Engaging Those Reluctant & Excelling Writers

August 22, 2016

How exactly do I manage to grab the attention and excitement for writing from both groups of kids? Well, ever since I began Discovery Journals with my class it has been proven to show an increase in student involvement both in school and at home.

We all have those students who are reluctant writers. They are the quiet ones and are those students who don’t actively ask for help. They hope they can be unseen and overshadowed by the more advanced writers in the class - and will even find ways to become distracted so they don’t have to put pencil to paper. I’ve had my fair share and I can’t blame them for not enjoying writing. It can be a difficult subject for some and depending on their experiences before stepping into my classroom they may already be frustrated or unconfident in their abilities before they even start.

We also know those students who lie on the opposite spectrum - these are the advanced writers. They love to write and often grasp writing skills quickly and are amongst the first to finish. These students enjoy writing and are eager for a challenge just to keep their minds busy. Teachers often times miss these students too because their focus are on those middle-of-the-road students and assign mundane review tasks just so the excelling students stay busy.

How exactly do I manage to grab the attention and excitement for writing from both groups of kids? Well, ever since I began Discovery Journals with my class it has been proven to show an increase in student involvement both in school and at home. 

Discovery Journals is an at-home research/informative writing project that spans the entire school year. It is optional and is not graded, however I do look over each journal and make little notes to the student as guidance for their following entry. I typically begin this activity a few months after school has started - just so kids aren’t overwhelmed and gives them time to get settled in academically.

I always share with students this new opportunity and how it will give them extra practice with their writing skills. What’s the hook? They get to choose the topic of their writing each and every week (student choice is everything!). Beginning with the letter A and moving through the alphabet, they are to pick a topic, research it at home either using books or supervised online resources, then use the provided brainstorming sheets to record their facts and write a short paragraph or two as an informative writing piece. Students are then to present their writing in a oral presentation to the class on a day designated by the teacher (I typically pick Friday). 

How exactly do I manage to grab the attention and excitement for writing from both groups of kids? Well, ever since I began Discovery Journals with my class it has been proven to show an increase in student involvement both in school and at home.

The main structure of this project is for students to properly plan their writing so they have material to which to write with. The planning sheets include A-Z and once students complete Z they can pick their own topics. These blacklines allow students to:

- draw a picture of their topic (example: alligators (sketch a picture))
- come up with a topic sentence that hooks the reader
- three facts to use within their writing
- find one new vocabulary word to use in their writing and define it for their readers
- a concluding sentence

Afterwards, students are equipped with enough material to begin their writing, which they will complete within their Discovery Journals (aka composition notebook). 

How exactly do I manage to grab the attention and excitement for writing from both groups of kids? Well, ever since I began Discovery Journals with my class it has been proven to show an increase in student involvement both in school and at home.

I always try to give my parents as much information up front as possible. I never try to assume that they know how each little assignment or project is supposed to be completed - even if I feel like I do a great job at explaining it. Since composition notebooks are the only material that parents need to provide, it is important that students find the ‘just right’ notebook for their abilities. So, I provided this (above) optional handout for teachers to send home with the parent letter so they know what kind of writing tablet they should be looking for for their child.

How exactly do I manage to grab the attention and excitement for writing from both groups of kids? Well, ever since I began Discovery Journals with my class it has been proven to show an increase in student involvement both in school and at home.

This is a sign-up sheet that is again optional for your class. I often have a lot of students showing interest every year and it makes it easy for me to keep a log as to who is participating. This sheet can be laminated for use every year or simply printed out and kept in your teacher binder for reference.

I am always so excited to share this with my kiddos and hope you can engage your students too with this fun at-home project!

Catch this product and all the others in my shop on SALE!

Ends AUG 22nd!

Kicking Off Informative Writing In The Classroom

August 20, 2016

Download at TpT
 Getting my students to love writing in second grade is pretty much the most difficult thing to do besides getting them to love pretty much any other subject. My first year teaching second grade a few years back, I remember sitting there trying to figure out why my writing block seemed harder than it needed to be. Why were some of my students flourishing and others leaving me pulling teeth just to get them to write something on the page?

