More Butterfly Writing

As we’re wrapping up our study on butterflies, I wanted to post a couple of ways we integrated writing into our unit.  I have been SO proud of his attitude while writing lately.

1.  Butterfly Life Cycle

I read Becoming Butterflies by Anne Rockwell.  This book tells about the life cycle of Monarch butterflies and we compared it to what had happened with our painted lady butterflies.

He worked the butterfly life cycle puzzle from Lakeshore.  This served as a quick review.  I believe it is discontinued now, but I found the set at yard sale recently for $2.

I folded over pieces of paper and created a flip chart to show how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly.  He used pictures and words from the book to help him draw and write the words.  Something I noticed is that chrysalid and chrysalis seem to be interchangeable.  Maybe I’m wrong…and if I am, please correct me!

On the top page, he wrote Becoming Butterflies.

Here are a couple of his inside pages:

egg- 1st page

butterfly- last page

This flip chart concept could be adapted and used with many different content areas.

Just a few that pop in my mind right away are:

  • retelling a story in order
  • helping a child understand where they live: city, state, country, continent would go on the pages and the child would draw pictures of those things on the inside flaps
  • writing math problems: for example, 4+5 could be written and when it’s  flipped open, the child writes the answer and maybe draws pictures or writes words to show how she got the answer

2. What Did You Learn?

I read It’s a Butterfly’s Life by Irene Kelly.  This is VERY interesting book.  For example, did you know that a caterpillar’s poop is called frass?  Some caterpillars can even “shoot” their frass up to 3 feet (we pulled out a yard stick to see just how far that was)!  There were parts of the book that were WAY over his head, so I paraphrased or skipped those.

Before reading, I told ALuv that this book contained very interesting and even gross facts about butterflies.  This really engaged him, as he wanted to get to the gross parts.

During reading, I kept commenting, “Wow!  I didn’t know that before!” or “That’s so cool!”  He made comments as well.

After reading, I asked him what facts he remembered the most.  We engaged in dialogue about this, as I shared mine.  Once he established his favorite, I asked him to draw a picture showing it.  I walked away as he worked, so as not to “hover” (as my husband calls it).

This is what he drew:

A green caterpillar with large eye spots.

Once he had his picture drawn, I asked him to tell me about it.  I helped him narrow down the sentence he wanted to write and I set him free to write it.  I listened.  No whining…no crying…not an utterance of  “But I can’t!”.  After a couple minutes of silence, I was intrigued.  I simply walked by to see what was happening.  He had already written two words: The caterpillar.  He had used the flip chart I mentioned above to spell caterpillar!  I was so proud!!

He used the Word Wall to spell several other sight words.  A few times, he did ask for help.  When he did, I modeled how to stretch out the words.  He said the words, too and wrote down the sounds he heard.  Stretching out words and writing down the phonemes is a great way to further develop a child’s phonemic awareness; a necessary skill for reading!

This is the final work:

The Caterpillar can scar othr animls uwa with thr big is.

(The caterpillar can scare other animals away with their big eyes.)

This reading mama’s favorite was UWA for away…brilliant!  Okay, so I am aware that he has a capital C at the beginning of caterpillar and that this “fact” isn’t entirely true…they’re really eye spots, but who cares?!?!  I could not stop praising him for his good attitude and hard work.  His handwriting looks amazing!  Just about a month ago, he didn’t even understand how to use the lines.  Now, he can use them independently!  Yay!

What do I think made such a big difference in a month’s time?  I believe it all boils down to best teaching practices that work in any content area:

  1. Modeling: If you remember, when he wrote in his journal about our butterflies, I modeled “correct” letter formation on a lined dry erase board; which I found at Target in their $1 bin last year.  He has also repeated the sentence strip handwriting activity; which gives him a good model with letter formation.
  2. Multiple Exposures:  I bumped up my expectations with him.  We write almost every day now.
  3. Meaningful Practice: Not worksheet after worksheet, but fun and authentic reasons for writing.

