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Introduction to Journal Writing for 5 to 7 Year Olds


How to teach Journal writing

I wanted to find a way to easily teach six and seven year old children how to Journal write.  We often expect our children to free write in their Journals (or notebook, or writing book or whatever you want to call it).  Children often struggle with the expectations of this.  Which lines do they write on?  Where do they put the date.  What do they write about?  And then I thought, why not make a few videos to show how I do it?   

I've started a You Tube channel.  I'm so excited because this has taken a lot of work for me to figure out.  I'm adding new lessons every few days.  Click on the links below to take you to the lesson you want to see.

I hope these videos help you.  These are great to post up for online or distance learning, especially at the start of the school year when you are trying to teach clear expectations and set up routines.

My Favorite Alligator Crafts for Kids

I just love making crafts to go with Science topics in the classroom.   After learning about reptiles, I decided that we should make an alligator ourselves.  These are some of the best Alligator Crafts that I have found.

Have you been studying reptiles, or crocodiles and alligators?  Or maybe you are looking for an alligator craft to go with a picture book you have been reading aloud.  If you are looking for a crafty way to make alligators with your students, here are some of my favorite ideas.

Week 2 of STEAM STORIES - Little Red Apple

Welcome to my blog series on STEAM STORIES
Week 2 of a 28 week series on how to combine STEAM and ELA in the classroom

So this week started off with the children already knowing the book.  They read it to their big buddies on the Friday prior.  I decided to spread out the study of this book over 2 weeks.  The last week of September has two important events that we were celebrating at my school and I needed to make time for those events.  First, we did our Terry Fox Run.  In order to prepare for that, I needed to do some lessons on who Terry Fox was, and why we collect money and run in his memory.  The second day of importance this week was Orange Shirt Day.  This is a relatively new day of remembrance for us in Canada.  It started about 3 years ago.  We wear orange shirts to remember the indigenous children who survived the residential school program in Canada.  CLICK HERE for more information if you are interested in learning more.

Anyway, so I decided to spread out our study of Little Red Apple, and will jump to week 4 the week after.  This program is very flexible this way.  If you want to move some of the weeks around, you certainly can do this.  

So here's my dayplan for the 2 weeks.  I circled in green the lessons from STEAM STORIES

Monday Sept 23 morning:  Today we started by the children taking out their little copy of Little Red Apple and reading it to themselves at their desk.  Then I taught the vocabulary words.  The lesson is the same as Week One where the children draw a picture to match the word.  Once they were working, I pulled aside my 4 little ones who need extra help.  I sat with them and helped them work through the easier worksheet.  During this time, they each read to me individually from the lowest book.  It's a bit too hard for them, but I believe that if they learn to remember the story they think they can read the book, and this not only gives them a sense of success, but they may also pick up some more reading skills along the way.
Monday afternoon:  Today I presented the challenge.  We went through the slides and discussed ways that the kids could construct a shoe that would stay on.  The kids also filled in the planning worksheet which shows what they want to build.   When they were finished this, I got them to paint in the apple picture as part of the apple craft.  I decided this would be a 2 day craft as we needed time to let the paint dry and it was a very busy week as I already explained.  

When they were painting I suggested that they go outside some of the lines so that it was more vibrant once they cut them out (like in the photo above).

Tuesday Sept 24, morning:   Today we only had time for one activity.  The kids did the same type of worksheet as they did last week, with the word bubbles.  The kids really enjoyed this activity last week, and it was easy to motivate them to do it again.  Plus, I had turned last week's activity into a Class Book that they all loved to read.  So it was easy to get them started on this activity and then get to some guided reading lessons with my other groups.  You can use the books from this program for guided reading too, but sometimes the levels aren't a perfect match.  So I also use a variety of leveled books from our book room to supplement this.  I also turned this into a class book which the kids love reading from.  

Wednesday Sept 25 afternoon:   Today we only had time for one activity.  They finished up their Little Red Apple craft.  They totally enjoyed doing this.  It's super easy to do, and the kids were really excited to make it.  One of my kiddos asked me  about next week.  She told me she couldn't wait to find out what it was.

Thursday Sept 26, morning:   Today we only had time for one activity.  So today we did the Story Sequence activity.  You can see it on the left side of the image below.  Being able to retell the story in their own words is an essential skill for building reading comprehension.  Some of the kids are still learning this process and I also have a high number of ELL students.  So these children were allowed to copy down parts of the book to supplement their story sequence.

Friday Sept 27, afternoon:  This afternoon the children got to work creating a "shoe" that would meet the challenge.  They love doing these activities.  I must say that I absolutely love how engaged the kids are when they get to explore and build with the materials we have.  I wish I could show you pictures of them building, but I can't.  Their finished products are shown further down in this post.

Wednesday Oct 2, morning:  Today we completed the activity, My Favorite Part of the Story.  You can see a few examples of this on the right side of the picture collage above.

