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.

img_5434 But I DID remember to snap a picture of what I asked them to do for their first time editing.  So there’s that.  Haha.

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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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Test Prep Rewind: 2 Weeks of STAAR Writing Review

It’s done.  Our two weeks of test prep are over.  It went by so quickly that I hardly even remember it!  I took some pictures of my kiddos as they worked this week.

They thoroughly enjoyed the task cards I made.  And the best part of it was the conversations I heard as I walked around, listening in on what they had to say.  It’s always nice to hear them discussing the reasons why they choose their answer AND why the other answers are wrong.  To me, that speaks volumes to the amount that they actually know.  They were able to explain and justify all of their answers.  Here are some pics of them with their task cards this week.

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Any time I can use QR codes, I do it.  My kids LOVE using their iPads to check their work.  Even though they are doing the EXACT SAME THING as they do on a worksheet, they think it’s “so much fun!!!”  Silly kids!  😉

On Friday, I was limited to only about an hour and a half for each of my two groups (for math AND writing) due to interruptions in our schedule, so I had to change my plans.  We went ahead and drew our pictures of the STAAR graders.  One the left side of their pictures, they drew how they looked after reading countless boring, unorganized, repetitive, and unfocused papers–BEFORE they read their papers.  On the right side they drew how the STAAR grader looked after reading their AH-mazing papers!  They crack me up.

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You have to click on the pictures to make them bigger to REALLY see what they drew.  Some of them are hilarious!  😉  They had a great time, and our time together was full of smiles and laughs.  What a great way to end the week!

Tomorrow, we will do our gallery walk.  I’m going to print several of the writing samples that I have here on my blog for them to look at and discuss.  Before we do that, we will take a look at the narrative and expository STAAR writing rubrics and talk about what makes a 3 or 4 point paper.  Why waste time on the 1 and 2, right?  They will see that they are ALL capable of writing a 3 or 4 once our discussion is over.  I need them to KNOW that they can do it.  Confidence is key going into this test.  I don’t want nervous kids–I want kids that know that they can ROCK that test!

As an added bonus, I will have them write down which score they think the papers should receive.  I’m using papers that should probably score a 3 or 4.  No matter how much you look at the rubric, it’s all still subjective.  That’s why they have 2 graders look at them, and they may or may not agree with each other on the scores.  Funny how that works, huh?!

Here are some links to some papers I will be using tomorrow:

Narrative Writing Samples: A Positive Note Home, Please, Blog post with 3 narrative samples (open in Word).

Expository Writing Samples: Go Meet Your Teacher Night, Football, Summer, Dance Season, Winter, Fantastic Friends, Multi-Tool Knife

You are welcome to use these if you are going to do a gallery walk, but I would suggest using your own students’ writing to make it more personal.  However–I know how it is to have to look back through a bunch of papers to try to find some worth posting!  That’s one reason I’m glad I have a blog.  It helps me keep track of things like that and makes it so much easier to go back and print things.

If you don’t like those, I have several posts that link to both narrative and expository writing samples.  You can search for them at the top right side of your screen.

What are your plans (those of you who are from Texas) for the last day before THE test?  What else do I need to do?  Do you have a cute/creative way to pump them up?  I would LOVE to know!

If I don’t hear from you before Tuesday, GOOD LUCK!!  May the odds be ever in your favor!  😉

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Narrative and Expository Writing Rubrics

WHEW!  I FINALLY finished my own rubrics for expository and narrative writing.  These are based on the STAAR Writing rubrics from TEA.  I was tired of thumbing through 4 pages of text and trying to determine those little differences between the scores, so I took the important parts and put them into a rubric that is one page and easier to follow.  I also created a rubric that is kid-friendly so that my students can see what they do well and where they still need improvement.  AND…I created a rubric with simply numbers for scoring at a glance.  All-in-all…5 pages of awesomeness that I can use from now on…or until TEA decides to change it up again!

You can check out a preview of the products below.

Expositroy Rubric Pic

Scoring Rubric Pic

I’m uploading these to my TpT store.  Especially if you are a 4th grade writing teacher in Texas, these are for you!!   I’ve had several teachers and bloggers ask about how I grade my students.  This is it!  😉  Click here to get your set!

And the best part….Teachers Pay Teachers is having a sitewide sale in celebration of reaching 3 million teachers!  The sale is Thursday and Friday, Feb 26 – 27.  In addition, my products are an additional 20% off!  So now is your chance to get some awesome products for a GREAT price! Be sure to enter the code TPT3 during checkout!

