7 Reading Lessons Using Mentor Texts

As a teacher, one of my favourite things to do is teach students how to read.  I use mentor texts to teach reading lessons because they can hook students into a lesson in such a genuine way.  Head on over to

The Clever Classroom to see 7 Reading Lessons Using Mentor Texts.

While you're there, take a look at her other early literacy ideas.  I love her lessons and ideas that combine digital content with literacy goals.  Technology is another great way to keep students engaged in reading and writing!

Rachel - PoetPrints.ca
5 Writing Lessons Using Mentor Texts

Reading and Writing often go hand-in-hand. So what better way to teach a Writing lesson than by reading a book? Books offer a window into other people's writing styles. And having an example of how to write, makes it easier when it comes time for our students to put pencil to paper. Here are some awesome books for Writing lessons that will hopefully help to inspire your future authors, journalists, novelists, etc:

Lesson One: Finding an Idea for a Story

Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon

Ralph is a boy who just cannot find anything to write about. Boy, have I been there! There always seems to be someone in my classroom who is absolutely stumped during writing time. In the story, Ralph slowly discovers that stories are all around him! (He could write about the class goldfish or the inchworm he found in his backyard, or even the markers in his desk!) My reluctant writers get such a kick out of this book because it is both hilarious and gives actual solutions to their ‘writers block’.

I like to begin my ‘Ralph Tells a Story’ lesson by asking students the question, “Where do you find your Writing ideas?” Then, we write this on chart paper. As we read the story we pause to gather more ideas and add to our chart. I end the lesson by demonstrating that ideas can be found anywhere by writing a quick story as a group using something that has happened during our day. For example, “The Sweltering Classroom”, or “Mrs. Poetker’s Lost Keys”.

Then we are ready to write our own stories!  I already blogged about how we do narrative writing in third grade, check it out here!

Lesson Two: Writing With Juicy Details

Mole’s Sunrise by Jeanne Willis

This is a super descriptive story about two animals who embark on a journey to see the sunrise. One friend (Vole) describes the sunrise to the other (Mole) using vivid imagery. At the end of the book, we discover that Mole is blind, but because of his friend’s descriptions, he feels like he has seen a sunrise too.

With this book, I teach a lesson on using juicy details in writing. When I teach the lesson, I give students picture books (including this one) and strips of paper. They have to pick their favorite descriptive sentences for inspiration and write them down. We collect all these sentences on a flip chart. Then, I challenge my students to write their own descriptive sentences. And, as I’m sure you know, prompts are awesome ways to get students thinking about an idea. Try the prompt “My Imaginary Place” or “My Favorite Season”. You’ll be surprised at what your students come up with!

Later, this leads into a great sharing activity, where students share their sentences and give feedback to each other.

Lesson Three: Writing a Letter

Dear Teacher by Amy Husband

Letter writing is an art form that seems to be lost, but I think it’s still so important for students to learn how to write a proper letter. Dear Teacher naturally leads into a fun-filled lesson on how to write a letter.

This book is a collection of imaginative letters written by a student, named Michael, who does not want to go back to school. Michael comes up with the most elaborate and hilarious excuses, which he writes in letter form to his teacher.

After reading this story, my students write a letter to me in the same style as Michael. They must explain why they cannot return to school for the remainder of the year. This also serves as an awesome first day of school activity. Lots of giggles and smiles will happen during this lesson.

Lesson Four: Fractured Fairytales

The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf by Mark Teague

I love a good fairy tale! Who doesn’t? And my all time favorite fairytale is “The Three Little Pigs”. My students are also obsessed with the story of the Three Little Pigs. This book, as you might be able to tell from the title, is a twist on the classic story. It’s also a book for kicking off lessons on fractured fairy tales.

After reading the original version of the Three Little Pigs, my students and I will read this version together. Then we compare the two stories and discuss what makes The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf special. Through discussion, they will discover that a fractured fairytale takes the original story and changes an element or two. We then brainstorm how we could change other stories.

Later, I have them write their own fractured fairy tales. They love the challenge!

