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Pumpkin Globes

In third grade, we are learning about continents and oceans.  As a culminating project, we make duh, duh, duh, da... Pumpkin Globes!  It is so fun and my past kiddos always come back and tell me how much they loved it!    We send home a little note a few weeks before, asking parents to send in a medium sized pumpkin. I teach at a Title 1 school so I do have families who can not afford a pumpkin.  Depending on the number, I will purchase them myself or ask for donations. 

Pumpkin Tips 

 I tell the kiddos not to bring the pumpkin until the day it is needed so we don't have pumpkins hanging out all over our classroom.  (and I had one rot before and the entire school smelled horrible when we returned on a Monday....)   Also if students bring them in bags, make sure to take the pumpkins out.  This will speed up the ripening process and also lead to rotting....

This project lasts three days because I break it down into steps.


1.  The first thing we do, is draw the equator across the horizontal half of the pumpkin.  I tell kiddos to do this slowly, otherwise their lines won't meet up on the other side. I also demonstrate how to hold their sharpie marker in place and simply rotate their pumpkin. 

2.  Next, they draw the Prime Meridian down the vertical half of the pumpkin.  Same thing, do it slow.  Most of the time, you can use the natural rim/rings of the pumpkin for this. 

3. I gather up as many globe as I can from other teachers so that my kiddos can have an up close comparison tool. I also project a map on our whiteboard and allow students to use their notes of the drawing we have already been practicing in their social studies journals.

 4.The first continent they must draw is Africa.  We talk about Africa looking like an ice cream cone with an ice cream scoop melting off.  The "melting ice cream" part of Africa fits perfectly right above where the equator and Prime Meridian meet. You can kind of see it in this pic.

5. Now they can line up all the other continents and use the globe to help them draw the correct shapes.  I tell them to pay CLOSE attention to how close the continents get to the equator and Prime Meridian.  For example, Asia, does not go past the equator. We make sure we put each continent in the correct hemisphere. 

6. The next day, we paint.  We use acrylic paint.  Tempera paint is cheaper, but it flakes off as soon as kids try to touch it or write on it.  Make sure to tell kiddos to wear old clothes or bring a paint shirt.  They WILL get paint on them!  Don't ask me how, but every year, someone ends up with paint in their hair! (and it is usually a boy...) 

To do this I designate one table in my room to be the painting table.  I cover that bad boy with tons of newspaper or a large piece of butcher paper!  I usually can fit about 6 kiddos at a time to paint, while the rest work on various projects.  I usually choose between creating a Haunted Restaurant to practice addition of multiple numbers, Batty Math, which is an addition and subtraction project or Pumpkin Patch Math, which is a multiplication and division project.

I just put out a few paper plates (not bowls because they spill) and one paint brush for each kiddo.  Usually 3 for blue paint and 3 for green paint. Once a kiddo is done painting the oceans, he trades his brush with another kiddo to do the green continents and vice versa. I don't wash out brushes between and change colors.  Oh Lordy, what a mess!  Don't forget- Make sure to use ACRYLIC paint!  Tempera paint will chip off and be gross.  Kiddos will NOT be able to label the continents.  Believe me, I learned this the hard way!  You also need to clean your brushes out really well or this paint with ruin them (also learned the hard way...)  

I do not have my kiddos paint Antarctica   They just leave the bottom blank. 

When they finish, they hold the stem and the bottom and take it out in the hall.  Kiddos place a large piece of construction paper out in the hall and label it with their name.  They place their pumpkin on that to dry. 

7.  The next day, the paint has dried and so we label the continents.  Ask parents to donate permanent markers.  I have done this multiple ways and have found the easiest way is to just have the students label each continent and ocean with a number and then make a map key on an index card.  We hole punch the index card and use a string to tie the card to the stem.  If students do not have a stem, I have them use a toothpick to poke the index card into the pumpkin. 

This is such a fun project!  Don't be afraid to let your kiddos mess up.  This is a great learning experience for them.  Don't expect their pumpkins to be perfect.  They will still look amazing!

