June 29, 2015

Writing Snappy Reports

I am on my third week of summer and already doing a back to school countdown. As I reflect on last school year, I couldn't stop thinking about my student's writing. Before the school year ended, we briefly cover a unit on ecosystem and habitat while focusing on sea life. I must say I was amazed at my student's progress in writing.We went from writing one sentence to a couple of sentences and sometimes paragraphs! So, today I wanted to share one of those mini units were their writing just soared!

I like to start these unit as whole group and gradually release the responsibility to the student. I began by making a circle map and checking for prior knowledge. A picture of a real crab was shown and passed around for them to see.You will be surprised at the amount of children that have never seen a real crab!  This easily lead to a conversation about crabs. As the children shared, I will called them to the easel to jot down their schema. The other children are either jotting down their ideas in their own circle map or copying from the one we are doing together.  Every time we write on the circle map, one type of color is used to represent our schema at the beginning of the unit. As we learn more about crabs, we add to the circle map with a different color of marker. The color of markers changes to reflect our new schema. Its a quick way to assess the class. 

We continued our research by reading multiple books about crabs. I read books that are both fiction and non-fiction. This easily allows me to integrate reading and writing skills into the unit. Before, we begin reading I passed out one of the recording sheet for the kids to jot down their ideas while we are discussing or reading the books. Depending on the reading skill we are focusing on, I will pick one of the recording sheet to do first. 

The recording sheets I provided can be done in any order. There are years, where the first two recording sheets will be completed in a span of two or three days. This all depends on the students ability, time and learning objective. When the recording sheets are introduced, the children are either doing what I’m modeling in the easel or they are filling the recording sheet on their own. All the children have clipboards, so recording their work while I read makes it easier and time efficient. If you don’t have clipboards, I suggest giving them a textbook instead. Also, do not skip reading aloud to your students. It is such a vital component even if they know how to read. 

After the kids have completed their recording sheets. The last recording sheet, we do is Did You Know Crabs…?. This recording sheet is used as an outline or a guide for their report. We usually completed it after all the books have been read, circle map and recording sheets have been completed. The kids are now ready to complete their research booklet by writing what they have learned about crabs. So, all of those recording sheets come in handy!

There are two templates for the research booklets. I don't do both! I really take into consideration the  time and supplies I have available at that time. There are years where I can make the copies of  the first template but I’m also short on time. The first template saves me time and the booklet can be completed within a two day span. The second template, requires the kids to draw their own version of a crab. Every year I’m amazed at the quality of art and creativity these children have! 

As a follow up activity, I place the recording sheets in a bin with the books we have read and others I have found at my local library. As part of their center work, the kids continue to further their knowledge of marine life by completing the handout of their choice as independent work. It's great to see how they keep coming back for more. This is a topic that always gets them excited and I love it! 

I would love to hear what are some topics that gets your kids excited to write?  Click on the picture below to get it ! 

Link up to the #tptsellerchallenge! It is week 3 of this challenge and showcase your masterpiece! 

Sparkling in SecondPeppy Zesty Teacherista

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June 24, 2015

So, Let's Talk Dialogue & Freebie

Summer vacation has turned more into plan everything for next school year. Well I think its like that for every teacher. But, I feel that out of all the summers this has been the most productive one in terms of planning. In that planning mode, I have wanted to add and make changes to my writing units. I started with dialogue because I get so excited teaching this. It has to be one of my favorite things to teach next to every writing unit I have ever taught. Why? well that's easy because writing curriculum are open and not strict unlike some other subjects. I have so much flexibility and my creativity goes wild!

When teaching dialogue, I have noticed many kids have no idea they can do that in their writing. They majority of the time they think they are breaking some writing rule. I am not sure why, but that's the case with my class. I hear them say things like " I didn't know you can write what your characters say", I usually respond with "of course, you can!" For other children dialogue is a natural thing. It flows , it glows it goes with their writing. All they need is some basic guidelines likes where to put the commas and punctuation marks. From those experiences came this mini unit. I was able to reach my little ones that are just new to dialogue and those more experienced with it. 

So how do I use this in my class? Well, that depends on the kids and grade level I'm teaching. Overall, I do this whole group and I reinforce it during small group or conferencing. The kids love it and it just make writing approachable. My end goal for this mini lesson is for the kids to know what dialogue looks likes and what it supposed to be.

