My Wild Self Project ~ Animal Classifications Introduction

I am always searching for creative ways to introduce new topics of study to my classroom in order to get those kids hooked right away!  I literally stumbled upon this one totally by accident.  I found this great FREE site called: Build Your Wild Self (from the New York Zoos and Aquarium!  Student go on the site and design themselves using a variety of components of different animals of their choice. (see center picture)  We printed our “Wild Selves” and colored them (no color printer in our classroom).

DSC00113On the bottom of the picture that prints is a list of the animals that were used in the creation of the Wild Self.  We then did some research!  Students had to research each of the individual animals that made up their wild selves and find out their animal classification, interesting facts, and a picture (or they could draw it).  They were SO engaged in doing the research about the different animals (many are very unusual ones).


Now that students have had a little taste of Animal Classifications and how they work, we can begin our unit!  We displayed the fact cards on a sheet of 12 x 18 construction paper.  Pretty minimal supplies are required for this project, just construction paper, crayons/markers, scissors and glue, and access to the Internet and a printer!


These look great hanging up on a bulletin board!  Click here to grab the FREE pack!  Go find your WILD SELF!


Creating Greek Pottery during our Literature Unit

We are reading, The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan and studying Greek mythology.  The kids are SO into it!  We just created our own Greek pottery examples and will be writing myths to go with them!  This was such a fun and engaging project for my kids and I cannot wait to extend it into a writing project later this week!


I bought plastic terra cotta pots, black sharpie markers, and black tissue paper from Amazon in order to complete this project.   Click here for the link to the FREE project sheets in my TpT store for this activity!  I can’t wait to see the writing they come up with now that they have these pots as an inspiration!



Creating Infographics

We are currently studying space in science and I found a really cool new book about it!   Information Graphics: Space, by Simon Rogers.


This book got me thinking…I’ll bet I can do this with my kids!  Infographics are all around us nowadays and I know my students will love making their own with paper piecing and other art supplies.

What is an infographic?

An infographic is an artistic representation of data and information using different elements, such as:

graphs, pictures, diagrams, narratives, timelines, checklists, etc.

Here is one example I found on-line…


Infographics allow us to give information in a more engaging way. There are even free sites where you can make them on-line and then print them.  Click here for just one of these sites!

We are going to get to work making our own inforgraphics about space and I will be sure to share them as soon as we are done!

Planet Flapbooks…Take two!

We are working on our planet flapbooks right now.  I do these almost every year because it is one of those writing projects the kids really love.  This year I decided to add another element to the presentation of the report and I LOVE IT (so do the kids)!


This project is pretty easy to set-up!  You will need three sheets of white paper (size 9 x 12) to make the flapbook and then just staple them at the top once they are folded.  I placed everything on a sheet of cardboard as a base.  We used a white index card for the planet name, AND the best part… the dome with the planet model inside!  Our planet models are made with Crayola Model Magic and we stick a paper clip in the top of them.  They are hanging up with yarn that is hot glued to the top of the dome.  The dome is simply a 2 liter bottle with the top cut off.  How cool is that???


Students were able to choose their own section headings based on the information they had on their planet.  We got planet information from several sources, including:, books about the planets, and multiple websites (using our Chromebooks).  Each section includes writing as well as illustrations.


One of my newest favorites in space books is…


Did you know there are now 13 planets in our solar system?  The original nine (I know Pluto is technically a dwarf planet) are still in the set, but they have added more dwarf planets.  They are Haumea, Makemake, Eris, and Ceres.

My students are totally fascinated by all of the planets!

Pairing Novels with Picture Books ~ Flora and Ulysses and The Secret Life of Squirrels

We read and use novels for our reading instruction.  As a way to teach additional skills and to integrate writing into this reading instruction, we often use picture books that are related to the novel we are reading.  We will be reading the book, Flora and Ulysses by Kate DeCamillo next.  This is such a great book.  Not only is it a Newbery Winner, the topic is so kid friendly and easy to read!  The kids will LOVE this book, I am sure!


Holy unanticipated occurrences! A cynic meets an unlikely superhero in a genre-breaking new novel by master storyteller Kate DiCamillo.

It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is the just the right person to step in and save him. What neither can predict is that Ulysses (the squirrel) has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry — and that Flora will be changed too, as she discovers the possibility of hope and the promise of a capacious heart. From #1 New York Timesbest-selling author Kate DiCamillo comes a laugh-out-loud story filled with eccentric, endearing characters and featuring an exciting new format — a novel interspersed with comic-style graphic sequences and full-page illustrations, all rendered in black-and-white by up-and-coming artist K. G. Campbell.

