Pre-Write Maps are Great for Early Learners

Pre-Write Maps are great for early learners. These tools help students organize their thoughts before they get them to on paper.
What are you thinking? Pre-Write Maps are a great way to teach students to plan their writing.  The most important part of this is it needs to be used as a planning tool. It is a planning tool, not a form of writing.

Circle Maps
Pre-Write Maps are great for early learners. These tools help students organize their thoughts before they get them to on paper.

Circle Maps are easy.  The “REAL” circle maps are used for defining context with adjectives.  I don’t do that all the time.  I use them as an idea generator.  In the case of the penny map, we told all about how we would describe the penny (that’s using adjectives), then we added pictures and Old Abe’s name.  I have also added the Lincoln Memorial to the map because I like my students to know the front and the back of coins.  It’s getting harder with the backs changing all the time.  The scarecrow circle map had words to describe fall.  Both maps moved from Interactive Writing one week to the Writing or Math Center the next.  They might have to write programmed sentences about Fall:  I like corn.  I like pumpkins.  I like apples.  OR  The penny is brown.  The penny is a circle.  The penny is little.

Tree Maps
Pre-Write Maps are great for early learners. These tools help students organize their thoughts before they get them to on paper.

Tree Maps are great for sorting, classifying, and grouping.  Using a tree map to sort the number of syllables in their names or map features.  I have also used a tree map for a CAN, HAVE, ARE pre-write.

Bubble Maps
Pre-Write Maps are great for early learners. These tools help students organize their thoughts before they get them to on paper.

Bubble Maps are great for describing.  I tend to use this map and circle maps interchangeably (don’t tell anyone).  It’s easy to use a circle map for Science (5 senses, magnetic things), History (people in history, community), Math (coins, numerals), and Reading (word families, characters).

Double Bubble Maps
Pre-Write Maps are great for early learners. These tools help students organize their thoughts before they get them to on paper.

Double Bubbles are fun because students think they are cool.  They look complicated, but they aren’t.  It’s another option to the Venn Diagram.

Flow Maps
Pre-Write Maps are great for early learners. These tools help students organize their thoughts before they get them to on paper.

Flow Maps are one of the most frequently used maps.  Showing change over time, writing about a field trip, or showing life cycles are easy ways to show students how things are sequenced.

Brace Maps
Pre-Write Maps are great for early learners. These tools help students organize their thoughts before they get them to on paper.

I love Brace Maps.  I think it’s important for students to understand parts to whole.  It amazes me how many students don’t do puzzles before they walk into a kindergarten classroom.  They may have done a “puzzle” on their iPad or their computer, but manipulating a puzzle, seeing part to whole, being able to look from object to object are all important tasks.   Reading at its most basic level is understanding the relationship between parts (letters) and whole (words).

Bridge Maps
Pre-Write Maps are great for early learners. These tools help students organize their thoughts before they get them to on paper.

Bridge Maps are great for analyzing relationships between items.  As the rigor of testing is getting harder and harder, understanding analogies and interpreting the relationships is very important.

Using Pre-Write Maps helps students organize thoughts, but make sure you use them as a pre-write. …and they are fun!

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Squiggle It, Just a Little Bit...or A Lot!

Squiggles are the best center for combining creativity and writing skills. Using 9 weeks booklets for your students, they can create and you can monitor their progress in one booklet.
One of my favorite centers is called the SQUIGGLE CENTER.  Pat Pavelka  presented a workshop for my school system in 2004 and introduced me to the Squiggle.  Over the years, I took what Pat taught us and tweaked the center into one of my favorites.  It is the perfect center to foster creativity and enhance writing skills.

Squiggle starts as an independent center the second nine weeks of kindergarten.  Beginning Week 9, the Squiggle is introduced as a whole group activity.  Perfect Read Alouds for the whole group lesson are “The Squiggle” by Carole Lexi Schaefer and “This is the Sun” a Crayola book I found in the Target Dollar Spot a few summers ago.  Each book discusses a line, a scribble, or a “squiggle” that can be changed into something else.
Squiggles are the best center for combining creativity and writing skills. Using 9 weeks booklets for your students, they can create and you can monitor their progress in one booklet.

Gradual Release of Responsibility - I do it.

After the story, show the students a piece of chart paper with many “plus signs.”  The reason I start with a “plus sign” is that the shape remains the same if it is turns upside down or sideways.  All the students to brainstorm many ideas they can make with a “plus sign.”  You hold the pen so the lesson can go quickly.  I have done the next step two different ways:  1. When teaching full-day kindergarten, I would send them back to their tables with a piece of paper that contained 1 big “plus sign” in the middle of the page.  2.  When teaching half-day kindergarten, I would let them see the paper and tell them they would have the opportunity to make a squiggle for morning work the following day.  The students are required to label their pictures, either independently or with help.
Squiggles are the best center for combining creativity and writing skills. Using 9 weeks booklets for your students, they can create and you can monitor their progress in one booklet.

