Sunday, February 4, 2018

          Integrating Balanced Literacy and Thematic Units! 
                               What a Perfect Combo! 

Did you know that you can integrate Balanced Literacy and Thematic Units to make a "Perfect" combo? Of course it takes a lot of planning, creating, organizing and time, but once you have all of that accomplished, it will help your teaching flow a lot more effectively. I will walk you through keep reading to find out more! 

The first thing you need to do is look at your standards for science and social studies. That's where your main drive for your thematic unit will stem from. Decide which thematic units you and your team want to teach. You may be thinking...yuck thematic units are a trend of the past! Well, that may have been true back in the 80's where you would only teach about apples and their life cycle and not use apples to teach properties of matter, adjectives, or 5 senses. The standards have changed a lot since then, and so have our approach to teaching thematically! I've found an easy way to integrate Reader's Workshop, Writer's Workshop, Math Workshop, Guided Reading, Focus Poetry and Word Work together so my students can make better connections! It's amazing and fun! 

Let's start with a standard for social studies. I live in Texas, so in March we do a big thematic unit on Texas Symbols and Historical Figures since March 2nd is Texas Independence Day:
 Here are the TEKS that help us know what to teach about Texas:

1.) Identify historical figures such as Sam Houston who have influenced the community, state, and nation.

2.) Describe the origins of customs, holidays and celebrations of the community, state, and nation such as San Jacinto Day.

3.) explain state patriotic symbols including Texas flags and the Alamo. 

4.) recite and explain the meaning of the Texas Pledge and identify anthems and mottoes of Texas. 

Ok- so now that you selected your standards for your thematic unit, break up your balanced literacy components and subjects. This is helpful to know what genres and what mentor texts you will be reading for each subject: 

Reader's Workshop: Fiction Texts
Armadillo Rodeo, The Legend of the Bluebonnet, Legend of the Indian Paintbrush, Click Clack Moo Cows that Type, Who Took the Farmer's Hat?, When the Cows Came Home, The Big Red Barn, Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch and When The Cows Came Home. 

Writer's Workshop: Fiction/Procedural Texts 
Armadilly Chilly, The Lonesome Star, and How to Be a Cowboy.

Math Workshop: 120th Day Texas Celebration!  Texas Counting Books, The Three Little Javalinas, 123 Texas, Counting the Texas Way, and Horse and Hen Count to 10.

Word Work: 
Texas ABC Books, Words in ABC Order/Syllables
L is for Lonestar, T is for Texas, and Texas Alphabet.

Guided Reading: Leveled Books about armadillos, rodeos, cowboys, horses, cows, deserts, or The Alamo and Magic Tree House: Ghost Town at Sundown. 

Focus Poem: Texas Our Texas-anthem.

Social Studies: Non-fiction Texts 
Texas Symbols, Texas heroes, The Alamo, San Jacinto Day, Sam Houston, Texas Pledge, Texas Motto, and Texas State Anthem. 
Alamo A to Z, Voices of the Alamo, Cowboys and Cowgirls, B is for Buckaroo, Goodnight San Antonio, Texas Jack at the Alamo, and Susanna at the Alamo. 

Science: Non-fiction Texts
Oil Spill - science experiment about how oil and water mix. 

Spelling: You can do any word list you want, and I make our challenge words theme related for example: Rodeo, Cowboy, Texas, Oil, Cowgirl, Horse, Alamo...

Next, I like to set up my Theme Center with Texas. This is a center that can be switched between science and social studies depending on your theme. Here is what my Texas Theme center looks like: 

I have posters of the Texas Heroes, Regions of Texas, puzzles of Texas, Texas books, an Alamo model and soldiers, stencils, 6 flags over Texas, oil in a jar, pecans, bluebonnets, models of cowboys, cattle and much more. This is the center template that I use for my students to complete at the center after they observe the items there: 

Ok- are you still with me? Next you will want to decide which activities, interactive notebooks, craftivities, experiments, shared reading, interactive writing, story templates, etc... that you will be having your students engaged in. I'll give you a couple of examples of some activities: 

Reader's Workshop Mini-Lesson: Review Sequencing: BME and Text Connections
My students make craftivities of The Legend of The Indian Paintbrush and Legend of the Bluebonnet during their independent reading time. 

