Saturday, September 20, 2014

Bright Idea: Creative Writing Response for Any Book

It's another Bright Ideas Link-Up! I'm so excited to participate in one of the best link-ups I've seen. Teachers share great ideas from their classrooms, and not a product in sight. Just lots of super ideas for the classroom! 

My post today is a simple strategy to help students respond to any text, whether it's a poem, a story, or even informational text. We used it last year to respond to this book: A Perfect Season for Dreaming by Ben Saenz. 

The beauty of this strategy is how accessible it makes writing to kids with limited vocabularies. Here are the steps:

1. Set your purpose for reading: to notice and record interesting words. As you read the book aloud to the students, record the interesting words they enjoy on index cards. Each group of students can create their own set of index cards, if you'd like, or you can make a class set. 

2. Sort the words. To help students understand their new words and their usage, sort them into different groups. We sorted into different parts of speech: verbs, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs.

And then we sorted into different tone words: positive and negative. 

4. Use the words to create a poem. Students can use the words on the cards to create lines in their poem. They can also add words to help their poems make sense.

This was the poem that we made out of these cards:

Summer arrives, bursting into flame.
Colors escaping from every bloom.

The cloudless sky
is shot with yellow sun.

How easy is that?! And yet, the kids really took off and shared some beautiful writing! One of our third grade teachers had students use the words to write about a special relationship they shared with someone else, because the book, A Perfect Season for Dreaming, describes the relationship between the grandfather and the granddaughter. Through using these words, students were able to describe their relationships beautifully and with complex language. 

I hope you try it! If you do, I'd love to see pictures!
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For more bright ideas from more than 100 different bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a grade or topic that interests you! Thanks for visiting the Bright Ideas Link-Up!
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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Schoolwide Writing Contest: The Best Part of Me

Last year, we hosted our first school-wide writing contest. The prompt was something my principal found that could be accommodated to suit writers of all levels: The Best Part of Me. 
This prompt is general, yet personal. Students can share as much of their souls as they choose, so it made a beautiful end-of-year writing piece, but I could see it serving well at the beginning of the year, too, to help you "get to know" your kids, and to help them see each other as real people. And because you would model, model, model, they would get to know you, too!
I recommend reading at least two books to help activate language and ideas. A couple of the books I pulled out and put into a basket for our teachers were:
And this one, although I haven't read it, looks like it would serve really well!

As you read and activate language and ideas, chart them out! These are a couple sample charts.
This is a sample I provided my teachers with: During a class conversation, chart out the different body parts and the reason that part is the best part of you! 

One of my teachers built this chart with her kids to help them think of options. 

And if you're ever stuck for inspiration, PIN! These are some of the great pins that helped our teachers think about helping students write in response to this prompt:

Each teacher selected one piece to represent their class. I am not sure how they did this. I only had to choose between five or six for each grade level and it was excrutiating. How they chose between twenty or so kids is pretty impressive.

I mean, I know they used a rubric. I just think it's hard.

From there, we chose a grade level winner. This posed another challenge. I am working on it, but I am not yet a fluent Spanish speaker or reader, as many (over half) of our students are. Kids in grades K-4 wrote their pieces in Spanish if they were in a bilingual classroom setting. I had to call in for (bilingual) reinforcements to help me judge the pieces to make sure everybody had a fair shot!

Each grade level winner received a "First Place Winner" certificate and each class winner received a "Distinguished Writer Award". 

This piece, albeit short and simple, was especially moving. The student who wrote this piece is not used to winning much of anything, really, and his smile stretched from ear to ear when he went up to receive his certificate. 

Here's an adorable display that one of our teachers created out of their students' work!

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Super Family Literacy Night: Superhero Themed Reading Events! *Freebie!

Last year, (yes, it's been a whole year and I haven't blogged about this yet - give me a break, I got married :) our reading theme was Superheroes! We used superhero bulletin boards for everything - our GIANT  25 Book Campaign recognition board:

We divided up the space into months and posted each teacher's name under the month. After the 25 Book Campaign for that month had been turned in, we took pictures of each class' students who participated! They were proud to be featured on our board!

Our welcome back to reading board at the front of the school:

You can read about that here!

And of course, our Family Literacy Night. The year before, we had a Camping Themed Literacy Night, but this year, our theme was Super Family Literacy!  
The week before the evening we were celebrating literacy, I created student bookmarks, tickets, pledges and stuffed brightly colored (donated) plastic bags with the materials they would need for the evening. I put the reading pledge sheet and the bookmark inside the bag. Some (about 15) of the Reading Pledges had a pumpkin sticker in the corner. If a child received a pledge with a pumpkin sticker, he/she could choose a free book to take home when they turned it in!