The Start

Before this unit we have read and seen many examples of dialogue as readers. I start by reviewing what we already know about dialogue. Then I show them the All About Dialogue Note handout. If its an upper elementary class, I give it to them. If it’s a first or second grade class, I use it as a cheat sheet for me. We make an anchor chart at the end of every mini lesson. I have noticed that my younger kids are still learning the concept of what notes are. Some of them get overwhelm, so anchor charts have worked well with them. Remember its all about that differentiated instruction, that where the magic really starts! 

The Meat & Potatoes  

Next, we do a quick write on the carpet. The little ones share their big ideas and what they want their characters to say. I show them my quick write after. I noticed some kids just copy everything you do and when is their turn they have don't have the slightest idea where to start.  I usually let them share with their partners or pick one or two before sharing mines. This naturally leads to a conversation about how dialogue can advance the story or reel in the reader. I try not to expand on this much because that's another lesson for another day. Mini lesson work best when you keep the actual mini lesson short, straight to the point and there is only one objective. 

Their Turn 

Last, I send them off  back to their writing post with their quick write. There are times where they are working on other writing pieces, I  tell them to put this at the side for a moment and come back to it after. Depending on the group, the type of paper where they are going to expand their quick write changes. some kids gravitated towards certain format, other kids would write in any paper. I only pick the type of paper for certain kids. Others I know they will make the right choice for them.

From here they expand on the quick write and turned it into a dialogue. There’s no predetermined topic or theme the kids need to stick with. My main goal is for them to have a strategy to apply when they are writing.  During conferencing times, I make an emphasis of how I visualized the characters talking to each other. I have found this strategy to be beneficial for the kids that don’t know where to add dialogue.  

Wrapping It Up 

We end the activity with the little ones sharing their dialogue within their small groups. I don't called them back to the carpet because I want the transition to be quick and fast. I loose them when there's to much movement! During the sharing time, I run into those little problems that seem like no bid deal until they become chaotic. For example, there's always someone that wants to share with a friend that sits way in the other side of the room. Well here is my solution, I tell them that they can do this with their actual writing piece right before it get publish. They nod look at you and then they just replied "OK". After their sharing, which takes a couple of minutes. I show them my end product and add it to the anchor chart. Here is one writing sample. 

Our quick write at this time get stapled to the writing notebook. We then place the anchor chart in a good spot in the classroom for about two weeks. Then it comes down. Before bringing it down I take a picture of it and place it in a binder with all of the other anchor charts. I have a lot of kids that at times forget how to do certain thing so I always point to the binder. It also saves me from doing a lot of talking and focusing more on individually conferences. 

Well that's a wrap! Snag this freebie in my store by clicking the picture below. Let me know how it went with your class, I love to hear feedback and stories. 

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June 22, 2015

Week 2: Dare to Dream

How exciting this week challenge is dare to dream. Oh boy, who doesn't have dreams? Ever since I started my teaching journey I have always know that I was meant to do big things.as time passes these big dreams of mines are always shifting and being modify. Over the years I have learned ( I sound like if I'm 100 years old) that dreams drive me to continue my adventures and reach my goals that I set for myself. So what are my dreams? What are my goals in this journey as an author, seller and teacher?

The first thing that came immediately to my mind was my student debt! Oh that loan that no matter what happens, its like a pesky a little fly. Ever since finishing grad school, I have slowly started to pay if of. Every month seems like a struggle though. Even though I'm very grateful for the opportunity to go to school and continue to go. I felt that I went in to college unprepared. Not until I was in the shuffle and struggle did I learn the important of savings and planning. So one of my big dress is to pay off those loans in order to start achieve financial freedom.

In the topic of financial freedom comes the dream of living a simple life. Now living a simple I feel is a style of living that at times seems to be impossible when I start to look around. Living a simple life includes how I live, how I think and what I do. Financial freedom from debt among other things I feel will simplify somewhat of the process.

And of course I can't forget to dream about fixing my little cozy nook. I love my house and the freedom that it has brought me. But it doesn't mean that I wouldn't like to see finally some kitchen cabinets up and a counter. Yep, you have heard it straight, I  live in house without a kitchen. Well I have an outside kitchen, so I guess that counts! We have recently moved in to a house about seven months ago. The process has been slow but we are getting there. Even though it needs some cosmetic changes here and there, I wouldn't trade the peace and comfort I have now. But adding a kitchen would be nice as well!

