How-To Build a Snowman

Do you want to build a snowman?
No, this isn't a post about the movie Frozen. Instead, I'm back to share a little more about how-to writing in my classroom.

I live in Washington, a state that sees all four seasons.  However, it seems like we spend a greater portion of our year in spring and fall weather (aka the rainy season).  So when it snows, it's all the kids can think about.  I try to capitalize on that with writing assignments with snow as our topic.  A fun project is How-To Build a Snowman!

I've shared a little about this project before.  I tried things just a little bit differently the second time and it worked out well for us.  First, the students drew a sketch of their snowman.  Next, they labeled all of the parts of their snowman.  Then, they drew and wrote the steps needed to build a snowman.  Here's a little peek at what that looked like:

This usually takes my students two writing blocks to complete.  By day three we are ready to start the first drafts.  Days 4 and 5 are filled with editing and final copies.  I have used this writing project with several of my classes.  Each year I like to make little changes to keep things fresh and new.  Here are some of the different ways we have presented our final copies in the past:

If you're interested in grabbing some how-to resources or reading more about how-to writing in my classroom, you should read this post.

Happy Teaching!

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Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.

On January 18th we will all take a day to honor the work of Martin Luther King, Jr.  During the week prior, my students are learning just how important he was in our nation's history.  Here are a few of the resources I use as well as some new ideas to try! 

Martin's Big Words
by Doreen Rappaport

This picture-book biography is an excellent and accessible introduction for young readers to learn about one of the world's most influential leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Doreen Rappaport weaves the immortal words of Dr. King into a captivating narrative to tell the story of his life. With stunning art by acclaimed illustrator Bryan Collier, Martin's Big Words is an unforgettable portrait of a man whose dream changed America-and the world-forever.

My First Biography: Martin Luther King, Jr.
By Marion Dane Bauer

 The My First Biography series brings the biggest life stories to the smallest readers. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a great man. His words changed the way people thought, and his actions spurred them on to change the world. With simple, lyrical text and bold, kid-friendly illustrations, this book introduces Dr. King to the youngest readers and inspires them to change the world.

National Geographic Kids: Martin Luther King, Jr.
By Kitson Jazynka
National Geographic Readers are educational, high-interest, and comprehensive for children. In this title, readers will learn about the fascinating life and legacy civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In this level two biography, difficult concepts are made understandable and transitioned into a more approachable manner. This includes the use of sidebars, timetables, diagrams and fun facts to hold the interest of the young reader. 

We also revisit The Crayon Box That Talked by Shane DeRolf and make connections about how powerful words can be and the message behind both Martin's dream and DeRolf's text.

 Since January lends itself to creating resolutions or goals with your students, I thought it would be a great idea to connect resolutions with Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream and have each student come up with a dream or goal they have.  

If you want to put your students dreams on display, you could try this mobile from Scholastic.  There is a free printable on their site.  Just click on the picture:
source: Scholastic

I just saw this one posted on Sunday and had to add it to this list of resources.  I love how the photograph adds a personal touch!
source: Fun in First

Another idea is to try a directed drawing of Martin Luther King, Jr.  Here are two options:

Jennifer @ First Grade Blue Skies is one of my go-to girls for directed drawings.  This one is part of her January drawing pack.  You can read more about it by clicking on the picture:

I also have this freebie saved from Mrs. Miner's Monkey Business.  Click on the picture to grab your own copy:

After the drawings were complete, students could copy one of his quotes onto a speech bubble and display the two together.  Educlips has some adorable speech bubbles that would be perfect for this project.  You can grab those here:

I hope your students enjoy learning about the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. as much as mine always have.
Happy Teaching!

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Fortunately, Unfortunately Stories

Several weeks ago I shared with you about an entertaining poem I write with my students (click here to read).  Now I'm back to share a second form of writing I have done with my second and third grade students: Fortunately, Unfortunately stories.

Many moons ago when I was a little girl, my teacher read me the book, Fortunately by Remy Charlip and I wrote my own Fortunately, Unfortunately story.  

I knew I had to get my hands on this book.  Unfortunately, it's kind of hard to find.  Fortunately, our school library had a copy I could borrow.  I read it to my students and we discussed all of the elements the author used.  It also helped that we had previously worked on cause and effect, too.

For the next two weeks my students worked on these stories during Daily 5 and either myself or a volunteer would conference with them during our writing block.  Finally the stories were finished.  I typed them up in Word and then created little booklets where each idea had it's own page.
(Please forgive my use of Comic Sans - this story was typed in 2010)

The books were printed and the students started illustrating.  Once completed, the students picked their cover (fancy-schmancy cardstock), the books were assembled, and ready to share.  

