Writing Tip: Revising Sentence Beginnings


Do you dread reading some of the writing pieces your students have written because each and every sentence starts the same way? Do you find yourself reading something like this:

"Then Sam and Jane walked slowly over to the door. Then Sam reached out for the doorknob. Then as Sam twisted the knob, the door started creaking. Then Sam and Jane quickly stopped to make sure they didn't wake up Mom and Dad."

I know I have! Here's a quick tip I want to share with you that I have used with 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade writers to help with this problem.

Have your students set up a t-chart. On the left side, students will record a list of words that each sentence begins with as they look through their piece of writing. On the right side, students keep a running tally of the number of times those words are used as sentence starters.

Students analyze their tally marks and choose one word to tackle in their writing at a time. Students go back through and circle each time that word begins a sentence.
Finally, students choose a few of those sentences to revise. They can either replace the word, add a transition, or reword the sentence. Sometimes I have my students repeat the process.

In the end, students are learning a key part of the revision stage of the writing process and you are rewarded with better writing pieces!

Happy Teaching!

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I Need My Monster Activities

I like to do a mini monster unit before the Halloween craze begins! One of my favorite stories to read is I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll. Today I want to share some of my favorite activities to use with this story.

If you aren't familiar with the story, it's about a boy named Ethan who has a monster named Gabe. Gabe has gone fishing and Ethan is worried he won't be able to sleep without a monster under his bed. Ethan decides to interview substitute monsters to see if they can fill in while Gabe is gone. 

Prior to reading, I like to introduce my students to new vocabulary and then post the words in a pocket chart.

After our first reading, I grab some comprehension questions to guide our discussion and call on various students to answer.  

For our second reading, I try to get another adult to read the story so my students get to hear the book read a different way. A great option for this is to use a video. Here's a great one from Storyline Online:


After this reading we will discuss the story elements and plot. Then we usually complete a graphic organizer together and glue it into our composition notebooks.

Since we have monsters on the brain at this point, it's a great time to stop and do a directed drawing. 

After our third reading, the students are making great gains with their comprehension of the story. I like to partner up my students to work on the story elements together. Students take turns spinning and identifying the story element. If the partners agree, the student colors the wedge. If a student lands on a space that has already been colored, he can color a part of the monster. Students continue until the wheel is complete.

Near the end of the week I have my students choose one of four writing prompts and give them some monster-themed paper, too. These could be paired with the monster drawings, too!


You can find these resources here:

Flashlight Press just informed me about the sequel to this story. Catch a sneak peek of Hey, That's My Monster here.

Have a Monsterrific Week!


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3 Ways to Organize Weekly Spelling Practice


I have been asked to share some of the ways I organize my weekly spelling practice.  I prefer to incorporate spelling practice into our Word Work rotation during our Daily 5 block (you can read more about our weekly routine here). In order to do this, things need to be organized so the students can access and use the materials independently. Here are my three favorite ways to organize student practice.


Pocket Charts
Any pocket charts that hold folders work great because they don't take up a lot of space and the different activities can be housed in separate pockets. I was able to grab a couple of small pocket charts from Target this summer. These have 5 pockets, which means they are perfect for our weekly spelling practice.  

I can load up each folder with the worksheet I want my students to complete that day. Students just need to open the folder of the day. 

I like to keep extra lists near the worksheets just in case!

Drawers
This option is great for both the editable worksheets or the blank worksheets.  I can keep extra lists in the first drawer and place the copies needed for the week in each of the other drawers.  


When I use the editable worksheets, I just print on different colors so the students know which paper to grab from the drawer.


Spelling Folders
This is a great option to save copies in the long run. Each folder is filled with the spelling worksheets my students use.  The worksheets are placed inside sheet protectors. Students can practice all year long using a dry erase marker and a spelling list (dice and paperclips are needed for two of the worksheets).

I love that students can pull these out easily during our Word Work rotation and work at their own pace.  These are also be great for fast finishers! 

You can find the spelling worksheets here. I have packs for 10 words or 15 words
  

You can find even more word work and spelling ideas on my Pinterest board:

Happy Teaching!
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Dominoes Activities


When I first started teaching primary grades, I found myself with several containers of dominoes in the classroom and I wasn't quite sure how I should be using them. When I started teaching math workshop it made sense to put these math tools to work in a meaningful way. I decided that one of the best ways to use them was for an independent work station since the station could be differentiated based on which dominoes the students had access to.  That's when Dominoes for Days was created:

I put multiple copies of each activity into sheet protectors and place with the rest of my math games.  Students can grab the game boards, the dominoes, and their dry erase markers and get right to work.  This saves me copies in the long run and students get a lot of practice because the dominoes will provide different math problems each time the students use the activities. Because these activities can be completed independently, the teacher is free to work with small groups.

So, how do I differentiate for my students? I select the dominoes the groups work with. For my lower second graders, they don't have dominoes with sums over 10. For my higher students, I take out any dominoes with 0s, 1s, and 2s. I also make sure they have the dominoes with the highest numbers on both sides.

