Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Engaging Students in Writing with a Sandwich

Need help motivating your students to write organized paragraphs?  This highly engaging classroom anchor activity will be a go to lesson throughout the whole year.

We've been back to school for about 3 weeks now and it has been very busy!  Today I taught one of my favorite lessons to my new class:  How is a Paragraph Like a Sandwich?   I love this lesson for several reasons:

1.  It totally engages the students!  My students were right with me the entire time.
2.  It is an anchor lesson that I come back to time after time throughout the year.
3.  So many writing skills are introduced in this one lesson.
4.  At the end of it, I get a great sandwich which I eat for lunch!

I started out with a bag full of sandwich ingredients and random items from my pantry.  Well, they might seem random, but I actually picked each item on purpose.

  • Choose items you would actually put on a sandwich.  I brought ham, turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and mustard.  
  • Choose some items you would eat on a sandwich, but are unexpected (with a little "spice"), such as pepperoncini, jalapeƱos, or spicy mustard.  
  • Bring items that you wouldn't eat on a sandwich, but would make a great "paragraph" of a different topic.  I brought pasta, pasta sauce, and parmesan cheese.  
  • Bring items that are exciting, that students would love, but have nothing to do with a sandwich.  I brought a kook-aid packet, popcorn, cat foot, and a TWINKIE!
I started off by having my ingredients in a mysterious bag on a desk placed right in the middle of the carpet.  Students were intrigued right off the bat because it was unusual to have a desk there and they had no idea what was in the bag.  

I had prepared my anchor chart with the question "How is a paragraph like a sandwich?" and a lightly penciled in drawing of a sandwich which I would draw in at the end of the lesson.  

As I gathered my students to the carpet, I shared with them the topic of the lesson and had them pair-share what they thought a sandwich and a paragraph have in common.  

After letting them share I told them that this morning I went around my kitchen gathering "ideas" for a great sandwich and this is what I came up with...  Then I dramatically pulled my items one by one out of the bag, making a big deal out of all my GREAT IDEAS!  Students think it is hilarious that I have popcorn, cat food, and a Twinkie!  When I got all of my ideas out on the desk I ask students what the first thing I need for a sandwich is.  BREAD of course!  

Starting with the bread, I ask students to share what ideas/ingredients should come next in my sandwich paragraph.  After the basics: bread, mayo, and meat, I put on the top piece of bread and ask students if I have a sandwich.  

Yes, but do I have a GREAT SANDWICH???!   CAN WE MAKE IT EVEN BETTER!!?  CAN WE SPICE IT UP!!!?  YES!!  YES, WE CAN!!!!!!!!!!  
Need help motivating your students to write organized paragraphs?  This highly engaging classroom anchor activity will be a go to lesson throughout the whole year.

As we add more details to our sandwich paragraph, students often disagree with the order and I adjust or "reorganize" my sandwich as new items are added.  This models for students that details don't always fit where placed and it is okay to move things around.  

Unfailingly, a brave student will suggest the Jello or the Twinkie.  I always say that that is a GREAT idea!!!!...  but does it fit in this paragraph?  When a student suggests the pasta sauce, I let them know that the pasta sauce is a great detail, but wouldn't that idea fit better in a paragraph about spaghetti?  

One of the things I really try to model for students is that they need to make their writing interesting.  They need to SPICE IT UP!!!  We spice up our sandwich with peppers, but how do we spice up our writing?  With surprising facts, interesting word choices, and unusual details that still fit the topic.  

When we have used up all of the ingredients to make our AWESOME sandwich, I always take a huge bit and go on and on about how WONDERFUL and TASTY this paragraph is!!  The kids love it!

When the students have settled down a bit, we take a look at our anchor chart.  I ask students to remind me what was on the sandwich and I draw the ingredients in.  I then label the parts (topic sentence, conclusion sentence, and details) with some help from the class.  I still need to go in and add some of the connections students made to my anchor chart, but this is what it looks like at this point.  
Need help motivating your students to write organized paragraphs?  This highly engaging classroom anchor activity will be a go to lesson throughout the whole year.

I then randomly choose students to tell me what they learned from the lesson about how a paragraph is like a sandwich.  I got some great answers this year.

"Not all ideas fit in the paragraph.  You can have great ideas, but they don't make sense in the paragraph."

"Sometimes you have to move around ideas to make the paragraph better."