I know that Fortunately by Remy Charlip is not easily found.  There is good news.  I was recently introduced to this book, which follows a similar pattern: Fortunately, Unfortunately by Michael Foreman.

I hope you'll try writing these stories with your own students.
Happy Teaching!

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Polar Bear Resources for the Primary Classroom

A few days ago I shared with you some of my favorite books to read when learning about polar bears (click here if you missed that).  Today I'm back to share some of my other favorite resources to use when learning about polar bears.

I love to start with gathering information about what my students know (or think they know) about polar bears.  I write down all of the ideas shared, even if the other students (or I) disagree.  By this point of the school year, they know that some of their classmates may have misconceptions and that we will clear things up along the way.  Here is what an anchor chart might look like on the first day:

As we read new texts about polar bears each day, my students are collecting facts and information on graphic organizers.  Some of these we use in a whole group setting and others are used during their guided reading sessions: 

As we near the end of our unit, my students construct a mini-book about the information they have learned, complete with a table of contents.

Throughout this little unit, I also make these poetry books for my students.  We use them for fluency practice and the students love to read them with their buddies during Daily 5.  There's even one blank acrostic poem page for your students to create their own.

I updated all of the files I have used with my students in the past and put most of them in a little pack for you.  You can grab that mini-pack here:

I purchased the polar bear clipart from Educlips and you can find that here.

I have also found a few other resources online that are super helpful:

Polar Bear Craft & Writing Pages (First Grade Blue Skies)
I love adding crafts to content.  This polar bear craft is meant to hold student work.  You can either choose one of the writing pages Jennifer has included in the pack or add your own.

Melting Ice Experiment (Crayonbox Learning)
This pack includes a science experiment to conduct with your students.  First students predict whether ice will melt faster in salt or fresh water.

Blubber Experiment (I Can Teach My Child)
This one takes more time and more prep work, but really illustrates the idea of blubber and animals adapting to their environment.

Polar Bears Hundreds Chart (Lil' Country Kindergarten)
This one works well for my second graders as an entry task, with a guest teacher, or as a time-filler.

I hope you have found some helpful resources for your polar bear studies.  If you have any other great resources I should know about, please let me know.
Happy Teaching!

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Polar Bear Books

January is the perfect time to begin a new unit in the classroom.  Teachers and students are returning from a two week Christmas break rested and ready to learn.  The weather is cold and the students are daydreaming about snow.  I try to capitalize on this energy with a unit on polar bears.  Here are some of my favorite books to read aloud and during small group time.

 The Bear Report by Thyra Heder
This book is new to me, but I now know it would make a fantastic read aloud for introducing a polar bear unit to my students.
Sophie does not want to do her homework, a research report on polar bears. Bor-ing. They’re big. They eat things. They’re mean. What else is there to say about them anyway? As it turns out, plenty. And when a polar bear named Olafur swoops her away to the Arctic, she soon learns all about the playful bear’s habits and habitat—from glacier mice to the northern lights—and, despite her first reservations, she finds herself not just interested but excited about the Arctic. When the two are swept out to sea on an iceberg, Sophie’s new knowledge and knack for creative thinking pay off in a big way: she calls a whale to their aid! Inspired by her journey, she’s ready to return home and take another swing at her assignment, this time with gusto.

Polar Bears by Gail Gibbons
Gail Gibbons has a knack for writing nonfiction text that primary students love.  This one is filled with illustrations and rich information about polar bears which makes it perfect for a read aloud.
The polar bear is the biggest and most powerful of the animals that are able to survive the hostile climate of the Arctic. Cubs are born during the cold dark winter, even though they start out with only a thin coat of fur and weigh a little over one pound. The mothers raise and teach them so they may grow and survive in the wild. Here is information about how polar bears swim and hunt, how they keep warm and dry, and the many other ways they adapt to their environment.

If I Knew a Polar Bear by Karen Sutula
This is a rhyming poem turned into a picture book.  It's new to me, but after reading I would type this up as a poem for fluency practice throughout the unit.
Does a polar bear have friends? Find out in this beautifully illustrated 20 page book that is a fun poem about a polar bear and his quirky friends. Like the arctic fox who is always losing his socks or the snowy owl whose breath is rather foul.

