Tag Archive: GRP

IMG_8729Recently our other group of 3rd graders has been working on dinosaurs.  I read Dinosaurs by Kathy Weidner Zoehfeld and gave some dinosaur background on the different groupings of dinosaurs.  The 3rd graders were then responsible for reading Dinosaurs by Elizabeth Austin.

We learned about 4 different types of dinosaurs;

  • Theropods
  • Sauropods
  • Certopsians
  • Pterosaurs

After reading in depth about the different types of dinosaurs, the students had to make a brochure writing and drawing about the 4 different dinosaur sub-groups.

Once we were finished we moved on to astronauts and space.  I read Solar System by Gregory Vogt and Planets by Elizabeth Carney.  We learned some background information about the planets and spent more time reading and learning about our moon and astronauts.

Students then were able to read All About Astronauts and learn about how people get through space camp/school and life as an astronaut.  They were then to write about how life is different on earth vs. space.


IMG_0126Our (I say our because I have started to phase out teaching and Ms. Wilson, my student teacher, has started taking over for me) 3rd graders have been working on Fairy Tales and Fractured Fairy Tales that last couple of weeks.

I started out by reading some different version of the 3 Little Pigs:

  • The Three Little Tamales by Eric A. Kimmel
  • The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz
  • The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf by Mark Teague

IMG_0125Students had to take notes on the characters, setting, and plot while I read.  They then were able to read their own story; The Three Little Pigs by Alyse Sweeney.  When they finished they had to take the book they had just read and select one of the books I read to compare the two stories. (Photo to the left)

From there Ms. Wilson took over.  She read some more Fractured Fairy Tales;

  • The Three Samurai Cats by Eric Kimmel
  • Wolf’s Coming by Joe Kulka

While Elizabeth read, the kids were asked to listen carefully and listen to character traits from each character and mark on a character trait graphic organizer what kind of character they are (smart, lazy, hard working, etc.)

The kids then, again, had their own version to read entitled Surprise for Big Bad Wolf.  When they were finished, collectively the group was to write summaries from all the Three Little Pigs that had been read over the course of the last two weeks.


4th grade is working on timelines in their classrooms.  I found A to Z’s book Mount Rushmore and thought it would be a perfect book to use especially since it had a timeline in the book.

I broke the book up into three sections, as it’s a meaty book with a lot of IMG_0121tricky vocabulary.    The kids were asked as they read to do a few things: highlight important parts, highlight unknown words, and take notes of anything they wanted to talk about in the margin.  (This is the beauty of the A to Z books–the kids can write, highlight, mark up the books as they want and then take them home.)

As they read they were to find an event they thought was important and then write why that was important.  This was a little difficult for them as they either thought almost everything was important or nothing was important–both are incorrect.  This gave us a good opportunity to talk through all the things they found important (and bring up things they didn’t think was important) and then together we were able to decide was REALLY need to be on the graphic organizer.

IMG_0119When they were finished reading the book and filling out their event graphic organizer, it paved the groundwork for filling out a timeline.  The timeline they gave us in the book contained a lot of information, but all of it wasn’t completely pertinent to our focus.

Together we went back through the highlighted areas in our book and our first graphic organizer to figure out which were the important dates for the timeline.  This provided us with an opportunity to go over how we would need to go through our timeline in order.  They wanted to just throw dates they remembered, but we had to make sure our timeline was in order.

I’m so proud of the 4th graders.  This Mount Rushmore session of learning took us nearly 2 weeks and they did a lot of great learning and thinking.  They came up with some really great questions that had us looking back in our books and also doing internet research to find the information we wanted to know.

Also, we learned Gutzon Borglum is a hard name to say. 😉

Fractured Fairy Tales For Days!

IMG_0419My 4th graders just did a mini genre study on fractured fairy tales (my favorite!)  I read 4 versions of The Three Little Pigs (Three Samurai Cats by Eric Kimmel, A Wolf at the Door by Nick Ward, Wolf’s Coming by Joe Kulka, The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz) and then they had to read their own version. (A Surprise For Big Bad Wolf)

IMG_0420The students were able to go through all of my fractured fairy tales for inspiration and then come up with their own ideas for their own fractured fairy tales.

We got kind of carried away with enjoying reading all the different fairy tales that we didn’t get a chance to spend too much time on the writing, but I can’t be mad at the kids for being so engulfed in good literature.

IMG_5702My 2nd graders have been doing a unit of study on seeds, plants, and growing.  I read Leaves, Flowers, Roots, and Seeds by Vijaya Khisty Bodach (4 separate books) starting out our unit of study, which goes into more depth on each flowers, roots, IMG_5897seeds, and leaves.  From there my 2nd graders have been reading And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano and The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli.  Both are fictional stories, but based around the premise of growing seeds.

After we read And Then It’s Spring I had the 2nd graders plant their own garden.  This was a lot of fun.  We have planted carrots and beans and been writing and tracking the process (impatiently, of course!)  We have a chart of growth and we are writing the date each time we see something change on the chart.

We also dissected flowers to find the different parts of the flowers and to find the seeds (which they insisted we plant as well–maybe we’ll have carnations at some point growing in there, too??)

