Learning About Oviparous Animals

If you're anything like me, as a teacher you love teaching thematically.  SO much content can be covered on a cross-curricular level...so many connections can be made... when taking this approach to instruction.  And because most public schools don't support teaching about Easter, this is a great time of the year for teaching all about oviparous and viviparous animals!  Today I wanted to share with you a few activities and read alouds I love incorporating in my plans this time of the year.

No thematic unit of learning is complete without a good set of read alouds!  These are a few of my favorite oviparous animal books to keep in the classroom during this unit of study.  

Animals That Hatch from Eggs by Baby Professor
What Will Hatch? by Jennifer Ward
First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
An Egg is Quiet by Diana Hutts Aston
Where Are You From? by In-Sook Kim
Ollie by Olivier Dunrea

To start off our unit of learning, I like to create a schema chart to see what kids think they know about oviparous animals.  When I ask kids, "Who knows what an oviparous animal is?" I usually get a ton of blank stares and several wild guesses that leave me in a fit of hysterics.  Ha!  We discuss the definition...as well as the definition of viviparous animals...and then we move on to a read aloud.  Chickens Aren't the Only Ones is a great one to start with!  
As a whole group follow-up to the reading, we'll sort pictures of oviparous and viviparous animals.  They always love this.   

As we read and learn about oviparous animals, we add to our schema/new learning chart and discuss our misconceptions.  Then I have my kids follow-up our new learning with a non-fiction writing craftivity.  

This is pretty simple.  I don't have a template available for this, but you really don't need one!  First, the kids write a short paragraph...or 2-3 sentences...about oviparous animals.  Then they illustrate an oviparous animal of their choosing, cut it out, and adhere it to a piece of construction paper.  A cracked egg is placed on top of their illustration to make it look like the animal is hatching from the egg.  Then we use kraft krinkle cut paper/gift filler and glue that to the picture to resemble a nest. We love creating hands-on visuals to show off our learning and solidfy connections!

I think it's really important to empower kids with terminology to deepen their understanding.  I love incorporating rich and relevant vocabulary into my instruction and then using those vocabulary words in different games and activities that are hands-on and engaging for my kids.  The more engaging and hands-on, the more I can guarantee that my kids will remember what they learn.  Of course, it's not enough to just memorize, I want to empower them with the ability to then APPLY their learning. My kids have tons of opportunities to apply and use the vocabulary words in the different activities I incorporate during this time.

One of their favorite vocabulary activities was a small group activity where they had to work to place the eggs in the matching nests (seen above).  The nests were made out of paper lunch bags and Easter grass!  SIMPLE!  Each nest was labeled with a vocabulary word and then they had to work to match the visual representation of the word to the definition and place them in the corresponding nests.  Since this was done in a small group setting, I was able to easily facilitate the activity and assess understanding.  

Of course, I'd be remiss not to include learning about life cycles!  Frogs and chickens are in our standards, so I make sure to incorporate these oviparous animals into our unit of study as well.  Again, I love incorporating craftivities because they help kids to make connections to their learning in a hands-on way.  So important!  

Experiments and investigations are ALWAYS a class favorite, so I try to include as many as I can that help deepen understanding.  During our oviparous animal unit, we do an Incredible Egg Investigation where we investigate an egg and its attributes.  I make sure to keep lots of paper towels and newspaper on hand for this hands-on activity because little hands often don't know their own strength! Ha!

We also "hatch" homemade eggs using a vinegar & baking soda experiment that the kids love.  LOTS of predictions are made during this time and the "ooohs" and "ahhhhhs" are overwhelming!  The kids love to predict which animals will hatch....and they can always eliminate any animal that isn't oviparous because we've learned that oviparous animals are the only animals that hatch from eggs!

My favorite thing about teaching thematically is the cross-curricular connections that can be incorporated.  This also allows me to fit in more content throughout my day.  SO many great opportunities to incorporate learning into math as well as literacy.  Lots of opportunities for writing....text to self connections, etc.  I'm often asked, "when do you have time for writing?" Well, ANYTIME is a good time to write and incorporating writing activities throughout the day often helps me not only to target specific skills, but helps me to assess my student's understanding of the content we're learning.  

