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Using Blogs in the Classroom

We’ve all heard of blogs, read blogs, and maybe even written one too, but how can these online interactive journals be used in the classrom? I’ve recently sat down to further ponder this question. Wait ’til you see what I’ve come up with.To start, I initially thought about using a classroom blog a few years ago but that idea fizzled away due to lack of planning on my part. In the end it was a flop and I forgot about it entirely until recently.

There I was making updates to a few pages on my website when I saw the link to my old classroom blog. I looked at it and what I saw was pretty sad. There were only two entries posted and a few comments from three years ago. I did think about ditching the entire idea and forgetting about the blog, but then I remembered that the original idea to use it was brilliant. So I decided to really take time and decide how I would use it, what changes I would make, and how would I introduce it to students and parents.

As a result of all of this, I did some research on how other teachers use blogs in their classrooms and what technology experts have to say about the benefits of using them with students. The end product of all my research and findings was the document I am providing below to all who read this post. I also decided to change blog providers and recreate a new refreshed classroom blog.

In a nutshell, I plan on being the moderator of the blog and writing posts for students to respond to with comments, thoughts, feedback, questions, etc. Students may reply to these posts during class time or it may be assigned for homework. Here are some examples of the types of posts I will have students respond to:

Reading Response
Post questions about literature we are reading in class and ask students to post their answers, opinions, and questions as part of an extension from class learning.

Writing Enrichment
Post information about a writing skill we learned in class and have students provide their own example of that writing skill. For example: If I’m teaching about using stronger verbs in their writing, I might write a sentence using weak verbs and have students reply to the post with a revised version of the sentence using stronger verbs. Another example would be to have students practice writing a great beginning to a given topic.

Math Practice
Post a review of a skill learned in math during the week and have students reply by writing their own problems with solutions using that skill.

Science and Social Studies Extensions
Post notes on a scientific or social studies topic learned in class and have students reflect through their posts.

Other teachers of older students actually have each student create a blog where they are encouraged to post school-related topics as an extension of classroom learning.

Here are some places that offer free classroom blogs:

I had my previous blog with blogger but chose to move it to wordpress because the “Next Blog” link on the top toolbar may sometimes lead students and/or parents to inappropriate blogs.

I use this site for my current classroom blog.


This site specializes on blogs for students and teachers. “It’s safe, easy, and secure.”


It’s important to review your district’s guidelines on acceptable use policies regarding the use of school-wide computer networks and the Internet. You should also pay close attention to what your district’s guidelines say about displaying student work online and take the necessary steps to secure parental permission before using a classroom room in a participatory manner.

It’s also important to teach students about online safety and never revealing any personal information about themselves through their comments. Students should only use first names or nicknames, NO LAST NAMES! In addition, students should also be taught about respecting other people’s privacy and rights when writing posts or comments to the blog.

I’ve included more information about online safety as well as a list of Blogging Rules and a Blogging Permission Slip to give to parents in the document found below.

I hope this post has given you information on how to effectively incorporate the use of blogs in your classrooms. I can’t wait to launch my new classroom bog this upcoming school year and have students get motivated about participating in this online collaborative tool.

Document Download


New Math Poster Creations

After a very busy school year, I’m ready to start posting new ideas to my blog. “It’s about time!” the voice in my head shouts. To kick off my new avalanche of ideas, I would like to start with these cute math posters I just created with the purpose of helping students solve math problems.

The first poster features Dr. Math. He’s a specialist who can only perform four basic operations: add, subtract, multiply, and divide. On the poster he asks students, “Which operation would you like me to perform today?”

The second poster features Aunt Sally. She makes really great mathematical recipes but in order to get the right answer you have to follow the recipe which is the Order of Operations.

Both of these posters feature graphics from Thistle Girl Designs (www.thistlegirldesigns.com). I recently purchased a Resellers license from her and a Smart Notebook Lesson Creator license too so I can create documents and files using her graphics and be able to share them with others. I hope you enjoy these files. You are free to photocopy and use them with students and teachers at your school. Be sure proper credit is given and maintained. Please feel free to leave me a comment or feedback. Enjoy!

Download the Math Posters Below:

Dr. Math (Basic Operations)

Aunt Sally (Order of Operations)

I P.A.W.S. for Word Problems

A few months ago I attended a workshop where a math teacher shared a strategy that she uses with her students to help them solve word problems.

