Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Loaded with Literacy!

Last week we looked at the beautiful language and sentence fluency in All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan. I decided to do a small writing project with the kids to help them adopt a more fluent writing style and to write more like Patricia MacLachlan. We noticed that all the places the characters loved in her book had to do with nature. I modeled for students how I thought of a place in nature that I love (the Horicon Marsh), followed by nouns that I see, feel, smell, hear, and taste while I'm there. After all, good writers appeal to a reader's senses!
Students then followed my model and thought of their own special place in nature and filled out their pre-writing sheet with powerful nouns.

We also used a page from All the Places to Love to help us look at different parts of speech: nouns, verbs, and adjectives.
We recorded several examples of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and similes.
 Students kept track of this new learning in their Powerful Words & Phrases tab.

Eventually we used our pre-writing sheet to fill in our drafting sheet. I gave students a general outline to encourage the sentence fluency of Patricia MacLachlan. With their new knowledge of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and similes, students could better understand the different words they were to include in their draft.
 Good writers have their pre-writing sheet right next to their draft so that they can stick to their plan!

 After students read their writing to a peer, it was time to publish. We used the computer lab to help us with this task. Fourth graders aren't the most fluent typists but the short length of this piece allowed them to get a feel for publishing using a computer without feeling too overwhelmed.

We will be putting each student's page in our own classroom book called All the Places 4B Loves. :)

Our literacy coach, Mrs. Johnson, came to help us get better with answering short answer questions. She used this anchor chart to help us learn the steps to writing a great answer!
 We looked at two different sample responses and together we evaluated whether the responses were strong or not. We looked specifically for a question stem, complete sentences, details and examples from the text, and whether the student truly answered the question.
 Then it was time for students to try out their new learning. They received a short reading about dolphins, a short-answer response sheet, and a self-assessment sheet to evaluate their answer during and after writing their response.

 The next day we had a chance to look at some of our own answers from the day before. I scanned a few samples and we discussed what each writer did well (strengths) and what the writer could do to improve (goals). In this sample, we noticed how the writer used part of the question to help her formulate the first line of her answer. Bravo!
 In this sample, we noticed this writer also used part of the question to help her start her answer. We also discovered that this writer needed to include more examples or details from the text and do some rereading of her answer as she writes to make sure it makes sense.
 This writer used great transition words to write her answer. We noticed that her topic sentence actually appeared as the last sentence in her response so we thought it would be a good idea to move it to the top of her response.
After we discussed as a class about strengths and goals, I handed back students' short-answer responses from the day before. They reread them, and then I had them write a response about their strengths and goals in their My Thoughts tab of their Thoughtful Logs.

In guided reading, we continued looking at different types of print. Students showed evidence of being able to identify the definitions of words in a different type of print. They recorded their thinking in their Thoughtful Logs.

Today we added another non-fiction text feature to our list: headings!
I photocopied a page from our social studies text book and a page from a question and answer book to help model the different headers and sub-headers we see in texts.
This anchor chart communicates my explicit teaching point for our reading lesson today. I modeled my own thinking when I got to the first header of an article about satellites. I activated my schema and made a prediction before I read on.
 After I modeled my own thinking, I gave students their own copy of the article so they could practice the strategy themselves using the next header in the article. The header read: Movers and Shakers.
During guided reading, students read a non-fiction article about Yosemite National Park and did a similar response show evidence that they understand how to think when they get to a header in a non-fiction text. Students used the header From Paris to the Parks.

During Writer's Workshop today we learned that we need to indent and start a new paragraph every time our topic changes. We looked at real published writing from a book about koalas to help us see that indenting is really something published authors do when they switch to writing about a new topic.

