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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Literacy Retreat, Session 3 Recap: Building Stronger Beginnings and Endings {in Writing}


Hello, hello!  Boy, I can't believe summer is almost gone.  I went to the Smekens Education Literacy Retreat mid-June and it's already the end of July.  Now that I'm starting to get back into school mode, the rest of what I learned at the retreat will be made public soon.  If you would like to view previous posts in, what I call, my mini-series, click HERE for Session 1: Achieving Complex Thinking During Reading and HERE for Session 2: Executing Complex Tasks After Reading.  Okay, let's get started!

Session 3: Building Stronger Beginnings and Endings
Simply imagine a train engine and caboose when thinking of the introduction and conclusion in a piece of writing.  Introductions are what grab or hook the reader to read more of a piece of writing, while a conclusion is what makes the writer's message remain with the reader.  
To teach students how to compose well written introductions and conclusions, we were told teachers should first gather and organize writing samples to gauge and notice ingredients that make a piece of writing exemplar.  Throughout the session, we were given access to numerous student writing samples from grades K-12.  We sat in small groups and discussed what we thought made the pieces of writing *exemplar*.  It was beneficial hearing what others had to say regarding particular pieces of writing.  Not everyone at my table agreed on what was deemed exemplar.  That's why it is important to use rubrics (which we did not have at the time).  They provide some consistency in evaluating student work.  

Besides viewing writing samples from students, to really get a sense of exemplary writing, Kristina Smekens, the presenter, suggested teachers pull out mentor texts and ask, What are the exemplar texts doing to grab your attention?  What are the facets you're noticing?  What are you seeing?  Below are the titles of mentor texts with strong introductions and conclusions given to us at the retreat.  I am familiar with many of the titles, but more than a handful of them were new to me, so I'm glad I have this as a reference.  If you click on the images, you'll be able to get a better look at the titles, as well as download them for yourself.  
Suggested Mentor Text Lists:


















We were asked, "What are safe and typical introductions to a piece of writing verses what introductions can blow a reader out of the water?"  Smekens explained how students tend to stick with safe introductions because that's all they know how to do.  Teachers need to get students to STOP writing safe introductions similar to these: "Hello, my name is...and my topic is..." or "This is a report on..."  These should be considered stick in the eye introductions, according to Smekens. ;)  They do not make the reader want to dive into the piece of writing!  Remember...
Introductions have 3 purposes: 
  1. To Grab the Reader's Attention
  2. To Identify the Topic 
  3. To Provide Context (This is where most students struggle.)
Students need explicit modeling and ample practice to progress towards writing introductions that encompass all three purposes.  To grab the reader's attention, identify the topic and provide enough context for the reader takes much more than "My topic is..." and "This is a report on..."  Working toward one to two paragraphs to create more of a sophisticated introduction is the goal.  Of course, sophisticated introductions don't happen overnight.  It is a slow process for students to develop as distinguished writers.  

Teachers play a crucial role in the development of students' writing. The National Council of Teachers of English voiced how there is "empirical evidence that anyone can get better at writing, and that what teachers do makes a difference in how much students are capable of achieving as writers."  Smekens advised us of a few things teachers can do to support students in becoming capable writers.  For example: 
  • Show students what good writing looks and sounds like
  • Display and discuss authentic samples of students' writing from years passed (or click HERE for benchmark samples for grades 1-5 and HERE for grades 6-8)
  • Model good writing using example topics kids will not be using (otherwise they'll just copy you!) 
  • Advise students to avoid the word because in an introduction to prevent giving away too much information in the beginning (This is a common problem kids tend to make.)
Smekens then asked, "What kind of conclusion can give readers a true sense of closure?"   We know the purpose of a conclusion is to wrap things up and give the reader a finished feeling to a piece of writing.  However, students tend to supply summary endings, which are, of course, better than no ending at all.  Nevertheless, this is not what students should be working toward in our classrooms.  Too many times, students abruptly end their writing.  A teacher's job is to get students to think about and reflect on their writing.  To produce a true sense of closure, teachers should be asking students:
  • What do you want to leave the reader with?
  • So what?
  • So what's the big deal?
  • Who should care?
  • So what's your point? (Smekens, 2012)
Get students to synthesize, not summarize.  Smekens stated, "In the standards it doesn't say, Summarize your writing.  It says, Reiterate your point."  Guide students to use fresh language to reiterate their points, as well as leave the reader with something to think about.  Try finishing a piece of writing with a clincher statement, utilizing clever or witty word play.  Smekens used the example of having one glass of wine per night to reap the health benefits.  Her clincher statement was "An apple a day may not keep the doctor away, but a glass of wine might!" :) Below is another example to use as a reference. 
Remember...
Depending on the type of writing your students are working on and the grade level you teach, you may find a few of these mini-lesson ideas helpful with your students when they are in the planning stage. Most of the resources provided at the retreat were geared toward opinion, persuasive, argumentative and informative writing, however the last resource is for narrative writing.  Click on the images below for a better look and to download a copy for yourself.
Primary teachers could offer students sentence
starters that suggest an introduction and a 

