Thursday, December 26, 2013

Writing Traits Posters for 2014

If you're like me, the holiday break gets you thinking about changes, updates, and renewed goals for the classroom. What worked well this semester? Who are the students I still need to reach? How will I reach them? It's almost as if teachers come up with their own New Year's resolutions just for school, which I think is very healthy and reflective! If one of your "school resolutions" is to stock up on new writing resources, I have something perfect for you! I have always been a fan of teaching the 6+1 writing traits, and I finally got around to creating my own posters. I hope there are some hardworking writing teachers out there who find them useful! Happy 2014!

Click HERE to download all 7 posters from my TpT Store!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Tips & Tricks for Publishing

Every year, I tell my writing students that publishing is my favorite step of the writing process. There's just something about having all the messy revising and editing over with and being able to write the "best version" of your story on a fresh, clean page! Kids sometimes ask:

A final draft has to be mistake-free, right?

Wrong. Even the best writers still have room for improvement when the final draft has been published. Students (and teachers) also tend to concentrate mostly on conventions when they strive for "mistake-free" final drafts, but our budding writers should be thinking of all the writing traits when judging a published piece. Although no final draft is perfect, there are some tips and tricks I use on final draft day to encourage my kids to push even harder to publish the "best version" of their composition.

1. Other than my brief "over-the-shoulder" conferences with individual students and soft classical music, there is no other noise during publishing. Students must be able to concentrate on the changes that were made to their first drafts!

2. Use "drive-by-sticky-notes" to help students to correct any remaining misspelled words! Whether a first draft was edited by a peer or teacher, it's inevitable that a few misspellings will seep through. This is a quick way to fix them!

3. Discourage the "I'm done!" announcements. Our motto is, "You are not finished until you have reread!" Students need to get into the habit of carefully rereading to self-correct. Even when they are finished doing this, I have them keep their final drafts open at their desk for me to skim through.

4. Celebrate when improvements are made and writing goals are met! If we don't take the time to do this as their teachers, how else will they grow? Showcasing a "Writer of the Week" is a great celebration method and an even better teaching tool!

Click HERE to download the high quality PDF freebie!

Monday, September 30, 2013

BOO! Halloween Homophones

Since I am lucky enough to have a Promethean board in my classroom, one of my goals this year is to use more flipcharts, websites, and other pen-friendly activities! It's not just a screen with fancy speakers on the sides, right?! Also, I love keeping the "mini" in grammar mini-lessons to allow more time for composition and writer's workshop. This "Halloween Homophones" activity (below) can be used as either a flipchart or print-out station. Whether your students celebrate Halloween or not, these 13 classroom-friendly sentences will help your budding writers master commonly misused homophones!

CLICK HERE to download the file from my TpT store!

Happy fall!

Friday, July 19, 2013

200 Followers? Freebie Time!

I started this blog out of boredom and curiosity last summer, and now I am so excited to have 200 followers! I want to say "thank you" to all my blog readers and fellow writing teachers with this task card freebie. If you teach fourth grade writing (especially in Texas), there's a good chance you'll need to teach your budding writers to differentiate personal narrative writing vs. expository writing at the start of the school year. I hope this set of 12 task cards helps you do just that!

Click HERE for the freebie! Enjoy!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Parts of Speech Sort

Are you ready to go back to school? I'm starting to get antsy at home, but I am not ready to give up sleeping in! I'm not even going to tell you what time I woke up this afternoon morning. The most important grammar objective that I want my fourth graders to master at the beginning of each year is forming complete sentences. Later in the year when they're still having trouble differentiating complete sentence vs. fragment, I always kick myself for not spending enough time at the beginning reviewing basic parts of speech. (You have to know nouns and verbs to understand subject and predicate!)

I found this great sorting idea on Pinterest about a year ago, originally pinned from

I thought it'd be fun to make some back-to-school themed sorting cards for this paper bag activity. I included 54 words comprised of various nouns, verbs, and adjectives. I hope to do this with small groups during the chaotic first week of school! Check it out:

Click HERE to download all 54 cards!

If you have the pleasure of teaching these same objectives, don't forget about my Subject & Predicate FREEBIE! It's ready to print and go. I am thrilled to have almost 200 followers. It might be time for another freebie pretty soon! Any requests? 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Absences & Lizards

"But you never gave me any make-up work!"

"When did we do that page? I didn't get a copy."

"<Insert name here> was supposed to get my work, but he lost it!"

"I lost my homework. Can I have another copy?"

Sound all too familiar?

