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Friday, January 31, 2014

Writing a Constructed Response

Are reading and writing still the meat and potatoes of language arts?

When I began teaching, I considered reading and writing as two separate (yet related) entities. Today, however, students are expected to construct longer responses, and writing has become an integral part of reading.

How can we pull writing into our reading instruction? How can we help our students write high quality constructed responses?

Direct Instruction - Students need to know how to construct a response. Providing a step-by-step process is the first step. 

I use these steps when introducing constructed response to my
fourth grade class (but I don't always require Step 4).

Modeling - Giving good directions doesn't always work. Students need to see the process in action.

This example comes from a free modeling lesson for  an excerpt
from The Wind in the Willows.

Practice, Practice, Practice - Students need to construct a variety of responses over the course of the school year. Practice early, practice often (and practice in a broad range of genres and response types).

The Common Core State Standards, for example,
ask intermediate grade students to construct
responses for these prompt types.

Student Exemplars - Viewing effective pieces written by peers raises the bar and motivates students to continually improve their craft.

Reading and writing remain the meat and potatoes of language arts. Today, however, they must be served as a casserole. Bon appetit!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Winter Weather Teaching Resources

Today's forecast: snowing, blowing, and cold. Perfect weather for my lesson plans!

Here's a map of the lake effect snow we're getting today.
Our school is near the yellow star on the map.

So what's on tap? Our unit on persuasive writing begins this morning. The topic? A letter persuading the principal to give us a snow day. The setting couldn't be better. Students will brainstorm reasons for a snow day together then individually select three top reasons for their persuasive letters.

They'll review the format for a friendly letter and be ready to draft their letters tomorrow.

This afternoon's math lesson will focus on the weatherman's predictions for snow. I was going to use simulated data for this, but the weatherman forecast a 5% chance of snow at this hour, and the snow is now pouring out of the sky horizontally...

Anyway, students will record data on a table, convert percentages to fractions (and reduce) then create a line plot. 

I'm sure my students were hoping for a snow day, but we'll have some fun with the winter weather anyway. Stay safe and warm today!
P.S. If you're interested in these teaching resources, they're available at my Teachers pay Teachers store.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Writing Persuasive Paragraphs

A strong persuasive piece grabs the audience with an effective hook, offers an opinion, provides supportive details and examples, and ends with a call to action. It's easy!

Here's a quick example:

Hook: Have you ever shopped online?

Opinion: After trying it, you'll never go back to the mall!

Reason #1: You can avoid traffic and crowds.

Reason #2: All styles, colors, and sizes are available to you.

Reason #3: Everything is delivered to your home.

Restate Reasons: Shopping online offers less hassle, more choice, and convenience.

Call to Action: What are you waiting for? Try shopping online today.

With the right organizer, your students can write a strong persuasive paragraph in no time!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Going Digital, Part 2

What's my next step in going digital? An online planbook. This was a difficult step for me! I didn't want to give up my tired, old planbook (and all of it's eraser marks).

A teacher friend recently recommended Since they offered one month free (and the service is a reasonable $12 per year), I thought, "What the heck! Why not?" and took the plunge. Here's a peek at this week's plans (still not totally finished).

This is just the top part of the page. I scroll down to reveal the rest. 

The daily plans can be printed as a pdf. Here's the first page of today's plans:

What do I like best about a digital planbook?
  • Files can be attached.
  • Standards can be attached.
  • Notes can be attached.
  • I can easily share plans with my student teacher and/or other colleagues.
  • I can work from school or from home (or from anywhere).
  • I can click "bump" and my plans for that subject all move up one day. (No more erasing!)
  • I feel like I've joined the 21st Century!
Don't get me wrong: I miss my tired, old planbook. But change is good.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Going Digital, Part 1

In 2014, my teaching is going digital! My first endeavor? A web-based novel unit for Little House in the Big Woods.

I've been trying to figure out how to organize and store digital and print materials for several years. Creating a website was the answer! You can click on the picture to preview the first two chapters.

Here's how I did it:
  1. Create a Google website. It's free and easy. This tutorial will help you get started.
  2. Place content that you want to display in the body of the website.
  3. Link pertinent images and videos to words in the content.
  4. Link related print materials at the bottom of the page.
Creating websites has opened up a new world for me! They allow me to store and share information with my students and other teachers easily. Good luck on your first website!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Exploring Text Features

Do you want your students to read the whole page - - - not just the text, but the graphics too? This handy little freebie will work with any informational text. Using the graphic organizer, students provide the section title; identify three graphics found in the section and analyze their purpose and importance; and summarize the text.

My students will be analyze sections of their science text tomorrow. I'll bet that they'll be surprised to find out what they've been missing by skipping the pictures, graphs, tables, and diagrams! Enjoy!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Writing Letters

Are you teaching your students to write letters? Check out Letter Generator from ReadWriteThink. This nifty tool allows the student to choose from friendly or business letter formats. He or she then types in text for the heading, greeting, body, closing, and signature. It even lets them add a post script and choose a border! Finally, with the click of a button, the letter is generated and can be printed.

Parents: It's a great gimmick to get kids to write thank-you notes too.