|General Unit Opener Information:
Unit Opener General Resources Page
Step by Step Unit Opener by Sarah Weininger, Saturn St. School
Powerpoint: What Is A Story? from Harding Elementary
Movie: Aesop's The City Mouse and The Country Mouse
Movie and Reader's Theater Script from Video in the Classroom.com
Movie: Tales from the Yard: Second Grade Horror Movie
Activities for the First Day of School
Book rotation: give each student two sticky notes (or a light bulb and a question mark) and one themed book. I use the bag of books for each unit each class received. Discuss how to rotate books (ie. hand your book to the person on your right without speaking) Give students 3-4 minutes to browse the books and when the timer goes off, have them jot a concept or a question down on one of their notes. Then rotate books. Begin timer again, and so forth. Continue for half an hour or so, then have a student collect the sticky notes and place them around the CQ board to start off the unit. Place the books somewhere accessible because by now the children will all want to go read what they haven't gotten to yet. My class loves this activity and we do it for each unit. It is great to get them excited about the new theme!
This really could be used for both the opener or closer. If you live in the L.A. area, you can contact the Screen Actor's Guild (or any other local actors' union) and ask for an actor to come read to your students. Another idea is to go to the public library and make 2 requests: 1st request applications for library cards and 2nd request that a librarian come to your school and introduce the public library to the class. Most really like to come and promote the public library. When the librarian comes to school, you can give the applications for the library cards. Finally, take a walking field trip If your school is close enough and pick up the library cards. Two tips to make it easier: 1st call ahead to make sure that the library cards are available and 2nd when students check out books from the library, send home a letter telling the parents when the books are due. If you can't walk to the library, you will have to go pick up the library cards yourself. I have found that once my students have a library card, they want to use it and they go to the library more often.
Here are step by step
directions for hosting a fairy tale party which would make a terrific unit opener or closer for the unit. Students can dress up as folktale characters and make invitations in folktale style.
We brainstormed storytelling. Some of my kids did not understand how to tell a story and could not differentiate when the author was using story telling. I had them brainstorm ideas for stories. They had to be their own original ideas. This is very hard for some of them. You could bring a flashlight, darken your room and create a campfire experience for the unit opener. I have not tried that one yet, just popped into my head that that is where the best stories come from!
On different days of the week we have our school principal, our nurse, custodian, office manager, and a parent come to our class to share their favorite story .
My unit opener was a happy accident: I was so excited to set up the library in my classroom that I just simply oohed and aahed over most of the books as they were put out. I told them why I loved ( not like!) the book, what or who it reminded me of, and any favorite part of the story. I then asked them to look at the books, take one to their desk and enjoy it ( I was sooo brave that day!). We then got back together to discuss why the book was chosen and why we liked it.
This is a simple shoebox decorated with pictures, stickers, or any items that are important to the student. Inside the shoebox they place 4-5 items that are special to them. I have my students share their boxes around a "campfire" (cellophane wrapped around a large flashlight and rolled up construction paper for the logs). We even "roast marshmallows" (marshmallows on straws).
Using crinkled brown butcher paper I create a wall of a cave in the classrom which students decorate with pictures from stories of their lives. We talk about how cave paintings were one of the earliest form of telling stories and link it to our classroom cave paintings. Students can also interview family members and then draw their stories on the cave painting or retell the story of our experiences as a class. This can become the basis for writing and gives the unit a larger context than just books. We also talk about dance and song as forms of story telling.
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