First Day Lesson Plan and Activities for 3rd Grade

Hello darlings!  It's the most wonderful time of the year!!  It's BACK TO SCHOOL!!!  I love meeting my new third graders each year!  Yes, I won't lie, I still love the carefree days of summer, but I also am incredibly passionate about teaching!  One thing I am not passionate about however it WRITING out my lesson plans.  Ugh!  I know what I want to do, so why can't I just do it?  Well, luckily for you and "future me,"  I am writing out my first day plans!

My Goal

My goal on the first day is to leave my students wanting more!  I want them to be so excited and eager to run home and tell their parents all about the amazing and fun things we did!  I want them to tell their parents new things they learned.  And I want them to be EXCITED to get up and come to school the next day! 

I don't want my kids to be bored out of their minds learning rules and expectations and sitting in their seats all day.  Just think back to that PD where instead of listening, you planned your grocery list and counted down the minutes until you could leave.  Ugh!!

Keep them Active

These kids have just come off of summer break.  Hopefully they have been playing, swimming, and have been keeping active.  I guarantee you, they have NOT been sitting at a desk all summer.  Please don't think because you use your teacher voice that they are going to stay in their seats and be good little angels on the first day.  They will if you make them, but please don't make them.  Don't make them dread school when you have the power to make learning incredible!

My first day plans (and really the first week) incorporate a lot of movement.  If you keep them active, they won't have time to get into trouble and be off task.  If you do a paper pencil activity, balance it out with an up out of your seat activity.  Just keep some balance.

Always Over plan the First Week

I like to plan more than I need.  That way I am never having to kill time or scramble for something to do.  We often find our buses come late and leave late, so we are always scrambling with things to do.  That means I am OVER PLANNING here.  You will NOT get all of this done.  With all of my plans, remember to take care of any particulars that your school expects such as...

1. Transportation Issues-How do your kids get home?
2. Lunch Count or Lunch Codes- Do your students need a special code for lunch?
    Do you need to take a lunch count?
3. PBIS or School-wide rules- what rules does your school expect you to cover on the first day?
   Ex. Lunch, Recess, and Hallway expectations

Practice Makes Perfect

Or I should say, Practice makes your life easier!  I have not explicitly written out all of the expectations I will be teaching on the first day because you will do it naturally as you go.  As you call kids to come sit on the carpet, you will tell them HOW you want them to come over. And they will practice.  As they line up to take a bathroom break or go to Specials, you will be teaching them HOW to line up, etc.  And they will practice.

All experienced teachers will tell you that consistency is key.  Model and practice your expectations until they do it exactly as you want.  A few kids are still talking when you line up?  Everyone has to go sit back down and try again.  Tommy didn't put his materials away before coming to the carpet?  Don't call him out, just have everyone go back and check their desks.  This will seem so tedious and you will want to move on and ignore the behaviors, but you are telling kids what you will ALLOW in your classroom.  They are testing you right now to see "Does she mean what she says?"  Follow through with your expectations and your class will run like a well oiled machine and you won't have behavior issues.

The first week of school is what we call the "Honeymoon Period".  Your kids are on their best behavior right now.  So if you are already having issues, it is only going to get much, much worse.  Nip that in the bud right now.  I like to think of myself as firm but fun.  Because I am firm and
mean what I say, we are able to have a TON of FUN in my room!
It's also good to note that these plans are really in no particular order and can be switched around.

Morning Work:Bell Ringer

I greet my students at the door each day, Day 1 is no different.  I greet them by asking their name and shaking their hand.  I introduce myself and tell them to read the board and find their seat. (my kids come 2 days before school starts for Meet the Teacher Night. I let them pick a seat that night)  On the board I have a message projected that welcomes them and tells them what to do.  I tell them to hang their backpack on the backpack hooks and to complete the word search on their desk. the word search contains the names of all the kids in the class. You can make one free here. 

ELA Block

I don't stick to my schedule the first day.  But I still have to write out my plans for the different subjects. 

