Sunday, April 26, 2015

Oh No! An Oil Spill! (A Science and Writing Project)

Today I want to share a super fun science experiment and writing activity that I did with my first graders last week. We had a great time as we participated in a little experiment about the importance of keeping our planet clean.  

I filled up three big pails with water, vegetable oil, and feathers! I added food coloring so that the oil showed up more for the kids.  Then, as my kids came into the room, I said to them, in a panic..."There has been a HORRIBLE OIL SPILL and a lot of wildlife creatures need your help!" I went on to explain that they would be working together as scientists in small groups to try to save the wildlife and clean the water.  I warned them that the job would not be an easy one...dun, dun, dun! ...they would have only a sponge and a spoon as their tools!
(Cue Dramatic Music)

 I explained that before my students could get to work saving the water and wildlife, they would have to discuss the situation with their fellow scientists and devise a plan of action. I SOO wish I could share the video with you that I captured of their discussions with one another. If you can imagine three small groups of eight children in each, huddled together over their oil spill, and seriously talking about the best way to retrieve the feathers and soak up the oil, your heart would be as full as mine was!  My room was buzzing with scientific discussion and critical thinking. <3

As always, our science experiments are connected and rooted in writing activity and skills. The students had to record the steps to their plans of action within their science journals. If you want to read another post about how I utilize science journals, you can click here

Here's a little peek at one of my friends' science journals.  This is the beginning of her plan of action. My students were intent as they wrote their plan of action. This cause is simple: Their writing had a purpose - the bucket of their "oil spill" was right there in front of them, ready and waiting to be used for hands-on learning! When our students' writing has a hands-on purpose, their motivation is not only activated, but it is sincere and passionate!



After each student wrote his or her "plan," it was time to get busy! Each group of scientists were handed their tools and they got to work, each trying to remove the feathers carefully and extract the oil from the "ocean."

This was some of the conversation I heard during this part of the experiment. I have to admit, some of the discussion was thought-provoking, and some of it was just downright funny!
"I saved a bird! Guys, I saved a bird!"
"I got a sample of the oil."
"Ewwwwwwwwwww!! It's sticky!"
"I think the sponge is absorbing the oil."
"THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE!!"
"I feel so bad for this bird. I wonder if it was a baby bird."
"I don't think this is working..."

Haha!! I was loving it! After my little scientists realized that cleaning out all of the oil from the ocean was not going to happen by the time our first grade day was over, they headed back to their desks for some post-writing activity:
The students had to create a new entry in their science journal and write about what they learned through this experiment. I'm very big on making sure my students constantly understand that the reason scientists do experiments is because they want to share their findings and learning with the rest of the world through speaking and writing. Yes, science experiments are fun but they are also very important! :)
The final section of our science journals was the "lesson" of the experiment.  I had my students write about what they wanted OTHERS to know about the experience they just had.  In other words, this was a simple way for me to find out, "What would you teach others based on what you just did?" Here is one little one's response:
Earth Day success! I think this experiment and writing activity was a great way for my kids to explore, question, discuss, and activate their thinking about the importance of having a healthy planet with clean water!  I hope you enjoyed these pictures and this activity!  Even though this was done for Earth Day, I really believe it is a great hands-on lesson that can be used at any time of the year with your kids! 

Thanks so much for stopping by and catching up on our learning!
*Disclosure* No wildlife was injured or harmed in the making of this experiment. ;)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Teaching Students To Determine Importance!

What do all of these items have in common?
They were all used to teach my readers how to determine importance when reading text!
 As a first grade teacher, we spend A LOT of time working on retelling skills. With lots of practice and constant retelling instruction throughout the year, I must say my little ones end up as retelling experts by the time spring hits! But as I begin to transition my kids from first grade to second grade, we start to discuss how to determine importance within fiction and nonfiction texts.

