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Teaching Visualization with Identification of Important Text Details

Visualization is an important comprehension strategy to teach growing readers...and it's a fun one! Visualization= drawing, right?  I love teaching visualization, but I always end feeling like it's "to each his own" kind of strategy without any real accountability.

In my second grade curriculum, readers are required to create a visualization drawing from a specified piece of text, and then label the visualization with key words from the text.  Simple enough, but so many were still not getting it.  So this is what I did...

I gave my students a simple non-fiction passage about the animal called an okapi (which you can download here or by clicking on the photo below).  I chose an animal that I knew my students wouldn't be familiar with prior to reading.  This would ensure that they weren't relying simply on prior knowledge.  We read the text together, and discussed it.  I projected the text, using think-alouds to identify key words and interesting facts.
Okapi Passage

Next, students reread the text to themselves (or with me in a small group).  After reading, students drew their visualizations.

Finally, they cut apart the text to label pieces of their visualization.  Students had to find text details and glue them onto their drawings to label the parts of the drawings.  This reinforced identifying important details and held students accountable for the contents of their visualization.  I required my students to label at least 5 parts of their illustration using text details.  They did a fabulous job!  Take a look at some of these examples!

After we finished, students compared visualizations with the other members of their table groups.  They found out that they had a lot of the same things drawn and labeled.  Lightbulb moment!  They were similar because they were using text details and finding important information! Win-win!  It was a pretty simple lesson, but it hit two important reading skills at once.

What's your favorite way to teach visualization and/or identification of important text details?  I'm always looking for new ideas.

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Everything You Need to Teach About Germs!

One of my favorite units to teach is Germs.  I really love teaching any health unit, but germs is such a relatable unit for our kids.  It's perfect to teach at any time of the year, but especially during cold and flu season.

Germs Pacing Guide

I use a lot of Brain Pop, Jr. videos, picture books, and a few paper resources in my unit.  I also have a couple of hands-on, fun activities to add in when we have some extra time.

My favorite germ books are:
A Germ's Journey by Thom Rooke, MD
Sick Simon by Dan Kroll
Do Not Lick This Book by Idan Ben-Barak
Blow Your Nose, Big Bad Wolf by Steve Smallman
Germs Make Me Sick! by Melvin Berger
The Bacteria Book by Steve Mould
Achoo! The Most Interesting Book You'll Ever Read About Germs by Trudee Romanek
There are a lot of really good ones.  I have them all linked on my Amazon page for you.

One my favorite activities to do is a germ experiment to model the importance of washing with soap and water.  Get out the glitter and lotion for this one.
This is basically what I do:
1- Put lotion and glitter (germs) on everyone's hands.
2- Have them all shake hands, give high fives, share pencils, etc.  This shows the spread of germs.
3- Try washing with just water and shaking dry.
4- Wash with soap, water, and dry with a paper towel.
You'll model how to wash hands properly and how easily germs are spread.  It's easy, and the kids always really like it.

Another one of my favorite activities is to make germ models out of Play Doh or modeling clay.  I have them pull up pictures of germs on the iPads, and then choose one to model their germ after.  You can even have the kids do a little bit of writing about that particular germ.  Is it a bacteria?  Is it a virus?  What symptoms does it cause?  Add a little bit of whimsy by adding some googly eyes. 

Another crafty idea is to make blow painted germs and then have the students write facts about germs or specifically bacteria/viruses.  Blow painting is so fun, and most of the students will have never done this before. Here's a video to model it. 
You'll need: tempera paint, water, straws (1 per student), cups, and white construction paper (1 per student). 
1- Add tempera paint to a cup, and mix in about 2 tablespoons of water.  I'm not exact about this.  The consistency needs to be thin enough to pick up and blow but not so thin that it's a watery mess. 
2- Students will each get a straw, and they'll use the straw like a medicine dropper to pick up the paint. If you have medicine droppers, use those.  They'll be easier.  I just don't have any of those. 
3- Gently blow the paint onto the paper. 
4- Add a few different colors, and blow until you like the shape. 
5- Once the germs are dry, draw on a little mouth with a Sharpie and add googly eyes. 
You can download the writing paper here

Throughout my unit, my students work in their germs flip books.  We don't do the entire thing at once.  We do a page or two at a time, as they coordinate with the day's lesson.  I love using a flip book, because it's pretty printer friendly and the kids find them engaging.  At the end of the unit, they have something to show their work and study from.  You can find my germs flip book here

I also created a set of simple worksheets that coordinate with the lessons and the flip book.  I typically make them into a packet, and we work on them with different lessons.  The puzzles are nice for early finishers.  The worksheets are found here
Germs Worksheets

I always feel like when teaching about germs, it's important to teach about healthy habits and leading a healthy life style- Nutrition, sleep, mindfulness, etc. 
Balance Your Lunch Tray Game
Please Don't Pick Your Nose Poem

Here's a list of all of the resources that I use for my germs unit.  Some are in my Google Drive, and some are on TPT. 
Germs Flip Book
Germs Worksheets
Please Don't Pick Your Nose poem
Bacteria and Virus writing papers 
Balanced Your Lunch Tray Game
Hand Washing Posters and Song
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Teaching Kids to Use Kind Words and Compliments in Your Classroom

It's cold, it's dreary, no one gets much outside time...and my students are on one another's nerves and are fighting like siblings.  I'm not alone, right?  This happens every year, and to combat some of those negative feelings, I started a really simple and fun way to spread some cheer when my students need it the most.
I've implemented a Kindness Matters campaign during the month of February. It's easy, and it makes everyone feel good.  It even gets kids writing each morning.

I start by reading Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli, which is a wonderful book.  The theme is spreading kindness, and the central message is that one small act can change someone's day.  We talk about the power of words, smiles, lending a hand, etc, and that kindness is contagious.

