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My January Top Ten List: Writing Lessons and Resources

By Beth Newingham on February 10, 2011

Writing Workshop is something my students can count on nearly every day. It is a time when they can develop important ideas and relive small, memorable moments from their lives. It is also a time when there are not a lot of rules, as writing is the most open-ended subject I teach. While my students are asked to write within a specific genre, the freedom to express themselves in their own creative way is often liberating. However, there are always those students who find it difficult to perform when they are not given prescribed directions and are instead asked to come up with ideas on their own. This month’s top ten list includes a variety of writing lessons and resources that will challenge your top writers and motivate your reluctant writers as well.

READ ON to find creative mini-lessons, useful printables and posters, interactive whiteboard resources, ideas for incorporating technology into your Writing Workshop, and links to cool Web sites where students can publish their work and receive tips from published authors.

 

1. Show, Don’t Tell!
P1000821There are many professional books with lessons to help students practice this in their writing, but I am including some specific lessons I teach because this is one of the most powerful ways to significantly improve student writing. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, the goal is to teach students not to tell what is happening in their stories (Amy was nervous), but to show what is happening instead (Amy’s palms were sweaty). Below are resources that give examples of showing vs. telling and provide opportunities for students to practice the concept.

When I teach the following writing mini-lesson on my SMART Board, students bring their Writer’s Notebooks to the carpet. (See my September Top Ten List to learn how my students spice up their Writer’s Notebooks.) The first few slides provide students with examples of showing vs. telling and then they are given three telling sentences. They must choose one to rewrite as a showing paragraph (the active engagement part of the mini-lesson). Students then head back to their seats and attempt to incorporate this skill into their own writing. Download the complete SMART Board file.

Show dont tell Show dont tell2



This second SMART Board lesson is called “Guess the Emotion” and can be used on an additional day to reinforce the concept. During the teaching part of the lesson I read the showing paragraphs and students must determine what emotion I am “showing.”  Each student is then given an emotion card and is asked to write a paragraph that shows the emotion without using the actual word. (As part of this active engagement part of the lesson, students could share their paragraphs with their writing partners.) Students then head back to their seats and attempt to incorporate this skill into their own writing. Download the SMART Board file for "Guess the Emotion."

Guess the Emotion Emotion 2

If you do not have a SMART Board in your classroom, you can download worksheets that relate to the lessons described above. You can find also use this Show, Don’t Tell card game to help your students practice this concept.

 

2. Incorporate “Show, Don’t Tell” in Your Read-Alouds
It is so important for student writers to recognize good writing when they are reading or listening to books read aloud. In addition to teaching “Show, Don’t Tell” during Writing Workshop, I also read aloud class library books that provide additional examples. Before teaching the read-aloud lesson below, you will want to collect a few good mentor texts like the following models:

Wemberly_worried Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse Julius Chrysanthemum http://bookwizard.scholastic.com/tbw/viewWorkDetail.do?workId=3180& " onclick="window.open( this.href, '_blank', 'width=640,height=480,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0' ); return false" style="display: inline;" target="_blank">The painterI Remember Papa Night Noises Memory String

Teaching a "Show, Don’t Tell" Read-Aloud Lesson: In this lesson, each student is given an “emotion stick” that contains an “emotion face” with the word that describes the emotion written below the face (nervous, excited, scared, etc.). As I read the story aloud, students hold up their stick when they hear an example of the author “showing” the emotion they have been assigned.
IMG_2199 IMG_2214


You can download a PDF file of the emotion faces you see below. If you download the Print Shop version of the file, you can enlarge each face, print them out, and attach them to sticks.
Mood Faces

Have Students Do It on Their Own: I try to integrate Reading and Writing Workshop as often as possible, so it is important for students to also be looking for examples of “Show, Don’t Tell” when reading independently. Students can use the recording sheet below to jot down examples that they find in their IDR books.

Show Don't Tell Recording Sheet


 

3. Teach Students to Use a Variety of Leads in Their Writing
I am not a proponent of prescribed writing, but when nearly half of my 3rd graders were starting their stories with “One day . . . ,” I knew it was time to introduce them to a variety of leads that they could use to gain the interest of their audience. As I often tell them, a reader usually decides very early in a story if he will continue reading or abandon the text. The author needs to draw the reader in from the beginning. Below are posters I created of the different types of leads I teach my students. (Many of the ideas for the titles of the leads come from Barry Lane’s awesome book Reviser's Toolbox.)

