Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Getting ready for Read Across America: making my own truffula trees!

My librarian and I have been driving each other nuts about planning our Read Across America celebration. We talk about it EVERY DAY and seem to add more and more and more, until we finally say, "Who's gonna do all this stuff?!"
Anyway, I got a headstart this past weekend with some craftiness that I wanted to share. This project was so easy but it really got a lot of attention from the kids and teachers, so it's worth it!
Don't you LOVE it?! Its my own truffula tree! AAAAAA!

And they were so easy to make, that I decided I had to share them for Monday Made It!

This is what I needed to make two pots with two truffula trees in each.

- Two pots (I used plastic, but you could use whatever you have. I got mine from Wal-Mart for $.97)
- Four sticks. Curvy sticks from your actual trees make GREAT truffula trees.
- Spanish moss. You could also use Easter grass or paper shred.
- Ribbon, thin enough to wrap around the tree trunk.
- Four styrofoam balls. 
- Styrofoam or floral foam, to put in the pots to keep the trees from falling over. I guess you could also "plant" it, but I don't know how that would work.
- A feather boa from the craft section - you can find them at Wal-Mart.
- White paint (and paintbrush)
-Glue gun & glue sticks.

Ok, so that seems like a lot of stuff, but it was actually really easy.

First, I painted the sticks white and I let them dry.

Once they were dry, I hot-glued ribbon (I only had blue, but you could use black) to one end and then wrapped it in a spiral all the way up to the other end. Then I hot glued the end down.

Then I cut the styrofoam to fit inside the pots. I did this outside, because it left FAR less mess to clean up. 
I took the boa and hot glued one end onto the styrofoam ball. I continued to glue around the ball until it was fluffy and the styrofoam was hidden. Then I cut off the rest of the boa to use on the other ball. I repeated this until I had covered four styrofoam spheres. (Can you tell I'm trying to avoid the plural of "ball" here? It must come from having four brothers, or teaching fourth graders.)

I shoved the stick into the styrofoam in the pot, and then I shoved the styrofoam ball on the end of the stick. So cute.

Then I took Spanish moss and glued it around the base of the trunk, to cover the styrofoam.

The original site where I found the directions for the truffula trees is here at Hangin with Mrs. Cooper - her trees were much larger than mine, because they're for a classroom decoration all year!
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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Writing Good Conclusions: And now you know all about dogs. I hope you liked my story.

Ok, when you saw that title, what happened? Did your eye start twitching? You started to stutter, "N-n-n-no-n-n-not-not-again." Your hands began to shake as Cynthia Rylant turned in her grave. 
I know kids write some pretty terrible conclusions, but, in their defense, so do adults. I have always felt that writing a conclusion is the hardest part of writing. I feel like my conclusions are redundant and uninteresting. They add nothing to the writing while failing to encapsulate my central idea. If I feel like that about conclusions and I'm an adult who's been writing for years, why would we expect kids to get it without lesson after lesson of explicit instruction?
To help our kids write interesting and purposeful conclusions, we planned a similar lesson structure to our introductions lesson. You can find the lesson sequence (brief) and the sample anchor chart here
First, the teacher shares an example of the type of conclusion being used in authentic text. Great samples include Sports Illustrated, National Geographic for Kids, and (sometimes, depending on your city) the newspaper! 
Then the teacher discusses with the students: What strategy did the writer use to write this conclusion? Why should we try this type of conclusion? and adds it to the anchor chart below.

After adding the type of conclusion to the chart, the teacher modeled writing a conclusion similar to the one on the chart. It's important to think aloud during this model! We need to show kids what happens inside our brains so they can start thinking like writers!
Using the teacher's model and the text model, the students write a conclusion in the same style.
The teacher repeats this process with the other types of conclusions, until students have three different conclusions about the same central idea. The teacher and students then choose the best conclusion to add to their pieces. 
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Monday, February 3, 2014

Currently.... I am being lazy.

It's been a really long time, but I thought this month I should link up with Farley's Currently!

So I'm sitting on my couch and the family is around. There's my hunny, his godfather (basically like an uncle), our good fried, and his parents. And me. And me is the one who doesn't care about football. 

So I'm sitting here, stuffed full of potato chips and dip, and trying to not be so disinterested in everything around me. Because when I'm that disinterested, I become Chore Girl. Whatever someone else wants done that they don't want to do because they're too absorbed in the game, I have to do. This includes things like getting more chips, throwing things away, refilling sodas. 

And that's why traditional gender roles stink. I should be able to dislike and be totally bored by the Super Bowl, but sit on my butt in front of the giant TV just like everybody else.

Oh! Truths & Lies:
1. I HATE Harlequin Romances. I can't find any value to them. I know some people really enjoy them, but they are the least interesting and most poorly written literature ever! To be honest, there are really only two pages in each book worth reading.... and I bet you can guess which pages those are.
2. I don't like regular sodas- so true! I really like Diet Dr. Pepper... and that's it! 

3. I loooooove those little holiday slipper socks. I have, like, five pairs. Christmas, Halloween, Valentine's Day. I looked for Thanksgiving, but no luck. 

If you haven't checked out the Bright Ideas Blog Hop, you need to hop on over there!
Here's my post and you can hop all around from there:

Hop over to Farley's and check out everyone else's Currently!
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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Bright Ideas Hop: Special Delivery Book Bags

I'm ridiculously excited to be participating in the Bright Ideas Blog Hop, created by Shelley Gray of Teaching in the Early Years!
(This is my first hop, so I hope I can keep up!)
Today I'm sharing a simple idea that can help create excitement about reading in your classroom. It's easy to use for kids of any age!
Special Delivery Book Bags!
Teaching kids how to read is important. But teaching kids to want to read is just as important! So we have to find ways to build in excitement about books into our day!

Special Delivery Book Bags are an easy way to use simple materials to really engage kids in the joy of reading! Each teacher in my school was given a kraft gift bag and tubs full of fun crafting supplies! We went to town, glueing and cutting, sticking and glittering. 

Two Ways to Use the Bags

This teacher was especially excited about her BOOK-worm!
There are several ways to use the Special Delivery Book Bag to build excitement around reading and celebrate books.

1. The Book Fairy Delivers!
When you buy a new book, put it in your book bag on top of your desk, table, or another conspicuous place. When the kids come in, tell them that you found it there when you arrived at school! It's a special delivery! Later today, we'll open it up and find out what's inside! And what's inside? A NEW BOOK! TO LOVE AND TO CHERISH! You read it aloud and model the joy of reading.

A little sparkle never hurt anyone!
2. Find a buddy!
Have a support teacher or a neighboring teacher arrive at your classroom door during classtime with the Special Delivery Book Bag. "Special Delivery!" they declare when you open the door. You are surprised and say, "This is a surprise! What's in the bag?" After the normal amount of teacher pantomime and general building-up-ed-ness, you open the bag, cry for joy as you discover a new book, and stop everything to read!

Extra bling-y!

However you use it, this easy tip can help get kids thinking about the joy and discovery that comes with reading a new book!

If you're  looking for more great ideas, visit the next blog on the blog hop, written by at Cindy Feeney at Love Those Kinders! She shares a great tip about motivating kids to use paper, glue, and crayons to encourage learning from creative hands! Or check out linky party below to choose a topic that's up your alley! Thanks for hopping with us!

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