Why is it important to determine importance when reading? For starters, it's a necessary skill when we identify the main idea within a text.  My little readers also need to be able to determine importance in order to be successful at summarizing, which is hit hard in 2nd grade.  It can be a difficult skill, but they are rockin' it with the help of some concrete, hands-on literacy lessons! Let's take a look:
 I started our little unit on Determining Importance with a tried and true literacy guru: 
Tanny McGregor!  In Tanny's book, Comprehension Connections, Tanny uses a strainer and pasta to make the illustration that some pieces of information within a text are important, while others are not important - they are "extra" pieces of information.  I brought cooked pasta that I had boiled at home and as I read a story, I slowly drained the water into bowl using the strainer and a pot. We discussed that the water was the "extra" information (or information not really needed for our overall understanding), and the pasta was the really important information.
 As I would read books throughout the week, I used the strainer as a concrete reminder when we sorted important information vs. extra information.  I ended up placing the strainer on top of my head and explaining to the students that I want the REALLY important information to fill up my brain. I shared that sometimes, I do read a book and "forget" some of the little, extra information.  Every single teeny detail does not always STICK or DRAIN into my brain! 

To fully show the lessons I taught, here are some embarrassing photographs from these actual lessons - just to keep it real! :)  
 The next hands-on activity we did also came from Tanny McGregor! I told you she was AMAZING, right?!  I had my kiddos make a circle around the carpet and shared an anchor chart with them.  The chart had two parts to it: Things I MUST keep in my purse and things I DO NOT need in my purse. (If you're new to my blog and totally confused by the name on my chart, that name is my "in real life" married name that my kiddos actually call me haha!) 
 I set out all six items from my purse and placed them in front of my kids. (Yes, I really have LOTS of items in my purse but for the lesson's sake, I picked out six items: lotion, my wallet, my driver's license, my school and car keys, sunglasses, and a pack of tissues.) Together, we discussed and sorted the items into the two categories.
 The kids did A LOT of talking among themselves about which items I needed and which items I did not need. They did a great job at explaining WHY they thought I needed or did not need each item.  

Here are our results from this activity:
 My kiddos decided that my wallet was needed in case I was in an emergency and needed some money.  My driver's license was important because I needed it to drive - or as one kiddo said, "Well, obviously that's important!" haha!  My school keys were needed because without them, I couldn't get into the school!    We decided I could still survive without my tissues and lotion in my purse. The sunglasses were tricky for some kiddos. Many thought I definitely NEEDED them.  I explained that sometimes I forget my sunglasses, but I'm still able to drive myself to and from school and home!  ;)

I also created some more hands-on and concrete learning activities to continue our study of Determining Importance!  This pack is available in my TpT store - let's take a look at what we did in my classroom!
 Remember the items displayed on my table at the beginning of this post? Working together as a class, I told the students that we were going to make a pizza! I laid out a variety of different pizza ingredients: crust, pepperoni, cheese, olives, pizza sauce, and mushrooms.
BUT, there was a catch with our pizza-making that day! I told the kids they could only choose THREE items to make their pizza! They had to choose the MOST IMPORTANT ingredients to make their pizza!
 After LOTS AND LOTS of discussion about why we don't NEED pepperoni to make a pizza ("But Miss DeCarbo, I looooooooove pepperoni on my pizza!!!"), we decided on our three most important ingredients: We all agreed that without the pizza crust, it's not a pizza! That item was IMPORTANT.  The class also agreed that we needed to use our last two ingredients for sauce and cheese.  The pepperoni was yummy, but it was not absolutely needed to make and eat pizza!  It was a really fun and highly engaging way to get them to critically think and determine importance!

