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Common Core Writing - In Hand!!

Whether you're a fan of the common core or not, it has definitely defined three different text types and how we need to teach our students to structure their writing pieces.

The common core outlined the following text types:  Narrative Writing, Opinion Writing and Informational Writing.  Within each of those text types, you can find a great variety of writing genres including narrative poetry, informational books and articles, fictional narratives, opinion letters, essays and literary essays.  But the structure generally stays consistent for every genre.

I have found that if students know these structures, literally like the back of their hand, they are well on their way to becoming successful writers!

ALL text types have this basic structure:


The intro and conclusion are consistent in all text types but the body will vary.  I like to use a graphic organizer to help my students remember the structure of each text that is always with them wherever they go...THEIR HAND!

Here are the basic structures that I teach for each text type:

I look for these structures when I analyze their on-demand writing prompts, and will form strategy groups based upon who demonstrates these structures in their pieces and who does not.  During every lesson, I will have students put up their hands and tell me these structures by pointing at each finger on their hand and stating the parts.  I print out enlarged versions of these hand posters and post them in my classroom.  

It seems redundant and even silly, but my kiddos KNOW THESE STRUCTURES, and they have become much better writers as a result.  When they are asked to write something, they know how to set it up and they can then focus on the "good parts" of their pieces....the details, dialogue, reasons with evidence, examples, facts, etc.  

Knowing these structures (like the back of their hand) sets them up for successful paragraph writing as well!  They realize early on that each "finger" represents a new paragraph.  I use this same "hand" to teach them how to write a good paragraph...after all, the organization is the same in a good paragraph...topic sentence, supporting sentences, concluding sentence. 

In the past I have used a similar teaching strategy...using a hamburger (you know the one).  But this is so much better...because they ALWAYS have their hand....but the hamburger...well it just makes them hungry!  

If you would like a copy of these posters, you can grab them for free HERE!  Also, you can find them in my Common Core Writing Mentor Text Kit, which also contains some great examples of each text type, along with some really helpful graphic organizers to put in your students' writing folders!


Daily Five Reading Rotations

Math Workshop Rotations have been a huge success in my classroom for the past two years.  I love that I have time to work with the whole group on new math concepts, but my rotations have also given me the much needed time to meet with small groups.  See HERE for more information about how I do math rotations.

This got me to thinking about how I could incorporate this same structure with reading.  I know literacy work stations and Daily 5 are not new ideas, but I have never been able to make them work for me....until now!  In this post, I will outline reading rotations that allow me to teach whole group lessons and meet with small groups EVERY DAY!

First, I thought it would be helpful to outline my daily schedule, to give you an idea about how much time I spend on each subject area.  At our school, we have a weekly intervention block that takes 45 minutes, three days per week.  Because of this, we are forced to "integrate" our science and social studies content.  On the two days per week that I do not have intervention groups, I will do hands-on science, or a social studies activity.  Spelling, which used to be in in its own block, is now integrated into my new reading rotation schedule.  Here is my current schedule:

8:30-9:00        Attendance/Morning Announcements/Bell Work/Morning Meeting
9:00-9:45        Science/S.S. (M&F); Intervention Groups (T-W-Th)
9:45-10:55      Math Workshop
11:00-12:00    Lunch
12:00-12:20    Math Workshop (Continued)
12:20-1:10      Writer's Workshop
1:10-1:15        Snack Break
1:15-2:30        Reader's Workshop/Reading Rotations
2:30-2:45        Sharing and/or Read Aloud w/Accountable Talk
2:45-3:25        Gym/Art/Music
3:25-3:35        Daily Reflection/Read Aloud
3:35-3:45        Pack Up

I usually have some wiggle room in there, just in case I need more/less time for a subject, or we just need a bit of breathing room.

My reading block includes a whole class lesson and three rotations.  Here is how it plays out:

1:15-1:30        Whole Class Reading Lesson
1:30-1:50        Rotation 1
1:50-2:10        Rotation 2
2:10-2:30        Rotation 3

As you may notice, each rotation is 20 minutes, which gives me just enough time to meet with a small group for guided reading or spelling.  I usually have no problem meeting with three groups during this time.

I started by grouping my students, using information from various data points including Fountas and Pinnell benchmark assessments and NWEA RIT scores.   I do not meet with all groups every day.  In fact, I only meet with my three groups that are performing at or below grade level.  That leaves two groups that do not meet with me during the week.  Of course, I do check in with them from time to time to ensure that they are choosing just-right books and keeping up with their daily reading requirements.  I do meet with all groups for spelling, one day per week, usually on Monday.

When I created the rotation board, I wanted to incorporate the different components of the daily five, including read to self, buddy reading, write about reading, word study, and listen to reading (for my lowest readers).  Since our reading block is long, and comes in the afternoon (our hardest time of day), I knew the rotations would need to keep students engaged.  Reading silently for an hour would definitely NOT work!  Therefore, each rotation offers students a reading activity that is engaging and differentiated to meet the needs of the particular learners in that group.  Here are the boards that I created (I display this on our interactive white board during reading time):

Because I have five groups, but only three rotations, it is necessary to have a different board each day so that all students can do each of the available rotations throughout the week.  You can download all of my rotation boards HERE.  These are Powerpoint files and can be edited to meet your needs!  (Keep in mind the clipart that you see in my version is not included due to copyright protection.  The font also will not transfer but you can download it for FREE HERE.)

Group 4 and 5 are my highest groups and have an extra rotation space because they do not meet with me for guided reading.  You can see that on Monday and Friday they have a literacy work station activity.  The numbers represent the labeled bin that contains the game that they are assigned.  These games are common core aligned language and vocabulary games that I purchased from Lakeshore Learning that work great with my more advanced readers.  Task cards or another engaging and fun activity would also be great to use here.  

During the Word Work rotation, students complete tasks and games that go with our Words Their Way program.  They are responsible for practicing their word sort, writing it out, and writing the words in sentences before Friday.  They also have some other choices for working on their words during this twenty minute rotation.

Twice per week students write about their reading.  I use Reading Response Menus which work perfectly for a quick 20 minute writing choice.  You can pick those up at my TPT store...they include 12 different menu boards (7 fiction; 5 non-fiction) and are common core aligned.  I have even included a rubric for scoring them.  I simply have students write out their response on plain loose-leaf paper and turn it in at the end of their reading time.  I love reading these and always give students feedback on their response.

For Reading Response, you might also like these THINKMARKS:

or this comprehension menu system RISE:

During Read to Self, student are reading silently from their self-selected books.  They keep a book box filled with books, and they can "shop" for new ones each week.  During this time my lowest readers have the opportunity to read on Raz Kids and other sites where they can "listen" to reading, which is critical for those reading below third grade level.

When students have Buddy Reading, they get with their (pre-arranged) reading partner to read together or to discuss a book they are reading.  Many students choose to read the same book as their reading partner.  I have a mini-library of partnership books (sets of two) that students can pick from, which is very popular with third graders! 

It is very important that I am prepared for each of my daily Guided Reading Groups by having a lesson and books prepared in advance.  I like to plan for the whole week in advance...just like I do for all of my other lessons delivered throughout the week.  For more information about Guided Reading, please visit my recent post GUIDED READING MADE SIMPLE.  I have also created a Guided Reading Planning Kit that you may find helpful:

I hope you enjoyed this post!  How do you manage your reading block?  Please feel free to respond with any questions or comments below...I love to hear from YOU!