Fun with Fables

Saturday, March 25, 2017
In reading and writing this week in 2nd grade, we were ALL about fables! They are kind of a big deal considering an entire Common Core Standard is dedicated to them.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.2 Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson or moral.

Well, actually, I started last week when I was being observed.  My lesson required students to identify a major event in the story where a character learned an important lesson.  I taught this in small reading groups and the kids loved it so much, it spilled into this week.  Here's a breakdown of what we did each day.


Day 1: I hadn't thought ahead too much (I do that sometimes) so I didn't have any fable books...yet. So I went with my go-to plan B and looked up fables on UnitedStreaming.com or Discovery Education--whichever you prefer.  Does your school have a subscription? Not sure what I would do without it.

Discovery Ed. has a whole bunch of Magic School Bus Episodes which is kinda our thing on most Friday afternoons.  My kids have a tendency to assume we are watching Magic School Bus anytime I start typing unitedstreaming.com into my browser.  But no sir, it was not Magic School Bus today! Today I was going to do the teaching instead of Miss Frizzle.

Back to our fable lesson.  We talked about the elements of a fable.  I used a poster from Lessons in Literacy Fable Writing pack.

Fable Writing {RL.2.2}

Then we watched 2 short fable videos and identified the elements focusing mostly on the lesson.  And even though the stories came out and told us the lesson, we still needed to interpret into kid terms.

Next, we took a look at the fable writing planning page also from Lessons in Literacy. We chose some animal characters and identified which one would be the 'hero' and which one the 'villian'.  Although, I like to just say "the one who makes good choices and the one who makes not-so-good choices" because I am not a huge fan of strong labels.

After we chose the characters and setting, I sent them off to work in partners on the fables.  I decided to let them develop their own lesson or moral and the next day we would share them and try to guess what it is.
Day 2: Honestly, this day wasn't too magical because I had a meeting to go to during our reading/writing block.  So the kids just finished up their fables and shared them with the class. I hope they tried to guess the morals but I really have no idea since my substitute was gone when I came back. (Don't worry, another 2nd grade teacher had my class.) When I returned to the room, half the fables were missing and the kids were all over the place so I kind of just gave up on reading those. #teachertruth
Day 3: This day we were back in action.  I even went to the library before school to pick out some fable books. However, I have a reputation of not looking through books before I read them (I know, it is a horrible habit) and one of the books I picked out had a swear word in it--GASP! Like the word for donkey.  I just skipped over those fables.

We referred to our anchor chart everyday to identify the elements of a fable.  I read some fables and we discussed all the parts. A few were repeats from ones we had read in reading groups but they were slightly different so it was fun to discuss how they were the same and how they were not.

Finally, after we got a lot of ideas from reading fables,  I sent them off to plan for writing their OWN fable this time.  And I let them pick their characters from the character cards which, you guessed it, are found in Lessons in Literacy's Fable Writing pack (I am not getting paid for this, I just really liked this pack).  Here's what they looked like:
Choosing their characters from the picture cards (in color!!) was just so much more special than drawing their own picture.  It's the little things!

Day 4: Students wrote their fables using their planning page.  As much as I tried to encourage them to write SHORT stories, I still had a few asking for more paper.  You hate to discourage writing at this age so I just let it go.  Even though we talked everyday about fables being short. #ohwell

Despite our mini-lesson on how fable titles usually just list the main characters, my darling below used that space for her name. #ohwellx2
Day 5: Whew! Here we are at day 5.  I am exhausted just recapping the week despite sleeping 12 hours last night. But this was my favorite day. And not just because it was Friday.  I decided to let my kids use our classroom laptops to listen to fables and record the fable elements on this graphic organizer which is free in my TpT store. (Fun fact: this was my first ever freeie on TpT)

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/FREEBIE-Elements-of-a-Fable-2-Graphic-Organizers-800008

At first, we used the website Speakaboos.com.  I found it that morning and quickly signed up for a free 30 day trial.  I was super excited about using the website since it looked kid-friendly. We listened to a fable and filled out the graphic organizer together first.  Then I proudly sent them off in partners to finish the rest on their own using Speakaboos.com.


Oh, it was SO perfect.  Collaboration and technology.  I thought to myself "Why couldn't I be getting observed RIGHT NOW?!" Then all of a sudden, kids started yelling out my name.  Many with a frantic tone in their voice. "The website isn't working, Mrs. Stahl!"


Little did I know, there is a limit to how many students can be logged onto Speakaboos.com.  And we quickly hit that limit within 5 minutes.  I threw my hands up in the air and said "Forget this!"


No, no, I didn't do that. Instead, I modeled what a good problem solver does.  With the speed of lightening, I hopped on my computer and found some fables on YouTube.com.  But, of course, I don't want my kids to see the ads and all that jazz on YouTube so I had to put them into SafeShare.tv and add them to our website we use called Symbaloo.com (You can read how I use that here).

Crises diverted.

Moral of the story: Look before you leap into using a new website.

Happy Teaching!




