I absolutely love reading Tomie dePaola's Legend of the Indian Paintbrush story around Thanksgiving!  It's a beautiful story and sets the stage for an awesome art project.  Let's chat more about this book and how we made a beautiful piece of art based on the book!


Why Read The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush?

Aside from the art project we did, we got a lot out of this book last week!  


We used this book for learning about legends and their characteristics.  We looked for evidence in the text to show each of the characteristics of legends.


We also learned 6 new tier 2 vocabulary words using our Tier 2 slideshow and response sheet!  Cooper loves learning new words and I love that we are learning them in a meaningful way!


Sunset Art Project

At the end of the week, we were reading to create our sunset pieces just like Little Gopher.  Here are the materials we used:

You could definitely use watercolors to paint like Little Gopher did in the book, but I chose pastels because it was a different medium we hadn't used before and it went with my goals for learning about medium and technique!

We learned about the art terms, "medium" and "technique."  Our medium was pastels and our technique we learned was blending.

First, we chose the colors of our sunset from the pastels.  Then, we made stripes of each color with the pastels.

(I would suggest leaving LESS white space between the stripes.  I ended up adding more color all the way to the edges.)


Then, we blended the colors together using a kleenex.


Here's a video of the blending in action...


After everything was blended like we wanted, we were ready to add the silhouettes!  First, we cut out a black hill landscape and glued it to the bottom.  Then we added the tipis and details.

(Note: my cardstock was wider than my black paper so I trimmed it after I was completely finished to clean up the look!)

Cooper wanted to add Little Gopher in his piece.  I think it turned out so great and it was SUPER easy!

Do your kids love jokes?  My first graders LOVED telling me jokes.  First grade seems to be the time kids begin to understand jokes and what makes them funny.  


My own 2nd grader really has a good handle on jokes now and even makes up his own.  But many of the more complicated jokes we have to explain.  About a year ago, when he was in first grade, I remember his reading us jokes from a joke book he had gotten for Christmas.  Several of them we were explaining to him, because he didn't quite understand what was so funny.


It was then that I had an idea for a group of lessons!  We could use jokes to learn different language and grammar skills in the classroom!  Now that I am homeschooling him for 2nd grade, we have started doing "Funny Fridays" and learning some jokes.  Here are the routines we use for learning language and grammar skill through jokes and puns.


What Skills Can Be Taught Through Jokes?

Comedians are extremely high in linguistic intelligence and it's easy to know why when you think about the language skills you have to know to understand and tell jokes.  Jokes are packed FULL of so many language skills like...

  • homonyms
  • homophones
  • similar sounding words (helping with phonemic awareness and phoneme differentiation)
  • metaphors
  • idioms
  • academic vocabulary
... and much more!

Whole Group Joke Telling

The first thing we do is go through the joke slides together.  I show the first slide.

We use think-pair-share to quietly think of what the answer might be, then whisper share with our carpet partners.  Then I have a few kids share their answers and tell if they agree.

Then, we show the answer slide.

We check to see if anyone got the correct answer.  Then, we talk about what might be so funny about this joke.  I ask, "Do you get it??" and have some kids explain why they think it's funny.  Most of the time someone will get it, but I've had a few they didn't get.  


If no one gets it, we go on to the last slide. (And we still go over this slide together even when someone explains it.)


The last slide reinforces the language skill we're working on, like homophones, over and over so that kids get better at figuring out the jokes as we go along.

Each set has 10 jokes that we go over as a whole group.

Optional Small Group Joke Telling

These digital slides are also available in small printable cards.  We used this for my son this year as we are homeschooling (thanks, Covid).  He was going on a road trip with Dad and I sent him this ring of joke cards to practice and go through with Dad in the car!

The card ring is also great to take on the go... bathroom breaks, outside learning, stations and more!

Independent Practice

After we introduce the jokes whole group with the slides or in a small group with the ring of cards, I have the kids practice finding the language skill in the jokes independently.

The work page has three jokes.  Usually one is a repeat from our whole group and at least 2 are new ones for them to read, locate the skill word(s) that make the joke funny and then illustrate the multiple meanings or implied meanings that make the joke funny.

My 2nd grader absolutely LOVES our funny fridays now!

You can find the slides, small joke cards, and printables in each joke resource.  Here's a free sample to try first and the bundle!




One of my most popular resources in my store is especially popular right now during distance learning:   Digital lesson plan templates.  I often get asked lots of the same questions about these templates and how I use them.  So, today, I'm going to give you the answers to my most frequently asked questions about using these digital lesson plan templates!


What are Digital Lesson Plan Templates?

