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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

5 MORE books that will make your kids WANT to write!

1.The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg
A truly fantastic compilation of 14 mysterious pictures each with a title and a simple caption (the newest portfolio edition has a 15th picture!). The pictures were supposedly left for Van Allsburg one day with a promise by Burdick to return the next day with the actual stories. Surprise…Burdick disappears and all that remains are these mysterious illustrations just begging for a story.


If you are working on fictional narratives, this is the book for you. No child can look at these photos and not have some fantastic ideas ready to go. I actually took one paperback edition, tore out the pages, laminated, them and made it part of our permanent writing center in a narrative writing ideas folder. We did complete the writing process for at least one idea, however. And now there’s a huge BONUS! Fourteen well-known authors wrote their own versions of each story in “The Chronicles of Harris Burdick” including Louis Sachar, Lois Lowry, Jon Scieszka, Stephen King, and an introduction by none other than Lemony Snicket. I saved these until the end of the year to share what these authors envisioned during our publishing party. The kids had fun comparing their creations to that of the “pros!”

2. The True Story of Three Little Pigs by Jon Sciesczka
I am totally biased as I think ALL of Sciesczka’s books are inspiring and hysterical, but this one in particular offers a great starting point for kids as writers. Told from the perspective of the wolf, he offers a tale that stretches what we know of the original three little pigs. After all, wouldn't YOU eat a hamburger just sitting there?

 It’s a simple story and idea but we analyzed this story to death as we compared it to the original. My students not only grasped the idea of perspective but also developed a better feel for voice and plot development as we picked each section apart. As a class, we brainstormed other well-known stories with antagonistic characters, and each student selected a story to rewrite from the antagonist’s perspective.

 3. Grimm’s Fairy Tales
My fifth graders absolutely loved the classic Grimm’s Fairy Tales, almost to the point of obsession! There are hundreds of tales to share with similar themes and patterns that run throughout. The tales are generally short and not so sweet like the newly revised fairy tales, which is what the kids just loved! There is even a fabulous app, Grimm, that includes a large number of the most popular tales for free.

This turned into another one of those “never-ending” projects. We analyzed dozens of tales (starting with Cinderella...fascinating story to compare to the Disney version!) whole group, small group, pairs, and individually for themes, patterns, character analysis, plot, and MORE. Students then compiled all of this information to create their own tales with specific requirements. We published these stories using the Student Treasures program and ended up with beautifully hard bound books for FREE which we then invited parents to share at a breakfast. The students were so proud!

 4. The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau by Jon Agee 
This book holds a special place in my heart thanks to Aaron from my fourth grade class about 10 years ago.  He brought this book to me in wretched condition and recommended it as our next writing project.  How could I resist?  Felix Clousseau is an unknown artist who enters his not so fancy duck painting in the kingdom’s premiere art contest.  After, being mocked and shamed, something mysterious happens and leads to an interesting change of events with a nice little twisty ending the kids get a kick out of.  It’s a very simple story and a super quick read but such a charming little story!

Aaron came armed with his writing idea already, but we found several ways to inspire writing as students actually brainstormed possible venues to explore.  This was a LOT of fun and something we did later in the year, making sure they were good and comfortable with exploring their creative sides!  (I have to keep the ideas somewhat vague to preserve the surprises you have in store for you when you read the book!)  Several students wanted to make themselves the lead character and create their own gallery in comic book form or a version of one of the mini books we had created earlier in the year (accordion/flap/index card).  Another group wanted to create one specific Clousseau painting as a springboard for an entire story.  Others wanted to rewrite Clousseau’s tale altogether, starting with the last page and moving forward.  However, you decide to use this little gem, your students’ will be sure to love it!

5. My Map Book by Sara Fanelli
An inspiring book Illustrated from the perspective of a child with two-page spreads of the stuff that is important to kids, mapped out. There are ordinary maps like the neighborhood and school, and then my favorites…a map of my heart and a map of my dog. LOVE IT! Each “map” points out the important aspects like mud, chocolate, and mommy and daddy.

This is such a perfect way for students to start brainstorming writing ideas. Anything can be mapped, and this is such a unique way to encourage kids to elaborate as well. Starting with a map of your heart might include your parents, your pets, school, books, etc. Each of these is a “seed” for a new map. As students draw their maps, they begin to naturally recount personal narratives.

