Social Studies Integration with Balloons Over Broadway

How to Teach Social Studies in Elementary

Or how do I fit it all in?

Being a lower grades teacher I was always trying to integrate content into my reading block to get more bang for my book!! *wink* See what I did there. So I love to find books that I can tie to other content areas like science and social studies. Today I am going to show you how I use Balloons Over Broadway - the True story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Day Parade by Melissa Sweet.  I love to use this book to teach some of my social studies standards!

You can get the book on Amazon (I am an amazon affiliate meaning that by clicking this link to purchase the book I get a small portion of the proceeds) by clicking HERE or clicking the link below.

Image result for balloons over broadway

There are so many fun things that you can do with this book! 

First a quick synopsis this is a beautifully illustrated book that is Non-Fiction. It is the true story of Tony Sarg. A Puppeteer who changed the Macy's Day Parade making it what it is today! Tony was an immigrant who had a mind for engineering! (Can you say STEM challenge?)

This book is great for working on non-fiction skills such as questioning and summarizing along with overall reading skills like character, problem and solution and vocabulary. We start by a movie read of the book - by this I mean I read the book and the students are silent like we are watching a movie in a theater, no talking no discussing just pure enjoyment. Then we will discuss vocabulary. The students have a vocabulary page that they work on all week. I like to hang the book jacket (or a copy shh) up and post the vocabulary cards around it.  Each day I will reread part or all of the book doing more think aloud strategies depending on which skill we are working on for that day. I will also make an anchor chart if it is appropriate.

I used this book to work on the social studies skill (and reading skill) of compare and contrasting it is social studies because you are comparing and contrasting THEN and NOW. This is great because you can do it if you have a dedicated time or with another shorter practice page in reading! This is so great because they are recalling the book and comparing and contrasting as well. You can make a Venn Diagram anchor chart for this as a class then have students complete on their own.

I also use this for Map Skills. I love this because it is a real life example of how map skills are still relevant today with GPS and all.  It is also a great example of reading and following directions in real life! The students have to read and follow the directions to draw the parade route as well as answer questions about the map.

To culminate this unit my students participate in a STEM challenge creating their own balloon. The students will complete a STEM challenge book and then create their balloon and reflect. You can  then have your own parade! This is a great activity for the last Tuesday or Wednesday if you should be so unfortunate before Thanksgiving. The kids love it and are so engaged!

I really like using this the full week and then the short week before Thanksgiving break. It is the perfect way to keep them learning and engaged in meaningful activities. I hope this post gives you some ideas of how to incorporate other content standards into your reading. Teachers are so busy! Work smarter not harder!

If you have made it this far thank you! I am giving away a copy of this book and a $20 GC to Amazon to one lucky winner! Just fill out the rafflecopter to be entered. I will select next Tuesday and notify the winner on Instagram.

Would you like a sample of this for free? You can have it delivered to your inbox by joining my Krafty Insiders below!

7 Easy Ways to Teach Letters & Sounds with Movement and More

Every PreK and Kindergarten teacher knows that letters and sounds are the base for reading. Students must know the sound symbol relationship in order to start sounding out words. It's a great place to start! Even if you have a sight word reader letters and sounds will help them when presented with a word they don't know and in spelling and in turn writing. The first step in explicit direct phonics instruction is letters and sounds. This however can become monotonous for reluctant readers and students who just aren't quite developmentally ready. So I am here with 7 tried and true strategies for helping students learn their letters and sounds. These 7 strategies are fun and engaging and include outside of the box ideas for engaging other types of learners.

1) My first suggestion is to focus on lowercase letters. Since these are what 99.9% of text is made up of these are going to give you more bang for your buck so to speak.
A good strategy for this is to pair lowercase with capital letters to help students make the association and reinforce the lowercase while still emphasizing the lowercase. These letter activities are available in my TPT store! You can use them with bingo daubers, stickers or mini erasers (cause if you're like me you have so many of those lying around!) Click the picture below to check it out!

2) Make it hands on! Young children love to build with blocks and other items in primary classrooms! Use that love of building to have them build the letters (lowercase of course) this engages their tactile and hands on learning styles! Click the picture below to go to the bundle with all of these in my TPT store.

