Monday, February 24, 2014

Sale Time! TPT's 3 Million Teachers Strong Celebration~February 27th & 28th

I'm so excited for TPT's sale!
I love to do research projects this time of year. If you do too, here are some great research and writing projects for Kindergarten through 5th grade. 

Click on an image for a link to the product.

The kindergarten classes at my school will be starting this project soon.

 I'll begin this project with my first grade classes in two weeks. I can't wait!

 This will be my last project with my second grade classes this year. 
We'll be ready to present our projects around Memorial Day.

This will be my last project of the year with my 3rd grade classes.

I'm just finishing up this project with my 4th graders right now. 
So much fun!

My 5th graders are halfway done with this engaging project.

I love craftivities! This product would be great for springtime!
With it, students create their own new species of bug
to "discover" and write about. Fun stuff!
I hope you find lots of great bargains during TPT's sale. 
I know I can't wait to empty my wishlist!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Vintage Cookbooks ~ Silent Auction Win!

I won some fabulous vintage cookbooks at a silent auction last weekend.
Last night, I tried out a new recipe and it was definitely a hit!
These books even make great decorator items.

Come take a peek!

I can't wait to try another recipe real soon! 

Giveaway at Mrs. D's Corner

Check out this great giveaway at Mrs. D's Corner!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Opinion Writing in Second Grade ~ The Four Seasons PowerPoint Project

My second graders and I have had so much fun writing about the four seasons with our opinion writing project!

Last year, I was based partially in the computer lab and partially in another classroom. This year I'm lucky to be in the computer lab full time! I've had to make some adjustments to my writing units to make them mostly technology based.

The Four Seasons ~ Opinion Paragraph Writing

My school has a subscription to PebbleGo, a WONDERFUL research database for primary grades.

My second graders and I worked together to learn about summer on the PebbleGo website. Then I had students continue to research the other seasons on their own. (CCSS W.2.7 Participate in shared research and writing projects)

I think brainstorming activities are really important to help generate ideas. I like to have my students do a small group Fan-N-Pick activity after our research.

After the research and Fan-N-Pick, my students were ready to brainstorm reasons why they like each season. I typed their responses into a four seasons web that projected on my screen:

Throughout the project, I left the brainstorming web up for students to refer to.

Next, I introduced the prewriting graphic organizer. We brainstormed a lot of opinion statement options to use for out topic sentences and conclusions. I posted the opinion statements for students to refer to throughout the unit.

I had students choose their favorite season and write a prewriting graphic organizer. I find that by having students use the organizers, their paragraphs are very...organized! If they use them often enough, they get into the habit of starting with a topic sentence, writing detail sentences, and ending with a conclusion.

After completing the first organizer, I had my students begin typing/drafting their first paragraph in PowerPoint. With second graders, I prefer to create the basic PowerPoint structure and copy/paste it into each student's computer folder. With older students, I will create a template and have them save it into their folders themselves.

I model using the organizer as a guide and adding extra details and transitions/linking words as I draft my first paragraph. I added Post-it arrows to my anchor chart to remind students of some transitions/linking words they could use.

Now for the fun! My students just love adding clip art to their PowerPoint!

Once they have their first season drafted with a picture, they can move on to their next season by filling out an organizer, drafting, getting a picture, and so on. I remind my students to use the resources in the room as they work (the brainstorming web, the opinion statement list, the transitions/linking words chart).

Throughout the unit, I teach mini-lessons on revising and editing. For revising, I show an example of a paragraph without many details and solicit ideas from students. I really focus on adding details to explain more. I'm always so impressed with the suggestions my students give for improving the paragraph. 

We do a lot of editing as we go. I love drafting on PowerPoint or Word because students get immediate feedback for many of their mistakes. Those red and green lines drive my students crazy! I always require that they carefully read over their work after revising because there are many mistakes that don't show a red or green line. I also put up an editing example and have them help me correct it.

Finally, it's time for publishing! For this project, we added transitions as our final publishing step to get our projects ready to share. Most of my second graders hadn't seen transitions before, and they were so excited! 

To culminate the unit, we have a sharing and feedback activity. I have feedback cards and pencils at each computer. Students write one thing they liked when reading another student's PowerPoint and one question they have on the feedback cards. I start by showing my PowerPoint example and helping students think of appropriate comments and questions. 

Next, I randomly assign students to different computers to view another student's PowerPoint and fill out a comment/question feedback card. When done, students line up and I send them to an open computer to view and respond to a different student's PowerPoint. We do this for several rounds. My students can't wait to read their feedback cards!

I print the PowerPoints with two slides per page to save paper. It makes it easier for me to grade my students' written work and they also like to have a paper copy to keep.

