Category: Writing

Opinion Books

IMG_0425My first graders spent the last 2 months working on persuasive/opinion writing in their classroom.  I thought it would be a great partnership between my classroom and their classroom to merge our writing to reflect what they’ve been doing.

I strategically selected books from Reading A to Z that had similar stories, but different enough to form opinions on which book they preferred.  Some books we read to write about were:

  • Shoes Men Wear and Shoes Women Wear
  • Going To The Dentist and Going To The Doctor
  • Bonk’s Camping Trip and Bonk’s Big Splash
  • All About Farms and All About Factories
  • City Animals and Country Animals
  • Rude Robot and Penny the Rude Penguin

IMG_0428We read more than just those books above, but that gives you a general idea of some of the ways we partnered books up to be roughly the same topic but different enough for students to form opinions.  We started by reading both books and then following the OREO format (Opinion, Reasons, Examples, Opinion restated) students picked their favorite book and then had to write about why it was their favorite book.  Each week we would read a new set of books and then write an opinion on one of the books.   We started with their favorite book and then moved to favorite part, then favorite IMG_0431character, then student choice.  Students could also choose to write about their least favorite book, part, or character as well for student choice.

Once we finished our 6 opinion papers, students compiled them into a book order, made a table of contents, and cover page, then we sent the books out to be spiral bound into real books.

The 1st graders then were able to share their books with all the other kids in the classroom before being able to take their books home.  They were so proud of the finished product after 7 weeks of hard work.


We are cruising along in Kindergarten.  At the beginning of March we transitioned into READING BOOKS!  This is such a big deal.  Learning to read is such a monumental life experience when you think about just everything you need to do at once to be able to read.  For the last several months we’ve been “practicing” getting ready to read by labeling, word by word matching, learning letters and sounds, putting sounds together, learning word parts, building simple words, and finishing sentence starters.  We’re reading basic patterned books and still working on those word by word matching skills, but we’re getting there.

IMG_0413One thing we’ve had to work on is keeping our eyes on the text unless we need to check the picture for help with a word.  Many friends memorize the pattern and only look at the picture, but when a page changes the pattern of the text then students have difficulties.  We’ve had to really work on even if we think we know the pattern making sure we are correct by looking carefully at words.

IMG_0417We’ve even transitioned from finishing a sentence Ms. Acuff has written to students actively participating in the Interactive Writing and writing the stories themselves.  They practice words on their white boards while another student adds the word to our chart.  I help with more difficult words I know they don’t know.

We still do the cut up sentence portion of the lesson, but instead of students copying the cut up sentence, they then write their OWN sentence about the story we wrote together.  Most of the kids are doing a great job of using parts they know (ee, ou, ow, oa) and applying them into their writing.  Some IMG_0416students still need a little more support and structure with the writing as this is very new for us.

I’m starting to notice students writing in capital letters as they are more comfortable with those than lower case letters and we’ve had to work on when we use capital letters and also working on letter reversals.  These are common and we just keep practicing the correct way to write them.  We’re also working on different punctuation–periods, exclamation points, IMG_0415and question marks–when do we use them and how do we make them?

We are seeing lots of great things in Kindergarten and are overjoyed with how well students are applying their phonics knowledge every day.

Social Stories

IMG_0394It’s getting to be that time of the year when friends are going a little stir crazy and patience for each other can sometimes be low.  I’ve noticed in 1st grade especially patience for dealing with peers has been a challenge for students.  We took this as a learning opportunity.

I had the students read Calming Down and The Rude Robot to learn about ways we could practice patience and kindness to each other.

In Calming Down students learned that it’s ok to get angry, but to channel that anger into something positive and find ways to calm down.  Once we finished reading the story, we created a group anchor chart of ways we could calm down at school to help us stay positive and on task.  Each student then received a pocket-sized version of our chart to keep in their book box as a bookmark to use when they found themselves getting upset with another classmate.

IMG_0395We also read The Rude Robot about a boy who gets a robot for a birthday present, but the robot is rude to everyone so the boy has to teach it manners so his friends will want to come back and play.  When we finished reading the book we came up with a list of ways we could be more kind to each other in the classroom.  They also got a pocket-sized version of this anchor chart to keep in their book boxes as continual reminders on how even when we get mad at someone in the class we can still be kind to them.

