Adding Dialogue to Writing: A Free Lesson

There's nothing like a wrapped gift to capture the attention of students! Would you like to know how I use this wrapped gift as an anticipatory set activity for a writing lesson that focused on dialogue? Just keep on reading!
A FREE Dialogue Lesson: Are you wondering how a gift box can be used to teach upper elementary students how to correctly use quotation marks in their writing? Check out this blog post and find out!

When my students enter the classroom on the day of this lesson, they always spot the gift right away, because I display it in a prominent location. Curious students immediately ask me why it's there, and I tell them that they will learn the answer to that question during writing. That usually isn't the answer they want to hear, but I keep them in suspense anyway.

Introduction/Anticipatory Set:

A FREE Dialogue Lesson: Are you wondering how a gift box can be used to teach upper elementary students how to correctly use quotation marks in their writing? Check out this blog post and find out!
When writing finally begins, I ask students if they have any predictions as to why I brought a gift to school, and how it might be related to today's writing lesson. (I love hearing their creative answers!) Eventually, I point out the gift tag, and tell them that this little tag is the vital piece of this activity. We discuss the purpose of any gift tag: to tell who is giving the gift and who is receiving a gift. Next, I explain that writers often use tags in their writing in a similar way. When writers add dialogue to their stories, they use tags to tell who is speaking at a particular point in the story.

Direct Instruction/Guided Practice of Adding Dialogue to Writing:

I instruct my students to get out a yellow highlighter (or marker) and a red pen while I hand out the following sheets of paper. I display my sheet beneath the document camera, and tell students to look at the top half of the paper. For each item, we begin by highlighting the dialogue, and then we circle the tag with our red pens. As you can see, I use the last three items to show students that a tag can be longer than two words. In fact, tags sometimes provide additional information, but its main purpose is still to tell which character is talking in the story.
A FREE Dialogue Lesson: Check out this article to get this free worksheet! Examine the dialogue examples on the top half, and then students create their own mini anchor chart on the bottom half!

After we complete #6, we look at what we've highlighted and circled, and conclude that there are three "formulas" that authors use when they write dialogue:

1. An author can place the tag AFTER the dialogue.
2. An author can place the tag BEFORE the dialogue.
3. An author can place the tag in the MIDDLE of the dialogue.

Next, I tell the students that we're going to make our own mini anchor chart on the bottom half of our paper. The finished paper looks like this:
A FREE Dialogue Lesson: Check out this article to get this free worksheet! Examine the dialogue examples on the top half, and then students create their own mini anchor chart on the bottom half!
Click on the image to download this free printable!

Wrapping up the Dialogue Lesson:

A FREE Dialogue Lesson: Are you wondering how a gift box can be used to teach upper elementary students how to correctly use quotation marks in their writing? Check out this blog post and find out!
Finally, it's time to find out what's in the box! Of course, you can choose anything you want to put in the box. Maybe you want to add some fun new revising pens to your writing center. Perhaps you have a new book to share with the class. This time, I chose to share candy with students because I couldn't resist buying a bag when it was on clearance after a recent holiday. 

Before I hand out the candy, I ask my students to discuss with a neighbor how this gift was related to writing dialogue. After a quick review, I tell students to put their mini anchor chart in their writing folders because I will expect them to refer to this chart when they revise and edit their writing. Starting today, I will expect them to correctly punctuate dialogue in their pieces of writing.

Exit Ticket/Independent Practice:

As an exit ticket activity, I have my students retrieve a novel from their desk or the classroom library. They must find an example of each dialogue form in their book, and record the three examples on a sheet of paper. I also ask them to highlight the dialogue and circle the tag in red pen, just as we did on the top of the worksheet. 

If you are looking for additional resources for teaching dialogue to your upper elementary students, feel free to check out the following resources.
Teach students all about how to use quotation marks in their writing with this Dialogue PowerPoint.   

Teach students how to use quotation marks in their writing with this dialogue craftivity!
Finally, I invite you to hop over to my blog, Crafting Connections, to read about 8 of my favorite methods for building anticipatory set into my lessons.

Thanks for stopping by today! 

4 Ways to Sneak Financial Literacy Into Your Lessons

Financial literacy skills are very important, but we rarely have time to teach them. I hope that these creative ways to "sneak" financial literacy into your lessons will help you better incorporate these important skills into your classroom!

