Wednesday, July 29, 2015


I know I am behind...I had about eleven swatches to knit for CYCA that were due on Monday. My apologies for not keeping up.

But here we go...WRITER's NOTEBOOK!

What would I do first for my Writer's Notebook? Decorate! Let your parents know how important the notebook is and have them help their child find things to put on the outside of his/her notebook. Of course, you will have to complete yours first. 

So here is mine...

This day needs to be a time for students to personalize their notebook with pictures or phrases that mean something to them. Hopefully they will have things that will spark memories for them...these will be helpful when you start creating an "Idea Bank" with students.

Once it has been decorated, it is time to decide how you want the notebook itself to be set-up. I would have my mini-lessons in the back (working forward) with a Table of Contents, and writing on the front. My "Idea Bank" is located on the first five pages in the front of my notebook. Some people prefer to have mini-lessons and writing mingled together. This is a very personal choice, and one that is not always easy to make.

Take some time, find a notebook for yourself, and decorate.

I will continue with this series on Writer's Notebooks with how to get an "Idea Bank" started.

Teacher Resources:

Monday, July 20, 2015

Personal Narratives

Now I know no one is thinking about the beginning of the school year yet...but it is getting close. So I hope my post will help teachers as they are starting to think about reading and writing!

I could be wrong, but I believe that most schools start off the year with personal narratives. Well, at least I did. So I thought I would start your creative juices flowing with some ideas for you and your students.

Right now you may be saying, what about setting up our writer's notebooks? I will go back to that next week. What I am hoping is that this may help you to prepare for that first full writing piece ahead. And I do mean you!! As a teacher, I was writing right along with my should you. Getting a head start on this first composition will allow you to have an example for the students that you wrote! Kids love it when you share your writing...REALLY!

Okay, so here we go!

I am going to use a picture book that I have already reviewed today. It is Fireflies by Julie Brinkloe (click on the title to take you to the review).

Julie Brinkloe totally captures the concept of a personal narrative. She takes us on a journey with the narrator - but it is a perfect moment journey. She also writes it in first person, which totally matches what we want our students to do when they write their personal narratives.

The story takes place on one summer evening - nice and narrow. So the first thing you want to do with your students is to make sure that they have that narrow idea. How many times have they come up with "what I did on my summer vacation"? Well that could be a book. So guide them to narrow that focus. Vicki Spandel uses the idea of funneling a topic...from big to narrow. For example:

        My trip to Disney World (how often do we see whole trips)
            My day at Tomorrowland
                Riding Space Mountain
                    Standing in line to ride Space Mountain for the first time

Here is another example using a funnel shape for you to share with students (Mrs. Perry's Class).

Back to the book...Fireflies provides that perfect example to read to your students to demonstrate this idea of a narrow topic...all in one night.

But what else does it have...something that the narrator learned or was able to figure out on his own. This will always make a personal narrative better - making a difference, how something paid off, why it's important, how your life was influenced, etc.

So, how can you prepare? Craft your own personal narrative now to have it ready for when you teach the personal narrative. Revise it several times for the things you are going to want your students to revise in theirs. For example, you could have your own funnel of your idea ready before you even start this lesson. Or maybe you want to work on leads...write several leads to your personal narrative to share with your students...or conclusion. Just check your district's curriculum to see what standards are attached to this particular composition. 

Oh, and by the way, make sure you provide your students with their rubric before they start to write, so they will know what you will be grading them over. It will help you as well to plan all your mini-lessons. 

Make sure you have mentor texts like Fireflies available for your students to use as examples.

Some Sample Rubrics:

Ol' King Cole's Castle

Writing Alive

Some Ideas From Me:

Peer Editing 

Timeline Checklist for Written Compositions

Monday, July 13, 2015

My Mama Had a Dancing Heart

My Mama Had a Dancing Heart by Libba Moore Gray
Illustrated by Raúl Colón
Publisher: Orchard Books
Published:  1995
ISBN: 9780531071427
Personal Copy

Have you ever read a book and been jealous of the characters? Well, this is one of those books for me. I love how the mother and daughter share their time together dancing...not just dancing. Enjoying life! All year...

The author uses words to evoke this element of fun as they dance...

frog-hopping, flower-opening, seabird-flapping, 
dolphin-arching, hand-clapping

I can see the two of them dancing without even seeing the illustrations. What wonderful language.
And then, the young girl takes all the fun and beauty of dancing with her mother and becomes...


I hope you dance right along with them as you read this story about a mother and daughter who truly know how to live!

Teacher Resources: