Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Interactive Writing Notebook Video

This student takes you through her interactive writing notebook pointing out writing skills and parts of the notebook.

At the end of the year, I had students make a video of their interactive writing notebooks.  Rachel's video was my favorite!  She was so thorough!


If you are looking for interactive writing notebooks for Grades 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8, click here!

A writing program designed to boost test scores AND motivate students to write.  This mega bundle includes paragraph writing, narrative writing, opinion writing, and informative writing.  You will find anchor charts, tracking charts, student practice, interactive pages, assessments, mentor text and more!

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Saturday, May 21, 2016

10 Ideas to Teach Deeper Meaning in the Content Areas

Although most of the examples that are used below are from Social Studies sources, they can be applied to other CONTENT AREAS as well!

1.  Charts and Webs:  Charts and webs that provide a deeper-level thinking process are effective tools to use when teaching content areas.  Some examples:  Notice-Think-Wonder, K-W-L, Reasoning Web, Evidence Web.

2.  Creative Projects:  When students create projects related to the content area, they take the time to know and understand the content to use in their assignment, which results in a deeper understanding.

3.  Collaboration:  When students reach out to each other to solve problems and share knowledge, it leads to a deeper learning and understanding of the content.

4.  Poetry:  Students develop a deeper-level meaning to a subject when they create a poem.  Why?  They need to understand the content in order to write the poem.  In most cases, they will delve deeper into a single section of the content area.  As you can see below, students can apply their knowledge to many types of poems.

5.  Greek and Latin Root Words:  Learning Greek and Latin roots will help student especially in content areas like Biology to understand more difficult words.  If they have the prior knowledge of basic Greek and Latin roots, they will be able to break down the more difficult words in their content.

6.  Creative Writing:  When assignments are about a specific topic and more personal (like point-of-view), it gives students motivation to be creative in their writing AND dig deeper into the content.

7.  Reading Skills:  Many reading skills work well for content areas and encourage students to think deeper into the subject.  For example-  Cause and Effect, Sequencing, Compare and Contrast

8.  Great Fiction AND Nonfiction reading selections:  Always provide additional reading materials for students to pick up during independent reading and use when working on assignments.  Students are always looking for that one fact that you DIDN'T share.  Idea:  Let them be detectives!  Provide a variety of books and have students search for additional facts!  Give them points and rewards for each fact!

9.  Inquiry-Based Learning:  When students are given a central question about a content area and the opportunity to be engaged in discussions, experiments, and hands-on activities, they gain a deeper level of understanding of the material rather than just memorizing facts or listening to a lecture.

10.  Real-World Experiences:  Bringing a real-world experience into your classroom will motivate students to learn about the subject.  Ideas:  Primary sources, guest speaker, use current events in a lesson, simulate a real-world experience, go outside with your class if the lesson relates to nature.

If you are looking for Social Studies Units filled with Informational Text, projects, and deeper-level meaning ideas, click below!

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

How to Teach Text Evidence

How do you teach students to cite evidence in text?  This blog post will take you through a plan that will get your students citing evidence!  I spread this out over several lessons.

What is text evidence and how do you find it?   Text is written work.  Evidence is proof.  Text + Evidence is citing proof in the text.  When answering questions about a reading assignment, look back at the text and find proof for your answers!

How do you find this evidence?  Use ACE after reading the text thoroughly!
A- Answer
C- Cite
E- Explain

A-  Answer the question using prior knowledge and inferences.

Restate the question in your answer.  
Example:  Why did Paul Revere ride through the towns?  
Answer:  Paul Revere rode through the towns because....

Teachers:  Practice restating the question with students.  Provide questions and restate them together.  

Prior Knowledge:  When a reader has previous experience or has already read about a particular topic, he will have some insight or knowledge to the topic before reading it.  Having prior knowledge on a topic will help the reader comprehend it better than someone with no prior knowledge.  It is almost like having the upper hand if someone is already familiar with a topic.  It provides extra support to the reader's thinking process.

