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The Most Important Part of Writer's Workshop

I've been a passionate fan of Writer's Workshop ever since I learned about it a VERY long tie ago! (Not to give away my age, but I was first introduced to Writer's Workshop and the work of Donald Graves back in the 1980s!) I've been lucky to have a lot of instruction and support with the Writing Process, and have used it in my classroom with much success!

The Most Important Part of Writer's Workshop! There are many important parts of Writer's Workshop, and they're all important. But this is essential!
There are so many important parts to the process of writing! Here are some ideas!

 Is sticking to a schedule the most important part?

The Most Important Part of Writer's Workshop! There are many important parts of Writer's Workshop, and they're all important. But this is essential!
Developing a schedule is very important! Most children need the predictability of a daily schedule. Sticking to that schedule matters, but there's something more important.

 Is having the right materials the most important part?

The Most Important Part of Writer's Workshop! There are many important parts of Writer's Workshop, and they're all important. But this is essential!
Having the right materials is indeed very important! For young children, it's important for them to be writing on paper (as well as on a computer) to develop those fine motor skills. Folders with key writing tools are also valuable. Having the right materials matters, but there's something more important.
 
 Is checking their daily work the most important part?

The Most Important Part of Writer's Workshop! There are many important parts of Writer's Workshop, and they're all important. But this is essential!
 
It's very important to check the students work frequently, but it would be insane to try to check every piece of writing they ever wrote! Checking their work is one of the strategies to help you plan what you need to teach. Checking their work matters, but there's something more important.

 Is pre-writing the most important part?

The Most Important Part of Writer's Workshop! There are many important parts of Writer's Workshop, and they're all important. But this is essential!
Just like athletes need a warm-up, so do writers! Many activities can be considered pre-writing: talking, drawing a picture, making a list, free-writing, outlining, or doing research are some ways that writers warm up before the true writing happens. Pre-writing matters, but there's something more important.

Are Individual conferences the most important part?

The Most Important Part of Writer's Workshop! There are many important parts of Writer's Workshop, and they're all important. But this is essential!
Conferencing with individuals has many benefits. Quite often having a chat about a piece of writing that's in progress will help a child progress. This is also a comfortable one-on-one time to give a student plenty of positive feed back. Individual conferences matter, but there's something more important.
 
 Are mini-lessons the most important part? 

The Most Important Part of Writer's Workshop! There are many important parts of Writer's Workshop, and they're all important. But this is essential!

Mini-lessons are what drives their writing skills! 
They are an opportunity to model desirable writing skills. The best way to find topics for your mini-lessons is to look at their work and see what they need modeled. Another place to find ideas for mini-lessons is in your district's writing standards. 
Mini-lessons matter, but there's something more important.
 
 Is taking a status of the class the most important part? 

The Most Important Part of Writer's Workshop! There are many important parts of Writer's Workshop, and they're all important. But this is essential!
 
Taking a status of the class helps you keep track of where your students are. It's a good place to see how long each student is spending on each step of the writing process, and if they are using their writing time productively. It's not necessary to do this each and every day, but 2-3 times a week is suggested.Status of the class matters, but there's something more important.
 
 Is giving them time to write the most important part? 

The Most Important Part of Writer's Workshop! There are many important parts of Writer's Workshop, and they're all important. But this is essential!
 
Children need to write daily. However you can squeeze it into your very busy day, make sure they've got some time to write every single day! Just like an athlete, writers need to use their skills so they don't lose their skills! Giving them time to write matters, but there's something more important.
 
 Is conferencing the most important part? 

The Most Important Part of Writer's Workshop! There are many important parts of Writer's Workshop, and they're all important. But this is essential!

Besides individual conferences, it's important to have small group conferences as well as whole class conferences. Sharing conversations about the writing of classmates can promote positive attitudes about writing, and can be very motivational as well as educational for young writers. Conferencing, but there's something more important.

 

 Is sharing the most important part?  

The Most Important Part of Writer's Workshop! There are many important parts of Writer's Workshop, and they're all important. But this is essential!
Yes! This is it! Knowing that the students will be sharing is what motivates them to write! It gives them a sense of audience! It's important that children share their writing often! They can share in a whole group conference, a small group share, or even one-on-one with partners. It's essential! Why write if no one is ever going to see it? They need that audience!

 Here are a couple of other posts about writing you might like:

Writer's Workshop: Help them learn to love writing by writing about what they love!

The Most Important Part of Writer's Workshop! There are many important parts of Writer's Workshop, and they're all important. But this is essential!

12 Ways to Celebrate Writing

The Most Important Part of Writer's Workshop! There are many important parts of Writer's Workshop, and they're all important. But this is essential!

Looking for some writing resources? 

Check these out: Writing Resources

What do you value about the Writing Process?

