Thursday, May 15, 2014

Lovin' the Life Cycles

I'm not a fan of bugs so the idea of having ladybugs in my classroom didn't sit well with me. I'm over it now, I think I ended up being the one that was most fascinated by the whole process. We watched the larvae pupate, and change into ladybugs. We released the ladybugs into our garden, which ended up being a little bittersweet. Yes, they're bugs, but our class watched them grow and now it's over.

The day we released the ladybugs.
Over the past few weeks our class has been studying the ladybug and frog life cycles.  The students read two different articles to collect information about the life cycles. They took notes to help them compare and contrast, write summaries, write captions put together illustrations of the life cycles, and give a group presentation.

 Student comparing and contrasting and referring to text. Amazing!
Student poster with Venn diagram and summaries.
Student poster with life cycles. Some added their captions.
This project demonstrated the knowledge my class has learned over the course of the year. Most importantly referring to text. All year long my mantra has been, "Refer to the text." And, to my surprise, they were doing just that all on their own.

The activities were engaging and I could see the kids' curiosity and application of their knowledge. And isn't that what we really want?

Check out this unit!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Using Literature to Teach Voice

Teaching students to use voice in their writing can be a challenge. I mean even Carole, the author from The Real Housewives of NYC, claims it took her years to find her voice in writing. I actually found a bit of relief hearing this since I have so much trouble teaching voice to my kids. If an actual author has trouble, of course seven year olds will!

Back in February I came across an amazing book called The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. It's about a kid named Duncan whose crayons have had enough of him. The crayons felt mistreated and overworked. So each crayon writes Duncan a letter. The author writes in the voice of each crayon. He writes that the red crayon is angry for being overworked during Christmas and Valentine's Day. The orange and yellow crayons are arguing over which of them should be used to color the sun. The white crayon is upset that nobody can see him. The angry letters go on and on. The kids really enjoyed this book. After reading a few pages, I stopped showing them the pictures and let them guess the crayon color that was writing the letter.

So, as usual, the best ideas come without being planned so I decided to stop reading when I came to the pink crayon's letter. I asked the students to write in the voice of a pink crayon, which was disappointing to about half the class, but they had fun anyway. My students' writing was so creative and enjoyable to read. They had so much fun, they wrote a second letter in the voice of a color of their choice. This will definitely be a go-to writing activity each year to teach my students about voice.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The 6 Traits

We've all been there. Ok maybe not ALL of us, but lots of us. You get that tightness in your stomach and you become a little anxious. You try to extend your grammar lesson, but there's no getting around it, it's time for writing. If you know what I'm talking about, you know that some. . .many. . .most days you "don't have time" for writing. I'm here to tell you things can change!

It all started when I purchased this golden colored book. You may have seen it. You may have passed it up in Barnes and Noble. It is just another book on writing, right? Wrong! It's the best book out there for teaching kids to write. It has fun, creative, and engaging activities that teach kids and teachers writing can be the subject you want to start with and extend into another lesson because you just don't want to stop.
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