Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Writing Using Illustrations from Picture Books

Do you have reluctant writers in your classroom?  What have you tried?  Why are they having trouble? 

 Often times, I have found that students get writer’s block when they are left up to their own devices.  I know if I am told to “just write” during writer’s workshop, I too find myself having the dreaded writer’s block.  Sometimes I just need that little nudge to get my creative juices flowing. 

Last year, my school began using Lucy Calkin’s Writers Workshop series.  I enjoyed the modeling aspect, because it allowed me to use what was familiar to me to help my students pick out what stories from their lives they wanted to share.  It also made the process more “real”.  Anything that we can do to give our students a connection to their “real” lives outside of school, the better.  This series concentrates on non-fiction writing.  However, the students keep asking me when we are ever going to be able to write fiction stories.  I always let them during Working on Writing part of Daily 5, because they are craving it.  Though, this was not always true for everyone.  So what do I do for those little authors that have trouble writing on their own? 

I cover up the words of fictional books that they already know and tell them to tell the story in their own words.  This can mean a number of things.  They can rewrite their stories to tell a totally different story, or they can write rewrite the story in different words (such as a summary).  I LOVE to see what they come up with and they have something to share with the group just like all of the other authors. 

The beauty of this way is that they can work on summarization and retelling skills as well as their own craft.  One book I have used with my older students in 4th and 5th grades is the True Story of the Three Little Pigs.  It is always fun to see what they come up with.  A story that I have used with my 1st and 2nd Graders is Dr. Suess’ Green Eggs and Ham.  Try using old fairy tales, bedtime stories, and nursery rhymes.  Their twists are often a hoot. 

Often it’s best to start in a student’s comfort zone and help scaffold them to a new height. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Buzz: a Multiplication Game

When I was in third grade and beginning to learn my multiplication tables, my teacher introduced my class to the game of Buzz. To this day, I use that easy game to introduce multiplication to my second grade enrichment group but also to my third grade intervention groups.

How to play:

Participants sit in a circle. The teacher or adult announces the fact group for the round and starts the round with saying the number 1. The next player continues counting with two or buzz depending on the fact group. For each multiple in the fact group, the player whose turn it is on a multiple of that number must say buzz. If they do not, they are out and the very next player must say buzz. You continue until you get to that number times twelve or one player remains.

A sample round:

Teacher say threes facts and starts with one. Next student says two, next says buzz, next four, then five, then buzz. The next player must say seven, but they say six so they are out. Numbers that are buzzed may not be said aloud.

Players only get one chance to get it right. If they start to say the wrong number, they are out. Also if the wrong number is "buzzed" they are out.

I always do a practice round using the multiples of two. All players that are out in one round are allowed back in the next.

I have played this with my nephew at the dinner table, and it can be played with just two people. Try it in the car or during class bathroom breaks while you wait for kids to return.

Have fun!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Free Grammar Ebook and a Sale

Today I am officially back to the grind.  I have missed the routine of being in the classroom and the students, but I am sad to see my time with my daughter go!  Time flies by so fast, doesn't it?  Today is our first go at daycare and this mama is a nervous wreck!  To make myself feel better about it, I am offering 10% off at my TeachersPayTeachers store and this Subject Noun Safari ebook free. Here are a couple of sample pages of this very basic ebook showing examples of subject nouns:

Have a great Monday!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Making a Comeback

I apologize for my long absence.  I have been taking this precious time since December to care for and get to know my little girl.  I wouldn't have traded it for the world!  I just wish I could stay home with her all of the time.  We can teach other people's kids from home right?? I wish that was the case, but alas it is not.  I will be going back to work Friday.  Wish me luck! 

To celebrate my blogging comeback I am offering a St. Patrick's Day Freebie.   

Copyright Colleen Zehr

This is a sight word card game that's great for a center or small group activity. Game includes 2 different sets of sight word cards according to the levels Pre-Primer and Primer. It contains Dolch Sight Word Cards and blanks for vocabulary words you would like to add.

How to Play:

Choose card sets to use. There are 2 sets of words. You can use 1 or more sets per game. Select at least 3 Uh-Oh cards for the game.

Place cards face down in a draw pile. Players take turns reading a card from the draw pile. If they read the card correctly, they keep the card and any cards in the discard pile. If they read it incorrectly, the card goes into the discard pile. If a player draws an Uh-Oh card, the player must discard all of their cards into the discard pile. The winner is the player who holds the most cards when time is called.

Warning: This is a game that does not end unless a time limit is provided. 5-10 minutes per session is a good place to start.

I have used this game in the past for different holidays.  For Halloween, we played boo.  You take ghost cutouts and write the sight words on them and include cards marked with boo to be used like the Uh-Oh cards.  We play Gobble for Thanksgiving. 

A larger version including sight word cards for 1st, 2nd and 3rd is available for sale at TeachersPayTeachers here:  My TeachersPayTeachers Store

Thank you loyal followers and I hope you'll be seeing more of me soon! 


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Student Motivation and the Gifted

I had the priveledge of attending the Kansas Associatoin of the Gifted, Talented, and Creative conference here this past week.  There were many wonderful speakers at the conference. 

One in particular (Scott Hobson) got me thinking about how even gifted students need a push sometimes in motivation.  We don't always equip them with ways to cope with things that don't come easy to them.  He said that we often let kids give up way too easily.  One way to accomplish this is to give logic stories such as the Stories with Holes from  You don't give the kids hints and you don't give the story a deadline.  You read it to them, let them come to their own conclusion and only give yes or no answers.  These are great for critical and out of the box thinking. 

Something I find with my high ability/gifted students is that they are often only motivated by the things that interest them. (Isn't that true of most people?) But getting them to go beyond their comfort zone can be a challenge.  Mr. Hobson says we aren't doing kids any favors by making them "comfortable".  He isn't saying abuse the kids or try to bully them, but you try to get them to go out of their zones of comfort in ways that show it's ok to be wrong.  No one is perfect, so it's exhausting trying to be.  It's ok to fail as long as you learn from it. 

I just wanted to share with you these little thoughts as I have been thinking a lot about them this week. 


Monday, September 17, 2012

A Cute Story

Every year, I forget how little kindergarteners really are when the begin school.  I am quickly reminded when I have to gently coax them out of their cars at the beginning of the day or watch a napping child while the rest of their class goes to specials. 

I was again reminded the other day when I was  administering a Math CBM to a kindergartener.  We were doing some addition, a skill to which many in K have not yet been introduced.  When approaching a problem such as 3 + 4, this little boy put 3 fingers up on one hand and 4 on the other.  Then, figuring out he didn't have any more fingers to point with, he proceeded to use his nose to point to each finger as he counted!  He continued in this way with other questions.  It definitely brought a smile to my face.

His simple strategy guided him to the correct answers, while reminding me that there are numerous ways to solve problems.  They might not be the way that we expect, but they can be just as effective. 

Happy Monday and remember to keep an eye out for those student-created strategies!