Tuesday, January 31, 2012

February! *Freebie

Awesome things happen in February.

One: my boyfriend's birthday is on February 13.
When I first met him, it was in January.
He said, "You know, my birthday is February 13."
I said, "Really? That's funny."
"Because it's the day before Valentine's Day."

"Oh. Well, we don't really have to celebrate Valentine's Day. My birthday is really the more important one."


You can imagine what happened next.
This is the printworthy version:

"Yes, actually, we WILL be celebrating Valentine's Day because no one gives ME anything on YOUR birthday."

Two: Valentine's Day!

This is a two-parter. Part I: Oh my gosh, I need some supercute ideas for my Valentine's Day Secret Blog Person Exchange Thing. Help!!

Part II: In honor of Valentine's Day, and February, I guess, I made a cute calendar for your class!
We use it for calendar math, and I thought I'd share this one from my TPT store.

Simple and sweet :)
Like me.
No one who knows me isn't rolling their eyes right now.

Also, don't forget to enter my muy superwow 100 followers giveaway here!!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Giveaway...again *Communities Freebie!

Hello, world.

I am trying to be a good teacher and not spend my time staring too much at the computer screen tonight
unless it is to put something together for my actual students.

Yes, blogging makes you a better teacher.
But I have teachery things to do.
So I'm going to do those instead.
I guess.

Anyway, two things.

1. Don't forget about the awesome 100 followers giveaway I'm having! You can go here to enter.

Okay, I just realized it's four things.

So, 2. My dog's test results came back. 
Prepare to be shocked.
It took me an extra 70 dollars for a superfluous test...
to be told she's as fine as we thought she was
after the first test.
*le sigh*


If you missed the VET post, and want to read it
it's here.

3. Where do you get supercute educational clipart? 
I know GingerSnaps has the measurement stuff which is good and I want to get soon, but I'm looking for science stuff, like earth (not just earth day, actually earth science), soil, layers of the earth, volcanoes (and I don't want a dinosaur pack - that's all I can find so far.) 
If you have a suggestion,
please let me know!
Thank you!

4. I added this "Communities and Citizenship Pack to my TPT store and my Teacher's Notebook store! It's great for second and third grades, full of graphic organizers and formats to use to record and learn about communities and being a good citizen from any source.

because you're the bestest,
here's a freebie: Three Types of Communities Chart: looks like, sounds like.
Grab it here at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

Thanks for being the best followers ever!
If you're not a follower,
oh, just do it!
Do it!
Do it!
Follow me!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

One Hundred Giveaway! Ka-chow!


Oh my gosh.


Actually, I missed 100 and now it's 101. And I didn't know.



I can't believe it. In November, I celebrated for every follower. Every single one. I think I had a ten follower giveaway.

I check my email compulsively and if I see a new follower, I do a dance.
Seriously. I actually dance.

So I've danced 101 times!!!

And in honor, and to say thanks to, and just to have fun with all of my awesomely awesome followers, I am having the 100 follower giveaway!

Look how cute this cute stuff from From the Pond is. You need it, huh?
I am going to let the winners (three of them) choose any single product from my TPT store or Teacher's Notebook Store!

I have bunches of stuff now (super excited about that, too). That includes any classroom posters, units, printables, centers, reader's theater - anything!

So you can check it out to be thinking about what you want... here are the links to my stores.

So how can you win some free stuff?!

1. Follow my blog and leave a comment that you do.
2. Follow my TPT store and leave a comment that you do.
3. Follow my Teacher's Notebook store and leave a comment that you do.
4. Blog about this giveaway and leave a comment when you do.

I can't think of any other ways.
I'll run this through next Sunday (Feb. 5th) , so once-a-week bloggers have a chance to enter :)

Thank you so much to all of you greatly supportive people. You have helped me share my thinking about teaching and my writing in general and I love your feedback

-probably because it is always so positive-

And, to my first follower: Denise from Yearn to Learn, a very special thank you. She followed me when I was blogging to myself and my colleague at work and helped me think maybe somebody would want to read some of this stuff someday.

Just one last time.

TAG?! I thought I was done with tag.

All my life, I have hated the game of tag.
Cause I'm sooooo sllllooooooowwwww.
I used to fake being sick during PE all the time
cause I hated it.

