My students have been working hard on their How-to writing.   I always enjoy reading students' how-to pieces.  Not only do I learn about the students as writers, but I gain more insight into their areas of expertise.  Sometimes, I am very surprised at the topics students choose. Today, I would like to share some tools my students used to organize their how-to writing.

This post shows you how my second graders get ready to write their how to books.

I introduced this unit with two great mentor texts.  I chose one fiction,  How to Babysit a Grandpa and one nonfiction, How to Swallow a Pig.  Both of these books were full of specific examples, providing students with models for their own writing.  When conferring with students about their how-to pieces, I like to keep these books on hand to refer to as needed.

Two great mentor texts for how-to writing.  These books are perfect to carry with you during writing conferences as students write their own how-to books.

How to Babysit a Grandpa makes for a very fun read aloud.  I love using it as a mentor text because it is full of specific details and examples.  Each page tells about an important aspect of babysitting a grandpa.  You can find opening sentences, transitions, and examples that are very specific to the topic. Here is one of my favorite pages.

How to Babysit a Grandpa - an excellent mentor text for writing how-to books.

I also like to use a nonfiction text for how-to writing.  How to Swallow a Pig is a great book for showing how different animals have unique knowledge in how to perform certain tasks.  This book is great for prompting students to find a unique skill that they can share details about with the class.  This page is a great example of step by step instructions for how a leaf cutter ant farms for its food.  I like how it provides an opening paragraph for each skill.

*Bonus - You can learn a LOT of cool facts about different animals in this book!

How to Swallow a Pig - an excellent mentor text for writing how-to books.

After reading these books to students, I modeled how to brainstorm topics for their own How-to writing. We completed the organizer below with our areas of expertise.   I prompted students to think of ideas that were unique to them whenever possible.  We also discussed being specific (How to Steal a Base instead of How to Play Baseball).  You can download this organizer by clicking here or on the picture below.

Students use this free form to brainstorm areas of expertise prior to beginning their how-to books.

The next day, students brought their expert brainstorming sheet to the carpet.  I modeled how to select a topic and narrow it if needed.  I originally had "Taking care of a dog" on my expert sheet.  I explained to students how that was too broad.  I narrowed it down to how to feed a dog.

After narrowing my topic, I modeled how to use this graphic organizer to plan my writing.  I included details like making sure my dogs sits, looks at me, and waits for my command that it is okay for her to eat.  You can download this organizer here or by clicking on the picture below.

Students use this free form to brainstorm their steps prior to beginning their how-to books.

After they saw me model the process, students highlighted the topic from their expert organizer that they thought would work best.  Then they got to work on planning their own How-to writing.

We are now in the final stages of this writing project.  The organizer has been a great help during writing conferences throughout the writing process.  In the beginning, it helped students make sure they could choose an appropriate topic and identify steps.  Later, we referred to the organizer to talk about transitions and going step by step.  Next year, I plan on doing a little more modeling and conferencing with students prior to beginning drafts.  I think that will save me some time in the long run, especially with students who originally chose a topic that was too broad.

This post shares two great mentor texts and two free brainstorming forms for students to create their own how-to book.

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!

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Free Narrative Leads Activities

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    I started a new professional book, and I can already tell it is going to become one of my favorites.  The Literacy Teacher's Playbook was recommended to me by a dear friend and colleague.  I'm only on page 9, and I already have to stop and put an idea into practice.

    An Engagement Inventory is a great way to monitor independent reading.  This post has one as a free download.

    The Literacy Teacher's Playbook takes the reader through various ways to assess your students.  Later, it talks about how to plan using the results of these assessments to best meet the needs of your students.  I can't wait to read about the instructional practices.  They look great at a glance.

    This book is excellent professional reading for teachers.  Read this post for a free download of a reading engagement inventory inspired by this book.

    In chapter one, Jennifer Serravallo talks about different lenses to use when assessing students' reading. The first lens she talks about is reading engagement.  She discusses using reading logs and interest inventories to help measure engagement.  These are tools that are very familiar to me, and I wholeheartedly agree with her suggestions on how to use them.   However, I was most excited to read about the idea of a Reading Engagement Inventory.  Here is a picture of the one from the book.

    An Engagement Inventory is a great way to monitor independent reading.  This post has one as a free download.

    Basically, you spend a block of reading time "kidwatching", paying close attention to the behaviors you notice during silent reading.  You code or make short notes about behaviors you notice.

    In my version, a blank space will mean the student appears to be on task reading.  Here is my inventory I plan on using next year.  I will likely put it on my iPad and keep an electronic record as I am a huge fan of minimizing the amount of papers in my classroom. 

    An Engagement Inventory is a great way to monitor independent reading.  This post has one as a free download.

    If you would like to try out this form, I put it on a Google Slide.  If you make a copy of the file, you should be able to edit it however you would like, including changing the codes to fit your needs.  (Just go to file and click "Make a copy.)  I used font size 10, and I can fit 25 names in the table.  You can change the font and/or cell size if you need to fit in more names.  You can either print it out or complete the form digitally.  To download, click on the pink button below.


    (If you need assistance editing the table, you can click here for help.)

    Let me know if you have any questions.

    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!


