Thursday, December 29, 2016

Great Classroom Reads

Is there anything better than diving into a great book with your students?  I am listing some books that have been recommended by other teachers as well as myself.  Teachers will refer to some of these books as core novels/texts. You might use the books for students to read independently or as instructional texts. 

Picture Books
  • The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
  • Sam and Dave Dig a Hole
  • The Adventures of Beekle
  • Mother Goose Bruce
  • I am a Story
  • A Child of Books
  • What to do With an Idea
  • What to do With a Problem
  • Finding Winnie
  • How to Train a Train
  • Aberdeen
  • Choose Your Days
  • The Giving Tree
  • Rosie Revere, Engineer
  • Iggy Peck, Architect
  • Ada Twist, Scientist
  • The Invisible Boy
  • The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles
  • The Dark
  • The Not So Quiet Library
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Grades 3-4
  • Gooney Bird Greene (3rd) series
  • The Hundred Dresses (3rd)
  • Riding Freedom (3rd)
  • Frank Einstein and the Anti-Matter Motor (3rd)
  • My Father's Dragon (3rd)
  • The Year of Billy Miller (3rd)
  • Because of Winn Dixie (3rd)
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox (3rd)
  • Ruby Lu Empress of Everything (3rd)
  • Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things (3rd/4th)
        
  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (4th)
  • Mr. Popper's Penguins (4th)
  • The One and Only Ivan (4th)
  • Al Capone Does my Shirts (4th)
  • Rules (4th)
  • Turtle in Paradise (4th)
  • The Ballad of Lucy Whipple (4th)
  • Fish in a Tree (4th)
  • El Deafo (4th)
  • Bridge to Terabithia (4/5th)
  • By the Great Horn Spoon (4/5th)


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Writing Done Right


I'm excited to announce my writing curriculum is now on Amazon.  The book is available in paperback or on Kindle.



Writing Done Right is suited for teachers, parents, homeschoolers, or anybody that would like a comprehensive writing curriculum that teaches students to meet the rigor of current writing standards with flair and style.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Supportive Classrooms

"Classroom environments that are supportive, pleasant, and non-threatening, develop students’ passion for writing and increase the likelihood that students will apply the strategies they have learned. This is particularly important for students who struggle with writing because many need to overcome the lingering effects of previous experiences where they felt unsuccessful and frustrated throughout the writing process." (Santangelo, Harris, Graham)

Examples of ways to create an enjoyable and inspiring environment include:
  • Establishing an exciting mood during writing time
  • Encouraging students to take risks when writing
  • Developing writing assignments that reflect students’ interests; allowing students to select their own writing topics or modify assigned topics
  • Having students arrange their own writing space
  • Encouraging students to help each other as they plan, write, revise, and edit their work
  • Holding student conferences to discuss writing goals, achievements, and challenges
  • Asking students to share works-in-progress and completed papers with each other
  • Praising students for their accomplishments, effort, and use of writing strategies
  • Reinforcing students’ efforts and accomplishments by “showcasing” work in prominent places
  • Consistently modeling and promoting an “I can do this” attitude

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Successful Summer Writing Camp

I'd like to thank the amazing parents and students for a successful Killeen Up Your Writing Summer Camp!

We covered opinion, informational, and narrative text types.  In addition, the students learned about author's craft, descriptive writing, and so much more.

The informational piece on "Pokemon Go" was a huge hit!

I am proud of what they accomplished.  They rocked!

I look forward to more sessions next summer!


Sunday, July 10, 2016

The First Draft is From the Heart

I was flipping through the channels a few weeks back and noticed we had free HBO. You heard me! I'm sure I'm paying for it in one way, shape, or form, but I figured I'd scroll through to see what was on. I stumbled upon Finding Forrester with Sean Connery.  I'm no movie buff, but I watched this years ago and found myself glued again for some reason. There were a few spoken lines that resonated with me. In fact, I ran over to my post-its and wrote them down.  

"The first draft is written from the heart and the second draft is written from the head!" These words sent goose bumps down my arms.  I missed this the first time through, but this makes total sense.  

How often do we just write about what we are feeling on a particular day? Sometimes my pen seems to do the thinking while my head plays catch up.  Has this happened to you?  

I have a quick challenge. Write what comes to mind for five minutes and see where it leads.  I bet you'll tap into something you never imagined.  You can do this as a parent, teacher, individually, or with your class.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Coming Soon...

Coming soon...Writing Done Right!  I’m happy to announce my writing curriculum is finished…at least on my end! I hit some bumps in the road, but that is typical for writing a book. The book should be on Amazon in about a month. Many of you have been quite supportive along this journey and I can’t thank you enough. 
Details to follow...

