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Monday, April 27, 2015

Character Education with Fables

As I've been blogging, we are in the middle of our final Common Core Unit on Fables.  In the past, we've taught this unit from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  This year, our district moved this unit to the end of the year.

I loved it around the holidays because we could focus our "life lessons" on giving back to others and service projects.

I love it at the end of the year because my firsties are more independent and we have time to do more with the stories...and I've even been able to focus on more "springy" fables this time of year too, since we are way past the holidays!

Somehow, no matter when I teach fables, I just fall in love with it!  Fables are classics and I love reading and discussing stories that I treasure from my childhood.

But fables are also my opportunity to share Jesus with my first graders.

As a Christian teacher in a public school, my hands are legally tied.  I cannot freely share my religious beliefs, teach my Bible units, or even start conversations about God...although I will never ever shut a kid down who wants to willingly talk about our Savior during class discussions.

And as a Christian teacher, I see public schools as my mission field.  My calling.  So, when fables just so happen to bring out spiritual truths, I jump all over it.

Common Core calls them, "life lessons."  My faith calls them, "doctrines," "spiritual truths," or even "fruits of the Spirit."

The education world calls them, "fables."  My Bible calls them, "parables."  And many of these fables mirror bible characters' experiences.

My Christian teacher lens allows me to see the spiritual truths behind the life lessons and weave those thoughts and scriptures into the hearts and minds of my sweeties.

Here is our almost finished Life Lessons anchor chart...

And here are the legal, Biblical conversations these fables have allowed me to have in my room.

The moral says, Treat others the way you want to be treated.
The Bible says, So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.  Matthew 7:12.
The Bible says, Be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

The moral says, Slow and steady wins the race.
The Bible says, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 2 Timothy 4:7
The Bible says, Don't you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!  All athletes are disciplined in their training.  They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.  So I run with purpose in every step.  I am not just shadowboxing.  I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. 1 Corinthians 9:24-26

The moral says, Hard work pays off.
The Bible says, So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31.
The Bible says, Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth. Proverbs 10:4
The Bible says, For whatever a man sows, that will he also reap. Galatians 6:7

The moral says, Always tell the truth.
The Bible says, Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment.  Proverbs 12:19.
The Bible says, You shall not bear false witness.  Exodus 20:16.

The moral says, Be happy with what you have.
The Bible says, For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Philippians 4:11.

We have had some powerful and very spiritual conversations the past several weeks.  As silly as it may sound to you, I know God was directing those discussions...helping me plant a seed...however tiny it might be.

So, even though May is upon us and the end of the year crazies are about to begin, I'll continue to focus on teaching fables because I may be the only spiritual voice these kiddos have in their lives.  And that is not something I take lightly.  That is a calling that will push the end of the year crazies back just a couple more weeks for this Christian teacher teaching in a public school.  Thank you, Common Core, for giving me a unit to express my religious beliefs in a legal way...And thank you to my Savior, Who has guided these discussions in a way that is most meaningful to my firsties.  Because people need Jesus.  Including my first graders.  And I want to choose to be Jesus to them every opportunity I get!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Writing Tasty, Narrative Stories

Finally, FINALLY I get to teach narrative writing! Yipee!!

You see, this year, our district decided to rewrite the Common Core Units for us and tell us when to teach each type of writing.  And for whatever reason, poor narrative writing got stuck in the 4th quarter....*boohoo*

Yes, I agree that narrative writing can be difficult for ESL and poverty kids.  And our school has more than its fair share of those sweethearts.  It's hard because they just don't have the experiences to write about that middle class white kids do.  I'm not being discriminatory--that's just speaking from experience.  So, it can be difficult to start off the year with narrative writing because they run out of steam quickly and begin to dread writing because of their lack of experiences.

One thing we do to fight this, "I don't have anything to write about" syndrome is our Where Do Authors Get Ideas Chart.

We add a bubble each day and brainstorm a list of things to write about with that category.  Then, they independently write about an experience from that category during our writers' workshop time.  You can find a premade template for this chart and many more to fill out with your kids HERE.  It'll save you tons of time and still look adorable hanging in your room!

Another reason that narrative writing can be difficult is because of the lack of "juicy details."  It is a time consuming process to ask a 6 year old to write a paragraph.  I mean, let's face it, at the beginning of the year, getting 2 sentences during a 15 minute workshop is a flat out miracle in my neck of the woods.  They just aren't fluent enough in their writing.  And firsties tend to leave out the details that make stories so enjoyable to read because,'s just too stinkin' exhausting to write out that many words.  But when they get excited about a great story to tell, it doesn't matter how long it takes to write it!

So, I spend a great deal of our narrative writing unit modeling how to write a TASTY story.  We use this hamburger graphic organizer. {You can grab a clean, digital copy HERE.}

This is one of my favorite writing lessons because I get to tell the elaborate story about going to McDonald's and ordering a hamburger and getting only the bun and no meat.  {No, it's not a true's told in the "what if" tense! :)} Nobody orders a juicy, yummy hamburger and only gets a top bun.  That's boring!  That's ridiculous! What else would you expect to get on your hamburger to make it the best ever??