    Five Free Graphic Organizers

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      It's Monday, so that means I'm linking up with Tara from 4th Grade Frolics for another edition of Monday Made It.


      This week I have three projects to share.


      My first Made It gave me a few challenges.  When I attended a professional development session for our new math program (Investigations) last week, the presenter shared a perfectly made large 10 frame that I just had to make.   

      Mine did not come out nearly as neat, but I'm still excited about it.  (I tend to have some difficulty when it comes to making things straight.  The plastic was an added challenge.)  I am happy with how it turned out, and I'm sure it will be put to good use in my classroom.

      The frame looks like this.

      Make a mega-10 frame!

      I got the plastic from Joanne's.  It was $3.00 a yard, and I only needed 2 feet.  The Duck Tape was a gift from one of my sweet students last year.

      The next step was to get some counters.  I used plastic plates from Meijer.

      Use plastic, Duck Tape, and paper plates to make a giant 10 frame!  This is great for tactile learners.

      I love how students now have a large visual of a 10 frame.  This will be a great way to work with my tactile learners.


      Several years ago, I remember reading about focus sticks.  I thought they would be really cute if I ever switched to a younger grade.  Well, now I am switching to second, so I had to make some.

      First, I read this fabulous post from Hoots N' Hollers.  This post has a free download, so you can easily make your own focus sticks.  I just needed to buy craft sticks and Googly Eyes from Joann's.

      These focus sticks are great to help with editing for conventions.

      There is also a free download for a label on the same post.  However, I made my own label to match my classroom colors.  Finally, I put all the focus sticks in a can from the Target Dollar Spot.

      Focus sticks serve as a great visual guide for students during the editing process.

      I plan on using these focus sticks to assist my students with editing.  They will serve as reminders to edit for spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and (my favorite) asking, "Does it sound right?"

      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!


      Fact Family Triangles

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        As I prepare to move to second grade, I have been doing a lot of thinking about what I want my reading block to look like.   Our district is switching from the Daily 5 format to a workshop approach.  I definitely see positive aspects to both approaches, but I am open-minded to making changes, especially since I am switching grade levels.

        One aspect of the literacy block that will need to change is the way I track the reading students complete at school.  I need something different than I used in fourth grade and different from the Daily 5 tracking sheets.

        Suggestions on how to track students' reading at school

        I do plan to continue tracking the reading stamina of my young readers.  I definitely see the benefit of tracking the amount of time students can fully attend to their reading.  It's great to have a visual so students can see their growth.  I like this cute form from Taming My Flock of Firsties.  I plan on using it next year.

        Daily Five Building Stamina FREEBIE
        This week I spent a lot of time reading Lucy Calkin's Guide to the Reading Workshop.  As you can see from all of the Post-its, there were lots of great suggestions here.  


        One of the points she emphasized was for students to keep a record of what they read in class.  I got to work on developing a form for my students to track their reading.  One thing I definitely wanted to include was a goal section to help students set and maintain high expectations for themselves.  Here is the form I came up with.

        This free reading log helps set and track reading goals.

        Then I thought about the students who were not quite ready to read chapter books.  I know I will work together with the Intervention Specialist to help a few students who are below grade level.  I wanted to make a form that would be appropriate for them to use as well.  It is important to me to have the forms look similar forms so no one would feel different.  My second form looks like this.

        This free reading log helps set and track reading goals.

        I am hoping these forms will help students set goals and stay on track during reading time.  I will definitely monitor them closely and discuss reading through conferences and small group work as frequently as I can.

        If you would like to download these forms, just click on the pink button below.


        How do you track your students in-class reading?  I'd love to hear your ideas.

        I am looking forward to sharing more about what I learned from my reading.  I have a lot to tackle, and I will share as much as I can.

        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!


        Five Free Graphic Organizers

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          Hooray!  It's time for Monday Made It!  I'm excited to link up with Tara from 4th Grade Frolics for one of my favorite linky parties.


          I have two Made Its that I would like to share with you today.


          I went searching on Pinterest to find some fun activities for calendar time with my second graders next year.  One of the pins I came across inspired me to make my first Made It.

          Here is the pin.  It is from Jessica at Tales of a Teacherista.


          I like the idea of hanging this on the board for calendar time, so I attached ribbon to mine.  However, I can also see using it for small group work, one on one help, and partner activities.  Here is my version of this activity.  


          I laminated both of the printables.  A dry erase marker works perfectly for writing the amount of money.  I initially used magnet tape to attach the coins.  However, they were a bit too heavy and kept falling off.  I ended up getting out the hot glue gun to secure the coins to the magnets.  I also glued the ribbon to the cooking sheet and used packaging tape for extra security.  



          I got the cookie sheet at the Dollar Store and the ribbon at Jo Ann Fabrics.  If you would like the printables I used, you can get them here.


          Next up is the Behavior BINGO game I made.  I blogged about this last week.  You can read that post here. Basically, when students reach pink on the clip chart, they may write their number on the BINGO board. Once the board is full, the class helper will pick a number.  The winner may choose one of the prize card rewards.  You can download the printables I used to make this game here.


          I have many more items on my to do list.  I am looking forward to sharing more in upcoming weeks.

          I can't wait to check out all the other Made Its.  Thank you, Tara for hosting this fun linky!

          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 Multiplication Puzzles

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