But today, it's the first time I've been tagged
and I'm actually excited about it.

Who caught me?
Kelley from Buggy for Second Grade did!
She tagged me and now I get to do this fun thing.

So here are the rules:

1. You must post the rules.
2. Post 12 fun facts about yourself on the blog post.
3. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post, and then create 12 new questions for the people you tagged.
4. Tag 12 people and link them on your post.
5. Let them know you've tagged them!

Number 1. I already did. See above rules.
Number 2. Ok. I looked around and saw that somebody said it has to be facts I haven't already shared. Well, this is tricky because I'm kind of an open book and secrets manage to spew themselves onto the page. So let's see what happens...
  • When I was a kid, I wrote a 'book' as in multiple chapters about a girl named Annie and her magical mirror that was a portal to fairyland (oh, god, it sounds worse than I thought).
  • I grew up in a suburb of Dallas until I was 16, when I moved to El Paso. High school is the BEST time to move, ask anybody.
  • I hate country music. Like, I HATE it.
  • I have known my best friend since the second grade and she still lives near Dallas.
  • My boyfriend is a photographer and he works for the same district as me.
  • My friend did a goofy superstitious trick on my with a necklace and it said that I'm going to have three kids in this order: a girl, a boy, and a girl. I'll let you know.
  • I've taught in the same school for nine years. This is my first year in third grade.
  • I hate to pay for pedicures but I also love pedicures so I get them as a special treat, like twice a year, and I do it myself the rest of the time. I figured out how to do those little flowers, but nothing complicated.
  • I have a constant battle waged with my body that wants to be larger than I want it to be. Or the doctor wants it to be. Or society wants it to be. I'm ok with slightly larger than the doctor and society want, but that's still slightly smaller than I am now.
  • One of these battles involves sugar. That's why I'm on low-carb (again. I never should've stopped, but you know how when you fall in love you eat whatever he wants to eat? Yeah, three years ago and it's been downhill since then.)
  • My favorite teacher was Mrs. Tricoli in fourth grade. She had an awesome gumball machine that somebody broke. She thought it was my best friend, but my best friend said it was Cedric. Cedric was the smartest kid (we competed for grades) but now he doesn't really do anything.
  • 12 facts is a lot. I love the changes of the seasons more than I love the actual season. Like right now, I'm super excited that it's going to be spring soon, but a month in, I'll be ready for a change. Then I'll be excited that it's summer, and a month later, I'll be begging for fall.
Yeesh that was tough. 
Number 3: Here are the questions I'm supposed to answer.
1. What is your favorite T.V show?
My favorite TV showof all time is Arrested Development. Hil-arious. But my favorite current TV show is probably Fringe? Maybe? I'm not good at favorites. Too moody.

2. Do you have any hobbies?
I am going to sound like the most boring person ever. All my hobbies involve schoolish stuff like a nerd. I love to read and write, watch a ton of TV (that's a new one. I'm broadening my horizons) mostly comedies. I like to blog? Does that count? Gosh, I'm boring. OH! I love board games, but it can be hard to get people to play.

3. What was your New Years Resolution?
I didn't have one! I HATE THEM. 
I had some things to think about (my faith, being nicer, being present) but I didn't actually make any resolutions. Because I never keep them. 
I forget them, usually.

4. Are you a dog or cat person?
I actually enjoy both, depending on my mood. Although my lifestyle is more suited to a cat. 
I have two of each. Penny and Lucy are dogs. Penny (my precious baby with diabetes from my previous post) is a dachsund and Lucy is a border collie and sooo smart. 
My cats are Jeannie and the Professor. (You have to say the 'the') The Professor is smart - he tries to open doors - but he's not very nice to Jeannie. Jeannie likes to talk to people 
but not actually be touched by them. 

5. What is one color that describes you?
Oh, dear. This sounds like an interview question. 
I don't know.
When my friend and I went to New York, we went to the MnM store and found out what color MnM we were. She was cream. That's it. Cream. 
We laughed so hard because she's always saying she's bland. HAHA
Mine was lilac, I think, which is funny because that's the color font I'm using.
But I don't know about that.

6. What type of music is playing in your car right now?
Indie? Not sure what you would call it. It's such a big category. These are the big names:
*Temper Trap
*Local Natives
*Dr. Dog
*Mumford & Sons

7. Favorite subject or unit to teach?
I love to teach writing. I think if we can use writing as a tool for all contents, kids will become better thinkers, students, AND writers. It's the subject we use to think about our thinking. 

