Snowy Day Writing Activity

6 01 2014

Snowmen at Night             Snowmen All Year

Snowmen at Nightby Caralyn Buehner She has also written Snowmen All Year.

Since we are in the middle of a huge winter cold freeze and lots of snow, I thought I would share a short create writing activity that you can do with your class.

I recently read to my students, Snowmen at Night. It is a neat book about snowmen that come alive at night and the adventures that they have. After the students llisten to the story, I give them a choice of various writing activities that they can do. I then have them share it with the class.

Here is an example of my activities:


Create a dialogue   between snowmen/ snowwomen about how to keep their late night fun a secret   from humans.


Create a news report. You can use your own   winter ideas or use the article heading:
  Snowman seen running around town!


Take your snowman on   a journey through the seasons! What if a snowman/   snowwoman was alive all year long? What would you have to teach him/ her   about since he/ she is only used to cold weather? What activities would he/   she love to partake in?


Create a debate between   a snowman and the sun or winter and summer. Give reasons why they don’t like the other.


Create a song about   snow, cold, snowman, winter or anything related. You can write it to the tune of a Christmas   song, or take lyrics from a popular song and change them to fit your topic.


Have a snowman/   snowwoman persuade a kid to help keep him/ her alive and not let him/ her   melt.


Write a story from   the perspective of a snowman/ snowwoman. Tell us about the good and difficult times in the life of a snowman/snowwoman.


Brainstorm words   related to winter to create a poem. Some types of poems you may want to   choose are: free verse, two   voice, This is Just to Say, Thirteen Ways of Looking At a Blackbird, limerick   etc..


If   you want to take a topic from a square and pick a different genre than   listed you may.

If  you have another idea, see the teacher for approval.


Easy Canvas Prints~ Spice Up Your Classroom or Home!

15 12 2013

I love canvas prints. I love them for my home and for my classroom walls. You can get some really cute inspirational images, quotes or sayings on them. They can get pricey, but I always try to find a good deal. Easy Canvas Prints is one place that I have gotten canvas prints from before and I’ve been happy with them; both for quality and price!

Easy Canvas Prints is running a contest right now, and you have a chance to earn up to $300 credit to buy what you want! Plus, anyone who enters gets 60% off coupon and free shipping- just in time for the Holidays!!

All you have to do is upload any photo you would like to print on canvas to gift to someone this holiday season.  The photo with the most votes will win a grand prize of a $300 credit to Easy Canvas Prints! The 2nd and 3rd place winners will win a $100 credit to Easy Canvas Prints. Anyone who enters will be sent a 60% off Sitewide + Free Shipping coupon code as well, so everyone wins!
The contest is open to those in North America and will run from 12/15/13 to 12/20/13. They will announce the winner on our blog on 12/22/13.

Here’s the URL to the contest:
Their Facebook page URL is:
Good Luck! 🙂

Mining For Gold- Looking For the Good Stuff In Writing

15 12 2013

I often have students Mining for Gold, or finding the Golden Lines in writing. I started the year off by exposing them to writing from all different genres and from professional writers to former students. I started by telling them that I was going to read a piece aloud, and they were to read along and then we were going to Mine for Gold, or find the golden lines.

Mining For Gold

a passage, phrase or sentence that :

Makes you wonder

Makes you laugh

Makes you sad or upset

Connects with your life

Is your favorite

Sounds poetic

This is a simple warm up activity that I do a few days a week. At first the students didn’t really know what to say, and just commented if there was a grammatical error or word they didn’t understand. I  would always share the first few times, pointing out lines that stood out to me, words that resonated, etc…. As time went on, the student’s responses became much deeper. They were looking at the writing as a writer.

After a few weeks of just commenting on the work, we then moved to “next steps” for the writer. We would give suggestions that the writer could do to improve their piece. Now that we have written various pieces, I ask some students if I can put their writing piece on the Elmo*** to share with the class. Eventually I hope to have my students bring in their own passages to use golden lines.

***I always put the writing piece on my Elmo (if you don’t have one of these – do everything you can to get one- it’s my BEST Friend in the classroom!

Top Ten Young Adult Book Lists!

7 12 2013

The Awesome thing about being an 8th grade language arts teacher is reading all the YA books. I mean really, one of my job requirements is to read young adult books so that I can recommend them to my students- how cool is that?!? I have my students complete a 30 book challenge, so I try to have a stocked classroom library with good books for my kids.

I was thinking about some of the top ten YA books from my room that my students have loved year after year.  I started by just jotting down a few titles and then I realized it was so hard to just narrow it down to 10, so I thought I would do a general top 10 , a top 10 list for reluctant readers and then a top 11 books in a  series list because I couldn’t decide which one to take out!

