Welcome! Join me as I share my experiences as a wife, mom, and kindergarten teacher, and my reflections on them all. Come along as I share my crazy journey!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Nonfiction...The Finale

Join in the fun and read some more slices at the Two Writing Teachers  blog hosted by Ruth Ayres and Stacey Shubitz.

And...don't forget to get your chalk ready for Betsy's May Chalk-A-Bration on Friday.  She hosts this fun poetry/chalk celebration on her blog Teaching Young Writers.

I'm so proud of the work my kiddos did with informational writing!  If you want to know more about how we got to this point, read the last two posts here and here.  The short story is...we learned about text features in nonfiction books, we read LOTS of nonfiction books, each child picked an animal they wanted to learn more about, they read books about their animal to learn more (research), and then they used a planning sheet to write down the information they learned.  After they were done with their plan, they wrote their own nonfiction book about their animal.

This is the planning sheet we used:

I apologize about the picture quality...if you click the picture it is easier to see.  The kids wrote the name of their animal at the top and then drew a diagram of their animal in the large box.  I asked them to think about the parts that they thought were important to know about the animal and label them.

The next three boxes are for facts that they learned.  Most kids wrote about where their animal lives and what they eat, some wrote about what their animal looks like as well.  I asked them to make sure one of their facts was something interesting that other kids might not know.  Many kids made a size comparison for their interesting fact, such as a dolphin can be as long as a bus!

The kids really enjoyed the planning step, but they loved the writing of the books even more!  After planning their books, they transferred their information into book format.  They put the diagram in their books, as well as the facts that they learned.  We discussed what a good title would be for their books and we made sure to spell the name of our animals correctly in our books.

Here are a couple of examples of the finished books:


By Adam

 Diagram labels: wing, head, foot

Some bats eat fruit.

Bats live in trees.

Bats hunt for food at night.


By Leah

Diagram labels: tail, body, mane, feet

Lions eat meat from animals.

Lions live in the forest.

Lions have babies.

(I seriously love these illustrations!  I mean come on...check out those lions!  Too cool!)

Once we completed the nonfiction animal books and I saw how great they were, I decided the kids should formally publish them.  I typed the books and the kids illustrated them.  Once finished, we had a writing celebration and read our books "on the big screen" (aka-the document camera) for our friends.  It was a great time!  The kids were proud of their work and told each other what they liked about their writing.  They were very excited about their published books and took them home to keep and read to their parents.  Unfortunately, I didn't get pictures of them because they wanted to take them home so badly!  I'd say that's a pretty good problem to have!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Non-fiction Continues...

Join Ruth Ayres, Stacey Shubitz and the whole Slicing Gang for some Slice of Life stories at the Two Writing Teachers blog.

Last week, I blogged about the beginning of my non-fiction exploration with my students.  I spent about a week and a half drowning my kindergarten kiddos in non-fiction.  We read, we learned about text features, we made a ROCK STAR of an anchor chart about text features, and we just enjoyed learning new things and talking about books.  It was a very enjoyable time together.  The kids poured over the non-fiction book tubs during free time, they couldn't wait to show me text features they found in their books, and they were bursting to show their friends interesting tidbits they found while reading.

Then, I challenged my students to choose a "critter" (any creature we had books about).  It was hard for some of them to pick just one, but they all settled on either their favorite critter or one they wanted to know more about.  I gave each student 1-2 books about his/her critter of choice and we spent the next three days of Read to Self (and often free choice time) reading and gathering knowledge about our critters.

This week, the non-fiction exploration spilled over into writer's workshop.  Using a template I found on Pinterest, we began to write about our critters.  On the first day, we reviewed what a diagram was (using our awesome anchor chart, of course!) and used the large box on the top of the template to draw and label a picture of our critter.  On the second day, we reviewed what a fact was and I challenged the kids to find out three things about their critter: where the critter lives, what it eats, and one interesting/cool thing they learned about their critter.  We shared those three details with the class during our sharing circle after Read to Self.  Then, we moved into writer's workshop and wrote those three things down.  On the template there are three smaller boxes with lines under them on the bottom.  We drew a picture of what our critter eats and wrote a sentence to explain it.  We also did this for where the critter lives and the interesting fact about the critter.  This completed our templates.  I wish I had taken a few pictures to share!  Next time!

Tomorrow we will take our templates and begin to transfer that information into our own non-fiction books.  After seeing the work they did on the templates, I am so excited to see how the books will turn out.  I'm sure they will be awesome!  Check back next week...and this time I promise to share pictures of the progress!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Slice of Non-fiction

My school district is looking into using the writing units being written by another county.  This year, as we look into them, knowing we will "pilot" the units fully next school year, we were asked to dabble in a unit or two to get a taste of what the units feel like.  The units we are looking at adopting are aligned to the Common Core and also align with some of what we already do in my district so we feel confident that although using a new, set curriculum is a big change, it is a doable change.

To get my feet wet with the new writing units, I decided I would try the How To unit and the Non-fiction Personal Expertise unit this year.  I have already posted here about my How To unit.  So, into personal expertise I go!

This past week I began the immersion phase of the unit.  During this phase, I formally introduced my students to non-fiction books.  We spent a whole week pouring over a variety of non-fiction books looking for and discovering text features that are important to non-fiction.  As we found text features, we created an anchor chart for the classroom.  Here is what our finished chart looks like.

The ideas for this chart came from a couple of great pinterest finds.  Please check out:

Joyful Learning in KC and Second Grade Style for more information and some of the bits and pieces that I used for my classroom chart.

I used some of the labels and definitions from Joyful Learning in KC and copied some pieces we found in our own non-fiction books to add to the chart.  Why reinvent the wheel, right?

Second Grade Style had a great chart set up and "why" section...so I borrowed those as well.

My students, though only kindergarten age, can not only read this chart (because we built it together) but can also find the text features within our mentor texts in the classroom because they have had so much experience with them over this past week.  I have been very happy with the effort my students have been putting into learning these text and they have been very excited to dig into the non-fiction books that they love so much.

This week, we will begin to do the research portion of our non-fiction unit (a piece I added to the unit to help me meet common core requirements).  Once the research is completed, we will begin to write our own non-fiction books.

My plan is to have my students choose a critter (animal, insect, reptile) and then match them up with useful resources about their critter of choice.  They will get a couple of days to read and learn about their critter (I'll help as needed with the reading since our books are at various levels and some students may choose a critter that has resources that are at a higher reading level than he/she can manage independently).  Once we finish our research portion, we will begin to work on writing our own books using as many of the non-fiction text features as are appropriate for their books.

I'm really looking forward to these next phases of researching and writing.  I'll post more along the way!  Stay tuned!