Digital lesson plan templates are the templates I used in the classroom to plan out my week and what I currently use for homeschooling my 2nd grader.  They are hosted on Google Drive so I could access them easily at home or anywhere with internet!  Because they are hosted on Google, it's also super easy to add in links to articles, games, digital resources, or whatever right there in my plans.  That way, when I'm teaching, and we are ready to do our digital phonics lessons, I can just click from my lesson plans and go straight there.


Can the fields inside of the boxes be edited?

Yes!  Every single part of this template is editable, including the contents inside of the boxes.  I have put those there because that is the format that I use, and if that works for you great!  But if it doesn't, feel free to edit as you need to!


Can I Share The Lesson Plans With My Teammates?

Yes... BUT!  In order to follow the DMCA laws and copyright laws, you must purchase an additional license for each teacher that will be using the document.  You do NOT have to purchase a license for your admin who you turn your plans in to for viewing/record keeping.


You can purchase additional licenses for 10% off the original price here!


If you are an administrator and looking to buy a license for all of the teachers in your school, you can email me at whitney@thefirstgraderoundup.com for heavily discounted pricing options!


I Need Bigger Boxes.  Can I Make the Boxes Bigger?

Yes!  Just like in Word, the boxes will grow as big as you need them to.  That means, you may end up with more than one page of plans.  I like to keep my plans to one page just because that works best for me... that's why the boxes are sized the way they are.  BUT, if you need more details in those boxes or information on your plans so you remember what you are teaching, you can type a novel in the box with no problems!


How Do I Make a New Template Each Week?

With Google docs, you can make a copy of the template and use it for each week.  At the end of the year, I have 36 files of lesson plan templates on my drive!  And then the next year, I can start with the same templates for each week and just change what I want to from the previous year.  Yay!


To make a new template, you simply choose File > Make A Copy.  You will name the new copy of plans and then make sure it will save into the correct folder and then click ok.  That's it!  Now your own template is saved and ready to edit for the next week!


Since This is a Google File, Will This Work With Word?

Yes... Mostly!  You can download the Google file to Word by choosing File > Download > Microsoft Word.


WARNING: It will not save all of the fonts... it will most likely change the fonts to Times New Roman.  But the formatting will stay basically the same.   


Also, by downloading to Word, you will lose the benefit of being able to view your plans from home, but it is definitely an option if you need it!


I Prefer the Days at the Top and the Subject Areas on the Side.  Is that Possible?

Yes!  Just simply type over the headers and rename them however you choose!


Can I Add More Columns and Rows?

Yes!  Just click where you would like to add another column or row.  Then right click and choose Insert Row above/below or Insert column above/below.  


You can also delete a column or row if you need to!


I Need to See More of this In Action First!

I have a youtube video that walks through the plans for you to see up close and personal here.


And several years ago, I did a facebook live on these plans as well!


Where Can I Find These Lesson Plan Templates?

You can get a license for these templates for a single classroom teacher use only HERE!  And if you are interested in more digital Google templates to keep you organized, you can check out the bundle here.

Lesson Plan Templates EDITABLE compatible with Google Drive      Planning And Assessment Tools Compatible With Google Drive BUNDLE

Goodbye, balanced literacy!  Hello science of reading!


A huge part of the science of reading research supports explicitly teaching comprehension through read alouds in the early elementary years.  That includes direct vocabulary instruction.  


higher vocabulary = higher reading comprehension


That's my why.  Now, let's talk about the routines I've used in K-2 for explicitly teaching tier 2 vocabulary words with trade books.


What Are Tier 2 Vocabulary Words?

Tier 2 words are the colorful words authors use to craft and enhance their stories.  They are words like beckon, cheerfully, soar, etc...


They are NOT sight words or high frequency words.  Those are tier 1 words.  These are less frequent and sometimes called WOW words in my classroom because their better choices than your basic words.


They are also NOT academic vocabulary words.  Those are tier 3 words.


Which Words Should I Teach?

Research through the science of reading teaches us that vocabulary words should be taught in context, not in isolation.  And anytime you can give multiple definitions for words, you will always get a higher return on your teaching investment.  


I always use trade books to teach vocabulary words.  Sometimes I only use that book for the vocabulary words.  Other times, I use the book on Mondays for vocabulary and we reread the book the next day to work on different comprehension skills.


Do you have time for a sad story?  If not... no worries.  Just skip on to the next section! :)


When I first started teaching 15 years ago, I went to a balanced literacy training to get "certified" to teach balanced literacy.  We did a day on vocab instruction and they actually gave us a huge list of trade books and tier 2 words to teach with each book.  I loved the idea.  Prepped everything to teach year after year by laminating covers and words on sentence strips (Hey, there, 2006!) and was good to go. 


