Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Animal Research for Primary Students

I can't believe it took me so long to post about one of my favorite units to do with my students.  I *love* animals, and most children do as well, which makes animal research projects so much fun to do with primary students.  However, the thought of having over 20 students working on researching a different topic at the early primary level can be a bit very stressful.  I have worked through some tips and ideas to make it easier to allow students to choose their own animal to learn about, and to actually come out at the end with a product they are proud to show off!  

I've used my Animal Research Printables for a few years now, and I love how easy it makes it to do animal research projects with primary students.   My students love science, but even more than that, they love writing!  They have been loving working on animal research, and I would love for your students to get in on the joy of learning about an animal through focused research, note-taking, and presentation.  If you want to empower your students to choose a topic, organize their notes, and create a research booklet they will be proud of, this is a great way to go!
We start off by learning about animal classification.  You can read books, use great websites (like the San Diego Zoo website) or use my Animal Classification powerpoint and printables to help teach about the different animal groups.  I teach animal classification first and then we write down the different animals we are considering doing for our project.  I stipulate that the students must write down at least one option from each of the six basic animal groups (invertebrates, mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and amphibians). 
One of the ways I have done this in the past is we have gone to the San Diego Zoo website (using the projector as a whole class) and we have cycled through the different animal types.  Students write down the names of the animals that interest them.  I also keep a running list up in the classroom for students to reference.  The benefit to using this website is that you ensure that the students will be able to have an easy reference website to use later for their animal research.  
After we have gone through all of the animal groups (which may have taken several days, depending on the class) the students choose the animal that they want to study.  I never have the students decide on the same day that we start talking about the project.  I want them to think about it, talk about it at home, and even go on some websites at home to make their decision.  They do a short writing activity where they explain why they chose that particular animal.  This can be a bit difficult for some students, so I model it very clearly.  

If your school or classroom library is very limited, or if you do not have web-access for your students, you can have your students choose from books that you provide. If you have tables or desk groups, you can set out books about amphibians on one table, birds on another, mammals on another, and so on.  Send your students around with clipboards and have them look briefly at the books to choose their animal from this limited supply to ensure that you will have research books available.  
At this point in the research project, it is a good time to start a KWL chart (what I already Know, what I Want to learn, what I Learned) about each students' animal.  If your students are very eager and have a hard time following directions, simply cover up the W and L columns with large sticky notes as a reminder.  After all students have completed their K column, you can bring the students back, brainstorm some potential "Want to Learns" and send the students back to work on their W column. After this is done, you'll want them to tuck the KWL chart into a folder to be used at the end of the research project.
At the completion of the research project, students can finish their KWL chart, and also get together with a friend who studied another animal.  They can compare facts, and create a Venn Diagram about their animals.  Alternately, if your students are capable, they can complete a Venn Diagram about their animal and any other animal of their choosing.  
For the bulk of the research, the students use books and kid-friendly websites.  I photocopy my note-taking forms to guide their research.  For very young learners, I have found it helpful to spend one day on each section.  I model the whole project with my chosen animal, and we brainstorm general key words to look for in the students' books.  For example, for the "diet" section, we discuss that it means the food the animal eats. We might look for words like herbivore, carnivore, and omnivore. Words like hunt and prey and forage might also indicate that we are reading about the animal's diet.  This is a great opportunity to teach non-fiction text features as well.  We dive into the table of contents, the index, the glossary, captions, labels, and more.    
Students enjoy choice, and teacher need differentiation, so in this packet I have included a variety of forms to choose from for displaying the knowledge that students gain throughout the research process.  You might choose to use one or more of them, depending on the needs of your students.  Some teachers like to do a few animal research projects during the year, so they switch up what they use as the students' abilities increase.  I have also put out extra blank booklets for students to use during Literacy Centers if they want to work on an additional research topic.  

The layered flip book is a fun one and it looks great displayed on a bulletin board.  
The Flap Book is a great way for young learners to display basic information.  It does not require a lot of writing, so it is not intimidating.  

The booklet pages are great for making a detailed book covering a variety of topics about a student's chosen animal. They are suitable for First and Second Grade. 

I hope you are inspired to teach your students how to research an animal of their own choosing.  My past students remember their animal research projects fondly, and I truly enjoyed working through the process with them!  

Here are some comments from others who have used my printables:  

"This is awesome! My students loved using these for their animal projects. The format is so easy for first graders to use!" -SLT

"Every year we do an animal research project with our second graders to go along with our Reading series. This packet has a lot of great resources to organize information and to help the students find a variety of information about their animal! Love it!" -MB

"Bought it and used it the next day in my classroom. My kids loved it and it was easy to use with many options." -B

"Great! I love the differentiation options so that all students can find success with a research project. 
Thank you!" -JB

I hope you have learned some tips for how to do animal research projects with young students.  If you need some printables to help you along the way, you can find them by clicking the picture below.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Easter and Spring

Easter is almost here!  I love this time of year.  The weather is getting warmer, the leaves are uncurling on the trees, and the spring flowers are in full bloom!
The days are getting longer and we spend way more time outside.  It's so glorious! It's a great time of the year to study and explore shadows and light.   

In the classroom it's a time of reflecting on how far we've come and making goals that we plan on meeting before the end of the school year.  Our art comes alive with bright colours and insects and creepy crawlies are always a favourite.

Some of our work inside is Spring and Easter themed and it is such a welcome change from penguins and snowmen.  

It's a fun time to try out a new Easter-themed "I Have, Who Has" game. 

We work on some rhyming review.
And we also practice our 100 chart fluency. 
We continue our work on 2 digit numbers (those teen numbers are tricky for some of my littles.)
If you want to check out this Spring and Easter bundle, click the picture below.
 Spring Bundle
Enjoy the season, wherever you are, and whatever your weather!  Thanks for stopping by.  