Read about five OTHER books that have driven us to WRITE, WRITE, WRITE on Minds In Bloom and grab your freebie that correlates with "The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups," my #1 favorite book that inspires writing for kids!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups....Twist Your Classroom Rules!

Click the image for your freebie!
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Secret-Knowledge-of-Grown-Ups-Twist-Your-Classroom-Rules-FREEBIE-1401440Those first few weeks of school are always so chaotic for me with the paperwork, county assessments, and STUFF!  What I want to do more than any of those things is really give the kids a view to how our classroom will work for the year.  Many years ago, a teacher friend gave me the book, "The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups," by David Wisniewski.  I read it, laughed hysterically, and filed it in my brain under "someday."  Wisniewski introduces an ordinary rule like "eat your vegetables" and creates an outlandish "truth" behind the rule, with the understanding that grown-ups have a responsibility to keep all of these truths guarded from children (apparently broccoli used to resemble a dinosaur and was a meat eater?!). 

This book is a dream as far as mentor texts go.  Wisniewski's word choice and voice are second to none and, incidentally, he won the Newbery Award in 1997 as well!  So not only are there a ton of opportunities for modeled writing lessons, but his use of illustrations and text features to add meaning to the text are superior.  The stories are short- usually about 2-3 pages with illustrations- just right for a quick read aloud, mini lesson, and independent time.  BONUS!!! There's a "Second File" I later discovered that helps extend our read aloud and analysis time!

After routinely introducing the classroom rules for the umpteenth time, it occurred to me that this book would make a fabulous link to this otherwise dull task.  I started by reading just one rule to the students, and they were hooked!  It snowballed from there.  Each day we read a new rule, examined his stories for structure and technique, and completed a small part of the writing process.   Some students used our classroom rules as inspiration, and others chose to use rules from their house.  In three weeks, we had completed the writing process, talked in depth about voice and word choice, initiated conferencing structures, practiced cooperative learning structures, and explored multiple reading concepts including summarizing, plot, and text features.  This was a fabulous way to start the year as it enabled us to address so much of the curriculum on a daily basis, and the kids looked so forward to working on it each day (as did I!). 

We ended up with a display of file folders that mimicked the author's cover illustration and followed his introduction for each story.  They were PERFECT for parent night!  I think this would also be a good way to end the year during that last month when the kids need a little extra "fun" in their days.  This has become my "go to" lesson now!

I have a little freebie that will get you started with the story if you are interested.  Included is the plan we created together, draft papers, a scoring rubric, and a feedback form.  The feedback form was really fun!  The first time we used it on parent night and parents and family left positive notes for their stories.  We left them on the desks, and the next morning, I had donuts for the kids.  While they munched away, they circulated and read each others' stories, leaving positive and specific notes.  This was a nice finish and the kids enjoyed reading their feedback. 




Have a super start of the school year, and keep "The Truth" from themmmmmm.  I hope you enjoy this book as much as we have!

:0) Heather

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Face Lift, A Baby, and A Freebie!


Woohooo....I've had a face lift!  Thanks to Oxana at Teacher's Clipart.  She has given my blog a face lift, and I love it!  It's so much cheerier and colorful. I have been away from the blog world for quite some time thanks to the arrival of my little girl, Sarah.  Yes, I am going to plug this cute, sweet, pinchable little face hehe...
Now that I am staying home and we've got our routine together, I have finally finished a project I have worked on for the last 3 months!  This project started out as a simple 5-page set of Tic-Tac-Toe choice boards I created in my classroom for introducing metacognitive strategies.  It finished as a 40-page product!  As I began the suggested implementation pages, I realized how many other activities we had done in the introduction of these activities.  The result is a product that I think you will find is easy to implement, motivating to students, and a project that really enables your students to dig deeper as they begin to understand their own thinking style.
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Reading-Comprehension-Choice-Boards-Tic-Tac-Toe-Discussions-Cards-Plans-1269293
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Reading-Comprehension-Choice-Boards-Tic-Tac-Toe-Discussions-Cards-Plans-1269293
There are 5 choice boards (tic-tac-toe style), each specific to a metacognitive strategy (visualizing, predicting, summarizing, questioning, connecting).  Students explore one strategy each week first with you through read aloud, think aloud, and modeled examples, then with their partners and small groups as they practice utilizing classroom discussion norms, and finally independently in the following weeks during centers or independent reading time.  To reinforce the same responses on the choice boards, there are accompanying discussion cards and response sheets as well as rubrics that you and your class can practice using together.  Lesson plans are included for introducing these strategies in five weeks.

