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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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. :)

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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.

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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.

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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.

Whew!

Lots of changes…but definitely good changes.

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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!

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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!

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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?)

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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!

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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…

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Launching Writer’s Workshop

Well…hello, friends! Long time no see! I AM still alive…it’s just that life hit me and I haven’t had the energy to stop in and say hello.

So…here goes!

We just started our 4th week of school. We’ve been busy at work getting things up and going in our writing classroom.

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The first two weeks we spent time getting our journals ready by gluing in our Keepers 101 chart, tabbing sections for Lists and Entries, numbering our pages, and assigning a page for our Table of Contents. We created a few lists in our journals to give students topics to write about.

Side note: When students exhaust many things on their lists, we will go back and add to them. Some run out and others rarely use them, but we need to revisit them to keep them up to date and with fresh ideas for writing.

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We also began journaling. It’s so painful to start. Kids have had off all summer, and most haven’t picked up a pencil since May. I made an executive decision to start with 5 minutes of journal time and work our way up to 10 minutes. And you know what? It was much LESS painful this way. Students were getting used to writing and easing their way into our writing time goal.

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Lessons started last week. We’ve gone over nouns with an emphasis on common and proper, verbs, and we just finished up pronouns. With this knowledge, we will be on our way to understanding how to construct a sentence…and that’s up next! (You can grab a set of these Folding Parts of Speech here)

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Our writing and grammar time really merged together the first two weeks. Writing lists takes a LOT of time at the beginning of the year. I want students to enjoy reminiscing and creating lists of experiences in their journals.

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We also spent time TELLING several stories. Students can’t write a story until they can tell a story. So that’s where we always start. Some chose to write some of those same stories in their journals. It worked for us. :)

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And don’t forget learning about the writing process! That calls for Writing Process Battle!

I’ve already started differentiating instruction for my kids. After a diagnostic writing piece (required by the district), my head has been spinning with ideas on how to help these kiddos. Many of us have a lot of work to do, but we will get there. Enter differentiation.

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For some, we started with a nursery rhyme from the new book coming out next month, Text Structures from Nursery Rhymes. Wow! It has come in SO handy! The kids are enjoying it, and it’s a fast way to introduce text structures and kernel essays. We are almost finished with our first piece. We will do a few more nursery rhymes before moving to more complicated mentor texts.

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For others, we went straight to the planning page that I use every year with my kids. We are writing about a place. Any place. A place they would like to go. A place they have been. A place they imagined. A place from a book. Any place.

I’ve had fun watching them grow in their writing just from the beginning of the year. I know it hasn’t been long, but seeing more and more appear in their journals and more smiles is a great way to start off the year. I enjoy seeing these kiddos let their guards down about writing and begin to enjoy writing in a whole new way. It’s what keeps me going back for more! 😉

So how is it going for you? Seeing any sparks yet? Feeling like you’re running in quicksand? All of it? Let’s talk about it!

Until next time…

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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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Examples of Lists

I wanted to share some of the lists that I use with my kids at some point during the year. These are lists from MY notebook, but you might be able to read them a little easier than if they were by a student. 😉

  


 
  

   
    
 Some of these are mentioned in my Scope & Sequence, but some of them aren’t. Feel free to steal any of these and use them in your classroom. 

Enjoy!

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Writer’s Workshop Scope & Sequence with Daily Activities

Ladies and Gentlemen!

I’ve been SUPER busy cranking out my lesson plans for THE ENTIRE YEAR!  And guess what?!  I just posted them to my TpT store!  This product is on sale 20% off through tomorrow, so if you want to have your plans basically done for the year, head on over and grab a copy!

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This product includes a unit overview for each unit which includes weeks, suggested dates, focus, activities, TEKS, misconceptions, and take-aways, as well as notes to the teacher, a calendar full of daily activities, and a separate resource page…49 pages of writing instruction.

**NOTE: YOU WILL NEED AT LEAST 2 OF GRETCHEN BERNABEI’S BOOKS TO COMPLETELY FOLLOW THE DAILY LESSONS**  I’ve listed Fun Size Academic Writing, Crunch Time, and Story of My Thinking, but I’ve only referenced one lesson in Story of My Thinking, so you COULD get by without that one.  However, I would definitely purchase ALL of them…I PROMISE you won’t be disappointed!!

If you haven’t gotten your copies of her books, you can click here to get the best prices or even a bundle!  While you’re there, pick up a copy of Grammar Keepers, too!!

You can click here to grab your copy before the sale ends!

All the lessons that you have seen here on my blog are included in the daily activities, so if you like what you see here on my blog, you will definitely like this product!!

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Tips for Writer’s Workshop

Hi, y’all!  Remember me?  It’s been WAAAAYYY too long since I last posted.  Other than just taking a break and enjoying some “me time,” I’ve been staying busy with presentations and going here and there…you know, the usual.  :)

If you don’t already know, a few of us blogger teachers started a new Facebook group called Texas Teacher Tribe.  We set it up as a tool for teachers to talk to each other and get help when they have questions…all that good stuff.  It is NOT intended to be a sounding board for all the bad things that we experience or a rant page…rather an uplifting site to see what’s going on around us and for teachers to share things that work.  So…if you haven’t joined in on the fun…you should…  :)

Anywho….I’m back to share with you some tips on how to implement an effective Writer’s Workshop.

 

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I know we all struggle at times when it comes to writing….or at least MANY of us do.  Myself included.  There are just some days that you get up to teach your heart out, but something seems to be wrong…the kids are antsy and paying attention to everything OTHER THAN what you’re doing…or their eyes are glazed, totally uninterested in what is going on.  Ever have one of those days?  Yeah…me, too.

Sometimes we just need to remember things that will help bring them back together…other than the typical classroom management mantra.  You may read this and think….DUH!  I knew that…but sometimes we get lost in our day to day responsibilities and lose sight of some CRUCIAL steps in teaching kids to write.  Here goes:

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There was a time when I didn’t realize the importance of truly immersing my students in good writing.  By immersing…I mean showing lots of examples and allowing students time to share their work with others…ALL THE TIME!  Kids don’t know what good writing is until they see and hear it…A LOT!  It didn’t really occur to me that they NEEDED to see and hear lots and lots of examples of what good writing is.

And let’s face it…sometimes we have to pick up kids after work…sometimes we have to cook dinner…sometimes we have to bathe our kids after cooking their dinner…and sometimes we have to spend time with loved ones…AND WE DON’T FEEL LIKE SITTING DOWN TO WRITE A PAPER ON WHAT SEASON IS OUR FAVORITE!  I get it.  Been there.  Didn’t write that!  It happens.

BUT…there are several ways to utilize others’ work.  Collaborate with your teammates.  Share that responsibility…and make copies. Take a piece of your students’ work that shows the skill you are working on and make that student a celebrity in your classroom!  Or you can use mentor texts, whether they are books you read in class or one that you purchase (I use Fun Size Academic Writing by Gretchen Bernabei) to help teach your lessons.

Another thing that is SUPER important is allowing your students time to share out.  Not everyone will want to share…and there are lots of times when you just don’t have time for all who DO want to share…so choose two or three, and allow them to shine.  Draw attention to something that he/she did very well, something that pertains to your lesson for the day.  This is HUGE for kids…and sometimes they do things that even surprise US!  :)

Whatever you do….share, share, share!

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Just as important as sharing writing…is giving feedback.  Kids don’t know what they are doing well or what they need to improve if they aren’t given feedback.  And that means more than a facial expression.  While those are great, kids NEED guidance in their writing.

I try to make sure to conference with my students at least once a week…or when we get really busy, at least every other week.  This happens through various phases of the writing process…but NOT just at the end when you get the notorious question, “Is this good?”  *Insert a shudder* I don’t even have time to write about THAT!  But kids need meaningful feedback to allow them to grow as a writer.

An easy way to get it all in is to put a sheet of paper on your clipboard with each child’s name in a box.  I have this one if you want to use it for conferring with your little writers.  If not, a piece of notebook paper or class roster will do.  Each time you visit with your kids, just jot down short…and I mean SHORT…notes about what you talked about.  This helps to hold your kids and yourself accountable and can provide immediate feedback during the writing process.

When my kids are done, I use a rubric to assess their work.  I have this one that uses STAAR verbiage to help them see how their writing measures up to the dreaded test.  This allows them to see what areas are weak and need more tweaking…along with areas that are awesome!  And there are several rubrics that teachers use…but the important thing is to use some sort of rubric so that they know how they are being graded…whether it is for the grade book or not.

And last….but CERTAINLY not least….

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I know it seems cliche, but seriously y’all…you HAVE to have fun with writing.  If you aren’t having fun, neither are the kids.  We all know that saying, “Fake it ’til you make it!”  It’s so true.  If you don’t enjoy teaching writing see me after class! at least pretend that you do.  Tell your kids stories.  Laugh with them.  Just. Have. Fun!

I tell my kids all kinds of stories…that time I peed my pants, the time I fell in the pond and ruined my brand new white shorts my mom told me not to wear, the time I fell and busted my chin on the concrete and had blood gushing out all over the place, the time my son pooped all over my friend…stories that kids can identify with and enjoy hearing.  And every time, you could hear a pin drop in the room.  They’re mesmerized! But because I make it a big deal.  Ordinary, every day, boring stories that are made into something much better…by having fun!

Don’t be afraid of what your kids think.  They love you…the good, the bad, and the ugly!  They love to hear about your stories when you were their age…and all the mishaps you had along the way.  And when you have a little fun…they love you even more!  :)

So there you have it.  My 3 tips for Writer’s Workshop.  I would LOVE to hear your top 3!  Leave them down there in the comments!

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