Tried it Tuesday: Mentor Sentences in Middle School

Today I'm linking up with Holly to share something I've been dabbling in the past two week with my smarties:  Mentor Sentences.  Jessica Ivey over at Ideas by Jivey has been such a great help in this area. She answered a million questions for me when I got started.  Good thing she is one of my BBBs or I'm sure she would be tired of me!
Jessica has a great product for upper elementary students on Mentor Sentences, but I needed a little bit more complex text.  I decided to use my read aloud:  The Watson's Go to Birmingham and take text sentences from there.  My students are really pretty decent about being able to produce the parts of a sentence, so I am focusing more on using them to review and teach figurative language.

We complete each of the parts:  Invitation to Notice, Invitation to Re-read, Invitation to Revise, Invitation to Imitate, and Invitation to  Edit through a 5-10 day span depending on what else we have going on.  Throughout the week I use the mentor sentence to review a specific piece of figurative language.  So far we have done similes, alliteration and onomatopoeia.  I continue in my Word Work notebook with lessons, foldable and activities that practice that particular piece of figurative language. The picture above shows my mentor sentences on one side, and then similes practice which I got from Erin at I'm Lovin' Lit.
My smarties really like doing this.  On the Invitation to Imitate day they hope they are selected to go up on the Wall of Fame.   I am beginning to see the work we put in to this in the writing we have been producing.  That's what it's all about, right!

Stop by and visit Holly and see what everyone else has Tried on this Tuesday!


Five for Friday: Making Connections

This has been such a busy week for me in school!  I can't believe that I only had four days with my smarties, there were so many connections being made.

1)  Connecting to Social Studies:  This week we made an awesome connection between our read-aloud book The Watson's Go to Birmingham, and Hammurabi's Code in social studies.  

You can read about that post {HERE}.  Even a few days later, they are still talking about that connection, and now when I'm reading, they are listening for other connections they can make! WOOT!

2) Finding a balance in Math:  We started talking about single step equations this week.  One of the things I really like about the beginning of this unit is the connection with expression equalities and properties.  My smarties did not like having to learn and memorize Commutative, Associative and Distributive Properties, but I think they really get it now that we have started Topic 3.  In the beginning of this unit, they get the "easy stuff."  My Smarties have to understand the difference between expressions and equations.  They get this really well, so I thought I would have a little fun with them, and we made a fun foldable for out interactive notebooks.

Next, they had to explain which property can be used to help prove an expression is equal.  The problems look like this:  
I was worried they would struggle with this.  But 'holla!  They totally GET it!  My Smarties totally earned their stripes with properties this week!  Plus, we started drawing diagrams to show balanced equations, and the whole "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" came back AGAIN because of the balance scale.

3)  Today was a Professional Day for our district.  We had speaker Ken Williams come in to talk to our group about Professional Learning Communities.  He came to give us an overview, and really did a great job.  The problem was, we were a little more advanced in the process than he thought, and had he been briefed about that, I think he could have given us a little more intensive training than the overview.  I did like that we had time to have a conversation about a PLC.  Now I'm ready to take action.  Hopefully my building is too!  Speaking of that, I'm looking for a new professional development style book to read.  Have you read anything good lately? 

4)  Check out this awesome project that my Little Man made this week in art!
5)  I love being able to talk about books with my daughter, "24."  This week book 3 of the Divergent Series by Veronica Roth came out:  Allegiant.  

My daughter got the book from her English teacher on Tuesday, and basically read it by Thursday.  I hate to get after her about ignoring her chores, but I can't knock having her nose in a book!  Plus, the faster she finished, the faster I get to read!

Do you have any books that you are loving right now?  I'm looking forward to a soccer game this weekend where I can work in a few extra pages with my book!