Action Snapshot Sound Effect Question Flashback Talking Lead
Download PDF files of the ActionFlashbackQuestionSnapshotSound Effect, and Talking lead posters.

While my students do all of the writing in their Writer’s Notebook, they also keep helpful handouts in a writing folder. Download this Leads in Narrative Writing handout that gives students an easily accessible reminder of each type of lead. You can also download the material in a SMART Board file.

 

Screenshot 4. Choose Your Own Adventure!

When I taught 5th grade, my students were especially interested in Choose Your Own Adventure books. They would read them during IDR time in Reading Workshop, so I decided to add a writing unit that focused on this genre.  Many of the lessons I taught were similar to those I would teach during any fiction unit of study, but extra emphasis was placed on figurative language, creating suspense, and organizing their interactive adventure. The stories were finally published as PowerPoint books so that readers could link to different pages as they made their decisions. (In PowerPoint, students can easily insert buttons that link to different pages in the slide show.) You could do the same project using hyperlinks in MS Word or any Web page design program.

Download the PPT Choose Your Own Adventure story you see above or the Choose Your Own Adventure template my students used when writing their stories. (Students will need many copies of the second page since they will really be writing several stories in one.) When I taught 5th grade, I was unfortunately required to give grades in writing, so I also have a Choose Your Own Adventure grading rubric for this project.

 

5. Vocabulary Word Wall
We all know that it is so important to help our students grow their vocabulary. This word wall, an idea taken from The CAFE Book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, encourages students to tune in to interesting vocabulary words during their reading so that they can also incorporate the words into their writing.

Word wall

When I read to my students on the reading carpet, they bring their writing folders with them. As I am reading, I will pause (usually no more than once or twice during a story) to note interesting vocabulary words that I want to introduce. I choose the words ahead of time and add them to our class word wall, and students add them to their individual word collection sheets in their writing folders. I make sure to use these words whenever I can (in conversations, lessons, D.O.L. sentences, etc.) so that students become comfortable using them in their own writing pieces.

6. Writer’s Notebook Assessments

P1080350Do you ever get frustrated with the lack of effort put forth by some students during Writing Workshop? I am appalled when I confer with a student who has only written a few sentences each day.  While I am not suggesting that teachers grade students’ writing in their Writer’s Notebooks, I do feel that students need to be held accountable for the writing work that they do each day.

Daily Self-Assessment: Below is a self-assessment that writers fill out at the end of workshop time as a way to hold themselves accountable for both the quality and quantity of their writing.  Students turn these in at the end of each week. I glance over them to see which students I need to meet with. Download a Writing Workshop self-checklist.

Independent Checklist


Teacher Assessment:  This rubric is more comprehensive and is to be completed by the teacher at the end of each month or grading period, depending on how much writing your students are doing. You can even have students complete the assessment as well to compare their assessment to yours. Download the Writer's Notebook teacher assessment rubric.

Writer's Notebook Teacher Assessment Rubric

 

IMG_4823 7. Publishing Student Writing

There is nothing more motivating for students than knowing that others will read their work. Publishing gives student authors a sense of audience and voice. It’s authentic. It offers a reason for doing what they are doing instead of just writing to please the teacher or receive a good grade. At the end of our fiction writing unit, students’ final drafts are typed by parent volunteers, and the students paste the text into hardcover books and add personal illustrations to make their book special.

Group

 

IMG_4757Once the books are completed, we have some type of publishing party. In the past we have had an Author’s Tea where we invite parents to hear our stories, and we have also read our stories to our kindergarten buddies. However the students’ favorite audience seems to be their peers. For this reason, we have a cozy read-in where students wear their pajamas to school and bring their sleeping bags, pillows, and blankets. Before the read-in begins, each student puts a library card in the back of his or her book. When a classmate reads a book, he or she writes his name on the library card so that the author knows who has read his book. Our school orders the hardcover books you see in the photos from www.barebooks.com.

 

Web Sites That Help Students Create/Publish Books


Student treasures main StudentTreasures.com:
 With this Web site, create FREE class books for grades K–2 and individual hardcover books for students in grades 3–5. They send you kits so that students can write their story and add illustrations to each page. The kits are then sent back to the company, which binds them. Parents and/or grandparents can then purchase reprints of the books. View sample books on their Web site.