Writer's Workshop Mini-Lesson: Procedural Texts
How to Be a Cowboy/Cowgirl

My students write a procedural story about how to be a cowboy/cowgirl and then we watercolor a sunset with silhouettes of a windmill and cowboys. 

How to Make Chili: 

We make chili in the crock pot and then we write about the procedure: 

Math Workshop: 120th Day Celebration Prickly Pear Fact Families and Texas Story Problems.

We have our students dress up like cowboys/cowgirls and we have stations around our neighborhood with 120/Texas games and activities. Here is the 120 Ten Frame Counting activity we use. The students created a trail mix and counted out 10 of each snack. We had goldfish, raisins, pretzel sticks, chocolate chips, gummy bears, marshmallows... it was so much fun! 

Social Studies: Texas Maps and Regions, Texas Symbols, and The Alamo. Here are some vocabulary cards that I use: 

We made an Alamo using beans and wrote a story about it: 

We also made a Texas Map with the Cities and Rivers: 

We also make a Texas Symbol Book with a cover page, table of contents, each state symbol, author page, may favorite symbol and a glossary. 

Science Experiment: What happens when oil and water mix? We learn about how one of the Texas natural resources is oil and how oil is used in our everyday life. We talk about Spindle Top and how it was the first famous oil rig in Texas. Then we mix oil and water and predict what will happen. Here is an interactive notebook template that my students do: 

Then, we end our thematic unit by visiting the Alamo on a Saturday field trip! We have a picnic lunch on the grass and go shopping at the gift shop! So fun! 

I hope that I helped give you some ideas about how to plan for a thematic unit. It can be done if you carefully plan. And, the best part is... you'll have it for next year! And, your students will learn so much and make so many great connections! 
If you're interested in check out my Texas Thematic Unit, click here . Hope ya'll have a great time! Please comment down below if you have any questions. Happy Teaching! :) 


Thursday, November 23, 2017

                         Mentor Texts and Mini-lessons for Writer's                                     Workshop and Readers' Workshop

Are you struggling to know what quality mentor texts to use for your mini-lessons? Well, you're in luck because I've put together a list of mentor texts by skills for K-2. How exciting! 
Finding good mentor texts can be challenging. First, you need to look at your own personal library to see what you have and divide them by skill. Don't try and ponder about what you don't have yet...that can come later. It's good to organize what you already have so you have a place to start from! Second, you need to figure out a way to keep your books so your students don't mess with them and are available at a moments notice. I use clear plastic tubs with hanging files divided into skills. I have one tub for Reader's Workshop, Writer's Workshop, Math Workshop and tubs for each Thematic Unit. Here is a picture of my tubs. I used foam letters to label them and I keep them under my desk so I can grab them quickly. The last thing I want is to be scrambling around trying to find my books! 

After you are all organized, then you can start figuring out which mentor texts you need to buy. You can write a PTO grant, do a Donors Choose project, ask for books as gifts, or buy mentor texts with budget money or your own. I usually buy my mentor texts off of Amazon... they are quick and easy to find. And, who doesn't like to shop???? Scholastic also has a lot of mentor texts too. 

Let's start with Writer's Workshop. 

These are the skills that I separate my mentor texts by:
Learning to Write/Being an Author
Tiny Moments
Dialogue/ Voice
Procedural Texts
Persuasive Texts
Narrative Texts
Informational Texts- Thematic Units

I read 2-3 mentor texts a week. Sometimes I use the same mentor text for several days especially if its a long story, or I want to revisit some parts of the book again like a tiny moment. Speaking of tiny moments, here are some mentor texts I use for this skill. This is one of the first types of writing I introduce to my students. These mentor texts provide vivid, clear and fun tiny moments for the students to understand so they can write their own later. 