Inferring:  It is an educated guess or reading facts and evidence to reach a logical conclusion or opinion.  Making inferences while reading is a strategy that will help you understand the text at a deeper level.  It is best to draw a conclusion or form an opinion by finding two or more supporting details in the reading passage.  It also helps to look for words or phrases that may express a positive or negative tone.  

C-  Cite evidence in the text to support your thoughts or opinions.

Find proof in the text and highlight it!   Place a number from the question number next to the highlighted area.

E-  Explain your answer with evidence by paraphrasing or directly quoting.

Paraphrasing:  The author explains....   The text shows......   Paraphrasing is to translate something into your own words.  When putting information into your own words, it makes you think about what you've read and you be more likely to understand and remember it.  Use RAP!

R-  Read
A- Ask yourself, "What is the main idea, key words, and important details?"
P- Put the information in your own words.

Quoting:  The author says, "..."    The text states, "....."  Quoting is copying exactly what the author is saying in your answer.  Make sure to use quotation marks!


I tell my students it is ok to circle, underline, highlight to help them find answers.    If interested in having a full TEXT EVIDENCE unit with all the lessons, anchor charts, examples, interactive notebook pages, practice sheets, ACE charts, and assessment, click below!  Also included is a student version for tablets!

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Civil War Timeline

Are you teaching the Civil War? This timeline in chronological order and summary of events will help you organize your lessons!

Events Leading Up to War

1828- Tariffs- Taxes were placed on imports and the south refused to pay. The north didn’t need as many imports. This was the first major split between north and south.

Mid 1800’s- Industry VS Farming- In the North, farming was getting replaced by industries. In the South, they relied on farming for profit.

Compromise of 1850- Several bills passed concerning free and slave states as Congress tried to keep a balance. California became a free state.

September 18, 1850- Fugitive Slave Act- An act that required all captured slaves to be returned to their masters.

May 30, 1854- Kansas-Nebraska Act- The first fight over slavery. It overturned the Missouri Compromise by letting the people in those territories decide whether to be a free or slave state.

March 6, 1857- Dred Scott Decision- Scott (a slave) would not be freed when his owner died, because he had no rights since African Americans were not citizens of the United States.

October 16, 1859- Harpers Ferry Raid- An abolitionist John Brown took an army in to raid Harpers Ferry, but it was unsuccessful and he got hanged.

States’ Rights- The south wanted each state to make their own decisions

Expansion- A change of power happened between the north and south depending on what side gained the new state.

Slavery- The south needed slaves to run plantations. The north had factories and didn’t need slaves.

Election of 1860- Abraham Lincoln wanted to end slavery

December 20, 1860- Secession- Southern states seceded (broke away) from the Union who wanted a strong federal government. The confederacy was formed.

February 9, 1861- Confederacy- The southern states formed their own country and called it the Confederate States of American.

Events of the Civil War

April 12, 1861- Fort Sumter: Union soldiers were stationed near Charleston, SC. Davis attacked the fort before the Union supplies arrived and the Union surrendered. This marked the beginning of the Civil War.

July 21, 1861- First Battle of Bull Run: Stonewall Jackson under the Confederate Army resisted Union attacks so the Union retreated.

March 8-9, 1862- Battle of the Ironclads- The first combat between ironclad ships. The Merrimack (Confederacy) and Monitor (Union) battled and it ended in a draw.

April 6-7, 1862- Battle of Shiloh: The Union troops were ambushed, which killed and wounded more men than all the previous wars combined.

August 29-30, 1862- Second Battle of Bull Run: The Confederate troops had 20,000 less men, but still defeated the Union.

September 17, 1862- Battle of Antietam: Union stopped the Confederates resulting in the most bloodshed in military history.

December 13, 1862- Battle of Fredericksburg: Union lost 7,000 more men than Confederates.

