Saturday, February 7, 2015

writing with the big kids- using mentor sentences

    As my students strive to become better writers in 3rd grade, I've been using mentor sentences with them to model excellent sentences and allow for practice in better writing.  I've read about using mentor sentences in article online and started experimenting with them at the end of  last year.  I've adapted the methods I read about to something that is really working with my class.  I see results in their writing and it's only fueling them to dig deeper and produce even better pieces.  



Here it is in a nutshell: 

day 1-  introduce sentence and find it 
    I pre-select a sentence from something we will read that day.  It might be a sentence from our reading story for the week, a novel we are reading, or a select text that I will be reading aloud.  I make sure it's in context of a larger text, not just from a paragraph on a worksheet or a excerpt from a book.  It's important to be able to study the sentence as part of a bigger picture.  
     I like to write the sentence on a chart paper.  We read the sentence in several different people voices to see how it sounds with different coming from different people.  Some use more expression, others less.  I usually have a few stronger readers go first, then I read it with the appropriate expression and then I have some more reluctant readers go.  They've already heard it several times and won't be stumped by any harder words and can focus on fluency and expression.
    As we read the text, they find the mentor sentence.  They are always excited to find it. We might discuss it briefly, but save more discussion for another day. 

day 2- grammar 
     Sometimes I combine this with the first day if needed.  We look at the sentence for the grammatical make up.  Sometimes I choose a sentence based on a grammar skill we've been covering or a type of sentence I'd like to see them start writing.  
    Our third graders have English journals which are just a comp notebook we use for taking notes and gluing in samples of work.  We work through it together and I don't grade this piece.  You could grade it or take a completion grade, but all of mine do the work so I don't have to threaten them with that. 





day 3-  comprehension

   Next, we spend some time talking about how the sentence fits in with the story.  Is there a word we don't understand? Why does the author chose the word and the detail included? What's going on in the story?  What's the big picture?  
    This half sheet is used as a guide for the discussion and don't grade it either. It gets glued in their journal.  




day 4-  inspiration sentence day  (my favorite day!)
     I give them the sentence and explain why I liked it, why I chose it, and what we can gain as writers from it.   This gets glued in their journal.



I give them several quiet minutes to think and write.  At first, they wanted to rush through it and then share right away, but now they seem to enjoy the uninterrupted time to think and write one or more examples.   Then we share aloud.  They all want to share.  I don't have to grade this step either.  You could.  




I  chose this mentor sentence because it showed cause and effect. 
This little gem came from a student who is an otherwise reluctant writer. 





I challenged them to think of a way our mentor sentence could go into one of their current or recent writing pieces.  


The next two go with the mentor sentence, "The sun rose like a pearl in the rosy mist."




 Day 5- edit and rewrite
  
     I take the typed sentence from the days before a make a few changes.  They make their editing marks and then rewrite correctly.  I do grade this before they glue it in their journals.  




next step- application


   
This friend used a sentence like the our mentor sentence for the week on the weekly language test.  Application!  YES!



    This student is not a strong write in particular, but you wouldn't know that based on the sentences here.  This was in a writing response the next week.  The last bit says, "The sled was like a flying angel.  The snow was like confetti for people cheering me on.  The was like cheering people."  
      This writing strategy has had a tremendous influence on my little writers. It does not take a lot of extra time, does not involve extra grading for me, and works into what we are already doing in class.  How could you use mentor sentences with your students?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

favorite day and a new goal

It's really one of our favorite days of the year, the food drop at our church.  I've written about it before.  Our church takes a special Thanksgiving day offering and all that money (it's our biggest collection each year) goes to buying wholesale groceries.  They get delivered on semi trucks.  We all line up and fire brigade style pass them down the line to be sorted and stacked. 
 
 
We ended up in a little group of kids from our school, some of my students, former students, and my own kids all passing boxes down the line.  After it's all unloaded and sorted, you get into groups and assigned a location.  Each location is given an inventory and we send out our runners to gather the items on the order.  Bee got promoted to inventory collector which is a tricky job.  Lou got to man the stacking on the truck. You've got to be fast when you do that job.  We each worked to our strengths this year.  In the past, we've been runners and gotten the things from the sorted piles.
 
 
The food is shared with over 30 local food banks.  We have gone the same place the last three years.  When we get there, we unload the boxes and help them sort it onto their shelves. The people at the food bank usually talk about their programs and services. 
 

Bee and Lou always have an amazing time.  They work harder than they do at any other time of the year. I'm reminded that they need more volunteer opportunities.  Other than Bee helping in the church nursery with me we haven't been doing much since I went back to work full time.  It's hard to find places that let kids volunteer too.  My new goal is to make that happen for them. I've got a lead at a place in town and feel pretty good about it, Bee and Lou are excited too. 

Christmas fun news

I'm at home with a sick kid and time to post!  Poor Bee was up in the night throwing up and not feels 'great' but we're camping on the couch just in case.  I's a Cake Boss marathon for us!
 
We had a fun and whirl wind kind of Christmas.  We had lots of guests- two legged and four.
 
I have bunches of pictures from that, but first- fun news.
 
 
My sister and her boyfriend came with some exciting news.   Did you see that?   Their sweet little puppy Penny had an announcement. 
 
 
Aren't they cute?  We like him a bunch and are glad we get to keep him.  Lou has decided he can go ahead and start adding uncle to his name. 
 
