Parts of Speech Review and a Little Fun!

Hey, hey!  Happy Halloween!  I hope everyone is ready for the sugar induced coma coming your way tomorrow.  My husband is escorting the 2nd grader around the neighborhood.  The 5th grader ditched us for a block party with a friend in a different neighborhood.  It's our first Halloween without the two of them trick-or-treating together.  My heart's a little sad about all this growing up business.

But-Check out the eye candy that's hanging in my hallway right now.
We have worked our behinds off the first grading period covering nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions.  I've been using a sorta kinda version of mentor sentences.  And let me tell you, my kids can REVISE.  No joke, they've got it.  Funny what happens when you move beyond identifying parts of speech into how to use it to improve writing.

Anyway, we had just wrapped up those parts of speech when I saw this loveliness on Oh' Boy Fourth Grade:

I pretty much copycatted her lesson because it was so perfect.

Day 1: I gave them a copy of a simple pumpkin.  Then we hit the prepositions and nouns-I told them to draw something on their pumpkin, below it, behind it, above, etc.

Day 2: We used our pumpkin picture as inspiration for our pumpkin poem.  I modeled for the kids.  We filled in our noun, added in what our noun was doing (verb), then how it was doing it (adverb).  After that we added in adjectives to describe our pumpkin.

We drew, colored, and cut out our pumpkins to be ready for the next day.

I don't usually teach parts of speech or poetry this way, but it was time for a little Halloweenish fun in our room.  We had fun, discussed parts of speech, threw in some poetry terms (personification anyone?)

Day 3: Final copy of poem and background time.  We added the pumpkin to the background with a little card stock/accordion fold action.

More beauty shots:



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Writing Strong Leads

Teaching kids to write strong beginnings to their personal narratives has always been challenging.  And then I found this Uh-mazing anchor chart on Pinterest:


Turns out it is from one of my favorite blogs!  Stephanie at Third Grade Thoughts wrote about using her chart here.  She wrote about it way back in March before I started following her.  Thank you for posting exactly what I needed 7 months before I even needed it!

I made my own copycat anchor chart.

The first day I introduced the strategies, modeled with the story I had written in class recently, and then sent them off to practice three with the story they had just finished.

The next day, we had a little fun with it.  They got with a partner and wrote three leads for this small moment story:

You are standing in line about to get on a 

GIGANTIC roller coaster.


Here are some of my favorites:
•The screams of the riders on the roller coaster filled my ears.
•Screams filled the air.  Suddenly, I was not so sure I wanted to get on the roller coaster.
•Trembling with fear, I'm standing in line and hear the man say, "Next up." 

and my very favorite (from one of my reluctant writers, no less!)
•"Step right up! This is the best and scariest ride you've ever been on!" shouted the announcer.  

Now our anchor chart is in a place of honor and I can expect a great lead for all of our personal narrative from here on out!

Big thanks, Stephanie!
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Comprehension Toolkit: Listening to Your Inner Conversation

So we made a return to the Comprehension Toolkit this week. I wrote about my first lesson on listening to your inner voice here. We came back to that idea this week with the nonfiction book, Monarch Butterflies, by Gail Gibbons. Love her. Sigh.

Anyway. It was one of THOSE mornings. I had made this sheet in advance (I need grades people). I went to copy it before school started and the copy machine was not in a cooperative mood. Normally, we get along, but not that particular morning.
**Random note-In real life, it didn't have this cute background.  But why does everything look better with graphics?  I always find this to be true on TPT and TN.  Why am I so easily swayed by cute clip art and frames?  Anyway, you can download my Halloween kit here.

So, I ran back to my room in despair twelve seconds before the kids showed up and improvised. I folded pieces of construction paper into sixths. Then I copied and pasted three off the bottom part of my sheet into a blank document and printed it out on our printer.

**Sorry to our school tech diva who will probably read this and grind her teeth. I was desperate!!!

And you know what? I'm so glad I did. Because they were required to record six snippets of their inner conversation but about 90% (no kidding!!!) recorded way more than that. If I had been stuck with my original sheet, that would have never happened.

After we finished the book, they used their recording sheet to discuss the book in a small group. Y'all, I had to cut them off after awhile. It was a beautiful thing.  Then they had to fill out the reflection part and glue it onto their sheet of construction paper.