The strategy involves a paw outline using the title “I P.A.W.S. for Word Problems.” This is what the acronym P.A.W.S. stands for:

Problem Key Words
Analyze the Steps
Work it Out
Solve! Does it make sense?

Then on the actual paw part of the outline, the students would work out their problems. This area is called the “Work Pad.”

This was such a creative idea that I decided to create a document for it.

Here are the files for you to download:
I P.A.W.S. for Word Problems (Color)
I P.A.W.S. for Word Problems (Grayscale)

Camping Theme 2010-2011

 For the 2010-2011 school year my classroom is going CAMPING! Well, we are not going to any place in particular but my entire class will become a Camp Site! Welcome to Ms. Sanchez’ CAMP WANNALEARNALOT! Here are some of the ideas I have gathered for the camping theme:


“Warming Up with a Good Book” (use a campfire graphic on the board)
“Camping Out with a Good Book” (use kids in a tent graphic)
“Pack of Reading Strategies” (backpack with reading strategies coming out of it)
“Camp Read A Lot”
“Hiking Up the SuccessMaker Mountain”
“Hiking the AR Trail”
“Climbing the AR Mountain”
“Climbing the SuccessMaker Mountain”
“Rafting the AR River”

“Campfire Tales”
“Campfire Stories”

“A Forest of Words”
“Word Woods”
“Word Forest”
“S’more New Words”

“Hiking Along the Math Trail” (show a hiker climbing rocks and write the different multiplication properties on the rocks)
“Pack of Math Facts” (use a backpack with facts coming out of it)
“S’more Math Facts”
“Making Math Tracks”
“Bird’s Eye View of Math” (use an eagle on top of the bulletin board)

“The Stream of Science”
“The Scientific Stream”
“Paddling through Science River”

“S’more Good Work”
“Roarin’ Good Work” (use a big campfire image)
“Reaching the Summit of Success”
“Mountain of Good Work”
“Fired Up for Good Work” (use a campfire image)

“Star Camper of the Week”
“Camper of the Week”

“Put Your Best Food Forward” (show hiking books with classroom rules written on them)
“On the Trail to Success”
“We’re MakingTracks into 4th Grade”
“Camping Out in 4th Grade”
“Nuts About Helping” (squirrel with jobs on nuts)
“Camp Chores”
“Fishing for Good Behavior”
“Camp Assistants”
“Happy Campers”
“Wanna Behavealot Trail”


A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen
A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements
Camp Granada: Sing-Along Camp Songs by Frane Lessac
Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe by Vera B. William
The Lost Lake by Allen Say
When We Go Camping by Margriet Ruurs
S is for S’mores: A Camping Alphabet Book by Helen Foster James and Lita Judge
Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems by Kristine O’Connell George


· Carson-Dellosa’s Camping Bulletin Board Set
· Carson-Dellosa’s Owl Tree Bulletin Board Set
· Carson-Dellosa’s Camping Nameplates
· Trend Enterprises Green Foliage Discovery Border for Bulletin Boards (black paper on the background of all bulletin boards)
· DJ Inkers Camping Graphics to Accent Bulletin Boards
· Hang Stars from the Ceiling
· Place a Pretend Campfire in Reading Area
· Place a Small Tent in Reading Area
· Use Camping Chairs and Electric Lanterns
· Use Small Water Coolers in Reading Area for Seating and Book Storage
· Wooden Sign with the Name “Camp Wannalearnalot”
· Plants Around the Classroom for Decoration


Here’s a brief slideshow showing three pretend campfires people have created.

http://www.slide.com/r/tFaBOUK-xT8qy6iUpS8VEyk8uzi8FcEO?previous_view=mscd_embedd ed_url&view=original

Here are the links to the websites which show you how to create each of those pretend campfires:
1. Campfire Using Construction Paper: http://kids-indoor-activities.suite101.com/article.cfm/making_an_campfire_from_construction_paper
2. Campfire Using Cardboard Tubes:http://www.familycorner.com/family/kids/crafts/cardboard-tube-campfire.shtml
3. Campfire Using Ring of Rocks: http://www.funinthemaking.net/2009/02/17/pretend-to-campout-how-to-make-a-pretend-campfire-and-paper-marshmallows/
I’m actually thinking of buying the indoor campfire featured on this website: http://www.indoorcampfires.com/

The cost of it is about $100 (not including the logs) but I really like how it looks. I could also buy medium-sized river rocks to create a ring around it.


