Friday, June 30, 2017

I Needed a Breakthrough to Promote Student Engagement in Writing

Welcome to our book study of The Writing Strateies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Writers by Jennifer Serravallo.  I'm joining forces with some fabulous teacher bloggers, hosted by An Apple for the Teacher, to discuss the writing strategies we come across in this AMAZING professional text!

Because this book isn't your typical professional development book filled with individual "Chapters" of narrative, each teacher blogger will be giving you a glimpse into the 10 goals that are preresented in the text.  Each goal area is filled with many valauable strategies that will help you to support and guide your students as they become better writers.

Keep in mind, we are only highlighting a FEW strategies in each section. There are over 300 strategie in the whole book.

You can find my posts for the previous sections below:
Introduction to 300 Writing Strategies

Goal 1:  Composing With Pictures


I love this quote by Jennifer Seravallo,

One tool that Jennifer uses to figure out who needs support with engagement is an engagement inventory which is a "kid-watching" tool. This tool lets you know what students are spending their time doing. Things to monitor in a 5-10 minute increments during the writing time would include:
  • writing
  • thinking or planning
  • setting up: putting out pencils, erasers, setting up paper
  • meeting with writing partner
  • distracted: out of seat, getting a drink, wondering around the room
  • hand raised
  • at writing center (getting supplies)
I just added this document.  I have only used Forms a couple of times, and it worked quite differently the last time I used it.  My options were different, so you will need to make a copy or my copy will change.  Once you make your own copy, you can add your students in and your inventory should be ready. Click HERE for a copy.   Please let me know if this form did or didn't work for you.

Another tool used is a chart of the volume of writing adapted from Writing Pathways (Calkins 2014) I made a chart for my students. 
For a free copy of this chart, click here

This chapter suggests that we ask our students to reflect on their writing, so I have created three foldable lessons to go into their Interactive Journals.  To find out more about the foldable, just click on the picture below.

Engagement Strategies

Decide if the Piece is "Finished" (for now) and Self-Start a New One

Strategy: When you have written all you can, turn the page and start a new writing.

Teaching Tip: Most writing is not really done, until it is due, because there is always something you can tweek.  It is a great skill for a writer to learn to set something aside and start on a new topic.  The student needs to understand that this piece that has just been set aside is something to return to at a later date to work on.

It is recommended to have a chart that students can refer to and then add to it throughout the year.  Here is the chart I am going to start with.  It is free at my TpT store.  Just click on the picture.

 Fun Little Aside

When I was working on this chart for my students, I decided that I needed a checkmark.  I couldn't find any in my clip art (even though I'm sure I have one somewhere), so I looked for a free check mark on TpT.  I didn't find any, so I made some.  I got a bit carried away, and made a ton of them. Here they are.  The first set is one of my new freebies.

Enough checkmarks. It's time to get back to writing strategies.

Listen. Praise.

I chose this strategy to share because it involves the writing partners, it is good for any genre or text type, and it works well with any grade level.  One partner reads to the other  partner.  The listener's job is to listen to the engaging parts.  When the partner finds a spot he enjoys, he will interrupt the reader and they mark the margin next to the powerful spot.  I really like how the author gives a purpose to use writing partners in her "Lesson Language"
Sometimes when we write, a voice of doubt starts to creep in. "Whose every going to want to read this?!" you might thing.  "There's nothing here worth keeping," you might tell yourself.  It is at this moment that you need to reach out to a friend, or your writing partner, for some help.  Not the kind of help to "fix" the things you think are wrong, but the kind of friend and partner to cheer you on to keep going. (Serravallo, 2017)

Writers Are Problem Solvers

Often times students want to solve their own problems, but just don't know how.  The student needs to identify the problem, then check the spot in the room, a resource, or a friend that might help solve the problem.  Try the solution.  If it works, great.  If it doesn't work, try a different solution.  The author gives an example chart in the book titled "How to Stay Focused."  What a great chart!  It is the kind that you don't want as a prefab chart.  This is the kind of chart that should be created by your students.  Here is an example one.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Who Can Resist Flexible Seating?

As soon as I heard about it, I had to have it. The Problem?  No budget.  No Time.  Now it has been a year, I have finished my masters degree, so I can start to concentrate on this issue.

Here is what I have found:

  • To begin, I didn't have to look far, because Esther Valencia, the Teacher Next Door, had worked on flexible seating as a summer project.  She saw the adorable milk crate idea,

          and she came up with her own idea, which is actually quite brilliant!

           Using this  idea, Esther, a third grade teacher, created a hidden storage area for supplies.  Here are two or her stools after being used for a hear on a daily basis. 
  • The Teachers Love List has an amazing article on it.  She give the pros and cons to a variety of Alternate Seating options.  She also includes a list and where to get them.  Notice this picture.  This is a few of the styles she has located for us.
  • A Trendy Teacher showed how she added flexible seating to her class. 
  • Jill Cataldo found an amazing deal on these little beauties. 
  • Want to know the truth about flexible seating from a Kindergarten perspective?  Check out Kinder Humor
  • The Elementary Darling blogs about her insights with flexible seating. 
  • Middle School Mob has an amazing blog post on how she uses flexible seating with older students.  She also includes some practical tips on training the students and a set of rules.  I also love her VIP table.  It is a "must have" in my classroom set up! 

