A Simple Way to Motivate Young Writers!

If you are a primary teacher, then you know teaching writing to young children can be HARD.  Writing is an elusive skill for many of our little ones, and they often lack the motivation to persist when it is hard.  I want to share with you a writing activity I do around this time of the year that really helps to motivate my students and get them writing more.

Grab a free writing goal setting bookmark to use with your students.


First off, I want to share a bit about my philosophy about kid writing.

1.  Have them write, write, write and then write some more!  Kids learn by doing.  We start writing at the beginning of the year during the first week - shared writing as a class and independent writing (that may not look a lot like writing initially).

2.  I DO NOT correct conventions at this point.  I don't worry about punctuation.  I don't worry about sprinkling capitals in the middle of words.  I don't worry about invented spelling.  I want them to WRITE.

3. I rarely have them write using an assigned topic.  Students are free to write about whatever they want.  This helps with motivation in a big way.

You might be thinking WHAT are you doing??  These things are fundamental skills for students to learn as writers.  You are right, they are essential skills, but none of these skills matter if they don't write.  First and foremost, I believe kids need to write and by just letting them write I feel like they grow so much more.  The minute I put constraints on their writing they tend to shut down.

Now that I have digressed let's get back to the topic.  In March and early April, I ask my students to take out their journals and take a look at their writing.  I have them go back and read the pieces they wrote at the beginning of the year and then continue to read all of the entries to the current time.  The first a-ha many of them have is that they can't read their own stories that they wrote at the beginning of the year.  They also notice things like there are no periods or that there are capital letters EVERYWHERE.  This is just what I want them to see and leads me our next activity: GOAL SETTING. 

Grab a free writing goal setting bookmark to use with your students.

As a class, we talk about things we have learned throughout the year to improve our writing, and we make a list.  My students take a look at their own journals and the co-constructed list to write their personal goals on the Writing Goals bookmark.  This bookmark stays in their writing folder for reference.

The last step is having students select a piece they wrote in the Fall that they would like to improve.  This step can be kind of tricky if they can't read any of the stories, but with a bit of support, every student was able to choose a piece of writing to work on and improve.


Grab a free writing goal setting bookmark to use with your students.

Grab a free writing goal setting bookmark to use with your students.


This is the result: Students who were not writing at all in the fall are now writing several sentences. Students who wrote a sentence or two are now filling the page.  Students are using conventions and adding detail and thinking about what they want to say.  It is so wonderful to see.  I make a big deal out of it by creating these "before and after" style displays and sharing them with families.

If you are looking for a way to motivate your students as the year is drawing to a close then give this a try.  You can grab my Goal Setting bookmark for FREE by clicking on the picture below.

Grab a free writing goal setting bookmark to use with your students.



Until next time!

Teach about Healthy Eating with the Health Heroes!

Teaching your students about eating healthy food is super important.  It is also crucial to make the learning fun and relatable.  I haven't taught my health curriculum for several years (it was part of my planning time coverage), so when I started, I knew I needed something low prep and fun.  This is how the Health Heroes were born!



The Health Heroes are a boy and girl superhero who will help you engage your students while learning about maintaining a healthy body and eating healthy.  We start out by talking about ways we can be healthy.   My students have lots of ideas - some that are true and some that are not.  I find this the best way to start any unit, so you know where the learning has to begin.

Like most teachers, I love picture books and use them to launch most units and lessons.  This is a collection of some of the titles I have used in the past.  Our school has a series of books about the food groups that I like to keep on hand.  The Grains book in the image is an example of the kind of non-fiction book I am talking about.



I especially love Gregory, the Terrible Eater and The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food.  They are fun books, and the kids can really relate to them.

There are several videos that I have used as part of my healthy eating unit that are great to check out as well.  This first one is part of a series called created by the Eat Happy Project.   There are videos for all of the food groups.



Crash Course Kids is another great resource for all things Science and Health.



We start into exploring healthy eating by playing with and sorting play food.   The students sorted the foods in some really interesting ways - when you eat the food, where the food comes from, and by food colour. With prompts, they were finally able to sort by food group groups.


We used the food cards included in the Health Heroes resource to play lots of different games.  This one is Mingle.  They had to find people with food in the same food group as them.

We did a lot of independent practice to show what we knew about our learning about healthy eating.  We sorted food, wrote about food that was a sometimes food and created our own food group posters.  In true first grade fashion, one of the daily highlights was to see if the activity page had a boy or girl health hero #itsthelittlethings.