Lesson Five: Writing Stories With a ‘Hook’

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin

Doreen Cronin certainly has a way with words. I love her stories! She uses repetition, not only to make her stories hilarious but also give them character. In this story, the cows are airing their grievances with Farmer Brown by writing him letters on a typewriter. The key repetitive phrase is “Click, Clack, Moo!”

Click, Clack, Moo is great for teaching students the concept of story writing with repetitive phrases. These are the phrases that the reader can latch onto when reading. Try brainstorming some of your own phrases that would sound silly when repeated and try writing a group story using them as the ‘hook’!

As you can see, I have a lot of fun teaching my students how to write. I enjoy reading the things they come up with. And I love seeing how they develop as writers. Do you have a subject that you’re super passionate about teaching? Share what it is in the comments below!

Rachel - PoetPrints.ca
Anxiety at School

Four Strategies to Help Students Cope

I want my students to understand the importance of keeping their whole bodies healthy. That makes sense, right? Healthy eating, getting enough sleep (PLEASE!), exercise…. But what often gets forgotten is mental health. To help students cope with anxiety at school it is important for them to understand what they are feeling, why they are feeling it, and how to deal with it. Teaching about this can start at any age, and here are some practical ideas strategies.

Strategy One: Pre-Teach Feelings

The brain is a fascinating thing, and students LOVE to learn about how the brain works. Plus, the kids enjoy being able to throw big words around the classroom (and impress their parents at the dinner table). The Kindergarten teacher at school started the year by teaching her kids about how the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala work together. In simple terms, the prefrontal cortex is the decision maker, and when we are angry, frustrated, upset, etc., the amygdala is the switch that turns off the prefrontal cortex.  Thus, the brain is unable to make good decisions. When kids understand why they are feeling upset, they can begin to problem solve. (Some more kid-friendly explanations can be found here.)

Strategy Two: Create a Calming Tool Box

Teaching students strategies for how to deal with their emotions can be simple and effective. Some kids just need to hug a stuffed animal. Some kids need to read a book for a while, to help distract themselves. Some kids need something visual to watch. For example, this brain jar:

Students shake the jar and watch the sparkles swirl around, and then sink to the bottom. This is such a simple tool to make. You just need a mason jar, water and some pretty sparkles. Some websites say to use gel or glue mixed in with the sparkles, but I found that just using water was easiest. It’s amazing how this helps to calm students.

I have all of these 'tools' in my classroom Calming Tool Box. This is just a white tupperware bin.  My class knows that that they can go to this bin to get a “tool” when they need to calm their brain down. 

Strategy Three: Create a Safe Space for Feelings

Who enjoys being sad, upset or angry in front of other people? I know that I do not. Creating a safe place for emotions is an awesome idea for the classroom so that students have a place to go when they are feeling upset. This is a place where students can calm themselves down and then come back when they are ready. For some classrooms, you may have a corner for students to do this, or a more private cloakroom area. In other classrooms, like mine, the most practical location might be in the hallway, just outside the door. This is an area where you can put a stool or a chair, and a Calming Tool Box. 

Strategy Four: Teach Students About Whole Body Health

Sometimes students need to be explicitly taught what to do when they are feeling anxious and upset. Purposeful lessons on mental health, including how to ‘calm down’ when you are feeling overwhelmed can go a long way towards helping your students cope independently. In my classroom we have been learning how our physical and mental health work together to make our whole bodies healthy! 

We brainstormed situations that made us anxious and different ways we could calm down.  (Points for the student who wanted to use a Hot Tub!)  

We researched healthy eating ideas and ways that we could help our bodies feel calm in stressful situations. 

Combining physical and mental health into one uni helped my students to see that it is important to take care of their bodies and their minds. 

Students made these fun lapbooks that showcased their learning! 

Our Whole Body Health lapbook tied together all we had learned! (Check it out here !) 

The whole unit can be found in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, or by clicking HERE.

