Sunday, November 29, 2015

12 Days of Christmas in the Classroom


and now available for 4th-6th!

(scroll down to see upper grade examples) 
All teachers know the school days between Thanksgiving and the Winter Break are difficult to fill.  Students want to be engaged in holiday fun, but teachers want activities to be educational.  This year you can do both!  With these 12 Days of Christmas Lesson Plans students will be racing to school, excited for what each new day has to offer.   
Here is a look at Day 4- Gingerbread Day (1-3)

As a class you will read aloud a gingerbread man story and  students will complete a story map. Then you will read another story and the students will compare/contrast the two texts. Next, you will ask "Would you try to catch the gingerbread man or not?"  Students will write their answers to the prompt on a writing page. Also included is a fun scavenger hunt for those students who want to try and catch the gingerbread man. (We are guessing all students will want to try and catch that crazy cookie!) After the scavenger hunt you will come back to class for math activities.  Students will play "Roll-a-Gingerbread Man."  They will also learn about symmetry by drawing the other half of the gingerbread man. 

           Here is a look at Day 6- Santa Day (1-3)
The class will start the day by reading an informational text about Santa Claus around the world. Students will stamp their passport as they "visit" each country and learn about the different Santas. Then you will read Twas the Night Before Christmas.'  Students will complete a Santa Claus character trait graphic organizer. Once they are finished learning all about Santa, they will write him a letter and to let him know what they would like for Christmas.  A "Roll and Color" number operations is included for Santa math. You will end the day by singing songs about Santa Claus from the list of songs provided. 

  Here is a look at Day 11- Reindeer Day (1-3)

To start this day, you will pick a book about reindeer to read aloud to the class. Students will complete the story retelling graphic organizer about the text. Then you will read the informational text about reindeer.  Students will take notes with you or independently.  They will then use their notes to write their own informational text about reindeer using one of the 4 writing page options. Students will also put reindeer names in ABC order and play "Reindeer 4 in a Row Addition" for math.

Preview the 12 Days of Christmas in the Classroom 
for 4th, 5th, and 6th

Here are all the days you will find in our 12 Days of Christmas Bundle:
Candy Cane Day
Christmas Carol Day
Christmas Tree Day
Christmas Cookie Day
Elf Day
Gingerbread Day
Kindness Day
Polar Express Day
Reindeer Day
Santa Claus Day
Snow Day
Stocking Day
Each day’s lesson plan includes:
a reading and writing activity
a math activity
a variety of other fun and educational suggestions
that match the theme. 

To prepare for the 12 days of Christmas you will need some type of container to store each day’s materials.  We purchased 12 gift bags from our local dollar store.  They were 2 for $1.  You can staple or glue the daily labels onto the bags. 

The read-aloud books are not included.  Check out your local library.   Most can be purchased online or in Scholastic’s book club orders.  These books are just suggestions.  You can also choose your own books that go along with the daily theme. 

Impress your principal, parents, and even yourself as students engage in both fun and learning right up until the last bell rings before Winter Break!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

November Read-Alouds!

This month we chose a seasonal title, two Thanksgiving themed stories, an old favorite, and two books for Election Day. We selected stories that were complex enough that they would lend themselves to span across 3-4 days. We plan to dive deep and cover many Common Core Literature Standards while also giving ourselves time to respond to the text with writing and art. 

We wrote rigorous text dependent questions where students use evidence from the text to deepen their understanding of the stories.  We created graphic organizers and writing in response to text activities to incorporate writing standards. We also incorporated an art piece to compliment each read-aloud and designed bulletin board headings to display some of the work. 

The lesson plan for each book will guide us through 3 days of close reading. Each day we will read the text for a different purpose and students will complete a different activity. 

Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano illustrated by Lee Harper 

We can't let November pass without reading this classic story by Wendi Silvano. This delightful tale is sure to make your students giggle as Turkey worries that he will be served as the main dish at Thanksgiving dinner.  He tries various disguises so the farmer won't be able to find him when Thanksgiving arrives. To address key ideas and details, students will sequence the events of the story. "Turkey Trouble" is filled with clever word-play, which is perfect for teaching words and phrases from the craft and structure standards. Students will determine the meaning of silly phrases from the story and identify whether they appeal to their feelings or senses.  As a culminating activity, students will disguise their own turkeys and write an option piece on why their costume is a better disguise.  

