Mechanics of Writing

Do your students struggle with the mechanics of writing? Even the basics?

Yeah, mine do, too.

So this post is all about THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY.

THE GOOD: We have written more this year than any other year.

THE BAD: The majority of my students are still making simple mistakes.

THE UGLY: In a ONE paragraph summary last week that they submitted to me electronically, ALL of them had to make corrections, and 15 out of 16 had to make corrections THREE times, and THEN some STILL had mistakes.

We are talking about capitalization errors, simple punctuation errors, leaving words out, using the wrong word, and spelling mistakes with simple words.


To be honest, today I almost cried.

I wanted to GIVE UP.

Are they not embarrassed? Do they not care?

But then as I was researching (yeah, I guess you figured out I didn’t give up), and reading, and tweeting, and getting some good feedback from other teachers, I realized something:

Through their writing, they are really telling me that however I have been teaching editing has not worked.

I, the teacher, have got to make some adjustments. Some serious adjustments. And quickly.

So instead of going with my original plan this week for english/writing, I’m gonna modify it a little.

Tomorrow we are going to learn how to do an “Express Lane Edit”. You can read about this concept by Jeff Anderson HEREΒ in a Voices in the Middle article that he wrote.

Tomorrow we’re going SHOPPING. For some errors. OR some good writing mechanics.

We are going to CHECK THEM OUT.

And of course we are going to write a RECEIPT for the ones we find.

Then somehow in this overwhelming curriculum, and in our stretched to the max schedule, we ARE GOING to become editors of our own writing. And we are going to get good at it. πŸ™‚



I’m Positive

Yep! I’m positive.

I’m positive that appositives are VERY HARD for my 6th graders! πŸ™‚

Today we imitated our model sentence again for more practice. Then we looked in the books we are reading to see if we could find an appositive.


Every phrase or sentence that had commas- they thought it was an appositive!

Moving right along- we tried to revise our mystery short stories by finding somewhere we could insert an appositive. This went a little better.

English is so hard. Writing is harder. And reading like a writer is impossible. Lol!

Not really. But they are so not used to doing this. We are going to keep on and persevere and become better writers and readers and thinkers. We are. πŸ™‚

I’m positive!

Running and Patience

These 2 things could go together. And need to go together. But in this post they will be written about as 2 separate things. So here it goes.

Today after school I ran 3 miles in 38:47 with 3 walk breaks. This is the farthest I’ve run since school started. Actually, probably since the middle of the summer. Yeah-true slacker lately!

But it felt so good! Especially during the walk breaks. HAHA!

And now I’m drinking water as I write this post. Which is also unusual. Go figure. πŸ™‚

Ok-next up is the patience part of this post.

I have a confession. I lost my patience with my 6th graders today. A couple of times. Not the kind of losing patience where you might tend to raise your voice or yell. No-this was a “hanging my head, sort of laughing, and saying I don’t know how to get it across to you”. Yeah, that kind of losing patience. Which is not ANY better than the other kind.

So these are the things I struggled with today:

1. Math-Dividing decimals

Putting the decimal in the wrong place? Quick fix. Multiplying and dividing incorrectly? I truly don’t know how to fix that in the 6th grade. Those are 3rd grade skills that have been practiced relentlessly since then.Β 

Any suggestions?

2. English-Appositives

Do I care if they know that a descriptive phrase in a sentence is called an appositive? No. I just want them to be able to use these phrases in their writing. Hence-our model sentence each week that we look at and notice and imitate.Β 

To be fair to them, they did a good job imitating the sentence when the phrase described the subject. But when I asked them to use a descriptive phrase somewhere else in the sentence they had a hard time. Like really hard. Even after I wrote an example on the board. I guess I don’t understand why it’s so hard to imitate someone else’s writing?

3. Research-Life cycle of a star

I’ve been teaching them how to research this year. It is a common core standard. And I believe it’s a necessary skill for the 21st century. For their future.

But I guess I forgot that even though I’ve been teaching them, I still haven’t taught them EVERYTHING about it, and it’s only October. So I gave them the outline of what they would be researching. And they got stuck. If they searched for “the beginning of a star” or “the ending of a star” and got no hits, they didn’t realize that this search might have turned up something- “star life cycle”.

So after all of this, the laughing I did in my classroom wasn’t the funny kind of laughing. And now I feel bad about it.Β 

I reflected on it after school-as I was running, on the way to dinner, when I got home, and even now as I write this. This is the FIRST year they’ve been asked to do a lot of what I’m asking them to do. I’ve GOT to remember that!

