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Ask a roomful of teachers if they like teaching poetry and you won't always see that many hands. Ask students if they like LEARNING about poetry and you'll see even less hands. Poetry is one of those tricky types of reading and writing because it's so different from prose. Lucky for me, I've always LOVED reading and writing poetry, so I want to spread that love to you.

This post may contain some affiliate links, which means if you click on one of the links and make a purchase, I'll receive a small commission. You will never incur a fee or charge for this.
One of my first writing projects that I knew I HAD to do as a teacher was to create a poetry writing unit to make my students fall in love with poetry the way I am. Over the years, I've twisted and tweaked how I teach poetry to really make it an enjoyable experience for my students. Here are some of my tried and true tips for poetry writing:

1. Make poetry accessible. Have a poetry collection of books for students to read and look through. Poetry has a different sound and feel than most other types of material that students read. Students need models for writing and My go-to book to listen to is Love That Dog by Sharon Creech (read all about that here), and here are some of the others that I put out in my library:


2. Use topics students are familiar with to engage them. On the day I introduce poetry writing, I use a brainstorming organizer to let students write down any topic. They write for two minutes, and then each person shares one idea. After sharing, students take another minute to write down any ideas they heard to "piggy-back" off of their classmate. Now, every time we attack a new kind of poem, there's a go-to list of ideas...just in case someone has a case of writer's block. Grab the organizer in my post about pre-writing here.

3. Incorporate a variety of poetry. Use poetry forms that allow kids some creative license. Try not to overuse one form of poetry. For example, a diamonte has a specific format, requiring students to use different parts of speech to portray opposites. After working on this type of poem, I like to switch up our writing focus, and we work on a creature alliteration poem. Students have a new focus on alliteration, in addition to having creative license with the types of words they use.

Some of the different poems I use in my poetry writing unit include: acrostic, cinquain, color poem (using similes and metaphors), concrete (shape), creature alliteration, diamante, free verse, haiku, and limerick. I also always have my students pick their favorite type of poem and write a second version of it. I'm always amazed at their creativity! This project has become a favorite for me and it's one that my students remember year after year. I have middle schoolers bringing me their projects to show off to my fourth graders as examples of what we're going to create. 

4. BONUS: Have a poet visit. Okay, so this is a little bit trickier because generally it costs money to have an author come visit. But there are lots of ways you can finance author visits, or look into Skype visits, to really bring the idea of writing poetry to life for your students. My school is very lucky this year and we are welcoming Kenn Nesbitt as a visitor to our school. (See his website for info on how to set up a visit- I highly recommend him!)

When you're finished writing poetry, don't forget to celebrate! Check out some of my ideas for celebrating writing here.

Are you a poetry lover or hater? Any ideas to share for teaching poetry writing? Share in the comments below!

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Most people (including teachers!) hear the word "grammar" and start to cringe. It can be fairly dull and boring, and it seems like you're teaching these kids the same stuff over and over. Plus, you teach all these "rules" and then you teach about all of these exceptions to the rules, because, well, the English language is quite bizarre. 
This post may contain some affiliate links, which means if you click on one of the links and make a purchase, I'll receive a small commission. You will never incur a fee or charge for this.

So how can we make it better? Here are some tried and true ways to get your students excited for grammar:

1. Use picture books to introduce your grammar ideas. A couple of my favorites:


For Punctuation Takes a Vacation, I like to use the letter in the book as an activity for students to correct the punctuation.


Hairy, Scary, Ordinary: What Is an Adjective? (Words Are Categorical) is an example of a Brian Cleary book. He has a huge set of educational picture books for each part of speech and also for figurative language and some math topics- the illustrations and writing is amazing!




2. Word sorts to have students discover the rules. I love using sorts of all kinds. In grammar, it's a great way to have students apply rules they've already learned. Sorts can challenge their brains in a different way. Give students sets of singular nouns and having them sort by the plural endings. Hand them a mixture of nouns, verbs, and adjectives and see if they can figure out to sort the words by part of speech. Having a challenge gets them thinking in different ways, especially if you don't tell them exactly what the categories are. ;)

3. Switch up practice by color coding or cutting up sentence strips. Drill and kill is old, my friends. Does anyone even remember how to diagram sentences anymore? (Me! I do!...but probably very few of you. I can guarantee my husband doesn't...anyway...) We need to still be able to assess our students throughout their grammar practice without always using the same old worksheets. We used some color coding during our The Night I Followed the Dog unit (see more about that here). Students can easily highlight every noun and verb. Use a story they're reading and copy a few sentences or even a page, identifying all of the adjectives on the page. 
The picture above shows an example of some sentence strips that we performed "surgery" on by separating the subject and predicate. I've also had students write out entire sentences and then we "diagrammed" the sentences by separating them word by word and categorizing the parts of speech. We made a huge class display of all of our words. This was so amazing to do towards the latter part of the school year because my kiddos could really see how many different parts of speech they learned. 

