Monday, January 9, 2017


St. Patrick's Day writing, Popcorn Day Writing, March Madness, Iditarod

Dear Teachers, although the following writing activities are resources in my store, I welcome you to use the ideas in your classroom by DIY without a purchase.  Read on for links to FREE MARCH WRITING ACTIVITIES!  

1. The Day I found a Four-Leaf Clover
Write a narrative story about finding a four-leaf clover.   Where were you?  What did you do with it?  Cut out four-leaf clovers to decorate or even take them outside to look for them!

2. March Madness Persuasive Letter Writing

Get your sports-oriented students interested in writing! Provide a choice of different persuasive writing prompts about basketball and March Madness.  Make sure to review elements of persuasive writing and letter writing!
1.  Convince the NCAA to allow you to be the water person for the players during the game.
2.  Persuade the NCAA to allow you and your friends to shoot baskets with the players during half-time.
3.  Convince the NCAA to allow you to be one of the cheerleaders for the day.
4.  Persuade the fans for the other teams to root for your team to win!

3. How to Make Popcorn 

Super cute! Students tell how to make popcorn using a step by step process. Don't forget to make some popcorn to share while they are writing or as a treat for when they finish!

4. I’m a Leprechaun Lyrics and Narrative Writing 
Print a copy of the lyrics to the song, I'm a Leprechaun. There is also a youtube link to the song to listen with your students. Let them sing along!  Then write a story from the point of view of the Leprechaun in the song. Review figurative language with them and require them to use it!  It will make the paper silly just like leprechauns!  Please note: The word "drunk" is in the song. It says, "You can call me a drunk or you can call me a liar. But one night in the woods, yes I saw a fire"

5. Blarney Stone Non Fiction Newspaper Writing

Read the information on the Blarney Stone here.  Choose one of the topics to write about (legends of the Blarney Stone, the common story, kissing the Blarney Stone, or how it got into the English dictionary).  Then take notes and paraphrase the information and write their article on the newspaper template.  Click Here for FREE Newspaper Templates.  

6. Iditarod Acrostic Poem  
FREE!!!!  Read about the Iditarod. Create an acrostic poem saying IDITAROD and use phrases and key words about the race. 

7.  Limerick Writing  

FREE!!!!  It includes teacher instructions and student instructions on how to write a limerick, examples of limericks, and a final copy template!

I hope you gathered some cute ideas for March Writing!  If you would like them prepped for you instead of DIY, the writing resources come with everything you need!  (Student directions to place in centers or send home for homework, weblinks, anchor charts, graphic organizers, craft templates, writing templates for final copies, and rubrics!  You can save on the bundle or purchase individually.

Find ideas for St. Patrick's Day writing, March madness, popcorn, Iditarod

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Saturday, January 7, 2017

An Easy Reading Response System for Accountability

Reading Response skills and strategies are important for students to have a better understanding of their reading.  Whether you are reading a chapter book together, assigning book groups, or allowing for independent reading for your students, responding to the text is crucial to a deeper comprehension of the text.  Students should not only respond to fiction, but also to nonfiction text.

keep students accountable

So what is an effective way for reading response AND keep your students accountable for their reading?  Reading Response Notebooks!  Use the following ideas for using reading response notebooks:
1.  Decide on what skills are necessary for your students.  Ideas may include:

✓ Characterization
✓ Setting Description
✓ Problem Solving
✓ Figurative Language
✓ Sequence of Events
✓ Text Illustration
✓ Point of View of 2 Characters
✓ Text Connection
✓ Questioning
✓ Summarizing

✓ Explanation
✓ Main Idea and Details
✓ Vocabulary
✓ Visuals
✓ Meaningful Quote
✓ Point of View
✓ Text Connections
✓ Questioning
✓ Text Evidence
✓ Summarize

2.  Next, decide on how many times you would like to assess each skill.
Once?  You can use response questions for a project where students need to complete them (fiction, nonfiction, or combination) by a due date.
Twice?  Model responses for the whole group reading, then assign the same response questions for their independent reading.
Quarterly?  Use the same response questions each quarter and track student progress.

3.  For each response, students should record the title of the text.  For fiction, also have them identify the genre.  For nonfiction, have them identify the source. (ex. newspaper article, website, book, etc.)

main idea reading skill

4.  Review the skill/strategy and your expectations with the students.  In my Reading Response Notebooks, I include 3 rubrics.  One for an individual skill, another for all of the fiction skills, and the third for all of the nonfiction skills.  Encourage students to write enough details to provide a thorough response.  Use a rubric to explain expectations!  This is an example for individual skill.

5.  After grading students' work, have them track their progress for each skill even if you only plan for them to respond once.  It will give you an overall view of areas they may need help in.  If you use them each quarter, it will show their progress in learning that skill or strategy.  This example is a quarterly tracking chart.  These are effective tools when conferencing with parents too.

fiction and nonfiction response questions tracking form

How do I put the notebooks together?

