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What do I write about?- Writing Wednesday

writing wed header

To become a good writer you need to spend time writing.  It is a simple truth that drives my love of Writer’s Workshop.  Of course, everything you love also has things that are obstacles to overcome.  In this instance, the huge barrier some kids feel about coming up with anything, anything at all, to write about.

In my writer’s worskhop I do mini-lessons (5-10 minutes) about a skill or technique and then the kids are off to continue their self-chosen writing.  At the beginning of the year, I always have a group of students that stay with me a little longer to try and figure out what they will write about.  Sometimes this is related to their low level of English or their struggle to imagine new options.  Several of my students cannot fit into a general class prompt and need the option to try out a few ideas and discard some before they settle on an idea.

It was for these kids that I created this build a prompt set.  We looked at the basic idea that every story has a setting, characters, and conflict.  They are then able to pick a partial prompt from each category and ultimately build a prompt that works for them.  Lower primary kids tend to just need a very general category to write in.  e.g. Superheroes! Animals! Witches!  Most of my younger students can come up with a story (generally modelled after another story) with that little amount of prompting.  My upper primary students needed more vivid details to get into the prompt which is why the prompts have both pictures and adjectives galore.

how to build a prompt

This didn’t solve all of my writer’s workshop woes.  I still needed to figure out Writer’s offices, effective word walls, and the right pacing of instruction, but it did stop the frustration for kids that needed more help coming up with ideas.  Once they were able to build their own individual prompt, they could start writing.  And as we all know… if a kid starts enjoying writing, they’re going to want to write more.

Build a Story prompt cover

Check out the rest of the Writing Wednesday helpful blogs and products!  This a great group of teacher authors and you are sure to come away with great ideas.

Little Vikings

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Back to School

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Meaning: You are about to leave the summer holidays. This is typical of a European road sign that lets drivers know they are leaving a city.

Summer is officially winding down and teachers are starting to slowly turn their minds to the next school year.  I’m scheduled to have  a baby on the first official day back to school, but I can’t stop the ritual of trying to figure out what would work best in my classroom this year.  I’ve been tasked by my colleagues to use my baby’s sleeping times as possible times to create resources for them.  🙂   I’ve got a list of about 30 roleplays, activities, units, etc.  Somehow, I think I won’t accomplish them all.

I did spend some sleepless nights creating an Early Years Classroom Decor Pack that has word wall headers, number posters, 6 months of calendar tiles, visuals for color words, days of the week, months of the year and more.  It is all of the basics I’ve always needed in a lower elementary classroom.  You can pick it up at 50% off for another week.

BTS cover early years

Plus, I’m posting a teacher link up with lots of great Back to School resources at great prices.  Get them now or wishlist them so you are ready for tpt’s inevitable back to school sale.

Adventures in Elementary

Finally, I want to give a shout- out to the amazing Anya.  She not only created the graphics for this blog but she drew my store logo.  She deciced that since we’re having a baby, the graphic needs to be redesigned to show all three kids.  Not only did she do that, but she added a custom onesie.  Such a nice gesture, my heart is full.

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I hope your enjoying the last bits of your summer and are happily gearing up for the great year we have ahead of us!

Little Vikings

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Fair vs. Equal

If there are any words I’ve come to dread as a parent or a teacher, “It’s not fair!” is the phrase I dread the most.  It is an extremely hard phrase to reason with.  My husband tells me that when he was a child, he and his brother used to put their drinks side by side every night so they could guarantee that they both had gotten the exact same amount of juice as the other.  My kids try to do the same with popcorn and my students try it with seemingly everything.

The funny thing about these two words is that even though kids (and sometimes school systems) treat them like synonyms; they are not.

What is equal? 

As humans we want to make sure that we are getting everything that we are entitled to.  This sometimes means that if we see someone getting “more” than us, we want to remedy that situation by either getting more ourselves or bringing them down to our level.  In the classroom this pops up with kids when you differentiate work, give small group teacher time, or basically any time that kids can see a discrepancy between their experience and another’s experience.  No classroom functions well if every student gets exactly the same everything.  It doesn’t work because their needs are more varied than making everything equal can account for.

What is fair? 

When I talk to kids, I often make an analogy about a giraffe and a caterpillar.  In this scenario both the giraffe and the caterpillar live in the same place and they both eat leaves.  The ruler of the town decided that there should be a set number of leaves for each animal, so that the town doesn’t run out of leaves.  The ruler decides to divide the leaves equally and gives the caterpillar and the giraffe the same amount of leaves.  I then stop and ask, “Is this fair?”