Then I do a lesson giving compliments. I love using the book called Thanks for the Feedback by Julia Cook (side note- Julia Cook has a book for pretty much any and all character education lessons!  She's so good!)

I have a whole set of compliment starters for students to use.  This helps give them the words that they need to give genuine compliments, instead of 20 kids saying, I like your shirt.  We do a compliment circle and practice giving and receiving compliments.
The next day, we start our February Kindness Matters.  Each morning, I put the names of two students on the board.  Each person writes a kind compliment to each of those students.  I make it part of the morning routine.  We collect them in the large envelopes seen in picture.  Target has them with the Valentine Dollar Spot stuff each year, and they're so cute.  At the end of the day, I gather and clip them together and leave them at the kids' seats for them to read the next morning.  The kids LOVE reading them.  I love that each person is stretched to find something good in each person in our class.  Every few days, I'll read a few great compliments to the class to highlight strong examples.  It's really heartwarming.

The compliment starters are displayed on the Kindness Matters bulletin board, but students also keep a copy inside of their writers' notebooks.  Compliment starters and writing papers are part of my Compliment Starters and Cards resource.  The bulletin board banner is a freebie from Especially Education, and it's adorable.

The Great Garbage Can Mystery- A FUN Making Inferences Lesson

If your students are any thing like mine, they struggle with making inferences.  It is a tricky skill! ...and it takes a lot of practice.  I made something super fun for my second graders, and they didn't even realize how hard they were working on making inferences.

In summary, students use the items in the garbage cans to infer who the garbage can belonged to.

My teammates and I (6 of us) each filled a little Dollar Tree garbage can with trash that would represent us.  We chose items that students would recognize as ours- food and drink wrappers/containers, ticket stubs, receipts, items from our purse, classroom supplies that we love, etc.  We intentionally chose items that would help the students infer. 

I started my lesson by showing the Brain Pop Jr. video titled, "Make Inferences".  (Brain Pop is a paid subscription that I am lucky to have in my District.  If you don't subscribe, it is definitely worth the money.  I use it so often!) I referred to my Inferring anchor charts (shown above).  I love having premade anchor charts to refer to when creating the anchor chart is not the focus of my lesson.  (This set is can be found here.)  I always teach inferences as filling in the blanks.  The author wants the reader to think about the text and to draw his or her own conclusions.  Then, to help students get the idea of using object clues to make inferences, we did a premade practice worksheet starring some famous characters.  You can grab this worksheet for free here or by clicking on the photo above. 

I put a garbage can on each of my student tables.  After explaining the activity to the students, they went from table to table to inspect the contents of the garbage can.  They recorded a list of the contents on the graphic organizer that I provided for them.  This was considered the evidence or text clues.  Then, students wrote down some of the background knowledge they had about their teachers.  Some chose to fill out the entire thing while at the table, and some chose to observe first and infer later.  This took about 15 minutes.  The activity followed the same procedure that we used when we were learning to make inferences in a text: read, think about what you already know/schema, and then infer. 

Finally, we came together and created a whole-group anchor chart using the information that students had recorded.  We recorded the evidence.  They gave me their inference, and then they explained why they chose that particular teacher.  It was so fun to hear their rationalization about why a certain can had to belong to a certain teacher.  So cute and funny!  I also revealed the owners of the garbage cans, and they had gotten them all correct!  They definitely know their 2nd grade teachers pretty well.  It was so much fun!
If you need help or suggestions, there is a list of ideas included in my resource. 

I rewarded the students for their hard work with some cute brag tags and completion certificates, which of course they loved.  They are crazy for brag tags!

I put this activity together in one resource for you, if you're interested in trying in your own classroom.  It includes everything that you need, minus the items for the trashcans.  The recording sheets are editable so you can customize it for yourself and your classroom.  You can grab it here or click on the picture below.  You don't need the resource to do the activity, though!  You could do it really simply without the extras.  Have fun with this activity!  It's a really great way to hook your little readers!

How I Use Brag Tags AND Class Dojo Together

Lots of teachers use Class Dojo, and lots of teachers use brag tags...but do you use both?  
I do, and it works really well. In short, I use Dojo to communicate with parents and
reward/manage behavior, and I use brag tags as rewards.  I wanted to share a few easy
ways to tie the two together.

At the start of each week, introduce and display a specific brag tag. Explain how students can
earn this tag- Do students need to display a specific behavior? Do they need to complete a
specific task? Add a Tag of the Week category in your positive Dojo points. When students
earn the brag tag, they also earn the point. To make it even better, make it worth 2 or 3 points.
I like to display my tag of the week on the board. I put the brag tags on a binder ring, and hang
them from a magnetic hook. I try to choose tags that are seasonal or related to
topics/characteristics that we've been working on during our Leadership time. My school uses
Leader in Me, so I often choose those tags for my tag of the week. I’ve created a Brag Tag of
the Week sign for you to create a small display. You can download it here.

As my students reach specific milestones in their long totals, they earn a brag tag. We reset
their bubbles every other week after the kids cash in with our Dojo store, which you can read
about here, but we keep a running total in my notebook. Our milestones are 24, 50, 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, and so on. I don’t think I’ve ever had a student go beyond 600 points. My
Dojo-themed brag tags are in my TPT store.  

This is a simple one.  Each week, the student with the highest number of points earns the
Monster of the Week Tag. They also get to color a monster labeled with their name which is
then hung with our Dojo display. Monster of the week tags are in my Dojo brag tag set, and the
coloring page can be found here.  

Our specials teachers choose a student or two who showed leadership during the class period.
Those students earn a Dojo point under the category of Super Student in Specials. I also have a
brag tag that I created specifically for the specials at my school. If you're interested in those,
please email me.

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