The Very First Thanksgiving Day by Rhonda Gowler Greene illustrated by Susan Gaber

When browsing through our November book file, we stumbled upon this treasure. What a find!  This beautifully illustrated story by Rhonda Gowler Greene teaches children about the events that led up to the very first Thanksgiving Day and celebrates two groups of people that came together to feast and give thanks for their harvest. It is a cumulative rhyming story where events are repeated and circle around.  The more complex structure of this story lends itself to sequencing.  Students have to think critically to put the events in order. We created event cards to sequence as a class and students will then put their own event cards in order on their own time lines.  Once students learn all about the first Thanksgiving, they will create dioramas based on the people and events from the story. You can read more about our The Very First Thanksgiving Day lesson plans here.

My Teacher for President by by Kay Winters and Denise Brunkus

We paired these two stories to teach children about Election Day.  "Duck for President" is an adorable story that teaches young students about the election process through Duck's political journey. Duck is tired of doing his chores on the farm and climbs his way to the top until he is elected as President of the United States. Running the country turns out to be more work and stress than he planned on so Duck returns back to the farm to write his autobiography.

In "My Teacher for President," Oliver, believes his teacher has the qualities to run for President. He writes a letter to Channel 39, listing all the reasons his teacher would be a perfect candidate.

We felt students will need some background knowledge about politicians and the election process to better comprehend and respond to these two stories.  We wrote a short text entitled "What Does a Politician Do?" to front load these close reads.  Much of the story is told through the illustrations in both of these books.  This provides an opportunity for students to use illustrations and details to describe the events.  Students will also learn about cause and effect and complete a graphic organizer about Duck and his response to different events in the story.  Students will use information from both stories to brainstorm and write about things they would change if they were elected class president.

In November by Cynthia Rylant illustrated by Jill Kastner 

"In November" by Cynthia Rylant captures special activities that occur in the month of November through gorgeous oil paintings and poetic language. This story encourages children to explore their senses and learn to visualize through detailed illustrations and beautiful similes and metaphors. We plan to have students listen the first time without looking at the illustrations. We will ask them to visualize scenes and paint images in their minds, then draw their visualizations. We will discuss adjectives as students use colorful words and adjectives to write about their own November scene.   

The Great Fuzz Frenzy by Janet Stevens illustrated by Susan Stevens Crummel


The Great Fuzz Frenzy is a must read!  When a strange, fuzzy object (tennis ball) falls into the prairie dog burrow, they discover they can decorate themselves with the fuzz.  The prairie dogs exhaust themselves, swirling and twirling. Their creative frenzy turns in to greed when the fuzz finally runs out. Their arguing threatens to tear the community apart until they come together to rescue the town bully, Big Bark, who is kidnapped by an eagle.  This delightful story is great for teaching characterization.  It is a complex text with illustrations that are perfect for diving deeper into analyzing characters.  Students will determine how the tennis ball causes the prairie dogs to feel differently at various points in the story.  They will analyze two main characters by creating character maps.  As a culminating activity, they will write about a character from the story and create a prairie dog decorated with green fuzz.

You can purchase all of these read-alouds individually by clicking on the images or altogether in our November read-aloud bundle. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Teaching Thanksgiving Through Interactive Lessons & Stations

Just in time for November, we've created a fresh, new way for students to learn about Thanksgiving!  We're calling these lesson plans, "Thanksgiving: A Living Story" because students will participate in activities that make the history of Thanksgiving meaningful and relevant to them.
1st-3rd grade students will discover the history of Thanksgiving through interactive, hands-on, teacher-directed mini lessons.
During each mini-lesson, the teacher reads a script to present facts relevant to a Thanksgiving topic while showing a visual picture card. After a short class discussion, students are able to take a closer look at each of the topics and become part of the "living story" by participating in a variety of interactive activities. 