To the outside, I stapled their "Super Snack" ticket.

We notified kids that they could wear their costumes because it was a couple days before Halloween. It was absolutely adorable. 

As kids arrived, we handed out the bags and directed them gym floor to listen to the book, Dex: Heart of a Hero being read aloud. It was absolutely adorable - such a precious story about a wiener dog who decided enough is enough! He takes action to get stronger and quicker, and of course ends up saving the day. 

After that, we directed them to complete several of the seven stations we had available to develop literacy and family fun! After completing each station, each child received several pieces of candy in their bags (we had plastic pumpkins full of candy and spider rings at each station). They carried their bags from place to place, completing stations, collecting candy, and having fun!

This was our Smack Attack Station: here, students listened to words being read from cards by the teacher, and then used the superhero-decorated flyswatter to smack the rhyming word!

At our Secret Identities Station, students decorated a cardstock cutout of a mask and used yarn to wear it!

We Need a Hero! required students to create a superhero using alliteration and then illustrate a cover for a comic book!

Everything we do, we do in English and Spanish to grow bilingualism in our students and help our Spanish-speaking parents communicate with their children about these activities.

At this station, This Looks Like a Job For..., students used a sentence strip to create a comic book about a superhero! 

At the Super Snack Station, kids decorated cookies to look like superhero symbols! Each student received one snack ticket as they arrived, stapled to their bag. When they arrived, we collected the ticket to help make sure we didn't have repeat customers at the snack station!

Of course, we had a building words station! Kids wrote "Superheroes read" on a sentence strip and cut between the letters to make cards. Then they built as many words as they could using those letters - parents actually got pretty competitive here! 

Our most simple station was the Reading Headquarters. We used the gym stage and added some cozy furniture and a rug to make it an inviting area to read in! We added some baskets of high-interest books and (here's the best part) made capes out of plastic tablecloths and yarn! Students donned a cape and read a book with their buddies in Reading Headquarters! Even some of our older students enjoyed doing this!

A week or so later, I finally took all the pictures, pledges, and student products we had been given, and created our Super Family Literacy Night display in one of our glass display cases!

To grab the materials I made for our Family Literacy Night and to host one of your own, visit TPT and check out my new Super Family Literacy Night Materials!

And here's a free page from the Super Literacy Night Materials: superhero printable bookmarks with reading tips for students and parents!

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Wedding DIY: Circle Garland Backdrop

So a few months before my wedding, I was pinning away and I saw all of these beautiful photo backdrops. And I thought, "I can do that."

And it turns out, yes, I did.

I used these supplies (string, a 2-inch circle punch, double-stick tape, and clothespins), plus a lot of pretty scrapbooking paper in our wedding colors and a five-foot wooden dowel.

I started by cutting long pieces of string and taping them down to one end of my dining room table. The string pieces were long enough for the height of the backdrop, so about five feet long. 

On the other end of the string, I attached a paperclip to keep it from blowing around too much, but a metal washer would've probably been a better idea.

Then I cut approximately a million circle squares of all different shades of our wedding colors (blue and yellow-gold)

I placed the circles at a variety of intervals under the string. 

Then I stuck a piece of double-stick tape to hold it to the string.

After that, I stuck another circle of the same color on top of it, making a little sandwich and adhering both sides to each other and the string.

After I'd made the first set that fit on my dining room table, I tied them to the wooden dowel at intervals and taped them down. Then I made another set, and another, and another until my hand was puffy from smushing down the circle punch.

The really tricky part (and this is a DUH moment...) is getting it where you want it. Of course, the day I decided to move it, it was windy. My mother lives a block and a half away from me, and I couldn't bear to roll this all up and clip it or any such thing, which would have probably been far smarter than what I did. Because what I did was walk it, down the street, all the way to my mother's house. On a day that was calm in front of my house, but quite breezy in front of my mother's house. So yeah, don't do that, because you will then spend several (thirty) minutes untangling and retaping your precious backdrop. And you won't be that happy about it.

To hang it up, we drove two nails into the brick wall (not kidding) at my mom's house, where we had our wedding reception & party. One of our photographer friends staked out this spot and took pictures of our guests as they walked in to the party!

One of our awesome groomsmen, his lovely fiancee, and my husband. Rawr-ing. In front of the backdrop.

Check out 4th Grade Frolics for even more Monday Made It posts!

Happy Crafting!

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