January 1, 1863- Emancipation Proclamation- A document that states all slaves in Confederate states are free.

May 1-4, 1863- Battle of Chancellorsville: Although both sides suffered great loss, the Union retreated. General Stonewall Jackson from the Confederacy was fatally wounded so Lee lost his general.

July 1-3, 1863- Battle of Gettysburg: This battle was the turning point in the war where the Union defeated the Confederates.

July 4, 1863- Battle of Vicksburg- The North sieged Vicksburg by constant bombing and cutting off the supplies for the South. The were forced to surrender.

September 19-20, 1863- Battle of Chickamauga: Confederate victory

November 19, 1863- Gettysburg Address: President Lincoln delivered a two minute speech at a ceremony dedicating the battlefield as a national cemetery and asked Americans to try even harder to win the struggle for the soldiers who lost their lives.

November 23-25, 1863- Battle of Chattanooga: Union forces stop the rebel siege with a revenge of Chickamauga.

June 3, 1864- Battle of Cold Harbor- Grant’s backup troops were tired, so he delayed the attack. Lee had time to make the line strong and defeat Grant’s troops.

November 15, 1864- Sherman’s March to the Sea: After destroying Atlanta’s warehouses, Sherman leads his men to destroy everything in their path as they march to the coast.

April 9, 1865- Appomattox Courthouse in VA: Lee Surrendered to Grant.

Events After the Civil War Ended

January 31, 1865- Thirteenth Amendment- Congress abolished slavery under the United States Constitution; except as punishment for a crime.

April 14, 1865- Lincoln’s Assassination: Lincoln was shot and killed in a movie theater.

Reconstruction: Rebuilding the United States after the war.

Are you looking for lesson plans, informational text, web links, student printables, study guide and test to go along with all of the events?

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

How to Know Your Students Are Reading Each Night

How do you know if the students are actually reading each night?  For years, I simply had students record their minutes and hope they or their parents were being truthful.  That is when I decided that students should be accountable for their reading, so I assigned reading material with questions.  That worked for accountability, but what happened to student choice to keep them interested in reading?  That is when I decided to come up with blanket questions for students to write about their reading.  I then developed a log of minutes and a worksheet of questions to answer by the end of the week.  Yeah!

THEN Common Core came into my district and I realized that my students were only reading fiction books.  I decided to change it up again and have them read fiction and nonfiction throughout the week.  Sometimes I provide the nonfiction material, but the fiction was completely their choice.  Of course, I, along with the media specialist, help my students find chapter books that interest them.  This was really starting to work for my fourth graders.  They are now reading fiction and nonfiction every week.

NEXT, I wanted them to be accountable for their reading, so I developed questions for both fiction and nonfiction reading.  To keep it all together on one sheet of paper, this is how I developed it:

(You are welcome to use these ideas without a purchase!)

Each week students are required to read a FICTION AND NONFICTION text and have specific response questions related to Common Core and reading strategies.  Students record minutes, genre, and book source, then write a response to their two readings for a grade at the end of the week.

Fiction response questions are related to:

Character Traits and Connection to the character
Setting Description and Prior Knowledge
Identifying the Problem and how it can be solved
Sequencing Events
Meaningful Quote
Point of View
Text-To-Text Connection
Questioning- Before, During, After

Nonfiction response questions are related to:

Main Idea and Details
Nonfiction Elements
Questioning- Before, During, After
Text Connection
Facts and Opinions
Meaningful Quote
Point of View

I print the pages front/back-  fiction/nonfiction.  Students start Monday evening and return it Friday.  Then, I repeat the sheets each quarter, because the students will be reading different material and they get a review of the skills throughout the year.

How do you determine the amount of minutes per grade level?
3rd Grade- 30 minutes
4th Grade- 40 minutes
5th Grade- 50 minutes
If you teach a Gifted class, go up a grade level!