The kiddos took a highlighter and had to trace/locate the veins in the leaves.  It was pretty incredible to hold the leaves up to the light and see all the tiny and intricate veins within the leaves.  “Oh my gosh!  There are way more veins than I thought IMG_5900there would be!” said one of the girls in group.

I’ve done these books before, but I’ve never grown the garden or dissected flowers with the kids before.  It has been a lot of fun for me.  It’s almost more fun, though, seeing how excited the kids get coming in each day to see how the plants have changed since we first started working on the garden.

I will post an update later on once the plants have reached maturity closer to Christmas time.



Story Comparisons

IMG_0015Fresh off the tail of our fables we moved into reading several versions of the same story with my 3rd graders and comparing different versions of the same story.  During our preparing phases I read Inside Mouse, Outside Mouse by Lindsey Barrett George and Country Mouse-City Mouse retold by John Wallner as our mentor texts.  We compared the two books I read initially to get us prepared for comparing all 3 of the books later on.

The next day I had the kids read City Mouse and the Country Mouse retold by Amy Helfer.  They took notes on all 3 of the books of characteristics they noticed while the stories were read.

Once they were finished with all of the stories they each were given chart paper to compare all three of the stories.  We talked as a whole group about different ideas such as all three stories had 2 mice in them, but in one story they were cousins, in another they were friends, and in the last one they were strangers.  In 2 of the stories there was a problem and a solution and in the 3rd story there was no problem or solution.  It was neat to see the kids organize the stories and really dig deeper into the texts and see how 3 stories that are the same can be so drastically different.

IMG_9246After Christmas break we looked at student data and switched around our groups to serve the kids who most need our help currently.  I now am the proud teacher of two 2nd grade groups instead of just 1.  My 1st group of 2nd graders recently read The Fun Club Goes To The Dairy Farm by Jane Shaffer.  We’ve read other Fun Club books and the kids always seem to really enjoy them.

IMG_9247In this story the kids learn about what goes on at a dairy farm.  We did some vocabulary work at the beginning and watched a couple of short clips of cows chewing their cud and a milking parlor as the kids had a lot of questions during the book orientation.

We learned that cheese, butter, and ice cream all come from milk.  I have a couple of English Language Learners in my group and they were curious how these products came for milk.  All of the kids had ideas, but none of them were quite on the right track.  I thought this would be a fun opportunity to bring in some hands-on learning.  I told them the next group session we would be making our own butter.

IMG_9245We talked about how milk separates with milk and cream and that’s how we get different types of milk–skim, 1%, 2%, and whole.  The cream that isn’t used for milk is put aside and used to make these other dairy products.  We watched a couple of short clips about milk separation and then we got to work on making our own butter.

If you are doing any kind of work with farms this is a super EASY way to bring in some fun and exciting learning.  I brought in the smallest tupperware containers I had and then poured in about 1/8th of a cup of heavy cream into the containers.  I sealed each container and gave one to each student.  Together we all shook, shook, shook until we couldn’t hear the liquid swishing around anymore (about 5 minutes or so).  We had a student come in late so I gave him mine and poured up a new container.  The kids were really excited when they hear the very obvious swishing in my container and theirs wasn’t swishing anymore.

IMG_9249From there the kids were given a plastic spoon, napkin, and slice of bread.  They were able to sample their butter.  We talked about how you could eat the butter plain or you could add a little salt to make it taste a little more like butter you buy in the store.  When the question came up about how it went from liquid to solid we talked about how we shook the fat particles to the point where they started to clump together and expand.  I put the left over butter in the fridge and they’ll be able to take their butter home with them at the end of the day with the promise they will explain to their parents how to make butter and why it gets thick.

When we meet again we’ll be writing about the milking process and how you can take the fat from the milk and turn it into butter.

IMG_7837We can’t believe it, but we’re already 2/3rds of the way through summer school!!  All 3 of us teachers have been impressed with how hard the kiddos have been working and how engaged they are when working with each of us.  We’ve been seeing a lot of good skills, strategies, and ideas coming out.

IMG_7836This week students learned how making a list can help us as writers.  We made a list of things that make summer great.  Students filled their practice page with things that had done over the summer–from visiting family members to taking vacations, going to the pool, spending time with friends, and staying up late/sleeping in late.  It was a challenging transition for the students to NOT write their ideas in full sentences.  It was foreign to just jot down “waterpark” instead of “I went to the waterpark”.   We talked about how this was just the idea stage and didn’t need to be in complete sentences yet.

From there students had to pick several of the things from their list.  This was where they were able to start turning their ideas into complete sentences.  Students needed to write an opening sentence to allow readers to know what they were going to be talking about.

Students had a writing conference with me after they had finished their rough draft and we were able to expand upon ideas and fix up spelling and grammatical errors.  Students were then able to make a final copy and design their heading picture.  I was impressed with the variety of ideas they came up with.