4. An oldie, but a goodie- Schoolhouse Rock! (Special 30th Anniversary Edition)! These jams are silly and fun for the kids to sing along to. You can search YouTube or Teacher Tube for free versions, but I kept having problems with how fuzzy the videos were, so I broke down and bought the DVD. Great news for you- all of the episodes are now available FOR FREE on ABC- find the episode guide here and here's The Tale of Mr. Morton (Subject and Predicate)- which is always my kiddo's favorite!

5. Get into interactive notebooks: Students love the cutting, pasting, and writing in their notebooks. I don't use INBs for everything, but I've learned that they're crucial to my grammar lessons. Students get the opportunity to practice and reinforce their learning in the notebooks. I try to use similar templates over and over to simplify the process and have more time focused on the learning, rather than getting hung up on teaching students how to cut each piece. INBs give students the chance to practice in class, and also allows them to quiz themselves in school or at home, using sorts and flipbooks in their notebooks. 
Working on our subject/predicate sort in our notebooks. Grab this set here: http://bit.ly/SentenceINB or see my nouns INB here: bit.ly/INBNouns

What are some of your favorite ways to make grammar exciting?





Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year! There are only 7 weeks until Christmas... which means it's time to start planning for some of my favorite lessons. 
Here are seven of my favorite Christmas-themed activities with a couple freebies so you can try them in your classroom! 

1. Wreath Glyph: Use a plate, crayons or markers, and construction paper. Depending on how crafty you feel, this can be as simple, or as fancy as you like. If I have time, I like to get red puff balls for cranberries, mini candy canes, and possibly ribbons for the bows, or mini pinecones. These double as fun decorations for the hall or classroom! Students can use the plate as a base and then add a fringe to the construction paper so it has a pine needle look for the wreath. {Link at end of post for directions & printables!}
 
Tracing the plate is an easy model. 


Some of my pre-colored cut outs for my wreath!

The finished wreaths are a fun decoration for the classroom or to send home. It's a different way for everyone to share about some of their holiday traditions.
2. How To Challenge: Have you ever thought about how many steps it takes to wrap a present? It seems easy, but is it easy to explain? First, I ask my students to work in partners or teams and they create a list of materials and write down directions. Then we swap directions and I lay out potential supplies- wrapping paper (Dollar Tree!), scissors, tape, and tissue boxes to wrap. Students are ONLY allowed to do the directions EXACTLY as they are written. It's hilarious to see how the boxes turn out with the student written directions. PLUS they see how difficult it is to write directions. Afterwards, each student, or partner of students, choose something to write a how-to set of directions that fits our Christmas theme- making hot chocolate, building a snowman, decorating a Christmas tree, or decorating Christmas cookies. This is a good project to do if you can't necessarily do Christmas-themed activities because students can choose anything and the engagement activity works across many cultures. {Link at end of post for directions & printables!}

3. Christmas Lists using Inferences: Start with a Christmas list that has no name (see the list below). If you can't use the word "Christmas," create just "wish lists." Have students guess who would write the wish list and then explain WHY it would be that person's list. For example, in the list below, a red suit with gold buttons would be something Santa would want because he wears a red suit. Also, he likes milk and cookies. Next, challenge students to create lists on their own! I like to handout pre-selected characters, like Mrs. Claus and Rudolph. Students will create lists in partners or small groups. Then, each group will share their list and the rest of the class will try to guess who would have written the list. The goal is to give lots of clues, but not tell who wrote the list. {Link at end of post for directions & printables!}
4. Concrete Poetry: This activity is SO fun! Concrete (or shape) poetry is one of my favorite forms of poetry. This is a fun and easy activity to work on and insert a little poetry into your December plans. Students are able to pick something they enjoy about Christmas and use their ideas to put together a poetry picture. Click here for the freebie in my TpT store.  