I have also created a freebie that is a little more generic and great for independent reading responses. 
There are 9 responses to choose from including theme, setting, summarizing, and more!  Also includes a response sheet and a rubric for you to assess student progress.  Click any of the images below for your free download.
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Independent-Reading-Reflection-Choice-Board-Tic-Tac-Toe-Freebie-274710
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Independent-Reading-Reflection-Choice-Board-Tic-Tac-Toe-Freebie-274710http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Independent-Reading-Reflection-Choice-Board-Tic-Tac-Toe-Freebie-274710http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Independent-Reading-Reflection-Choice-Board-Tic-Tac-Toe-Freebie-274710
:0) Have a restful summer.....Heather

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Great Anytime Student Gifts and Curriculum Tool! Wordle & Visual Poetry...


http://www.wordle.net/
Visual Poetry
 
I'm a little late on posting my Christmas goodie for my kids, but it's something you can do any time of the year including birthdays or even a nice New Year's back to school surprise.  Most of you have probably seen Wordle and others like it floating around on Pinterest, but for those of you who don't know what it is, Wordle is awesome!  It is a very simple program that you type a word list into and it creates a "word cloud."  The more times you repeat a specific word, the larger that word is in relation to the others, and you can spend tons of time playing with color variations, font styles, and layouts.

Last year I used Wordle to make rectangular bookmarks that I laminated using phrases to describe each child, our grade, school, and other fun facts, with their name repeated most frequently to make it the biggest.  The past few years I've been a bit of a scrooge because it drives me crazy when I spend time handmaking something and proudly giving it to the students only to find it crushed, trashed, or otherwise!  Well, that did not happen with these bookmarks last year- the kids kept them for the entire rest of the year and used them.  They were so appreciative and gave me the confidence to spread the niceness again this year.

Our school gave us iPads this year and I figured there must be an App by now.  I didn't find Wordle exactly, but rather "Visual Poetry."  This app enables you to select different shapes and letters.  I wanted to use students' first letters to make their bookmark this year.  Wow was this easy!  It took all of about 20 minutes to make all of their letters using the copy/paste feature.  The time consuming part was matting, laminating and cutting, but somehow this proved to be a relaxing and mindless break that was greatly needed.  I punched holes, added a few beads on a string, stuck candy canes on them, and the kids were thrilled again.   (After checking it out today, I see they have Christmas shapes too!)  The $0.99 was well worth it!

 

Even better- the kids were DYING to know how I had done it.  I showed them the App and also Wordle so others could access the similar program on the class computers.  They turned this into a whole new lesson!  One group made a thank you for the local meteorologist who had visited our classroom and he showed their Wordle on the news (we had it framed--shown is a screenshot).  The group that had my iPad, secretly made one for me (The red, green, and blue heart below).  On our last day together, we had a crafty day (I know, in fifth grade?- how dare we????) and they were begging to use Wordle to make Christmas cards for their family.  It was the quietest, most relaxing day I've had with them all year!

I have now made Wordle an ongoing part of extra credit in our weekly newsletter.  Students can take a concept we are working on in science, a character we are focusing on, or a math concept and create a Wordle with at least 20 different terms strategically repeated depending on importance.  It's so fun, they don't even know they're thinking!

Have fun!

:0) Heather

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Great Informational Text Resource...FREE!


Tween Tribune is something I have just learned about and not actually had my kids accessing yet, but the potential is AWESOME!  Everyday, a new set of articles are posted that are appropriate for intermediate students and beyond.  Students can comment on articles after you've set up their accounts, and then you approve their comments, making this a very safe venue for sharing.  The articles are current, high interest, and well written models of informational texts.   The vocabulary is tough but easy enough to glean meaning of through use of context.  These are perfect for your core mini lessons in reader's workshop if you need a piece of informational text.  The photos that accompany each article are also highly engaging and can be used as their own inspirations for future writing prompts.  