I’ve got to go easy on them. I think if they COULD do what I’m teaching them and asking them to do they WOULD do it.Β 

So BACKOFF, Shannon!! πŸ™‚


They’re not used to writing. They’re not used to researching. They’re not used to creating.

Give them time. Continue to model, model, model. Continue to support.Β 

They will get used to writing. They will get used to researching. They will get used to creating.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. πŸ™‚

Added some new blog pages

I just added some new pages to my blog. These are from my old blog when I taught Reading to 6th graders.

They are titled:

Reading Tools

Grammar Practice

Comprehension Skills

Comprehension Strategies

Linky Link Parties

CAFE/Daily 5

Maybe you can find something beneficial. πŸ™‚

Bio Poems in English

Last week we made “bio” poems about ourselves. Really, I guess they should be called “auto-bio” poems. πŸ™‚

The kids had a writing frame that they had to follow-it was very simple. I got it from Mrs. Gold’s website which is awesome! Here is a link to the bio poem frame on her website:Β

Instead of having my kids put their poem on their silhouettes, I just had them put it on plain white copy paper and decorate around their poem.

Here is a picture of the one that I did to show them as an example.

Β Can you tell I love color? And rainbows?

I took my favorite ones and some of my students put them in the hall today. Now mind you, they are my favorites because of the decoration not the actual poem. I’m a little shallow minded this close to the end of the school year! πŸ™‚

Don’t you love the designs??

So creative!!

We had our elementary awards day today-which by the way threw a kink into our schedule! This time of the year is so crazy!! It makes me crazy! πŸ™‚

Here’s a picture of all the 6th graders who received an award!

I know I said I would let you know all about our science lesson today, and yes I knew about the awards day, but our pe time was different which threw me off schedule, and then we went outside for a rather “long” time today. πŸ™‚

We ended up not switching classes today, but what we did with my homeroom class went very well I thought!

1. We activated our schema by writing on a sticky note anything that we already know about the planets. They put their sticky note on the bulletin board and had to read it aloud to the class. As they did this, I listed their schema in a list on the whiteboard. Each time someone repeated something that another student had already said I just put a check mark beside it instead of writing it again. This is what MOST of the students already know-There are 8 planets, and Pluto is not a planet! There were several students who knew things about the composition of the planets (gases, rings, oxygen, etc.), but not the majority of the class. πŸ™‚ There is work to do! πŸ™‚

2. We watched the National Geographic video (about 3 minutes long) about our solar system. I had the students draw 8 planets on a sheet of paper (randomly-not in order). They had to take notes throughout the video by writing facts down inside or beside the planets. I played the video twice. πŸ™‚

That’s all we got to do. This is what I have learned so far-

1. I am going to have to teach the kids how to listen and take notes “quickly”. I’ll make sure I do this the 1st week of school next year.

2. I am going to have to limit our discussions in science. Boy, do they want to share and ask questions and discuss it all. πŸ™‚ This is a good thing, but I’m going to have to build in a little time each day for this-otherwise I will just stress myself out trying to cover too much!

My best friend who teaches 4th grade brought in a baby bird that her kids found yesterday on the playground. I will post pictures later this week because I am too tired to do it now. πŸ™‚

How do you keep your students from straying too far off the guided path??


Procrastination and Personification

Let’s start with the 1st one. Even though I really want to put it off. Tee-hee. Yes, I have been procrastinating LATEly. As usual. It’s one of my MAJOR weaknesses! πŸ™‚ I PROMISE I am going to upload the study guides for Units 4-5-6 very soon and respond to the 19 comments that are in my comment box WAITING on me. I am so sorry! Life has been busy, but I am going to tackle it soon.

I really need to go ahead and do this since I MAY be teaching only science next year to 5th and 6th graders. It’s not final yet, but there are 4 of us that are tossing the idea around-for some reason I am ready for a change.

Moving on to personification. We have been focusing on this since Monday. We have found examples within our story this week-The River That Went to the Sky. We have created our own personification sentence in groups. AND, my favorite-I showed them this video today to REALLY bring it home!

My favorite piggy of all time-well, I still love Ms. Piggy from The Muppets! πŸ™‚

We took a little quiz today on personification and there was only 1 F out of 52 kids!!!!!!!!!!! OMG! If you have been following me lately you know this is wonderful! I had some C grades and the rest were 100s!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

YEA for us!

