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Owl Lessons... a Non-fiction Unit to see WHOOO knows their Text Features

Every year after Halloween week, we do our unit on Owls. I LOVE to learn about owls because they are so fascinating and such beautiful birds.  In this unit I provide owl lesson plans and activities for 5 different books.

For this unit, I wrote 2 books, All about Owls and Bats versus Owls. Since we are diving into non-fiction text features, I wanted the students to have a book that they could see and use to find these features. 

Whenever we do non-fiction we begin with some sort of learning chart. This is my chart from 2 years ago. We did a KWL chart. This is where we meet and discuss our learning every day.  

 On the first day we begin with the mini book, All about Owls. My students get a paper pencil version and I project the pdf on the board as well. The pdf has real pictures of owls so the kids enjoy seeing that version too. I use the paper pencil so the children have a copy to reference. 

The focus of this unit is for my students to learn and understand what a table of contents is and what it does in a text. I also want them to know what a heading in a book is and how to find it. As you can see in the above photo, I have taken my table of contents from the book and made mini posters out of it. After reading, we put the Table of Contents back together and discuss it.  The most important discussion we have about this text feature is that it allows a reader to read the book out of order. We discuss how you can find a heading that interests you, look at the page number, and read that section.

Another book that we use is National Geographic Owls. I was able to buy half of a class set by using my bonus points on Scholastic. It was important for my students to have copies of these books so they could have their hands on them to learn about the features. For this book, we work with a partner to hunt through and complete the table of contents activities. I have also made mini posters for the students to sort the table of contents.

There are two other books that I read to my students that are non-fiction but do not have headings or a table of contents. We read Owls by Gibbons and Arnosky. To help focus on these strategies, I read little pieces of information from the story, the students have to help come up with a good heading for the information. We pretend to "help the author". 

On the last day, we read my story Bats versus Birds. I have this as a colorful pdf file and as a small paper pencil book. After reading the book, I split the children into groups and they complete this sort together. They love collaboration and team work. We also review it together as a class using the colorful posters above. 

There are many fun craft options for the week too. It is fun to see what each of may teammates pick. Our hallway always has a variety. The owl in the bottom right hand corner is one of my freebies. It helps review shapes. We always do it at the end of our geometry unit. You can grab it HERE!

We also love to end our unit dissecting owl pellets. We ask for glove donations from parents and we gather the pellets from our local Nature's Nursery.  They donate them to our school however we do provide a small donation to compensate. Last year we went to the dollar store and cleared the shelves of eye brow pluckers. As you can see they enjoyed the activity and were able to see hands what an owl pellet looks like. 

This unit is so much fun! By the end of the week my students know what a table of content is, where to find it, and how it is helpful. They know what a heading is, how to create headings, and where they are located.  

If you want to see more of this unit check it out HERE!

If you want to see all of my November Units click HERE!


Spiders...EEEK! Guided Reading with a Purpose Week 9

On week 9 of Guided Reading with a Purpose we are ready to dig a bit deeper into our literature. Above you can see the 5 anchor stories I chose for the week. All about Spiders is a digital (and paper) book that I wrote.  
The focus for this week is fact and details. This is similar to main idea and details only it is used for non-fiction text.  We began this year by using a KWL chart. I'm really trying to get my students to become active participants in their learning and work on asking questions. Here is a peek at what my chart looks like on day 1 and then day 5. 

On Monday we begin by gathering our shema or what we know. (the orange sticky notes)  We also begin the process of asking questions. (the pink sticky notes). As we read books each day, we revisit this chart and add new learning (green sticky notes) and also answer our questions we had (blue sticky notes) The more we do these, the better they become at asking and answering questions. 
From year to year I vary what chart I use so I'm sharing what I did the year prior. I used a schema, new learning, and misconception chart. 

Either way, the charts get the students involved in their learning! 