 Studentpublishing books1

StudentPublishing.com: This site offers a FREE Internet Storybook program that allows students to create their books online and then receive a paperback copy of the book to keep. They also have a mail-in program where students can create their manuscript and illustrations on paper at school and send them in to be published. The final product can show the student’s original handwriting, or the story can be typeset. Teachers in lower grades can also create a FREE class book that is durably bound in a hardback leatherette cover. View sample books.

 Screenshot

8. Digital Storytelling

Students can actually create their own digital books that can be viewed online using a great FREE program called Microsoft Photo Story 3 for Windows. Students can create stories in any genre and make them come alive using this software program. The program allows students to create slide shows using actual photographs or scanned pictures of their own illustrations. Students then add their own voices so that they are reading their story aloud when the corresponding pictures come up in the slide show. In this way, students are also practicing fluent reading. The author can also add text and music. If you are in a building that uses Windows, this program is simple and easy to use, even for my 3rd graders!  

RiverSee some really creative examples from some students in Georgetown, Kentucky.  

The easiest way to learn about Photo Story is to use a Web tutorial. If you prefer to read the material, however, see this beginner's guide

 



 

Writing with writers

9. Scholastic’s Writing With Writers

Writing With Writers
is an awesome resource on Scholastic.com.  As a teacher, I know that there is no greater motivation for students than tips and advice from real, published authors, especially when those authors' books are on the shelves of our classroom library. If you have not checked this out or used it with your students, you are missing out! Where else can students receive step-by-step instructions on writing a myth from Jane Yolen, advice on how to capture moments using descriptive writing from the late and great Virginia Hamilton, tips for writing fun poetry from Jack Prelutsky (along with a Webcast of him reading his poetry aloud), and so much more! Teacher guides are also available for each of the nine featured genres.

 

10. Great Writing Ideas From My Top Teaching Colleagues

Angela Angela Bunyi:  During her first year as a Scholastic teacher mentor, Angela wrote a great article called "Supporting Your Budding Writers."  It is full of ways to help those students who are constantly asking, “What can I write about?” She provides quick and easy methods for helping your writers self-select writing topics and become independent thinkers. 

 

Ruth Ruth Manna:  Ruth wrote a helpful post called "Teaching Writing — Choosing Topics."  It focuses on the importance of providing students the freedom to select their own topics, a staple of an authentic Writing Workshop. She provides a list of ways to help students brainstorm ideas for narrative writing.

 

 

Danielle Danielle Mahoney:  Danielle wrote two great posts on looking closely at your students' writing to truly plan and teach effective mini-lessons. The focus of her posts is to plan meaningful instruction that targets students' needs rather than simply adhering to a prescribed, scripted curriculum. Check out "Assess, Plan, Teach! Part 1 — Looking at Student Work" and "Assess, Plan, Teach! Part 2 — Strategies to Support Young Writers."

 

Megan Megan Power:  Megan wrote a post last year on word choice designed specifically for primary writers. She showed how she uses picture books to help her kindergartners "play with words" using color words, similes and metaphors, onomatopoeia, alliteration, and strong verbs. Check out her creative post "Unwrapping the 6 — Traits With Primary Writers: Word Choice."

 

 

Please add your thoughts about teaching writing, and share your favorite writing lessons! 

Comments (66)

Thanks for this article, it was a interesting read.

This is one awesome blog article.Really thank you! Fantastic.
funny quotes

Thanks for the resources, from Spain.

Very interesting !

Hi there Beth

Thanks for sharing your wonderful work! You mention a "Show, Don't Tell" card game in this post, but unfortunately the hyperlink is no longer active...would you be able to email through a copy please as I am really keen to give this a go :0

Many thanks
Kylie

Hi Beth!
Your material is absolutely incredible! Thank you!
I've been trying to go on your website and it keeps saying invalid path. Is your website no longer accessible to the public?
Thanks,
Sarah

Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful ideas and hard work! I like your incorporation of the smartboard too.

Hi Beth,
I love your website and have been very inspired. My question is: how would you set a theme/target/skills under the writing skill of expositions, that is, persuasive writing? I am keen to hear some of your ideas.
Sonja, from Sydney.

