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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Common Core Language Standard 6

Here it is: the last ELA standard. It's taken 2-1/2 months for me to talk myself through them. I've learned a lot, and I hope you have too. It's exciting to think that I can simply refer back to my blog whenever I want resources for a certain standard.

Well, without any further ado, here's College and Career Readiness Standard for Language 6 (CCRA.L.6): "Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking and listening..."

Vocabulary, how do I teach thee? Let me count the ways:
  1. Vocabulary Books - My students use a vocabulary series to learn 12 to 15 "new" words each week. Obviously, they already know a few words before we even begin, but I hope that they learn additional denotations and connotations by the time we wrap it up each week.
  2. Greek/Latin Roots - I try to work on one Greek or Latin root word each week. Okay, I haven't been as consistent as I'd like, but this is the goal. For this, we probably cover 5 to 10 words.
  3. Words in Reading - Of course, like all classes, we work on vocabulary related to stories we're reading. I'd estimate that students learn or fine-tune 10 or more words each week in this way.
  4. Content Words - Content words are huge in my class. Students are accountable for math, science, health, social studies, and English terms. Whether we're studying polygons, erosion, diseases, elections, or parts of speech, there are always new terms to learn. How many? I'd guess 20 to 30 per week.
  5. Teacher Talk - I believe in using big words with my students. When I talk, I use words that I'm pretty sure are new to them and define them as I speak. It goes something like this: "Of course, when you are in a higher math class, you will learn the Pythagorean theorem. You're probably thinking: What's that? Well, it's a theorem (or mathematical rule) thought up by the ancient mathematician Pythagorus. He found that if you take these the two sides that are adjacent, or next to, the right angle, square each one, then add them together, the sum will equal the square of the hypotenuse. The hypotenuse is the side opposite the right angle." I try to repeat this idea (and the correlating vocabulary) whenever the opportunity presents itself. I don't have any way of knowing how much this practice increases my students' vocabulary, but I hope it's 10 to 20 words per week. 
  6. Independent Reading - Students acquire a great number of new words through independent reading. That's a big push for us. Every Monday morning we assess each student's progress (using Accelerated Reader reports), hold brief reading conferences, and have 30 minutes of sustained silent reading. Research shows that students in middle grades are exposed to between 8,000 and almost 5,000,000 words per year based on the amount of reading they do. Let's just make a wild guess and say that the amount of new vocabulary gained due to our AR push is 20 words per week.
Some quick estimation tells us that my students are introduced to new 70 to 100 words each week, or 2500 to 3600 words per school year. According to Oxford Dictionaries, there are 171,476 words in the English language. Ugh! Are 2500 words per year enough? How many of those do they actually remember when the school year is over? Even though I think I'm doing a decent job with vocabulary in my classroom, I think I could do more.

What steps will I take to improve my vocabulary program this year?

  • I will get on board with Greek and Latin word parts. Traditional pencil and paper activities just aren't working for me, though. My kids need hands-on, minds-on practice constructing word meaning using Greek and Latin roots. And here's how I'm going to do it: word strips. This is brand new! I just came up with it last night. The first in the series ("ped") is now available for free at my Teachers pay Teachers store.

  • I will help students "own" more words by encouraging them to use newly acquired vocabulary. Sheets like this will help them keep track of five new words per week. Friends, relatives, and teachers will initial the octagons to indicate a time when the student has used the word in speaking or writing.

  • I will start each day with the Word of the Day from Merriam-Webster, which will bring an additional 180 words into my classroom. (Yesterday's word was suffice and today's is cocoon. I know my students will like this!)

  • We will start using this website, WOW Words, to explore our vocabulary words. Their format is so cool!

Now I just have to do it! Let's make a pact to integrate more vocabulary this school year!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Common Core Language Standard 5

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standard for Language 5 (CCRA.L.5) states: "Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings." At the third grade level, students explore the difference between literal and nonliteral meanings, connections between words and their use, and "shades of meaning among related words." Instruction then shifts. Expectations for fourth and fifth graders include interpreting figurative language; explaining common idioms, adages, and proverbs; and using word relationships to more fully understand word meanings.

Figurative Language

YouTube gives us some great opportunities for introducing figurative language. Check out this figurative language rap (3:00).  Or, if you want to give your students a high level introduction, try this video on Figurative Language (3:42). You'll also find many student-created videos featuring popular music, but watch out for content that may not be appropriate for your grade level (as well as spelling errors).

To reinforce these literary devices, try a few activities from Teachers pay Teachers. Reflective Teacher offers  Plans and Engaging Activities for Teaching Simile and Interactive PowerPoint with Teaching Notes to Teach Simile. Featured in the TpT Common Core eBook,  Figurative Language Stories for Close Reading is a freebie from Lovin Lit.

Seeing figurative language in literature really drives it home. Paddle-to-the-Sea, The Cat Who Went to Heaven, and Call It Courage are filled with similes, metaphors, personification, and onomatopoeia. ReadWriteThink gives a more complete list in Suggested Books with Figurative Language, and Teaching with Kids' Books suggests books to use to teach idioms.

