Monthly Archives: December 2010

Janruary is the perfect time to start a penguin themaic unit.

Since Christmas is over, it’s time to move on to Winter themes…Woo-Hoo! It’s penguin time!

First School has some cute preschool stuff. Check out the heart shaped penguins and the phonics worksheets.

Story It has penguin shaped writing paper with lines, A Kids Heart has penguin themed report paper, and DLTK has one too. Or you can mosey on over to abcteach and type in the text to create your own penguin shape book.

Reader’s Theater is always a treat for the kids. has a cute Tacky the Penguin Reader’s Theater script that I’m sure will be a hit with the kids. Click here for a Tacky the Penguin lesson plan. If you want to mix it up a bit, you can print out the Little Blue Penguins Reader’s Theater Script, but beware – the students have to write the ending!

Literacy based penguin themed lesson plans can be found here, here, and here. If you are not in an English speaking country, the books mentioned may be difficult to find, but with a little planing ahead, you can always order them from Amazon. Or cherry pick some of the activities and incorporate them into learning stations or as classroom experiments.

Follow this link to a primary science reading activity with three comprehension questions.

Check out what other teacher’s have found that worked in their classroom. You’ll find some really cute ideas posted. One teacher posted the lyrics to a song that you can sing to the tune of I’m a Little Tea Pot!

Vickie Blackwell has compiled an extensive list of penguin links, but some of them require membership to access the pages.

Scholastic offers a professional PDF document that has cute penguin templates that the kids cut out and tape to a base. Directions are included.

If you sign up for the free newsletter at The Mailbox you will get access to a tubular penguin craft,  an egg carton penguin craft, Sno-Kiddin’ award templates, a reading comprehension worksheet and penguin paper craft templates. That is, if you type “penguin” into the search box.

DLTK has a cute color penguin counting book and quite a few  penguin crafts and worksheets.

I found this cute little Penguin Paper Chain somewhere, but I have no idea where.

Kinderkorner has some Penguin Prose that you can turn into a sequencing sentence strip activity. For example, take a look at this sentence strip activity for first grade – I’m at Little Penguin Sentence Strips. Read the poem, pair the students up and then have the students arrange the sentences in sequential order. You’ll probably have to repeat it several times.

You can also make a booklet for first grade, (1 I’m a Penguin Booklet) and a cloze booklet for second and third grade (2 I’m a Penguin Booklet.) Cut the page into fourths and staple together. Then let the kids illustrate the pages themselves.

If you have way too much time on your hands, you can record a penguin poem with authentic penguin sounds in the background. You can download Audacity and then go to Partners in Rhyme for royalty free penguin sound effects. Or you can just download the penguin sounds and turn it into a loop that you can play while you read or to motivate the kids while they are working in their seats.

In the meantime, you can try downloading – Penguin Sound Bites to play as an introduction. Let the students listen to it and then have them try to guess what kind of animal it is.

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"Run, run as fast as you can, you can't catch me I'm the gingerbread man!"

I’m kind of picky when it comes to Christmas stuff. I don’t go for the usual Santa Claus fare, but I do like gingerbread and in particular, I like the story, The Gingerbread Man.

If you teach emergent readers DLTK has a nice little Gingerbread booklet that you can print out. The focus is on I can… sentences. I copied and print it out and then stapled it together in order to save time in the classroom. On the first day, I read it to the kids and let them start coloring it, then the bell rang. The next day, I read it to them again and made them follow along, broke them up into pairs and then they had to take turns reading the booklet to each other. Once they were done, I let them finish coloring it.

Family Fun Magazine offers a PDF download that I’m using to create a gingerbread man booklet. There are two sizes of gingerbread men. I picked the littlest size and then fooled around with the copier to make 4 men to a page. You will need seven men for the following activity.

I’ve condensed the story down, so just write the following on the board:

Title Page – The Gingerbread Man

Page 1 – There once was a little old woman who decided to bake gingerbread cookies.

Page 2 –  When the cookies were done baking, out jumped the little gingerbread man!

Page 3 – “Run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!”

Page 4 -  he called as he dashed out the kitchen door. No one could catch him, until…

Page 5 – he came to a river and was outsmarted by a fox.

First, read the story to the students, most of them are already familiar with it. Then show them your sample. Be sure to write the procedures on the board (1. cut 2. staple 3. write sentences 4. draw 5. color.) Otherwise, a whole lot of class time may be wasted. I try to stick to the same general procedures every time I do this sort of activity so the kids know what to expect. Plan on stapling the hands and feet, but make sure that there are 7 men for each booklet and that the hands and feet aren’t too short, otherwise one of the men may try to get loose!

