Out of This World Literacy : November 2012
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A Freebie to Say Thank You!

As many of you know teacherspayteachers.com had there big Cyber Monday plus Bonus Tuesday sale this week.  I was completely blown away by the sales that I wanted to make a freebie!  So, I just posted some fun comprehension question cards for thinking about plot.  Check it out!

My Tree is Up!

I am so excited to say that my tree is up, decorated, watered, straightened, and floors needle-free.  It is done, complete, finish-e-mo!  I do love Christmas time so much because I love clebrating the birth of Jesus, and giving gifts to my family!

Plus, the time off from work gives me more time to create some school stuff!!  I have big plans for my break, including resources for: guided reading word work, a historical fiction unit for the readers and writers workshops, and a short fiction unit.  These units usually take me anywhere from 40-60 hours to complete, so I am hoping to get all three finished by the new year.

Cyber Monday and Tuesday CRAZY sale!!

Are you ready for the big sale!?  ALL of my resources will be 20% off and you will receive the full 28% off when you type in the promo code at checkout.  Come visit my site now so that you can fill up your wishlists!  I am working hard to get a few more resources up before the sale too!  If you follow me on my TpT store you will get an email update when new items post. 

Happy Thanksgiving and happy shopping all!!

I Just Posted a Biography Unit for Grades 3, 4, 5, and 6!

Hi All,

I am so super excited to have just finished a month-long biography unit!!  If you have never seen my units before they include:

* 20 Reading workshop mini lessons
* 20 Writing workshop mini lessons
* Suggested read aloud titles (these are all biography picture book titles)
* Common Core State Standards linked to EVERY lesson!
* A description of the reading workshops, writing workshops, and interactive read-alouds
* Detailed descriptions of all 40 lessons including what students should be doing during independent reading and writing each day and the share at the end of the workshop.
* Examples of class charts for all 40 lessons
* Teacher observation forms
* Students printable forms
* Printable mini lesson statement cards that can be glued into readers and writers notebooks

Units are broken into separate grade levels so that the appropriate grade level Common Core State Standards can be linked directly to each lesson. 

I have month-long units available in grades 3, 4, 5, and 6 for:

* Launching the Reading and Writing Workshop
* Informationl
* Opinion
* Personal Narrative
* Poetry and Figurative  Language
* AND NOW...Biography :)

What are you Thankful for??

Happy Thanksgiving week everyone!!  I am sure we all have many things to be thankful for.  Here are my top three:

1. God...I am so thankful to serve a patient, forgiving, loving, and mighty God who has given me many blessings!! 

2. My Family...I am very blessed to have a wonderful husband (Andy) And three beautiful children; Sophie (13), Malaya (11), and Greyson (9).  They have been so patient with me as I work on my new blog and continue to create resources for myself and other teachers.

3. My awesome school family...I couldn't imagine a better group of people to work with!!!

What are your top 3?  I would love to hear from you!

Hi All,

I just wanted to share a quick story about how I spent my first 10% of my first check (WAHOO) last month from my Teacherspayteachers store. Back when I started TpT this spring I made a promise to God that I would give Him the first 10% of whatever I made...whether it was $1.00 or $10,000. I figured anything I made would be extra blessings for my family and I wanted to find a way to thank Him.

When I received my first check in the mail last month (WAHOO...again smile ), I brought my first 10% to church. I was so excited! My husband and I began attending our new church in January, so we had not been through the holiday season there yet. What I did not realize was that our church was starting a huge raffle to raise money for their annual Christmas project. They sponsor families in our local area and provide EVERYTHING for Christmas. So, I was able to purchase a ton of raffle tickets for the 'basket bonanza.' The big drawing was after church and my family won 5 out of the 25 baskets!! We even won 4 season tickets to our local baseball team!! It was actually kind of embarrassing.

So, in the end I was able to surprise my church with a big donation, and then I was surprised by winning twice as much back in goodies from the basket bonanza!

I guess it just goes to show that the best kinds of blessings are the ones we least expect!