3) Use music and movement! Jack Hartman and Dr. Jean have songs to help students learn their letters. When I taught Kindergarten (back in the dark ages) we sang an alphabet song every single day for the first quarter! Sometimes the first semester depending on my students to practice and reinforce the letters and sounds! And now there's all kinds of videos to go with these songs! Just search youtube! The visual reinforcement is great! I just love technology sometimes! My favorite Dr. Jean song "Who Let the Letters Out" is linked. I love this one! The creator made it so the sound of the letters has to be provided by the audience.

This is also a cute visual option with the sounds
4. Have Your Students Trace the letters. This supports writing and reading while working on fine motor skills! These tracing mats are a great example with numbered steps and beginning sound reinforcing picture. It also includes capital and lowercase. There are these colored version pictures but also ink and money saving black and white that you can print on Astrobrights Cardstock! you can put these in a reusable sleeve or laminate for repeated use!
Click the picture to check them out!

 5) Make it meaningful. Letter books with several words that start with the letter that is being focused on are great for connecting the letters to words and showing examples of the different words that start with the letter giving students several options to remember and connect with. As an added bonus ABC books can be added to student book boxes as a book students feel confident in reading at Independent reading time. This can also be sent home to reinforce letters and sounds and reading at home! If you are in need of alphabet books you can click on the picture to grab these from my TPT store!

6) Make it a game! Students love to play a game. They don't have to know it's really a way to learn their letters and sounds! BAM! Letters and sounds is probably my students favorite. You lay all the cards face down. Students take turns drawing a card and saying the letter name or sound depending on the teacher's objective. If it is correct they keep the card if it is incorrect they must put it back. If a student draws a BAM! Card they must put ALL their cards (except the BAM or it will never end lol). 
They also like Roll and.... read, cover, trace etc.
To get the Letter and Sounds BAM Game click HERE
To get the 
Letter Sounds Activity - BAM Game
7) Move from less alike to more similar letters.  As you can see in the "frogger" letter activities below I started with letters that were not similar and progressed to ones that were very similar!

7) Add a robot! My students absolutely adore the Code and Go Mouse (affiliate link) from ETA hand to mind! And with the letters and sounds mat pieces I have created you can bet they will be learning their letters and sounds in no time. Super fun and engaging!

I hope this post has given you some ideas to make teaching letters and sounds more engaging! Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions in the comments!


4 Things you HAVE to Do the 1st Day of School

Your room is ready, perhaps you have had a Back to School or Meet the Teacher night, the stage is set, it's go time! But wait what do you do on the first day? Wether it's your first day of teaching or your first day in a new grade the first day is important. It sets the tone for the year. There's so much paperwork and boring stuff but what do you really NEED to do the first day? Having taught for years and years I have learned what you HAVE to do the first day and what can wait.

4 things you simply must do (in my humble opinion).

Greet Your Students and Make them Feel Welcome

Any grade you teach this is essential! When students walk in your classroom on the first day of school you want to be at the door to greet them! I KNOW there are a million things to collect from them and other things to do but this is SOOOOOOO important! Have something grade appropriate for them to do at their seats to keep them busy while you greet each one at the door and let them know how happy you are to have them in your class! I also like to hand out a little token the first day like these "smarties". I constantly tell my kids they are smarties and hand them out for different reasons!

 Begin Teaching Routines and Procedures

I know this seems strict but routines and procedures are key to classroom management and a smooth running classroom! I don't teach every procedure the first day but ones we need the first day are definitely taught! These include, how to come in the room, morning procedures, attendance and lunch count procedures, lining up, bathrooms, coming to and sitting on the carpet, cafeteria, recess and dismissal. I am a strong believer that children will try to do things the right way but how do they know if we do not explicitly tell them and model it for them. Even in upper grades, just because a student is in 4th grade doesn't mean they know how YOU want them to line up, what if their teacher last year didn't care if they pushed in their chairs, or didn't have flexible seating. New Year, New Teacher, New Classroom, NEW Procedures and Routines! Teach them how you want it done or don't expect them to know.

 Read to Them

This might seem like a given but I think it is SOOOO important in elementary to read to them from the very first day. It sets the tone that reading is super important! I think every teacher can agree with that not just me and my literacy loving self.
Check out THIS post for 7 of my favorite back to school read alouds.

Get to Know Each Other 

This might seem like another given but sometimes the first day or few days can be so hectic with paperwork and everything else that slips to the wayside when it should be front and center! Getting to know your students and beginning to build relationships with them should be your top priority. One activity I like is Jitter Beans which is in my First Day Jitters Reader Response Activities.
Wether you use this activity or something else start getting to know your students! Those relationships are everything. Whew,  glad we shared that! 

