Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Using Wordless Books Within a Content Unit

Posted by Susanna Westby on Mar 24, 2014 8:00:00 AM

This is a guest blog post from Susanna Westby of Whimsy Workshop, and it includes a FREE download with worksheets! See the bottom of the post for the link to download, and check back frequently for more great classroom-tested ideas! If you'd like to see her other contributions to this blog, click here!

animals_in_the_forest-1-250Hello again! I’m Susanna from Whimsy Workshop Teaching, and today I’m sharing with you some examples of how I use wordless books from the My World series to add a new angle to a content unit. The book we used this time was Animals In the Forest by Susan Bennett-Armistead. My key concepts for this lesson were based on writing: observations, invented spelling and editing.

To begin, I projected the pages as we did a whole-class picture walk through the book. This complemented our previous class study of North American animals and was a great review. We discussed what we knew about the animals and previous experiences with raccoons and bears.

Next, students used a template to write a poem about the animals in the book. Because the main part of the book has no text, the emphasis was on close study of the pictures and gathering our own details rather than reading about information. This was an interesting change!

Students wrote:

In the forest, I see “a bird feeding green worms to five hungry chicks.”

In the forest, I see “a brown furry squirrel gathering nuts for the winter.”

In the forest, I see “a spider spinning a web to catch flies and mosquitoes.”

Students used their “best guesses” to spell the words. When they were done, we used the last pages of the book to edit their spelling. There are two pages with animal words listed, and students had to try to find their animal on the list, check the spelling, and edit their work.

When we were done, we also used the questions provided at the back of the book to review what we had learned and explore new questions about the forest, such as the following:

Where do animals hide in the forest?

Where do animals get food in the forest?

The "In The Forest” worksheet we used is included here as a free download! These books were a valuable addition to our study of North American animal resources!


I have been teaching primary grades for 20 years. My classroom is a place of hands-on, creative learning where students feel safe to make mistakes and learn from them! I live near Vancouver, BC Canada with my music-teacher husband and two teenage boys. More literacy ideas and graphics can be found on my blog, Whimsy Workshop Teaching.


To download the "In the Forest" worksheet, click the worksheet image to the left below. For more information on the My World series, click the image to the right below to download a series information sheets with highlights and key features, or click here to visit our website!

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Topics: Susanna Westby, Animals, My World, Wordless Books

Using Literature to Teach Anti-Bullying Lessons

Posted by Susanna Westby on Mar 14, 2014 8:00:00 AM

This is a guest blog post from Susanna Westby of Whimsy Workshop, and it includes a FREE download with worksheets! See the bottom of the post for the link to download, and check back frequently for more great classroom-tested ideas! If you'd like to see her other contributions to this blog, click here!

Hello again! I’m Susanna from Whimsy Workshop Teaching, and today I’m sharing with you some examples of how I use books from the Kaleidoscope Collection to teach anti-bullying messages. The books we used were Stop_Bullying-100Sophia and the Bully, Are You A Bully?, and Big Blue Heron. My key concepts for these lessons were how to recognize the characteristics of bullying and how to handle it.

In Canada we celebrate Pink Day, which is a national event in participating schools where students and teachers wear something pink to celebrate diversity and raise awareness about bullying in schools. The books mentioned were a perfect compliment to our study on this day. We read through each of the books together, and then students were asked to pair-share to discuss their thoughts about it.

big_blue_heron-100We began with Big Blue Heron; some student ideas were as follows:

“The heron didn’t care about other people.”

“The heron should try to be nicer because one day he might need help and nobody will want to.”

“The dog was brave to stand up for the little kitten and tell the heron to go away.”

are_you_a_bully-125-1Next, we read Are You a Bully?. Here are some of the student responses to that book:

“Someone made fun of my glasses once too, just like Liz.”

“I don’t like to see kids laughing at other kids like that. It makes me sad!”

