What We’ve Done: Week 11

Man, is time flying or WHAT?  One week until Thanksgiving break.  And then only three weeks of school after that until Christmas break.  CHRISTMAS.  BREAK.  Holy macaroni.  Time NEEDS to slow down!

Just some random rambling…

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So this week we began Writer’s Workshop with finishing up our second Kernel Essays.

Then we participated in a little sharing.

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I always like for students to share their Kernel Essays with at least 3 people.

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After writing 2 Kernel Essays, students chose their favorite to share with their peers.  It was a great time.  😉

Once we were finished, we began our introductions.  I allowed the students some time to write their own introductions, and then we looked at the Leads lesson in Fun Size Academic Writing.

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I asked students to choose their favorite introduction and then craft an introduction using parts of that introduction.  They made it fit what they needed.  Some even took a little bit from two or three of them and put them into something pretty awesome.  Here are just a few examples:

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Aren’t they just B-E-A-U-tiful?!?!  After crafting their new introductions, students were asked to pick their favorite…the one they originally wrote or the one they wrote after the mentor text.  I’ll give you ONE guess as to which one they chose… :)

In grammar, we hit your/you’re really hard. And I must say…by the end of the week, they GOT IT! So stinking proud of them! We also reviewed their/there/they’re.

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One of my classes needs some movement time…so they have been given the option of moving around a bit during journal time.  The popular place seems to be underneath their desks.  Oh well.  If that’s what makes them write…GREAT!

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I don’t know where exactly our time went this week, but it seemed to just FLY by us!  That’s pretty much all we got done.  Don’t judge.

On Saturday, I presented in CyFair for their pre-k through 1st grade teachers.  It was so much fun!

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We used different nursery rhymes and wrote kernel essays and drew pictures with them.

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These are going to be part of the book that I’m co-authoring with Gretchen Bernabei and Jayne Hover.  The teachers LOVED them!

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Of course, I’ve tried them out on a couple of my students to see how a 4th grader would react to using nursery rhymes to write…and they loved it, too!  They came up with some great things to say.  And they really enjoyed getting to draw pictures with their writing.

Well…I planned on writing a blog post for Weeks 11 AND 12…but I’m tired.

I’ll write Week 12 tomorrow. *yawn*

Until then…

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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.

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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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Our FIRST Expository Essays-In 12 Minutes

Just like in years past, I begin our expository unit with explaining the difference between narrative and expository with my “Grandma” page.  You can read more about that here.

After we grasp what an expository piece should be, I ask students to write a 12-minute essay (Gretchen does it in 11 minutes) based on a picture and a truism.  We use the same truism each year to begin because it deals with pets…and most students have SOME sort of experience with pets.

Truism: Pets can be a big part of a family.

I give students about a minute to think about that statement.  Then we begin: 2 minutes to describe what that statement means to us, 3 minutes to tell how it is true in a tv show or movie they have watched, 3 minutes to tell how it is true in a book they have read, 3 minutes to tell how it is true in their own lives or someone they know, and then 1 minute to tell what it makes them think or wonder.

And just like that…in 12 minutes…they wrote their very first expository essay.  I explain that due to the things they wrote, they have explained something…they didn’t tell a story.

Students are always so proud after finishing.  They count their words and the room begins to buzz with excitement.  It’s pretty awesome.

If you want to try this with your kids, you can find the truisms here.  You can use any of them that you like. I use several throughout the year.  The one about pets isn’t too far down.

Curious what they wrote?  Click here to read a sampling from my kiddos.

I couldn’t be more proud.  :)

If you have time…leave them a little note to let them know what you think.  Yeah…they read this.  :)

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I See HUGE Improvement!!

Whew!  We finally finished our first “real” piece of writing this week and celebrated today!  Woo hoo!!

While these aren’t even close to perfect, they are a HUGE improvement from the writing sample I took the first week of school.  My heart is full!

We started with three kernel essays.  I didn’t give a prompt…and won’t for awhile…so it was their choice.  From there, we chose one to take into drafting.  We filled out our flipbooks (which you have seen if you’ve been following) and added as many details as we could.  Then it was time for revision stations.  Although it didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped, they DID add some details while rotating around the room to each station.  We’ll get there. 😉

To my surprise, my kiddos were able to complete their published piece in one day.  That made up for some lost time!!  Today we celebrated by walking around the room and reading papers that were laid out on our desks and made positive comments about them.  Tomorrow we will go over some common trends and talk about how to make this next one EVEN BETTER!  I can’t wait!

But…I needed to show off their hard work.  I’m so stinkin’ proud of how far they have come with just ONE lesson from Gretchen Bernabei’s book.  Have I told you that her strategies are EASY and FUN for everyone involved?  Just take a look for yourself….

Oh, and if you click on the pictures, you can see them much larger and actually read them.  :)

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I don’t have room to show off EVERYONE, but I thought you might enjoy seeing a small sampling of awesomeness.  Y’all…this is HUGE!  Can you even believe this transformation?  This is going to be an AH-MAZING year!  I can’t wait to see what our future holds!

How are your kiddos doing?  Are you using Gretchen’s strategies?  You should be… 😉

Ta ta for now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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