Younger Grade Mini-lesson Topics and Activities
Lesson #1- The Mayflower: Narrated tableaus
Lesson #2- The First Winter: Pilgrim charades
Lesson #3- Samoset & Squanto: Reader's Theater
Lesson #4- Thanksgiving Feast:  Venn Diagram food sort
Lesson #1 Examples of Tableaus

Lesson #2 Examples of Charades

Lesson #3 Two Levels of Reader's Theater 
Lesson #4 Venn Diagram Food Sort

After these lessons, students also have a chance to play a version of a game that Pilgrim children may have played.  Our version is called Three Men's Morris (based on Nine Men's Morris, which was very popular at the time of the first Thanksgiving) and is similar to tic-tac-toe.
One of the  Pilgrim games students can learn to play

4th-6th grade students will explore the history of Thanksgiving as they rotate in small groups through independent learning stations.
At each station students read a short informational text accompanied by a visual picture card and take notes on their learning.  Students then become part of the "living story" as they complete an assigned group task related to the text.
Student note-taking sheet for the learning stations

Upper Grade Independent Learning Stations
Station #1- The Mayflower
  • Students read about the Mayflower, take notes, then create narrated group tableaus depicting the Pilgrims' journey
Station #1 Example of group performing a tableau
Station #1 Tableau storyboard group planning sheet

Station #2- First Winter
  • Students read about the first winter, take notes, and play charades demonstrating the hardships of the Pilgrims' first winter in America
Task Cards guide students at each station
Example of Station #2 "First Winter"

Station #3- Samoset & Squanto
Station #3 Two Levels of Reader's Theater
  • Students read about two Native Americans who were influential in helping the Pilgrims thrive in their new home, take notes, then practice and perform a reader's theater of Squanto teaching the Pilgrims how to plant crops 

Station #4- Thanksgiving Feast
  • Students read about the first Thanksgiving, take notes, then complete a Venn diagram sorting foods at the first Thanksgiving, foods from Thanksgiving today, and foods found at both feasts.
Food Venn Diagram from Station #4 "Thanksgiving Feast"

Station #5- (optional) Pilgrim Games- 
  • Directions for "Three Men's Morris" and "Blind Man's Bluff" are provided for this optional 5th station.  Both of these games were popular at the time of the first Thanksgiving and may have been games that Pilgrim children would have played.

Your students will love to engage in these lessons and activities while becoming part of Thanksgiving's "living story." Head on over to our TPT store to get the 1st-3rd or 4th-6th grade 
Thanksgiving Lesson Plans today!

The Very First Thanksgiving Day Read-Aloud

Today we read The Very First Thanksgiving Day. It was the perfect read-aloud for this month. The students loved the melodic rhyming of the story. Instead of doing a traditional read-aloud with my kids, I have started doing close reads. We use the same story and read it at least 3 times. We read it for a different purpose each time. I also ask rigorous text dependent questions during each read that allow me to meet all of the Reading Literature Standards during my read-alouds.  

After the first read, we discussed the main idea and details after we read it and I jotted notes of the key words and phrases with the class. 
During the second read, we focused on the craft and structure of the text and noticed that each sentence starts with "these are the" or "this is the." It is a great cumulative rhyming story because the text repeats itself as the story progresses. The story took us through each of the major events from the first Thanksgiving. Together we sequenced the events in order using a timeline. This was such a fun activity because the book actually tells you the events in reverse so it took some "digging" into the text to figure out the correct sequence. 
Then we read the text again. Yes again! You'd be shocked at how excited they are to read the same book again. They are always eager to see what else we can learn from the book each time. This time we focused on the illustrations. Once we were done, I let them know they were going to create their own Thanksgiving Diorama using all the scenes from the book. They were so excited! This was such an engaging cumulative project and they really got to demonstrate their understanding of the text. They wrote tags to describe the scenes using the same writing craft that the author used. 

You can grab the lesson plans, graphic organizers, text dependent questions, sequencing cards, and craft cut-outs from our TPT store if you are wanting to try a new way to do read-alouds this month.