3 Things You COULD do the First Day

Now here are 3 things you could do to really make their first day amazing! Beyond fabulous the best first day ever! And Really I did these things almost every year!

Take their picture!

Your students (and their parents) will love having a picture of them! The pieces to make this frame are in my First Grade Back to School Activities

 Make Memories or Goals

A great way to start the year is by starting a memory book to keep track of all the memories you make this year or data notebook where they can track data and write down goals. I did memory books in K-2 and Data Notebooks with Goals in 4,5,6.

Engage Them!

Have fun with your students! I know the beginning of the year can be stressful with all of the paperwork and lack of sleep but capturing their hearts and engaging them in a variety of ways the first day is a surefire way to set a wonderful tone for the year. Play music, do GoNoodle, paint or do a STEM activity give them something to go home and tell their parents that today was the Best First Day of School ever and this year is going to be THE BEST ONE YET!


Getting Started With Seesaw

Seesaw is THE platform for distance learning! I used this when I taught first grade and loved it after seeing it at ISTE. The capabilities are amazing! It has grown so much in the two years since then it's even better with a free resource library and endless PD and Facebook support!

What is Seesaw?

Seesaw is a digital space or portfolio which collects students’ work digitally. You can also take pictures and upload physical work to share with families! I love doing this with writing samples! Hello easy organization and no more file folders!
This is especially handy come Parent Teacher Conference Time!

It’s a space that each of your students can use individually. It has built in tools to make it easy for your students to use. It is also equipped with a parent communication tool that parents can utilize. It includes options like sharing what’s going on in your classroom and time tracking to make school-home simple.

How Does Seesaw Work?

Using the Seesaw tools, students can login and create their own posts. Teachers can access these new posts and approve them. These posts will be organized in the student’s journal and parents or guardians may be able to see and access the child’s work. The Seesaw tool may also be used to for communication and feedback. 

Benefits of Seesaw

  • It empowers and motivates the students to document and save their works and their learnings.
  • It develops the student’s creativity and critical thinking skills. 
  • It is convenient and saves a lot of time in terms of sending assessments, feedback, webinars and newsletters.
  • It also creates and builds a strong foundation of communication between the students and the teachers as well as the parents and guardians.
  • It highlights the growth and personal development of each student.
  • It enhances and teaches students to adapt in a modern yet moderated and safe learning environment.

How to use Seesaw

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3! Download the Seesaw app on your device launch the app or go to their website

Then create your FREE account!

You can scan this QR code and get an extra month FREE of Seesaw Plus

Once you’ve signed in as a teacher, upload your professional looking picture, on your profile and include a few information about your classroom and the goals you want to attain for the year and you can already begin teaching. You will then begin to set up your class you can do this by clicking on the wrench shaped icon in the corner.

There you can add student names and info.

Above is what your teacher control panel looks like to access activities, create or add new ones, communicate with parents and see connected skills for standards based learning.

How does SeeSaw help with Parent Communication?
I love that my daughter's teacher jumped on the Seesaw bandwagon when she was in first grade (after attending my Seesaw PD at a district even haha) and I loved it even more when she got to have the same teacher for second grade! I can say from both a parent and teacher standpoint Seesaw is a fabulous learning tool!

Seesaw provides custom letters for students to take home that make it SO easy for parents to join Seesaw with the Family app! The letter even comes in different languages great for ESL and ELLs!

The green plus button is your go to for posting student work, assigning activities, creating new activities and sending parent announcements! You have the control over posting student content.

Few things you can do with Seesaw:

  1. Explain a math problem and help a student solve a problem using the in app drawing tool. 
  2. Share an interest in a topic.
  3. Record a story and share it via in app audio feature.
  4. Record a video of your storytelling or a science experiment and explain it via in app video feature.

You can see quickly who has responded to an activity and who hasn't!

For a more in depth tutorial on how you can integrate your teachings into Seesaw, you can join their webinars here:

You can even add stickers to work in Seesaw! If you're ready to do that check out this blog post HERE

If your district uses Clever and has QR codes Seesaw can be added to clever.
My first graders logging on the very first week of school! My advice is to just dive in and try it!

If you are in a rush and want preloaded activities you can check out mine on TPT!
I have them for CVC words HERE
and CVCE words HERE
more to come soon!