Friday, August 31, 2012

Scaredy Squirrel

Using Picture Books to Teach Writing With the Traits

I highly recommend  Ruth Culham's & Raymond Coutu's book to teach 6-traits!  I first came upon this resource while student teaching.  As many know, there isn't time to read large books while teaching.  This describes each of the 6-traits.  Each 6-trait has two or three lesson plans, and each lesson plan is based on a mentor text.       
 I love Scaredy Squirrel--and it is a great book to use to talk about how to organize a story.

Scaredy Squirrel, by Melanie Watt
I split the class into six groups of four.  Each group received a large piece of paper--and worked together on that portion of the book:  the completed project: Scaredy Second Grader.

The six categories:

What scares you about going to third grade?
What are the advantages/disadvantages of staying in second grade?
Daily Routine of second grade?
Second Grade Emergency Kit
Emergency Plan
Exit Plan

Scaredy Second Grader

Scaredy Second Grader never leaves second grade.  She'd rather stay in her safe and familiar classroom than risk venturing into third grade.  Third grade can be a scary place for a second grader.

A few things Scaredy Second Grader is afraid of: ISAT Tests, third grade bullies, not being in class with the same friends, third grade work, teachers, Worker Wednesdays, and Wednesday overheads.  She even heard there were clowns, snakes, and spiders in third grade.

She is perfectly happy to stay right where she is!

Advantages to never leaving second grade:
  • No new time test
  • No new teachers
  • No ISATS
  • No clowns, snakes, and spiders
Disadvantages of never leaving second grade:

  • Same lockers
  • Same teachers
  • Same tests
  • Same classmates
  • Same lunchtime
  • Same poems
In Scaredy Second Grader's classroom, every day is the same.  Everything is predictable.  All is under control!

Scaredy Second Grader's daily routine:
  • Daily Work Journal
  • Read
  • Pledge
  • School Pledge
  • Calendar
  • Response Journal
  • Gym
But let's say, just for example, that something unexpected DID happen..... You can rest assured the the second grader is prepared!

A few items in Scaredy Second Grader's emergency kit:
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Scissors
  • Bandages
  • Parachute
  • Tissues
  • Smart Hat
  • Guard dog (for the bullies)
  • Bug spray
  • Helmet

What to do in case of an emergency according to Scaredy Second Grader:

Step 1: Panic
Step 2: Run
Step 3: Get kit
Step 4: Put on Kit
Step 5: Consult Exit Plan
Step 6: Exit second grade (if there is absolutely, definitely, truly no other option.)

Exit Plan (top secret)
1. Jump out of window.
2. Get bad grades so they will send me back to second grade.
3. Run around the school like a hobo.
4. Pretend to be sick so they will send you back to second grade.

Remember, if all else fails, playing dead is always a good option!

With emergency kit in had, Scaredy Second Grader learns and studies.  Day after day she learns and studies until one day . . . . . . 

Second Grade Ends!  Scaredy Second Grader jumps in panic, knocking her emergency kit out of her classroom.  THIS was NOT part of the plan.  

Scaredy Second Grader jumps to catch her kit.  She quickly regrets her idea becasue she jumps right into third grade.

She notes that third grade isn't so hard.  There is nothing horrible happening in third grade.  Even ISAT tests aren't that hard!  

After compiling the book--each student was able to illustrate their own personal book.  Think about the students making their own emergency kits.  I would love to be able to do this project again--and hope it would turn out even better!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cloud Books--Reviews and Recommendations

Image of the book Cloudland by John Burningham
Cloudland, by John Burningham
I love this book!  It is visually captivating, well-written, and a fantastic adventure. As you can see from the cover, the characters are illustrations superimposed into an actual picture of a cloud.  Inside the book, you will see beautiful sunsets, amazing storms, jet-streams, many different types of clouds.

The story begins innocently enough, Albert and his parents are hiking, when Albert falls off the cliff and is caught by the children who live in Cloudland.  Albert lives with the children in Cloudland.  They sleep in the clouds, swim during rainstorms, make as much noise during a thunderstorm as they can!  Albert even gets to walk across a jet-stream.  Albert loves his time in Cloudland, but misses his parents.  He returns home, but always remembers his adventures in the clouds even though he never returns to Cloudland.  But we can always return, in our imaginations, writing, and creating new adventures for ourselves in Cloudland.

Little Cloud, by Eric Carle

I think the author/illustrator's name gives this book an automatic recommendation.  In this book, the cloud forms different shapes: an airplane, a clown, a hat.  It ends with the cloud joining other clouds and turning into rain.  I love looking for shapes in the sky.  Mostly I see dragons--I have two boys and we read a lot of books about dragons.  But one day, I was lucky enough to see a cloud shaped like an airplane.

