Saturday, September 27, 2014

How to use the Writing Process to Create Small Groups!

Due to the awesome amount of emails I received over my recent blog posts here and here, I decided to go into more detail of our writing process plan. Thank you for all of the sweet emails, it makes me so excited to know I am helping other teachers out by sharing ideas and suggestions. 
Going through the writing process does take a lot of time and effort, but it is so rewarding for the students AND the teacher. As a teacher, I am able to really take note of my students’ individual needs as well as give them meaningful feedback to take their writing to the next level. We started using writing goals a few years ago, but completely rethought our process and made it student friendly. This year, we have put it into action and love the results. We really hope it helps you out as well.

We just put everything mentioned in this post into a bundle. Check it out here
We follow the Writing Process of: Plan, Draft, Edit, Conference, Revise, & Publish
We do not do this with every single writing piece, but maybe one per unit. 

Planning: While planning, we like to design a plan for the students to use to help them organize their thoughts as the year moves on we start to take away the plan and they learn how to create one from memory. Having a good plan is a key necessity to having a strong paper. They keep this plan on their desk whenever they are working on this assignment. We constantly ask the kids to refer back to their plan and encourage them to follow it.  

Peer Editing: After the students plan and complete their rough draft.  Students partner up to proof read eachother’s papers. They complete the check off list and give each other verbal feedback. The more you teach into this step, the better the students will learn to peer edit. 

Conferencing: At this time the teacher meets with each student individually. I usually have a sign up list on the board and when students are ready to conference, they sign up. After a student meets with me, they check their name off and move on to the next step. At this conference, the child reads their paper out loud and we edit and discuss ideas and progress together. Together we decide on a goal for the student. 

During this meeting, I am actively taking notes on the child’s goal sheet that I keep in my student data binder. I always add the date, title of story, notes of progress, and highlight the goal for the child. We designed these sheets with two to a page so we can easily compare as the year progresses. Once a student has a goal they move their clothes pin (with their name written on it in sharpie)  on the correct goal on the bulletin board. 

This is helpful because it is a great visual for me to  see who is working on what goal at the same time. Also, during our WIN time, we now take writing groups based on goals. For example, if a child’s goal is to work on having fewer grammatical errors in their writing, the group will work on punctuation, spelling patterns, and/or grammatical rules when they are pulled for a small group. We actually keep the groups organized by printing a second set of goal posters, stapling them to folders, and filling the folders with worksheets appropriate for each goal. It is a great way to prep for many weeks at a time.

Before the student leaves the conference they are also given a revising check list specified for their needs. We do not hold every child responsible for every part of this list, we make it work with the goal. If their goal is to focus on adding better vocabulary into their writing, they would probably have the first idea highlighted, which states, “Circle four words you can replace with a synonym. Cross out the words and rewrite the new word above. Use a thesaurus for help.” By the student working on this part of revising, they are also hitting their goal. We hope that by doing this multiple times, they will learn to do it automatically and/or build their vocabulary up so it comes naturally to them. Some students have one revising idea highlighted while others have three. 

Writing Folder Goal Sheet: One more way for the students to keep track of their goals is to have this paper stapled to the front of their writing folder. Every time they conference with the teacher and discuss a goal, they will record the date, title of assignment, and goal. We understand that some students will stay on the same goal for more than one assignment, but we think it is also important for the students to see the time line and how long they have been working on their specific goal.  This is also great for administration to see when they come into the classroom. The students will be able to explain their goals, how they are working on them, and why they have them, all from this simple worksheet! 

This interactive bulletin board is GREAT when paired with our “Writing Process” Bulletin Board as well! 

I hope this post can help you organize your Writers' Workshop and create small groups for easy targeted instruction. If you have any other ideas, suggestions, or questions, please let us know!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Easy Bulletin Boards & a MUST HAVE Giveaway!

I'm so excited to show off my new hallway bulletin board! We just finished our first writing piece with our Apples, Apples, Everywhere unit. Have you checked this out yet? We've updated the unit multiple times this week as we used it in the classroom! It will surely be one of your students favorite lessons!

On Friday's post, I will post some pictures of student work. For their first writing assignment of the year, I am SUPER impressed! They have already improved tremendously from their first draft! It really paid to go slowly through the writing process!