Here is a snapshot of some of the printables that go along with this pack.  If you can't use food in your classroom, I've re-created this activity with ingredient picture cards for the pizza that you can use as you have this discussion and create your anchor chart together.
 After we had a lot of concrete experiences, it was time to let the kids have a little hands-on fun in small groups!  I used my Important Mission envelopes from my Determining Importance Pack to get my kids thinking and analyzing important items vs. extra, unnecessary items.  Here's a picture of what the "mission envelopes" look like:
 Each "adventure" contains SIX items that someone could possibly bring along with them on the various "trips." For example, in the picture below, the cards display six items someone could possibly take on a trip to the beach. 
 The challenge? The kids can only choose THREE items to take on their trips and these three items need to be the most IMPORTANT items that are truly NEEDED for the trips!
This may sound easy at first, but my kids found out that some items were really hard to decide on! My heart was so HAPPY because my kids were continuously discussing and analyzing each item with one another. Talk about critical thinking skills being activated!
 In the picture above, my kids were having a serious debate.  They were deciding whether their third item should be a towel or the sunglasses. "Can we bring four items with us to the beach, Miss DeCarbo?"  "No, sorry!! You can only bring your three most important items!"
(Enter groans and a lot more active discussion among the kids!)
(They eventually settled on sunscreen, a bathing suit, and the towel. They told me that they would put sunscreen on their eyelids so their eyes did not burn, and they could go sit in the shade for a bit if the sun was too bright!) Haha!
 These students determined that the three most important items for their trip to a Deserted Island was food, water, and clothes. They had to rule out a book, a tent, and an iPad! ;)

Each "adventure pack" comes with recording sheets that allow your students to sort items of importance vs. extra items. The recording sheets also contain a critical thinking question in which the kids had to justify their reasoning for bringing the items they choose. 

We applied our learning by sorting fact strips related to a specific topic onto an anchor chart. I read a fact on a sentence strip and the students had to discuss and decide whether the fact was important to the text or whether the fact was just "interesting" or "extra." 

My Determining Importance Pack contains sorting cards on various topics that you can use to complete this same activity with your students! Students can also cut and paste the important vs. extra facts onto a recording sheet of their own.

Passages to practice determining importance and engaging graphic organizers that you can use within your small groups or for read alouds with this reading strategy are also included within the pack:
I hope you enjoyed reading about our Determining Importance unit! If you'd like to grab this reading strategy pack to use with your kiddos and in your classroom, please click HERE or on the picture below to check it out in my TpT store! :) 

Thanks for stopping by! Happy Reading, Happy Teaching, and as always -

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wordless Wednesday Word Work!


We are having A LOT of fun practicing our words during Word Work this week!
Have you let your kiddos write their words on their desks yet?! My students are LOVING it! 

Join us for this week's Wordless Wednesday by linking up below or browsing everyone's weekly photographs! Have fun an Happy Wednesday! 


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wordless Wednesday Linky Party is BACK! {Googly Eye Masks}

It's back! Wordless Wednesday has finally returned. Thank you for being so flexible while this linky took a little break last month! I'm happy to say it will not only be back every Wednesday but that I will also be keeping the link-up window open each week from Wednesday at 6:00am EST to Saturday at 11:00pm EST.

I've also attached the linky party rules for Wordless Wednesday in case you need a refresher or are joining us for the first time! :)

I picked up these adorable little googly-eye masks at Michael's Craft Store last night! Aren't they so cute?! My husband asked, "What in the world do you need those for?" I told him, "I don't know yet, but I will think of a way to use them in a reading lesson!" ;) I already have some ideas for visualizing, point of view, imagery...

How would you use these little cuties in your classroom? 

Don't forget to link up with me below with your Wordless Wednesday picture and visit some of your favorite blogs! :) 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Problem & Solution Strategy Series!

Hi friends! Tonight I want to share the first pack of my brand new "text evidence" reading series!  If you follow my blog, you know I LOVE to teach my students about comprehension reading strategies.  I'm always super excited to bring comprehension strategies and skills to life for my students. While we definitely revisit, teach, use, and discuss multiple reading strategies within our small groups, I prefer to really zoom in and focus on one strategy at a time during my mini lessons.  I will usually spend between 2-3 weeks teaching a specific comprehension strategy to my kids.  We do hands-on activities, modeling, think-alouds, read alouds, text applications, and application to the real world when we study a comprehension strategy. 