Engaging with Games

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Games have always been my favorite way to learn, practice and review skills.  My fondest memories of school are times we played games to learn.  As a teacher, incorporating games makes your job easier because often kids don't even realize they are working their brains while having fun! I also *might* enjoy pretending I am a game show host from time to time!
Games aren't just fun--they are effective! {The DATA proves it!} You can reach that kiddo who can be difficult to motivate.  You can create a classroom environment with healthy competition and include life lessons on good sportsmanship. Ultimately, you can close the achievement gap.  If Robert Marzano said it, I believe it!
Tic tac toe and bingo are so easy to adapt to whatever skill it is that you are reviewing.  And there really is NO age limit! I remember playing "Element Bingo" in Chemistry class as a junior in high school. It was our favorite way to prep for a test!

The two activities pictured above are in my TpT store.  You can find all of my Fry Word Tic Tac Toe Boards here and this "make your own" Place Value bingo board here for free!
This game is practically NO prep (well, for the teacher) and it is a lot of fun! Let's say you just finished a unit on communities in Social Studies.  The first step is to have students generate questions about what they learned in the unit.  Or, you could provide students a study guide to focus their questions.  If you don't feel your students are up to the task or you don't have time to allow students to make the questions, you can create them instead.

Once students have questions ready, choose 3 geniuses (or is it geni?) to come up the front of the room and sit on chairs or stools or whatever you may have where they can be facing the rest of the class.  Next, choose a student from the audience to pose a question for one of the geniuses.  If the genius answers the question correctly, they stay up there on genius row.  If the student stumps the genius, they take their place.  Set a timer and play until time is up and whoever is left on the genius chairs, wins. Two things about the game--(1) I make sure my students who are asking the questions actually KNOW the right answer to the question and (2) I don't allow any 'yes' or 'no' questions.

You know all those indoor recess games sitting in your closet? Put them to good use! Pair a game with some task cards and you've got yourself a center! Low prep and engaging--win, win! Have students write their answers on a recording sheet for added accountability. You can switch out task cards easily and bam! It's a new game! Or, have students create a set of questions to tie in high order thinking! Of course, make sure the questions are legit and have accurate answers : )

Don't have many games?! Check out yard sales, Good Will, Salvation Army or ask around to family and friends.
I adapted this idea from someone on IG who drew a Connect 4 board on their whiteboard {I forget who it was, sorry!}.  I believe they adapted the idea from this photo on Miss 5th's Instagram.  Anywho, I made a digital Connect 4 board you can find here.

I decided to use the game to review 3 digit addition with regrouping.  Not the most exciting concept so pairing it with an engaging game was key! I split my class into two teams.  Everyone had a whiteboard so they could ALL solve a problem.  I told them I would be choosing 2 students at random--one from each team--to "face off".  After they had some time to solve, I had two students bring their boards to me so I could check them.  If they got it right, they made a move for their team.  If they got it wrong, they couldn't make move :( We played as if it was a real Connect 4 board so you could only draw a counter from the bottom up.  My students were SO engaged in doing their best to solve the problems.  It was just motivation they needed to put their skills in action!
If you not yet used Kahoot in the classroom, you MUST try it immediately!! Fortunately, I have six iPads in my classroom but you can also use laptops and even phones (maybe if your students are older and you are brave enough to do that!) 

Sign up for free at GetaKahoot.com Then, choose from their free library of quizzes. Or, you can create your own! Your students connect their devices by entering a code in the app or on the site Kahoot.it .  Once everyone connects and creates a team name, you are reading to play! The questions and multiple choice options are projected on the SmartBoard and students answer on their device.  After everyone has answered, it shows the game results.  This game is super interactive and fun! My students BEG to play!
I can't take credit for this game as I saw it on IG (and sadly, I forget where) but the person had borrowed the idea from something they saw being done at the Ron Clark Academy. You could really play it with any subject, I just chose to use math.

How it works: I googled pictures of celebrities/cartoons I knew my students are in to and placed their pictures in the game template.  We used this game to practice 3 digit subtraction with borrowing (another one of my least favorite math concepts to teach).  I set this up similar to Connect 4 except this time I didn't split my class into teams.  Everyone had their own whiteboard and I wrote a problem on the board.  Each student solved, then I picked a student at random to check their answer.  If they got it right, they went up to the board and put an 'x' in one of the boxes under one of the pictures.  Once a celebrity had 3 x's, I crossed of their picture and that celebrity was "out" of the game.  The last celebrity standing was the "winner".  I loved it because my students were not competing with each other but they were still highly motivated!

The last few days of school can be rough.  Everything is winding down. There are a lot of fun activities going on but there are still ways to include learning! Last year, I combined all of our favorite games into an Olympics-style competition.  You can read the details about it here.  It was the perfect way to wrap up the school year in an engaging way!

I hope you found a new game (or two!) that you'd like to try in your classroom.  If you are interested in creating a tailor-made version of one of these games for your students, check out my Engaging with Games templates!
They are editable so you can add whatever skill you want your students to practice.

Happy Teaching!



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