8. How many siblings do you have?
I have three brothers. Do I have to elaborate?
I am the oldest. I'm 30.
They are 26, 21, and 15. 
So let's just say I have lots of child-rearing skills but no children of my own.
I am called 'second string mom'. 

9. How did you husband propose to you?
Well, I'm not sure how to answer this question.
I'm not married! 
But this is how my hunnybun Fernie should propose to me:
Buy an awesome old ring - nothing too fancy because I'm terrified I'll lose or ruin it-

I don't know.
That's as far as I can think.
I'm not good at this. It's a good thing I don't have to propose to anybody.
He'll figure it out.

10. What is your favorite drink?
I like wine. A lot.
And margaritas.
I also like coffee, but it has to be flavored.
I also really like Diet Dr. Pepper.

11. What is your go-to blog or website for teaching?
This is tricky. I could go a lot of ways with this. I like...

12. What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
Ugh, what a toughy.
I think all my pleasures are guilty.
Maybe stupid comedies like The Kids in the Hall or The Whitest Kids U Know. They're pretty dumb sometimes, but I laugh.

These are the people I have managed to catch (for the first time ever) and tag.
2. Mrs. McKown at Little Literacy Learners
4. Stephanie at Teaching in Room 6
5. Mary at Pitner's Potpourri
6. Latricia at Wild About Second Grade
8. Jen at the Teacher's Cauldron
12. Denise at Yearn to Learn

These lovely ladies get to answer these questions:


1. What is the best part of teaching?
2. What's your favorite holiday?
3. Who is your best friend and why?
4. What did you want to be when you were a kid?
5. What's your favorite outfit?
6. What's your favorite breakfast? (calories non-existant)
7. What's your favorite TV show of all time?
8. What weird habit or behavior did you have as a kid? (I'm assuming everyone had at least one)
9. Siblings? How many?
10. Beatles or Elvis?
11. Beach or Mountains? 
12. What's the BEST trip you've ever taken?

Now I'm off to tell them they have more work to do!
I'm so excited to see what everybody says!! :)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

I'm a sucker for an expensive vet.

I am not a vet.

I know this.

The next several paragraphs are going to make it sound like I think I am a vet.

But I know I'm not.
However, if anyone IS a vet
part-time, on the side, or in a former life
and you want to explain to me why my dog had to take a hundred dollar test
to find out if her sugar level
which they already identified as in the normal range
was normal or not,
please let me know
so I can feel better about it.

Today, I took a half day.
Earth opens up
sky rains down fire and brimstone
and my grandma is terrifically busy because hell must have frozen over

I took the half-day so I could take my dog, Penny, to the vet.

It's hard for me to take a good picture of Penny because she's kind of a weirdo. She licks the camera and spends more time dodging the picture than posing nicely. This is the best I could find. She was in her kennel ready for bed, and because the cat wouldn't leave, they shared. (See? Weirdo.)
She's a dachsund that I got FOR FREE from a student several years ago.
Since then, she has increased her value by about 800.00.

Around Thanksgiving, she got very very very skinny. And very very very thirsty. And not very hungry.
And I knew what it was because that's what happened with another dog, Ginger.
She had diabetes.
I took her to the vet. 600 dollars later, this was the diagnosis:
Diabetes AND pancreatitis. Poor baby. And poor checkbook.

So I have to give her insulin shots twice a day with a very specific amount of food. And every so often, I have to take her to the vet six hours after her shot to get her sugar checked. Today was that day.

The vet's assistant took us to the little room and drew some blood. She then said, "I'll call you with the results, so you don't have to wait!"

"Great!" I said. "Thanks!"
I went back to the front desk and said, "We're all done. I just need to pay."
"Okay," said the less-than-pleasant desk girl. She glanced back at the place where they keep the files. My file wasn't there.
She didn't say anything.
She walked away.
I sat down.

No one did anything.

I waited a couple of minutes and walked back to the desk again, carrying my dog.

"I'm just waiting to pay," I said.
The guy behind the desk looked at the only file in the tray. "Ramirez?" he said.
"No," I said. "Beltran."
"Oh." he said.
He didn't do anything.
He walked away.
I sat down.