Here are some finished projects:

These PowerPoint projects are perfect for students to share at my school's Art & Academic Fair. The second graders love showing off their work, and the parents are always impressed!

This was such a fun project for my second graders. They've shown so much growth in writing, computer skills, and in taking responsibility for their own learning. I'm so proud of my students!

I've adapted this project to use in the computer lab from my Four Season Opinion Writing in my TPT store. Check it out HERE!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Presidents' Day Compare & Contrast

Presidents' Day is coming up soon. My students always enjoy learning about the presidents, especially George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. I like to read A Picture Book of George Washington and A Picture Book of Abraham Lincoln. Both books are available on Amazon.

To download this free Presidents' Day resource, click here.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Writing Process / Brainstorming

Writing is my favorite subject to teach. I love learning about my students as they work through the writing process. They have such interesting ideas to share! I've spent many years honing my style of teaching writing in my second and third grade grade classrooms. A few years ago, I was offered my dream job. Now I teach writing and computer skills to my entire elementary school, kindergarten through 5th grade! I'm based primarily in the computer lab. This is the first of a series of posts to focus on each stage of the writing process as I implement it in my classroom. 
The activity cards above are from my Personal Narrative Writing Project~A Holiday to Remember (1st/2nd), Opinion Writing Project~A Better School Lunch (3rd/4th), and Opinion Writing Packet~The Best Fruit (1st/2nd).
Brainstorming is part of prewriting. I spend a lot of time on it. I think it's really important to take the time to help students to not only generate ideas, but to be able to discuss and share their ideas comfortably with other students.

Have you ever been in a staff development session and the presenter wants you to share ideas in front of the whole group? I don't know about you, but I sometimes feel nervous about sharing. I wonder if my ideas are similar to others' or if they're way off-track. I don't always feel comfortable telling what I think.

That's why I like to have students share their ideas in safe and comfortable situations with partner or small group activities that involve a lot of discussion and some movement. I like to pose a question or questions related to the writing topic for the activities. By brainstorming this way first, students are much more ready and willing to share and discuss their ideas when it's time for a whole group brainstorming and discussion session.

This works best if you have already established a caring classroom community. Fortunately, it's a goal at my school to continually work on class and team building.

These activities not only help students generate ideas, but they help them feel comfortable and confident.

Partner Activities

One of my favorite partner brainstorming activities uses pre-made cards. I create picture cards with questions for my students that relate to the writing topic. Students partner up and ask the questions on the cards. When done, students switch cards and find a new partner and repeat for several rounds.
These activity cards are from my Narrative Writing Packet~My Unusual Pet (3rd/4th) and Informative Writing & Interview Project~Community Helpers, (1st/2nd)

You can also have students ask a general question like "What is your favorite food, sport, animal? Where would you like to go for a field trip, vacation? Why?" and do the same partner activity without cards. 

Kids love the opportunity to move around and talk to their peers. I always walk around and monitor during this activity to make sure students are on-task and treating each other respectfully.

Small Group Activities

I also like to do small group brainstorming activities. I make up duplicate sets of six to eight question cards with questions related to the writing topic. Groups of three or four students take turns drawing and reading from their set of cards. The rest of the group takes turns sharing their answers. 

(Opinion Writing - A Better School Lunch & Pets! A Research Project)

Instead of making cards, you could number and list the questions you want students to discuss on the board.


Another thing I love to do for brainstorming is reading picture books aloud. I find it especially helpful for personal narrative writing projects. Students are often able to make personal connections with the story characters or events, which helps them come up with writing ideas. This is a more passive form of brainstorming, so I like to follow up the stories with partner or small group sharing of text-to-self connections.

I love Little Critter books by Mercer Mayer, Arthur books by Marc Brown, and Froggy books by Jonathan London.
Art Projects

I love art projects and feel that creativity is very important in education, but there isn't much time for art with the strong curricular focus nowadays. What I like to do is to weave art into writing projects. Many students love art and are eager to share their creations. Ideas that students generate with art can be carried over into their writing. I almost always have my students add some kind of illustration to their writing during the publishing, but sometimes it's great to START the writing project with art. Students get lots of ideas as they create and then share their peers.

These cute creatures are from my Valentine's Day Narrative Writing ProjectMonster Informative Writing Project, and A New Bug Informative Writing Project. All are differentiated for grades 1st/2nd & 3rd/4th.
As students share their thoughts and hear ideas from their peers, they'll be more than ready to move on to the next part of the writing process, prewriting.

What do you do for brainstorming in your classroom?


Sunglasses clip art by Ashley Hughes. Fonts by Kimberly Geswein.