These are some ideas I gathered from surfing around on the Internet:

· Moose Munch (cheetos, cheerios, chocolate chips)
· Make an Edible Campfire: Start with a large cookie. Add M&M’s to make a fire ring, pretzels as kindling, and cheese puffs for logs. Then “glue” candy corn on (using icing or other edible choice) for flames.


· Play a Bingo game called “CAMPO” (don’t know the instructions for this yet)
· Use Camping Mad Libs
· Make Friendship Bracelets
· Award Students Badges for Special Accomplishments (i.e. Amount of AR Books Read)
· Create Camp Shirts for All Students
· Create a Survival Guide for Parents (includes class information)
· Use a CAMP Binder instead of a DOLPHIN Binder (which I’ve used the past three years)

Clip Chart Behavior Management System

I would like to thank my fellow PT’ers for sharing their comments, thoughts, and info. on the Rick Morris’ Clip Chart behavior management system. This system has given me new insight on how to manage behavior. I’m going to be implementing it this upcoming school year with a few minor changes.

To start, I decided to flip the colors and not use pink or purple. Instead I will be using the following colors (in parentheses you will find the conduct grade I will use for each level):

BLUE: Outstanding (A)
LIGHT BLUE: Great Job (A)
GREEN: Ready to Learn (A)
YELLOW: Think About It (B)
ORANGE: Teacher’s Choice (C)
RED: Parent Contact (D)

I will only give an “F” in conduct if the student is constantly and severely disruptive. Also, if a student moves their clip down to Teacher’s Choice and/or Parent Contact, he will complete a small slip with his name, date, and check off what he did to move his clip down. This way I will have documentation on behavior. It’s important to note that students are able to move up and down the chart during the day. They move their clip one space at a time and are not stuck on a particular color for the entire day. However, if a student makes it to Teacher’s Choice or Parent Contact, they still have to serve the consequence even if they are able to move back up the chart.

The following consequences will be in place:

YELLOW: Think About It

ORANGE: Teacher’s Choice
(I will choose one of the following)
Behavior Journal
Lose Recess Time (I choose how much time)
Clip Down (depends on how severe the behavior is)

RED: Parent Contact
(Parent’s will be contacted in addition to another consequence listed below depending on what the student did.)
Call Parent
Remove Student from Class (Send to another classroom or the office)

As for the REWARDS, this is what I have in mind:

  • REWARD TICKETS: Students will earn 1 ticket each day their clip stays on OUTSTANDING or higher. Their names will be written on the tickets
  • MYSTERY PRIZE RAFFLE: I will draw 10 student reward tickets at the end of every week. Students who are called will have a chance to select a random reward coupon from the Mystery Prize Box.
  • GLIMMER & SHINE: Students will receive a small stick on jewel to place on their clip each time it’s on OUTSTANDING or higher
  • POSITIVE PARENT CONTACT: I will give an award certificate to students who make it to OUTSTANDING or higher. I will also call or write a note to their parents to share the great news.

Additionally, since I am doing a camping theme this upcoming school year, I went ahead and created two Vista Print Small Car Magnets to display information about the chart’s colors, consequences, and rewards. I call it the “Wanna Behavealot Trail” and “Behavealot Trail Rewards.” Here they are:

I went ahead and created a sample clip chart to give me an idea of how I was going to set it up. Here it is:

 I’m going to make the chart myself using colored cardstock which I’m then going to laminate. I’ll place the chart in an area where I can also display the car magnets along side.

I’m looking forward to implementing this system. If you would like to learn more about Rick Morris’ Clip Chart, check out this free e-book about it:


New Florida Math Standards

I was recently trained in the new Florida Math Standards which we refer to as the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards (NG SSS) for Math. Basically, elementary grades are no longer going to cover all aspects of Math in each grade level (i.e. Number Sense, Geometry, Measurement, Algebraic Thinking, and Data Analysis/Probability). Instead, each grade level will focus on a few Math concepts which are referred to the Big Ideas.

In fourth grade for example, we will be covering Multiplication/Division, Area, and Decimals. We will also cover three supporting ideas which will help students review previously learned concepts and concepts they will learn in future grades. The state is moving from teaching a mile wide and an inch deep. Long gone are the days when we used to teach Math just to cover a topic without the students understanding it in depth. Now we will cover less but go much more deeper in the topic so students know it inside and out.

