2.20.2013

Rodeo Reading, Writing, and Crafts

It's rodeo season in my area.  It's the time of year when even urban Texans break out boots and bolos to celebrate our cowboy roots (or pretend we have any).  It's also a great time to explore western fiction and cowboy culture with students.

Get started by reading a few stories aloud.  With my little listeners, I began with The Gingerbread Cowboy by Janet Squires.  This story adds a cowboy twist to a familiar tale.  Students love being able to predict what will happen next in a book they've never read.  Then we read Jan Brett's Armadillo Rodeo in which a curious little armadillo wanders away from his mother into a rodeo full of exciting new sights and adventures.

After the read-aloud, let students brainstorm and recall what cowboys and cowgirls wear and do.
Then challenge students to explore their inner-mavericks by writing about what they would do or how they would dress if they were cowboys and cowgirls.

Make a math connection by showing students how cowboy outfits include symmetry.
Get this fantastic cowboy symmetry printable courtesy of author Loreen Leedy.  The download comes with a blackline activity as well as tips for teaching students about symmetry.

Our rodeo season begins just as Texas' state wildflower is beginning to bloom.  Students can practice fine motor skills by making paper bluebonnets.
For each flower, students need one wooden skewer, 2 green die cuts of the letter "O", 6-8 blue die cut "O"s, and a couple of Styrofoam packing peanuts.  I didn't have to ask many people before I found someone willing to donate packing peanuts they had lying around at home.
  1. Poke the skewer through one of the green "O"s on its long side.  Then poke through the other long side.  Now you have an "O" folded in half without being creased in the middle.
  2. Add the second green "O".  Then add all of the blue "O"s in the same manner.
  3. Poke the skewer through one packing peanut and into another.
  4. Spread the blue and green ovals out as necessary to make the flower look fluffy and full.
Older students can make these on their own, but remind them to be very careful with the pointed ends of the skewers.  With young children, you may want to include a piece of craft foam in your supplies.  Lay the foam on the table, so little hands can poke the skewer down through the paper toward the tabletop without scratching the table.
 When everyone is finished, you can group the flowers together to make a beautiful display.

2.02.2013

Happy Groundhog Day!

Groundhogs
Groundhog Day has been celebrated in the United States since the 1800s, when Pennsylvanians modified the centuries-old German tradition of observing the hedgehog's post-hibernation behavior in order to predict upcoming weather.

Punxsutawney Phil does not have an excellent record of accuracy after hundreds of years of predicting late-winter weather, but the tradition lives on, even in an era of modern meteorology, because we'll take any sign that warm weather is on its way.
Groundhog Day 2013 - CNN
This anachronistic holiday provides a perfect opportunity to discuss weather and folklore and to compare the way the tradition has been carried out in various cultures.  And of course, it's a great chance for a story time.

Visit the website for The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club in order to discover details about the history of the American tradition. 

Students can learn about other weather traditions by visiting Weather WizKids to find bunches of traditional weather folklore sayings.  Kids will also have fun with SciJinks' interactive weather folklore feature, which displays worldwide weather folklore.
Also check out the Weather Folklore and Weather Poems puzzles that are available to print and solve at The Science Spot Weather Lessons page.

Next, share some fun and interesting Groundhog Day stories. 
 I like to begin with Michelle Aki Becker's short, non-fiction book, Groundhog Day, which succinctly defines the details of the day.
After this factual story, share a few fun fiction stories like Punxsutawney Phyllis by Susanna Leonard Hill.
In this book, Phyllis the groundhog hopes to inherit the role of Punxsutawney Phil from her uncle and become the first girl groundhog to fill the position.  Get even more Groundhog Day story time and craft ideas from last year.

After the read-aloud let students play this Groundhog Day matching game from Speech Room News in order to help them memorize the details of the tradition.