Beth,
Thank you for sharing all you are working on. It is greatly appreciated. I am new to third grade this year, after teaching twelve years in first grade and have much to learn. My question what type of monitoring notes do you take when you conference with students on their writing? I have been trying to develop a system that will show what the student is doing in their writing, questions I asked, and next steps to show student growth over time and haven't really come up with a system I'm happy with yet. Do you have any suggestions on this? Thanks!!!

Hi Beth,
I am a 3rd grade teacher and love all of the resources you are sharing. They are great! Would you be able to tell me how to access the fiction resources? Specifically, I am trying to find the character traits page you posted. I used that in the beginning of the year and would like to add it to my files. I've tried to access the fiction resource section, but it won't allow me to get there. Thanks.

Emily Ewings

I love your blog. I am going to start fiction writing and was so sad that February's fiction site was not available. What happened?

Thank you for posting My January Top Ten List: Writing Lessons and Resources on facebook! Fantastic information. I couldn't stop downloading or copying the info. I'm a first grade teacher beginning the Writer's Workshop program in January with my students. I've been in the process of training since last July. I firmly believe I'll be able to share the love of writing with my students through this program. I'm very excited!!!

Barbara

Hi,
I am a huge fan of yours! I follow everything you do and am amazed with your commitment! I would like to print out a copy of the writer's notebook rubric attached to this article. However, it seems to have a virus attached. It printed extremely large when I printed it at home. I attached it as an email to my school address thinking I could print it there. However, my school account/server would not even allow me to open up the document.

Could you advise?
I would love to use it!
Thank you so much for sharing!

I just found your website. Thank you for sharing your ideas with fellow teachers. I enjoy your 6 lead posters. Do you have similiar posters for endings/wrapups?

Beth-

You are an inspiration. Thank you for sharing all of your wonderful ideas. I can't wait to try them in my classroom. Digital storytelling is an innovative way to get kids writing- was it difficult for your students to figure out?

Thanks!

I'd love to offer a writers workshop for 8-12 year olds at a homeschool coop next school year. The problem is we'd only be meeting for 1 to 1-1/2 hours once a week. Can I conduct a successful writers workshop if I'm unable to work with my students on a daily basis?

Amanda (comment #48),

We weave grammar directly into writing workshop as often as possible. However, we also do a great deal of grammar during morning work time as well. You can check out our daily schedule to see where "morning work" time fits in: http://hill.troy.k12.mi.us/staff/bnewingham/myweb3/indexschedule.htm

Thanks for reading my blog!

-Beth

Debra (comment #47),

I have the students' faces printed on magnetic paper next to a magnetic wall near our writing center. Students move their name magnet to the component of the writing process that they are in. They can also move their name to the "I Need a Conference" box if necessary.

-Beth

Beth, When do you teach Language skills such as subject and predicate,singular possessive and plural possessive nouns, etc...?

Do you have any great examples of a management tool that could be used to determine at a glance where students are in the writing process and when they need to conference?

Kelly (comment #41),

You asked if I had any ideas for a summer writing camp. While I have never planned or taught a summer writing camp, I think I would just use my best lessons that I teach during the school year. I'm sure you have lessons or even entire units that your students enjoy the most.

Having a fun author celebration at the end where parents are invited might be enjoyable as well! In our classroom, we open a poetry cafe each year to celebrate and highlight the poems students write during our poetry genre study. Perhaps you could adapt some ideas from a post that I wrote last year about the cafe. Here is a link to that post: http://blogs.scholastic.com/top_teaching/2010/05/poetry-cafe.html

-Beth

Janet (comments 39 & 40),

Thanks so much for your nice comments! I'm so glad you are enjoying the resources I've shared and are finding them to be useful in your classroom!

-Beth

Melissa (comment #38),

I treat incomplete reading logs the same way that I treat any missing assignment in my classroom. The students receives debits in our classroom economy. You can read more about my classroom economy in this old post from last year: http://blogs.scholastic.com/top_teaching/2010/01/class-economy.html

Since the reading log is considered extremely important, I also do not hesitate to call a student's parents if a child is consistently not reading at home.

-Beth

Rose (comment #37),

You asked some specific questions about strategy groups. I know that you mentioned you already read my reading working assessment post, but I actually provide more specific information about strategy groups in an older post from last year, "Reading Workshop: What it Looks Like in My Clasroom." Here is a link to that post: http://blogs.scholastic.com/top_teaching/2009/10/reading-workshop.html

Let me know if you still have questions after reading the strategy lesson section of the post. There is even a handout that explains how the lessons are different from guided reading lessons, and there is also a strategy lesson planning sheet that you can download.

