Thursday, September 3, 2015

Mentor Sentences

I am in love with mentor sentences.  I just can't rave enough about them.  Within the first 3 weeks of school, my kids are REMEMBERING what subjects and predicates are, pronouns, auxiliary verbs and articles!! WOO HOO!!!  I am thrilled with this innovative way of teaching grammar. 
Here is how it works. ( NO, I didn't invent it-- I stole the idea from a fellow blogger-- "Ideas by Jivey")

I choose a content related text. My mini unit is on the "First Americans."  I read the book
Mammoth's on the Move.

this is our third mentor sentence this year-- I am still keeping it simple with a focus this week on reviewing types of sentences, and adjectives.

The sentence I chose was this:
They had a mammoth appetite. 

Monday- We looked at the sentence and told what we saw that made it a great sentence.
The normal everyday stuff- ** capital at the beginning, end punctuation
over half of my class remembered and identified it as a **declarative sentence. (insert big grin here!!!)
several students remembered from a previous week that the word "a" was an article.  (even bigger smile...!)
What I loved was the  deeper thinking-- the students decided that the subject was they-- and appetite was a noun-- and that mammoth was telling about the appetite. so it must mean BIG-- because mammoths were big!   (insert big squeal here!-- oh--wait-- it gets better-- ) one student asked me if a word could be a noun AND an ADJECTIVE!!!! What a great discussion about multiple meaning words!

Tuesday: We actually labeled the parts of speech.  The students are picking up on some of them slowly but surely, and we had a short discussion about pronouns today. I was proud that they remembered articles, and nouns!

Wednesday-- This is our Invitation to revise.  Right now I am picking and choosing the words that I want them to revise. since this week the focus topic was on adjectives, we talked about how to use a thesaurus and then chose other adjectives instead of big or mammoth.  

Thursday-- we wrote our own sentences using the "formula" of the mentor sentence.
They had ____________ _________________ _____________________.
                article (a, an or          adjective                 noun         

The kids wrote great sentences!

Friday-- a quiz on the mentor sentence.  Here is where I rewrote the sentence with errors, and they had to correct them. I asked questions about subject/predicate, type of sentence, pronouns and adjectives.

If you haven't given mentor sentences a try-- check out the blog Ideas by Jivey-- she has some freebies along with some Tpt stuff. Try the freebie stuff out first-- get an idea of how she does it-- them pull your own sentences from your favorite books!!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Task cards

Task cards.  How do I use them?  What are the possibilities?  How can I find them? 

First, I personally use task cards in three ways-

1) Work Station --  This, to me is the easiest. It always reinforces with the main skill of which  I am focusing, I use their answer sheet as a formative assessment to hold them accountable during workstation time, and it  gives me data for flexible grouping.

2) Group work--  Ideally, it is a great strategy for pairs, but I have used them in cooperative groups.  The key here is giving everyone a responsibility, and I also use the talking sticks concept.  <-- this link is a preview copy, but  can see how it works and use it for yourself. If you really like it and don't want to recreate it for yourself--You can find it on  TpT. 

I use these responsibilities:
Reader:: Reads the cards
Scribe: Writes the group's answer.
Card Holder: This person holds the unused deck of cards-
Card Organizer: This person holds the used cards and puts them back in numerical  order when the activity is finished.

Every person in the group is given a Popsicle stick. The Popsicle stick is their talking stick-- once the card is read, the members take turns going first with what they think the answer is and providing evidence from the card of why they believe it is the answer. As they give their response, they place their Popsicle stick in the center of the group-- once everyone has gone the Scribe will record the answer that the group agrees upon. If there is a disagreement, The scribe can make a note on the back of the recording sheet the other answer and the person that disagreed initials it.  I never want to force anyone to get a wrong answer if they disagree with their group. :)

3) RTI (response to intervention) I use this for one on one instruction.  They are short, and only take a few minutes.  I have not used them for a probe-- just because I am reading the information with the student. 