It's really important to me that my students apply the comprehension strategy to text during and after learning about it. I have really been in need of a pack of passages that I can quickly grab and use within my small groups that are all focused on one specific comprehension strategy.  Enter: my new Comprehension Passages Strategy Series sets!
First up in the series is: Problem & Solutions!
This pack contains 20 passages that mirror my original Text Evidence passages.  
Let's take a look at a work sample to see how these passages are used in small groups:
For each short, manageable story, the students read the passage three times to practice and refine their reading fluency.  
In this pack, the students will then underline the problem of the story in red.  (Students can use colored pencils, crayons, markers, highlighters...whatever you would like!)  They will also go back and identify the solution of the problem by underlining it in yellow.  
Finally, students illustrate the story to demonstrate comprehension of the story as a whole. 
Here's an overall look at these passages:
If you download the preview file in my store for this pack, you can grab the following passage for FREE to try out with your kiddos!
The pack also contains really convenient and highly visual color coding cue cards for your students! There are large posters and smaller posters available for your preference. You can choose to have a simplified version of the color and strategy and/or a version that includes the definition.
I created this pack to use within my small groups as a way to specifically target a comprehension skill we were learning and focusing on.  However, I realized I was able to use this pack in so many other ways, too! Morning work, homework, sub days, and even as assessment to check my students understanding and their ability to apply their new skills to text!  The possibilities are many. :)

If you'd like to download the preview for the freebie or take a closer look at this pack in my TpT store, click HERE or click on the cover below. 

Next up in this text evidence/comprehension series? Compare and Contrast!
I'll be posting the Compare and Contrast set in the next couple of weeks. :)

Thanks for letting me share this new Strategy Series of Comprehension Passages with you!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Compare and Contrast Activity Fun!

Our big comprehension focus for the 4th quarter is Comparing and Contrasting.  For the first few weeks, we focus on the basics. We use lots of photographs and visual activities to practice comparing and contrasting two objects, animals, people, or places.  I want to make sure my students have a solid understanding of how to compare and contrast information they can see, touch, or information they already know before we dive into comparing and contrasting two pieces of text. 

Here are a few of the activities we have been doing to practice our comparing and contrasting skills!
 We started off by contrasting ME to our art teacher! This was fun for my kids because ALL students had an equal opportunity to be successful and to participate in the lesson.  This is due to the fact that ALL of my students have about the same amount of schema and knowledge to bring to the lesson. We did a few of these Venn Diagrams together, on the smart board.  (The next day they compared our gym teacher to our principal!)
I set our next activity up in a type of "Scoot" fashion.  This got my kids up and moving around the room! First, I set Venn Diagrams randomly around the room.  Next to each Venn Diagram, I set out two animal photographs. (The photographs come from The Speechstress on TpT and can be found in her Compare & Contrast Animals pack by clicking HERE.)

The students then wandered around the room with a partner, adding to the Venn Diagrams as they circulated the room.  The students would write one similarity and one difference and then move to another Venn Diagram together. I loved the discussion that went into this lesson!

When we finished, we had many Venn Diagrams that were all completed by a variety of different students in our classrooms!
We are having SO much fun writing compare and contrast essays during Work on Writing this week!  For this little writing center, students choose two monsters from our basket.  I printed out a bunch of papers so the students had a lot to choose from and could repeat the activity multiple times with new monsters!
The monster cards come from oopsey daisy's M is for Monster blog and can be found on her blog by clicking HERE.
 The students glued both monsters to a piece of writing paper and named each monster. (Their favorite part and it's SO funny to read the crazy monster names they come up with haha!)  My kiddos are writing one paragraph to compare the monsters and a second paragraph to contrast the two monsters. They are LOVING this and doing a fabulous job with it! Most kids are taking two and three days to work on their writing pieces because they are SO into it!



We also worked on applying our comparing and contrasting skills to text. I wrote a quick little paragraph about each of these little clip art people and we searched for similarities and differences on the smart board. (Sorry, these smart board files are not available to be shared. They were created for personal classroom use for the time being.)
 After we identified our similarities and differences within the text, we transferred this knowledge onto a Venn Diagram to organize our information.  

We did a few other activities over the past few weeks that I forgot to take pictures of, of course! We:

-Compared and Contrasted shapes for math
-Created Venn Diagrams about ourselves and our desk partners
-Wrote sentences about a topic using signal words from our anchor chart. Then, the students read their sentence aloud and the class had to decide if the signal words were being used to compare or contrast within the text.

I hope this little post can give you a couple ideas on comparing and contrasting activities for your classroom! Thanks so much for stopping by!