10 Simple Ways to Get Beginning Readers to ENJOY Writing!

Give students a PLETHORA of words! When students are learning to read, they spend A LOT of time sounding out words during phonics and reading lessons. When it is time to write, give students a collection of fun (easy AND hard to spell) words! When you give students a wide variety of words that they don't have to spend time sounding out, they can relax and focus more on what they are interested in writing about.
You can do this in SO many ways:
-Post picture word cards.
-Give students access to a picture dictionary.
-Generate a list of words with students during your writing mini-lesson. *Don't forget to leave a little illustration next to each word.:)
-Let students pick out some books from your classroom library where they might be able to find words they could use in their stories.
-Let students write down words they love to use often in a notebook that they can refer to each time they write.

Here is another way I give students words! They are printed on each page of their writing journals. This also helps us focus on a topic during our mini-lessons.

Before independent writing time, plan a mini-lesson. During this mini-lesson, review the topic and/or goal(s) you have for students during their writing time that day. This lesson should be short, BUT I think it is important to include some time within that mini-lesson where you model writing in front of your students.
What you choose to write about works best if it is INTERESTING and EXCITING for students. This is where planning your story ahead of time is very important. For example- If you are working on punctuation and the words you are giving to students happen to include a lot of animal names. Do some research on an interesting animal and while you model correct punctuation, write about a "gross" fact or something to make your students *GASP* "WOW". When writing about something you experienced yourself, fib a little. A story about that one time you visited the beach and ate some delicious ice cream is much LESS engaging than a story about that one time you ate CHEESE PIZZA flavored ice cream on a super raining day at the beach.

**Now if making up a silly story makes you worried that parents will be coming back to you wanting to know more, make it something believable or make a game out of it (AFTER WRITING)!

After writing: Can you guess the silly part I added to my story? My biggest GOAL when getting my beginning readers writing, is for them to have FUN when they are writing. As you probably know, writing isn't always everyone's favorite thing to do. 

Another idea: Take time to watch a popular T.V. show that your students love. Could you use the story line or characters in one of your mini-lessons?

Writing can be a DAUNTING task, especially for a beginning reader/writer. There are SO many aspects of writing: spelling, handwriting, spaces, vocabulary, capitalization, etc. Break goals down for students and make sure these goals are CLEAR and MODELED by you constantly.
-During your mini-lesson make an anchor chart about the goal you are working on (e.g. punctuation).
-Write a short passage with mistakes on PURPOSE and work with students to find all the mistakes! (This can be posted later like a poster too!)

Here are pictures of some of the GOAL posters included in each of my writing journal packs.

This is a SUPER easy one. Add something fun to your independent writing time once a week!
-Marker/Highlighter Day: You can write with a marker, pen, or highlighter instead of a pencil!
-Stickers: Pick two stickers and make a silly story about them. OR let students read their stories to a partner after writing and then students trade a sticker after listening to each story.
-Writing About a Food: Is there a food all your students can eat? Let's write a silly story about this food after we have a mini picnic!
-Sit in a DIFFERENT Seat Day: Students can choose where they write that day.
-Typing their story on a computer!
Do you have more ideas? Leave a comment below! I would love to add your ideas to this list!

Want to add something fun to your writing lesson and need parents to help donate supplies/food? Click this link to download this EDITABLE "We Need the Write Stuff" letter!

If you have never had an Author's Chair, you are missing out on something MAGICAL! At the end of independent writing time, I give students 10 minutes of Author's Chair. This is a time where individual students can choose to sit in a SPECIAL CHAIR and read aloud their story to their peers! *I often use my teacher chair, but you could also designate a specific chair for this purpose.*

During Author's Chair there are few rules:
-The audience must be polite and quiet or a student may lose their Author's Chair privileges for a week.
-After each reading we give the author applause and the author can choose two students who would like to ask ONE question or make ONE comment about the story.
-The author must practice holding their story below their face while reading, etc.
*These are things we practice as we go.

Author's Chair can be VERY POPULAR and so I had to make a weekly schedule for my students. Each student had a specific day to sit in the Author's Chair, if they felt like it that particular day/lesson. This way students had a whole week to plan what story they would share on their Author's Day chair.  Click this link to access an EDITABLE schedule for your own students.

This is super important. When students are beginning to write, they often cannot think of what to write about and IF they have an idea, it is often something very simple...leading to one sentence or a couple words or so.
When you brainstorm a list of ideas as a group during your mini-lesson, WRITE THESE IDEAS DOWN. You might even want to write the name of the student who shared it next to the idea **Bonus recognition for those little ones...and encourages others to want to share:).