Bonuses!  There is a daily Quiz relating to one article and you and your kids can track  your "Q" scores.  At the end of each article, there is a critical thinking question three words that can be defined using  the article's context.  I am thinking, on our classroom blog, I am going to use this as weekly extra credit in reading.  Generally, the kids really enjoy anything that is computer related and will give it a shot.  I am also dying to try out the comment section.  Before school and during lunch, I also open my room for those kids that don't have computer access and will probably test this baby out on them!  

Another idea, is to use the "20 lesson plans that teach and engage, no matter which text a student selects," prompts. These would be great "what do I do when I'm finished choices." This web site has opened a can of worms for me....there's so much to explore! PLEASE: If you sign on and find something great, post in the comments sections for all to see- but mostly for my own selfish reasons hehe....

Check it out....but reserve some time to do it!  Enjoy!
www.tweentribune.com


:0) Heather

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Promoting a Positive Classroom Environment...EASY!

I discovered a book that I think has been floating around for a few years and is probably well known to many of you, "How Full is Your Bucket?" I owe a million thanks to Mrs. Motion, our new guidance counselor for sharing this story with my fifth graders!

 Initially, I thought it was a nifty story and forgot about it for a few days until I heard one of the kids say, “That’s NOT filling someone’s bucket!” I reread the story and decided that this was definitely something we needed more of to encourage a safe and positive classroom without anything too complicated! And so, our bucket fillers were born. I scrambled up a too small bucket and printed out a few slips, and discussed appropriate times to complete a “bucket filler” for someone. THE SLIPS WERE GONE within the hour!!! I figured the kids would do it for a few days and then it would die off, but that was about 3 weeks ago. Since then, we have had hundreds of bucket fillers read to one another and the students are even starting to write them for past teachers, resource teachers, and my substitute who was just thrilled to get a positive compliment from a student. I have also found that the bucket fillers are a way for me to reach out more frequently to recognize all students for the little steps they are taking to improve themselves…and watch them smile!

 At first, there were a lot of “thanks for being a good friend” or “you are so nice,” but as I praised the really specific fillers and introduced my own specific praises in bucket fillers, the kids have begun to notice the small things they do for one another. This has been such a positive and simple classroom management strategy! I use the bucket fillers during almost every transition and the kids are just dying to hear the next one, making transitions super efficient.

Students also began writing bucket fillers to me which was a nice surprise.  Sometimes it's nice to know the kids notice the little things you do!  I started keeping them on my big blue cabinet behind my desk and before you I knew what happened, it was covered and I started adding them to the neighboring wall!  I hope you are able to experience as much fun as we've had with this book!  Click any of the images for your bucket filler slips.



Friday, September 7, 2012

Parent Night Scavenger Hunt

Time flies! We are already three weeks into the school year and had our parent night on Thursday.  I am not a public speaker, to say the least.  I can do without the sweating, rapid heartbeat, and nervous stutter...hehe...give me kids- not adults!   This freebie was certainly created with the kids in mind, however, I have a sneaking suspicion my subconscious had a hand with this one.

Click the picture for your copy!
We do so much in such a short period of time that is not visible for everyone to see, and the kids are usually really excited to let their parents in on a few of our nifty happenings.  So rather than me standing up and doing the traditional "teacher speech," I let the kids drive the night.  We create a list of the things they most want to share with their parents and the kids become our tour guide.  I have a newsletter with all of my pertinent information to hand to the parents at the end as well as a rolling slide show of important stuff for everyone to review while their kids are dragging them all over the classroom.

On this year's scavenger hunt, a few of the kids' favorites were their "Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups" stories we are working on to introduce the writing process, their Word Study folders because they are already stuffed full of words, their mnemonic name classbuilders, and our Hooked on Books reading incentives.  Finally, they have to introduce their parent and teacher.  The awesome part about using this activity is that it frees you up to speak with each parent individually as their children introduce you.  I also get such a kick out of hearing how excited the kids are to share their early success with their parents.  By the time they are done, the parents always say, "No! I don't have any questions!  They told me EVERYTHING!"  It creates a very positive atmosphere for parents, students, and teachers to celebrate a new year together.

The text portion of the file is fully editable so you can add your own activities to show off, but the background has been flattened to preserve copyrights. I hope you can use this in your classroom and have a super parent night!  Have a fabulous school year.

:0) Heather  aka "Wild About Words"