Graphic Organizers Galore!

If I can organize my thoughts, ideas, questions, feelings into graphics, then I’m all about it. Language learning is so much more enriching when pictures can be associated to word concepts. Sometimes it takes a short video clip to see the concept in motion or maybe an action that can be associated with the meaning of the word. All of these elements, whether used alone or in combination, help to further instill language and new terminology. 

We can talk all day about healthy foods and read about eating a rainbow of foods. But it doesn’t really help us if we only know a few of each colored food. I created this food color wheel to go along with our book from Reading A to Z, A Rainbow of Foods. I put up a picture of some colorful foods, we referenced our book and completed this healthy food wheel. This helped my students a lot with more ways to eat healthy and better snack choices. 

This organizer came straight from the Reading A to Z activities with the non-fiction text, The Foods We Eat. In this text we learned about where different foods come from and how they are made. Students had to brainstorm some of their favorite foods and figure out if they were plant eaters or meat eaters. Again associating a word with a picture and even a partial definition in this case with explaining the where. Some students took it a step further by telling where exactly their food came from.  

A story we read from the My Sidewalks on Reading Street collection had a similar picture that I drew up as a labeling activity. The book had this diagram at the end of the section for students to look over and read. I created this document for the students to physically label the plant parts between a flower and a vegetable. This activity was completed with first graders but can easily be modified for up to third grade, depending on how many parts you’d like to label.  

Not every graphic organizer has to include graphics. Sometimes just the movement and separation of words and phrases gives the visual or kinesthetic learner a different approach to understanding. This is where good old Venn diagrams,  t-charts, or KWL (know, want, learned) charts come in handy.

These types of graphic organizers are my absolute fave! They are so versatile and of course can be tailored to anyone’s needs. I first discovered them through Vocabulary A to Z, a branch of the Reading A to Z collection. Sometimes I choose the words to be defined and other times I make a list of vocab words for the students to pick the words they need a more clear understanding of. Students look up images on Google, our text, or from our discussions. For the more advanced students, we take our words and illustrations to the next level by writing a sentence about them.  

And then there are always more graphic organizers that are just more visually pleasing ways to share and keep track of information. Sometimes it’s good to physically see the connections between different things and how they correlate with like topics. Other times it’s good to make a timeline or number line to list out events in chronological order to get a grasp on time itself and the significance of events. 

Whatever works best for your students and you is something to take and run with.  My personal favorite is the vocab words with matching illustrations, which can be used across the board in various content areas and learning abilities.  I hope this blog will help you and your students to further develop language skills and comprehension overall. These are definetly big hits with my kiddos. 


Satisfying a Masterpiece

This creative art piece was created by all of our ELL students as a gift to our beloved ELL teacher that is retiring. The concepts were brought together by two fourth grade students. One had the idea of color where the other had ideas of clouds, land, and a dark circular void in the middle of it all. We were able to combine those ideas into a large scale stained glass window design. Using pieces of colored broken glass we began laying the ground works for our masterpiece. As the day went on, we got students from each grade level to join in with laying the glass.

Dr. Gennie is the real mastermind when it comes to creating stained glass art. She carefully showed each student the ropes of each step of the window design, the layout, glueing all the pieces, to the grout work, polishing the entire piece, and of course giving it a name. We assigned different tasks to each grade level. Our kindergarten friends helped name the masterpiece, “Piece by Peace.” Our first graders helped to shine and polish the beautiful work. Much of the glueing took place by the careful hands of our third and fourth graders.

Silicone is used to adhere the glass pieces to the window. We used Popsicle sticks to spread the silicone onto the glass then carefully place the pieces back in their rightful place on the window. It is a tedious task that our wonderful third and fourth graders excelled at. The next step is adding the grout in between the pieces of glass to really hold everything in. Once the grout is inserted, it’s time to polish the masterpiece and do the clean up work. Cleanup work had to be completed by teachers since you have to use x-acto knives to dig out excess grout and silicone. We used water and wool socks to shine the glass and clean the window frame.


Eat the Rainbow

It’s important to eat a rainbow of healthy foods each and everyday. But why is it so important? What foods are considered healthy? How can we enjoy more of a rainbow when we eat? After reading the story “A Rainbow of Foods” we have been discussing these same questions and more. The story broke down many different fruits and vegetables that we commonly see and enjoy. The text told us what great things these healthy foods do for our bodies and how we can better ourselves. But are those the ONLY healthy foods we should enjoy? We made a wheel of colorful healthy foods that we can eat to keep our bodies strong and our minds working sharp. We used our book and the food rainbow above to help inspire our healthy foods quest.

More about emphasizing the importance of eating healthy foods of a variety of colors. Because each color of foods does different things for our bodies. And that’s important because our bodies do SO many different things every single day!