Last but not least, I would love to travel. I love seeing the world around me and learning about new cultures. I am a fanatic of culture and history. I love seeing how different people live and partake in their everyday living. I am amazed and always curious about their history. One of my goals is to see the seven wonders of the world. Traveling is always exciting, fun and costly. Maybe starting out small would be a good idea for now!

There you have it folks, my tiny but not so little dreams. What are some of your dreams as you have embarked on this TPT journey? Join in the conversation by linking up !

Sparkling in Second
Peppy Zesty Teacherista

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June 16, 2015


Today is day 2 of the #tptsellerchallenge hosted by a couple of fantastic ladies! The second product that needed a makeover was my Fry's Word List. I am amazed by the amount of older kiddoes that still have trouble spelling some of these words. So, needless to say I always pop this little product out for those kids in need. Let's start with some of the things I love before getting into the changes.

Here is a preview of what it looked like before. Well, this is not the exact product I change but it is a portion of it. I got so caught up in the makeover that I accidentally forgot and take pictures of the original one. Things that I love about this product:

- Function: even though is for the little ones I can still use it with the big ones. It is not geared to only one specific grade but better to the needs of your class and student.

- Option: I love the color and black & white template. Sometimes the words will get lost in the room and I didn't want to waste ink of a whole sheet so instead I will print the word I need and let the kids color it in.

-Size: the size of the overall words were great for my classroom. I didn't have a lot of space to put this up in a word wall so I was able to put as a center.

- Versatile: I love how it can go from a center activity to a word wall and go with a theme. The kids loved playing with these sight words. I purchase actual popcorn container from the Dollar Tree. The kids would play this in small group or with a partner. They would pull out the word and their partner would spell it out. They kept their own tally sheet of who would spell the most word correctly.

Now let's talk about the change. Obviously the clip art and cover needed a makeover. Don't you just feel the butter dripping all over the kernels with that bright yellow, hahahaha! I have to laugh at these things, it just show the creativity at that time. You know like when you look at an old picture and you start laughing because you know at the time of the picture it was like the coolest thing ever! Well, that's kinda how I feel. So, let's see the changes

drumroll please........

Tadaa! Another product that I'm in love with and ready to start printing. You cant see it well from the picture but there was a whole bunch of things added. These changes came from the reflection that I had while looking over it. I started to remember in all the ways I used this with my kids and how many extra little things I had to create at that time to differentiated.  And those are the exact things I added to this.

I started by changing clip art and go with more subtle colors. This choice of yellow is appropriate for the eye and overall presentation. In terms of color, a certificate, ABC title heading and notebook cover were added. These changes just made the product look cohesive.

Since, I use this a lot as an intervention with my kiddoes, I added the graphs to add to their RTI folder (oh, that's another monster / summer project). It is so important to show growth not only to add to the famous data binder but for the child to see how much their hard work is paying off. I had kids that felt so motivated because they were able to color in an extra square each week. It was such an amazing experience to watch over the year. So look below for other additions. After making this again, I felt that I needed to go back and add in all the other words. So be looking out for that in a near future! For now here are previews!

You can always purchase it by clicking the link below. Hurry is currently on sale this week! 

Remember to join in the fun over at

Peppy Zesty Teacherista Sparkling in Second
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June 15, 2015

Makeover Madness: Part 1

This week I decided to join the  TPT Seller Challenge! This week is all about makeover and face lifts. I am so excited to share my first make over with a product that open the doors to this wonderful Teaching/ Blogging community I'm part of.  So, one of the first product I ever created and dared to publish on TPT was Self Portrait & Bio Poem. Mind you, remaking this product has been in my To Do List for a while now. Oh boy, I remember when I first created this. I was such a newbie that I had no idea where to start! And of course, I just went ahead open my computer and typed away in a Word Document! You believe that because I cant! Anyways moving forward it has been one of my best selling products and so happy how this makeover gave it a face list.

