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Writing Through the Sea!

Our classroom has been transformed into an ocean wonderland over the past few weeks.

The kids love it and so do I.

I recently gave my Writing Through the Sea an overhaul and added 30 pages! It now contains 5 complete (and differentiated!) writing lessons along with craft black lines. I use all of these writing lessons throughout May. I love how the kids' work turns out and the crafts just make me smile.

The tide pool is fun and very "3D".

I love that sad face on that lil' crab there! I took a short cut on this one and did a "cloze" writing activity because we were short on time. But even with that, their writing cracked me up. I mean, who doesn't want to "stamp their foot" when they are mad? ;)

I have a lot of English Language Learners in my class so the cloze activities are really helpful. They allow them to work independently and feel success without a whole lot of 1:1 assistance. They are also so thrilled with their work. Win-win!

This activity is particularly good for explaining expressions and multiple meaning words. Two things that are definite obstacles for English learners - and, well let's face it - all little kids.

For an expository writing piece, we wrote about sharks. As always, we started with a detailed plan that the kiddos developed on their own. 

Normally, I do not have the kids glue printed out names on their paper, but these are my Open House bulletin boards. In order to ensure that parents can find their kiddos work quickly, I have the little peeps glue pre-printed names on their papers.
One of my favorite things about kid's work is when they make it their own. Why shouldn't your shark swim in the opposite direction of everyone else? Awesome! 

Under those cutie pie whales and colorful sea stars is even more writing! The stars hold sea facts and the whales are disguising narrative stories about magically shrinking whales! Again, their writing came from detailed plans that were developed during our weekly writing lessons. You can see more on these whale stories HERE.

The sea stars are fun. I let the kids color them as they wish. They use glue to outline where they want textural detail. Then they drop crush shredded wheat over the glue. Quick and easy.  Some of them really turn out absolutely gorgeous.

One of the writing lessons I have added to the Writing Through the Sea Resource was a narrative assignment called "Adventures with the Merkids". My kids had a blast writing this one!
Our narrative lessons always start with some sort of simple drawing boxes. We then create and edit sentences to match our drawn vision for our story. The Adventures with the Merkids writing plan includes a word bank to help spur on some of the imaginative elements and encourage a little more detail.

I cannot express enough the importance of consistent and routine writing lessons. I believe it is imperative begin with a plan and use the same type of plan often enough that they are able to "visualize" their writing plan when they aren't given time to actually use/create one - as is often the case with assessments.

If you are interesting in these writing lessons, you can find them in Writing Through the Sea. If you already own Writing Through the Sea, don't forget to redownload it! It has more than doubled in size!

Open House - A Growth Showcase!

The end of the year is near peeps!

We just had our Open House last week.

Unlike some of you, we have Open House at the end of the school year. Back-to-School Night is at the beginning of the year and Open House is the culminating "thing" at the end of each school year.

Well it used to be. We had it kind of early this year. So now it FEELS like the year should be over, even though we still have a few weeks to go.

A few colleagues refer to Open House as a "dog and pony" show. Although I understand why they feel that way, I completely disagree.

To me, Open House is a party. It's the kids' party - I'm just there to monitor. They host it. They enjoy it to no end. The classroom is all about them. The music is fun and loud. There are snacks. I just stand around an answer the occasional question about how "Johnny is doing", smile for pics with the kiddos, and pick the randomly dropped goldfish crackers off the floor.

Our theme in class during Open House time is always the ocean habitat because it is my favorite and it includes the most writing assignments poured into a short stretch of time. That results in the most fabulousness to display.

Here are a few views of the classroom before it was filled with the kiddos and their families.
It is absolutely amazing how happy walking through a crepe paper waterfall makes kiddos! 

The Crabby Tide Pool is filled with their I Get Crabby writing and crab craft.

The Sharky bulletin board showcases informational writing focusing on sharks facts.

The reading center was completely "fixed up" by the kiddos in a very symmetrical, everything has its perfect place kind of way. And yes, apparently that monkey MUST hang on the trunk of the tree. I caught them fixing it up again every time someone's little sibling did a little rearranging. Such a crack up!

There aren't enough walls for all of their writing so some of what the write goes in class books. See this post about how these can be easily and quickly thrown together in a way that allows them to be reused each year.
The large killer whale in the top left was created by the kids. See this post for more info on that!

The back wall displays their Whale of a Tale stories and whale crafts. You can read more about them and the jellyfish hanging from the ceiling here.

The slideshow filled with class fun is running on all of the computers so more peeps can watch it without getting into everyone's personal space. I decided to use songs we sang and danced to a lot in class for this year's "end of the year" movie.

  • Count on Me - Bruno Mars
  • Uptown Funk - Kidz Bop version
  • Happy (From Despicable Me) - Pharrell Williams
  • Dream Big - Ryan Shupe and the Rubbberband (We didn't really sing nor dance to this during the year, but you need something to help with the tears!)

Our Open House Brochure is on their desks and a few extra are on the snack table. I think it's a good idea to have a little keepsake for the parents that also outlines the key areas of the room. Here's what mine looks like:

The back side includes a class "selfie" along with their names.

Also on their desks is their "Sea How I've Grown" folder. In this is all of the work from the 1st Grade Measuring Stick. We do the activities on the first day of school and then again the week before Open House. This demonstrates their growth, not only to me and for assessment purposes, but for their parents as well.

We start with a folded piece of construction paper. I have the kiddos color the page that is glued to the front.
Inside I staple the exact same papers. One side is everything from the first day of school. The other side is from mid-May. This is also where I indicate their reading growth.

I always take their pictures in the same location. In this one, the physical growth isn't as great as it is in most of the kiddos pics. However you can tell that this little one had quite a bit of hair back in August and the top of that hair didn't even hit the "cross-bar" in the e in the poster behind his head. In May, with very little hair, the top of his head meets that mark. In some of the kiddos pictures the growth is easily several inches! I love that the poster (although not the BEST background) helps exemplify that physical growth. The loss of baby fat in the picture comparisons is pretty amazing, too.

It's so fun to look at the kiddos' changes in artistic abilities over the year. Having them do a self-portrait usually shows some incredible gains. This little guy had hands and feet in August. That's usually not that case!

One of the things I ask them to do is write words they know how to spell. At the beginning of the year this is a LOT to ask. Apparently, he knew dog and that's about it back then! :) They have to write these words without looking up from their paper. The same amount of time to complete this is given at the beginning of the year as is provided at the end!

In addition to having them complete a "sample of my neatest printing" page, the kiddos are also asked to write a response to the same writing prompt. The growth in writing ability is always so thrilling!

In addition to all of these language arts items, the Sea How I've Grown folders also include a math test (the August version is generally left completely blank) that covers 1st grade math standards, a 120-chart, and a counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s sheet (also usually blank in August). If you're interested in doing the same pages with your kiddos, check out The 1st Grade Measuring Stick.

A "growth folder" like this is a fabulous keepsake for parents and a good use student portfolio pieces. 

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