I sat there for fifteen minutes. Everyone came back. Everyone ignored me. I heard conversations about these topics:
*how the girls' curls fell out of her very straight hair thirty minutes into her wedding after they had spent three hours curling it so it looked like she had dreds because her hair was all chunky.
*how everybody eats everybody else's candy there and if someone gets mad, they'll just replace it.
*how the girl shouldn't have been eating the candy because her stomach was upset and it was hot candy but she wanted to anyway.
*how she couldn't eat soup.
*how someone's girlfriend got in a fight.
*who had already taken their lunchbreak and who hadn't
*whether gray is spelled gray or grey or if it's only grey in greyhound or England.

I looked imploringly at the magical tray where my file was not.
Finally my phone rang.
It was the vet's assistant. "Hello!" she said cheerfully. "This is __I forget her name but she was the only nice one there__ from the animal clinic and we have your results!"
"I'm still here," I said. "No one will let me pay them."


"OH! I'll come right out."

She came right out and said, "So we're ok."
I love how they say 'we' because everybody feels bad talking about an animal like they're not even there. So I said 'we' too, except my 'we' meant me and the vet. 
"Except that our sugar is a little low."
"Oh, is it?" I said.
"Yes. Well, it's an 89. And the range is from 75 to 140. So it's not lower than the low end of the range, but it's on the low end of the range."
"Oh, ok. Do I need to decrease the amount of insulin she gets?" I asked, logically.
"Well... have you noticed if she lays very still and can't move?"
"Ummm...you mean like a coma? No. I haven't noticed her being in a coma," I responded.
"Should I decrease her insulin?" I repeated.

"No. Well, we don't know. So the doctor wants to run another test to see if that low - but not too low- blood sugar level is normal for Penny," she said, confusingly.

"Soooo.........you want to run another test............but her sugar's in the range.............and it's.........to find out if.........wait.........her sugar's not lower than the low level? And you want to...........what information will that give us?" I asked, absurdly.
"If her sugar is ok." Hmm.
"And we don't know that from the test we already ran? Because it was in the normal range?"
"No. Because it might be low for her."

Ok, bloggy people.
Help me understand this.
Why don't I just decrease the amount of insulin
a little little little little bit
and then she'll probably be right in the middle of the range
which I don't understand why there's a range 
if you can be inside the range 
and they're still not happy about it?

Anyway, what ended up happening
not surprisingly
because I am not a medical professional
and therefore have a giant SUCKER written across my forehead
is that we ran the test.

And in three days, I'll know
what I probably already know.
That I should decrease her dosage
just a teeny tiny bit.

But then,
I'm not a vet.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Yeah...it's like a video game...That's the ticket. *Freebie!

*This is a linky party. I wrote the whole thing and realized I left that out! But it should be obvious, cause I'm not good at coming up with specific things to write about. I'm a rambler. So here it is:

Link up with the Lesson Plan Diva about Center Organization!
Do it!!

So, I'm kind of a mess.
To be organized, I really have to think about, like,
Ok, I have this thing in my hand. Where am I going to put it?
Is there a place it goes?
Do I want to walk all the way over there?
I probably should.
Walk, walk, walk.

Wait. Why am I over here?
Absentmindedly set belongings down in the wrong space.
An hour later, I'll find them and wonder why they're there.

So I have to create systems.
My necklaces hang on little hooks in my bedroom
and my earrings are in compartments like a tackle box.

My barrettes
yes, I'm an adult and I'm allowed to wear barrettes if I want
hang on a ribbon in my bathroom
and I have a special, designated place
for my keys in the basket by the front door.

That's what has to happen to keep me running.
If one of these things doesn't happen, I'm up a creek.
You know which creek.

So my center/station activities have to have a special system, too, or they don't happen more than once.

This is how I organize them.
It might not fit everybody's needs, but as an upper grades elementary teacher, it's really helped me stay organized. Keep in mind, centers aren't my favorite. My style is not too center-y. For you diehard center or station people, you might be kind of waaaaay beyond all this basic stuff. But maybe something will help out!

Centers may not be my favorite. But I love file folder games. So...

All of my centers become file folder games. All of them.

