Archives for September 2016

Week 5: What We’ve Done

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Another short week this week.  We had Friday off for Fair Day…and oh my goodness it was great!  Except that I can’t seem to get through with everything…that’s becoming pretty common around here.

But that’s what teaching is all about, right?  Flexibility.  Yes.  *I keep telling myself this!*

We finished up our writing on Tuesday.  It was time.  Past time, really…so some of them even took it home for homework.  But ALL of them finished it and brought it back on Wednesday for our celebration.  I couldn’t believe it!  First time EVER to have 100% of students bring back such crucial homework.  Yay!

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On Wednesday, we celebrated our writing.  It was so much fun!  It was so neat to see the kids walk around and read each others’ papers and comment on what they liked.

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I’ve written about it before, but we don’t stand in the front of the room and read papers.  Ain’t nobody got time for that! (I know, it hurts me to write that…but that’s what they say, right?)

We put our papers out on our desks, along with our Writer’s Celebration page, and we walk around and make comments about the things we noticed about the papers.  It’s kind of a magical time for everyone involved. :)

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I’m not even going to lie, though…we sat together on the carpet beforehand and talked about what sorts of comments are actually helpful to students and which ones don’t do a thing.  You know…Great writing!…or…I love your story!  Those do NOTHING.  Maybe give you a self-esteem boost…but that’s about it.

Look at those comments up there in that picture!  Isn’t that just awesome?!  The author of this paper REALLY knows what he/she did well.  I love it! (We will work on how to spell “paragraph,” don’t worry!)

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Last one.  I just love celebrations.  We walk around to oldies music blaring.  We have a great time.  And I *might* bring in cookies and fun treats for them.

The best part?  The smiles.  The ear-to-ear grins that ensue once each author returns to his/her seat and reads the comments.  That’s always my favorite part!  When we sit down and talk about what we noticed overall, I always have someone who speaks up and says, “This makes me feel so good!”  It should, kid.  Well done!

That’s pretty much all we did in writing.

In grammar, we talked about pronouns.  I created another folding page to put in our notebooks, but I totally forgot to take a picture of one.  I’ll try to remember to snap a pic and put it into next week’s post.

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On Thursday, it was time to put all this hard grammar work to the test.  Students were asked to write a journal entry after reviewing nouns, pronouns and verbs.  I gave them a good, solid 10 minutes to do that.

Some students can really get a great amount written in that amount of time, while others are still struggling with getting their thoughts onto the paper.  So for their assessment, I gave them the option of using their own journal entry or something I typed up.

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Here is the page some of them opted to use.  They were asked to find 3 nouns, 3 verbs, and 2 pronouns (just like you see up there in that first picture).  Students were required to write their proofs out to the side or above so that I could tell they knew what each one was.

The kids are pretty pumped about their assessments being so “easy.”  But aren’t we supposed to assess them the way we teach them?  If you have them journal every day to try out new rules and prove things in grammar, shouldn’t we test them that way, too?  *Food for thought!*

Anywho…this is what we did for week 5.  At some point, this HAS to get faster…but for now, we are just sort of plugging along a little at a time.  We will get there.  Just have to give it some time.  😉

How is your year going?  Have you been able to move as fast as your own lesson plans? Haha.

I’d love to hear from you!

Ta ta for now!

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Week 4: What We’ve Done

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Last week was another whirlwind.  But we managed to get quite a few things done.

It was actually a 5 day week, so we had our full time each day to get our routines down.  EVERY day we start with our Daily Writing Review.  The kids are enjoying it, and I’m already seeing some of the rules and things we talk about each day in their writing.  So that’s a huge win!  If you are interested in those sets, you can click here.

As soon as we finish with those, we go to our journals.

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This week our focus was verbs.  I created another folding page with some mentor sentences for the students to look at during discussion.  Then, students wrote for 10 minutes and were invited to try out proving verbs in their journals.  If they could find 3 and PROVE them, they got a star on their page…which means 1 extra point on a daily grade.