The Most Important Part of Writer's Workshop! There are many important parts of Writer's Workshop, and they're all important. But this is essential!

 

 

 

Sing With Your Students!

Yes, you read that correctly.

Sing with your students! 

Sing With Your Students! Research on the brain and learning tell us that singing is a great way to enhance learning. Plus, it's fun!

Oh, there are so many reasons! 

Sing With Your Students! Research on the brain and learning tell us that singing is a great way to enhance learning. Plus, it's fun!

Music, as well as most of the creative arts, activates both sides of the brain, enhancing learning! There are many, many studies that prove this, in many ways. Singing is a great way to "wake up" the brain and start the day!
 

Sing With Your Students! Research on the brain and learning tell us that singing is a great way to enhance learning. Plus, it's fun!
There are many links between music instruction and academic achievement.  I'm not expecting you to take over the music teacher's job by any means, but including music in your classroom will help make that connection! (Of course, the music teacher is a great resource for including music in the classroom!)


Singing strengthens learning and memory. I'll bet there are certain commercials you've been known to sing along with, yet at no point did you make the effort to learn those words! My generation can sing the whole Brady Bunch theme song or the Gilligan's Island theme songs without even thinking about it! Imagine if those words were important learning concepts! (Remember Schoolhouse Rock?)

Music lowers stress and increases happiness! Music brings out feelings, doesn't it? Are there certain songs you hear that bring out those happy feelings, just by hearing them? As the happy feelings rise, the stressed feelings go away!
 
Sing With Your Students! Research on the brain and learning tell us that singing is a great way to enhance learning. Plus, it's fun!
Humans connect with music! Think about some of those happy times in your life with other people. I'm willing to bet, there was music in the background! Parties just aren't fun without good music!
 
Sing With Your Students! Research on the brain and learning tell us that singing is a great way to enhance learning. Plus, it's fun!
Singing as a group increases social interaction! I've actually read that when people sing together as a group, their hearts start to beat as one. I've sung with many choruses, (as well as many students) and I'm pretty sure that really happens! Music makes a connection!

Sing With Your Students! Research on the brain and learning tell us that singing is a great way to enhance learning. Plus, it's fun!
Singing increases vocabulary! Don't be afraid to encourage children to sing certain songs because they won't understand the vocabulary. After a couple of times through, they'll figure it out, won't they? (Of course, monitor what they sing, as we all know there are some words we DON'T want in their vocabulary!)
 
Sing With Your Students! Research on the brain and learning tell us that singing is a great way to enhance learning. Plus, it's fun!
Music Sources for the Classroom: What to sing with your students? Here are a few ideas:
  1. Songs for the Class Team For Morning Meeting, Team, and Community Building (I specifically created these songs to be sung at Morning Meetings while building community.)
  2. Youtube! There are plenty of child-friendly songs for whatever you might be teaching! (Yes, Schoolhouse Rock is there!) Just google what you're teaching!
  3. Feel Good Songs: Music for the Classroom Teacher's Playlist  This is a list of songs that will make them feel good just by walking into the classroom!
  4.  Your music teacher! They know their stuff!
  5. Your students! They know what appeals to them!


 
Let them make up their own songs! We all know they are more likely to want to sing it if it's theirs!  Some hints:
  1. Have them stick to a simple tune that everyone knows, such as Happy Birthday or Row, Row, Row Your Boat.
  2. Discuss the important information that needs to be in the song. 
  3. Encourage them to make up gestures to go with their song!
 
Sing With Your Students! Research on the brain and learning tell us that singing is a great way to enhance learning. Plus, it's fun!
But I can't sing!  I have two suggestions:

  1. Use recorded music. (See Youtube!)
  2. Sing anyway! Seriously, it's not really about you or about the quality of the music. It's about the group experience. Let them see you having fun, and they'll have fun, too! (Plus, you might have some budding vocalists in your class, and you're giving them an opportunity to shine!) Seriously, it's not about you!
One last hint: children's voices are higher than most adults. You may want to sing in your range, but it's about the kids. Most children's voices land on the treble staff. (Between "middle C" and the second space from the top.) Stay out of the "basement" for the sake of the kids!


Sing With Your Students! Research on the brain and learning tell us that singing is a great way to enhance learning. Plus, it's fun!


5 Minutes a Day to Math Fact Fluency

After many years in the primary classroom, I've finally developed a sure proof system for math fact fluency. 

 

Math fact fluency is essential for success in math. This post gives several suggestions on making it part of the daily routine to make it stick!

Math fact fluency is all about memorization. 
Math fact fluency is essential for success in math. This post gives several suggestions on making it part of the daily routine to make it stick!