Let's start, with the before pictures. Oh the horror, the pain! I'm just joking! I need to give myself a little credit for this masterpiece. I got the font , pictures and cute background going on. I have to give myself a little thumbs up here. What I needed to do here was to change the quality of the overall pictures, I'm not sure if you are able to see the graininess of the cover page. I also had to do some major work on that DIY craft. The original pictures directions lack coherence and were hard to tell what in the world was going on.

One of the main things, I wanted to change was revised the jargon I used. Now, with so many changes to the standards, I needed to make sure it was kid friendly and ready to go!

So how did I solved that? well without further ado
(side note: did anyone know that the correct spelling of ado is actually ado and not adieu? )  drum roll please ......

Tadaa! My makeover went from a couple of pages to the whole thing. It just didn't feel right to just change the cover and not do the rest. It was a necessary change that couldn't be put on hold any longer.

Let's start with the changes that were made. Obviously the cover page was a major change. I love how modern and eye popping it looks. The colors of the font ,the background and the clip art looks amazing!

But, let's look at the major changes.I decided add to some notes for the kiddoes with kid friendly language. I discovered doing this that many of my fourth graders had no idea what a Bio Poem entail. The ones that got the hint we were going to do a poem got so hung up in trying to make it rhyme that completely missed the big idea.

I revamped the planning sheets for the poem and gave it more space for the kids to jot down their thoughts. One major change to this was the design of it, before it was just a whole bunch of squares with minimal directions. I also modified two questions so it can relate more to the classroom and for the kids to think about their role as a student in the class.

Another, major change was the addition of the templates for the body and where they write their final draft of the poem. I originally posted pictures of me doing the project but the picture had to many things going on in the background and the kids had a hard time following it. I added the template and provided two options for them to write their poems in. I wanted to make sure the power of choice and individuality was there.

The last change made was to the rubric. I did it with the intention for the student to understand how the project is been graded. I have a lot of kids ask but why did I get this, or how come? The rubric provides these answer and they can use it as a checklist. I usually start this project reviewing the rubric before I give them anything else. I have found it saves lots of time answering the same questions. One thing I did on purpose was leaving the point section blank. I feel that is up to each teacher to decide how and what type of point is worth every item on the rubric. In addition, there's an empty rubric. Again, depends on the class and the type of students you are dealing with. I have used an empty rubric in many ways. I have done it by first showing the kids the completed project then, we both decided how its going to be graded and we write it together. It's nice to hear what they feel is a perfect project.

Not bad for day 1 of Makeover Madness! Snag this product from my store just click on the picture.

Now it's your turn to makeover one of your products and join in! Share it by using hashtag #tptsellerchallenge  and link up with these amazing bloggers

Sparkling in Second
Peppy Zesty Teacherista

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June 8, 2015

Reflection: Classroom Theme

For many years my classroom was decorated  according to a theme . A teacher once told me , stick to one theme and develop it throughout the years . For the past five years that's exactly what I have done . But , throughout the years my frog theme didn't make sense . As a class we never study frogs , or used it in anyway to enhance our learning . And that's where the problem lay , did I had theme to enhance children's learning or to simply decorate a class? Ouch!

I believe everything in the class should enhance student learning and my cute frogs were not cutting it. What I did learned in the past five year is that children thrive in organized and welcoming classrooms . So how does one create that? The answer Maria Montessori already had it ! She believe that the presentation and organization of materials were key while bringing in the real world in.So, my goal for next couple of months is to achieve this through the use of color and overall organization of materials to create an environment that is both energizing and calm.

But what about all of those charts and mandatory stuff that need to be on wall? (I work in a public school)  That's an easy answer ! Montessori created impressionist charts after tapping into the child's imagination and explaining to the children the concept. Many of these charts served as a reminder to the children and were  used often as they continue to work on the subject.

How will I be using them in my classroom ? I plan to use them after explaining the concept and depending on their size they will be with the actual lesson on the shelf. The big charts will be placed in a bin next to the corresponding shelf for children to refer to them as needed throughout our studies .

Now in terms of overall design , the main theme that will be achieved is more of an invitation to learning. I am going to be bringing indoor plants and natural materials to place lessons on the shelf. My walls will be bare with frames of art done by commercial stores or student art that will correspond to what we are studying .

What a task ! I can't wait for the summer to develop this classroom theme further . Until now , I leave you with my goals and ideas . What themes will you be incorporating this upcoming year ?
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