Adventures in Literacy Land: Writing

Showing posts with label Writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Writing. Show all posts

End of the Year Memory Books

The end of the year is! It's Jen here from An Adventure in Literacy to share an easy, authentic, LOW PREP, idea for an end of the year memory book.

There are hundreds of options for end of the year memory books. Many teachers have a favorite memory book (I always do an end of theyear countdown book) but here is an idea you may want to do in addition to your "go to" book to provide an authentic writing experience for your students.

Like many other teachers, I stocked up on the Target Dollar Spot blank books earlier in the year. I chose the 16 page version that had 8 in a pack for $3. That's will cost less than $10 for a class set of books. If you don't have blank books already, you can always just staple blank paper together.

This is an ongoing project for my students during the last few weeks of school. They work on their books for morning work or when they finish work early. I give each student a blank book and a sheet of printed subject labels. They choose the topics they are interested in and want to include in their memory book. I believe student choice is SO IMPORTANT, especially in something as personal as a memory book. One student may love word study while another may cringe at the thought of it, hence why it should or should not be included in their book!

Students simply stick the topic label to the top of the page, write about it, and illustrate. It is so sweet to read what they write and what they consider important. The open-endedness of this project really allows their writing to be authentic and focus on what is important in their school lives. I print a set of class pictures complete with our class name, year, and school to glue to the front of the book. Students can also get autographs from their classmates on the back inside cover.

To help with the prep of this project you can download the FREE labels

These are just a word document to be printed on standard address labels in comic sans (blahhhhh), but I figured you could edit the font to your favorite and change the topics as necessary. I used Hello Olive from Hello Literacy Fonts for mine. Wishing you and your students a great end of the school year. Summer is near which means lots of soaking up the sun while enjoying a great book!


Word Building...the Foundation That Never Fails!

Hello, this is Cathy from The W.I.S.E Owl.  As you know from my previous posts, I love Kindergarten.  It's the best!  There has been some request for some Kindergarten Word Building Ideas.  I have 3 for you today.

Word Work

I'm not trying to start an argument, but I believe Kindergarten is the MOST IMPORTANT GRADE! Tools provided to the student in Kindergarten are invaluable.  They are truly the foundation for all other skills to be built on.  With this in mind, each lesson is important.  Word Building is the culmination of letters and sounds and their relationship.  Here are 3 ideas for word building that can be done in whole group, small group, and even independent learning centers.
Vowel Posters
We use vowel posters in classroom with yellow backgrounds.  Not only is this visually easy for children to see, it will help with a future activity for word building (you'l see in number 3).
The first, and most supported activity is word building with CVC mats.  These mats are designed to help the earliest learner. These seasonal cards have the CVC picture with the letters at the top of the card.  Students need to rearrange the letters to spell the CVC words with magnet letters, letter tiles, or dry erase markers.  The emphasis is practicing the order of the sounds:  beginning, middle, and end.

Another idea for word building, is practice with CVC word puzzles. This CVC activity supports the student with choice.  The students are still asked to stretch the word and color the beginning, the middle, and the ending sounds.  The colored boxes spell the picture.  To create a clear connection to the classroom vowel posters, students are asked to color the vowel yellow.
Finally, the last activity includes a stoplight.  Students know about a stoplight.  Ask any kindergartner, "What does a red light mean?"  They will confidently tell you "STOP!"  Using that background knowledge, teach them to build words.  When stretching words, make sure you allow them to hear the beginning, middle, and end of the word.  When writing the sound representations, they will write the beginning, middle, and end.  BUT, the true value in Stoplight Writing is the yellow light. Just like we "slow down" for a yellow light, we need to "go slow" with our vowels.  "We have to go slow...they can really trick us."  Once we practice this in a whole group situation, it is put in a CVC center for independent practice.  Stoplight Cards can be laminated or put in pockets to be used with dry erase markers or magnet letters for mastery.

If you would like FREE Vowel Poster Set, CLICK HERE!


Non-Fiction All About Books

Hi everyone!  It's Jennie from JD's Rockin' Readers!  I thought I would share with you today a little about what my class is working on during Writing Workshop!