Speaking of writing, this is one of my most favorite oviparous animal writing activities.  I did this every year for almost all 14 years I was in the classroom!

I create a huge chick anchor chart out of butcher paper and then we brainstorm a list of words to describe it.  I add the words to the chart and then prompt my students to create their very own chicks using a variety of mediums I make available to them.  After making their chicks, they have to write about it using descriptive words (adjectives).  For my kindergartners, I prompted them to write at least 3 sentences using the prompt, "My chick is....".  With my first graders, we took a slightly different approach.  I created a can/have/are thinking map with them and they had to write using the prompts "My chick can; My chick has; My chick is".  We kept the chicks close by so that they could also write a fiction story all about their chicks in the writing center.  That was a favorite for sure!

These are just a few of the activities I incorporate into our Oviparous Animal study.  For more ideas, check out my Oviparous Animal Pinterest Board.  Don't you wish there were 24 MORE hours in each day, LOL?!?!?!  Never enough time for everything I want to do!!!

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5 Tips for Teaching Sight Words - How to Make Them Stick!

Today we're talking all about sight words.  Specifically, my top 5 effective tips for making sight words STICK! 

So often we as teachers focus on assessing our student's sight word automaticity in isolation, but overlook the need to reinforce that same instant recall when identifying sight words in context.  We assume that easily reading sight words in context will be a by-product of focused instruction of words in isolation, right?!

TRUTH:  I would always get so frustrated when my kids would recall words in isolation with NO problem, but when reading them in context...it was like crickets!  Complete and utter silence.  WHA?!  How many times would I say to them, "Baby...I know you know that word!  You JUST read that word for me yesterday!!!!" while they stare back at me blankly and wonder what in the world I'm talking about.  Can anybody else relate?!

Teaching & reinforcing sight words in isolation is an integral piece of the puzzle, but it's not the only piece.  We need to remember to pair that same instruction with opportunities for kids to explore sight words in context as well.  Guided reading is the perfect time to provide our kids with these experiences (reading & identifying sight words in leveled texts, etc.), but we can also transfer these same opportunities to whole group activities as well.  Introducing & reinforcing sight words in context helps our kids to build an understanding of how these words are used in everyday language, thus establishing the value & importance of word recognition  (both in and out of context).

Here are some ideas for identifying and reading sight words in context...

This is one of my favorite activities and typically a favorite among kids, too.  The idea behind this activity is to choose 2-3 different sight words and incorporate them in a written message to your kids.  I loved making this a part of my morning message.  Before showing my kids the message, I would cover up the targeted sight words with sticky notes.  During whole group, I would read the message aloud to my kids while pointing to each word.  When I'd point to the sticky note, instead of saying the targeted sight word, I'd say "BEEP" (like the "bleep" sound you hear when there's a cuss on TV ;)), and keep on reading.  I'd prompt the kids to help me "beep", too!  Now can you see why this was a class favorite?! ;)

The objective of this activity is to prompt students to listen for context clues to determine which sight word best fit into each sentence.  After reading the message one time through, I would go back and read aloud each sentence one at a time and pause when I'd get to a sticky note.  I'd prompt the kids to tell me what sight word best fit in the sentence and they would use the bank of sight word cards on the chart paper to determine the missing word.  After guessing, I'd remove the sticky note to reveal the sight word and then re-read the sentence again and ask questions like, "Did that make sense?", "Is there another word that would make sense there?", etc.

Cloze sentences are a great extension of this activity.  You can easily create cloze sentences using sentence strips  and sight word flashcards.  Place them in a pocket chart,read, and prompt students to place the matching word in the empty space.  I scaled down this idea for use in small group by adding cloze sentences to my Sight Word Support binder.  This is just a resource I kept at my guided reading table and would use to quickly reinforce sight word recognition with my small groups.  Oftentimes I would read the cloze sentences aloud and prompt the kids to guess the missing word or even use letter tiles to spell the missing words.  I would also pass out cover-up cards and have the kids use counters to cover-up the missing word which gave me the freedom to quickly assess understanding of all kids in the group at once.  This was a great way to practice identifying and reading words in context in a small group setting.