I usually begin with my mini reader. I pass out the paper pencil version for the students be we also read my digital version. I added real pictures so they like to see the real photos, especially on the SMART board. We do a little non-fiction text feature hunt to get them familiar with the parts of the book. 

Here is an example of a fact and detail worksheet.  The student wrote, "Spiders spin different kinds of webs". The three details were funnel, orb, and sheet web. 

We also use my sorts for review of the concepts learned in class. On the right is a fact and detail sort. We did this on our last day. On the left we sorted insects and spiders. This activity goes well with Diary of a Spider.  We also reviewed our text connections on this day. 

There is also a paper pencil sort for the students to do. They love to work in groups to sort the cards. On the back of this paper is where they list Both.

We learn how to create our own orb webs. This is super fun for them and it is awesome to see how different each one looks. I just cut 12 by 18 paper into a 12 by12 square. We draw a straight line down the middle. Then we draw two diagonal lines from corner to corner. Finally we connect the lines by drawing segments around and around.

Then I give them a black piece of scrap paper. They tear it into a mini spider.  They are really fun for the kids to create. 

Another craft we like to make is labeling the parts of a spider. 

If we don't make the spider labeling craft, we label our spider on the worksheet. Another fun idea we use all week is making mini spiders for our periods. At this point in the year, students have difficulty remembering their punctuation. If you tell them they can make a spider, they won't forget their period. 

Whenever I can embrace the learning with clothing I do... These fun tights I found at Meijers along with the ring.

This is just a small peek into our week on spiders. I hope your enjoyed it.
See more of this unit here.


Halloween Fun with Main Idea and Details

During the month of October, your students definitely have Halloween on their mind. Instead of fighting it, we embrace it. Prior to Halloween we read these five books and learn about main idea and details. This week is sooo much fun and I get excited just thinking about it. 

Here is how we start this unit! We begin with a little witch's brew. I ask for donations from my families who always love to step up (I know I'm fortunate). For the brew you need the following items below.  

Then using the cards I created, I print enough so each student will have a baggy to help. I divide the items up amongst the baggies and we are ready to begin. 

 We all sit in a circle and I sing a song I created. As we sing the song, the students help to add the ingredients to our brew. I do have a video of this in action over at First Grade Roars Facebook Page
You can see their excitement in these pictures below.

 Once we have made our brew, we discuss the main idea and details of what just happened. 

Then of course we enjoy our yummy snack. All of the items are peanut free but some are made in a peanut factory. Before mixing it, I make a little baggy for those who need special accommodations.

This activity leads into our entire week of guided reading whole group. The focus for the week is main idea and details and of course our theme is Halloween.  

This unit includes activities for loads of books but my 5 main go to books are featured at the top. I will share just some of the things we do with these five books.

My very FAVORITE Halloween story is Room on the Broom.  This book is so much fun because it is filled with rhymes and repetition. If you heard me read it, you might think I was a bit crazy! Before reading it, we make predictions. That is a focus skill we work on the week prior with monsters. 

After reading it, we discuss the main idea and details. When teaching the main idea, we discuss what the story is mostly about. I tell them to think about sharing this book with a friend. I ask them to tell a friend, in a sentence or two, what this story is mostly about.  We also refer to our witch's brew daily looking at the overall picture and then the parts or details. Then make these fun little witches.

My second favorite book is The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything.   For this story, I pass out the cards I made below. Each student gets a card. As I read the story, the students raise their card when their part happens. This is another fun way to keep them engaged in the story and be active participants. 

We do very similar activities all week: predicting, discuss main idea and details together, and writing the main idea and details.   

For this story, we make pumpkin scarecrows like the book. Here are a few that the kids created. 

I like to put the retell of the story in one of my centers. I leave the book out too. The students practice retelling the story with the picture cards as a review.

We also read Scaredy-Cat Splat. I love any Splat story but this one is very fun! We make these cute paper toppers too!

 Another story we love is Froggy's Halloween. We read Froggy Goes to School the first week of school. The students love revisiting characters and familiar authors. It helps us also make text to text connections and become familiar with authors. 

