Sunday, January 30, 2011

Eve Bunting Author Study Mini-Unit!

I am currently creating an Eve Bunting Author Study for my classroom.  I'm offering a free mini-unit to my followers for F-R-E-E!  This author study is still in its baby stages.  I am still trying to nail down what I want to do with my kiddos.  Eventually, lesson plans will be included, photographs, and lots more printables!  For now,  you can enjoy the free preview.   It includes a vocabulary lesson for The Memory String and a printable for the same story to prompt discussion about memories.  It also includes several pages of story element matrices for her books.  I am currently working on an Eve Bunting biography sheet, more activities for The Memory String, and a few activities for Fly Away Home.  In time, I will add many more stories.  I'll add pictures to the blog as we go!  I can't wait to get started!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Determining Importance with a Pretty Olive Purse!

I have professed my unyielding love for Comprehension Connections on this blog already, but I seriously am smitten with that book.  Tanny McGregor changed the way I thought about teaching reading strategies by making me think about presenting an abstract concept in a concrete way.

I always use this lesson to launch the Determining Importance strategy... and when I say always... I mean I've done it for the whopping three years that I've been teaching third grade.  Regardless, of my lack of tenure, it's been a hit every year with my kiddos.  In the past, I've created the "I'm going running after school at the track, what should I take with me and what should I keep in the car?" scenario.  This year, I had to get creative.  Considering that I've had two knee surgeries in a year and I'm still a little unsteady at times I didn't think my class would buy that scenario. 

 Essentially, I dumped out the contents of my purse to sort into three categories MUST KEEP, MIGHT NEED, AND DOESN'T NEED.  Surprisingly I had less expendables than expected!   We sorted items into each category after discussing each item.  They were able to determine that while we may be able to argue that a woman might need lipstick, she probably doesn't need six tubes of lip products in their purse at any given point of time! Hahaha! They also told me that I didn't need to have deodorant in my purse.  I happen to be the kind of person who re-applies several times a day.  I have no idea why or when my OCD started, but it's my sad reality every day.  Luckily, my vice helped us to discuss how sometimes different people have different values or beliefs.  "Importance" is a somewhat relative term.  What some people deem as unimportant, others may view as critical.  Through lots of dialogue, the students demonstrated that they understood the concept.  This allowed me to bridge the gap between what we do on a daily basis as we constantly assess what is important or unimportant... and what we do as readers as we sift through information in the text!


Friday, January 21, 2011

Chris Van Allsburg Author Study on TpT!

If you are interested in downloading the entire unit, you can purchase it for $6.00 on TpT.  It includes fluency passages, anchor chart titles and headings, reader response activities, photographs, examples, lesson plans and class book templates.  My kiddos ate this unit up with a spoon.  Of course, there are a few things that I made and can't sell because I used clip art from Lettering Delight.   I also have documents I have created from The Mysteries of Harris Burdick and Ben's Dream that I can't include because I used Google images and illustrations from one of the books.  If you would like a free copy of the story starters for The Mysteries of Harris Burdick or the landmarks from Ben's Dream, simply leave your email and I will send them on their way.

  When I decided to embark on a Chris Van Allsburg Author Study, I honestly thought that the Internet would be brimming with ideas.  Perhaps it is, and I wasn't lucky enough to stumble on those sites, but I came up pretty empty-handed.  Houghton Mifflin had pretty decent teaching guides that helped give me a starting point for my unit.  I also gained a few ideas from A-Z Teacher Stuff's forums, but ultimately, I had to create a TON of resources from scratch.  I hope that these ideas can help give someone else a jumping-off point!  I'd love to hear any ideas or lessons that you have tried in the past too! 