  • Here is an Article by Kelly Almer: 3 Reasons to Use Flexible Seating in the Classroom.  Along with her 3 reasons, she has set up this very cool VIP seating.  I love the idea and I definitely want to use it.
  • Here is a video clip. This is year 5 of Flexible seating, so it is reassuring to know that this transformation did not happen overnight.
So to answer my question, I cannot resist flexible seating and I can't wait to get started on it!  What have you found? I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Announcing Innovative Book-Study Reboot: To Lock In Writing Strategies for Student Writers

I have been fortunate to be a part of an amazing book study hosted by Kelly Malloy and a group of fabulous teachers.  I learned so much about helping my students become better writers by reading The Writing Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Writers  by Jennifer Serravallo. Writing is such a complex subject that I need to revisit this book.

This book study just finished, but now that it is summer, I need to jump in to reread it ~ reboot ~ and reflect on the 10 big goals of writing.  As I read this time, I hope to blog about each section to help me reflect on what I am learning.  I want to improve my writing, so I can do a better job of helping my students in the fall.

Each time I write about a goal, I'll link to the other teachers so you can gather even more information.  Each teacher mentions just a few of the over 300 writing strategies.  The really cool thing about this book is that it is an easy read, and practical resource for teachers.

You can find my posts for previous sections below:

Composing With Pictures

This is a great strategy for emergent readers.  Children who freeze up at the thought of writing can use these strategies to communicate their thinking without worrying about the words.

Jennifer Serravallo states, "children are planning their writing, drafting, and revising- but the work is in pictures.  It is the teachers job to teaching our students how to add the details and make their drawings 'readable' to others."

Talk As You Draw

Although it makes the classroom a little noisier, having students quietly talk as they draw will engage them.  This gives the student immediate feedback as he/she hears himself/herself.  To be honest, I usually reread things I am writing to myself.  Hearing my writing helps me catch mistakes clarify what I meant to say.

Reread Your Pictures So It Sounds Like a Storybook

This is a great idea for older students as well as younger.  I often draw charts before I start on a project.  The next step is thinking about how I want to use it and talking to myself.  That being said, it is not surprising that this would be an easy strategy to use in a variety of ways.

Touch, Then Draw

aka Touch, Think, Draw

I just had to rename this one, because it helps me remember this brilliant strategy.  You see, I'm not an artist, so I need to see the simple shapes in things so I can draw them.  I'm sure kids are the same way, so this is going to be a strategy I use with my students even though they are older.  Here are the prompts:
  • As you touch, what shape do you feel?
  • Think about the simple shape.
  • Draw the simple shape.
Remember to Link back to the original book study for more insight.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Who Wants to Dig Deep For Summer Treasure?

Summer treasure can come in many forms.  For me, it is learning new things.  This morning, I spent time learning about Wild Cats, and setting up a web-page to assist students when they research these amazing animals.

Here is a little background for my readers. I work in a small district with one school for each age level. The high school mascot has always been the Tiger, while the primary school kids (K-2) were the Tiger Cubs. About fifteen years ago, the middle school kids became the Bengal Tigers. A few years later the elementary school (grades 3-5) converted to the wild cats. So what does this actually mean? It means that our kids wear black and orange for 12 years. 

This last school year our 5th graders had the privilege to visit Cat Haven, a nature park dedicated to preserving wild cats. This field trip fits in nicely with our mascots, and we used the visit to practice our research skills. I began working on the "Wild Cats" web-page before the trip, again after the trip, and after yesterday's work, I can finally say that it looks ready for next year.

While researching, I found some real nuggets of treasure that are worth sharing.

First, I was fascinated by the variety of wild cats and the different sounds they make. Watch/listen to this.
My students are going to love watching this.

Next, I found a new site that is sure to interest young researchers. Pictures of Cats  or PoC
I really like the close up pictures with the globe showing where the cat is from. This particular picture features the fish cat catching fish. This fishing cat reminds me of my house cat, George, who weighs 11 pounds. The fish cat usually weighs between 10-30 pounds, so I can easily picture this fishing cat.

The Marbled Cat is the size of a small cat, and super rare.

The next website is called Big Cat Rescue.  The unique thing about this site is that students can read along with the research. It is a very kid friendly site.

Additionally, this site also provides intresting videos that provide some great information. Here is one on the cougar.

Students Can Create eBooks 

I just created an eBook as a demonstration lesson using Flip Html5 Here is  quick video about it

Here is my eBook on The Flat-Headed Cat

It is part of my Animal Research Unit
which can be purchased in my TeachersPayTeachers store, Digging Deep to Soar Beyond the Text.

I love working on projects and finding out what other teachers are digging into during their holiday. Feel free to let me know by responding in the comments below. In the meantime, I hope you are having a great summer.