Instead of focusing solely on the visual appearance of a word (rote memorization), remember to draw the student's attention to the attributes of the words as well.  It's important to give our kids opportunities to analyze words and process them in detail.  Looking at the vowels, consonants, number of letters, beginning letter(s), ending letter, etc. is powerful and helps kids to make concrete connections and process words on a deeper level.  This doesn't have to be something that takes up a ton of your instructional time, so let me share with you how I was able to incorporate this easily & effectively.

This activity is easy to implement and very effective.  Place 3-5 sight word cards in a pocket chart (or display on an easel/white board. You could even write them on chart paper!). Choose a word from the set as your "secret" word and don't tell the kids which word you've chosen.  Tell the kids, "I'm thinking of a word...." and describe it's attributes before prompting students to guess your secret word.  For example, "I'm thinking of a word.....that starts/ends with a vowel;  that starts/ends with a consonant;  that rhymes with _____; that has ___ vowels and ____ consonants;  that begins with a tall letter; that ends with a short letter; that means _____.; etc."  You can choose to describe your secret word using one prompt or several...whatever works best for your group(s)!  Prompt students to guess the word, point to it, spell it, etc.  This can be done with several different words in a 3-5 minute time span and makes a great warm-up for a small or whole group activity.

To piggyback off the idea of "I'm thinking of a word...", I created a set of Sight Word Prompts to use during small group/guided reading.  These prompts are broken down into sets of 5 & 10 sight words (to target the various needs of my students) and cover a wide variety of prompts to help kids focus on the various attributes of different words.  Students are given a cover-up card labeled with sight words.  I also pass out a set of counters to the group.   I call out the prompts and the kids have to cover-up the matching word on their card described by the attributes read aloud from the prompt.   This activity takes anywhere from 3-5 minutes and is perfect to quickly assess understanding and provide immediate feedback and intervention as needed.

I also carried this idea into our whole group activities with the Sight Word of the Day.  First, I laminate this focus card and display it on our white board.  Then I choose a (sight) word of the day and write it in the space provided.  I typically write the vowels in red to bring attention to those attributes and visually display the difference btween vowels & consonants.  We work together to break down the word and study it's attributes as well as make connections with the word of the day to other words in our vocabulary or on our word wall.  My kids LOVE this!!! 

To extend our whole group word study, I created printables to go along with this activity so that my kids would have the opportunity to independently practice identifying the attributes of the different words we were learning.  This might be something they would choose to complete as a fast finisher activity.

I'm fascinated by brain research, so when I found this idea on Pinterest five years ago I implemented it immediately.  And lo and behold, it worked!!!    According to brain specialist, Fritz Mengert, using a red dot when teaching and/or reinforcing sight words will improve students' word retention and automatcity.  The idea behind the red dot is to place it in the center of a word which will help kids focus on the middle of the word rather than just the beginning. How many times have you had a student quickly look at a word and guess what it says based on the beginning sound alone?  That's been my experience too many times to count!!  I was so excited to try this strategy with my kids and even more thrilled when I realized that it actually worked!  I'm not saying the quick guessing didn't disappear completely, but it was significantly reduced.  My kids were focusing on the beginning, middle, and end of each word we were learning.  

I wrote out each of our sight words on an index card and drew a red dot in the center of each word using a red marker.  I would spend about 2-3 minutes of our guided reading small group time to review these words with my kids.  We'd discuss them a little bit each day (Monday-Wednesday) before guided reading instruction.  Then we'd play BANG! (incorporating these words) on Thursdays and Fridays.  And they got it!!!  Pretty cool stuff!  My philosophy is to try everything at least once and I'm so glad I gave this one a go!

We can't expect our kids to improve their retention and automaticity if we don't provide them with the resources to be able to see the words as often as possible.  It's so important to be mindful about making sight words visible.  When I first started teaching...okay, so the first five years or so...I honestly didn't see the value in word walls.  In all honesty, I thought it was consuming too much real estate in the landscape of my classroom.  Hello!!! Wall space is limited and PRECIOUS.  I wanted to display #allthecutethings.  Word walls were anything but that.  Remember earlier when I said that I love brain research?!  Well I do.  And my whole outlook on word walls changed after doing some research of my own.  

