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Category Archives: writing

Learning How to Format a Paper MLA Style

My grade eight students are learning how to format a paper.  We just spent time reading a grade ten student’s paper and highlighting the in-text citations so that they could become familiar with “citing”.  Next they each got a non-fiction book about birds and read about hummingbirds (my favourite).  Each student had to come up with two facts about the hummingbird.  We compiled these facts into a few paragraphs which I typed out and shared on GOOGLE drive.  Tomorrow the boys will add their in-text citations to the hummingbird passage.

We are using MLA formatting.  I came up with these separate posters to show the students that they must choose which one is appropriate to use i.e. do they have a book with an author, a website with no author, etc. (Some citing is confusing to me, so if you find any mistakes, let me know 🙂

We will also use bibme.org to create a bibliography or works cited page and Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL)
to format the “other stuff”.

Helping Your Older Child Edit a Paper

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Helping a teen edit a paper – besides grammar, punctuation and spelling, look to make sure they stay in the same tense (if it is in past tense, it has to all be in past tense) and that it is all written in the same person (if it is in third person, it should stay in third person, not switch to first person.)  Thankfully my son was open to some constructive criticism.

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Did You Know That You Have Executive Skills?

I’m just finishing a book about executive functioning. Most people don’t go around using these terms but we all use and need the skill sets that they describe.
Executive functioning is the set of skills that allow a person to plan a task, figure out the steps involved, activate the best strategies for the task, stick to the task, inhibit impulsive behaviour, and change strategies if needed. It is our planning skills and our ability to control ourselves and figure out ways to get something done.
Executive functioning plays a huge role in the life of a student. Much of a child’s executive functioning skills have been inherited. Also important, are the child’s developmental level and environment.

How do you teach your child or student to develop these skills?  A great start is by modeling how you organize yourself and speaking aloud the ways in which you plan a task.  For example, I might explain aloud that we have to be at a birthday party by 4 p.m. so I work backwards and figure on a half hour driving time, so that is 3:30 p.m., a half hour “getting ready” time so that is 3 p.m.  I need to start getting ready at 3 p.m.  Explaining the steps you take to execute a task will promote executive functioning.  The next time there is a similar task, help your child go through the same steps. 

So often we get upset at our children or students for poor planning but this is NOT a strategy for improving these skills.  Try the modeling and thinking aloud strategy.  Walk your child through it several times before expecting independence.

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Graphic Organizer for a Report

Great writing this week from some of my favourite kids! They used a graphic organizer as their “map” to help them plan a report of an event that has just happened at school or will be happening soon. We discussed that reports and reporters stick to the facts (not opinions) and they answered the who, what, when, where, why, and how about an event.

The graphic organizer we used is here.

I think I am convincing them that a graphic organizer, or plan, is worthwhile. Today, in about 15 minutes, they had each written a short rough copy report from their completed graphic organizer.
They were successful (fact) and I think they are amazing (opinion)!

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You can find my rough copy paper here.

Rough Copy Template

I created this form (one with single spacing and another with double spacing for larger writing). I kept repeating to students that they had to leave room for editing but that seemed to be just one more thing to remember while they were writing. This is working well.

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Use this link for a copy:ROUGH COPY

Daily Five

Another new incentive after the Christmas break has been The Daily Five (although we don’t get to all five in a day). The Daily Five is made up of five stations: working with words, working with writing, reading to someone, reading to self, and listening to reading. The Daily Five was designed by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. You can read about it here: Daily Five

I want to adapt the daily five to the resource room for three reasons: I want my students to read independently each day, write each day, and have regular conferences with me.

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There are some big challenges to adapting this format to the resource room. One challenge is finding reading passages that are at an independent reading level for my students but at the same time are age appropriate (and appealing). Over the break I took different black line masters from teachers in other grades, cut off any grade level labelling, cut off any babyish pictures, laminated and levelled. This has become our “Read to Someone” station. This is working well so far since the levels are good and the length of the passages is very manageable. I feel like students have been pleasantly surprised at their success and enjoyment of daily reading (keep in mind that these are self professed book haters).

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I am excited to think through each of The Daily Five.

Lovin’ this App!

I enjoy the excitement of a fresh start. Rearranging furniture, redecorating, reorganizing, refreshing… I wanted this new year, this return after a break, to renew my students’ motivation. One of our areas of renewal has been getting comfortable with a new app called Word Q.
This is a more expensive app ($25) but a license for Word Q on the PC is $199. Word Q is a word predictor program – it predicts possible word choices as the student types. The student can choose one of the predicted words or keep typing. Each word is read back to the student. There are other great features – it will read back the whole passage, give word suggestions, give definitions, to name a few.

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Along with getting familiar with this app we now have an air-print printer, so that students can print from their iPads, and wireless keyboards to make typing easier. Add headphones and we have a very productive class.

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I felt so encouraged yesterday to watch four students, each with headphones on, typing away at book reports. They were motivated! The best part was their confidence that they had spelled words properly and knew that what they had written made sense because they had heard it read back to them. I was impressed with the clear thoughts that they were able to express with very little help from me.

I think my students were re-energized but know that I felt rejuvenated! A writing assignment went from groans to cheers. Yay!

Try it First! Transition Words

We know we should take the time but we just don’t. Our explanations and lessons would be so much better if we did. We need to try activities before we ask our students to do them.
Many times an activity could have gone more smoothly if I had just tried it first.
I found this Christmas activity that I will ask kids to do in partners. It targets sight words and transition words. I tried it first myself to figure out strategies I would suggest for students that seem overwhelmed by the task. I think I will give students the title and some blank cards so that they can add words. I realized that I first picked out the transition words so I decided I will first teach a mini lesson on transition words and ask students to identify the transition words in their packet of words.

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Trying the activity myself will definitely affect how I approach this lesson.

The activity is from an ESL site: Bogglesworld
The transition words chart is from Reading Rockets

The Sentence Police

It can be difficult to provide students with the necessary repetition of a concept while keeping it fun and motivating. This is one way I’ve tried to rev up our editing every once in awhile.

20121128-163743.jpg I wear the hat (I know, I am weird) and hand out tickets. As students fix their errors they hand the ticket back. It keeps us laughing about mistakes but also attentive to details.

The tickets say “Capital Offense,” “Omission Error,” “Punctuation Violation ,” and “Spelling Infraction.”

Ticket Out The Door

I like to keep things cyclical – remind kids regularly of things we have learned. It is good for bringing information from short term memory to long term. The problem is that I don’t remember what to ask about!
The solution is the “ticket out the door”. Most days, as we work on something, I put a key concept on a small recipe card (I keep a stack nearby). The card gets added to an envelope with other recipe cards from previous lessons. The envelope is right next to the door. As students leave, I draw a card and they must answer the review question. Sometimes they must all answer the same question (whisper the answer to me), sometimes I ask each person to give me an example of the concept i.e. “everyone give me an example of a synonym before you leave”, and other times I draw one for each student ( a great review, too, for the others who hear all the questions and answers).
Today I put two more envelopes by the door. These are words I word like students to regularly review. I will sometimes use these as the tickets out the door.

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Here are the words in these particular envelopes:

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