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Thursday, May 16, 2019

Science Box: Easy Steps to Include Science EVERY Week

As a primary teacher, reading, writing, and math seem to take up most of our time! But, did you know that a child's understanding of science concepts can actually make them MORE capable in these areas. Yet, there just doesn't seem to be the time, right?  This blog post shares how we have a weekly science box that is highly engaging, teaches the scientific process, and develops schema!
Each week, I pack this box filled with all of the things that will be needed to conduct our experiment.
Before beginning the activity, we must get ready! We dress like a scientist! If you want to read about how we introduce our science lab coats and build excitement, you can find that in this blog post!
We display our scientific method charts in the room within easy reach. As we conduct each experiment, we follow our flow map to see what to do next. This blog post shares how we teach the scientific method.
The first things the kids find in the box is the letter from Dr. Science! This letter tells the children their challenge as well as gives them the background knowledge they will use during the activity.
Next, they find an easy to read chart with the steps for the experiment.  We added these to give our kids a relevant nonfiction text experience. So often, we have kids read nonfiction text that teaches them how to do something, yet we don't follow through on the DOING.
In this experiment we were talking about winter sports. The kids watched video clips of skiing to see the skier jump from the ramp.  We then set to making ramps for our skiers--we used cars!
After constructing several different ramps, the kids measured to see how far each car traveled once it left the ramp.
The last thing they find in the science box will be the recording pages. This is where we record our process and our learning.
Here are a few other activities that we did in our weekly science box.  We used magnets to make our ice skaters mover along our paths.
We drew the water cycle on a baggie and hung them in the window.
Here's a close up.
We used flowers and different colors of water to see how the water traveled up the stem to color the flowers. 
These activities are included in this unit that I wrote with my good friend Adam.

If you are looking for MORE science box activities, you can find some in this unit.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Building Independence in the Pocket Chart

Pocket chart...we all have them, but do we use them?  In this blog post I share how I created some activities that could easily build over the months. This method helped kids build independence in this center since the activities follow the same format--just different skills!
Poem of the Month
Each month I write a simple poem with 4 short sentences with matching pictures. The kids sequence the pictures and then match the sentences to each picture.
Then, I reproduced each sentence on a different color of card stock.  I cut apart the sentence. The kids sequence the words over the completed sentence. After a few tries, the kids can probably sequence the cut apart sentence without the completed sentence.
Then, in a center, the kids can cut apart the sentences to make their own book.  This book is a great way to practice fluency.  Invite the kids to keep it in their bag of books for repeated reading!
Find the Hidden Picture
The kids LOVE this game. To play the game, create a set of cards following a theme.  In this example, I created a set of word cards on cloud clip art.  What you put on the cards can change throughout the year, depending on your kids...letters, words, pictures, etc. To play the game, the kids take turns selecting a word to read. After reading the word, they turn over the card to see if the "hidden picture" is behind that word.
Woo Hoo! We found the kite!
As the kids read the words, invite them to locate the word on the recording page. Using the bingo dotter, mark each word.
Word Ladders
This activity is a great way to show kids that you can make new words by changing the letter in the beginning, middle, or ending of the word.  To play the game, the kids sequence the 5 picture cards. Then, using the letters, invite the kids to make the first word.  Now, make the second word. Which letter did you change? Repeat until all of the words are made.
After playing the word ladder game, collect a work sample! Invite the kids to complete the 3 different word ladders on the recording page.
Vowel Sound Sort
Another great activity for the pocket chart is a sort.  It could be beginning sound, ending sound, word families, syllables, etc! For March, we made a vowel sound sort.  The kids name the picture on the pot of gold. Then, they sort the picture under the correct rainbow.
You can do a cut and paste as a follow up to check for understanding.
We used that same sort to make a beginning sound game, too. After sorting these word cards under the correct rainbow, the kids identify the beginning sound for each by placing the correct letter in the word.
Matching Game
Each month we also have some type of matching game.  For this lion/lamb themed game the children name the picture on the lion and then find the lamb with the correct letter to represent the ending sound.
These ideas are from our March Pocket Chart Unit.



