Thursday, May 29, 2014

Curious Kids: What Are Jellyfish?

 It's Throwback Thursday!  Here's a favorite post of mine from last year about all the fun we had learning about jellyfish.   Enjoy!

Although my first love is teaching literature, since beginning to sell my educational printables on Teachers Pay Teachers a year ago, I have found my niche in creating informational text/nonfiction literacy packets for elementary students.  W-A-Y back in high school, I found that I enjoyed writing research papers and had even considered majoring in journalism and P.R. to become a technical writer. Alas, my stint as a P.R. major lasted only a semester, as my love for English and teaching trumped my previous plans.

Over this last year, I have written original informational texts for my own children and for my students, basically out of necessity.  With the CCSS emphasis on informational text, I needed appropriate texts and activities for my kids, but was on a very tight budget. Albert Einstein is famous for saying (and my mother for quoting) ~


"Necessity is the mother of all invention"


And, thus my "Curious Kids" series was born!  Look for this cute button created by Miss A's Kindergarten on my nonfiction packets.

This series features nonfiction literacy packets for elementary students with an original text that includes text features, Tier III vocabulary, integration of science or social studies content, before, during, and after reading activities, alignment to CCSS, and a writing component.  Each packet is a little different, depending on my kids' needs and interests.

My newest nonfiction packet is all about jellyfish!

  We are doing summer homeschool at my house, and my boys, ages 6 and 7, decided on a beach theme!  Because they are so intrigued and fearful of jellyfish, I chose these fascinating creatures as our first "unit" of study.  As most kids are, mine are naturally inquisitive.  I took some of their questions about jellyfish and used them to guide my creation of my nonfiction packet.

To start, we did things a little backwards.  I found this neat paper bowl jellyfish craft here. To create motivation and sneak in a little background knowledge, I decided to do the craft first.  Now, I did not make a big announcement that we were officially starting summer homeschool. I just said, "It's craft time, gathered the supplies, and headed outside (our favorite classroom!) to the picnic table. It's summer, after all, and as is my style, I want things to be fun, creative, and allow for hands-on, casual learning (the kind where the kids don't even know they are learning!).  We followed the simple directions for the paper bowl jellyfish by painting the bowls first.  We used Tempera paints to get started. The boys wanted to know what color to paint their bowl.  I responded with, "Any color!  Jellyfish come in many bright colors!"

 We let the bowls dry completely in the sun, and then added the tentacles.  We used crepe paper streamers and pipe cleaners, following the directions on the website cited above.

Notice my sweet Doxie pups in the background!

As we worked, the kids were using vocabulary like "tentacles" and "venom".  They asked questions that naturally sprang from our craft time, like:  "Can we die from a jellyfish sting?"; "Are jellyfish in lakes?"  ;"How many tentacles does a jellyfish have?"  I responded with, "We are going to get answers to all your fabulous questions tomorrow when we become jellyfish investigators!".  That was my springboard into the informational reading part.  By doing the craft first, I created an authentic, student-driven purpose for reading.  They really, really wanted answers to their questions.

The informational packet I created contains a printable book that is all about jellyfish!

The cover page is done in color, but the book pages are in black and white for kids to color after reading.

Together, the boys and I did a Shared Reading of the book.  It is quite rigorous for kindergarten and first grade readers, but was just perfect to read together!  As we read, we paused to think about what we had learned and whether they had gotten answers to the questions they had as they were working on their craft.  The book has (6) pages, so I spread out the reading over the course of three days.

Afterwards, we took a look at the jellyfish diagram and the boys then identified the parts on their paper bowl jellyfish.

 I created a sentence scramble activity for my kindergarten son. We worked together, as some of the words were a bit tricky.  I made (6) sentences with each one having a different animal on the card.  After he placed the sentence cards in order to make a sentence, then he wrote the sentences on the recording sheet. The sentences actually include key details from the reading, so as he worked, he was getting a little reinforcement to aid his comprehension.



This activity was a little too easy for my first grade son, but he enjoyed helping his little brother! I included stationery sheets in this literacy packet for the boys to write a description of their jellyfish craft, but you can use it for any writing activity.

There's a lot more that I crammed into this (23) page packet that makes it perfect to use in the classroom:  Can, Have, Are charts, writing prompts, a key details and main topic graphic organizer and more! And, it is aligned to Common Core State Standards for informational reading. We did not do all the activities, as I have to keep it light and fun in the summer time!