Check out my finished bulletin board! Seriously, this might be one of my FAVORITE bulletin boards ever for many reasons.

1. I used my new cricut to cut the beautiful title letters out.

2. I absolutely love the pictures of the students taste testing different types of apples.

3. I added the standards addressed and the objective of the unit to the bulletin board.

4. Our writing has improved drastically in ONE MONTH!

5. I now own bulletin board decor for the WHOLE year from the Creative Teaching Press!

Seriously, do you know how awesome this is? I stapled up three yards of bright fabric and plopped on the first fall set. I used our current student work (Apples) and LOVE the results. As if that wasn't easy enough, the monthly packages come with suggested bulletin board activities and even writing paper to copy and use! The main picture stays up for three months and the picture details can interchange as the months change. Having a monthly bulletin board planned and pre-prepped for the year actually makes me excited to change it!

Pretty cool, right? Well, I've got a surprise for you... want to win your yearly supply of bulletin boards??? Check out this AMAZING giveaway! :)

I am thrilled to announce that the sweet people at The Creative Teach Press have graciously offered to send a super lucky winner each bulletin board set above!  Simply fill out the Rafflecopter below and cross your fingers and toes! I will notify the lucky winner Sunday night!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

PPG: Professional Practice Goal Around Danielson's Framework

Does anyone use the Danielson Framework for evaluations?  We've been using it here in our district for a few years and have been becoming more familiar with what it takes to be a "distinguished teacher" (the highest level on the evaluation rubric.

Honestly, I am not proud to say, I usually wait until the middle or the end of the year to think about the goals I need to achieve. The beginning of the school year is wicked busy and I am usually running around, like a chicken with my head chopped off, thinking about everything BUT the end of the school year reflection. This year we were sad to see our beloved Reading Specialist go to a new position, but were lucky to get a super smart replacement who is very knowledgeable in the Danielson Framework.  

At our first few PLC meetings, we worked on establishing a goal for our PLC. We also thought that since we were working hard to achieve the PLC goal, it might as well be our individual PPG. This will make everything we do throughout the year more meaningful and serve multiple purposes.

One idea we discussed, to achieve this goal, would be to have the students create a class check list for assignments. This gives the students ownership over what the criteria should be, who participated in the discussion, and clearly states the expectations for the assignment. We implemented this idea right away in the classroom and actually loved the results. 

Another idea we've put to use was having writing goals, clearly visible in the classroom, and set for each individual student. We created a "Goal" bulletin board. Last year, we had these hanging, but never really implemented them. This year, we LOVE what we came up with.

As you can see every student has or will get a clothes pin with their name on it. It gets attached to their current writing goal. The students receive their goal during their writing conference with the teacher (after completing a peer editing checklist). It is here they will receive meaningful feedback from the teacher, a goal, and some specific revisions to work on before publishing their work. Yes, it is a lot of work, but meaningful? Absolutely! I love that my students know exactly what they should be doing and how they should be doing it.  

We will be changing goals based on the child's needs throughout the year and keeping track of them in our teacher data binders and on the student folders with this simple cover sheet. 

This sheet will be a great reminder for the students to see what they are working towards while writing in class. It is also another way to place ownership and responsibility on the student. They keep track of their goals, when they reach them, and their progress throughout the year.

Overall, I feel better prepared for a successful year having already planed one of my goals and understanding some ideas of what I can do to achieve distinguished. I'd love to hear anyone's feedback that uses Danielson as well. Do you have a PPGs in your school?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tuesday Tried It: Fluency Friday Folders!

Fluency Friday has been incorporated in my classroom this year and the students couldn't be more excited. One of my goals this year is to boost fluency and comprehension in all of my students. We use a simple one minute Rasinski fluency passage as well as a DRA2 assessment in the Fall and Spring as reading data points. Throughout the year I try to not only model good fluency with my students, but also boost their confidence while working on listening and speaking standards. In the past, I've done Reader's Theater, stations, and games, but this year I am excited to share something new I've tried! So for today's Tried it Tuesday, I am going to share and THANK Deb Hanson for creating her Partner Plays for 4th and 5th graders! Thanks Deb! You've made my life SO much easier this year and my students LOVE your product!