For the grand finale, try one or more of these writing projects with your students:

  • Start simple. Give each student a picture (can be clip art, taken from magazines, etc.) and ask him/her to write a simile or metaphor about the picture. Mount picture and figurative language; display.
  • Use Spice Up Your Poetry with Figurative Language by Kechia Williams for Scholastic.
  • Infuse descriptions with personification. "Personification of a Tree" is a fun fall writing project. Each student chooses a specific type and size of tree then describes it using human traits. (Add drawings with sponged leaves, if desired.)
  • Move on to proverbs and adages with Paragraphs and Pigs: Teaching Paragraph Writing with Humor from Reflective Thinker.
  • And, my personal favorite, explore proverbs as the basis for writing fables.

Word Relationships and Nuances

Analogies provide great opportunities to explore word relationships with your students. You can find plenty of analogy worksheets at Better yet, have kids write their own!

If you're up for a real challenge, sign up for WordMasters. This vocabulary contest is analogy-based. Three times each year, you will receive a list of 25 words. After in-depth exploration of the denotation and connotation of these words, students take an analogy-based test. The ten highest scores are totaled and sent to WordMasters. I've been involved in this contest for nearly three decades and can honestly attest to its rigor.

That's enough for today on words and their nuances. Have a good great wonderful fabulous fantastic spectacular day!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Common Core Tips & Freebies

This just out: teacher/authors at Teachers pay Teachers have collaborated to offer a series of free eBooks featuring tips and freebies related to the Common Core State Standards. Let's take a look at the two eBooks for Grades 3-5.

The ELA book contains clickable pages from 56 sellers. Each offers a tip and a freebie. My favorite find was a main idea graphic organizer from Jessi's Archive.

You will find pages from 55 sellers in the Common Core Math eBook for Grades 3-5.

I haven't had a chance to gather any goodies from this yet, but you can be sure that I'll be hunkered down at my computer later on today. . . 

Enjoy the tips and freebies!
:- ) Brenda

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Common Core Language Standard 4

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standard for Language 4 (CCRA.L.4) states: "Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate."

The first strand of this standard for Grades 3-5 (L.3.4aL.4.4a, and L.5.4a) deals with finding word meaning from context. To tackle this concept, kids need to look at other words in the text for clues. This could be in the form of synonyms or antonyms, definitions or explanations, descriptions or examples. Students' past experiences and knowledge of the subject matter also comes into play. Here are some resources, listed from easy to difficult:

For the second part of the standard (L.3.4bL.3.4cL.4.4b, and L.5.4b), students need to find word meaning using prefixes, suffixes, and roots. In third grade, students work with known affixes and roots to find word meaning. Fourth and fifth graders begin learning and using Greek and Latin word parts.

When the Common Core State Standards were first unveiled, finding materials on Greek and Latin word parts was difficult. Now, however, they are more plentiful. I especially like the simplicity of the free one-page reference guides on Root Words, Roots and Affixes, a webpage offered by Reading Rockets.

How should these be taught? In any and all ways! My colleagues and I decided to add one Greek or Latin word family to our vocabulary and spelling list each week. Instruction varied. Sometimes we used worksheets; other times we did projects. One of my favorite activities was to copy a shape that represented the root, pair the students, assign one related word, and have them make mini posters by breaking the words into its parts and defining. For example, when we studied -ped and -pod, my students wrote on foot shapes (both left and right). When the posters were finished, we hung them to look like footprints walking across the wall.

A few years ago I was messing around on Prezi and made this simple presentation on therm.

To me, Prezi provides a powerful format for presenting Greek and Latin word families. Since it's a free web-based program, I thought it would be great to use in my classroom. There were, however, some drawbacks, namely setting up accounts and the sheer amount of time necessary to teach students how to use Prezi and help with their presentations. Jeff Herb has also discussed this issue in Prezi - Advantages and Disadvantages. Instead, my students have created Greek and Latin word webs on traditional poster board. Less wow, but the same pow.

Although online games do not necessarily correlate with the roots we are studying, they can be fun. (And didn't I just say that we should teach these word parts any way we can?) Here are a few to try:
In the last part of the standard (L.3.4dL.4.4c, and L.5.4c), students use reference materials to find definitions. Third graders utilize glossaries or beginning dictionaries to find word meaning; fourth and fifth grade students begin to "consult reference materials..., both print and digital, to find the pronunciation and determine or clarify" word meaning.

Dictionary skills take practice! The first challenge is simply navigating the dictionary. In searching for ways to help kids with this, I found 8 Fun Dictionary Skills from Minds in Bloom by Rachel Lynette. The classroom ideas, task cards, and worksheets will all be great for introducing my students to dictionary use this year. I'm planning on using it all!

