Archives for November 2017

Merging the Old with the New

Hey, y’all! Things are starting to settle down a bit, and I’m feeling more confident with my routines. It’s November. It’s totally time!

Thanks for all the words of encouragement on my last post. It’s nice to know that we all have years where we need to shake things up. And it sounds like, for many of you out there, that year is THIS year. So thanks for following along and being so transparent.

Anyway…I finally got around to taking a few pictures of some student work, new lessons, and a glimpse at our first FULL essay.

Let’s start with one totally NEW thing!


Our book came out last month. Can you tell I was jumping up and down and screaming with pure excitement a little excited about it?

It’s called Text Structures from Nursery Rhymes and it’s just perfect! If you need a copy, you can grab one here.

We have had such wonderful feedback from teachers who have used it in the lower grades, but there is so much in it that applies to our older kiddos, too.

So I tried out one of the lessons with my students who I see in small groups, and they totally ROCKED it!


We used the nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb as our mentor text, looked at the structure, and then wrote an essay about our prized possessions using that same structure. I really enjoyed it, and the kids did, too!

It was neat to see how such a simple text could inspire them to write so much about something important to them. Some of these kids are starting WAY behind in writing, as in…gave me 3 sentences on our beginning of year diagnostic writing piece, and they wrote SO much more. Most of the group wrote at least a page! And not only that…it was ON TOPIC!

Happy dance on that one!


I’ve also been doing more sorts with my kids when it comes to spelling rules. All those “shun” endings can make your head spin. #amiright Word sorts helped us wrap our brains around how the words look, sound, and purpose.


We’ve also started our Sparkling Sentences. I wish I had more to show you…but if you read my last post, you’ll *maybe* understand why things are moving a bit slower this year.

BUT…we are starting to get into our groove and we are on our way to learning all kinds of fun things about how authors craft their writing. :)


These are the tools we’ve covered so far (formally, anyway). I’ve talked about using elipses, parentheses, vivid verbs, opinions, examples, and probably a lot more I can’t think of…but these have been with individual students.

FullSizeRender 3My writing conference notes help me keep track of areas of strength and growth for each student. It helps hold the students accountable for what we discuss (and me, too!), and I can tell what my next steps should be at a glance. And let’s be honest…with 93 kids, I need SOMETHING to help me keep track of #allthethings.


I’m just going to go ahead and apologize for the quality of the pictures. See previous post. #tired

You know how sometimes you learn something new and like it…but you really love what you already do? And then you aren’t sure what to do about the new knowledge creeping in on what is comfortable?

Well…that’s me this year. And I just felt like really looking at sentences and how they are constructed would be very beneficial.

So we’ve been looking at several mentor sentences. Our district has a sponsored book this semester, The One and Only Ivan, so I chose sentences from there since they would be familiar to the kids.


And we’ve looked at full paragraphs, too. It’s neat to hear what students notice about how writing is crafted.

I give them the mentor sentence and allow 1 – 3 minutes (depending on length and complexity) to circle anything they notice or thing the author did on purpose. They notice things like capital letters, commas, apostrophes, repeated words, homophones, and nice vocabulary words. They draw a wiggly line under the vocabulary words they like.

This has also allowed us to really tie reading and writing together. We study the sentences and talk about what the author was trying to do or the picture they were trying to create for their reader.

Let me tell ya…when kids TRULY make the connection between reading and writing…they read like a writer and write like a reader…their comprehension of all text skyrockets. They understand the moves writers make when they create a piece of writing, and they are able to draw on their knowledge of how published authors play with language and create a variety of interesting sentences. It’s pretty epic.

Oh…after we notice all sorts of things about the mentor text, I give them the notes and tell them the focus for the day. And then we proceed with creating new sentences or paragraphs in the same way the mentor sentences were made.

This is a lot like what Jeff Anderson does but with my own twist. I’m also weaving in strategies from Gretchen Bernabei…just using different mentor texts since we have been working on the sentence and paragraph level.


Lots of changes…but definitely good changes.


