Teacher confession time: I never used Scholastic until I started blogging. My depth of knowledge about the company and what they do for teachers started and ended with the free Instructor subscription I received one year. I had no idea of the extent of resources that Scholastic offered. It just recently occurred to me how much I’ve come to rely on their products and information.
I had to teach dinosaurs this week for the first time. I was excited and had a few ideas, but then what? In no time flat I was able to turn to Scholastic and unearth everything I needed and more for a week of dino-sized fun. My ideas are dinosaur-themed, but you’ll see how easily you could find everything you need from one website, with one stop, and without extra classroom cash.
Problem: I need leveled reading passages on dinosaurs that also promote reading skills.
I did a quick search on dinosaur mini books and found printable solutions for leveled reading. I found content-rich material for my emergent readers (and now also brilliant little paleontologists). Then I popped into Printables and found a quick passage to print with close reading skills already pulled from the text. And as often happens to me in Printables, I ended up finding some cute dino designs to use around the room, a syllable sort, and an emergent reader’s theater play.
Problem: I need to teach math and dinosaurs.
I found a printable addition game board that is exactly the same game we play in our Investigations math series, but printed on a dinosaur! What a lucky find! The design gave me an idea so I made a few more of our game boards with a dinosaur layout and retyped a few of our word problems with dino-language. Not to knock some paid-for teacher sites, but Printables is extensive, well laid out, easy to search, and backed by a name you can trust. If I’m going to spend $8 for a single printable on another site, I might as well spend $8.99 to get unlimited access to over 15,000 through Scholastic.
Problem: My lesson plans must include technology.
StudyJams include over 200 math and science interactives set in a cool, kid-friendly environment. Aimed for a slightly older audience, the attractive information on fossils was great instructional nonfiction text to read along with my students. Storia allows me to read an interactive book on my whiteboard with the entire class and they love the fun extras of enriched books. I picked Big Dinosaurs! for my class, but grabbed a couple more eBooks for my early finishers. Finally, the Whiteboard activities are great ways to introduce, support, or reinforce what we are learning. My kids that have to wait on busses at the end of the day have been playing with the dinosaur builder all week!
Problem: I don’t want to write lengthy in-depth plans. Who has time?
Scholastic Solution: Lesson Plans!
Maybe I’m the last late-adopter out there, but it never occurred to me that with all these resources, Scholastic would help with lesson plans. I suppose I imagined every plan being literature-based or only for use with a classroom magazine, but I found tons of dinosaur plans to build on and make my own! I lucked upon the Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins illustrator study, which happened to be a book in my classroom I wanted to show students. What luck to have a pre-made, whiteboard ready project!
Problem: I’m an overachiever.
Even with the endless number of activities I found, I still needed to make dinos my own. I saw several recipes for dinosaur eggs, but settled on a home-made mix of Plaster of Paris, water, sand, and dirt from my yard. Mixed into a sludge, I made eggs with plastic dinosaurs stuffed inside. Students had great fun breaking them open and then writing about how they became a paleontologist. I snagged fellow blogger Genia Connell’s biography people idea and made my kids into paleontologists to put their writing in. With the extra plaster mix, we made dino footprints in clay and filled them with plaster to make our own fossils.
Then I took our reading skills for the week (Long "o" and contractions) and made them into bone sorts for my kids to work on during centers, using my own bone and dinosaur designs. Finally, I displayed our work on a life-size baby brontosaurus in the hallway. We measured to see how long the legs should be and found he would barely fit on our wall. The tail had to curl around our neighbor’s hallway!
A couple years ago I would have spent hours scouring websites and books to develop ideas like the ones Scholastic already has for me. I know many fellow co-workers who pay unreliable sources for their work, just to get something in their hands. In one simple hour, I came up with more valuable, high-quality information than I could put to use and it sparked my own ideas as well. I’m a believer in one-stop shopping, and planning without Scholastic’s resources at my side? Well, that idea is extinct!
What hidden gems do you turn to when planning a new unit? Do you have any dinosaur resources to share?
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