Then I modeled for students how to pre-write for a piece of writing that's about three different topics. I used the listing strategy to jot down several key words about each of my topics.
 Then I modeled how I took each of the key words on my pre-writing plan and expanded them as I drafted each paragraph. Each time I switched to a new topic, I was sure to indent!
 Students got a chance to practice this strategy independently. I had them glue a prompt sheet in their own notebooks, pre-write their ideas, and draft from their plan. You can see this writer showed evidence of understanding that she should indent every time she switches to writing about a new topic. This small writing assignment also helps me assess students' convention use, sentence fluency, word choice, and their ability to draft from their pre-writing plan.
 You'll notice in the above piece of writing that the student highlighted the words 'a lot' three times. Students in our room know to highlight anywhere in their writing when they know they're meeting their writing goal. For this writer, one of the goals we set for her a few weeks ago was to make sure to spell 'a lot' as two words rather than one. When I looked at this students' writing, I saw the highlighting which was a signal for me to mark in my writing binder that she met her goal. Now that she showed evidence of applying her writing goal three times successfully, I officially signed off on her goal! Way to go, girl!

1. Reading - 15 mins., Pizza Log
2. Math - 10 mins. of facts, WKCE prep questions
3. Handwriting - pgs. 22-23
4. Social Studies - test tomorrow!
Extra: Costume in a bag! Our party will begin at 2pm.


  1. WOW.
    And... WOW.
    When I grow up, I want to be YOU.
    My principal would be jumping up and down if she saw teaching/learning like this!
    How do you find the time to make things so detailed and lovely?!
    I am SO impressed.

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  2. Kim - Your post makes me smile. :) Thank you. And...THANK YOU! I'm not really sure how I find the time?! Teaching is definitely not an easy job, that's for sure... I build on lessons from the previous year to make them better and better. I'm also fairly anal (if that wasn't already totally obvious to you). When my lessons are "detailed and lovely" I get excited to teach them, which makes the kids excited to learn them and apply. Feel free to steal anything! I know I've definitely learned so many others, too! :)

  3. Thank you so much for taking the time to post your lessons. I moved from 1st grade to 4th grade this year, and your blog is making the transition much easier. Thankfully it appears that Wisconsin and California standards are similar!

  4. ANOTHER FABULOUS POST! I found myself pinning idea after idea. :)
    LOVE the poem template - I think I'll try this when we do our poetry study. And we just started our four-week "pathway" on literal comprehension, so your short-answer anchor chart was perfect!

    Runde's Room

  5. I am stealing and pinning like mad! Thanks!


  6. This blog post is amazing. That's some real inspirational teaching there. Thanks for sharing.
    Danielle - London, England

  7. I love this lesson! Especially the anchor chart for responding to short answer questions. I need to make one of those! :)

    On a related note, as a fellow teacher, I wanted to mention that it's always safe practice to make sure your students are anonymous as possible on the internet - especially on a public blog. The name tags on your students' desks have their first and last name, and having them with the student in the picture could potentially put them in danger. I know this probably seems paranoid, but I have the best interest of your students in mind - and if I were a parent, I would feel the same!

  8. Normally I'm aware of removing their last names but this blog post got by me. I went back in and whited out the areas where last names appeared. Thanks!

  9. Leanne,

    I love your writing goal sheet! You mentioned keeping a writing binder for yourself, but do the students keep a copy of the goal sheet as well? Perhaps in their writing folder? Thanks!



    1. Also, what font did you use on the writing goal sheet? Thanks!

  10. Roxann - Students DO keep a writing goals sheet in their writing folders as well. That way both the students and I are aware of what their goals are, and if students conference with any other adult has easy access to each student's writing goals.

    Dayton65 - I'll have to get back to you regarding the font! It's on my computer at school, which has a different version of Windows office.

  11. Your passion for teaching shows thorough your incredible ideas! I would LOVE to purchase any of you items... I checked out your TPT Store and some shown on your blog where not available... any chance you will be adding to your store?
    Thank you for being such an inspiration!

  12. Hi, Hope! Thanks for the nice message! What exactly did you see that you want to get your hands on? I'll make sure you get it! :)

  13. I would love the writing goals worksheet and I can't find it anywhere!

  14. Katie - Email me and I will send it to you! bongersl@fortschools.org

  15. WOW, this is unreal and makes the teaching and learning process visible!!! For me as a teacher and for the students! There are SOOOOO many fabulous ideas here. I completely agree with what others have said, these kids are so fortunate to have you as their teacher and we are fortunate that you are willing to share your ideas with us! THANK YOU!