Now I want to know about you! We are heading into testing season in Canada and the US, (and abroad?) which can be an anxious time for many students. What are your best strategies for helping to calm anxious students, and for giving them the tools to calm on their own?

Faith Based Learning

I teach in a Christian School.  I believe in faith-based education that not only teaches aboutthe Bible, but also trains children up the ways of Jesus.  These are verses I love, websites I find useful, and resources for Christian education.  

Blogs: Faith in the Classroom

Preparing for Easter in the Christian Classroom

Christian Education Resources 

Scripture Memory : I love Bible Memory because I think that hiding God's word in your heart is such an important and lifelong tool!  Starting from a young age, children can begin to memorize age-appropriate verses of the Bible that will carry through to the rest of their lives.

Bible Memory ABC's for Preschool and Kindergarten

Bible Memory - 21 Essential Verses for First-Sixth Grades

Bible Memory for Teachers!10 Free Devotions, Memory Verses and Scripture Meditations

Teaching Students to Pray - A Visual Guide

Whole Hand Prayer - three free posters and a blank journalling page - download by clicking here

Teaching children to pray can be a daunting task.  We want each child to know that they can have open and honest communication with their heavenly Father, without thinking of him a a 'genie' who grants their every wish.  Check out this Prayer Journal unit for a step-by-step  guides on prayer based on the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6, and grab the free poster set by clicking the link above. 

Bible Story Units - Great for School & Sunday School

All-in-one units (story, worksheets, activities, and crafts). 

Bible-Based Projects for Elementary School : I have found that I have a passion for creating resources that both meet Common-Core and Canadian standards, and allow students the opportunity to dive in to the Bible and learn more about our Creator.

Promises from God Learn the fundamental promises God has made to us throughout scripture.  Students will discover that their foundation can be built on the unbreakable promises of their Creator.

What Does the Bible Say About...

Art project

Teach students to turn to God's word in every situation as they explore Bible through individual written projects.

My Identity in Jesus...

A project to help students explore their God-given identities!  Students will create "I am" statements based on Bible truths using writing, matching games, and art projects. 

Those who hope in the Lord
I Can do all things through christ who strengthens me
But we hope for what we do not yet have
for God has not given us a spirit of fear
Rachel - PoetPrints.ca
Christmas Gift Tags

December is a busy time at home and in the classroom.  In third grade we are busily creating small gifts (ornaments this year) for our parents, writing 'encouragement notes' for older students in the school, and trying madly to make a little gift for our first grade younger buddies.  It's a wonderful time of year, but oh boy is it exhausting!

To help remember who created each ornament, card, and gift, I have made gift tags for students to attach on each of their homemade presents.

Our presents home to our families will feature gift tags with Nativity scene:

(Nativity Gift Tags - download here )

Our presents to our little buddies have gift these cute little Christmas figures and a few song lyrics:

(Cute Student Gift Tags - download here)

And I have special tags just for gifts that will go from staff to staff:

(Watercolor gift cards - download here. )

I have all of these gift tags packaged together as a free download on my Teachers Pay Teachers page as a small Christmas present from me to you.  Thank you for reading my blog and visiting my little TpT shop.

Merry Christmas to you!

Getting Ready for Winter Break

The lead up to winter break can be a busy time in any elementary classroom.  Class parties, music concerts, special events, field trips... and actual academic work!  It's a miracle any teacher survives to mid-December.

As winter break approaches, there are so many things to be done.  Crafts to be made, art projects to complete, gifts to plan (depending on if your class celebrates Christmas), and more!  Planning in advance and having winter activities ready to go is key to 'surviving' the holiday hustle.  Here are a few things I like to have ready to go in advance. Remember, don't re-invent the wheel.

Winter in the Classroom Tip 1 - Have a craft ready to go!

Tea Light Snowmen Ornaments, a great winter craft. (Photo credit:

One Little Project

I absolutely love this snowman ornament craft from

One Little Project

.  It's adorable and almost fool-proof. Check out her blog for step-by-step instructions and an easy shopping guide for activity prep.  It does take a significant amount of hot-glueing, so my third grade students completed theirs alongside their older buddies.  It could also be done with a few parent volunteers, or in a single-teacher classroom over a few days on a slower pace.

