Sunday, May 22, 2016

Virginia Studies and Grammar

Are you looking for some interdisciplinary end of year review activities involving writing and Virginia Studies?  Then this Virginia Studies grammar correction activity may be what you're looking for!

This activity uses the language of the SOLs and turns it into questions.  Each question has several grammar mistakes that need to be corrected.  There are a couple of different options for how to use this:

Option 1:  Have students rewrite the sentence/question correctly for a grammar/writing assessment.

Option 2:  Have students answer the question for a Virginia Studies assessment.

Either way, it gets them practicing and reviewing key concepts in both subjects.

It includes an answer key to make the activity self-checking, which is yet another way to have students practice with the information.

You can pick up a copy by clicking here.

Do you do any activities that help with the integration of Language Arts and Virginia Studies?  I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Using Sweets to Teach Mitosis and Meiosis

What better way to teach a complicated concept like Mitosis than to use candy!  I find that students are naturally more receptive to anything that involves the use (and consumption) of sweets.  This is a no-brainer, right?

To demonstrate the stages of Mitosis in the Cell Cycle (Interphase, Prophase, Metaphase, Anaphase, Telophase, Cytokinesis), this group used gummy worms to represent the chromosomes.  As an added bonus, gummy worms are perfect for talking about genes (the stripes) and alleles (imaginary letters on the stripes).

Another group used Oreos to demonstrate the stages of Mitosis.

I had them watch this video, which helps a lot for replicating the stages on the Oreos.

Other groups used sugar cookies, icing, and sprinkles to demonstrate Mitosis.  This required two sheets of paper, as opposed to the one sheet used for the Oreos.

This group used jelly beans to show the stages of Meiosis (Interphase, PMAT twice, Cytokinesis).

Another student went all out and made a stop-motion video. So neat!


Do you have any activities involving sweets that teach Mitosis/Meiosis?  I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Reading Comprehension Strategy: Determine Importance

We have been using the "Determine Importance of a Text" reading comprehension strategy.  I found that this was easier for students when the selection was nonfiction than it was for them with a fiction text.  So, we started by focusing on the nonfiction text features in our Science and Virginia Studies textbooks.

We focus on heading, bold/italic print, pictures/captions.  Then we turn the heading into a question:  What are the five regions of Virginia?  We use the nonfiction features to answer the question.

After we've practiced just finding the features, we start completing the graphic organizer for this strategy in our Reader's Response notebooks.  This is part of my "Determine Importance of Fiction and Nonfiction" packet.

Next, we dive into fiction texts.

I prefer to tackle this during read-aloud time with chapter books of different genres, but there are a number of great picture books that fit the bill as well.  Some of my favorites:

Tops and Bottoms


And of course...

The Important Book
This one is great to use at the end of the year as well.  I often have the students choose their favorite subject and write an "Important Book" of their own about that subject.  So fun!

While we are reading, we record what's important on the Determine Importance: Fiction Books organizer.

If you want to pick up the packet with more mentor text suggestions, click here.

This packet includes:
~Suggested uses and directions for the graphic organizers
~Suggested fiction and nonfiction mentor text suggestions
~One organizer for determining importance in nonfiction texts
~One organizer for determining importance in fiction texts

Do you have any go-to texts or organizers for determining importance in texts?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Teacher Appreciation Sale on TpT!

Stop by my TpT store for a 20% off sale!

The sale runs from May 3rd-4th.

Check the main page on TpT to get a special code that will give you an additional 8% off.   Use the TpT bonus code to get a grand total of 28% off!

Here's hoping you find some things to brighten your day and make the end of the school year go more smoothly!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Using Candy to Teach DNA

How to teach the structure and shape of DNA?  Why, with sweets, of course!  Specifically, Twizzlers and marshmallows.

First, we completed a color-by-number model of DNA.  You can learn more about how I use this sheet as a teaching tool by reading this post.

We talked about how the base pairs (A, T, C, G) match up and recreated that with our candy models.  The students made a key and decided what base pair each color of marshmallow would represent (see the toothpick flags in the pictures below).

We talked about how the spiral shape is called a double helix, and part of their grade was to demonstrate that they had this knowledge.

There were some projects in which the students had to get creative with their supplies for one reason or another. Below are some examples. I think they did rather well!

If you don't have marshmallows, try gum drops or gummy bears. 

If you don't have Twizzlers, try straws. 

What do you do to make DNA more "concrete"?  I'd love to get some new ideas!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Can't You Make Them Behave, King George?

Are you searching for a way to teach or review the conflict between King George and the American colonists?  Do you love it when Language Arts and History play well together?  If you answered yes to either of these questions, then this post is for you!

I'm always trying to find ways to incorporate reading into other subjects.  I especially like it as introduction to a concept or unit.  Jean Fritz's books are fantastic for this purpose in history!  I really love "Can't You Make Them Behave, King George?" for this purpose!

After using it for read-aloud for a couple of years, I knew I wanted to take it to the next level.  So, I created a comprehension sheet to go along with the reading.

There are a couple of different ways I've used this sheet:

Option 1: have students read the book.  I've used pairs/trios and independent, depending on the level of challenge the student needs.  After reading it all the way through, I have them go back and answer the questions in the packet together or independently.  

Option 2:  Work with your small reading groups to read the book together and answer the question packet.  Again, I've decided whether to have students answer the questions as a group or independently to differentiate instruction.

In addition to a reading comprehension tool, it also serves as a great review when placed in your Virginia Studies/ U.S. History binder.  It reviews the difficulty the American colonists had with coming to the decision to declare war on King George, including:
French and Indian War
~ Taxation without representation
~ Intolerable Acts
~ The Boston Tea Party

It also includes an answer key, so important to make the activity self-checking!

You can pick up a copy of my packet at my TpT store by clicking here.

Do you have any other great books to use for the American Revolution?  I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Top Netflix Shows for Educating Young Children

Not all TV shows are created equal. When it comes to letting my son have some screen time, I do try to be selective. So in that spirit, let me share the shows that both my preschooler and I can agree on.

1.  Bo on the Go: This show is just so neat!  The premise is that the main character, Bo, gets energy when the viewer participates in activities with her. These activities include things like running, jumping, and stretching. As an added bonus, viewers are asked to clear their "Bo Zone" (exercise area) of toys before beginning the show. What a cool idea to get kids moving! The addition of getting kids to clean up is just genius, too.

2.  Mother Goose Club: This one appeals more to my son's singing and dancing side. It's a combination of real people acting out Mother Goose rhymes and cartoons doing the same.  A little hint to make it more educational: Turn on the subtitles. Then you can read the songs and sing along. 

3.  Word World: This show is a neat mixture of visuals and words. All the animals are made of the word that spells their name. For example, the bear is literally made of the letters b-e-a-r, creatively stretched into the shape of a talking bear.  It teaches words and letters. 

4.  Super Why: The "Super Readers" in this show solve social problems, like not wanting to share, by reading fairy tales and fables. The characters apply the lessons from the stories to their situation and search for "super letters" to find an answer to their question/problem along the way. The super letters spell the answer. The show teaches letter, word, and sentence recognition.  

5.  Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood:  If you loved Mr. Roger's neighborhood as a kid, then you'll enjoy watching Daniel with your kids. It teaches the same social/ behavioral lessons, but from cartoon Daniel's perspective. I love discussing how the characters are feeling and what they should do to solve their problems with my son as we watch together. 

What are your go-to shows to teach educational and social lessons to preschoolers?  I'd love to get done more ideas for my Netflix que!