On the last day, we read Doreen Cronin's more recent story, Click, Clack, Boo! Again, we have already read a lot of her stories during our Farm week and also when we read Diary of a Spider during Spider week. They love to see what the animals are up to again. 

For this fun story, we create our costume on this blank kiddos. Then we write a descriptive piece. This photo below was taken a few years ago. Last year I took out construction paper and they were hilarious. (I forgot to take pictures) I will do that again this year. It helps to cover up the black lines a little bit better. They do a nice job writing because they have a great visual! 

Whatever you do during Halloween week, make it fun and engaging. I know my students will have a great week this year and I know they will learn too.  

As always love what you do and do what you love.
To see more from this week click HERE.


Batty Week Guided Reading with a Purpose Fact or Opinion

We just finished up our bat week and we had so much fun. We also learned a lot too! These are the 5 stories we read this week. All about Bats is a digital book that I project. There is also a paper mini book for kids too.  

The focus for the week is the difference between a fact and an opinion. We also reviewed fiction and non-fiction stories as we read both.   Whenever I'm teaching non-fiction, I like to use some sort of interactive anchor chart. I am going to share pictures from the previous years below and then discuss the one we used this year. 
This is the KWL chart from last year!

Here is a can, have and are chart as well as a schema char that I have used in the past. 

This is the chart I decided to use this year. One area our students are struggling on is asking questions. I thought a KWL chart would be the perfect chart to help us build our questioning skills.
Here is a before and after.

We started by all creating our own schema on a worksheet I passed out. Then we added our batty schema to the "What I Know" part-blue sticky notes. Next we tried to think of questions we wanted to know about bats. The struggle was real and I decided we needed something to help guide us. I quickly wrote the question words on notecards to help us. Someone on Instagram also suggested saying "I wonder". Since it seemed to be working for my kiddos, I made the cards a little cuter. You can grab them for free here: Question Word Cards Freebie
Finally we added "What we Learned" in purple. Everyday we visited this chart and added to it.  The little orange sticky notes on the yellow questions are the answers to our questions. Once we found the answers, we added them to the chart. 

Here are a few examples of worksheets we completed. We practiced fact and opinion in many ways all week long. 

Here are my posters I kept up all week for fact and opinion. We also completed a few sorting activities too. 

We compared bats to birds after reading Stellaluna. Not only did we sort the differences between bats and birds but we also did a fun group project. I gave 5 groups chart paper and cards and they created their own posters. Of course I forgot to take pictures. They loved working together in groups and making posters.

Here is my version... there's is much cuter.

As an assessment, we completed these fact versus opinion bats. You can see ours below in the black. We also made the other cute bats just for fun!

 I kind of forgot to print the head so we made do and used the body as the head...

I try to get them excited about the learning too by doing extra little things.  I dressed up in my batty clothes, I wore a batty headband, and I used a dollar store table cloth to make this bat cave entrance. 

This hung over our doorway for the week. I just pulled it to the side when we going in and out.

We also made this fun sock bats. I invited parent helpers to come in and make this project with us. It requires a glue gun so I wanted as many adults helpers as possible. The students all sent in 1 old black sock. Then I received 3 bags of stuffing from parent donations. I have a class of 24 and we probably only needed 2 big bags. The students cut out the wings and ears and fangs. First they stuffed the socks with stuffing. Then we tied them shut with black yarn. Finally, the parent helper glued on their wings, ears, google eyes and a red yarn mouth with fangs. Last year I hung them in my reading center and kept them there the entire year. The children were anxious to take them home so this year I just hung them by the window. 

They always turn out so cute and it only took us about 45 minutes from start to finish with 4 parent helpers. I have done this by myself too. We just worked on them throughout the day when I had a chance.  GRAB THE WING PATTERN HERE

Finally on the last day, we dressed in black and brought our flashlights for some reading in the dark.  The kids looked forward to this all day and they really enjoyed it.

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