28 September 2015

Writer's Workshop: Writing From the Heart

I posted a few days ago about the very first lesson I teach when launching writer's workshop. It was all about figuring out what writers do. If you missed it, you can read about it here.

Once students have started contributing to our What Writer's Do anchor chart, we look at how writers decide what to write about.
A huge component of writer's workshop is the idea that students get to choose the topics they write about. Sometimes, I'll help narrow the focus (like when we do informational writing, and students choose an animal), but there's still an element of choice. (We write to prompts during morning work).

We start the lesson by reading The Best Story. Only one of my favorite books to help teach writing! The main character is trying to write the best story to win a ride on a roller coaster with her favorite author. She gets advice about her writing from her family members, but her story never seems quite right. Finally, her mom gives her the best advice yet...write from the heart!
After we finish reading, I ask my students what things they have in their hearts, and we begin a new anchor chart.
After we get some generic ideas (family, friends, pets, sports, hobbies, etc.) on our anchor chart, students complete a heart map in which they think of what things are in their hearts that they could write about. Take a look at some of these ideas for how to use a heart map.

For some students, the heart map is a bit too broad, and they need something with more structure. For those students, I use this graphic organizer, to help them think about things that are special to them.
From here, we're ready to start writing, which is exciting! My favorite part? No one is able to say they have "nothing to write about" because writers can always look back at their ideas page and/or heart map!

For more great ideas, tips, and tricks from True Life I’m a Teacher, be sure to follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Bloglovin’ and Teachers Pay Teachers.
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27 September 2015

Sharing Sunday - October

Y'all it's OCTOBER! Ok, ok...not yet, but seriously, only a couple more days! I LOVE October! There's so many fun things going on, and the best part is that it's usually by October that my kiddos and I have really gotten into a good routine! Thank goodness!
My friends and I over at The Primary Peach thought we'd help make your life a little easier, by "doing the planning for you" for October!

Tomorrow, we begin learning about MONEY in second grade! We'll be applying what we know about money to word problems! The best part about money word problems is that I can differentiate by having the coins already there for students who need it. For students who need more of a challenge, I give the word problem without the coins. My one-step word problems have BOTH!

Have students that need even more of a challenge? Try TWO-STEP word problems!
HINT, HINT THERE'S A FREEBIE BELOW!
That was discreet, right? I know it's crazy to think about Thanksgiving, but there's a SUPER important reason we should be talking about it...sending letters to deployed military personnel! Each year, a local radio station launches a HUGE campaign to ensure that every.single deployed military man and woman receives a handwritten letter for Thanksgiving.
The catch is that in order to get the letters delivered in time, they must be received by the radio station no later than October 30. 
The best part, though, is that this is literally a 1-lesson activity. In other words, just use it for ONE of your writing blocks sometime between now and the end(ish) of October. Read more about it here. I've included a free template, along with all the details here.
Each October, my school celebrates Red Ribbon Week! It's so important students know and understand how to make healthy choices, and pledge to be drug-free.

I struggled to find an age-appropriate way to present and discuss information on a delicate subject. Last year, I created a student-friendly, age-appropriate interactive reader to help students understand what drugs are, and ways to be safe and make healthy choices.

In addition to the interactive reader, I created 10 hands-on activities for students to complete (they make AWESOME hallway displays).
In addition to work on money, we're still working on number sense! Anyone else??? (HINT, HINT...FREEBIE BELOW)

We're using a number of the day routine, and number sense building games in our math centers. One of our favorite (and so SUPER easy) games is Guess My Number!
Looking for more ideas for October? Be sure to head over to The Primary Peach for more ideas to make planning October fun and easy!

For even more ideas and resources, be sure to follow True Life I'm a Teacher on Instagram, Facebook, Teachers Pay Teachers, and Pinterest!
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24 September 2015

Writer's Workshop: What Do Writers Do?

One of our very first writer's workshop lessons is thinking about what writers actually do.
I think most students have this idea that in order to be a writer, you have to sit a write a really long story, when in fact anyone who uses words to express an idea is a writer.

Writers make grocery lists, send text messages, write letters, send birthday invitations, fill out crossword puzzles, use sticky notes, write emails, write captions for photographs, and the list goes on and on. The idea is that we're all writers!