**Update** If you are interested in purchasing the parts of speech folding pages, you can grab your set here.

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And I’m totally going to be honest with you right now.  I was in a major hurry for a couple of my classes to get their writing pieces published…because the principal wanted us to have some writing in the case up by the office by Thursday night…OPEN HOUSE…so I dropped journaling time down to 5 minutes on Tuesday, and they got no time on Wednesday or Thursday.  GULP!  And I didn’t like that.  Not one bit.  But sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do….  *sigh*

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Their daily grade for Friday was to write a journal entry and prove 3 verbs.  Again, they all did very well.  And they feel confident.  What an awesome thing, huh?  😉

In Writer’s Workshop…yes, that’s what I call it…

Can we have a side conversation for a minute?  *Crowd nods head*

Ok…so many people ask me about using my scopes or Gretchen’s lessons in Writer’s Workshop.  I even had someone tell me that she didn’t see how to do that.  Y’all. You can use Gretchen’s lessons in ANY framework or format you need.  I use Writer’s Workshop AND her lessons.  They are lessons for good writing.  Period.  End of story. Make them fit your needs.  They can.  They will.

*Drops the mic*

So where were we?  Oh yeah…Writer’s Workshop! (DUH!) This week we finished up our flipbooks.

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Once we were finished, we went through revision stations. (You can grab a copy of the narrative version here.) It’s so fun to watch how much they actually add to their stories as they walk around and read the questions at each station.  And their responses are comical priceless! “Man!  This makes my writing so much better!” or “Wow, Mrs. Shook! I didn’t know I could write like this!”

Hmmmm….I have a good idea EVERY now and then, kids….  :)

I didn’t get a picture of the kiddos at the revision stations.  Oops.  Dang it!  Now you know I’m human.

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I hate to admit this…but this is my first year actually focusing on Sparkling Sentences. Sure, I’ve read student samples before to the class, but I didn’t make a concerted effort to pull out awesome sentences at least a couple times a week to show kids.  Boy, was that a mistake!

My kids are LOVING Sparkling Sentences!!  You should see their little faces light up when they see that I have chosen their sentence to share with the class.  They just glow!!

These are the two I selected for last week.  Both of them are very different, but they both pack some serious punch.

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Then I had them write down their sentence for me and illustrate it.  They got a big kick out of that, too.  These are now posted on my wall above my whiteboard.  Once I get a bunch more, I’ll take a picture of the collection.

If you aren’t doing this, what are you waiting for?!?!  Get up and dig some awesome sentences out of your kids’ writing and show off their skills to everyone!

Guess what?  I already have students imitating those sentences!  Another WIN!!

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By the end of the first 4 weeks of school, this is what is in our writing folders: kernel essay, flipbook, mentor text for Color It Up, and two sets of the Daily Writing Review.  Just thought I would include that.

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So as I told you, some students actually finished their publishing this week.  Not many, but some did.  We should have everyone published by tomorrow…Wednesday of week 5.  Sheesh!  It’s so slow in the beginning!

Anywho.  That’s our week.  Thanks for reading along.  I hope you had a great, productive week.

Until next time…

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Weeks 1 – 3: What We’ve Done

Well hello there!  I’m baaaaaaaack!  :)  I hope you all have had a GREAT start to your year.  It’s been crazy busy already!!

I’m going to go ahead and jump right in.  I wanted to share with you the things we’ve done so far this year.  It might not look like a lot, but we are getting it done…and that’s ALL that matters!

Let me start by saying that I have 60 minutes this year for writing.  Turns out…I’m teaching 4 classes of writing this year.  Long story on that one, but that’s what I’m doing.  It’s pretty awesome, if I may say so myself!  *happy dance*

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We began our time together with setting up our classroom rules and all that fun stuff…if you call it that.

Then we began telling stories.  Telling stories is so important in writing.  Why, you ask?  Because students can’t WRITE a story until they can TELL one.  So we also talked about HOW to tell a good story.

We also created some lists in our journals.  We only have ONE journal this year.  I decided that we would dedicate 1o pages to our lists and the rest for journal entries.  We will do our drafting on flipbooks or on notebook paper and keep those in a folder.  We shall see how this goes!

Here are the four lists we have so far…

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This is a house blueprint with stories to the side.  Some chose to do their neighborhood instead.

