Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Making a Writing Plan Your Own

One thing I love about this time of year is how kids are synthesizing all we have done and personalizing the plans, strategies, and skills we have learned to fit their own styles.

Today, as we were wrapping up our Summer Sunshine Writing Prompt Packet (more about how I use Writing Prompts HERE), I noticed how one of my boys had adjusted our 5W Star Plan to fit his own style:

The traditional plan I taught came in this packet:

I loved this moment because it taught me that, while kids may veer from what  my lesson originally looked like (once upon a time, months ago), they are still incorporating the important parts of planning and brainstorming that I want them to use forever and ever as writers.

I hope your year is wrapping up well. We have two more days and I am still in shock that it's so close to the end!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Using Writing Prompts in My Classroom

I use a small-group approach to Writer's Workshop and it has been a wonderful gift to both me and my students these past few years. I am able to really address their writing needs and keep them actively engaged during our 60-minute block each day, so while it may look different, it has been a great fit for my teaching style. To read more about Writing Groups, start HERE.

Several months ago, I found I was missing out on some prime writing practice time when kids had Independent Writing. I was working with them in Teacher Time on a specific idea, skill, strategy, or project, but once they went off on their own, there was always a struggle to get them to write effectively and purposefully. Now, many kids were writing, but it often involved acrostic poems, and while I am all for poetry in the classroom, I wanted to raise the bar a bit.

Since we talk so much about how "Practice Makes Progress" I thought, why not encourage this in Independent Writing Time, too? I came up with some varied prompts in several formats to encourage kids to practice writing throughout the week for a variety of purposes to address this need.

This practice has been invaluable! I have seen kids' responses jump not only in length, but in quality. Their introductions are more solid, they have the chance to practice conventions on their own pieces over and over, and the level of detail and description has really taken off. Plus, I know that they are legitimately writing for at least a part of their Independent Writing Time on something that is focused and requires the development of their writing craft.

Writing Prompt Setup

I always begin my cherry-picking about 6-8 prompts from the pack to use in their Prompt Packet. These are then copied and stapled and kept inside of their Writing Folder. I'll throw on a cover (it's a freebie in my TpT Store) and they can decorate it the first day they get it.

The other 20ish prompts I print off to add to our Prompt Basket. I label it with the included graphic since they change each season, and sometimes I will have two baskets out at once (for example, Springtime and Earth Day). These prompt cards are laminated and cut out so I can reuse them over and over each year.

I'll also keep one copy of each page of the prompt cutouts with me. More on how we use those in a bit. The nice part is that there are 10 copies of the prompt on one page, so I rarely need more than one copy for our needs.

Utilizing the Writing Prompts

We typically go through two to three prompts a week, so I like the prompt packet to last about a month. I will always go over what the prompt is that day and the kids will have two days to work on it during Independent Writing before we move on to another one. If they don't finish in two days, no problem! They can go back and finish it later. That's the advantage I have found to having these prompts in a designated packet. To read more about when I introduce them, look at my schedule posts HERE and HERE for info.

If they finish the prompt early, they can engage in free-writing. This is where they may go back to a creative writing piece in their Writer's Notebooks, they can look at their cover or list of favorites, or they can choose a prompt from the Writing Ideas Bin. In this bin is where I keep the laminated prompt cards in the basket. All of this writing happens in their Writer's Notebooks, so I will see these pieces sometime during an independent conference.

The pages of prompt cutouts have been used in a variety of ways. With some of my strugglers, I will have them choose a prompt card if they are on free-writing and then I will glue the corresponding prompt cutout to the top of their Writer's Notebook to help them remember and dissect the prompt and what it's asking for. I will also use these as a choice if there's a sub-- sometimes to pick up and manage Writing Groups can be a challenge, so I will have three stacks ready to go and kids can make a choice of the three to write about during Teacher Time that day with the sub helping out.

Grading the Prompt Packet

As we wrap up the packet, I have students choose *one* prompt they want me to grade top to bottom. Obviously, I skim the packet to make sure it's complete and they have been doing the necessary work, but I allow them the choice so they can dedicate 100% of their revising and editing efforts to one piece at the end. After all, I have a separate writing project we do during Teacher Time that goes through the Writing Process, so this is more of a self-directed, independent activity.

