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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Trade & Grade: Roll & Write Month Edition

Welcome to our Trade and Grade! This week I was able to use a wonderful product from my friend Cassie at Mrs. Thomas's Class. The kiddos LOVED it! Keep reading to hear all about it!
Roll & Write was a brilliant addition to my writing center this week. It gave students the ability to practice writing narratives, but also kept their attention because it was hands-on and involved many different crazy topics. In the picture above you can see my writing center table. It includes the activity (Roll & Write), a red box full of writing paper, a pencil box full of sharpened pencils, Expo markers and dice for the activity, and center directions. 

We are required to have standards based centers with directions and a learning goal or scale at every center during our reading and math blocks. Each time I plan a center, I simply type up a direction sheet, print it, and put it in a sheet protector or plastic frame. Students refer to it throughout the activity if they need help. During this Roll and Write center, the learning goal said: "I will be able to write a narrative story that includes characters, setting, a problem, and a solution."
I absolutely love this simple low prep center! When you are getting started, you will need the things seen above: paper (or a journal), Expo markers, dice, and printed sheets in sheet protectors (or laminated). Give students some dice, and they will do whatever work you have planned for them!
You could definitely print one page per child and have students color the boxes in with crayons, however, I know we are all teachers who are conscientious of the number of copies we make {or are allowed to make!}. Using sheet protectors and Expo markers helps to keep the copies down! I do not have a color copier at school, so I printed these on some winter-y colored paper to make them bright and inviting. They turned out beautifully in black and white!
Once students get to the center, the directions are quite simple. Just roll the die (We call them number cubes...more on that later...) to choose a character from the first column, then move to the second and do the same, and then move to the third. Once students have rolled three times, they will have the characters, setting, and problem of their narrative. The goal of the activity is for students to determine a solution to the problem and to include that in their writing. I explained this to my students before they began their narratives, so I am interested to grade them this week and see who was able to create their own solutions!
And....finally....They write! This student happened to roll all 6's and was SUPER excited to begin. I had my students write their stories on some simple lined paper, but you can also have them write in their journals or on lined loose leaf paper. It's a flexible center, so that's up to you!
I teach third graders who are on and below grade level. However, they really struggle with writing. Although not every story made sense in its entirety, I was SO beyond proud of their effort and excitement! I truly believe they were excited because of this creative activity. I don't think my students have ever been THIS excited to write! {Happy Teacher Moment}
Overall, here are my favorite aspects of this brilliant and kid friendly writing product:

Low Prep! - Just print it and stick it in a page protector. Seriously. So simple, people! I love when I can give my students fun activities that are easy to reproduce.

Printer Friendly - Each page uses only a small bit of colored ink. Therefore, they look great printed in black and white. Colored paper will make the monthly sheets pop!

Monthly Options - Each month has different options for characters, setting, and problem in the columns. Students will get experience writing about MANY topics. That means, my writing center is already planned for one week each month. My students can work on the monthly prompts that week and still get exposure to other writing activities during the rest of the month. I can also see this activity being great for homework also because it is easy to send home each month.

Engaging for Students - Like I said before, dice are magic. We are actually supposed to call them "Number Cubes" in my district because dice apparently refers to gambling. But people still go back to saying "Dice". Silly if you ask me! Anyway, kids love them, so why not use them to make writing more fun!?!

Automatic Differentiation - Each student is going to write differently. As long as they use their characters, setting, problem, and solution, they are completing the assignment. Therefore, my struggling writers will have exposure to including all four things in a short story, while the students who are excelling can write longer narratives with more details and structure. 
If you are thinking about trying this activity in your own classroom, I highly recommend it! My students were engaged the entire time and giggling about their crazy combinations! Roll & Write is the perfect addition to any writing center because it allows for choices, adds manipulatives to make writing more hands-on, and can truly change up your writing routine.
We cannot wait to finish our stories next week! As a teacher, I am interested to see how my students' writing improves as we continue to use these monthly Roll & Write activities over the next few months. I truly believe it will help the kids to become comfortable with writing narratives and including all of the necessary components in their writing.

If you are interested in grabbing this set for yourself, check it out here!

Monday, January 19, 2015

What A Pair! {Using Paired Texts to Compare and Contrast}

I have be crazy busy with my new job back in the classroom {more to come on that soon}, but I wanted to share this fun set with you today! Last week, our skill was to compare and contrast two texts. In third grade, students are asked to compare and contrast the major points in two texts about the same topic. My two coworkers and I were searching for products to use, but we weren't finding anything that worked for us...
Fast forward to the weekend. I decided to create a passage to go along with the book Officer Buckle and Gloria. We wanted the students to be engaged in the topic {dogs}, so we used a fun fiction book that they would giggle at. :) In the past, I have read Officer Buckle and Gloria to kindergarteners and first graders, so I was slightly worried. I didn't know for sure if my third graders would think it was funny. OH was I wrong! They were laughing and asking to see the flipping dog picture again and again.

Reading two texts can be time consuming, but "Just Do It!".
With my on level groups, I read Officer Buckle and Gloria aloud and then students read the paired passage silently. With my below level groups, I read the book aloud, but the students read some of the passage and I read some of the passage. With my lower below level groups (many are already in RtI or receiving services), I read both texts aloud. In one of my classes, I read the book aloud whole group which saved a bit of time. Yes, it takes a long time, but there's no other way to expose them to two texts before discussing and responding.

Discussing the texts
After reading, we started discussing each text separately. I asked students to retell aloud using major details, and we talked a little bit about each character. I prepped students for the questions to come by showing them similarities and differences in the structure of the text: fiction/nonfiction, text features, real pictures/illustrations, paragraphs, etc. We also looked at similarities and differences between the characters/subject in both texts.

My school is big on accountable talk right now, so we made sure to answer questions in complete sentences with sentence starters. My friend Katie from Simply Creative in KY, has a great pack that helps remind us to use accountable talk. You can check it out here.
Responding to the Text
In order to hit two standards at once, I added response questions AND compare/contrast questions to the passage. My on level groups only did the compare and contrast questions with me, because they are able to answer text-dependent questions on their own. My below level groups were guided through everything. {A picture of both handouts is shown below.}

We compared and contrasted the text structure and the topic (dogs, worms, trees, apple pies, bumblebees) in each set of paired texts. Students then explained which book they enjoyed reading most and why.

It wasn't the easiest skill for my struggling readers, however, it did make them think. And think HARD! They were prepared for their practice assessment on Friday, and did very well. {Celebrate Small Moments!!!} Pretty soon, the service dog passage was turned into a whole pack!

Click here to grab yours or see a larger preview!
Here are the five passages included. 
These are the five books that I used to pair with the nonfiction passages. But, any fiction book on the same topic as the passage will work just fine! :) They are not included in this pack, so check out your local library or head over to Amazon. {Amazon Prime is my weakness!}
At the top of each passage in the pack, you will see a Paired Text Suggestion and a line for students to write the name of the paired book (see picture above). This helps students to see that they are focusing on TWO texts not just one.

There are also two response pages included with full answer keys. Some answers may be different if you choose a different children's book than the suggested one. Any fiction book on the same topic will do!
I hope you enjoyed this mini preview! If you are like me and focused on standards, standards, standards, then I hope this little pack helps to narrow down your planning for LAFS.RI.3.9 or CCSS.RI.3.9! Click here to see a larger preview!

Have a great week!

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