...and so the tasty story conversation begins.  Writers have to add tasty details to their stories so the readers won't be bored and disappointed when they read them.  Nobody wants to read the story, "I went to the park."  It's not tasty enough!  They just love this conversations.  Eyes. Glued.  I love teaching moments like those! *smile*

I spend a good week or two reviewing this chart and our Where Do Authors Get Ideas Chart and model writing stories for my kiddos before writers workshop.  This is another reason why I was so sad that we were told not to teach narrative writing until 4th quarter...model writing stories for kids is such a easy and fun way to build a strong rapport with my firsties.  In the last 2 weeks, they've heard more Cooper stories and learned more about me and my family than I think they've learned all year.  Yes, I've told personal stories here and there, but narrative writing forces me to tell these stories--no excuses!  I love telling them and they love hearing them!  I just hate that we missed starting this at the beginning of the year because I would've had more opportunities to tell and write some great stories for them!

Find all of my narrative writing anchor charts HERE!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Tortoise and the Hare

How appropriate was it that this week we were finishing up The Tortoise and the Hare???

I mean slow and steady has pretty much been my motto since moving into our new house.

And slowly but surely, I'm getting back into the blogging grove again too!

We are well into our unit on Fables now!  The week before Easter we read The Ugly Duckling and did some super fun activities {which you can read about HERE}.  We also started The Tortoise and The Hare that week with all of the best intentions to finish, but....alas, ITBS came and we didn't finish until early this week.

One thing I love about our fables unit is that it is super fun and relaxing this time of year and it's super easy to teach.  It is the same routine song and dance week after week, but with a new fable!  And, no, the kids do not get bored.  They just love it.  In fact, today I had a kid in each of my reading groups as with excitement, "Is this book going to be another fable??" as they got their new guided reader!

So, again with The Tortoise and the Hare, we read and discussed the fable elements and the life lesson.  Here's the life lesson chart that I forgot to take a pic of for my last post...Obviously, it's a work in progress and I'll update the finished chart at the end of the unit.

The next day, we reread and sequenced the plot in productive groups...

Then, wrote about the elements of the fable...

Then, we made our craft!  This was a fun one and a great way to relax after our first day of jail time ITBS testing...:)
 We wrote letters to Hare to give him advice on how to be a better friend.  Man, these kiddos loved telling him what to do!  { get a few of them to listen to their own advice! *wink*}

And I just love how creative they got with these Hare crafts.  These are muddy brown spots from running too fast in the mud... #lovemyfirsties
 ...and the folded ears!  My example did not have those, but I just loved that so many of them did their ears that way!

I let them choose their favorite craft to hang in the hallway for a festive Spring display!

Check out all of these materials in my Duckling and Tortoise/Hare Mini Unit!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Easter & The Ugly Duckling

It's been a while since I've updated this little blog. We've been a busy family the past two weeks or so. In the last week, we moved out of our apartment... **EDIT: I even started this blog a week ago and am just now having a chance to finish it...**
...and then moved in with my in-laws! We knew our new house most likely wouldn't be finished by the time our lease was up, but since it would just be a week or so, we decided not to add an extra month to our apartment lease. 

Thankfully, with just a few minor hiccups here and there, we were able to move into our new house this past Thursday! I am so thankful for such kind in-laws who let us "live" with them for a few nights while we waited on our house!

Apartment. In-laws. New house. All in 5 days. And I even finally opened an Instagram account! {Follow me HERE...I've definitely been updating more school pics there since I haven't had time for a full blog in a while!} Phew! I'm worn out! 

Needless to say, other than a special Good Friday lunch for my 2 year old, we haven't had a chance to celebrate Easter at home much yet...

***EDIT...again, since first drafting this blog, we did have a church egg hunt, an Easter church service and dinner with family, and a family egg hunt...*sigh*  So much to blog and so little time!***

But we did celebrate Easter in first grade last week. And I had so much planned I didn't even get to finish it all!!

After a week off for Spring Break, we jumped in with our newest unit on fables. 

We chose two Eastery {is that a word???} fables to study this week. We started with The Ugly Duckling. We read the book each day and did a different activity each day. 

The first day we talked about and charted the elements of fables. 

Then, we read The Ugly Duckling and talked about whether it was a fable or not. And we talked about what the life lesson was in this fable. {Treat others the way you want to be treated.} We also charted the life lesson on our life lesson unit chart that we will update throughout the unit. And admist all of the moving crazies I didn't remember to take a picture of the chart we started. I'll update next week!

The next day, we watched a short video of our fable and sequenced the plot of the story in groups. 

Then, during our writing time, we wrote about the plot of our story using our fable graphic organizer. I love this organizer. It's great for whole group guided writing and it's great for guided reading groups to do as a small group or even as homework. 

On day 3, we reread the story and made connections to the story about times when we were mistreated by others or a time when someone else was mistreated and we were a good friend to them. 

And, man! This quickly turned to counseling session 101 with my sweet firsties. I heard all of the sad stories and they loved sharing. In a quick 5 minute share time I heard about being ignored at recess, sisters lying to little brothers and a secret diary being stolen on the bus and almost being read! Deep stuff here, folks! It was really a great conversation...and more importantly, really help them internalize the story. 

After our counseling session was over, we wrote about our connections with the help of our narrative graphic organizer {which I'll blog about later}. Then, we made our super adorable, Easter themed duckling crafts!

I loved this fable and can't wait to do The Tortoise and the Hare next week. I wish I could've squeezed them both in before Easter, but it just wasn't meant to be. I love this mini-fable packet for Easter cuteness that's still substantial learning and Common Core based. Cutesy activities with no real learning goals? Ain't nobody got time for that!!

Hope you had a wonderful Easter.  Welcome, Spring and all of the fun and colorful learning that comes with it!