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Now that the school year is well underway, some of our little friends may be needing reminders on how to be a kind friend or good citizen. I am a firm believer in the importance of character education. Social skills are just as important as learning academic concepts at this stage in the game! We need to teach our children to be well rounded individuals... and that begins with how they treat those around them! Unfortunately, there are just not enough hours in the school day, so I try to embed these lessons into our literacy block.

One of my favorite book series for primary aged children is Frog and Toad. The characters are kind but silly, and always seem to be learning some type of lesson that the kids can pick up on.

Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel leads to excellent discussions about equality, fairness and respect. These three concepts are a large part of friendship and citizenship, and this book models it in a way that is comprehensible for seven year old kids! After reading the book aloud, I like to engage the students in a whole group discussion about the ways Frog and Toad were kind friends to each other in the book. I lead with the example of Frog writing a letter to Toad when he felt lonely. We talk about how it would feel to receive a letter if we were feeling lonely -- most kiddos agree that it would make them feel better. 

Then the children pair off and talk about ways they can be good friends to each other. After two minutes, we come back as a large group and share our answers. In the past my students have come up with answers like: "Ask a friend to play at recess that looks lonely." "Share your toys at recess." "Tell a friend you like their shirt." It is amazing how quickly they're able to make connections to their own lives.

The next day, we do a cute "craftivity." We review how Frog and Toad were kind friends and how that connects to their own lives. We examine the ideas they came up with the previous day and then they create their own Frogs and Toads with speech bubbles explaining how each individual is a good friend. They always look adorable in the end... they're great to decorate the classroom or hallway... AND serve as a reminder of how to be kind friends/good citizens.

Once they have grasped the concept of being good friends, they can then move on to the more broad concept of being a good citizen. Another day, we spend time thinking about what it means to help in our own community, and ways in which we can do so. I don't know about you, but my kids always love watching books on the smartboard. 

It really isn't anything different than a read-aloud but it just spices things up a bit. So we "watch" the book City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan. (You can click on the image below for the link to the read-aloud.)

When we finish watching City Green, a book about a girl that works to make her city beautiful, we brainstorm ways that we can help our community. 

After the minds of the students have been primed, they head back to their seats to start making their own lists of ways to help in their community. Some of their ideas were quite inspiring! I just love how their little brains work!

We also started a class collection of canned goods for a local food pantry. We kept a bag in the front of our classroom for the kids to bring in items from home to donate. Our goal was to fill a brown grocery bag... and we did! It was heart warming to see how excited the children got as we worked to fill a bag of food for those in need.

If you found these ideas helpful, check out the Interdisciplinary Citizenship Unit written by Lauren's Learning Corner and myself. 

This 20 day unit is aligned to the Common Core Standards and includes activities, read alouds and projects similar to those you read about above. 

I hope you found a few ideas that will be useful in your classroom! Thanks for stopping by and keep up the good work!

Determining Importance

In a previous post, I raved about Tanny MacGregor's book Comprehension Connections. It is just full of great ideas. Even though our Smashing Strategies for Guided Reading series is finished in the spring, I am still going to continue with a few more helpful tips that may aide in making your guided reading a little easier!

One strategy that I find very difficult for my primaries to grasp is Determining Importance. I am sure you have been there... you ask for a quick summary and then get a five minute, play-by-play retelling of an ENTIRE BOOK! So cute, but not exactly what you asked for!

Because primary aged students are concrete thinkers, I love how Tanny demonstrates what determining importance looks like in a practical and tangible way. The first thing that I did, was pull our my personal handbag (aka purse), which is shamefully messy. Having a two year old, I always just end up throwing things that I need and wait, what seems like months, before cleaning it out again. So, to kick off our lesson, I became a bit vulnerable and showed my students the reality of my deep, dark purse! I pulled out many of the objects in the purse and asked them to help me figure out which items I needed to come to school that day. They had to DETERMINE what was IMPORTANT for me to bring to school.