I hope this helps!

-Beth

Desiree (comment #36),

You asked where I get the decorative theme paper that my students use for publishing. I have found different bordered paper at many different stores include office supply stores (Office Max, Staples), Meijer, Walmart, Kinkos, various teacher stores, and even dollar stores! I just keep my eyes open and purchase them at different places when I see a design that I think might be useful in my classroom.

-Beth

Hello...I have read so many of your posts and various sites where you have been referenced. I am looking for some great ideas for a summer writing camp. Do you have any ideas? I am totally open and can do most anything. Please share if you have tried something in the pas that you think the children loved!

You guys are the Rock Stars of Education!! Thank you for such a wonderful site. I come back to it often for inspiration. Thanks for sharing the pdfs and smart board files. Your classrooms are so creative and so organized. Thank you again. Take care and keep posting! Janet - Palm Desert, Calif.

You guys are the Rock Stars of Education! I love your site, I come back to it often to get inspired. Thank you for all of the wonderful ideas and thanks for sharing your pdfs and smart board files. I strive to be as creative as you some day. Take care and keep the info. coming!!! Janet - Palm Desert, Calif.

Hi Beth!

I have an unrelated question, but wanted to pick your brain...I noticed before that you have kids log books in a reading log each night at home. What do you do when kids don't fill in their reading logs?

Hello Beth! I was so excited to recently find your website. It is amazing. I also teach third grade and use Reader's and Writer's workshop, Words Their Way and The Cafe. So as you can imagine your sight was a gold mine for me! Thank you for your blog on writing the lead posters were awesome! I actually have a reading question for you. I have been using Reader's workshop for about 6 years. I am still trying to get better at strategy groups. Specifically, I feel a bit overwhelmed about what to teach and how long to teach a skill and how to assess and decide if I need to move on. I realize this is a huge questions. But any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated. (I did read a little about it in your reading assessment post and already ordered the book you recommended.) Thank you for all you tips and advice!

Hi Beth,

I really enjoy your site and just used these smartboard file today in my class! I was wondering...where do you get the theme paper with lines for publishing! I love that idea and can't see to find that paper anywhere!

Amy (comment #34),

I'm glad you liked this post! Check back next month when I share a similar post with lessons and resources for reading fiction!

-Beth

Thank you for sharing this information!!

Leah (comment #30),

You asked some GREAT questions about using Lucy Calkin's Units of Study in your classroom. I will try to answer your questions below based on my experience with her units.

1. You said that your students are not producing as much writing as they used to. You find that they are spending all of their time on one piece, and some are not even finished when it comes time for the author celebration.

We find the exact same challenges in our classroom! One thing that we have done to improve the situation is to add in days where we are not reaching a "new" mini-lesson, but, instead, we are just reinforcing/reviewing what we have taught in previous lessons. When using Lucy's lessons, sometimes I feel like they could really be stretched into many days. If I just try to keep teaching a new lesson every day, my students rarely have time to get any real writing done. Her lessons require students to look closely at a specific piece of writing and to make it better, but there are times when my students do not really have enough written to make the lesson very useful. We have found that adding in "catch up" days where the mini-lesson is a short review rather than a new concept gives our students more time just let their ideas flow and increase the actual volume of their writing without giving them a new "task." Also, if a student is really behind during the publishing stage, I have no problem having him take him work home to catch up. This is rare, but it is necessary at times.

2. You asked if I hold my students accountable for using the specific strategies I teach in the mini-lesson.

The answer is yes and no. On some days, I will characterize the strategy as an "optional" tool that students can use during independent writing time that day. On other days, I will be clear that this is a strategy that I want every student to try. (It may not be something that they never use again if it wasn't useful for them, but there are some strategies that I really think most students will find beneficial to their writing.)

3. Your final question was about management. You indicated that your students seem to be at all different parts of the writing process.

I feel the same way, and there are a few things I do to best manage my workshop. First of all, adding in the "catch up" days like I mentioned in question #1 can allow certain students to catch up on a previous strategy before introducing a new one. However, I feel like having students at all different stages of the writing process is inevitable. I tell my students that they are never "finished." If they finish one piece they are expected to start another entry in their Writer's Notebook. However, when it comes time to draft, all students select one entry (seed story) from their notebook that they want to take through the writing process. Some students have many "seed stories" to choose from, and some students have just a few. At that point, we are all drafting at the same time.

