Texas Teaching Fanatic

A look inside a 4th grade classroom

The First Installment of Expository Writing Samples

Again I failed on getting these posted in a timely manner.  I wanted to have this post completed about two weeks ago, but I’m just now finding the time to get it done, mostly because I need time to type them up.  It’s easier to read since we publish our papers on colored paper with designs and what-not all over the sides!

For this very first expository piece, we wrote about someone who we admire.  We used the following text structure: Whom I admire–>Internal Characteristics–>External Skills–>How this person has influenced me.  The text structure was evident in the writing samples I chose to share.

I’m still using a rubric from The Writing Academy because I like it, it’s easy to use, and it helps me give them a number grade based on the different categories of their writing.  I plan to develop one of my own (which I will share), but for now I need time to breathe!

Keep in mind: these are 4th graders who have NEVER written an expository piece before.  I thought most of them were pretty awesome considering their previous lack of experience!

To view 5 Expository Writing papers, click here.

If you are interested in how we planned out our papers, see my blog post titled, “Expository Writing: Gretchen Bernabei Style,” to see our planning sheets and flip books.  You can also access the planning page by visiting the Writer’s Workshop page and clicking on the very last resource listed.

**Question: Do you have a rubric that you use to grade writing?  If so, would you share it with me?  You can send it to me in an email at kaylashook06@gmail.com, or leave a message in the comments as to where I can find it (aka: blog post or website address) if you are a fellow blogger.  I would love to take a look at how you are assessing your students’ knowledge of writing!  Thanks in advance!

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Color It Up

Once again, my students took on the challenge of an amazing activity created by none other than…Gretchen Bernabei! Color It Up. It’s pretty simple but has incredible power and learning potential for students–and they enjoyed doing it.

In her book, Fun Size Academic Writing, Gretchen uses this technique with the first story, which is a narrative. Well, we are currently working on expository pieces, so I decided to take another of my favorites from that book which is an expository piece, and color that one up instead.

We used the writing about Barbie. It has so much personality, and the kids absolutely LOVED it! I ran copies for each student so that they could keep it in their folder as a mentor text to refer back to when necessary. Before we began highlighting the icons, we made a key at the bottom to remind ourselves of the 4 different writer’s tools we would be finding–actions, dialog, thoughts, and what the author saw. We coded them with the appropriate colors (see picture), and then got started.

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At first, I had to explicitly point out each strategy this author used, but as we went on, the students began shouting out the writer’s tools before I could finish the sentence! This showed me that not only were they “getting it,” but they were really thinking. (I feel like so much of the time students want things to be spoon-fed to them, so when they step out if their comfort zone and take risks by thinking for themselves, we celebrate!)

The level of understanding drastically increased. They were making connections about what they saw. They noticed that there was lots of action, even in this expository paper. They noticed that there was a plethora of thinking within the text. They noticed a pattern–that each time there was a thought, there was an example to back it up. They noticed that there was NOT much dialog. They noticed that each paragraph ended with a thought.

This allowed us to go into some deep discussion of why authors use specific writer’s tools for specific purposes. Some of them wondered why this author kept saying that she loves her Barbie at the end of each paragraph, which led us to the realization that she was connecting back to the prompt each time and letting us know that this possession was extremely important to her.

We did a lot of noticing about writer’s craft. Did I mention that this was awesome?

Kids can and will notice things like this when given the opportunity. In fact, one of my students who usually “sits on the sidelines” during class was so engaged in this activity that I had to think of some sort of reward for such effort and participation. It totally blew me away.

Part of what made this so powerful was that the students began making their own connections and noticed things for themselves, without me having to tell them. It increased the rigor of our conversations and the learning skyrocketed! It made my day! 😉

We are now working on our own pieces for our most prized possession. I’ve included a few pics of their planning pages for you. Some of them have been revised a bit to make sure that the students are getting to the deep meaning and not repeating themselves, but these are the raw products. I will definitely post some samples when they are finished, so keep checking back for those!

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Oh yeah, when I get a few more seconds to spare, I’ll be uploading some expository samples from our first attempt. I just have to get them typed up so that you can print them off and use them if you’d like. 🙂

Happy Tuesday!