We do it.

The second lesson starts with a quick review of the stories and the chart paper with the “plus signs.”  I would also share a few student made squiggles.  Then I would show them the new squiggle for the day, a “V.”  The chart paper shows a “v” pointing in 4 directions.  Again, the students brainstorm and you write their choices.  Again, they will either get another chance to do an independent squiggle at the table immediately or for morning work the following day.  The students would also label their picture.

The third lesson starts with another review and a few students sharing their squiggle from the day before.  Today’s lesson will include a chart paper with a “U” shape written facing 4 different ways and a sentence starter.  We talk about what the squiggle could be as I turn the page 90 degrees at a time…it could be the bottom of a boat, the side of a face, a hill for Jack and Jill, or the side of a plate.  Then, they are all given the same squiggle and asked to go illustrate and write about their picture.
Squiggles are the best center for combining creativity and writing skills. Using 9 weeks booklets for your students, they can create and you can monitor their progress in one booklet.

You do it.

When I first started using the Squiggle Center there was a "Squiggle of the Week."  It seemed everyone copied the person sitting closest to them and the students were not very creative.  So, we started calling it the “Secret Squiggle” and they were allowed to use a lap desk and sit anywhere in the room to complete their squiggle.  This worked for creativity, but I always hated sharing the Squiggles  at the beginning of the week because then the other students would start copying what they had seen.  Finally, the same lightning bolt that helped me make a monthly listening center booklet helped me create Squiggle Books.  Starting the second 9 weeks of the school year, students received their own Squiggle Book.  This book included 9 Squiggles and a writing space.  They are allowed to choose any Squiggle in the book, but it cannot be the same one as another person at the table.  We date stamp the squiggle so that we know when they did each squiggle.  For the first Squiggle Book, the students are not given any lines.  They are asked to label and encouraged to write a simple sight word sentence:  I see the __.
Squiggles are the best center for combining creativity and writing skills. Using 9 weeks booklets for your students, they can create and you can monitor their progress in one booklet.
This is one of my favorite 2nd 9 weeks squiggles.  This shows complete understanding.  This student used what we learned from our read aloud and transferred the knowledge to his squiggle.  Each day at the end of center time, we share our centers. They have illustrated several different squiggles, so they don't always remember what someone else did before.  However, if I see too many "doors" or "lightning bolts," we outlaw that picture.

You do it...more.

The second Squiggle Book (the 3rd 9 weeks) includes lines on the paper and the students are required to write 4 sentences.  Yes, I said 4 sentences!  Years ago I developed a writing tool for helping kindergartners (or any emergent writer) write 4 sentences on a topic.  They can use this for writing.  I loved the foot squiggle.  "The [fut] is yellow.  The fut is big. The fut has a stengy (stinky) sel (smell). The fut is a slep (asleep).
Squiggles are the best center for combining creativity and writing skills. Using 9 weeks booklets for your students, they can create and you can monitor their progress in one booklet.
Want proof they understand what they are learning?  Here's another great squiggle that showed this student understood where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his speech in Washington D.C.
Squiggles are the best center for combining creativity and writing skills. Using 9 weeks booklets for your students, they can create and you can monitor their progress in one booklet.

You do it...to the max!

The last Squiggle Book of the year (4th 9 weeks), includes TWO squiggle lines on each page and lines that are closer together.  The two lines must be woven into one picture or one story.  The last 9 weeks, the students who write more than 4 sentences are allowed to go to the treasure box.
Squiggles are the best center for combining creativity and writing skills. Using 9 weeks booklets for your students, they can create and you can monitor their progress in one booklet.
The first squiggle has two half-moon shapes.  The student made a grill and a kitchen light.  The second squiggle had two arrows pointing in opposite directions.  The student made them into the noses of two dogs,  The story is all about going to an animal shelter and getting a dog.  One dog is "adopdid" and the other did not.  It is exciting to see all the different things the students can create.
Squiggles are the best center for combining creativity and writing skills. Using 9 weeks booklets for your students, they can create and you can monitor their progress in one booklet.

Look what I did.

Squiggle Center is perfect for showing growth over time.  At the end of each 9 weeks, the teacher has a writing sample for growth (or lack there of).  The writing samples can be used for RtI, ESTAT, or CSC.
Squiggles are the best center for combining creativity and writing skills. Using 9 weeks booklets for your students, they can create and you can monitor their progress in one booklet.

I hope you like Squiggles as much as I do, but more importantly, as much as my students do.  I have free downloads for each 9 weeks.