I love that I can then send home the packet to parents that shows their child's writing work in a variety of ways! In the past, parents would only get the published pieces throughout the year and their child's Writer's Notebook at the very end. Now, I am sending these home about once a month (or so) and it's been a great way for parents to consistently see their child's writing.

As this year has progressed, writing prompts have really helped strengthen the writing in my class and our commitment to it every day. I struggled to find a good balance and I feel this system fits the bill. I have seen my kids rise to the challenge of writing more, raise their own standards of writing, become clear about the expectations, and, in the end, be able to respond to a variety of prompts in meaningful ways.

I have these prompts in my TpT Store HERE and am adding to them all of the time. Of course, you can use these in so many ways (homework, assessment, etc.), and if you do something different, please share below! I am always looking for more ideas!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

You Are Appreciated {Teacher Appreciation Giveaway}

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

It seems that this week always comes at the most hectic time of year, so in order to ensure you are *truly* feeling appreciated, I am joining up with some of my upper-elementary blogging friends to bring you some amazing things!

I am thrilled to be offering you a very teacher-friendly basket filled with some of my most favorite things! I know it's so nice to get actual snail mail, so I hope this basket of goodies that will go out to one winner this week will help fill up your bucket!

Here's a sneak peek of all that's included:

** These hard goods will be sent to a winner in the US or Canada only.
Everything from a journal to pencils, to candies (they are organic, so they're healthy, right?!) and a notepad, to a clipboard and organizational clips, plus a weeklong organizer, there are so many fun goodies in here! I will also be including a $25 TpT Gift Certificate and a HARD COPY of my QR Critters: Fiction Reading Questions! I will email you the file, too, along with my QR Critters: Nonfiction Reading Questions so you will have all of the keys, cards, and codes available for additional classroom sets. In the meantime, you'll have the fiction set all printed, cut, and laminated, ready to go in binder rings in your classroom tomorrow!

I am so thrilled to be offer this to one winner and can't wait to see who gets this fun-filled basket in the mail!

AND, for everyone, I'm excited to announce that there is a site-wide Teachers Pay Teachers Sale running May 5th and 6th for up to 28% off! Use code "ThankYou" at checkout! What a great time to stock up on end of year items and get yourself prepped for next year.

This giveaway runs through May 5th. Enter below and best of luck! Afterwards, be sure to keep hopping for your chance to win loads of other goodies from your favorite TpT Sellers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Before You Speak, THINK Activity

I absolutely *love* doing this activity each year, and it came at a great time this week. My kids have been working on goal-setting and leadership this year, but with Spring Fever in full-swing, it can sometimes be necessary to take a step back and talk about the words we use and how we use them.

This sheet is one of many interactive activities in my Interactive Health Notebook:

It was perfect timing and gave us the chance to role play, give some good and bad examples, cut, glue, color, and best of all, *think* about when and how we choose to speak throughout the day.

As kids filled this out, I provided some additional guiding questions to each of the letters. We also created gestures to go along with each and practiced, Whole Brain Teaching Style, with partners until we got them all down pat.

T: Is it TRUE? 

*How do I know?*
Gesture: Holding up your right hand, as if you were testifying.

This was a wonderful segue into rumors, the game of telephone, and making sure what you're passing along is from the source itself, not a friend of a friend or something you may have misunderstood.

H: Is it HELPFUL? 

*Who or what is it helping?*
Gesture: Cross arms, like you are giving yourself a hug

Some students think everything they say is "helpful"-- although the receiver may differ! I wanted them to take a step back and think about who it was helping and also how it was helping.


*Is this role model/leadership behavior?*
Gesture: Point both fingers to the sky, to remind them to lift people "up"

Stopping to think if this thought is something a leader would say helps them remember the Boss vs. Leader lesson we spent some time on, as well as a lot of our 7 Habits of Happy Kids work. They always do well in these lessons, but I want them to remember to incorporate them in their real and everyday lives.