The second challenge is finding the exact meaning. Have you ever looked up a word and found 27 different definitions? That's overwhelming! To practice this skill, my students use context clues to choose the exact meaning from a limited number of choices. Here's an example from the novel unit I'm currently creating based on The Black Stallion.

Through direct instruction, we can provide our students with strategies for finding meanings of words in context, words used figuratively, and words in dictionaries. What other factors come into play? The University of Oregon has synthesized some eye-opening research on vocabulary. Did you know, for example, that due to differences in students' independent reading habits, middle grade students can be exposed to a range of 8,000 to 4,733,000 words per year? Obviously, students who read a lot on their own will acquire a much, much, much larger vocabulary. In addition to teaching vocabulary, it is essential that we get our students reading as much as possible! 

Words, they're essential!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Common Core Language Standard 3

Career and College Readiness Anchor Standard for Language 3 (CCRA.L.3) states: "Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening. In Grades 3 (L.3.3), 4 (L.4.3), and 5 (L.5.3) students must "use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening." Here are a few ideas for how you can address specific grade level expectations in your class.

Third Grade

According to L.3.3a third grade students should "choose words and phrases for effect" when speaking and writing.

It's time to start using the thesaurus! Students can use print, digital, teacher-made (like the one below), or student-made thesauruses. For a quick student-made thesaurus, simply list words that will be used for a writing project, assign one word to each group of students and have them generate a list of synonyms, and share.

Children are now ready to start thinking about whether a synonym is appropriate for a situation. For example, when using the pumpkin thesaurus above, would it be okay to say "chop a pumpkin" instead of "carve a pumpkin?" 

Activities that focus on synonyms used for specific situations will help your students gain a better understanding of this concept. Which word(s), for example, would work well in these situations?
  • A doctor telling her patient to stop smoking (cease)
  • A policeman ordering a suspect to stop running (halt)
  • A boy telling his dog to stop because a car is coming (heal)
  • A speaker telling an audience that his speech is about to stop (conclude)
  • A volunteer telling citizens that they were able to stop a flood (block)
  • A boss telling his employee that he will have to stop working there (terminate)
  • An FBI agent telling the President that she was able to stop a bomb (deactivate)
  • A parent telling his children that they will need to stop the vacation early (cut short)
  • A sign telling you that production of a certain product will stop (discontinue)
  • A newscaster telling the audience that experts had been able to stop a disease from spreading (prevent)
You can give students situations and have them come up with synonyms that would work or vice-versa. Have some fun with this! Students can work in groups, act it out, make posters, play charade-type games to get others to guess the appropriate word, etc.

L.3.3b says, "Recognize and observe differences between the conventions of spoken and written standard English." What does this mean? After doing a bit of research, I'm still not sure, but I'll take a stab at it. (If I'm wrong, someone can set me straight.) This part of the standard was meant to help students discriminate between the types of language we use in different contexts. In third grade, writing is more formal than speaking. "Walk slow!" might be okay for spoken language, but in written language we'd need to say, "Walk slowly!" Lots of kids say, "Me and my friends are going to the park," but writing this would never fly. In any case, third grade teachers need to discuss when to use more formal and less formal language with their students.

Fourth Grade

For L.4.3a students must "choose words and phrases to convey ideas precisely." Using specific language is also addressed in W.4.2d and W.4.3d; it's alluded to in SL.4.6. Take a look at my July 16th post for resources I previously recommended.

Students in Grade 4 need to work on word choice whenever they write, but there's one form of writing that really focuses on word choice: diamante poetry. In order to complete these poems, students must apply knowledge of related terms, parts of speech, denotation, and most importantly, connotation. Here's a set of generic sheets for planning diamantes in your classroom.

 You can use diamante to write about any type of change: seasons, growing up, feelings, etc. Take, for example, this simple poem documenting the change from summer back to school:

Even more powerful, though, is the use of diamante with subject-matter vocabulary. Students can write about changes from one time period to the next; the rock cycle; life cycles of plants, insects, or animals; photosynthesis; erosion or mountain formation; etc. They can compare and contrast characters, settings, or events in literature. Or maybe they could document their growth in a certain subject, such as what it takes to move from novice to master in fourth grade math (or the differences between third and fourth grade math). Just think how this can reinforce concepts and vocabulary!

L.4.3b asks students to "choose punctuation for effect." I found a cool Punctuation Pyramid that explains each type of punctuation and how it's used. Fourth graders love adding hyphens, ellipses, and parentheses to their writing! 

The English Club offers explanations and ideas for this in How to Teach Formal and Informal Language. This piece applies to L.4.3c, which deals with differentiating "between contexts that call for formal English and situations where informal discourse is appropriate."

Fifth Grade

For L.5.3a, students are expected to "expand, combine, and reduce sentences for meaning, reader/listener interest, and style." Check out Sentence Length: The Power of Placing Periods from Writer's Relief for insight about this. While this part of the standard can be practiced in isolation, it's much better when applied to students' writing.