Getting to Know You Activities-Class Meeting Intro
This is our introduction to Class Meetings. Everyone sits in a circle on the carpet. I tell them that our goal is to leave this carpet knowing everyone's names. I tell them that I am going to try really hard to memorize each of their names and I need their help. We go around the circle a few times with each kid saying their name and then something about them. We are all looking at the speaker, trying to memorize names.

Round 1: name and favorite food
Round 2: name and favorite color
Round 3: name and favorite subject

Now ask for students who think they can name all of their classmates. Give students turns to try. I am trying to memorize too. I take a turn. Then I close my eyes and have students move spots and see if I can still remember their names.

Class Attention Getter-Signal

Decide how you want to get your students' attention and practice it until it is perfect. Perfect meaning every kid freezes and looks directly at you and STAYS frozen until you are finished with the directions. TRUST ME! You need to practice procedures over and over and over until they get it right or else your year will be H. E. double hockey sticks! I do this like a game with my kids. I compare last year's class and I tell them, "Last year's kids did awesome with our Signal but it took them a couple of tries to get it right. I can tell with this class that you guys are going to get it faster!" There is nothing wrong with a little competition!

My signal changes throughout the year. You may be familiar with Whole Brain Teaching's "Class?" "Yes!" or with Hope and Wade King's "Shark bait!" "Hoo, Ha, Ha!" Do what you think is fun and you don't mind shouting out at recess or in the lunch room. LOL! For the first week I usually do something about being Back to School. I'll say "Back to School!" and they reply "We're so cool" and then they dab. Yep. We dab, peeps.

Find Someone Who
Set a timer for 15-20 minutes and have students walk around with the Find Someone Who Sheet. They must try to find classmates who match the description in each box. They must write their classmate's name CORRECTLY in the box so they are going to have to ask. When time is up, have students count how many boxes they filled in. Find the kid who filled in the most boxes. Have the class give him/her a standing ovation. In that moment you are establishing how you reward hard work. Do you give them treats and prizes or the feeling of a job well done? [Get Freebie here]

How We Want Our Class to Be

Call students to the carpet and talk to them about their dream classroom and dream classmates. Chart how they want the class to look, feel, sound. Next assign students a partner and have them create 2 rules on 2 different sticky notes. Call everyone back over and have each pair come up to share their rules and place the sticky note under the column they think it belongs in. After that I bring out the Class Promise and I tell them how happy I am that they want to have the same kind of classroom that I want. Read and chant the class promise. Discuss what students think should happen if they break the class promise. [Get the Promise here]

This is where you will talk about your consequences and management system. I use a clip chart. [Get Editable Clip Chart here] To be perfectly honest, I hardly EVER use it. I do so much positive reinforcement by calling out the good behaviors I see, that most students get the hint and turn their behavior around. I even let them in on the TEACHER SECRET. I tell them never to tell anyone that I told them, but usually when teachers point out a good behavior like, "I am so impressed how Sally got her paper and went right to work," that is actually code for the rest of the class. It is telling the rest of the class, "Hey class, I hope you are doing that too or else we are going to have to have consequences." They think it is SO AMAZING that I let them in on a teacher secret and they get it.
(This is the best pic I have of the behavior chart. The sticky note poster is how we keep track of unfinished work)

**Behavior Chart disclaimer** But what about those defiant, aggressive kids that could care less about positive reinforcement? Aren't they clipping down a lot? No. A behavior chart or calling those kids out in front of their peers is not going to be effective. For those students, I have individual behavior contracts. This is between me and that child so I discuss that behavior privately with the student. The clip chart works for keeping the average behaving kids on track.

Taco ‘bout the Teach
You want to establish trust and community with your students. In order for them to trust you and (I'll just say it) like you, they need to get to know you. I created a Taco Scavenger Hunt called Taco 'bout the Teach. I created a sheet with questions about me. I then wrote the answers on cards and hid them around the room by tapping them on the walls and such. First I give students 5-8 minutes to try to guess the answers. Then I give them 15-20 minutes to walk around the room finding the correct Taco card that has the answers. It is funny to hear their reactions to some of the questions!

