Saturday, November 3, 2012

Gobble, Gobble: Turkeys and Penguins?

Goodness gracious! The countdown continues, friends.  In two short weeks, grad school will be a thing of the past.  (Can you hear me squealing with excitement?!)  Now, TRUST ME, saying that I will be excited to reach that milestone and check grad school off of the proverbial list is a HUGE understatement.  (I'm sure you will be glad that you won't have to hear me talk about this like a broken record over and over again too!)  However, it's not over just yet, and in the meantime, I've already gone into survival mode to get through this time in my life with some semblance of sanity left by graduation.  Fortunately, my sweet hubs went to a college football game with his buddy all weekend, so I stayed here to pound stuff out.  It's nice to be able to work on things longer than normal once in a while.  Let's just say... I may have gotten carried away.  Let's just say that I haven't been awake at 2 AM on a Friday night for a little while...  What else can you do when you have looming deadlines and conferences at the same exact time?!  I have an answer for that too... pray.  So, to make a long rambling story short, I've been taking a blended approach to this time in my life.  It's nothing prayer and a little elbow grease can't handle! Check, check, check!

I have been pecking away at Thanksgiving centers for what feels like forever, and I finally finished them last night after completing my FIP module.  ;)  I have already used a few of the centers with my kiddos... and now I'm really excited to unveil the rest of them!    They are currently marked down... so you can snag them for 20% off!  You can find out more about the contents from the product description and the preview file! (NOTE:  there's a bit of a glitch right now.  This keeps appearing and reappearing in my store.  I have notified TpT, and hopefully the bug will be corrected soon.  I'm so sorry for the inconvenience.  If I need to extend the sale, I will!)

When I posted about my Too Cute to Spook centers and slashed my prices, Gina from Third Grade Tidbits asked how I run my centers, and I promised to take a moment to share when I got a chance.  So, I took a moment to snap some pictures at school to explain my super-simplistic process.  I KNOW there are so many people who have wonderful, beautiful, elaborate systems for centers.  This is not how mine operates, so I hope you all still like me after reading! Ha!

I bought several medium sized storage totes at Walmart over the summer, and I labeled them by season or purpose.  For example, I have one for Social Studies and one for test prep games.

I switched over to plastic bags for storage in recent years for a few reasons.  For one thing, I really hate taking the time to glue covers and direction sheets onto the folders, because I always feel like my time could be better spent doing something else.  I also like that the plastic bags allow me to see everything at a glance.  Perhaps my favorite thing about the gallon-sized bags is this though: They don't take up a lot of room or add extra bulk, so I can store more centers in one container!  Score!

As you can see, it's not a pretty system, BUT it works for me.  It saves me SO much time!  I just rifle through the storage container, find the skill/game I want to use, and then pull them out! 

I fold each recording sheet in half and store the inside of the plastic bag too.  This original gets pulled out to make copies, and then I stick it inside of the storage container until I am finished with the center.  Then it is slipped back into the baggie with the center materials for next year.  Easy peasy!

Once I have made copies of the recording sheets, it doesn't get any fancier!  I literally take large construction paper at the beginning of every year and fold the paper in half like a folder.  Then I label the "folders" Center 1, Center 2, and so forth.  This general labeling ensures that I can use the same folders for as long as they hold up, and it also becomes something familiar to students as they progress through each center and count the folders.  I usually have 4-6 centers out at any given time.  I aim for six, but sometimes, for one reason or another, it just doesn't happen that way.  Anywho--- I literally just plop the recording sheets into the folder, lay the baggie on top, and they are ready to go!

I place them around the room on the floor in designated spots where there's plenty of room to spread out. We typically do centers as part of our morning work routine, but sometimes I may carve out time in our Language Arts block for them, especially right before a test to give them extra practice with skills that will show up on the test.  That's it.  :)  Nothing really special or fancy, but it works for me!
I used some of Amy Lemon's Fallin' Into Fun Centers with some of my own this week.

Sorry for the poor picture quality!  My camera phone is pitiful! :)
In other news, I decided to create a fun election-themed word work activity for next week.  If you think you can plug this into your Word Work Center, you can find Star Spangled Word Work HERE! It could easily be used with an election or America-themed study... or you could use a different recording sheet to play on a rock star or Hollywood theme instead!  I have included four different recording sheets to enable you to choose the theme that best fits your needs.

This past week, we finished "Penguin Chick".  For those of you who may be thinking, "I thought she did something on penguins last week.  I remember seeing her penguin anchor chart..." You are correct.  I started that story near the end of last week.  I may have mentioned this before, BUT we run Reading Street on an 8-day cycle.  This means that sometimes I start a new story at the end of the week... sometimes at the beginning of the week... and sometimes in the middle.  Since our school  is so large, we run our specials, intervention/enrichment schedules, (etc.) around the same 8-day cycle.  Essentially, it means that we have to very clearly communicate with parents so they know when we will be testing, because it can hit on any day of the week, BUT it allows us to spend extra time on each story which allows for more depth and more authentic learning experiences.  I will take the complications over a Monday through Friday any day, because ultimately the students WIN.