I wish I had snagged some pictures of the kids work before I sent it home!!! I was on a grading tear (this was done the day before the end of our grading period) so I managed an unheard of same day turn around. After I sent them home, I was screaming why? why? why? This happened silently in my head though. It would have been really weird out loud.

Here's a picture of mine that I recorded to model as I read:

It was a great lesson!  This week we're moving onto "Notice When You Lose Your Way".  I'll let you know how it goes.

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Show Don't Tell

I wrote here about the awesome lesson I found on Miss Radka's Rhapsody blog and how well it went in my classroom.  Here are a few pictures of the final projects.  We actually finished these up about two weeks ago.  Details details.


This is the lesson that keeps on giving.  We were working on plans this week.  I asked the kids not to just plan the feeling they were having, but how they were going to show it.  This lesson has been PERFECTO to refer back to.  I know it's going to be an anchor lesson we come back to all year long.

Annnnd, here's a little tip for your kiddos that are really struggling with showing feeling.  I was working with one of my little guys who was feeling terrified at a point in his story.  I asked him how he was going to show it, we referred back to this lesson, and he was still struggling.  He told me he wasn't feeling anything, he was just terrified.

So, out of nowhere I yelled "BAM!!!!!!!" at the top of my lungs.  He jumped a mile.  We discussed how his body reacted physically and how he looked when I did that.  We also had a good laugh before y'all think I tortured the poor kid.

Have a great weekend!

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Made It Monday Freebies

This Sunday morning was yucky, rainy, and gloomy.  The perfect kind of morning to spend sitting at the computer.
The fallification of my house was in full swing this weekend.

I used images from The Graphics Fairy to create these two printables:

Want 'em? Click on the image to download.

I'm so excited to link up with Monday Made It.  It's been too long!


Happy Fall!
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Small Group Time

I recently started my small groups.  Eight of my fourteen years of teaching were spent in second grade.  My small groups were all leveled by guiding reading levels.  I have tried out a few different ways in third and fourth.  I think I'm happy with what I'm doing this year.

We spend the bulk of our whole class reading instruction on comprehension.  I feel like that is going well.  In my beginning of the year assessments, I noticed some red flags with fluency and phonics.  This year I'm going to address that in my small groups.  The thing about small groups is that I don't have a zillion hours to commit to planning them.  Basically we're talking about 15 minutes once, twice, or not at all a week for my kids.  The bulk of my planning time needs to go to preparing for whole class lessons.  Here's what I'm planning:

Monday: Fluency

I dug through the three tons of materials that came along with our reading adoption and found a Tier 2 book on fluency support.  It's good.  Not UH-mazing but not horrible either.  I can supplement, but it's a good basis.  We'll have a passage (poetry, reader's theater, non-fiction, fiction, etc) to read each time and sight words to review.  I made this to put up when that small group meets:

 You can click on the image to download.

Tuesday and Wednesday: Phonics

I divided my kids that needed phonics support into two groups based on need.  I found these two books:


They're both 4-6 review, but the content was definitely appropriate for 3rd grade instruction.  The first is a more basic and the second is a little more challenging.  We review a skill and then practice on white boards or using index cards or whatever.  I've also found some phonics games on TPT that I'll use also.

Love this recent purchase:

Rachael has a blog, too, called Classroom Game Nook.  You can visit it here:
Classroom Game Nook

Thursday: Skill

This will be a flexible group.  I'll pull whoever needs it.  Next week we're going to work on main idea and supporting details.

While I'm pulling small groups, everyone else is on busy with their Daily (okay Weekly) 5.  About half of the class is in either fluency or phonics.  Another fourth of them are in both.  My really strong kiddos I can pull every once in a while to stretch.

I'm really pleased with how it's going so far!  The prep is manageable.  Instead of preparing weekly, I make folders for each of them with 6-8 weeks worth of materials.  If everything is ready to go easily, it's much more likely to happen.

I made a binder for these plans so I don't have to reinvent the wheel next year.  Assuming I'm still in third.  Sigh.  I never know.

You can download it by clicking on the link below.  

Any suggestions for me?  How do you handle small groups in the upper grades?



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It Worked!

So, I shared here about what a ridiculously insane teacher I am.  Basically our dog died, my kids wanted a new one, husband did not, finally came around, but first I used this opportunity for a writing lesson.  Um, okay.