Did you know that brain research has proven that kids need 6-12 exposures to a word for it to become embedded in their working memory?

Brain research has also proven that our brains are actually programmed to see in borders.  If you have the opportunity to section off your word walls like the examples in the pictures above, I would *highly* recommend trying this in your own classroom.  I'm a big believer in giving kids every opportunity I can give them to be successful and this small, but transformational, design tip works wonders for our littlest learners!

Speaking of word walls, I think it's extremely important to teach our kids HOW to use them.  Can I be honest with you for a second?  (Let's be real...I'm nothing if not totally transparent ;) Ha!)When I was in a traditional classroom setting, I was the teacher who had REALLY big ideas and great intentions at the beginning of every school year.  In reality, I was more of the teacher who stayed at school until midnight the night before parent/teacher conferences putting all of my words on my empty word wall.  #teacherconfession.

We so often neglect the word wall in all of it's glory because we just don't know how to best utilize it.  We adamantly insist that our kids to "use the word wall as a resource!", but fail to teach them HOW to use it in a way that will enrich what they're learning and aid in retention and identification. My ineptitude in this area forced me to do some serious research and create a bank of ideas and activities to teach my kids so that they could best utilize this resource in their daily activities.  I needed to give them the chance to put the word wall to use in their everyday word work activities.  This was transformational!  Teach your kids how to use the word wall and provide them with opportunities to use it as often as possible.

You can read more about my Word Wall, ideas, and activities...as well as grab several Word Wall Freebies....in THIS BLOG POST.

In addition to the Word Wall, I labeled my tables with sight words.  I had five tables in my room...four students per table...and hung the sight words above each table.  When I'd call kids to the carpet....or to line up...I'd say something alond the lines of, "Table YOU...come have a seat on the carpet.  Table SAID...line up at the door".  This kind of forced the kids assigned to those words to be able to identify them.  I was very intentional about where these words were placed.  If I knew a particular student needed reinforcement with a certain word, I placed that word above his/her table.  I kept the words above the tables for 1-2 weeks, depending on how quickly the students were able to retain and recall the words in both isolation and in context (I assessed this once a week).  You can also use this same idea as a behavior management incentive. Write the words displayed above the table on the white board and award points to each group (word) based on positive reinforcement.  The table with the most points at the end of the day or week gets an incentive (no shoes for the day, writing with markers, 10 extra minutes of tech time, etc.)

Don't limit visibility to the four walls of your classroom.  Give your students opportunities to identify and read sight words before they even walk into the room!  My most favorite idea for incorporating this quick recognition is in the form of high fives because who doesn't love a good high five in the morning?!  Trace & cut out hand templates...or use the pre-cut hand templates like THIS or THIS....and label each with a different sight word.  Adhere the hands to the wall right outside of your classroom door at arm's reach (not too high...the kids will need to be able to reach them!).  Before your kids can enter the room, they need to give each hand a high five as they read the word on the hand aloud.  If they're unable to correctly identify the word, use that moment to quickly re-teach...point out a specific attribute, rhyming word, etc. and move along.  Keep the words up on the wall for a week or two or until you feel that your students are able to recall each word with automaticity.

We're all familiar with the age old adage, "practice makes perfect".  The more our kids are given opportunities to explore & practice building, reading, and identifying sight words, the better they will be at recognizing & reading them in isolation and in context.  Repetition & consistency is key!

I think the easiest way to give kids repeated opportunities to build and and identify sight words is to incorporate a sight word station in your room.  Kids can visit the sight word station in the mornings for morning work, during center time, or even as a fast finisher activity.  I found that the key to making this station successful was to provide a variety of activities that didn't have to be frequently changed (aka - hands-on, no or limited printables).  By keeping the activities consistent and allowing students to make their own choices regarding which activities to complete, they were able to build familiarity and could complete the provided activities efficiently and successfully.