Please note that not all of these are new books; some are older ones that some of my most reluctant readers love. I also didn’t rank them in a particular order.

Maybe some of thee books are new to you, or maybe you know someone who would love one of these books for Christmas?

So without further ado here are my lists:

Top Ten YA books:

  1. The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
  2. Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick ( all his books are hot picks in my classroom!)
  3. Life As We Knew It by Pfetter If you Find Me by
  4. The Fault Among Our Stars by John Green
  5. Prisoner B3087 by Ruth Gruener, Jack Gruener and Alan Gratz
  6. Forgive Me MatthewPeacock by (contains some language and mature content).
  7. The Absolutely True Diary of Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  8. Sleeping Freshman Never Lie by David Lubar
  9. The Girl Was Supposed to Die by April Henry (also wrote Girl Stolen- which was AMAZNG!)
  10.  If I Stay by Gayle Forman (she also wrote Just One Day & Just One Year- Also awesome!)


Top Books for Reluctant Readers:

1.The Juvie Three by Gordon Korman

2. The Limit by Kristen Landon

3.The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall

4. Gym Candy by Carl Deuker

5. Food, Girls & Other Things I Can’t Have by Allen Zadoff

6. Give A Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser

7. Acceleration by Graham McNamee

8. Chasing Lincoln’s Killer & The President Has Been Shot by  James Swanson

9. Life As We Knew It by Pfetter

10. Vietnam#1-4 by Chris Lynch. He also just came out with World War II books (quick historical fiction books)


 Top Eleven Series Books:

  1. Ashfall- Ashen Winter- Sunrise by Mike Mullin  (due to come our Spring 2014). Click here to read my recent post about this author and books.
  2. Unwind- UnWholly, UnSouled by Neil Shusterman
  3. Divergent- Insurgent- Allegiant by Veronica Roth
  4. Warrior Heir- Dragon Heir- Wizard Heir by Cina Williams Chima
  5. Maximum Ride- Nevermore  (there are 7 books in series) by James Patterson
  6. Tears of A Tiger- Forged By Fire- Darkness Before Dawn by Sharon Draper
  7. Eve- Once- Rise by Anna Carey
  8. Red Kayak & The Journey Back by Priscilla Cummings
  9. Child Called It- The Lost Boy- A Man Named Dave by Dave Pelzer
  10. Battle of Jericho- November Blues-Just Another Hero by Sharon Draper
  11. Maze Runner- Scorch Trials- Death Cure and Prequel A Kill Order by James Dashner               ** I know Hunger Games isn’t on here, but I was trying to get some different titles on the list and who hasn’t read that series yet?? 😉

A Solution to Revising and Editing Work in Writer’s Workshop!!!

25 11 2013

During Writing Workshop I have been having my students working on writing their memoirs and working on a choice piece (a piece on any topic they choose). In my mini-lessons for the memoirs I have focused on writing effective leads,using senses in writing and revision vs editing.

The thing I love about my students is their hate relationship with proofreading, revising, editing, multiple drafts… anything that that has to do with re-reading and changing what they have written! In the past I have  found that when asked to proofread, my students have just read their partner’s paper and changed a few grammar/ spelling issues and said it was good.

I took an idea from a journal that I read about  revising work using the Focused Question Card Strategy.  It has really worked well for my students. We talked a lot about the difference between revision and editing in the writing process first.

I explained the entire process below(lengthly, I know- it was hard to sum up how it works!!)

I taught them the revision card strategy during their first quick publish piece of the year (click here to read about the quick publish piece). We went step by step through the process and we talked about good questions to ask on the card. After the students turned in their quick publish stories and revision cards (they always turn in all their drafts and revision and editing cards to me) I noticed that the students had asked good questions, but most of their answers were pretty pathetic! For example- does my ending make sense? Should I add more details. The answer: yes!- no other comments. So I need to work on how to answer the revision cards.. but we had a good start with the question part!

Here is the revision card process that I use during writing workshop:

  • After the students have written for at least  20 min.  for a few days and they have some content, I tell them  that they can conference with a peer if they want.
  • I let students pick their partners since they will find people they are comfortable with and someone who will give them suggestions and be honest. Remind students that they as the writer is asking for help, so they should accept comments relating to their card.
  • Students must conference with at least 2 students for revising conferences and one other student for editing conference.
  • When it is time for drafting. The writer needs to take a note card and write one questions or concern that they have that they would like help with. If it is a yes/no question, they need to ask why.
  • They write their name on the side of the card
  • When they conference- the writer reads his/her piece aloud without the partner looking at the paper.
  • The listener only responds to that one question that the writer had. The listener writes the answer on the back of the note card and puts his/her name.
  • No editing is done at this conference. This is only time for revising.