Read books that talk about financial literacy.

Most teachers have a lot of decision-making power when it comes to what literature they use in their classrooms. Choose books wisely to meet your ELA standards while touching on financial literacy topics.
  • Choose a book with a financial literacy topic as your next real-aloud.
  • Use the book in your next novel study.
  • Read a chapter and ask students questions related to your standards.
  • Use passages from the book to model the skills or standard.

Relate everyday math standards to financial literacy.

Your math standards are going to be your best connection to financial literacy instruction. When you can relate your standards to financial literacy, do it! Tweak your lessons to include a real-life financial situation like balancing a budget or opening a business.

Use a classroom economy (and tie it to real life lessons).

Using a classroom economy is a great classroom management strategy, but did you know that it can also promote financial literacy skills? Wise Guys has a fantastic blog post and resource that will help you easily set this up in your classroom around what you're already doing!

Use financial literacy as a reward.

The best thing about financial literacy is that there are a ton of fun resources out there! Reward your students for a job well done by letting them play a game on their device. The free Star Banks Adventure game is my favorite financial literacy game! In this game students earn money, make choices, and answer financial literacy questions. 

Just a little extra effort can give your students some really important financial literacy skills! 

Please consider pinning this post to help get the word out there on incorporating financial literacy skills into your classroom!


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3 Strategies to Teach Text Dependent Analysis (TDA)

Looking closely at the Common Core Standards, there is a big emphasis on text evidence.  For example, fourth grade Common Core State Standard- CCSS RI 4.1 states, "Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text."  To take a step further, the standards require students to dig deeper to analyze the text.   In fourth grade CCSS RI.4.8, it states, "Explain how the author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text."

Digging deeper into the text, finding evidence, and analyzing the author's intentions, can be quite challenging for elementary students.  Here are a few strategies to help your students analyze text effectively:

Use a list of Text Dependent Analysis Questions not only when you are creating prompts for your students, but also for student reference.  Review the questions with your students to get them familiar with the types of prompts they will be expected to analyze.  They are no longer expected to simply answer who, what, where questions.  Now they need to explain the author's purpose, the author's writing style or structure, or how they know an answer to more complex questions within the text.  Knowing the types of questions will help your students when reading any text.  They will be thinking deeper knowing that there are hidden meanings and evidence to uncover.  CLICK HERE for a free list of over 60 questions.  Print them and place them in a writing center or in a student resource notebook.

2.  ACE
ACE is an acronym used in Text Evidence.  When your students learn a simple acronym, it will help them answer text dependent analysis questions effectively.

A- Answer the question-  Restate the question and infer by using prior knowledge and reading between the lines.

C-  Cite evidence by finding proof in the text.  Highlight it for easy reference.

E-  Explain your answer by paraphrasing and using quotes from the text.

For more information on ACE, read this TEXT EVIDENCE blog post.

Help students learn how to start evidence-based sentences.  It will guide them to effectively provide text evidence.  Start a class discussion by brainstorming sentence starters.  Use the following examples to get them started.  Make a copy of the list and place it in your writing center.  Students should take notes and keep them in a student resource notebook.  It will provide them with a wonderful reference when they are writing a text dependent analysis.

On page _____, it states...
In paragraph _____, the text says...
_____ quoted, "..."
The example ... shows that ...
According to the text, ...
From what I read in _____ of the text, I understand ...
Based on _____ in the text, I think...
I think the author means _____ because he/she says ...
The author's purpose for this text is ...

For more information on teaching TDA, read this Text Dependent Analysis blogpost.

I hope you gained some strategies to implement in your classroom today!

If you are looking for Text Dependent Analysis passages and prompts, click below!

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Gradual Release of Responsibility Cycle: Writing Summaries

writing summaries
Are you a fan of the "Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR)" model?  Our district works this "I do it, we do it, you do it" method into all our unit plans.  Not quite sure what this is?  Here are a few short video clips that model it...

The one thing that I have heard many teachers discuss is the LINEAR nature of the always reminds me a little of my high school trigonometry class.  First, the teacher would show us a problem on the board.  Then he would call students up to the board to do it with coaching while the rest of us watched.  Finally, he assigned us all the "odds" to do for the next day and we worked on them for the rest of class and he sat at his desk in case we wanted to go up there to ask questions.

