Sunday, March 17, 2013

Penguin Fun!

There is so much more to reading than just *reading* when it comes to young learners. You have to make to make it real to them. We all know this. You have to find ways to get them involved and interested. My class recently read the story Penguin Chick. It's a non-fiction text that describes the life cycle of the emperor penguin. Before we read this, my students weren't really interested in penguins at all, I would guess. By the end of the week, my kids were eager to learn more! That's what I love! They were reading the other books about penguins that I had in my personal library, and were checking out books from our school library. 

One thing I did to rivet these little readers was to find a live webcam of penguins. San Diego Penguin Video Cam is the one I used. The kids absolutely LOVED watching this! Who knew penguins could be so funny and interesting! Some even went home and watched them on their own computers! I even had a parent tell me that her son went home and taught his younger sister everything that he'd been learning about penguins! LOVE that!

Another thing we did was to put ourselves in the place of the emperor penguin father. Poor guy has to carry that egg on his feet for two whole months! Fortunately, I have a good relationship with our PE teachers, so I asked to borrow some bean bags from the PE department. We went outside, shuffled our feet with the bean bag eggs on top, (yep, that was a vocabulary word) as we played a relay game to see which penguin daddy could bring the egg back home safe and secure first. They had a ball with this, as you can see! 
See how innovative he is? 
Spoke too THIS is innovation! I'm gonna tie that egg to my foot!
I loved using this text with my students. It was a precursor to our novel for the 9 weeks, Mr. Popper's Penguins, which they also loved. If you teach penguins, and/or Penguin Chick please check out my unit on Teachers Pay Teachers. You will find reading and writing activities that go along with this text. My students especially enjoyed completing a Venn Diagram comparing their family to the family of emperor penguins. We then used that Venn Diagram to write about these similarities and differences. Some of these were quite entertaining! I love when my third graders get into their writing! Enjoy! 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fantastic Freebies for Your Classroom!!

I just love freebies! Today, I'm going to share one way that I've gotten some great, high quality freebies for my classroom.

You know those envelopes you get in your school mailbox from Highlights Magazine with the little yellow slips of paper that they want you to send home with your students? DO THIS! DON'T trash them! I have gotten magnets, pointers, stickers, notepads, sticky notes, FREE subscriptions to Highlights...but my all time favorite was the pack of reading highlighters that I got for FREE, simply by sending home those yellow slips of paper, and getting them back with a parent's signature.

Do whatever you have to do to get those slips back. I put a big X where the parent needs to sign, and I tell my kids that I don't care if their parents order or not, just bring that paper back with a signature! I share the free magazine with my students, then put it on my bookshelf with the others, so they can peruse it at their leisure. I also show them all the freebies I've gotten, because previous students have done exactly what I'm asking them to do! To ensure that the slip is seen by parents, I attach it to the top of the papers that I send home to get signed. I have also (on occasion) told my students that if they bring it back signed, they can use it as a homework pass.

I almost always get them all, or mostly all, back signed. Some even sign up for a subscription. If three parents sign up, you get additional freebies! You can enter all of your information online as well, so it's easy-peasy to do! It does take a little time (that we have so much of) but believe me, it is worth it.

Back to those highlighters I mentioned earlier. They are awesome. I'm a big fan of color. I'm a big fan of novelty. The brain loves both, and this thing combines them! I bring them out with much fanfare at the beginning of the year. We talk about how we must not bend them, so they will last. They have lasted two years so far. They don't go home. Students can make their own for home use by cutting a strip of those colorful transparent binder dividers that you can find at any office supply store. I love these because they allow students to focus on the line that we are reading. It keeps them engaged in the text, and helps them to not skip lines when they are reading. They love using them, and they don't let me forget to bring them out. I even have to go down the roll, so each child has a turn passing them out!

And no, the magazine did not contact me to blog about this, or offer me any additional freebies. I'm a new blogger; they don't even know who I am. ;-) But if they were to see this, I would welcome any and all freebies they had to offer! ;-) I'm easy like that. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

What's In a Name?

I decided to create this blog a couple of months ago, and the part that I've agonized over the most was, "What do I name this thing??" I really struggled with this. I wanted something catchy, and I wanted something that reflected my purpose for creating the blog in the first place. I teach third grade reading, and reading is my one of my biggest passions - I love to read, and I love teaching reading. I don't just want my students to view reading casually...(and certainly not negatively!) I want them to become immersed in lose themselves in a book, to feel connected to the story on a deep level. As I was pondering over this again Friday night, I had what can only be described as an epiphany of sorts. Connections. Deep connections that can't be easily disconnected. Rivets. Riveted Little Readers. That's what I want for my students. 

I thought of my iron and how I easily plug it in, iron my clothes, and then just as easily and without much thought, unplug it until it's time for its next use. That's not what we want for our students. We don't want them to view reading as a mindless task that we easily plug into and out of as needed. So what do we want for our readers? Hmmm...I then thought of the rivets in my little boy's jeans. Those things don't budge. They are STUCK in there for LIFE! They are attached to those jeans, and I don't know that you can disengage them. Now that's what we want for our readers! We want them to become so attached, so engaged, that reading becomes a part of them and part of what's important to them. And we want this to be a life-long attachment; just like the rivets in my little boy's blue jeans. 

So I present to you: Riveted Little Readers. Hope you enjoy this journey with me. Please participate! I want this to be a forum in which we can all share what works and what doesn't. What are some things you do to turn disengaged readers who just plug in and out as needed into riveted little readers?