1.  Print a cover on white cardstock or have students create their own decoration for the cover.
2.  Have students color the cover.
3.  Use two different color cardstock, one for fiction and one for nonfiction.
4.  Add a tab for fiction and nonfiction.
5.  Print response pages or place enough paper for the amount of response you want for each category.  Click Here for response pages.
6.  Create a table of contents and/or tracking chart.
7.  Put the notebooks together:  Cover page, table of contents, tracking form, fiction cover page and printable, nonfiction cover page and printables, and rubric (optional).
8.  Hole punch the pages.
9.  Place them in a 3-prong folder that can support 24 pages or more if you are using them more than once.  My FAVORITE is Oxford Clear Report Covers.  

They fit 100 pages which works great for one time, semester, or quarterly assessments and are durable enough for reuse.  I love the clear front page.  I wouldn't recommend regular report covers with the plastic sliding bar becasue they are hard to maneuver.  A small binder would work too.

10.  Add tabs and waaaahlllllaaa!  You are ready for reading response!

cover page for reading response

If you would like all of this prepped for you with Common Core standards on each page, CLICK HERE.  This reading response notebook will save you time and provide your students with an abundance of both FICTION AND NONFICTION skills and stategies.  It can be used multiple times to help students get a clear understanding of each skill.  There are specific questions for each skill or strategy that guide your students to understand how to respond to that particular skill or strategy.

the best resource ever

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

10 Thanksgiving Literacy Centers Including Critical Thinking!

Do you want Thanksgiving literacy ideas that would be great for centers in the upper elementary classroom?  Several of these centers also go beyond the regular curriculum and delve into deeper thinking strategies and there is a free critical thinking activity included for you to use today! Although the examples are used from a resource in my store, you can duplicate the following activities and ideas to create your own in your classroom!
reading, writing, poetry, literacy, critical thinking centers

1.  Thanksgiving ABC Order- Provide students with 10-20 words to sort in ABC order.  Make some  of the words challenging by going to the second and third letter for ordering.

Use words like:
Mayflower, Squanot, Plymouth, Samoset, Cape Cod, England, feast, turkey, alliance, November, crops, prayer, biscuits, democracy, religion, fertilize, deer, celebration, squash.

Thanksgiving words and cards to put in alphabetical order

2.  Pumpkin Pie Possessives-  Use the following words to have students sort according to 's and s'.

The childrens games   *   Ninety Wampanoags gifts   *   Several animals meat   *   A settlements feast   *   Samosets friend   *   Many of the Maple trees sap   *   All of the crops fertilizer   *   Ten pilgrims pies   *   One pilgrims pies   *   Squantos crops

Sort the possessive nouns in plural or singular

3.  Squanto's Syllable Sort-  Create cards with Thanksgiving words on them and students will sort them according to the number of syllables.  Use 2, 3, 4, and 5 syllables.  

Examples:  celebration, Massachusetts, democracy, traditional, establishment, generosity,  representative, constitutional, fertilization, communication, Pilgrims, Plymouth, Squanto, thankful, turnkey, settlement, alliance, abundance, religious, Mayflower
sort the thanksgiving words in syllables 2,3,4,5

4.  Thanksgiving Story--  Read a Thanksgiving story and provide students with reading comprehension opportunities.   Some skills that work well for any Thanksgiving story is:

Use the 5 W's- Who, What, When, Where, Why.

Open ended questions:
Why did the Pilgrims want to get away from England?
Why was the Mayflower Compact needed for the new colony?
After the harsh winter, how did the Pilgrim's luck turn around?

Create a text-to-self connection:
Think of Oceanus's experiences.  What connections can you make to them?

Cause and Effect:
Pilgrims left for the New World.  What was the cause?
The first winter had harsh weather, starvation and disease.  What was the effect?
The Pilgrim's luck turned around.  What was the cause?
They had an abundance of food.  What was the effect?

Vocabulary/Synonyms/Antonyms in the text.

cause and effect, vocabulary, 5W's, text connection with Thanksgiving story

5.  Compare and Contrast Story and Poem
analyze the the story and poem to find similarities and differences

6.  Poetry Analysis:  Theme, tones, rhyme scheme, narrator, point of view.  Practice reciting.

analyze a thanksgiving poem

7.  Thanksgiving Bio Poem- Choose an important person from the story.

choose a person from thanksgiving and write a biography poem

8.  What Plymouth Rock Saw-  Pretend you are Plymouth Rock.  From your point of view, tell about the day the Mayflower arrived.  Use 5 senses.

