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big kid units, Featured, giveaway, literacy, reading, science, writing

Amazing Animal Reports: Research is FUN!

Oh, friends! Please tell me you can relate to this. My head had just hit the pillow on Sunday night. I was counting my blessings, winding down, and trying to get my constant brain rattling to stop. And then it hits me, You must redo your animal project. Writing workshop is seriously my favorite thing to teach, and I’ve been getting such great feedback on my Autobiography pack that I need to get the rest of my units ready too. It just takes so much time to get them publish-ready and if there’s one thing I never have enough of, it’s time.

But there I was in bed and from out of nowhere, I realized I needed to revamp my animal unit to make it just as great as my autobiography one. Ugh! I wanted to pop right out of bed and do it then, but it was already after 3am and I *do* sleep sometimes. However, Monday was all mine and I’m proud to say I did it!

Turn your students into research experts with this Amazing Animal project that integrates reading, writing, science, and art.

It feels so good to have a fresh new look! 😉 I love this unit so much because my third graders come in thinking they are pretty much animal experts {and some of them are!} but I push them to pick a new animal. For example, my shark lover is encouraged to pick something furry and expand his knowledge. 

Then we really zoom in on what we need to know to become an expert on our animals. We focus on eight key research points like appearance, habitat, and life cycle. Side note, here’s a great way to differentiate for your students because you can assign them a different number of research points based on their abilities. 

To help keep students organized, we use a big piece of construction paper folded into eighths. Each box on our paper is carefully labeled by research point. As students are researching their animals in books, online, and through magazines they are also taking notes in each of the eight boxes. This is a great visual and helps students clearly see where more information is needed. 

Turn your students into research experts with this Amazing Animal project that integrates reading, writing, science, and art.After researching, we take our construction paper notes and turn them into separate pages of our report. I differentiate here too. Some students will write single paragraphs on each topic, while others develop multiple paragraphs for each point. I also provide a CLOZE format guide to get reluctant writers started. 

When students finish their rough draft, they meet with a writing buddy and work through a checklist. I love this part! It takes a lot of modeling and guidance to teach students how to provide meaningful feedback, but they can totally do it! Afterwards, students revise their drafts based on their buddy’s feedback. This often means they need to do more research, which is totally authentic to the actual writing process for many nonfiction texts. 

Turn your students into research experts with this Amazing Animal project that integrates reading, writing, science, and art.We round out the research pages with poetry, a word search, venn diagrams, presentation notes. Students compare and contrast their animals in partners, and meet with small groups to do oral presentations about their animals. During these presentations, students take notes on each others’ work on a grid. This is great for both listening and speaking standards!

Turn your students into research experts with this Amazing Animal project that integrates reading, writing, science, and art.

Finally, at the end of the project students are given a printable book template so they end up with a “professional” final copy. They are so proud of their work! Our unit typically coincides with our Grandparents’ Day, so I work in having students share their projects then too. It’s so incredible to see my third graders tackle such a big project because it’s structured so well to pull them through it step by step.

I also like to mix art in as much as possible, so we work on animal mosaics too. I set up a side table with the supplies and students work on their mosaics as they finish steps in our research and are waiting for others to catch up with them. I ask the local pizza place for their cardboard circles and have parents donate various beans and pasta. Then I print black/white pictures from the internet and students use those as templates. Sometimes students choose not to use a template, and that’s fine too. For less mess, you could swap this for a torn paper collage.

Turn your students into research experts with this Amazing Animal project that integrates reading, writing, science, and art.

How cute are those?! Seriously, the whole project is so much fun. So if you already own it, be sure to redownload it so you get the newest version. If you don’t have it yet, here’s your chance to win one! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Field Trip Freebie: Thank You Notes for Helpers

Field trips… love ’em or hate ’em, there usually isn’t a way around them. In spite of all the paperwork and planning, I really do enjoy giving our students real world experiences through field trips. Sometimes a field trip will be the child’s only chance to visit a museum, see a live performance, or become an explorer for the day. 

So even though field trips stress me out {picture a mother duckling counting her babies all day long}, I wouldn’t give them up. Having great parent chaperones also helps. 😉 As a way to thank them for making the trip with us, I have my students write thank you notes when we return to school. They write about something they learned/experienced on the trip and then I stack their notes into groups by chaperone. I attach these cute notes on top and add a little treat too. Easy peasy! We also write notes to any other special people who made our trip possible (admins, event organizers, bus drivers, etc.). 

