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!



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!



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!



More than "One" Lesson Learned


Remember me?

I've got so many things to share but these little things called "time" and "teaching" and not really fitting together really well right now. So I have a super weak goal of blogging once a week. I hope that changes soon, because I really do find a lot of joy in it.



I'm sure you've heard of the book One by Kathryn Otoshi. If not- go buy it now (click the pic below, buy it... and then come back). It is a priceless book all about the importance of standing up for yourself and others. The beautiful message that it only takes "one" to stand up and make a difference is woven so perfectly in this story. Kathryn Otoshi also released the book Zero which is also fabulous (and great for when teaching place value) and her new book titled Two was just released. My kids can't get enough of these so I'm sure I'll be tracking that one down also. But this post is all about "one" book that helped me teach a couple things.

So we read this book during one of our Olweus lessons. The kids picked up on the message right away. And because of our past work in Olweus, this group knew that many of these characters were bystanders and they needed to do something to help Blue out. We ended our discussion and went to specialists and then I got this idea for our first Classroom Community Display. I grabbed my lid that I almost threw out (from a pretzel tub) and a permanent marker and I made a little "1"decal thingy template and ran it down to our lovely copy lady. When the kids came back, I told them, "Today, we'll get to explore water colors while we go from bystanders to upstanders."

Oh boy were they excited. And maybe I was a little too. And I was a little crazy. I decided to do a guided discovery of water colors, while we also explored the concept of being an upstander.

First, we brainstormed different things you could do or say to help someone who is being bullied. Students then picked 3 and wrote them in the gaps of their "1" decal thingy I made. We just used black ball point pens. Then, we returned to the carpet so I could model how to use our paints, paintbrushes, water, and paper towels. It was then their turn to explore... and they were so ready. I braced myself.

Students practiced first on a blank square of construction paper (I didn't have water color paper in this impromptu plan and it worked just fine). They tried out the colors... tried to make them light and dark. And I was SO impressed with how well they did with the management. Mind you, this was within the first 2 weeks of school. This group is definitely a keeper.
Then it was time to add watercolor to their "1" decal thingy. We went with watercolors to match Kathryn Otoshi's style in her book.

They were so quite and focused during this! I was expecting a bit of chaos but there was none to be seen.

Once they were done, we let them dry over lunch, cut them out and assembled them into this mural:

Here are a few of their colored "1" decal thingys up close. They wrote their names inside the number 1 also, but I tried to blur those out for privacy.

I got to do a little watercolor also while they worked by creating this little sign that went in the middle of our display that is right outside our door.

Not only did they learn about how to use watercolors (and we will definitely do it again now) but we also learned the power of 1 person standing up and making a change.

I made the template with a sharpie marker, but I tried to recreate it on my computer to share. It's not perfect, but there it is for your use if you want to try it also. I put 2 on a page (that's the size mine were) but I also have 1 large one if you want them to be bigger. Click on the image to download both options.



Show, Not Tell: The Bane of my Existence... Until Now

So if you are in the middle of a personal narrative unit for writing, you know about the struggle I'm about to mention. The whole, "Show your readers what you mean- don't just tell them."


"Yah... I know this is tough little Timmy, let me try to help you understand."

Every year (ok... so really this is only the 3rd time, but still, it feels like forever), this is a really hard task for my 3rd graders. This year, I tried to be very purposeful with how I got students to think about what the difference is between showing and telling.

First, I tried to do a lot of storytelling. I would first say a telling sentence and then a showing sentence to get the ball rolling. We talked about the differences between the two. We noted sentence length, adjective use, verb choice, etc.

A few lightbulbs turned on after that. And so we continued with another way to bring this message home for those still sitting in the dark.

We went on a walk around the school. Nothing too special. But after every couple minutes, we stopped and jotted down our observations using only our senses. (I planned this in 5 minutes so literally, they just had a piece of paper divided into 5 columns and each one labeled with a sense. No fancy fonts, so cute borders... but it worked beautifully.)

And yes, I did have to say this...

We talked about it before we left the classroom. The only thing we will be tasting is water from the water fountain. But that didn't stop a little one from trying to sneak a fist full of dirt into his mouth and then denying it with that said dirt still on his face.

The point is, this little nature walk really helped them to realize all the different ways to use senses to describe this event. When we got back to the room, we all wrote about the same event. And I already saw awesome leaps of improvement.

A few more students were stepping into the light. Now it was time to let this new knowledge shine!

In this final attempt to make it clear the difference between a telling sentence and a showing sentence, we talked about emotions and feelings. I got the inspiration from this pin (click to be taken to the original source).
And I was like,

"Hey. I think I could do this and have my kids create this." And so I did.

I made these little signs. They were blank. I modeled how to do one first. Then we tried some together. Then they worked in pairs to pick one of the signs and write down a few different ways we could show the emotion or feeling. For those struggling, I had the simple sentence frame My  (body part) (past tense verb). We also have been doing a lot of work with similes. So lots of those popped up. And although there are misspelled words, some incorrect verb tenses, and not all complete sentences- it was AMAZING to see their creative juices flowing. I liked doing it this way. I find the problem when I do a bulleted list, a lot of my students (mostly my ELs) just copy it down in their writing... which means they are not complete sentences. So we tried to focus a little on that in this lesson as well (and it was a good formative assessment to see who could create a complete sentence and who still struggles). Check out some of the work below... this was alllllll them. And my iPhone does not take the best photos so my apologizes now.

As soon as we were done with these, I attached them to some binder rings and hung them on our back-writing-curtain-focus-wall thingy and students instantly started using these in their own writing and as a source of inspiration. And the next day, they continued to use them. And they were so proud. I mean... their smiles beamed across their face as they stood as tall as a flag pole. Not too bad of a showing sentence if I do say so myself. ;)

So if you'd like to give it a try in your room, here are the mini-signs  I used in my room for you! Just click on them below to download them.




I'm still trying to get back into my blogging mo-jo. I think after our EM break in about 2 weeks I hope to be creeping back on a more regular basis... but we'll see. Farley's Currently though is good motivator for me.

Listening: One minute- "THAT IS THE WORST CALL I'VE EVER HEARD!" Next minute- "THAT'A BABY!! C'MON!" Football season is here folks.

Loving: I've said it many times- I'm that lady at school who just yacks and yacks and never gets anything done in my room because I'd rather be talking. Well today, I don't know what came over me, but I started to do those little tasks I keep putting off until they became to overtake my room and I actually worked non-stop from 4:00 until 6:30 tonight! I feel so good about getting those things DONE and I prepped some things for tomorrow so hopefully, Friday will be a rather chill day!

Thinking: I love Fall. I love the temps. I love the crisp air. I even love the rain (just not during recess time). I just wish it would last a little longer.

Wanting: Conferences are already next week. I hope to get all prepared by Tuesday. It's been a nightmare trying to schedule families, so I just hope it goes somewhat smoothly. I surprisingly feel good about the actual conferences themselves as I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on my students current levels of understanding.

Needing: I want new clothes. What's new.

Trick or Treat: I've been working on lots of stuff for my room and I did a fun and really helpful activity that I'd love to share- but I just don't have the energy to post. I promise if you come back later this week/weekend I'll have a little freebie for you to try out! Here's a sneak peak:


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