What We’ve Done: Weeks 7 – 8

Aaaahhh!  I’m falling behind!  I feel like every weekend, between soccer and shopping, I don’t ever have time to sit down and blog.  And everyone needs shopping therapy, right?  RIGHT? :)

Here goes…

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Don’t kill me…I have ZERO pictures for week 7.  I was there four out of the five days…and I just forgot.

In grammar, we continued to work on sentences.  We did two lessons from Grammar Keepers, The PSST! Test and Is There a Verb? lessons.  And oh boy howdy, it’s working!  I’m already seeing huge improvements!

For writing, we continued with our kernel essays, got two completed, and then finished the week coloring up the Barbie piece.  It’s meant for renaming, but it colors up REALLY nicely for expository, so I had students complete that with the sub on Friday when I was out.  We are definitely going to have to revisit it.

And that’s pretty much what I remember from week 7.

These pics are NOT from school, but what’s a blog post with NO pictures?  I had to include a couple from my conference I went to in Frisco.  It was put on by Corwin, the publisher of several professional development books…including Gretchen’s latest two books.

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This is Jeff Wilhelm.  He was a phenomenal speaker.  He has tons of great strategies for teaching reading, some of which I would have never thought to do.  You should check him out.  He has some fantastic books. Head over to QEP Books to check them out! Diving Deep Into Nonfiction is one that he referenced quite a bit.

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And of course, what’s a Corwin conference without Gretchen Bernabei?!?!  She shared some structures from Text Structures From the Masters, and we wrote kernel essays.  Especially if you teach 5h – 8th grade, you need to check this book out.  It’s totally awesome.

Always so fun to hear Gretchen, even if I HAVE heard her speak 100 times! 😉

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I started the week absent on Monday. I presented for teachers in Southside ISD in San Antonio.  It was 5th-8th grade teachers, and we had a blast.  Most of them had never heard of Gretchen’s work, so it was even more fun to watch them do things for the very first time.

Meanwhile, I had my sub get my kiddos started on their expository flipbooks.  Ummmm…that was probably not the best idea I’ve ever had, but it wasn’t disastrous, either.  Thank the good Lord for that, right? I really only wanted them to complete two parts of it, but some ended up with sentences for all four paragraphs.

The main part that was missed, however, was the line I wrote that said: Students MUST have 3-5 sentences in their paragraphs.  Yeah…upset students who knew thought they were finished with one sentence. Nope.  You will add details, kid.  I know you can. *insert devilish laugh*

It’s really not because I’m mean.  We had to have the talk of what it means to DEVELOP our writing.  After that, they knew I wasn’t going to accept anything less and got right to work. We’re getting there…little by little…sentence by sentence!

Aaaaaannnnnddd….we are STILL working on our flipbooks.  And I’m not stressed about it.  Ok, maybe a little bit…but we’ve spent SO MUCH TIME on grammar this week that I knew we were going to be cutting writing short.

With that being said, in grammar we worked on joining sentences legally and illegally.  The PSST! Test has come in VERY handy for trying to decide if we actually have two complete sentences or not.

And the importance of that verbs lesson?  Yeah…that has helped tremendously, too.  It’s so nice how those little pieces come together to make something beautiful.

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We used these task cards as a quick check to see if students understood where to separate their sentences.  Oh. My. Goodness. With the exception of forgetting to put a question mark instead of a period or forgetting to capitalize the sentence (GRRR!), they have a pretty solid understanding of where to start and stop their sentences.

Testimonial: One student had FOUR sentences in his journal entry with only one period.  I told him that I could see more sentences than what he had showed me.  And wow! He went back and found EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.  You better believe I made a BIG GIANT deal out of that one!

And y’all!  On Friday, I asked my students to write a journal entry and combine two sentences for me.  I noticed so many more REAL sentences in students’ writing.  They are using AAAWWWUBISes (however you are supposed to write that!) with commas!  My little grammar heart is so stinkin’ happy!!

Man…this sounds so uneventful, but we made some serious headway this week, so I’m not complaining.  I don’t even know how far behind I am.  I’m trying my hardest not to look.  Haha. I know we will catch up soon, but for now, I am relishing in the greatness that my students are accomplishing.

How is it going for YOU?  Do you have any questions?  Drop them in the comments below!  I love hearing from you!

Until next time…

 

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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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Keepers 101 for 4th Graders

***UPDATED***

Last night when I posted this, I didn’t realize that I had two boxes with “there” on this sheet.  I had meant to put “me/I” in that box.  Oops!  This post is now updated with the version that you see below in the picture.  I also updated that terrible pic since it was…well…terrible!  Be sure to grab the CORRECT version from the link below!!