These materials were fixtures in my sight word center.  Since I differentiated my sight word instruction, each of my kids had their own ring of sight words they would take to the center to practice and they were given the autonomy to choose how they practiced their words.  This gave them ownership over what and how they were learning and made the "buy-in" so much more authentic and the outcome & engagement successful.

I taught my kids to build words using letter tiles and magnetic letters and baking sheets. We used THESE FREE PLAY-DOH WORD MATS to build & write sight words.  My kids also loved using wikki stix and pipe cleaners to make letters and assemble them into words.  The small Magna Doodles were always a favorite.  Kids loved writing their words and watching them magically disappear.  Aren't Kindergarten and First Grade babies the best?!?!

I kept a set of pony beads in a container with a set of pipe cleaners (cut in half).  I prompted my kids to create word bracelets and allowed them to wear those throughout the day (they had to return the beads and pipe cleaners back to the station before the end of the day.).  This was a great way to incorporate fine motor skills into learning as well (a skill severely lacking in today's kids!!!).  One of my darling girls loved creating sentence bracelets.  She would make several different word bracelets and then place them on her arm one after the other to make a full sentence.  She was a HOOT!  But boy was she engaged!

I kept a set of spelling sticks in a container in my station to give my kids more of a guided choice in practicing their words.  If there wasn't enough space to sit in the station, they could remove a stick from the container and take it to a spot in the classroom where they could work independently.  I love that this activity offered SO many different ways to practice sight words and my kids loved the multitude of choices as well.  There was always a new way to practice!   Instead of making them all available at the same time, I would limit them to 5-7 choices bi-weekly.  Then I'd change them up as the novelty wore off.  I made sure to spiral the activities throughout the year so they had many opportunities to repeat the activities.

It seems like every child I know LOVES to stamp, so giving them options to stamp with different mediums is a great way to provide repeated opportunities for practice.  This is one of my favorite ideas.  Tiny legos and play-doh!  How great is that?!  Not just building the word, but building each letter within the word as well and focusing on the attributes, too.

As I said before, most of the materials in our sight word station were hands-on.  I had a VERY limited amount of printables available because 1. I hated making copies! and 2. I felt my kids were so much more engaged in hands-on activities vs. worksheets.  This activity required a bit more thinking on their part because they had to determine the beginning sound of each picture in the set, stamp them, and then identify & read the new word and write it in a sentence.  And because they got to solve a mystery, they were all over it!

I copied three different sets each week and placed each set in a labeled drawer.  Each drawer contained the mystery sheet as well as a scratch-off class list.  This ensured that my kids were only doing this activity 3 times (at the most) each week.  Sometimes I'd only make one or two available depending on the week.  They'd remove the scratch-off list,  use a vis-a-vis to cross out their name, and then take a printable.  They wouldn't be able to take another printable from that drawer until I wiped the slate clean.  This was an easy way to keep them accountable and on-track while working independently.

Speaking of mysteries, my kids LOVED hide-and-seek words!  I cut up small pieces of white construction paper and wrote various sight words on them using a white crayon.  I gave my kids the option of using watercolors or markers to reveal the hidden word.  I also gave my kids the freedom to create their own hide-and-seek words and encouraged them to work with a partner, prompting their peers to guess the hidden word using the prompts & directives they were familiar with from our "I'm thinking of a word..." whole group activity.  I think they liked being able to create much better than just revealing!

In addition to building and manipulating words, I also gave my kids multiple options for repeated reading & identification.

I was constantly asking for (school appropriate) magazines.  My kids used their personal sight word rings & highlighters to search through the magazines & identify the words in text using a highlighter that matched those on their rings.
Each student had their very own Word Collector Notebook as well.  They could search through magazines, find the words, cut them out, and glue them inside of their notebooks.  They absolutely LOVED this one.  You can grab your Word Collector Notebooks by clicking the pic below.

Another example of giving students repeated practice in identifying and reading sight words would be to incorporate sight word fluency sentences students can read independently.  These can be stored in plastic sheets and kept in a binder.  Teach students how to remove the sheets from the binder and take them to a spot in the classroom where they can read these independently.  

