December 11, 2013

Developing Opinion Writers

Next week is our school-wide Publishing Night -- and the firsties are so excited to share their Opinion Writing pieces!

But first, a little about what we've been up to so far.  This unit is part of the updated Units of Study from the Reading and Writing Project.  This is the first year that we have taught this unit; however it has quickly become one of my favorite writing units because my kiddos have grown so much in just a few weeks!

When I initially gave the opinion writing pre-assessment, I got a mix of personal narratives, informational pieces, and odes to favorite family members and pets.  It was clear we had a lot of work to do!  Fortunately, this unit has includes three "bends," or sections, that have allowed the kiddos to home in on different parts of opinion writing.  They have slowly built up their knowledge and skill with this genre by writing reviews of objects, places, and now books.  And it's been amazing to watch!

During the first "bend" the kiddos actually brought in small collections to review!  It was so cute to see them closely analyze each of their match box cars, snow globes, and bracelets and then select their favorites.  They learned that opinion writers have to include reasons (and not just one reason), use words like "because," and consider each feature of an item -- like which seashell is the smoothest and which has the most interesting design.  This bend also focused on setting goals based off of our writing rubric.  I transferred the rubric to a chart and the kiddos set daily goals by moving sticky notes with their names.  (This helped all of us focus during Writing time!)

Setting Daily Writing Goals
A Collection of Trucks
One thing my writers struggled with was clearly stating their topic.  I got a lot of "I like this one because...".  The naturally assumed that everyone would know to which "one" they were referring. However, as they read their reviews out loud during our first mini-publishing party, they suddenly realized that it was totally unclear what they'd be writing about! (It was a little funny to watch their surprise.)  We knew what we had to work on next!

During the next bend, they got plenty of practice defining their topic as they reviewed their favorite games, restaurants, vacation spots, and movies.  In order to publish these reviews, the kiddos put together books of like-reviews.  They produced a wonderful anthology of "Places to Travel in the USA" which includes reviews of Seattle, Florida, and Indiana, as well as an anthology of "Things to Do in DC" which suggests the National Portrait Gallery and McDonalds among others. :)

In this last bend, the kiddos are writing book reviews. For our final publishing, we will be recording their reviews: Reading-Rainbow style.  More on that to come... 

Working together to create the cover for their review anthology

December 10, 2013

Best Work Board

When I taught Pre-K, one of the primary bulletin boards in my classroom was always our "Best Work" wall.  Whenever my Pre-Kers produced something they were proud of, they would ask to put it up on the wall.  It was often challenging for little guys to learn to spend time on a project, but teaching them about choosing "best work" helped them learn to focus on a piece of work.  Well, the fabulous second grade teachers at my school recently made their hallway board into a Best Work board for their kiddos, and it reminded me of the importance of letting kids select the pieces they want to put on display.  

Yesterday, I talked to my kiddos about how we would create our own best work board.  We brainstormed all the things they have worked on in class - from spelling tests, to literacy worksheets, to math book pages, to reading responses, to science journals - and then they thought about what piece they wanted everyone to see.

After the kiddos selected a meaningful piece, they got to write about why they selected it.  It was cute to see the work they were excited about and the board came together really easily!

"... I worked very very very very very hard on it..."

Super STARs

I posted about our STAR cards (here) a few weeks ago, but I realized that I hadn't yet posted about what the kiddos have actually been writing!

Here are just a couple examples of the unbelievably adorable things that my kiddos have been writing to each other on their STAR cards.


It has been so sweet to watch them notice each other doing kind things around the classroom.

It's also wonderful to see them acknowledge each for working hard.  We've just introduced subtraction problems, so we've been talking a lot about the importance of trying and persevering, even and especially when things are hard.  It's really sweet when the kiddos get recognition for pushing themselves, and as much as I try to be an encouragement, it seems to mean more when it comes from a peer.

Definitely love this new part of our class character program!