Write On

Just like my other half, I have been working hard helping my firsties become great writers.  When I think of writing this first thing that comes to mind is  ....EX-HAUS-TING ... but, I have learned if you fight through it the results are always rewarding.  In writers workshop we are continuing to strengthen our personal narratives by writing strong leads or HOOKS, in addition to focusing on a small moment.
The past week, we have been reading a bunch of Patrica Polacco books.  She is my absolute favorite author to use for mentor texts while teaching personal narratives. Below are some of my faves..
After reading each story we focused on the small moment and filled out the chart below. (side note: I laminate all my anchor charts so I can re-use them year to year)
Once they really grasped the concept, we began discussing small moments from our favorite vacations.  I had my students close their eyes and listen to my personal narrative.  We discussed the lead and how I hooked my reader.  At this point in the year my students know three leads; onomatopoeias, questions and snapshots. 
Following this, students had to use all of their senses to brainstorm describing words for their small moment.  I had them bring in a picture from their vacation, I loved this idea, it really seemed to help with their brainstorming.
The following day, each group received a brown bag filled with 3 fish.  On the back of each fish was an opening sentence, the groups had to work together to choose the best hook. 
The cute little fish are from First Grade WOW... click here to get them.
Click here to get the Brain Storming Paper and the Hooks to put on the fish.

and LASTLY, below is the booklet I use to help my students write their rough draft.  By making it a booklet, I feel it's easier for them to understand each concept in isolation without overwhelming them. 
To get our pre-writing paper click HERE

Snowman All Year

Writing, writing, writing… at any grade level this task can be difficult and challenging.  Making sure that the assignment is common core aligned, rigorous, and engaging, can be a challenge for any teacher (rookie or vet).  That’s why I just L.O.V.E. writing projects in first grade.  I feel as though when I can tie a writing project into different parts of their day, I am able to get a higher buy in percentage.  For this activity, I linked the students writing piece to the story Snowmen All Year by Carolyn Buehner.  In this story, a boy imagines a snowman that he can play with all year long.  The boy and his snowman go swimming, fly a kite at the beach, watch the 4th of July fireworks, etc. 

Like I said, I try to weave the writing task throughout the curriculum to keep them engaged and thinking about the writing task all day.  During our reading block, we retell the story and identify beginning, middle, and end.  This is also where we start to investigate BOLD beginnings, MIGHTY middles, and EXCELLENT endings.  During our math block, students are working with SUBTRACTION SNOWMEN found in our Winter Math Center unit. 

To give you an insight into this project, below is the timeline I follow:

Day 1:
Discuss BOLD beginnings, read some stories that have bold beginnings and practice writing openings with a question as a bold beginning.  IS THAT A SNOWMAN IN ITALY?  I usually begin Day 1 on a Monday and send home a family letter and snowman template.  The family connection for this writing piece is to have the students work at home to decorate their snowman according to their theme.

Day 2:
As a class we help each other think of creative and catchy names for our snowman.  We then write about the reason why the snowman went to the selected destination. (i.e. Sunny the Snowman went to Hawaii to learn how to learn how to surf.)

Day 3:
On this day we discuss MIGHTY middles and write about the different things the snowman did while visiting his/her destination.  This is where we also focus on adding details and adjectives to bring their stories to life.

Day 4:
We begin to wrap up our writing project, and focus on EXCELLENT endings.  For this project I had the students work on feeling sentences to close up their pieces.

Day 5:
We play T.A.G. (T= Tell your writing partner something you liked about their writing piece) (A= Ask your partner a question about their writing piece) (G= Give your partner a positive suggestion about their writing piece).  After we play tag the students edit, revise and begin their final drafts.

Day 6:
On day 6 we have an Authors Celebration, where the students read their writing piece and show their snowman project to the class.  We wrap up this piece by hang the projects in the hallway and we send out invitations to the other 1st grade classes to come for a project viewing.

(Is that a snowman at the zoo?)

(Is that a snowman in Mexico?)

(Is that a snowman in NYC?)

(Is that a snowman at a football game?)

Check out our In School Snow Day Unit for all the materials needed for this writing project!