Quick post tonight.  I recreated a document that Gretchen Bernabei used with her 7th graders.  It’s called Keepers 101.  It is a chart that has all of the grammar rules that we teach during the year except for parts of speech.  I’ll be making one of those, too.

It looks like this:

If you would like to grab a PDF copy, click here–>Keepers 101 4th

Enjoy!!

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Flipbooks!

So many of you have been asking about my kids’ flipbooks, so I thought it would be best to go ahead and post some pictures of them.  Since I have finally gotten back my permission slips, it’s time to start blogging again!

Y’all…my kids are rocking it!  They didn’t even realize how much they had written until we took their flipbooks apart and glued them down to manila paper today.  They were stunned!

Ok…so here are a few examples of the finished products.

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We put our kernel essay sentences on the bottom of each flap and left the top flap for the title…which hasn’t been filled in yet…because good writers think about the title as they are writing and take something from the story to create a GREAT one!

I also took some pictures of the inside of one student’s flipbook.  You will notice her kernel essay sentence along the bottom, but we only use that to remind us of what to write about…not to actually include in our narratives.

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I kinda chopped off the kernel essay sentence from paragraph 5, but it says, “I was relieved.”

Last, I wanted to show you how my students took their flipbooks apart and glued them down to manila paper.  We are going to do our revision stations tomorrow, so before doing that, we needed to color up our own writing.  We are a day behind right now due to science lab and the counselor coming in today.  : /

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And there you have it!  Our first drafts of the year!  I’m so excited about all of the hard work these kiddos have done so far!  It’s going to be great!!  :)

Have your students finished their first drafts?  Are you loving what you are seeing?  Please let me know!!

If you still have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments!

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More 11-Minute Essays (In 10 Minutes)

Last year I blogged about our 11-minute essays inspired by the one and only: Gretchen Bernabei.  My kids loved it SO much, and it really helped them see that they could write A LOT in a very short amount of time.

So…it’s only fitting that I carry on the tradition this year, too.  I used the same truism picture as I did with my kids for the first time last year.  You can download a copy (FREE!) of 70 pictures with truisms…in English AND Spanish…by clicking here.  We used #11: Pets can be a big part of a family.

Because 4th graders don’t have the knowledge or experiences of most kids in junior high (which is what Gretchen teaches), I modified her 11-minute essay to fit their needs.

HERE ARE 4 SAMPLES FROM OUR FIRST ATTEMPT AT A 10 MINUTE ESSAY.  Remember: They have not been revised…it’s just a quick 10 minute piece of writing!  😉

Step #1: Talk to students about truisms. (These are the sentences under the pictures.)  Truisms are statements that are generally true in most situations.  Even if it isn’t true for you, there are many other people in the world who agree with a truism.

Step #2: Once you’ve chosen the truism you want your kids to write about, project it on the board.  Tell them to look at it and begin to think about what it says.  Their job will be to tell you how they know this is true.

Step #3: Give students 2 minutes to write only about the truism itself.  They should give information about the truism, or they may simply copy the truism.  When time gets to about 15 seconds, tell students to wrap up what they are saying.  As the timer goes off, tell them to finish the sentence where they are, and remember to put a punctuation mark at the end.

Step #4:  Tell students to drop down to the next line and indent for the next paragraph.  Give students 3 minutes to write about how this is true in their own life or in a book they have read.  I like to let them know when they have 2 minutes, 1 minute, and 30 seconds left.  Repeat the wrap up warning and punctuation reminder when time is up.

Step #5: Tell students to drop down to the next line and indent for the next paragraph.  Give students 3 minutes to write about how this is true in a movie or a TV show they have watched.  Repeat warnings and reminders.

Step #6: Tell students to drop down to the next line for the last paragraph.  Give students 2 minutes to write about what this makes them think or wonder.

Step #7: Have students count their words and write the number at the top and circle it.

And there you have it…a 10 minute expository essay!

What does this do for your kids?  Well…lots of things.  For one, it helps them to see that it doesn’t take TWO WHOLE WEEKS to produce a nice piece of writing.  Yeah…some kids will write more for you in that 10 minutes than they’ve written…EVER!  Gotta love that!

It gives them some practice with writing an expository piece.  And even though they may not have realized it as they were going, they are writing from a text structure: Truism –> How it’s true in my life/book –> How it’s true in a movie/TV show –> This makes me think…

This activity helps them to build confidence in themselves.

How many words did you just write in 10 minutes?  Over 100?  WHAT?  Yeah…that’s a pretty cool feeling.  And the more you do it…the more they write.  It becomes a competition within themselves to see how many more words they can write each time.  And inevitably, a class competition to see who can write the MOST words of all!  :)

But most importantly, the kids enjoy it and have fun with it.  And that’s what writing is all about, right?!?!