Of course, they thought it was hilarious when I pulled out a bottle of nail polish, coupons for a box of Popsicles (yum!) and essentially, other useless junk. They were quickly able to deduct that I only really needed my keys, to drive to school. My wallet, which contained my driver's license and the colored pens that I use for correcting. Aside from that, there wasn't much else that I needed. It was all just extra fluff. (Don't mind my bare feet... preggo problems...)

The next demonstration was hands-on and the kids flipped when they got to participate! We talked about how sometimes when we read, there is extra stuff, that is just not important. Kind of like when parents cook pasta on the stove. I asked them to walk me through the steps...

First, their parents have to put water into a pot and let it boil on the stove.

Then, they had the pasta to the boiling water to let it cook.

STOP. I asked them, when the pasta was finished cooking in the water, if they just ate it right out of the pot? Like soup, pasta in hot water. NOOOO! They all shouted! After that, water had to be strained right out of the pasta.

WOW! I stopped them here. "So you mean, that the water strains out of the pot, and all the important stuff (aka pasta) stays in the pot. Just like when we read... we want to get rid of all the extra information and only remember the MOST IMPORTANT information. Determining Importance."

Ahhh... light bulbs went off in their little brains, like the 4th of July! So fun!

At this point, I introduced our FOUR THINKING STEMS that they would be using to complete their sticky note assignment during guided reading that day.

* What's important here...
* One thing that we should notice...
* I want to remember...
* It's interesting that...

The kids then went on to do their quiet reading at the guided reading table. I listened to each one, checking for fluency and comprehension. All the while, they were using the thinking stems to complete sticky notes for information in the book that they determined important. I tell you, if you haven't used sticky notes for your guided reading yet, I would highly recommend it. They absolutely love it and it's a great quick check for you, the teacher, to assess their understanding of the strategy at hand.

At the end of the guided reading session, which flies by in what seems like two minutes, I asked them to each choose the sticky note that they were most proud of for the day. They would then share it with the group. With some groups, if time ran short, I had them share their sticky note with the friend sitting next to them, and I listened in to each conversation.

The following week, I gave the students half sheets of paper with these Determining Importance thinking stems listed to use during their Daily 5 stations, This way I could see the progress, if they were able to Determine Importance at their independent reading level without my support at the guided reading table! Happy Teaching!

The Best School Year Ever GIVEAWAY

As many of you may already know, the Teachers Pay Teachers website is running a HUGE SITE WIDE PROMOTION  August 1st & 2nd! Everything in my store will be 28% off and the sale will continue in my store for the rest of the week, too!

And to piggy back off the sale... I am going to have a $50 TpT Gift Card Giveaway AND be running new promotions every day Monday - Friday including:

- $1 Daily Deals
- Daily Freebies 
- Daily 50% Off New Releases

Here's a little sneak peak for what is coming on Monday >>>

Don't forget to enter the giveaway to win the $50 gift card... Refer a friend and double your chances to win as well! Just send them this link so they can follow along and enter in the drawing too!

Send this link to a friend >>> http://bit.ly/2apkAUq

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here's to planning the BEST SCHOOL YEAR EVER!

Big Changes!!!

Hello everyone!

It's been quite a busy summer for us over here... Hubby has been working CRAZY hours and to add to the mix, our sweet baby girl #2 arrived three weeks early on June 21st! Hence, my lack of posting in May, June and July! It was a rough pregnancy but we are so thankful our sweet baby girl is here!

The transition to a family of four has been relatively smooth... for which we are so thankful! We have a wonderfully supportive family and the most amazing friends we could ever imagine! Our friends from church have been bringing up meals for FIVE weeks... And we have TWO more weeks of meals coming from my girlfriends whose husbands work with Andrew! Incredible... I don't know if I will remember how to cook after this! 

Big sister ABSOLUTELY ADORES her little sister! My biggest issue is keeping big sis from smothering little sis with kisses! 

Being home with these two is an absolute JOY and I am so thankful for the time with them...

Which brings me to our next BIG CHANGE... I have officially resigned from my teaching position and will be a full time stay at home mommy! It was a very difficult and bittersweet decision, but it is definitely what is right for our family at this time! We are grateful that the Lord has allowed for us to do this! 

