Sunday, May 24, 2015

Exploring Animal Habitats


This past week we were busy diving into our Animal Habitat unit!  The kiddos always love this unit and so do we!  That's what makes it perfect for the end of the year...it is engaging enough to keep the kiddos motivated!  

We start the unit with this organizer.  We use Brain Pop Jr. to learn about different habitats.  After watching the short video, kiddos draw an animal that lives in the habitat on the recorder.  You can click the picture to grab the organizer!


https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B4oqs3dO-goOU2dEdWRvNDhYYUk/edit

Next, kiddos select an animal they will study and research.  This year, we have a school subscription to Pebble Go and it is a miracle!  Pebble Go delivers Nonfiction in the perfect format for our young learners.  It is easy to read or listen to and the facts are laid out so nicely!


After selecting an animal to research, kiddos began their Mystery Animal project.  They draw the animal's habitat on the outside flap and on the inside flap, they draw the animal.  On the back of the project, they glue on their facts they researched as "clues."  They love to read them aloud to the class and let others guess their animal!



Now comes the part the kiddos usually LOVE the most...Habitat Dioramas!  Kiddos begin with making a model of their animal (the same one they researched) using Model Magic clay.  



After the clay animals have dried, they are ready to be painted!


With the animals painted and drying, the kiddos were ready to move onto their dioramas!  We started first with painting in the diorama to look like the animal's habitat.



Once the dioramas dried, kiddos started to add fun crafty things to make the habitat look more realistic.  Here's a sample of some things we used:


In the past, we've asked parents to donate items to the classroom and it has lasted us a couple years!  We collected things like sand, small rocks, fake moss, fake flowers, feathers, pom poms (to be bushes, suns, clouds), raffia ribbon (looks like hay, straw, grass), Easter grass, colored tissue paper.

The final products are so neat to look at and the kiddos are SO proud to show them off!!




We display them around the room in preparation for our upcoming Learning Celebration with families coming to class.



As a final wrap up to our animal unit, we had some fun with a Target Dollar Spot find....Animal Grow Capsules.  In partner groups, kiddos watched their capsules grow.




After their animals were finished "growing," kiddos had to do a writing about their animal.  Once again, we used Pebble Go as our resource for animal research.  Kiddos wrote one fact about their animal, such as "Giraffes can...."  After finishing the writing piece, kiddos sponge painted their animal at the top of the paper.  We will turn this into a class book next week and share the facts we found!




Sunday, May 17, 2015

got trc's? {preparing for end of year reading assessments}




We are wrapping our ELA assessments this coming week and we wanted to share a few things that we did this year to prepare!  

We have almost completed our TRC's...otherwise known as Running Records!  TRC's involve students reading specific books based on their reading level while you keep track of errors (electronically of course!).  


Following their reading, they answer oral comprehension questions.  This isn't usually too difficult for our students.   The last task...is where the tricky part comes in!  Students are given two questions to read independently and then answer in written form.  These questions require higher order thinking and are generally a bit difficult.  


When we started TRC's a few years back, we knew we needed to prepare our kiddos for the task at hand.  Sure our kiddos could answer comprehension questions with the best of them, but written response was a whole new level of comprehending text!  

Here is what we worked on ALL YEAR (as in we started this the.first.week.of.school!):

Our reading groups took on a new look.  We tried to balance reading books and passages each week.  We knew kiddos needed practice with both. 


All of our students, including our emergent readers needed practice with written response and providing proof / evidence.   The passages below allowed us to reach all of our students. These passages are written in a way that most students can read and feel successful. There is a mix of fiction and nonfiction passages within the pack.  Each passage contains three tasks; all of which require the students to go back to the text to highlight the evidence prior to recording their answer.







We found these very useful in our classroom, but needed more passages, so we created a seasonal version as well.  The passages below are also for emergent readers!  They contain stories about topics specific to each month of the year (holidays, special events, themes, etc).  All of the passages contain three questions that require evidence to be highlighted prior to recording answers; just like the pack above. 






Since we have a mix of reading abilities in our classroom, we also used:



 The questions that are asked within this pack are scaffolded so kiddos have lots of support to provide written response, then some support is taken away, and finally students are responding to text and providing evidence on their own.  






Our practice with reading and written response didn't stop at school; the homework we send home each week includes a reading passage (differentiated), comprehension questions (both multiple choice and written response), nonsense words, and language questions.  We think having exposure to reading passages and responding to text at home and school was beneficial for sure!


One story...3 levels of difficulty; with a fluency table to track improvement through the week:


Comprehension Questions and Language practice:


Available for KG, FIRST, and SECOND



We will keep working hard to complete our TRC's this week and we hope if you are in the same boat that yours go smoothly!  One last tidbit...handing out "tickets" to a popsicle party after completing TRC's has been a big hit!  We are proud of our kiddos and we want them to know it...hard work being first graders these days!