The idea behind this activity is to identify the word, read it in isolation, and then read it in context three different times (rebus sentences).  After those tasks are complete, they can take it a step further by rolling a die and writing the sentence that matches.  Allow your kids to use whisper phones and voice cards to read the sentences.

Voice cards are great for reading with expresession and intonation and help tremendously with reading fluency.  My kids were able to use these voice cards in their sight word fluency center as well as in the sight word station.

You can read more about my Sight Word Fluency Center HERE.

There are MANY different ways to make instruction engaging and effective, but these 5 tips are my go-to's.  Please feel free to leave a comment and share your tips for making sight words stick!  The more ideas, the better!!

(***Amazon affiliate links are included in this post.  Purchasing items through the Amazon affiliate links included in this post may result in a commission for the author.***)

All About the Weather - Ideas & Freebies!

Happy first day of Spring to you!!!

To be completely honest, I'm not sure Texas even had a winter.  Well, not much of one anyway.  A few chilly days, but nothing to write home about.  I'm definitely NOT complaining....I'm cold when the temps dip below 80 degrees...but it's crazy to think it's already SPRING!!!!  

And you know what that means?!  Summer break is only 48 short days away...but who's counting?!

Now let's get on with the reason we're here!


Y'all.  Have I told you before that this is one of my most favorite thematic units to teach?!?!  I love all things weather!!!!  And it's fascinating to me that year-to-year my kids love it just as much as...if not more than..I do!!!!  I typically don't dive into weather until closer to Earth Day.  Some of you may have already finished this particular theme.  Hopefully you'll be able to take away some ideas that you can implement into your planning...either this year or next!

I've been saving up so many of these ideas since last year.  It was a crazy time of the year last April and I was doing good just to teach my kids the content and have them participtae in the activities.  I seriously had no energy to get into all the details of our learning on the blog.  I honestly forgot all about it until I was doing some spring cleaning a few weeks ago.  I found my old notebook full of notes and got started organizing everything as soon as I could.  GAH!!!  I don't know why I'm so excited, but I am!!!  I just can't wait to share it all with you!!!

I always start out our weather study...or any new theme...with some kind of graphic organizer or thinking map.  Here's a sample of one I did with my kids when I taught 1st grade.

Weather encompasses SO many different concepts and ideas and it's hard to know which way to go with it all...especially when you don't have a concrete curriculum guiding you and telling you exactly what and how to teach the content.  I personally like to gauge my kids' interest and that's how I determine exactly what I'm going to teach...then I can go in and implement our state objectives/district standards into the learning.

I like to set out lots of non-fiction weather books in our library about a week or two prior to starting our study.  I take inventory of the books the kids gravitate to the most.  If they seem to be reading books upon books about clouds, I'll probably head that direction and teach them about clouds. If they are more interested in the different types of weather, I'll go that route instead.  I want them to be as engaged and excited about learning as possible and teaching to their interests always does the trick.  I know I can ALWAYS fit the standards and objectives into our learning...I just want to go about it in the most interesting way possible :)

Speaking of clouds, I make anchor charts for these when we first start learning about them, too...

Abby's Cloud People are still one of my most favorite ideas and visuals to help kids understand the clouds' placement in the sky.  Genius.

I always take my Dollar Store trays and teach my kids how to spray them with shaving cream.  These go in my word work center and my kids get to practice writing their sight words/spelling words in the "clouds".  Oh, they love.  And my room smells SO good!!!

While we're on the subject of shaving cream, let's talk about this project.  This was a class favorite, for sure!  A little bit of shaving cream mixed with a little bit of glue equals three-dimenional cloud art!  My kids designed their own clouds with this concoction and then wrote about their clouds as a reading response to "It Looked Like Spilt Milk".

We made these little flip strips using cotton balls on the top to  represent different clouds.  They wrote about each type of cloud underneath the flap.  I love that they had to use their new learning to figure out how the cotton balls needed to be styled to represent each type of cloud.

Keeping with that same thing, I threw out some cotton balls to my kids one day and told them they had to use them to create their favorite type of cloud.  Then we graphed them and talked about the data we gathered.