Finally, L.5.3b asks students to "compare and contrast the varieties of English (e.g., dialects, registers) used in stories, dramas, or poems." You can reinforce this with most books and stories. Right now, for example, I'm working on a unit on The Black Stallion. Let's take a look at the speech of several characters:
  • Captain Watson: "Well, m'boy, you're on your way home."
  • Pat: "For the love of St. Patrick, he's just a boy!"
  • Joe: "I'm Joe Russo of the Daily Telegram. I'd like to take a few pictures and get your story."
  • Tony: "Si, that's-a right. I ver' busy make-a better the harness sore on my Nappy when I look-a up and see heem."
  • Henry: "Never liked this business of retiring, anyway. Not too old---still have plenty of good years left in me. This life's okay for the Missus---she's got enough to do to keep her busy, but I need action."
Comparing and contrasting the speech patterns of each character uncover information about him and his background. (And later students can employ this strategy in their own writing!)

Third, fourth, and fifth grade students are now discovering the nuances (and power) of words. As Tom Stoppard wrote:
“Words... They're innocent, neutral, precise, standing for this, describing that, meaning the other, so if you look after them you can build bridges across incomprehension and chaos. But when they get their corners knocked off, they're no good any more... I don't think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little or make a poem which children will speak for you when you're dead.” 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Miracle for Mendy

Today we're taking a break from the Common Core State Standards. Instead, I would like to promote a special fundraising bundle from Teachers pay Teachers called Miracle for Mendy.

This bundle was created to help Mendy Brockman and her family. Mendy is a young mother in her 30's with four small children, ages 6, 4, 3, and 19 months. A few weeks ago, Mendy and her husband were in a car accident. Mendy was left paralyzed from the waist down and partially paralyzed from the neck down. Her family faces tremendous financial difficulties. Her house will need to be remodeled to make it wheelchair accessible. They will need a vehicle that can transport a wheelchair. Plus they have tremendous medical bills to face. Please consider purchasing this bundle to help this family. ALL of the funds raised from this bundle will go to her family.

This bundle is loaded with well-known, high-quality products that will enhance your classroom. Check out this preview of the 43 products included in Miracle for Mendy. These materials normally sell for a combined total of $184.70, but you can get them for just $25.00.

This is your chance to get lots of great teaching materials while helping someone in need!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Common Core Language Standard 2 - Grade 5 Resources

What do fifth graders need to know for CCRA.L.2? Fortunately, it's focused around only three skill groups: using commas, punctuating titles, and spelling.

In Grade 5, three comma rules are emphasized: commas in a series (L.5.2a), commas that separate an introductory element from the rest of the sentence (L.5.2b), and commas that set off yesno, tag questions, and names used to directly address an individual (L.5.2c). In recent years, some fun, motivational resources have become available for these skills. Let's look at a few:
Punctuating Titles
L.5.2d asks students to "use underlining, quotation marks, or italics to indicate titles of works." This is relatively easy! Just remind your class to use quotation marks for small works and underlining or italics for large works.

  • Punctuating Titles, a short video (2:09) by Cara Canfield, provides a clear, concise overview of the rules for using quotation marks, underlining, or italicizing.
  • For a good worksheet, try
L.5.2e reminds us that fifth graders must "spell grade-appropriate words correctly, consulting references as needed." By the time kids are in fifth grade, they should be able to spell many words. When dealing with unknown words, they should know to a) ask a friend, b) ask an adult, c) use spell check, or d) use a dictionary. Although many teachers ease off of spelling tests by this age, I believe in pinpointing, practicing, and testing words students do not know. Setting up a system in which students document words they don't know how to spell, practice them, and complete some form of assessment provides a means for growth in this area. Teachers can generate and share multiple lists on

P.S. If you're like me, writing has pushed parts of speech, punctuation, and capitalization to the side. A new program, Mechanics: Your Daily Tune-Up, offers direct instruction, practice, and assessment of one set of related skills per week. Ten minutes a day for 18 weeks provides powerful perception about parts of speech and how they impact punctuation and capitalization. Give it a try!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Common Core Language Standard 2 - Grade 4 Resources

CCRA.L.2 states: "Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing." How will you address this with your fourth grade class?

The first step I take is direct instruction and daily practice of parts of speech, capitalization, and punctuation. I present three connected rules per week (for example, identifying adjectives, capitalizing proper adjectives, and commas in series of adjectives). Students practice with three sentences each day, spiraling their knowledge and understanding of mechanics. This has worked wonders in my own classroom. Mechanics: Your Daily Tune-Up is focused, gives plenty of practice, and takes only a few minutes a day.

CCRA.L.2, CCSS L.4.2, conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling

L.4.2 Conventions of standard English capitalization and punctuation

Let's take a closer look at the parts of this standard.

L.4.2a simply says, "Use correct capitalization." No standards after fourth grade discuss capitalization. When I first saw this, I thought, "Wow, that means my students need to know all capitalization rules." As I came to realize that there are many rules for capitalization, the rules are quite detailed, and the resources available to teach them are few, I really said, "Wow!"