*Is this the right time and the right place?*
Gesture: Pointing to your watch, or the top of your wrist

This was a great lesson for my "blurters" who typically always have something Nice, Helpful, and possibly even Inspiring to say, but do so whenever and wherever they want. Reminding them of the time and place to say something is key. I also talked a bit about saying something that may be hard to say, like sticking up for a friend if you see them being treated unfairly. Is it hard? Yes! But is it Necessary? Absolutely!!

K: Is it KIND?

*Is this a deposit or withdraw?*
Gesture: Making a heart with your hands and putting it over the left side of your chest

We have our Anchor Chart of Deposits vs. Withdraws to our Emotional Bank Account hanging in our classroom, so it's easy to spot and the terminology is familiar. I'm glad this is the last one, because we ended on the idea that simply being kind with your words can have a long-lasting impact on those around you and in our entire school.

Since we had all of these great gestures in place, I told them I would be using them silently as reminders. If I noticed that someone wasn't using the right time and place to speak, I would tap my watch silently. Likewise, if I saw someone making a deposit and speaking Kindly, I could make the heart sign with my hand (and also ask them to Clip Up).

Especially this time of year, the less talking I do and the more independence the kids show around their learning and their choices, the better we all are!

I hope this activity helped give you some additional ideas for your own classroom! If you're interested in this sheet, along with many other Health resources, check out my Interactive Health Notebook on TpT HERE.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, April 27, 2015

My Quick-Grading Stamp from Vistaprint

I posted about this lovely little stamp on Facebook the other day and was blown away by the response, so I knew it deserved its own post!

I ordered this about three years ago from Vistaprint. They had a great Groupon I took advantage of that gave me close to $70 to spend for less than $20. Because of that, I went crazy and ordered all sorts of great stuff! I blogged about it HERE if you want to see it all.

This stamp proved to be more handy than I had realized when impulse buying at the time! Don't you love when that happens?!

I use this self-inking stamp in a variety of ways:

  • I will stamp the master of any assignment and then run copies-- this saves me stamping the sheets over and over again. 
  • I can use this stamp on an assignment of a student's choosing. We will often choose one writing piece out of three for a grade, so I can stamp that one and it reminds me which one I need to read more carefully.
  • This can be used by students as a self-assessment (more on that in a bit)-- since it's self-inking, I don't have to worry about ink everywhere!
I think this is the 2.75"x1" stamp found on this page HERE. They are a bit of money, so I wanted to share how I use these before you take the plunge.

We create rubrics in our class all.of.the.time! I will also lay out the expectations for 2, 3, and 4 for them a lot. I never want it to be a mystery or a surprise when they get their grade. Plus, I have found that by taking the time to lay it out clearly, I get a much higher quality of work than when I don't.

This practice takes a few quick minutes, typically at the beginning of Writer's Workshop, or during Teacher Time in either Reader's or Writer's Workshop. Read more about my schedule HERE.

I always co-create them with the kids, since they will buy into it much more and be able to remember the details more than when I do it on my own. We always start with 3 and then go up and down from there. I will only show them 2, 3, and 4. I don't define 1 because I rarely have kids on this level and when I do, there are other accommodations, modifications, etc. in place. I find it serves 98% of my kids to focus on 2-4, so that's what I highlight and encourage them to shoot for.

If you're new to rubrics, I recommend Rubistar. They have a lot of great templates to help guide you.

Again, use this for yourself and try to guide the kids to create it in their own words-- it will be so much more powerful that way!

Once it's time to grade, there are three options I use:

  1. Students grade: Kids mark their grade based against our class rubric, expectations, etc.
  2. Teacher grades: I mark their grade based against our class rubric, expectations, etc.
  3. Students & Teacher grades: We both grade based against the rubric, expectations, etc. When this happens, I will have the student circle the number and I will highlight the number and descriptor. 90% of the time, they match up because the expectations were laid out beforehand. Sometimes, kids are harder on themselves than I am, so they gave themselves a 3 when I think it's more of a 4. 
* Something to note: When there is a discrepancy, I like to talk to the student about it. Whether they graded themselves to low or too high, I want to make sure we're on the same page about their grade. If there was a clear lack of effort or things are clearly not their best work, I will have them "Redo & Return." While it's rare, it does happen and when we check-in about this, we develop some strategies to ensure they are at a 2 or 3 when they turn their paper back in.