An Airplane Cloud

Cloud Dance, by Thomas Locker
This book has beautiful illustrations and wonderful prose -- I love its artistry in both word and pictures.  It brings science and art together.  It takes you on a journey through time by illustrating the changes clouds make with each season.  The last two pages of the book has additional information on clouds and how they are classified and written.
The Cloud Book, by Tomie de Paola
Don't you love Tomie de Paola.  This book is non-fiction, but  de Paola brings his sense of humor into the book.  Both my fourth grader and second grader loved his illustrations of the two idioms:  "He's in a fog." and "She has her head in the clouds."  I only wish he had an illustration for "I am on cloud nine!"

Clouds, by Anne Rockwell
 This book is my go-to book for clouds.  After reading this book, I understood the different ways clouds were named.  The illustrations are simple, so it doesn't distract from the learning and information.  It is rather long.  My kindergartner couldn't sit through this.  But for older kids, it is a great read!  

Shapes in the Sky by Josepha Sherman

I love reading this book to my five-year-old.  It is nonfiction, but shorter than Anne Rockwell's book.  The illustrations take up the entire page, with the words written in the clouds or the sky.  My daughter doesn't like books that are too "busy" or "detailed" in their illustrations.  For example, looking at a Jan Brett book is too overwhelming to my sensory child--but this book is perfect for her visual and auditory sensory disorder.  A great read for kindergarten and first grade!  It contains instruction on how to make a cloud, a glossary, and a resource page.

Just in-case you missed it before.  I made a clouds can-have-are chart!  After you read the nonfiction books, you can fill out the chart.

Cloud Graphic Organizer

Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday Made It: Home Edition

I set up this hanging file folder.  Each of my children has their own hook and section for their take home folders.  Theoretically,  they will hang up their backpack and put their agendas and take home folders away every day after school.  I even have a hook for my badge and teacher's information.  I found the red storage chart at Educational Insights. 

They also put their lunch boxes away.  I still need to make the box for library books and make their after school checklists.  

There is already resistance from some well all of my kids--but I plan to stay strong!

I hope this will keep me from losing important things.

Check out other great ideas on Monday Made it.  

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The winner of the laminator is

To Deniece, the wonderful blogger at: 


Thank you everyone for entering.  My generous heart wanted to give everyone a laminator--including myself.  But don't worry, I will have another giveaway when I reach 200 followers--and it may even be another laminator!  I was also thinking of giving away that really cool pencil sharpener that everyone keeps bragging about. 

As for the Lego jar.  There were 22 minifigures in the jar.  If you guessed correctly, you got five extra entries.  Deniece did guess correctly!  I think that probably helped her win!

I can't believe it has been over a week since I last blogged.  But I do have an excuse.  We went on a vacation and came back home with only one day to spare.

 We flew west on Thursday, and flew back to Illinois on Monday night.  We arrived inside our house at 1am.  (That was after waking up at 4 am to start our journey.)  Sometimes I just don't think flying stand-by is worth it.  I guess that is why I'd rather drive to the East rather than fly.  But we did get to climb a mountain.  We also were able to see cousins we don't see very often and form new friendships.

There is Joshua on the side of the mountain!  He loved the hike.  We kept having to go back and forth between the turns until we reached our destination.  

When we arrived home, we had to get ready for school.  We were so out of sorts, I don't think we even did first day of school pictures.  Maybe we will try first full week of school pictures?  

So hopefully, I will start to get used to the new routine--and come up with some fun ideas.  I can't wait to see your ideas as well!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

ABC Actions!

Image of the book Classrooms that Work: They can all Read and write
Classrooms that Work

I love this book!  It is a wonderful book for new teachers and gives great ideas how to set up a reading block.  I've already read it twice--but I think it deserves another read.

One of the activities in this book is Alphabet Actions.  For almost every consonant there is an action.  T-tap, C-catch, D-dance, and then ending with S-sit.  It could be used during for a time filler--a way to transition the students from one activity to a seated activity.  So with that in mind--I made posters for each action.

Here is one of my favorite: L-laugh

Ll is for laughter

Because this is a phonemic exercise, I only put pictures and letters, not the words.  This way the students can connect the letter to the sound it makes.  

Now you can always use my posters--or you can make your own!  I am sure the kids would love having this as a classroom book. 


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What's Your Math Problem

My dad was a college math professor.  Geometry was his love!  Maybe because in geometry--you do solve problems from many different ways.  Math always came easily to me: the logic, the concepts, and the understanding.  So as a teacher, I wondered, would I be able to teach something that came so naturally to me?  The answer was of course, yes!  Partly because it came naturally to me--I could see many different ways to solve problems, and understand there were many different ways to come to the same answer, and more importantly there may not be the same answer to the same questions.

I love this book because it really focuses on the process of thinking and solving problems.  It is not just solving word problems and knowing which key words means to add, subtract, multiply and divide.  It is understanding concept, applying concepts, and sharing your ideas with others!

Here are some of the notes I jotted down while reading:

Learning math = making connections to ideas we already understand and extending the new ideas to novel situations.  (Doesn't this make you think of reading comprehension--when a student comprehends he/she is making connections and extending his/her knowledge and applying it to new situations!)

Non-routine:  does not immediately know how to reach a solution.

