Saturday, September 26, 2015
Word Lists, Adding Details to Writing, Writing Workshop, Details, Writing Word Lists, DOK 3
Something I am CONSTANTLY struggling with as a teacher is asking my students to ADD MORE DETAIL and to BE MORE DESCRIPTIVE in their writing. As we begin the school year, my students have had many opportunities to write.  While reviewing some of my student's initial writing samples, I noticed many students were off to a great start with their organization and structure. However, after reading and listening to their writing, I KNEW it was time to jump head first into adding DETAILS.  Why? I couldn't HELP but notice my student's LACK of detail. This seems to be a common problem EVERY year! 
Time to connect and communicate with the students! During our writing time, I conferenced with students using a WRITING ANECDOTAL CHART that I made.  During this time, students were rereading their paragraphs and telling me how they thought they could make their writing BETTER. I was also discussing the notes that I had left with each student. Here is a picture:
Writing Anecdotal Records, Writing Conferences
Since we are working on a novel study right now (AND focusing on character traits) I knew that I would need to FRONT LOAD unique vocabulary to the kids.  In the past I would hand them the dreaded thesaurus and it JUST DIDN'T WORK!!!  Many times when a student uses a thesaurus they choose words OUT of context and their writing just DOESN'T make sense. 
The Lesson
I had students pair up and choose either Claudia or James from the novel, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  I had the students make decisions TOGETHER about the character traits.  If they felt that the character displayed any aspect of the word whatsoever, they highlighted the character trait.  This went GREAT because the students were in HEAVY discussions about all of the different words.  Here is a look at the  words they highlighted (Character Traits List from my WORD LISTS pack!)

Character Traits, Writing Mini-Lesson, Character Traits Mini-Lesson
NEXT, students chose 3 character traits which they felt reflected their character the MOST.  They also had to choose traits that they would be able to find the STRONGEST evidence for! Following that, students used the paragraph template seen below (CLICK on the picture below to download) to form paragraphs describing the character's traits. I had students attach post it notes (THANKS to the Dollar Store!) because they needed MORE room to write about their character traits/evidence to support that trait.  
Paragraph writing, Paragraph template, Paragraph
If anything, Post It Notes just make things more exciting! See how this student below was able to add evidence to each character trait through quoting the author from the story.  So exciting!
Adding Text Evidence
I was floored by some of the students responses and the Post It Notes really provided a GREAT scaffold for students that needed that EXTRA visual to organize their paragraphs! 
Finding Quotes in the Text to Support Thinking
They came up with OUTSTANDING evidence.  This is something we will be practicing ALL year!  If you haven't already, download the paragraph template by clicking on the picture BELOW to give this a try with your students!
Template for Paragraph Writing, Paragraph Oraganizer
How do you teach students to add details and incorporate evidence into their writing?

Making Inferences with Post It Notes!

Saturday, September 19, 2015
Today I will be writing a bit about how I introduced inferences to my 5th graders this week AND how I figured out how to print out Post-It Notes to use during my lesson! Right now, we are continuing our NOVEL STUDY with From the Mixed Up Files From Mrs. Frank E. Basilweiler and it was the perfect time to jump into MAKING INFERENCES.  First, I decided to build the students background knowledge with this introductory page from my MAKING INFERENCES pack. This page gives the students a paragraph EXPLAINING what it means to make an inference and gives them clear examples of making inferences! Take a peek:
After completing this sheet and discussing what MAKING INFERENCES were, students gave me their ideas about inferencing.  Their ideas were VERY inspiring!!! Tak a look:
LOVED when one of my students talked about using their COMMON SENSE to figure out what was going on AND when another students said that they can make an assumption or ASSUME based on the clues in the story.  So SMART!!! I had students write their ideas about what MAKING INFERENCES were using my poster/question set from my READING RESPONSE NOTEBOOK.  Here is the final product:
Have you seen the FANCY post-it note tutorials all over PINTEREST??? Take a look at a few HERE.
After seeing this COOL idea everywhere, I decided to try it out myself! I typed up a short tutorial of how I figured it out (click on the picture below for instructions)…It's actually pretty simple once you have the template!
Some of the students came up with some really interesting inferences for the beginning of the year.  I had them write inferences first in their notebooks to practice, and then they chose their BEST one to write on the Post-It Note.  Here are a few of my favorite examples!
Finally, take a look at all of the inferences that the students made on the COMMUNITY chart! I love that students who were having trouble were able to come up and read the chart for ideas and models.  I also love that this will be a GROWING anchor chart throughout our NOVEL STUDY! Here is how the chart looks SO far!
Have you tried printing on Post-It Notes? Give it a try! :-)

Group Work ANYONE??

