Thursday, December 1, 2016

Holidays Around the World: A Trip with Mooseltoe!

It's December 1st, and that means it's time for a Holidays Around the World celebration in first grade! I'm using Rachelle Smith's Holidays Around the World unit to take my students on a trip a day to learn about traditions and customs from 8 different countries. Her unit was a huge hit last year, so I've been pumped to give it another go! We visited America to learn about Christmas traditions today, and will explore India, Israel, Mexico, Germany, France,  Greenland, and Italy before it's time for winter break. The unit actually includes 13 countries, but unfortunately, we just don't have the time to make use of all it has to offer! These are some pictures of last year's bulletin board:

Each country includes an accompanying craft or game. However, for Christmas in America, I put my own little spin on things: Mooseltoe by Margie Palatini! If you've never read this story, you've been missing out on a classic. Moose's Christmas preparations are perfectly perfect, until he realizes... he forgot the Christmas tree! Moose turns his "moosetache" into a perfectly perfect Christmas tree to save the day in this silly holiday story. Don't have a copy handy in your classroom or library? Check it out on YouTube and you'll discover it's worth a read!

After my students got their passports stamped and we took off for America, we settled in to read our story (I should note that I teach at an American school in Japan, so flying to the States was actually a pretty big deal for us;)). We discussed the story elements and completed this graphic organizer together:

The kids just about lost it when I showed them the Mooseltoe craft that they would be creating after they finished the graphic organizer. You would've thought I'd told them Santa himself would be stopping by for lunch.

It's been a looong time since they've worked so quietly and efficiently on a craft activity! It might have helped that Ernie the Elf arrived in our classroom this morning...

(The P.S. says, "I'll be telling Santa all about our adventures." Then there's a P.P.S., "Sorry for the sloppy handwriting. These markers are too fat for my little elf hands.") :)

It took about 30 minutes for everyone to finish assembling Moose. Then, the REAL fun started. I put out trays of sequins, bows, stickers, ribbon, and tinsel, and the kids went to town decorating Moose for Christmas. Thank goodness for dollar stores (again, I live in Japan, so our dollar stores are really 100 yen stores:))!

Cups with a small amount of Elmer's Glue helped to minimize the mess
I went a little nuts at the dollar store!

I must say, I think Moose looks "perfectly perfect" on this year's new Holidays Around the World bulletin board! If you agree, you can snag this activity for free from my Teachers Pay Teachers store, Little Owl's Teacher Treats. Feedback would be much appreciated... and if you create your own Moose in your classroom, use #mooseltoe or #littleowlsteachertreats on Instagram so I can check them out! Would love to see Moose in action! 

Beautiful map courtesy of Rachelle Smith's Holidays Around the World unit (and my school's poster printer).

This kiddo insisted that upside-down antlers and googly eyes made it "look like a real moose." 

Happy Holidays and happy crafting, everyone :)


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Back to School: Diving Into First Grade

It’s August? Really? When did that happen?  

I’ll be getting back into my classroom soon, and although I love the creativity involved in designing a new theme, I’m going to recycle last year’s “Under the Sea” look. My recent travels and wedding planning have left me fried and my checkbook a little thin, so something had to give! (Case in point: I spent the better part of yesterday evening practicing these map flowers for my centerpieces. Thank you, Pinterest!)

Can’t say I’m too sad about recycling the theme, though… that means I get to make these scuba divers all over again…

… They’re pretty adorable if I do say so myself. I revamped the pattern a bit since making them last year, so now they’ll look a little more like this…

I love the way they look with the kids’ photos in place of the generic face, so that’ll be the only difference! My first graders were so stoked to make them last August. This time around, I’m also going to have my kiddos write about the reasons why they are excited to be “diving into” first grade for my bulletin board display. Here’s what it looked like last year:

I’m anticipating a smaller class this year and will tone down the size of the letters, so there should be extra room to display the writing. 

This packet includes writing paper and graphic organizers appropriate for kindergarten- 3rd grade, with a variety of prompt options! It also includes the template and detailed directions for making the scuba diversI also found this cute ocean- themed border at JoAnn Fabric to accent my board. 