9.  Turkey Persuasion-  Pretend you are a turkey and you want to persuade your owners to eat something else at Thanksgiving.

wriiting activities for Thanksgiving, turkey persuasion, if you were plymouth rock

10.  Notice Think and Wonder-  Download this resource for FREE!  Students look at the picture and think deeply at this illustration.
Notice:  What do you notice in the picture?
Think:  What are you thinking about from your observations?
Wonder:  What is happening?  What triggers your curiosity?

critical thinking deep level thinking of a picture

If you would like all of these activities and ideas for Thanksgiving centers, they are found in one bundled resource.  They are prepped and ready to be used in your centers.  Print and go!  Click HERE for more information.

Find reading, writing, poetry, critical thinking centers for Thanksgiving

If you need pocket charts for your centers, I have two that I would recommend.  I like both of these because they can be hung on a door to save space AND they fold up so you can take them home with you!  See my reviews below:

1.  Smead Cascading Wall Organizer with 6 folders- I like this because it has the colorful folder included.  Each folder holds about 25 sheets.  The organizer and folders are both durable plastic.  It is the cheaper of the two.  $14.49


2.  Wall Hanging 7-Slot Fabric File Organizer-  I like this because it is fabric material and has two holes for hooks and the hooks are included.  It also has slots for 7 folders.   The downfall is the folders aren't included.  $25.97

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Friday, October 21, 2016


I've used writing notebooks for several years and have made changes along the way to find the best possible way to use them. This post will show how to set up your notebook!  There is a video link at the bottom too!

the best way to set up interactive writing notebooks

(You will find some Amazon affiliate links on this page. The small commission I make goes back into my blog so I can provide teachers with ideas and activities for their classrooms!)

A. Decorate the Outside Cover

Use a composition notebook, create a personalized outside cover, and seal it with packaging tape.  This is a great homework assignment!

Click to purchase from Amazon

personalize the cover of notebook  personalize the cover of the notebook

B.  Create a Table of Contents and Page Numbers

Start a table of contents on the first page.  Save the first 4 pages for Table of Contents.  As students add their notes, they number their pages and keep track on the Table of Contents page!  We used colorful dot labels for page numbers.

record the lesson and page for the table of contents

example of interactive writing notebook pages

Colorful dots:  Any 3/4 inch dot labels will work, but the ones below are my FAVORITE because they offer 10 different colors. 


lists skills and pages for table of contents  

C. Tabs and Cover Sheets

To make tabs for notebooks, there are 3 options.  Post Its, Redi-Tags or TABS from my store.  (Please don't purchase tabs from my store if you have already purchased an Interactive Writing Notebook.  They have been added to that resource and you can download it from your purchases!)

1.    2.       

3.  tabs for ideas, paragraph writing, narrative writing, opinion writing, informative writing with  

Create tabs (and covers)

Ideas- 3 pages using front and back.

Paragraph Writing-  5 pages using front and back.

Writing Process- 1 page using front and back.

Narrative Writing- 14 pages using front and back.

Opinion Writing- 8 pages using front and back.

Informative Writing- 11 pages using front and back.

Rough Drafts-  the rest of the notebook

Take notes in all sections except rough drafts.  Use this section to create stories, revise and edit. Then write final drafts on a separate (final copy) paper and place them in writing porfolios.
create a cover sheet for ideas in writingcreate a cover sheet and tab for paragraph writing in notebook

The least expensive way:
I know all about teaching on a budget.  Make Tabs with Post Its- This is the least expensive way. Collect as many colors of Post-It notes as needed for the amount of tabs you want to create and cut them in strips. Fold it over once. Then tape each color strip in the notebook.  Use clear packaging tape and place it on both sides of the tab and both sides of the page so it looks like it is a laminated piece.

easy way to create tabs for interactive notebooks

Redi Tags are easier but more expensive than Post Its.

D.  3-Prong Pocket Folders-  2 per student

1.  Student Resource Folder:  Place FREE spelling dictionary and any resources neccessary for students to use during writing workshop.   Place the resource pages in the fasteners and the spelling dictionary in one of the pockets in the folder.

give students resources for writing workshop

If you need a Resource Guide, click below.  

student resources for writing workshop

Free Spelling Dictionary!

for writing workshop

2.  Writing Portfolios:  Use the second folder for final copies.
Collect everything that they have published throughout the year! Poems, stories, writing across the curriculum, bulletin board pieces, etc. Place them in a folder with brass fasteners. At the end of the year, they get to keep their final product! It is a great end-of-year gift! Another idea is to set them out on table during parent/teacher conferences so parents have something to look at while they are waiting.

folder filled with final copy or published copies of student work

Here is a video to show you how to set up your notebooks!  Click on pic below!

a video link to how to set up interactive notebooks

I hope these ideas helped you organize student notebooks!  If you are looking for a step-by-step writing approach TO MOTIVATE STUDENTS AND BOOST TEST SCORES that includes anchor charts, forms, tracking, model samples, printables, rubrics, slides, posters, etc. etc. Check out the all inclusive writing bundle:

step-by-step writing program


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