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This time of the year lends itself to learning about winter animals and one of my favorites to incorporate into reading and science is the penguin. When starting any kind of informational/non-fiction unit of learning, it’s good to start with a schema chart. Here’s an example of one I used in the past to assess what my kids thought they knew about penguins before we started our unit and understand what they hoped to learn as we explored the topic further.
A chart like this will stay displayed on the whiteboard throughout our unit of learning. This gives the kids an opportunity to add more information (new learning) to our chart and we read and learn more about penguins. I try to add a variety of non-fiction books to our class library and use those titles for read-alouds during both reading and science as well.
It’s a great idea to encourage students to gather facts that they can use as a resource when writing non-fiction pieces. I created this hands-on visual to help students gather their own facts as they learn more about penguins. The body of the penguin is a little pocket that stores the printable fish. The kids can write their schema and new learning on the fish templates and place the fish inside of the penguin pockets and retrieve when needed. I would have my kids store these in their science journals. You can grab the templates for FREE HERE.
If you’d rather have your kids add their new learning to an anchor chart, I also created a template where they can store their unit related vocabulary words. I’m a HUGE proponent of intentional vocabulary instruction and think this would be a great hands-on visual to help them store their words and word meanings. I would have the kids store these in either their science or vocabulary journals.
Of course, non-fiction reading and writing aren’t our only focus while we’re learning about penguins. I always incorporate as many fiction books as I can, too! Here are some of my most favorite…
One of our favorite fiction read alouds is The Penguin Who Wanted to Fly by Catherine Vase. This is a precious story of a penguin who wanted to fly so badly and tried several different solutions to help him do so, but in the end he just can’t make it work! BUT…he is able to swim 🙂 The kids LOVE this one! I also love the message…we might not be able to do some things we really want to do, but we CAN do what we’re able to. You can find the read aloud HERE on YouTube.
After reading this story, we talk about Flip Flop (the main character) and how he really wished he could fly. Then I encourage the kids to think about something they really wish they could do. We discuss the concept of making text to self connections and then complete this writing craft. You can grab the writing and craft templates for FREE HERE.
As always, we extend the “theme” into our literacy and math centers as well. Here’s an example of some of the activities we use in our literacy centers…
I hope these ideas and free printables help you as you plan this month!
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