Spring into Poetry…and Mother’s Day...

Apr 27, 2012 by

For many schools, today is the first day back after spring break and it’s already mid-April.  That means there isn’t much time left to enjoy National Poetry Month.  It also means that Mother’s Day is going to be here before we know it!  Do you have your students create special projects for their mothers or significant women in their lives in honor of Mother’s Day?  If so, today’s post can help you kill two birds with one stone–celebrate National Poetry Month and get ready for Mother’s Day. My favorite type of poetry to teach is free verse poetry.  The mini-unit I am going to share today is NOT free verse poetry, but it is fun to teach and students really enjoy it.  Parents love it even more!  That’s because the final product of the unit is a...

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What is the Best Order to Teach Minilessons?...

Feb 14, 2011 by

I work with many teachers who have a strong desire to improve their literacy instruction.  They have committed to teaching reading and writing through a workshop approach and have set aside time for their students to spend extended periods of time reading and writing.  But then they get stuck because they don’t have the resources for teaching the minilessons they know they should be teaching.  Many of them are in districts that have no formal program or are using strictly basals or scripted materials that don’t offer much depth or richness.  This leaves them to fend for themselves and either create materials or pull together units of study from a variety of sources.  For many years, that’s what I did.  I have loads of professional books from which to pull ideas. (You can see...

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Apostrophe Detectives

Nov 6, 2009 by

Writing Trait/Strategy: Writing conventions Mentor Text Suggestions: Alphie the Apostrophe by Moira Rose Donohue The Girl’s Like Spaghetti by Lynne Truss Greedy Apostrophe by Jan Carr The Perfect Pop-Up Punctuation Book by Kate Petty and Jennie Maizels Description: This lesson focuses on apostrophes, but the procedures can be used for any writing convention. I noticed that my students were very confused about the proper usage of apostrophes. As with anything new, learners tend to overuse punctuation–some of them even started using apostrophes in every plural noun (“I have three cat’s.” “The flower’s are blooming.”). I decided to launch an investigation that we called “Apostrophe Detectives.” Each student searched through their independent reading books for words that contained apostrophes and wrote both the word and the phrase or sentence that contained the word. Next I...

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Narrative vs. Expository

Nov 5, 2009 by

Writing Trait/Strategy: text structure; organization Mentor Text Suggestions: Narrative vs. Expository Companion Books Narrative Expository Description: To help students see the difference between narrative and expository text, begin by reading aloud two companion books about the same topic—one narrative and one expository. Example: Miss Spider’s Tea Party by Kirk, Neeley and White (narrative) and Spiders by Gail Gibbons (expository). Discuss the text features of each and record students’ observations on chart paper. Lead students to conclude that the narrative (story) has characters, setting, problem, solution and the author’s purpose is mainly to entertain. Conclusions about the expository (informational) text should include that it uses facts to explain, describe, persuade, instruct, or retell. The author’s purpose is mainly to inform the reader rather than entertain. During subsequent read aloud sessions, ask students to identify whether...

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Walk Around in the Author’s Syntax...

Nov 5, 2009 by

Writing Trait/Strategy: Sentence fluency; conventions Mentor Text Suggestions: The Whale’s Song by Dyan Sheldon Crab Moon by Ruth Horowitz Shortcut by Donald Crews Description: This strategy, described in Mentor Texts by Dorfman and Cappelli, is an effective way to help students try out a variety of sentence structures and help them begin to internalize language conventions. Lift an excerpt from a text such as the example below from Shortcut by Donald Crews: I HEAR A TRAIN!” Everybody stopped. Everybody listened. We all heard the train whistle. Should we run ahead to the path home or back to the cut-off? Read the passage aloud several times so that students can hear the rhythm of the text. After discussing what they noticed, have students participate in a shared writing experience. Give them the beginning sentence and...

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