The Curious Garden {Book Companion}

I'm fresh off a week break from school and currently diving head first into sharks!  I hope to have a post of the activities we completed this weekend.  In preparation for the following unit, I updated my book companion for The Curious Garden!

If you haven't read this story, you MUST listen here...

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown from johnvu on Vimeo.

Captivate students with ocean themed fun while meeting learning standards! This 126 page packet is packed full of excitement.
What's included...

Build background knowledge about gardens with KWL or Have, Can and Are graphic organizers.
Begin instruction with a heavy dose of story vocabulary that will assist language learners with words such as city, garden, dreary, drizzly, discovery, wandering, railway, explore, tracks, gardener, pruning, restless, weeds, curious, spring, summer, autumn, winter, moss, and blossomed. 

 Provided are several options for recording vocabulary words. Option one includes a vocabulary book with clipart images. Option two includes blank vocabulary response pages.

Build schema by understanding the meaning of curious with a craftivity. 

Open discussions during reading with text dependent questions.

You'll find engaging comprehension response sheets for compare/contrast, visualization, story maps, plot and sequencing events with a summary. Practice cause/effect, inferences, and predictions in the final half the of the story.

 Practice adjectives by describing the city before and after Liam (the main character) tends to the growing gardens on the city railway.  Several options available.

Work on character traits with a lesson and follow up response about the main character, Liam. 

Produce a beautiful bulletin board with a response to literature craft.   

This file combines science content through literacy centers.  Explore sand and soil with engaging curious centers. 

Introduce photosynthesis with a color page and follow up with an experiment and observation recording page. Thank you!

Engage students while reading by interacting with retelling props. Bring the story to life by simply gluing pieces to a tongue depressor.

 Engaging clipart sets the stage for procedural writing.  Students will craft a procedural response with one of several options provided!

Understanding Contractions {Lesson and Resources}

Contraction surgery isn't a new concept.  There are many wonderful bloggers who have shared lessons in the past. 
Can you see our smiles? 
Each year my kids are exposed to contractions with a lesson and centers.  We usually host a  culminating event with surgery to produce an artifact from our week of learning.  Things are so very different this year. 
My kids need the full experience investigating word construction.  Understanding the meaning of words has been an instructional focus for me this year.  I saw value in understanding vocabulary with the program Making Meaning.  I'm not the biggest fan of the program but love the interaction with the stories and vocabulary.
Before teaching contractions, I started with a mini lesson on expanding.  The dollar tree has a pack of expanding animals.  They start in the form of a pill.  After water is added, the animal expands into it's true shape.  Once their animal expanded, we met back on the floor to continue our lesson...
Once the kids were settled on the floor, I gave each child a rubber band.  The kids were asked to work to make the rubber band expand.  Most figured this meant to spread or stretch it out.  Then it was time to discuss the opposite of expand, contract.  In summary, we came out of this lesson understanding that contract meant to make smaller. 

Once my students understood the word contract, we transferred our learning.  This week has a free video about Contractions.  If you are reading my post in later weeks, the video will no longer be available to you free until next year.  I encourage you to get a membership for one computer.  I pay a monthly fee of $8 a month.  It's so cheap!
The above video is only a few minutes long but the teacher in me won't allow the kids to watch uninterrupted.  I stopped and addressed each concept as it was introduced.  Brain Pop instructs with the words not, have, had, has, are, am, AND will.  I love how they form a sentence using the two base words for each contraction.  Once the words were highlighted red, I paused the video.  We worked to contract the two highlighted words by making a letter or two disappear in order to form a contraction.  Most of the kids use contractions orally but haven't made the connection until today.  Once we determined the contraction, I played the video to confirm our answer. 
Now we are at the meat and bones of the lesson.  Our surgical gear is on.   The kids were given letter tiles.  I only gave the kids letters to manipulate he is and she will.  At that point, we were sitting at our desks.  My students were asked to form the words he is.  Using a Band-Aid with an apostrophe written on the back side of the pad, we manipulated the tiles by removing a letter and replacing it with the Band-Aid.  We repeated the steps with she will.  Once the contraction was formed, I had the kids remove the Band-Aid with the apostrophe.  The kids pushed together the letters.  It became the word shell.  Now the kids have an understanding of why the apostrophe is SOOO important.
We traveled back to the floor for the introduction to our group centers.  I used materials from First Grade Fever's pack called Contraction Surgery Center.  I printed five sets of the game which is only a few pages each. Each set has two blank cards and four blank Band-aids.  I used this to create a chart and model the center.  The only difference, I switched the order in which the kids were to identify the contraction.  In groups, they were to find the contraction written on the Band-Aid to the doctor with the two base words.  My chart had the contraction written on the blank doctor cards and the two words on the Band-Aids.  This gave them a separate but similar task to complete in groups.
The kids helped to answer our guided question and we charted a little detail about the apostrophe before the class assisted me in finding the corresponding base words.
Prior to sending the kids off to work in groups, we took the time and discussed the thinking questions and recorded a response.  This became the artifact we used while matching contractions in groups.

