Sunday, November 24, 2013

Collaborative Group Work~Kids’ Books!

Books! Kid created books, galore! We haven’t quite made it to Bag Lady status yet, but we did have a lot of fun with a single sheet of white construction paper last week! {And, I’ve ordered some paper bags!}


Our comprehension skill was sequence of events. To get kids thinking, talking, working, and learning together to retell the sequence of events, each student was given a plain white sheet of paper, folded into 4ths. They each met in their guided reading groups to work on sequencing events using their leveled reader.


We completed this little project over the course of 3 days as a “cap off” to our mini-lessons. Students illustrated the cover and discussed the jobs of the author and illustrator. Next, transition words were cut and glued, in order, to the top of the book pages. Students met and discussed the sequence of events, wrote one sentence on the bottom of each page and drew a picture to match the sentence. We did 2 pages at a time.


After completing retelling in small groups, students were asked to put themselves in the story! Boy, did they love this part! Their task? Write 1 question you’d ask the main character.  One of the groups’ books had a fox in it. You know where that one went, right? Ha!

Lastly, students went on a hunt for digraphs. We’ve been working with digraphs and focused on words ending with -ch or -tch. 3 tasks, 1 book……lots of discussions filled with accountable talk! Admittedly, I struggle to find time for us to share our writing aloud. I’m working on it. I’m working on it! BUT, because I knew they were so proud of these, we made sure to share them at the carpet. 

AND you want to know what happened?! They WERE beyond proud of themselves. As we were finishing up……they began to chant…Encore! Encore! Encore! {Point taken……I will make more time for sharing.}


….so I’ll continue to see smiles as big as this one!


….and have kid’s happy and excited about reading and writing like Len Leopard was about getting his spots! I apologize for the picture being blurry…I snapped it on the way out on Friday.

In between the writing and discussions lots of learning was had in small groups and stations. Click the pictures below to check out the activities we used.

leopard thanksgiving 1314

Do you keep track of what stations your students have visited throughout the week? Here’s the simple system we use in our classroom to do just that. We call it, “Must-Do/Can-Do”.


Every week, a “must do” star is placed on a bin at stations. This activity must be completed by Friday. It is the students’ responsibility to make sure they’ve visited the station some time throughout the week to complete the required task. Do I remind them; yes! Do I make sure they visit the station…no. Again, it is their responsibility. So, how do I know they’ve completed each “must do”?

Students turn in their stations work on Fridays. If the “must do” activity is not in their folder, they must go to the station(s) and complete it, while the class completes a fun Friday activity. This is usually a game or art activity…something they won’t want to miss!


If you can use them, feel free to click the pic to grab them! How do you make sure your students visit all stations during the week?


Sunday, November 17, 2013

The day I became a bag lady…

Ha! Yesterday, I had the rare opportunity to attend a workshop led by The Bag Ladies! Have you heard of them? Well, if by chance, you haven’t….you should check them out! They’re two creative teachers that share ways to use paper crafts in your classroom to increase engagement in ALL subject areas!


We had lots of hands-on, cut, paste, rip, tear…turn it this way, fold it that way….FUN! I’d heard lots of wonderful things about this dynamic duo for years and was totally excited about having the chance to learn form them. What made the training immediately usable is that they’re classroom teachers too.....So they “get it”. They know what will work and what will grab and hold a kiddo’s attention…and they’re f-u-n-n-y, funny! Really, funny! Our wheels were turning mid-way through their presentation about how we'll use the techniques they shared with us!


Here’s a picture of a couple of my favorite peeps on the planet exploring and buying some of their awesome resources. They were even sweet enough to sign them for us! *LOVE!*


Live in Florida? Well, you may recognize these creative, lovely ladies, BUT you don’t have to live in Florida for them to come and present at your school. They hop on a plane most weekends and present all over the country. This weekend, we were lucky enough to get them on our campus……smack dab in the middle of Texas! If your campus is interested in having them present, they’ve got wonderful ideas to share and will travel to bring them TO YOU! Until then, catch up with them on Facebook. You definitely won’t be sorry…..and don’t forget to tell ‘em Tanya sent you!

I was so inspired by these two, I even managed to get my lesson plans done a whole day early! Say what?!!! Stop the presses! Somebody, shout hallelujah, lol!

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These are the real deal, 4 pages of all that glitters and giggles that I turn into my campus principal each week. I don’t want her to be too shocked about me finishing them early, so I’ll wait a little bit to email them to her, lol!

I’ve had several really sweet friends ask for an editable version. Because my small group pages include a format that I’ve adopted from a published author, I can’t exactly do that. I can share with you, however, how I am using them in my classroom. If you’d like to view them or get a closer look, you can download them by clicking HERE. If there comes a time, when I change the format of my small group pages (which is highly possible), then I will also post a blank, editable format.

Still being a newbie bag lady, we’ll try our hand at a simple project this week and let ya know how it goes. If you’d like to grab an activity we did in class last week, click the pic below. There are actually days when I teach math, ha!!!! This day was a fun  one!


…..and it was one of those projects that takes a while to do {wink, wink}.  I copied the turkey head and body onto brown construction paper. The feathers were copied onto different random, fall colored paper. I did a “rough cut” so that I had four stacks of feathers, one stack for each way we'd show a number. As a class, we discussed each of the forms, one at a time. I wrote/assigned each student a different number ranging between 30 and 50 (on their desks). They, then wrote the number on their turkey’s tummy and created a 3-number sequence by writing the number that came before and after it on each wing.

Once I saw their number written and created correctly (using base-10 blocks), they drew the base-10 blocks. We went over what each of the number forms would look like, one feather at a time and set it aside. After we completed the 4th number form, students cut and glued to put their little place value turkey together. Nothing like a little rigor for Thanksgiving dinner!