I love that--they don't know how to reach a solution--meaning they will have to think, work, communicate with others before they reach a solution!  I always felt it is better to teach a student how to think--and this book helps us do that!

This type of thinking and problem solving also lends itself to tiered learning.  Example:

How many ways can you make change for a dollar?

This could be easily tiered using different types of coins for each group!

This inspired me to another problem solving activity.

How will Romney win the election?  Which states does he need to reach the magic number of 270?

How will Obama win the election?  Which state does he need to reach the magic number of 270?  If he looses Texas and California to Romney, will he still be able to win?  How?

The electoral college lends itself to so many cool problem solving activities.

Electoral Map

Remember the magic number is 270.  If there is a tie--and it has happened before--it goes to The House of Representative and they vote for the president!  

There are so many ways this little map can be used--and so many ways to get to 270!  

Can't wait to read more!

Remember to go to Math Coach's Corner  and read her take on this!

The Little Cloud

picture of Eric Carle's book Little Cloud
Little Cloud, by Eric Carle

I always like to make connections to literature.  So me made our own little clouds.

Our Little Cloud

We got out the shaving cream--and we started to create!  We did this outside on a plastic table cloth--but it could easily be done in the classroom on laminated paper!

Dragon Cloud

The Little Cloud turned into a dragon!  I think this could make a great classroom book--and you are even using the sight word little.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Made It--Math Facts and a Giveaway

Math facts Station

I love this station--it is easy to make--and students can work together to solve the problem.  Each cup as the answer, and each stick has the addition problem.  They loved it!

Now for the giveaway.  I have reached over 100 followers--so I decided to be generous!  I noticed a lot of teachers would love their own laminator!  I would love my own  laminator, and I don't even have a classroom.  This is Scotch's Thermal Laminator.  It comes with 20 sheets.  I will order it through Amazon.

Now to enter:

1. Become a follower--make a comment!

2. Like my facebook page--make a comment!

3. An Estimation Jar

Estimate how many lego minifigures are in this jar--and comment.  You can have your entire household or classroom estimate--just put each estimation as a different comment for individual entries.  The closest entry will get 10 extra entries for the giveaway!

Good luck!

The giveaway ends August 22--our first day of school!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Suzuki Saturday--Music Camp

This summer we went to our first music camp!  We had a great time.  

Here is Emily in her Orff Class.  She loved it!

She made Aiken Drum.  The song they worked on every day!

Joshua telling the story of Aiken Drum.  He was the Key Maker.

Joshua's performance.  Their teacher was awesome!

Harrison during his private lesson.  They are playing a duet.  It was really fun.  She would say black and Harrison could only play on the black keys.  She would later yell white, and Harrison would play on the white keys!

Harrison playing with his teacher.

Joshua during Mime.  He is doing the warm-up.  He loved it!  Emily however did not.  We ended up skipping the class because it was too abstract for her and little or no visual cues.

Emily in art class!  The art teachers were wonderful!

Joshua is working on his Pollack piece.  It was so fun to go the the Art Institute this last week and see an actual Pollack.  A great time was had by all!

I like that this was a Piano Camp rather than a Suzuki Camp.  My boys take traditional lessons, so we could go as a family.  I loved how they offered lots of different types of classes.  We were able to stay in the dorms which had a kitchen, so I love the accommodations.     

Friday, August 10, 2012

Book Spine Poetry

I found this idea from my friend at  I have been friends with her forever--and I love all of her ideas and insights.

The artist Nina Katchadourian, took pictures of book spines and created art and poetry. I showed the idea to my boys, and we pulled out some of our books with interesting titles.  Their creativity took off!  I loved hearing their excitement, language, and the pure fun of working with words.  This would be a great first week activity or center.  I gave the boys my camera!  (Also a great idea for the center, so they could record their creations!)

Read the poems from top to bottom!  Remember the pictures were taken by a third grader!

Book Spine Poetry

Tuesdays at the Castle
The Killer Angels
The Hundred and One Dalmatians

Where the Sidewalk Ends

No talking

new moon
First Day Jitters

The Maze Runner
It Takes a Village
The Help
It Takes a Village Idiot

Mary Poppins
The Girl Who Could Fly


Harry Potter
The Maze runner
It Takes a Village
Mary Poppins
The Help
It Takes a Village Idiot

First Day Jitters

Highest Duty
Harry Potter
The Maze runner
It Takes a Village
Mary Poppins
The Help
It Takes a Village Idiot

New Moon
Where the Sidewalk Ends

Highest Duty
Harry Potter
The Maze Runner
It Takes a Village
Mary Poppins
The Help
The Girl Who Could Fly
The Wizard of Oz
It Takes a Village Idiot

The Inferno
Things Fall Apart
The Hour Before Daylight
A Brave New World

The Inferno
The Hunger Games
Things Fall Apart
Sharks over China
No Talking
Endagered! apes
An Hour Before Daylight
Brave new World
New Moon
The Way of Kings

I would love to see your creations!