 
The girls wasted no time and went wedding dress shopping while we were all together.  That's our sister in law, mom, I'm with the camera and the bride.

 
She found the dress!  She said I could post the picture here since the FiancĂ© never checks in here.    Gorgeous!  She tired on six or seven to get to this one, but knew it was the one as soon as she saw it.
 
 
She loved it and we loved it and she bought it! 

 
They have a date, she has a dress.  That's pretty much it, right?  She's a teacher too and this is going to be a summer wedding, so she's moving on all the details!
 
 
Our joke for awhile has been that Bee is running out of good flower girl years.  I think we're still alright on time.  Flower girl Bee has her dress too.  Shhhh- we've had it for months.  We'll be replacing the belt with something that matches the bridesmaids.
 
 
Oh, Poor Lou, all this wedding talk.  He has already asked if it's all we're going to talk about until the big day. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

wax museum

I must not have written about the wax museum last year.  Frankly, last year, I was lucky to be wearing clean clothes and have run a brush through my hair.  It was survival mode at least.  The new teacher on our third grade team is brand new this year and also a brand new mama.  Double wammie!  She confessed she's barely keeping her head above water too.  No doubt!

 

Anyway, our school does this awesome wax museum project.  It's during book week and there are events each day.  The wax museum is the big event hosted by Third and Fourth grade. Fourth grade is a historical character that they've researched through reading a biography.  Bee was Anne Frank. 


Here she is with some of her buddies Hellen Keller and Annie Oakly.   We don't do Halloween at our school, so this is our event to dress up.

Third grade dresses up as a character from a book and they report on the author they have studied.  Here is my costume winner, The lorax.

 
Third and Fourth grade dresses  up, creates an informational board, presents for the class and then works it at the wax museum, sharing their presentation many, many times.
 

First grade practices by dressing up as a bible character and sharing with their class a little about their person.  Second grade researches an animal, dresses up as that animal, and gives a one minute report to their class.  Lou was a tyrannosaurus rex and wouldn't be photographed.  He was a grumpy t-rex.
 

I try to dress up as a character too, but not many teachers do. I love an excuse to dress up a little. My Lorax and I found a cat and the hat at lunch. 


It's one of those projects that's tons of work or everyone, but super fun and everybody learns a lot.

Monday, December 22, 2014

three years later

I'm not a professional photo kind of gal.  I love when I see friend's wonderfully taken photos of their little ones and always think I might set something up. And then I never do.  The outfits coordinate so well and the setting is perfectly selected.  Our lives are well photographed.  I'm always taking pictures.  I even upload them semi regularly and back them up and print them out.   It's been almost three years since I had the kids photos taken by a photographer.  It's been since before Lou was born that we've had a family photo taken like that. Geesh.
 
Hubby's cousin helped us out and took some lovely photos of us a few weeks ago.  I was even going to make Christmas cards.  I didn't.   Maybe New Year's cards!
 

We were in town for Hubby's grandmother's funeral.  We hadn't planed on photos, so our outfits aren't well planned but did end up looking decent together.


 










Hubby's parents joined us and I plan to frame some for them for Christmas. These are taken out at the edge of one of his uncle's property.  I was nervous about the setting sun causing problems with lighting but it ended up making it really lovely.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Thanksgiving December


 
It's December... It's 4 days until Christmas... Here are Thanksgiving pictures. It's seasonally inappropriate.   It's the first day of Christmas vacation so I have time. That's makes it totally appropriate.
 
 
Happy thanksgiving!  Decemgiving.  Thanksember.  Happy I'm-on-Christmas-vacation-and-finally-printing-first-day-school-pictures.
 
There was the usual.  Ad looking,
 
my youngest sister, Meg
 
entertaining of the kids,
 
Meg and Lou with Juggle Bubbles
cooking,
 
my sister, Chris
 crafting,
 

 
 
 
a little bit of dancing,
 
 
and the annual trip to Scheels.
 
Lou drove the race care simulator and I nearly puked in the car!
The ferris wheel wasn't much better for my stomach!
 
Daddy and Bee
 
 
I seriously wish this kid wasn't so anxious all the time.  He's an actor, but the thought of being on stage freaks him out.  He can't wait to come to musical practice with me and loves the idea of it all... just not with him on stage. 
 
Lou and his catch. 
Lou and his catch.   Bee walked around with my sister, I didn't get any of the traditional funny photos of her with the fish or the talking presidents or the big bear.

This year, there was a special activity organized by my sister.  Minute to win it... family style.
 
Chris and the boyfriend, the organizers but not the winners!
 
 
She asked me to make a trophy.  The kids and I bought a large candle holder and a glass eagle candy bowl topper at the thrift store. We glued them together and spray painted them a lovely textured gold.  I added some vinyl letter cut out on the silhouette.  I think she was hoping for a tackier trophy but I loved this.
 
 
 We played couples.  There was the dice on a tongue depressor stack.
 
 
 
 
 W had the create paper unroll race.  
 
 
 
There was the tissue box empty race.

 
The M&M straw transfer game,

 
and the ping pong wobbly cup stack.

 

There was some unfortunate crying from Lou, as he an Bee weren't doing as planned.  Lou did well with the cookie on the face race.   

 
 
 
 My sister and her boyfriend ended up in a tie with my brother and his wife.  The tie breaker was blowing the cups off the table race. 


 
 
The winners were my brother David and his wife, Kelly. Their names are on the trophy and they will hold the title until next year.

  
 Happy Thanksgiving... at the end of December.