Kids as Authors (freebie included)

I just had the best day with my friend's two sweet girls. One of them is going into kindergarten in the fall. She is going to be the BEST student. She's so excited to learn how to read and write, which of course made me excited to get back and teach! Don't get me wrong, I am enjoying my summer break! I am not trying to rush back or anything, but she just got me in the teaching mood and reminded me why I  l.o.v.e teaching.

Thanks to Gracie, I've made another freebie for you all! I am busy working on my September literacy menu (finally) and one of the centers is Be an Author. I made another Be an Author book for Gracie today and she did a fabulous job! Since I teach first grade, this is the first time I've done this activity with a kindergartener. She blew me away! She had so many great ideas for what to write and she was so excited to be an author of her very own book. (This is also often  a favorite among my students.)

Her book was about the zoo. There was a picture of monkey so she added the words, The monkey eats bananas. Then she drew the little banana to go with her words.

 Here's a picture of her hippo page. She drew the hippo wading in water and wrote Hippos like water.
Isn't she a doll! And now she is officially an author too! :) 

It's pretty basic, but kids love it! They get a book with some illustrations and blank lines. They get to be the author by filling in the words on each page. They also add to the illustration to go with their words. This particular book has a different zoo animal on each page for your kiddos to write about.

clipart by KPM doodles

Like I said, it's basic but you can get some great writing practice out of it. Click on the picture to download. If you'd like to hear my long explanation of how I teach it, you can continue reading this post (I also included it in the download). 

I introduce this activity at the beginning of the year because I include it in some of my center menus. I want to set my expectations so they can be the best little authors they can be! I do it again later on in the year when they are getting to be better writers because my expectations are higher. Here is how I teach it at the beginning of the year. I use a version of the optimal learning model: Modeling writing (Demonstrating), Shared writing (shared demonstration), Guided Practice, Independent Practice

I'm sorry I don't have any actual teaching pictures, but since I'm on summer vacation I don't have any. Hopefully I'll get some pictures when I go back in the fall and I can repost this with some real action shots with student writing! 

On an unrelated note, here is my precious Shawn "reading" to his favorite stuffed animal. I was a very happy mama watching this!

and here he's pointing something out his animal to explain the story. Love it!

Writing Rubrics for the Primary Grades

As you probably know by now, I love using rubrics! I don't want this post to only be about something I'm selling, so I thought I'd write a little about rubrics in general. That way this post can hopefully be useful/meaningful to everyone (not just people looking to buy this writing rubric pack).

I like to use writing rubrics because they help me to be consistent when grading student writing. Rubrics also set up my expectations to help me, my students and parents see what I am looking for. Making/using rubrics helps me to really think about what I expect from my students as writers. I've been teaching first grade for 6 years now, so I've read a lot of student writing! I've experienced so many different levels of writing and writing styles. I realized early on that there isn't just "good writing' and "not so good writing". Some kids are excellent with their conventions/neatness which sometimes led me to give them a better grade even if the actual writing wasn't that spectacular. On the flip side, you may have a student with horrible developing handwriting and complete lack of conventions (including most words spelled incorrectly), but they have amazing voice or interesting ideas. They are often overlooked as "bad writers" just because their writing looks so bad. 

Using rubrics not only assisted me in communicating these strengths and areas of improvement, but it also allowed me to celebrate a student's gifts as a writer. When I started using rubrics I found that my grading was more fair and consistent. I also found that I was able to set goals more easily for my students because it was easier to see where they didn't quite meet my expectations. Parents are also able to easily see (and hopefully understand more completely) where their child is at as a writer and what they can work on. And let's not forget the time I saved with using rubrics! I don't feel the need to write as much on each paper because the rubric explains a lot of it. If you teach writing, think about what you look for in your writers. Have you set those expectations for your students and for yourself? Do you look for the same thing in every writing piece or do you have a special focus for certain writing pieces? Do you communicate these expectations and goals to your students? I so appreciate and look forward to comments you all leave! I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Thanks to those of you who have done this on previous posts. It's so interesting to hear what others do! Besides I know I still have so much to learn on the topic. :)

On to the Writing Rubrics Megapack! 

So this pack could be a little overwhelming. It is 150 pages. EEK! That is a little misleading though. I'll explain how this is set up and then it will make more sense.
The pack is divided into 3 sections. Each section has 40 of the same rubrics. The only difference between each section is the scale.

The scale is the words that are written at the top of table, sort of like headers.

clipart by scrappindoodles;

Section One's scale is Needs Improvement; Fair; Good; Excellent
Section Two's scale is Developing; Almost there; Just right; Excellent
Section Three's scale is With guidance; little guidance; with reminders; independent writer

Like I said, in each section there are 40 rubrics. There are 13 general rubrics like the ones above and right below. I tried to make a variety of general rubrics to fit different needs. There are varying levels of these general rubrics.

clipart by scrappindoodles; frames by KPM doodles and fancydogstudios

In each section, there are also rubrics for each writing trait. There are 4 for content/ideas, 4 for conventions, 3 for sentence fluency, 3 for organization, and one for word choice/voice. Below are a few examples:

Frames by scrappincop and fancydogstudios and That Girl

Finally, each section also has rubrics for certain writing assignments. I was working off some of the common core writing standards. Below are some examples:

(sorry I didn't take a very good screen shot of these!)