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day


The aroma from charcoal briquettes, lighter fluid, hamburgers, and sausages, wafting across countless backyard grills this weekend, coupled with laughter, and reunions, sets the tone for a fun-filled Memorial Day.  Simultaneously, whispering winds silently push across this vast nation we call home, as “Old Glory” adorns museums, fields, schools, buildings, and homes. 

As we celebrate this Memorial Day weekend, let’s think of those who have lost their voice, as they rest peacefully, in marked and unmarked monuments throughout this nation, as well as overseas. The fallen… names obscure, subtlety scrolls across our screens each night, or on local news channels, but trust me… entire communities and families know the sacrifice and their names. Tears cling to swollen cheeks, hugs last a little longer, memories fade, years roll along, and memorials are erected, but we wouldn’t sleep peacefully in our warm, secure beds without these heroes. 

Thank you to all the brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice to make our country what it is today!


God Bless America!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Summer Writing Academy

Hello,

The flyer, and registration/questionnaire form are now available for my Summer Writing Academy in Hermosa Beach. Please follow the link below to register.


Summer Writing Academy Registration and Parent Questionnaire




Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Students Want You to Read What they Write

Why do we write?  If you reflect for a moment, what are some reasons you write?  What form does your writing come in?  Do you write letters, emails, notes, texts, poetry, short stories, novels, or IOU's? If you answered yes to all the above, then you must be really busy. But, I do tip my hat to you.

More often than not, we write for the following reasons: to inform, to entertain, persuade, and to heal. Most of our writing fits into one of these categories.  If your students are writing each, and every single day, then they will more than likely touch on all of these reasons.

Students want you to read what they write.  There is never a day when a student doesn’t ask me to read something he/she wrote.  They want to see your reaction.  They will get excited!  Yes, they will be open to feedback because we have created that safe environment to share, therefore; students are more open to reading a piece, or a portion of their piece, with the class.

Have you experienced this?   I am guessing you have.  I know there aren't enough minutes in a school day to read every single thing students write.  Try to skim just one piece of writing.  If you can't offer feedback on each and every piece, then a smile, or nod, will do wonders.  

If you show excitement in what they write, then they will likely continue to share! 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Response To literature

You can use the following prompts for a response to literature lesson, or as a spin on a book report.
  • What is the main idea of the story?
  • What is the author's message?  What does the author want you to "take away" from the story?"
  • What is the moral, or theme, of the story?
  • Convince another person your moral, or theme of the story, is correct by using sufficient evidence and details from the story.  You should focus on character’s feelings, actions and thoughts.
  • Compare and contrast the main character to yourself, somebody else, someone you know, or another character from this story, or another story. 
  • Explain why the story may be useful, or valuable, to those who read it.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Saving Time During Transitions

I don't know about you, but in my classroom, instructional minutes are precious.  I am always looking for ways to get more done in the time I have with my students.  Here are some strategies I use to make every minute count:

  • I always get my class ready before the next break.  Before we leave for recess, we get all of the materials we need for the next lesson out and ready on our desks.  Students always move much faster when they are motivated to get outside and play!  When we return, we jump right into the lesson with no wasted time.  We repeat this process throughout the day before each break.
  • At the end of the day, students prepare the room for the morning.  When they walk into the classroom, they should be able to begin the morning's first activity immediately.
  • I play music for transitions.  I like to make certain procedures routine by adding a song in the background.  If students hear the same song every day during clean up, they will begin to naturally cue in to the timing of the song and learn to pace themselves, so they are finished by the end of the song.
  • An organized classroom also limits time spent on transitions.  Having clearly labeled, easily accessible supplies ensures students are not wasting time looking for materials.  It is also important to have pathways that are free of clutter and wide enough to move through with ease. I have often found that simply moving my desks around makes traffic flow and therefore transitions, easier.

Do you have quick tips to save time during transitions?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

I'm on Amazon!

It's finally here!  A Yearlong Guide to Figurative Language covers eight figurative language concepts.  It's user friendly, with easy to follow activities to enhance figurative language instruction. This book is a great product to use on its own or as a supplement to current instruction.



If you are interested in purchasing my book you can check it out here: A Yearlong Guide to Figurative Language.  Thanks for all your support!  It means a lot to to me.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Yearlong Guide to Figurative Language

I wanted to share the exciting news that my book entitled A Yearlong Guide to Figurative Language will be available on Amazon in just a few short days!
Please feel free to give it a look! I can't thank all of you enough for your continued support!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Sentence Variation

I was offering a student feedback on her descriptive writing recently and something dawned on me. I always offer a compliment, as well as one comment, with my students, because you don’t want to bombard them with too many critiques. (More often than not…they’ll go back and rewrite the same thing they just submitted.)

I noticed this particular student started several sentences with “The” throughout the written piece.  I complimented her on her use of figurative language and I asked for a little sentence variation. It doesn’t mean she can’t use the word “The” to start her sentences; I just wanted her to see how differently the piece might look if she made any changes.  Maybe you already do this!