Kidzone has a whole page devoted to a gingerbread man thematic unit and  little giraffes has a nice page on the gingerbread man too and don’t forget to check out virtual vine’s gingerbread page.

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Literature Circles have a built in accountability factor that encourages the students to interact with the text.

The first time I encountered a literature circle was when I went back to college after taking a rather long hiatus. Actually, I had to pick up some classes because I needed to get my teaching certification updated. I can’t remember which class it was, but I do remember the instructor, Dr. Smolen. I had actually had Dr. Smolen when she first came to The University of Akron. That was right about the time I was warping up my bachelors degree.

At first, I thought Literature Circles were a dumb idea, but I started to warm up to the idea after a few classes. Now I see the value, richness and meaning that literature circles can bring to text.

The big question is… “Is this something you can do with second language learners?” I believe the answer to that is,”Yes, you can!” but only if the students are at an intermediate level. Typically, the average second language learner can read English pretty well and probably knows English grammar better than most native speakers, but some times their writing skills may be a little week. Literature circles incorporate all four areas of language acquisition into one nice little package – reading, writing, listening and speaking.

What is a literature circle? If you haven’t any idea what a literature circle is, then check out Ohio Resource Center’s video page. There is a two part video that you can watch online. In the video, the students authentically model the literature circle roles. Also, you can find a good explanation of literature circles roles over at seems to be the website with the biggest presence on the web at the time of this writing. It certainly seems to be a fantastic resource. There is a page devoted entirely to literature circle structure, which in my opinion is a good place to start. If you are going to do literature circles with your class, it is important to be well organized and have your procedures and expectations nailed down before starting such an endeavor, that way if there is any deviation, it will be easy to redirect the students and get them back on track.

The beauty of literature circles are that there is an accountability factor built into the literature circle group process. Each student is responsible for fulfilling their role within the group. The links provided below will take you to PDF documents that you can use in the classroom.

The Literature Circle Planner the Discussion Debriefing Sheet, the Daily Study Record, the Self Evaluation Guide and the Assessment Form for Study Groups are for evaluation and assesment, before and after the literature circle process.

The links below should take you directly to the role sheets. Most of them are in PDF format, so you can print them out and make copies for your class. The ones that aren’t in PDF format can easily be converted to Word documents and if you are willing to take the time to create a Word document and if you are willing to do that, you might as well customize it for your class.

Literary Luminary

Discussion Director





Vocabulary Enricher

Travel Tracer

Word Smith

Line Lighter

Book Mark


Vocabulary Extender

For additional literature circle role sheets try to pick up a copy of Literature Circle Role Sheets for Fiction and Nonfiction Books, by Christine Boardman Moen.

Laura Candler has a few ideas on how to “mix it up” in the classroom with literature circles. She offers six different variations or flavors of literature circles. My favorite one is the Talking Sticks model. In this model, the students fill out a response bookmark each day and jot down questions through out the week in preparation for when the group meets on Friday. Another favorite of mine, is the non-fiction literature circle. In this model, the students meet on reading days and meeting days. On reading days they meet together to read together and jot down notes. After they finish reading the book, the students have a meeting day. Use the discussion cards to guide the students when they meet. She provides an example of what the discussion cards should look like here.  Laura has also graciously provided a reading response question PDF and  a non-fiction journal prompt PDF too.

While were at it, why not take it a step farther? ReadWriteThink has a fabulous resource that uses media literacy. It dovetails perfectly with ESL standards. It’s called Literature Circle Roles Reframed: Reading as a Film Crew. The role sheets and lesson plans are provided. Also, check out the comment section for important feedback from other teachers who have tried it.

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Family Members + Rooms in a House

Several times a week I find myself creating custom graphic organizers for my class. This is partly because I have to stretch out the curriculum and partly because I want to reinforce a concept or grammatical point.

I usually take my cue from the text book and focus on a specific skill.

I don’t consider myself especially tech savvy, but I do know my way around Word 2007. That is what I use to create the custom graphic organizers. I use the insert option a lot and try to liven it up a bit by using shapes with text inserted in the shape.

The graphic organizer below reinforces family members and rooms in a house. I used these family flash cards and these rooms in a house flash cards to reinforce the lesson from the text book. First, I had them practice their English conversation skills by having the students pick a family card. Then they had to ask their partner, “Where is your _____ ?” and the partner would pick up a room card and say “(He’s/She’s/They’re) in the _____ .”

The following graphic organizers were created for my second grade class in order to reinforce this skill.

G2 Where’s your…

G2 family.rooms

The following two graphic organizers are meant to go together. The students must match and paste the family relationship vocabulary to the correct definitions.  Detailed instructions can be found on p2.

family relationships p1

family relationships p2

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