Tuesday, April 29, 2014

First Grade Mo Willems Author Study

In first grade, we spend several weeks and have a BLAST studying one of my all-time favorite authors, Mo Willems.  We notice his use of humor, his simple drawings (that are reminiscent of Peanuts characters), and how speech bubbles and the backgrounds are used effectively.

In Knuffle Bunny, Willems photographed his Brooklyn neighborhood for his true-to-life tale about his daughter Trixie and her favorite toy "Knuffle Bunny" (pronounced Kah-nuffle by Willems himself).

We decided to use black and white photos that Mrs. Eley took around Hillside School and pretend - what if Trixie and Knuffle Bunny visited Hillside School?   Each student wrote a sentence and created a drawing of Trixie and Knuffle Bunny at a room in Hillside School to create our very own "Trixie and Knuffle Bunny visit Hillside" story.

"Trixie and Knuffle Bunny went crazy and then got hungry!"

"Trixie and Knuffle Bunny were messing up the library."

When we study Mo Willems' pigeon books, we end with a little creative writing.  Students: if you could ask Mo to create his next pigeon book now, what would the title be?  

"Don't Let the Pigeon Feed the T Rex"

"Don't Let the Pigeon Eat a Candy"

 "Don't Let the Pigeon Find the Banana"

"Don't Let the Pigeon Go to School"

"Don't Let the Pigeon Make an Avalanche"

"Don't Let the Pigeon Say Cowcowgogo"

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Second Grade Country Postcard Projects

In March, our second grades completed a brand new project utilizing technology, research, and writing skills.

To correspond with their Social Studies unit on Maps / Geography, the second grade teachers asked me to help the students research a country.

Assignments in the 21st century can no longer be just "Go find out about..." projects.  Cut and paste technology makes it too easy for students to plagiarize and not engage with the information they are reading.

So, I asked the students (some in pairs, some individually) to select a country from a list on Facts4Me.com, a brand new elementary research database purchased by the library.  (For login information, email Mrs. Eley.)  After selecting their country, they were to pretend that they were on a trip to this country and they were writing a postcard

We discussed what kind of details that would be interesting to family - what would make them "jealous?"  Facts about the flag were not considered as important as facts about interesting things to do and see.   After collecting at least 4 facts about things to do and see in our country, students were provided with "strong" and "weak" examples of postcards.  We discussed how to write a closing sentence and and an introduction, and after our work was proofread by Mrs. Eley, we published our "digital" postcards using Google Docs!

A few student examples are below.
Color printouts were displayed on a bulletin board in Hillside School.

Congratulations to all!

This was loosely based on a project detailed in an excellent book that I recently read:
Navigating the Information Tsunami: Engaging Research Projects That Meet the Common Core State Standards, K-5 by Kristin Fontichiaro.