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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Get Ready, Get Set! The Iditarod Race Starts in 8 Days!

There's only eight short days until mushers and their dog sled teams leave the starting line in the famous Iditarod dog sled race.  Since 2016 is an even numbered year, that means the teams will take the northern route, leaving the starting line in Anchorage, headed towards Nome.  Along the way, they pass through 23 checkpoints with names like Rainy Pass, Takotna, Shaktoolik, Koyuk and Safety.  The race begins on Saturday, March 5th and each musher and his or her team of 16 dogs will have the sled bag packed for the grueling race of approximately 1,000 miles.  Only the best will make it all the way to the end.  The last musher that passes the finish line receives the Red Lantern Award, given for hanging in there and finishing the race.  The Iditarod is steeped in tradition and there's a lot you can do to use this great race to motivate your students.
Students love to follow a musher on the trail and it's a great way to use a real life event to weave in some much need math problem solving and language review.  If you're in a time pinch and want a complete set of materials you to print and use in less than a week, check out my super popular Iditarod bundle of materials.  In a nutshell, students draw the name of a musher to follow on the trail, make a desk name tag of their musher and sled dogs.  Students quickly check trail progress each day then tackle the day's Musher Math and Language activity. If you have a SMART Board, use the interactive set included in the bundle (answer keys included).   There's also a musher biography project you can use if you wish and a grammar puzzle with grammar reference helper.  The race usually only lasts two weeks before mushers finish the race and there's enough daily materials to use for the entire two weeks of class.

I love teaching during the first two weeks of March each year because students literally race into the classroom and the enthusiasm is contagious!

Here's a link to some Iditarod Trivia.  

Mush on!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Birthday Cards for Your Students {FREEBIE}

It takes very little to make a child feel special and remembering the child's birthday is one simple gesture that means so much!

Another thing I did to recognize each child's birthday was to use a fun Internet site that sings a song to the child.  Birthday Song  To go along with the song, I made a simple animated SMART Board slide and played the song in at the same time.  Students LOVE it!

Visit my TpT store to get a cute and colorful {FREE} birthday card set.  There are 8 cards with various wording and graphics to choose from.
I also created a birthday banner set that is colorful, simple to display, and lets you prepare ahead of time.  Using the editable flags, you can type the child's name and birthdate using PowerPoint.  Print the banners, then organize them by date and store them in a file folder.  Simply string the month's birthdays onto a piece of jute or string and you're ready!  I included a sign so you can also store the banner in a manila envelope.
The birthday banner can be printed any size you want (directions included).
How do you celebrate student birthdays?  I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, February 15, 2016

4 Steps to Analyzing Poetry With Students

Do you like teaching poetry?  What kinds of poems do you enjoy?  If you teach fourth graders,  you'll want to use poems that will connect with students, and I've found that means humor!  If I can get students to read and write poetry, I'm doing a happy dance!
So how DO you begin teaching students how to analyze poems?  I recommend starting by reading your favorite poems aloud.  Dig out your childhood poetry books.  What poems do you remember from your childhood?  Can you recite any poems?  What were your favorite poems?  Who were your favorite authors?  If you share your love of poetry, students will see that. 

Bring poetry books from the library into your classroom and set up a big display area.  Use post-it-notes with arrows and put them on the pages of the poems you enjoy and write things like, "Great use of alliteration!"  and "The author repeats the word, 'thump' three times." etc.   This simple task shows students what's in your mind when you read the poem.  Talk about the message of the poem.  Talk about what the poem is about.  Reread the poem, listening for patterns and for the overall flow of the words.  Do any words stand out?  What words?  Why do you think the author chose the words she or he did to convey the meaning?  Read the poems more than once.  With each reading, you'll discover things not seen before.  These pieces of the puzzle help create the mood, feeling tone, and message of the poem.  Most importantly, do this process with students so they realize you can't read a poem once and "get" the meaning on the first go-round.  It takes many readings.

One of my favorite poets to read aloud with students is Shel Silverstein.  Possibly my favorite poem is, "Sick" with reasons that . . . "Little Peggy Ann McKay cannot go to school today.  She has the measles and the mumps, a rash, a gash, and purple bumps."  {You have to put on your silly acting hat and use a great voice when you read this poem!}  At this point all of the students are with me!  {Yessss! Insert another teacher happy dance!}   Next up, I read Silverstein's poem, "Sarah Cynthia Silvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out."   Video of the Poem Read by Shel Silverstein.  Now students are hooked!  The walls of resistance are coming down.  All students can connect with these two themes of being sick and not wanting to take the garbage out.  {Yay!  A text to self connection.}
The fun part of analyzing poetry is figuring out what the poet was trying to say.  This is where the use of figurative language comes in.  It's what makes the poetry have that music-like rhythm and flow.  It's the flow of the words, the rhythm of the beat, the pattern of the syllables, it's the words carefully chosen to create images in the reader's mind.  THIS is the fun part of poetry.  Finding all these written treasures!

I must say that my personal experience with analyzing poetry as a high school student was not easy. Flashback to my 10th grade year; one of my most challenging years because I attended school that year in England.  My uncle, aunt, and cousins were kind enough to let me live with them to get the foreign exchange student experience of a lifetime but that year was far and away one of the hardest academically.  One of my favorite teachers taught English literature, but I had never ever analyzed poetry and his class was a university-bound level literature class.  My English classmates had lots of previous experience analyzing literature.  We analyzed two of Shakespeare's poems and it took us ALL year.  Yes, we  spent the entire year on those two poems!   I remember translating the meaning of each word in every line.  I had notes scrawled in between the lines to decipher Shakespeare's meaning.   We analyzed "King Richard II" and "Anthony and Cleopatra."  To help us learn, my teacher took our class to see Shakespeare's birthplace at Stratford Upon Avon and we watched a Shakespearian play in the theater in London.  What an experience it was.