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Listen Up! Listen Center Can Be Great

Listening Center is one of those centers I used to hate, but with a little adjustments, it's now one of my favorites. 1 book a month; a different purpose each week.
I don't know about you, but LISTENING CENTER used to be the bane of my existence.  Every week finding a new book…making sure it wasn’t too long…making sure the tape worked…making sure I had multiple copies…ugh.  Then, I finally figured it out:

I was making too many changes.

Teach Process, Change Product

LISTENING CENTER is another center that once the process is taught…you’re golden. 

For classroom set up purposes...we hang a sign where the students will work.  Every classroom is a little bit different, so I've had the listening center set up different ways.  Sometimes I have the tape player on the table where they will work.  The table also has a bucket with their listening center booklets.  Sometimes, there isn't a plug available...so I have the students lay on the floor and listen to the book, then go to the table with the booklets.  One year, I had my students keep their booklets with them in a file box they took to every center, every day.  Regardless, as long as you establish the place and keep it constant, it will be fine.
Listening Center is one of those centers I used to hate, but with a little adjustments, it's now one of my favorites. 1 book a month; a different purpose each week.

Setting a Purpose for Listening

The secret to loving the Listening Center?  I choose one book PER MONTH!  That’s right…just 1.  The students have 4 opportunities to hear the book, while the product for each week is different. Now, my Listening Center supports comprehension.  Each week we set a purpose for listening.
Listening Center is one of those centers I used to hate, but with a little adjustments, it's now one of my favorites. 1 book a month; a different purpose each week.
Week 1 – Students listen to the story.  The purpose is to be entertained!  Then, write the title and the author on the cover of their Listening Center booklet (2 pages of manila paper, folded, and stapled).  At the beginning of the year, I write the title and author on sentence strips for the students to reference at the table.  Once I got a SmartBoard, I wrote the title and author on the SmartBoard for student reference.  Towards the middle of the year, I teach them to write the title using the books.

Week 2 – Students listen to the story.  Students will write the main character names and either illustrate the characters or glue provided pictures from the story.  At the beginning of the year, we decide who the main characters are as a group and I write the names on sentence strips for reference at the center.  Later in the year, we discuss the characters orally, but they have to locate the names in the book.
Listening Center is one of those centers I used to hate, but with a little adjustments, it's now one of my favorites. 1 book a month; a different purpose each week.
Week 3 – Students listen to the story.  Students will write about the setting in the story and write a phrase.  At the beginning of the year, we decide what the main setting is as a group and I write it on a sentence strip.  Once again, as the year goes on they have to locate the information in the book.

Week 4 – Students listen to the story a final time and write a response to the story.  At the beginning of the year, I provide the sentence starter, “I like it when…”  As the year progresses they can choose, "I like it when..." or "I do not like it when..."  

Changing my Listening Center from a weekly book to a monthly book helped my students with reading comprehension.  My students could have book talks about the characters, setting, and events easily.

Cute illustrations

Listening Center is one of those centers I used to hate, but with a little adjustments, it's now one of my favorites. 1 book a month; a different purpose each week.
(Oops...Forgot a pic of the last week.)

I LOVE my Poetry Center! You can, too!

Poetry center is a process/product center, that is, you teach the process and change the product. It is an easy center for independence.This a center that once the process is taught, it is Easy Breezy Lemon Squeezy.  I have 2 poems my students do every morning during calendar time.  The first poem is a month poem.  I got the idea on-line (http://www.canteach.ca/elementary/songspoems68.html) and made a poem for each month. The poems give specifics about the months or hints to what they will learning about.  In November, it will talk about Pilgrims and Native Americans. In February, it will talk about the presidents. In March, it would talk about solid, liquid and gas. It just depends on the standards for that month. We start with a echo and 1-to-1 voice-to-print match. As the month goes on, they can read chorally and it doesn't take long at all. There are usually picture supports.  Up until I got a smart board, I had the poems on a chart.  Now, they are in my calendar smart board lesson.
Poetry center is a process/product center, that is, you teach the process and change the product. It is an easy center for independence.

Week 1 - Shared Reading

The other poem my students do daily is the Shared Reading Poem of the Week.  The poems range from nursery rhymes to poems made up specifically for our state standards.  These poems are typically 4 lines of text, however, some have 5.  Sometimes the poems have songs…but not always.  Some of the 5 line poems are to the tune of “I’m a Little Teapot” (I’m a Little Scarecrow, I’m a Little Snowman, I’m a Little Leprechaun, and I’m a Little Sunflower).  These poems are read each day of the introduction week.  We echo and choral read. We also use the poems to discuss sight words and word family words. Sometimes we can discuss characters, settings, and events all in 4 lines of text.
Poetry center is a process/product center, that is, you teach the process and change the product. It is an easy center for independence.

