Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Halloween plans and a freebie

Halloween is on it's way.  Are your students starting to get excited?  I've definitely noticed that the level of noise in my classroom is increasing this week.
Right now we're working on Communities and Responsibilities in Social Studies, because I like to hold off on doing Halloween activities until "the week of" to avoid the over stimulation.  Luckily Halloween falls on a Friday this year:  the best possible scenario!
But I must admit that I'm getting a bit excited about it myself.  Especially since we picked the pumpkins from our garden last weekend.  We had lots of plain ones that will be good for carving, but these were a variety we put in called "Cinderella".  We had no idea just what they were like until mid August when they really started to take shape.  They won't be good for carving, but very cool for display.  (They got pretty big).

One of the grade one teachers in our school always organizes rotating Halloween centers for us on the morning of Halloween.  We have 6 primary classes this year, so that means blocks of about 25 minutes.  Last year I decided to use my time with each class taking a group Halloween picture that I emailed to their teachers who forwarded them to the parents.  Then we did "Looking for Dracula" by the fabulous Charlotte Diamond, which I used to have on tape but now have on iTunes.  I love doing it and the kids always enjoy it too.  I found a video on You Tube:

During the week leading up to Halloween this year I made a set of survey questions and a graphing activity to go with them to put into my Math centers.  The kids always love doing surveys and I made a back-to-school set like this that we did in September and it was a huge hit.

First they choose the question they want to ask.  I go over them first so the grade ones know what they are, then the pictures help them remember.  Then I give them the graphing sheet and the title and labels that go with it.  Once they have glued the question and the labels onto the graphing sheet they get a class list and they can go around surveying their classmates.  Each time they ask someone they cross the name off the list and put an X in the box above the answer to make the graph.

When we did it in September I had quite a few kids ask if they could do more than 1 survey.  To me that is the hallmark of a good classroom activity;  they enjoy it so much that they want to do it again.
Click here to see it in my store.

I'm looking forward to seeing all the great ideas that will be popping up on teaching blogs this week and next.  I'll be back with a few more of my own, too.

Here is a link to a Halloween freebie in my store.  It's a pack of pumpkin frames and writing papers.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Pumpkin Blanket

The Pumpkin Blanket by Deborah Turney Zagwyn is a favourite of mine for fall classroom read alouds.
It is the story of Clee who receives a quilted blanket as a baby gift. It becomes her special blanket as she grows up and readers are treated to views of her through the seasons as she enjoys it as she plays and draws comfort from it. 

As Clee approaches school age she helps her father in the garden and especially enjoys the pumpkin patch. When frosty fall weather threatens the pumpkins Clee gives up her cherished blanket square by square to protect the pumpkins from freezing. 
This story with its beautifully evocative illustrations conjures up powerful images of growing up and letting go. It is a wonderful text for making personal connections and mental images. You can almost FEEL the chill in the air. It also provides a great opportunity for a discussion on sharing and giving. 
I love the mysterious mood that Zagwyn evokes in this book. If you haven't read this story before I highly recommend it. (Be prepared to get a little choked up, especially if you have kids of your own....).
After reading this book I often give the kids a piece of drawing paper and have them design their own quilt square.  Then I put them all together in a hall display. 
Because this story has such wonderful imagery it is good for launching a fall poem. I use this form to get them started. 

Click here to get a copy. Sometimes we just do this and not write a poem - depends on the age and ability of the class. The poem makes a good choice for Work on Writing for individual students even if the whole class isn't writing their own. 

For reluctant or emergent writers I provide a set of cards to help them be successful. Last year I had a little fellow in my class who was refusing to write anything. With the support of these cards he finished the form above with one adjective for each noun and went on to write a basic "Fall Is...." poem. Click here to see the cards in my TpT store. They're free until Saturday. 

I made the pumpkin frame and several other writing papers and they're free too. Click here to get them. 

It's a little late in the week for Mentor Text Monday, but I'm linking up with Emily from The Reading Tutor OG anyway. Better late than never, right?  To see more pumpkin themed books click here.