I was impressed with all the great ideas students had.

4th Grade: Snow

IMG_8796I’ve been very excited about what 4th grade has been working on!  I found these awesome books from the Scholastic book order:

  • Snow Science by Scott Westgard
  • The Story of Snow by Mark Cassino

IMG_0131IMG_0132I started out the session by reading Snow by Marion Dane Bauer and Snow Science.  We talked about the 4 factors that determine what causes the shape and sizes of snowflakes (temperature, cloud height, dirt and dust, wind speed and humidity) and the geometry and symmetry behind the snow flakes.

We then grew our own crystal (which I did wrong and it failed horribly! Ha!) and learned that packet to grow snow was actually what I put in the crystal growing container.  Once we moved that over the snow growing powder was actually very cool.  It was essentially the stuff they put in a diaper, but hey! It was fun!

IMG_8728The kids then read The Story of Snow, which was extremely fascinating.  One of the things my colleague pointed out was a lot of non-fiction stories don’t lend well to think students have a lot of first hand knowledge about, but this book was the opposite–all of our students have had first hand experience with snow.  If you don’t have this book, it’s an EXCELLENT book and all of the kids thoroughly enjoyed it.  It had real microscope enlarged photos of snowflakes, the different types of snowflakes, how and why they are formed that way, and why and what happens when there is mutations in the snowflakes.

IMG_0138After that students had to write about the different types of snowflakes (star, plate, bumps, twins, columns, etc.)  They needed to write what type it was, draw a picture of what it looked like, and tell me about how it was formed and other characteristics about that type of snowflake.

After that students were then able to make their own snowflake.  They cut one out of paper and then were asked to write which snowflake they had cut and why they thought it was that type of snowflake pointing out different characteristics we learned about in the book. (Picture at the top of this post).  This proved IMG_8727to be much more difficult than we had planned for. It was still a lot of fun, but a lot more difficult than we thought.  Symmetry is hard! Haha!

This was an excellent week of learning.  This was probably the most interesting book I’ve personally read all year long.

IMG_8730After break, my 4th graders started some work on deadly animals!  I started out by reading Fangs by Heather Dakota and read about deadly animals and how they use their fangs.  It’s a long book, so I picked out the pages that included the animals that would be in the student book.  We talked about how animals use their fangs and make them deadly.

The 4th graders then read Deadliest Animals by Melissa Stewart.  As they read, they had to take notes about how each animal was deadly in their own way.  When they were finished they needed to select one animal from the book and write about what made it deadly and other information about that animal.  They had to put it in a “Wanted” type poster.


IMG_8729Recently our other group of 3rd graders has been working on dinosaurs.  I read Dinosaurs by Kathy Weidner Zoehfeld and gave some dinosaur background on the different groupings of dinosaurs.  The 3rd graders were then responsible for reading Dinosaurs by Elizabeth Austin.

We learned about 4 different types of dinosaurs;

  • Theropods
  • Sauropods
  • Certopsians
  • Pterosaurs

After reading in depth about the different types of dinosaurs, the students had to make a brochure writing and drawing about the 4 different dinosaur sub-groups.

Once we were finished we moved on to astronauts and space.  I read Solar System by Gregory Vogt and Planets by Elizabeth Carney.  We learned some background information about the planets and spent more time reading and learning about our moon and astronauts.

Students then were able to read All About Astronauts and learn about how people get through space camp/school and life as an astronaut.  They were then to write about how life is different on earth vs. space.


IMG_0126Our (I say our because I have started to phase out teaching and Ms. Wilson, my student teacher, has started taking over for me) 3rd graders have been working on Fairy Tales and Fractured Fairy Tales that last couple of weeks.

I started out by reading some different version of the 3 Little Pigs:

  • The Three Little Tamales by Eric A. Kimmel
  • The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz
  • The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf by Mark Teague

IMG_0125Students had to take notes on the characters, setting, and plot while I read.  They then were able to read their own story; The Three Little Pigs by Alyse Sweeney.  When they finished they had to take the book they had just read and select one of the books I read to compare the two stories. (Photo to the left)

From there Ms. Wilson took over.  She read some more Fractured Fairy Tales;

  • The Three Samurai Cats by Eric Kimmel
  • Wolf’s Coming by Joe Kulka

While Elizabeth read, the kids were asked to listen carefully and listen to character traits from each character and mark on a character trait graphic organizer what kind of character they are (smart, lazy, hard working, etc.)

