Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Chart that Keeps On Giving: Writing Personal Narratives

Yesterday, I shared this picture of a chart we have been building and creating over the last couple of weeks. 

I'll be sharing how I've used this chart in a few different ways over both our reading and writing units. For today, I'm showing how we used this chart to check that the personal narratives we were writing had all parts to a narrative.

We were wrapping up our first drafts for our personal narratives and I noticed some kiddos didn't really have a climax, falling action, and/or solution. We had been studying other writers of personal narratives with text like Owl Moon and Come on Rain. Both are excellent examples of personal narratives and follow this story arc. We used those to study what each part of a story looks like, sounds like, and feels like. They made their own story arcs in their writing binders color coded to match the example below that is on our chart.

Just like when we write, we don't always realize what we have and what we don't have. It helps to have someone else experience our writing and give us some insight. So we used this g.o. I made to help out a classmate and get some advice as well. 

(click on the image to download it)
Now, this covers the words and ideas that I've taught into over the last 2 weeks, so it might not be exactly what you use, but it worked so well with my group!

The first step was to label their arcs with their partner to see if they remembered the parts to a story. 

Next, they took turns reading their stories. One partner would read and the other one would check each part that they could clearly notice in their partner's writing. I of course modeled this with my own writing first and we reviewed what to listen for in each part of a story before we started this.

This was really powerful for students! A lot of them realized, due to their partner, what part(s) of the story they needed to revise in their own story so that the reader could follow along.

Lastly, students asked for suggestions from their partner. I was really impressed with the suggestions they gave their partner. It sparked students motivation to go back and start revising that part of their story. This was such a great way for students to get some feedback while also practicing the skills we've been learning about. I was impressed how even one of my students (who loves to write, but struggles with presenting cohesive ideas) was able to give a suggestion to one kiddo who has probably the best personal narrative I've had a student write in the last 3 years. It showed that even the best of stories can be improved. 

We'll keep using this chart during our series book club unit as we discuss how characters "drive" the story and why characters act the way they do. It's become the most useful chart we've created this year!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Five fo' Friday!!

I'm finally home, enjoying a glass of overdue wine and thanking the Lord I made it through this long week. Before I even begin to think of the crazy that will come with next week, I'm sitting down to share 5 things from this past week with Doodlebugs!!

Click the pic above to be taken to my profile!
Have you heard of this new social media option? I was browsing through my blog lovin' feed when I saw Blair's post and it intrigued me. I've been contemplating starting a facebook page for this blog and then this popped up. I'm going to give it a try- although it's a little lonely only having one follower (thanks Blair). See her post to learn more about it! It is invite only (makes it seem exclusive huh?) so you can use my invitation code below. I'm hoping to play around with it this weekend!

Want to try tsu (pronounced "sue")? Grab my invite code:

I had my first observation of my ever-important-tenure year a week and half ago and had my post-observation meeting this past week. I am in a unique position as each year now, I've had a different principal. Our current principal went into early labor with her twins so her interim had to step in. Needless to say, I'm lucky to have both of these women that I get to work with (both my current and interim principal) as they really do seem to care and recognize me for what I do. And for that I'm thankful. Plus the fact that my first observation went really well. Two more to go baby!

This little chart has been so helpful! We started it for our writing unit and it really helped with students when writing their own complete stories. And now, it's useful for our reading unit. And the sad thing- I didn't even plan that to happen! I'll be sharing more about it later this weekend with a freebie too! Check it out later!


This was an impromptu graph. We were reflecting on our book logs and one thing we looked at was how many books we finished. As kids counted them up, I laid down a piece of duct tape and labeled numbers 0-13+ on the tape. Then students wrote the # of books they finished on a post-it and placed the number on their post-it on the same number on our tape. It was a nice quick lesson on graphing! Then, it was super easy for us to add how many total books we read this past unit... a whopping 200 books! I've got a group that loves to read.

This has been a very difficult week. Really, it's been a difficult year. Which is weird, because my students this year are really great- they are enthusiastic, they try hard, they apply what they learn, they take risks, they follow directions... but even with that, it's been a lot of long hours and it's been very draining. I had to make myself a little motivation wall for my classroom to remind myself that I am capable and to remember what is important. I don't know who said all of these phrases, but I complied them into this poster for my room.

I'm off to play around with this Tsu website now!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Shades of Meaning: Vocab Reference Sheets

If you haven't heard, half of my class are ELs (English Learners). And I love them dearly. I want to help them succeed so bad. And I just don't feel like I am right now because of our RW and WW model. So I've put some major work in over our EM break (we were supposed to go to the big Ed. MN conferences, but I spent my time working on RW stuff... so that still counts right??) to help refocus myself and really try to bring the best instruction I can for my students (not just my ELs but ALL of them).

I made this document to share with my team and I'm so excited about it!

Because it is based on Teacher's College, I can't share it, but I totally feel much more prepared to teach this next unit. Google Docs worked perfect for us to share and collaborate (although only one of my teammates has so far). Have you used Google Docs when planning with your team? I love how in the "comment" view you can see everyone's contributions- nothing can be erased (only marked up/crossed out, but as the creator, I can always erase them later). It allows us to do some planning on our own and share it easily so when we meet, we can discuss other things. This is the first time I tried it and I'll definitely be doing it again.

So now that we have a basic direction on where we are going with this unit, I always dread the "trait work" portion. I have a few plans in place to help all my students pick very specific words to describe their characters based on their actions/feelings/blah blah blah. However, I find it hard for students to know which words to pick. They often pick a word we've been using, but the evidence doesn't support it. So I put together these "Shades of Meaning" pages to not only help with trait work but also for other avenues (plus it's in the "common core" for our grade).

I have organized them so that hopefully they can find the word they know well (the white shaded boxes). Then they can look at 3 other words that mean "about" the same thing. The darker the box, the more "advanced." I'll obviously teach into these reference pages when I see fit. We'll start with the feelings page first when we start talking about how the character is feeling, and then we'll move into the traits. I created 3 other pages for their writing as well that we'll intro in our next poetry unit. I'm so excited for these references pages... and it's the first resource I've made in a while that I can share on TpT so for the next 24 hours.... it's a freebie (just click on the image above)! I just ask you leave some love! I hope you can find some use for them!