Wednesday afternoon:   This afternoon the kids tested their shoes to see if they could hold up to the test.  Many were successful and a few were not.  We discussed each shoe and talked about what they could change if they were to do it again.

Thursday Oct 3, afternoon:  Once all the kids had tested their shoe, we did the self-evaluation.  The kids got to think about what they liked about their shoe and what they would change.

So that's Week 2 - Little Red Apple - over 2 weeks.  We did not get a chance to pre-read the next book with out buddies because it was so busy this week.  In another week it will be Canadian Thanksgiving, so I need to make sure we get all of the Social Studies lessons related to that holiday done.  So I'm taking next week off from STEAM STORIES.  Again, this program is so flexible that you can skip a week and jump around and the kids will still learn a lot.  Come back next week for Week 4, Brown Owl.

Thanks for stopping by today!

Week One of STEAM STORIES - Little Pencil

Welcome to my blog series on STEAM STORIES.
Week 1 of a 28 week series on how to combine STEAM and ELA in the classroom
This week we started off the whole lesson series.  This curriculum is designed to be used all year.  It's ideal for a Grade 2 curriculum in Canada which is more aligned with a 1st Grade curriculum in the USA.  But, as teachers we can be flexible and adapt it to fit most 6 - 7 year olds.  In this blog series I will go over the adaptations that I made each week this year in order to meet the needs of my class.  Every class is a bit different and so every class will do this curriculum slightly differently.  This curriculum is designed to allow flexibility.  You can follow it closely if that fits your criteria, or you can change, adapt, and/or modify it to suit your needs.
This year, my class meets up with their buddy class of Grade 5's on Friday afternoon.  I have 4 kids who are non-readers this year.  So the first level of the little books are too difficult for them, even though they are in Grade 2.  So, I decided that I would allow for some flexibility in this and so on the Friday the week before, the kids sat down and read the books by themselves first, and 5 minutes later, met up with their buddies and read their copy to their buddies.  

Week One is called Little Pencil.  The books are DRA levels 6, 12, and 18.  My kids are divided into 4 reading groups who are currently reading at a level 0, 8-10, 16-20, and 24 and above.
So here's how I paired them up with the books.  I did not assign them as guided reading books, so their reading groups are not mentioned.  I gave level 0 the first book (DRA 6) knowing it was too difficult for them, but making sure that their buddies would help them.  They actually got their books earlier in the day on Friday and as a group, we read the whole book through once.  (basically I read it out-loud and they following with their finger.) to build their confidence.
I gave level 8's the first book which was a DRA 6 and the level 10's the DRA 12 book.  Then I gave the level 16's the remaining DRA 12's and the 20's a DRA 18.  The 24's and above got the DRA 18 as well.
Remember that my ultimate goal this week is to set up the routine and keep the kids happy.  I am not worrying about whether or not they are getting reading instruction just yet.
So Friday they read their book with their buddies.
Here's a photo of my dayplan for week one.  I like to plan out my week ahead of time.
So I have circled in green all of the lessons from STEAM STORIES, and I circled in yellow, when they read the story from next week to their buddies.
Last week I sent home the letter requesting materials for the kids to use when they create.  I will show how I store these in an upcoming blog post.
Here's a breakdown of how the week went.
Monday am:  I introduced the new vocabulary. This week we simply went over each card and photo.  I talked about how the photos matched the word.  This should help them when they complete the worksheet and need to illustrate the definition of each word.

Then I gave the children the worksheets to complete.  My non-readers filled in the easier worksheet and the rest of the class did the other worksheet.

Monday pm:  I used the projector to present the problem and then the challenge.  I read aloud a copy of  the highest DRA level little book.  I believe that by re-reading the book multiple times it helps all readers.  The lower readers get more exposure to the words, and the higher readers deepen their comprehension with each read.  As a class we recorded some ideas on the whiteboard of possible solutions to the problem.

Then I sent the children to their desks to fill in the challenge worksheet.   Most of them did not take very much time to fill in this worksheet.  But I think the more often they do this process, the more they will understand it.  So for today I did not worry about whether or not their drawings made any sense.   

This page, once I checked it, was put into their STEAM Journals.

Tuesday am:  Today as one part of the ELA lesson we filled in the word bubble worksheet where the kids write down what they think Little Pencil is saying.  This class absolutely loved this lesson.  

I also did a small guided reading group with the lowest readers, and then asked them to read their book to one of the strongest readers in the class.  I then read with my 2nd lowest group in a guided reading circle, and discussed some of the meaning of the book with them.  I focused on how was Little Pencil feeling on each page.

Because the kids loved this activity so much, I decided to make a Class Book with all their pages.  Check back and I will add a photo of the book soon.    The kids love to read the class book and see what all of the other children have added to their pages.  I use the presentation folders with the clear pockets inside for Class Books.  And I reuse them every year.  We are on year 4 with most of them and I bought them at the dollar store originally.  

