How to Perfect "How To" Writing

Our "How To" writing unit has been full of excitement and surprises! So far, we have done some shared writing and some independent writing about given topics. Next week, we will select our own topics, and my learners will do the planning, writing, and publishing steps independently. I can't wait to read their writing and hear their presentations! 

The first thing we tackled was how to make cookies. I was really surprised by how many of my learners had never made cookies before! We introduced how to writing by reading a book about making cookies together. We used a projectable book from the Reading A-Z website (I love this website!) I also showed a video clip from YouTube of kids demonstrating how to make cookies. 

My learners explained each step to their learning partner, and they used "invisible ingredients" to model how to make cookies. They were totally shocked and thrilled when we actually made cookies together! 

Once we got some hands-on practice, we used our writing planner to write each step.We also worked on writing a question topic sentence and a statement conclusion. I guided this process by creating a chart of sample sentences. We did some editing together and then wrote our final drafts. I was so impressed by their writing!

Week two was even more fun and delcious! We learned about making pizzas using a variety of resources including some leveled readers, magazines, and another video segment. We also made giant paper pizzas to practice our "oo" words. 

As my learners were making paper pizzas, they "wished they could make real pizzas!" we did! I was originally going to make one regular sized pizza, but I knew everyone would want to participate. So we each made mini pizzas using Lunchable Kits. It was super simple and lots of fun!

My learners worked more independently on their planning pages this week. They also wrote their own question topic sentences and statement conclusions. I love reading so many different ideas! I realize you can write many steps for how to make pizza, but we focused on just three steps. This helped us perfect our transition words and editing. 

Who knows what we will be writing about next week?! The topics are limitless, but I know my little learners have a strong foundation now for "how to" writings! We always use the same planning pages for our writing jobs so you can check them out here

Happy Teaching Friends!

Long Vowel Rainforest

It's a jungle in first grade! Well, it's technically a rainforest, but it's definitely been an amazingly fun project. We transformed our classroom into a "Long Vowel Rainforest" as we reviewed several long vowel spelling patterns. We paired our phonics practice with some non-fiction research and informative writing about the rainforest. I would love to share our project with you!

Take a peek inside our classroom and check out everything we learned! This welcome sign shows each of long vowel spelling patterns we reviewed, including magic e, long e spelled ee or ea,and long a spelled ai or ay. 

Our Long E Monkeys were created with long e words on all of their arms and legs. We wrote words on the fronts and backs of their legs. They look great from all angles hanging in our rainforest, and we got lots of spelling practice! 

Creating Long A Snakes was one of my learners' favorite activities! They were really simple to create. Cut a large piece of construction paper into an oval. Draw a spiral shape on the oval and cut along the line. We wrote long a words on the bellies of our snakes and then decorated their backs. A pair of googly eyes and a red strip of curling ribbon finished them off!

We used our Long A Differentiated Practice Activities and Posters to help us as we practiced our spelling patterns. The posters really helped us brainstorm some great words for our snakes! (You can check them out here.)

Even as an adult, I am fascinated by the rainforest. I love teaching facts about this amazing environment and watching my learners' enthusiasm grow and grow! As we read books, we kept a class anchor chart to record our findings. Our chart helped us immensely as we began our informational writing pieces. (We use the same format for all of our writing activities, and you can check it out here.)

We added our paragraphs to our rainforest display. We also made fact leaves and trees for our display with the help of our 6th grade buddies! Our long vowel rainforest has grown into one of my favorite first grade memories this year! Thanks for taking a pEEk at our nEAT rAInforest todAy! 

Happy Teaching Friends!

Phonics Charades Fun

Okay friends, I have an awesome, awesome, AWESOME game for you to practice phonics. It's not like I invented the idea of charades. In fact, I started playing charades with first graders 9 years ago when I did my student teaching with the amazing Diane Romo of One Giggle At a Time. (Her blog is coming soon so I will keep you posted when it's ready!!!) Since then, I have played charades with all of my first graders, and they LOVED it...but...I felt like I was missing something. 

Here's how we played in years past. We would brainstorm a list of word family words together, and then use the words for our game. It was simple, but I felt like my learners should be doing more. What if they didn't get a turn? Should they just sit there the whole time and watch? How did I know if they could read and write all of the words? How could I keep easily distracted students engaged?

This year I started a new way of playing phonics charades, and it truly is awesome! It answered all of my questions, and it has kept my busy little learners this year super engaged! It's fun and interactive, but it's not chaotic- I can't handle wild games! It gives learners ample practice opportunities, but it never seems like work!

There are a few ways you can play. You can cut a copy of the word cards apart and place them in a basket. The actor picks one card out of the basket and acts out the word. You could also play in small groups and give each group a set of word cards. My favorite way to play is projecting the word cards. I love playing this way for a couple of reasons. Everyone gets to see all of the words, and we chorally read all of the choices before each actor comes up. That means they are reading the words at least 10 times, but it is NEVER boring!

My learners sit with their matching recording sheet on their lap, but you could play at your desks too. One actor comes up and performs a word without saying any words or making noise. The actor picks a quiet friend to guess the word. If that friend is correct, she comes up. Meanwhile everyone finds the word on their recording sheet, traces it, writes it, and checks it off! We chorally read all of the remaining choices again and watch the new actor.

I will warn you that first graders don't always think like adults so don't be shocked if you had no idea what they are acting out. Today someone was shuffling his feet, and it turns out he was acting out the word....soap. The other kids guessed it correctly, but I didn't get it. "I was walking carefully because soap made the floor slippery"- oh yes, of course! I LOVE first graders! 

We play until all of the words have been acted out and checked off. Then we return to our seats and flip our papers over. We practice using the words in complete sentences. Some of my learners use one word, and some use two in each sentence. My kids who love a challenge can usually get 3 or 4 to work in each sentence! 

After 9 year of playing charades, it is still making me laugh. Now the beautiful writing I see and the awesome reading I hear is making me smile too! 

I am working on finishing up some new sets of phonics charades, but you can grab the sets I have done in my store on sale now! My SH digraph sample is FREE so grab it here to try it! You can also try my set for digraphs  and vowel teams. I would love to hear how much you and your students love this game too!

**Updated September 2015
I also created a short vowel version with 22 different word families and phonics skills! Check it out here

Want to try it before you buy it?
The _at word family is FREE and you can grab it here

Happy Teaching Friends!

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