conclusion (Smekens Education, 2015).
This activity is used to separate the introduction (what you want/think/feel) 
from the body (why you want/think/feel that way). This also helps students 
avoid using "because" in the introduction (Smekens Education, 2015).


Before a student can align with a side of a topic/issue, they need to 
consider the pros and cons of both perspectives (Smekens Education, 2015).



































Suggestion: Take students to various places within 
the school and have them notice specific details using 
this activity.  Below is a student sample.
Besides students knowing the importance of strong introductions and conclusions in pieces of writing, they need to know other key ingredients within each mode of writing and be able to incorporate them into the body of their writing (Smekens Education 2015).  The posters below were available at the retreat to use in the classroom.  They reveal the necessary elements or details for the body
Skillfully written introductions and conclusions take time for students to produce.  If you don't plan opportunities for your students to participate in authentic writing experiences to grow as writers, who will?   Don't leave it to someone else to teach your students to write well.  Be that someone and remember...




Monday, July 20, 2015

Book Study Schedule Revealed for Serravallo's The Reading Strategies Book!

The book study schedule for Jennifer Serravallo's The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers is ready to be revealed, so mark your calendars!  The #ReadingStrategiesCrew is thrilled to get the book study underway.  It starts August 3rd right here on Literacy Loving Gals and will continue every Monday and Wednesday through September 14th. Grab your copy of Serravallo's book to follow along with us.  If you don't already own a copy, the #ReadingStrategiesCrew will be offering a giveaway for a chance to win a copy of your own!  More details revealed on August 3rd, so stay tuned. :)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Viva Las Vegas! TpT Conference 2015 Linky Party

I'm linking up with Elementary Entourage to share a peek into some of the fun I had in Las Vegas, Nevada for the #TpTVegas15 Conference.  I learned so much in such a short amount of time and met tons of wonderful people.  If I could have attended every TpT session and talked with each blogger at the conference, I would have done so.  This community of teachers is so energizing, motivating and uplifting.

I arrived in Las Vegas onTuesday.  Since the conference was held during the week of my my 7th wedding anniversary, my husband joined me so we could celebrate together before and after the conference.  #MyOneAndOnly

We hung at our hotel pool for part of the day, then went gambling at the Venetian later in the evening.  Just so you know, I am NOT a true gambler.  I put a $5 bill into the quarter slots.  After spending $0.75, I won $16!  I immediately cashed out and claimed my winnings.  I figured I'd quit while I was ahead.  My husband just shook his head with a smirk.  He knows I'd rather spend my money on shoes, clothes and, of course, TpT products for my classroom. :) 
Early evening on Wednesday, I met up with some amazing ladies I collaborate with from The Reading Crew Facebook group at the Grab and Gab Teacher Blogger Meet-Up hosted by Bridget from Literacy Without Worksheets.  She's the sweetest.  Alongside Bridget was Carla from Comprehension Connection.  Carla has been a huge support to me in my literacy endeavors.  I participated in my first blog hop last Fall, which was organized by Carla.  It was exciting to meet her in person. :)   

The following morning, I joined Carla to meet even more members of The Reading Crew for an early breakfast before TpT's networking event.  A few of our crew members were unable to attend the breakfast, or Vegas all together, due to previous engagements.  We certainly missed them, but knew they were with us in spirit.  I especially missed Michelle from BigTime Literacy who is one of my favorite bloggers.  I'm sure she'll be in the picture next year. :) 

