Monday, September 28, 2015

Can I turn Halloween into Something Educational?

                                                                                                                   We can't believe it's almost October... again! We are trying to maintain our focus to engage students in educational activities, even (and maybe especially) for the holidays. 
(Read more on our focus here...)

All teachers know that Halloween is such an exciting time for students. 
If any of you are like me, I use to dread the week of Halloween because it sometimes felt like wasted learning time. Some of you might be skeptical that Halloween can be considered anything but fluff... 
Be skeptics no more! 

With the goal to provide something worthwhile, meaningful, and educational, we have created standards-based Halloween activities that do much more than just keep students busy. Now, Halloween can become another great 'holiday' opportunity where teachers can put their students' strong interest to good use. 

So here it is...our non-scary, Halloween close reading lesson. This unit provides a printable, age-appropriate text that focuses on the historic origins of the holiday and compares Halloween traditions then and now. 

You may also love that we have included an individual set of text dependent questions for each grade level in order to cover all of the CCSS 'Reading Informational Text' (RI) standards for your specific grade!

The lesson plan guides teachers as they help students to 
  • revisit the text in search of deeper information
  • take notes on a graphic organizer
  • use their new knowledge to write their own informational text in a Halloween accordion book.  
Teachers can even give students the option to "hauntify" the covers of their texts as shown here: 
A 'hauntified' cover of the text

This amazing & educational Halloween lesson plan is available for 1st-3rd and 4th-6th in our TpT store. Please click on the images below to purchase your copy.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Meet Beekle!

If you haven't read this book to your class yet, they are missing out! This creative story will ignite your students' imaginations as they travel to a place of imaginary friends and unbreakable bonds between real friendship. The book is Beekle.

Beekle is an imaginary friend who is searching for a child to imagine him. Instead of waiting to be chosen as an imaginary friend, Beekle decides to search for his friend. You will follow him on his journey to the real world, where he explores strange real world things.  

This story has a fun twist at the end that students don't typically catch on to the first read.  Its clever story-line requires inference and analysis of illustrations, which make it perfect for a close read. We really dug into this story in my classroom with some rigorous text dependent questions while re-reading the story multiple times for different purposes each read.

The first time we read Beekle, I asked some key ideas and details text dependent questions.  We discussed the 5w's of the story and completed this graphic organizer.  

The next day we read the story again and asked text dependent questions about the craft and structure of the story. Students found adjectives to describe Beekle.  Then, students imagined their own friend and wrote adjectives to describe him/her. 

The third day I asked integration of knowledge and ideas text dependent questions.  Students filled out a 5w's page on their own imaginary friend and used the graphic organizer to write their own story. 

Once we were done with the close read we did a fun craftivity to go along with the story. My students got to make their own Beekle using shaving cream and glue

It was so fun and turned out so cute! My students absolutely love Beekle. They were so excited to hear there may be a movie made based on this book. 

You can get all of the lesson plans, text dependent questions, graphic organizers, and templates shown from our TPT store. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Monarch Butterfly

My students were so excited to get a caterpillar. I have to admit, I was pretty excited too!
Meet Cutie the Caterpillar. 

I have never watched a caterpillar go through the life cycle and didn't know much about it. As I started researching about Monarchs, I found so much to teach. For the beginning of the school year I knew I needed to break up the life cycle to make it easy for my first graders to understand. I decided to write a text about each stage of the life cycle and knew it would be the perfect way to introduce text coding for the first time this year. 

I projected the text to model text coding. We marked the main idea, unknown words, and key details. Then we took notes on the key ideas that we wanted to remember.  

Then I gave my students a copy of the same text. We went back and coded it the same way all together.

We did the same thing for the Larva stage. 

Then we tried it in partners.
And finally by ourselves. 
Then, together as a class, we used our notes to complete an interactive writing about the life cycle of a butterfly. 
Here is what we came up with...

Then, I let my students complete their own. 
This was such a fun unit!
You can grab detailed lesson plans and everything you need for this unit from our TPT store. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


How do teachers find time in their day to teach everything? This is the timeless question that all teachers ask themselves on a daily basis. The answer is to integrate, integrate, integrate!  Sure, sure... everyone has heard this answer before. But, this time we actually tackled integration effectively. We found a meaningful way to integrate science, writing, and close reading into one unit. 

This summer, as I was planning my rocks and minerals unit, I wanted to try to strategically integrate close reading and writing. As I dug into this project, I realized I had a problem. I wanted students to be able to independently close read, code text, take notes, then write. If my young students were going to be able to do all of these things, I knew I would need to provide them with text they could read independently.Yikes! I didn't have the budget or resources I needed to make this a reality. I discussed this issue with my team (The Core Coaches) and we decided the solution was to write text for the students. We wrote a student book for each rock then decided this wasn't sufficient. One level of text wouldn't provide all of our students text they could read independently. We ended up writing four levels of differentiated text for all three rocks!

This unit was a smashing success! I introduced each rock by reading aloud a complex teacher text that we strategically wrote to scaffold this entire close reading and writing process. As I read the teacher text to my students, they were instantly hooked! I asked text dependent questions to help them dig deep into the information and use evidence from the text to support their answers. Text dependent questions are a great way to meet all the Reading Informational Text Core Standards.

Next, we discussed the main idea, key details, unknown words, and confusing parts. Then we coded the text together as a class using the text coding poster.

After digging into the complex text together, I provided each of my students with his or her own text. It was exciting to be able to provide all my students with a text they could be successful with. I carefully scaffolded my lessons so my students could code their own text. 
After coding, we took notes. My note-sheets correlated with the text so it was simple for the students. 
Once we completed the text dependent questions, text coding, and note-taking for each rock, I had my students use their notes to write. For this unit we wrote rock trading cards. They love writing these trading cards and I was impressed with the amount of information they were able to write about rocks. I know the text coding and note-taking really helped my students soak up information so they were able to write amazing products.  

We also did many other fun activities between each close read and text coding lesson. We made rocks out of food, found pet rocks, wrote a poem and a story about our own rocks, and painted rocks.
Do you want to try this in your classroom? It's all in our TPT store. Below is a picture of part of this unit. We have written detailed lesson plans for you to follow, provided text dependent questions, teacher text for all 3 rocks and 4 differentiated printable student text for all 3 rocks. Even the rock trading cards have differentiated options. This pack includes EVERYTHING you need for your rock unit. You do not need to supplement with anything else.