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Feedback is important to help our young learners continue to grow.  This includes feedback from teachers as well as feedback from peers.  Today, I am talking specifically about peer feedback.  Peer feedback can be very powerful if it is done effectively, and it can be integrated in many different  areas of the classroom. "Peer review facilitates the type of social interaction and collaboration that is vital for student learning." (from ReadWriteThink)

As teachers, we are always working to give students the feedback they need to move forward.  Ideally, our students will do the same for each other.  I have found that modeling, providing visuals, and direct coaching can all be effective in improving peer feedback.

One of the ways I model feedback is when we are sharing our work in math.  The goal for these feedback sessions is to give two compliments and one suggestion to whomever is sharing their work.  It can be a challenge at times for students to find a compliment for an incorrect answer or a suggestion for a correct answer.  This is a great opportunity to get students more invested in studying each others' processes, rather than just looking at the answer.  Here are a few examples of compliments and suggestions that I model in the classroom during this activity.

Compliments (for correct and incorrect answers)
*I like how you broke apart the numbers into tens and ones.
*I like how used a ten frame to solve the addition equation.
*I like how you showed that you counted by fives to get your answer.
*I like how you remembered to put a label on your answer.
*I like how you underlined the important information in the problem.
*I like how you showed all the steps on the number line.

Suggestions (for correct and incorrect answers)
*Show the step when you...
*Add a label to your answer.
*Start by writing the equation (if it's a word problem).
*Underline important information in the problem.
*Next time try a different strategy, like...
*Check the part when you...  

Eventually, I stop giving the compliments and suggestions, and allow students to do this.  After sharing work, students choose three students to give feedback (two compliments & one suggestion).  The student then thanks the class.  As the year goes on, students get more used to the type of feedback that helps their peers, and they need less prompting.

If a student gives a compliment like, "You wrote very neatly."  I agree with the compliment, and then I prompt the students to give an additional compliment about the mathematical thinking.

Provide Visuals
Visuals are great reminders for students.  In writing, students can use checklists to help decide how to compliment and offer suggestions.  Another thing I like to do is provide sentence starters.  In writing, the sentence starters are likely to be on a slide or an anchor chart.  

 I model how to use the sentence starters with my own writing or writing from a student.  Once the students have seen me give feedback, they use the prompts to provide feedback to their writing partners.  Below are two slides that I shared with students when doing a partner check in for our "How-to" writing projects.  Our big focus during this project was to make sure we had enough details and description for anyone to follow the directions.  (You can read more about How-to writing here.)

Direct Coaching
I started coaching partnerships more directly on their feedback after reading Jennifer Serravallo's book, A Teacher's Guide to Reading Conferences (HIGHLY recommended).  She devotes a section  on how to confer with partners.  In this section, she talks about teaching students how to help each other.  For example, instead of focusing on coaching a student to help them determine an unknown word, focus on coaching one partner to prompt the other like the teacher does.  Both partners benefit from this type of coaching.  One student is reminded of a strategy to help them problem-solve, and the other has learned about effective feedback and shown a higher level of understanding the concept.  Research shows that students truly learn when teaching others (Research Digest, 2018).

What are your favorite strategies to encourage effective peer feedback?  I'd love for you to share them.

Thank you!

As I start to plan for the 2020-2021 school year, I am determined to stay positive.  I am focusing on what went well last year (in class and through distance learning) as well as what I can do better this year.  As of now, I am planning to work in a hybrid model of in-class learning and distance learning.  I am excited that our district is working on finding ways to safely provide instruction to our students in person.

One resource that I used in class and relied heavily on during distance learning is Flipgrid.  Regardless of how the year unfolds, I am planning to take advantage of this wonderful free resource again this year.  Today, I am sharing three of my favorite ways I used Flipgrid during distance learning.  If you are reading this at a time when your school is no longer using distance learning, no worries.  These activities work in the classroom as well!