Just before our culminating activity for the unit, I wanted to see if the students could put into practice what we had learned about the food groups and sometimes foods.  We gathered on the carpet and sorted our lunches.  It is an eye-opening experience to have them actually look at what they have in their lunch and compare it to what they know they should be eating.  You could see the wheels turning for some of the kids.




To wrap up the unit my students picked a meal they wanted to plan and then used grocery store flyers to find the food and show their meal.  I also included pictures of food in the resource that they could use as well.  I assessed their finished product with the rubric I created as part of the unit.

If you are looking for a fun and low prep way to teach Healthy Eating in 1st, 2nd or 3rd grade check out the line of Health Heroes units.







I hope you got some inspiration for your healthy eating unit!

Pin this post so that you can return to it when you are ready to teach your Healthy Eating unit.



Until next time!

Looking back at 2017 - My Year in Review

Happy New Year!  I like to begin the year looking back at my blog posts to see what you, my readers, read the most.  Today I am sharing my top 10 most read posts of 2017 and a few honourable mentions as well.  You can visit each post by clicking on the image for each post.  




Number 10 -  How to Make the Transition Back after a School Break a Smooth One. 

I head back in another week and will be keeping all these things in mind as I greet my first graders.  I know from experience that I need to ease back in or it will be a rocky start. 
 



Number 9 - Phonemic and Phonological Awareness: What is the Difference?  

This post helps you to understand the difference between these skills and has a great free download to help you get started assessing phonemic and phonological awareness. Be sure to save this post for Back to School time.  




Number 8 - Use Hands-On Centers and Ditch the Worksheets.  

Are you becoming a victim of too much paper in your classroom?  I was definitely falling into the paper trap, but I am finding my way out by using more hands-on center activities and assessing through photo and video documentation.  Check out this post to find out how and to learn more about these centers.  



Number 7 - How to Get Started with a Word Wall - Practicing the Word Wall Words

In this post, I share lots of great (FREE) ways to practice your word wall or sight words every day!  This is another post to save and look back on as you return to school in the Fall.  


Number 6 - 12 Ways to use Play-Doh to Teach

What student doesn't love to play with Play-Doh.  In this post, I share ways to use it while teaching literacy and math skills.  My students all have a small container of play-doh in their desk.  


Number 5 - 3 Things you Need for Guided Reading

Do you struggle with guided reading?  Do you wonder what you should be doing and wish you knew what resources you should be using to make your teaching life easier?  If you answer yes to either of these questions, then check out this post. 


Number 4 - How to Get Started with a Word Wall - The Word Jail!

Number 4 is another in my Word Wall Series.  This time I share my Word Jail or Doghouse! I use both of these to teach my kids how to read and spell tricky words.  Check out this post if you have students that struggle to spell rule breaker words.  


Number 3 ~ Teaching 2D Geometry using Centers your Students will LOVE!

In this post, I share lots of ideas to teach 2D geometry and talk more about ways to use less paper while still keeping your kids busy, productive and learning.  


Number 2 - How to Get Started with a Word Wall 

Do you use a Word Wall in your classroom?  I think they are essential and I explain why every first-grade classroom needs one.  


Number 1 ~ What's in your Guided Reading Toolkit?

Drum roll, please... My most read post of 2017 (and all time) is all about Guided Reading.  In this post, I talk about 4 things I use every day with my students (they are not teacher resources) that helps to keep them engaged and involved in the lessons.  This is a must-read post, especially for those new to teaching or new to guided reading. 


And now for a few honourable mentions.  These posts just missed making the top 10 this year. 

How to Get Started with Flexible Seating

I tried flexible seating this year.  This post details my journey so far and also debunks the myth that you need to spend a fortune to get started with flexible seating.  


Teaching Word Family Words - How to get them to "stick."

This is part 4 of the Word Wall series, and it focuses on the importance of teaching word families.  


Getting Started with Good Morning Baskets

Start the day off with Good Morning Baskets.  The kids get to settle into the day in a more relaxed way.  Check out this post for ideas that are skill building and fun.  

 
Phew... that was quite a list.

On a more serious note.  I am truly thankful to each and every one of you who have visited my blog, read my posts and commented.  It makes my heart happy to think I am having an impact on educators around the world.  I hope you will continue to visit and read what I have to say about all things first grade (and early primary).  I look forward to sharing many more ideas, freebies and tips in the new year.  My wish for you is that you have a 2018 filled with health and happiness and that you remember to step away from the classroom and take time for you too! 

