Teaching Nonfiction Text Features with a {Freebie!}

Don't you love when the stars line up and a week of lessons goes better than you imagined? Honestly, that's how this past week went!

After getting our results back from our state test last year, I realized that my students needed more reinforcement on nonfiction text features.

This year, I decided to spend a week focusing on fiction vs. nonfiction, and really diving into how those nonfiction text features helped us be better readers.

Then, something wonderful happened! I found out that our kindergarten buddies were focusing on nonfiction for the week, too! A light bulb went off in my head… what better way for my 4th graders to truly understand, then to learn, and then teach it to their buddies!

I talked with the Kindergarten teachers and they were so excited for it, too! So we kicked it off on Monday with a little nonfiction vs. fiction comparison chart, and book title sort!


The Big Reveal: Famous American Projects!

On the first day of school during Q & A one of the first questions is always, "When do we do the Wax Museum?!" The excitement builds all year, and the kiddos are so ready by the time it is here! We spend 3 1/2 weeks on this project.

There are 3 parts: The research paper, a brochure, and a speech/costume to dress as their Famous American! We "open" our wax museum at Open House for parents, and at school for 2 hours for all of the students to go through. 

Every year I am amazing at what my students research and learn. They can choose anyone from the list of 50+ Americans I give them, or write a 3-5 sentence persuasive paragraph why they should get to do someone not on the list.

An Island in the Snow? Looking back at our week!

Happy Friday, everyone! I am officially on Spring Break…. yahoo!! :) Here's what we've been up to this week!

1. I am SO proud of my students who meet during small group time for Close Reading activities. They are becoming text evidence experts, and I love seeing their progress. I use a lot of Fifth in the Middle's Close Reads, and they are a wonderful for my students! I love how they are differentiated so I can use the same topic with multiple reading groups.

2. My kiddos have made SO much progress in their grammar skills this year. We actually looked back at our first Mentor Sentence of the year this week to see how far we've come. We use Ideas by Jivey's Mentor Sentences Units and LOVE them! Honest to goodness, my students get excited for grammar. If you don't have these, RUN to her store and get them now! :)

Five for Fraturday--What we've been up to!

With a 4 month old in the house, some things just get pushed off a little! So here's my Five for {Fraturday}…. Room 219 has been busy!

1. We started off the week in full swing with our Famous American research reports! Students have been researching for a week, and they are doing an amazing job!

Here's a little info on how I do these projects:

  • Students are given a week to choose a Famous American. I give them a list of about 50, and they can choose any on this list, or write 3-5 sentences to persuade me why we should learn about a Famous American of their choice. They write down their top 3 choices and give them to me. On Thursday, I give them their assigned American from their choices, and their homework is to have at least 1 book on this person by Monday.
  • On Monday they are given section 1 notecards. There are 4 cards per page, and 5 total sections. I color code each section by copying them on different color card stock. So section 1 was on pink card stock, section 2 on yellow, section 3 on green, section 4 on orange, and section 5 on red **This is REALLY important for later**
  • Students finish researching and taking notes on a section, cut out the cards and glue one down per page in their writing notebook. They take each card, and write them as sentences below. I have to edit/check that section before I give them the next cards.
  • When they are finished with 2 sections, they type those sections in a Google Doc, then move on to sections 3-5 and do the same. 
  • I {PUFFY HEART LOVE} the color coding. It is such a great scaffolding for 4th graders because they know that all the same color cards make one paragraph. They just have to add a topic sentence to each colored paragraph. 
  • Once it's all typed, they share their doc with a peer editing buddy. That buddy turns on "Suggesting" and makes any suggestions to edit. They accept or reject the suggestions, then share their final copy with me.
  • I print off 2 copies, one to grade and one to put out at the Wax Museum (So it doesn't have grading marks all over it.) 
Here are some pictures of this process in action!

{Research cards in a student's writing notebook}
{We do a lot of peer help for kiddos who need tech help when I am conferencing with a student!}

{These partners above are peer editing. If you look closely you can see the "suggestions" on the right side of their screens.}

{This sweetie is working on typing her last section!}

{LOVE that she has her Bibliography out to write down her sources!}

{Typing away!}

2. If students get done with their paper before the due date, they get to do the optional brochure portion of the project! About 70% of my students were able to get to the brochure this week! :)
{Working on her brochure in Publisher}

3. On Monday, we will be writing our speeches for our Wax Museum and practicing them all week! Our first Wax Museum is Thursday evening at Open House, then we do it for the students in our school on Friday at school! A few of my yahoos finished both their papers and brochures this week, so they got started on their speeches!

{Working on his speech!}

4. We have continued our "Writer's Spotlight" time before lunch and at the end of the day, and students are loving it! Read more about how I've been working to make writing fun in my post from this week here! (There's a little writing conference freebie, too!)

5. We took a little break from all of our Nonfiction work to do a Poetry, Prose and Drama sort. It was great review and the kiddos had fun doing it! This is in my Poetry and Figurative Language Unit on TPT

6. (I know, more than 5 but I figured we'd do a little bonus since I'm a day late!) I finished up the week playing with this sweet boy, and even getting a run in since the mountains of snow are FINALLY melting!

Hope everyone had a good week! If you're interested in doing your own Wax Museum project, you can get all of the materials for mine in my TPT store here!


Improving Writing: A Teacher's Goal

Each new school year I try and make new goals for myself to improve as an educator. This year I chose two focuses where I feel like I can always improve: Writing and Technology! I will be starting a Tech Series here soon, but first I wanted to share a few things that I have been trying to do this year to improve my writing instruction.

One of the biggest things that happens each year is my writers seem to lose interest or enthusiasm after the beginning of the year. I decided to encourage writing by creating a "Writer's Spotlight." With my AM class, the last 5-8 minutes before lunch is reserved for this, and my PM class the last 5-8 minutes at the end of the day.

Students can sign-up to be put in the spotlight and share any writing that they have been working on. It can be an assignment, or just a free write, whatever they choose.

I created this cute little sign-up board and they LOVE it!

They get the microphone, we turn down the lights and put a "spotlight" on (a lamp next to them) and they share their writing. They are so proud and excited to share-- I LOVE it!

I also made writing a part of my daily routine. Students have a separate writing journal. Work on Writing is a station at least 2 times a week, if not more. That gives them 20 minutes to write freely on any topic they choose. I provide monthly themed writing prompts that they can use if they don't know what to write! You can get those here.

Next, I try and conference with each student at least once a week, if not more. I created this quick little conferencing form so I can record notes and keep data on each student's writing. It is nice to refer back to together and see how they've progressed, too!
^^My Teacher tools for writing conferences^^ My Thirty One Teacher Caddy with highlighters, colored pens, post-its, paper clips, scissors, dry erase markers, pencils, and scissors. My crown so students do not interrupt during a conference, a Chrome Book where I can look up or share information, and my running notes page.

I cut these into thirds and put them in my student data tracking binder at the end of the day, that way I can refer back to each students' record the next time we meet! You can pick up a copy of this for FREE by clicking here or on the pictures above. It's simple, but it works! {UPDATED--I added a spot for the date!}

Here are some conferences happening this week! We are working on our Living Wax Museum Research, so a lot of writing is happening in room 219! Check back in tomorrow to see a recap of our week and see everything we are doing to prepare for the museum. :)

Do you make goals each year? What are your goals this year? What do you do to better your writing instruction? I'd love to hear from you in a comment! :)

Happy {almost} Friday!