Wishing all my blogging friends countless surprise blessings smile Jen

Classroom Happenings Page

Hi everyone!  Check out my classroom happenings page for newly uploaded videos of the writing workshop structure.  There is a video for the mini lesson, independent writing/conference time, and the share.  Enjoy and happy writing!!
Are Writing Prompts Right for Our Kids??

Teaching students to write is a passion of mine.  I am constantly reading about the art of teaching writing.  Some of my favorite authors in this area are Aimee Buckner, Carl Anderson, Lucy Calkins, and Ralph Fletcher.  These master educators have so many professional resources for helping us teachers continue to develop our understandings for what is best practice in the area of writing.

So the question I have today is: Are writing prompts right for our kids?  Before I can answer that question, I want to define what a prompt is.  There are three types of prompts: close-ended, cliffhangers, and open-ended.  

In a close-ended prompt students have to generate a written piece about one specific topic.  They are not able to write about what is on their mind and must respond to a specific question  These types of prompts are often seen on standardized tests or in daily writing workbooks.  An example of a closed-ended prompt is: "What are your favorite Thanksgiving foods?  Tell about them." 

Close-ended prompts can be appropriate if teachers are looking to assess what their students can and cannot do as writers.  They are helpful to analyze student writing in order to determine what writing strategies need to be taught next.  They should NOT be used on a daily basis and certainly NOT as the only writing time students have.  If students spend all their writing time responding to closed-ended prompts, they will never have time to write about what they really care about.  And don't all writers write what they really care about!?

In a cliffhanger, students are given the beginning of a story with a problem, and they must finish the story by adding a middle and end.  An example of a cliffhanger is: "The Turkey woke up the day before Thanksgiving knowing it might be his last day alive.  He hatched a plan for him and his family to escape.  Just as he was about to put his plan into action he heard the barn door open and the farmer's footsteps nearing the coop..."

Cliffhangers are typically used with a whole class.  Everyone writes from the same prompt, but their stories might end differently.  Usually teachers use these as writing projects and attach cute illustrations.  Although this type of writing can be fun, I would argue that it limits students from writing about what they really want to say.  An author's life experiences and passions should be the focus of their writing; not writing as a group about the same topic.   

Open-ended prompts are those types of prompts that suggest a topic, yet leave the structure and organization of writing up to the writer.  They often give a suggestion, but do not require a specific response.  An example is: "Make a list of all the things that come to your mind when  you think of Thanksgiving.  Then circle a few and write more about them."

This type of prompt allows students to use their own experiences and think creatively.  Even though it is asking students to write about a topic (Thanksgiving), it is also giving them freedom to write about whatever comes to their mind about this topic.  Open-ended prompts can be great tools for struggling writers to begin thinking about their ideas and what they have to say.  They can help writers think critically about their own experiences and beliefs so that they can find their voice in writing.

Overall, prompts should NOT be the entirety of a teacher's writing curriculum.  They should be used with a combination of many different writing elements, some of which are; teaching writing strategies, doing genre studies, holding writing conferences, holding guided writing groups, and having freewrites.

If you are in need of some strong open-ended writing prompts, I have several available at my Teacherspayteachers store.  There is a set of Thanksgiving Writing Prompts that would be great resource for this time of year!

Thanksgiving Writing Prompts: Open-ended!
Hello everyone! 

I am making my first official blog post!  I am super excited to have my own space to share my understandings of teaching reading, writing, and language to kids in grades 3-6!  I am a Literacy Collaborative Coordinator, and have trained at Lesley University.  I also have my master's degree in reading education grades K-12.  Before becoming a Literacy Coordinator, I taught grades 3-6 in both Wisconsin and Alabama.  I love helping teachers gain new understanding in what best practice is in literacy!  I can't wait to share through my new blog!

Please be patient with me as my blog will surely look ancient to most.  I am a total rookie and will probably need time just to wrap my brain around all there is to know:)

Here is a link to my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  I have several units of study for grades 3-6 that cover every writing Common Core State Standard.  The units are one month of reading and writing lessons for informational, opinion, personal narrative, poetry and figurative language, and launching the reading and writing workshops.  Aside from the units, I have lots of other resources and freebies:)

Thanks for reading!  Jen

My TpT Store