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Peek At My Week

Last week was an awesome week!  If you’ve been following along, you know that my students just really learned a lot last week.  Those light bulbs were going off and my students were actually THINKING!  Ya gotta love that! 🙂

Peek at My Week

My week this coming week is going to be another great week!  Here’s what we have on the agenda:

In Writing:  Monday we will write letters to veterans, thanking them for their service and time spent away from friends and family.  After that, it’s back to the grind with a new expository piece.  We are writing about our most prized possessions this time around.  We have already planned it out and written our kernel essays, so the next steps are putting it into a flipbook, choosing icons, and then drafting our piece.  Oh, and at the end of the week we will be discussing schesis onomaton (a big fancy word for renaming).  Come back to see some final copies!  (I’ll be posting some expository pieces from our first attempt pretty soon)

In Math: This week is a time to put our skills to the test with related data sets (aka: tables).  Since we have our first district benchmark next week, the end of this week will succumb to review of all that the students have learned this year, with a focus on multiplication and division with word problems.  Another week requiring loads of thinking!

In Social Studies: We will be discussing the impacts of Stephen F. Austin and Martin DeLeon on the settlement of Texas.

It’s another jam-packed week, and I’m praying that we have time to squish it all in!  I’m excited for what this week has in store for us!

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Gretchen Bernabei’s 11-Minute Essay (In 9 minutes)

Earlier this week, I challenged my students with the 11-minute essay that Gretchen Bernabei uses with her students…only we did ours in 9 minutes.  The text structure she uses is this: Truism–>How this is true in a book or personal life–>How this is true in a move or TV show–>How this is true in history–>What I think or wonder.  Because 4th graders don’t know all that much about history (and because our truism was about pets), I omitted the paragraph about how it’s true in history.

The students were excited about this challenge I set forth for them.  I gave them 1 minute for paragraph 1, 3 minutes for paragraph 2, 3 minutes for paragraph 3, and then 2 minutes for the final paragraph.  The truism they were expected to write about was: Pets are an important part of a family.

Considering this was their first attempt, I thought it went extremely well.  Were they perfect?  No.  Will they EVER be?  No.  But this was an eye-opener for them (and for me, too)!  When they were finished, I told them that they had just written an expository essay in 9 minutes.  The looks on their faces was priceless!  They were so darn proud of themselves, beaming from ear to ear!

Curious about how they did?   Click here to see a sample of what they wrote.  😉

This has been an amazing week in writing.  Here’s to hoping it continues!!

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Lightbulb Moments

Today was one of those days where everything went right.  I don’t have many of them, but today was exceptional.  I love those days!

In writing, we once again used Gretchen Bernabei’s resources to look at a mentor text, and light bulbs started going off across my room.  The students were really connecting to the text and noticing many patterns and the craft of the writer.  Brilliant!  I plan on devoting a post to this activity soon to share what we did and how incredibly powerful it was…so stay tuned!

photo 1(24)In math, I ran only small groups today.  Since there isphoto 4(14) one of me and about four groups that need different skills, I chose to have students run the other groups.  Wow!  They did an amazing job!  While I worked with students on subtraction, other students led the rest of the small groups and shared their knowledge of the skill that the others needed.  This not only allowed me some time to work with the students who really needed my help, but it also extended the knowledge of my student helpers.   Most importantly: ALL students were learning at an appropriate level.

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What’s that saying?  Students learn better from their peers than they do from adults?  I definitely think that’s true…most of the time, anyway.  Today was a fine example of that.

I’m so glad that I am surrounded by such awesome students.  Do they drive me nuts some days?  Of course.  But I love each and every one of them for who they are.  Their willingness to learn and the smiles on their faces are what I look forward to every day.  They are the reason I do what I do.

Today was awesome.  I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!  🙂

 

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Narrative Student Writing Samples (4th Grade)

Here it is: the post you’ve all been waiting for–the one I’ve promised for some time now!  STUDENT WRITING SAMPLES!!!  😉

I don’t have a lot of time today, but I wanted to go ahead and post these samples for those of you who have been waiting on me to post them.  Our internet is still not working at my house, so I’m having to type this quickly (after school hours) on my school computer.

These are samples for our first narrative of the school year.  These kids stood out above the rest, so I wanted to show off their mad writing skills.  Here they are:

Stealing Candy  A narrative written by Blake Sterling.

Go Kart Race  A narrative written by Andrew Pensiero.

Is It Me  A narrative written by Avery May.

Yes, I have permission from these students and their parents to post their work with their names.  They are all super sweet kids who are totally stoked that I am using their papers as examples for the world to see.  They were even made famous in a workshop presented by Gretchen Bernabei!  You will see them on her blog soon if you visit www.bernabeiwritingresources.com.

Enjoy!

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Student Writing Samples & More…Coming Soon!

Just a quick post to let you all know that I am working on getting some student writing samples posted. I’m hoping to get this done over the weekend. My students have now published their first Expository writing pieces, and they had already published 2 Narratives from our first several weeks of school.