Sunday, September 13, 2015
One of my goals this year is to get my students talking….not something that teachers say very often, right?  Usually I like my classroom VERY VERY quiet.  A quiet classroom just makes me FEEL like all of the students are on task. Am I right??? I do incorporate Turn and Talk, Think Pair Share, Talk to Your Neighbor and those sorts of things…..but after reflecting on my own teaching, I definitely think that I need to get more group work integrated into my daily routine.

For me, I hardly remember working in groups during my younger years.  It actually started in college.  Cooperative learning must have been "trendy" in education during the 90s because it seemed like ALL I was doing was group projects in college (ESPECIALLY during my education classes)…Which leads me to the picture below.  Can anyone else relate???
Which leads me to the REAL problem of cooperative groups…..often ONE or TWO people end up doing ALL of the work and everyone else just skates by.  To HOPEFULLY  alleviate this, I started the year off with setting up NORMS for group work.  I actually put the students in groups of 4 (everyone counted off 1-4 the old school way.) Once students were in their groups, their only "assignment" was to brainstorm together what they thought each of the following jobs (recorder, materials manager, task manager, and reporter) entailed. 

I recorded ideas on the chart seen above on Day #1.  I also had students decide in these groups who wanted to do what job. (I stressed that this would NOT always be the case…we all need to step out of our comfort zone!) I also told them a little story about myself…that I wouldn't be caught DEAD volunteering to be the presenter, I loved recording the most (or really anything BUT the reporter!) BUT if I absolutely HAD to be the reporter I was OK with it (at least once it was over….ha!)

 That brought me to Day #2.  I started the Group Work session with the FRAMEWORK form seen below.  It allowed me to lay out the question/task, the jobs that would be in place, the materials that would be needed, and finally the time frame that the students would have. I also made these fancy JOB TAGS that students wore during the group work.
SO, what did the student actually DO while they were in Group Work??? I actually chose a math problem that focused on a standard that I had taught the past week, decimals.  Here the students cut apart the math problem solving steps and worked together to solve the problem.  It worked VERY well since we had worked on the norms the previous day. Here is an example of how the posters turned out.
Next, I am going to have the students use the reflection form that I made so students will be able to reflect on how their Group Work went.  Here is a sneak peek at that…I will definitely let you know how these work out!
If you would like to use these materials in your classroom, they are available for purchase.  
Click on the picture below to be taken to that link!
Do you have any tips or tricks for having your students work in groups? 


Monday, September 7, 2015
We started back the second week of August so we are already going into our third week of school! I wanted to share a few projects that were LIFE SAVERS for me the first few weeks of school.
Project #1
The first project that I LOVE to start with every year is CLASSMATE interviews.  For some reason, knowing that I have this project IN MY BACK POCKET really DE-stresses me when I am preparing for the first week of school.  Why? This project involves INTERACTION, DISCUSSION, and WRITING.  The BEST part? Students are getting to know each other.  I also love that it is a multi-day process. What's involved? Take a look below. (Click on the pic to get the materials!)
Day#1: Partner Students/Students Begin Interviews
Day #2: Students Continue Interviews/Start Draft of Interview
Teacher Takes Student's Photos
Day #2 Homework: Students need to bring about 20 small pictures from HOME 
(Cut from a magazine for the picture collage)
Day #3: Students Complete Drafts of Interviews/Teacher Prints Student's Photos
Day #4: Students complete collages with pictures brought from home
The fun thing about this project is that students are writing about each OTHER rather than themselves.  Parents really enjoy seeing what other students write about their child at BACK to SCHOOL night. The BEST part? The collage pictures REALLY brighten up an empty room in the beginning of the year and it looks like there is ALOT going on!
Click HERE to Download this Project!

Project #2

The next project that made the beginning of the year go smoothly were these "All About Me" Cubes.  I  have been seeing a lot of great 3D projects all over the internet and Pinterest and thought I would try to make one of my own!  These cubes are laid out as follows:
Here is a closer look at how wonderful they turned out! 
Click HERE to purchase this project!
Project #3
"Climbing to the Mountain Tops"

This is a FUN project that I wrote about last year! 
The first part of this project starts with students listing the challenges they will face for the upcoming year and ENDS with each student writing about their challenges on a MOUNTAIN TOP.  Read more detailed instructions for this project here.   Below is the picture of the circle map we came up with this year when preparing for this project.
Here is a picture of how the student's pics turned out!
Click Here to Download this Project!

Project #4
"All Hands In" 
Finally, I have to share this AWESOME project that I got from my friend Stephanie from Teaching in Room 6. This ALL HANDS in project allows students to trace their hand and arm and then spend time filling it in with pictures and words that represent them. From a teacher's perspective, I LOVE this project because it is EASY and NO TEMPLATE is required! It helps that the kids LOVE it, too! 
Not to mention, they look FABULOUS in the room!
What special projects do you do for the beginning of the year?

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