I hope I've answered your questions!

-Beth

Shawn (comment #27),

You asked what version of Print Shop I use. I currently use Print Shop Deluxe Version 23. However, many of my signs and posters have been created in earlier versions. I am able to open any project I created in an earlier version of Print Shop in version 23.

I do not know much about Print Shop 2.0, the newest version, but some teachers have mentioned that they have not been able to open my Print Shop resources in that version.

-Beth

Ashley (comment #29),

You asked if my students are allowed to read books above or below their level if the book is of interest to them. The answer is yes, but let me explain.

First of all, students are always allowed to read books below their "just right" level, as long as they are not consistently reading books that are too "easy" for them. I encourage my students to choose books close to their "just right" level whenever possible, but reading below their level when they find a book in which they are really interested in reading is totally “allowed” and even encouraged. Reading for enjoyment is of the utmost importance, even if that means the book may be too easy at times. The goal is to help my students grow a love of reading.

Reading books above their "just right" level, on the other hand, is a little more complicated. As a teacher, I want my students to be able to read about the topics in which they are most interested. Choice is certainly a main component to any successful reading workshop. All teachers have students whose low reading level does not always match their high interest level. In these cases, both the teacher and the student can become frustrated when it comes to choosing books. However, I know that my students will not become better readers by reading books that are too challenging for them. There is so much research that shows that students who regularly read books that are too challenging become frustrated readers whose confidence and interest in reading begins to decline. However, if a student really wants to read a certain book above his or her level, I allow them to do so on a trial basis, as long as the book is somewhat close to his or her "just right" level. When finished reading the book, I these students to really reflect on their reading of the book and determine if they thought the book was too hard. Usually students realize the book is too challenging (and not enjoyable), and they are less likely to continue choosing books that are above their level. However, I do like to make my students feel like they are in control of their reading. On many occasions, students will begin trying out some books that are slightly above their "just right" level as a way to determine if they think they are ready to move up. After trying out multiple books at a higher level, I meet with the student to determine if the student is ready for a higher level. (Of course I also take into account my own observations of the reader based on individual conferences and guided reading groups.) In some cases, I use our school library or public library to find more appropriate books for students whose low reading level prevents them from reading books about certain topics in my classroom. For instance, one of my lowest readers is especially interested in space, but many of the space books in my classroom library are well above his level. I found a great set of easier planet books from our school library that I checked out to use in my classroom for a month.

On some occasions, students will inevitably have to read above their "just right" level. For instance, my students are starting a research project where they will be studying a country of their ancestors. Since I can’t find enough "easy" books on the many different countries, it is my hope that they will use the strategies that they were taught during my nonfiction unit of study in reading workshop to compensate for increased difficulty of the texts they will be reading.

I hope this comment has answered your question!

-Beth

Hi Beth! Everything you do is so inspiring and I truly value your ideas, so I'm going to tap into them. I teach 4th grade in Michigan and we are in our second year teaching the Calkins units. We spent a few years teaching our own workshop prior to this. One thing we have found is that we feel like students are not producing as much writing as they used to. Do you find that? They seem to spend the entire unit working on one, maybe two pieces of writing. We also have a few students every unit who are not finished with their published piece by the Publication Celebration. Any tips for that? Also, what do you do about students who don't try the strategies such as the timeline, story arc, 2-3 different leads, etc. Do you penalize them? Our writing notebook rubric penalizes them for not trying these things. I noticed your post about not having rules about writing in the Calkins unit. I wonder if I am enforcing too many rules... Finally, as students progress through the units, they end up in different stages of the writing process. So my mini-lesson may be on bringing out the heart of the story, but during independent writing that day, some are still planning, others are already revising, etc. It becomes difficult to have them practice it that day. Most tend to forget about it and not do it if they don't do it right then, that day. Just some kinks I'm trying to work out!!!

Beth, In your classroom library do you allow your students to read books that interest them outside of their assigned level? If so what is the procedure for picking a book outside of their level.

Thanks! Ashley

Kari (comment #25),

You asked if I knew of any writer's noebooks that are already set up for the students. I am not sure if I know exactly what you mean. I use Lucy Calkin's Units of Study, and my students just use a blank composition book that they decorate with photos. Since her program encourages students to write without "rules," I am not sure what one would look like that is set up based on her books. However, I would like to hear from others reading this blog about what their students' writer's notebooks look like.