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On the left is a Best/Worst Memories list.  This person didn’t have enough time to finish apparently.

On the right is a Times I Felt list.

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And then a Narrative Quick List.

Everyone has different amounts of memories on each list.  That’s ok.  It’s just the beginning.  We will revisit these often.  NO EXCUSES for that dreaded sentence, “I don’t know what to write about!”  Yes, you do.  You now have FOUR lists to choose from.  Pick something and write!  Muahahaha! 😉

And that’s pretty much all of Week 1.  Not even gonna lie.  That Quicklist is from Week 2…but it just made more sense to put it with all the other lists.  Forgive me.

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We began using our journals this week to JUST JOURNAL.  You have to give kids time to just write in their journals.  Otherwise…it’s a miserable fail.  Just ask last year me.  It was bad.  I went straight into lessons the first day I asked them to journal….yeah…deer in the headlights looks.  All. Over. The. Place.

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So we just journaled for 10 minutes every day.  Some students thought it was fun.  Others not so much.  But it’s ok.  It’s getting better by the day.  By next month, they will forget that they complained about it.  :)

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I ask students to put the date on each entry.  Then when they are finished for the day, they draw a line underneath the spot where they stopped.

Oh yeah…journals are ALWAYS their own choice of topic.  I NEVER tell them what I want them to write about during this time.  Some write fantasy stories, other write personal narratives, and still others write about Minecraft or Call of Duty.  It’s 100% their choice.

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In writing, we experienced our first (and my FAVORITE) lesson: Color It Up.  This is from Gretchen Bernabei’s awesome book, Fun Size Academic Writing.  A couple of classes had to have a little more than one class period to finish, but that’s ok.

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Here is one of their final pieces.

You can read more about this activity here. If you’ve never experienced it, you’re seriously missing out!  You NEED this book!!

And that pretty much wraps up Week 2.  Slow going…but we’re trucking along!

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This week I finally felt like we made some progress!  Our very first lesson from Grammar Keepers on nouns happened!  Woo Hoo!

I made a little something to help cut down some time since I don’t have any science time to take.  (I *might* have taken a lot some time from science last year.) You can see it here:

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My new district wants us to use more mentor sentences, so I decided this would be fun AND take less time AND help me comply with district policies.  Do you call that a Win-Win-Win?  I think so!

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Here’s what it looks like in their actual real-life journals.

Each day, I invited students to find three nouns in their own writing in their journals.  Some students like to try it out right away, while others wait for awhile.  If they DO find them and prove them, I put a star on that entry and give them one point towards classwork.  They REALLY liked that idea!

By Friday, it was time to SHOW ME that they got it.  (We had an early release day Wednesday and Thursday I had to have them complete a district BOY writing piece, so I didn’t have all week like some people did.) Their assessment for the week was to write for 10 minutes and prove 5 nouns for me.

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And guess what?!?!  EVERYONE made a 100!  I’ll call that a success!!

We also started our Daily Writing Review.  Here are all four days that we got completed this week.

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The students are actually having a pretty good time with these already.  We will start Week 2 of them tomorrow.

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We also began our first draft.  Of course we had our handy dandy Writer’s Tools anchor chart by our sides.

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We completed a kernel essay and began our flipbooks. Check out this AH-mazing introduction!!! If you click on the picture, you can enlarge it to see it better.  You should.  It’s totally worth it!

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For some students, I asked them to draw out the beginning, middle, and end of their story. This helped BIG TIME!  Some students are ok with just writing words, but some need that picture support.  You can see the pictures below.

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This one is from a story about hitting some frogs with a stick.  I know it might sound terrible, but they weren’t killing them.  And these drawings absolutely cracked me up!!

From those drawings, students created their sentences for the middle part of our text structure (First Moment, Next Moment, Last Moment).  Success!

And there you have it.  Our first 3 weeks.  I guess we got more done than I thought.  If you’ve stayed with me this long, you’re a rock star!  And I hope that the pictures help you to see what’s REALLY happening.

How has your start been?  I’d love to hear about what YOU are doing!  Drop a comment below!

See ya next week!  Ta ta for now!!

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