March 2017 - Susan Jones Teaching

Countdown to Summer! End of Year Activities

How many more days? Have you counted yet? 

Here on the East Coast we wouldn't start counting down the days until May at the earliest, but I know many school teachers that get out in mid-May and have already began counting down the school days left with their students. There is so much going on at the end of the year, those last couple weeks can seem like a blur, but I always wanted to do something FUN with my students to make those last days memorable (and also keep them learning!). 

Themed days are nothing new, but the end of the year is really when I like to let loose with these activities and encourage my students' creativity! The last 5 full days of the year we would have a countdown and I would let my students know that each day was a different theme and ALL DAY we would complete activities and games that relate to that theme.

I thought I would compile some of my favorite activities I've completed in the past and add a bunch of new ones into one, easy unit! So I created The Countdown to Summer!

I wanted to make something EASY for teachers and FUN for students so I think I combined both of those aspects into this unit. I created five full days of lessons and activities that correlate to a different theme. Many of the lessons have m ore than one option for the teacher to pick and choose from!

The themes I decided on are all ones I've done in the past and have been hits in my first grade classroom! They are:
1. Camping
2. Friendship
3. Sports
4. Memories
5. The Beach

and for each day there are activities, lessons, and printables for the following:
- Reading
- Phonics
- Writing
- Math
- Social Studies/Science
and there is a fun craft and snack idea for each day as well!

Here is a rundown of the first themed day, Camping:
In math, students practice addition with a fun game called Catch 'Em where they are adding numbers and comparing their sum to their partners. 

Now before you're all like, "Ummm... I don't have time to print and laminate all these centers at the end of the year!!!" Don't fret! For every game that has a color activity, there is also a black & white "print&go" version! 

 For each day, I have a book suggestion and 2 comprehension skills to review! For camping, I went with the fun, rhyming book A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee and the skills are retelling as well as using context clues to determine the meaning of vocabulary words.
Again, no worries - if you don't have the book or don't want to find it, I created a printable passage that works on the SAME skills!

 In phonics, students practice long vowel teams with a quick and easy "Read & Illustrate" passage about a king and queen who cross their moat for a little walk. 

How to writing was the focus for camping day! I included FOUR different how-to prompts - all relating to camping! They make for some fun explanations!

There are 2 fun science activities included: a STEM activity to build your own tent using play dough, toothpicks, and a piece of paper. Or you can also take your students on a quick nature walk where they can use their senses to complete a graphic organizer on what they notice in nature.

For the craft, a handprint fire makes for a fun activity:

And for snack options I, of course, included s'mores, but I also liked the idea of choosing 50 of your own pieces to create a little trail mix to eat in class or take home!

Pin it:

If you want to grab ALL 5 days worth of activities, just check out my end of the year activities below:


Creating An All About Book: A Beginning Research Project

Creating an All About book is honestly my favorite writing project of the entire year. My students just get so into it. I think it has to do with the fact that they feel like real researchers and they get to share their fun facts and findings with the rest of the class. I also love that this project has students practicing all different types of writing and while it includes the "traditional" paragraph writing pages, it also has other fun pages for students to share what they've learned about their animals.

I thought I would take a little time to share how we complete these informative research books in my first grade classroom.

Before we begin the project I head to a few local libraries and gather as many books as I can for 6-8 different animals. Some class favorites in the past have been:


I am sure to make the categories myself so I can control the amount of books I can gather for these animals so they are sufficient enough to run a research project! If I taught an older grade I may just let every student choose whatever animal they wanted, but it can be difficult to find books for my first graders to be able to read independently which is why I like to control this portion.

On the first day, my students simply complete a book walk to decide which animal they would like to research. I spread the books out all around the room, grouped by their animal and students spend 2-3 minutes at each station reading about the animals.
At the end, my students will vote for their top 3 animals they would like to research. I let my students know that they WILL get one of their top 3 animals, even if they don't get their first choice. That night, I put my students into groups based on their choices (usually 3-5 students for each animal).

Once their groups are made, we dive in! My students like to read their books and share some fascinating facts they have found about their animals.