I modeled for our Christmas poems with my Thanksgiving turkey :)



Find more QOTD here: bit.ly/QOTDcategory
5. Christmas-Themed QOTD: Are you already using morning journals or whiteboard questions? If you follow me on IG, you know I love my QOTD! These Christmas-themed questions of the day infuse just a little bit of Christmas into your daily routine, without taking away from your regular lessons. **These are available for a limited time for free right here!**

6. Countdown Chain: Have students each write their favorite holiday memory on a strip of construction paper. I usually use red, green, blue, & white. Put together a chain with each strip. On each day before break, have a student pull their link off the chain and share it with the class. This is a fun, easy decoration and students look forward to their turn to share!

7. Elves on Strike Narrative Writing: What would happen to Christmas if the elves go on strike? Students use their problem solving skills and engage in discussions about strikes and what that means in this fun writing unit. My students have come up with everything from penguins taking over to Santa creating a better work environment (complete with hot chocolate maker, constant cookie breaks, and candy canes). Check it out here.

Full unit plan, organizers, and everything really help my students to write amazing stories! I can't wait to start this project this year :)
Here's the link for printables for the wreath, how-to, and the inference activity!  Let me know if your students enjoy them!

What are some of your favorite Christmas activities?


Hopefully you caught my previous post about the fun tools I use for teaching about narrative structures in reading...now it's time to turn my readers into writers! 


One thing you need to know about me...I'm not a Halloween person. Like at all. We could skip Halloween for all I care. But what I DO love are scary stories. The kind that make you crawl out of your skin just a little bit. You know who else loves scary stories? My students. This is the perfect time to capitalize on their ideas and go from readers of narratives to writers of narratives. 

How can you plan a narrative writing unit though? Here's a guide I use when planning a narrative unit.


First, you need a hook. I like to read an excerpt from Invasion of the Night Weenies called "A Little Night Fishing." This gem was passed down to me from my mentor during my first year of teaching and I have used it ever since. One thing I especially like about it is that it's not what kids think of as scary. There aren't any zombies, witches, or Frankensteins. It's a surprise ending that just freaks you out a little. 

After reading, we talk about what made the story creepy and other things we associate with scary stories (including the zombies, witches, or Frankensteins). 

Then we get into our graphic organizer, which is modeled like a plot diagram- the same one we've been using for our narrative reading. Students are more easily able to follow a structure that we've already been using- no need to reinvent the wheel.

This is a good time to figure out what writing mini-lessons to use. Is dialogue necessary? Should you just stick to breaking up into paragraphs? Different classes have different needs. 

Rough drafts are completed in between mini-lessons. I have students use looseleaf and skip lines to make editing easy. After our rough drafts, students are matched with a peer editor and then I start meeting with them individually. While it can be tricky, it's important not write students' stories for them. I like to ask them questions and see if they can problem solve. "How did that character get there?" "Why are they running down a hallway?" "How was the witch magically defeated?"

When we're ready for final drafts, my students usually hand write them for the first couple months, and then when we're ready, we switch to typing.

The next part is THE BEST- celebrating! Anyone who wants to share their story is allowed to. Sometimes we share with a partner, table groups, or whole group. Not every student is comfortable to share in front of the whole crowd, but many will share in partners or a smaller group.

Ready to plan your own writing unit? Click on the image below to save to your computer. 

Want to try something already planned out? Check out my narrative writing units. Each one comes with a full unit plan, graphic organizers, final draft papers an extra activities!
bit.ly/scarywriting
bit.ly/SuperheroWrtg
bit.ly/ElvesonStrike



Ah, fall. Smell the fresh pumpkin spice lattes, break out the jeans, sweaters, scarves, and boots, and breathe in the cool air. 

While I'm a summer girl at heart, fall as a special place in my heart because I love being back to school and meeting my kiddos for the first time. 

When school starts up, it's time to review some of the basics of reading- story elements & summarizing. These skills ultimately lend themselves to some fun summary projects and an awesome creative writing unit of scary stories...finished in time for Halloween!

Planning an extended unit like this requires some back mapping. Back mapping is what I think is *the most* important part of any planning. Where do I want these kids to be by the end of this unit? 

I want my students to be able to create their own narrative story, using story elements like setting, characters, conflict, and resolution. They will be able to do this because we'll have built used multiple texts to identify story elements, and we'll even be creating summaries that show these elements. 