Comparing and Contrasting

Well I started writing this post over a week ago and never had time to finish! Life is just getting too busy. 

Last week we got back in the grind of things and focused on comparing and contrasting.. 

To begin some comparing and contorting fun, we first read this book The Recess Queen.. if you don't know this book, you should! It is about a girl named Mean Jean who is the recess queen and rules the playground, until Katie Sue comes around... 
There are so many ideas that popped in my head while I was reading this....you could do some great cause and effect activities, along with a character traits lesson.. Next year, I will def. be doing more with this book.
As a class we compared and contrasted Mean Jean and Katie Sue.  In groups, my students were given sentence strips and had to come up with similarities and difference  between the two characters. 
The following day we did another Venn Diagram activity where we compared and contrasted themselves to a friend in class.. (not sure where the graphic organizer came from, I just had it in my files from years past.)  This helped my firsties complete understand what a Venn Diagram is, and how it is used.  
My students enjoyed comparing and contrasting with a friend so much, I decided the following day they would make a poster with the partner.  I loved the way they came out, too cute...
This week we are focusing on Main Idea and Detail, I began today by doing and activity from our new unit, A Wintery Mix...  click HERE to get our unit
Each group was given 4 picture cards and were instructed to figure out the main idea.  Once they were finish, they present to the class, and as a class they had to agree if it was the Main Idea.  My Firsties always love to get in the front of the class to present, so they truly enjoyed doing this.  
This week I also started our Interactive Notebooks, to be honest at first, I was very hesitant to use them.  I personally felt that it would take too much time having students  cut/color every activity.  To make things easier, I have the activities for the day already glued in their notebooks, and then during our guided reading time they fill in the information.  If they have free time later in the day I let them color it in.

I PROMISE we will be posting more often now that the holidays are over and we are back into the grind of things... it's our New Years Resolution =)

Snow Day GIVEAWAY!!!

For teachers and students alike, one of the most exciting things to hear during the winter is… “SNOW DAY!!!”  There is nothing better than getting an extra day tacked onto your weekend, or even a mid week break.

For me, the best part about a snow day isn’t watching day-time talk shows or doing some online shopping. It's actually being able to stay home in my hoodie footie PJ’s and blog, finish up projects for TPT, and of course getting ahead on my lesson planning.
Now, I know we are not all lucky enough to be living in an area where the words SNOW DAY are heard on a regular basis during the winter months…however… there is no need to fret.  The next best things (besides spending the day at home in your PJ’s) is having an 

Yes you heard me right…and In School Snow Day.  Now, I hate to rub it in, but as of 5:30pm tonight, I just got the call that tomorrow school will be closed due to an incoming blizzard… OH JOY!  I am already prepping for tomorrow’s day. As you can see I am already in my favorite pair of Hoodie Footies.

Ironically, today I held an In School Snow Day with my little kidets.  Normally, this mini unit takes me about 2-3 days, however we were able to pack a number of the activities into one day.

Here is a quick peek into some of today's activities:

We read The Snowman by Raymond Briggs and created a beginning/middle/end filled with details for the pictures book.

We worked on our informational writing by creating “How-To Make A Snowman” pieces.  To brainstorm as much details as we could for our writing task, we first made mini snowmen out of air drying clay.

We did a science experiment and made some snow!

(Please take a moment to read what one of my students wrote while describing how the insta snow smells… Yes, you are reading it right...it says that the insta snow smells like dog pee LOL.  This observation came from one of my sweetest little kidets! This was one of those teacher moments when you wish you had another adult in the room to laugh with!  And for the record, no the insta snow does not smell like dog pee lol)

And last but not least, we had a “sight word” snowball fight.

 Since our In School Snow Day unit is one of our favorite units, we decided to do a GIVEAWAY.  The unit is common core aligned and is jammed packed with hands on activities for your Firsties. For your chance to win this unit, all you have to do is follow our blog and write a comment listing your favorite things to do on a snowy day, and your email address...
we will pick two lucky winners at random on Sunday!

If you would like to purchase our unit you can click HERE to pick up your copy.

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