Throughout the 3-4 week reading and writing project we dedicate time to all sorts of nonfiction text features and different types of nonfiction writing. In order to complete many of the pages, we have to research first! While I want my students to read the books, I also want them to get used to searching online databases and websites for information we need as well. 

I gathered 5 of my favorite websites for young students to research their animals and explained a bit about each one below:

You need a license for this site, but is SO kid friendly and my first graders learn a ton from the different databases. There is one for animals, science, biographies, and social studies. In the animal database they can learn all the basics about many different animals, watch videos of the animals and even hear the animals make noise.

This site has many different articles about all sorts of animals and has great photographs of the animals. Your students will definitely be intrigued by the fun comparisons. Did you know a polar bear weighs more than a piano and is shorter than a school bus?

The famous San Diego Zoo has their own website for kids to showcase the animals they have at the zoo. They include photos and facts such as where in the world each animal lives, what their habitat is, and what they like to eat.

Ranger Rick's website has plenty of facts for students to learn all about their favorite animals from amphibians to mammals to reptiles!

The Wild Kratts on PBS is a fun show about two brothers who are always trying to save an animal from something. Along the way, you learn all sorts of fun facts about those animals. On their website they have a "Creaturepedia" where students can click around and search for animals by grouping, region or habitat. 

As we work through the project, students complete their very own:
- Cover page
- Table of Contents
- Dedication Page
- Different Types Page
- Diagram
- How to Page
- Where ____________ Lives Page
- What _____________ Eats Page
- Glossary

As we complete each page, I show examples and model creating my very own page in front of the class:
click to enlarge

My students actually make each of those pages TWICE since we do rough drafts, edit, revise, and then publish our books! So every students will have a 9-10 page book by the end and many of your "fast finishers" will add more pages to tell different fun facts about their animals! I also have some of my fast finishers go back and add in some fun captions with an activity I call "caption action!"

The books come out quite amazing at the end and both students and parents are impressed! Here are a few pages from some of my students in the past (the pictures are from a camera phone like 5 years ago, so don't mind the quality!):

click to enlarge any of the above pictures!

You can grab all the lesson plans, templates, teacher tips, and more shown above in my All About Book unit! Just click on my informative writing cover below:

You can grab this unit discounted too, if you want to grab the bundle of my first grade writing units which also includes an opinion writing unit and a personal narratives unit:

Pin it:


Free St. Patrick's Day Activities

St. Patrick's Day is a fun holiday in the first grade classroom! There is just enough innocence in those little students' eyes to make them really wonder if leprechauns actually exist. I have shared a few blog posts in the past about what we like to do on St. Patrick's Day in my classroom, but today I thought I would share 6 fun, FREE activities with you from bloggers all over:

I have used this directed drawing before with my first graders and they come out looking SO CUTE! In fact, I have Jennifer's whole year of directed drawings and they are always a hit.
Download it via her blog, here

This was the first close reading passage and poem I created for my holidays unit and I decided to make it a free download for teachers to try with their class! Each holiday has it's own nonfiction passage with a vocabulary and comprehension sheet. There is also a fun, fiction poem for each holiday as well. 
Download the one above via my TPT store, here.

This loopy leprechaun craft and writing activity is easy to make since Cara gives you all the templates! I love reading what my students write for when they feel the luckiest!
Download this craft via her blog, here.

Erica has a bunch of these fun banners that are perfect to decorate when you have some downtime in the classroom! Personally, I would've loved to have these after recess. A nice little coloring, calm down activity that only takes a few minutes and makes for a cute display in the classroom.
Download this banner via her TPT store, here.

Have some students still working on identifying their teen numbers?! I could always identify a few students at this time of year who could use some practice with number identification in the teens. I love how she uses gold coins to cover the shamrocks - so fun!
Download via the blog, here.

One of my favorite read alouds during St. Patrick's Day is Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato. We talk allllll about being lazy and I like to focus on cause and effect with this lesson! I typed up a ready-made, one-page lesson plan for you with talking points and the page numbers the questions are asked. There is also a reading response sheet and a writing response sheet for your students to complete after they read the story.
Download via my newsletter, here.

I hope you can use some of those lessons for the holiday coming up soon!

Pin it:

Back to Top