One of the picture books we are going to use with this novel is, The Secret Life of Squirrels, by Nancy Rose.


Adorable squirrels as you’ve never seen them!

You may think you know what squirrels do all day…but Mr. Peanuts is no ordinary squirrel. Instead of climbing tress, he plays the piano. (“Moonlight Sonutta” is his favorite.) Instead of scurrying through the woods, he reads books (such as A Tail of Two Cities). But everything is more fun with company, so Mr. Peanuts writes a letter to Cousin Squirrel and invites him for a visit!
Featuring candid photographs of wild squirrels in handcrafted, homemade miniature settings, this irresistible book is sure to surprise and delight readers and animal lovers of every age!
We will use this picture book as a mentor text for a writing project.  Students will write their own “Secret Life of ____________” pieces on the animal of their choice.  I think they will really get into this writing project.  They will need to do some additional research about the animal they have chosen to use, so we will need to use our Chromebooks or non-fiction books from the library.
I am also planning on having the students write informational reports on squirrels.  I found a great book to get for each of the six tables as a resource.  Here it is…

Did you know that a groundhog is really a type of squirrel? That squirrels control their body temperature with their tails? That most squirrels have yellow-tinted eye lenses that work like sunglasses to reduce glare? That tree squirrels can turn their hind feet completely around when climbing down a tree head-first? In Squirrels: The Animal Answer Guide, Richard W. Thorington Jr. and Katie Ferrell unveil the fascinating world of one of the “most watched” mammals on the planet.

The diversity of squirrels is astounding. There are 278 species that inhabit all continents except Antarctica and Australia—varying in size from the lumbering 18-pound gray marmot to the graceful pygmy flying squirrel that is smaller than most mice. In many parts of the world they readily share human habitats, joining us for lunch in a city park, raiding our bird feeders, and sneaking into college dorm rooms through open windows. Reviled as pests or loved as an endearing amusement, squirrels have played important roles in trade, literature, and mythology.

Thorington and Ferrell cover every aspect of this diverse animal family, from the first squirrels of 36 million years ago to the present day. With over one hundred photographs and an intuitive question-and-answer format, this authoritative and engaging guide sheds light on a common mammal that is anything but commonplace.

I have created a novel unit for the book.  I am currently working on adding a writing section to the unit for the writing elements, so stay tuned!
*Click on any of the pictures to go to the links to purchase the books and/or the unit!
We will also be doing comic strips and we will be working on Superhero STEM Challenges, as well!
I know the kids will love trying out these Superhero STEM challenges!  I have been working out some additional ideas as well, like inventing our own superheroes, etc.
Do you have any other great ideas to use with this novel?  Please share in the comments section!

Two Voice Poetry with The City of Ember


I love doing poetry with my students.  I believe writing poetry makes them better writers and readers.  We keep poetry notebooks and we write poetry 2-3 times a week.  One of my favorite types of poems are two-voice poems.  We are currently reading the book, “The City of Ember”, by Jeanne DuPrau and we created a city-scape of the gray/black buildings in Ember with watercolors and watercolor pencils on half of an 8.5 x 14 sheet of paper.  On the other half of the paper, students create a picture of a brightly colored object of their choice.


Students then write two separate eight-line poems, one for each of the pictures they have created.  These separate poems are written on blank 4 x 6 index cards.  We add borders in thin markers to each of the cards keeping with the color scheme of the painting and the poem.


Next, students write the combined poem by alternating the lines of the two separate poems.  We write the merged poem on a sheet of white cardstock paper.  The students place the four items onto a background sheet of 12 x 18 construction paper.  Once they are compiled, I laminated them so they would stay together.  They look great in the hallway!


Students love reading their two-voice poems aloud!  We read them many different ways, including: with a partner, on their own, as a table group, and even as a whole classroom.  They loved these poems and it was incredible how well the poems worked together even though they were so different separately!


Why not try two-voice poetry in your classroom?  Use just about ANY topic!

Statistical Analysis with m&m’s ~ So much fun!

We just finished a math project that really caught the kids’ attention.  We did a statistical analysis of standard size bags of m&m’s candies.  The company claims that there are a certain percentage of each color of m&m’s in each standard sized bag.  We used this packet to test the claim and they turned out amazing!




We compiled all of our work into a spiral bound report.  They look great hanging up in the room.  Here is the packet on TpT if you are interested (it is $4).


The packet covers pictographs, bar graphs, circle graphs, data landmarks, converting fractions to decimals to percents, and more!  This is a great way to make a real-world connection with math!