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Anniversary Giveaway and a Pinning Party!

My blog turned 1 year old in November!! I would like to show my appreciation this month by hosting a giveaway!!  Here are the prizes:

Winner #1:  A $25 TPT Gift Card
Winner #2.  A free product of choice from my TPT store
Winner #3.  A $25 Amazon Gift Card

You heard that right.....3 lucky winners!!


a Rafflecopter giveaway
Now on to the Pinning Party!!

I am a member of many awesome collaborative boards on Pinterest!!  I would love to pin some of your awesome products!!  Simply pin one of my products and I will pin one of yours!!

In a comment below, let me know what product of mine you have pinned and leave a link for your product.  I will pin you within 24 hours to an appropriate collaborative board!!

Finally....I am having a TPT and TN Sale....Everything is 20% off for the next few days!!  Be sure to drop in and see what's new!!

Thanks for joining the fun!!
Kathy O.


Formative Assessment for Writing

       Happy Holidays!!  I hope my teacher friends are enjoying some well-deserved time off.  I am off until January 2nd, and I plan to enjoy some relaxation with family over the next few days.  The jammies are on right now and may stay on for a few days...ha ha!!

     I have decided to focus on writing as a goal this year.  The CCSS curriculum for third grade focuses on personal narrative, opinion, and informational writing throughout the school year.  I began the year with a unit on narrative writing.  Though I use a writer’s workshop model, meeting with small groups and individually with students, (formatively) assessing and providing timely feedback has proven to be quite challenging.  I have struggled with identifying those students that need the most help and reaching those students in a timely manner to provide further feedback and guidance.  In addition, I wanted to find a more effective way to support those students who are meeting objectives but wish to move further ahead in their writing.

     My students use a writer's notebook for practicing the writing skills they learn on a daily basis.  This is the place where they get to "fool around" with their writing and try out new things.  I do not collect these, or grade them.  When I work with students during a conference, we discuss the writing that is in their writer's notebook.  It is a risk-free place where students can write and write and write, without worrying about perfection.  This is the same way an adult writer would use a writer's notebook.  They generate ideas here and practice skills we are learning within the context of stories, poems, and other writing they are working on.  During writer's workshop, students must be working on the genre we are focusing on during a particular unit.  But at other times, they are free to experiment with other genres in their writer's notebook.  Some students even like to take their writing outside for recess!

     As we progress through a unit, students eventually choose a topic idea that they would like to take all the way through the writing process and develop into a published story.  We call this topic idea their "draft" idea.  This idea usually originates from an idea they've been playing with in their writer's notebook. However, now they will write this out in draft form in their drafting notebook.  Our drafting notebooks are yellow legal pads.   When students transfer a story to their drafting notebook, this signifies that they are no longer "playing around" with this idea, but they are ready to get serious about revising the piece and developing it fully using all of the tools in their writing toolbox.   They may work on their draft for days or even weeks.  Eventually, after some editing, students will make a final copy/draft of their work.  This may take a variety of forms:  a published book, a typewritten copy, or just written neatly out on special final copy paper.

          Using the that are provided by our district, as well as the Common Core Standards, I began by breaking the “Personal Narrative” standard into learning targets and determined how I could have students practice and demonstrate each skill in a manner that would provide me with instant feedback about who “got” it and who may need further instruction.  This involved students practicing each writing skill on a graphic organizer worksheet in addition to utilizing the skills in their writer’s notebook.  That gave me an easy way to gather their work, analyze it and then adjust my  instruction either on the spot, or the very next day.   In addition to the graphic organizer worksheets, I created a 4-point rubric to rate the understanding of students on each target.  I used this rubric to create strategy groups and to guide our conferences with students, as well as for providing quick feedback to them the very next day (in addition to the rating on the rubric, I would write a specific tip or suggestion for each student).  Those students receiving a 1 or 2 on the rubric would receive further guidance and instruction in a small group the next day. The 3s have the opportunity to work with a 4 to further develop the skill, and the 4s could use the tip or comment that is provided to move forward in their writing.  

     Students keep these graphic organizer skill sheets in their writing binders to use as reference sheets as they write.

This formative assessment plan has given me a much better idea of who needs the most help with each learning target so that I could create an effective system for meeting the needs of those learners.  I now have a road map not only for my daily mini-lessons with students (knowing when to review a concept and when to move forward) but I also have a plan for the one-on-one-conferring and small group work that takes place each day.  I begin by reading over the graphic organizer worksheets for each student, and using the rubric to score and comment on each one.  I then reflect upon the class as a whole and determine how the lesson was received:  Do I need to review?  Do students need more modelingmore practice?  Should I offer a bit more to challenge certain students?  I then use this information to plan my mini-lesson for the next day, and to determine which students need re-teaching of the concept in a conference, which need more guided practice in a small group, and which might just need more independent practice or a peer conference.  I organize these groups and conferences for the very next day, so students can alter their work and apply their learning before a lot of time passes.