It took me some thought and rethinking my approach to writing at the beginning of the year. I wanted to start my class out with first understanding themselves as writers and once I could do that, then I could build upon their skills and make the writing objectives apply to them and be fun in the process.

One fun form of writing that always gets my students, even my most reluctant writers, in the spirit are informative writing pieces. By having them become experts in something and having them write to inform others instills confidence and allows them to break down those barriers of frustration. It’s with informative writing I can see them light up with inspiration and experience that writing is a skill in which even the greatest of writers can always improve.

With October, autumn, and Halloween just right around the corner once school begins why not start off the year with the introduction of informative writing about something most students have experience with?! Jack-o-lanterns!

This download is the second creation from my How-To writing series (you can find my post about Leprechaun traps here). I am so excited to share this because it’s a whole theme mini-lesson in one complete download. The purpose of this activity is for students to create a one-of-a-kind jack-o-lantern that they’ll actually create and bring in to share with the class. As they are creating their designs and carving their pumpkins they are recording the steps and process to which they will write to explain to their readers. It’s always fun to see what the kids come up with and all of the jack-o-lanterns make for a fun room display!

Enlisting help from home...
To start, I’ve included parent letters which outline the writing project and breaks down for them the exact help I’m looking for for my students at home. Since I don’t want to take up too much time in the classroom for planning (I have other mini-lessons that explain the writing process) and creating the pumpkins, I’ve opted to include that step for an at-home activity with their parents. That way they are thinking and planning out their designs and filling out the provided homework planning sheets that come back to school. Besides, the kids always love the help and participation from family!

*I have also included copies of these planning sheets for in-classroom planning (sans the HOMEWORK tab in the top right corner).

Brainstorming & transition words.
One of the keys to writing informative writing is using key transitional words like: first, then, next, after that, and finally. Once students become familiar with these they can find new transitional words or phrases to enhance their writing!

The planning sheets provided in this download are clear and easy-to-follow for writing out their directions on how to create their jack-o-lantern AS they actually do it. With parent supervision they are to create their jack-o-lanterns and be creative in their designs. I leave it up to them as to how decorative they would like to get. Then, after they’ve recorded their step-by-step directions they move on to their first draft.

Drafting makes perfect.
Once students are ready to begin writing their pieces they are to complete their first draft where they sketch a picture of their steps and write a couple sentences to explain what the step is. After following through the writing process, editing/revising their work both themselves and with their peers, and a writing conference to check in with me, they can move on to finalizing their writing with their final draft and publication. This download is also complete with an editing checklist for their own use and use with buddies.

A writing celebration.
I love the concept of celebrating the culmination of their hard work. By celebrating each of the students and the effort they’ve put into their work helps them see the value in themselves as writers and their peers. Once students are finished with their final drafts and have published their work, they are to display their writing and share the actual jack-o-lanterns they’ve created. Students get the chance to see each others writing and celebrate the budding authors they’ve only just started to become!

I’m excited to continue adding themes to this series so be on the lookout! Oh, never miss a post by signing up for my email list (on the sidebar!).

A Helpful Tool Every Classroom Needs

August 19, 2016

Get back to school ready and tackle organizing your classroom library with these {NEWLY UPDATED} library labels! Check out the blog to see what’s been added!

I am super excited to share these labels with you because it’s been years, I mean years, since I’ve given these guys a fresh look. It’s always kind of fun (and scary) to look back on my earliest products and realize all the things I was doing wrong and how simple everything was. If anything, it shows how much I’ve learned within these last few years on upping the quality and range of my products. I used to only think about my own needs then just upload them to TpT and it was only just last year did I realize the key to becoming a serious TpT Seller and that’s ensuring your products can be used for any grade! 