There are TONS of free task cards out there--  the challenge is printing, lamenating and storing. Storing is my biggest problem, but I think I am going to try using coupon envelopes and plastic containers this year.

Here are some free cards:
guided reading prompts
reading strategies  
telling time
revising editing writing
Fall sentences to expand
Journal prompts
figurative language (bee themed) 
reading strategy: visualizing
task card template: make your own!
journal prompts using natural pictures
primary source documents
Multiple meaning words
Dictionary skills

There are tons of them all over the place!!
How do you use task cards and how do you store them?


Tuesday, July 14, 2015


There are so many possibilities with this unit, and I don't do all of the same things every year, but I do use a couple of the same read a-louds.   I always begin the unit with a chart about character traits that they know about Columbus.  Using their schema, they normally give me the regular traits- hero, brave, curious, adventurous.  The next books I read paint a different side of Columbus.  Pedro's Journal is historical fiction by Pam Conrad.  

Pedro was an actual person on Columbus's Ship and was a cabin boy.  The journal is a mostly true description of the voyage.  The author did take some liberties because the journal was "incomplete."  It sheds a whole new light on Christopher Columbus. A great read-- and if you have time there are many activities for this book.

Our Standards for this unit are: 

4.1.3 Explain the political, economic, and  technological factors that led to the exploration of   the  new world by Spain, Portugal, France, the Netherlands, and England, including the competition between nations, the expansion of international trade, and the technological advances in shipbuilding and navigation. 

 Marco Polo isn't in our standards, but I feel he is important because he was a reason that many explorers were sailing.  They wanted to find the same spices and riches that he had. 
The video gives students  a glimpse of the time period and and how isolated the Europeans were from Asia.
Powerpoint  Kind of dry,  but parts can be used to make a tree map in their notebook, and the illustrations give kids an idea of what an astrolabe or caravel looked like. 
This document has good information and can be cut up to put into an interactive notebook. When I find myself not having the time for everyone to write the information down themselves, this is my back up. I do make sure that students read it with me before we glue it in.  To review, we will sometimes read the information aloud together again. 

When time lends itself for students to write the information themselves,  I found this example of an interactive notebook page  and really I found a ton of fantastic things on this site that I use through all my units.    
 I did find a great foldable that has a great connection to synonyms!  The unit is a free on TpT-- and I absolutely love to take any opportunity I can to incorporate ELA skills into my social studies.     

 When I finish with the book Pedro's journal, I read Encounter. 
 this is a great opportunity to discuss point of view being that the story is being told from a Taino Boy's Point of view.

Between those two books, we create a double bubble map. (another way to compare and contrast books-- I expose them to both the double bubble map and a Venn diagram throughout the year. )  

This becomes a major writing assignment for us as we discuss how to turn our graphic organizers into a five paragraph composition.

 4.1.4  Summarize the accomplishments of the Vikings and the Portuguese, Spanish, English, and French explorers, including Leif Eriksson, Columbus, Hernando de Soto, Magellan,
Henry Hudson, John Cabot, and La Salle.

 There are so many resources that support research for this standard. (Love the songs here)  And to be perfectly honest, that is what I do.  Each group becomes an expert on an explorer.  ( I normally model one to begin with)  We create a pocket for our notebook, and "trading cards."   Students are jigsawed (That will be another post) so that each person in every expert group is  placed in a new group.  From there, students share the new information and they complete new trading cards for the other explorers.  Once everyone has their cards completed, we will go over each explorer and create a map to go in their notebook for each explorer.  I like the maps on this free store item, so I  use them for the students.

Close Reads: 
 Conflict over North American Lands

Early Explorers
John Cabot interactive lesson and quiz 

Guided reading:
 Megellan plus a map

Leif Erikson 
Vikings   reading passages and assessments here-

The Ballad of Megellan
Hernando Desoto
The real story of Columbus
  • 4-2.1. 