My husband and I just bought our first home and finally moved in last Wednesday, so it has been extremely hectic around here, to say the least!

I WILL get back to blogging more regularly and fulfill some promises I’ve made about posting some new anchor charts, student writing, steps we took to get to where we are now, and even some new pics of my classroom–now that my walls aren’t bare anymore!

Thanks to all of you who are followers and to those of you visiting every now and then. Come back again soon!! 😉

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Expository Writing: Gretchen Bernabei Style

My class has officially started their expository writing pieces. This is very new to them, so we are taking it slowly. Thank goodness for Gretchen Bernabei! She makes it so much more fun, interesting, and easier for these little people to understand!

We began by brainstorming people we admire. I told my students that this person could be a friend, family member, singer, entertainer, sports star, or anyone they like or look up to. They had to understand that admire doesn’t mean that you like them in a romantic way because they automatically think of a secret admirer. Haha.

Then I gave them a planning sheet from Gretchen’s resources. Hers was just drawn out on paper, but my OCD wanted needed it to be typed up, so I spent about 45 minutes perfecting it (to my standards) on the computer. I handed them out, and we filled in our topic and text structure. Before I knew about this amazing woman, my explanation if expository writing was pretty lame…and the students’ writing showed it. That’s not to say it was bad, but it definitely was NOT to the level it is now. The text structures she has developed has raised the level of their writing tremendously!

After that, we came up with our kernel essay about our peeps. When you see the text structure we used, you’ll see that it wasn’t easy, but it made them really think! And that’s what we’re going for, right? 😉

From that kernel essay, I told them to find at least three people who would listen to them read their kernel essay. The listeners were required to ask two questions about their kernel essay. They wrote the questions down in the box, and tomorrow they will use sticky notes to answer those questions. These sticky notes will go in the flip books they have created. This will help them fill out their paragraphs with valuable information that readers want to know.

When we finished the questions, we thought about where that information should appear within the writing. We put paragraph numbers beside each question to be sure the information arrives at the correct destination. Again–extending their thinking.

This is as far as we have gotten. I’m looking forward to reading what they write. I have a training tomorrow, but I know they will be in good hands with my student teacher. I can’t wait to read them on Wednesday!

Below you will find pictures of two planning pages and two kernel essays written on their flip books.

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I have uploaded the planning page to the Writer’s Workshop page here on my blog. It’s the last resource listed under Gretchen’s resources.

What do you do to help your students understand expository writing?

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Monday Made It Specials Rotation Schedule (A little late)

I’m linking up again with 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made It–just a day late!

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My only Made It this time around is my Specials schedule. I’ve tried numerous ways of doing this, but I decided to try something new this year…and I must say this is by far the best one yet.

Our school has A Weeks and B Weeks for Specials rotations. I get tired of students asking what week it is and watching them try to figure out where they will be spending 50 minutes of their day, so I decided to use a cookie sheet and glue pictures for both weeks in order along the edge. I drew an arrow onto a painted clothespin that can be moved each day. This takes all the guesswork out of where we will go each day. The kids love it, and so do I!

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What sort of chart or nifty idea have you come up with? I’d love to hear from you! Happy Tuesday!

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Multiplication with Manipulatives (and a life lesson)

About three weeks ago, my students began multiplication in math. I always enjoy watching as students use manipulatives to show their answers. What I love about math is that there are numerous ways to think of numbers and solve problems, but in the end we all get the same answer…most of the time, anyway! 😉

I took some pictures just to show how differently my students think. Some are very organized, while others are not. Some think in arrays, while some think in groups. I embrace that diversity!!

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I guess I like it so much because of an experience I had in college. On one of my tests, we were asked to draw a parallelogram. Well, I drew a square…and the teacher counted it wrong. As I sat and pondered my incorrect answer, I was unable to figure out why it was wrong. After class I approached my professor and asked the question. Her reply: “Because that’s not the way I taught it, and most people don’t know that a square is a parallelogram. I expected you to draw a rectangle.”

Now, anyone that knows me knows that I’m a fighter. I just couldn’t accept that answer. A few minutes later, I had to walk away with a 92. She wouldn’t budge!

Even though I could live with my 92 (because after all, an A is an A, right?), I will never forget that conversation and my teacher’s neglect to see that we are all individuals with our own unique knowledge. I was right, but because she didn’t expect that right answer, it was wrong.

I made a promise to myself that day that I would never be that way. Diversity–bring it on! 🙂

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