Will all of my students be able to do this? I hope so, but likely at varying levels. As I get to know my students, I will adjust my expectations for my different reading groups to challenge all of the students, but not allow my high students to slack off, nor will I let my low students slide by. 

What tools will I employ?

This post may contain some affiliate links, which means if you click on one of the links and make a purchase, I'll receive a small commission. You will never incur a fee or charge for this.
1. Mentor text: The Night I Followed the Dog
This adorable picture book will serve a few purposes- it engages the students, it will be our model story for identifying story elements and writing a summary, and it will launch a short narrative writing piece that jump starts my students' creative minds. Want a plot diagramming & short grammar lesson to go with the book? Click for a blog-only The Night I Followed the Dog freebie.


Love this book!
2. Independent reading: Storyworks Magazine fiction (which for the September 2016 issue is The Day It Rained Cats)
I love Storyworks! It has a little bit of everything and I really try to use as much of it as possible with each edition. The fiction story will work nicely with this unit (and this is usually the case each year). You could also pull in a basal reader short story, or another text. This reading is done more independently and students will need to identify story elements and develop their own summary of this story.

3. Novel: The Boxcar Children (The Boxcar Children, No. 1) (Boxcar Children Mysteries)
I love starting off the year using a novel as soon as possible. The Boxcar Children is great because my whole class can enjoy it, no matter what their level of reading is. It is also part of a series, which is a great way to get kids interested in different books. The story in this first book is perfect enough for summaries at any level. The difficulty lays in the length of the text (determining important pieces of the action), and what the expected end result is. It's challenging for students to pick out the important parts of a story and then create a quality summary to use with it. 

For each story, we're going to map out the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. This is going to help us with our narrative writing because we'll be using the same structure to map out my FAVORITE October writing project- Scary Stories! More about those in my next post where I explain how our reading unit will lead into the MOST FUN WRITING PROJECT EVER. GET EXCITED. :)

What are your favorite texts for mapping out story elements?



When we decided to be teachers, we knew we would be working long hours, taking work home, and having to juggle family, friends, and other outside interests (ranging from sports watching to reading to gardening to running to Netflix binging) with the little time left over. It's hard not to let work take over because we have the job where we care, deeply, about our students. And we're expected to do work outside of normal working hours.

How can you make sure work doesn't take over your life? Here are my top tips for making your life easier and destressing your teacher life.

1. Don't worry about keeping up with the Jones's. We've all seen those amazing social media accounts full of ideas for us on Instagram and Pinterest. Don't we all want a picture perfect classroom? Yes! But how long does it take to do all of that? Choose a couple things in your classroom that you want to fix up and you can slowly make your classroom look as beautiful as you want, without spending hours and hours on your set up. It doesn't have to be all at once.

Your classroom is for your students. Your most important goal is to keep it happy, safe, and homey to welcome your students. They will love you and your room when you make them feel comfortable and greet them with a smile.
2. Plan out your meals. This is something you need to do at home, on the weekend. Trust me, it will save you TONS of time in the long run. I'm one of those teachers that eats breakfast and lunch at school every day. I prep my school meals on Sunday for the week, bagging up my daily snacks (goldfish, grapes, apples, etc.) ahead of time, and making any sandwiches or salads. 

I also plan out my weekly dinners. When I come home from work, my brain is fried. It's hard to come up with anything to eat, or even have time to figure out what ingredients I have. I start making bad decisions, and next thing you know I've ordered a double bacon cheeseburger  to be delivered OR made a box of macaroni & cheese OR ordered a pizza with extra pepperoni. And all those things are delicious and wonderful...but best in small doses. Planning out meals ahead of time saves me the agony of deciding what to make, the extra time of being hangry, and allows me to get to work fixing dinner right away.
3. Pick your stay late day. Choose one day of the week to be your day to stay a little later at work to clean up, grade an extra set of papers, prep for the next week ahead, update your class website, etc. If you pick one day a week in advance, then stay an extra hour or two after your students leave. Shut your door and GET. STUFF. DONE.

For me, this day is Friday. I send my dog to day care (this frees me from running home to take him for a walk and to the dog park for an hour- city life). Sometimes, I even get my husband to pick him up. If I had kids, this would be the day it was my hub's turn to pick them up and do the after school routine with them. Friday works for me because very few teachers stay so there's no one to run into my room to tell me another story about that kid (you know who I'm talking about!). 

Need some help managing your time while you're at school? Check out this post about time management.

What's your best tip to destress your teacher life?


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