    Summarize the cause-and-effect relationships of the Columbian Exchange.
Effects of European colonization
Video-- Effects of Columbian exchange

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Eastern Woodlands

Our state chunks all the eastern woodlands together. It is a lot of information. A chapter book read aloud that I have used for several years is Sees Behind Trees by Micheal Dorris. Great hook for the book here.

I always start this book at the beginning of the native American Unit-- hopefully by the time we are finished with the unit, the students have used all the clues to figure out what region is used as the setting.   The indicators that are easily used for this text throughout the unit are:
  • SCCCRL5.1 Making Inferences
  • SCCCRL 6.1 Determining the Theme; summarizing
  • SCCCRL8.1a How conflicts cause a character to change or revise plans
  • SCCCRL9.1 How the author uses imagery to shape tone
  • SCCCRL9.2 How authors word choice creates mood; emphasizes aspects of character or contributes to the meaning.
This document has some great text based questions--that go with this text-- the standards that they list are the common core--
(Which are VERY  close to our SC College and Career standards.)
Micheal Dorris uses fantastic word choice to help readers visualize the story.  Some activities that go with this book that I plan to use in workstations this year:
Sees Behind Trees activities
Free vocabulary powerpoint

Micheal Dorris has two other books that are amazing!  The first one is Guests.

I can never get to this book (it touches on the colonist's encounter with the natives)  and do my exploration chapter book too-- but I have found that I have a few students who are good readers like to read this book once I have finished with Sees Behind Trees.

 I did use this book a few years ago, but I didn't read Sees Behind trees that year. I did a few wampum activities with my students.

 The second book is one I need to order and read.  A few of my teacher friends use this when they are finishing their Native American Unit-- because the time period is 1492--Columbus's arrival.  The book is Morning Girl.

Any of these books would be great to compare and contrast to one another if you have the time to read the books.  As you discuss themes-- there are some common themes-- especially in Guests and Sees Behind Trees.

A must have for me--is this book:

It has the content I need to teach this area.  I use the informational pages as close reads and we glean our information about this region from the close reads.  There are times when I will assign groups an informational page and they write down the key information (central ideas) and then they Jigsaw.  I will blog later about that one. :)
 We use tree maps for this information, but the Jigsaw graphic organizer  is good too.

Guided reading
Eastern Woodlands  We practice highlighting evidence from the text to support our answers
Native Poetry   I will periodically choose a poem for guided reading and we will discuss stanzas, figurative language, rhyme scheme, and even the theme. This site has several to choose from.
 Legend with questions 

Interactive computer activities
Native American Interactive sites 
Native American Activities Good for a workstation at the smart board or computer

Southern Eastern Woodlands
Lower Level Learners modified quiz
topic sentences and details (Iroquois theme)
Gathering Nouns (ELA with a native Theme)

Monday, July 6, 2015

Social Studies Long Range Planning

I have been teaching for 23 years. I have tried a lot of new things. Some worked. Some ended in disaster. I have finally gotten a system that I like and that works for me.  The standards that I teach begin with First Americans and spans all the way through the Civil War.

August-- I teach procedures, review continents; archeology
               ELA skills: pretest/ gather data

September-- Early Americans/Land Bridge Theory; 5 Native American Regions
                     My chapter book read aloud is  Sees Behind Trees.
                      Major Writing for the month: opinion paper- should Mammoths be Cloned?
                                 ELA skills: summarizing; central idea

October-- Explorers
                 My chapter book read aloud: Pedro's Journal and picture book:
                  Major writing: compare/contrast Pedro's Journal and Encounter
                  ELA: inference; theme; ( comparing /contrasting point of view). 