Week 2 - Poetry Center/Art Center/and Homework

The following week (Week 2) the poems are reviewed in the poetry center.  The poetry center has a large class size poem and highlighter tape.  Each child has a poetry folder that includes the poems for the 9 weeks. This means the teacher prep for this center is as easy as copying 9 poems at the beginning of the 9 weeks, putting them in a folder, and creating the routine.
Poetry center is a process/product center, that is, you teach the process and change the product. It is an easy center for independence.
The students at the center take turns putting highlighter tape on the poems to highlight the word wall words.  After all the tape is used, they find the poem in their poetry folder.  Students circle the word wall words on their poem and color the words with a yellow crayon or a yellow highlighter.  Once all the word wall words are colored, they need to add a detailed illustration of the poem.  (We have previously decided WHAT a detailed illustration includes.)  They are required to read the poem to a friend before they are finished.
Poetry center is a process/product center, that is, you teach the process and change the product. It is an easy center for independence.

Week 2 - Art Center

When this poem is in the ART CENTER, students create a "work of art" to illustrate the poem.  A small copy of the poem is ALWAYS glued to the art work.  Students are required to read the poem to a friend and then to the teacher, teacher assistant, or parent volunteer.  In addition, the poem is sent home for homework during Week 2, as well.  It's a perfect time to send it home, they have been exposed to the poem for a week, so the parents shouldn't be "teaching" the poem.  They have a list of choices for that poem.

Week 3 - Pocket Chart Center

The same poem will be in the POCKET CHART CENTER next week (Week 3).  This center allows for small group mix-fix or an individual mix/fix.  Students can order the lines of the poem, glue coordinating strips of the poem on a paper, then illustrate the poem.  Once again, the poems are read to a friend and then read to the teacher/teacher assistant/or parent volunteer.

At the Mid-Term and Beyond

At the mid-term, poetry folders include the poems in a cloze style.  Students use the highlighter tape, then write the word wall words in the poem before they circle and color them.  They continue to illustrate and read the poem.  They use the poetry folder for independent reading, vocabulary for writing, or reading comprehension.  We were piloting Daily 5, the students were allowed to use their poetry folders for Read to Self and Read to Someone.

Process/Product Center

This is without a doubt a Process/Product Center. You teach the process and change the product, but the students know exactly what to do. There is no mystery, so they can be independent with this center quickly.

Catch a Cue...M S V Made Easy!

Running Records

As I move forward with planning the teacher training for the Fountas and Pinnell Leveling kits, a friend reminded me to review the basics of running records BEFORE I add the comprehension, vocabulary and fluency components of the F & P Kits.  When I was taught to do running records, it was not an option to evaluate the errors and self-corrections.  The miscues should drive your planning and teaching.

I tape the MSV Triple Venn to my desk as a quick resource for assessing the running record.
I hope this is a quick review of assessing student errors.  Using their errors can drive their instruction.

Click Here for Desktop Cueing Circles

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Ch-ch-changes.

Ch-ch-changes.

I am super excited to report I am heading to a new school and a new job. I will miss my colleagues and friends at my old school (and even the administrators...they were great), but I am ready for the challenge and change. I am also excited that I already know some teachers at my new school including the awesome librarian. I will be the Reading Specialist at a primary school starting in the Fall.

As the reading specialist, I will get to help set the tone in the building for literacy, as the principal is new to the school, as well...and she wants to build a literacy team first.

We will be using the Fountas and Pinnell leveling kit and I found a wonderful training power point on Teachers Pay Teachers that can help me, help them. Thanks, Jennifer Lockner. (I hope I am giving credit the correct way to Jennifer...if not, please let me know. I want to give credit where credit is due.)

I love the non-fiction support in the F&P leveling kit. What are your favorite parts of the F&P leveling kit? What should I make sure to tell them about these kits? I want to get the "buy in" right away with the teachers.

Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System Training Powerpoint

First Post EVER!

This is my first post. I am a teacher, a talker, and I love combining these for teacher training. I hope my blog serves to be a place for inspiration, explanation and a love of all things learning.
I have decided to throw my hat into the blogging world.  If you know me, you'll know I love to talk. I also like to teach and to help other teachers.

Teaching writing is my favorite thing.  I hope to share lots of tips and techniques, lots of strategies for survival and success, lots of encouragement, and lots of love.  I'm not a big quote person, unless it's quoting my kindergartners, but I love what Ben Franklin said about "good enough."

"If better is possible, good is not enough."  ~ Ben Franklin

I completely agree.  Too many teachers get in a rut with "good enough" practices for kids, "good enough" for the test, "good enough" for this lesson.  I like to strive for better.  I hope to share some things I think are "better" ideas about teaching writing.

Let me know what you think.
This is my first post. I am a teacher, a talker, and I love combining these for teacher training. I hope my blog serves to be a place for inspiration, explanation and a love of all things learning.