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 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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Monday, December 28, 2015

8 Writing Ideas for January

Students will be coming back from Christmas break and you want to be ready for them!  This blog post will give you eight writing ideas to teach throughout the month of January.  I will provide prompts and directions for each of the assignments.  You are more than welcome to use these ideas in your classroom without a purchase.  If  you prefer to simply purchase all the activities already prepared for you at a discounted bundle rate, you can click JANUARY BUNDLE.   Let's start off the New Year with a freebie!!!!


These are so stinkin cute.  Click on the picture below to take you directly to this free product!    There is a bulletin board sign, balloon template, writing template and 28 good fortunes included.  I have students write their New Year's resolutions in their journal.  I then have them pick a good fortune message (already prepared for you) out of a hat and write a prediction in their journal - what their good fortune might mean to them for the new year.  After they revise and edit, they will write their final copies on the writing template provided.  I also decorate these balloons with ribbon for a cute display!  Enjoy this free activity!


This cute little fella makes an adorable wall display!  On top of that, students will comprehend more of the content when they write about it!!!!

1.  Take already lined paper and cut out circles for writing.  (5 per student)
2.  Cut the same size circle on plain white paper. (1 per student)
3.  Cut out larger circles from black construction paper. (2 per student)
4.  Have other colored paper available for students to create the hat, arms, eyes, nose, bow tie, and feet.

Student Directions:
1.  Read a nonfiction nonfiction penguin book and/or research penguins on the Internet.
2.  Take notes on the information.
3.  In your own words, write a final copy onto the smaller circles (try to fill up 3 circles).  Use complete sentences and proper capitalization and punctuation.
4.  Illustrate a picture on the plain white paper and write a caption.
5.  On a lined circle, list four new words that you learned from your reading.  Write their definition next to them.
6.  On another lined circle, document the sources used in research.

After students write their paper on the circles and create the penguin, then staple the writing onto the belly of the penguin.  Cute cute cute!

The product in my store includes:
~Student directions for homework or center.
~Templates for all parts of the penguin.
~Graphic organizer to use when taking notes.
~4 different writing templates with places for title, heading, picture, captions, vocabulary
~Bibliography page
~Rubric for grading


This is a fun activity to get those creative brains ticking after break!  I love to have students read these out loud to the class when finished!

Supplies Needed:
One white sheet of paper per student to cut out a snowflake.
One lined sheet of paper to write the final copy.

Student Directions:
1.  Write a rough draft in your journal.
2.  Start with falling from the sky.  Tell about where you landed and events of your day.
3.  Provide a beginning, middle and end.
4.  Use complete sentences and descriptive words.
5.  Edit and revise writing.
6.  Write final copy on the snowflake template.

To Make the Snowflake:
1.  Fold paper in half diagonally.
2.  Fold it again diagonally.  You should now have a triangle.
3.  Fold it one more time!
4.  Hold the point in your hand.  Cut along the outside.  Some like to curve it like a a pizza slice.
5.  Keep holding the point and cut out different shapes on the folds.
6.  Open up to see your beautiful snowflake!

The product in my store includes:
~Student directions for centers, homework, or independent writing.
~Directions on how to make a snowflake.
~Final copy writing printable.
~Rubric for grading.


How to writing is an important skill for students in the elementary grades.  It helps them understand sequencing, steps, and writing nonfiction!  The snowman is as cute as can be and it makes an adorable hall display.

1.  Cut out three different size circles on white construction paper.  (If students need lined paper, glue or staple it to the two large circles.
2.  Provide colored paper for hat, scarf, nose and arms.
3.  Optional:  provide tinsel for the hat.

1.  Write a step-by-step rough draft of how to build a real snowman.
2.  Number each step.
3.  Be very specific!
4.  Use complete sentences.
5.  Edit and revise.
6.  Copy final steps onto the two larger circles after the snowman is created.