When time is up, I call them back over to the carpet and I ask them what most surprised them. We talk about things we have in common and things that they thought were "cool."

Math Block

We have to start our math unit on Place Value to 10,000 from Day 1 or else we will never finish our math curriculum. Our district uses Math In Focus.  To start off, I have students get into groups of four and talk about everything they know about Place Value.  What is it?  What vocabulary words will I hear?  How do you write numbers in different ways? etc

Next, we come back as a group and talk about it.  I review the different forms of writing numbers and I have the students practice with me using dry erase boards.  Finally, I have them pair up, get a die, and then roll the die 4 times.  They each have to write that number in expanded form, word form, place value discs (you could do base ten blocks) on their dry erase board. Switch half way though with a different partner.

Addition Brainbreak
If there is time or if I see they need to get up and move around, I will turn on my math facts flashing whiteboard game. It flashes addition facts from the projector and students try to shout out the answer before the answer pops up. Scattered throughout are movements and exercises students have to do. [Memorization In Motion-Fitness Facts]

Writing Block

Organize Supplies
I do not have students organize all of their supplies and notebooks on the first day. You need to determine where you want students to store supplies.  We do a little the first day and then finish on day 2.  This way we are able to get some learning in as well.  To organize supplies on Day 1, I have students put all of their notebooks and folders in their desk.  I collect their take home binder and their binder that we will use for our Data Binder.  We will set those up later this week.

I have supply caddies that I got at Michaels out at desk groups.  I have students store the supplies that we will use the most in the caddies.  They place two sharpened pencils, scissors, a glue stick, and a dry erase marker into the caddie.  The rest of their materials like crayons and markers, go into their supply boxes that they keep in their desk.

Giraffes Can’t Dance
I gather all students back to the carpet and I read the book, Giraffes Can’t Dance. We talk about how we are all unique and have different talents. Together we brainstorm ways in which people can be unique or special. We talk about our talents, likes, and dislikes, etc.

Next, I have students take out a notebook that will serve as our Writer's Notebook. I have them brainstorm why they are unique. I hand out the I'm Unique Poem activity to students. They write their poem, color, cut out, and glue onto a large piece of construction paper. Once students are finished, they come up to me to get their M&M's to glue onto the project. They must use liquid glue. They leave these on their desks to dry and walk around to read each other's poems. When they dry, I hang them in the hall outside. [Get the I'm Unique Poem here]

Reading Block

All About Me Booklet
I have students work on pages from our All About Me Booklet. I usually do a paper version, but this year, I am going to try to beg, borrow, and steal some Chrome Books so I can do it on Google Slides. Students will NOT finish this book today. In fact, they will be working on bits and pieces throughout the week. It is a great filler activity or activity for students to work on for morning work or free time. I might assign certain pages on certain days, or I might let the kids pick. When we finish, we will share a few of the pages with each other.

That’s Me Game
My kids LOVE this game and it gets them really tired and worn out! BONUS!! Students squat down to the ground and stay there. I call out different identifying facts such as, "I am the oldest." "I am the youngest." "I love pizza." "I have a dog." etc. If that describes them, they will jump up quickly and yell, "That's Me!" and then they immediately squat back down. This is really cool for me to learn some things very quickly about the class. And you can imagine how it gets them tired! LOL!

Science/Social Studies Block

You may have seen Save Fred or Save Sam before. I simply took that STEM idea and added a Social Studies twist that includes Fred the Worm traveling across the United States.
Misadventure 1: Save Fred
Fred decided to try whitewater rafting on the Eagle River in Colorado and his raft tipped over!  His life vest slipped off and now Fred is stuck on top of the capsized raft!  He needs to gets his life vest because he can’t swim!  He’s a worm for goodness sake, not a fish!
Fred the Worm is on top of the cup and the life vest is under the cup.  Students can only use two paperclips to put the life vest onto Fred.  They cannot use their hands to touch anything but the paper clips! My kids love this activity and continue talking about it throughout the week as we complete three more STEM activities with Fred. [Get the Misadventures of Fred STEM activities here]

Class Picture

One of the things I want to make sure to do is to take class pic to compare to the end of the year. At the end of the year, I have students stand in the exact same spots so we can compare. It is still cool to see even if you have a very transient class.