Students then write more.

Another Revision conference

  • Same as the first, students can pick anyone to work with but it must be with a different conference partner than the first.

Editing Conference

  • With peers. This time students sit side by side and are looking at one writer’s piece at a time. The writer reads the piece aloud. Make corrections and changes. The writer is the only one who writes on his/ her paper. Then they switch, writer becomes listener etc..

I, the teacher finally looks at the paper:

  • The paper has had 3 people look at it before I even see  it one time. I have glanced at their work, and helped here and there, but not in-depth.
  • The writer then writes on a note card one thing they want help with from me.  They attach the note card to their paper.
  • At this point, the writer is giving me his/her best draft possible.
  • I then looks at the piece, and responds to the student’s question and makes one suggestion.
  • The piece is then returned to the student for them to make corrections and changes and turn in for their final piece to be graded.
  • I needs to keep in mind that the writer can ignore the suggestions that the I suggested. I need to have the student go back to the rubric and focus on the things that they are being graded on.
  • I don’t correct grammar unless it is a habit and is seen consistently from the student. If it is a habit I only comment on one thing at a time- too many and they don’t internalize it.

**The article was from September 2006,  in the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy,  written by Alexa Sandman.

The Importance of Writing Daily

17 11 2013

It is so important to have students write daily, even if it is only for a few minutes and it is extremely important for students to see you writing and sharing with them. Writing WITH the students shows students that you value writing and it is important to you. I know it is so tempting to do all those classroom tasks while they are quietly working, but think about what that is conveying to your kids. If you have to do the classroom tasks, at least write before class and explain that you wrote earlier in the day and share some of your writing.

Every day, even on days when I don’t do writing workshop, I have them do what I call a “Warm It Up”. I give the students something to think about and then let them write for about 5-7 min. They can write about the prompt idea, OR anything else they want. {I do hate the word prompt. So many times teachers, myself included in the past, have given students a meaningless prompt and asked them to write about it. For example, write about a time with your pet. What about those of us who don’t have pets??!! } I encourage the to continue writing the entire time.

Today I showed them the book: Life’s Little Instruction Book: 511 Suggestions, Observations, and Reminders on How to Live a Happy and Rewarding Life. by Jackson Brown Jr.

Life's Instruction book

I had them come up with advice, funny, witty, serious, about school, life, teenagers etc.. and share them. It was great to hear what they wrote. I even am considering having my classes write their own advice book. It may be an end of the year project that they leave for future students??

I loved that when I told them to put their writer’s notebooks away, they were still frantically jotting down more advice that came to mind as others were sharing! 🙂

Awesome Teaching Poetry Resource!

10 11 2013

A few weeks ago, I talked about sharing poetry every day with my students. I also hinted that I would share an awesome resource that I use to work with students to close read poetry and go deeper than just reading it, mining for gold and letting it be.

Reading Poetry in the Middle Grades: 20 Poems and Activities That Meet the Common Core Standards and Cultivate a Passion for Poetry by Paul Janeczko is an awesome resource for close reading poetry. It also helps you, the teacher, to guide the students to look closely and take note of things that they may have missed during their initial reading.


I first came across this great resource book when I was searching online. After I saw the few samples chapters and how it hits on Common Core standards, I knew I had to get the book!

There are 20 poems and activities to work with. Each poem and activity is set up and ready for you to copy and go- who doesn’t love that?! There is an activity page that goes with each poem that helps they students to dive into the poem and look a little closer. These activities are quick things for the students to do that will help guide their discussion and deepen their understanding of the poem.

The poems are on tons of different topics and each poem has a lot of things that students can talk about.  Along with poems and activities are a few pages of great commentary for the teacher. I found these really helpful in helping me to feel more confident about talking through and working with the poems with my students. My students never complain when we have to read these poems, and I have found that their confidence in tackling poetry has increased this year!  Paul Janeczko also has other companion or paired poem suggestions that are related to the poem that is being featured.

I could go on and on about this book and how great it is. It is defiantly one resource you MUST have on hand. It takes away all the prep work of searching for the perfect poem that hits your standards, the students can relate to and that is easy enough to tackle in a c lass period. The work can be done in about 20 minutes!!

If you want to see a preview of the book, go to Amazon and click on the cover to see inside. 


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