And…an old trick I had forgotten until recently:  Let him draw his picture first.   Drawing tends to be easier (and more fun) for kids at a young age and a less daunting place for them to start.  Encourage them to fill their pictures with lots of details.  When they’re done, ask them to describe their picture to you so they can verbalize their thoughts.  They may even allow you to label their picture.  Then, help them to figure out what they want to write down based off their picture.

Saturday's Sites

Passing along more great online literacy resources today…

  • I found an awesome online resource related to a question I posted earlier this week on Facebook: What things do you do with your child to keep her from forgetting what she learned the previous year in school?  This PDF ebook gives MANY  ideas of things to do during the summer months.
  • Annie @ The Moffatt Girls has posted Unit 3 from her Ready2Read series.  Free printables and lesson plans…gotta love that!
  • Michelle @ Beginning Reading Help has a great post with free online stories.  I’ve already checked quite a few of them out and am impressed.  Michelle is right in saying that kids love computer time, so here’s a sneaky way to get some more literature in there!

From Caterpillar to Butterfly

The cool thing about literacy is that you can integrate it with any other content area.  Take, for instance, the caterpillar kit we have from Insect Lore.  As a public school teacher, I did this and the students LOVED it.  I have to admit that I was quite fascinated with it myself. 🙂  Jenae from I Can Teach My Child mentioned it on Facebook and it gave me the push I needed to do it with my own kids!  It took about a week for the caterpillars to arrive in the mail.

Here’s how this reading mama integrated science and literacy:  I had ALuv make observations daily and when he noted a change in the process, he wrote about it in a journal.  Quite simple, really.  When I told him this is what we were going to do, he replied by excitedly saying, “Oh, I get to use a journal just like Sid the Science Kid!”

Below are just some pictures of the journaled journey from caterpillar to butterfly…I’ll spare you from every entry of his journal.

The caterpillars are black and little. – May 20

The caterpillars are bigger with stripes.  -May 23

They poop green poop.  They are getting fat. -May 24; Mom’s favorite sentence…what can I say?!?

The caterpillars are hanging upside down. -May 26

May 27

And finally…

Now they are butterflies! -June 6

I also had him write about some of the butterfly behaviors he noticed while they were in the habitat.  Here is a really cool picture and one of his entries:

If you look carefully, you can see the proboscis (straw-like tongue) coming out to drink the orange.

They are drinking the orange juice. – June 5

The process of getting him to write: After ALuv would make his daily observations, I asked him to narrow down what he wanted to write about.  He would tell me his sentence, then on my lined dry erase board, he would help me write the words.  (We stretched out the words, listening for sounds & used our Word Wall for sight words.)  Using my handwriting as his guide, he would copy the sentences.  And as you may have noticed, his handwriting is getting MUCH better!!  Yay!

Just a side note: For this assignment, I preferred that his spellings be conventional because this text will be read over and over.  There are other times where invented spellings are perfectly fine, like when he wrote HAPPE BERTHDA (Happy Birthday) to MBug the other day.

We released our butterflies on Monday of this week.  When one of our butterflies came out of his chrysalis, he had  a torn wing and was unable to fly away.

ALuv tried so hard to get the butterfly to fly, but he just couldn’t.

So ALuv decided we should keep him.  His name is officially Flutter and he still lives in our playroom.  He now has some green leaves and flowers from our yard to keep him company.

ALuv wanted to include one last page for Flutter.

I let 4 butterflies go, but not Flutter.  His wing is broken.- June 5

I left him to draw the picture on his own and was very impressed when I returned with the attention to details!  Usually, he draws the bare minimal and refuses to give me any details.  ALuv made a cover for his journal and we put the pages in order (this integrated some math skills as he had to look at the dates and get them in the right order) and we stapled it all together.