This stamp is a handy little tool and I hope this post inspired you to try something like it in your own classroom! Happy stamping!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Unshakeable: Construct a Self-Running Classroom that Frees You to Teach

I am thrilled beyond belief to be sharing an amazing new book with you today written by none other than Angela Watson of The Cornerstone for Teachers. Her new book entitled Unshakeable: 20 ways to enjoy teaching every day... no matter what is simply brilliant and I cannot wait to share my thoughts on Chapter 14.

If you haven't had the opportunity to delve into Angela's work, I highly recommend her blog as a fantastic place to start. She has a wonderful way of combining practical, student (and teacher!)-friendly practices in a way that also inspires and challenges. Her voice shines through in a way that she is instantly relatable but also thoroughly knowledgeable and there are so many takeaways, it's hard to know where to start!

I have been teaching for ten years and this chapter title sang my name loud and clear when I read it: Construct a self-running classroom that frees you to teach. Ahhhh! If there is one thing that I try to cultivate from the get-go each year, it's this! I am sure we are all too familiar with teachers that don't, or even years when we've put this task on the back-burner... and subsequently paid the price as the year continued. So I knew this chapter was an important one!

Anymore, it's rare to find me nodding, notetaking, underlining, and thinking all at the same time when reading a "teacher book." I think we reach a point as teachers when we just start to skim for the "good stuff" and then leave the rest by the wayside. I will honestly tell you, I was completely caught up in this chapter and found myself nodding, notetaking, underlining, thinking, smiling, and more as I read... and then reread this chapter. Even though I was familiar with the concept, there were so many strategies, scenarios, examples, and practical techniques that my pen and mind never stopped moving as I read, and then reread ;)

Angela stresses predictable routines... no.matter.what. YES! There are rarely "routine" days in the classroom, but the dedication as teachers that we show to the predictable routines we have taught can make all of the difference in our energy level and the level of learning we are able to accomplish in our classroom throughout the year. For example, in my own classroom, Morning Meeting happens no matter what. Regular days, testing days, field trip days.... we sit in an oval when the bell rings and have our meeting. It's familiar, it's student-led, and it gets us off on a predictable and positive note for the day.

Because your time isn't spent organizing the tiny details of the daily routine, you have more energy and more brainpower to be able to incorporate some really amazing lessons! Now, both you and your students to become more creative and inspired within the systems you have in place.

Not sure where to begin? She has loads of "use tomorrow" techniques that I know there will be something that will easily fit your style and boost your confidence. I even began a few the next day and was amazed how quickly my students adjusted to the new phrases or tips I was using, without any prompting or long discussion by me. There's a beauty in reading a well-written book by someone who is not only passionate, but has been in the classroom and has done what we've done. You can always, always tell a difference, and this book gives real teachers real solutions.

One of my most favorite thoughts to take away, especially this time of year is, "Don't steal the struggle." When you truly move to a more student-run classroom, there will be more thinking, more reflection, and more struggle.... don't take that from them. This is, admittedly, a challenge for me. I like to keep the pace moving and I like to insert all of my wisdom (ha!) when I feel it's needed. Angela reminded me that in order for my classroom to truly be filled with learners and leaders, I need to take a step back and watch as they work to come to their own answers and solutions. This practice has helped me slow down with these end-of-year expectations and has allowed for my small groups to go more in-depth with something that may not be "test-worthy" but is much more "life-worthy." And isn't that what's most important, after all?

She ends the chapter with a set of self-reflection questions for you as a teacher. These really challenged me to look at my own procedures and see where I am still clinging to the need for control, often unnecessarily.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Either for the veteran teacher, as a way to inspire and breathe fresh air into current routines, or for the new teacher as a way to get off to a very strong start, or for those of us in the middle who are still tweaking and adjusting as we go.... there is something for everyone in Unshakeable.