Putting the snowman together:
1.  Glue the three circles together from smallest to largest.
2.  Draw and color eyes, mouth, and buttons.
3.  Create arms, nose, hat, and scarf out of colored paper.
4.  Glue all the part onto the snowman.
5.  Write final copy on the snowman.

The product in my store includes:
~Student directions to set in a center, for homework, or independent work.
~Snowman templates for writing and all other parts of the snowman.
~Rubric for grading.


1.  Show the directions and samples for writing a diamante on a smart board.
2.  Brainstorm January antonyms together!!!  This will help your students start thinking about their own writing!

Using the example on the printable, create your own diamante related to January!!!

The product in my store includes:
~Teaching anchor chart
~Writing template


Nonfiction is important for not only reading, but writing!  Students can apply the nonfiction elements and create their own newspaper.

1.  Find informational text or a book on Martin Luther King Jr.
2.  Download and print off a copy of my free Newspaper Article Template.

1.  Read about Martin Luther King Jr.
2.  Create a newspaper page about events in his life.
     a.  Create a title for the newspaper.  Ex.  Montgomery Times
     b.  Create a date towards the end of his life.
     c.  Create a headline for a specific event and illustrate it with a caption.
     d.  Write an article including details about the heading.
     e.  Repeat c and d for a new event.
3.  Create a timeline of Martin Luther King Jr.  (Label the dates and what happened.)

The product in my store includes:
~Martin Luther King Jr. informational text.
~Student directions for centers, homework, or independent work.
~Newspaper template for final copy.
~Rubric for easy grading.


If you can find a way to squeeze music in at any time,  your students will be so excited!  I love the song, Power of a Dream, by Celine Dion.  It ties well into Martin Luther King Jr. activities!

1.  Download the lyrics-  I use the site AZ Lyrics-  POWER OF A DREAM

2.  Develop questions about the lyrics.  You are welcome to copy the following for classroom use only!
     a.  Explain the meaning behind the title of the song.
     b.  What is the rhyme scheme in stanza 2?
     c.  Choose a line to illustrate.
     d.  What do the following words mean in the song?   fate, embrace
     e.  Make a meaningful text-to-world connection.
     f.  What lesson does the song convey?

3.  Make a cloud pattern for student writing.

1.  Read and listen to the lyrics.
2.  Analyze the lyrics by answering the questions above.
3.  Reread the line:  "Teaching lessons we must learn."  What lesson do you think we need to learn and why?    Or what is your dream?
4.  Write your final copy on a cloud pattern.

The product in my store includes:

~A copy of the lyrics
~An analysis printable
~A writing template
~Answer Key

Make a bulletin board with the Newspaper Writing and Power of Dream Writing!


1.  Provide writing paper, drawing paper, and construction paper.
2.  Download free How to Teach a Friendly Letter.

1.  Choose between the following persuasive prompts:
     a.  Convince the NFL to advertise a commercial about a new phone that you invented.
     b.  Persuade the NFL to sell your favorite homemade snacks at the game.
     c.  Convince the NFL to allow you and your friends to perform a song or dance at half time.
     d.  Persuade the fans for the opposing team to root for your team to win!
2.  Write a rough draft.
3.  Edit and revise.
4.  Write a final copy.
5.  Draw football-themed illustrations.
6.  Staple the final copy on construction paper.
7.  Glue illustrations around the paper.

The product in my store includes:
~ Directions for students- great for homework project or centers.
~Slides to place on smart board for persuasion choices
~Friendly letter slides to teach parts of a friendly letter.
~Three different choices to write final copy.  (Worksheet-style, football head with letter all on one worksheet, craft- football head with letter and feet separate to glue together.)

You are welcome to use all of these ideas as a DIY in your classroom.  However, you may not sell or post these ideas as your own.  All of these NO PREP activities can be purchased at a bundled price.

Added to the bundle is a JANUARY WORD LIST perfect for writing assignments!

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