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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Building Family Engagement Through Home Activities

Homework should be something that adds stress to the family! It should be a time that families enjoy, build relationships, and foster positive feelings towards learning.  To help this happen, we developed weekly homework bags!  This blog post shares how we organize, manage, and use these monthly themed homework bags.
I teamed up with my good friend Adam Peterson to develop these monthly units. Each month, using general themes from that month, we created 5 math games and 5 literacy games.  In order for all kids to have a bag, we made more than one of each game. Each game is stored in an envelope.
Inside the envelope are all of the needed supplies. 
This includes a directions card that explain to the parents how to use the activity.We also list the goals so that the parents would see that REAL learning is taking place! We make sure that the activities we send home are ones that the kids were familiar with.  Remember, we want this to be positive. The kids should be "showing off" all of their learning! 
All of the cards, game boards, spinners, etc. that are needed are also included.
We made the games in color and black and white. This way, if we were short on color ink, we could just print on colored card stock!
We made a large 2 gallon ziploc bag for each child.  The bag holds their "homework folder" and the game envelope they are assigned for that week.  They take the bag home on Monday and are asked to bring it back on Friday.
The homework folder contains all of the forms parents need to document their work.  It also has a place for parents to address any concerns or to "brag" on how great their kid did!
We use this form to help us keep up with which bags have been assigned to each child. We simply list their names, then under the bag they are assigned we write the date. Once, they return the bag, we cross out that date. We reassign the games for the kids to take home on the following Monday.
These bags are a great way to build fun in learning!  I have parents who tell me many years after I taught their child, how much they LOVED these bags! They provide the parents with a meaningful, engaging way to practice things learned at school.
Not only are kids practicing standards taught at school, they are also developing many social skills. So many kids play games by THEMSELVES on devices. But, by playing games with others, they learn to share, take turns, be a good loser, and offer encouragement!
They are also great for building confidence! Kids are successful, parents are happy! It's a win, win!
Adam and I have created units for each month. This is the March Homework unit, but you can find ALL of the Monthly Homework Units HERE.



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Saturday, February 23, 2019

Who Did It? A Leprechaun Crime Scene

What a fun day of engagement, learning, and excitement! I've often said that we spend our year moving from one special day to the next! These special days keep us motivated! Our Leprechaun Crime Scene Unit is one of our favorites! This blog post shares how we bring excitement, with lots of learning, during the days leading up to St. Patrick's Day.
Each of the 4 days leading up to St. Patrick's Day, the fun begins. Each day we set up a "small" room flip. As the kids enter the room each morning, they are anxious to see if the Leprechaun visited our room last night.
We use our "crime scene" markers to mark the mess made by the Leprechaun. We begin a list of the things the Leprechaun had done to our room. Take pictures for extra fun!
More "crime scenes"!
Each day, the kids become detectives as they follow a directed coloring to identify the Leprechaun that visited the classroom. We have a different one for each day.
Create a special treasure chest of fun! Lock the chest! The task for the week is to complete mystery tasks in order to "earn" keys.  Each group will collect a key for each completed task.  We have a collection of keys, with ONLY one that will unlock the treasure.  On St. Patrick's Day, we use the keys to see if we can unlock the treasure. Each group gets to try their keys! Who will open the treasure?
The Mystery Tasks
Create a set of cards with 4 suits, each suit with 10 numbered cards and one card without a number.
Create an array like above. Lay the 4 cards WITHOUT numbers in a column, face-up. Shuffle the remaining cards and lay them face down.  Kids take turns turning over a card and locating it's position on the number line.  Need more directions? This blog post shares step by step directions for this game!
Give the kids 4 sentences. I printed each sentence on a different color to make it easier! The kids have to solve the mixed up files by getting the words in the correct order to create sentences.
The kids then created their own mixed up files book by cutting and pasting the mixed up sentences.
To play this mystery game, hide the leprechaun word cards around the room. The leprechaun cards each contain a "tiny" word. The kids find the cards around the room. They use their magnifying glass to make the word larger so that they can read the word. 
Then, they find the correct leprechaun on the recording page, and write the mystery sight word.
To play this game, the kids follow the footprints to solve the cvc words. The words can be "real" or "nonsense". Invite one child to lay out 3 footprints. The other child, walks on the footprints as they blend the sounds. Write the word on the recording page.
To solve the mystery puzzles, the kids have to discover the counting pattern to put the puzzles together.
When playing this game the kids are trying to solve the mystery word.  Pick a mystery word. Add a picture to the front of paper bags. Inside each bag, place a magnetic letter needed to make the mystery word.  Invite the children to "feel" the letter in the bag. Guess the letter. Pull the letter out of the bag to check.  
As children pull out the letter, they record it under the correct picture on the recording page. Can you read the mystery word?
I teamed up with my good friend Adam Peterson to put all of these ideas into a unit. The ideas, photos, and directions are included in our Leprechaun Crime Scene Unit.
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