Before this can happen, the children need to have a basic understanding of what it means. A child can't memorize 5+2=7 Unless they understand they are joining a set of 5 items to a set of 2 items and will end up with 7 items. Once they have that understanding, they can start the memorization process. Once the facts are fluent, the related math concepts will flow far more easily!

Math fact fluency is essential for success in math. This post gives several suggestions on making it part of the daily routine to make it stick!

Yes, rote memorization is NOT the most fun part of learning.

Yes, it takes work, and some students really struggle, but we know they're all different and can help them be successful at their own levels.

Here are some suggestions for math fact fluency!

Math fact fluency is essential for success in math. This post gives several suggestions on making it part of the daily routine to make it stick!

There are 200 Addition and Subtraction facts to be memorized. There are also 200 Multiplication and Division facts to be memorized. Children can be easily overwhelmed if given that many facts all at once! 

Math fact fluency is essential for success in math. This post gives several suggestions on making it part of the daily routine to make it stick!

Give them a pattern of facts to learn at a time. Research tells us children learn best by fact families. 

Math fact fluency is essential for success in math. This post gives several suggestions on making it part of the daily routine to make it stick!
 

Each child should have a group of facts they are working on, but also a group of facts they know, and don't want to forget! Make sure they spend time reviewing the old facts as well as learning the new bunch! 

Math fact fluency is essential for success in math. This post gives several suggestions on making it part of the daily routine to make it stick!
 

Be right up front with the students. Talk about what memorization is, and how they need to do the work to memorize the facts. Share the differences between automaticity and "counting on fingers," or "figuring it out in your head." (I don't believe counting on fingers or mental math to be bad, as they are part of the process! However, we hope to get the kiddos to full automaticity eventually!) 

Talk to them about what has helped you when you had to memorize something, and encourage them to share their own memorization experiences. We're all different, but sharing ideas will help everyone! (Isn't that our goal? Teaching children to help each other so we are all successful?)

Math fact fluency is essential for success in math. This post gives several suggestions on making it part of the daily routine to make it stick!

Or as I call it in my classroom, "out soft." That means, loud enough to hear yourself, but not loud enough to disturb your classmates. Verbalizing the whole equation, not just the answer, makes an enormous difference in the learning process!

Math fact fluency is essential for success in math. This post gives several suggestions on making it part of the daily routine to make it stick!
 

Practice with friends Children are social. Practicing with a classmate makes practice more fun. Some tend to be a little competitive: let that work for them, as long as everyone is happy about it. Plus, children learn little tricks from each other. (Yes, I've learned a lot of little tricks from listening to my students!)

Math fact fluency is essential for success in math. This post gives several suggestions on making it part of the daily routine to make it stick!
 

Timed tests can be motivating for many, but there are others that "choke" with that stress. You know your students better than anyone. I give timed tests once a week, but if I see any signs of stress, I'll pull that child aside and work with them. I make it fun, but when one-on-one, I can clearly see if a child is counting on fingers, pausing to figure it out in their head, or truly has the facts memorized. No matter what, I make sure it is a positive experience with lots of praise for the things the child is doing correctly!

Math fact fluency is essential for success in math. This post gives several suggestions on making it part of the daily routine to make it stick!
 

When I feel a child is ready to move to the next level, before school starts, I'll put the next level of practice cards on their desk, to be cut out and sorted. You'd better believe there are shreiks of delight when they are found! I'm sure you know plenty of other ways to celebrate their successes as well!

Math fact fluency is essential for success in math. This post gives several suggestions on making it part of the daily routine to make it stick!

I spend time at the beginning of the school year setting routines. There are several ways the facts can be practiced: everyone practice on their own, practicing as part of math rotations, small group games, practicing on computers or devices, practicing with a teacher or adult helper, and so on! I usually teach the routines using "easy facts" before we get to the tougher ones. Once the routines are set, they're good to go!

Math fact fluency is essential for success in math. This post gives several suggestions on making it part of the daily routine to make it stick!

 Once a student has proved mastery of all the levels, of addition and subtraction, I might have that child review all the levels again. Another option is to move onto multiplication and division. Although mastery of these facts isn't necessary for first or second graders, those students who master addition and subtraction quickly are usually quite ready for the upper levels. (Just make sure they understand what it all means!)

Another option: have them work with others. Perhaps it's because my dad was a football coach, but I've always felt it's our job to look out for the whole "team," and that concept is well instilled in my students. We have not succeeded until we have all succeeded!

Math fact fluency is essential for success in math. This post gives several suggestions on making it part of the daily routine to make it stick!

These are my foolproof systems for both levels. I swear by these materials! I've used them for years and found them to be successful (and loved) by both students and teachers. 