Willie Cole: A Visiting Artist

“Anything is everything and everything is anything. I can make anything into anything…Everything inspires me, even you all inspire me right now.” -Willie Cole

Since August our school has been studying recycling, inspiration, and works of art created by New Jersey native Willie Cole. Our arts team, principal, partners with Columbia College and the University of Missouri have been working to bring this transforming artist to our school over the past few months. Today he greeted us in our auditorium and shared some of his work from across the States. Cole has found inspiration from the world around us and has spent his life’s work finding ways to manipulate everyday objects into sculptures, masks, prints, and even digital media presentations. 

Listening to Willie Cole speak about his inspiration process and how he creates his art was truly inspiring in itself. The fact that “anything is everything” is running through my head as a constant. The concept to grasp is that every little thing, whether it’s proven it’s worth to you or not, has some kind of purpose and “life of its own” to be lived. Cole believes he was an artist in a previous life. He says he’s been an artist for a very long time, 1,027 years even. He believes that every object has its own life and purpose. The way an object looks is how it was made and reflects that purpose. If a red satin high heel shoe has a striped sole and leather back,  then that’s the way it should be. When he creates these sculptures he doesn’t change the objects in any way other than by transforming them into something else. He doesn’t take paint or tools to his sculptures, he just plays with them until they fit together, how he sees them…how he wants to see them. Sometimes they need to be held together with string for extra security. If he wants his shoe sculpture to be larger than life, he recreates the shoes out of metal to withstand weathering. 

Willie Cole’s masterpieces can be found in various galleries and studios across the United States. Here at our local art museum we currently own eight of Cole’s masterpieces. It’s such an honor and a privilege to be able to bring such an inspiring and resourceful artist to our school as well as to our community. 

(Below are some pictures of Willie Cole’s sculptures that he shared during his morning presentation. These pictures were taken directly from Willie Cole’s website, http://www.williecole.com)


Defining Our Words

With each new book we pick up we come across unfamiliar words that we don’t know how to read or even pronounce. A lot of times when we come to a word we don’t know, we find ways to sound out the word, stretch it, or seek out further support. We usually perform a matching activity to where we match our new vocabulary with its corresponding picture. With the more advanced students we match vocabulary words with their definition.

Today we decided to do a Google image search of our vocabulary words, instead of just giving the students pictures and vocabulary words to match. I set up my iPad in the middle of our table and wrote out four words to be copied down. We scrolled through different images and chose our favorites to illustrate our words. Unlike most of our vocabulary words, all of these words could easily be drawn. This language strategy helps to further instill the meaning of each learned word as well as cement a defining image into the brain that corresponds with it.


Xin Nian Hao 

Xin Nian Hao, pronounced shin nee-an how, translates to New Year Good. A traditional greeting for our peers to welcome the new year and bring good wishes to those around us. Working with students that originate from other countries is always an eye opening opportunity. I always walk away with some new fact, history, or foreign word the students have shared with me. And the students love to correct me and ensure that I’m doing their culture justice.

In many Asian countries, specifically China and Vietnam, they celebrate the “new year” at the lunar new year. Depending on the area, the lunar new year is also the start to a sixteen day long Spring Festival. Although it’s still winter, the new year brings hope, prosperity, honor, love, peace, and good fortunes to all in the coming year. Wishing for a good and prosperous spring ahead.

The students, ELL teacher, and I have been working all week on decorations and celebratory activities in honor of the lunar new year. Our older Chinese students made traditional new year banners while our Vietnamese and Korean students also made large posters to ring in their new year. Each poster is adorned with their home language. The main and secondary halls are decorated with beautiful paper lanterns that the entire school helped make during their art time. Beautiful calligraphy banners dressed the doors in the main hall and every classroom door welcomes peers with a sign of peace, love, good fortune, prosperity, and honor. It’s truly been an honor to learn from our students and to help celebrate with them the traditions of their culture and engulf the school in these new ideas and cultural diversity.

This is a video I compiled of the students working on their banners and our decorated school.




We the (Acorn) People

The ELL Teacher did this project the year before and the kids loved it, so we did it again this year. Her yard gathers acorns every year and she decided to make art with them. Adding some beads, pom poms, pipe cleaners, felt, yarn, popsicle sticks, and a lot of hot glue to embellish these acorns and create little people.

Depending on ability, students were asked to name and write about their acorn person. Our little learners stuck with naming and one thing their acorn person liked. Whereas older students wrote biographies about their people. The kids had a blast creating their own friend. The students would greet and dismiss their acorn people every day when being pulled for lessons they loved them so.

We took the project a step further this time by adding some technology. We spent another week recording each student with their acorn person. Students would first introduce themselves then their acorn person and share their writing. I took portraits of each individual acorn person to add along with the kids’ videos. In a matter of days….and 49 videos later, students and their families were able to access the videos on a private Youtube account.

Once the videos were completed and the photo shoot backdrop came down, all of the acorn people got reunited with their creator and taken to their forever home.