Great Winter Activities and How to Build a Snowman FREEBIE!!

Hi everyone!
I hope everyone is keeping warm and cozy during this crazy winter weather…
Speaking of winter
You know how our kids get all antsy when they can go outside and  get some energy out?
If you know me, you know very well that I am always very intentional with every instructional activity that I design. However I always try to sneak in some fun because
let’s be real
having fun and learning at the same time is pretty awesome!
Have you ever read the book “Snowzilla” by Janet Lawler?
This is the story of a little girl who, with the help of her family, builds a gigantic snowman. The story goes on and on until the little  girl has to blog, text, email… to save her Snowzilla. I love this story because our kids can connect to it. I also love how the community works together to achieve a goal.

{Click HERE to get from my TPT store} 

This great Snowzilla mini-unit has these activities:

This is a great activity that can be done in a small guided reading group before you introduce the book. It can also be done independently in a literacy center to review and practice new vocabulary learned.
In this activity, the students put the puzzles together in a pocket chart. After the puzzles are put together, the students complete one of the three sheets provided. Each sheet is differentiated, from easiest to most challenging.
Oh and don’t forget!
Direct vocabulary instruction can be implemented using a research-based six-step process. {The Marzano Way!}
The six steps of the vocabulary instruction process are:
1.Provide a description, explanation, or example of the new term.
2.Ask students to restate the description, explanation, or example in their own words.
3.Ask students to construct a picture, symbol, or graphic representing the term or phrase.
4.Engage students in activities that help them add to their knowledge of the terms in their vocabulary notebooks.
5.Periodically ask students to discuss the terms with one another.
6.Involve students in games that allow them to play with terms.

The activities in this section are designed to review the concepts of verbs, nouns, and adjectives.
I like the idea of “zooming in” in the evidence to look for language patterns… when our students look at characters, key details, settings, etc., their comprehension of any text is greater.
These activities can be done in a small guided reading group or independently (if your students have the command and strategies to problem solve unknown words).

These pages are designed specifically for a small guided reading group.
Young children need a lot of practice zooming in on the text and illustrations to locate evidence and then articulating their discoveries orally and in written words or pictures.
As with any type of writing, children will gain a better understanding of how to craft an effective response if they can watch you do it first. Then, based on this experience, work with students to develop a shared criteria so that they can self –assess their own response.
Each sheet is differentiated, from easiest to most challenging.

Who doesn't need some opinion writing to match standard W.1.1!

And my most favorite activity: How to build a snowman.
3 cups of baking soda
½ cup of white (inexpensive) hair conditioner
This amount makes about 4 snowmen
Mix all ingredients in a big bowl, and voila!
Use googly eyes, a toothpick broken in half for the arms, whole cloves for the buttons, and strips of felt for the scarf.
After making Snowzilla, guide your students through the “how-to writing.” Your kids will love this activity, and your classroom will smell glorious!
Because I heart you all, I am posting the how-to writing for free here! Click on the picture to download. I hope you and your kiddos love this activity as much as we do in room 208!

 Click HERE to grab this how-to writing for FREE!

Thank you for stopping by and happy winter!
Love and blessings,

The Reading and Writing Connection In the Era of Higher Standards {and a FREEBIE!}

Hello everyone and happy New Year!

I hope all you had a great Christmas. We spent the holidays in Cincinnati with our family, and as usual we had a blast. This past week I have been working on my Pinterest boards, cooking some nice meals, and just savoring every minute with my sweet boys.

I don’t go back to school next week {which is quite nice!} but the week after next. As soon as I set foot in my classroom I need to get everything set to test my firsties reading and writing development, in what is known as the “middle of the year” benchmark or MOY.
Not one single day goes by without wondering what the best strategies  are.
what  the most effective methodologies are,
or just simply…
How  I can help my students with written comprehension.
I am sure you can relate.

Teaching with the standards in mind allows us the opportunity to “pick-and-choose”  about what truly matters in terms of our literacy instruction.  It is almost like separating your laundry. Like separating your whites from your darks.
It absolutely is.
We want our literacy instruction to be meaningful and engaging, not just busy work.
We need it to be deep and connected, not just cutesie.
We want to be intentional and purposeful with the reading and writing strategies that we teach our students.
But most of all, when we keep the standards in mind, we can transform our classrooms into true learning communities for both, students and teachers.
I made the following slide, and from the bottom of I my heart I say: THAT is the teacher I want to be. THAT is the teacher that I want for both of my boys.