Last year we created these fun little clouds and then incorporated that tactile piece with some writing.  I made mini-booklets similar to these where the kids had to tell me all about what clouds are/can do/have and then go on to write facts about each type of cloud.  These were fun to display & a really neat piece to send home as well!  My kids were so proud to show off what they knew about these giant groups of tiny water droplets.  

One of my favorite things about teaching thematically is the opportunities to grow my kids' vocabularies.  Not only has brain research proven that this is the best way for kids to learn, but I tink there should be some study that determines this is the most exciting way for teachers to teach!  Building vocabulary is SO important and I feel like it's something we never spend enough time doing.  Teaching thematically brings in so much RICH vocabulary and exposes our babies to SO many new words and concepts. 

I like to keep things like this available for my kids to reinforce new vocabulary.  Vocabulary dice and/or vocabulary sticks are two simple and effective ways to engage your kids in using new vocabulary in sentences, etc.  

For my popsicle sticks activity, I just programmed a bunch of the sticks with weather vocabulary words.  I place them in a container and then store them in my word work center. My kids can pick a stick and then write about the word in different ways (synonym, antonym, another word with the same number of syllables, write the definition, illustrate the word, etc.) .  It's all about building connections.  The vocabulary sticks are great for transition and assessment, too.  When they aren't in my word work center, I keep them by my desk and when we go to line up, I'll call my friends one-by-one to come and pick a stick.  I'll prompt them in different ways before releasing them to line up. {Examples:  Use the word thunderstorm in a sentence.  Give me another word that has the same number of syllables as lightning.  Use 3 words to describe a blizzard.  What is a cumulonimbus cloud?}  SO many different ways these can be implemented in vocabulary instruction!

The vocabulary dice are perfect for controlled choice as well.  I like for my kids to use them with a variety of writing prompts.  Ultimately I would much rather them write to write..not necessarily with a prompt...but non-fiction concepts really lend themselves to this type of writing and I think it's important to make sure our kids are familiar with and comfortable doing this kind of work.

I love using predictable charts to help with vocabulary, too.  While I know this seems like it might be an activity that is too simple for any grade above K, I can assure you it's not.  It's all about the process!!!  I love that predictable charts are easy to differentiate for all different learning levels and abilities.  It always looks like my kids are doing the same exact thing, but they've all been given a  different objective to get them through the process.

Some of my kids might just be highlighting certain sight words or letters.
Some may be matching pictures to words.  
Some may be assembling the sentences in sequential order
Some might be assembling the sentences and then choosing one to use as a springboard for a story.
And that's just to name a few different ideas!  There are SO many wonderful concepts you can incorporate with a predictable chart!

How about incorporating vocabulary orally?!  I absolutely LOVED this last year!!  I couldn't wait to share it with y'all!!!!  Eeeeek!!!!  Teach your kids about meteorologists and what they do and then have your kids act as "mini meteorologists" and give the class a weather report.  You could do this for several weeks until everyone in the class has had a turn.  

Cut out a TV shape using butcher paper or poster board.   I would suggest laminating so that the TV stands up straight when taking pictures. I adhered to long dowel rods to the back of either side of the TV.  That's what my kids held onto as they held up the TV.  Display a map...a weather map would be even better!!!!...on your whiteboard or another surface in the classroom.  Have your kids check the weather and then instruct them to stand in front of the map.  Give them the TV to hold and then have them give their weather report to the viewers :)  I kept two laminated speech bubbles and dry erase markers available when doing this.  My kids would make two reports.  One, they would tell about the current weather conditions and then they would make a forecast of tomorrow's weather.  They had to use the vocabulary when delivering their report and let me tell y'all...it was a hoot!!!!!  I took pictures of them giving their reports and then combined all of the pictures into a class book I kept in the library.  I'm just sick that I didn't take a picture of it!  It's currently in storage.  I titled the book, "Mrs. Carroll's Mini Meteorologists".  HA!!!!  This was their favorite book in the classroom!!!!

Another way to get your kids making forecasts and observing current weather conditions is to make them responsible for keeping track of it all in their personal weather report.  This was another favorite project of mine last year.  My kids kept their reports in a folder inside their desks and we would add to it daily.  When it came to the weekend, I had my kids take home their weather reports and asked them to bring it back to school the following Monday to share with the class. SO fun!

