Friday, March 18, 2016

Amazing Ideas for Growing Readers and Writers K-2

Have Some Reluctant Writers in Your Classroom? 
Do your reluctant writers magically have to go to the bathroom each day when it's time to write, or are they the LAST ones to sit down to write because they just CANNOT think of a story topic? Look no further! I've got one of the most helpful mentor texts for you to use with your budding writers! 

Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon (a first grade teacher and author of other awesome books) is a charming story about a little boy named Ralph, who NEVER knows what to write about. Each day, when it's time to write, he does everything EXCEPT write stories. If your students have done something to avoid writing, Ralph has done it too. He thinks he has absolutely NO stories to tell, until (with the help of his classmates), he realizes that stories can be about anything. As soon as Ralph discovers stories can be about ANYTHING, he writes all the time. 

This book works naturally to support a writing workshop approach, and it ties nicely into Lucy Calkins' Units of Study (especially for grades K-2). Young children will quickly relate to Ralph, as they will realize that they too can write stories (even though they may think they can't). 

This text can be used at the beginning of the year as you launch writing workshop in your classroom, especially as you teach about writing personal narratives. I guarantee you will refer to it time and time again throughout the year, during writing workshop. When I was teaching first grade, I used it at the beginning of the year, referred to the book often during my mini-lessons, reread it as needed, and always had it prominently displayed. 
FREEBIE #1-Idea Menu (*You can find both freebies at the bottom of my post.)

A few years ago, I created a set of monthly writing prompt menus for my students to use during Daily 5 (Work on Writing). They used them often, and they helped provide age-appropriate writing ideas for them during this independent writing time. The writing prompt menus were helpful when students were ready to begin a new piece of writing (during independent writing time), as they didn't need to think of a brand-new idea (a selection of ideas was already on their idea menus). 

After seeing that success, I created the above idea menu for students to record and keep their ideas for writing workshop pieces, depending on the type of writing being taught. When using the above Idea Menu, a student can simply jot down/draw a sketch on the Idea Menu (when it's fresh in his/her mind) so it's not forgotten. This serves as a way to collect writing ideas. 

I suggest teaching students the purpose of and how to use the idea menus during several mini-lessons. As you all know, you will most likely have to review/reteach how to use the menu throughout the year to make sure students are using them (and using them appropriately). This idea menu would just be used for writing workshop so students are not confused during independent writing time. 

If you are interested in the monthly writing prompt menus discussed above, you can find them at my TPT Store here: 

FREEBIE #2-Touch, Tell, Sketch (and write) planner

We all know children have wonderful stories to tell. But, we also know their great ideas are often forgotten from one day to the next. When a child chooses a topic for their next story, a great strategy to help plan the story is to use the "Think and Plan, Touch and Tell, Sketch and Write" strategy used in Calkins' Units of Study (see link above). This is a very helpful strategy that looks like this in a classroom:

1. A child chooses a topic for the next story/piece of writing.
2. He/she thinks about the sequence of the story/piece of writing.
3. The child touches a paper to tell about each part of the story/piece of writing (in sequence)
3. A sketches are drawn in sequence so ideas are not forgotten
4. The child then uses the sketches as the plan for writing. 

The Touch, Tell, Sketch (and Write) Planner I created can be used for the "touch, tell and sketch" part of the planning process. Writers can then use the planner to write. There may be more boxes than necessary on the planner, but just teach your writers how to use it for their writing.

You can get BOTH FREEBIES here:

Thank you for joining us today. My mystery word is Relax.  Print this chart out to collect mystery words from all the participating Reading Crew blogs (just click on the image below to grab the chart). You will need all mystery words in the hop (Primary or Upper Elementary) to enter the Amazon gift card giveaway (see Rafflecopter below)!  
Interested in seeing what others have to offer?  Check out the link up below to access the other amazing ideas for "Growing Readers and Writers K-2" here:

Happy Hopping! 

To visit the posts for grades 3-5, check out the blogs below:

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Work Smarter: Tip #2

I can't believe the 2nd week of school is almost over! This week, my own children started school so life has gone from crazy to absolutely nuts! I was never one to sugarcoat anything....teaching full-time and parenting is not for the faint of heart. As things are getting more stressful at work, life at home is no picnic either (get 3 boys out the door on time in the morning, come home, eat-thank God my husband cooks, run to football practice, home, baths/showers, bedtime for kids, about 3 minutes for my husband and me, schoolwork and off to bed). This is usually the time of year I begin to feel overwhelmed. But, this year, I made a promise to myself to be a healthier teacher/person (as discussed in previous posts).

Anyone who knows me knows I absolutely LOVE "The Sisters". They are so REAL, and they have such great, effective (simple) ideas for transforming your literacy block (and your students). Their work involves a lot of goal setting and checking-in with students. This is really a great way to set personal goals too. So, I'm using their style of goal setting/checking-in with my own personal goals. Let's see how I'm doing...

1. Meditate at least 3 times per week: I am doing well with this goal. There are some great mindfulness apps with guided meditations. I am up to about 5 minutes. During the meditations, I still need to refocus my thoughts A LOT, but I do find myself more mindful of my breathing and overall emotional state throughout the day. When I feel that cramped up feeling in my stomach, I remember to stop and go with it (instead of fighting it) then refocus my breathing. This has been very helpful.

2. Exercise 4-5 times per week: I'm doing well with this as well. Even though I'd like to exercise for a solid hour each of those days, I've come to accept that the 25 minute jog or walk I do is better than the 6 mile run I never do.

3. Be a more active listener: I am doing better, but I've caught myself cutting people off a few times since last week. At least I am more aware. I do have a problem though, when people talk way too much, and I just can't get a word in. It's usually when I interrupt.

Goals will remain the same until I've met one (or more) at least 3 times, consecutively (just like "the Sisters" would do with readers).

Work Smarter, Not Harder: Tip #2:
In an effort to be a healthier teacher, it is very important to be an effective teacher without spending SO much time on meaningless tasks. Here is one tip that has been a lifesaver:

Here are my personal reasons why I do not suggest the use of morning worksheets (a.k.a. busywork until all students arrive):
1. Your students who arrive late never get a chance to do it.
2. Most likely, you will be greeting students or helping students with a skill they need practice with, therefore you will not be available to explain the worksheet/give assistance with it.
3. You will have to make sure you have a worksheet EVERY morning (what a copying nightmare)!
4. They will have to be corrected. Who wants to do that on top of everything else you have to do?
5. They waste paper.
6. They are probably not differentiated.

Try these differentiated, no teacher correcting required ideas for morning work:
1. Have your students "shop" for new books (from the class library) for their reading boxes or bags.
2. Students can independently read from their book boxes/bags.
3. Students can read with a buddy.
4. Math games: set out some previously learned math games for students to play.

When I taught 1st grade, I had my students do #s1-3 everyday. It made life so much easier, and it was a great transition to the new school day. It also allowed me to address any student needs, greet students, monitor students' book selections and even hold a reading conference with 1-2 students (lessening the amount I had to do later in the day).

What do you do for morning work? What are your personal goals to become a healthier teacher?