So what do we know about the reading and writing connection?
Fountas & Pinnell (2011) tell us that:
Student’s written responses to what they have read provide evidence of their thinking. When we examine writing in response to reading, we can make hypotheses about how well readers have understood a text.  Written responses should be coconstructed through the use of interactive and shared writing before students are expected to produce them independently  as assignments.
The gradual release of responsibility model is crucial when it comes to teaching the standards, and guiding our students towards the mastery of written comprehension skills. I blogged about the gradual release HERE.

And what do we know about raising rigor?
One of the most valuable resources that I own and that I go back to every time (and I mean it, every time)  is “The Common Core Lesson Book K-5” by Gretchen Owocki.  I like it s much. Not only this resource, explains the standards to the point, but it also shows you the characteristics of effective classrooms in this era of higher standards:

Balanced literacy instruction where guided reading and strategy instruction are present.

Be proud of your literacy block. Cut the fluff and use your time (and your students’ time) wisely.

Integrate content area and make sure to write about reading across the curriculum.

Most importantly.
So how about the reading – writing connection in the era of higher standards?
This written comprehension matter has become so important. You’d think that because I write these blog posts and because I create materials for my TPT store, I would have it all figured out.
Well, I don’t.
Teaching written comprehension is the most challenging part of my day, but it is also the most rewarding. I have learned that written comprehension goes beyond the essential set of reading and writing behaviors. For our students to be truly proficient in written comprehension (per state expectations), they must be reading grade level text (or above) but most of all, they should have a full understanding of the complexity of each standard.
What does this mean?
It means that if you have a student that is reading below grade level {click HERE to see the F&P text gradient}, you should be addressing  the standards for that particular grade level. Or how many times we have students who can read the yellow pages but who cannot get passed the written component. Then again, it is all about the standards.
If you have a first grader, who reads at a third grade level,
then guess what?!
third grade standards is what you should be teaching.
You may think that teaching 3rd grade standards is developmentally inappropriate for a 7 year old.
I completely agree with you, growing a reader that is already high, is VERY hard.  In this regard, I feel that PD in learning about the similarities and differences in the progression of the standards, grade by grade, should be a must. 
Just my humble, Colombian, opinion.
And then, there should also be PD about the literacy continuum grade by grade in relation to writing about reading.
Just my two cents.

And just in case you are interested, I am developing a set of written comprehension units based on my observations above. The first product in this series, addresses written comprehension for standard RL.1.1. “Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.”
Take a peek at the pictures of this product in action:

Vocabulary strips related for this particular standard.

I can statements and essential questions. When your students are able to relate to a lesson or a goal, they are displaying ownership of their own learning.

A  small group matrix with reading and writing behaviors to address this standard. Click HERE  to download!!

Eighteen  passages  that are not leveled for any particular reading level or specific grade. As a matter of fact, leveled text is only done by trained professionals and approved by publishing companies. I am a teacher just like you! On the other hand, I wanted to focus on the written response/comprehension strategies and the scaffold our students need to be successful in this area. Each passage with one star has been scaffolded for those students who need more support. Each passage with two stars has not been scaffolded at all and will present a bigger challenge for your students.

The graphic organizers provided are to be used with the passages, they are a tool to add a reading/writing strategy that supports the full understanding of this standard. They, however, can also be used with any other text/leveled books that you own. At your discretion, these pages may be used at any point in the gradual release of responsibility model.

These mini-posters are the ideal resource for students with processing difficulties, English Language Learners, or students with poor linguistic experiences. You may use these mini-posters during whole group lessons, guided reading, strategy groups, or for your students to use independently during literacy stations.
You can get it  from my TPT store.
What kind of things do you do in your classroom to enhance the written comprehension of your students? Leave a comment and you might get this whole unit for free!

I better get off this computer now. I have to do a pile of laundry the size of Texas and I have to put all the Christmas stuff away!