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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tomatoes for Tuesday, Again

Okay, so more tomatoes... I didn't do so well teaching about characters this past week. Therefore, I am continuing to teach the concepts this week. Yesterday, I read "Jimmy Zangwow's Out-of-this-world Moon Pie Adventure" by Tony DiTerlizzi. Jimmy is a very imaginative character. My students helped fill out a character web and during their independent readign time they will be asked to complete a web about a character from one of their story book characters. I used a link from
I clicked on "Cluster/Word Web 3." I hope with more modeling and discussing characters this week my students will become more proficient.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

W.O.W Website of the Week!

This week's website is helpful for teaching alphabetical order. It starts with single letters, then words, and finally to the third letter!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tomato Tuesday

I remember an assignment I was given when I was student teaching. I was asked to write a reflection each day. The reflection had to include flowers and tomatoes. Flowers were the teaching moments that went well and tomatoes were the moments I wanted to forget! Last week, I felt like I was hit with a bushel of tomatoes. I had a substitute teacher in my room on Wednesday. I felt like it ruined the whole week. This week, I am going to try very hard to teach the concept of characterization. Not sure how it will go, but if I write my goal here it is more likely to be accomplished. Next week, I hope to share bouquets of flowers.

I am using Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Won't-Pick-Up-Toys Cure since Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is described so well in the beginning.
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Monday, December 6, 2010

Sidetracked: Voice vs Conventions

Most of us were probably "taught" writing the same way:  a bunch of red pen all over the place or one nice "ok" in red at the bottom.

It's hard for us to let go of that red pen.

Teaching the process of writing, however, calls for the students to hold the "red" pen and to make their own revisions and edits.

They may not catch every error we would (and why should they?) and might not write every sentence to perfection, but making changes at all is pretty remarkable when most students just love to rush right up after a period of time writing and shout, "I'M DONE!!" while waving a notebook or paper in your face.

It's important to "listen" to students' writing, too.  Even while actually reading it.  Overlook the conventions:  the misspelled words, the lack of punctuation, the sentences that aren't made up of all the right parts.  We have to remember that the benchmarks we "grade" and the components of writing are SEPARATE for a reason.  PROCESS, CRAFT, CONVENTIONS.  Don't dock a student on voice just because the handwriting or spelling is illegible. 

Here's an example of some great student voice from one of my second grader's writing pieces.  This is a personal narrative that she brought to completion (through the entire writing process) back in September. It was her first piece of the year. I've typed it for you with the correct conventions, but even without, her VOICE was amazing!

First, it was almost night time.  We were playing with the puppies. I was five years old.  My dad, grandpa and I fell in the green grass.  I got covered with puppies.  I was laughing.  Next, I saw my dad fall in the green grass.  We played until the stars came out.  The puppies fell asleep.  It was time to go in the house.  Then, I called my cousin over and we crawled into bed.  Mom and Dad kissed me on the cheek goodnight.  "Sleep tight.  Don't let the bed bugs bite!"

(I bolded my favorite lines.)

Look for great voice in your student's writing today.  Overlook their errors in convention and process.  Celebrate the personalities and stories they bring to their writing through the craft!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Student Revisions (and some Edits)

I typed up a "story" of my own.  We practiced "conferencing" so the students knew how to help each other.  They helped me with my piece.  After offering suggestions, I let them revise it for me (on the SMART board).  Then they went to revise their own writing pieces.  After revising their own, some met with friends for some additional feedback before conferencing with me and moving on to editing.

Here are some student revisions and edits from December.  I'll post more throughout the course of the year to see if we improve!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Fun Friday

Try this for fun!
At this website games are separated by grade level. 100 Snowballs is just for fun, especially on a Friday!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sidetracked: Taking Responsibility

( Sidetracked from my plan to post about how writing is going in my classroom.)

How do you "teach" students to take responsibility for their actions (meaning:  poor choices)?  I know how to hold them accountable.  One way:  offer two choices. Examples:  "You can do your work now or you can do it at recess."  "You can speak quietly and politely or we can write a note to your parents about your manners at recess."  Pretty much a "you take class time to make bad choices, you lose your free time to deal with the consequences" mentality.  I'm sure there are pros and cons to that, too.  (Love and Logic vs. Red, Yellow, Green Chart or a bit of both...)

Okay, so while they're sitting in at recess writing a note home explaining why they're sitting there at recess and pointing fingers at everyone BUT themselves, how do I "help" them admit that they are the only one to blame for the choices they made?  How can I help students internalize an apology?  Is it even possible?

The other day two boys from my room asked to use the bathroom.  I watched them walk down the hall and enter the bathroom.  I returned to my task of checking students' agendas and homework.  I checked for them in the empty hall.  I went back and finished my morning task.  A staff member poked his head in my room and told me the two students were messing around (loudly) in the bathroom.  The boys returned and I told them we'd talk about what happened at recess.

Recess came and at first neither would admit to being loud or messing around.  After a while one admitted he was loud and, of course, told me the other had been, too.  Student number two still denied having any part in the misbehavior.  Although, on the plus side, he did tell me that the staff member had not lied about the noise.  This student was in for recess for a second reason also.  Several times that morning he "stopped by" his friend's desk to chat rather than staying in his seat to complete his work.  HE was the one out of his seat, yet he repeatedly blamed HIS FRIEND for being in for recess. 


Suggestions for me?  How can I help my students take responsibility when they make poor choices that affect their learning and the learning of others?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

W.O.W Website of the Week!

KOL Jr Stories are great for the SMARTboard!
Check out all my favorite websites at

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Reading As Writers Part 1

My name is Christy and I'm one of the four teachers who blog here.  My main focus for reflection this year will be on teaching writing to my second graders.

Students love to be read to, especially when pictures are involved.  They've been read to for years.  Some more than others.  I'm lucky this year to have many of the same students as I had last year when I taught first grade.  Like last year, reading aloud is the best classroom mangagment tool I have in my bag of tricks.  When I read aloud, my students are on their best behavior.  Works every time.

Reading aloud is a great time to model reading strategies by thinking aloud.  So far this year I've (along with my second grade team) chosen one reading strategy to focus on each week.  I still haven't perfected doing shared reading (or shared writing) with my students.  I tend to skip (not purposefully) that step and jump straight to guided and independent practice.  Just because I'm blogging about it, doesn't mean I'm perfect.  In fact, it's quite the opposite.  I'm blogging so I can reflect on what I do in the classroom so that I can work toward perfecting it.  I'm not going to lie just because I'm putting this out there for everyone in the blogosphere to see.  Especially my colleagues and administrators.  Eek!

Hopefully some of you can relate to my struggles.  Hopefully some of you have some sound advice for me.  Hopefully I'll continue on my journey and get closer to being a "perfect teacher".

Anyways, back to my discussion about reading aloud in the classroom....

This year, I'm trying something different.  I've been dabbling in the writing realm myself a bit over the past year and I've learned a lot about the writing process while doing so.  I've always known this, but now I've experienced it.  Reading makes better writers.   So now I'm using this to help my students.  We're practicing reading as writers.

The PROCESS of writing is one of three main writing benchmarks for our students.  (The others are CRAFT and CONVENTIONS.  I'll talk about these benchmarks in another post.)  Coming up with an idea for writing is sometimes a difficult first step. Published picture books are a great source of inspiration.

Here's what we do.  We read a page or two of a picture book.  We stop.  We discuss what the author did.  We talk about how it made us feel.  Did we wonder?  What about?  Did we want to turn the page?  Why?  How can we do that in our own writing?

Then, we write.

The next day we read on.  NOW what did the author do?  Were we surprised?  By what?  Why did the author write that?  How did he/she write it?  How can we surprise our readers like that? 

Let's go do that!  Let's add to our writing!

Here's a more specific example.

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We started this process with Hey, Al by Arthur Yorinks and Richard Egielski.  In the beginning, we learn about the characters and the setting.  (Students need to name characters and setting in their writing.) The author "blows up" the main character, Al, by describing him in three ways:  "a nice man, a quiet man, and a janitor"  then we find out where he lives with his dog "in one room on the West Side".

The students needed to name two characters and choose one to "blow up" with three describing words or pharases.  They used a carrot to add these descriptions in if they forgot to the first time around.  (Revision!)

Hey, Al starts out with the characters living a pretty boring life.  Then, after stating the average way they lived, the author created some suspense with the line "What could be bad?"

Turning the page, the students were suprised to learn that not only could the dog talk, but he argued with Al.  Ooh, the author created a problem for the characters.  And we discussed how dialogue can make stories more interesting.  "Look at this dump!"  Eddie growled.  "We can't have a house?  A little back yard to run around in for a change?"  vs.  Eddie was unhappy with where the pair lived and they argued all the time.

So my students needed to return to their work and create a problem for their characters.  (Some of my students were NOT happy about upsetting their characters!)

The next day, a large bird stuck his head in Al's bathroom and spoke to him.

The students needed to make something unexpected happen in their own writing.  They added the element of surprise!  And we switched our story into Fantasy mode...talking animals!

Finally, I finished reading Hey, Al aloud to the students.  The bird whisked Al and his dog away to a magical island.  In the middle, the characters had never been so happy.  We discussed the author's use of description "lush trees, rolling hills, gorgeous grass".

Once the two started turning into birds, they realized they had it pretty good back home.  In the end, they escaped the island and went home, happy to be there together.

The students, of course, needed to bring their characters through their problem so they could be happy at the end of the story.

Here are some students samples of the beginnings of what we called their "Hey, Al stories".

It was Christin's, a mean boy, a puppy lover, and an x box boy's birthday.... 
 Elsa, a talkative girl, a dance girl, a nice girl...
 Megan, a cool girl, a funny kid, and a silly had a good time together.  (The problem in this story is the two friends have a hard time agreeing on what they want to do together.)
 Mom, born in South Dakota, kind, job as a teacher...One day I was brushing my teeth when a giant shark and dolphin jumped so high I saw them from my window.
Me and my dad, a nice man, a worker, and a nice cook was in the home.  It is a mess said Dad.  It is not a mess said Evan....

Well, it's a start anyways!
After a few more inspirational picture books, a few more beginnings, a few more works-in-progress...we'll be ready to choose ONE writing piece to complete the writing process.  I'm excited to post the students' revisions, and later edits, and watch as they grow as writers this year.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

We hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving week.  Here are a few turkey recipes from our second graders! 
(Our thanks to Mrs. P for the bulletin board design!)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Professional Growth Plan

Between the four of us, we teach second, third and fourth grade.  This year we're hoping to share our teaching with those of you in the blogging world.  We hope you'll join us as we share our goals and reflections throughout this school year.

As part of our professional growth this year we hope to do the following:
*read professional articles and/or books in the area(s) we will grow in as teachers this school year and beyond (and share our reviews and thoughts on the literature and our use of it in our classrooms via our blog)
*use past professional conferences and resources gained to collaborate on and implement in our classrooms (and post the resources and the conference's impact in our classrooms on our blog)
*blog about our daily experiences in the classroom in order to collaboratively comment on each other's successes and struggles while offering support, ideas and feedback
*provide resources (literature, web sites, lesson plans, student samples, etc) for other teachers who find our blog

We'd love it if other teachers "tuned in" to our blog on a regular basis to join in our "discussions" (via our comments) and offer additional resources and teacher brain power in all areas of the teaching realm.

We look forward to getting started because we are now--