Fitting in a little Word Work.. Halloween style

My Smarties keep 3 notebooks in ELA:  Reading, Writing and Word Work.  In our Word Work notebook we complete figurative language, analogies, homophones, and our mentor sentences.
We have been practicing really hard to review and learn similes, alliteration, and onomatopoeia this month.  It has been a big focus for us in our notebooks and our mentor sentences.
To have a little fun during Halloween I made up a set of Figurative Language cards for practice.  I introduced them this week as I began solidly meeting with my novel groups.  I meet with one novel group each day for about 20 minutes.  While we are working in group, my students are required to complete 2 word work activities for the week.  One of these activities revolves around our spelling unit, and the other I interchange.  Right now, it's my Halloween Figurative Language Pack.
My class has been doing a great job working through the similes, alliteration and onomatopoeia concentration style.  I created 6 sentences that are Halloween themed for each figurative language type. This week they are working in pairs to match the three types I have reviewed.
Sorry the picture is a little blurry, but each sentence is related to something "Halloweenish." For example:  "The witches chanted like chorus girls around the cauldron."
They also were required to put a foldable into their  Word Work Notebook.  The foldable contains a definition, and then my students were required to write an original sentence containing an example of the figurative language type.
Next week I'll actually have them put a gray-scaled copy of the similes, alliteration and onomatopoeia into the Word Work Notebook, and complete a cut and glue activity as well. I'll use the cut and glue as a little formative assessment to see if they have mastered the three figurative pieces we have been reviewing, and also to see what students are familiar with the other 3 types we have to focus on.

I'm really excited to see this use of language, along with my mentor sentences start to come out in my student's writing.  Fingers crossed it continues when I begin informational writing! If you are interested, the pack is sold in my TpT store.  

The Watson's Go To Birmingham.. A connecting moment with Hammurabi's Code!

photo is from
Last week I had a great moment with my Smarties.  It wasn't planned, but it worked out so awesome!
I <puffy heart> love when these types of moments happen!  I am reading The Watson's Go to Birmingham with my class as a read-aloud.  I wanted to share this fabulous novel by Christopher Paul Curtis  with my class because it is the 50th year since the church bombing in Alabama.  Late last week we were reading Chapter 5:  Nazi Parachutes Attack America and Get Shot Down over the Flint River by Captain Byron Watson and his Flamethrower of Death.  Don't you love even the titles of the chapters!  In this chapter Byron is caught lighting toilet paper on fire and sending it parachute style into the commode.  His mother has threatened him that if he is caught with matches again, she will burn him.  Low and behold, what of course happens?  By gets caught.. BIG TIME!  and his mother is furious.  Curtis spends the chapter describing how Byron's mom prepares to burn Byron.  An "eye for an eye," and all that.  Before I read the chapter, I told my students that there was a connection to something we had been learning in social studies, and I wanted them to listen to see if they could figure out what it was.  Many of them got it with the first sentence.. "Byron got caught lighting matches again and it looked like this time Momma was going to do what she always said she would."

What I LOVE... LOVE... LOVED was that in Social Studies, we spent the day before learning about Hammurabi's Code.  Hammurabi, an ancient king in Mesopotamia created a series of over 200 laws to govern his people.  The idea of the saying "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth" came about as a result of Hammurabi's Code.  My Smarties were able to make a fantastic TEXT TO WORLD connection!  Woot WOOT!  It was so powerful for many of them.  I love when you see their eyes just shine!   We went on in social studies to create our own code for our school.

Using our school's Code of Conduct, I had students choose five rules, and write consequences as if they lived in Mesopotamia.  They had a blast, and we put our "tablets" up for the rest of the school to see.  Please excuse that they really look like tombstones, to us, they were tablets!  My Smarties made great connections.  For example, gum is not allowed at our school.  If you were caught chewing gum, and had a punishment Hammurabi style, you would get your tongue cut off!  I think my class appreciates the much more civilized discipline code that we practice now!

By the way, you don't have to read the entire Watson's book for students to get the same effect.  Chapter 5 can stand on its own fairly simply, and it is about 10 pages long.

Have you had any "aha" moments with your students lately?  Share one with me below!  I can't wait to see what they connect with this week!

Writer's Notebooks.. I am..