I always ask my students to read the passage out loud.  This, alone, will help catch many mistakes.  

I want to point out that this is her first draft with zero revisions or edits. This is exactly how the student wrote the original copy:

The sunrise in the sky

The sunrise in the sky shocked me with beauty. The pink cotton candy clouds floated across the sky.  The horizon was endless with excellent colors.  The big skies turned bright orange and the glittery waterfall reflected a great big rainbow.  Huge shadows came from a gigantic mountain. I froze with delite.  The sun smiled a mile wide and I headed for home.

After Revision:
The sunrise in the sky shocked me with beauty. Pink cotton candy clouds floated across the sky.  The horizon was endless with excellent colors. Big skies turned bright orange and the glittery waterfall reflected a great big rainbow.  Huge shadows came from a gigantic mountain. I froze with delite.  The sun smiled a mile wide and I headed for home.

I know changing the first word isn’t going to make or break a written piece, but I do want my students to think like authors.  In addition, it’s important for students to receive applicable feedback.

Additional Suggestions:
  • Embed transitional or temporal words at the beginning of each sentence
  • Start each sentence with a different letter
  • You can always refer to my newsletter on 17 sentence starters

Monday, January 25, 2016

Foot Surgery

I am resting and taking it easy after my plantar fasciitis surgery last week.  I've had the disability for about three years and it was time to try something new.  Yes, I did physical therapy (3x's/week), orthotics, morning exercises, expensive shoes, rolling a ball under my foot, rest, ice, taped feet, cortisone shots (YIKES) and ultra sound, but nothing seemed to work.  It actually got worse each year.   

I'm hopeful for a full recovery and to be back on my feet, no pun intended, in about five to six weeks.  I already miss the class, but I am in contact with the substitute to answer any and all questions.


I meet with the orthopedic surgeon next week, but all signs are positive right now.  I have orders to stay off my feet and relax on the couch.  This is actually difficult because I am an active person. My wife and son have been extremely accommodating.  

Friday, January 22, 2016

Positive Post-It-Notes

There are several ways to give your students a good start to their day.  Today, I am sharing my post-it-note comments with you.  I will randomly select a few days throughout the school year and leave post-it-notes on students' chairs.  I either write the notes out after school, or I will get to school early and write them.  The notes are small messages unique to each student.  I walk the class and think about what I should write.  What might motivate this student?  What did this student do that made him/her stand out?  Every student receives a note.

I like how you showed perseverance on yesterday's difficult math problem.

You attitude in amazing!

How do you know so much about dinosaurs?

You're an amazing seat partner.

I can't believe how much effort you put into your writing!

Once the class pulls their chairs down, you will notice a change in the room.  Students will look around.  Some smile.  Some look confused.  Some will thank you and others won't say a word.  Trust me... they appreciate the notes!  I never say anything to the class and I go about our morning routine as usual.   Their faces will tell you how you made them feel.  You can do this activity as often as you like.

Don't be too surprised if the students keep them stored away.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Fun Revision Strategy

I had a quick bout of insomnia a few weeks back and I was thinking about how I wish I could fall back to sleep.  Has this ever happened to you?  You stare at the walls and ceiling for what seems like hours on end.  This isn’t common for me, but something positive did come from my reflections that evening. 

I must have heard “Viva Las Vegas” earlier in the day because the word “dice” came to mind.  My next thought faded into writing.  I put one and one together and I came up with an idea. What happens when you put dice and writing together?  Nothing. Usually.  However…you can combine rolling dice with revision and I’m going to show you how. 

I put my plan into action the next day.  I asked my class to do a quick write, from a picture I took, while vacationing in New Hampshire. I gave them about 15 minutes to finish their written piece. I’ll list the steps in this process:

  • Ask students to read their passage out loud to themselves or a seat partner
  • Take out the dice from the math toolkits and place the pair on desks 
  • Roll one (die) or two (dice)
  • Add the dice together and make any necessary corrections/deletions/additions to that sentence
  • Repeat at least two times
  • The class rolled the dice numerous times and the revisions were endless

This lesson went over really well and they were engaged throughout the process. I shared my ROLES revisions with you in a previous post and now you have “Roll of The Dice Revision” as another way to revise.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Classroom Update



How have things been going in your classroom since we came back from winter break?

Prior to the break, we did a lot of hands on science lessons.  I attribute many of the ideas from my Mickelson training this summer.  We did pendulum swings, science and engineering activities, push and pull, catapults, building bridges, wind propelled balloons and magnets. The students were engaged and seemed to understand claims, evidence and reasoning.

Now we are investigating biomes, traits, and animals.  In addition, we are reviewing multiplication, narrative writing and explorers.

Are you doing anything exciting? Please feel free to share.