Winter in the Classroom Tip 2 - Be ready with a quick workbook!

The one thing that is certain about the pre-holiday season is that

anything

 can happen.  Your much-anticipated guest speaker could cancel.  Your field trip bus could be two hours late.  The music concert may run

way

 over.  There is always time to fill

somewhere

! I like to be prepared with some kind of quick

winter themed workbook

that keeps my students engaged and is available on the fly for any unplanned emergency.  

Winter and Christmas Themed Workbooks

from Poet Prints

Winter in the Classroom Tip 3 - Elf Yourself

Elf Yourself

is a web-based movie maker is a quick and fun option to add some holiday cheer to your classroom. It is a free platform from Office Depot and Office Max, so there are some links to both websites on the site, but they aren't too obtrusive.

Turn your students into animated and goofy elves in mini north pole themed movies.  (Note: some movies may be mildly inappropriate for younger audiences or conservatives schools, screen each movie first). 

Do you have any classroom routines or things you like to do before students head off for winter break? Let me know in the comments below! 

Rachel - PoetPrints.ca
Writing Stories in Third Grade

Teaching students to write great narrative stories can be a daunting task. Characters?  Setting?  Plot?  Problem?  Solution?  Do it all at the same time?!  

How can we, as teachers, make sure that students are understanding the complexities of narrative writing, using their new skills effectively, and having fun?

As I have taught story writing to class after class of third grade students, I have found a few things to be most valuable year after year.  Take a peek at my 6 must-do strategies for teaching story writing!

Teaching Students to Write Stories Tip #1: Find good anchor books

Anchor books are key to kicking off a new unit and helping key concepts to really 'stick'.  This year, I have a class of kids who will do almost anything for "just one more story" and who am I to say no?

Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon -  This is one of my all time favourite Writing anchor books, especially for encouraging struggling writers.  In this story we follow the main character as he learns that anything can be the inspiration for a good story.  Great ideas for writing are all around us!

Chester's Masterpiece by Melanie Watt is a great story during the 'editing' stage of writing.  Chester, a precocious cat, playfully argues with the narrator about the best ways to write his own story.  It's a great way to introduce the need for students to edit and revise their work in order to produce quality writing.

Teaching Students to Write Stories Tip #2: Choose a theme for your stories

At times, broad writing topics such as "write a story about whatever you want"  can be overwhelming for third grade students.  After a miserable failure with this my first year in third grade, I began narrowing down the options and giving each class a theme.  This helps to guide our mini-lessons, and allows me to teach specific skills related to a particular genre of narrative story.  Here are a few of the themes that we have enjoyed:

  • Animal Stories
  • Who-done-it Stories
  • Time-Travel Stories (inspired by 'The Magic Treehouse')
  • Space Stories
  • Under-the-Sea stories

Teaching Students to Write Stories Tip #3: Model writing as a group

Throughout the story writing unit, I always take time to model the story-writing process through a collaborative class book.   We take an idea and explore it all the way from idea, to rough draft, and finally correct it and write a good copy as a group. I like to use chart paper so students can see me physically writing out the story in real-time, and modelling how to craft each aspect of the narrative story.  We add a little more onto our story each day!  Through practicing with whole-group writing, students are are able carry out each skill with greater confidence when they begin to write independently.

Teaching Students to Write Stories Tip #4: Teach an important skill each day

As students write their whole-class story, they are also introduced to a new writing skill daily.  It is during this short lesson that they are introduced to vital story writing techniques such as:

  • How to brainstorm ideas before you begin
  • Planning to have a beginning, middle, and end
  • Turning a plan into a creative story
  • Creating an engaging topic sentence
  • Using dialogue
  • Using punctuation
  • Crafting complex and compound sentences
  • Ending stories in a satisfying way

Pictured above: Detailed story planning pages, used to teach pre-writing skills via graphic organizers.  Part of this no-prep unit.

