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!

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 words15 words, or 16 words. You can even try a FREE sample here.

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

Happy Teaching!
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