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Butterfly Lifecycle

Every year in first grade, we purchase caterpillars in the Spring. The best way to learn about the butterfly lifecycle is to actually see it with your own eyes. When the caterpillars arrive the excitement begins and so does the metamorphosis.  

As we observe this butterfly lifecycle, we work in the student journals I have created. They are much like a book, providing information through the whole process.  In addition, there are activities for them to complete and build their knowledge. First, we focus on our cute little caterpillars that come in these little plastic cups. 

We record the date they arrive, gather our schema, and observe what they look like. Then, we learn how to take care of our new insects. We observe their food, how they shed their skin, and begin to watch them spin silk. We also make these cute little caterpillars.

Once our caterpillars have changed into a chrysalis, we begin to learn and observe this stage. Since there isn't a ton going on during this time, we do some fun word work activities and writing during the wait. We work on increasing their vocabulary. 

Eventually, our beautiful butterflies emerge. We get back into our journals and do more observing and learning. We look closely at a butterfly's body and learn how to care for them.   We don't keep them very long before it is time to return them to their natural environment. 

Once we release them, we make these fun little butterflies. We complete the lifecycle of a butterfly and send them on their way. 

This unit lasts for several days but we only spend a few minutes on it each day. It is definitely the highlight of our Spring. They love seeing the changes of the butterfly lifecycle. You can't ask for a more hands-on learning experience. 


Shark Unit CHOMP!

Every year after Spring Break, it has been a tradition to teach my first graders about sharks. It all started 17 years ago when I had zero resources to use in my classroom due to our building closing from a mold. We were displaced to a local church that was kind enough to take us in. It was my first year transitioning from 4th grade to 1st grade,  and I literally had nothing. So, I looked at the standards and asked my first graders what they wanted to learn about. That is how this shark unit was born. It has of course grown, just like every other unit of mine, but the joy it brings my students hasn't changed a bit. These animals are fascinating and a bit scary. (Which is why I don't teach it before Spring Break). 
Here are my favorite books to share with my class. I like to have a paper pencil book as you can see above so we can really dig into the non-fiction text features. Then we just build on our learning from story to story. This is part of Guided Reading with a Purpose Series Week 32. Our focus for the week is captions and labels. So with each story shared, we do discuss and work on these specific features among many other things. 

With every non-fiction unit I teach, I love to have some sort of interactive anchor chart. Here are just a few of the ones I have used in the past. Not only do these build each day, but they also provide a place for my students to go and visit when needed throughout the week.

In this picture, you can see my two focus strategies, captions and labels. I also have some real shark photographs for my students to refer to. 

Here is a photo of just some of the things we do during the week. There favorite is the Non-fiction text feature checklist. We use the mini book and dig through it with our highlighter and pencils. They learn so much being able to circle and highlight in the book.

Here is a picture of  a diagram and label from last year. This is an activity we did after reading All about Sharks.   When working on captions, we draw a picture from the story and write a short 1-2 sentence description of our picture.

This is the first time we complete a research project on an animal, so we do it all together. Each day we work on a page during writing. This is an activity that we will do throughout all of our animal group units so I love doing it whole group first. When we are finished at the end of the week, they have an awesome shark report!

This shark unit wouldn't be complete without a little fun. At the end of the week, we measure 4 different sharks using 1st graders. Last year I got smart and used a tape measure and blue tape to mark the length of each shark. (Previously I was using calculator tape that I had to roll up year after year) Then we laid first graders in between the two tape lines to see how many first graders it takes to make each one. You should hear their excitement when we do the whale shark. It is almost hard to imagine the animal being that size.

Here is what we do with the information.

Another example.
You can see the calculator tape here! 

Finally, we end the unit with a craft. I usually switch it up from year to year because there are two different options. 

If you are looking for a great non-fiction unit that your students will love, I can promise you this shark one will do it. 


What's New in the New Year? My January Newsletter

As the holidays are coming to an end, it is time to get ready for January. This month has been nothing short of festive, filled with holiday crazineess, and lots of love.

Friends & Family

After Thanksgiving some of my friends from Seattle and Kansas decided to make the trip to Ohio for a long weekend. We were fortunate enough to stay at my parent's house while they were busy enjoying Florida. To say that we had fun is truly an understatement. We stayed up late, drank lots of coffee and ate way too much. On the flip side, we all pushed ourselves and achieved new goals through collaboration. Just like my first graders, I would rather work with others than work alone. Not to mention we learned a lot more working together. It was hard to say goodbye so we said see you soon. I cherish these friends in a way I can't even put into words.