In addition to the mechanics program, I created interactive PowerPoint presentations, related worksheets, and extension activities for each rule. Then I wrote review sheets and tests. It was a big undertaking, but the end result was worth it! Each presentation got my kids involved with thumbs-up/thumbs-down and/or display of fingers for practice and effortless formative assessment.

This short video will give you a little taste of how the unit works. All nine PowerPoint/Lesson Plan sets are now available individually or as a bundle in my Teachers pay Teachers store:
Once students have learned all of the comma rules, I like to sprinkle in some review with free worksheets offered at

L.4.2b states: "Use commas and quotation marks to mark direct speech and quotations from a text." This extends the third grade standard by asking students to quote from a text. Although the CCSS does not officially ask fourth graders to quote from text when answering questions, it's a great way to practice (and gear up for Grade 5).

After reviewing placement of commas and quotation marks in text, I work with students to generate a list of tags to use when integrating quotes into writing, like this:

Opportunities for practice are easy to find. For example, after reading this brief excerpt from Aesop, I'd simply ask students to quote the author five different ways. They can experiment by using different parts of the text and a variety of tags to answer.

L.4.2c  is simple and straightforward: "Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction in a compound sentence." Once your students can identify complete sentences (AKA independent clauses) and coordinating conjunctions, you're set.

This lesson and video on the Scholastic website may help. The author, Mary Blow, uses the acronym FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) to help students identify coordinating conjunctions then shows how to insert a comma when these are used to combine two sentences, or independent clauses. To reinforce this concept, try this Compound Sentence Practice from Joshua Durham (free on TpT).

You can liven up your lesson with this Comma Before Conjunction Lesson, which was created by two students and posted on YouTube. Even better, your students could create their own skits, jingles, or videos to teach the skill.

L.4.2d asks students to "spell grade-appropriate words correctly, consulting references as necessary." I hate to say it, but dictionaries in book form seem to be going the way of the dodo bird. I think it's time to teach kids how to use digital spell check options. Kids (and adults) can use tools found in word processing software or online spell check sites, such as

That's it for fourth grade mechanics! If you need assessment for these (or all 20) language skills covered in the Common Core, Teaching and Tapas has published a complete 4th Grade Common Core Language Assessment. Check it out!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Common Core Language Standard 2 - Grade 3 Resources

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standard for Language 2 deals with mechanics in writing. CCRA.L.2 states: "Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing." Today we'll be taking a look at how the standard breaks down for third graders, as well as some handy resources.

The first section of this standard, L.3.2a, asks students to "capitalize appropriate words in titles." Let's look at the progression of the capitalization standard:

  • Kindergarten (L.K.2a) - Capitalize the first word in a sentence and the pronoun I.
  • First Grade (L.1.2a) - Capitalize dates and names of people.
  • Second Grade (L.2.2a) - Capitalize holidays, product names, and geographic names.

This is the first slide of a PowerPoint presentation I use with my fourth grade students on capitalizing titles.

And this is the final slide of the presentation.

You can see that students need to have full command of parts of speech (including prepositions, which are not mentioned in the standards until fourth grade!) To me, this is an error on the part of the CCSS. Simple capitalization of titles, as shown in the first slide, is appropriate for third grade, but I'd hold the full-blown explanation until fourth. Try this capitalization worksheet from to review capitalization skills learned in first and second grades, as well as practice capitalizing simple titles.

L.3.2b states: "Use commas in addresses." We all know that commas separate the street address from the state and the city from the state. But what about that comma after the state (or zip code) in a sentence? How to Use Commas in Addresses and Dates from "for Dummies" explains it concisely. Kids will love playing Comma Chameleon from Sheppard Software to practice punctuation skills.

L.3.2c requires students to "use commas and quotation marks in dialogue." This can be accomplished through direct instruction and lots of practice. I use this PowerPoint presentation to teach my students how to use commas and quotation marks in dialogue. Here's a sample slide.

Comic strips provide great opportunities for practice in writing dialogue. Simply print a comic strip, place it at the top of a piece of lined paper, and copy. Abracadabra! You have a high-level dialogue worksheet. Just have students write the dialogue on the lines below the cartoon. Don't get a newspaper? That's okay, many cartoons are archived online. Try these: Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes, and many more on

Aspire to Inspire also offers a Quotations & Capitalization Quiz that can serve as a pretest or posttest for this skill.

L.3.2d deals with possessives. To teach possessive nouns, I tell my students that in spoken language we hear the "s" sound to signal possession. In writing, we differentiate between plurals and possessives by using an apostrophe. Now here's the key (sorry for shouting): THE ORIGINAL NOUN NEVER CHANGES! THINGS ARE ONLY ADDED ON! The apostrophe is always, always, always placed directly after the original noun. And if the word doesn't end in "s," we also have to add that to get that "s" sound. Like this:

I'd like to offer you some worksheets on possessive nouns. Just click, and they're yours. We start out with practice of Singular Possessive Nouns, continue with Plural Possessive Nouns, then normally need even more practice (which can be found on sites like, do a Possessive Nouns Review, and finally, take a Possessive Nouns Test. In the midst of all of this, I have found that giving a Possessive Nouns Spelling Pretest and then a Possessive Nouns Spelling Posttest really boosts their skill.