When I do this with my students, I see them coming back up to the poster to check out the ideas again if they get stuck. It has really helped those little ones who struggle with ideas.
NOW...you might get students who write a story very similar to another's idea. THAT IS OK. Remember you just want them to be writing. Don't discourage it. Instead encourage them to add something unique to their version.

This one takes some practice. So take baby steps. It could even be just a simple revision like...a peer gives you an idea of what else you can add to a picture. Then you can move on to having peers help each other check for punctuation, etc. Believe me... if you start practicing these kinds of habits in the beginning of the year, your students will be CONFIDENT and EXCITED about peer revisions later in the year. I have seen it. :)

Here is the editing rubric found in the May pack of my Writing Journal Bundle.

So in #3 I talked about goals. This is where students can work deeper on these goals. Take the time to reflect with students about how they met specific goals. This can be verbal, privately in writing conferences, etc. 

On the bottom of each of my Writing Bundle journal pages, students are asked to privately reflect on how they met their goals during that lesson.

This one is an obvious one. If you are not excited about what you are writing about, your students will definitely not be. If you find yourself stuck teaching a writing lesson you don't particularly enjoy, find a way you will. This might be where you get creative with #4: "Add Something Fun" again.

Throw a writing celebration. Throw a couple writing celebrations! THROW A WRITING CELEBRATION EVERY COUPLE MONTHS OR SO! Writing is hard, please celebrate everything your students continue to overcome when learning to write.

What is a writing celebration?? A writing celebration is a mini party, where students pick one special story and share it with family, friends, other teachers, etc. You can decide how big or small each writing celebration is. You could start small, see how it goes and then go from there.
During my celebrations, a good handful of parents attended and we often invited other classes and teachers. We brought treats. We made special covers for our stories or backed them on colorful paper. You can get as creative as you want with this!

Click here to access an EDITABLE Writing Celebration letter you may want to use!

Have anything else you would like to add about how to make writing magical for beginning readers?! PLEASE SHARE!

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Rock Star Teaching Tips!

I am so excited to link up with Teaching with Crayons & Curls and My Mommy Reads  to share my ROCK STAR teaching tips! I can still remember when I decided to be a teacher way back in first grade. From then on, whenever we were to talk or write about our dream profession in school, I was confident in my choice. I did however imagine my years as a teacher as "sunshine and rainbows". In third grade I even went into detail to say that I would "be every student's best friend" and I would even "give them my phone number" in case they needed to talk. Was I in for a surprise that first year...
Going into my fifth year this coming fall I would still say there is still so MUCH to learn and this is why I continue to love this profession, but the following are those hard lessons and tips I learned these last four years...

Here are the details...

REFLECT: Buy a journal. If possible, keep one by your bed for those restless nights of thinking before you can sleep. Write down your ideas, complaints, feelings, and triumphs. Decide to write it down and then let yourself MOVE ON.  If a lesson didn't go well, write down your plan for tomorrow, but then let it go! Tomorrow is always a new day and anything you can learn from just leads to more open doors. 

PRACTICE X5: This is something I learned from my mentor teacher that year of student teaching. She was a teaching guru. With over 45 years under her belt, she wasn't messing around when it came to procedures, expectations...well when it came to pretty much EVERYTHING. I remember when she told me about practicing. She said "Practice, practice, practice. Keep practicing even when you think your students have got it down. I can tell you, they still haven't yet." 

This was so true! And even those seemingly thousands ten times we practiced lining up or putting away our backpacks, when they seemed to have it DOWN...were not NEARLY enough. And so... practice X5. This means when you think your students have MASTERED IT. Keep practicing at least five more times for five more days. It can be  very very very painful, but let me tell you. IT IS ALL WORTH IT. 

ASK FOR HELP: Now this one. I still have trouble with it! As an "A" type personality, it is definitely out of my comfort zone to ask for help. But every time I have, I kick myself that I didn't do it earlier!! The bottom line is...we are all in the same boat AND from what I have experienced most teachers LOVE to help. I have seen this on my own campus, through social media, etc. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Write that down so you don't forget:).

OVERTHINK: Now this one is hard NOT to do. Something doesn't go right. You have a BAAADD day. You bring it home with you. You stay up way too late tossing and turning in bed over it. Look back at REFLECT. Grab that journal. Call a friend. Scream into a pillow. Make a plan for your next move. Go for a run. Don't be afraid to share your worries or "mistakes" with others. Then MOVE ON. This takes a lot of practice and I am still not good at this, but luckily I have a husband that is and he will keep reminding me of my own advice until I actually follow it. 

Overthinking doesn't help change anything. It has already happened. Be proactive in your next move, but then let yourself relax and get some sleep. You will need it tomorrow.