Last week my students wrote persuasive letters to my husband to convince we needed to get another dog.  Let's just say he had a good laugh Friday night.  But it worked.  Meet our Ruby.  She's some sort of Gordon Setter mix.  Let's just saying Ruby's enjoying the good life and is very happy to be out of the pound.


Here's how our writing week went:

Monday-Brainstorming and planning

Tuesday-Write

Wednesday-Revise and Edit.  Insert screeching car breaks sound here.
How much do your kids love revising.  I think their little eyes usually look at me like, "Are you serious lady?  I just wrote this stupid thing."  We'll just say they are typically unenthusiastic.  But this year's kids did it.  Fo real.  Some really super awesome, I can't believe it's the sixth week of third grade revising.
What magic did I mix up?  I wish.  But here's what I DID do.  Two years ago Nick Bruel (of Bad Kitty fame) visited our school.  He shared with us that it took him six months to write Bad Kitty.  Six Months.  He spent most of that time revising.
**Nick Bruel-thank you for coming to talk to our kids and making a point to talk about revising!!!!!!!
I shared that with my kids.  I also heard a little nugget somewhere (Jeff Anderson or that writing Dr. guy?) that you should revise your age.  So, if you're 8, you revise eight places in your story.  Should they revise just for the joy of revising and making their story as amazing as possible?  Yes, but this is my real life.  It forces them to get started.
I think it also helped that they were crazy enthusiastic about this writing topic.  Authentic writing will do that.

Thursday: Final copy

Here are some of my favorite tidbits from last week:

While brainstorming:
He could send the kids outside with the dog to get them out of his hair.
You could teach him really good tricks and get rich.

From the letters:
You could take the dog on walks to get exercise.  That way you won't get fat.
You could send the kids outside with the dog.  You could drink your coffee and read the paper and just relax in the peace and quiet.

After writing:
"So, we do all the work, and you get a dog?  That doesn't seem right."

After final copy:
"Alright, now it's your turn to get me a guinea pig."

Now I get to show them this sweet picture today.  Lucky us!
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You Know You're a Crazy Teacher When . . . .

Okay, we've all heard these "You know you're a teacher when . . . ."  I now have my own level of crazy to add to this.  I shared recently that a few weeks ago our sweet Stella went to the great dog park in the sky.  We'll it's only been a few weeks, but my girls are already begging for a new dog.

Necessary side trip from topic:
Before teaching fourth grade, I taught second grade for a million years (give or take a few).  I always watched for a time during the school year that my kids could write an authentic persuasive letter.  One year we had a raggedy bench on the playground that gave them splinters, so we wrote letters to the maintenance crew.  Another year, my homemade easel kept falling over and almost killing kids (slight exaggeration, but not a complete exaggeration), so we wrote our principal asking for money for a new one.
*Just a small tip, in case you would like to keep your job, always have a private conversation to clear this assignment with the person you are writing to.  I always went to the janitor or principal or whoever and got an "okay" and "a this problem can be fixed" or "yes, we can buy you a new easel", before having the kids write their letters.  They were so proud of themselves whenever they saw the "results" of their letters.  The year of the easel they all but hugged it when it came in.

Return to topic:
Anyway, back to the crazy teacher stuff.  My kids were begging for a new dog, husband was not so sure, but he finally agreed that we should (actually probably he used the word could) do it.

But what are we going to do first?  Why, I've told my students about how badly we want another dog, but Mr. just isn't sure.  Could they help me out by writing some persuasive letters?

I think having something authentic, something the kids really care about or are passionate about is the key to teaching persuasive writing.  They are completely on board with me getting another dog.  We planned Monday.  First, we brainstormed reasons that we should get a dog.
FYI-Judy is our cranky, elderly dog that only loves my husband.

My favorite-one boy suggested that my husband would like it if we got a dog because we could send the girls outside to play with the dog to get them "out of our hair".  This would be the same kid that told me the first day of school that his mom got a speeding ticket, but he wasn't supposed to tell his dad.

Then, they chose three and planned how to support each reason.  Today we write our letters.  We'll revise and edit Wednesday (always so much fun) and then write final copies on Thursday.

Next up?  An expository essay on what we should name our new friend.  I'll keep you posted!
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