Weather is one of my favorite units to teach in first grade.  I especially love finding ways to connect content and literacy and weather is just so easy to do this with fiction texts!

Eric Carle's Little Cloud is the perfect creative writing story for weather! I have done this every year with my first makes a great display and the kids love the creative outlet!  This year, I am on mommy break with my little preschooler, so we did this project during our school time the other day!  And we had a blast! Read for more on how I adapted this art activity to push higher order thinking skills in my kiddos and get the freebie download...

First, we read Eric Carle's Little Cloud.  We talked about what shapes the cloud turned into in the story.

Then, we each took half a page of white construction paper and started tearing.  Over the years in first grade, I have changed this part of the activity.  I started out years ago letting my firsties tear whatever they wanted their cloud to be--no scissors...tearing only.  But I kinda got bored with this.  It really ended up being more of an art project and less of a creative thinking project.

So a couple of years into teaching, I changed the rules!  Now I set a limit on the number of tears.  And we all tear together to make sure no one purposefully makes a shark or whatever.  We tear once.  Then we tear again.  They can choose to turn the paper whichever direction for each tear.  I usually stop between 4-6 tears.  Sometimes, I even give them the choice to stop at 4 tears or tear another time.

Once, we've finished tearing, we look at our "cloud" and decide what it turned into.  We turn it all different directions wondering, "What could my cloud be?"  This has really helped beef up this activity to more higher level thinking because it forces kids to take what they already have and make something out of it...instead of having full control.

This was Cooper's first cloud he made. "Yook, Momma, it's a pig! See his nose?"

Once he figured out what his cloud had turned into, we glued it onto his "sky."

Then, Cooper wrote what his cloud turned into...this was his first cloud, a boot.  This writing activity was perfect for my little emerging writer.  But even in first grade, the focus of this activity isn't writing, it's pushing kids to think outside the box!

This made the perfect display for our refrigerator at home, and our hallway in first grade!

This activity comes from my very popular, 6 week integrated unit on Weather.

Or just download the freebie HERE!
Have you been muddling through the Next Gen Science Standards this year?  I'm not going to lie: they can be a little difficult to understand...but I love a lot of the new content for first grade!  My favorite addition is sun, moon and stars!  This content meshes perfectly with my integrated science unit on weather and has made this already popular unit an even better 6 week unit!  Here's a look at some of the activities from this Sun + Moon + Stars Mini Unit.

Anchor Charts

Anchor charts are a HUGE part of learning new content for young learners.  My firsties use our anchor charts all. the. time.  I especially love finding ways to make each anchor chart unique by using coordinating colors or shapes so that it's easy to remember and easy to find in our room.

Each anchor chart can be printed and posted around the room...

Or you can fill it out on your Smart Board if you're short on space!

Sun Science

One of my favorite science experiments in first grade is our shadow experiment.  You can read about it in detail here, but the look on my firsties' faces when they see their shadow change is priceless every single year!

Moon Science

Brand new to the weather unit this year is phases of the moon!  After charting our learning about the moon, we sequence the phases of the moon using the interactive powerpoint from the mini-unit...

Then, we work at stations to sequence moon phases using the sequencing cards.

And later we work independently to sequence the cycle of the moon!

Stars Science

The last part of this mini-unit is all about stars!  I love tying in some literacy by reading Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star with this study.  It's a simple nursery rhyme, but perfect for deepening our discussion on stars with questions like, Why does the author say stars are like diamonds in the sky?

Then, during our science time we research facts about stars and chart our learning on stars in a can-have-are chart.

The next day, we use the slideshow from the unit (seen in the youtube video earlier) to talk about 5 famous constellations, what they look like and how they got their constellation.  Then, for a STEM connection, we work in productive groups to build our own constellations with marshmallows and toothpicks.  The groups name their constellations and tell the story of how it landed in the sky!

These activities and more can be found in this Sun + Moon + Stars Mini Unit!
One of my very favorite teacher gifts with Cooper each year are Christmas Potpourri Jars.  They are simple, fun to make and EVERYONE loves them!  

Oranges, cinnamon sticks, and whole cloves (although I sometimes use ground at home if I am in a pinch! just packages prettier in the jars to use whole!) And sometimes I add cranberries and twigs of pine to my mom's recipe for more color for the gifts.

Slice the oranges in fourths.  I put them in the jar this way too...much prettier to me than just a whole orange!  And they fit better!

 Add a layer of cranberries (this year Cooper practiced counting to 25 as he added them! :) ), then the oranges to the jar, then 2-3 cinnamon sticks....

Then add the rest of the ingredients....and spread some smiling Christmas cheer along the way!  Such an easy thing for littles to help with too!  Bless my little long haired baby!  Where did he go??

Turn on the heat and enjoy!  Isn't it so pretty?

For teacher gifts, we used the small mason jars {I really can't remember what official size they are...they were ones I just had around the house!}

In each jar, we put...
*4 slices of oranges
*a handful of cranberries
*close to a Tablespoon of whole cloves {no official measuring here, though!}
*a small twig of pine
*2 cinnamon sticks

A little craft paper circle to add some ruffles under the lid, a string of raffia and a tag. Here's a pic of the jar with the Christmas tag I made.  Simple, fun to make!

This year, I just wrote our notes on top of the lids with a little washi tape.