“Why do big kids always try to boss little kids around?”

sophia_and_the_bully-125Finally, we read Sophia and the Bully. This book had the strongest response. We stopped part way through reading to talk about what was happening and how each character acted. When we finished the story, students were surprised to see that the “bully” was actually trying to be friendly, but was going about it in the wrong way. This was an interesting twist and opened a whole new discussion about misunderstandings. It was also relevant to my students because we had recently gotten two new students in our class. We wrote about each book in our journals in addition to writing about Pink Day.

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We also had each student think of one thing they learned about bullying, either from the books or our discussion. Students visited a kindergarten class, stood in a line at the front of the class, and took turns giving “advice” to the younger students.

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These books were a valuable addition to our anti-bullying resources and addressed some very important topics in our class.


 

I have been teaching primary grades for 20 years. My classroom is a place of hands-on, creative learning where students feel safe to make mistakes and learn from them! I live near Vancouver, BC Canada with my music-teacher husband and two teenage boys. More literacy ideas and graphics can be found on my blog, Whimsy Workshop Teaching.

 


 

For more information on the Kaleidoscope Collection, click the image below to download a series information sheets with highlights and key features, or click here to visit our website!

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Topics: Susanna Westby, Kaleidoscope Collection, Bullying

Teaching Similarities and Differences: More than Two Animals—with FREE Download!

Posted by Susanna Westby on Feb 24, 2014 9:21:00 AM

This is a guest blog post from Susanna Westby of Whimsy Workshop, and it includes a FREE download with worksheets! See the bottom of the post for the link to download, and check back frequently for more great classroom-tested ideas! If you'd like to see her other contributions to this blog, click here!

Hello again! I’m Susanna from Whimsy Workshop Teaching, and today I’m sharing with you some examples of how I use books from the Zoozoo Animal World and Zoozoo Into the Wild series of informational texts in my classroom: Frog by Claire Vial and Graham Meadows and Sheep and Pig by Lee Waters.

              frog 200sheep 200pig 200

Our last lesson compared and contrasted two animals from different biomes. This time, we are using the books to compare more than two different animals and species to see what information we can find, and explore different ways of organizing that information. Our first task was to read through the books together. We projected the images so that we could read together and notice the details of each animal. Each page gave us information to add to our list.

pig spread

We identified relevant vocabulary words by circling or underlining. We made lists on the board as we went along to keep track of information, as you can see in the picture.

                sheep projection 185 pig projection 185

frog projection 185

Once we were done, students completed a task to compare all three animals. This was quite a challenge! They referred back to the lists we made on the board, and read through the books several more times to confirm information and find new ideas.

three animal comparison 

I have included our three-animal comparison sheet as a free download to try with your class! You can find it at the bottom of this page.

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I have been teaching primary grades for 20 years. My classroom is a place of hands-on, creative learning where students feel safe to make mistakes and learn from them! I live near Vancouver, BC Canada with my music-teacher husband and two teenage boys. More literacy ideas and graphics can be found on my blog, Whimsy Workshop Teaching.

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Download your free three-animal comparison sheet by clicking the worksheet image below! For more information on the Zoozoo series, click the images below to download a series information sheets with highlights and key features.

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Topics: Informational Text, Zoozoo Animals, Susanna Westby, Zoozoo Animal World, Venn Diagrams

Teaching Similarities and Differences: Bats & Owls—with FREE Download

Posted by Susanna Westby on Feb 10, 2014 8:00:00 AM

This is a guest blog post from Susanna Westby of Whimsy Workshop, and it includes a FREE download with worksheets! See the bottom of the post for the link to download, and check back frequently for more great classroom-tested ideas! If you'd like to see her other contributions to this blog, click here!

Hello again! I’m Susanna from Whimsy Workshop Teaching, and today I’m sharing some examples of how I use books from the Zoozoo Animal World series to teach similarities and differences. The books we used were ”Bat” and “Owl” by Lee Waters.