After their brief visit, it was time for us to get ready for the holidays. Let's just say that shopping for 7 children is not an easy task. Once you have that all complete, then you have to wrap. I used to love wrapping presents... not as much anymore. This year Santa tried to trick our children. Usually he wraps all of their gifts in a different paper. Instead, he wrapped everything the same but added a number to each gift. Then he left a printed list of clues for every gift. Our morning was so much fun. It took us about 2 hours but we opened everything. The clues made us all laugh a little. Charlie was the little elf reading the numbers and running the show as usual. She did start to get the hang of saying 2-digit numbers. For the 3-digit numbers she just said each number individually. Here is peek at our tree, 120 gifts exactly. There were a lot of little things, not too crazy. 

Through all of this hustle and bustle, my husband worked extra hard. He took care of the house while I was off with my friends and he did a lot of extra wrapping. He is definitely my rock and I love him like crazy. Here is quick photo of our family on a little Christmas weekend getaway. 
There is an extra child in this photo... (Hannah's boyfriend) 

What have I been working on in the TpT world?

     So last month I began thinking I should have themed days before break just like I do for the end of the year. I tried my best to get them done but only a few were published. We did complete more in class than I posted.  I was able to post two, Elf Day and Moose Day. In class, we had a Troll Day and a Reindeer Day. I also am working on a Snowman Day too. All will be posted and bundled for next season.

     While at home over break I have begun working on Unit 7 in math. These units take me over two weeks to add all of the components. I'm half way there. I'm really trying to just enjoy my family and take a break from working. I did  add "The Snowy Nap" to my Mitten and Hat Bundle. This story is written by Jan Brett. It has the same characters as The Hat so I thought I would just add it to that bundle. If you own that unit, it is yours for free to download again. I did list it separately. It is also part of my January Guided Reading with a Purpose and my entire Year Long Guided Reading with a Purpose.  

This month

Whole Group Guided Reading

We will be going back on Thursday January 3rd this year. With a two day week, I will combine my first two units of GRP. We will begin with The Mitten, The Hat, and The Snowy Nap. This will go over into the second week of school. Then we will finish that week up with my Animals in Winter Unit. They do go together nicely. At first, I couldn't decide where to put The Snowy Nap so it will be my bridge right into hibernation, migration and animal adaptations.  For these two units we will focus on foreshadowing with Jan Brett's picture clues and checking for understanding. After those units, we will learn about Martin Luther King Jr. Our focus will be on text evidence. Then we will move onto a some more non-fiction fun with our Penguin and Polar Bear units. We will focus on non-fiction text features, specifically the glossary. We will also learn about making inferences using real photos and some Tacky fiction fun.  I love all the fun stories January brings along with a whole lot of learning. 


Word Work, Phonics, and Technology

In word work and phonics we will continue learning about the long vowel combinations.  Next week we will learn about "oa" and "ow" when they make a long o sound. Then we will spend two weeks on each of the r-controlled vowels. Finally we will end the month looking at the ''oo" hook sound.  We will be using my SPELLING UNITS as our main focus but we also do some other fun activities too. 

In my reading intervention binders, I have games, more practice and a fun little book craft that goes with each sound pattern. We will definitely be making all of those and working on some of the sorts and assessements. 

Bank it is one of our favorite games to play. They LOVE it and beg to play.
 These are some of the reading and math games I have planned for this month.

Boom Cards are a favorite for whole group on the SMART board and on the Chrome books independently.  


On Google Classroom  I will be sending these activities out this month. 


In math we will finish Unit 6 which is comparing numbers with the <, >, and = sign. Then we will move onto Unit 7,  Addition and Subtraction to 20. Hopefully we will move into Unit 8 which will be on Time.

Seasonal Freebies

Here are a few of my seasonal freebies! Make sure to click on the picture to grab them.

If you would like to see daily ideas from my classroom, connect to my Facebook and Instagram accounts. I love to share in my stories on Instagram and they do link to Facebook as well.




Here's wishing you all a Happy New Year. Take time to focus on you, your family and your friends. Make memories and enjoy each and every moment. 
Megan Mitchell  First Grade Roars
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