I hope that was helpful for you! My biggest tip for you is to ENJOY your kids! Take time to get to know them and show you care, and your year will be amazing! You are going to make mistakes this year and it is WONDERFUL for your kids to see that and to see how you deal with it! Give yourself some grace and have a fantastic year!

Grab all the activity resources mentioned here!

Organizing Your Classroom Library

Hello darlings!  If you're a new teacher or just new to third grade, you might be wondering how to organize your classroom library.  Everyone is different but I will tell you what I do in my room.

Do You Have Picture Books in 3rd Grade?

Yep!  There are soooo many picture books are at levels P-Q but students always think that picture books are babyish in third grade.  I have a plethora of picture books in my room with all different reading levels.  I make a big deal about this at the beginning of the year and I tell kiddos NOT to decide if a book is too easy based on it's thickness.

With that being said, I think your library should be about half and half.  I have many chapter books all the way from level J-U in my library.  I label many of them in bins with the author or theme and I place the reading level on it.  Many of my chapter books that are not part of a series or author study are simply placed in the shelf like most library books.

Do You Level The Books?

Yes and no.  I level about half of my chapter books and leave the rest for students to decide what books are interesting and a good fit for them.  My picture books are not leveled.  They are sorted by topic such as Mammals, Solar System, Plants, Government, Famous American, etc.

How Do You Store Your Books?

I store most of my picture books in large white Sterilite containers that I purchased mostly from Wal-mart.  There are a few Target ones mixed in as well.  For my chapter books, I use plastic shoe boxes from Wal-mart.  The large white bins have lasted me 14 years so far and they are packed with books!

Where Did You Get Your Labels?

I made my labels in PowerPoint but you can get them for free here.

Where Do Kids Keep Their Books?

I have book boxes for my students labeled with their student number.  These are simply ice cube trays that I purchased from Target when I first started teaching.  They are very sturdy and hold heavy books and are durable when kiddos inevitably drop them.   I have never taken a really great pic of them.  But you can see that all I did was take an ugly metal shelf that my school gave me and I wrote students' numbers on the shelving.  They store the book boxes there until we need them.  I DO NOT let my kiddos keep books INSIDE their desks.  In Desks= Book Death  Trust me.  

Where Did You Get Your Shelves?

My dad and I created the books shelves about eight years ago.  It was THE BEST thing I have ever done!   I LOVE them because they are on wheels and close together.  I can lock them and then the custodians can simply wheel them out the door at the end of the year so they can wax the floors.  It was soooooo nice to come in this year and just open the book cases.  I didn't have to reorganize my library or unpack books.  That has ALWAYS been the longest job for me when setting up the classroom and packing up each year.

I hope this was helpful for you!  I plan on writing another post on all the read alouds I do throughout the year.

Happy Organizing!

Solar Eclipse Activities for the Elementary Classroom

Hello darlings!  In case you've been living under a rock (and that's ok), there will be a total Solar Eclipse on August 21st, 2017 in the U.S.  Some states will experience a partial eclipse, some a total eclipse, and some none at all.  I live outside of St. Louis and we will experince a total eclipse.  We are devoting an entire day to eclipse activities at my school even though it will only be the 3rd day of school!

Solar Eclipse 

So what is an eclipse?  Unless you teach a Solar System Unit every year, you may not be absolutely certain what an eclipse is.  A Solar Eclipse occurs when the new moon passes smack dab between the earth and the sun and the moon's shadow is cast on the earth.  Of course the moon always passes between the earth and sun, but usually at an angle so we don't always end up with shadows.
I watched lots of videos to try to find the perfect ones to show my third graders.  Here are the best that I've found. There are lots of other good ones but they are a little complicated.

Here is my favorite, but they explain the 2015 Eclipse in Europe toward the end.