Bat Cover.new Owl Cover.new

My key concepts for these lessons were difference and similarities of animals that live in different biomes. In this case, we compared a forest owl and a rainforest bat to see if we could find some similarities despite living in a different environment.

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As we read through each story as a whole group, we took note of different animal characteristics, similarities and differences. We projected the images so that we could read together and notice many of the detail in the wonderful photographs.

owl 1 bat 2
 

We identified relevant vocabulary words by circling or underlining on the board, as shown.

Students also love to trace the words that are projected to see if they can make them look “perfect”; everyone wants a turn at this, and they love to read it once we turn the projector off!

Our next task is to organize our findings. We make two lists: one for each animal containing the things we’ve noticed about each. During this time, we also make good use of the “Talking Points” section of both books, which has a lot of interesting information. Students noted information from both the text and the pictures. Here are a few examples:

  • Bat and owls both fly.
  • Owls are birds, but bats are mammals.
  • Bats and owls both live in the forest.
  • Bats and owls both have wings.
  • Bats and owls are both nocturnal.

Once we’re done, students go back to their desks to complete a Venn Diagram to compare/contrast the bat and owl (this is available for download at the bottom of the page). They are repeatedly reading and discussing the pictures from the book, and the information we’ve collected on the board as they decide which points to include in their own diagram.

Students love to share their work using a document camera so the whole class can see!

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I have been teaching primary grades for 20 years. My classroom is a place of hands-on, creative learning where students feel safe to make mistakes and learn from them! I live near Vancouver, BC Canada with my music-teacher husband and two teenage boys. More literacy ideas and graphics can be found on my blog, Whimsy Workshop Teaching.

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Download your free "Bat and Owl" comparison sheet by clicking the worksheet image below! For more information on the Zoozoo Animal World series, click here to visit our website, or click the image on the right to download a series information sheet with highlights and key features.

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Topics: Zoozoo Animals, Susanna Westby, Animals, Zoozoo Animal World, Venn Diagrams

An African Animal Lesson Using Informational Texts—with FREE Download!

Posted by Susanna Westby on Jan 31, 2014 8:00:00 AM

This is a guest blog post from Susanna Westby of Whimsy Workshop, and it includes a FREE download with worksheets! See the bottom of the post for the link to download, and check back frequently for more great classroom-tested ideas! If you'd like to see her other contributions to this blog, click here!

Hello again! I’m Susanna from Whimsy Workshop Teaching, and today I’m sharing some examples of how I use the Into the Wild series of informational texts by Claire Vial and Graham Meadows to teach about animals.

The books we used for this lesson were Zebra, Lion, Elephant, Hippo, and Giraffe.

ITW booksMy key concepts for these lessons were African animal characteristics and habitats. We discussed these as we looked at the pictures. Our class theme for January is Africa, so students had some background knowledge already.

First, we used these books as a whole-class read-aloud, as I projected the images for the class. We studied the vocabulary and information on each page and compared the animals.

2We also used the books in small groups, and we took note of different animal characteristics, similarities, and differences.

3Students were encouraged to write down characteristics that were unique to their animal on the worksheet below. Working in small groups allowed me to guide and assist them with this task; we recorded information on the sheet.

4To really absorb the information from these books in a fun way, students created a book of riddles. They worked in small groups to generate clues or riddles for their animal, and then drew the animal on a small answer card.

5 After assembling the book, students could pull out the answer card to reveal the answer. We spent a whole afternoon testing each other with our “What Am I?” riddle books!

6I have included a simple template as a free download, so that you can try this with your own class. Simply fold a paper in half and glue edges at the top, then fold vertically like a greeting card. Once students get the idea, they will be able to create their own riddle books for any of the animals. I’ve also included the “My African Animal Study” recording sheet for writing animal characteristics. This can be used before making the riddle books, or just on its own!

I hope you enjoy them as much as my class did!