I am still planning to tutor and continue to share on my blog and through my TpT store. Both have been sources of enjoyment for me, and a blessing to our family so we'll keep that going amidst the crazy of two sweet little girls! 

Thanks for reading! Keep tuned for a MAJOR GIVEAWAY to celebrate BACK TO SCHOOL PREPARATION with the BEST YEAR EVER SALE  starting AUGUST 1st >>> Everything in my TpT store will be 28% off + other FUN promos!!!  


Welcome to the third and final post of Smashing Strategies for Guided Reading, a monthly-link up between 8 teacher bloggers! Each of us will share a guided reading strategy, a teaching tip, and sometimes a freebie! Each month, you’ll have the chance to win a product relevant to each different strategy we blogged about! Time to build up those guided reading resources!

How many of you have heard of Tanny MacGregor? She is absolutely incredible... She taught for over 25 years in the Cincinnati area, and and is now a TOSA presenting at workshops around the country! One of my most treasured teaching tools is her book, Comprehension Connections. It is exactly what it sounds... a book of tools and ideas, full of ways to help students make connections to comprehension strategies. 

When I first read this book, and it talked about teaching firsties metacognition... I thought it was absolutely crazy. I hardly even knew what metacognition was... (It is "thinking about your thinking," for those of you that are wondering.) Anyways despite my reluctance, I decided to jump in and give it a try!

We started by making a "reading salad," comprised of our thinking and the text. As we took a picture walk through the book, we worked together. 

I pointed to the title of the book and read aloud "David Gets in Trouble by David Shannon." The students had to work together to decide whether we should add a text card or thinking card. They chose "text." 

Then I pointed to my head and said, " I'm thinking that this book is going to be about a boy named David that is constantly getting in trouble." The kids nodded their heads in agreement and we add a thinking card.  

This process is continued as we completed our picture walk; I also used it to pre-teach vocabulary and have any quick discussions that I had in mind before they began to read independently. I allowed each child to make a "reading salad" while they read. I proceed to listen to each of the kids read and checked for comprehension, just like I do any other day during guided reading. 

Next, I gave the kids thinking stems (prompts) to help them generate sentences about metacognition during their reading. 

- I'm thinking...
- I'm noticing....
- I'm wondering...
- I'm seeing...
- I'm feeling... 

Kids were given sticky notes, and asked to generate at least TWO thinking stems while they were reading. This was a more concrete way for them to demonstrate their metacognition while they read! Again, I modeling this strategy for them...

I was SHOCKED to see how quickly they caught on, and were able to apply their thinking to the text through writing! How often do I sell them short?!? They're like little sponges!

We then used the sticky notes to generate complete sentences on a graphic organizer. I did this mainly because it was what they would be seeing in the future at their Daily 5 stations as a form of accountability. (Next week they will be completing these graphic organizers at Listening Station, Read to Self, Read to Someone and Computer Station). 

At the end of their reading time, I did a quick -reteaching of the word metacognition and show how the text + thinking = real reading, using the Tanny MacGregor chart!. 

As a whole class extension beyond the guided reading table, we each made our own "thought bubbles" that helped the students to verbalize their thinking about the books they were reading. 

On the thought bubbles they each wrote out the five thinking stems, to help get their brains churning. Then they used their independent reading books (any "just right book" from their book bins) to write three sentences using their thinking stems! 

I realize the picture is small but here is one example....

"In the book David Goes to School by David Shannon, I am thinking that David is in trouble. I am thinking that he needs to keep his hands to himself. I'm noticing that he is mad."  -First Grade Student 

Not too bad for first grade, huh?!? The kids were especially excited that we had the laptop cart that day, and once I conferenced with them to approve their sentences, they were able to type and print them out! My kids always love anything that allows them to utilize technology... and it is great typing practice for them as well! This extension project became a great hallway display for the next few weeks! 

If you would like a quick copy of the thinking stems graphic organizer, feel free to download your copy here! 

Don't forget to check out all the other teachers that are sharing their own Smashing Strategies for Guided Reading!