Three Great Ways to Use Flipgrid

If you are not familiar with Flipgrid, it is an awesome resource that allows students to record videos and share them with others in the class.  Students can view and comment on each other's videos.  You can read more about it and set up your own free account here.

There are many uses for this site, but here are my three favorites.

Explain Mathematical Thinking
One of the challenges in distance learning was that it was difficult to see students mathematical thinking.  I created several digital activities that required deep thinking.  However, students only submitted the answers in most cases.  I was able hear students explain through our conferences on Google Meet, but I was missing the component of students learning from each other.  

Here is an example of a digital math activity I assigned to my students.

Free Digital Resource - Get to 100
(Available here.)

After students completed the activity, they went on Flipgrid to record their thinking.  Students were also required to listen and respond to the three videos before theirs (at least).  This allowed students to see other ways to solve the problem.  It was also helpful for me to target my questioning when I met with students for our virtual conference.

How can this work at school?
Having everyone share their thinking will make students more accountable than if they know only a few will share.  There will be some logistics to consider, as everyone can not be recording at once.  Partner work/explanations should help with this.  Another option would be to have students record on different days.  When it is not your day to record, you can listen and respond.

Teaching students to give specific feedback is important.  You can read more about fostering effective peer feedback here.

Expand on Reading Responses
Throughout distance learning, I had my students fill out various organizers about their daily reading.  Periodically, I would have them expand their ideas on Flipgrid by providing more details and examples than were required on the organizer.  I always modeled this by sharing my written response with them.  (My written response was always based on a read aloud so all students were familiar with it.)  I also created a video for my students to use as a model.

Here is an example of an organizer I used.  (The boxes automatically respond as students type.)

Free Digital Resource - Facts, Events, Thoughts
(Available here.)

Details that could be added in the video include:
*Why do you think so?
*Explain your connection.
*Why do you feel that way?
*What about it reminds you of that?

How can this work at school?
Videos can never replace the valuable one on one conferences that we can have at school.  However, they make a great alternative for a handful of students you are not conferring with on a given day.  Students can work on applying the skills that are practiced during conferences and small groups and record their thoughts while the teachers works with others,

Practice Fluency
Practicing fluency on Flipgrid can be done at home or at school.  Students should practice a "just right" or easy text several times.  This works best if they pick a part with strong dialogue or action.  Once students feel confident in their ability to read the passage fluently, they can record themselves on Flipgrid.  Students can listen to their reading partners and offer compliments.


I want to stress that we worked on all of these skills (including feedback) in class before distance learning, and I provided both a written example and a sample video in all cases.  I met virtually with students as needed to help with elaborating.

Regardless of how the 2020-21 school year unfolds, I am sure to use all three of these with my students (as well as others).  Do you have a favorite way to use Flipgrid?  If so, I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Three Great Ways to Use Flipgrid

Thank you!

This post contains anchor charts that I have been effective in my classroom.  I teach second grade, but many are versatile enough to use for other elementary grades.  I will be adding to this post as the school year continues and beyond.

Writing Lab Reports

This anchor chart teaches students to write like a scientist.  It works well for those first lab reports.

Writing Poetry

Choosing the a strong topic can get young poets started on the right foot.  This chart guides young writers through the process of selecting a topic for their poems.  Click on the link for additional anchor chart ideas.

Students need to shift their thinking a bit when it comes to writing poetry.  Lessons on these three topics can help guide young poets through the writing process.  Click on the link for additional anchor chart ideas.

Playing with word style and placement can change ordinary writing into poetry.  This anchor chart shares some ideas to inspire young poets.  Click on the link for additional anchor chart ideas.

Write like an Expert

The first step to sharing your expertise in written form is to craft a lead that will get your readers interested.  This anchor chart gives young writers some ideas on how to do this.  Click on the link for additional ideas for anchor charts.