Read more about the 20 ways from Angela's book HERE and learn how to get your own copy HERE.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

My Daily Schedule

As many of you know, I am working half-time this year, job-sharing in my third grade classroom. I am fortunate enough to be able to teach my two very favorite things each day: Reading & Writing!

I wanted to describe my schedule a bit more in-depth below:

8:00-8:05 Arrival

Kids arrive each day and play in the playground out back until the first bell at 8:00. They then come into the building and put away their backpacks, coats, lunch boxes, etc. and come into my classroom. They will begin by putting their clips on Ready to Learn (which is also how I do attendance) on our class Clip Chart and then head to unstack their chairs at their table. This isn't much time, so some chairs remain unstacked when the bell rings at 8:05. To read about my Clip Chart, click HERE.

8:05-8:15 Morning Meeting

As soon as kids hear the bell, and oftentimes before, they head to the front carpet to sit in an oval for Morning Meeting. This is by far the most important way to start our day and we do it Monday through Friday, regardless of what else is on our plate. We start with Class Rules, then do a greeting, then move into Question of the Day, and more. You can read more about my Morning Meeting HERE and pick up an e-book and lots of resources to help support your own Morning Meeting HERE.

8:15-9:15 Reader's Workshop

I use a Daily 5-ish sort of rotation with Reader's Workshop. Kids meet with me for guided reading groups, but then have the choice to work on Word Work, Read to Self, or Read with Someone during the other two rotations. Each rotation lasts 20 minutes. To read about how my kids plan for Reader's Workshop, click HERE. To read a whole slew of posts all about Daily 5/Reader's Workshop in my class, click HERE.

9:15-9:30 Snack & Daily Language Instruction

We have a schoolwide program called Daily Language Instruction that we use to practice grammar, conventions, and more. I have the kids use their snack time to eat and work on that day's lesson. If they get done early, they can read quietly. When everyone is done, we gather together in the meeting area and go over the correct answers. I will typically have student volunteers share their responses and explain why they did what they did. It provides a great opportunity for leadership and teaching, plus I have them clip up if they volunteer, so even some of my most shy kiddos love the chance to show what they know.

9:30-10:30 Writing Groups

Writing Groups is in a state of transformation this year. I always liked to write growing up, and obviously writing is a large part of what I do now, but I realized this year I wasn't giving my kids enough pencil on paper time during Writing. I thought about how much time my kids had to read, and the time they spent writing just wasn't cutting it. We talked as a class that, like everything else, you need to practice writing to become better writers (see more on our conversation on Growth Mindset HERE).

So, Writing Groups changed a bit to reflect the following schedule:

  • 9:30-9:40 Discuss today's Prompt of the Day/Author's Chair
  • 9:40-9:50 Get started on the prompt while I circulate and touch base with strugglers
  • 9:50-10:10 1st Writing Group Rotation (click HERE for more info)
  • 10:10-10:30 2nd Writing Group Rotation

The daily prompts are found in my seasonal Writing Prompts (found HERE). I make a packet of around 10 that they keep in their Writing folders. We only do prompts three times a week since it takes kids a while to get through each prompt during Independent Writing. If they do get done with one early, they can free write about anything they would like in their Writer's Notebook.

On days we do not do a Prompt of the Day, we start with Author's Chair. I have found this to be a fun way to launch our writing time and give kids extra motivation to keep writing so they have something to share if they'd like.

To read more about Writing Groups, click HERE. I have noticed since the addition of prompts throughout the week that they have way more pencil on paper time, but still have time to free write about whatever they choose and also have time to work with me in Teacher Time to focus on a piece to publish.

It probably sounds a bit overwhelming, but small groups are at the heart of what I do each day with my kids. Very rarely will you find me teaching a concept whole-class-- it took me several years of teaching and frustration to realize that's how I personally work best. So while this intro post may seem overwhelming, the system quickly becomes routine for both my students and myself and we can really achieve some great things!