Read and Write 180-Day 73

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I have come to a conclusion. MY planning period each day is not really MY planning period. πŸ™‚ Let me just give you some background knowledge about my character so you can sympathize with me-teehee! I am a procrastinator by nature. From birth. All my life. Haven’t changed. Soooooo, I tend to wait til the last minute to get things ready for class-like for that day! πŸ™‚ So it seems like each day during my planning period somebody needs me or needs something-yesterday a parent called to speak to me, and I told the office to take a message because I was copying work packets. The parent decided to hop in the car and come visit. Planning period-gone. Today, I got a new student. Planning period-gone. I think I need to start coming every weekend to get EVERYTHING ready for the week so I can sit outside my room each day during my planning period holding a sign that says, “Will work for you!” Now don’t get me wrong-I want parents to want to be involved and communicate with me! And new students are just a reality. But it’s ALL THE TIME! πŸ™‚ Moving off that soapbox now.

I’m really thinking my kids are getting the hang of parts of speech after 15 weeks of it! πŸ™‚ I only hope that what we are doing with these sentences each day will pay off in their writing. Here’s the sentence we labeled today.

Β This week we have started creating our own sentences as well that follow the pattern. I let them work in groups to make up their sentence-they are VERY engaged with this! Hooray! Here is a picture of our 6 sentences from my afternoon class.

Β 4 out of 6 groups used the verb “ran”. Booooring! They couldn’t believe I told them that! So then they said they could have used: jumped, leaped, rolled, skipped. One student said “sprinted”. That made me happy! I’m thinking that if I had been devoting a lot of time to writing this year we could have had lists of words that could be substituted for the boring ones! Maybe we’ll start that soon.

They worked on their reindeer job application rough draft again today-we will be finishing those up sometime around the beginning of next week, and I’ll take pictures of them. I told them I was going to hang them in the hall. I’m thinking I might have a contest and let the 4th and 5th graders vote on the one they think is the best, and I’ll get some kind of prize for the winner. Sounds cool, huh?

We finished reading the 2nd half of our story today-my homeroom class (or maybe it was my afternoon class!) said they liked this story and several students agreed. YEA! I hope that shows up on the test Friday! I showed them how to partner read with each other because they are going to do that tomorrow with the entire story, and I won’t be in school. I’m at a conference for 3 days (sitting in my hotel room right now as a matter of fact!).

We caught up with our truckerbuddy emails today-he and his wife are going to visit us and bring their truck for the kids to see! The kids are so excited. I better get on the ball with setting that up because we only have 14 days left before Christmas break (but who’s counting?). πŸ™‚


Read and Write 180-Day 53

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

We are learning about subject and object pronouns this week in english. We wrote them in a t-chart today-7 on each side. A subject pronoun is the subject of the sentence. An object pronoun receives the action in the sentence. Here’s a picture of the t-chart that I put on the board:

Β I tell them not to say the subject pronouns TOO fast because they might mess up and say something they don’t mean to say! They love it when I tell them this! πŸ™‚

I read aloud Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse again for the 2nd time. We are trying to learn how to analyze a character. And Lilly is indeed a character. If you haven’t read this book-YOU NEED TO! It’s one of those books that will make you laugh out loud! πŸ™‚

So before I read it to them today I told them to write down a few character traits and share them with a partner. Then I told them to check the trait off if they heard me read a part that proved the trait and to write down more traits as they think of them. When we finished this reading they had to write a quick write character analysis of Lilly.

We are going to start our Scott Foresman story “When Crowbar Came” tomorrow. So today we activated our schema about crows. They wrote down their schema and shared with a partner. Then the partners got together with the rest of their row and shared. They decided on 2 important pieces of knowledge to write on sticky notes. We put these on our chart.

I read them a read aloud story from Scott Foresman about crows and they took notes as I read on things they thought were important. I can’t wait for them to read this story and realize just how smart crows really are.

We had almost a complete hour left in each class to devote to Read to Self and Work on Writing and individual conferences. I met with lots of students today! One of my boys had chosen to read voraciously (all the time a lot) as his goal to work on. He has been recording when he reads on a sticky note and here is his proof! πŸ™‚

Β I was so proud of Courdarious that I just had to take a picture of this!!! He tries so hard!!!! πŸ™‚ I taught him in Kindergarten and am so glad that I have him again in the 6th grade!

So it was another great day! I even was able to fill out my Partners in Education grant application, make a copy of it, and get it to the post office to be postmarked by 4:00. I started at 3:25!!!!! Can you say PROCRASTINATOR???????????????????? πŸ™‚

Then drove 40 miles to Alex. City to help my stepson upgrade his southern linc phone to a DROID!!!!! πŸ™‚