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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Get Fit on Snow Days

Record breaking snow falls are causing numerous school absences this year. It appears that Mother Nature has her own agenda this winter, and it includes plenty of snow days. How can elementary students keep learning and stay active when they are out of school? 
Step back in time to when you were a kid in grade school. We hollered and whooped when we saw our school district listed on the ticker that scrolled across the bottom of the television screen. Then, we turned our attention to the big picture window in our living room where large, white snowflakes floated to the ground. It seemed as if they begged for us to come out to play. After steaming mugs of hot chocolate and plates of cinnamon toast, we pulled on coats, gloves, and toboggans then headed outdoors. We found our sleds and met our classmates at the top of the hill.
We went down time after time until our fingers and toes were numb from the cold. 

Another great treat on snow days was snow ice cream! After the first snow fall of the year, we filled large bowls with clean, pure snow. We stirred in milk, sugar, and vanilla until the mixture was just right. Then, we gobbled up as much of the ice cream as our stomachs could hold. Afterwards, we'd plop down in front of the wall furnace for naps. It was clean, simple fun that provided lots of physical activity. 
Today, students have plenty of indoor technology options, such as gaming units and Netflix, to keep them busy and out of the cold temperatures. But, that means most students are getting little exercise on snow days. To change that, have students practice their inferencing, reading, and visualization skills using Get Fit Action Stories.
Get Fit Actions Stories are active learning tales that use sight words to get elementary students up and moving. Get Fit Action Stories will keep younger students learning and exercising on snow days! 
Stay warm and keep students active on cold weather days!
Here's a FREE Get Fit Action Story Lucky the Leprechaun Looks for Gold for St. Patrick's Day:

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Using Story Maps and Storytelling for Pre-Writing

Two of the best pre-writing strategies for students are story maps and
storytelling! These help students with planning, sequencing, and visualizing writing. Once students have completed story maps, they are ready to begin storytelling. For narrative writing, a simple, "I remember when..." can get the story rolling. For expository writing, try "Did you know...?"  These techniques encourage struggling writers to think through their stories before putting pencil to paper. Story maps and storytelling can alleviate writing fears and make the pre-writing process easier. 
One of the first steps is to ask students to complete story maps then narrow their topics. If the prompt is: Write about an important event in your life, begin with asking students to look at their maps and brainstorm 3-5 events from their lives that stand out to them.
For example:
  1. My grandpa taught me to fish
  2. My first day of school
  3. Learning to ride a motorcycle
  4. My trip to Washington, D.C.
  5. When my brother was born
Ask students to list beside each event the reason why it is important:
  1. My grandpa taught me to fish--learned to love fishing
  2. My first day of school--met lifelong friends
  3. Learning to ride a motorcycle--become independent
  4. My trip to Washington, D.C.--saw the country's history
  5. When my brother was born--no longer an only child
Now, narrow down the topics to write about to one: My trip to Washington, D.C. This is a very broad topic, so continue to narrow the subject matter:
           My trip to Washington, D.C.: Mount Vernon, Washington Monument, Vietnam Wall, Lincoln Memorial
Choose one of these to write about: Mount Vernon
Why is it important? I learned about everyday life in the 1700s. 
Brainstorm again by writing down everything you know about your topic: Mount Vernon: home of first U.S. president, working plantation, on the Potomac River, high on a hill, grain barn...
Finally, turn to a peer or small group and show where the story is/would exist on your story map. Now, tell the story of your trip to Mount Vernon. Ask for feedback from peers: which parts of the story need more, or less, details; are there parts that need clarification; are their parts of the story that do not need to be included? 
Now, you are ready to begin writing your rough draft! 
Making a story map, choosing a topic, verbalizing a story, and getting peer feedback can make the writing process simpler and less intimidating to students. Before your students begin writing, take time to complete story maps and gather thoughts and ideas.
This process will alleviate your students' writing fears!  
Right click to download FREE story maps:

Need more help with storytelling to writing? Try A Common Core Approach to Narrative Writing: From Storytelling to Writing

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Celebrate Diversity and Individuality on Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day has been around since before the Fifth Century, and it's celebrated all around the world. Once called the Feast of Saint Valentine, its tradition remains fixated on romance. However, for today's students, with Valentine's Day comes an abundance of candy and cards!
The true meaning of Valentine's Day has become lost and is often abandoned by teachers due to its religious overtones. But, there's no reason why you can't celebrate friendship and diversity on this special day, for example try a Best Friend Compare and Contrast writing assignment or Synonym "Who Am I?" technology activity. These kinds of collaborative activities help students to discuss and celebrate uniqueness.
"Who Am I?" Synonyms Activity
In 2015, the Ad Council launched "Love Has No Labels",  a public service campaign that celebrates diversity and individuality. On Valentine's Day, take time to talk about biases and stereotypes in your classroom. Discuss how students are different based on cultural and regional differences with Dialects of the U.S. (right click to download activities):

Finally, make sure Valentine's Day is special for your students by using the below specially designed holiday materials that are engaging and meaningful, as well as fun! 
Happy Valentine's Day!
Enjoy these Valentine freebies!!!
Act out Action Verbs with Get Fit Action Stories!