Writing Prompts

I’ve never had my 6th graders respond to a writing prompt. GASP!

I mean, yes, they have answered questions about a text, etc., but never just an open ended writing prompt.

I’m taking an online class about teaching middle school writing, and writing prompts were our lesson for last week. We had to read an article about them and then create one.

Here’s mine:

Emotions and feelings are a daily part of our lives. They Β include happiness, sadness, anger, embarrassment, and many others. We may feel one or many throughout our lives. Some emotions stay with us for a short period of time, while others have a bigger impact on us and tend to stay with us longer.

Think of an emotion that you have felt in your life. Did it stay with you for a short or long period of time? What caused it?Β 

Write about this emotion in a way that your reader will truly understand how you felt and why you felt this way. Your writing should be ABOUT a page long.

This is the first writing prompt I’ve ever written. What do you think? Do you use writing prompts?

I’m going to have my kids respond to it this Friday as their English assessment. We will see how it goes.

I’m telling you that writing is HARD to teach!

Well, so is math. And reading. Hmm… 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™‚

Student Writing Examples

I’ve never done this before and am embarrassed to even admit it! I’m talking about putting up good student writing in our classroom as examples.

I took part in the National Writing Project this summer- what a life changing experience!

It was all about modeling writing for our students, giving them examples/models to imitate, feedback, group work, and student choice.

So I’m trying to bring all of this into my 6th grade classroom. I’m taking baby steps, but hey at least I’m moving forward. I’m not moving backward, and I’m not standing still.

I’m trying to incorporate writing across the curriculum- math explanations, writing about our thinking while reading, bringing English into our writing instead of isolated concepts, written reflections on science content, writing I history, writing, writing….

It’s a slow process-baby steps- because the kids aren’t used to writing like this, but I think it’s gonna be worth it! πŸ™‚

Our walls are going to be plastered with student writing by the end of this year.

Here’s the beginning!


National Writing Project- Day 15

Sniff-Sniff. Tomorrow is the last day of NWP. I can’t believe it’s almost over.



One door closes and another door opens. I will be leaving the NWP (even though it will remain in my heart and mind forever) and beginning a new journey with Teachers Write 2013.

I’m not sure where this path will take me. I’ve never considered myself a writer really. But I’ve noticed that the more I talk about writing and think about writing the more I want to WRITE. πŸ™‚

I’ve got to start with baby steps though. As in SENTENCE LEVEL. Or even PHRASES. FRAGMENTS. SNATCHES OF THOUGHTS. SNIPPETS OF IDEAS.

I sectioned my writer’s notebook with 2 major sections: MY WRITING and COLLECTIONS

My first thought was that of course since I’m not a writer the COLLECTIONS section will be much larger than MY WRITING section.

One day into it, and I have proved myself wrong. My fleeting thoughts that MUST be put on paper before I lose them have spread to page #2. That’s right. Page 2. πŸ™‚

And I’ve noticed that these word whispers come to me best when I’m driving. Uh-oh. πŸ™‚ So today I just pulled out my iphone, tapped on the super cool app-Dragon Dictation- and the rest is history. I was able to “catch” my thoughts by recording them and emailing them to myself. Neat.

I know that others involved in Teachers Write are writing stories, novels even. Maybe one day. But for now I’ll just be content with these quiet murmurs that come to me softly like a breath of fresh air.


National Writing Project Here I Come!!!!

Happy Monday! I finally got the email I had been waiting on. My application was accepted for the National Writing Project this summer!!!! YIPPEE!!

I will be traveling to Jacksonville State University the entire month of June, Monday-Friday, 9am-4pm to read and Β research about writing and to write!

It’s a summer institute-I think in every state-where teachers from all grade levels and content areas gather together to receive training on learning how to better teach writing.

I had been hesitant about applying in the beginning because of the following reasons:

1. What if I learn all these great things but I’m not good enough to implement them in my own classroom?

2. What if WHAT I learn doesn’t apply to my students?

3. What if I fail miserably?

4. What if I give up a whole month of my summer, and it’s not worth it?

5. What if

6. What if

But I took the plunge and sent my application in. And let me tell you-after I sent that baby off I couldn’t think of anything else!!! πŸ™‚ I became almost obsessed with it. I WANTED it so badly.

The email came today. My life has begun. πŸ™‚

I can’t wait to learn some great strategies for teaching, assessing, and grading writing. I will be posting what I learn so tune in during June to learn more about W.R.I.T.I.N.G.

You can follow the National Writing Project on twitter at @writingproject or hashtag #NWP.

Visit their website at National Writing ProjectΒ or their facebook page at National Writing Project.

I leave you with this.


Thank goodness I’m not an author….

I teach. I read. Thank goodness I don’t have to write. I leave that to all of the wonderful authors out there!!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart that when I open a book I can immerse myself in the writing that you did while the blood flowed freely. πŸ™‚

I found a quote that I thought was funny:

“I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.”— Steven Wright

How many of you have ever really tried to just sit down and write a story? It’s not easy. Even blog writing is not easy all the time.