"You want to use interesting ingredients to add spice to your paragraph."

"The topic sentence and the conclusion sentence are similar but a little different."

All in all, I think the students really learned a lot from this lessons and I'll be able to draw on it for months to come.  I've posted the anchor chart on the wall for reference for the students and had a great sandwich for lunch.  I call that a success!  
Need help motivating your students to write organized paragraphs?  This highly engaging classroom anchor activity will be a go to lesson throughout the whole year.

Do you have a great idea for a fun and engaging writing lesson?  I would love to hear about them.  Share them in the comments section below!  

Thanks for visiting!  

Saturday, September 6, 2014

From Frightening to Fabulous: Classroom Reveal

Hello Friends!

It was a rough start to the school year for me.  I'm one of those people who goes in a week early on my own time and sorts, organizes, and staples my way to a nice tidy classroom before the actually "start day".  This year my plans were foiled by.........   my gall bladder.

Two weeks before teachers were due to report back to school I had to, quite unexpectedly, have surgery to remove that angry little organ.  I wasn't released to go back to work until the official start day and, even then, I was suppose to "take it easy"... yeah...  right!  Some people think our jobs are just about talking in front of the class and shuffling papers...  ummm...  not even close!

This is what I came back to on that Monday:
So, between mandatory meetings, lesson planning, and such I put in 12+ hour days to get to where my classroom is now...  or at least to where it was before the kids walked in the door.

Disclaimer...   You know that magical moment when you stand back and survey your hard work?  That teeny tiny moment when everything is "perfect"?  Most of the following pic were taken during that moment...  before my wonderful new kiddos walked in the door with their backpacks, pencil-shaving-creating pencil sharpeners, snack wrappers, and supplies galore.  :)  Gotta love them!

The Library

 Picture books and magazines.  I used patterned contact paper to cover the wood paneling on the front of this bookcase.  I love how it turned out!
 We participate in Battle of the Books, so those books will be located under the armor and shield.
 I teach 4th grade, so my books are organized by genre and author.  These book baskets hold author and series specific books.

Science Station
The science station houses a microscope, books, hand lenses, jeweler's loupes, and a variety of objects (rocks, fossils, plants, etc.) for students to study.

Our first science unit is about the brain, the senses, and mindfulness.  I decided to create group signs with different colors and these symbols.  I made them on PowerPoint, so when we switch topics, it will be easy to create new group signs to go with the curriculum.

The Front of the Classroom
Along the front wall I have inspirational Subway posters (purchased from  The Brown Bag Teacher on TeachersPayTeachers.com), my favorite books for back to school.  I love to read Chrysanthemum and we talk about our names.  I also read "It's Hard to be a Verb", a great book for students who have difficulty concentrating and staying in their seats.  

Here is the main part of the classroom ready for the first day.  I buy book boxes from Ikea and I have wire "cubbies" for each of the students.  I don't put a lot of bulletin boards or posters on the walls to start the year.  We create anchor charts, display our work, and show off our art on the walls as the year progresses.

The Teacher's Corner/Small Group Area

This year I decided to let go of my desk and replace it with a multi-purpose round table.  This is where I plan on meeting for conferences, holding small reading groups, and doing my planning.  This is my favorite part of the room.  It is my ZEN place.  My goal is to keep it looking like this ALL YEAR LONG... which is not small task for me.  I am a clutter keeper.  I fight is every year and every year I LOSE!  

 My CAFE wall is here, close to my table.  I used paper plates I found at Walmart and some die-cut letters I had.  Of course, This isn't done, but it is a start.
If you follow my blog, you probably recognize the pennant banner hanging.  I posted a quick tutorial on how to create one.

This is my favorite spot.  My favorite books, my favorite colors, my favorite animal.  Ahhhh....  makes me happy.

Outside the door of our pod, my teammates and I created this WELCOME bulletin board.  We wrote the names of our students on each of the grapes and organized them into their classes.

Outside our class, in the hall, are the pennant banners students completed the first week of school.  You can find these pennants as part of my "All About Me and VIP" product on TpT.

Well, there you have it!  From frightening to fabulous!  I hope you have fun touring my classroom and have an idea or two to take away with you!  I hope you visit again soon!

BTW...  I recently started posting on Instagram.  I tend to post quick pics more often there, so if you are on Instagram, consider following me there.  You'll find me under #literacylovescompany

Have a great weekend!