I like to use the book Written Anything Good Lately to get students to start thinking and noticing all the things writers write and do.
After we read the book, we begin our "What Do Writers Do" anchor chart. The left is from last year, and the right is from this year. It's always interesting to see what they come up with each year. We add to our list each day for about a week or so by asking, "Did anyone notice anything that writers do they'd like to add to our list?"
Here's a better look at each anchor chart.
Do you use the writer's workshop model in your classroom? How do you like to launch writer's workshop?
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23 September 2015

12 Books to Teach Personal Narrative

We've been working hard on writing personal narratives. It's hard business. Of all the writing genres we teach in second grade (narrative, informational, and opinion), I think personal narratives are the hardest to teach, and the hardest for students to write.
List of books to use with introducing and teaching personal narrative writing.
While personal narratives are challenging to teach, they're also one of my favorites because you get to see so much growth in students' writing. It's quite incredible, really.

One way I try to help students write a personal narrative is by using mentor texts (You can see my favorite mentor texts for launching writer's workshop here). Some lend themselves well to understanding small moments or seed ideas, while others lend themselves to writing a strong beginning, using dialogue, a satisfying ending, describing the setting or characters, or a combination of all of these things.

After launching our writer's workshop in the first few weeks of school, and we've got lots of ideas to write about in our writer's notebook, we need at actually choose something that will be perfect for our personal narrative.

At some point or another, I've used the books above, however, I usually use only 2-3 mentor texts throughout the unit, and keep referring back to what the author did, at specific points during our writing journey. Below are the ones I used most often, and how I use them.

One of my newest finds this year was Stella Tells Her Story...in a word AMAZING! It's about Stella, a second grader who is writing a personal narrative and going through the writing process. I don't read the entire story at once, though. We read the part of the story that shows Stella doing whatever we'll be doing that day.
List of books to use with introducing and teaching personal narrative writing.
I also use The Leaving Morning, and Owl Moon. Both are small moment stories, and have beautiful details that lend themselves well to showing how students can really use their senses to describe what's going on around them.
List of books to use with introducing and teaching personal narrative writing.List of books to use with introducing and teaching personal narrative writing.
If students are struggling writing a small moment or seed idea, Roller Coaster and Fireflies provide great examples of how the author captured a small moment in time, rather than an entire day.
List of books to use with introducing and teaching personal narrative writing.List of books to use with introducing and teaching personal narrative writing.

Looking for a different mentor text? Check out my full list HERE.

Take a look at our personal narrative and small moment/seed idea anchor chart!
You may also be interested in these posts
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1 Easy Way to Say Thank You to the Military

I can't believe it's FALL! There's so many wonderful things that come with Fall, including Thanksgiving! Each year my class writes letters as part of Bert's Big Thank You to send to those deployed near and far.
I'm always surprised by the teaching community and friends I've found through blogging and creating products, and how far those connections can really go.

Each morning on my way to work (I have a 45 minute to an hour commute), I listen to The Bert Show, and each year they put on Bert's Big Thank You in an effort to get an handwritten letter into the hands of each and every service man and woman currently deployed outside the United States. Their goal is to receive letters from every state, and over 1,000,000 letters!
As teachers, we have the unique ability to get LOTS of these letters written and pretty quickly. My class spends time each year talking about writing thank you letters, and why it's so important to take the time to actually do so.
Take a look at some of these cutie patootie letters!
Here's the challenge to you:

Have you class write letters - heck, encourage your entire school to write a letter and get it to The Bert Show by October 30, 2015! I know that doesn't leave much time, but squeeze it into your day, and then get them sent off! You CAN do it!

To help make it a little easier for you, I put together this FREE download - print, copy, write! Spread the word - tell your teacher friends, guidance counselors, principals, family, and friends, and let's get these letters written! Grab it here or click on any of the pictures below.
I'd love to know if you're writing letters! Share below with your grade and state, and SPREAD THE WORD - your blog, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter - wherever you can!

