Well, we finally made it, and it could not have come soon enough. This last week was one of those weeks that makes me question whether or not teaching is actually my calling. It felt like everything possible that could go wrong was. It felt like everything I did or taught was a disaster. I felt like a complete teaching-failure last week. So you can imagine my excitement with 3:00 pm on Friday rolled around. I have this next week to reflect on my teaching priorities and decide the best way to make my teaching most effective when we come back.
Enough of the depressive post - time to reflect on what HAS worked this year :)
I've been meaning to post about previous successes in my classroom, but, as I mentioned, last week was a week from hell, and the previous weeks I've just been too darn busy to post anything meaningful (sorry).
Time to go back in time here people. I'm talking all the way back to March 14th - when we had our Annual Nonfiction Curriculum Fair! The entire Lower School spent several weeks planning, creating and prepping to showcase all of our work on our class's Nonfiction Topic. Each class had a different topic they were going to study and present. Our class studied Sea Animals, and each of my kiddos had a different animal to study. This was perfect, because it was just familiar enough that my students had a lot to offer, but we still had so much to learn and compare. It was also important for me to incorporate as much reading instruction as possible. Other classrooms focused more on the research process and presentation. My kiddos are not currently at the level that that is a priority to me - I wanted to use this topic study as a means to utilize our reading strategies, while still continue to teach reading skills. I found this terrific series, A Day in the Life: Sea Animals. The series is fabulous and there are lots of different topics, all with specific animals for each topic! (Desert Animals, Arctic Animals, & Rainforest Animals)
We have 8 kids in our class, and with 6 Sea Animal books in this series, we had to get creative (not very creative I must add....). We had two students do Sea Turtles (because we split our reading groups into 2), and we took the Narwhal book from the Arctic Animals series. This worked out well and the kids were still able to work individually on their topic without repeating much!
We of course, started our unit with a Nonfiction Features Hunt using sticky notes with the different features written on them to match to each feature in their text.
Our variation on the typical KWL chart. We use Brain Frames from the Empower Writing Curriculum. Here, a student is creating a Telling Brain Frame about the questions he has about his sea animal, the sea turtle. Other lessons included things the students already knew about their sea animals, and then things they learned after the unit was done, about their sea animal.
We also have learned about main idea and details earlier this year. We identify main ideas as "just right", "too specific" (or "too small", depending on your student), and "too general" (or "too big"). This student requires certain accommodations and specific scaffolding to access this skill. I quickly typed three potential main ideas based on his sea animal (the dolphin), and had him identify which was just right, too specific and too general. He then cut out the "just right" main idea, and pasted in onto a worksheet I created, identifying the main idea of a section within the text. Other students were required to write the "just right" main idea, without these modifications.
One of our final products for the Curriculum Fair was to write three facts about their sea animal. This student is completing his rough draft, based on a Telling Brain Frame he created about facts about sea turtles.
This student is also writing three facts about her sea animal, the Weddell seal. She generated a list of facts, and copied my handwriting based on her oral fact she provided me.
This same student is now typing her final draft of her three facts on an Alphasmart.
These students are coloring in our world map (that yours truly created). This map was used for our Sea Animal Facts, and for a labeling lesson for the different parts of a world map.
After coloring was completed, the students labeled the different parts of the world, such as the different oceans and continents. This help when they then labeled where their sea animal lives.
Another product we created was our Nonfiction Features Poster, based on our sea animal books.
I created this Nonfiction Features project by scanning different pages of their specific sea animals books. Click here for a freebie sample of this project (based on the dolphin), or click the image below.
After about 6 weeks of reading, research, and preparation, it was time for the Nonfiction Curriculum Fair! We were all so excited!! Here is a picture of our booth's setup.
Here is a close up of the final product of our Non-Fiction Features Poster. I loved how this turned out!
And, my personal favorite product my kiddos created: our Sea Animals Around the World Map. After creating and labeling the map, we had our kiddos identify where their animal resides, by pointing their three facts to an area on the map. Some animals, such as the Great White Shark and Dolphin, live in oceans around the world, so I had those kiddos point to an area in the world where you may find one of those animals. Others, such as the Blue Ringed Octopus and Narwhal, was unique to a specific part of the world. I now have this terrific map hanging up in our room :)
As part of the fair, all students were expected to walk around and learn about other class's topics. As incentive for participating in this (and keeping them occupied for the 45 minute time slot), students were asked to complete an worksheet. They were required to ask students about their topics and write down three facts. If they completed their fact worksheet, they received a homework pass! All my kiddos were able to complete this task (with a lot of additional adult support -- which I recruited ahead of time, in the form of therapists and specialists). I had my students "work" at our booth in shifts - that way everyone had a chance to stay at the table and answer questions from other students, and also had ample opportunity to get their fact worksheet filled out!
I look forward to this fair every year! I especially love all the work the students and staff put in, to making this work. Parents are allowed to attend, and since it's on a half day, students often go home with their parents afterward (which is also pretty fun for me!). Everyone works so hard, and it shows! More importantly, the kids LOVE it and have a blast!
Do any of you do something similar? Any sort of school exhibitions? I'd love to hear about it :)
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