I also use interactive anchor charts and interactive notebooks to accompany these mentor texts. Since I use a Balanced Literacy framework, I switch my mini-lessons around from "I Do", to "We Do". This means that some days I may read a mentor text and then other days I may do interactive writing with interactive notebooks. Here are my anchor charts and interactive notebooks for Tiny Moments. I read Watermelon Day by: Kathi Appelt. It goes perfectly with Tiny Moments! 

I have a teacher side where my students glue in their anchor chart on the left side of their notebook and on the right side is their interactive part that we did together. After they do their interactive notebook, then they can continue working on their tiny moment story independently. 

Another type of mini-lesson I like to teach is grammar. I pull in a lot of mentor texts using grammar skills. Here are some mentor texts that I use for adjectives. 

I spend one whole week on each grammar skill, but everyday is a different kind of mini-lesson. For example, if its an "I Do" mini-lesson, then I read a mentor text. If its a "We Do" mini-lesson, then we do an interactive writing with an interactive notebook. Here are my examples of my anchor chart interactive writing and my interactive notebook activity:

I like to use post-it notes for the students to manipulate or write on, that way I can use my anchor charts again year after year. I keep them in a large spiral on my big book stand. Here is the example of my interactive notebook activity for adjectives:

If you are interested in my Amazing Adjectives Interactive Notebook activity, click here

If you are interested in my Writer's Workshop Mentor Texts and Vocabulary Cards By Skill, click here.

If you're interested in checking out my Writer's Workshop Mini-Lessons for the whole year click here

Ok- now let's talk about Reader's Workshop! 

I have my mentor texts organized by skill as well:

Loving to Read
Text to Self Connection
Text to Text Connection
Text to World Connection
Text to Media Connection
Story Elements
Sequence of Events
Informational- thematic units

You can teach the different genres during Reader's and Writer's Workshop! Here are the mentor texts that I use for Narrative Texts: 

After reading these texts during Reader's Workshop, you can have your students write their own story during Writer's Workshop. For example, if you are reading about the Polar Express, you can have your students write a narrative about their own Polar Express Adventure, once they understand what a narrative is... If you're interested in checking out my Polar Express resource, click here

Here are some mentor texts that I use to teach persuasive:

You could read these mentor texts during Reader's Workshop, and then have your students write a persuasive story during Writer's Workshop. For example, if you read The Great Kapok Tree, then your students could write about persuading people to save the rain forests during writer's workshop! I always like to include a crafivity in my writing as well. 

And, of course besides teaching the genres, you need to teach the reading skills. It's easy to incorporate the skills within the genres, you just need to know which genres to use. 
Here are some mentor texts that I use for teaching Story Elements. I use folktales, fairy tales and fables mostly.

Here is the anchor chart that I use for Story Elements: 

For Reader's Workshop, my students read their independently leveled book from my library (A-O) and then respond to the skill in their schema notebook. Here is a picture of my library. I have my genre posters above the library and my leveled tubs on one side and tubs of genres on the other side: 

Here are some examples of my schema notebook graphic organizers that my students complete. I have them read a new book each day and then respond. This of course is after I have modeled how they are going to do this during my mini-lesson. (The "I Do" part.)

I also use these genre vocabulary cards to hang in my library. I take them down when I need them and put them on my pocket chart next to my big book stand. 

If you are interested in my Reader's Workshop mentor texts and vocabulary cards by skill for K-2 then click here

If you are interested in checking out my Reader's Workshop Mini-Lessons for the whole year click here . This resource includes lesson plans with the mentor texts, vocabulary cards, anchor charts and interactive notebooks for K-2.

