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' 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 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!

St. Patrick's Day Activities & Freebies

We're a week away from celebrating St. Patrick's Day, so I thought it would be the perfect time to

First, let's talk behavior.  I always get a lot of questions about behavior management.  You will never hear me say I have it all figured out.  Nor will I declare that all of my ducks are always in their rows.  However, I do know that sometimes the novelty of what we're doing wears off and when it does our kids become less engaged in learning and more apt to act unfavorably.  I've found that changing up behavior incentives at different points during the year really seems to curb undesired behavior.  I don't incentivize all behavior, but there are special times of the year I love to recognize positive behavior and reinforce that by working together as a team to reach a particular goal.  Here's a little something I love doing during the days/weeks leading up to St. Patrick's Day.

This behavior management incentive is all about positive reinforcement and compliments and the objective is to get the leprechaun to the pot of gold.

I personally like the idea of using this class-wide, but dependig on the dynamics of your classroom, this could absolutely be used by groups/tables/etc.  

Print out the rainbow graphic, cut out, and adhere to a posterboard or butcher paper.  If you want to make this available year-to-year, be sure to laminate!  Otherwise, just adhere velcro sticky dots to the arc of the rainbow and the pot.  You can add as many....or you wish.  One sticky dot needs to be adhered to the back of the leprechaun as well.

Each time your class gets a compliment, move the leprechaun to the next sticky dot getting closer and closer to the pot of gold.  Once the leprechaun reaches the pot, it's time to celebrate!

In the past, I've used this incentive about 3-5 days leading up to St. Patrick's Day.  My kids can receive compliments from other adults as we're walking down the halls, from their specials teachers, or from teachers who pop-in the classroom & comment on how awesome the kids are being.  I've often asked teammates to pop-in and compliment my class on something specific.  

Once the leprechaun reaches the pot, we celebrate with a special snack.  Depending on the class...and the amount of time you have...the special snack can vary.  Lucky Charms.  My personal favorite is a Taste of the Rainbow.

You'll need small clear plastic cups, a variety of fruit (your choice) to represent the colors of the rainbow, whipped cream, and golden raisins (to represent gold coins!!!)
You could turn this into a great little writing project as well..."How-to taste the rainbow". Bring the fruit to school (pre-cut/sliced) and prompt kids to assemble their own rainbows.  Help them top it off with whipped cream and then let them add their own "gold coins".  A delicious (and healthy!) celebratory snack!!!  

In the past, we usually enjoy this snack ON St. Patrick's Day.  This is always a class favorite!!!
You can grab the printable rainbow & leprechaun by clicking the pic below.

Speaking of praise, here are some "luck notes" to give to your kids....or team...on St. Patrick's Day and/or the week leading up to it.  Our kids LOVE tangible pieces of praise and these fit the bill.  

They can be left out on their desks/tables before they get to school (add some glitter or green confetti for an extra little touch), added to treat bags, or given as they leave for the day.  I like to treat my team to a little baggie of green Jolly Ranchers and attach the note to that :)  

Grab your luck notes HERE:

And here's an extra little treat just for you!  Race to the Rainbow...a class favorite!!!  This little game board can be used in small groups or in pairs and pretty much with any skill you want to reinforce!  For the sake of explanation, I'll share with you how we incorporate this for math.

Before starting the game, just cut out the leprechaun counters, fold along the dotted lines, and glue to keep them upright.  

In a small group setting, I love using this game board to reinforce odd & even addition.  Player 1 rolls the dice, writes an equation, and identifies whether the sum is odd or even.  If the sum is even, Player 1 moves his counter up one space toward the rainbow on the game board.  If the sum is odd, he stays put.  Play continues until one player reaches the rainbow first!  

Of course, this can be implemented to use with a variety of skills. Identifying long and short vowels using picture cards (long vowels move forward, short vowels stay put, or vice versa);  sight word identification (move ahead if you can read the word correctly, stay put if not);  etc.  Really, the sky is the limit!!  

You can grab your free game board by clicking the pic below.

Some of my favorite activities to incorporate this time of the year are thematic science experiments.  While we're talking about rainbows, here's a fun science experiment to incorporate into your plans...

Here's another fun experiment involving candy.  And what kid doesn't love candy?!

Speaking of experiments, Abby & I have LOTS of amazing rainbow themed experiments and activities in our Science of March resource.  It's super comprehensive....lesson plans, book suggestions, and cross curricular activities, too!  Here's a little peek at Rainbow Week...

via Science of March - 4 weeks full of cross curricular lesson plans (rainbows, clouds, weather, sun/moon/stars)

And for some more St. Patrick's Day fun, check out these activities!!!

Shamrock Similes is first on the list.  In a whole group setting, brainstorm a list of things that are green and follow-up with a little simile writing craftivity...

And here's a little related facts craftivity, too!  

And no holiday is complete without a little hide & seek fun!!  I included sight words and numbers as well as editable cards for you to create your own!!  My kids always LOVE hide & seek activities!!  Great for whole group and reinforcing key concepts and skills!!

You can grab all three of these activities in my St. Patrick's Day Fun file....only $3.50!  

Valentine's Day Freebies! - Blending & Sight Word Games

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day and today I'm at home nursing a sick child.  There is nothing worse than not being able to help your baby feel better.  This just STINKS.  We could absolutely use the prayers.  Fevers scare the daylights out of me...especially when the Motrin/Tylenol combo doesn't do a thing to relieve them. 

For those of you who will be at school tomorrow, here are a few activities you can implement for a little extra fun.  Of course, they'll work perfectly for the month of February as well so no need to put them away after all the Valentine excitement has died down!

First up, Valentine Bingo.  

Six player cards and one teacher call-out card is included which makes this the perfect little small group activity.  This is NOT an editable freebie (so sorry!!!), but it's perfect for a sight word review with the words that are included.  

The teacher will distribute one HEART card to each child in the group and use the word list to call out sight words to the group.  The teacher will call out the word and the student will search their board to identify it and cover it with a counter.  As you can see, we used these great little heart counters I found at Wal Mart in the holiday party aisle.  

The first person to cover five in a row (vertically, horizontally, or diagonally), will call out "I've got HEART!" and wins the game!!  FUN!
Click the pic below to download your copy.

Next up, a fun partner game to practice blending onsets & rimes and identifying real and nonsense words.

For this activity, pair students together and provide counters for their board pieces.  Again, we used these great little heart counters I found in the holiday aisle at Wal Mart.  We also used these transparent spinner overlays as well, but a paper clip and pencil will work just the same!
Player 1 will spin the spinner and blend the onset on which he lands with the FIRST rime in sequence on his side of the board.  For example, if the player spins and lands on /r/, he will blend that with /-at/ because it's the first rime in sequence.  If the player makes a REAL word, he will place a counter on top of the rime.  If the word is NONSENSE, he loses a turn.  Players will take turns blending and determining if the words are real or nonsense.  

The first player to cover all of his rimes on his side f the game board, WINS!  Great for small group (you can provide guidance as they get the hang of the activity) and independent/partner practice, too!
Grab your free copy by clicking the pic below.

If you have any questions, just let me know!  Otherwise, enjoy the activities and have a WONDERFUL (stress free, lol!!!) Valentine celebration with your babies!!!!