So once again, thank you to the great authors in the world who make my reading so enjoyable!!! πŸ™‚

Read and Write 180-Day 79

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

What a great, oh so great, great day! And no matter what you think, it is NOT because we only have 8 more days before Christmas break! πŸ™‚ Β I was thinking about how the day went after school today and trying to pinpoint what made it so good in my eyes. Our time devoted to english is always great nowadays since we ONLY work with our one sentence by labeling things and then write a paragraph from that sentence. Most of the kids are engaged during that time and participating. YEA! When we analyze someone’s paragraph on the ELMO they are VERY engaged and on task because I have them work in groups. They have to discuss what kind of “star” they would give the person and then what kind of “wish” they have for the person. Then they actually talk about what kind of grade they would give the paper and why. I really think they are loving this so far. So-that part of our day is always good. The other 2 things we did today were reading and writing. Here’s what we did-

Reading: We partner read our story and asked questions and discussed our thinking. They were so on task with this. Well, AFTER I explained that partner reading is not reading silently πŸ™‚ to 1 group! They had a partner read sheet that I borrowed from another teacher (Thanks, Becky!!) that they used to set a purpose for their reading and guide them through the text. Now this is the 3rd time they should have read the weekly story. The 1st time for homework by themselves (and we know not all of them do this!), I read it to them while they “followed” along, and then the partner read today. I wandered around the room as a “facilitator” (I love that term and have never really felt like one until today!). I listened in on kids reading and their discussions-of course I had to get in on the discussions, too! πŸ™‚ They were really talking, thinking, and wondering. Some even went back in the text to clarify things!!!!! OMG!!!!!!! That is exactly what I have been hoping for and dreaming about this entire year!!!!!!!!!! I would keep putting exclamation marks here, but you might get tired of them! πŸ™‚ So let’s just say that this “partner reading” with the guide sheet is SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPEALIDOCIOUS! πŸ™‚ Here are pictures of them partner reading/discussing:

Β If you want to play “I Spy” here you go:

Find the one with the mohawk. Find the one that looks the most comfortable. Find the 2 partners that match. Don’t they all look engaged?

Writing: Yesterday we started out reindeer (real) (caribou) reports. We are taking baby steps with this so that I can teach and guide them each step of the way. Yesterday we read a website together and took notes from the website with me telling them what to jot down. Today I gave them copies of an article and I put my copy on the ELMO. They read the article silently, then I read it to them. Then we highlighted the parts that would fit in our notes. After we highlighted facts and info, I told them to add this info to their notes from yesterday. I did the 1st paragraph with them. I told them that some of the information from this article has already been jotted down from yesterday so just check it off on this article. Some of it was new information that needed to be added to their notes and then checked off. What delighted me was that my co-worker who teaches math, science, and ss told me they came into his room today telling him about it. He said they are loving it! OMG again! 6th graders loving something???? Why have I waited until lately to really write with them???? I think what has gone so well with this assignment/activity is that I’m not trying to cram too much in at one time!!!!! I am taking it from ground zero with them and not expecting that they already know how to do this! So-here is a picture of our article today that we highlighted and began to check off:

Now I’ve got to figure out how to complete this process of report writing BEFORE our Christmas party next Friday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yikes! πŸ™‚

Read and Write 180-Day 34

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Today I had to fast. And I don’t mean I had to “go” fast. I mean I had to fast, as in not eat, as in starve….. I had a doctor’s appt. after school for a followup check on my “high” cholesterol. Since I didn’t want a morning appt. because I don’t like being out of work, my appt. was for 3:30 this afternoon, and I was not allowed to eat since before midnight. O.M.G. If you ever try to do this be aware of what might happen within your body: dizziness, disorientation, nausea, inability to focus, possibility of falling out on the floor, etc. πŸ™‚ And what’s REALLY sad about the WHOLE situation is this- my cholesterol is STILL too high. Sigh. But let me tell you that the food at the Mexican rest. in Roanoke was the BEST food I think I have ever eaten!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, mother I cleaned my plate and nobody had to tell me twice! πŸ™‚

Now on to our school day. Why is it taking me 45 minutes to cover word study and english each day?????? As I was rethinking my entire curriculum this summer I only planned about 15(maybe 20) minutes each day for word study AND english so that the rest of our time could be devoted to reading, writing, and small group instruction. Can I PLEEEEEEASE have about 2 more hours each school day? It seems that will be the only way I can do everything I want to do with the kids AND do it well. OK-I do see some light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel is kinda long right now. πŸ™‚ This is my plan for english this year:

I am trying to go ahead and introduce/teach ALL of the english skills/concepts that we will work with this year for the next few weeks and THEN the entire year will just be devoted to reviewing. So once we begin the daily review it will only take 5-10 minutes, but right now it’s taking forever and a day to practice these new things each week. πŸ™‚

I finished the “False Alarm” chapter of our read aloud-Helen (Bad Helen) set off an alarm clock in the middle of reading class, and then she shot some firecrackers near the school. We can’t wait to find out what happens because the next chapter is called “Discipline Slips”.

We finished up our compare and contrast essay today-I think I might have them write one independently to see who caught on to the format of an essay AND to check out their writing abilities. Especially since by the end of the year I want them to be able to write a persuasive argument about a topic (easily) and I’m thinking a small research paper.

I tried something new today in reading-it went well in my 2nd class-not so well in my 1st class. Reciprocal teaching. This is really just having students interact with each other in groups with the text they are reading. Each person in the group has a different job-Connector, Summarizer, Predictor, Questioner, The Boss (Team leader). Of course, we didn’t have time to actually complete the entire process so we will work with this again tomorrow and Friday with the same text. There seems to be A LOT of research on this teaching strategy so I hope to continue to use it throughout the year. I think it just takes us awhile to truly understand some things in the beginning stages-I guess because the things we are doing are so different than what they may be used to. Hopefully, it will smooth out. I had my 1st class talk and share what they think the main issues were that kept them from really getting into the reciprocal teaching-the ability to work in a group kept coming up. I just assumed that they could work in groups since they went to literacy centers everyday in K-3. One student told me that even though they went to these literacy centers they still mainly did independent work while at the centers. Oh. Now I know that I need to go back and MODEL how to work in groups. πŸ™‚

Our scholastic book order arrived today. YEA!!! And I had 2 students ask when I was going to send the next one home because they didn’t get a chance to order anything. Happy dance!