When I think about my Smarties, sometimes that song from Toby Keith runs through my mind.. 
"Wanna Talk about Me.. Wanna Talk about I.. Wanna Talk about Number 1"

I love them dearly, but preteens really think about themselves.  Don't get me wrong, they are kind, and friendly, and helpful, but they love to talk about themselves!  My teamie and I wanted to monopolize on their thought process at the beginning of the year, and learn more about the kids we are going to spend the year with.  Have you see this "I AM A" sheet?  My teamie saw the idea somewhere on Pinterest.. sorry original person, I can't find you now. <sad face... if you read this send me a message so I can give you credit>
What I love the most about this is that it gives my Smarties an entire page to TALK ABOUT THEMSELVES!  Something they love to do <hee hee> and then we can use this information throughout our narrative unit.  We have written our rough drafts, and are ready to begin reviewing revision of leads, transitions and conclusions.  Five weeks have already gone by, can you believe it!


Using our Writer's Notebooks: A Mentor Text for Heart Maps!

We've been working steadily over the past few weeks on our Writer's Notebooks.  Our first unit is on Narrative Memoirs.  We do the basics that I'm sure everyone does, but this year my teammate found a few extra goodies.  Don't you love when you work with someone and you really gel as a team?  That's me and my teamie.  She is really good at using the Writer's Workshop model, and for most of what we do, I follow her lead.  Me, I'm better at the Reader's Workshop, and she picks up lessons and ideas from me in that area.  Anyhoo.... here's what we've done that's a new for us:
Have you read this book?
In this story the narrator wants to win a local library contest.  She asks each person in her family what makes a good story, and each family member has their own opinion.  When she tries to add each element to her own story, the girl finds that it is not the right  fit.  In the end, she realizes the best story she can write is her own when it comes from her heart.  The illustrations are awesome, and my sixth graders really liked this book.
I thought this was a great way to show how to write what is in your heart, and read it to my smarties before we completed our heart maps.
Do you have any books that you use with your Writer's Notebook?  I will blogging about my Writer's Notebook this week, and would love to hear your thoughts!

A TpT Flash Sale.. Quick!

I just heard from a few of my BBBs that TpT has reached 100,000 followers on Facebook.  To celebrate they are offering a 10% discount to anyone who makes a purchase from today through October 14th.  USE THE CODE FB100K at checkout.  To help them celebrate I put everything in my store on sale at 10% off as well.  Go take a few things off of your wishlist in this surprise sale!


Five for Friday!.. A busy October with Interactive Notebooks!!

Friends!  I can't believe that it is the end of the second week of October!  I have been so busy at school lately.  I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs for Five for Friday.. a little late... to catch up with my week!

1)  Our Interactive Reading notebooks are rocking!  I love using notebooks in this class.  Now that I don't have to deal with making the foldable basic designs, I am loving how my students are using them!  We have finally broken into reading groups, and we are practicing our jobs using other Chris Van Allsburg books.  

In my unit we use:  Two Bad Ants,  Polar Express, The Widow's Broom, Jumangi and Queen of the Falls.  I love all of the perspectives and uses that Van Allsburg writes with.  Although is not a solid focus, I take time when each group meets to talk about perspective, and biographical sketches.  I'm hoping my students will use these books later on when they have to make text to text connections and they can cite evidence because it is in the notebook!  LOVE!

2) Our Interactive Math notebooks are getting a pretty good workout as well!  This week we are working through the properties and learning about Least Common Multiple and Greatest Common Factor.  This is one of my favorite topics because I can bring a little bit of literature into my math classes.  Have you ever read The Librarian Who Measured the Earth?  This is a great story that mixes Social Studies and Math.  Erathosthenes was a librarian in Ancient Greece.  He is probably most famous for his accuracy in measuring the circumference of the earth, but he is also responsible for discovering that all of the numbers we use can be broken down into a set of prime numbers.  I do an activity on a hundreds chart with my smarties before I show them how to use a PRIME LADDER to find the LCM and GCF.  No more factor rainbows.  I use a product that I created with a foldable.  You can check it out {HERE} if you are interested.

3)  In social studies we are also making great strides using our Interactive Notebooks.  Currently we are looking at River Civilizations.  I am teaching a reading skill with each unit that we do, and this unit is Cause and Effect.  A lot of essential questions revolve around how the river affected life during Ancient Times.  Right now we are focusing on Mesopotamia.  I never realized all of the inventions that we use that came from Mesopotamia, including improvement of the wheel and sailboat, as well as the idea that there are 60 seconds in a minute, and 60 minutes in an hour.  Here is a look at our Cause/Effect charts.  The circled words are the vocabulary words with the unit.  We tried to add as many as possible to the foldable to keep reinforcing them. 