This is not what the gradual release was ever intended to be!

I am a firm believer in setting clear learning targets for students--and making them aware of them.  Richard Stiggins likes to say, "Students can hit any target they can see that is holding still for them."  Pretty powerful, right?  We need to make sure students know WHAT it is we want them to do--and that's where the gradual release comes into play.

This became very evident to me earlier this year when I asked my students to write a summary of a chapter I had read.  Summarizing is one of our big standards in fourth grade so I wanted to get a handle on what they remembered from third grade.  I certainly got my answer!

When reading through their "summaries", I found retellings.  I found opinion pieces.  I found stories.  I did NOT find summaries!  If you teach upper elementary students--you know that writing summaries is HARD!

It became very clear to me that I was going to need to spend a great deal of time modeling, coaching, remodeling, recoaching, watching, sharing, and more--and that "cyclical" use of the gradual release of responsibility model is what can be so effective.  Certainly, you can have the GRR model within any lesson (and should!), but having the GRR extend over weeks or even months on a complex concept can really help students see what the expectations are.

After I looked at the "summaries" early this year, I began to devise a plan to take us from "not so much" to "we got it"! Here are some of the things we did over the year:

*We clarified the difference between retelling and summarizing.
*We studied examples of summaries and retelling.
*I wrote summaries in front of the class with their suggestions.
*We wrote summaries in partners and then shared them with other partners.
*I took summary examples and we sorted them into categories (4, 3, 2, and "not yet")
*I wrote marginal summaries and asked students to help me improve them.
*I had students write their own summaries based on common texts (like read aloud books) and provided feedback based on what we had done in previous lessons.
written responses to reading
And so on!  As you can see, the gradual release process is woven through these activities--and the process took many many repetitions, experiences, practices, and tons of feedback!  I have used this GRR model to improve my students' work on many writing toipcs this year...comparing and contrasting, writing about characters, writing opinion pieces, and so on. The one thing that made this process so nice for me was involving technology--I could project summaries on the Smartboard, students could do their work quickly, I minimized paper, yet still had a trail of progress.  It was so much fun for students to look back at their earlier work and realize how far they had come--but it really took coaching, practice, and modeling.
teaching summaries
If you are interested in seeing more about how I use technology with my reading responses, just click HERE or any of the images above to see more.  Have a great day and keep modeling!

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gradual release
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Why Projects are a Great Way to End the School Year

There are pros and cons to the end of the school year.

Teachers find themselves swamped with all the tasks related to closing out their classrooms including packing and organizing, assessing students and 8,365,239 other things that make an already long "to do" list more like a to do scroll.

You'll find your schedule changes as a result of field trips, field days, assemblies and other special programs. You'll notice student behaviors begin to change as the normal procedures and routines start to fade even a little bit.

The good news though is that the final weeks of school are the time when your students are the most capable they have been all year. They possess all the new skills you worked so hard to teach them. What better way to make the most of the final days together, keep them engaged and motivated and allow them to showcase their abilities than by completing independent projects.

Projects allow students to explore their own interests. 

It is no secret that education has become much more standardized. Mandates often mean you are required to teach specific topics. Giving the students the ability to choose an animal or a historical figure of interest to them will let them tap into the things they want to learn more about.

Projects enable children to display their knowledge in creative ways.

My favorite end of the year activity is letting the students create games to review concepts taught throughout the year. It is a wonderful way to assess their knowledge and abilities. After making the games we designate time for them to teach their peers and enjoy playing together. Projects are more open-ended than traditional classroom activities which will allow the students to truly showcase their talents.

Projects may encourage summer learning.

The year my son was in third grade, my partner (his teacher) and I ended the year with a mystery unit. The students worked in groups to read and discuss mystery books and worked collaboratively to solve the cases. They were then given the opportunity to write their own mysteries and make dioramas depicting their stories. My son then spent the summer reading through many mystery series and continuing to write his own as well. I've had many parents report to me that their children took it upon themselves to continue to research animals and create their own projects throughout the months of June and July. 

No matter how you decide to wrap up your school year, I do hope you will take the time to reflect and appreciate the result of the hard work you've put into your students. They've been lucky to have you as their teacher.

You may be interested in these resources to make projects easier for you.

