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Resources to Celebrate Mexico!

Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day. 

 (That is celebrated on September 16th.)  Cinco de Mayo does celebrate a Mexican battle.  It dates back to May 5, 1862, and I imagine if I were Mexican, I'd know more about it.  I've shown this video in the past. The content is a little above the heads of my second graders, but it gives the kids a taste Mexican history with a cute sombrero wearing chile character and a catchy tune.

Those of us who live in the USA think of Mexico as our "neighbors to the south." It's also a lovely place to visit when the winter is cold and bitter. (It sure gets nasty here in New Hampshire!)

Many of us like to think of Cinco de Mayo as a day to celebrate our Mexican neighbors.

Here's another Youtube video that gives the kids a taste of Mexico. It's filled with Mariachi music and pictures that are classically Mexican!

A couple more You Tube videos that give kids a "taste" of Mexico:

Or... it's not too late to order some of your own Mariachi music. Check out these CDs available on Amazon. (Just click the image for a link to Amazon!)

I prefer to have loads of literature when I teach about anything, particularly another country. Here are some of my favorite informational books about Mexico!
Of course, after learning about Mexico through books and videos, I'd have my kids write about the country. Here's some paper with a Mexico theme, and it's free! You can find it here: Mexico Themed Writing Paper Freebie

What good is a celebration of Mexico without a little Mexican food and a craft?  Tortilla chips with salsa are easy and popular, so I imagine they'll make an appearance. If you're daring, bring in some hot salsa!

Here are a couple more Mexico resources your students might enjoy:

HERE is a whole Pinterest page of cinco de mayo crafts for kids.  Take your pick or make up your own!

An App for Building and Assessing Fluency

I have an iPad in my classroom, and I've been having a blast with it!  

I found an app called K12 Timed Reading, which I'm loving! There's a single version for free, which is perfect for one child.  I payed a whopping $1.99 for the version which is designed for a whole class.  It's simple to put all students into the program for the class iPad.

The app contains over 250 stories leveled from grades K through 4.  The stories are short, just a few minutes per story, and they're very cute.  

I've been pairing up my students at the ipad.  They listen to each other, making sure their partner reads the assigned story accurately. Then they switch.  Each time when they're finished reading, they click DONE, and it tells them their reading rate.  They can save that time, and try to beat it the next time.  As they go through the stories, the app records their most recent time. 
I remind the children frequently to remember the four important parts of fluency:  
1.  Read it smoothly.
2.  Read it correctly.
3.  Read at a good speed.  Not too fast, not too slow.
4. Make it sound meaningful.

For more about fluency, see THIS BLOG POST.

The children practice with their partners every day for a week.

At the end of the week, they read the story to me, and we record their score on our
Fluency Graphs.
Click image to download fluency graph freebie.
The children have really been enjoying the app, and have noticed the growth in their fluency.  And, of course, fluent readers have stronger comprehension skills!

Not the Friday I Expected

It's another Five for Friday at Doodle Bugs Teaching, and I honestly think I'd be a lot happier than I am on this Friday!  Without further ado, here are 5 random highlights from my week:

1.  Terror in Boston! I grew up in the Boston area, and live only an hour away now.  To make things worse, my daughter goes to college in Boston. (See THIS BLOG POST.) It's been an extremely emotional week, knowing what happened on Monday at the Boston Marathon, watching the news all week, and today, knowing that the whole city and surrounding towns were in lockdown all day today. Today I saw an article with before and after pictures of Boston:  before and after today's lockdown   (Check it out HERE!)

2.  Boston Strong! Something good comes from something bad:  Bostonians are a strong people, and this is forcing people to pull together and make us all stronger.  Facebook has been entertaining, since most of my fb friends are from the Boston area.  I've seen clips of crowds at sporting events that have made me cry with pride.  (Love the Yankees singing Sweet Caroline!)  I've seen pictures like the one below.  It makes me feel very proud of my local city!