Steve and Andy Total Solar Eclipse

Get Ready for the 2017 Solar Eclipse

This describes the 3 types of Solar Eclipses

Live Stream Video

NASA will be hosting a live stream video of the eclipse for four hours surrounding the event.  You can find the video here. 

Eye Safety

It is of paramount importance that we stress to our students how dangerous it is to look at the sun during the eclipse.  They could cause permanent damage to their eyes even looking at the sun for a few seconds.  It is not a game or something silly.  I will be showing my students this video about eye safety.

Thankfully my district is providing safety glasses for all students.  Be careful if you are purchasing glasses.  Many glasses on amazon and other online stores are not approved by NASA.  You can find the manufactures approved by NASA here.

Create a Model Eclipse

In my classroom, I will be creating a model of the eclipse for students to manipulate.

*tennis ball

Keep the lamp (Sun) in one place. Have students take turns seeing what happens when they move the tennis ball (moon) around the globe (earth).  They should notice that when the tennis ball is between the lamp and globe that a shadow is cast on the globe.

Talk about Shadows

So why does it look like the sun is moving anyway?  Why will the shadow of the moon move across the earth?  It is very hard for students to understand that the sun isn't actually moving.  We are.  The earth is what moves around the stationary sun.  And the moon is moving around us.  Kind of complicated huh?   An easy way to physically see the change in movement of the earth is to complete some shadow drawings.

To learn about the Earth's rotation (day and night cycle), we talk about shadows and how our shadows move and grow longer or shorter throughout the day.  To do this, we go outside 4 times throughout the school day.  The kiddos partner up and trace each other's shadows.  We make sure to trace around our shoes first so that we will stand in the exact same place each time.  We also label the time, so that we can compare later. 

You can also have students create an interactive model of the earth, moon, and sun.  Use this FREE activity from More Time 2 Teach.

All you need is the activity paper, 2 brad fasteners, and scissors.

Students can move the moon and earth around the sun.  You can even make the connecting papers a little longer and fold them up to be 3D.

When will I see the Eclipse?

If you go to this website and type in your zip code, it will tell you the exact time of the eclipse and how much you will see.  It shows a short clip of what you will see. It will also tell you where you are in the path of totality.  This would be perfect to project for students to view.  You could even type in zip codes in places around the country to see the differences. 

Other Animations

Here is a real time lapse video of a total solar eclipse crossing the Pacific Ocean.  

Write and Reflect

Have students complete this FREE Solar Eclipse Journal to commemorate their experience! 

What's Included?
*journal cover
*article about types of solar eclipses
*total, partial, and annular solar eclipse graphic organizer
*comprehension page
*color the US Map for totality
*Solar Eclipse Observation page
*Memory Page

Other fun things to do!

Give each student a free Brag Tag created by Amber from TGIF to remember the eclipse!  Other ideas include adding an extra page to the journal above and taking a picture of each student wearing their eclipse glasses!  You could also bring in Moon Pies (check for allergies) to share with the class.

I hope you have a fabulous year and I hope these resources came in handy for your Eclipse DAY!

All About That Tech: Online State Test Prep

Hello darlings!  Checkout my blog post at All About 3rd Grade!  I've provided five excellent (tried and true) resources for practicing ONLINE for state testing!  You don't want to miss this!

Reading and Writing as a Researcher

In third grade, we complete a unit based on Lucy Calkins Readings as Researchers.  We adapted the unit to fit our needs and to make it more engaging with a room transformation.  In this unit, students work in research clubs.  This means they get in groups with students who are interested in the same research topic.  Students must read as researchers, take notes in various ways, and then present their findings in some way that shows their understanding of main idea and supporting details.  

We decided to have students use their research to create life sized animals with Zoo Placards to display their information.  We transformed our room into an African Savanna and invited parents and other classrooms in to view our life sized diorama!  