OVERPROMISE: Each year, I continue to make this mistake. I say yes to things I should say no to. No, I cannot plan for the carnival, complete report cards, and help build the set for the school play...all in one week. With colleagues, just be honest about what is already on your plate. 

With students and families....THIS IS EVEN HARDER NOT TO DO. I remember the first year of teaching when I decided I would send home a thorough weekly newsletter. When Sunday came around, I was pulling my hair out...but despite my agony and lack of time....I still had to do it. Because I promised it. Start out with a small promise. Monthly newsletters? If that works out great, THEN decide to increase it. Wanting to plan an elaborate prize/reward system this next year? Start small. Whatever you promise, they will remember and remind you. I promise. They may forget their spelling words, but they won't forget what you promised. Same with consequences. Follow through. Don't overpromise a consequence you are not positive you will be able to carry out. 

I still remember in fourth grade, on the first day of school, when my teacher promised to give a prize to anyone who turned in their homework EVERY SINGLE DAY, on time, all year. Well... when the end of the school year came around...guess who still remembered that? Not my teacher. Me. You should have seen the look on her face when I reminded her. She said she would have to look back and check. Did she have a place where she kept track of this? I have no clue, but if she didn't she was going to have to pretend she did. Never the less, two days later I was given a KING-SIZE Snickers bar. I will never forget that. 

GET SOCIAL AND SET GOALS: Social media (blogs, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, etc.) has changed the way I teach. It has only been in the last year or so that I realized the MASSIVE amount of teachers that are willing to share ideas, goals, thoughts, feelings with each other. JUST BECAUSE.  

When I say "get social", I don't just mean through social media. Get social at school. Set goals and share them with your colleagues. Ask about theirs. Offer your help when needed. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. Don't be afraid to share your fears. Be open. Practice kindness. Don't let yourself get sucked in by the gossip that is sometimes floating around a school. 
Most of all, believe in yourself! You (and everyone) has something to share with the world. 

Enjoy your summer and good luck in the fall! You are about to change the lives of a group of learners!

Six Reasons to SCOOT!

Have you used the game SCOOT in your classroom?! If you have, I bet you are saying...LOVE IT! (The kiddos do too!:)) If you haven't, this post may inspire you to do so.

SCOOT is one of the most interactive activities I use in my classroom. Here are 6 reasons why you need to try it:

Can't wait to try one out?! Click here to access a Long Vowel Pairs SCOOT (ai, ay, ea, ee)!
Here are some pictures of my class in action:)

Also, I AM HAVING A GIVEAWAY! Comment on this post and leave your email! I will pick a winner Wednesday night (4-22-15) to receive my newest Phonics CVCe Suitcase which includes SCOOT and 7 other interactive activities!

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March Currently! Yippee!

It is March! It is March?!! I cannot believe it. As I prepare for a week full of Dr. Seuss...here is my quick linky-

My goal beginning in April is to write at least ONE big blog post a month. I can do it! I can do it!! With Instagram being so easy to share ideas, I have truly neglected this blog!! Let's see what April's post(s) will bring! Y'all know I always include some good freebies too:)

Have an inspiring week,
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We're All About Those Ten-Frames, Those Ten-Frames, No Trouble!


YIKES! I'm embarrassed shocked to see the date on my last post.
Luckily, I have a wedding to blame. My two months ago wedding. :) Now back to reality and back on track.

Love them? Hate them? Well...hopefully my freebies in this post will help encourage you to use them.
I will be honest, in past years...I didn't use ten-frames as much as I should have. In the beginning of this year, my kindergarten team decided to focus on a year-long goal to have our kiddos fluently reading and using ten-frames. And so the creations began. Cue bingo dotters...

                              I picked these up at Spend Way More Than a Dollar Because I Found So Many Good Things Tree. Love that place!
If you don't have these you have to pick some up. I use them a LOT. My students beg for them and I mean BEG. Anyways... if you don't already own a couple yourself, you can still use the following activities with crayons, markers, put it in a sheet protector and give students a dry-erase marker, etc. The possibilities are endless. Click here to grab it!
The following recording sheets come in 4 different versions. Numbers 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, and 16-20.
Each recording sheets comes with the following flashcards to accompany each sheet.
  I laminated my flashcards and they have lasted all year. You flash each card to students in a random order and they dot the correct number on the recording sheet. I have seen my students extend this activity on their own in many ways:).

FREEBIE NUMBER TWO...What? Click here to grab it.
This is a ten-frame goodie I just created. You will need two dice and two different colored crayons. But this template can be used OVER and OVER.


Ok. I'm exhausted already:). I better start building up my blogging stamina again. More to come in the next week. (I hope!) 
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