There are six activities included:

Addition & Subtraction - Students grab their stack of dominoes, draw the dominoes, and write the number sentences.

Odds and Evens - students draw dominoes from their stack, draw the picture, determine the total, and then decide if the total is odd or even.

Comparisons - students draw two dominoes from their stack. They draw the pictures, determine the totals, and then write >, <, or = to make a true number sentence.  To save time, students can just leave the dominoes in place.

Fact Families - this one helps students practice the relationship between addition and subtraction. Students draw a domino and then write the addition and subtraction number sentences to show the family.  For my top kids, I make sure I toss in the dominoes with a zero on one side and the doubles facts because inevitably, they really have to slow down and think about the subtraction facts with these ones!

Line-Up - this activity focuses on ordering numbers from largest to smallest. Students select dominoes from their pile. After drawing the pictures and determining the total of each domino, students put them in order.

There are also two types of practice pages (8 pages total):

On the True or False pages, students help determine if the math has been done correctly. On the What's Missing pages, students must find the missing addend to make a true number sentence.  I have included four different versions of each. You can use them for a pre/post assessment, as daily practice, or to ensure students are doing their own work and not using their neighbor's brain.

You can find all of these activities here

Happy Teaching!


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Mr. Popper's Penguins Resources and Activities


Mr. Popper's Penguins was written decades ago, but the story still captures the hearts of readers today. If you aren't familiar, Mr. Popper's Penguins is about a house painter who reads and daydreams about the polar regions in his spare time. One day he receives a penguin at his home. What follows is an adventure with a group of very talented penguins! Whether I'm reading the story aloud to my class or reading it with a small group, I use many of the same activities from year to year.  Today I want to share some of those activities and resources with you.
For my small groups, I put together reading packets. These contain all of the comprehension questions and vocabulary pages for the book.  Then I pick and choose the graphic organizers and extras that my particular reading group needs to focus on.  We work on these extra pages, as needed.  
When reading the story aloud, we will complete the graphic organizers together either on chart paper or under the document camera. Questions are completed orally, rather than in writing.


Vocabulary is also key with this text because there are a lot of new and unfamiliar words.  For my small reading groups, I have limited their vocabulary to 4 words per chapter. After reading and completing the comprehension questions, students will find a vocabulary match-up activity.
When reading the story aloud, I stop and discuss the meaning of words as needed.  When we finish the story, I let each student choose one word from a vocabulary list. They write down the word, definition, and draw a picture demonstrating understanding of the vocabulary word.  These make a great addition to the penguin craft included:
You can find all of these resources here:

Happy Teaching!



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Number Names (Different Ways to Represent Numbers)


Years ago our school was using Everyday Math.  One of our routines was Name Collection Boxes. If you aren't familiar, this is an opportunity for students to represent and read numbers in different ways.  I had a group of second graders who struggled with number sense, so I used this game to help during our intervention block.

After creating the game, I copied enough sets so eventually each student in the group would have their own set. Each set was on its own color so the cards would not get mixed up.

The cards were cut ahead of time for the students and placed into baggies for easy access.  The first time we met, we did a basic sort together, using ONE set of cards.  I put all the of the written words at the top, in order.  Then we looked at each card and discussed where the numbers would go.

For our second meeting, the students completed this same sort with their own sets of cards.  During our third meeting, we played a new game with only one set of cards.  Each student was given one number to be in charge of.  I was the dealer with the remaining cards. I would show one card to the group. The students had 3-5 seconds to claim the card if it belonged in their pile. If a student did not claim the card in the time frame, I announced who should have claimed it and put it back in the pile.  If a student falsely claimed the number, they had to return one of the cards in their pile to the dealer.  This kept students more focused on accuracy, rather than just guessing.

As students got better, we used the number names sort or game as a warm-up.  Then I would give the students a white board and a number.  They had to put the number in the corner of their board and write down at least 5 different ways to represent the number:

You can grab this free game here:

For more math ideas, check out my Pinterest board:

Happy Teaching!
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Put on Your Listening Ears


 The beginning of the year is a time best spent on teaching expectations and procedures to set the tone for the rest of the year. One of the expectations we work on is listening skills.  Two books that I use to help are Listen Buddy by Helen Lester and Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns to Listen by Howard Binkow.  

After reading the stories, we discuss what it means to be a good listener.  We also work on retelling the story. We mainly do this orally at the beginning of the year, but sometimes I will model the writing portion or we will complete it together.  Either way, there are several options for graphic organizers to choose from: 

I also like to ask comprehension questions to see if students can recall information from the text:

To extend the lesson, your students can put together a bunny craft.  Students can choose whether they want their bunny to be brown like Buddy:

or white like Howard B. Wigglebottom:

On the ears students can write what it means to be a good listener, why it is important to be a good listener, etc.  Students can either leave the ears standing tall, or fold an ear down to add a little personality to their bunny craft.

You can find all of these things in this pack:

Happy Teaching!


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