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All About Penguins
Today I'm teaming up with my Reading Crew friends to bring you our favorite mentor text lessons for winter and a giveaway!  
All About Penguins
For the past few years, nonfiction text has taken center stage in our classrooms. It's no surprise, since the majority of what we read in our daily lives is nonfiction. It becomes important for us to give our students the tools they need to navigate through this complex text. Today I'm sharing some ideas and tools for teaching text features using one of my students' favorite nonfiction books.
All About Penguins
My students are obsessed with the National Geographic Kids series. I purchase sets of six with my Scholastic Book Order points, and they are always the first choice during our independent reading time. Penguins have been a favorite of my students this time of year.

To teach nonfiction text features, I start off by introducing each text feature using my Scholastic Introduction to Nonfiction Text Features Write On/Wipe Off Flip Chart. (I purchased my flip chart with Scholastic points a few years ago, but it is available on Amazon.) This giant book is excellent for teaching each text feature, whole class or small group. We discuss the text features included, such as photographs, captions, maps, and side bar.  Students share examples of text features they've seen in their books, we discuss how each text feature helps us to better understand what we are reading, and I clarify any confusion. These posters from Scholastic's website are a free download and helpful to teach nonfiction text features if you don't have the Scholastic Introduction to Nonfiction Text Features Flip Chart. I have also used these free text features posters on my wall to teach with and have students to refer to throughout the year. They make a great display, and my students actually refer to them! 
After our text features discussion, I have students work in groups to find examples of text features using a copy of National Geographic Kids Penguins and the Nonfiction Text Features Investigation sheets. Students find examples of each text feature and write the page numbers where they found them. We come back together as a class and each group shares their findings. We discuss how not every nonfiction text has all of the text features we learned about. Students share how particular text features helped them to better understand what they read. We also discuss how we could take information we learned about in the book and create our own text features for the information.
Once students have a solid understanding of text features, they dig into the text deeper with their Penguin Research Booklets. Using the Penguins Reader, they find information such as vocabulary meanings, what penguins eat, their enemies, fun facts, and adaptations. I also have them create their own text features using the information from their Penguins Reader, but I tell them it has to be a text feature that isn't already included in the book. 

This time of year I have my students choose a polar animal to research. Since there are only a few National Geographic Kids Readers for polar animals, I collect other nonfiction books about polar animals from our school and local libraries. My students have their own tablets, so they are able to research online to gather more information about their animals. After they complete their Research Booklets, I plan to have my students create their own nonfiction books with the information they learn about their animals. Students can also create posters and habitat dioramas for their animals. This will be a great culminating project for our nonfiction study!
You can click on the picture above to download a copy of Penguins Nonfiction Text Features Investigation. Inside you will find  Penguins Text Features Investigation pages, a Penguins Research Booklet, and links to student-friendly research websites. 
If you are looking for more opportunities for your students to research a variety of polar animals, you can see the complete Polar Animals Research Booklets Here. Included in this pack is a Text Features Investigation that can be used with any nonfiction text and sixteen different Polar Animal Research Booklets.

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All About Penguins
Be sure to check out the other mentor text lessons from The Reading Crew!