With these new standards, we are also getting a new Math textbook. The book is called Go Math! Florida and it’s published by Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt. I Googled the book and found a really informative site with video FAQ’s with answers provided by the two authors of the textbook. Here’s the link:


I would like to hear from other Florida teachers who might be using this book and also what are your thoughts on the new standards. Thanks for stopping by.

Reward Coupons

I wanted to post on my blog the reward coupons I created for my students.

There are eight coupons per page and a total of 27 pages (27 coupons) to use. I created them in black and white so they are easier to copy. I copy my coupons on various sheets of color paper. The color of the coupon matches a price category the coupon belongs to.

My students are able to use their “Fin” dollars (earned in our classroom economy) in order to purchase coupons they want. I also award free coupons to students who consistently demonstrate super behavior and consistently turn in their homework.

Since the file is too big to attach to this post, I am providing a direct link to the PDF file of the reward coupons. I hope other teachers may find these coupons useful in their classrooms. Enjoy! 🙂

Melissa Forney’s 12 Steps of the Writing Process

I wanted to post some additional information I gathered from Melissa Forney’s 2009 Writing Conference. Here’s her 12 Steps of the Writing Process.

  1. Think It
  2. Talk It
  3. Do It
  4. Draw It
  5. Explain It
  6. Gather Vocabulary & Put Money in the Bank
  7. Watch Modeling
  8. Write It
  9. Revise It
  10. Read it Aloud
  11. Edit It
  12. Share It

To explain the process a bit further I’m going to combine my notes from this summer’s writing conference and last summer’s writing conference.

Step 1: Think It
Students need some time to think about what they are going to write, so we must give them time to think about the topic.

Step 2: Talk It
Thinking and talking go hand in hand. Kids need to talk with their peers, with older kids, with younger kids, and with adults. The more opportunities we give them to talk about what they are going to write the better prepared they’ll be when they start writing. Talking gives them an opportunity to brainstorm.

Step 3: Do It
Whenever possible, teachers should add a “do it” element where kids get to do a hands-on activity related to their writing. Whether it’s giving them Pop Rocks to help them understand, grasp, and use sizzling words, or allow them to make butter and write about it. In the beginning of the year students can make a name bracelet and write about the day they made a name bracelet. The hands on experience will allow students to add more vivid details to their writing.

Step 4: Draw It
Students can make a quick little sketch using stick figures to help them picture what they will write about. Iconic drawings and stick figures can be easily and quickly done before students start to write as part of their prewriting activities. There are three important reasons why this step should not be skipped:
1. This step forces kids to focus and provides an anchor for their writing.
2. It is stimulating to the brain.
3. Drawing links thought with words and emotions with words.

Step 5: Explain It

Explaining requires reasons, examples, descriptions, quotes, anecdotes, samples. When students explain their drawings or what they will write to others it allows them to defend what they are writing and persuade their readers. A neat activity to engage students in explaining their drawings is the following:

  • Give each student an envelope
  • Play the “Mission Impossible” theme song
  • The teacher puts on sunglasses and tells students that they have a mission. Their mission, if they choose to accept it, is to explain their picture to someone in the school (another teacher, a faculty member, an administrator). The teacher can set up appointments with these people ahead of time. Or just allow the student to explain it to someone else in their class.

Step 6: Gather Vocabulary & Put Money in the Bank

This is a very important step for students. Sometimes we expect for them to use mature and sizzling vocabulary but students just don’t have “money in the bank” (words in their brain). So what we do as teachers is help them gather vocabulary so they can put money in their memory banks. Take a topic like “Ocean/Beach.” You would first tell students to think about other words they can use instead of Ocean/Beach to talk about the ocean/beach. This is done so that when readers read their papers, they don’t see a whole bunch of oceans throughout their papers. Students will work with a partner or group to come up with other words. Then students will share out so the teacher can create an even bigger word bank for other words for Ocean/Beach. Here’s a list for other words to use instead of Ocean/Beach:

  • seashore
  • enchanted sandy seaside
  • surf
  • deep blue sea
  • fisherman’s paradise
  • salty swimming hole
  • the sunny lagoon
  • the living sea
  • serene expanse of water
  • liquid topaz
  • nautical arena
  • kaleidoscope of blues
  • mermaid’s heaven
  • salty reservoir
  • sliding blanket of blue green
  • sandy playground
  • seagull’s domain
  • hypnotic waves of blue

The teacher simply gathers the vocabulary from the students before they write. The teacher can then type the list in the computer on small pieces of papers to hand to students so they can keep it in their writer’s notebook and use it as a resource when writing about the topic.