More with Writing

Reminders to edit come in many forms!  Here is another to add to your toolbox.  I keep this anchor chart up all year long.  Click on the link for additional anchor chart ideas.

I have always loved this graphic for demonstrating how to write a paragraph.  It's a great visual for young writers.  Click on the link for additional anchor chart ideas.


Fluency is a critical skill for young readers.  This chart is a visual reminder for the skills that students need to become more fluent.  Click on the link for additional anchor chart ideas.


I love this model for summarizing fiction.  It helps our young readers to eliminate unnecessary information.  Click on the link for additional anchor chart ideas.

Nonfiction Features & Structures

Examples from books are the best ways to teach text structures, but this chart serves as a visual representation to help students independently identify them.  Click on the link for additional anchor chart ideas.

Talking about Reading

Reading partners do more than just read together.  They need encouragement to talk together.  This chart gives students prompts to use if needed.  Click on the link for additional anchor chart ideas.

Place Value/Number Sense

Understanding numbers is critical for young mathematicians.  They need to see how numbers can be represented in different ways.  Click on the link for additional anchor chart ideas.


Fractions are a very abstract concepts.  Visuals can be very helpful to promote an understanding of how to represent them.  Click on the link for additional anchor chart ideas.

For most of my 27 years of teaching, I have taught personal narratives in some way, shape or form.   In doing so, I have encountered a wide variety of personal narratives to use as mentor texts.  In the past, I've tried reading a different narrative to my students every day.  I've tried sticking with one core personal narrative mentor text.  I've also tried just about everything in between.  The texts I use have definitely changed over the years.  This year, I have stuck with three quality mentor texts that seem to cover just about everything I need them to cover.  Today, I'm going to share these fabulous texts and explain how I use each one.

This post describes three excellent mentor texts for personal narratives.

Why use mentor texts?
I have found no better way to explain a concept or a craft move than modeling it with a mentor text.  Whether it's  starting with a bold beginning, incorporating dialogue, or using sensory details, mentor texts are my go to teaching method.  When young writers are able to see and study craft moves in action from a "real author", it helps them to mimic the moves in their own writing.

Prior to using the book during workshop time, I like to read the book purely for enjoyment during our read aloud time.  I like it when my students go into the lesson with an understanding and appreciation for the story itself.  During writing workshop, we go back to the text, sometimes rereading the entire book, and other times selecting specific parts.  The point is to engage the students in a discussion about how the author applies various techniques to their writing.

Without any further delay, here are my three favorite mentor texts for teaching personal narratives.

I don't think there is a better book for teaching personal narratives.  This book has it all, from a strong introduction, to going step by step, incorporating dialogue and including an ending that circles back to the beginning.

In this book, Patricia Polacco tells the story about when she was a child and afraid of thunderstorms.  In fact, she was so afraid in that she hid under the bed when a storm was coming.  Patricia's wise grandmother (her babushka) found a unique way to help Patricia overcome her fear.  Step by step, she tells the story of how her babushka taught her how to make thundercake.  After gathering all of the ingredients (which created some additional challenges), they made the cake.  Babushka's comforting words and ability to provide a sense of safety and bravery helped Patricia to overcome her fear of thunderstorms.

Thundercake is a great mentor text for personal narratives.  It has everything from a strong beginning, to telling the story step by step, to an ending that gives the readers closure.

One of the biggest challenges to writing a personal narrative can be finding that small moment.  Students tend to want to write about a whole vacation or "all about" something they love.  Roller Coaster is an excellent book for modeling small moments.  The entire book is about a young girl's first roller coaster ride.  This book also does an excellent job of incorporating sound words and feelings (showing, not just telling).

The book starts with the girl waiting in line to get on the roller coaster.  She is nervous, but she rides it anyway.  The book goes on to tell about all the twists and turns of the ride.  In the end, the girl loves the ride, and she is ready to get right back on the roller coaster.

Roller Coaster is the perfect book to demonstrate how to write about a small moment.