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For the past three years my class has made these owl ornaments for their parents' Christmas gifts. They always turn out perfectly and the parents love them. I have to admit, though, I always panic a little beforehand that the dough will be too sticky or the kiddos will have difficulty making them, because I forget how easy they are to make! I've tried two different versions of dough, and this one from Tracey of The Kitchen is My Playground is my favorite. I followed her recipe for making a class set of 30, 3-inch circles: 
48 oz. applesauce
24 oz. cinnamon
1/3 cup white glue
I love this dough because it's so easy to work with. (You can read through her blog post for more information). I used a mason jar lid that was 3-1/2 inches in diameter to cut the circles, and I had plenty of dough for all of my students. Below are my steps for making the owls. You can also refer to this post to see the original directions.
Cinnamon Owl Ornaments
Here are the steps I followed:
1. After thoroughly mixing and kneading the dough, I rolled it out and sprinkled some cinnamon onto the waxed paper to keep the dough from sticking. Next, I cut the circles using a Mason jar lid. I also used biscuit cutters to make different sizes with the leftover dough. 
2. I had my students come to the table, six at a time, to work on the ornaments. Each of them had a circle of dough and a piece of waxed paper to work on. I had the students add indentations for feathers with the cap of a Crayola Marker by pushing into the dough at a slant. 
3. We folded the left side over to make a wing. We did the same to the other side to make the wing on the right side, then we folded the head down. 
4. We added eyes with the end of the Crayola Marker, and for the inside of the eyes, we used the end of the skinny Crayola Marker. (I didn't have one of the skinny markers at home when I snapped these pictures, so I used a straw, and I actually like how those came out too!) You can experiment with different sizes of markers, pens, or anything else that would make a circle for the eyes. I showed my students how they could make different sized eyes and change the look of their owls based on the placement of the pupils. I gave the students plastic knives to make the v-shape for the beak, but here I used a steak knife. Some of my students wanted to add extra details to their owls, and I told them to go for it!
5. I broke small paper clips in half by bending them back and forth to use as hooks and stuck them into the tops of the owls before putting them in the oven to dry.
6. You can bake them for 2-3 hours at 200 degrees, or you can leave them out to dry on a drying rack for 3-4 days, flipping over once per day. I like to leave them out for a few days in addition to baking them, before wrapping them.
Something else I always do after the ornaments are dry is secure the hooks with a drop of glue, since they tend to slip out. This glue really keeps them adhered. I just pull out the hook, put a drop of the glue onto the top of each hole, and push the hook back into the holes so the glue spreads down into the hole. It's also great to use if you want to make the owls into magnets instead of ornaments. Just add some of the glue to the backside of a magnet, adhere to the ornament, and you've got an owl magnet instead of an ornament! 

Be sure to let them dry thoroughly before adding ribbon and packaging them up. You can also purchase the glue at Joann.
Here are our finished ornaments. Just add festive ribbon or ornament hooks and you are all set! 
Cinnamon Owl Ornaments
If you make these ornaments, I'm sure you will love the results. Have a great week! I have a short week, then I will be on a two day shopping frenzy to finish up Christmas! :) 
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Cinnamon Owl Ornaments

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Some TpT friends and I have come together to bring you Daily Deals on TpT from December 5th-16th! Just be sure to enter the correct hashtag each day in the TpT search bar to find all of the deals for that day. 
Below are all of my deals for the week!
I hope you find some steals! 
Have great week! :)

For the fifth year in a row, my class will be visited by an elf from The North Pole. Having an elf has added to the magic of the holiday season in my classroom. This year we are documenting our elf's arrival, his daily antics, and other happenings in our classroom in a memory book format. My students need so much extra practice with writing, so the pages give them the opportunity to practice writing in a fun way. These pages make a great keepsake for the students and their families to reflect on. 
You can also find posters, bookmarks, passes, treat bag toppers, candy bar wrappers, Magic Reindeer Food printables, We've Been Elfed directions and posters, elf yourself art project, Santa's Nice List, and letters from Santa and your elf. 
Last year Santa included all of the masters for the printables inside the box our elf arrived in, so all I had to do was print what we needed. 
 
 
Does an elf visit your classroom? What activities do you do with it in your classroom?
Enjoy the rest of your week! :)
Today I'm linking up with Carla from Comprehension Connections to share with you one of my favorite mentor texts  to read with my class during the holidays, Memoirs of an Elf.
The book Memoirs of an Elf  is written by Devin Scillian. You may know him as the author of Memoirs of Goldfish and Memoirs of a Hamster. If you have a class elf that visits your classroom, it would be fun to have your elf bring this book as a gift from the North Pole for your students!
I adore this book! The story is told through the eyes of one of the elves, and it details Santa's delivery of presents around the world on Christmas Eve. Santa returns home to the North Pole on time, but one of the elves discovers that a family's beloved dog accidentally jumped into Santa's toy bag! The problem in the story is how to return the puppy to its worried owners without being spotted, since by now it's daytime. Momma Claus saves the day with her idea, and Tugboat is delivered to his grateful owners.  
Not only is this an adorable holiday story, it's full of teachable moments. It's the perfect mentor text! Through this book, I am able to teach or review compound words, sequence of events, story structure, problem/solution, fact and opinion, cause and effect, and figurative language such as simile, metaphor, idioms. This is also a perfect mentor to introduce personal narrative. This year I also plan to add some geography by giving students a map and having them track the different locations mentioned while Santa delivers the presents. I also love the "Little Known Facts" about Santa. It would be fun for students to keep a list of facts about Santa, and lead into a discussion of fact and opinion. 
I have trained my students to be on the lookout for what they notice while reading. We discuss the special techniques authors use that appeal to us, and my students are encouraged to "borrow' the techniques to improve their own writing. Simile and metaphor can be challenging to teach, because students must be able to understand them in context. Providing students with practice will help them to recognize their meanings as well as differentiate between the two forms of figurative language. Hopefully my students will add them to improve their writing after practicing them. 