The kids invariably shout, “NO!” They recognize the innately different needs in terms of amount of leaves between a giraffe and a caterpillar.  I then set them brainstorming how else the leaves could be divided if dividing them equally isn’t fair.  There are usually lots of discussions about this and quite often I’ve had kids decide to get paper or whiteboards to make diagrams  In the end we always come to a solution that takes into account that a giraffe needs more leaves than a caterpillar does to survive.  Also if a caterpillar has too many leaves they could get sick or go to waste.  We then try to sum up our ideas about fair and equal.  Sometimes we’ve said that fair doesn’t mean equal and other times we’ve said that fair is giving each person what they need.  

fair vs equal

When we’ve made our own definition of fair, we bring it back to the classroom.  So is it a good idea to make sure that we always do exactly the same thing for every person?  They now quickly point out some of the different needs they may have or others may have.  I then remind them of the definition that “fair is giving each person what they need”.  I then give them opportunity to think of times in the classroom that things might be different for different people but, everyone is getting what they need.

I have this discussion early in the year, every year and it works.  Since I’ve started using it, I’ve noticed that my students are more aware of their own needs and the needs of others.  I also display a poster that either uses their definition of fair that year or my standard definition.  I’ve included three posters that you can use with your class.  Just click on the image and it will send you to my tpt store.

Fair is not equal

Click on the picture to download.

Little Vikings

 

 

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Who Goes First?

Every year I have at least one student who is obsessed with being first (in games, in line, first to be done with assignments, etc.) and this always seems to trickle down to the rest of the class.  8

My literacy and math times rely on stations or centers so I need students to be independent.  Every year I slowly introduce the behaviors expected while working in the centers and we roleplay both what appropriate and inappropriate behavior might look like.  This year, there were a lot of very tense discussions between students about who would go first in centers that involved a game.  Eventually, based on my students’ suggestions, I made a “Who Goes First?” box.  At the beginning of the day I drew out a card and whoever in the group met the details of the card, they would go first.

Those tense discussions?  They became non-existent.  It worked so well that it spread to other classrooms.  I even had my co-teacher steal my box so she could use it when I wasn’t teaching.  The key was that there were so many possibilities that it was always up for grabs who would be first that day.  (Examples include: the person with the longest thumb, the person with the shortest first name, the person who has a cat at home, the youngest, etc.)

who goes first

You can pick it up as a flash freebie  for the next few days in my tpt store and see your students’ tense discussions drop dramatically.  🙂

Little Vikings

 

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Summer Literacy and EAL Fun

I’ll admit I had grand EAL-at-home plans for summer learning.  Except, this year in Scandinavia, the sky is all about rain.  So we’ve been playing lots of card games that we’ve played with all year.  We have plans for an English water balloon war on the next sunny day that we are blessed with.  We’ve taken balloons and written words or phrases in Danish.  The kids can’t throw them until they translate them into English.     I’d rather just get them talking but my kiddos currently need a confidence boost in their ability to speak and understand English so we’re going this way.  (Come on sun so we can post pictures!)

We’ve also got a candy store role play set up at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  The kids are the shop owners and are trying to sell us some candy.  This is because one: candy is their greatest love in the world and two: they are very convincing in Danish about why people should eat it.  We thought we’d give them a chance to translate their love of all things sugar into speaking English.  Plus: there is candy at the end for them!  (Pictures forthcoming)

To see some of our rainy day activities and others posted by great teachers, check out this week’s linky party.

 

Adventures in Elementary

 

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Stop the Summer Slide Linky Party

Summer is about fun and rest both for students and teachers but, a little interaction with some basics is important. At my house we have a strict limit to the amount of screen time that each child can have. This worked brillantly on sunny days. Rainy days… well ….we discovered could use a little bump up in screen time. Our solution was to make the kids earn extra time by choosing to write, read, or do math. They surprised us by loving being back to the routine of some school work.

My kiddos are still learning English and the art of writing, so the prompts have pictures and words to make it easier for them.  Pick it up for free in my tpt store.

summer writing

Click on the picture to be directed to tpt link.

If you like this, check out more summer freebies to help with the rainy days from other teachers at both of these  linky parties.  Just click the pictures below to be directed to each one.

This one is for teachers

Adventures in Elementary
This one is for parents.

 photo Summer linky button.png

Little Vikings