Sunday, May 10, 2015

End of the School Year Freebies!

It's hard to believe the end of the school year is almost here!  This year has seemed to go by quite fast.  I wasn't sure May was ever going to get here during the months of January, February, and March, but here we are now in May, and it's going fast! 

I only have 11 days of school left!  Crazy, huh?  In celebration, I'm sharing several end of the year freebies in this post. 

First up is a Summer Beach Ball Countdown.  Near the end of the school year, I start a summer countdown using beach balls.  I give each student a blank beach ball (paper template!) to decorate.  After they decorate it, I write a number on it.  The number stands for how many days of school are left.  I place the beach balls behind a die-cut sun that says 'Days Left Until Summer'.  At the end of each school day, we pull down a beach ball.  Whoever decorated the beach ball gets to take it home!  It's an easy way to add some summer fun and decoration to your classroom. 

 I've put together a template you can download here!
The second fun freebie is this Summer Math Challenge involving Missing Addends and Minuends. 
Finally, if you are looking for end of the school year party ideas, here's a blog post about the celebration and keepsake I usually do with my kiddos. 
What special end of the year activities do you do with your classroom?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Free Literature Theme Cards

My afterschool tutoring group has recently been working on identifying Main Idea and Theme, specifically CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.3.9 - Compare and contrast the themes, settings, and plots of stories written by the same author about the same or similar characters (e.g., in books from a series). 

To help my students understand what theme is, I used this little acronym I've seen all of the Internet: THEME = THE Message.  The kids thought this was so neat, and I found it really helped them remember what Theme is and how it differs from the main idea.

After introducing my students to theme, I went over some of the basic themes found in children's literature.  To help, I created these cards that we hung around the classroom after our discussion.  These cards would be great to keep up year-round.  After reading a book as a class, decide which theme it fits under, and then, post the cover image below the poster.

You can download them for FREE here!  A version with white backgrounds (to save on ink) is also included.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Main Idea Teaching Hack

As state testing nears, I've been tutoring a small group of Third Graders.  We've been working really hard on our reading skills.  Recently, one of our objectives was CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.3.2 - Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.

I've found main idea to be tricky skill to teach.  At first glimpse, it seems like an easy task, but students often focus on key details, and sometimes they focus on details that are not even relevant.  After much pondering, I FINALLY came up with a simple trick to get students to zoom in on those important words related to Main Idea.

To teach students how to do this, I wrote short passages on chart paper.  (The ones I used came from Erica Trobridge from One Lucky Teacher.  Her Determining the Main Idea, Task Cards and Assessment Option set is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.)  In a whole group setting, students took turns reading aloud the short passages.  Next, I had students come up to the anchor one at a time to circle a key word, a word they would use when telling someone about the passage.  After all of the key words had been circled, we used them to create a one sentence summary of the passage.  That one sentence summary is always point-on with the main idea of the passage.  Finally, we read the questions (what is the main idea?) and the answer choices and decide upon the correct answers. 

Going through this process has made a tremendous difference with my kiddos!  It definitely takes quite a bit of practice and guidance at first, but this technique helps them hone in on what is truly important in their reading.  After several practices, I began to hear many of my kiddos using the term "key details" frequently!   

A super simple lesson that works!