Of course, I have encountered challenges in this process.   I continue to struggle with finding the time to meet with all of the students in a timely manner.  Creating peer conferencing groups and partnerships for those students who are “almost there” on a learning target helps a lot.  However, it is a race each and every day to reach all of the students who need further guidance and instruction.    Another challenge has been helping those students who seem to be in the 1-2 range on the rubric for every learning target.  It quickly becomes overwhelming for those students when they need to confer or meet in a group for re-teaching every day.   I decided that those students would set a goal to improve on 1 or 2 of the learning targets during the unit, rather than trying to tackle all of them. Of course, they would continue to practice all of the targets within the context of their writing, but we would be holding them accountable for the 1 or 2 targets as we worked with them 1-2 times each week.  This strategy helped to alleviate the time factor, while also giving those students a focus for their learning, enabling them to reach a goal before moving on to another.  One additional challenge that I have encountered is that by having students practice a writing strategy out of the context of their writer’s notebook, I have created an additional step in the writing process.  They demonstrate the strategy on the worksheet, using a section of writing from the story they are working on.  They are then expected to also revise the section in their writer’s notebook.  This has not been a problem for the majority of our writers, but for our struggling students it can be a bit confusing and cumbersome.   Those students need daily assistance to make this transfer from the worksheet to their writer’s notebook, adding to the time issue.

This process has made planning for my daily writer’s workshop easier and much more effective.  In addition to my personal planning, our grade level (PLT) planning has much more focus.  We are able to use the rubrics and the student writing samples to discuss intervention planning for the students who are still not getting it.   Since all three teachers on our team are using this method, we are all able to contribute problem-solving ideas to help our students to succeed in writing.  This has worked very well with our personal narrative unit.  We plan to continue using this method with our next unit on personal essay writing.

Here is the spreadsheet that I use to keep track of the student's scores, an example of the rubric/scale that I use to give student feedback on each skill sheet, and a sheet I use for creating strategy groups. 

Here are some examples of one student's skill sheets from our Personal Narrative unit.  These are available at my TpT Store (see below for more information).

Here are some photos of this student's drafting notebook, so you can see how he transferred the skills from the worksheet to his story:

If you like these skill sheets/graphic organizers they are available at my TpT store.  I have also included examples of each writing skill/strategy to use as a model for students.  Here they are:

     Also, if you like the idea of using a scale or rubric to give your students feedback, you will like my Writing Assessment Tools.  This pack includes rubrics and other assessment tools that are aligned to third grade common core standards.  I am working on creating Assessment Tools for grades 2 & 4 also!
  Thanks so much for popping into my blog.  I would love your comments and feedback!

Love and peace,


Sales Abound...TPT and TN!!

Head on over to Teacher's Notebook.....November 30-December 2.  All of my products will be 30% off.   They also will be offering their "Build-a-Bundle" savings, which is awesome!!  Become a TN Follower while you are there!!

 Also....don't forget the TPT Cyber Monday (and Tuesday) sale, December 2-3.  All of my products will be 28% off!!

Thanks to Mrs. Leeby for the great link up and thumbnail!!

One last student teacher (who is amazing) has a great product for sale.  She is teaching this unit with our class and the kids love it!!  Check it out.....

Also a great freebie for you.....

 Love and Peace,


A Cutie, a Cocktail and A Freebie!!

I just love these Ryan Gosling "Hey Girl" thingies.  They just crack me up!!  In the spirit of the upcoming holiday and a two-day work week, I have a very fun post for you!  Enjoy!!

Here is your CUTIE....
 This one is perfect for today....even thought it IS only a two day week for me!!  Ha ha!


 My favorite holiday adult beverage....

Mix 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water and 1/2 cup fresh cranberries.
Bring to a boil on stove, then reduce to a simmer.
Simmer until sugar dissolves and syrup becomes a deep red color.
Remove the cranberries.  Refrigerate the simple syrup until ready to use.

In a shaker place 1 cup ice, 2 parts cranberry simple syrup and 2 parts citron vodka.
(Alternative:  2 parts SS to 1 part orange liquer to 1 part citron vodka).
Shake, strain and enjoy....yum!!
(You only need one of these!)

The above is honor of a freebie just for you!!  Enjoy and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!  Stay tuned for a post this weekend about writing!!


