Saturday, March 17, 2018

Informational Writing

Greeting, Teacher Bloglings!

As we are preparing for state testing in a few weeks, my third graders are focusing on polishing up their informational writing. To start our unit, we brainstormed a list of topics that we were experts on together. This included topics from whole class lessons/units and shared experiences like field trips. Then we narrowed down our list to one topic, and y'all... my students chose "A Day in the Life of a Montessori Student" (be still my heart!). We discussed how this topic was broad enough to let us write about a lot of information, but narrow enough that we are not overwhelmed. Next, we made a list of 3 subtopics that we could include in our writing. We came up with work plans, shelf work, and peace (again, their ideas!).

The next step was for students to brainstorm a list of topics they either feel they know about or that they want to learn more about. Some students knew right away the topic they wanted to write about, so they were able to skip this step.
Up to this point, my students have a lot of experience with picking out the main idea and details in a text. We used the following article to further practice identifying the main idea (naming it in specific terms), 3 subtopics, and the facts, details, and information that the author used to develop their paragraphs about those subtopics. This is something I thought might be challenging, but my students did so well with this and it really helped them see how (and why it's important) to organize their own writing!

Using the following graphic organizer, students recorded the subtopics they will write about. Each subtopic is going to be expanded into paragraphs, so the students listed their most important facts and information within each subtopic.

Students are now working on expanding and organizing their paragraphs with a focus on word choice.  Some students have been able to take their ideas from the organizer above and form them into paragraphs right on their rough draft, but other students who needed more support with this were able to use the following organizer:

A tool we use often is this paragraph rubric, which we refer to throughout the writing process:

Our next step is to add text features!  We've been learning about these ALL. YEAR. 

This step takes a while, and at this point in the unit, students are really working at their own pace.  I give my students flexibility with what text features they include, but they must have at least three, including an About the Author section... primarily because those are always hilarious to me.  Some have chosen to make an entire book about their topic, while others are doing shorter articles,so that affects which features and how many they will use.  

After this, we are onto really polishing our word choice!  We revisit writing hooks and work on drafting our conclusions.  My students especially love to start their writing with onomatopoeia.  One little girl who is writing about monarch butterflies begins her article with, "Crunch, crunch, crunch, the hungry monarch caterpillar eats her lunch!" and then goes on to describe their life cycle!

Another important step is the peer review.  Students each get a checklist and organizer to keep them accountable.  We discuss constructive feedback prior to this exercise, and use the "3 Stars & 1 Wish" format so it's positive for each child. 

For these organizers, the lesson plans we followed, and more, check out my Informational Writing Unit that is specifically geared to target 3rd grade writing standards.  Click on the image to see the product page where you can view the unit's Scope & Sequence as well as full sample pages:

 Informational Writing Unit

You may also be interested in my Non-Fiction Text Feature resource that we've used to develop their schema around this area prior to beginning this writing unit:

 Text Features Mini-Unit

Happy Teaching!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Teaching Peace in February

Greetings, Teacher Bloglings!

The Montessori peace curriculum emphasizes frequent teaching of grace and courtesy through both structured and impromptu lessons. The classroom can be viewed as a microcosm of society, so it is where children must learn how and why to function peacefully.  Some examples of grace and courtesy lessons include how to walk around students who are working, when to interrupt someone and how to do so politely, how to greet classroom visitors, how to make new students or guest teachers feel welcome, how to clean up, how to ask for help, how to agree and disagree, and how to solve arguments. Teachers should model peaceful interactions in addition to teaching them explicitly through lessons, frequent reviews, and role playing/social story opportunities.

Image result for our peaceful classroom aline

Montessori classrooms typically have a peace table or area of the classroom where students can go to take a break and find some quiet in the classroom.  It is also where students go to solve conflicts independently when they do not necessitate teacher intervention.  You can see part of my classroom's peace table above!  We have a little peace bear, a lovely snow globe donated by a student, a peace rock that the students pass back and forth during problem solving conversations, problem solving discussion prompt cards, and the book "Our Peaceful Classroom " by Aline D. Wolf.  This book was written by Montessori students around the world; it is a favorite in my classroom year after year!