Let's take a quick look at what the spelling tests look like. Students simply write the possessive form of the noun in the first column.                                                                                                                       

The remainder of the standard deals with spelling. L.3.2e asks students to "use conventional spelling for high-frequency and other studied words and for adding suffixes to base words." L.3.2f states: "Use spelling patterns and generalizations  in writing words." And L.3.2g requires children to "Consult reference materials, including beginning dictionaries, as needed to check and correct spellings."

There are so many different ways to handle spelling! I'd only like to offer two suggestions: (1) Find a way to integrate individual spelling words (words the student has misspelled) into your spelling program, and (2) check out

Internet resources for this standard are rather scarce. Hopefully the materials offered today will complement your mechanics instruction.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Common Core Language Standard 1 - Grade 5 Resources

Today we'll look at fifth grade resources for College and Career Readiness Anchor Standard for Language 1. CCRA.L.1 asks students to "demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar when writing or speaking."

Since L.5.1 builds on L.3.1 and L.4.1, many of the Grade 3 Resources and Grade 4 Resources we've discussed can be successfully used with fifth graders as well. Let's look at some additional possibilities.

L.5.1a requires students to "explain the function of conjunctions, prepositions, and interjections in general and their function in particular sentences."

Sometimes fifth grade can be a little dry, don't you think? Although I've already mentioned the Words Are Categorical series by Brian P. Cleary, three of his books can be fun for fifth graders too: But and For, Yet and Nor: What Is a Conjunction?Over, By the Clover: What Is a Preposition?, and Cool! Woah! Ah and Oh!: What Is an Interjection?.

For review and reinforcement, why not try The Eight Parts of Speech PowerPoint from the Happy Edugator? You can also find a set of 30 Conjunctions, Prepositions, & Interjections Task Cards at The Fabulous Life of an Elementary Teacher.

L.5.1b tells students to "form and use the perfect (e.g., I had walked; I have walked; I will have walked) verb tenses." L.5.1c asks them to "use verb tenses to convey various times, sequences, states, and conditions." Check out this post on the Back to English website. To me, using timelines like this is perfect (no pun intended) for teaching tenses. Do you need practice sheets? English for Everyone has what you need!

L.5.1d takes verb tenses one step farther. Asking students to "recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in verb tense" requires higher order thinking: analysis and application. The Happy Edugator offers Verb Tense Shifts Paragraph Revising Worksheet for practice of this skill

L.5.1e states: "Use correlative conjunctions (e.g., either/or, neither/nor)." It's time for more YouTube! Check out Conjunction Song from Grammaropolis - Let's Bring It All Together. The Happy Edugator also has a Correlative Conjunctions Practice Worksheet, and you can find more at English for Everyone.

Resources for Entire Standard
I'd like to thank the sellers at Teachers pay Teachers for sharing resources for today's blog! Have a great day, everyone.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Common Core Language Standard 1 - Grade 4 Resources

With the help of great resources from Teachers pay Teachers, I'm ready to teach Common Core State Standard for Language 4.1!

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, my parts of speech instruction (which we call POS for short) is limited to one sentence per day. This simple system, which I've used for many years, helps students understand each word's function in the sentence. The first week of school we review nouns and verbs, subjects and predicates. The sentences are really short at this point (e.g., "Dogs may bite," or "Caterpillars become butterflies.") The sentences grow each week as new parts of speech are introduced. Daily analysis and discussion promote higher order thinking skills and build a powerful spiral of grammar skills.

This year, I'm going to improve my program! Each time I introduce a new part of speech, my students will add it to their handy Grammar Flip Books, which I am purchasing from The Room Mom. I can't wait to try these in my classroom; the kids will love it!

The ELA Task Card Bundle from Right Down the Middle with Andrea will provide extra practice. As we wrap up our nine-week unit, we will use two fun and creative activities, Grammargories (free) and Valuable Sentences from Aspire to Inspire, to practice.

This will knock out the following portions of the standard.
  • L.4.1a Use relative pronouns (who, whose, whom, which, that) and relative adverbs (where, when, why).
  • L.4.1d Order adjectives within sentences according to conventional patterns (e.g., a small red bag rather than a red small bag).
  • L.4.1e Form and use prepositional phrases.
What about the four remaining parts of the standard? Let's look at this one first:
  • L.4.1g Correctly use frequently confused words (e.g., to, too, two; there, their).
Dennis McDonald has created three great lessons to address this standard. Each includes a PowerPoint presentation and printable student sheets: Using Too, Two, & ToUsing Their, They're, & There, and Using Articles A, An, & The. I googled "homophones" and found this list of 441 sets of English words that sound the same. Obviously we're not going to be able to teach them all, but Dennis has given us a good start!