I begin teaching simile and metaphor by going over each form of figurative language using the posters I've included in my freebie above. I post an anchor chart with an example of each, and we continue our discussion of them. I ask students to become "detectives" and search for similes and metaphors in Memoirs of an Elf. We post the sentences on the anchor chart, and refer to it during our study.  
Next, I have students use the simile and metaphor sheet the girl is holding in the graphic above. Students are assigned a simile or metaphor from the set of task cards, and draw a picture to represent it, and what they think the meaning is.  After students have completed all of their simile and metaphor sheets, I bring them together and they present their findings. We discuss each one, what the meaning of the simile or metaphor is, and the clues that led us to believe that. We sort each card under the correct category in a pocket chart. After this discussion, students are ready to write their own similes and metaphors to practice. I have them trade with a classmate to determine whether they are similes or metaphors, as well as their meanings. You could use the same printable they used in the activity above. 
The activities I've shared are part of this larger pack: Holiday Reading and Writing Graphic Organizers Pack. It includes many Memoirs of an Elf activities such as sequencing, story structure, and vocabulary graphic organizers, compound word activities, idioms, and a variety of other printables and graphic organizers that can be used with any book. The graphic organizers are easy to prep and great to just grab and go. They really help my students to dig in deeper during our read alouds. They are also perfect for extra practice and/or assessment!
You can grab my freebie HERE. I hope you and your kiddos find it helpful! :)

Hello Friends! It's been a crazy few weeks with Red Ribbon Week, Halloween, testing, conferences, and on top of it all, next week is Thanksgiving! I know you can relate all too well. I wanted to quickly pop in and share what I'm planning to give my parent volunteers next week for Thanksgiving.
I love spoiling my parent volunteers during the holidays. One of my favorite things to give them at Thanksgiving is a Thanks a Latte card with a coffee gift card attached and Bath and Bodyworks hand soap as a thank you for all they do for my students. This gift would also be perfect as a thank you for your colleagues. You can click on the picture above to download your own set if you want to make them. I will be making a Christmas set soon!
Enjoy the rest of your week! :)
Last year I struggled with beginning my Daily 3 rotations. It was my first year in second grade, and I didn't realize how much LESS independent second graders were than third graders. When I finally began my Daily 3 routine, I knew I wanted to have engaging, relevant activities for my students to work on independently while I taught my small groups. After some trial and error, I learned a few things along the way that I wanted to share with you today. 
One important thing I learned early on was to have different choices available for different learners- but not so many that it overwhelmed them. If I set out too many activities or gave them too many choices, my students spent half the time choosing what they were going to work on instead of actually working on their word work. Another important thing I needed to remember was to rotate the activities often, so my students didn't get bored with the same activities. This also kept them excited about what new activity they could expect to work on during word work.

Appealing to different learning types was another important thing to remember. I added Spelling City, which is free to use, and I was excited to learn that Spelling City already had our spelling words on their site so I could easily import them and have my students practice them each week. Including tactile activities, writing, artistic, and computer based activities makes it fun and engaging for your students. 

My students oohed and aahed when I shared Play Doh Spelling with them! I had a station set up with baggies filled with stamps and little party-size packs of Play-Doh that I bought at target. They grabbed a baggie, a mat, and a recording sheet and they were good to go. After stamping each word, they wrote them on their recording sheets. They love this one!
Below is a new activity that I introduced this year. I searched high and low for the Macaroni and Cheese letters, and finally I spotted them at Target!  Students spell each word with the letters and copy them onto their bowl, which they can decorate as well. They can also trace each word a few times with a different color to practice their words. To incorporate more writing, sometimes I have them write about their favorite lunch using their spelling words or create fun lunchroom rules using their words on the back of their bowl paper. You can grab this freebie by clicking on either picture below. If you can't find the macaroni, you can print out the letters I included in the freebie.
Below is another favorite of my students! They think it's magic when I tell them to write their spelling words in white crayon, then color their picture with marker- they never believe they will be able to see their spelling word appear! I also have my students draw a ghost on the backside and write their words a second time. They can even trace over the words they've already written with a crayon. I have a freebie that you can grab by downloading the preview in my Engaging Learners: Spelling and Word Work Activities. You can also click on the picture below to grab the freebie in the product preview.
I hope you found some useful ideas that you can add to your word work stations!

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