of animals into a cumulative animal research unit. Follow these steps to implement this project in your room; download the complete unit here.

1. Create a research bulletin board: I created a research bulletin board with the text features poster set from Really Good Stuff. I enlarged an American black bear printout from enchantedlearning.com as my primary resource. I laminated 8 different colors of paper and hung up next to the bear printout; each color represents a different topic (i.e. anatomy, habitat, diet, etc.). I model how to record key words for each topic on corresponding card.

Research bulletin board_WEB

2. Select leveled nonfiction animal books: Look for books rich with text features (headings, captions, photographs, etc.) are best. I highly recommend selecting sets of these books for guided reading groups; this is a great way to teach children how to ask questions and effectively use text features to find answers in the text. National Geographic Kids and readinga-z.com offer a wide range of quality, engaging options.

Research books_WEB

3. Help children find research sources: I let each student pick animal to research (this promotes ownership and engagement) and print an animal printout from enchantedlearning.com. These printouts are easy to read and all include a diagram and headings. I send home a letter asking parents to send in supplemental research and colored photographs to use in report (I remind parents to preview first to avoid mating details and photos.)

During our research unit, I follow these steps:

1. Read a variety of animal nonfiction books, pointing out different features of nonfiction text and their purpose(s). I also use sets of leveled nonfiction texts during guided reading groups; students ask questions about the animal and use learned text features to find answers in the text.

2. Each student picks an animal and completes a KWL chart (included in the downloadable unit).

3. Explain the report process and review the rubric with them (included in the downloadable unit).

4. Model completing research with the American black bear printout from enchantedlearning.com. Each day I pick one topic to research (diet, anatomy, habitat, locomotion, etc.). If the topic is diet, model finding diet in the text. Write key words on that color-coded card. I organize the key words with bullets. They should fit all key words on one card; remind them not to copy whole sentences. If there is a word that students do not know, I have them highlight the word; these words will go into their glossaries.

Animal report 9_WEB

5. Create an animal research report outline. First model how to write an interesting beginning (usually a question or interesting fact) along with a transition sentence. Model how to write a main idea and key fords for the supporting sentences. Students also write the heading above each main ideas so that it is ready for them when they draft. This outline can be completed during small group time.

Animal report  10_WEB

6. Draft, edit, revise and publish report (drafting paper, table of contents and glossary are all included in the downloadable unit). Review elements of the rubric frequently and how to score each report using the rubric so students are familiar with expectations.

Animal report 4_WEB

 

Animal report 5_WEB

Animal report 6_WEB

7. Share reports with class. Students can practice presenting to a partner or small-group before presenting to the whole class. This activity meets several listening and speaking Common Core State Standards. I put completed reports in the class library so students can read during silent reading time.

We’d love to hear any research project ideas you have!

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Standardized Testing Good Luck Hands

Standardized testing often causes anxiety and stress for students. I alleviate these worries and build students’ self-esteem with Standardized Testing Khamsas (Good Luck Hands), part of our Standardized Test Prep Unit.

Khamsa--OWL board

Good Luck Hands

The khamsa, which means five in Arabic, is a good luck symbol from Morocco, Africa. Often made with precious metal like silver and gold, these ornate and colorful hands are used to bring luck and blessings into people’s lives.  Students feel so special making these good luck hands; these are always a top keepsake for the year.

To make in the classroom, simply have students trace their hands on aluminum foil and glue onto brightly colored construction paper. Students can add detail with Sharpies and glue on jewels, buttons, eyes and sequins. Display these on bulletin board for a beautiful reminder for students to believe in themselves during testing time.

Khamsa--cutting

Khamsa--cutting 2

Khamsa--materials

Khamsa--decorating

Khamsa--definition

 

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