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I have been teaching primary grades for 20 years. My classroom is a place of hands-on, creative learning where students feel safe to make mistakes and learn from them! I live near Vancouver, BC Canada with my music-teacher husband and two teenage boys. More literacy ideas and graphics can be found on my blog, Whimsy Workshop Teaching.

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Download your free "My African Animal Study" and riddle book template by clicking the worksheet image below! For more information on the Zoozoo Into the Wild series, click here to visit our website, or click the image on the right to download a series information sheet with highlights and key features.

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Topics: Making Learning Fun, K-2 Literacy, Informational Text, Susanna Westby, Zoozoo Into the Wild, Animals

Informational Texts and Animal Habitat Units—with FREE Download!

Posted by Susanna Westby on Jan 13, 2014 8:00:00 AM

This is a guest blog post from Susanna Westby of Whimsy Workshop, and it includes a FREE download with worksheets! See the bottom of the post for the link to download, and check back frequently for more great classroom-tested ideas! If you'd like to see her other contributions to this blog, click here!

Hello again! I’m Susanna from Whimsy Workshop Teaching, and today I’m sharing with you some examples of how to use informational texts for animal habitat units. As an example, I use some of the Arctic habitat books by Lee Waters from the Zoozoo Animal World collection.

polar bear cover  Arctic Fox cover

We often begin with a whole-class picture walk as I project images of the book for the class. Our class theme for December is the Arctic, so students had some background knowledge already. My key concepts for these lessons were different survival techniques, such as warm fur and camouflage. We discussed these as we looked at the pictures.

As we read through Polar Bear, students quickly caught on to the repeating text and chanted together as we read. We noted that in each picture, the polar bear was well hidden in the snow or ice.

arctic  1 180 arctic 2 180

Next, we repeated the activity with Arctic Fox, and noticed that while the fox could hide in the snow, it also changed its fur color to be camouflaged in the summer! Students found this to be amazing! This led to a lively class discussion generating questions such as “How does it change colors? Does it all fall out and grow back brown, or does the fur just change color by itself? How does the fox know when to change it’s color? Is the white fur warmer than the brown fur?” Wonderful questions!

arctic 3 250 arctic 4 250

I also have older students in my multi-age class who could easily read the text. They instead were challenged by the Talking Points section in the back of the book, which offered more complex text and information to supplement each page. We loved this way of differentiating!

For our written component, students completed a simple sentence about either the arctic fox or the polar bear. Recalling the repeating text from the polar bear book (“Where is the polar bear?”), students had to finish the phrase “The polar bear is ___________” or “The arctic fox is__________.” They could choose from any of the places described in the book: in the water, in the snow, or on the ice.

To illustrate, we tried something fun! Students drew their polar bear or arctic fox on their white paper using white crayon. Of course it was very hard to see, and they challenged their partners to find the camouflaged animal on the page. It took a bit of looking to see the shiny wax of the animal! Next, students colored over their animal with gray or blue felt pen, which resists the white crayon, to reveal their animal!

arctic 5 200 arctic 6 200

These books were perfect for delivering non-fiction information to my grade one and grade two students; the information was displayed in manageable bits, and the pictures were engaging. Best of all, the differentiated text provided an opportunity to feel successful and independent in their learning.

If you would like to try this with your class, the activity sheets we used are included as a free download at the bottom of the page.

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I have been teaching primary grades for 20 years. My classroom is a place of hands-on, creative learning where students feel safe to make mistakes and learn from them! I live near Vancouver, BC Canada with my music-teacher husband and two teenage boys. More literacy ideas and graphics can be found on my blog, Whimsy Workshop Teaching.

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Download your free Arctic animals worksheets by clicking the worksheet image below! For more information on the Zoozoo Animal World series, click here to visit our website, or click the image on the right to download a series information sheet with highlights and key features.

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Topics: Making Learning Fun, K-2 Literacy, Informational Text, Susanna Westby, Zoozoo Animal World

Using Joy Cowley's Books to Practice Literacy Skills—FREE Download!