10:30-10:50 Handwriting, 7 Habits, Misc.

The last twenty minutes of our morning is often a catch-all for additional lessons I want to throw in there. On Friday, this is when we do our Goal Setting (read more about that HERE). We also use Handwriting Without Tears, so a few times a week we will work on our cursive. Any explicit 7 Habits for Happy Kids lessons can also happen during this time. We have also used this time to work on our Monster activities for literacy. These 20 minutes always fill up quickly, but I love having this small chunk of time to be as productive as possible.

After this, kids head of to Specials and then Lunch & Recess. I meet with my job-share partner during this time and her afternoon is filled with Math, Science, and Social Studies.

I hope this gave you a better sense of how my morning looks with my kids. Even though the structure is in place, the activities are constantly changing and so we are busy, busy, busy each day. Let me know if you have any questions!

Want to know how I organize all of this in my Teacher Plan book? Click HERE for some ideas and freebies!

Want to share your schedule and see lots of other examples of how teachers spend their day with their kiddos? Check out some of the great blogs below to learn more:

Monday, March 30, 2015

Product Review: I Read to Write by Zaner-Bloser

This is our school's first year taking the PARCC test, so I was definitely in resource-hoarding mode to prep for it! I wanted my kids to be exposed to as many types and varieties of texts as possible and really get the chance to dig in, code, make notes, and closely read into all that they could.

We are fortunate to have some great fiction and nonfiction short texts at our school, but they are books and not the best for underlining and notetaking. Plus, I want my kids to be able to respond to text-specific questions and not all of these include that option.

I knew that when Zaner-Bloser contacted me about reviewing their new I Read to Write kits that these would fit the bill perfectly.... and they didn't disappoint!

As you can see, these are small, consumable books that contain nonfiction, high-interest articles with tons of features to help support any nonfiction work in your classroom. Plus, at the end of each article, there are specific questions (both multiple choice and written) for kids to refer back to the text to help them answer.

There is an even more extensive writing section after these pages that have kids use a planer to plan for a specific type of writing!

But what I really loved were those tiny, yellow sticky-note images on the right-hand side of the article. These were the meat of the text-dependent question work and really had kids go back and underline, label, and then paraphrase, explain, or quote the text.

Zaner-Bloser's use of academic vocabulary was perfect PARCC prep and even went really well with our Academic Vocabulary Posters. We had the chance to discuss each term and underline, make notes, and more on the text itself as we looked for answers and explanations of our thinking.

There is a very handy Teacher's Guide.... and I don't say that often.... that explains the key vocabulary, ways to help strugglers, and provides some example responses, so these could easily be used with a substitute or even in smaller groups with a para.

If you're interested in checking these sets out, they are available for Grades 2-6. Visit Zaner-Bloser's website HERE to learn more. You can even request a *FREE* sample to be sent your way HERE.

Disclaimer: Zaner-Bloser sent me these products to use, but all opinions, photos, and recommendations are my own. I only recommend what I use and love!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Deposits & Withdraws to Our Emotional Bank Accounts

Every Friday, we dig into goal-setting and 7 Habits work in my classroom, and it's turned into my most favorite time to teach! To see all of my goal-setting posts, click HERE or scroll to the bottom of this post to see what we've been up to.

This week, we started talking about Thinking Win-Win, especially when it comes to making deposits into each others (and my!) Emotional Bank Accounts. While we start each year with Bucket Filling and use that terminology throughout the year, I find this term is a nice change. It never hurts to hear it in a variety of ways, right?

We talked a lot about our personal Emotional Bank Accounts, but we also talked about our classroom's Emotional Bank Account, as well as mine and other teachers', students', and adults' who they interact with on a daily basis.

The addition of our classroom's Emotional Bank Account was something that really hit home-- I wanted to emphasize that the choices they make don't just have an individual impact. Oftentimes, their choices (both good and bad) have class-wide consequences. When they make these choices, they should be thinking about whether it's adding or subtracting from our classroom's Emotional Bank Account.

