Monday, December 29, 2014

Meaningful time

I fell in a trap this year.  I didn't make every minute meaningful for my students.  I followed the crowd even when I knew it wasn't working.  It was easier for me.

Although I was very aware of the choice I was making, I decided to over look it.  Then Debbie Miller's smart words made me rethink my easy choice.

I am reading the book No More Independent Reading Without Support by Debbie Miller and Barbara Moss.  In the book, Debbie (yes, we are on first name basis...jk) writes a section titled NOT THIS, Is There Enough Time? And Is Time Enough to Support Independent Reading?  Now I already have independent reading time in my classroom and I don't see giving it up...I've already made the time for it.  I'm reading the book to compare it to my practices and to support teachers that are having a hard time with Independent Reading.  BUT Debbie's words brought to light some other practices that I have included that aren't meaningful to the whole class.

What I'm talking about is Daily Oral Language.  Now I'm not saying it isn't meaningful to all kids but it wasn't/isn't working for my students.  It was the first thing we did when we came in the room.  The students got it out, worked on it ( by worked on I mean recopied the words with no corrections) and we went over it.  When I would circulate the room I noticed it wasn't transferring.  We talked about capitals, punctuation, proper nouns, etc.  but they still weren't using it in their writing.  I realized it was working for about three students.  That's only 15% of my class.  But I hung on and kept trying and still it only worked for 15% of my students.

Finally I acknowledged it.  It was hard to admit to myself that I wasted their time for too long.  

I changed the time to a Words-Their-Wayish time.  The ish comes in because I have made it work for my class and the time we have.   So I have a couple things that I have created that are working for my students.

The students have a notebook with the directions pasted to the front and an envelope (or you could use a baggie) adhered to the back.  The students cut the sort on Monday and store it in the envelope all week and glue on Friday.

There are 18 sorts for you in all!

Now to get back to my original problem...

 I decided that the work they were doing during Daily Oral Language was better suited to address during conferring while the students are actually expected to make it transfer.  We also admire each others work and this gave me an opportunity to select work in which the students were actually transferring it.  Read below to find out more about Admiration Frames.

To begin each writing block, I select a student’s work in which I have noted something interesting they were trying, and project it for all the students to see.  I give them time to talk about what they are noticing and admiring about the work with a partner.  Then students share out what they noticed the student author doing while I write it down and stick it on the paper.  This has transformed my students’ writing because once they see what their peers are trying out they feel safe to be creative with their own writing. 

This strategy is so helpful because it can be used for all areas of writing.  If you notice your students need to work on punctuation, you select a piece that is full of proper punctuation.  If you want to discuss why an author might use bold words, then you select a piece with that in it.  It helps create a seamless shift into your lesson for the day and it creates pride in your students.  When I felt that the students were ready to add dialogue in their stories I shared a student’s writing that already had dialogue.  I never pinpoint why I select the work but the students always seem to admire it.  After we admire the writing we hang it around the room.  Many times students leave their writing spot to go and look at one of these pieces for inspiration.  This strategy really created a classroom full of students that appreciate words and writing and it has become their favorite time of the day.

I know this is VERY late but I wanted to share the rest of our days with our elf, Twinkle.

That silly guy created a slip and slide and at the end he had snowflake rings for all the kids IN THE WATER!

Then he became a hermit crab to keep Mr. Crabs and Roxy company.

When he missed the workshop, he brought in his own.

Twinkle got fancy with a new bow-tie.

He gave the bow-tie to his camel turned reindeer and dressed up like Santa with a beard and sleigh!

Then Twinkle and camel/reindeer started hanging out on the window coverings....

...AND from the garland hanging from the ceiling.

Then, sadly, it was time to say good-bye.  So Twinkle and Noel, the elf next door, met in our common area for the big send off.  Of course treats were involved!

Here are the pictures from his whole stay...


We sure did enjoy our time with him.  I'm thinking of bringing in a lawn gnome to help Twinkle keep watch in his absence!!

Enjoy your break,


  1. I love Words Their Way! Thanks for sharing your activities.

  2. Thank you for sharing!
    I'm teaching 3rd now, and love the way you share the writing with the kids, using their own stuff. I can't wait to get this going! I'll peruse the rest of your posts ASAP!!! Thank you!!!!

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