Laters, gators! Have a great week!


Friday, November 15, 2013

Five for Friday~I wrote a book…!!!

Hi~, peeps! How are ya? Another whirlwind week has flown by and I’m linking up to share a little of our week at Doodlebugs Teaching. Hang around for a little while and take a dive under the sea with us! Ready?


This week, we took a dive or two into non-fiction texts about sea animals. With it, came the introduction of digraphs. ANNNNND, I did something for the very first time that I’m soooo excited to share with you!!!

I wrote a book! A real, little….teeny, weeny sight word reader, BUT……HEY, I wrote a book!

My sweet emergent group is really struggling with sight words. We review them each morning during calendar, they’re reviewed at the beginning of each small group, and we visit the word wall 3 times a week to play sight word games {among many other ways we incorporate them each day}.  I kept racking my brain for a new way, a different way, something above and beyond to help my babies gain the sight word knowledge they  desperately NEED! ….AND VOILA!!!

I thought I would be more excited than them to hand these out on Monday, but guess what?! They were excited too! They really liked having a little book that was created just for them. It  featured the same concepts that everyone else in class were reading about. Instead of having to return their book to the classroom library at the end of the week, they got to take their books home to read over and over and hopefully, OVER again! You should’ve seen their eyes!

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After introducing the book and animals that I thought may be a little difficult for them to recognize, we also used them to highlight sight words and mark digraph th. It was our focus skill for the week, and they couldn’t have been happier to be able to write in their books!

Can we color it, Mrs. Dwyer? Can I take it home, Mrs. Dwyer? Are you sure its ok to write in it? Yes, yes……and YES!!! Goal met….happy kids, excited about reading….happy, happy, happy teacher!


My oldest daughter flew in for a quick visit this week, so knowing I would be out toward the end of the week, I tried to pack as much learning as possible in! We used this chart to connect to authentic literature. My firsties are becoming quite the detectives and I-Spy phonics patterns and sight words everywhere! I love it! Here, we made text-to-text connections with WHAT IF YOU HAD animal teeth? Ever think about what YOU might eat if you had teeth like a beaver or a tiger, lol?!


I hate making copies! Not that I don’t use them, because I do {sparingly}…. if I can think of an alternative…a way for students to create on their own, I’d rather them be creative and organize their own thinking rather than provide a worksheet. It’s not always easy and can honestly, be a pain {sometimes}…but I’ve found it to be what my students enjoy and consequently, remember the most.

These little graphic organizers were used to identify 3 details to support the stated author’s purpose for having written the text. We wrote the title across the top, our 3 details on the sticky notes and the author’s purpose across the bottom. Who doesn’t love using sticky notes?!

Click the pic below to grab a copy of our little sight word reader! If you do, leave a comment below to share one of your favorite ways to teach sight words!

Sea Animals Reader

Laters, gators! =)


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Five for Friday~Write here, Write NOW!

Hi-ya, peeps! How are ya? Hopefully, you’ve got your feet up enjoying this long weekend! I’m linking up my Five for Friday with Kacey at Doodlebugs Teaching! This go ‘round, I thought I’d share a little of what we’ve been up to in writing.


I love teaching writing, almost as much as I love teaching reading. It’s probably because they work so closely together. Read/Write. Write/Read. Every day.


Though I enjoy writing a lot, I didn’t feel as though the time I had set aside for writing each day was flowing as well as it could. After beginning a writer’s workshop training, I assessed where we could improve, stepped back, and completely re-launched our writer’s workshop. I couldn’t be happier about having done so!

We started by designating a notebook just for our writing and discussing why learning to write is so important. We connected to our little friend Rocket by reading  Rocket Writes a Story. This helped us tremendously, to become more comfortable with getting started. Isn’t that always the hardest part?

From there, we drew our heart maps and listed things that inspire us! We have “pinkies up” or fancy words in our classroom and inspired was added to the repertoire that day! Let me tell you…that led to a really funny mini-lesson on the difference between what EXpired and INspired mean! Hilarious!!!


What my kiddos have grown to love the most about writer’s workshop is that it’s a time for them to express themselves, to write about what inspires them, what they like, what they live…..what they CHOOSE to write about. Having CHOICE is the ‘hook’ of writer’s workshop! They’re in control and they’ve grown to love this time of day now. This friend was inspired by an anchor chart we had made earlier in the day. His neighbor was writing about something completely different and guess what? It’s all good! They’re writing! That’s the important part!


We write at other times throughout the day, in different ways too! Guided writing takes place during small group. One of the ways we incorporate writing into reading is by reflecting on our stories. Another is through cut-up sentences. The sentences usually include phonics patterns and recently introduced sight words. We read the sentence, cut it apart, and then reassemble it in our journals and write it neatly. Read/Write…..all day long!


I guess this one, technically, isn’t writing….but it is one of the fun ways we practice forming words in our classroom. We enjoy the fridge magnets at Have you ever used the site in your classroom? If not, it’s FREE…give it a try! The kiddos love it!


As much as the little writers in the room are growing independently, we do still enjoy writing together. After sharing a series of Laura Numeroff’s If You Give a… stories this past week, we gave writing one of our own a try! It started out as a shared writing…but once that first hand went up to add to the story, the pen was quickly passed and the writing became interactive! 

Wanna know what I loved even MORE????


They continued writing their own versions at the writing station during Daily 5! I do believe this class of littles has figured out the way to my heart! Not only did they write their own versions, they’ve begun to understand that writing doesn’t have to be finished in one sitting. Do you see the ‘to be continued’??? Say, what?! This story continued over the course of two days….I can’t wait to see how it ends!

Write on, friends!



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