We generated some common deposits and withdraws that we have been seeing in our classroom. Since it's so close to Spring Break, but we've been snowed in, you can see that self-control is a large focus here!

I then passed out one green and one pink sticky note to each student and had them head back to their table spots. There, they generated one deposit (on the green) that they would make sometime next week. Similarly, on the pink, they thought of a withdraw they have been making and thought about how they could do something different to change that choice for next week.

When they had both of these filled out, they came up to the front board and place them next to our Anchor Chart:

I had them glance through each of the deposits and withdraws as they came up to add their own. We will revisit these next week, but it was very reassuring to see their goals reflected some of the concrete examples we had discussed and wanted to focus on:

Little deposits like these will add up to make a huge difference to our classroom community overall. I am also making a point to use the "deposit" language when it comes to clipping up in my classroom. I want my kids to know that their clip up means they have increased our class' Emotional Bank Account and that their choice has not only positively impacted themselves, but our classroom as a whole.

Find more Goal-Setting Posts here:

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Did You Know? Mini-Research Project

I have used these Did You Know? facts in my classroom for several years in several different ways. Because I am only teaching literacy this year, I haven't been sharing them on our weekly Science board, but I wanted to incorporate them some way. Next week, we begin our big research project around Colorado Animals (read more about past years' work HERE), so I decided to incorporate these facts as a warm-up to internet research!

Here's what you'll need for this quick project:

  • Did You Know? Posters: printed four to a page, cut out & laminated
  • Did You Know? Posters: printed two to a page, cut out (for publishing)
  • Lined Paper (freebie HERE): printed two to a page, cut in half (for publishing)
  • 9x11" construction paper: folded in half (for publishing)
  • Internet connection (we used our class Chromebooks): for research
  • Writer's Notebook: for collecting facts and drafting 
*Quick note: I have two versions of these facts and picked and chose from both sets for my class. There are 35 facts in each set, so you could use one or both sets for your class. Version 1 is linked above and can be found HERE. Version 2 can be found HERE.

We started this in Teacher Time small groups (read more about how I teach Writing Groups HERE). I began by reading through the 1/4 page laminated facts aloud. When a student found interest with a certain fact, I would hand the card to them. We continued this until everyone in the group had a fact to research.

We titled our page: Did You Know? and I had them copy their fact directly underneath (just in case they lost their card).

Our first internet research minilesson was: What makes a good search term? I had them look at their fact and pick two to three key words that they could research. We talked about how one word was too broad, but typing in their entire fact (common occurance!) was not going to give them the resources they would need. I had them work on their Chromebooks in Teacher Time so I could be close by.

Other conversations included perseverance (going on to page 2 if resources on page 1 of the search results didn't give you what you needed), filtering (if you don't understand a resource as a reader, you can't write about it as a researcher-- toss it and find a better resource), and paraphrasing (we used the poster from my Academic Testing Vocabulary Posters to help remind them to put things in their own words).

The expectation was 3-5 facts using bullet points in their Writer's Notebooks. We then worked on getting these facts turned into a paragraph with an introduction and conclusion sentence. As a class, we decided the intro sentence should incorporate the Did You Know? as well as the fact, so we combined then and added an "It's true!" at the end.

Once they got a quick edit from me, I handed them their publishing page (available as a freebie HERE) and we assembled them together as a class. We glued the poster to the front and their research on the inside. They are quick and easy to share and the kids are fascinated by each other's facts.

The biggest take-away from me as their teacher was the search term lessons learned. This has always been a struggle in years past, but by tackling it with a mini-project like this, I found it to be manageable for all of us! I could make quick corrections and they could immediately see that a quality search term yielded much better resources than what they had been trying.

If you're interested in these fun facts, you can pick up Version 1 HERE and Version 2 HERE in my TpT Store. Happy researching!


Today is my 3-Year Blogging Anniversary! Woo hoo!! To celebrate this great milestone, I will be giving away ANY three items from my TpT Store to three different winners! Yay!

Just enter below and I will choose a winner next Sunday! Good luck and thank you for sharing this journey with me! You continue to wow, inspire, and encourage me more than you know!