He was very proud of his finished product…See How They Grow

Here are a few of the read aloud books we read together during this process, yet another way to integrate literacy:

  • The Polliwog and the Caterpillar by Jack Kent
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • It’s a Butterfly’s Life by Irene Kelly (loads of cool facts in this one)
  • Becoming Butterflies by Anne Rockwell (Monarch butterfly)
  • Butterflies and Moths by Kathryn Knight (Target $1 bin)

FROG In the BOG

After spending a few months in short a word family land :), ALuv and I moved onto short o word families.  This introduction came a day or so after we did this sort with short a and short o pictures.

This sort comes from Word Sorts for Letter Name-Alphabetic Spellers.  It contains 3 short o word families (OP, OT & OG).  I didn’t know if ALuv would be ready to do three, but I thought we’d at least give it a try.  I was pleasantly surprised.

The thing I like about these resources from Words Their Way is that they have notes for the teacher (or mama) in the front on how to introduce and practice each of the sorts.

The first thing we did was a rhyming sort with all the pictures.

Next, I laid out all the words and he matched words with the pictures.

We went back through each column and talked about how the rhyming words all had “the same last name” (as my mom says) or pattern.

I mixed all the words up again and ALuv re-matched them.

The last thing we did was read Frog in the Bog by Karma Wilson, finding all the OG words.

As we were finishing up the lesson, he asked me, “Are you going to put this lesson on your blog?”  But before I could answer, he said, “Hey, that’s an OG word-blog!”  Yep, he got it!

April Showers

It has rained a tremendous amount over the last 3 weeks where we live!  And then there’s also the old saying: “April showers bring May flowers.”  So we did a few rain activities together.  I meant to post this last week, but forgot…

Day 1:

Read aloud Rain by Robert Kalan (illustrated by Donald Crews).  I would classify this book on a mid-Kindergarten reading level.  ALuv then read it to us (with a little help from me).

Just a note: The book now resides on our white Ikea shelf in the playroom, which helps to remind me to ask him to re-read it a few more times.  Once he has it down independently, I’ll put the book in his ALuv Can Read bin (below).

Read & sang the nursery rhyme Rain on the Green Grass, which I had posted on my kitchen wall.  I picked this rhyme because our sight words for these two weeks are and &  not.  The poem also reviews other Word Wall words (on, the, & me).

We patted our knees to make the rain sound as we sang it in a little song together.

If you’ll notice, I have green grass underlined.  We looked out our windows and took turns changing those lyrics as we sang the song again.  These were some of our other lyrics…Rain on the black road, blue swing, red flowers, green trees, and blue van (NJoy’s favorite…we sang that one each time it was his turn!!).

Writing/Coloring Time: NJoy colored some pictures with the rain theme from DLTK.  His favorite thing about the rain are the “rainbrellas”–why do we call them umbrellas?!?  I like NJoy’s word choice much better! 🙂

While NJoy colored, I started ALuv on writing and illustrating his own Rain book.  I drew some lined paper (see below) for him to use for the book.  On the first 2 pages, I had already written Rain on the and he had to finish the sentence using a color word and an object on which it could rain.  (For example: Rain on the red locomotive).  Once his sentence was complete, he had to draw and color the pictures.  He did these two pages on Day 1 and then we stopped for the day.

For the paper we used on day 1, click here: Rain on the…

Day 2:

Read aloud The Napping House by Audrey WoodWhile reading Rain on Day 1, I was reminded of this book.  It’s one of my mom’s favorite books and has become one of mine, too.  I also have the big book, but couldn’t find it in the attic; which needs a serious organizational overhaul–any volunteers?!? 🙂

Re-read Rain (we shared the reading)

Sang Rain on the Green Grass like Day 1, except we added some spice by singing it fast and slow, while patting our legs fast and slow.

Writing & Coloring: NJoy colored again (the boy loves to color!) while ALuv finished his Rain book.

On the next 3 pages, ALuv had to write the entire sentence and the draw pictures to go with them.  Here’s the paper he used for that: blank writing paper.

On the last page, he spelled the word RAINBOW with rainbow stickers from Target’s $1 bin.

We took 11×14 construction paper and covered & stapled the book together once he was finished.  It now resides in his ALuv Can Read Bin.

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