That leaves us with three more things to teach:
  • L.4.1b Form and use the progressive (e.g., I was walking; I am walking; I will be walking) verb tenses.
  • L.4.1c Use modal auxiliaries (e.g., can, may, must) to convey various conditions.
  • L.4.1f Produce complete sentences, recognizing and correcting inappropriate fragments and run-ons.
Here's a place to find good resources for direct instruction! English for Everyone offers a slew of worksheets for teaching verb tensesmodal auxiliaries, sentence fragments, and run-on sentences.

After teaching all of this stuff, you'll need to have a way to assess your students' progress. I'd like to suggest 4th Grade Common Core Language Assessment from Teaching and Tapas. This product contains one- and two-page assessments for every fourth grade CCSS skill (20 in all!)

For Inquiring Minds Who Want to Know More

And now, for those of you who want to know how to compact parts of speech instruction to just one sentence per day, please read on to find out more about my POS unit. As I said, I've used this system for many years. My students benefit in two ways: greater understanding of parts of speech and more time for writing in the classroom.

I'll share what I do week by week, emphasizing the skills necessary for meeting the Common Core State Standards. You are welcome to use all and any of my ideas to create your own weekly POS unit, but if you're looking for a ready-made unit, you can find Parts of Speech: Rigorous Pace in my Teachers pay Teachers store. Here's a quick example of what the lessons look like:

Week #1 - Nouns & Verbs, Complete Subjects & Predicates

  • Sample Sentence: Robins eat worms.

Week #2 - Articles & Conjunctions, Simple Subjects & Predicates

  • Sample Sentence: The sun and the moon shine.

Week #3 - Adjectives

  • Sample Sentence: A long lesson is boring but necessary.

Okay, here's where L.4.1d comes in. Did you know that there are ten separate types of adjectives to order? Crazy! Some of this is intuitive to native English speakers, but practicing and discussing helps kids master this. First, I present the rule:

For fun, we try using all ten types in one sentence. Then we practice by placing sets of ten index cards (each with one adjective type) in the correct order. Finally, students are challenged to write their own 10-adjective sentences. Here's an example from my POS unit:

Week #4 - Pronouns
  • Sample Sentence: My baseball team won the championship game!

Week #5 - Relative Pronouns
  • Sample Sentence: I think you should eat that.
This addresses L.4.1a. First I introduce them, next we practice together with the sentences you see below, and then these tricky little words start occurring in their daily sentences.

Week #6 - Sentence Types
  • Sample Sentence: Has that little boy had his breakfast?

Week #7 - Adverbs
  • Sample Sentence: Mary quickly ran home.

Week #8 - More Adverbs
  • Sample Sentence: I found a really quiet place where I could relax.
During Week #7, I only teach adverbs as words that tell how, when, or where about a verb. Lesson #8 extends students' knowledge with adverbs that modify adjectives and other adverbs, as well as relative adverbs (more L.1a). These are so much easier to teach than relative pronouns! Relative adverbs occur when the words where, when, and why begin clauses that modify nouns (like the word where in the sentence above).

Week #9 - Prepositional Phrases
  • In the end, John was a good boy.
This final lesson, which addresses L.4.1e, is my favorite! For years, I drew two cubes on the chalkboard and had students help me find words that began the phrase "_____ the box" or "____ the boxes" to show position. Then we wrote the prepositions on, in, between, and around the boxes. Nowadays I do something different. I ask the students to draw a picture of a character from a book we're reading and cut it out. Then they place two books on their desks, and we start the same process. I like this better because the kids are actively engaged in moving the character above, around, and inside the books.

That wraps up nine weeks of parts of speech instruction. If you try to teach it in nine weeks, you'll see why it's called Parts of Speech Compacted: Rigorous Pace! I usually spend an extra week on adverbs and prepositions then do lots of extra practice at the end as students prepare for the test.

So there you have it: some great resources for L.4.1. Thanks again to my friends at Teachers pay Teachers for sharing their resources with us.

P.S. This just in! Here's another great product to address L.4.1g: Frequently Confused Words Packet from the Happy Edugator.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Common Core Language Standard 1 - Grade 3 Resources

Good old grammar! College and Career Readiness Anchor Standard for Language 1 (CCRA.L.1) asks students to "demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar when writing or speaking." The Common Core State Standards delineate exactly what each grade level should teach/learn. Since the standards are so detailed, my blog will feature helpful resources for third, fourth, and fifth grades on different days. We'll start with Grade 3.

L.3.1a tells us that third graders must learn five parts of speech. It reads, "Explain the function of nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs in general and their functions in particular sentences."

To introduce each of these, why not use the Words Are Categorical series by Brian P. Cleary? I have been talking with the librarian at my school about purchasing the series, which includes titles like I, You, and Don't Forget Who: What Is a Pronoun? and Quirky, Jerky, Extra Perky: More About Adjectives, as digital books so we can display them (larger than life!) Mr. Cleary also has a fun website that goes with these books.