We just started our first FULL writing piece last week. Woo hoo! We finally made it! We began with a piece about something we enjoy doing. I didn’t give them a prompt…I just told them we would explain an activity we enjoyed and left it at that.

They have been working really hard to connect to their reader and paint a clear picture for the reader by using specific language.

I’m really proud of all they’ve accomplished so far!


New editing stations have been brought out, too! I’ve been meaning to get something like this done (rather than writing it all out on the board every time), and I finally just did it!


Students went through editing stations one day and revision stations the next day. This gave us some time to talk about the difference between the two. They had specific steps to take at each station that helped with skills like capitalization, punctuation, AAAWWWUBIS, and vocabulary. I guess vocabulary is a stretch for editing, but this wasn’t meant to be a whole sentence-changing experience…just a word here and there.

And then the best thing in the history of the world happened. (Anybody else a fan of the My Weirdest School series?)


Look at this BEAUTIFUL mess! Can you tell how much hard work went into this?!?! I know some of you out there are having a mini heart attack just looking at that…but to me, it’s a masterpiece!


These are kids who are working very hard and paying attention when I say that the writer’s BIGGEST job comes AFTER the rough draft is written. THIS is the time to change up our sentences, add and take away things that shift our focus, and truly LISTEN to how the writing sounds, making changes as necessary.

Yep. That’s a lot of what we’ve done.

If you’re still reading…you’re the real MVP! Drop a comment about anything NEW you’ve tried this year. We would love to hear about it!

Until next time…


New Kids on the Block

I know. It’s been a long time since I’ve written.

Y’all…I’m tired. It’s been one of those years. The dreaded ones. The ones where you feel like you’re running in quicksand. You’re making all the moves but not going anywhere.

Exhausted doesn’t even begin to describe my mental state by 3:00 PM. Decisions, decisions, and more decisions. All. Day. Long. Who has accommodations? Is the speech-to-text going to work on the computer today? Remember to make sure your kids have their graphic organizers, fidget box, commonly misspelled word list, grammar and spelling rules, and oh, a sharpened pencil WITH AN ERASER. *Intercom* Mrs. Shook, Kid A is going to be a car rider today. And Kid B is going home right after specials so please send said kid with his backpack.

Seriously. And it’s like a hundred million things every day. And I’m tired.

Yeah. That’s been me this year. It’s a tough one. For lots of reasons…but to keep this from turning into a giant snooze fest, I won’t list them. You’re welcome. 😉

In the meantime, our son broke his arm right where his forearm connects to the elbow. Luckily, he only had to wear a splint for two weeks, and now it’s just in a sling. But sheesh! One more thing to worry about…a 6 year old 100% boy with a broken arm in a sling. Yep.

Stress: 1     Me:0

And we’ve had to start new inhalers and breathing treatments and allergy meds. Keeping up with all of that is definitely not my gift.

Stress: 2     Me:0

We have also been settling into our new home. The process just seems to drag out. But I guess that *might* be because I’ve been watching too much Netflix and ignoring the boxes that are piled in the garage. Oops.

Netflix:25    Me:0


I’m still here. And things are starting to get easier. Hopefully I can do more than sit around and eat Halloween candy (or whatever the nearest holiday is…) and binge watch shows on Netflix…anything that doesn’t take thinking.

I’ve been working on some new things. This group has required me to think on my feet and go with what they need. I’ve been playing with using mentor sentences and paragraphs (rather than full texts like I’ve been using) to introduce grammar content while marrying it with strategies I love from Gretchen.

And I’m really liking it. I’ll be writing a blog post soon about how we are changing our writing instruction to meet the needs of the kids. Because…you know…they won’t get better if you don’t meet them where they are, right?

So that’s coming soon.

I promise to not wait so long before blogging again. Several of you have messaged me or reached out on social media. If you aren’t following on Fb, you should hop over and join the fun. I post there much more frequently, and you are welcome to send me a message there if you have a question. Sometimes that’s easier than email!

Thanks for following along. I hope your year has been awesome.

In the spirit of thinking on your feet…who else is in the same boat? Have you tried something new that you think is working really well? Please share!! We would all love some fresh ideas!

Until next time…