4) My Little Man is a soccer player extrodinaire.  He joined a new soccer club this year, and one night we went up with his team to Syracuse University and he was a "mascot" for the team.  Basically, this means he got to walk out on the field with the players, and then play on the field at half time.  This was really cool for him, but even more for me.  The goalie for SU is one of my former students!  It was so awesome to see what an amazing player he has become.  Although, I must admit, seeing him made me feel a little OLD!  Lol

5)  I finally managed to finish Divergent by Veronica Roth.  
photo from AMAZON.. link will take you to
Have you read this book?  My daughter read it a few weeks ago and has been hounding me to get it read so she can talk about it!  I wasn't disappointed.  This was a great Dystopian novel!  I have to read Insurgent next.  If you have read these books, let me know what you thought!

Happy Fall Y'all! Reading Interactive Notebooks: The Stranger

Can you believe that October is upon us!  It has been a beautiful start to the school year, and if I can manage to make it all the way into October without having to turn on the heat, then my friends, everything else is BONUS time!
A few weekends ago I went to an apple farm with my family.  I love seeing all of the beautiful gourds and pumpkins, and I have to share the picture above because the colors are just so "perty."

In the Fall, I always start my literature circle practice groups with Chris Van Allsburg's book:  The Stranger.  
photo courtesy of

I know I have mentioned this book before.  If you haven't read it, you really must.  Van Allsburg is a genious with upper level picture books.  Last week we talked about story vocabulary.  I used Erin's (I'm Lovin' Lit) foldables and lessons from her Reading Literature Interactive Notebook.  You can read about it {HERE} in a little product swap we participated in.  We also talked about our jobs of Discussion Director, and Vocabulary Enricher.  

This week we are focusing on being an Illustrator and the Passage Master.  In my class, the Passage Master works as a summarizer for the novel section or short story that the group has read.  I used another foldable in our Interactive Notebook and made a Plot Summary.  

This is a great tool for teaching the highlights within the plot.  My students like putting the information into a form other than a traditional summarized paragraph, and they grab for their notebooks... which makes me 'Happy Happy Happy.'
Our last job is Making Connections.  Then we will move on to a series of Van Allsburg books to help us practice these jobs.  Finally we will begin our novel units.  I start with books that have a survival theme.  Usually Hatchet is part of this novel choice, and I have my better readers read this.  However, some of the fourth and fifth grade teachers have been choosing to read Hatchet with their classes, and all of my students have come to me this year having already read the book... many have read it TWICE.  So now I am hunting for a new book with a survival theme.  I would love a few suggestions if you have any!


Express 'Yarself Matey! A Summative Review for Math

Earlier this week my smarties began to prepare for a Topic 1 Summative test that they are taking at school today.  We have been reviewing our numerical and algebraic expressions.  Hopefully all of the extra time we have put in will pay off on our summative.
To help keep the wiggles out of my smarties this week I set up a Task Rotation for them to practice all of the skills we need.  I used a new game that I created over the summer:  Express 'Yarself Matey.
They had so much fun playing this game, some of them even came back during our study hall and asked for the pieces to play again.  I LOVE when that happens.  I heard some really great comments too.  Since the game is played similar to war, I think they liked it because there was critical thinking involved.  You had to figure out how to throw the best card to beat your opponent.

They also practiced Order of Operations by playing my Order of Operations Dice Game:
Again, critical thinking involved.  My smarties want to be treated in a more mature way.  I think my critical thinking expectations help them to really assume that role.
Another math teacher made some cards for the task rotation that practiced algebraic expression word problems, and I added the 2 sets that are part of my Wacky Wordies Algebra Task Cards set:
I love when things come together like this.  Creating items for my classroom that I actually see results with is such an awesome feeling!  I hope my smarties do well on the assessment.  I know they had a great time getting their wiggles out and reviewing!

Back to Top