Word choice is a delicate, yet important thing in any piece of writing. It makes our writing colorful! I've gone on about "shades of meaning" in a previous post. I've found that my students are eager to use "razzle dazzle words" in their writing, but they need to actually understand the new words they choose to use before using them! Fourth graders also tend to focus more on sounding "fancy" than specific, and this is one of the habits I hope to change in my incoming group of fourth graders. With these goals in mind, I created a new tool for my writing traits toolbox:
You know how ideas just come to you sometimes? This is one of the most exciting things that can happen inside a "teacher brain," and I imagine it's not much different for our students! The other day, I was reflecting on one of the most challenging writing objectives that my students struggle with year after year: transition words! (The proof is in the pudding, as you can see a prior blogpost!) I was trying to think of a good metaphor for transitions; one that my students could relate to.
Transitions are like... dogs?
Hitting your head against the wall repeatedly? Although some might feel differently, no.
Then it hit me: "Transitions words are like traffic signals; they are essential to keeping a smooth 'flow!' Without appropriate transitions, the reader may get lost, lose interest, or simply CRASH into confusion before reaching their destination (the end of the story)!"
I envisioned reenacting this comparison with some of my son's toy cars to my class, a new anchor chart, and of course, new activities! Of course, I had to spread the wealth.
In addition to building my students' confidence with using natural transitions in their own writing, I know these task cards will also serve for great test prep! I hope this activity also helps YOUR students write stories that their readers can "navigate" through easily! Just watch out for those speed bumps! (I haven't yet figured out how to work that one into the metaphor...)
In addition to the few beginning-of-year resources I have in my TpT Store, I needed to make a few more things for this upcoming year. I thought, "Why not roll everything into one back-to-school 'bundle' so other teachers can load up?" (Somehow I keep seeing and hearing the word "bundle" everywhere... why is it such a buzzword right now?) So, that's exactly what I did!
In addition to the tried-and-true icebreaker activities, the bundle includes a couple forms to help get you organized at the start of the year. (If you're like me, the beginning of the year is when you are MOST organized! It's a great feeling that may not last too long!) One of those forms is my "Parent Contact Quick Sheet."
I know there are a lot of these parent contact sheets already out there, but I wanted mine to include the parents'preferred method of contact. Are they married to their email? Are they always on-the-go and attached to their cell phone? Or is the home phone number a sure way to get in touch? One of my goals this year is to communicate with parents in a manner that is most convenient for them. Of course, sometimes a mid-day call on the cell phone is necessary, but how nice would it be to follow an "at-a-glance" guide reminding me how each parent prefers to hear from me? This will be a great start to building a positive rapport.
I dedicate this "Talk About 'Em Tuesday" to a very special fourth grade teacher! After harassing asking her to start putting her (good as gold) resources on Teachers Pay Teachers, my good friend, Elissa, has finally launched her own TpT Store:
Elissa has activities for all subjects; ranging from themed print-outs ("Franken-fractions," colorful birthday certificates, etc.) to hard-to-find fourth grade reading resources (1st vs. 3rd person narrator, anyone?) Although she is super creative in making all of her products beautiful, you will find that the content and "meat" of all her instructional materials is truly the best part! She has several freebies, and everything else is priced very reasonably! I hope you keep Feeling Fab in Fourth in mind as you stock up on teaching goodies this summer!
I adore summer! It's a well-deserved break, I get to spend more time with my sweet boy, I lose track of what day/time it is, and I finally have time to update the ol' blog! I also love "stocking up" over the summer. This usually consists of spending countless hours on Etsy, TpT, Pinterest, and of course, my long-awaited annual trip to IKEA! (This is where I really need to show some self-control, so I always bring a sensible friend!) This year, my must-have is a new "Roberget" desk chair for my classroom. It goes right along with my picnic theme and matches my folding chairs, too! Check out this beauty:
Photo courtesy of www.ikea.com
How cute is that?! What are you stocking up on this summer? If you're already on the hunt for beginning-of-year activities, I've created a new version of my #1 favorite: "Four Corners!" This low-prep, highly engaging ice breaker has proven to be a student favorite year after year! After posting the "4 corners" signs around the classroom, the teacher reads aloud thought-provoking statements (included in the download). Students then move to the appropriate corner to show their position (agree, disagree, strongly agree, or strongly disagree) on the topic! Once the whole class has moved to a corner, you can invite students to share their positions and use it as a way to introduce some classroom expectations and goals. This is a great way to get to know your new students and help build an open, positive community. You can also keep the signs posted throughout the year for students to respond to future statements (informal quizzes, reflection activities, brain breaks, etc.)
CLICK HERE to download the ready-to-go activity on TpT!
As you know, it's better to have too much planned at the start of the school year than not enough. "Four Corners" has always topped my list of things to do on the first week of school with my brand new class. Have fun soaking up the sun and stocking up on teacher goodies this summer! (An IKEA trip wouldn't hurt, either!)
I'm so excited to participate in TpT's "Teachers Are Heroes" sale! Everything in my store (excluding items that are already free, of course...) will be 20% off tomorrow! Thank you for all you do, heroes!
Education trends come and go, but we should never lose sight of our best judgement and common sense. Recently, I've noticed that elementary writing teachers are being encouraged to value content over grammar when evaluating their students' writing. I wholeheartedly agree with this. I've always felt strongly that voice, above all, is really what makes a piece of writing effective and memorable. However, I hope this isn't an ideal that gets widely misinterpreted by busy, time-constraint-ridden teachers such as myself. Grammar still needs to be explicitly taught, practiced, and somehow assessed; starting in the primary grades. This is where using your best judgement comes in. I really hope that grammar isn't turning into the "new handwriting." (I fear the repercussions if it gradually disappears from our curriculum.)
Decent grammar can be just as essential to effectively communicating a written message as the content itself. I think as long as grammar lessons are engaging and the teacher is knowledgeable, grammar can be effectively taught without discouraging or burning out our young writers! It's all about making time for it, weaving it into our shared writing sessions, being excited about it, and having lots (and lots) of patience. So, here's to the kindergarten teacher who works with her whole class every day on capital vs. lowercase until she's blue in the face. Here's to the third grade teacher who, when faced with three pages of "sentences" with no punctuation whatsoever, takes a deep breath and sits beside her student to help him find the missing periods; even if that means going back to nouns and verbs. Here's to the fourth grade teacher who still enthusiastically slings her students classic spelling tricks such as, "Drop the 'e' and add '-ing!'" or "'I' before 'e' except after 'c,' or when sounded as '-ay' as in 'neighbor' or 'weigh.'" Our hard work WILL pay off; although we may not always have the pleasure of witnessing it. Let's make a New Year's resolution to keep grammar in the classroom; even when no one is keeping tabs!
In the spirit of the greatness that is grammar, I created a new flipchart to teach good ol' homophones!
Click HERE to download this grammar goodness. Happy New Year!