Now, like I said, I am totally just trying to survive the craziness right now.  Since I've had to get so much together for Student-Led Conferences and devote so much time to writing papers and working on a Powerpoint for class lately, I've had to rely on some of my blogging buddies to help me through a very hectic week.  Sometimes, I think we all have to step back and realize that we can't do it all.  We just can't.  So sometimes we need to be resourceful and thank our lucky stars for blogging and TpT! Ha!  Hope King's Penguin Research packet was just what I needed this past week.  It provided a great scaffold for my kiddos to write about the penguin life cycle. 

We started out the week with her cute penguin craft... tweaked of course.  I guess you could say I used Hope's templates. the Lesson Plan S.O.S. ladies' "It's Cool to Be Different" posters... and my own noggin' to make this work for me.   I decided to use our school colors to make them look whimsical... and also to launch a discussion about character traits and what it means to be unique.  This was my sample penguin... but friends... let me tell you... the kids' penguins were about 846,746, 982 times cuter than mine!  After rereading Hope's post... I think I may also be purchasing the Glyph Girls' Penguin Glyph to use with this next year!  Hello cuteness!

One of my little guys decided to make his penguin toboggan!  I say... that's a great application of a vocabulary word! :)

As you can see... our penguins were certainly unique! My favorite is the Rip Van Winkle penguin!  Ha!
As you will see... we've been really busy working on our research.  Truthfully, they are using Penguin Chick, and we read it for 8 days!  So, they aren't exactly looking up new facts, but they are practicing going back to look for information and putting the author's words into their own words.  We already had a big talk about the P-WORD: plagiarism, because I want my kiddos to be acutely aware of the fact that claiming another person's words as your own isn't okay... from the beginning.  :)  They are doing absolutely amazing!  We talked about the structure of essays and how main ideas and details help us organize our thoughts.  (This was the comprehension skill emphasized by our series, so it was a great way to tie writing in as well.)  We spent a little bit of time talking about what researchers do before digging in!  I created mini-posters for my kiddos based off of Hope's, we discussed them... and we jotted extra information down.  Our essential question was added: What are the stages of a penguin's life cycle?

First, they filled out a main idea/supporting details organizer to start the planning process and get the gist down on paper.  Then we expanded slightly with a four-square template.  Note: at this point, accuracy was not a big concern.  It was pre-writing, so I didn't fuss over the fact that my student wrote something about the "Arctic world" instead of the "Antarctic world".  Those conversations happened later in the process.

Next, we worked through learning how to format our paragraphs using an opening sentence, three details, and a closing sentence.  I am not normally a big proponent of putting my students "in a box" or telling them how many sentences they need to have, but I do think this is a great way to teach them the formal structure of an essay.  It does have a lot more rigidity than a personal narrative or a memoir, for example.  So, I think Hope's graphic organizers were great for helping kiddos progress through the stages of writing for essays!  Each student had four of the following planning sheets.  They used one for each stage of the penguin life cycle.

After planning out all of the paragraphs, the kiddos reread their sentences and started their official drafts.   They will be rewriting their stories for morning work for the first few days of the week (as needed).  The following draft is an on-level student.  Can I just celebrate her use of sequencing key words for a moment?!  I get pretty excited when everything comes together! :)

For morning work one day last week, the kiddos put together penguin fact books.  I honestly don't remember where I found them.  It was about three years ago... on a blog! (If this is your template, please let me know!  I'd love to be able to point people in the right direction!)  To kick this activity up a notch, I had the kiddos draw pictures to match up with the text and include nonfiction features! 

Well, all of this "talk" about writing papers has made me realize how much I need to wrap up this blog post and start working on my own papers.  :)  The clock is ticking... but I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel!  Have a great week, friends!  Gobble, gobble?! ;)


  1. Thank you so much for sharing how you run your centers. I JUST finished making my November centers because I figured I was going to give it a go and see what happened, so this post was in perfect time! I am going to use folders (because I got them super cheap) and see how it works. And I love the penguin activities. We use reading street too but I have left it behind to do chapter books because we do the Mon-Fri schedule and it doesn't leave much time for actually learning how to retain a story. I hate that we talk about a story for 2-3 days and then it is gone. So we went to chapter books. Thanks again!
    Third Grade Tidbits

  2. I am in the same boat but I have 5 weeks left for grad school!!! I am counting down the days! Good luck with everything and make sure to have a big celebration when you are done!!!! :)

  3. Love your Thanksgiving Centers. I hope you will do some Christmas too. It is so hard to find cute activities for second grade on. Most cute ones are made for K-1 and too easy for second. Thank you for the skills included. Great ones for second graders to go with common core. Thanks again.

  4. Congrats on finishing up grad school soon!!! I know that will be a huge relief and just in time to enjoy the holidays! ;)

    Teaching Maddeness
    PS - I'd love for you to come enter my giveaway for a FREE Grateful Bag!

  5. Hi! The penguin fact book came from my blog! So glad you could use it! Here's the link:

  6. Hi Amanda! Just wondering if you have a routine for checking the work they complete during centers. Do they hand in each page for you to check or check it on their own? Thanks so much and congrats on graduating!!!

  7. I love how you've organized your centers! I have been having so much trouble keeping all of my centers organized, I don't know why I haven't thought of organizing them in tubs by season or skill. What a great idea! Thanks! Love your blog, you always have cute stuff and great ideas for staying organized.

    The Price of Teaching