Cooper is always so happy to give out his gifts.   And Mommy loves that he is learning at such an early age that, "God loves a person who gives cheerfully."
I'm so excited to start learning about the Christmas story with my preschoolers at church!  I only had 2 Sundays to do Christmas this year because of Christmas falling on a Sunday and vacation, but we still had fun squeezing in what we could!

Exploration Stations

My preschoolers LOVE our exploration stations for each of our Bible units.  And I love that their play is purposeful and connects to what we are learning.  I blogged in detail about exploration stations earlier, but here's a look at a few of our favs from our Christmas unit...

Christmas Story Ornament Match:

Nativity Pretend Play:

Christmas Sensory Tub:

Bible Story Time

During our bible story time, we read used the Bible story visuals from my unit to tell our story.

We had a key word to listen to {angels for this lesson} and they made a halo on their head every time they heard "angel" during the story.  I love adding in motions during story time to help our early listening skills! ;)

Retelling the Christmas Story

For this unit, we used the Who Am I? game from my unit to practice our retelling.  I put a character from our lesson in a christmas gift bag and read the clues from the correlating cards to my preschoolers.  They had so much fun guessing who the christmas character was and "opening presents" to find out if they were right!  {This would be perfect for older kids like first graders to do with partners once they can read!}


After our Bible time, we play games and finish our coloring {coloring is one of our exploration stations at the beginning of Sunday School}.  I love setting aside some time for coloring in preschool because it's so important for practicing those fine motor skills and holding a pencil that are so important in handwriting!  Since my class this year is almost all boys (!), I've started playing a short kids song during our coloring time to give them a goal for focusing on coloring.  I start the song and they try to see if they can sit and color during the entire 2-3 minute song.  This has worked WONDERS for my boys!  They love listening to the music and singing along and I love watching their fine motor skills grow!

This week, we listened to Hark! The Harold Angels Sing! since our lesson was about the angels.  They had a blast listening for our focus word and making their halos while we were coloring too!

And I can't wait to make these adorable ornaments this coming week as we learn about the birth of Jesus!

Check out all of these activities and much, much more in this 70 plus page Bible Unit!

With the high ESL population at our school, language skills like verb tense is a real issue.  And, unfortunately, it's not as noticeable when we do informative or opinion writing because we use so many sentence frames to help them write.  But narrative is more of a "free form" style and so language errors happen A LOT!

The first thing we have to master is verb tense.  Even my English kiddos struggle with some of the irregular verbs, so these lessons are perfect for all of my firsties.

So, last week, we spent the week focusing on verbs.  The first day, we talked about the difference between past and present tense.  We discussed the common past ending -ed and how they indicates something already happened.  Then, we charted an example of a common past verb and several "weirdos," or verbs that don't follow the -ed rule.

After we discussed and practice past and present tense whole group, they worked in their table groups to sort past tense verbs used correctly and incorrectly.   {I also have a laminated copy in a literacy station this week}

And one group just had to make theirs into a book, so how could I not take a picture of that cuteness?!?!

The next day, we introduced future verbs and they did another sort with past, present, and future tense.  Of course, I ran a fever that day for like the first time in FOR. EVER. so my intern took over and I didn't get any pics!

We spent the rest of the week modeling verb tense in our model writes during writers workshop and using our "check yourself" language rubric to grade ourselves on our verb tense!  Check out my Verb Tense Sort and other language ideas for our sweet ELL babies in my TPT store!

And find TONS more language and grammar anchor chart templates HERE.
The kiddos were so excited to get Santa's workshop in full swing... Making ornament gifts for parents gets giggles every year and I love that sweet sound of cheerful givers in my classroom!  Read to find out more about the two ornaments we made for parents this year!

I've been making this Rudolph ornament for a really long time...probably at least 6 of the 9 years I've taught.  I found it on a friend's Christmas tree at a party a while back and thought it was adorably simple and cute!  My first graders can make this entire ornament without any adult help...which is one of the things I love about it!

The other ornament we made, ribbon Christmas trees, was a new one I found on Pinterest and loved!  And unlike the Rudolph, it needs LOTS of adult help....but is perfect to work on during table station rotations or to do during small group time those last few crazy days before break!

First, I cut 6 ribbons for each kid:
*2 eight inch greens
*1 seven inch green
*1 seven inch red
*1 six inch green
*1 six inch red

I also die cut yellow stars out of laminated yellow card stock.  The last thing I prepped was cutting brown pipe cleaners in half and adding a loop to the top for hanging.
I called the kids back in groups of 4 kids at a time.  The rest of the class worked on letters to Santa while I did this.  It's also included in my Elf Packet.

Anyways, in our small groups, they each got one of the 6 lengths of ribbons.  They each ordered the lengths of their ribbons from shortest to longest {Hello, Common Core math standard!}.  Then, they worked with a partner to help each other tie on the ribbons, tying the shortest one closest to the loop and working down to the longest.
 Once all the ribbons were tied, I tightened them and then "trimmed" the edges with scissors to make the ribbons into even more of a Christmas tree shape.  Last we added the star on top with some hot glue! **TIP: the ribbons are cut extra long to make it easier for little fingers to tie.  You trim them down to a more appropriate size when you trim the edges! :)**

 By the end of the day we had a stack of ornaments on our back table ready to be gifted!

Gifts and Christmas cards were sent home Thursday afternoon...with one day to spare before Christmas break!  What are your favorite ornaments to make with kids?  (Read more parent gift ideas here).
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