Grading:  It isn't difficult AT ALL!  Quickly read through to see if students are on track.  It is easy to tell if they read enough by their writing.  I teach fourth grade, so I give a point per minute that they read (total of 40 min.) and then 30 points for fiction and 30 points for nonfiction to equal 100.  Once I got started, it was easy peasy!

I am so happy with the student accountability!  I hope it works for your classroom too!

If you are interest in purchasing this product instead of making your own, click the picture below:

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Monday, February 8, 2016

12 February Ideas for Literacy Centers

Do you want cute ideas for February to use in your literacy centers?  Although I have all of these items in my store, I am going to explain how to do each of them without a purchase!  If you would rather have the work done for you, there will be links below, but you are welcome to use these ideas in your classroom free of charge!

1.  Groundhog's Day-  Create Your Own Animal Legend Writing-  After talking to your class about groundhog's day, tell them they are now going to create their own legend about another animal!  Use a thinking graphic organizer similar to the one below to help them gather thoughts!

2.  Valentine's Persuasion Writing:  Give the students several prompts to choose from and let them start persuading!  Provide the friendly letter format to guide them in their writing!  Here are some ideas:
      a.  Convince your teacher or parent to choose you for special Valentine.
      b.  Persuade your teacher or parent to allow you to eat candy any time of the day.
      c.  Convince your friends to exercise or eat healthy for strong hearts.
      d.  Persuade your parents to open a candy store.

3.  Chocolate Opinion Writing:  Send them to this site to read an article about chocolate- Is Chocolate Healthy?  Then have your students decide whether or not it is a healthy choice and write an opinion paper.

4.  A Healthy Heart- Informative Writing:    Go the Heart Association's web page and have students read about what type of food and how much exercise children their age should be getting each day.   Have students create a newspaper article highlighting the information.

5.  Chocolate Web Quest:  Create some questions about the history of chocolate and how chocolate is made.  Give students links to answer the questions.  Here are some of the questions I used:
What are the main ingredients in chocolate?  What is a nib?  What happens while beans are roasted?  How many beans in a pod?  Name the 2 tribes that used chocolate as a drink.  Who first made chocolate into a solid form?  Who was the first European to come in contact with the cacao bean?  Who tried to keep chocolate to themselves?   How did chocolate help win the war?  Give them a treat afterwards!

6.  February Quatrain:  Use examples from the anchor chart to teach quatrains.  Then give students a February word bank and have them create quatrains with different rhyming patterns.  If you have rhyming dictionaries, place them in the center as well!

7.  Black History Biopoem:  This is a free item in my store!  There is a QR code to get to a Black History website.  Students choose someone to read about and then fill in the Biopoem template.  Super cute!  Grab it below for free!

8.  Duke Ellington:  This is the perfect time of year to learn about Duke Ellington.  You can read his picture book and read a biography on PBSKids.org/jazz and compare texts!  I like to play his music in the center too!

9.  Sweet Parts of Speech:  Make cards with Valentine's words.  Have students sort them into the different parts of speech and then write them out in their category.  Some examples:

10.  The Day I Was President- Narrative Writing:  Students write about a day they were president.  Start with walking into the Oval Office!  This great to have a craft to go along with it!

11.  Chocolate Grouping:  This is a freebie in my store!  See below.

12.  Cereal Box Biography- Book Report:   Students choose a person to read about.  I like them to read books for this one!  Then they decorate a cereal box.
Front:  Name and illustrate the cereal and person
Back:  Advertise their combination of cereal and person
Side:  Nutritional Facts:  Use bullets and list important dates and events in that person's life
Side:  Ingredients:   What are your similarities and differences to this person.  What would you change if you were in their shoes?
My students like to dress up as their person for this book report!

I hope you got some great ideas for February!  Here are some links if you are interested.

The writing activities are sold separately AND as a bundle.