Which brings us back to these classroom library cards! After looking over what I originally had, I realized that they were a touch outdated and didn’t expand into the many different genres and topics children’s books can be organized into. However, I’m all about simple and not getting into the weeds too much with organizing my library. 

What’s new?
This download now has many new genre and topic labels as well as new authors such as Eric Carle and Shel Silverstein. Another huge improvement to this product is the inclusion of F&P, Lexile, DRA, and AR leveled labels! So, now you can level your class books by level vs the popular genres or themes.

What’s Included?
- Autobiography
- Biography
- Holidays
- Realistic Fiction
- Science Fiction
- Historical Fiction
- Non-Fiction
- Mystery
- Fairy Tales
- Poetry
- Weather
- Animals
- Folk Tales
- Sports
- Math
- School
- Fables

Now includes:
- Social Studies
- Famous Americans
- Native Americans
- Cultural Books
- Science
- Seasons
- Star Student Books
- Class Books
- Environmental Print
- Money
- Shapes
- Colors
- Counting
- First Day of School
- Numbers
- Names
- Sight Words
- Health
- Food & Nutrition
- Manners
- Life Cycles
- Feelings

- Newspaper Bin (for magazines such as Time For Kids, etc.)
- Book Hospital (for broken books in need of repairs)

- Roald Dahl
- Beverly Cleary
- Dr. Seuss
- Judy Blume
- Jan Brett
- Patricia Polacco
- David Shannon
- Cynthia Rylant
- Eric Carle {NEW}
- Shel Silverstein {NEW}

- A-Z Mysteries
- Magic Tree House

**original labels for series such as Goosebumps, Junie B. Jones, etc. were removed for copyright purposes and I don’t have similar clip art. Working on getting those permissions! Sorry for any inconvenience. 

So, this school year don’t forget this helpful tool for your classroom and be sure to get your library organized quickly with these classroom library labels!

Stating Your Objectives

August 16, 2016

These CC aligned objective cards for language arts and math are the perfect addition to any classroom! Quickly change out your objectives each day with these pre-printed objective cards. See how I use them in my classroom on the blog!

Download Kinder | Download First | Download Second

In most classrooms it’s required that teachers post the daily objectives they plan to teach that day and place them somewhere visible in the room. This is so admin or other visitors can walk into your room and know what exactly you’re teaching and the standard to which you’re teaching to. These days there are a lot of creative ways to display your objectives and today I am sharing with you the pre-made Common Core aligned objective cards that I’ve used in my own classroom - but now I’m beginning to add these cards in K-6th grade formats!

Quickly check that to-do list!
In the past I have used these objective cards right next to my daily schedule by laminating and placing a magnet on the backs so they stick right to our board, but these objective cards can be used on a bulletin board or even a pocket chart! It’s completely up to you. Having the objectives already printed off allowed me to quickly swap them out when preparing for the next day and I know they’ll be useful in other classrooms as well! It’s so helpful to find products that don’t take a lot of prep, help in the long run, and allow me to move on to more important tasks!

These downloads also include blank cards for reading, writing, and math clip art so that you can write in your own objectives if there are any that differ from the CCS. They feature bold color coded trim so you and your students can differentiate between subjects and include both the CCS written in the top left corner and clearly stated objectives, which are outlined on the CCS website.

These CC aligned objective cards for language arts and math are the perfect addition to any classroom! Quickly change out your objectives each day with these pre-printed objective cards. See how I use them in my classroom on the blog!

How do you display your standards in the classroom? Share a link to a post or comment below!

Monday Made It {Aug 15}

August 15, 2016

Even though I’m doing the stay-at-home-mom thing this year, I still can’t believe that summer is winding down and Back To School is nearly here (I even know some friends and teachers who are already back at school!). I always loved the beginning of the year because I had a moment to refresh and start the year with a positive attitude, try new things instructionally, and anticipate the class coming in. For this Monday Made It I am sharing the classroom management tools I love to use in my classroom and has been a proven improvement in student behavior and accountability!

Be sure to link up with 4th Grade Frolics!