 

Have you ever used this activity with your kids?  If so, I would LOVE to hear about it.  How is it similar?  Different?  Leave a comment below to let everyone know how this works in YOUR classroom!

If you ever have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments or email me or find me on Facebook and message me.  I love hearing from you!

Until next time…

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It All Started As An Idea

It’s happening!  I’m blogging!  To all who have been following, thank you for waiting patiently for me.  This year has just been…cah-razy!  But…I’m back!  :)

I wanted to share with you our most recent writing experience…well…in Writer’s Workshop, anyway.  We started the year with narrative, then moved to expository, and now we are back to narrative.  We switch around the entire year to get the students used to figuring out their purpose for writing and showing how it changes.  So…that being said…this is how our narratives have evolved from an idea.

We started out with our text structure and kernel essay.  We do this on our planning page.  You can download your FREE copy here.  For narratives, our structure is always: Where I was –>Moment It Started–>Next Moment–>Last Moment–>Final Thoughts.  Once students get the hang of that, they start asking questions like, “What if I want to put a problem and solution in my story?” or “Can I start with a sound?” or “Is it ok if I put what I hope happens in the future at the end?”  Yes, friends, yes!

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IMG_0416For now, we are still getting the hang of using this text structure.  And I’m ok with that.  :)  So we filled out our text structure, came up with our kernel essays, and then began our introductions.  I’m still walking the kids through their papers…at least the first couple of paragraphs.

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IMG_0419 IMG_0415 IMG_0409Once we finished our first couple of paragraphs together, I let the students go ahead and finish out their papers on their own…unless, of course, they still needed my guidance.  I don’t freak out right now when students still ask for help.  For one, THEY ARE ASKING FOR HELP!  Isn’t that what we WANT them to do?  And two, some just need more help than others.  It’s my job to help them.  The more experience they have with asking questions (and me modeling the kinds of questions they SHOULD ask themselves), the better…in my opinion, anyway.

When they were all finished, I had them “color up” their own writing.  This is an activity where you have students go back into their own writing and use markers, colored pencils, or crayons to underline their sentences according to what Writer’s Tool they used in order to create it.  If it was a description, they underline in blue.  If it was dialog, it’s red.  If it was a thought, it’s yellow.  If it was action, it’s green.  And then the few that say, “It’s really just a little bit of information.”  Those we underlined in black.

FullSizeRender FullSizeRender FullSizeRender IMG_0461 FullSizeRenderWe actually pulled our rough drafts out of our notebooks and put them onto some manilla paper…not for this activity, but for the one that comes next.  As you can see, EVERY sentence is underlined with color.  Is it important that they get every single one correctly identified?  No…but a little help from the teacher goes a long way with this one.  The purpose is for students to see what they are using and notice trends.

Does my paper have too much of this?  Not enough of that?  Does this paragraph have only one color?  Did I see that one of my sentences WAS my whole paragraph?  Those questions begin discussions of how we can revise (or edit in the case of the last question) our papers to make them better.

After doing some noticing about the colors, we decided what needed to be added to our papers.  We discussed how the best papers have lots of thoughts so that the reader can see inside the writer’s mind…to get a feel for how he/she REALLY felt.  It helps to paint a better picture of what was going on.

That lead us into our revision stations.  These stations were designed to make students question themselves about what could be added to help the reader picture the story.  You can grab a copy of the revision stations here.

FullSizeRender IMG_0510 IMG_0508 IMG_0507We spent about 10 minutes at each station, adding information to our papers.  Students would draw an arrow from the spot where it would be inserted out to the side of their paper where they had room to write it.

At the beginning of each station, I had students reread their papers.  Yes, this meant rereading several times.  Don’t you love it when that happens?  Students were required to reread with the new information to be sure that they placed it in an appropriate place.  Yeah…we’re practicing inserting sentences in a fun way!  Imagine that!

Anyway, students were required to add information that was relevant and meaningful to their papers.  They did not add sentences just to add them.  Some of them chose NOT to write anything extra when a certain color came their way because they already had enough (or too much) of that color.

We finished up the stations by…you guessed it…rereading our papers again.  I asked them to share with a partner, too, so that others could hear what the story sounded like.  Sometimes, as the writer, we feel like it sounds right, but when others hear it…not so much.

The last step is publishing.  We still aren’t finished with that, but when we are, I’ll be sharing the first writing samples of the year.  I’ll try to also post some expository samples as well.

So there you have it.  The process from our ideas to our final copy.  Do I do it this way EVERY time?  No.  Many times we will have mini-lessons to teach a certain skill with our papers.  This time around, it was a quicker process due to time constraints.  But it was fun, nonetheless.  :)

 

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