How to Add Topic and Concluding Sentences

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Do your kids struggle with adding sentences to an already written paper?  AKA…the revising portion of STAAR!

I’ve put together a slide show that might just help!  This one is all about adding a sentence to state the central topic in the introduction and a concluding sentence at the very end.

I have been studying the STAAR, and this is what I found to be true after looking at the past 4 years of released tests.

One thing that kids HAVE to understand is that with a central topic sentence, it HAS to state the main idea of the paper.  That’s why many of our kids miss those types of questions…they miss that part!  It’s not a reading test…but it is!  *Sigh*

With concluding sentences, it is VITAL that the reader feels satisfied that the paper is over.  No new information.  No statements that make you think, HUH?

You can download it for FREE here.

I’m also working on one for adding in supporting detail sentences.  Hopefully this helps!

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Expository Writing with Quality Details

Ever since TEA came out with the new STAAR Writing specs, people have been a little worried about this whole expository thing.  I’ll admit it…I am, too.  Why?  Because our kids do SOOOO much better with narrative writing, that’s why!

But…BUT…that’s what our kiddos are required to do, so we must figure out a way to get them writing expository essays that are well-written with quality details.

Last month, as we were writing about our favorite seasons, I found myself asking my students the same questions over and over again.  After numerous conversations, I stopped and wrote down a paragraph of my own on the board with the same things I was telling my students…a “formula” if you will…and it WORKED!

Now, when I say formula, I’m not talking about the dreaded “formulaic writing” that TEA talks about.  I’m talking about using a specific sequence of Writers Tools that make sense together and help kids to write quality details.

So I created a “Build a Paragraph” pack to help them along.  Wow!  My students were REALLY thinking and adding sentences to their paragraphs that were on topic and added meaning to what they were writing…just like the STAAR rubric calls for!  SCORE!

If you are interested in purchasing this set for your class, click here.

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We also used a riddle for our introductions.  There are 6 introduction types that we are studying.  You can pick up some posters for your classroom all about expository introductions here.

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I wanted to share some successful expository essays that my kids created from this pack.  I think they are pretty darn good, if I may say so myself!  We still have some learning to do, but I like how they are now adding in details that enhance their papers.

To read them, click here.  We wrote about jobs we want to have in the future.

Let us know what you think in the comments!  😉

Ta ta for now!

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Expository Samples – Our Favorite Time of Year

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 7.15.00 PMWell, hello there!  I promised you that I would post more writing samples before the holidays…so I’m keeping up with my end of the bargain!

As soon as we came back from Thanksgiving break, my students were challenged with coming up with their own text structures for their next piece of writing.  I told them that they would be writing an expository piece about their favorite time of year, but that the rest was up to them.

I was surprised at how easily some of them came up with their own structures!  It’s only December, and they are already taking that risk and doing a pretty good job with it!  My heart is full!

Now…we still have a LONG way to go…but again, it’s DECEMBER!

So…here they are.  I chose my favorite four to share with you.  We are still working on adding in quality details, but I felt that these four students especially did a great job of painting a picture of what these holidays look like and why they enjoy the festivities that accompany them.

Click here to download a copy! Feel free to print them and use them in your classroom for teaching purposes.  I know I’ll be doing the same!Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 7.14.52 PM

One thing that I found helpful was to ask them to do two things: tell what they can do and what it looks like.  That simple.  My kids are having a hard time expanding on their topic sentence, but with these instructions, they were able to add more sentences and some quality details that didn’t just simply restate what they had already said.

So it goes like this: I like spending time with my family. (What can you do?) I get to decorate the tree, put decorations all over the house, and help my mom wrap presents. (What does that look like?) Every year we take all the ornaments out of the attic and hang them on our Christmas tree.  I always get to put the star on top!  We also hang our stockings, put the advent calendar up, and take out the cookie plate for Santa.  My favorite part is wrapping presents with my mom.  That’s always fun!

Just by asking those two simple questions, students can begin painting a vivid picture of what that looks like…and all the while explaining why they like their topic. It was sort of an “ah hah” moment in my classroom.

You should try it.  I would love to hear what your students come up with!  Hopefully this can help your kiddos explain a little better, too!

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 7.14.42 PMNext up: Pitchforks!  If they can use pitchforks to explain what they can do and what it looks like, then they can add a sentence for each part of their pitchfork.  And voila!  A well-developed paragraph with carefully chosen details.  That’s at least a 3 (6 combined score) in the making right there!  :)

If you have papers from your kiddos that you would like to share, I would LOVE to hear them!  You can email me with an attachment through my “About” page.  And if you’ll let me, I’ll feature your kids right here.  We all love to learn from each other!