Posted by Susanna Westby on Nov 8, 2013 8:00:00 AM

This is a guest blog post from Susanna Westby of Whimsy Workshop, and it includes a FREE download with worksheets, Reader's Theater masks, and MORE! See the bottom of the post for the link to download, and check back frequently for more great classroom-tested ideas!

Hello! I am Susanna from Whimsy Workshop Teaching, and today I’d like to share with you examples of how I use Joy Cowley books in my class to practice many different literacy skills.

In my experience, it’s a common practice for teachers to read a book with the class, perhaps do one reader-response activity and then move on to another book. But there’s so much more to be gained from digging a little deeper—even with very short books. For example, here are six examples of the activities I use with my Grade 1 and 2 class when we shared the book Mrs. Wishy-Washy and the Big Farm Fair.

1. We begin with a “picture walk” through the story. By looking at the pictures, we can gather inferences, make predictions, share previous knowledge, and prepare for the ideas and vocabulary ahead. We also get a sense of characters and setting, which we will revisit later. 

Next, we read through the book together while it is projected on the whiteboard. I can then model how to track the words and can reinforce several reading strategies. As we go along, I will ask for help from the students. I find this to be a very valuable activity, as it resembles a small-group guided-reading lesson, only with the whole class involved. On the page shown below, I posed the simple question: “What do you notice?”  A student has pointed out that there are different ways to make the “long E sound,” so I have invited her up to circle the words.

projection 300

2. Next, we review the story together, retelling the events in order. This particular book was perfect for creating a simple sequence of events without becoming too complicated for them to explain. We then used this simple template to cut apart and glue back together in order on a different paper.

Joy Cowley Unit Susanna Westby 300

3. Next, we review the previous discussion about setting and characters during the picture walk. This time we expand our discussion to talk about the problem in the story and how it was resolved. This particular book was perfect for introducing these concepts. Students demonstrated their understanding by completing this graphic organizer.

setting 1 300setting 2 300

4.  My students loved Mrs. Wishy-Washy’s list of rules! We compared them to our own class rules, followed by a funny activity exploring opposites/antonyms. We imagined what would happen if Mrs. Wishy-Washy’s rules were the opposite instead, such as: “Be Dirty. Be Messy. Look Untidy. Smell Stinky.” Students used their own words to complete the work.

rules 1 300rules 2 300

5. My students fell in love with the animals in this story! They loved how the animals grumbled while being washed, and they all had personal stories about washing their own pets. We used this opportunity to relate the text to students’ own experiences. Students wrote about the steps involved in washing pets at home using this template.

6. Dramatic play is an effective way to understand stories more deeply. We begin with a simple labeling activity as shown, then turn the worksheet into paper puppets to act out the story in pairs or small groups. Students enjoyed this so much that I later created paper masks of each animal so that students could act out the story that way. Mrs. Wishy-Washy’s costume was a simple scarf.

masks 300

As you can see, even a short book can offer a wealth of learning experiences for the whole class.

I have included the activities, including the paper masks, as free downloads. I hope your students enjoy them as much as my students did, and that they inspire you to make the most of the books you share in class!

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My name is Susanna Westby, and I have been teaching primary grades for 20 years. My classroom is a place of hands-on, creative learning where students feel safe to make mistakes and learn from them! I live near Vancouver, BC Canada with my music-teacher husband and two teenage boys. More literacy ideas and graphics can be found on my blog, Whimsy Workshop Teaching.

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Download your free Joy Cowley unit with worksheets, Reader's Theater masks, and more—just click the worksheet image below! For more information on the Joy Cowley Collection of books, click here to visit our website, or click the image on the right to download a series information sheet with highlights and key features.

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Topics: Joy Cowley Collection, Mrs. Wishy-Washy, Joy Cowley, The Joy Cowley Collection, Susanna Westby

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