I glue the instructions on the front and the activity on the inside. I try to shorten it to only a couple of pages so it fits inside, but if I have to, I glue two file folders together to make a muy super wow expandable folder.

On the back, I glue some sort of sheet where kids have to practice the skill in writing with a vis-a-vis.
I take all the little pieces, stick them in a zipper baggie and staple the bag to the inside of the folder.

This one's not very pretty. 
It is special, though. The letters necessary to build the sight words on the orange cards are in the little bag. They're stuck on magnet tape. Then the kid can build them on the magnet tape string and write them with a dry-erase marker.

Wow. I just realized these pictures are pretty bad.

Then, they all go in a file folder crate. I have one for reading and one for math activities, and one special one for sight words.

Math: Needs a new label.

Reading: Also needs a new label. Like the extra junk underneath it?
Yep, it's all part of Ms. B's charm.

Is it just me, or can you never get your pictures to line up the way you want them?

To get extra mileage, I also use the games for this:
Family Math Weekend!
Or, Family Game Weekend!
Every weekend, with my kids who struggle in specific areas, I send home a game that they can practice.
This is the letter I send home to parents. Grab it here.

Clipart by ScrappinDoodles, border by Karen Cox: TPT Store.
The first time I sent home a Family Math Weekend 'Game' with my students, I sit them down to try to psych them up a little. This is how the conversation went this year. (Honestly. This is THE conversation. I am in black and the student is blue. Obviously, unless they are sending home extra stuff for ME to learn over the weekend.)
Notice how everything I say ends with an exclamation mark because we fake it till they believe us.

You know how we spend a lot of time practicing good math skills?
Yes. suspiciously.
And how we have to keep practicing to hold on to those good skills?
Yes. even more suspiciously.
Guess what you get to do this weekend?
You GET to take home a fun game to play with your parents!
I GET to?
YES! You GET to!
Yeah! I know! You get to take this game home and play with your family!
I GET to?
Yes! And then you GET to write down what happened on this cute paper with the bees on it and bring it back on Monday to show me how smart you are!
This sounds like extra work.
Oh, it's not work. It's a Game! See? It says GAME.
But it is math.
Yes, it's a math GAME!
So...it's like a video game...that I play by myself...except I'm going to play it with my family...and it's on paper.
Yes! Exactly like that!
Hmmm. a little excited. So it's like they played games before they had electricity?
Yup! That's exactly how they did it!
Okay! a little brightly
Teacher chuckles diabolically, having finally tricked the student into doing what he's supposed to do and liking it.

 Included in the file folder is this sheet for the student to fill out with their parents:

Happy Family Math Weekend!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Martin Luther King Mission: Accomplished! *Freebie Writing Paper!

Today, my kids finally finished our Martin Luther King foldable we started almost two weeks ago!

This is undoubtedly my fault.
I can't just do a simple foldable.
Oh, no.
That would be too easy.
We have to read an article
gather information
write a response
revise it
edit it
publish it
use the map to practice map skills
sketch a portrait
identify character traits
create a timeline
and use the timeline to answer questions.
Then we can put together our foldable.

I do this all the time.
I get a simple idea of something I think might be useful for the kids to do,
and then I think,
But wait!
I can make this waaaaay better.

six weeks later,
we are putting the finishing touches on our
endangered species
black history month
forces in the earth
objects in space
european explorers
native americans
fill in blank with other extremely large unit
that should have taken, like, four days.

But really,
what do kids remember?
Learning everything there is to know in a couple of days?
Or experiencing content in a variety of forms
and reading and writing about it?
I hope it's the second one
or I'm really wasting my time.

For our unit, we used several sources - an article I found online, a BrainPop Jr about MLK, and this Scholastic News article.

Here are some of our foldables.
Some of them came out sooo cute.
My favorite is the Martin Luther King holding the tiny backwards American flag. Totally unexpected.

For the front, we used a timeline from Scholastic but I mixed up the events and had kids sequence them on the timeline.

Then, for the inside of that flap, we used the timeline to answer questions about events in Martin Luther King's life.

On the inside of the one of the other flaps, we glued the map of the new Martin Luther King memorial that we received from Scholastic. The kids answered the questions using the map.

We also did a simple bubble map, or web, describing the traits that made MLK a good citizen.

The response in the middle is to the article in Scholastic about the new MLK memorial. We read (reread, discussed, charted) and then wrote a nonfiction response using the format from this previous post.