Wednesday am:  So today we worked on another comprehension strategy.  The kids chose their favorite part of the story, and filled in an activity worksheet about it.


With this worksheet, I wanted to make sure the children were learning the routine, so I didn't fuss over their spelling.  I did a method I call "erase and trace".  The kids write out their best work, and sound out the words they don't know.  I correct with a flair pen, and then they erase their work and trace mine.  I also correct punctuation using this method.   The kids like it because they are less likely to get stuck on how to spell certain words and they can focus on getting their ideas down on paper.  So they actually write more.

Wednesday pm:   This afternoon we actually created structures to solve the problem.  This week was a pencil case to hold all the crayons.  I gave them the criteria and wrote it on the board.  The case needed to hold 24 crayons and I put out a box of crayons for them to use to estimate the size they needed.  They also had the chance to look at their planning from their STEAM Journal, but most of them did not look at it (just as I suspected).

They worked at it for over an hour.  Some kids only took 30 minutes or so, but some took much longer.  They were totally engaged in what they were doing and there was a lot of discussion about the challenge.  Everyone was on task, which I loved!  I cannot post pictures of my students so I am unable to show you exactly what was going on, but it was great.

Thursday am:   Today they all re-read their story and did a worksheet on the story sequence.

This is a copy of my answer key.  We went over the 4 steps orally so the kids had an idea of what we were doing.  This was the first time we did this activity, so again, I was focused on the kids learning the routine, and not terribly worried about the kids understanding the activity.  My non-readers were able to ask for help and copy out of the book if they wanted.

Thursday pm:    This afternoon we tested our creations.  Each child came to the front of the room and explained which materials they used to build their creation.  Then they explained how their pencil box worked.   Finally I helped them put 24 crayons into the box to see if they succeeded in meeting the challenge.  The kids who did not were given a chance to revise their creation and test it again.  If it still didn't work I asked them what they would change if they were to do it again.  I was really interested in their explanations of their thinking.  I took down a few notes on each child for my assessment.  

Friday am:   Today we wrote out the worksheet from yesterday as a paragraph.  The kids wrote it and drew a picture.  I then checked over their spelling, grammar and punctuation and we followed the same technique of "erase and trace".    They then colored in their picture.  They did such a good job, that I also included their pages in the class book.

Friday pm:  Today we read the next week's book to our buddies (Little Red Apple).  

Later in the afternoon we did a self-evaluation for their pencil case creation.  I love how some of the kids drew a detailed picture and labelled it.

 So there you have it!  That's week one.  My hope for next week is that the children will start to learn more strategies from these activities which will help them with their Reading, Writing, Self-Reflection, and STEM skills.  Come back next week for a run-down on Week 2 Little Red Apple.

Thanks for stopping by today!

STEAM STORIES - how to set up

Welcome to my blog series on STEAM STORIES.  

STEAM Stories contains Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math and ELA all together in one curriculum

STEAM STORIES is a great way to teach Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math and English Language Arts.  If you've been afraid to start doing STEM and STEAM lessons in your classroom, you will be pleasantly surprised by how easily the children adapt to a regular routine of STEAM every week.  

STEAM Stories contains Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math and ELA all together in one curriculum

This week I'd like to show you how I set up and use STEAM STORIES in my classroom.  I currently teach Second Grade and I have a really young group of kids this year, so they are loving the characters and the stories in this program.  We're two weeks in and one of my students today asked me what next week's character will be as she's loving the two we've learned about already.
When you open the file for week 1 you will find 6 files.  Please open the one called "start here" first.
This is what you will find.  This explains what you will find in the other 5 files.

 Last year I printed out 6 copies of each level of each story in Black and White and then I printed out the 3 different covers in color ink.  That made for 18 copies of each story total.  I laminated the color covers and this really helps with keeping the books strong.  Now I have 20 students in my class this year, so after I gathered their reading levels I made extra black and white copies for those levels.  I will try to rotate the black and white copies around each week so that no child is stuck with the black and white copy week after week.

I store the copies in magazine files.  I group them by level and then title.  I admit that I have not yet printed out the cute labels for these magazine files, but the post-it notes are working for me for now.  I put the books in spine back so that I can easily find the reading level in the top right corner of each book. 

Next I color printed out the binder and spine covers and also color printed the vocabulary word cards.  The rest can be easily be printed out in black and white.

I also am fortunate enough to have a projector so I like to project up the vocabulary words in color so the pictures are more vivid.  I don't usually print out the instructions, and when I do they are usually in black and white.  For week 1 I suggest you print them out for a quick and easy reference.

The last thing you need to prepare is your worksheets for the lessons you are going to teach. 

 In my next blog post I will share my details for how I planned out the week and which worksheets I printed out and photocopied and which ones I did not.  So stay tuned for more details about how I taught week one!

Thanks for stopping by today.