Elementary school students today are being taught to analyze poems early on in their school career and as a result, I can tell you, today's learners will be much more prepared to tackle Shakespeare's works one day because of it.  
Another key to success is you really delving into the poem and understanding it before you attempt teach it to students.  Teaching children to analyze poetry isn't one of those things you can just pick up and teach; some poems really are hard for adults to understand, let alone ask students to understand. You really need to spend time thinking, reflecting, asking questions about what you've read, and really understand the poem yourself.

If you teach the Common Core curriculum, your fourth and fifth graders will read nine poems on the task exemplars list.   (CCSS-ELA Task Exemplars: pages 66-70)  I happen to LOVE poetry and spent two weeks reading these nine poems with a critical eye and decided to do the hard work that teachers don't have the time to do.  I set out to create 4th and 5th grade poetry analysis task cards for each of the nine poems on the exemplars list.

Here's how I would suggest learning about poems.  First, learned all about the life of the poet to get a sense of his or her background and life.  Next, search the web for online links that you can use to show students the poem.  Next, read all you can about the poet and his or her life.  Understanding the time period the poem the poem was written and the background of the poet is essential to drawing conclusions about the poem's meaning.  Then read the poem line by line, searching for words that students need to understand.  Now search for underlying meaning.  Look for metaphors, use of similes, alliteration, and other figurative language that is used to convey meaning and paint the visual picture.  Now come up with lists of questions you can ask students about the poem.  Next, list possible answers students might come up with.  Determine the mood and theme.
Next up in importance to teaching students to analyze poetry is giving them time to become poets and write their own poetry.  Teach students that poetry doesn't have to rhyme.  Let them experience the fun of writing their own poems about what interests them.

If creating your own poetry tasks isn't your thing or if you are just flat out of time (I get it!!), I have you covered!  I created a huge bundle of Poetry Analysis Task Cards that are ready to print and use!   You will get analysis task cards for each of the 9 poems on the CCSS Text Exemplar list, teacher summary, poem web links, task cards and answer keys, a recording booklet you can use for all of the responses, poet biography, how to read a poem, and more!   Poems included are: "The Echoing Green,"  "The New Colossus,"  "Casey at the Bat,"  "A Bird Came Down the Walk,"  "Fog,"  "Dust of Snow," "Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf,"  "They Were My People,"  and "Words Free As Confetti."   I've done the hard work so you don't have to!  Heres a small peek at the materials.
To see the full bundled set on TpT, click HERE.

In my TpT store you can find lots of poetry products like poetry vocabulary posters with definitions and examples, PowerPoint slideshows, an interactive notebook set of figurative language foldables, Cootie Catchers that practice figurative language, 33 poetry vocabulary terms and more. The bundled poetry project gives 5 poetry products to give you everything you need to teach a 6-week poetry unit.

My independent poetry project teaches students about different poem forms, gives the definition, and examples so students get the hang of the poetry form.  At the end of the unit, hold a "Poet Celebration" and have people review the poems students have written.  I taught and refined the unit and the set on TpT is my best selling item and is a loved favorite by students, teachers, and parents. Here's a peek at some of the poetry project pages. It comes in black and white as well as color.


Teach, love poetry!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

20 Days Until the Iditarod Starts!

The Iditarod begins in less than three weeks from today on March 5th in Anchorage, Alaska and I couldn't be more excited!  I love dogs, being outdoors, snow, Alaska AND I love to find real life projects that I can use with students.

Teachers, are you using this exciting real life event to teach some essential skills using the Iditarod as the theme?  There's still time to get in on the fun!  I created an engaging Iditarod Unit loaded with materials ready to print and use.  You can see my Iditarod bundled set on TpT here.

The Iditarod is exciting for students . . . . and I use it it sneak in some much needed math problem solving and language review and practice!    Honestly, I'll use any excuse to get students working and talking math and language!  I designed the "Follow a Musher" portion to use minimal class time. It's the other content-packed components of the program that matter most to me!  ;)
First off, students choose the name of a musher to follow.  If you want, students can use the biography materials and website links in the set to learn about the musher, take notes, and write a short 4-page file folder biography.
Students will color the set of sled dogs and sled and draw their musher standing on the sled.  The desk name tag holds the place marker.   Students name their dogs and the race begins.
Each day students literally race to the room to check their musher's race position, and then it's off to doing the daily musher math problem and musher language review.  The SMART Board set makes the learning interactive and fun.
To sneak in more grammar fun, the set also has a grammar word puzzle and Iditarod themed Grammar Helper to reinforce common and proper nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives.
Get ready as the dogs head out on the Iditarod trail on March 5th.  Mush on!

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Polygon Family Tree & Definition Card {FREEBIE}

Hi friends!  Students work with 2-D shapes early on and later learn to classify them according to their attributes.

I made a fun polygon family tree chart {FREEBIE} that serves as a reference and helps students learn the names of shapes and look for attributes.  You can get this 6-page PDF freebie in my TpT store.  I appreciate your positive feedback!  Thank you tons!
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