The energy was high as kids worked in teams to identify the contractions.  Each team created their own chart.  The center took approximately 20 minutes to complete.  The kids were engaged the entire time.
After the group centers were complete, I provided a split bone with two base words.  Each kid was given a different word to manipulate with the multiple pages provided in the above unit by Surviving The Little People.
After surgery was complete and an apostrophe is added, the kids glued their surgically repaired bones to our evidence of learning chart. 
What's ahead for me?  I truly feel giving up an hour and a half today was beneficial.  I gave the kids science, vocabulary, language arts, and centers.  Moving forward, we will work in our journals recording sentences by manipulating the base words and recording the contractions.  Students will be given various centers to be added in their literacy rotations.  I'll share a few books on topic and will include in my students' writing.

Groundhog Information Lessons and Published Writing

February was an exciting month of informational learning!  Of course, our month began with Groundhog's Day.  Coming from a title one school with a large quantity of ELL students, I starting thinking about how confusing the day must be for our little ones.  Why do we recognize or celebrate Groundhog's Day?

 Long Island

As I arrived at school, I pulled two videos from YouTube of the Groundhog's Celebration in Long Island and Punxsutawney from earlier that morning.  Prior to discussions, I shared both videos (approx. 5 min each).  After each was shown, we recorded information we gathered from seeing the video.  We were able to see similarities and differences between each celebration.  This opened the door to learning about legends, discussing traditions, and the evolution of this holiday!

To break up the activities, we created a guided drawing of a groundhog.  The kids were so very excited to begin their learning!!! 
The majority of my students have limited background so watching a video or reading a little text goes a long way to building a basis prior to working on a KWL. 
A website that I rely on for background knowledge is Brainpopjr.  Five years ago, I signed up for a subscription using one computer at $8 each month.  It's the price of a value meal!

Brainpopjr has a great video on Hibernation.  It's subtle yet meaningful.  My kids were aware that groundhogs burrow, hibernate, slow their heartbeats, and gather food from watching the various animals featured.  At this point, we recorded things we already know about Groundhogs on our KWL. 

When instructing with the KWL, I prompt kids to inquire more about the topic in which they are familiar.  I had one little darling that knew groundhogs burrow but when I asked why, they were unable to fully answer.  We discuss how a quest in becoming a burrowing expert would allow for his to understand this unique animal's behavior.  Based on what the kids already knew, they recorded a question in which they were to answer by the end of our learning.

Groundhog's Day is a full day of learning.  Once the background knowledge was in place, it was time to have some meaningful fun!  My book companion is filled with comprehension response pages to practice strategies in Reader's Workshop with a fictional text on Groundhog's Day so that's what we did.


Writer's Workshop consisted of building vocabulary.  I displayed the vocabulary cards from my book companion on the white board.  We used the fictional text from Reader's Workshop to identify how the word was used in the story.  Following, the kids recorded definitions in their Groundhog Vocabulary Books.

To conclude our learning this day, we became shadow detectives.  Science was a huge hit!  Katie from Little Warriors has an adorable investigation which provided the tools for the lesson.  We made a detective hat, getting into character.  I found little flashlights at Home Depot for $1.50.  I bought ten so that kids can partner and work with their own flashlight. 

After recording the results of the investigation, students were given a piece of yellow paper.  I had partners work together in creating a shadow using their groundhogs from guided drawing that morning.  We glued our groundhog on top of the shadow.  This art project became the cover to their informational writing!


We took the rest of this week to learn about Groundhogs in Readers Workshop using non-fiction text.  The integration of social studies came with geography and history.  The evidence was shown through text features which would transfer in our published informational writing on groundhogs. 

Week two began with our developing informational reader found in my book companion.  Sine we have defined all the vocabulary underlined in the text and studied groundhogs for a week, many students were set up for success independently reading the text. The informational reader became a tool for fluency and a key contributor to gathering facts for their individual reports. 

I guided the process for writing by providing the headings.  The facts gathered and recorded were completely independent. 

The kids are familiar with my checklist and visual rubric.  Using the tools in which are present in our everyday learning sets the bar for outstanding published work. 

One of the final days working on the groundhog stories, I had an observation.  We'd spent so many weeks learning about the topic and diving into text features that I decided to allow students to take control of their learning by explaining text features. 

Students were given the checklist and asked to use the various features in their stories.  There was no particular order in which the kids were to complete the task.  I provided the pages across my guided reading table.  The kids were to color in the text feature as it was added to their report. 

In one of the above pictures, you'll see post it tabs on their informational reader.  The kids identified three vocabulary words to be used as bold print and in their glossary.  I met in groups to conference on the words selected.  Using their vocabulary books, kids defined in the glossary.  Reflecting back, I wish I'd taken it a step further by discussing ABC order.
The following images shows the published work!  I'm incredibly proud of their persistence and willingness to work on this topic for several weeks without losing momentum.  I'm even more excited about our book reveal tomorrow!

If you are interested in this companion, link through the image below.