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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Bold Beginnings and Catchy Conclusions: Taking the Tears Out of Writing the First and Last Paragraphs

In my teaching and personal experience, I find the first sentence of a piece of writing to be one of the most difficult things to create and perfect.  After all, an author really only has a sentence or two to gain the interest of their readers.  No pressure, right?  What's the next most difficult thing to write?  That would be the final paragraph in which the author has to wrap everything up in a pretty package with a bow on top.  That's no easy task, either.  So, I compiled some of my favorite openings closings to stories that I've either read or written.

Most of my favorite openings include figurative language because it can make any writing piece fun, in my humble opinion.  My top favs are:

Onomatopoeia is a fun word just to say.  Also, describing the way something sounds is appealing to the auditory learner in me.  Plus, students enjoy trying to describe the sounds to each other.

Foreshadowing is fun to use around Halloween.  It adds a creep factor to creative writing and mysteries.

Alliteration is a fabulous element to add to the title of a story.  For example, "Bold Beginnings and Catchy Conclusions" sounds much more interesting than "Opening and Closing Paragraphs".

Similes/Metaphors help your future Mark Twains party like a rock star while they are writing.  See what I did there?

Below is the first page of the model story I created to help students get into their writing.  I challenge you to see how many of my favorite story-starter elements mentioned above are included.  Spoiler alert:  I tell you how many and which ones directly after the photo.

I'll bet you guessed that there were two of my favorite story-starter elements in this part of the story: Onomatopoeia and foreshadowing.  

Below is an example of some of the other Bold Beginnings included in the rest of the story.

Conclusions don't have to be boring and routine.  My favorites are quotes and similes/metaphors.  If a summary is done properly, it can also be a good ending to a story.  However, summaries can be tricky.  If all a summary includes is the same sentences from the story, that can really put a reader out.

I print, laminate, and keep these sheets available for buddy editing and small group writing.  If you'd like to pick up a copy, click here.

How do you inspire your students to open and close their writings?  I'd love to hear how!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Vocabulary Instruction and Assessment

One thing I've placed an emphasis on, regardless of whether I'm teaching elementary or middle school, is vocabulary.  I'm a believer in the benefits of vocabulary instruction in all subjects, not just Language Arts.

For example, my 7th Grade Life Science students often have 4-square vocabulary for homework prior to the instruction of those concepts.

They are responsible for filling in the definition and picture/graphic with the help of the glossary and pictures in their textbook. I don't like for them to use the Internet or dictionaries for this because there are usually too many different definitions and pictures out there on the World Wide Web.  The textbook streamlines that process.  I supply them with the example and non-example during class and they fill them in. This way, they've already been exposed to the key words twice before I even explicitly teach it in context.

After all the vocabulary has been thoroughly taught, we play review games from my Vocabulary Review Games Packet.

Finally, we take an assessment.  Half of it asks them to use the information from the 4-square examples, and half of it is matching the word to the definition.

I made a packet for the templates for the 4-square and vocabulary test. Click here to pick up a copy of my Vocabulary Instruction and Assessment Packet.

Do you do use explicit vocabulary instruction and review in all subjects?  I'd love to learn some tricks from you!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Let's Talk (Figurative Language) Turkey!

The holidays are right around the corner! While they can be hectic, they can also be a great time to talk about figurative language in your writing curriculum.

First of all, almost everyone loves Fall food so It's easy to get the students to buy into it.  This time of year also makes it easy to experience all those Multi-Sensory experiences first-hand: Colors of leaves, touching a pumpkin, the smells of pumpkin pie, crisp Fall air. So why not tap into those experiences and practice some figurative language while you're at it?

I had so much fun creating the graphic organizer!

And the Wanted Poster!

If you want to pick up a copy, click here.

Do you have a fun way to get students to practice figurative language in their writing?  I'd love to hear how!