You can find the Conflict Resolution Prompts at my store:
Conflict Resolution Kit

Because the "Peace Place" can also be used when students need a personal break, it is helpful to have reminders and strategies for keeping calm on hand.  These cards are a great tool and easy to keep on a ring for students to reference when needed:

Calm Down Kit

Another book written by Aline D. Wolf that is excellent for teachers in any classroom setting is "Peaceful Children, Peaceful World: The Challenge of Maria Montessori."

Image result for peaceful children peaceful world

February is one of my most favorite teaching months because of all the holidays, and it is the perfect time to really focus on teaching peace in the classroom!  To kick off Black History Month, we read Mister and Lady Day: Billie Holiday and the Dog Who Loved Her by Amy Novesky.  We discussed the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and the contributions of African American musicians and artists.  We loved listening to Billie Holiday as background music during work time!  

Image result for mister and lady day

Obviously, I feel a strong connection to Billie as I also have a darling Mister (Mr. Bear)!

For Martin Luther King's birthday in January, we learned about his message as well as the Civil Rights Movement and Jim Crow laws.  

Next week, we will continue our learning through the lens of Dr. Seuss' The SneetchesClick the link or picture for a packet of activities for teaching tolerance and acceptance, including The Sneetches Readers Theater play to tell the story and extension activities that focus on Martin Luther King, Jr. and the importance of equality.  

When we do this activity, students act out the story, read the book, and watch the video to compare and contrast the different ways to tell the story.

The Sneetches Readers Theater with Activities for Teaching Tolerance

More February Resources for Black History Month:

Black History Research Organizer Bundle 
Black History Month Research Organizers

Black History Flip Book
Black History Month Flip Book

African American Inventors Unit
African American Inventors Unit

Langston Hughes Poet Study
Langston Hughes Poet Study

Ruby Bridges Research Packet
Ruby Bridges Research Packet

Ruby Bridges Readers' Theater
Ruby Bridges Readers' Theater Play

Rosa Parks Readers' Theater
Rosa Parks Readers' Theater Play

And here are some Valentine's Day resources to spread more love!

Valentines Day Origami
Valentine's Day Origami

Valentines Day Pattern Blocks
Valentine's Day Pattern Blocks

Expanded Form Task Cards: A Valentines Day Math Center
Valentine's Day Extended Form Math Center

Number Bonds: A Valentines Day Math Center
Valentine's Day Number Bonds Math Center

Valentines Day Friendly Letter Writing Center
Valentine's Day Writing Center

Valentines Day Triangles
FREEBIE! Valentine's Day Types of Triangles Geometry Craftivity

This February is EXTRA special because of the Winter Olympics! At my school, we do a Winter Olympics event each year.  It's even more fun during an Olympic year!  This year's continent study is Asia, so we will learn about PyeongChang, South Korea and South Korean culture in addition to the history of the Olympic Games, winter sports, and sportsmanship. 

Winter Olympics 2018 Unit
2018 Winter Olympics Unit

Happy February!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Minds in Bloom!

Greetings, bloglings!

Here are two things most teachers probably think don't mix: Montessori and the Common Core! This guest post shares one teacher's insight and experience with combining these two seemingly separate teaching structures. Click through to read her full post on Minds in Bloom.

Head on over to Minds in Bloom to see my guest blog post on integrating Montessori and the Common Core!

I also added a few more Montessori-based products to my TPT store this week.  Today was the last day of summer school, and I am feeling ready for the new year!

Montessori Grammar Symbol 3 Part Cards
Grammar Symbol & Definition Cards

Montessori Grammar Symbol Posters
Grammar Symbol Posters

Place Value Riddle Task Cards
Place Value Riddles

Singular and Plural Noun Sorting Activities
Singular & Plural Noun Activities

Montessori Infinity Street Place Value Activity with Recording Sheets
Infinity Street Place Value Materials

Happy Friday Eve,

Monday, August 7, 2017

Poetry in the Elementary Classroom

Greetings, bloglings!

I've started planning this year's Writers' Workshop, one of my favorite subjects to teach!  I always loved writing as a student, and I especially love it as a teacher.  I love to read what my students write, because it's usually hilarious, and it is so exciting to see students transform from reluctant to fearless writers.  They begin to develop their own unique voices, especially as third graders.  