The Think Sheet
You can read more about this fabulous tool and how I use it in the classroom here, but these little sheets have been a huge lifesaver in terms of quickly dealing with behavioral issues in the classroom. I’ve been using them for a few years and every year I have only needed to use them a few times. It is designed to place accountability back on the student meanwhile allowing them to express themselves, think about what caused their behavior, and a means to discuss the problem with an adult both in school and with parents at home. Since students return them with a signature it allows me to stay on top of at-home communication easily and I store them in their student files in case it is needed for conferences or meetings with admin.

*The Think Sheet comes in both a single sheet here or a BUNDLED version here with forms for K-6.

Testimonies from TpT:
"This made communication with my parents very easy and students knew to bring it back signed the next day or their parents would also receive a phone call.” -Michelle M.

"Great resource! I used this consistently last year and saw a great change in student behavior. The parents also told me they really appreciated having specific information about their child's behavior.” - Ashley S.

"This is a great resource to use with students to have them reflect on their behavior. Thank you!” - Karen H.

Awesome Behavior Recognition
Another great resource to use when implementing classroom management is acknowledging those students who are always setting the perfect example. It’s hard sometimes to notice these kids, especially when you may have one or two ‘difficult’ students. However, I’ve found that having these slips already printed off and easily accessible, I was able to fill them out quickly and send home a little handwritten note letting my parents (and kiddos!) know that they’ve been doing awesome in the classroom! See more about how I use these notes here.

Testimonies from TpT:
"Such a great and simple way to support a positive relationship with parent and students.” -Mindy E.

"This is great! I find myself too often only sending home notes when students misbehave, so this is perfect to acknowledge the positive behaviors too. Thank you!” -Robin D.

"I love being able to send these home with parents. Sometimes we get so caught up in calling parents for bad behavior that I can now send these home with my students on fun neon paper and they're parents are still getting that positive feedback!!” -Stephanie N.

"I love these notes! I have been using them a ton and my students are excited when they receive one. :)” - Sunny In SoCal (TpT Seller)

The Clip Slip
This clip slip is a perfect addition to any classroom clip chart you use! This download comes with the traditional clip slip language AND a blank copy for you to write in your own if you’ve customized your clip chart. Read more about how I use this clip slip here! It’s such an easy tool for students to again communicate their daily behavior to their parents - freeing up your time NOT writing daily emails or making those phone calls. Parents can simply check their slips and by initialing every night it allows me to see which parents are checking and who are not.

Testimonies from TpT:
"Absolutely adore this Clip Slip management system. It goes perfectly with my classroom behavior chart! Who knew??? Thank you so much! This is AWESOME!!!!” -Kimberly R.

"Easy format for daily use and maintaing Parent-Teacher Communication concerning behavior.” -Jara T.

The First Week {complete lesson plans & ideas}
I love the first few weeks of school because that is when you can really set the boundaries and practice routines and procedures until your kids understand what’s expected of them all year long. It’s also a lot of fun because you can integrate some fun read-alouds to discuss these expectations when establishing your class rules. I love creating the rules together as a whole class because it gives them ownership over their behavior and the behavior of their peers. I’ve put this download together as a means to start you off with fresh lesson plan ideas and some fun read-alouds to pair with them!

Testimonies from TpT:

"As a first time classroom teacher, I am excited to use this to start of the year with my students. It is comprehensive, yet concise. Thanks so much for sharing !!” -Kimberley E.

"Great resource that will be perfect for the start of this new school year. I am very excited to use it and love your simple four rules!” - Katherine S.

"This is a really complete package! Love that read-alouds and lesson plans are included, as well as posters and worksheets for the kids! Wonderful! thanks so much! :)” - Martine

Intersted in each of these products that have helped me get prepared and organized for establishing those classroom rules? Then opt for the BUNDLED version and get a copy of each resource at a discounted price! 

How do you implement classroom management/routines in your classroom? Do you have any great resources to share? Share them in the comments!