Addition and Subtraction Facts: 

Fact Fluency System for Addition and Subtraction: The Bundle 

Multiplication and Division Facts: 

Fact Fluency System for Multiplication and Division: The Bundle

or get them both in this bundle: 

 Math Fact Fluency System: the Bundle

Math fact fluency is essential for success in math. This post gives several suggestions on making it part of the daily routine to make it stick!
Try the first level of each system for free!


Math Fact Fluency Practice Activities and Assessments: Level One +1 Fact Families

Math Fact Fluency Practice Activities and Assessments: Level One X1 Fact Families


Math fact fluency is essential for success in math. This post gives several suggestions on making it part of the daily routine to make it stick!

 

Party Talk, an Activity for Sharing Learning, Team Building, and Collaboration

Here's a fun way for students to share information, while enjoying a shared experience and bonding as a class! 

It's called "Party Talk!"

Party Talk, an Activity for Sharing Learning: This fun activity will help your students share research in a fun way while bonding and working together

I learned about this activity when I was working on my Master's program in Creative Arts in Learning. This particular class was a music class. Our assignment was to research a composer. 

I don't want to give away my age but this music assignment was when the internet was virtually unknown, and at the time, it was hard to find information about a composer that was still alive... at the time. We were given the assignment to learn about the composer, but we didn't know what we were going to do with that information until we came to class that day.

Party Talk, an Activity for Sharing Learning: This fun activity will help your students share research in a fun way while bonding and working together
Since I was working on a production of Company at the time, I chose to research Stephen Sondheim. (Yes, musical theatre is my thing. I played the part of April in this production!) 

 This isn't my production, but this "butterfly monologue" was one of my favorite scenes I've ever performed.

 Again, this isn't me, but I did sing this song in the production. (You may recognize the man playing Bobby!)

We showed up the day the research was due, and had no idea what to expect! The instructor told us we were going to have a "cocktail party" and gave us "Hello My Name is..." tags.

Party Talk, an Activity for Sharing Learning: This fun activity will help your students share research in a fun way while bonding and working together

Well, we put the names of our composers on our tags and started chatting with others at the "cocktail party."  I chatted with Beethoven, Vivialdi, Tchaikovsky, Handel, Mozart, and several others. What a great way to share the information we learned!

Fast forward many years... although most of my teaching has been in the primary grades, I did spend a couple of years in fifth grade. (Luckily I had some awesome colleagues to help me!) While teaching the Revolutionary War, we were due for a research project, and I remembered this activity. 

So we had a "Boston Tea Party." (I did make it clear we were going to drink tea rather than throw it in the harbor.) A parent volunteer made some awesome colonial themed nametags, we pulled of the "fine china" and they had tea (with plenty of sugar) while chatting with other colonial heroes. They used "cheat sheets, of course, and I gave them typical questions to ask each other. We modeled a few rounds on the days leading up to the event so they'd know what to expect. I had extra adults in the room that day to make sure they stayed on task and interacted with lots of classmates, not just their closest buddies. (Yes, children need a lot more guidance than adults, don't they?)

Party Talk, an Activity for Sharing Learning: This fun activity will help your students share research in a fun way while bonding and working together

With adults, it's ok to call it a "cocktail party," but with the little ones, I prefer to call it "party talk." 

Party Talk, an Activity for Sharing Learning: This fun activity will help your students share research in a fun way while bonding and working together

 Can you imagine your own precious little ones doing this?

Party Talk, an Activity for Sharing Learning: This fun activity will help your students share research in a fun way while bonding and working together

As you know, children love to get dressed up and pretend to be someone (or something) else! Why not put that excitement into learning? Pretty much anything that can be researched can be presented in this way: biographies, careers, landforms, or even life cycles!

Party Talk, an Activity for Sharing Learning: This fun activity will help your students share research in a fun way while bonding and working together
 

They really do enjoy dressing up and pretending to be someone else... it's like getting a second Halloween! (without the candy, of course!)

Party Talk, an Activity for Sharing Learning: This fun activity will help your students share research in a fun way while bonding and working together
This is one of those activities that they'll always remember! Years from now, they'll remember which classmates were which characters. The brain remembers things like that... the brain is social, and tends to remember when emotions are strong. And yes, emotions run strong with a fun project like this!

 

Party Talk, an Activity for Sharing Learning: This fun activity will help your students share research in a fun way while bonding and working together

If you study Life Cycles, these are great for beginning researchers: The Life Cycle Collection

Party Talk, an Activity for Sharing Learning: This fun activity will help your students share research in a fun way while bonding and working together

If you think about it, you can do party talk at just about any time! They could even have their own name on their nametags, and just talk about themselves! (Great beginning of the year activity!)

Party Talk, an Activity for Sharing Learning: This fun activity will help your students share research in a fun way while bonding and working together

How can you use the "Party Talk" activity in your classroom?
Party Talk, an Activity for Sharing Learning: This fun activity will help your students share research in a fun way while bonding and working together



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