A huge problem we always have with this unit is not having enough nonfiction books for each topic.  We have to share as a grade level so we decided to pick a topic.  Each third grade class decided to research a different habitat to fit in with our Animal Unit.  We chose the African Savanna.  Once students chose the habitat, they researched the different animals that could be found there.  I then scouted our library and public library to narrow down the search of resources available.  

We then wrote the names of animals that we were interested in researching on an anchor chart and students signed up for their two favorite choices.  I then picked final groups based on their interests and behavior factors.  LOL!

Once students had their research clubs, we started figuring out WHAT we wanted to research.  We took a day or two just to look thought the headings and subtopics of animal nonfiction books, looking at text structure and how authors organize information.  From their, we figured out that most animal books contain informational sections about Adaptations, Diet, Young and Families, Habitat, and Dangers.  Based on that, I created a research journal for them to keep notes in.  We decorated manila folders for them to store their research for the unit.  I also gave them their rubrics so they knew what was expected of them for the end of the unit.

Once students had met with their research groups and and gathered all the books needed, I also gave them access to a Symbaloo which is just a bookmarking site that stores all your websites in one place.  If you click the picture below, it will take you to our Symbaloo of trusted websites that contain lots of info on different animals.  You can save the link and push it out in Google Classroom.

My mini lessons each day consisted of modeling what I expected them to do in their Research Clubs.  I modeled with an animal that no one was researching, but one that fit our habitat.  We researched a giraffe together.  I taught them how to look in multiple sources for each subtopic.  We learned how to use the Table of Contents and Index to help find specific information.  We learned that we do not read nonfiction from cover to cover when we are researching.  I modeled how to use those multiple books and websites to take notes with boxes and bullets.  The boxes were the main idea or topic and the bullets were the supporting details.  We also learned how to create diagrams, charts, and key word boxes.  

Once students had finished researching together for about 1-2 weeks, we came together and learned how to turn our research into paragraphs.  We discussed how to only use important information and how to use descriptive language to turn our notes into sentences.  We don't just turn each bullet point into a complete sentence.   As you can tell in the pictures, I write all of my examples in real time with them.  I make mistakes on purpose so that we can edit as we go and so that we can come back later and edit.  This shows them that it is ok to make mistakes, but we have to pay attention as we go.

Once students gathered all of their research they decided as a team who would complete the final report for each subtopic.  Students had to create some kind of presentation on Google Slides to prove their knowledge of their subtopic.  They knew that these would be printed out and hung up in the room to serve as a Zoo Placard. They could add pictures and any other resource they found to be helpful.

When they finished, they had to have their presentation approved by each of their group members. Each group member had to read the report and fill out the peer review sheet. Students then went back and made any changes needed.  Because I have set up a very encouraging climate in my classroom, students were grateful for the constructive criticism and did not get upset. Students just need to know that our friends are there to help us, not to make us feel bad.

While students are putting the finishing touches on their final copies, each group takes a turn tracing their animal onto butcher paper.  This was perfect to bring in skills from our measurement unit.  Students already had researched the height and width of each animal.  They had to measure out the height and width of the animal on the projector and I blew it up on my computer to as close to their measurements as possible.  As you can tell with the lion, they had to complete the top of his body and then hot glue the bottom of his body together since he was so large. 

Students then cut out the body and traced it onto another sheet of butcher paper to make a back.  When they were ready, I hot glued to pieces together so they could stuff it with recycled paper.   

While students worked on coloring and stuffing their animals, I had them come to confer with me one on one.  Together we reviewed their notes and Zoo Placard final copy.  We completed the rubrics for their grade together.  This was very powerful because they took a sense of ownership in assessing themselves.

This entire room transformation was inspired by Hope King at Elementary Shenanigans. She teaches at the Ron Clark Academy and is always "setting the state to engage!"

Here is a video our room from last year.  This is a copy of my live periscope broadcast, so please excuse me talking to the people leaving live comments in the video!  LOL! I promise, I am not talking to myself!

In the video I talk about a Creature Feature Freebie.  It is no longer free as I added an editable version and  included a research page and rubrics for you, but you can grab it here. 

You can grab resources for this unit here.


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