This student decided to add statements and beliefs from
Martin Luther King around his picture. Clever!

We also made these fact cubes based on the articles we read. The kids recorded a fact about Martin Luther King on each side of the cube.

So whew! I'm glad I got this done before Groundhog Day! That's just embarrassing.

If you're interested in the fact cube we made, you can find it in my Nonfiction Pack: 65+ pages of charts, tools, and activities for teaching informational text!

And now you can check out this product full of materials for teaching about Martin Luther King. Grab it on TPT! Fact cubes, timeline, MLK bunting flags, and a fun MLK mobile craftivity.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Math Notebooks: Pink?

Pink is my favorite color!

Not really.

That's a song reference -
I realized it might be obscure enough to lose most people.

I like pink, but only sometimes.
I have issues choosing a favorite color, because I'm very moody.
Right now, I think it's green,
but that's probably because I'm Spring Crazy and I can't wait for nicer weather.
I love the first month of every season.
The next two are just superfluous and make me appreciate the next season even more.

Anyway, pink isn't my favorite color. I just use a lot of it during math. I'll tell you why in a minute.

Math Notebooks.
I love them
but when I say math notebooks, I mean something different than my school is wanting.

This is the way my school is making has asked me to use them this year.
On the right side, we have "Input". This is INformation that goes INto the notebook (and hopefully, the student). On the left side, we have "Output". This is where the student (hopefully) demonstrates that he or she has processed the information and uses it to do something.

It's similar to our science notebooks, which also follow the input/output format.

These are a few ways I've used my notebooks this year.

This is an entry about comparing numbers. On the input side, we wrote directions on how to compare numbers and made a simple foldable to help kids remember the symbols.
Why is the foldable pink?
To help kids remember this standard belongs in objective one (Number Concepts), which is also color coded pink.
Why do kids have to remember that objective one is pink?
"So next year, they'll remember that the number concepts in objective one are pink."
Why is this important?

No one knows.

Sorry it's sideways.

This is a sample of our place value entry.
Input: identifying the different components of the place value chart, as well as important place value vocabulary. 

 Output: Using a foldable to write a number on the place value chart, in words, and on the inside... 

 Expanded notation! Also known as one of the most difficult ideas ever. As you can tell by the foldable, this student struggled with naming the number in words. However, he did correct the expanded notation on the inside.

Simple way to assess, huh!

This is our entry about number lines. This should be yellow, because geometry and spatial reasoning is supposed to be yellow.
Why is the sentence strip pink?
Because I only had pink sentence strips.
Input: Identifying what a number line is and does. Also an awesome pull-out-able, expandable number line.
Output: Uses of number lines in everyday life, such as thermometers, rounding, bar graphs, and map scales.

Wooo fancy. 

However, I am still not crazy about this.
The way that I've used them in the past
which totally worked for me
is WAY more open-ended.
We put in information about new concepts
but mostly, we write about what we're thinking in math.
Things like
"I am understanding..."
"One way to solve this problem..."
"I am still confused about..."
"I used to think...but now I know..."

It provided an opportunity for students to identify areas of strength, compare different ways of solving a problem, and 
most important to me
write about their thinking.
We learn so much more from explaining our thinking
than we do from doing the thinking in the first place.
If we can teach it,
we know it.
I know that I was no slouch in high school or college
when it came to math.
But I really really really understood the ideas of adding, subtracting, and manipulating fractions
when I had to teach it.
I had to understand it several levels deeper.

Combine this with the complex idea that is writing
working within a grammatical structure
making sure your ideas make sense
describing explicitly
and suddenly, your ideas are taking a form that helps them make sense
even to the most struggling math student.

This kind of self-reflective writing really changed the way my kids thought about math - 
as something to grow in, play with, and understand rather than just know and do.
So I've tried out this input/output business
as it was presented,
but I prefer less structured experiences,
and I'm going to start that again soon.

But, in case one of the samples helps you out 
(there are benefits to this kind of notebook - it's just different than the other kind
and their are components of the two that are similar or overlap)
I wanted to share them.
Sometimes kids just need a place
to record what's what.
But, when I do more of those kinds of responses
which I like better for my purposes,
I will share them, too.

