Sunday, November 8, 2020

Thanksgiving Storybook STEM

Basing STEM off of favorite read-alouds is my new obsession; it is the perfect way to integrate reading with science, technology, engineering, and math. In my post about Halloween Storybook STEM, I took four of my favorite Halloween read-alouds and created STEM challenges to go with them. Now I've done the same thing with Thanksgiving stories.

Thanksgiving Storybook STEM | Apples to Applique
 

Finding quality Thanksgiving stories is not the easiest task; for some reason, there are tons of picture books about Halloween, and billions (more or less) about Christmas, but Thanksgiving? It tends to get skipped over. 

Thanksgiving itself brings up the issue of the importance of being culturally and historically sensitive, so I do not want any books focusing on "the first Thanksgiving" or relations between pilgrims and indigenous peoples. Most of these are not historically accurate, or they make light of the tragedies endured by indigenous peoples. This criteria in itself eliminates the majority of Thanksgiving books written for children.

Adding to the problem is the fact that I am a self-professed children's book snob; I don't love character books to read aloud to my kids. I'm not going to read "[Inset favorite book character here]'s Thanksgiving" as a read aloud; those types of books, in my opinion, are the equivalent of movie sequels: the quality is lacking and they are usually just a money-grab.

In spite of this strict criteria, I have managed to find some true gems of books. 

Thanksgiving Storybook STEM | Apples to Applique

Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet is decently well-known. It focuses on the history of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is one of our country's most beloved Thanksgiving traditions. After reading the book, students create their own parade float or balloon based on a character from a book or movie, or on an animal. For extra fun, you can put on your own parade for parents or other classes before having your class Thanksgiving meal. (This year, thanks to Covid, you could create a virtual parade, with pictures of each child's creation put into a slideshow or video).

Thanksgiving Storybook STEM | Apples to Applique

Thanksgiving in the Woods by Phyllis Alsdurf is such a sweet story. I love that this story focuses on a community that gathers each year to create their own unique tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving in the woods. Having students work together to build forts is a perfect follow-up to this story. To make it even more fitting, you could have them create forts using only items they find in nature--or, better yet, if you live in an area where it is not too cold, have them build forts outside!

Thanksgiving Storybook STEM | Apples to Applique

Not This Turkey! by Jessica Steinberg is a book that I am surprised is not more popular. I had to do some digging to find this one, and I wasn't even able to find a complete read-aloud on YouTube. I went ahead and ordered it and was completely delighted--and so were my students! The story is told from the perspective of an immigrant family who is celebrating their first Thanksgiving in America. It is funny, involving a turkey chase down the street, and heartwarming, as the family figures out how to celebrate this American holiday while keeping their own traditions and culture alive. I highly recommend it! 

The STEM activity that accompanies this story challenges students to come up with a way to transport a turkey--just right for integrating pulleys, wheels and axles, etc.

Thanksgiving Storybook STEM | Apples to Applique

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende Devlin is an older book, first published in the early 1970s, but it is delightful and timeless. I can't believe I never got to experience this book as a child! The values imparted in this story include giving to those in need and not judging people by their appearance. The story also involves a family recipe hidden away behind a brick in the fireplace, which leads into the STEM project of creating a secret compartment. What kid doesn't love the idea of a hidden compartment?

I hope your students love these Thanksgiving books, and that the accompanying STEM activities help the stories come alive for them.

You can find Thanksgiving Storybook STEM here in my store or here in my TPT shop.

Keep teaching with heart and passion!

Planting Lifelong Foundations in Early Childhood | Apples to Applique


Monday, November 2, 2020

Phonemic Awareness Task Cards for CVC Words

Phonemic Awareness Task Cards for CVC Words | Apples to Applique
 

Lately, I have been learning a lot about approaches to use with students with dyslexia. One thing I continue to hear is the importance of phonemic awareness. I've started including more phonemic awareness activities in my whole group instruction, because I believe it can benefit all students.

As I was reading about common strategies that do not help students with dyslexia, and can even be harmful, I realized that I was guilty of using some of these techniques in my classroom. One that I was surprised by was the boxes shaped like letters, which are supposed to help students identify the shapes of words. In theory, this sounds good, but it is actually harmful. 

 

Shaped letter boxes are NOT a good strategy for dyslexia | Apples to Applique

Unfortunately, all of the small group phonics task cards I had purchased for use in my classroom used these types of boxes, which I had thought were effective. Of course, when we know better, we do better, so I could no longer use these task cards with my students. That meant that I had to make some new ones based on my current understanding of phonemic awareness.

I have created some CVC task cards with touch points for each sound in the word. Students identify the picture and say the name, then touch the dots one at a time, saying a sound for each touch.

Phonemic Awareness Task Cards for CVC Words | Apples to Applique

Next, they write the letter that makes the sound they hear at each touch point.

Phonemic Awareness Task Cards for CVC Words | Apples to Applique

The cards are self-checking, so the kids can flip them over to check their work, and then circle the thumbs-up or thumbs-down to keep track of how many they got right.