The octopus tentacles are made from construction paper links and my students LOVED him! To finish off the hallway display, I used thispacket from Susan Morrow's Teachers Pay Teachers store to make nametags for my new kiddos and dubbed them “Ms. Utz’s Sea Creatures.” The packet is filled with tons of other goodies for decking out the classroom with the ocean theme; once everything is up and running, I’ll post again with a full classroom tour!

One more thing before I go… I think I’ll bring back my “Reader’s Reef” library nook for another round :)

Thanks for stopping by! You can find the scuba diver packet by clicking here for my Teachers Pay Teachers store, Little Owl's Teacher Treats. Feel free to reach me with questions by commenting here or emailing Happy back-to-school season and good luck starting the new year!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Back to First Grade: Penguins and Polar Bears and Reindeer, Oh My!

It's been two weeks since returning from winter break, and I think I've maybe, a little bit, almost recovered from my post-break blues. I traveled back to the States to spend the holidays with my family, and I always find myself in a bit of a funk when I come back to Japan after some time at home. Homesickness rears its ugly head I suppose. I had a particularly exciting trip because I did quite a bit of wedding planning thanks to my family and my soon-to-be in-laws... and I unexpectedly found my wedding dress! Although Kevin and I aren't getting married until summer 2017, I couldn't resist trying on some dresses with my mom and sister. I thought it would just be a fun day out for us and I'd really go for the hunt this summer. Naive, right?! We visited just one shop, Carlisle's of Pittsburgh, and I fell in love. Oh how I wish I could post a photo here... But the most I'll say is, it was inspired by this photo...

I was never the girl that dreamt of her fantasy wedding, but let's just say that once I got swept into planning mode, my inner, suppressed girly- girl combined with my love of organization and attention to detail, and I got caught up in the excitement. Is it summer 2017 yet?!

After finding a wedding dress, selecting the perfect church, browsing potential venues, and getting a tentative "yes" from my favorite Pittsburgh- based band to play at our reception (not to mention 24 hours of travel each way), I had a tough time coming back to reality once school stared again. Fortunately, all that travel time gave me a opportunity to create some fun materials for a mini penguin unit to kick off the new year.

Thank goodness I had some plans ready to go, because my first week was consumed with kids coming and going from my class. My school is part of a military community, which means that the flow of kids in and out is kind of like a revolving door. Within 10 school days, I lost 3 kiddos and gained another three. It's amazing to see the flexibility that these children develop due to this lifestyle! Having lived in the same neighborhood my whole life until I went to college, I can't really identify with the constant state of flux experienced by these children. They come to my classroom with such varied experiences and background knowledge. They've all been through the process of moving, starting new schools, finding new friends- and many of them have gone through it multiple times, at only six years old. As heartbreaking as the goodbyes can be, it's just as heartwarming to see the open arms with which my kiddos welcome new children into our little classroom community. They all get it. Friends come and go when you're a military child. You've got to embrace and appreciate them while you have the chance.

So, given the significant changes to my class during the first week after break, things were a little chaotic for a few days. That didn't stop me from launching into my mini penguin unit, and the kids absolutely loved it! It blew their minds to learn that penguins do not, in fact, live in the North Pole, and that they're only found in the Southern Hemisphere. One student refused to accept that penguins and polar bears don't live in the same place- he was convinced that polar bears love to eat penguins! One thing I love about first graders- the sense of conviction they feel when they are convinced they are right about something. 

We kicked off the penguin- filled fun with New Years resolutions- aka "penguin pledges." They came up with all kinds of interesting goals, ranging from "I want to learn Hindi because my parents speak it" to "I will eat Mandarin oranges" (love how specific he was with that one). My favorite:

"I will do more than 100 pooshups!" Love the sound spelling here!

Our Readers' Workshop focus for the week was comparing and contrasting, so I checked out a few nonfiction books about penguins and other polar animals for our mini lessons. We had already leaned about owls earlier in the year, so I pulled it this anchor chart we had made, and led a discussion about penguins vs. owls:

Then along came polar bears... 

And Venn diagrams to match!

I've got Venn diagrams for penguins/ owls and penguins/ polar bears (with facts to match) in my Penguin Science Activities product available here on TPT. We haven't gotten around to the mini research report available in that pack, too, but that's on the schedule for next week!

We also read about reindeer and narwhals, and although we didn't do any Venn diagrams, students compared and contrasted the animals in their reading journals. To be honest, I didn't know much about narwhals before planning a lesson on them. One kiddo said, "Oh, they're like unicorns, because they have that horn on their heads!"