This is my favorite time of year for writing with my first graders because we get into writing non-fiction (All About Books and How To Books).  The kids go CRAZY over writing non-fiction!  They honestly can't get enough!  

Before Christmas, we wrote an All About Reindeer book together as a class.  We did research together and learned about how to add different features to our books including a Table of Contents, Diagram, Glossary, and About the Author page.

Now, they are working at their own pace, writing All About Books.  They first started with topics that they knew a lot about without having to do research.  

I knew I wanted them to be able to write about a topic by doing some research too.  This is how it ended up working out best…

We have "computer" as one of our "specials" during the week.  We have a computer lab teacher that is working to teach them the basics with computers.  This is the first year we have had this and I think it is WONDERFUL!  When the kids went there this past week, they each got to do a little research of their own.

First, we decided to use the website Wild Kratts from PBS Kids.  The kids all went to this website- 

From here they could search for an animal that they wanted to learn more about.  I gave each student a recording sheet to write down different things that they have learned about their animal. Click on the picture if you would like a copy...

Once the student finds an animal, they can click different buttons that tell about the animal.  What I like about this website is that they can listen to facts as well as read them.

My students recorded the different things that they have learned and now they can write an All About Book about an animal that they just learned about!

I would love to hear about how you do Non-Fiction (informational writing) in classroom!


Lucky 7: Vocabulary Ideas for Primary Students

Hi, This is Cathy from The W.I.S.E. Owl.

For those of you that know methis is my favorite vocabulary story. 

A parent who volunteered in my classroom came in to complain.  If you are going to teach our kids new words, you should at least warn the parents.  She explained.  Her son, Conner, was stepping out of his father’s jacked-up truck and missed the step.  When he fell his mom ran to him and asked if he was ok.  “I’m fine, Mom.  I was standing on a precipice and slipped.”  Ahhhhh, the power of vocabulary.

I love the Magic Tree House books.  I mean I really love the Magic Tree House books.  I can teach any skill using these books and I should write my first book about how to use thembut that’s another post.  This is about vocabulary.  So, Conner, the boy from the truck, had heard the word “precipice” when we were reading The Knight Before Dawn.  We discussed the word precipice.  We talked about a ledge or cliff and even walked to the playground to stand on the top of the playground equipment.  Each student stood at the edge and said, “I’m at the precipice.”  So when Jack was hanging from the precipice above the moat, my students were on the edge (or precipice, if you please) of their seat.

Vocabulary is a vital part of reading instruction.  I don’t usually throw around research, but in Bringing Words to Life, Beck, McKeown & Kucan (2002) it is the teacher’s role to “develop an interest and awareness in words beyond vocabulary school assignments in order to adequately build their vocabulary repertoires.”  One presenter stated the average child needs to hear a new word 14 times, but the struggling reader needs to hear it 44 times.  44TIMES. That means we have work to do.

Here are some ideas for sharing vocabulary.

 1.     Post-it© Vocabulary Posters

Students in the classroom or a group are given words on a Post-it©.  They are given a poster with categories.  Students can predict how the words are going to be used.  As the words are discovered in the text, the categories can be confirmed or moved.  Fancy charts can draw a student in and entice them to use a word in their writing. 
2.    Concept Muraling

Students are involved in the vocabulary from the beginning.  When introducing a unit on plants, students helped build a picture with cut-out handprints (it’s more fun to use their handprints, but that can take a lot of time from the lesson).  We made a flower with dirt first.  As we talked about what a flower needs to grow, we added the sun, the soil and the water.  The next week, when the focus was on the parts of a plant, we added the labels for seed, roots, stem, leaves, and flower. 
3.    Anchor Charts for Student Use

I have preached about anchor charts over and over and here’s a perfect time to add anchor charts for vocabulary.  Adding a picture of the book to the poster helps students make connections.  Students are encouraged to use these words in their independent writing and word hunts. 