For high-tech direct instruction, try PowerPoint presentations, like these from seller Linda du Plessis on Teachers pay Teachers (which also include worksheets):

Everyone knows that practice makes perfect. Like many of us, Bouncing through 3rd Grade, integrates parts of speech into her morning meeting with an organized schedule. Kids like fun and games, so activities like Noun-Verb Sorting (Multiple Meanings A) from Looks Like Language are always a hit.

From my blog title, you know that I'm a bit more traditional. I like compacting my instruction of parts of speech by diagramming just one sentence per day. This handy parts of speech sheet from Scholastic makes a great student reference tool in my classroom. For extra practice, I have found parts of speech worksheets at English for Everyone and Have Fun Teaching.

The last step in the learning cycle is assessment. Quizzes, like these on adjectives and verbs from Linda du Plessis, provide quick checks of specific skills. Or, if you want the whole shebang, Teaching and Tapas has created a third grade assessment that includes each and every Common Core language standard.

L.3.1b requires students to "Form and use regular and irregular plural nouns." First, they need to know the rules. offers rules, worksheets, and a guide for which plurals should be taught in which grades according to the CCSS. For extra practice, check out this fun video on YouTube (8:56). After telling students to "write fast!" a noun appears on the screen. Only a few seconds pass before the answer is displayed and a new noun is displayed. Very engaging!

L.3.1c moves on to abstract nouns, such as childhood. Free Teacher Worksheets provides five student sheets with corresponding activities. If you're looking for a visual to print or display, try The Abstract Noun by Robin L. Simmons. Abstract Nouns and Concrete Nouns from is a great way to practice this skill.

L.3.1d asks third graders to "form and use irregular verbs." Let's look at some helpful resources for this standard. Kids love YouTube (and so do I!) This one-minute video featuring Max the Cat will reinforce your instruction of irregular verbs. To continue the fun, try this "I have, who has?" game from Linda du Plessis. This Regular and Irregular Past Tense Verbs worksheet ( gives students some practice, but the Teaching Past Tense Irregular Verbs: Worksheets and Activities from Boggles World ESL really boggle my mind!!! Finally, if you need to look up irregular verb tenses, try the Irregular Verb Dictionary, sponsored by English Page.

L.3.1e states: "Form and use the simple (e.g., I walked; I walk; I will walk) verb tenses." Verb Tenses on YouTube is a short little introductory video (2:29). This worksheet from will give your kids some practice.

Have you tried yet? If not, check out this page for verb tenses. It's so cool! You choose the verb tense(s) you want to cover, the problem type, and the layout, then bam! Hit the button to generate your worksheet. This site is in Beta testing right now, so I imagine it will soon be a paid site. I know I'm getting a bit off topic, but check out all of their other worksheets. They're awesome!

At this point, you're probably asking yourself, "How many more grammar skills does third grade have? Does the list go on forever?" Well, not quite, but it's a long list! We're more than half-way there, four more to go. Exhausting, I know.

L.3.1f covers "subject-verb and pronoun-antecedent agreement." So much of what I found for this skill was for English language learners, and many of the sites mention that this skill should come naturally to native English speakers. In any case, I did find this Subject-Verb Agreement Practice at Worksheets Plus and a Subject-Verb Agreement game at ABCya!

L.3.1g is a relatively small standard. It may not be the smallest, but it's definitely smaller than some of the others. Sorry, I couldn't resist. Here, students are asked to "Form and use comparative and superlative adjectives and adverbs, and choose between them depending on what is to be modified." Two sellers at Teachers pay Teachers offer nifty products to address L.3.1g. Comparative and Superlative Adjectives & Adverbs PowerPoint & Worksheets by Linda du Plessis are great for instruction. And for reinforcement, check out Parts of Speech Games ~ Comparative and Superlatives... from Teaching Mrs. T. This set of games includes sorting, drawing, and memory games for parts of speech, comparative/superlative adjectives, and comparative/superlative adverbs.

L.3.1h is all about coordinating and subordinating conjunctions. Who can teach this without Conjunction Junction from Schoolhouse Rock? A webpage from Mrs. DeSoto's 3rd Grade Class provides some simple, easy to understand definitions of these two types of conjunctions. Here are a few places to find practice sheets:

L.3.1i asks students to "Produce simple, compound, and complex sentences." This means they have to write them, folks. Let Justin Bieber teach compound sentences with this video analysis of the lyrics for "Baby" (3:30) ---I love it! Students can practice discriminating between the three sentence types with worksheets like Sentences: Simple, Compound, or Complex? from and What Type of Sentence Is This? from EZ School. Eventually, though, they need to practice combining sentences, which is addressed in English Composition 1.

So that's a wrap on L.3.1. It's a lot to digest. I hope you found at least one helpful resource.

Many thank the folks at Teachers pay Teachers who shared resources for this posting. I hope you'll take the time to check out their stores!