    This is just a sampling of what we did this during this three week unit.  Of course, we have spent time studying Chris Van Allsburg to understand the man behind the stories.  We are tying the Author Study into both Reading Workshop with a focus on inferring and Writing Workshop to enhance our personal narratives.  We began by reading The Z Was Zapped.  We decided that we didn't want so many bad things to happen to the letters, so we created a new version to work on alliteration and keep the letters safe.  We called it, "The Z Was Zonked".  Check out a few samples below!

    We worked on inferring with Just a Dream, and then discussed showing not telling in our stories. We worked on creating believable characters that can change and evolve.   We created a matrix to compare the story elements in some of Chris Van Allsburg's books.   Then, we read Ben's Dream the following day.  We had to use our schema to determine which famous landmarks were present in the book.  Then, we created a flow chart showing where Ben traveled to in his "dream".  Afterward, the class was broken up into three groups for a Map It activity.  They drew maps to show where Ben traveled in the proper sequence.  I have never seen them so excited... and because I am tricky... they now know ten famous landmarks too!  (As you can see, we briefly compared and contrasted the two stories with a Venn Diagram as well.) 

We read Jumanji.  We discussed Van Allsburg use of precise "strong" verbs.  First, they read an excerpt of lifted text and highlighted the verbs they found.  I had made a copy of the story and taped it together like a scroll.  They sat on both sides of the story, and the class worked together to highlight all of the verbs they found in the story.  We found that Van Allsburg used a TON of strong verbs!  We discussed how using action is another way to "show not tell",  then we created an anchor chart of strong vs. weak verbs before I sent them off to write.

   We read Zathura.  The kids were quick to pick up on the fact that Danny and Walter are the same kids that we meet at the end of Jumanji.  After a grand conversation about Zathura, we added onto our matrix to compare story elements.

Flashlight Reading
Students chose a mystery from "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick to write about!

My lines are really wobbly.  Please don't judge!  Bahahaha!

The cards were used as part of an inferring emotion game!

Teach kids to infer with "trash"!
Add caption
Mind Maps- Making T-T Connections to The Wreck of the Zephyr

Inferring with Vermeer: Art Detectives!
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

Spelling Fridge & Frigid Ohio!

Greetings from Northeast Ohio... where we continue to go to school even after we get 6 inches of snow! We have a two hour delay today! Woooo!
A typical Ohio winter day... without the additional six inches.
My husband and I made a bet last night about whether we would have a snow day or not.  His perspective:  "Amanda, there is no way you are having school tomorrow.  It's terrible out there."  My perspective: "I can almost guarantee that we will have it.  We may have a delay day, but we will most certainly have school."  Mr. Wonderful was born in Texas and lived in Maryland for most of his life.  He hasn't quite gotten used to the way we Ohioans roll...ahem... plow through snow with our fancy schmancy winter tires and 4-wheel drive vehicles.  Lake effect snow?  No problem.  I think I'm going to talk to the hubby about moving to Florida... I've spent my whole life in a perpetual snow globe.  I'm finally tiring of the incessant snow and ice.  Give me some sunshine!!!

Okay... now for the Spelling Fridge from!  I put this amazing little doodad on my class website, and the kids use it to practice their spelling words.  They love it, and if you catch it at just the right time, you can find nifty little messages on it like this:

Friday, January 14, 2011

Insulators & Conductors Sort

We created this anchor chart after experimenting with circuits to determine which classroom objects were insulators and which were conductors.  Students recorded their experimental data in their science notebooks as they conducted their research.  Afterward, as a class, we put together this chart to make our learning permanent and visible. 

If you would like to download the images used for this chart, click here! Notice that we left the pencils in the middle of the T-chart, because depending on whether the kids attached the circuit to the wood or the metal rim, they got different results. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Fluency Folders

Fluency is so critical to success in school and in life.  Fluency Folders can be used to involve parents in fluency practice nightly or once a week. (I prefer to send it home on Thursdays once we have practiced our passage Monday through Thursday at school.)  I put together a resource for my own classroom, but I hope that you will find it useful in your own classrooms!  Click HERE to download!