You may also find these blog posts helpful for a stress-free end to the school year.
5 Things to Do Before the School Year Ends

Preparing Students for Technology Enhanced Items on Standardized Tests

With the rise of technology, standardized testing is not the same today as it used to be. The biggest hurdle is familiarizing students with the tools that they need to be able to use within the test itself.  

After reviewing and dissecting test questions and scores from last year, my teaching partner and I came to the conclusion that our largest pitfall was our students' ability to manipulate the technology enhanced questions.  

So, how do we overcome this hurdle?  Provide opportunity for practice and expose students to the type of questions that they may encounter.  

Five of the most common type of questions I have found to occur on the computerized standardized tests are the follow:

Drag and Drop

Students are required to drag an item from one part of the screen to another.  

Multiple Select

These types of questions are similar to multiple choice with one major exception, students select more than one answer.  

Text Selection/Highlighting

Students are required to click on words, phrases, or an entire sentence to answer the question.

Equation Builder

The equation builder is specific to math and is similar to a mini calculator.  It contains mathematical symbols and numbers.  

Constructed Response

These types of questions are nothing new to students except instead of writing their response with a pencil, they type their response in a given box.  

To prepare students for these types of question, I locate the specific type of question and show students different examples.  Students are given the entire file chart (see below) in the beginning, but I only introduce students to one or two types of questions each day.  Once students are familiar with the type of question that we are covering, I have them create their own example on the flip chart with a partner.    

You can download the above posters and flip chart HERE for free.

Websites for Practicing Technology Enhanced Items

Additional Resources for Test Prep

Teaching Biographies: Activities and Ideas

Teaching with Biographies and Ben Franklin

With all of the fabulous biographies available today for children, teaching about and with biographies can be such fun for your students. It hasn't always been this way. When I was a little girl (many, many years ago...) I remember biographies being boring, fact-filled chapter books. They were definitely not the books that I chose when I went to the library. The only biographies I remember reading were those assigned to me by my teachers. Today's biographies for children are very different. Biographies for children are now colorful picture books full of interesting information that grab the reader's attention and are enjoyable to read. 

I recently gathered a variety of biographies for my students on Benjamin Franklin. My school library has several wonderful biographies about Mr. Franklin. We combined learning about the characteristics of biographies with learning more about this U.S. founding father. 

Some great biographies about Benjamin Franklin include: Ben Franklin His Wit and Wisdom by Alan Schroeder

Who Was Ben Franklin? by Dennis Fradin

Now and Ben by Gene Barretta

Although all of these books are excellent, I chose to begin by using How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning by Rosalyn Schanzer.

Before we read this book, I had the students to do a variation of an ABC brainstorm activity. With ABC brainstorm, students write what they know about a given topic using each letter of the alphabet. Instead of ABC's, we did a BEN brainstorm. Students wrote one fact about Ben Franklin with each of the 3 letters: "B", "E", and "N". (3 facts are much faster to write than 26.) I discovered that many of my students knew very little of Ben Franklin or thought he was one of our presidents. After we discussed our prior knowledge, we then discussed characteristics of biographies. My sweet teacher friend next door has this adorable biography anchor chart that she let me share.

 After reviewing the characteristics of a biography, we read and discussed How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning. My students really enjoyed this colorful and interesting biography. 

Next, students used their Chromebooks to read an online book about Ben Franklin. This book is actually part of a paid website that my school system has purchased called myOn. It was a fun graphic biography that my students enjoyed, but if you do not have access to this website, another great choice is this page from Mr. Nussbaum. 

The students then used the information they learned from both resources to complete a graphic organizer. This biography graphic organizer can be found in my store in a packet containing four graphic organizers for your students to use as templates as they research and write about a person. Choose the graphic organizer that is perfect for your whole class, assign different graphic organizers for different groups of students, or choose specific organizers to differentiate the needs of your students. Use the graphic organizer alone, or as a writing template for the writing page essay paper. A grading rubric is also included if you choose to use this as an assessment. Click here or the picture below to purchase.

Finally, we watched a 90 second video that recapped the information we had learned about Benjamin Franklin. This short video can be found here. If you are looking for a fun lesson to use with biographies, I hope you may want to try these activities out with your students. I know my kiddos had a lot of fun and learned a lot about Benjamin Franklin and biographies.

Have a blessed day!

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