November-- Colonization
                    My major chapter book: Sign of the Beaver
                    Major writing assignment: compare and contrast Jamestown and Plymouth
                    ELA skills: author's craft

December--- French and Indian War; begin events leading to the American Revolutions
                     Major Chapter book: George Washington's Socks
                      Major writing: Opinion/ Point of view writing-- patriot, French, Indian-- who owns the
                                               Ohio river valley!
                      ELA skills: compare/contrast primary secondary sources

January: --- Events leading to the American Revolution; American Revolution
                    Major Chapter book: finish George Washingtons Socks/ Numbering all the Bones
                    Major writing assignment: American Revolution Hero
                    ELA skills: text features; inferencing

February: Constitution
                 Major chapter Book: finish Numbering all the Bones
                 Major writing assignment: What does freedom mean to you?
                  ELA skills: Text structure

March: Westward Expansion
              Chapter book: Facing West
               Major Writing assignment: Oregon trail/point of view Journal entries project
               ELA skill: summarizing; comparing contrasting texts

April: events leading to the Civil War; Civil War
              Chapter book:  Will at the Battle of Gettysburg 1863 (this is a new one I am going to use this
                                        coming year)
              Major Writing: Biography
              ELA:  review skills

May: Review; ABC social studies book
 Major chapter book:  Summer of the Monkeys ( nothing to do with       Social studies. I just LOVE this book)
Major writing: My Over-the-top Plans for an Awesome Summer (I also review cursive writing  this month)
           ELA skills: group debates; DBQs and research

I have tons of picture books that I read throughout the year that also go along with the social studies, and in addition,  I incorporate all kinds of journal writing and paragraph writing.  Some units lend themselves better to the ELA standards than others-- and I plug the rest of them in where they "fit" the best in regard to the social studies.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Native Americans: The Great Plains

I love this region.  These are the traditional Indians and homes that students think about when you say Native Americans.  There is a ton of resources out there for this group-- and if you aren't careful, you could spend way too much time here.


The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush is a legend that takes place in the southern plains. If you don't have a copy of the book, it is read aloud on youtube.

Another book in the same region The Legend of the Blue Bonnet

These two books are great for comparing and contrasting. 

I often use Venn Diagrams or Double Bubble maps for comparing and contrasting, but I found this free resource on  Once again, the membership is free.
So many of our standards have students comparing and contrasting characters, literature, primary/secondary sources that I want to give them as much experience with this as I can.

Guided reading group:

I use A Boy called Slow as a small group guided reading lesson--

I found this whole group of skills that you could pick and choose from based on the need of your kids that is based on the book. 

I also use another book called    Powow   for a guided reading small group. This is great to show the kids that the text structure is sequence of events.

Once again I purchased the Ebook Unit on the Plains Indians.

This is a must have for close reads about the culture and lives of the Plains Indians. We also use the material for creating a tree map about this group of natives. 

The Importance of the Buffalo

Shared reading: 
Poem: Buffalo Dusk   also on youtube

All about Tipis
All about Buffalo
Buffalo activity 
Study cards, questions and more  ( Free account)
Hero stories with writing activities

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Native Americans: The Great Basin

I pulled out my Native American Unit notebook and as I began reorganizing it from last year, and the year before..... I began to notice that I have tons of resources for all the regions except The Great Basin area.  I have no known read a-louds, I have no fun activities, and I have one chart that I give them and we go over the parts of the chart-- reading somethings together- others I read. We color in our map (I use page 13 from these plans) and then we review what we have already done.

The Great Basin has been getting the shaft.  I need to do better and come up with some resources to use this year.
I am going to fervently search for resources and try to add to this page.  What I have already  found is this:


I have ordered this book from Amazon and I hope it will be a great addition to the unit.
If you can't get  the book, here is the story on youtube.
In addition, I also found this book--  Coyote Steals Fire

I will be ordering this book before school starts too. 
( have to space out the purchases.... you know... so the husband doesn't see large purchases for school at one time. -- I KNOW you KNOW what I mean!)

Close read:
The Great Basin
The Shoshone     A membership to is free-- which is where I found this resource.

True and false (Independent or group)