I love little ways to express gratitude and teach students to be thankful. It’s starting to feel like a lost art. If you want to use them with your class, you can click here to download my free thank you notes

freebies, literacy, writing

Jump into January: Low Prep Freebie Hop and Amazon Giveaway!

I hope your winter break has been relaxing so far! I always made plans to to drink hot chocolate by the fire while basking in the glow of our Christmas tree. Who am I kidding? I didn’t even put up a Christmas tree this year! I don’t know about you, but the first half of mine is always spent rushing around to finish up Christmas presents and the second half is spent recovering from holiday travel and planning to go back to school. But not this year. And I hope you can say the same!

I’ve teamed up with several of my bloggy friends to help you with some of that. We’ve put together a quick blog hop to help with your January plans. Just click through to grab these low-prep freebies to get 2015 off to an easy start. As a bonus, you can enter to win an Amazon gift card too. Yay!

Just in case you’re keeping track, you’re at stop five. =)

My freebie is a writing activity about penguinsPattern poems are great, even for reluctant writers because of their structure. As a bonus, the finished products look great on seasonal bulletin board displays. I have my students do a draft on regular paper and we check it together before transferring it to their final copy. This gives students a chance to proofread their writing and work on dictionary skills as they correct spelling mistakes too.

This pattern poem freebie is perfect for word work when you're learning about penguins

This cute little poem was pulled from my Penguin Unit for Big Kids. Don’t tell the others, but this is my favorite Big Kid Unit so far. There’s just something so fun about penguins! I love that my third graders had background knowledge about penguins already, but we were able to go so much deeper so they truly became penguin experts. Can’t beat cross-curricular learning!

Learn all about penguins in this cross-curricular nonfiction pack

Or if you need more poetry ideas, my Poetry Unit for Big Kids is another great choice too. 

Learn a variety of poems in this packet that's perfect for National Poetry Month in April

Now keep on hopping along to collect more ready-to-go activities for January. Your next stop is The Fun Factory. Be good to yourself over break, teacher friends!

Teach Junkie Creative Ideas


Giving Back: Make a Difference at ARF

Just a quick post today– many of the TpT sellers have teamed up for a day of giving back. We’ve noticed that Sundays are big days for teachers as they’re purchasing products to use at school the following week. =) So today, we’re each donating a portion of our sales to a charity of our choice. It’s our little way of paying it forward and making a difference.

I’m donating 100% of proceeds from my store to a charity that is near and dear to my heart, ARF. ARF (Animal Rescue Fund) is a no-kill shelter in Muncie, Indiana, where I adopted my sweet girl Isabelle. She’s been with me since I started teaching and brings so much joy to our life. Couldn’t imagine myself without her!

Each time you buy a resource on TpT, your purchases directly help other teachers. Today, they go even further as we give back to causes that are special to us. Happy shopping, friends! 

freebies, management

The Desk Fairy is Here: Classroom Notes Freebie

There really isn’t anything like the holiday season in the classroom. Attention spans get shorter while activity levels get higher. Kids are pumped full of holiday treats and cheer while routines go out the window. It’s sort of like a game of Whac-A-Mole; as soon as you handle one issue, another pops up. Isn’t it fun?? Oh, the days of “going with the flow” in the classroom. =)

While many homes and classrooms are bringing in elves that report to Santa, I always went with the Desk Fairy. Let’s face it… halfway through the year, desks can be a hot mess. They’ve accumulated treasures {and moldy snacks, true story} for months. But a quick visit by the desk fairy gets everything back in order. I drop a few hints that I’ve heard she’s been seen around the school, rewarding students with organized and clean work spaces (desk and floor).  Voila! A flurry of activity as messy desks magically become orderly.

A few days later when the Desk Fairy visits, students with neat work spaces are rewarded with a small treat and note from the fairy herself. If my warning didn’t motivate students, an actual visit usually does. No one wants to be left out on her next trip! 

Grab my free clean desk notes and give them a try with your class. Your room will be neat in no time!

Free notes from the desk fairy to help with classroom organization