Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Introduce Narrative Writing with Folktales

Feel free to go to my teacher store and look up this free resource if your kids are just getting into writing folktales. It includes a cloze (that is cloze-not close) writing activity, a controlled framework for writing a story. It also has a word bank for them to refer to. It's a good start for those hesitant writers.

My kids love to write, but they're all over the place when they write. I am always and forever trying to figure out how to get them to write creatively but in an organized manner. Reading folktales is a fun and easy way to teach them the structure of a simple narrative. The folktale formula can help even struggling writers get a good storyline down.

First kids need to read and hear several folktales. They might notice on their own how they seem like such "old" stories, timeless, and written with patterns, and how often things come in three's. They need to make connections, see the patterns and similarities between the different tales. Then prewriting begins.

First, they plan their characters (animals or people), a setting (Once upon a time, or Long ago, in a forest, in a cottage, etc.), a simple problem (usually involving bad vs good), and a solution (in which everyone lives happily ever after). Add details to the story, (whether 3 characters, 3 problems, or 3 events) plus a little lesson learned at the end, and the sense of timelessness (no specific time or place). This is the stuff of which folktales are made. Fairytales, by contrast, involve royalty.

From this point, you can take your kids in any direction...from final drafts, to oral storytelling, to creating class books, puppet skits, dioramas, and so much more.

I find that folktales, fairytales, and fables really sync together --and right around December seems to the right time in the school year.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Think of Valentine's Day as Friendship Day

Wow! February is just around the corner! What happened to the holidays?  I feel like I am chasing my tail! I see now why retailers are always putting up the next season's merchandise up early. I used to complain about that, and I still do. But, I do see how it's so important to be ahead of the game, rather than catching up all the time. Does this make sense? Well, I'm just rambling...


I've been working creating activities for Valentine's Day, and realized I wanted to make things that kids could do any day of the year, all year long. There are so many Valentine's activities that I wish were less about Valentine's Day and more about Friends.

I know about how it all got started and it is a sweet story, but why don't we emphasize friendship with our kids in school (it still goes with love!)?

Here are a couple resources that I came up with. I think these will work well for many kids...primary, especially. But while they're thinking about friendship and what it means to be a friend, they can practice some important skills such as interviewing a friend, then comparing and contrasting their data, using a Venn Diagram. Then they follow up with writing a paragraph that summarizes their findings. 

Heart Friends helps kids learn a lot about each other, and possibly...hopefully, they'll make new friends at the same time! Important note: Don't let the cover fool you...it's really not all about Valentine's Day...in fact, there's no mention of Valentines!

Heart Friends

Very Mice Friends is a collection of cute posters that remind your kids about what friendship is all about. These posters make simple statements that are easy to read, chant or even copy down as a writing exercise (for older students).  Writing prompts are included to go with the posters.

Why not make a class book?
 If you combine the posters and a writing page from each of your students, you'll have a wonderful Friendship book for your class.  Laminate and keep forever as a friendship keepsake to share in the future.

If you have a moment, please check these two resources out. Keep in mind...they don't have to be just for Valentine's Day.... Thanks!!


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Can I Keep My New Year's Resolutions?

January's here and it's mid-year testing! It's going to be a little rocky at first.  I'll be testing all week in grades K-5, so it'll be a hectic week squeezing in about 50 kids. 

Since I didn't exactly get my New Year's Resolutions finalized officially, I figure writing them down here in this blog should take care of that! I could think of a 100 or more, but I'm going to be realistic and write down three very doable resolutions.

#1. School: I'm pushing fluency with my second and third graders. They're getting timed several times a week! Whether it's a high frequency word list, or a leveled passage...they will be reading to see how many correct words they can get in one minute! So far, they love doing this...but the caveat is, for them not to think of it as speed reading!  (Gotta keep up with this!)

#2. Home and Family: Fix healthier meals! Try out new recipes. (Yes. I can do this.)

#3. Me: Walk 30 minutes (3 times a week) and aim for at least 7 hours of sleep. (This'll be a challenge.)

I always start the year with resolutions, but I can't honestly say I keep them. But this time, I think I can do it!  How about you?! What are your resolutions? I'd love to hear what you will be working on!