And then as balanced literacy goes, there was very little time for whole group reading comprehension instruction outside of shared reading.  So, with what little read aloud time I had... vocabulary got the boot.  :(  Fast forward several years when I moved schools and I got rid of those sentence strip words I barely used and also tossed THE LIST OF BOOKS AND TIER 2 WORDS!  I'd never need that again, right?


I'm sure you know what happens next.  The last few years, I've been going through our state training with the science of reading and now have time to explicitly teach vocabulary.  And, of course, when I went hunting for that awesome list, it was no where.  BOOOOO!  I'd give anything to have that list back as a good starting point for teaching my 2nd grade vocabulary this year, but oh well.  We'll be starting from scratch.


I'll be using the trade books I select for each week and pulling out words to explicitly teach--without a premade list! :)


Before Reading Routines

Before reading the trade book, we go over our vocabulary words.  15 years ago, this looked like me holding up the sentence strip and introducing the word, definition, and a student action for kids to act out the word.


The past few years, it's looked a little different.  I use a slide show.  


I introduce the word, read the definition, explain it by using it in a sentence, and teach the kids a motion to go with the words.  I love using Total Physical Response wherever I can, and this is the perfect way to use it and have kids show you the motion as you read the story.


After we introduce the word, the next slide has kids choose between 2 or 3 photos and tell which photo best describes the word.  We move the object to the photo to show which photo displays the word meaning.


We go through each of the words this way.  Then, we go through the interactive activities together.  These can include matching words to photos, matching vocab to synonym words, or choosing vocabulary words to label a specific photo.  (We usually do these whole group, but this would work well in Google Classroom for distance learning also!)


During Reading Routines

Now we are ready to READ!  I read aloud each vocabulary word and the kids quickly show me each motion as a quick review.  Then I say, "Let's read the story and listen for our WOW Words.  When you hear one, let me know by quietly showing me the motion for that word!"


As we read and come to the word, students give me the motion.  We stop at that sentence, reread how the author used the word and discuss the meaning and any nuances of the meaning from within the context of the text compared to the definitions we learned in the slideshow.


After Reading Routines

Once we finish the story, we don't discuss much of the story... I usually save that for another day so the focus stays on the tier 2 vocabulary words.  


Kids will respond to the vocabulary words used in the story.  Sometimes, they just respond by choosing 2-3 of the words to write their own sentence for and illustrate.  Other times, they match synonyms, label photos and write and illustrate just one vocabulary sentence.


Traditionally, they do this using a paper copy, but it's also super simple to do in Google Slides as well!


Where Can I Find the Materials?

I've just started a new line of Tier 2 vocabulary activities to coordinate with trade books.  You can find the first one here.  And make sure you follow me on TpT to be the first to know when I release the growing bundle at a steep discount!


We started our landforms unit this week in 2nd grade homeschool (thanks, Corona!).  Guess my landform was super easy to prep for and my 2nd grade LOVED it and begged to play longer.  Here how to play!


What You'll Need

I wasn't kidding when I said this game is VERY low prep.  All you HAVE to have is play-doh.  We also used our landform vocab cards, definitions and photo cards to play as well. (NOTE: these cards are small because I printed them two to a page to save ink and the scale was perfect for the homeschool or small group setting.  


Here's the official list we used...


How To Play

The first thing we did was review our landform names and definitions.  I laid out the landform photo cards and gave Cooper the definition cards.  He read the definitions to me and then laid them on top of the correct photo card.


This would be super easy to do whole group before you play the game as your mini lesson.  The photo cards are all on one page in the landforms unit, so it would be easy to go digital with this review by displaying the one page of photos on your interactive board or in Zoom and reading aloud a definition and asking kids to name the landform using the photos to help.


After we reviewed, we were ready to play.  I laid out the definition cards.  Cooper chose a landform to create.  I set the timer for 2 minutes.  During that 2 minutes, he was expected to decide the landform, and finish building it.  The timer was simply to keep us on track.  You could use this in the classroom by setting a whole group timer, or if you feel like your kids can self-regulate, they could play on their own without a class timer.  My sweetheart can take extra long doing things so we have been wearing our timer out! :)


Once he finished building (before the time was up...yay!), it was my turn to guess what landform he made.  During the guesses, we had to tell what landform it was and use the definition to justify our answer.  Cooper made a volcano first.


And that's it!  We took turns making and guessing the landforms.  It's really that simply.  And engaging!  Because, who doesn't love to play with play-doh??  


This activity and the landform cards can be found with this complete, Next Gen aligned landforms unit.

Landforms Next Generation Science Unit

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