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas that brings fun, family, laughter, and joy to you and yours!

Until next time….

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More Expository Writing Samples

We finally finished up our third expository writing pieces.  This time, we wrote about our role models.

We started off by looking at some mentor leads in Gretchen Bernabei’s book, Fun Size Academic Writing.  I asked my students to put a star by their favorite one and try it out in their own writing.  Wow!  They are SOOO powerful!

**Updated: We used this structure: Who I admire, Internal Characteristics, External Skills, That’s Why

Some of us are still getting the hang of adding in details to our writing, while others of us have REALLY gotten that down!  I wanted to share four of my favorites with you.

Click here to read.

After you read them, I know that some of you might be wondering…is EVERYONE writing like this?  And the reality is…no.  They aren’t.  Some don’t even come close to these at this point.  The good news?  They will soon!  I have faith!

I want to be real with you…and the hard truth is that many writers are still very much struggling to get depth and details into their writing.  This is something that we will be developing throughout the year.  It’s pretty simple to get a kernel essay down on paper.  It’s that NEXT step of adding in details to flesh out a paragraph that seems to hold up so many of our young writers.

So…that will be the focus for our near future!  Sure, leads and conclusions are great…but without the MEAT of the writing, it doesn’t matter how much you grabbed your reader’s attention at the beginning.  We have to KEEP them interested!

Please feel free to print these out and use them in your own classroom.  That’s what I do…use other students’ writing to share and talk about what worked and what didn’t.  That’s how our students learn the best.  Without a mentor text, they have nothing.  For many students, creating something from nothing is near to impossible.  With a mentor text, students are given examples of what good writing sounds like…which for some is the crutch that they so desperately need!

I say all of this to let you know that we ALL have areas to upgrade.  I know that right now…for us…it’s adding in those meaningful details.

What about you?  What are your kiddos struggling with the most right now?  I’d love to know…and I KNOW that many others wonder who else is in their same boat…  Please let us know in the comments!  :)

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Grammar Keepers Wall Cards

Well, hello there!  How are you?  How is school going?  I know, I know…many of you are on Thanksgiving break and are enjoying your time off and not looking back at the moment.

BUT…I wanted to share this little tool with you.  I created some cards (really small anchor charts if you prefer that term) that can be easily put onto a cabinet door  or in a small space in your classroom.

If you are like me, by now you have basically no more room on your walls for ANOTHER anchor chart.  So….I made these little guys that will be easy to put up.

These cards go right along with the lessons we use in 4th grade out of Gretchen Bernabei’s newest book, Grammar Keepers.  If you don’t have a copy yet…I HIGHLY suggest you get one.  It has been a HUGE game changer in my classroom!!  You can click here to get your copy.

Here’s a peek at what they look like:

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I made cards for all of the common errors on the Keepers 101 4th grade chart that I posted awhile back, along with parts of speech cards.

You can snag a copy of it here.

Do YOU use Grammar Keepers?  If so, what do you think?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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Expository Flipbooks

Several of you have asked about the flipbooks we use for expository writing, so I pulled some out from my presentation box to share with you.

We are finishing up our first “real” expository pieces tomorrow, so I’ll have some to share with you soon!  These flipbooks I’m showing you tonight are from previous classes and have been through numerous trainings…so excuse their condition.  😉

These below are some that we used with a prompt about someone we admire.  We wrote our kernel essay sentences along the bottom, and then underneath the flaps we wrote more information to flesh out the paragraph.  The sticky notes were answers to questions that our peers had, and we incorporated that into each paragraph, too.

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That bottom one, of course, is mine that I wrote along with my kiddos.  It’s always good for them to have an example.

These next flipbooks are more recent.  I used this style with my students THIS year for this same text structure.  You will still notice the kernel essay sentences along the bottom, but then we thought through the piece and put down icons on the flaps that we could then turn into sentences on the inside of the flaps.  Just a little FYI…I’ve decided it works better without cutting the flaps…just leave one long one…it’s more durable and doesn’t fall apart when they rip them out of their folders… *sigh*

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Again, notice that the icons on the front of the flaps turned into sentences underneath.  This helps them to write longer.  :)

I’ve created some expository revision stations, but they aren’t quite finished yet.  Right now they are all on one piece of paper without clipart…and just plain BORING!  I’ll hopefully have those up in my store by tomorrow night.

I’ll update this post soon with examples from this year…along with the FINAL piece!  Eek!  :)

Hope this helps!

Happy Sunday, y’all!!

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