The kids then, again, had their own version to read entitled Surprise for Big Bad Wolf.  When they were finished, collectively the group was to write summaries from all the Three Little Pigs that had been read over the course of the last two weeks.

IMG_0101IMG_0109I have noticed my 2nd graders have needed more support than just Guided Reading Plus.  I decided to layer interventions with this group, which was something new for me.

We started out by doing a study on snakes.  I read 2 mentor texts on snakes and then I had the students read a book about snakes a couple levels lower than their instructional level because I wanted the focus to be on writing and writing more complex sentences.  This happened to tie in perfectly because this is exactly what they have been doing in the classroom as well. (I get to go in during their writing block and help in the classroom with writing.)

After we read our snake books, I wrote a snake story in red. (To the left)  I did take input from the students as I wrote on interesting facts I could write about.  The following day I took my purple marker and I had them help me come up with ways we could add more details to make our sentences better, change word choice, and make our story more interesting.  They were very engaged and involved and loved telling me how I should make my story better.  They were actually quite good at this and I give big kudos to the 2nd grade classroom teachers for their awesome teaching on this.

IMG_0108The next day I had them write their own snake sentences. (Photo at the top of the page.)  I highlighted lines so they would write every other line and that way they could easily go back into their writing and add details, change the word choice, make edits.

Once they had had a writing conference with me, they were able to put their sentences on chart paper.  We then had to conference again about how once we make edits on our sentences and fix mistakes, we have to make those changes on our final copy, too.  We can’t put those same mistakes back on our final copy.  Thank goodness for post-it white out tape! 🙂

The next book we ended up reading was Hang On, Monkey and we did some work on monkeys.  I wanted them to then apply the skills they learned with snakes by writing monkey facts.  I did type up their stories and print them out for them so they could then go back through their writing and highlight capitals in IMG_6742the wrong place, forgotten punctuation, and spelling mistakes.

After they had gone through their writing on their own, I then was able to have individual writing conferences again.

This whole process took us about two weeks, but I feel like we got a lot of great work done.  I’m super proud of the 2nd graders for their hard work.

Writing Boo-Boo’s

IMG_0106My 2nd grade groups have been doing a lot of writing.  (A side note: I also get to go in at the end of the day and help 2nd grade within the classroom on their writing during their writing block.  This has opened my eyes to a lot more of their needs in writing since I get to spend 60 minutes a day with them.)

One thing I’ve noticed in the writing is there is still a lot of missing punctuation marks and many inappropriate capitals sprinkled throughout words.

Last week I did mini-lessons on capitalization and punctuation.  I read Punctuation Takes a Vacation and The Case of the Incapacitated Capitals both by Robin Pulver and Punctuation Celebration by Elsa Knight Bruno to go over some writing rules.

I then wrote a story with lots of writing boo-boo’s and had the students come in and correct them.  It’s funny how quickly they find MY mistakes, but when I ask them to go back in their writing they act like they wouldn’t ever have a possible mistake! 🙂 Hmmm…I wonder why that is?

After they corrected my story, they then went back into their writing journal and had to pick one writing piece they would go back over and look for punctuation and inappropriate capitals.  We will continue to work on being more precise in our writing!

IMG_0107My 3rd graders have not been too enthusiastic about writing lately and I decided one fun way to write is to do stop light paragraphs.  I have done this is the past with 3rd graders, who seem to be the age group that get the most Picture 50burned out from writing, and it’s always been a favorite and memorable activity.

In the past I’ve had students use a graphic organizer, but this year I had the students help me with a group message using the chosen animal of rats!  They were just so anxious to get going, I sent them on their way after our group message.

In their journals they wrote in green, orange, and red to symbolize what sentence they were on.  I went around with black pen to help while we conferred.

They were able to then write their final sentences on sentence strips after we had writing conferences.  We had read Animals With Wings and they each had to choose an animal from the book to write about.

They did a really great job and it wasn’t even like pulling teeth to get them to write! 🙂 Hmmm…maybe I’m onto something!