Happy New Year,

Until next time,

How to get your Students Excited about Writing in December

The holidays are just around the corner, and your classroom is probably becoming a hectic place. How would you like to simplify your writing instruction, while at the same time noticing your kids interest in writing growing?  I am going to show you how I have done this the past few years and how much it has helped even my most reluctant writers soar. 


I live and work in a community where the main holiday celebration this time of year is Christmas.  For many years I have had a classful of children who celebrate Christmas, and all they can think about is Santa and the holidays and all the magic that is a part of this time of the year.  I really wanted to capitalize on that, so I created Letters to the North Pole. 

The best way to get kids to write is to give them real reasons to write! 


My students write to Santa every year and a class of Grade 8 students respond to their letters.  Writing a letter to Santa is the most authentic writing task you can give a child this time of year, and that authenticity is the buy-in.  Students write best when they have a real reason to write.  All of the conventions we have been working away at (with varying levels of success) come to the forefront.  Now my students really understand why they need to have finger spaces and the importance of using the word wall,  What if Santa can't read their letter?! 

They finally start to use conventions because they KNOW they need to! 


Get your students excited about writing in December with a Letter writing center that is Much More than just Santa letters.  It includes a detailed lesson to introduce letter writing, an anchor chart and pieces to create samples to refer to as well as writing paper.  It is guaranteed to keep your students writing all of December.


To start, I work through a lesson and introduce the Anchor chart with our success criteria for writing.  We look at the samples and build an anchor chart showing the parts each letter should include.  Providing this structure definitely helps students to be more successful. 

Get your students excited about writing in December with a Letter writing center that is Much More than just Santa letters.  It includes a detailed lesson to introduce letter writing, an anchor chart and pieces to create samples to refer to as well as writing paper.  It is guaranteed to keep your students writing all of December.


However, their all-time favourite part is using candy canes as their holiday "spacemen."  


Get your students excited about writing in December with a Letter writing center that is Much More than just Santa letters.  It includes a detailed lesson to introduce letter writing, an anchor chart and pieces to create samples to refer to as well as writing paper.  It is guaranteed to keep your students writing all of December.

You might be wondering... How is this going to keep my kids writing all of December?  

Well, Santa isn't the only one who lives at the North Pole!  There is Mrs. Claus, Rudolph, the other reindeer and the Elves.  Once they realize they can write to everyone, you should see their eyes light up.  The Writing Center is the place to be!  I have specific writing paper for each of these people/animals.

Get your students excited about writing in December with a Letter writing center that is Much More than just Santa letters.  It includes a detailed lesson to introduce letter writing, an anchor chart and pieces to create samples to refer to as well as writing paper.  It is guaranteed to keep your students writing all of December.


Get your students excited about writing in December with a Letter writing center that is Much More than just Santa letters.  It includes a detailed lesson to introduce letter writing, an anchor chart and pieces to create samples to refer to as well as writing paper.  It is guaranteed to keep your students writing all of December.

What do you do with all these letters?  

We have an Elf on the Shelf in our classroom.  The students write letters to him too.  He is also our delivery elf.  Each evening he checks the mailbox at the writing center and takes the letters to the North Pole.  When the kids return to school the next day and see their letters are gone, they are super excited to know that they were delivered to the North Pole. 

Do I need to respond to ALL.THE.LETTERS?  

Nope,  I don't have time to respond to all the letters that get "mailed" and believe me, there are many.  I do take time to answer several every week, and those letters magically appear on the writer's desks.  I am sure you can imagine what happens next.  You guessed it,  more interest in the Writing Center and more writing happening. 

How do I know this is going to make a difference for my reluctant writers?  

I know it does.  Every year I have students who either don't write more than a few words or have writing that lacks conventions.  Once I introduce our Santa letters and the Writing Center I slowly see these reluctant students blossom.  They WANT to write, and they WANT their writing to be understood, so they TRY to use conventions and include the details that have been lacking.  Often all these students need is the confidence and desire to write.  Every year it happens for a few of my students, and I feel strongly that it will work for your students too.  


If you are interested in trying this resource, you can find it by clicking on the cover image below. 


Get your students excited about writing in December with a Letter writing center that is Much More than just Santa letters.  It includes a detailed lesson to introduce letter writing, an anchor chart and pieces to create samples to refer to as well as writing paper.  It is guaranteed to keep your students writing all of December.

If you want to keep the letter writing going after the holidays be sure to check out my Thank You letters resource.  Students plan and write a thank you letter to someone for a gift they received.

Instill an attitude of gratitude in your students by teaching them how to plan and write a thank you letter for a Christmas gift they received.  This unit has everything you need from graphic organizers to writing paper.


Until next time! 
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