Be sure to leave feedback on all of your purchases.  Not only does it give the seller feedback, but you also accrue points toward future purchases.  Happy shopping!!  :)

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Planning Page: Narrative or Expository

After using my other planning page I created, I realized that it was a little difficult for my students to follow.  They were able to complete it with lots of help, but I wanted something that was easy for them to remember and that they could do on their own.

I created a new planning page that is much simpler to use.  And the best part is…I can use it with all genres of writing!  Don’t you just love something versatile?  I was tired of racking my brain, trying to figure out different ways for my kids to plan their expository and narrative writing.  And then it hit me.  Hey, let’s make it the same so that kids actually remember it!!  Genius, I know.  :)

The trial run was done with a good ol’ Sharpie and white paper.  Once I knew my students would be successful with it, I put it into Word.  (Also because I can never find my copy when I need it.  Shhhh!  Don’t tell anyone I’m that unorganized!)  Now I can ALWAYS find a copy when I need one!  Magic!

Planning Page

Once my students get one filled out, I’ll post some pictures of them.  Right now, they are writing them down inside of their Writer’s Notebooks.  You see, THE test allows them 2 blank pages to plan.  I hate loathe the question, “Hey, what am I supposed to do on these blank pages?”  Ever hear that?  Makes. Me. Furious.

So…in preparation for that day, I’m having my students create this exact same planning page in their notebooks.  We will plan out many more kernel essays than we actually develop, so I figured this is a good time to start getting them into the habit of drawing them.  Then, once they pick a topic they want to write about, I will have them copy it onto the planning page and spice it up with some schesis onomaton, pitchforking, and sentence combining.  😉

Feel free to use this in your classroom, too.  You won’t be disappointed.  I know I say it all the time, but if you haven’t checked out Gretchen Bernabei’s resources, you are missing out!  She has totally changed the way I teach writing–and the way my students understand writing!  It’s not too late!  Check her out–>www.trailofbreadcrumbs.net.

To download your own copy of the file, click here.

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Narrative 11-Minute Essays

After several long weeks of expository writing, we have switched back to narratives again.  Students always usually enjoy writing narratives more than expository pieces, so this was refreshing to most.

I have tried the 11-minute essay (introduced by Gretchen Bernabei) with my students for expository writing, but not for narrative.  I thought I would give it a try.  Rather than giving them a truism to think about, I gave them a narrative prompt.  Their prompt was: Write about a time you went to your favorite place.  They used the text structure: Where I was–>First Moment–>Next Moment–>Last Moment–>What I Thought.

Wow!  They impressed me once again!  Simply speaking–they wrote an entire narrative in 12 minutes.  Yep, I gave an extra minute for their introduction (2 mins. for intro., 3 mins. for each body paragraph, and then 1 min. for concl.).  The craziest part about it was that some of my students wrote more in 12 minutes than they have in an entire week of Writer’s Workshop.  I guess the time crunch works!  I’ll definitely be doing this again…probably as our rough draft for just about every piece of writing from here on out.

Canyon Lake by Gasseli

Basketball Court by Ciarra

Closet by Avery

My Room by Joe

Pantry by Avery

The River by Annaleah

The Car by Daniel

They loved it SO much, that we did it two days in a row. After sharing out on day 1, we noticed that some students were spending too much time on their way to their special place.  On day 2, some students chose to use their same place and make it better, while others chose to write about somewhere totally new.

I made copies of each student’s writing (it was in their notebooks) and gave it back to them.  Since they did not skip lines, we had to come up with a way to add to our stories without trying to squeeze everything between lines or in the margins.  The students have cut out their writing pieces and glued them down onto large pieces of construction paper.  They will be adding icons, ba…da…bing sentences, snapshots, thoughtshots, etc. on the construction paper with arrows pointing to where the information will go.  I’ll be sure to post some pictures of their work.

I will also have them publish this piece of writing, so all can see what they look like after some individual conferences with students.  Remember: They wrote these in 12 minutes!

I have posted a sampling of some of their papers (above).  Some of them are already really well written, while others need some serious interventions.  I like to post more than just awesome papers so that we can look at them and use them as a teaching tool for students.  I do this in my classroom–use real student writing to show how we can make it better: adding icons, changing verbs, punctuation marks, checking for spelling rules, schesis onomaton (renaming), etc.  Hopefully you can find a use for them in your classroom, too!

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