3.  Ms. DeCost's Classtopia!  Our class blog is growing!  The kids have been writing, they are reading each others' stories, and they are getting great feedback from others!  It's very exciting!

4.  Similes!  Speaking of our class blog, we've been working on similes this week, and posted some awesome similes!  Here are a couple of them:

Just for the record, Cora really is as cute as a button!  (Can't you tell from the picture?)

Beware American Idol, Lea will be coming in a few years!

Doesn't Luke put a great picture in your mind's eye:  a golden arrow in a bullseye?  These kids are so awesome!

5.  Apples to Apples!  This afternoon, since we were just a few hours from Spring Break, we celebrated with a couple of great games of Apples to Apples!  This game always brings giggles, plus (don't tell the kids...) it's educational!  I do save this for special occasions, but I have some great times when this game comes out!

And yes, I am officially on Spring Break!  I thought I'd be more excited to be on vacation, but I'm just pretty worn down from a very emotional week!

The Class Blog!

We've had our class blog up for a couple of weeks now, and we're all loving it!  I have found it to be very motivating, not just for kids to write, but for kids to write at a higher quality!

We have brainstormed a list of things the kids could blog about, and during Writer's Workshop, the children can choose from the list or come up with an idea of their own, write a blog post on paper, and submit it for posting.  

Here are some screen shots from the blog:

Madison has submitted a few posts for the class blog.  She's got a couple in the editing process.

Alison has also submitted several posts.  I typically try to take a photo or find a picture, but I felt this particular post didn't need any photographs!

We've worked quite a bit on writing paragraphs with an introduction, details, and a "sum it up" sentence.  I think they're getting pretty good at remembering all the parts!

Recently, we wrote our first book reviews!  I had the children use this planning sheet to help them:
Click image to download freebie.

I had the children tell their review to three different partners.  Partners were to ask questions for clarity.  They were encouraged to answer each part of the planning sheet in a complete sentence while they told their review.  I also suggested that each time they told it, it should sound more and more interesting.  

Then they sat down to write.  After telling it three times, the words just flowed onto the paper, and their reviews were awesome!  

I typed them up and put them on our class blog.  Here are a couple:

Who doesn't love Mr. Hatch?  Lea did a great job with her first book review!

Didn't Rachael do an awesome job retelling her story?  (And don't you love the story?)

Boston, You're My Home

I grew up in the Boston area, and only live an hour away now.  Yes, I grew up with the Boston accent, and worked hard all my life to learn to pronounce my Rs.  (Besides teaching phonics, I have done a lot of acting, and can't have an accent, unless I'm playing a character with a specific accent!)

My daughter is attending college in Boston and living in the city.  Although I'm not a runner, and do manage to avoid the city when there's a crowd expected, I've always been proud of my local city and their biggest yearly event that bring thousands of visitors each year together in peace.  All the local news stations feature the Marathon each year, and every year I'm amazed at how they keep track of thousands of runners from all over the world.

I always hear all about the preparations and the excitement in the morning before work, and don't think about it all day until I get home from work.

Today as I was leaving work, I found a text on my phone... "Mom, I'm at home writing a paper, I'm safe."  Then I got home and realized what happened.

I'll never understand the mentality of people who intentionally hurt other people.  Wanting to hurt strangers is even more difficult to understand.

I keep trying to believe that people are good.  I've seen that happening on the news today in shots of people helping injured.  I want to know how I can help.

Here's what I've come up with:

  1. Give blood.  They can always use blood.  (I used to give blood all the time.  They won't take my blood now, due to certain medications I'm on since I had a stroke.)
  2. Look for opportunities to show Acts of Kindness.  
  3. Celebrate the first responders, the true Patriots on Patriots day.
  4. Stand together as a country.  Wave your flags.  Sing patriotic songs.  Accept differences.
  5. Celebrate my favorite city:  Boston!  We are a strong, passionate people... we won't let this bring us down!
Here are a couple of ways to celebrate:

A video... this song is a classic to Bostonians (as you can see by the title of this post!)

And some great children's literature!

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