Step 7: Watch Modeling
The teacher doesn’t have to model an entire piece of writing. The teacher may choose to model one or two sentences or a section of the writing. Students then use what they learn from the modeling when they are ready to write their papers.

Step 8: Write It
Now the students are ready to write. As the students write, the teacher walks around the classroom to assist students as needed. The teacher may also choose to validate student’s writing attempts by simply stamping their paper, hole-punching and placing a curling ribbon on the edge of their paper, placing a stick-on jewel on their paper, etc. The teacher should be up and about encouraging and offering help when needed.

Step 9: Revise It
We call revision making the BIG changes. Students are told to revise their papers by adding more, describing more, changing a boring word into a sizzling word, adding a writing skills on purpose, etc.

Step 10: Read it Aloud
Students are given the opportunity to read their writing aloud either to themselves or to buddy up with another teacher or student. This will also allow students to continue revising their papers.

Step 11: Edit It
We call editing making the small changes. The small changes include capitalization, grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

Step 12: Share It
Teachers can be creative with this step whether it’s making a class book, posting the writing in a blog, making an audio tape of students reading their writing, etc.

Melissa Forney’s 12 Steps of the Writing Process will help students arm themselves with the knowledge and information they need in order to produce wonderful pieces of writing.

Melissa Forney Writing Conference ’09

Last summer, I had the great priviledge of attending my third Melissa Forney Writing Conference. She is a dear friend and an inspiration to me as well as other teachers. I learned a great deal from the conference and I would like to share some of that information on this blog.

Day 1: Writing a Beginning, Grabbers, Middle, Ending, and Zingers

Melissa had us practice writing a beginning to different topics she gave us. Each time we wrote a beginning to a topic, she asked us to share it, and then share out. She helped us differentiate between a grabber and a beginning and told us to only write a beginning for the sake of this activity. Afterwards, she asked us to write a new beginning to the same topic. She had us repeat this process about two to three times. It was a great revision activity and a great way to help students learn that there are different ways of saying the same thing.

Here’s an example of a topic she gave us: Living in Florida

Here are the beginning sentences I came up with:

Try 1: Sunny beaches, a variety of people, Disney World…these are some qualities I love about living in Florida.

  • This was a pretty good first attempt except that I have a grabber in the beginning and we were only supposed to focus on writing a beginning only. Melissa just wanted to make sure we knew how to write a beginning that was short, to the point, and introduced the topic.

Try 2: Living in Florida has been the adventure of a lifetime.

  • This was also a great second attempt. Melissa then told us that when we write a beginning, we shouldn’t have to pass judgment. This information helped us for our next try.

Try 3: Florida is the place I call home.

  • This beginning is short, to the point, it introduces the topic, and doesn’t pass judgment.

Here are some of the tips we learned about writing beginnings:

  1. The beginning should be straight to the point.
  2. Don’t over think your beginning and steal words from the prompt to use in it. You need to use words from the prompt. Some words may be substituted but it should have the same meaning as the original word.
  3. Write the topic sentence/begining first before writing the grabber.
  4. There are different ways of saying the same thing.
  5. The beginning should clearly introduce the topic.
  6. Topic sentence/beginning needs to be person and definite.


Here’s a list of the different types of grabbers we went over:

  • A humorous statement
  • A shocking statement
  • Dialogue
  • Onomatopoeia
  • A rhetorical question (an important question that makes you think)
  • Scenario
  • Opinion
  • Comparison

A grabber invites the reader to keep reading your paper. It may be general in contrast with the topic sentence/beginning which is specific.

Melissa then had us go back to our original topics we used when practicing how to write a beginning. We then had to create a grabber to go along with the beginnings we had written. Here’s the grabber I wrote to the same topic from above using the beginning I wrote on my third try:

Picture this: Sunny beaches, warm wather, and Mickey Mouse as your neighbor. Florida is the place I call home.

Here is another great examples written by one of the participants using onomatopoeia and alliteration:

Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle. Hot feet hopping across sand. I live in South Florida where the sun shines every day.