Teaching Students to Write Stories Tip #5: Conference one-on-one

Once students have begun their independent writing time (immediately following the mini-lesson, and modelled whole-group write) I pull 3-4 students for one-on-one conferences.  Here I am quickly able to give personalized help. For my struggling students, we can work on adding capital letters and punctuation to their sentences.  For my advanced writers, we may be working towards developing a more complex plot line.  This one-on-one time is vital for developing differentiated instruction.

I help my students to self edit each page of their work as well as to do a final edit with a peer (if they are ready) or with me if they need more one-on-one assistance.

After students have completed a quick checklist on each written page, they do a larger edit using this page.  (Available in my story writing unit)

Teaching Students to Write Stories Tip #6: Share, Share, Share

Inspire students to keep on writing by allowing them to share their work out loud, even in the incomplete stages!  As often as I am able, I love to allow students to stand up (at their desks, or on the carpet) and share out loud their favorite 4-5 sentences from their current piece of writing.  It helps them to build confidence as authors.

As you continue I continue in this process I may also allow the rest of the class to offer up "Two Stars and a Wish".  The "stars" are things that they love about the piece of work, and the "wish" is something that they wish the piece would have.

We also love binding our work into final books to send home to our families. It gives students a sense of pride when their stories feel valued by their teacher.  I love creating class books featuring all 24 of my little authors!

Check out my Story Writing Unit on Teachers Pay Teachers to create easy all-in-one booklets for your students.  All of the pages and templates seen in this post can be found in that unit (along with many more!)

Do you have any tried-and-true tips for teaching story writing?  I'd love to hear them in the comments below.  Happy Writing!

Rachel - PoetPrints.ca
DIY Classroom Crafts

Is it already NOVEMBER?  Where did the fall go?  I feel like I blinked and it was almost Christmas.  Before the new year begins, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite DIY projects for the classroom.   My husband and I didn't head out on any major vacations over the summer break, so I had plenty of time to spend on craft projects.  I had fun trying out many of the things I had seen on Pinterest and other teacher-blogs.

Some of these crafts were 

simple

 to do, and made a huge impact in my classroom.  Others were a total FLOP.

Classroom DIY Project One:  Chalkboard Sign (WIN)

This sign was super easy to make, and such a win on the first day of school.  I took a simple frame from the thrift store, painted over the glass with chalkboard paint, and used chalk markers to write the cute message.

Classroom DIY Project Two:  "Team Grade Three" Shirts(FAIL)

I had big plans to make matching tee shirts for my teaching partner and I.  Oh man, were these a lot of work.  I designed the logo quickly in PowerPoint (it's faster and easier than using InDesign for a quick job) then reversed the image and printed it onto iron-on paper.  But transferring it onto a tee shirt?  That was

such a nightmare

.  I think I wrecked two full shirts before I finally got the transfer to stick perfectly without any residue.  (Even then, I couldn't get it to work with a transparent background!)

When I finally tallied up all of the time I spent on those darn tee shirts I wish I had just bought some of the cute ones I saw online.  Next year I have a plan to buy one from

The Essential Teacher

, and save myself a lot of frustration and ruined tee shirts!

Classroom DIY Project Three:  Ribbon Banner (FAIL)

Oh man, I had seen these ribbon banners all over Pinterest, and they were so cute! I bought fabric, read tutorials... and just did not like the final product.  I think I could have used

way

 more fabric to make a longer banner, but (to be honest) I just didn't like how it looked in the end. I love clean, neat, craft projects, and I wasn't a fan of the overall look!

Classroom DIY Project Four: Crate Seats (WIN)

After reading a number of tutorials (

this one,

and

this one

were best)  I finally set out to make flexible seating out of sturdy storage crates.  Thank goodness I had incredible help from colleague 

The Smurti Teacher

.  These have been a total WIN in my classroom.  My students love them, and I love how they are the perfect storage for all of my blankets and pillows.   One piece of advice:  make sure you use very sturdy storage crates.  Some crates seem to be more 'flimsy' than others, so make sure you buy ones that are a little higher quality.