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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

How My Students Passed the Writing Test

Are your students struggling in writing?  This easy and painless way of teaching writing will have you doing the happy dance.  It is a teacher-friendly program designed to engage students and have them BEGGING to write!  After creating this program, I decided to test it out in my fourth grade classrooms.  I taught two classes of 24 students and was excited to see 98% of them score exemplary on our state writing test!  Now this program is available to you.  I will explain my theory for you to use in your classroom free of charge and if you don't want the hassle of creating your own lessons, then you can click the NO-PREP program with everything included below.

It is called BTS (Boost Test Scores) Writing Programs available for Grades 1-8 and covers Common Core Standards:

W.1, W.1.a, W.1.b, W.1.c, W.1.d
W.2, W.2.a, W.2.b, W.2.c, W.2.d
W.3, W.3.a, W.3.b, W.3.c, W.3.d, W.3.e
W.4, W.5, W.6, W.7, W.8, W.9, W.10
L.1, L.1.a, L.1.b, L.1.c, L.1.d, L.1.e, L.1.f, L.1.g
L.2, L.2.a, L.2.b, L.2.c, L.2.d,
L.3, L.3.a

What is in the program?

1.  Step-by-step lesson plans for how to set up interactive notebooks, sentence writing, paragraph writing, narrative writing, opinion or argumentative writing, and informative writing.

2.  For each mini-lesson, there is a teaching poster or anchor chart, interactive student page, and examples of model writing.  Some lessons also include fun, motivational ideas, student practice pages, and assessments.

3.  Forms and Posters:  writing workshop rules, mentor text lists, writing process posters, tracking forms, checklists, goal forms, and notebook check forms.

4.  Student Resources:  Million Dollar Dictionary, spelling dictionary, student resource booklet, portfolio labels, and more.

5.  Homework/Classwork Prompts with day-by-day student directions and rubrics.

What does a year of this program look like?

First off, be ready to start with a positive attitude!  If your students see you excited, they will be curious and want to jump right in on the excitement!

Always start with a basic foundation of:

1.  Sentence Writing  (Subjects, Predicates, Fragments, Complete Sentences, Run-Ons, Compound Sentences) - Assess progress and have students record their scores on a tracking form.

2.  Paragraph Writing (Topic Sentences, Relevant Details, Clinchers, Hamburger Model) - Assess their progress and have students record their scores on a tracking form.

The rest of the lessons follow a 6-Step Writing Process:

3.  Writing Process  (Prewriting, Rough Draft, D.A.R.E. to Revise, C.U.P.S. to Edit, Peer Reflection, Final Copy)

What are D.A.R.E. and C.U.P.S.?
D.A.R.E. - Delete, Add, Rearrange, Exchange  
C.U.P.S. - Capitalization, Usage, Punctuation, Spelling

The following posters are free in my store.  There is a primary version too!

4.  Narrative Writing Mini-Lessons
Teach all of the mini-lessons with the first Narrative Writing prompt.  It will take several weeks to write this first essay, but it will be worth it in the end!  If your district is adamant about starting with Opinion Writing, that is ok!  This program is flexible.  Although I found it easier to start with Narrative Writing (then build in the opinion and informative elements afterwards), you can start with any type of writing.

Introduce the mini-lesson of the day.  Provide a poster or anchor chart for students to see!  (Only allow the students to work on that part of their story.)  Many students want to hurry and finish, but don't let them move on!  I recommend to staying in this order so there won't be confusion in later lessons.

a.   Narrative Elements-Hand out a checklist!
b.  Prewriting-Brainstorming
c.  Task, Audience, Purpose
d.  Graphic Organizers
e.  Introduction (Character, Setting, Plot)
f.  Body (Power of 3, Suspense, Climax)
g.  Character Traits-Developing Character
h.  Dialogue
i.   Conclusions
j.  Rough Draft
k.  D.A.R.E. to Revise
l.  Delete
m. Add (Transition Words)
n.  Add (Million Dollar Words)-can also use with exchange.
o.  Rearrange
p.  Exchange (Sentence Variety)
q.  Exchange (Jammin Conclusions)
r.  Exchange (Crafty Title)
s.  C.U.P.S.
t.  Capitalization
u.  Usage
v.  Punctuation
w.  Spelling
x.  Peer Reflection
y.   Final Copy

Examples of the interactive lessons:

For each mini-lesson:

1.  Students should add the notes to their writing notebooks using interactive pages.  If you are short for time, you can skip the interactive part of the lesson.  Although it can be timely, interactive notebooks have proven to be a motivational tool!