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Winter Activities

Here is a fun roundup of some of my favorite activities to do in the winter!

Free Choice Watercolor painting for morning work. 

3 day Interactive Read-Aloud of "Bear Has a Story to Tell."  We have also enjoyed doing popsicle stick puppets for re-telling.  You can download some for free here.  

3 Day Interactive Read-Alouds.  Pictures for this anchor chart can be downloaded directly from Jan Brett's Website.  

I hope you enjoyed these ideas and can use some of them in your classroom!  

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Top Five Vegas 2015 Memories

I am so happy that I was able to travel to Las Vegas with my husband for the 2nd Annual TpT conference.  Neither of us had ever been to Vegas before, so we were excited to explore.  It was also a "vacation from parenting" so we soaked up our independence :)  Here are my memories of Vegas in no particular order!
The Sights
It's a fairly short flight to Vegas.  The time passed quickly, and we arrived in Vegas at around 10:00 at night.  Our hotel room had a view of The Mirage and the volcano show was neat to see from above! It was important to me to see some of the classic Vegas sights.  The fountains at The Bellagio were so impressive.  My favourite song was "Luck Be a Lady" by Frank Sinatra. 
We wandered around the Strip a few nights.  Saturday night was pretty crazy, but during the week it was relatively tame for Vegas.
The Venetian

We stayed at The Venetian.  It's a beautiful (and HUGE) hotel.  I loved the Italian touches everywhere.  I was in Italy in 1999, and I would love to go back.  For now, The Venetian will have to do!  I wish I would have taken a photo of the front of the hotel the night before, because the banners were of amazing chefs.  For the rest of the trip it was the UFC banners because they had a conference at the hotel.
One thing I wanted to experience was eating at Carlo's Bakery (within The Venetian).  Right before check-out on Sunday we managed to grab some cannolis.  They were absolutely delicious!  If you go, be prepared for long and slow lines.  I somehow thought that people would be ordering a few things and the line would go quickly.  No way.  Most people were ordering dozens of items!


One of the highlights of the trip was meeting some amazing teachers, some of whom I have been communicating with online for years!

I met Wendy from Mrs D's Literacy Lab,  Jill from Clearly Primary and Nicole from Primary Teaching Resources.  These ladies are so sweet!

I was so happy to be sitting with Melissa from I Heart 4th Grade and Stacie from Teacher Life is Good for a session put on by Little Miss Kindergarten and Falling Into First.
I was also happy to spend some time with another lovely blogger buddy, Sandra from Savvy Teaching Tips.

I also got to spend some good time with some talented teacher-authors from all across the U.S!
I really enjoyed my sessions, including one put on by Deanna Jump and Dee Dee Wills!


To say that the conference was inspiring would be an understatement.  It was amazing being surrounded by other teachers who "get it."  Teachers who LOVE curriculum creation and teaching. Again and again it was stated in my sessions that we have to remember that it is about TEACHING STUDENTS and improving their learning.  Each of us, whether we create resources, buy resources, or a mix are impacting our students on the ground level, and that's what matters most.

One of my favorite sessions was put on by Erin Cobb of Lovin Lit.  Hers was the last session I went to and it was AMAZING.  It was so inspiring.  I learned time-management tips and teaching tips and I'm so excited to be already putting some of them into practice already! There were several great Keynote speeches, including Paul Edelman (the founder of TpT) and Rachel Lynette. They were inspirational and I loved some of the stats they shared, such as about how many students have been directly affected by the resources purchased at TpT.  It's all about the kids and their learning, and it was nice to see that emphasis.

Grand Canyon Day

When my hubby and I first started planning for the trip to Vegas we looked at some of the attractions, one of which was helicopter tours of the area, including to the Grand Canyon.  Well, those tours are pretty pricey, so that wasn't going to happen, but we ended up driving there!  It was a long day in the car, but it was such a fun time. To make the long drive more enjoyable, we upgraded to a Mustang!  Can you believe it only cost $11 to upgrade?!   My hubby definitely enjoyed his wheels for the day, and I loved it too! We plugged in the GPS and drove.  Gone are the days of the passenger needing to navigate!
We saw a sign for the Hoover Dam so we took a tiny detour to check it out!  We had to be careful with our timeline, so we didn't get out of the car, but one day we'll have to come back with the kids and check it out more!  It was still neat to see!
I loved the desert landscape.  During the drive from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon there was a pretty diverse landscape change.
And then....the Grand Canyon.  Words and pictures cannot describe the wonder that it is.  I was a total dork and covered my eyes until I was right at the edge, because I wanted to take it in all at once instead of in stages.  Thankfully my husband didn't even question it.  Haha.
The drive home was enjoyable (even though it was long).  After our long drive we went to In-N-Out burger.  My hubby had never been there, and I had last been there in around 1995, so I was looking forward to it!  It was tasty and fun.  I love this totally Vegas-style In-N-Out sign! 

To prove how much time we spent driving, we took a photo of the driving timer in the car.  We hit 10 hours and 15 seconds just as we got into the parking garage!  That's all in one day.  Not too shabby for a day's outing. 

As if the day wasn't full enough, we went to the Wayne Brady show at The Mirage at 10:00 that evening.  The show was hilarious. It was entirely stand-up.  That man has serious talent!
Final Reflection

The trip was one to remember.  I leave energized, feeling understood by others who have similar interests, and fulfilled by the activities and sights I was able to see.   I'm so grateful for the time away and the memories and for all I learned!
One of the takeaways I learned in regards to creating teaching resources is to take a good look at my resources and make sure that they are updated.  I know that for myself, I am more excited to use products that are designed well and with the kids in mind.  As a result, I updated my First Week of School packet upon my return home.  I'm so happy with this update!