And, that my dear readers, is a little glimpse into how this teacher mom spends her days!  As time permits, we will be exploring other ocean animals, but for now, we are loving our jellyfish!

  Just click the picture below to check out the listing and the preview.

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Memorial Day Blog Hop: Flag Day FREEBIE!

Welcome and happy holiday weekend!  Happy Summer!

I am so happy to be a part of this festive hop with over 25 incredible blogger friends and hosted by the amazing Nancy from~

Teaching with Nancy

My FREEBIE is an informational literacy packet that I created for advanced first graders through second and third grades.

This is a simple yet informative packet for kids to learn about why we celebrate Flag Day on June 14.

Includes a (2) page informative article with facts about the history of Flag day. Also included are star graphics to use to make a main topic and key details craftivity.

A black and white flag graphic is included for kids to color and display on Flag Day!

Click the picture below to download your copy from my TpT store!  And, while you are there, you can check out the 20% SALE that I am having on all items~ today through May 26!

Flag Day Informational Reading Grades 1-2 CCSS

And now for the next stop!  Just click the picture below to continue on your way!

Bilingual Classroom Resources

Have a marvelous Memorial Day weekend!

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Snakes on Saturday

Once again I am linking up with Miss DeCarbo over at Sugar and Spice for

This is what my husband found last weekend while mowing the yard... and let me just say that I have a MAJOR snake phobia!

So, what was the most interesting thing that happened to you this week, either at school or at home?  Share in comments!

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Spring Has Sprung! The Importance of Integrating Content Areas

Although I am a brand new homeschool mom of just five months, my training, research, and experience as a classroom teacher and reading specialist have greatly affected how I teach my son.

Past and current research supports integrating reading in the content areas: thematic teaching, and what we used to call interdisciplinary teaching (integrated), especially in the secondary classroom.  Along with this was the popular adage that in the primary classroom students were learning to read, and beginning in grade 3 students were reading to learn. 

 However, I disagree with this, not only because the Common Core State standards require students to read more informational texts, but because, in my opinion, it is just good, solid teaching.  As well, by integrating reading in the content areas we can capitalize on students' interests, provide authentic, real-world reading, and perhaps just as crucial, make use of the precious instructional time in the classroom.

At home, believe it or not, I have to carefully plan my daily lesson plans to maximize my time.  Homeschooling just one child (a first grader), means that he gets 1:1 instruction all day.  I have to balance the intensity of my instruction.  So, for example, science and social studies are integrated with reading/language arts. When we read an informational text in science, we read with the purpose of learning new information and we read as a "scientist".

Usually, this is what our homeschool table/classroom looks like at the start of the day.

Just like in the classroom, I use plenty of center-like activities and avoid worksheets and worksbooks as much as possible and instead make use of hands-on, kinesthetic activities.  Here, my son is placing a Bible verse in correct order, thus applying his reading/literacy skills of sentence structure, and the cueing systems of meaning, syntax, and visual.

Here he is then moving into writing by copying the week's verse.

We just finished an integrated unit on plants and seeds.  Together, we read this classic story:

Then we discussed what we learned about seeds, plants, and their life cycle, as well as the book's theme, and we completed a story summary and sequencing activities.

From there, we became scientists and used this fantastic resource from 1st Grade Hip Hip Hooray!  Click the picture below to take a look at the packet on TpT.

 Plants . . . "Growing" our knowledge of plants!

In the packet we read short passages about the parts of a plant and its life cycle.  Then we read more by reading this engaging book by Gibbons:

And all along, we were planting our own seeds, watching for the first little sprouts, examining the roots, and drawing and recording in the plant journal from the above packet.

Once spring finally arrived, we moved outside to our box gardens where my husband had planted some tomato plants, lettuce, and herbs (for me!) he bought at a local nursery.

I snapped a few pictures after we planted our seedlings and then handed the camera over to my son.

You can barely see them, but our tiny zinnia and tomato plants are in the garden!

The beauty of this unit study is that we can continue all summer long as we watch our plants go through their life cycle, and hopefully we will be able to harvest herbs and tomatoes soon!

We will keep you posted!

Share your ideas for content integration!  I love reading new ideas!

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Pumpkins!

Once again I am linking up with Miss DeCarbo over at Sugar and Spice for


 I think many teachers celebrate fall with learning about pumpkins.  We have extended our seed and plant unit to include the pumpkin life cycle.  Our little sprout has just about doubled in size since this picture was taken last week!

What are you doing in science here at the end of the year that is fun and engaging?
Please share in the comments!

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