Phonemic Awareness Task Cards for CVC Words | Apples to Applique

I wanted there to also be an ongoing tracking system to help kids remember which decks they need to practice and to motivate them to continue practicing. My students love earning items in online games, so I thought of a way to put this in paper form by creating scene builders.

Each student has a folder with a tracking sheet. They color in a star for each time they practice all 15 cards for one of the vowels.

Phonemic Awareness Task Cards for CVC Words | Apples to Applique

After coloring in all three stars for one of the vowels, the kids earn an object to add to their farm scene.

Phonemic Awareness Task Cards for CVC Words | Apples to Applique

This system is fun for kids and is based on best practices for phonemic awareness. It is easy to implement as an independent center, great for teacher-led small groups, or for kids to use with a partner.

You can get these cards here in my store or here in my TPT shop. I hope they help you create easy, meaningful small group work to develop solid phonemic awareness skills!

Keep teaching with heart and passion!




Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Halloween Noun Town

Posts two days in a row? I'm just as surprised as you are. 😆

This is going to be a short post; I told you all yesterday how much I love fall in the classroom, and today I just had to share one more reason: Halloween Noun Town!

Halloween Noun Town | Apples to Applique
 

I think noun towns are so cute, and I love that they are student generated. We have been learning about labels as a text feature as well as nouns and verbs, so this project was perfect!

I started by hanging up a nearly blank background. I did add two items so they could have a visual and better understand what we were doing.

Halloween Noun Town | Apples to Applique

They took the idea and ran with it! I laid down some parameters (no blood, no weapons, no characters from horror movies), and they did the rest. They drew their pictures, cut them out, and added labels. I love how it turned out!

Halloween Noun Town | Apples to Applique

I want to do this for all the things, now! I'm thinking we might need to make a "Verb 'Burb" next--or maybe I'll call it "Superb Verbs".

Tell me about your favorite noun town themes!

Keep teaching with heart and passion!




Monday, October 19, 2020

Pumpkin Science and Halloween STEM

Halloween STEM | Apples to Applique
 

This is one of my favorite parts of the school year. We're in the swing of things, my kids and I have developed a relationship, and we get to start all the fun stuff. Last year, I shared some of my favorite Halloween read-alouds. This year, I took a couple of those favorite Halloween stories, and a couple of new ones, and created some STEM challenges to go with them.

Halloween STEM | Apples to Applique

After reading Room on the Broom, kids create their own broom that can fit the witch, her cat, and her cauldron. The broom needs to be strong enough to hold the weighted-down pieces, and yet made of lightweight materials.

 

Halloween STEM | Apples to Applique

In the Haunted House is a fun book with a lilting rhyme. Kids enjoy seeing the spooky things inside the house and then building their own haunted house.

 

Halloween STEM | Apples to Applique

Walter's Wonderful Web is a book I stumbled across this year for the first time. I originally purchased it for my two-year-old, because of the subtitle which says "A first book about shapes". However, it doesn't come across as "babyish" and I have no qualms about reading it to my first graders. It is a charming story about a determined spider trying over and over to build a strong web. The kids then try making webs in various geometric shapes to see which one is the strongest.


Halloween STEM | Apples to Applique

The Big Pumpkin is a fun story about a pumpkin that is too big to be moved. What better way to follow up this story than by engineering a machine to move a pumpkin?

 

 

Speaking of pumpkins, we recently finished up a week of pumpkin science and investigation with this fun writing prompt and craftivity. As much as I love crafts, it is important to me that they be purposeful. This one met that criteria perfectly! After writing about pumpkins, the kids create a 3D pumpkin mini-book which has pages about the life cycle, the interior of the pumpkin, and sensory words to describe the pumpkin.

Find the Halloween Storybook STEM here in my store or here on TPT.

Find the Pumpkin Science Craftivity here in my store or here on TPT.

Do you love fall activities in the classroom as much as I do? I would love to hear your favorite!

Keep teaching with heart and passion!


 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Digital Shape Detective Activity

I am so excited to tell you all that I have made a digital version of my popular shape detectives activity!

Digital Shape Detective Activity | Apples to Applique
I love, love, love the printable version, and how it enables kids to be active while they search for shapes in their environment.

Shape Detective Activity | Apples to Applique
 

But we all know the importance of digital activities this year, with many districts and students doing remote learning, and the fact that many districts are not allowing students to share supplies this year.

Digital Shape Detective Activity | Apples to Applique

In keeping with the spirit of the original shape finders, I kept this digital activity simple. The kids locate as many of the shape as they can in the pictures, but they do not have to click on each one they see; they simply move the shaped magnifying glass over the picture to see what they can find. It is just pure play and exploration! 

 

Digital Shape Detective Activity | Apples to Applique
 

Lower level learners can easily find the few big, obvious shapes, while higher level learners can take their time searching for the smaller, less obvious ones.

I hope your little explorers love it!

Find "I Spy: Shapes" here on Boom Learning, or here in my TPT store.

Keep teaching with heart and passion!