My students do have a writing folder where they keep important handouts and draft booklets.

-Beth

Beth, What version of Printshop do we need to print off the different center activities. Thanks Shawn

Leah (comment #24),

I will send you the African American Wax museum info/rubric tomorrow from school!

-Beth

I was looking for a writers notebook for 5th grade that is already set up or one that is spelled out for you on what to put in it. We currently use Lucy Caulkins for writing workshops and was wondering if you know of anyone that has set one up based on her books, Thanks

Beth - I really enjoy reading and trying some of your GREAT ideas in my classroom. I was wondering if there is any way you could send me the African American Wax Project Information/Rubric? lnmcclusky@beelsouth.net Leah

Jenny (comment #21),

You mentioned that you are considering switching from desks to tables in your classroom. I switched from desks to hexagon tables this year, and I absolutely love the tables! Below are some pros and cons of tables. Overall, I am extremely happy with the switch!

Pros for Having Tables in Your Classroom: -They do not take up as much space as individual desks. -They eliminate the "this is my stuff" attitude that kids tend to get when they all have their own desks. My students share supplies that are stored in their table caddies. -They support the collaborative learning that takes place on a regular basis in my classroom. -They are useful for students working together at word study centers or during science experiments. -They make your classroom look less "messy." Student desks can become very messy and disorganized on the inside. They also get moved a lot, so my students' desks never stayed lined up like I wanted them to be. The tables can be easily moved when necessary without having every student realign their own desk. -Switching seats is easy. Students just take their chair pocket to a new seat and do not need to take everything out of their desks.

Cons for Having Tables: -Storage of textbooks or binders can be tricky if you do not have other places in your classroom. Luckily my students mainly use folders that they keep in their chair pockets, and we have lots of shelf space to store our reading binders. -Students have less personal space to spread things out when doing projects or independent work. However, my students are not at their tables all day. Most activities we do require students to be spread out around the classroom.

I hope this helps!

-Beth

Ohmagoodness, I found this post at THE most opportune time! I am in the process of scrounging up new (to me!) tables and replacing desks slowly but surely. I hope to be done by the end of this year. I can't wait! I will be the only 3rd grade teacher with tables, and actually the only teacher above 1st grade with tables, but I am excited and this pros/cons list helped me wrap my head around it even more. Thanks so much for all you do!!

~Stephanie

Elizabeth,

I'm so glad that you are enjoying my Top Ten Lists this year. My February Top Ten List will be similar to my January Top Ten List, but I am planning to focus on useful lessons and resources for reading workshop. However, I know that other teachers on Top Teaching will be sharing ideas for Valentine's Day and Black History Month. Here is a short post I wrote a few years ago about a very cool Black History Month project students do at my elementary school: http://community.scholastic.com/scholastic/blog/article?blog.id=snapshot35&message.id=137

-Beth

Beth, I was wondering if you still had the hexagon tables as desks in your room and if you still like that arrangement. I have single desks that I group together, but I am considering getting rid of desks and using tables. Pros/Cons? Jenny

Thank you for sharing your ideas! I have implemented several of your ideas in my 3rd grade classroom and have gotten so much positive feedback from parents and staff. I don't have a teaching partner (I am the only 3rd grade teacher at my school), so I look forward to your blog so that I can get some new inspiring ideas that I can use in my classroom.

I look forward to "Feb. Top 10 List" and am hoping you have some great Valentines and Black History month ideas!

Karen (comment #14),

Thanks for your comment! It's teachers like you who inspire me to keep blogging and sharing my work. I'm so glad you enjoy reading my posts!

-Beth

Julie (comment #13),

You asked what my daily/weekly schedule looks like. You can find a schedule on my classroom website. Here is a link to the schedule: http://hill.troy.k12.mi.us/staff/bnewingham/myweb3/indexschedule.htm

Hopefully this will help you see how I plan my days and fit everything in.

-Beth

Megan (comment #12),

Thanks for your comments! You asked what program I use to create my class website. I actually use Microsoft FrontPage, a program that is becoming extinct. It is not even being sold anymore and does not work very well on my new operating system. However, it is so overwhelming to even think about converting my whole website at this point. I will probably switch to Dreamweaver when I can find some time to learn the software.

-Beth

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