Love and peace,

Crayfish Day and A Thanksgiving Writing Freebie

Saturday.....YES!!!   Next week I have a 2-day week and then a well-deserved Thanksgiving break....YES!!!  The school year is just flying by already! 

I cannot believe that my blog will soon be celebrating a one-year anniversary!!   Can you say, "GIVEAWAY?"!!  "I've got a pretty cozy group of followers that I would love to shower with gifts to celebrate my first year as a blogger...stay tuned for that.

This week in Room 19 was....CRAYFISH WEEK!  As part of our science unit on Structures of Life (A Foss Kit), we learn all about the structures of the crayfish.  Of course, we have some live crayfish that spend the entire semester "vacationing" in our classroom....lovely!  (We also enjoy a family of Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches.....more lovely!).  The highlight of our unit is the much anticipated, Crayfish Project.  Students demonstrate their understanding of crayfish structures by making a 3-dimensional model of a crayfish that includes all of the proper structures.  They also have to add elements to the crayfish that tell something personal about themselves.  For example, if you love soccer you might make a soccer-playing crayfish.  The students even give their crayfish names.  On Monday, all of our thirdies brought in their crayfish creations and presented them to the class.  Here are a few of my favorites (I actually love them ALL).

 Art Crayfish (BTW...his name is "Art)

 Racing Crayfish

 Baseball Crayfish

 Blue Ninja Crayfish

Reading Crayfish

I am so intrigued by all of the Thanksgiving projects that teacher's do with their class.  When I taught first grade, I used to have my students make a turkey out of construction paper and then hang them in the hallway and call it "Mrs. Olenczuk's Turkey Farm."  I would even add a portrait of myself wearing a farmer's hat.  Ahhh...the good ol' days!!  Nowadays, as a third grade teacher, I try to find fun ways to get my students writing, especially on special days of the year.   I love the idea of writing a story about how the turkey gets away on Thanksgiving.  I have seen this activity done in many different ways by teacher friends over the years, including having students create a "turkey in disguise" where the students make a turkey and then disguise him in silly ways.  GOOD, CLEAN FUN!!

Here is a fun freebie to get your students writing next week....enjoy!  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!!

Love and Peace,

Engage the Brain -- 20 strategies!!

I had a rejuvenating Friday!!  I was fortunate enough to attend an all day conference with Marcia Tate....educator extraordinaire and author of Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites:  20 Instructional Strategies that Engage the Brain.

Marcia is an AMAZING speaker and I drove home filled with inspiration and excitement about using her 20 strategies with my students (my brain continued to process the information as I slept last night...just like Marcia said it would....interesting dreams)

I also learned tons about my own brain, and the "secret" to longevity.  Marcia said to only share it with people that you truly I am going to share it with all of you!!  Here it is....

I know, right?!!  Simply perfect words of advice!

You probably already use many of her suggested 20 strategies....and you will find nothing new about any of them.  However.....just because I know the right "moves" as a teacher, doesn't mean that I consistently use them.  Marcia Tate's workshop was a "punch in the face" reminder for me that if my students are not learning the way I teach...then I need to teach the way that they learn!  Here are Marcia Tate's 20 strategies for engaging the brain:
Marcia outlines these strategies in her many books, if you'd like more detailed information about each. She asked our group to choose two of the strategies that we would like to really focus on over the next 28 days (that's how many times you need to do something before it becomes a habit).  I have chosen Music and Movement.  Marcia told us that when we learn things with music and movement, the learning becomes embedded into the long-term memory.  That is so TRUE!!  I can remember the details from certain movies because of the music that was playing in the background (Think about Titanic)!!  When I taught first grade, I used music and movement ALL THE TIME, because my firsties DEMANDED it!!  However, I will admit that I use these two strategies a lot less now that I teach third grade.....ridiculous, I know!!  So, I am committed to finding ways to integrate music and movement into my lessons over the next 28 days!!  I am very excited about it.  I would LOVE to hear your great do you integrate music and movement into your lessons?

I learned about an app that can actually turn your words into a song.  What?!!  Yep....its true.  The app is called Songify, and you just talk into it and then choose a "beat".  It turns your words into a really fun song.  You already know where I'm going with this, don't you?  Think of the possibilities of using this in the classroom:  multiplication facts, main idea/details of a story, classroom transitions, characteristics of quadrilaterals....the possibilities are really endless!! 
We are currently learning about polygons and quadrilaterals in our class.  I am already thinking of ways that students can use their own body movements along with music to remember all of that vocabulary (parallel, congruent, perpendicular.....)!  

 I created some great visuals (another brain compatible strategy) to use with our unit....check it out:

Love and peace,