Monday, August 31, 2015

My New (Old) Read-a-loud Find

This year I have found the perfect series of read-a-louds. It's been a collection of books that has sat virtually silent in a corner of my library for the past six years. We quickly blew through the first in the series and have nearly completed our second. It is a series that keeps the students on the edges of their seats. They love the mystery, they laugh aloud at some of the things that the kids in the books are faced with. And I love stopping in the good spot and hearing them beg me to continue reading. And most of the time, I make them wait until the next day. I LOVE cliff hangers. This little series is actually a series that I grew up reading, or rather, hearing on the radio. Every afternoon on our way home a show called The Captain's Club came on at 4:00. And the second half of the show was a reading of The Sugar Creek Gang. 

After reading the first book in the series, I introduced the students to the procedures of our classroom library. And guess where they headed? You guessed it, to the box of books from the series, The Sugar Creek Gang. They made quite a dent in that book box. There are something like 36 books in the series and I have never, in six years seen anyone finish one. But after reading them aloud, they were in high demand....even disappearing from student's book boxes upon occasion...oops.

Oh, and I should mention that The Captain's Club still plays on Moody Radio. I knew this, but did not tell my students. Well, one of them came in to class all excited about hearing The Sugar Creek Gang on the radio. How fun.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Creating a Year-Long Theme: How-To

This is how I get started on looking for a year-long theme. I try to look for ideas that are fairly broad and can incorporate a wide range of subject areas. Some of the ideas I have done or looked at in the past are: jungle, brainstorm, circus, camping, travel, castles and robots. I use Pinterest as I gather ideas. Pinterest is a great tool. I enter the key words for the topic I am looking for such as circus decor or circus theme or circus classroom. I pin things that I think I can use to my classroom theme board. After that, I start working on any of the ideas that I want to incoroprate into my class.

When I have a strong idea, I start in on the curriculum. I try to find ways to tie things together are much as possible. For instance, this year, my theme is travel. We are also studying the regions of the U.S. in social studies....perfect! We're going to pretend to travel around the U.S. using different forms of transportation. Check out Beth Newigham's social studies. I incorporate hats, and try to build simular experiences such as making an airplane when we fly away or a boat to sail on, anything to make it seem more realistic. Since social studies is a perfect tie in, I start there. Then I move on to other classes and see how I can incorporate them. 

Reading is easy to tie in. Since I teach third and 4th grades, I can use chapter books. I look for books that can support my travel theme. I look for books that go along with the different regions we'll be studying. For instance when we study the Southeast, I have some books picked out that will feature an ocean theme. Or I could use my Who was Neil Armstrong biographies to incorporate our study of NASA. Another great option is Because of Winn Dixie, which is set in a small town in Florida. When we move into the midwest, a perfect book would be Little House on the Prairie or Sara Plain and Tall or Charlotte's Web. During our study of the midwest, it would be great to use some books about the Iditorod. We could even track the race since I'll be scheduling this unit during the Iditirod race. Our Southeastern theme could incorporate books about the wild west. The Northeastern theme could incorporate biographies about our founding fathers. Or historical fiction set in the Northeast such as one the the books from the American Girls collection.

Writing is an easy to match up with my theme. I can use Flat Stanley as one of my reading books and since he is mailed across country, I can use the book to teach letter writing and have each student mail out their own Flat Stanley paper dolls to our friends or family and have them mail them back with information about the state or town Flat Stanley visited. We could write personal narratives about our own travels, even if our travels did not take us outside of the U.S. For information writing, we could write about famous Americans from differnt regions we are currently studying. 

For science, I try to look at the different topic we need to cover for the year and have match them up with one of the social studies themes. When we are studying the Midwest (America's bread basket) I will also teach a unit on plants. During our Southeastern unit, we will be studying about animals, focusing specifically on ocean animals to tie in our reading study of ocean books. The northeastern tour would be a perfect time to tie in a study on states of matter and simple machines (since the inductrial revolution happend there). For the West, we could study human bodies, the west hosts the only blue zone in America, where the people are the healthiest and live the longest. We will also study health and drugs during this unit.