Some how during the last TPT sale, I discovered Deb's Fluency bundle and decided to try it out. Knowing I have students in my classroom from a Kindergarten to a fifth grade reading level, I had to be creative with my groupings. 

When I downloaded the product, I loved that the passages were arranged by theme, I immediately started to copy, laminate, and create fluency folders. Deb tells how she creates her folders and seriously...they are brilliant. I modeled mine after hers. Each script has two sheets. On each sheet the reader's lined are underlined. I made each partner have a different colored paper. I also laminted each sheet so they will last! 

I created fluency partners for this activity and tried pairing high and low readers together. What I really LOVED is that my students on the lowest levels were paired in a triad, with a high and just below grade level partner. They were responsible for reading the SAME script as the high student at the same time. The high student was actually modeling fluency for the lower student without even trying. 

I only give the class about fifteen minutes every Friday to work around the room on their script and they absolutely love it. You hear lots of laughs because the scripts and very clever and silly. We've been doing it for a few weeks now and when I announce it's time for Fluency Friday, the kids actually cheer! The conversations about punctuation, tone, and pronunciation were awesome to witness. Every student is engaged, smiling, and eager to present. 

Do you have any students with Speech goals? I do and one of them really does not want to be singled out and leave the room for meetings. Friday Fluency has worked out GREAT for the SLP to push into the classroom. She gets to work with the student's partnership, listen to him read, and help him on his speech goals, all while actually helping me in the classroom!

The last Friday of the month will be our production day. Each group is responsible for presenting their script to the whole class. This is a great way to hit so many listening and speaking standards, developing working partnerships, and even confidence as a reader. I am excited to hear the class present and I know they can't wait to listen to their peers. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday Made It! Desk tags that STAY on!

I am excited to share my brilliant new finding with all of you today for Monday Made It

One of my wonderful partners showed me these awesome, plastic, self adhesive, name plates from Really Good Stuff. I loved them because they are very sturdy and when changing the students seats, they pull out their index card and move. This does not involve scraping the desks with razor blades, peeling stickers, time, energy, or a mess. 

These sturdy little stickers are quite pricey though, I will warn you. I needed enough for fifty students. Although I have seventy five lucky fourth graders, the other twenty five do not have assigned seats and often sit around the room for Second Step lessons. I ended up paying $63.00 for three packs of 18 tags. These suckers better last all year!

So far the kids were THRILLED to be able to design their own index card and slip it in the sleeve. 

Once the kids found out I'd write their name in bubble letters or cursive for them, I ended up doing everyone's name tags to their liking. The students colored them while they waiting for others to finish their morning work.

So far, so good! :)
I am so excited to link up for Monday Made It today because - See more at:

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Spark Student Motivation for Writing... With a Healthy Snack!

First of all, I must say, I am very excited to be back blogging. I feel like the past few weeks have been a whirlwind of copies, planning, meetings, and teaching. In between my school life, my daughter started Kindergarten, which has been exciting and hard to believe. I am also teaching all subjects except for Math this year. This is a huge adjustment, going from just Reading & Writing to adding Science and Social Studies. It's fun to try to incorporated the ELA standards throughout the subjects, and I am starting to get the hang out of it. 

I am linking up with my friend, Joanne, at Head Over Heels for Teaching.

That brings me to next week's plans. I am so excited to combine Science with ELA. We are going to have an apple taste test and record data to help decide what type of apples we like best. From there we are going to come up with questions about the type of apples we like and even research to answer our questions. The end product will be an informational narrative, focused on word choice, description, and incorporating facts into the story. We will be busy, but I am excited to see what the students think. 

When making this unit, I thought about my class and about all the different learners that would be involved. I differentiated a few of the worksheets and even wrote a sample narrative for the students to see exactly what I am expecting. I love writing, so for me this was fun. I want my students to see my love for writing and even "catch" it during this project.

I guess I am cheating for this linky, sorry Joanne, because I actually haven't done this yet, but I am SURE my reluctant writers will be thrilled to start off their week by getting to taste test apples and write about their favorites. Just giving a student choice, is a huge motivator in the classroom so for the fact I am adding food to the equation, I am certainly hoping for excited students. 

You can find this unit by clicking on the picture above, or here. Let me know what you think and I will report back, with pictures and of course student examples!