4.     Text Gradients

I think text gradients are fun.  Most people think of text gradients for older students, but they can be used in kindergarten classrooms, as well.  Students can handle lessons on different gradients for "big" and "little."  We talk about how big and little are great words, but they can be overused.  Just like they wouldn’t want to eat the same food every night, they don’t want to use the same words. Using paint chips in pockets on a bulletin board or in a writing center can give students a colorful visual cue to use “exciting” words.
5.    Frayer Model

Years ago, we had a vocabulary initiative in our school.  Each week, every grade level had a focus word.  They did the Frayer Model during the literacy block daily.  This initiative guaranteed a constant curriculum for the entire grade level.  The Frayer model shows the definition and facts, as well as the examples and non-examples.  We posted the words on the poster for classroom display and the students also had a vocabulary notebook with empty Frayer Models to fill in the vocabulary center.
6.    List Group Label

Starting at the beginning of the year, teachers must teach students to sort by known factors.  Practice with sorting can easily evolve into the List-Group-Label activity.  This activity can develop categorizing skills, build background knowledge, activates critical thinking skills, and grow vocabulary skills in the process.  Students are asked to brainstorm a list of words on a topic.  Then, they group and label how they are grouped.  The picture illustrates how the same list can be labeled in several different ways.
7.    Brace Maps

Finally, I’ve talked about my love of thinking maps and a Brace Map is perfect for developing vocabulary.  Creating a brace map for a clock can help introduce “new” meanings for a face or hands.
As with any exercise, the proof is in the pudding or the lesson is in the writing.  When students are using the vocabulary words in their writing, then you know you made an impact.  My second favorite vocabulary example was used in a Squiggle Center (click here to read all about Squiggles).  While reading Thanksgiving on Thursday, we discussed the word “spit,” but in early December I knew they understood when a student used the word and illustration in their Squiggle Book.  “I see the fish kukg on the spit.  The fish is ovrr the for.” 

Ahh, that is the sweet satisfaction of success.

I hope you have an idea or two to add to your vocabulary instruction.


Writing Across the Curriculum

Hi everyone! It's the end of the year- can you believe it? I want to wish you Happy New Year from everyone here at Adventures in Literacy Land! I'm Bex from Reading and Writing Redhead and I am stopping by to talk about writing across the curriculum.

Whether you are a reading specialist, a literacy coach, or a classroom teacher, you know writing is a major part of all of the content areas. I am currently working as a second grade teacher and we use the Everyday Math series. All of you Everyday Math teachers know that this program is language - heavy. Just this fall, we got the "beta" version of the new edition. This new edition is very, very writing heavy. There is a ton of work relating to the standard of mathematical practice for explaining your mathematical thinking which is part of the CCSS. Not only are students expected to explain their mathematical thinking in writing (not just during class discussions) from the very beginning of the year, but they are often given mathematical situations with fictional students and they have to explain how the fictional student may have thought through the problem. There are also some problems in the challenge section of the quizzes where they have to act as the teacher. Students have to read a math problem, look at what a fictional student did, and explain why he is correct or why he is wrong, and if so, how he could fix the problem.

Phew! I am exhausted just talking about it. Teaching it is no cakewalk and it has been challenging for the students. I am interested to see what happens next year when I get students who have been exposed to this new edition in first grade. 

Blogger and writer Deva Delporto said, "The Common Core requires students to think and learn in a much deeper way, and one of the best ways to facilitate that deeper learner is to get kids writing. Not just in English class, but all the time." Steve Peha, founder of Teaching that Makes Sense, commented, "The Common Core and its associated tests set a much higher bar  for student are going to have to be much better writers than they ever have been before. Writing regularly in all subject areas, but especially in math, science, and social studies, is going to be crucial".

What's my  take on why writing in math (and other) class is important? I like to think beyond the Common Core and beyond tests and school. When students grow up and begin looking for a career and success in their chosen field,  think about what they will need to succeed. Writing is one key to success with social media - which isn't going away anytime soon. Plus, if she is trying to convince their boss to give her new idea a chance, she is  going to need to explain it either in person or in writing why her idea will work. She will need to be proficient at explaining her thinking in writing. I also strongly feel that many of our current students will become entrepreneurs and/or be self-employed. In order to "sell" his new product to customers, or to investors, he will need once again to be able to clearly and thoroughly explain it.