Writing Process Posters

In Writers' Workshop, we focus on the process of writing.  Our mantra is, "When I'm done, I've just begun!"  I try not to offer too many corrections as that can cause young writers to shut down; instead, I strive to guide them through the process of learning from their own and their peers' mistakes.

One specific area that I plan to focus on a bit more this year is poetry.  We read poetry daily, and we do a unit on it in April for Poetry Month, but I want to make sure that my students engage in writing poetry all year long. 

Students need to be exposed to a variety of poetry beginning at the early elementary level in order to fully access its benefits and develop an appreciation for it.  In addition to being a great vehicle for self-expression and connecting with others, poetry teaches students about language and speaking from the earliest nursery rhymes.  I find that most students enter second grade with the misconception that all poetry has to rhyme, so we have fun exploring different forms with different rules, as well as free verse poetry.  

I created these writing journals for my students to publish their work as we learn about different forms of poetry throughout the year.  You can see the Table of Contents that lists the forms of poetry included in the journals on the product's page at my TPT store.  

Poetry Journals for Elementary Writers

Poetry Journals for Elementary Writers
The journal includes a cover page, 19 pages with headings that include the type of poem, a brief description of its structure, a line for the student's title, unlined space for writing and illustrating, and an About the Poet page.

Here are some books for inspiring and celebrating poetry in your classroom throughout the year:

Image result for julie andrews poetry
Julie Andrews' Treasury for all Seasons has become a staple in my classroom; we read from it on a daily basis!  Every morning, one student is chosen to select a poem to be read aloud.  It's a large collection of beautiful, seasonal and holiday-themed poetry divided by month, so it never gets old!  

Image result for joyful noise poems for two voices
We study insects in science every other year, and Joyful Noise is an amazingly dynamic collection of insect-themed poems.  The poetry in this collection is especially rhythmic and full of onomatopoeia.  It's the perfect text for demonstrating that poetry is meant to be read aloud:  All poems in the collection are for two readers, so students read the lines either alternately or simultaneously, making it a great tool for buddy reading and building fluency.

Here are some of my other favorites:

How do you teach and incorporate poetry in your classroom?

Friday, August 4, 2017

Freebie Friday: TPT Store Templates & Tutorials!

Greetings, bloglings!

It's Friday and I've got more freebies for you!  Because Photobucket changed their third party hosting rules, I needed a crash course in designing my TPT store quote box banner.  After sprucing that up, I decided to update my store logo, as well!  Here are free templates and tutorials for both:

1. Download the template at the link above.
2. Design the banner on the third slide as desired.  The existing background color will look transparent on your storefront.  The slide is completely editable, though.
3. Save the third slide as a jpeg (select all on the slide, right click, 
click 'Save Picture As,' and save it as a jpeg image).
4. There are a few different ways to do this, but I use Pinterest to save the image as a pin to a private board.  This allows you to get an image URL for the code you will use in step 7.
5. Right click on your pin, and click 'Copy Link Address.'
6. Visit Bitly.  Paste the link address that you just copied into the provided box, and then you have your shortened URL for the HTML code.  Keep this page/tab open.
7.  On TPT, go to 'My Account,' select 'Store Profile,' and click 'Edit.' Paste the following code into your Quote Box:


*If you are reading this on mobile and the full code does not appear for you, it is also included in the template download!

8. Paste the tiny URL from Bitly, and then add any link where you would like store visitors to go once they have clicked on your banner.  This might be to a product page or your blog.
9. Save your edit, and check out your store; the banner you created should appear in your quote box!

1. Download the TPT logo template at the link above.
2. Use the template on slide 3 to design your logo. If you want to use a photo background, right click on the circle and select "Format Shape," select "Picture Fill" and upload your desired photo.  Only what is inside of the circle will appear on your TPT logo.
3. Save the slide as a jpeg.
4. On your TPT store, go to 'My Account' and click on the 'Store Profile' tab.
5. Click 'Edit.'
6. Upload your logo by clicking on 'Replace Photo.'  You may want to trim the edges a bit so that the black line does or does not show, depending on your preference.
7. Once uploaded, the logo should be updated on your storefront!

I hope these instructions were clear. Let me know if you have any questions!

Happy Friday!

Informational Writing

Greeting, Teacher Bloglings! As we are preparing for state testing in a few weeks, my third graders are focusing on polishing up their i...