Another great first grade quote during this unit: "Polar bears don't need to live in groups. They're at the top of the food court!" You never know what will come out if the mouths of first graders!

I planned to introduce adjectives last week, so I put together a noun/ verb/ adjective sort with a penguin theme. I always struggle with finding ways to make grammar fun, so I was relieved to find that they absolutely loved this! I introduced adjectives as a mini- lesson and had the kids brainstorm words to describe penguins; they came up with a great assortment of ideas:

(Forgive the funky- looking penguin. This is what happens when you realize you've got 2 minutes left in your lunch period and you forgot to make your chart.)

After the mini-lesson, we did the center activity together as a class, and I put it in the grammar center the next day. There are nouns, verbs, and adjectives written on on fish, and the kids sort them into the correct buckets based on the parts of speech! For the first few days I just put out the nouns and verbs as a review , and added adjectives later. They also got a kick out of writing silly sentences as an extension activity- they chose one word from each bucket and used them to put together crazy sentences. 

You can find this sort here! Next week I'm introducing contractions with another penguin-themed contraction activity available here... I hope it'll be as big a hit as the noun/ verb/ adjective activity! Here's a preview... Gotta get caught up on my laminating...

Besides the grammar center, I also set up some penguin activities at the writing center. 

To be honest, my kids didn't take these prompts and run with them at first the way I was hoping they would. They turned in some really sloppy, incomplete pieces on the first day! We had a BIG talk about expectations for the writing center, reviewed examples vs. non- examples using the document camera, and placed models at the writing center for reference. It made a major difference. The following is a piece that a student wrote the next day- we reviewed it during "author's chair" and displayed it at the center as a model. She was so proud of herself! It totally paid off, too. The next day, another girl brought her writing to me after centers and asked if she could share it with the class. We put it up on the SmartBoard and discussed why it was a great example. She beamed when I asked if I could display it at the center. She's not normally a motivated writer, so I loved to see her have an opportunity to take such pride in her work. I need to start doing this with their work more often! (Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the 2nd child's work, but here's the first example we discussed)

We've been reading the Tacky the Penguin books by Helen Lester, so the second prompt is, "Write 3 things you would do with Tacky the Penguin if you got to spend a day with him. Illustrate your sentences." Her first idea was so great- "I would play origami with him on the bus." It was original compared to some of the other ideas! These prompts and more are available with a cute penguin craft here.  The Tacky prompt is also available with "Write Your Own Tacky the Penguin Story with Craft" (see more on that below!).

My awesome first grade teammate had her kiddos respond to the Tacky prompt, too, and they wrote this model together before going off to write:

Speaking of Tacky the Penguin, I'm obsessed with the series by Helen Lester! The books are always a huge hit with my first graders. Hawaiian shirts, silly songs, and tender messages about accepting the "odd birds" among us- what's not to love?! If you're unfamiliar with the stories, check out the original on YouTube here. I guarantee you'll fall for Tacky in no time:) My kiddos haven't made the penguin craft yet because I'm planning to have them write their own Tacky the Penguin adventures next week for our bulletin board. It's looking bare at the moment...

... But we'll be making these cuties soon!

They'll be displayed along with the kids' Tacky stories... More pictures of those in my next post!

You can snag the graphic organizers for the Tacky story (there are several options in the file, if you're not crazy about this one), writing paper, and craft template here: Write Your Own "Tacky the Penguin" Story with Craft.

I can't wait to see how they turn out! I'd planned on doing the stories last week, but it took awhile for our class to get back into routines- I think the kids were experiencing some "post- break blues" of their own. Hopefully my board will warrant this reaction...

I'll post the results next week, and in the meantime, I'm also gearing up for our upcoming earth materials unit! I've really been putting the laminator to the test lately between my penguin activities and the "All About Rocks" materials I've been prepping:

You can snag the whole unit here or grab the freebie rock sort here. I'll be posting lots of details about that unit after I implement it next month, so stay tuned by following my blog or my Instagram account (@littleowlsteachertreats) for alerts on updates! Thanks for stopping by!

February in First Grade

Well folks, it's a brand new month. That means my entire store is 10% off for the first three days and you can snag my latest First of t...