The Magic School Bus Arctic Adventure by Gail Herman
You can always count on The Friz to combine fiction with nonfiction to capture student interest!  This book will give your students information about the polar bear's Arctic habitat.  If you'd rather use this with a guided reading group, it is a Level 2 reader.
Ms. Frizzle and her class are off to the Arctic to discover the different animals that live there, and other fascinating facts about this polar area.

Magic Tree House: Polar Bears Past Bedtime by Mary Pope Osborne
I love how these chapter books weave nonfiction so seamlessly into the storyline.  I think that's why kids devour these books, too.  After all, they get the best of both worlds!  I use this pack to guide my instruction with my level M readers.
The Magic Tree House transports Jack and Annie to the freezing Arctic where they must solve Morgan Le Fay's final riddle in order to become master librarians. But it's not going to be easy — especially when they have cracking ice, a seal hunter, and a prodigious polar bear to deal with.

Magic Tree House Fact Tracker: Polar Bears and the Arctic by Mary Pope Osborne
This is one I reserve for my higher readers due to the amount of vocabulary and text to tackle.  It would also make a great read aloud.  I use this pack to guide my instruction.
When Jack and Annie got back from their adventure in Magic Tree House #12: Polar Bears Past Bedtime, they had lots of questions. Why is the Arctic so cold? What did the first people of the Arctic eat? How do polar bears cross thin ice? What other animals live in the Arctic? Find out the answers to these questions and more as Jack and Annie track the facts.

Magic School Bus Chapter Book: Polar Bear Patrol by Judith Stamper
Like the Magic Tree House, these Magic School Bus Chapter Books use a fictional story line in which nonfiction text features and facts have also been included.  I use this pack to guide my instruction with my second graders reading at a third grade level.  
Hi, I'm Tim -- one of the kids in Ms. Frizzle's class. When Ms. Frizzle announced that we'd be studying the North Pole, I never thought it would lead us to the top of the world. I also never thought I'd get to see seals, caribou, musk oxen, and polar bears in person, but that was just the beginning. Find out all the bone-chilling facts of our Arctic adventure!


All of the texts above are great for my second graders reading at or above grade level.  But what about my students who are still reading at a Kindergarten or first grade level?  I have found a few texts:

 Who Lives in the Arctic? by Susan Canizares
This would be a great nonfiction text for my lowest readers during guided reading.  The text follows a predictable pattern with colorful photographs to offer text support.
Is the Arctic a cold and lonely place to live?  See who has made this environment their home.

Polar Bears by Kate Riggs
The description for this one mentions kindergarten, but this book is better suited for first grade readers.  There are 1-2 sentences per page with large, colorful photographs for text support.  It would make a great read-to for even younger readers.

This kindergarten-level introduction to polar bears covers their growth process, behaviors, their Arctic home, and such defining features as their all-white fur.

Polar Bears by Marcia S. Freeman
This would be great for my students reading at a beginning first grade level (E or F).  It includes photographs, a table of contents, and a glossary for discussing text features.
Text and photographs describe the appearance, behavior, and habitat of polar bears.

Polar Bears by Emily Rose Townsend
This is another great book for my beginning first grade readers.  Like the book mentioned above, it includes a table of contents, glossary, and photographs.
Photographs and text introduce the characteristics and behavior of polar bears and their habitat in the Arctic.

Polar Babies by Susan Ring
This one is a fictional story that focuses on more on the activities of polar bears.  It's definitely a fun read for my beginning first grade readers.
Readers can spend a day with two polar bear babies and learn about the things they do. 

Follow the Polar Bears by Sonia W. Black
This has a bit more text per page, but it would be perfect for those mid-first grade level readers.  It has colorful illustrations and about four lines of text per page that reads more like a rhyming poem.
In this book, a mother polar bear, who has waited in her den for the birth of her twin cubs, teaches them how to hunt and to recognize danger. When they are grown, they set out on their own.

Polar Bears by Laura Marsh
This one is packed with information, colorful illustrations, and text features.  It could be used with a higher level first grade group, but I often use it for a read aloud or read-to.
With their beautiful white fur and powerful presence, polar bears rule the Arctic. These majestic giants swim from iceberg to iceberg in chilling waters, care for their adorable cubs, and are threatened by global warming. In this level 1 reader you'll learn all you ever wanted to know about polar bears and so much more. Complete with fascinating facts and beautiful images, National Geographic Readers: Polar Bears can't miss.


If there are any other polar bear books you think I should take a look at, feel free to add them to the comments below.  I'll be back soon to share some of the other polar bear activities I use.

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