Please note: I don't claim to be an expert! This just has worked well for me and I hope it will work well for you too. :)
I teach first grade, but I tried to make this pack useful for all primary grades. Kindergarten is tough because I wasn't sure how much you could use. If you teach kinder and have questions, please email me. :) If you teach 4th/5th, these may work for you too. If you teach 4th or 5th, send me an email and I'll send you a preview to see if it works for your grades. 

I'd love to hear suggestions for how to improve or add to this pack. Thanks:) 

You can get the pack at my TPT store or Teacher's notebook store.

"Summer Suggestions" and Writing Rubric Pack sneak peak

Happy summer!!! I have one more teacher work day and then I'm official done! This year has flown by and I absolutely adored my class so it's definitely bitter sweet. However I am all sorts of excited to spend the summer with my boys. I'm so excited for a great summer!

I'll be doing lots of "playing" but I also have a huge list of things I want to accomplish this summer. There are so many little/big/huge assignments I'm planning for myself.

Before I said goodbye to my students and their families, I wanted to make sure they had some direction for the summer. As I've mentioned before (sorry to be a broken record), my parents are super involved! I'm pretty lucky to have parents so willing to work with their kids. So, I made this little "summer suggestions" sheet that I sent home on the last day of school. I had my students fill out one and I filled out one. I chose one or two things that I felt that student really needs to focus on this summer (handwriting, reading fluency, long vowels, etc.)

Click on the picture to download.

Also, drumroll please... I am almost done with my writing rubrics megapack! Here's a sneak peak:

So far it's 40 pages of rubrics! I wanted to give a lot of variety. I'm pretty excited about it. :)

Ice Cream "Small Moments" Stories freebie with rubric

For one last writing assignment for the year, we wrote ice cream stories. We've written several personal narratives this year, but for this one, I wanted them to take this big topic and zoom in to make it a small moment. This is of course Lucy Calkins-inspired.  :)

I started by writing a boring version of an ice cream story. It was basically just listing events like this:

I went to the ice cream store on Saturday. I went with my son. We got chocolate. It was good. We had fun. 

I asked the kids if they enjoyed my story, then went into reasons why it wasn't very interesting. We decided that we would rewrite the story together to make it more interesting.

First, we brainstormed some sensory words that could be used in an ice cream story. Then I modeled the small moments concept during a shared writing. I was leading the story with an experience I had getting ice cream, but as a class we worked on narrowing the topic and zooming in on small details. Together, we wrote a great "small moments" narrative! My students helped me add in interesting words and good transitions. They has some really cute ideas to make my story sound more interesting. I don't have a picture of the actual story, but one cute idea was: "The line was pouring out the door" in place of "There was a long line." Another student said, "I wondered if anyone would notice if I cut the line. I couldn't wait another second." SO cute!

We reread the story together to practice the editing process as well. After going through the whole writing process together, the kids were ready to write their own ice cream narratives. After writing our stories, I set the timer for 5 minutes. For the entire 5 minutes, students have to reread their paper to edit. Even if they already edited, they all still have to take this 5 minutes for one more edit. Then we read our papers to a buddy. I encouraged them to ask each other questions about their stories. Finally, we read our stories to the class.

I've created this freebie for all of you to write ice cream stories with your class:

I included a few different options for paper...

Frames by That Girl and KPM doodles; clipart by Thistlegirldesigns

A graphic organizer...

and three different rubrics, depending on what you want to focus on.

This one equally assesses everything.

These two focus more on content/ideas:

You can get this here at my TPT store  or  here at my Teacher's Notebook Store.

If you take the freebie, I'd love to hear from you. If you do a small moments writing assignment, I'd definitely love to hear what you do and how you teach it. If you have links to your blog talking about it, that would be fabulous! I'm always looking for more ideas about how to teach this concept.

If you love rubrics and would like a megapack of them, click here!

Blog Makeover and a syllable freebie to celebrate

I'm so excited about my blog makeover! I've needed it for a while. Jena from First Grade with Miss Snowden designed it for me and. I. LOVE. it. I was her lucky giveaway winner. Thank you so much Jena! :) Check out her blog by clicking on the picture. She has a fabulous blog!

I have two more weeks of school left and I've been working with some of my small groups on syllables, specifically, breaking words into syllables to spell a word correctly (or at least come closer). I always encourage my kids to break a word up into its syllables when spelling and I find that really helps them to be more accurate with spelling. To help with this skill, I made a syllable puzzle activity. You could use it as a center, or use it with a small group. I plan on using it this week with small groups so I can guide them along. Grab your copy by clicking on the picture below.

clip art by: Carrie; frames by Miss Tina; puzzles by scrappindoodles

There are 16 puzzle words like this one:

clipart by thistlegirldesigns

and a student sheet

I'll guide students to separate the beginning pieces from the middle and end. Then they can look at the picture clue and break the word into syllables aloud. Then they will look for the 2nd syllable (middle puzzle piece) and then the 3rd. Since there will be so many pieces, I'll probably do half the sheet at one time and the other at another time (or let them do the other half independently).

I'd love to hear what you think and how you practice this skill. Don't forget to check out Jena's blog too!