I hope you got some great ideas for mentor texts for your mini-lessons! If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me on facebook! I have a facebook group called: Create Your Balance with Literacy. This is a place where teachers can collaborate and learn and grow about Writer's Workshop, Reader's Workshop, Guided Reading, Focus Poetry and Word Work. Come and join us and click  here

Saturday, October 7, 2017

                            We're Falling Into Fun Learning! 

Don't you just LOVE fall? I love all the smells of pumpkin spice candles. I love the taste of pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin bars. I love the feeling that's in the air as you walk outside and the feeling that Halloween and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. I love to see all the beautiful fall colors of orange, gold, red, green, and yellow. I also LOVE to do fall activities with my first graders through reading, writing, math, science and art. It is so fun to read fall books, do fall projects, fall investigations, fall math problems, and just have some fall fun!  
In this blog post I'd like to share with you some easy and fun activities that I like to do with my class. I'll share the mentor texts that I use and the activities for each subject. 
Let's start with reading! Here are some fall books that I use during Reader's workshop and Writer's Workshop: 

Here are some activities that I do with these books: 

Owl Moon: We compare realistic fiction and fiction books about owls using a Venn Diagram and then label the parts of the owl. If you want to check out my Owl Moon resource, click here

Stellaluna: We make a lapbook using a moon, bat, googly eyes and toothpicks on the cover. Inside we write sequence of events and complete a characterization template. If you want to check out my Stellaluna resource, click here

The Littlest Pumpkin: We make a spooky pumpkin and then write a story about it! 

Spookley the Square Pumpkin: We make a 3-D cube of Spookley and then write a story about him! If you want to check out my Spookley resource, click here

Scarecrow Pete: We make a scarecrow and then write a scarecrow adventure story! If you want to check out my scarecrow thematic unit, click here

Here are some books that I read for math workshop: 

The Leaves Are Falling One By One: We go outside and gather leaves on the playground in baggies. We sort, count and graph them.  If you want to check out my Leaf Investigation resource, click here

Ten Timid Ghosts: We talk about ways to add three addends together using Witches Brew. I put together candy corn, indian corn and candy pumpkins and the students sort them add three numbers. If you want to check out my Witches Brew resource, click here

Here are some mentor texts I use for science: 

From Seed to Pumpkin: We make a craftivity of the life cycle of a pumpkin and then write the sequence of it. If you want to check out my pumpkin thematic unit, click  here

Why Do Leaves Change Color: After we have graphed our leaves and sorted them, we make a leaf man! We even add acorns for the eyes! 

How Do Apples Grow? We do an apple investigation about the parts of an apple. We cut open an apple and look at the core, seeds and star. We taste four different kinds of apples and then decide which is our favorite. We do an interactive notebook template about the parts of an apple and glue it into our science notebook. If you want to check out my apple thematic unit, click here

Pumpkin Jack: We carve a pumpkin on Halloween and then save some parts of it into jars with three different environments: sand, air and water. We watch what happens as it decomposes. We write our investigations in our pumpkin journal. 

Barn Owl: We also do a feather investigation with owls. We talk about how the feathers help them fly with silent wings using force, motion and energy. We investigate different types of feathers and then illustrate and label them. If you're interested in my owl thematic unit, click here

Owl Babies: We also talk about the owl life cycle and make this craftivity: 

Corn is Maize: We investigate with Indian Corn in 3 different natural resources: sand, soil and water. We predict which corn will grow the fastest and which will not grow at all. This is so fun to watch and its amazing to see the differences in the three corns!  We record our investigation in our corn journal. If you are interested in my corn resource, click here

We make a craftivity about what we learned about corn and glue popcorn on it too! 

We also have a pumpkin patch day on Halloween! Each student gets to decorate a pumpkin of their favorite storybook character, and they also get to dress up like their character at school! We have a blast seeing all the pumpkins and costumes! can't forget to decorate your door for fall! 

I hope you got some great ideas of how to include some fall activities with your students. Happy Fall Ya'll!