For more great ideas, tips, and tricks from True Life I’m a Teacher, be sure to follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Bloglovin’ and Teachers Pay Teachers.
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22 September 2015

Number Sense 101

I currently teach 2nd grade, but I've also taught 4th graders. Among the things they have in common (more than you'd think), are the need for improved number sense.
What is Number Sense?
Very simply - do the numbers I’m working with make sense? It could be in an answer, in an estimation, in a pattern. Is it logical? Here are some examples, but this list certainly isn’t exhaustive:
  • recognizing patterns
  • understanding place value
  • estimating/reasonableness of answers
  • seeing relationships
4 Ways to Help Students Develop Number Sense
  • Have a routine - I've used a number of the day routine for some time. It's the fast, most predictable way for students to begin to see patterns (10 more/10 less, 100 more/100 less, even/odd). You can incorporate this into morning work, or as part of a math warm-up. We don't do this everyday, but definitely several times a week.
Here's a look at the number of the day routine I use for at least the first 9 weeks of school depending on my kiddos' number sense. It could be used during small groups for students who are struggling, or as part of a math rotation. You can grab it here!
  • Practice estimation regularly. Have students estimate an answer prior to actually doing the computation. In addition, provide opportunities to estimate in real-life situations...think about how many times you estimate something - foods, heights, weights, ages, and so on. Estimation 180 is an AWESOME website that gives students the opportunity to estimate regularly, and in different situations. My sweet seconds LOVE estimation 180!
  • Have students rationalize the reasonableness of their answer. This is a tough one, especially for students who lack strong number sense, however, they'll get better! They're start to think more critically of their computations to determine if their answer actually makes sense. 
    • For example, given then problem 86 - 32, students should understand that their answer should at least be less than 86 since the problem calls for subtraction.
  • Play games! Include games that allow students to practice number sense (probably without even knowing it) into your math centers, small groups, and even during transitions when you have just 2 or 3 minutes.
One of my favorite number sense games to play is Guess My Number. I introduce this to the whole group in the first week or two of school, and my kiddos love it - I mean, it is a GAME after all :)
Then, I model how to play with a partner, and then finally have the entire class practice with a partner at the same time. It's the very first math center my students experience, and is great to use for modeling proper math center routines and procedures. Here's a look at our very first math center experience...it was a proud teacher moment for sure!
It's probably the lowest prep math games in the world (maybe not), but it is super easy. It could be played with just the game board, but I also have partners use ONE counter, and a privacy shield (sort of battleship style).

I created two different versions...one that's numbers 1-20, and one that's a little more challenging with numbers 1-50. Hello, differentiation! This game can continued to be played during transitions (I like to have my kiddos glue a copy into the inside cover of their math notebooks for easy access), during small groups, or during math centers. You can grab it here or by clicking the picture below!
I'd love to know how you help your students build and learn number sense in the comments!

For more great ideas, tips, and tricks from True Life I’m a Teacher, be sure to follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Bloglovin’ and Teachers Pay Teachers.
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10 September 2015

Creating a Classroom Centerpiece

I am absolutely loving my classroom this year! Since I'm co-teaching, we actually have two classrooms with the partition removed, and one big giant space! It's pretty amazing actually.

Setting up our classroom and decorating was so much fun! Getting to set up and decorate a classroom with a friend, and having someone to help with everything was so much fun! The ideas just kept coming! One of the ideas we had, was to create a hanging classroom centerpiece or focal point.
We got quite a few packs of pom-poms from Hobby Lobby, and got to fluffing them up!
Then it was a lot of sort of standing around, and looking at the ceiling trying to figure out just how we were going to make it work. Seriously...lots of staring at the ceiling.

And then, it hit me - a hula hoop! Duh! So, we tied on some pom-poms close enough that they're just touching.
How could I not "wear" this? So fun!
Next, we need to do some "filling in" - it's got to make a statement, after all :) To attach to the middle section, we used fishing line to make a "t" or "x" (depending on how you look at it) in the middle of the hula hoop.
Unfortunately, I don't have many pictures of the filling in process - there was a lot of holding and tying required by both of us!

Stephanie (my teaching partner) was definitely the mastermind of actually getting this thing hung from the ceiling! Fishing line worked perfectly!
A total of 24 or so pom-poms, and this is the result! I absolutely loved it when I first saw it, and I love it still!

For more great ideas, tips, and tricks from True Life I’m a Teacher, be sure to follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Bloglovin’ and Teachers Pay Teachers.
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