So, let's talk about writing in math class. Why is it important? How can you help your students (and you)?
  • When students write in math class, they use higher-order thinking skills to come up with mathematical explanations that support their thinking.
  • When students write in math class, they are forced to really reflect on how math works, and not just (like I did) memorize the steps to solve a problem without having any clue as to how or why it works.
  • Writing in any subject area gives students more math practice, and more practice leads to improvements in writing. 
  • It gives teachers a glimpse into how students think about math. This gives us more information about our students and can inform our instructional decisions.
  • It gives teachers a way to communicate with parents about how their child is doing in math and about their progress in math.
  • It tells us if they understand and can use math terms.
  • It helps us see common errors in students' work and enables us to address them with the whole group.
Let's take a look at some student's writing in math and talk about how to support our students as they write in math, science, and social studies (I wish I had more examples of student writing but I did not come up with my topic until I was already home on vacation so I had to go with what I happened to have at home).

First, in math class, I have to say: practice, practice,  practice. Almost every day we do something like this as a class. The students also have a problem like this on many of their math journal pages. I also have incorporated rubrics to help students see their progress. The rubric needs to be in kid friendly language. We also look at exemplars so student can see different types of writing and can see what a successful explanation might look like. 

Check out this sample, the one for part C. He explains how he solved 9-7 by using both making a 10 and by working backward. To solve 9-7, he thought that 7 + 3 = 10, and he knows 9 is close to 10. His explanation gets a little confusing halfway through but it is clear he knows 7 + 3 can't equal 9, so to adjust for the fact 9 is 1 less than 10, his answer must be 2. (7 + 2 = 9). I know he understands the math but could use some help finessing his answer. We might try to write an explanation together that is a little more succinct.

Here is a different student's explanation for the same problem. He makes more connections, stating all the steps  that got him to the solution, and he is doing a nice job of starting out his answer by telling that he figured out that 9-7 = 2 because... Some students don't state which problem they figured out, leaving me to have to guess if they are talking about a or b. 

Here is an example of when a student has to read a sample problem and think about how a fictional student may have figured it out. This student did a fairly good job at explaining that 8 + 2 = 10 is going be the first step and then they need to add 2 more to get the answer to 8 + 4. I would probably push her a little to explain more about why she added 2 more (the 4 in 8 +4 is 2 more than the 2 in 8+2) but I gave her credit for this answer -it was only October! Everyone has to start somewhere.

I'm not going to lie, it is hard to me to explain and talk about these second graders' math writing. I think that I would benefit from working with a math coach myself or to do some professional development with an expert (can we get Marilyn Burns to come to my school?) .
Time after time, I have seen Marilyn Burn's book Writing in Math Class, as the essential go-to resource for teachers who need to teach students how to explain their mathematical thinking in math class. I guess it is time for me to go shopping! Click on any of the book covers to get more details or learn how to buy them. 

As for writing in science and social studies, I have a few social studies examples. I would not call the second grade social studies curriculum terribly interesting (basically geography and immigration) but we do learn about different holidays around the world. I like to incorporate narrative and opinion writing into social studies. Of course we did this assignment in December, so you know what holiday everyone wrote about...


One thing that I think is important in writing across the curriculum is to hold students to the same standards as they use during writing workshop or language arts. The checklist is the same we use during L.A. and I routinely send students back to edit writing in the content areas when they have no capital letters, punctuation errors, etc. A few things I am going to incorporate to help my students with their writing this spring: make them read their writing aloud to me or a peer before saying, "I'm done". They catch so many errors by doing that; having them then transition to reading it to themselves when they are done; try peer editing of writing in the content areas; edit backward- i.e. cover up all of the words except the last one, check for spelling and other errors of just that word, then work backwards, one word at a time, finally checking the entire sentence, then doing the last word of the previous sentence, and so on and so forth.

I am by no means an expert in writing across the curriculum, but I have been working hard to help my students with it this year. What are your favorite tips for helping your students? What is hardest for you? Please comment and let us know!