We typically read some type of non-fiction book about meteorology as well.  I could never find one with all the info I wanted for my kids to know, so I created one to read to them.

Last year we followed up our reading with these fun little comprehension flip books!!!  GAH!!!!  I love the way they turn out!!!

And we loved this craftivity from the talented Julie Lee!!!!  This was so much fun!  I paired it with "IF I were a meteorologist..." sentence starter and they did the rest!

Another thing I love about thematic teaching is integrating the skills/concept across the board in all curricular areas.  I had so much fun coming up with games for my kids last year.  I love to make everything hands-on and exciting and math is one of my favorite subjects to do things that are really life-sized and interactive!  This subtraction game (please don't take my sunshine away!! hahaha) was a class favorite.  Not only did we play this whole group, but I turned it into an independent anchor activity as well.  This was the most visited anchor activity during that unit of study!

Speaking of math, here's a fun game to play with your kids!  Another favorite. 
First up, you need a package of lightning and raindrops.  (lightning = sparkly gold pom poms, raindrops = multi-colored blue pom poms....Michaels usually has these)
I cut out a couple of clouds, stapled them together, and then used that to hold my lightning and raindrops.  I also set out tens and ones clouds along with two place value dice.

Basically , the kids will roll one die and then represent the number rolled with lightning RODS under the tens cloud.  Then roll the other die and represent the number rolled with raindropsunder the ones cloud. To take it a step further, I have my kids write the base 10 blocks on a dry erase sleeve...along with the matching numeral...to show what they rolled.

Speaking of lightning, here's how I integrate weather with our sight words.  We play a little game called, CRASH!  As in, Lightning CRASHES :)  (I spent many a day in the 90's wearing plaid shirts and Doc Martens singing this song over and over. HA.)
CRASH is played just like BANG!, so if you know how to play it, you're good to go.  If you don't, you can click on the pic to download the activity and the instrutions....FREE! 
Although BANG! has always been a class favorite and the novelty doesn't seem to ever wear off with this game, I'm always trying to come up with variations just to spice things up a bit.  And this does the trick!  When my kids get a CRASH card, the other kids in the group set down their cards and THUNDERCLAP loudly as they say "BOOM"!  Hahahaha!!  They really get into it!

And no thematic unit is ever complete without a few writing craftivities....for good measure, of course ;)  My personal favorite is the tornado.  My kids were OBSESSED with learning about tornadoes last year.  I'm not obsessed...just totally scared.  It was neat to see their interest though.

You can find more of my free weather ideas and activities HERE and HERE.
There are a few freebies in these posts so make sure to look carefully!

I would keep telling you about more ideas and activities, but this post is fast approaching neverending and I'm sure you've stopped reading by now.   You can check out my All About Weather Pinterest board and see what I've created and what I've been pinning over there.  

Many of the activities mentioned above can be found in my All About the Weather packet.  It's a great (mostly) non-fiction resource with vocabulary cards & visual anchors, non-fiction books, close reading and comprehension printables, and MORE!  It's 228 jam-packed pages full of weather fun!!  And I'm so excited to share it with you!

And here are a few more weather related resources from me & my dear friend, Abby, at The Inspired Apple.  We collaborated together to bring you four full weeks of cross-curricular science lesson plans and the March themes are all about clouds, rainbows, weather, and space!!

If you're interested in adding this to your science resources, just click on the pic.  Four weeks of detailed science lesson plans plus additional cross-curricular activities, too!  

Here's a little weather week mathtivity that's perfect for this time of the year and it's FREE!

For this activity, your kids will need a pair of dice and the tracing templates provided.  Prompt the kids to roll the dice to determine the addends.  They'll write those on the umbrella.  Then prompt them to add the numbers together to get the sum (the third and final number in their fact family).  The kids will use the raindrop templates to write their related facts and then glue it all together to make a little rainy day (math) scene!  Simple and effective...and pretty cute, too!  hahaha

Now with all that to be said, I'm headed out to enjoy this lovely first day of SPRING!!!
  Have a great one!