This book is another great example of an author taking her readers step by step through a small moment.  One of my favorite things about this book is the language.  The book utilizes a variety of descriptive strategies including adjectives and similes.  Not all of my second graders are ready to dabble in the type of language used here, but the ones who are can become very inspired.

Jane Yolen tells the story about a night when she went looking for owls with her father.  She talks about the cold, still night and builds the readers' anticipation as they listen carefully for owls.  Once they spot one, she forgets about the cold because she is feeling warm inside.

If you need a book that demonstrates how to use figurative language in a personal narrative, Owl Moon is perfect!

It's worth mentioning that I also model the writing process and craft moves using my own personal narrative.  I show my students how I use the mentor texts to make improvements in my own writing.  I also use student examples (past and present) that exemplify the skills and strategies I am teaching.  I use all of these resources in whole group teaching, small groups, and one-on-one conferences (just not all at once).

I'd love to know what your favorite mentor texts are for personal narratives.  Please leave them in the comment section below.

These three books are all excellent choices to use as mentor texts for personal narratives.  This post shares some of the best parts of each one.

Thank you!

My Facebook page is full of great mentor texts, anchor charts, freebies, technology links, and other ideas for your classroom.  I'd love to have you follow me there!

Free Narrative Leads Activity

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    As summer comes to a close, I can't help but be grateful for the time to reflect, relax, and spend time with the people I love.  Having said that, we all know that teachers do not take the summer off completely.  We are always on the lookout for resources to make me a better teacher and keep the school environment happy, positive, and purposeful.  Today I'd like to share my July teaching favorites, including a great book, some classroom decor updates and a super exciting sale.

    A close look at levels
    This month, I read Understanding Texts and Readers by Jennifer Serravallo.  If you follow me anywhere, you know that Jennifer Serravallo is my teaching idol.  This book does not disappoint!  Serravallo takes a deep dive into the expectations for each reading level (J-W).  I especially like how she broke things down into fiction and nonfiction and shared what was expected for each skill at each grade level.  She also provided writing samples for the different skills.  I will definitely refer to these as I score my students' Benchmarks this year.

    I have never been the type of teacher to lock a student into a level.  There are so many variables to take into consideration, including background knowledge, interest in the topic, and the amount of support available.  I appreciate the reinforcement and validation of this belief that I found in reading this book.

    After reading this book, I am also convinced that I need to do more whole book assessments in addition to the running records, reading conferences, and strategy groups that I am currently doing.  I love Serravallo's idea of placing Post-it notes with questions in various places of a book.  When the student arrives at a Post-it, they stop, think, and respond in writing to the prompt.  This strategy will help provide a clear picture of how well the student is understanding the entire book.  I really like the idea of getting a broader view of the student's comprehension.

    Needless to say, I strongly recommend this book.  It is a great read whether you are just starting your teaching journey or are a veteran teacher searching for a deeper understanding of the exceptions for the different reading levels.

    My New Color Scheme
    I've made quite a bit of progress on my new decor for my classroom this year.  I am excited to add the following items to my classroom this year!  (More to come soon!)

    *My new word wall letters - I recently updated this file to better match the other items in the bundle.  I have a few more updates and additions to make, and then I will have two separate bundles - one geared toward intermediate grades, and one geared toward primary.  If you are interested in the word wall letters, you can get them here.  They come in 3 1/2-inch squares and 4 1/2-inch squares.  Two heading options are included as well.  Everything comes in dots, chevron, and stripes.

    *I completed my calendar numbers and August heading.  I have a few more items to complete before adding this item to my TPT store.  Due to my heavy workload, this product will not be available until spring, 2020.

    *I love having schedule cards so my students have a visual for how the day will flow.  Here are the ones I am using in my room this year (barring any schedule changes).  I recently added these to my TPT store.  You can check them out here.  I opted not to include times with the cards in my classroom to allow for some flexibility.  However, the set includes two different editable options for adding times.   