 Question Time!
 (You have to say this in a really excited voice, like you're singing a fun song from the 70s.)

1. What do you do to have students write about math?
2. Do you use input/output notebooks?

Happy Notebooking!

Monday, January 23, 2012

SpongeBob WritingPants *Freebie

I recently reviewed my posts
and I feel pretty guilty.
90% of them are personal, not teaching.
While I consider those two things to be the same,
me sharing about how badly Twilight stinks
while cathartic for me
doesn't help you in the classroom.

So here goes.

Are you ready, kids?!
Aye, aye, captain!
I can't heeear yoooouuu!
Aye, aye, captain!

When do we learn about what authors do?
We write compositions and in notebooks too!
If beautiful language is something you like,
Then get out your notebook! Get ready to write!



No, you didn't change the channel.
This is the song I used to start Writer's Workshop with every day.
You could probably modify it to fit your writing model if you needed to.
I haven't used it this year
you know how you do something 
and then you just don't
and you don't even know why?
That's what that is about.

Anyway, I wanted to share a little bit of the writing activities that we've done this year that have really improved the quality of my students' writing.

Good writers start with good readers.
Want to write something good?
Write it like your favorite author -
or try, anyway.
So we spend a lot of time analyzing fiction structure.

This is our number one narrative buddy.
Once kids understand this, they can make far better predictions in reading, retell better, and write with a more coherent and deliberate structure.
(For this one and more fiction graphic organizers and formats, you can check out my Fiction Pack at my TPT store or Teacher's Notebook store.)

And here's a freebie for you too! Click it to grab it from google docs!

I start out the year with an author study of some great children's author
(in fourth grade, we read Patricia Polacco out the yinyang,
in third, we read tons of Tomie dePaola.)
This year, these are some of the titles we read:
(We also read others, but I focus on personal narratives as models for writing).

Then we chart observations and reverse-map the structure on a fiction story map, or Freytag's Pyramid.
This is a pyramid we worked on for Tom. I know some might think this is too difficult for kids, but I think it's essential for an understanding of how text really works. And they master the language. I call it the Fiction Story Map, but we act it out as a roller coaster. Kids love it.

Then, we adventurously attempt to draft our own personal narratives. We do a lot of prewriting - quickwrites usually, identifying a relationship we have and a memory associated with it. Using a simple structure, I have students draft a beginning (character, trait, setting, problem), middle (rising action) end (resolution, falling action, heartfelt resolution).

Of course, they're pretty horrible.

That's a lot to take on for a kid.

But here's where the real writing comes in.
This is my writing motto: Writing is hard. Work hard to do it.

So we get to work.
We cut apart their lame drafts
by sentence
(this is the first step for students to see that the first thing they write often stinks. Mine does. Revising is your buddy - if you don't revise, your writing will fall short of your best)

Then we sequence them on a blank story map and glue them on.

This is where the magic happens. These comments are common, necessary, and magical:

"Oh! I don't have a heartfelt resolution!"
"I only have one event in my rising action!"
"I don't have ANY setting at all."
"My writing is all out of order!"
and the best one ever - 


Teachable Moment City! 
Kids, today you will LEARN something!

Getting kids to revise is tough.
This is mostly because they don't know what to do.
The reread, change some spelling, add in some missing words and say, 
"I'm done. It's good. Sure."

It's usually not.
It usually still stinks.
Mine does.

So here comes my other good buddy, STAR revising, compliments of Kelly Gallagher
the best writing guru I know.
His book is for adolescent writing,
but there's so much that's useful for all ages,
such as STAR revising.
Here's what it stands for:
Take Out
Add In

That's it! 
That's what writers do!
They Substitute words or ideas or paragraphs!
They Take out words or ideas or paragraphs!
They Add in words or ideas or paragraphs!
They Rearrange words or ideas or paragraphs!

I model each of these in my own writing, and give the kids time to do the same to theirs. This is the way I have it charted in my classroom, after we used the heck out of my messy handwritten chart:

Incidentally, these are for sale in my TPT store.
These drafts have been revised in color. This is the kind of revision I want my kids to get used to making.

These were not the craziest, either. Some kids had a bunch of additional tabs glued to the edges of their paper to Add in some more!

Then, we edit and publish, and they have actually made REAL revisions. 

Better than Twilight, right?
Happy Writing!