After breakfast, the crew headed over to the networking event held by TpT.  I met many of my favorite teacher bloggers there.  Our conversations were enlightening and some of my online teacher friends became friends in real life.  I was unable to get pictures with everyone I met, but I managed to snag a few of my favorites!
Melissa from Mrs. Dailey's Classroom, Princess from Teaching Love Cupcakes, Kayla from Top Dog TeachingKrista from Creative Clips 
Aly from Just a Primary Girl, Miss Giraffe from Miss Giraffe's Class, Alexis from Eat, Laugh, Learn, Emily from Polkadots Please, Diane from One Giggle at a Time, Crystal from The Balanced Teacher
Bridget from Literacy Without Worksheets, Wendy from Ms. D's Literacy Lab, Kristin from Ms. Jordan Reads, Rachel from Minds in Bloom, Carla from Comprehension Connection, Melissa from A Teaspoon of Teaching, Farley from Oh Boy Fourth Grade, Mindy from Mrs. Thomas' Teachable Moments, Janiel from Janiel's Literacy Page
After much learning over two days, I attended the TpT Happy Hour to meet A Traveled Teacher, Cristy from Kindergarten Squared, Brittany from Tickled Pink in Primary, and Jessica from Mrs. Plemon's Kindergarten for some PhotoBooth fun!  By the end of the two and a half days, the amount of blogger cards I collected was astounding.  I bet I have at least 100 cards from amazing TpT-ers and bloggers! 

Besides the fact it's fun meeting great people, my take-aways from the conference include some quotes and TpT tips from the sessions I attended. 
Quotes from the Welcome TpT Keynote Presentation
Slides from Deanna Jump's and Deedee Willis' Session: Did I Really Sell That??!!
(The second slide makes me laugh!)
Slide from Erin Cobb's Session: From Teacher to Teacherprenuer 
(and Teacher Seller Planner below to keep me on my toes!)
Slide from Stephanie Stewart's Session: Core Creations
Slide from Hadar Maor's Session: Instagram Your Brand One Picture at a Time
Overall, I'm grateful and blessed to have been able attend the TpT Conference 2015.  Thank you to Lockless Creations, Teaching Super Power and KG Fonts for the clipart and fonts in my collages!




Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July 2015 Currently & 1 Year Blog Anniversary!

It's July?  My goodness, the summer is going so fast.  I'm linking up with Farley over at Oh Boy 4th Grade for my second July Currently.  Thanks for hosting, Farley!

Listening: I'm on the porch listening to my hubby mow the lawn, while watching my kiddos play in their sandbox.  Having a little down time for a quick blog post is my kind of start to the morning. 
Loving: I'm am absolutely loving the idea of being in Las Vegas for my very first TpT Conference next week!  Back in March, I decided to venture out and learn from the best TpT *teacherprenuers* out there.  
At the time I registered, I didn't know anyone attending the conference.  Since the week of the conference will be my 7th wedding anniversary, my hubby decided to go to Vegas with me to support my teacher endeavors, while extending the stay for a mini anniversary vacation.  Woohoo!  However, after a fun Chicago Blogger Meet Up this past weekend, I'll be meeting up with a small group of new friends at the Venetian.  I can't wait!
Thinking: I can't believe it's been a year since I started up Literacy Loving Gals!  Today is my 1 year blog anniversary.  Shall I say, Blogiversary?  Last year, on July 1st, I attended a blogging PD hosted by Michelle over at BigTime Literacy.  During the PD, I linked up for the very first time with Farley for July Currently.  I also began Michelle's BigTime Blogging Challenge, which she just started again today!  I've learned so much from those in the social media world and have met some very talented people through blogging.  I'm glad I took the step to attend the PD and enter the Blogosphere! 

Wanting: Relaxation and reading are hard to come by, since I'm busy with the kids swimming, painting, camping and so on.  I wouldn't change my time with the family for the world, but it certainly would be nice to have a little more relaxation in the sun.  I have a feeling I'll get to do that next week, since my parents will have the kids while my hubby and I are in Vegas! :)

Needing: Ugh, I'm needing to pack, but I have no idea what to put in my luggage.  My friend is in Las Vegas right now and warns me the weather is in the hundreds even in the middle of the night. Yeowza!  However, every restaurant or indoor area is freezing cold because of the air condition.  I guess I'll just pack some sundresses, swimsuits and sweaters! ;)

All Star: I'm an All-Star addict... of learning, that is.  I love seeking out new strategies and techniques to make me a better qualified Reading Specialist.  I can't help myself.  Perusing blogs, attending conferences, reading and retweeting articles on Twitter, etc. is nearly a constant in my life.  I am currently reading Jennifer Serravallo's The Reading Strategies Book and will be hosting a Book Study with the #ReadingStrategiesCrew.  It starts August 3rd right here on Literacy Loving Gals!  
Anyway, I swore to my husband, I'd take time to relax and let loose a little for our anniversary spent in Las Vegas.  He really wants to go to visit the Pawn Stars shop.  Of course, on my vacation I'll still be learning at the TpT conference (because I'm an addict of learning).  I guess I'll be getting the best of both worlds. :)

Happy July!


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