Classroom DIY Project Five: Pick Sticks (WIN, kind-of)

This project looks cute in my classroom, but took more time than it was worth (in my opinion).  I took standard large popsicle sticks and painted each side teal and white.  It just took time when it came to letting each part dry before turning the stick over and painting the next coat/color.  I love how they look, but I know that plain sticks would have been just as effective.

Did you make any great DIY projects this year?  What were your greatest successes?  Any major flops?  I'd love to hear them in the comments below!

Rachel - PoetPrints.ca
Placing the Focus on Thankfulness this Thanksgiving

Taking the time to study and celebrate Thanksgiving in an elementary classroom is a great way to create an environment of thankfulness.  When students are lead to practice gratitude it can help to build a mindful classroom.

However, being

thankful

 does not come easy for all.  Whenever I ask my students to brainstorm what they are thankful for, I inevidably get the same three things:

my family, my home, food.

Let's be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with these three.  Those are absolutely things that we can, and should, be thankful for.  But I think it can go deeper.  Thankfulness can be more than the 'big three'. It can extend to specific characteristics, qualities, people and the 'little things' in life.  In every season there is always something to be thankful for.  I have taught in both high and low-income schools, and the practice of showing gratitude is not limited to any particular socioeconomic status.

This year, my grade three students were particularly thankful for their Grade Eight Buddies.  I teach in a K-12 school.  My class is both 'big' buddy to a class of Grade One students, and 'little' buddy for a class of Grade Eight students.  Their Grade Eight buddies visit them every second Friday during math, and it is just

so

 welcomed.  Each of my littles gets one-on-one time with someone who can help to coach and encourage them through tricky concepts. It's also a great way to build multi-age friendships in such a diverse campus.

As part of our Thanksgiving unit we wrong Thankful Letters to our Grade Eight buddies.  We got the change to express

gratitude

 for the way they show us

patience

, and how they faithfully

encourage

us to keep working hard even when we just don't get it. (Yet!)

In an already jam-packed curriculum, there is hardly any time for seasonal unit study... but I feel like a focus on thanksgiving is just so important.  I make sure that it integrates with my Language Arts outcomes so my students are still meeting provincial standards while also taking time to develop their character.

We follow my  

"We Are Thankful"

unit on Teachers Pay Teachers:

"We Are Thankful" - a Print-and-Go Unit  for First, Second, Third, and Fourth Grades

Available Here

You won't believe the stories my students come up with for the "How to Escape Thanksgiving" writing lesson:

How do you celebrate Thanksgiving in your classroom?  Have you ever practiced showing gratitude to another grade, or teacher in your school?  Let me know in the comments below!

Rachel - PoetPrints.ca
ACSI Conference

Welcome ACSI Conference Attendees!

If you aren't already familiar, Teachers Pay Teachers is a website where you can buy affordable digital curriculum.  There are many quality Canadian teacher-authors on

Teachers Pay Teachers

, and a handful have offered ACSI conference attendees free lessons and units to try out in their classrooms!

To access your free resources follow the steps below:

1. CLICK HERE to be directed to our ACSI Dropbox containing all of the units.

2. Type in the password you received at the ACSI Conference. 

3. To download all resources click "Download" at the top of the page. 

4. OR download individual resources by clicking the resource title, and then clicking "Download" once the resource has loaded on your screen.  

Thanks also to 

Primary Teaching Resources

,

Fun in Fourth with Ms. Gatt

,

Sandra Farrell

,

A Grade One Nut

,

Diamond Mom,

Grade One Snapshots

,

Proud to be Primary,

and

One Teacher's Adventures

for their generous donations.

Wishing you all much success teaching the new BC Curriculum, and integrating a love and passion for Jesus above all!

Remember, you have been gifted a license for single-classroom use only.  Please respect the copyright of each document by not sharing files electronically or in-person.  Questions about this process or anything else related to the files?  Please e-mail Rachel at poetprints TPT (at) gmail (dot) com.  

Rachel - PoetPrints.ca