Some tips we learned about grabbers include:

  1. Don’t replace the beginning/topic sentence
  2. Grabbers are the wrapping paper and the bow of your writing. The topic sentence/beginning is the nuggest inside.
  3. Grabbers get your attention without giving away the middle.
  4. Grabbers keep you in suspense.
The middle is the biggest part of your writing. If it’s a Narrative middle it needs to tell a story and must include sequencing and the passing of time, as well as lots of details the reader can picture.
An Expository middle needs to contain details, examples, samples, reasons, logic, facts, quotes, personal experience, opinion, and a testimony from an expert.
It is important that your middle contains writing other people can picture. This is done through descriptive words and details. Be sure to not go on and on and linger on information that is not needed. Go right into the story.
Melissa then had us write a middle to the topic of an embarrassing moment. After we wrote, she asked us to read our paper aloud (everyone at the same time) and as we read our paper we had to look for places in our writing that needed to be revised. If we found a spot for revision, we had to raise our hand so she can count how many people were revising each time using a counter (the one you hold on your hand and just click away). We read our papers about four times and at the end she showed us how many hands she counted going up for revisions. It was an amazing strategy and one I plan on using this school year.
The ending needs to pass judgment and needs to tell the reader your most important thought about the topic.
Melissa gave us an opportunity to try writing an ending to our embarrassing moment paper. We then shared our ending with our partners and had some share outs before moving on to Zingers.
A zinger is a statement that makes the reader think, smile, or feel. It comes after an ending.

We practiced writing a zinger to our ending and again, we shared with our partners, and then had a couple of share outs.

We didn’t share our writing until the second day, but below you will find my embarrassing moment writing paper which shows a grabber in the beginning, the short and to the point topic sentence, the middle, my ending, and the zinger.

My Sample Writing Paper – Topic: An Embarrassing Moment

“Come on Ms. Sanchez. Limbo with us.” Little did I know this was an invitation for disaster. What happened next was the most embarrassing moment my students will never forget.

The end of the school year was at hand and our fourth grade class decided to celebrate with a Luau themed party. Our classroom was the designated Limbo room. Students came dressed in their brigh tropical clothing all covered in flowery leis. The sounds of uplifting, island music filled the air and set the mood for Limbo. “How low can you go? How low can you go?” were the chants circulating around the room. It wasn’t long before students were inviting me to join them. I thought, “Oh why not. Everyone’s having fun. Let me give it a try.” To my surprise I was able to successfully pass under the Limbo stick the first time and I was beaming with pride. “This isn’t so bad,” I said to myself. I decided to give it another shot and you won’t believe what happened next! As I made my way under the stick once more, my flip flots slid on the carpet forcing both my legs to slide in opposite directions as if I was a cheerleader performing a clumsy split and then…KERPLUNK! I fell flat on my rear end in front of all my students. As they gasped and chuckled, I instantly tuned beet red. I was humiliated and wanted to hide under a rock. Instead, I decided to laugh along with the students. Nevermind that my body ached like a locomotive had smashed into me and that I had no clue as to how I was going to get up. As I laughed along with my students, I tried to turn my embarrassing moment into a humurous event fit for American’s Most Funniest Videos.

Next time I decide to Limbo in front of a class of fourth graders, I’ll make sure I try it barefoot instead. You better believe I don’t want to repeat that beet red face moment ever again.

Towards the end of the first day, Melissa gave us the materials to create our manipulative titled “Young Writer’s Survival Kit.” We took it home and started to put it together.

Day 2: Young Writer’s Survival Kit, Teddy Bodain’s Adventure Quest, Reader’s Theatre, Q&A

We began the second day by finishing up putting together the Young Writer’s Survival Kit. This survival kit is available for download throughout the summer of 2010. Get it while it’s available! www.forneyeducational.com

Here are some of the highlights featured in the Young Writer’s Survival Kit:

  • Where ideas come from?
  • The 12 Steps of the Writing Process
    • Melissa went through each step and had us practice some of them during the conference.
  • Sentence Variety
    • Melissa asked us to please teach this and the activity we did the first day with changing our beginnings to the same topic two or three times was a good activity to teach sentence variety.
  • Emergecy Landing
    • These are emergency endings that students can memorize (two or three) to use when they only have 5 minutes left on their state writing test and need to end their writing.
  • Writing Skills
    • We should teach about 8 to 10 of these a year so students are able to use them in their writing. Fourth grade students should use 6-7 writing skills in their writing.
  • Writer’s Checklist

There are many more pages that the Writing Kit includes. There are a total of 68 pages filled with grade writing information.