    Last, but certainly not least, I found out about the TPT Back to School Sale!  I am super excited to announce that my entire store will be 20% off on Tuesday, July 6 and Wednesday, July 7.  You can get an additional 5% off by typing in the code BTS19.

    I hope everyone is enjoying the final days/weeks of summer.  
    Thank you!

    My Facebook page is full of great mentor texts, anchor charts, freebies, technology links, and other ideas for your classroom.  I'd love to have you follow me there!

    I love having writing conferences with my students.  It is one of the best ways to learn about their strengths and goals in writing as well as to get to know them better as students.  How do you decide what to work on with your students during conferences?  I like to use engagement inventories, On-demand writing samples, and previous notes to help me prioritize the skills that will move students forward in their writing.  This post will be the first in a series about writing conferences, focusing on preparing and selecting the skills.

    This post shares strategies to prepare for independent writing conferences.  It includes suggestions and resources to find appropriate writing goals for your students.

    Engagement Inventory
    One of the first things I like to do is get an idea of which students need help with engagement during writing workshop.  Last year, our awesome instructional coach helped with this by conducting a writing engagement inventory while I was working with students.  (If you do not have an instructional coach, you could do this on your own.)  I wrote about writing engagement inventories on a previous post.  You can read about them here.  They are a great way to see the varying levels of stamina during writing workshop.  I found some students were able to stay on task the whole time, some needed some immediate assistance with engagement, and many were somewhere in between.  

    I do prioritize engagement as a topic for my first writing conferences.  The most important thing I do here is make sure students have appropriate topics as well as strategies to self-monitor.  More to come on specific strategies I use in conferences on a post in the near future.

    On-demand Writing Sample
    Before every unit, I administer an On-demand writing assessment to gather information about strengths and possible goals for each unit of writing.  You can read more about On-demand writing assessments here.  After looking through the writing samples, I score them on a district-provided continuum.  (If you are interested a Lucy Calkins continuum, you can find them on the following links: narrative, informational, opinion)  The continuum is extremely useful for matching students to appropriate goals.  After looking closely at the continuum, I make a decision about the best area of focus for each child.  I track this information by listing students' names in the appropriate section of where I think the focus of conferences should be in order to move them forward.  I use this form for writing strategy groups as well.  However, I almost always meet with them individually first to make sure the groups are compatible.  You can download the form by clicking here or on the picture below.  (If you'd like to use the form digitally, you just need to add text boxes.)

    This form is great for organizing students into categories based on their writing goals.  It helps organize for independent writing conferences as well as writing strategy groups.

    Previous Conference Notes
    I use the app Confer to take my conference notes for writing.  This app is no longer available, but I thought it might be helpful to see the categories I include.  I also take a picture of the student's writing to show a place where we worked on the skill together.  I use the comment section for a variety of notes like where they are in the writing process, possible future goals, and level of enthusiasm.

    If you are looking for a form to track your information, I found a couple of good free ones on TPT here and here.  I believe that conference notes are invaluable when it comes to making decisions about the most appropriate goals for each student.  The notes do not need to be super lengthy, but they should share where the student is at (compliment), the goal, and the current strategy.

    Talk to the Students
    In Carl Anderson's book A Teacher's Guide to Writing Conferences, he recommends beginning each conference by asking students what they are working on.  If they answer with a skill that you do not feel is an appropriate goal, you can respond by asking, "What else are you working on?"  Allowing students input on the direction to the conference can give the students ownership in their goals.  Hopefully, this will lead to a more productive writing conference.  I am going to try and add this element to my writing conferences next year.  My notes will likely look slightly different after implementing this.  I will share the results with you on a future post.

    Thank you!

    My Facebook page is full of great mentor texts, anchor charts, freebies, technology links, and other ideas for your classroom.  I'd love to have you follow me there!

    Contractions: I have, Who has?

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