IMG_7834The almost 3rd graders have enjoyed their time with Mrs. Earle and Ms. Alfrey as well.  Mrs. Earle has continued to work on Word Work.  Students have continued to use different literature to help them locate new letter clusters.  They’ve been putting them into unique sentences as well.  Mrs. Earle has been giving students a generic sentence (I.E.–I went to the park) and then students had to add in new vocabulary words to make it more exciting.  Instead of went, students had to incorporate other words.  Most of the students use this sentence as their sharing since they were so proud of the way they made their sentence “better than Mrs. Earle’s.”

Ms. Alfrey has continued to have guided reading groups (also called Guided Reading Plus) where she has been able to monitor student’s oral accuracy, fluency, comprehension, and decoding skills.  The kids have had to read their group book during their independent study time as well.  Students have enjoyed having an individual reading conference with Ms. Alfrey as they work through the book on their own.  Group discussions have really expanded on their comprehension, which is something most of the students had struggled with during the school year.

As we go into our final week of summer school we hope to give the students this final boost so they can spring into 3rd grade and be as successful as possible.  Continue to check back to see what else we’re working on during the week.

Summer School Update #1

Now we are getting into the swing of a regular schedule.  Our 2nd graders were put into 4 different groups with 4 different rotations for 25 minutes each.  After the 4 rotations we come back together as a large group and share with each other something interesting or important we learned from our sessions during the day.

IMG_7790 One of the rotations is work work and word skills with our Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Earle.  When students are with her she works on group and individual word work skills students need.  This individualized support helps students with unknown words parts, hearing the sounds of word parts, building words and word parts, putting the parts into sentences, and that’s just the beginning.  Mrs. Earle uses a variety of strategies to make working with unknown word parts lots of fun!  Mrs. Earle provides additional instruction on the parts Ms. Alfrey and I notice the students need extra help with to be more successful when they come to our rotations.  Students see Mrs. Earle for 25 minutes every day.

Another rotation is Guided Reading Plus Reading Group with our 5th grade Special Needs Strategist Ms. Alfrey.   When students are with her IMG_7791they receive reading instruction with a book at their current reading level.  Ms. Alfrey has individualized reading and writing conferences with each student.  She takes running records to check for oral accuracy and to check for skills students are and aren’t using for each book.  This helps her know what she can continue to instruct on and when students are ready to move on to a higher reading level.  Students also write in response to the books they read with Ms. Alfrey.  She is able to have a writing conference with each student on their writing as well.  She helps make a reading and writing connection between the books they are reading.  She helps to make sure students are applying the skills students are learning with Mrs. Earle and myself.  Students see Ms. Alfrey for 25 minutes every day.

Another rotation is writing and an intervention called Interactive Writing with me, Ms. Acuff.  In this rotation I focus on IMG_7796writing and grammar skills students need to help themselves become more proficient writers.  Here, students are able to apply skills they are using with Mrs. Earle.  Students work on making graphic organizers and plans for mapping out a story.   Students have individualized story plans with me and get a personal writing conference with me every day.  Students are encouraged to use a practice page to help themselves with unknown words.  If they are still unsure if the word they wrote is spelled correctly then they are to circle the word so I can help them with it during our writing conference.   During our conferences we are able to talk about how to make a sentence make sense, using proper spelling, punctuation, and capitalization along with correct grammar.  Students are able to process with me on how to make the story more interesting with additional details and how to write more complex sentences.  From there, students are able to write finalized copies of their stories.

We also work on an intervention called Interactive Writing where we are able to read silly poems and write a shared story together.  This is an opportunity to have fun together and apply writing skills as a group.  This breaks up the routine of writing an individual story.  Students meet with me for 25 minutes every day.

IMG_7789The final rotation is an independent time where students are to practice reading their group book or another selected book.  Sometimes students read with another student in their group or they read individually.  After students have read their selected book then students are to do a reading response in their reading response journal, which is to include the title of the book, a favorite part, and an explanation of why it was your favorite part.  This is a fun time where students are able to share their enthusiasm for reading.  Here students are encourage to apply the decoding skills they have been learning and working on while with Ms. Alfrey and Mrs. Earle.  This is time away from teachers where they are able to “put it all together”.   Students participate in this rotation for 25 minutes every day.

Finally students are able to come back together at the very end of the 4 IMG_7797rotations to meet as a large group.   This is our sharing time.  Students are encouraged to reflect on all the learning they have done for the past 2 hours and think about meaningful parts they want to share with the group.  Sometimes they are able to share anything from the day and sometimes they are asked to share something specific.  In the picture on the left students were asked to share from their reading response journals over the book they read during independent time.  This also holds students accountable for the work they are asked to do while they are away from teachers.  This also allows students to have a voice and take ownership of their learning.  Sharing time is for 15 minutes every day.

In between the 4 rotations we take a 10 minute break for drinks, bathroom, and fresh air.  At the very end of the 4 rotations and sharing time students have a snack, socialize, and then load onto the bus.

I’m encouraged by the positive attitudes students come with each and every day.  Students are enthusiastic about learning.  Mrs. Earle, Ms. Alfrey, and myself were discussing how engaged students were and how everyone was extremely focused.  We know this is going to be a great kick start to the upcoming 2013-2014 year.  Check back soon for another update.