2.  Create a class story and MODEL each mini-lesson with the story.  Include student input!  Don't skip this step.  Modeling is a powerful tool in writing!  (Model lessons are provided for you in the program!)

3.  Students brainstorm ideas for their story using the mini-lesson and add the ideas to their notebooks.  Allow them to collaborate in groups.

4.  Students add these ideas to their graphic organizer and/or rough draft depending on the lesson.

5.  Share some student examples with the class.

Once finished with the first essay:

Have students take ownership of their learning by tracking their progress!   After you grade their writing with a 3-point, 4-point, or 5-point rubric of the individual mini-lessons, have students record it on a tracking form.  Then they should create a goal for the next assignment!

5.  Opinion or Argumentative Writing Mini-Lessons

Once you start the second essay, some of the mini-lessons won't take as long. They will be review or  a different spin will be added for the new type of writing.  For C.U.P.S., only go back and review the lessons that your students need more practice.

a.  Opinion or Argumentative Elements-Hand out a checklist!
b.  Prewriting-Brainstorming
c.  Task, Audience, Purpose
d.  Graphic Organizers
e.  Strengthen Opinions or Arguments
f.  Introduction
g.  Body (Power of 3, facts and details)
h.  Conclusions
i.  Rough Draft
j.  D.A.R.E. to Revise
k.  Delete
l.  Add (Transition Words)
m. Add (Supporting Details)
n.  Rearrange
o.  Exchange (Sentence Variety)
p.  Exchange (Jammin Conclusions)
q.  Exchange (Crafty Title)
r.   C.U.P.S. (Capitalization, Usage, Punctuation, Spelling)
s.  Peer Reflection-make sure the peer looks at the goals set for this writing!
t.   Final Copy

Have students review their goals and track their progress!  Then create a new goal for the next writing piece!

6.  Informative Writing Mini Lessons

a.   Informative Elements-Hand out a checklist!
b.  Prewriting-Brainstorming
c.  Task, Audience, Purpose
d.  Graphic Organizers
e.  Plagiarism
f.  Taking Notes and Citing Sources
g.  Introduction
h.  Body (Power of 3, Vocabulary)
i.   Conclusions
j.  Rough Draft
k.  D.A.R.E. to Revise
l.  Delete
m.  Add (Transition Words)
n.  Add (Supporting Details)
o.  Rearrange
p.  Exchange (Sentence Variety)
q.  Exchange (Jammin Conclusions)
r.  Exchange (Crafty Title)
s.  C.U.P.S. (Capitalization, Usage, Punctuation, Spelling)
t.  Graphics/Headings/Captions
u.  Peer Reflection-make sure the peer looks at the goals set for this writing!
v.   Final Copy
w.  Glossary
x.  Sources
y.  Table of Contents

Have students review their goals and track their progress!

I hope this gives you a great idea on how to get your students motivated to write!  Be ready to see your students excited about writing and PASS THAT TEST with flying colors!

If interested in having all of the work done for you, find your grade level below.  I combined a 3-5 and 6-8 program for those who teach more than one grade level or didn't want Common Core Standards written on the slides!  Remember:  All of the student resources, posters, anchor charts, tracking forms, interactive pages, homework, modeling, practice pages, etc etc is included.   I also provide FUN AND MOTIVATIONAL activities with many of the lessons to keep your students excited.  You got this!






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