One of my favorite procedures (found via Pinterest) I implemented last year is definitely a keeper for next year: the "I Was Absent" Folder. I recommend it for anyone who teaches intermediate grades because it's accessible as students come and go, and it really teaches them responsibility. I always make extra copies of work, and they always end up inside the "I Was Absent" Folder instead of the recycling bin. Kids in all 4 of my classes know to pick up any new work upon their return and then get it turned in ASAP.

One folder in the same designated place throughout the school year leaves no room for confusion or excuses. It's also an easy, no-fuss way to retrieve an extra copy of something whenever the need arises. In case you can't tell, I absolutely love my "I Was Absent" Folder!

In addition to writing, I will also be teaching science and social studies next year. So as an end-of-year project, I asked my students to write me a persuasive letter about what kind of class pet I should get for next year's fourth graders. They had to choose between a tree frog, bearded dragon, and Chinese water dragon. The Chinese water dragon won the vote by a landslide, so it looks like I have some shopping (and research) to do! Stay tuned for pics of the little guy.

Saturday, May 11, 2013


We finished up our poem-folios, and I hope to do this every spring! Even the students who were not as excited about poetry when we first started the unit were so proud of their finished product! After publishing our free verse, lyrical, and haiku poetry on Microsoft Word, students put all 3 of their pieces into a construction-paper-made folder, which I'd hole punched ahead of time. I had the students think of their own title, decorate their cover, then bind everything together with brads. I also encouraged them to "dedicate" their book to someone, as authors often do. Many kids dedicated their poem-folios to their mom and planned on giving it as a Mother's Day gift. Here are a few snapshots!

Here they are using brads to put everything together.

A free verse poem of apology, inspired by...

A book based on William Carlos Williams' "This is Just to Say" 

Fun stuff!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

We're Poets, and We Know It!

Has it really been 3 months since my last post? I blame it all on "testing season!" Now that our big state assessment is over (phew!) and National Poetry Month is upon us, I can't wait to dive into my poetry unit! I can't help but to preface my introduction by reminding them, "Punctuation will STILL EXIST after we write our poems..." Once I get that little disclaimer out of the way, we will write poetry in three forms: lyrical, free verse, and haiku. My fourth graders always seem to appreciate poetry, yet many of them are intimidated to write it. This year, I want to make it simpler on them by using new anchor charts, doing lots of modeling, and reading aloud different works by some of my favorite poets: Basho, Robert Frost, Jack Prelutsky, and Shel Silverstein.

My oh-so-talented teammate and friend Holly Daley (be sure to check out her TpT store... especially if you teach reading!) also introduced me to Kenn Nesbitt, a modern author that writes hilarious kid-friendly poetry. His "funny poems" are perfect models of lyrical poetry. He also seems to update his website with new poems pretty often! If you teach haiku poetry (my personal favorite), be sure to check out Dogku by Andrew Clements. It's always a hit with my kids!

Just in time for National Poetry Month, I compiled my anchor charts and rubrics into a teacher-friendly six pack! It's easy to get carried away with writing poetry just for enjoyment, but rubrics are a necessary (and fair) way to grade our little poets' work. My students will then publish their own collection of poems into a "Poem-folio," which I will soon post photos of. In the meantime, I hope you can download and enjoy:

Click here to have it all!

What other forms of poetry do you enjoy with your students? Are there any elementary-friendly poetry websites or apps out there? Please leave a comment and share! I hope you can find time this month to dim the lights, throw on a beret, and get into the poetic spirit!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tricky Transition Words

After every writing curriculum assessment/benchmark test, I always go over the top 5 most missed questions with my students. Although they did well overall on our most recent one, 4/5 of the most missed revising/editing questions were over transition words! They're experts at using them in their own writing, but it's challenging for them to choose the best ones on a multiple choice test. We were also doing an author study on Cynthia Rylant at the time, so I created a transition word review activity that pairs with one of her books!

I read aloud Cynthia Rylant's autobiography, Best Wishes. It's from a great series of different authors' autobiographies called "Meet the Author." I chose Best Wishes because it goes back and forth between past and present, so transition words are essential. (It also gave the kids an interesting snapshot of the life of a successful writer!) Although it's non-fiction, it still uses time-order transition words. After the read aloud, students got together with their writing partners to retell the events of Cynthia's life with a summary that included fill-in-the-blank transition words. I know I can't be the only one struggling with teaching.... and reteaching.... and reteaching... this tricky writing skill, so I wanted to share my little resource!

Click HERE to download it from TpT!

After doing this author study a couple times, I've decided my favorite book by Cynthia Rylant would have to be In November. It's the perfect mentor text to teach show-don't-tell and sensory writing. The language and illustrations are beautiful in every scene. I will read it next month and then have my students publish their own book, In February

Why wait until this time of year to read In November? So they can't be copycats!