This was one of the free books Melissa gave us for attending the conference. It goes together with The Astonishing Journey of Teddy Bodain which is the free book we obtained during last year’s conference. It is filled with fun Language Arts activities that can be used in the classroom while reading about Teddy’s journey. In the book she highlighted on some Reader’s Theatres scripts which we performed in the conference. She also gave us a glimpse on part two of the Teddy Bodain story which she is currently writing.

I had a wonderful time at the conference and I was able to take so much from it. I thank Melissa for allowing me to attend and for being such a great inspiration. 🙂

Reciprocal Teaching

Here’s some resourceful information about reciprocal teaching.

I initally learned about the Reciprocal Teaching Strategy while completing one of my reading endorsement courses a few years ago. Reciprocal Teaching is a reading comprehension strategy meant to help students become more independent during reading. The strategy is first introduced by having the teacher model each step in the process and doing it along with the students until students are able to take ownership of the strategy and use it independently. The Reciprocal Teaching strategy has four parts which are: Predication, Clarify, Question, and Summarize. My school district added a fifth part to the process called Visualize or Make a Picture.

As a result of my reading endorsement class, I created a set of reciprocal teaching cards that are used by the students while implementing the strategy. Along with the cards, I created a reciprocal teaching worksheet which the students may use when using the strategy in a small group independently. This worksheet may also be used as an assessment tool.

You may find these documents here:

Reciprocal Teaching Cards
Reciprocal Teaching Worksheet

I used the reciprocal cards by printing about 5 or 6 sets on various color paper (enough so that each student could get one card). I laminated these so they would last a long time. During a reading lesson, whether it was a reading passage or a story from the basal, I would give each student one card. Before reading, I would call on a student with a prediction card to give a prediction. I would say, “Whoever has the yellow prediction card, make a prediction.” That student will then use one of the sentence frames on the card to help them make a prediction or they could make a prediction without using the sentence frames. The sentence frames on the card are there to help the students if they need it. After the student makes the prediction, we would continue reading. It’s up to the teacher how much students will read before stopping to continue with the process. Students could read a paragraph or two, or a page. Wherever the teacher chooses to stop, the process would continue with the following:

  1. The teacher would ask students to look through what they have read and find any words they don’t know or are not sure what they mean. The teacher would then say, “Would the student who has the yellow clarify card, share with the class a word you don’t know or are not sure of.” The teacher would then help the student go through the steps on the card to try and figure out what the word means as used in the story/passage.
  2. Continue by asking the student with the yellow summarize card to give a short summary of what the class has just read.
  3. Then ask the student with the yellow make a picture card to share what they pictured in their mind as they read that portion of the text.
  4. Afterwards, the teacher would ask another student with a prediction card (for example you can call the student with the blue prediction card) to make a prediction about what will happen next in the story.
  5. The process would continue until all students have had a chance to participate.

Another way teachers could use the cards is in small groups of 6 students. One of the students could be the “Teacher” using the Teacher/Leader card to help guide the group in the reading discussion. This is the activity where the Reciprocal Teaching Worksheet would be used as an accountability tool for the students and as an assessment tool if the teachers desires to use it that way.

For the past two years, I’ve used reciprocal teaching in a different way. I hardly used the cards. I instead had students fold a piece of white paper in half (vertical – hot dog style) and then in thirds so that when they opened it they had 6 boxes. I then instructed them to label it the following way:

Top Row from Left to Right: Background Knowledge, Prediction, Clarify

Bottom Row from Left to Right: Visualize, Question, Summary

In the Background Knowledge box I had students write anything they knew about the topic we were going to read about. In the Prediction box they wrote down their predictions based on the cover of the story and/or title. I sometimes used the Prediction Card to help students with starting their predictions. In the Clarify box I sometimes had students write a few words they didn’t know and then had them figure out what the words meant using the steps on the Clarify card. Other times, I would just give students 2 or 3 words I really wanted them to know and we would use the steps on the Clarify card to figure out the meaning of the words. I always left the Visualize box for the end because students spent too much time in drawing their pictures. I just had them go to the Question box and either let them write a teacher-like question that they needed to answer or I gave them a question to answer in that box. They would then go to the Summary box and write a one-sentence summary about what they read. Once they had all the other boxes completed, I would then let them complete the Visualize box by simply drawing a specific part of the story they pictured in their minds or I would guide them in what part of the story I wanted them to visualize.

Below I have listed some additional resources I found online about Reciprocal Teaching: