A Fresh Start

count down HNYLD (c) Melonheadz Illustrating LLC 2015 colored

Maybe it’s just me…but I’m a *little* glad to have 2017 behind me. Although not a bad year by any means, by the end, I was just ready for a new year. A fresh start. An empty slate.

Isn’t that what New Years are all about? Starting over. Being a better version of your current self. Setting goals (hopefully realistic and not something you regret by noon on 1/1).

That’s what I’m ready to do. I’m ready to look forward with a positive attitude and
not worry about what’s in the past. Sometimes I get stuck focusing on what my kids seem to be lacking in skills or their inexperience and exposure to writing. And it makes me sick. Like…seriously sick to my stomach if I think about it too much. resolutions HNYLD (c) Melonheadz Illustrating LLC 2015 coloredWho’s with me?

I’ve decided that we are going to start fresh on Thursday with goals and targets in mind. These won’t be STAAR related goals. Bleh. Nope. We will be setting specific goals in how to grow as a writer.

For some, this might mean remembering to capitalize I when it stands for our name. #evenincontractions For others, this might mean really taking a break, closing their eyes, and imagining what they are writing about to help them be more specific and descriptive.

Whatever the goal is, we will set some sort of goal and begin tracking our progress toward that goal. Things need to be visual for our kiddos, so visual it will be!

fireworks HNYLD (c) Melonheadz Illustrating LLC 2015 colored

Let’s talk stations for a bit, shall we?

I’m heading into 2018 with high hopes for running small groups for writing and grammar. #crossingmyfingers I’ve never successfully run small groups like the way I’m envisioning my room, but I’m always willing to try!


I’ve gone over all 4th grade OWC TEKS by this point in the year. Not everything has been taught to mastery. This allows some time for me to teach new skills and then spiral back to them later on.


I want to pull small groups for grammar skills. These students will have intensive reteaching until that content is mastered. In other words, we WILL NOT move on until students demonstrate at least 80% mastery of that skill.

Mastery will be measured on Friday or the last day of the week. Students will be given a performance assessment (journal entry) to show that they can use the specific skill correctly in their own writing. They will also be given a set of questions (multiple choice, fill in the blank, circle the correct answer) to answer based on the skill. Lastly, they will have to tell me the purpose of the rule and what happens without that rule.

This will allow me to see who truly understands the concepts they are being taught and who is a good guesser or test taker.


Journals. Students will need journals. Every lesson we have had so far this year is in their journals. It has a wealth of information. I want students to understand that their journals are tools that can help them in their learning. We will look back at lessons and mentor sentences we have discussed together. We will also be using our journals for more journaling during small groups.pencil girl wb (c) Melonheadz Illustrating LLC 2014 colored

*Side note* Journaling helps students to internalize the rule and reproduce it on their own. If we don’t give them the space to do this, they never will. Worksheets don’t allow students to APPLY these new skills so that they USE them correctly.

Games. Everybody likes a good game, right? Add a little competition into small groups and we might just have ourselves a great little learning opportunity! I believe that guided practice definitely can…and SHOULD…include some fun. This means I’ll be busy creating even MORE games for my sweet kiddos so that we can get in some practice that isn’t just the same boring thing.

Task Cards. Using task cards in small groups gives students an opportunity to move at their own pace. Each student can be working on the same thing, but they are able to work a little better when they aren’t all having to follow along together. This also allows me some time to work with them one on one as others practice (but they can ask for help because I’m RIGHT there). You can explore several games and task card sets here.

Note Cards. Students will be making some note cards to help them remember certain words or concepts. These can be especially helpful for practicing homophones (or common errors) and spelling rules (changing endings).

Dry Erase Markers. And erasers. There’s always time to practice writing on tables. If we decide to write sentences and pass them to our neighbor to correct, I’ll take out some whiteboards.


So…what in the world is the rest of the class doing while I’m huddled around a table with another group of kids? They go crazy and run around like a chicken with its head cut off. We will have a peaceful writing experience with our Writing Menu!


I’m creating a Writing Menu for students to complete. They will be required to finish each activity once for the week, but they will be in charge of how long they spend at each station and which ones they want to double in their extra time.

boy 1 wb (c) Melonheadz Illustrating LLC 2014 coloredThe menu will have these options (to start with, anyway):

  • Free Write (15 minutes)
  • Find 5 sentences that use *grammar rule* and write them down EXACTLY as they appear in your book; explain why that rule is necessary in writing
  • Mentor text: read this mentor text and then use it to help you create your own paragraph about *topic*
  • Reflection on a recent grammar skill
  • Peer Editing
  • Pieces of an essay (introduction, body, conclusion): students will create their essay at their own pace. #jesustakethewheel
  • Publishing

Students will be expected to turn in their work at the end of each week so that I can look at it and go over it. I will also do spot checking during the week. We will see how that goes.


I’ve always wanted to make small groups work in a writing classroom. I know other people do it. So I know I can, too. This will definitely be a learning curve for me, but I feel like NOW is the time to give this a try. Something in me just tells me this is what I need to do for this group of kids.

My goal is to meet students’ needs where they are, hold them accountable, and offer some choice to those who aren’t struggling as much as others. This also gives me an opportunity to pull students who need help on specific skills while allowing the others to move on and do other things that they need to do to expand their knowledge and understanding of writing.

I know things won’t be perfect. #theyneverare But I’m willing to give it a chance. We will go over expectations before we start to clear up any confusion of what students should be doing at ALL times. I’m sure it will take some tweaking here and there, but I’m determined to try this out.

If you have any input or advice, please throw it my way! I’m always looking for new ideas or tried and true ideas that you’ve experienced. We’re all in this together, y’all!

Have YOU tried small groups? Tell me all about it!!

Until next time…