Saturday, October 5, 2013

Why sometimes DIY is better than a printable, or, Making an easy mathgame

More math game making.  I'm actually starting to enjoy it, A LOT.  I also like buying premade games, I do- it does make things easier- but I want to be able to show my kids that they can easily make a game to play at home to practice their facts without having to buy something.  Which, for my kids, is just not in their families budgets.  My moose claim never to have played BUMP before.  Don't know if this is really true- but shoot- let's make sure to take care of that!

 Earlier in the day we had read Two of Everything by Lily Toy Hong.  Folks, this is the greatest book evahhhhhh!  I will post on it's reading merits another day- but to get the gist here- anything they put into this magic pot they got double.  So it's a great book for beginning the concept of doubles facts.  I found out about the book from our previous math curriculum Investigations. All I did on the fly was pull out some great big sheets of construction paper.  I looooooove huge sheets of construction paper. And then made designs and pictures and wrote the numbers (evens only) 2 through 20.  We used our number cards without zeroes and wild cards to play.

We played in groups of four- it's just more exciting with four- but you can play as partners, or as a triad.  Players in turn draw a number and double it, then place a connecting cube or unifix cube on the number on the board.  The nice thing about the number cards from the Investigations series is that they have a pictorial representation of the number beneath the numeral- and the kids can use that to help them find the double if they aren't sure.  But I also showed them how to use their fingers and count up to find the answer as well.

Anybody else have kids that REFUSE to try using their fingers or adding up pictures to make sure they have the right answer?  They just want to guess?  I don't get that...anyway, moving on.

I put the rule in that they have to try to cover up all twenty spots on the board before they "bump" somebody.  They can only bump if they are forced to up to that point.  They are free to claim a spot by putting a second piece on top though if they have the luck.  Once all the spots have been covered- then they can start being ruthless with bumping if they prefer.  But we do play together a few times so they see the point in claiming a space as a strategy to winning instead of just going crazy with the bumping.

Aside from teaching them the idea of bump- I also showed how easy it is to set up a gameboard.  Something they could easily do at home by grabbing a piece of paper. (Although I did have a few insist that they had NO PAPER in their homes, and I actually believe them, so we're going to have a game board making session here soon in the classroom.)  They gasped, and made sounds of delight as I quickly squiggled up some shapes on the paper.

These boys wanted a board with snakes on it.

These girls were gaga for hearts.

Not my loveliest. 
I'll be redoing this one- but I suddenly had brain freeze on this one
as I realized I had to quickly make five.

Fish and Bubbles

Paw Prints

I plan on making nicer ones for a more permanent place in math workshop- but getting them excited about making their own by creating these quick ones was really priceless. Now they want to make their own, and undoubtedly will want to play it at home more than they would ever want to play something I just ran off and slipped in their homework folders.

What do you do to help with student buy-in?
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Friday, October 4, 2013

Two Games for Making Ten

In my continued pursuit of working on basic math facts with the moose- I've taken to inventing some games.  Or, adapting them from things I've seen, I guess.

I know that part of my kids' county math assessment is to be able to fill in the missing part of an equation that makes ten.  So we've been practicing "What's Missing?".  You can play with either number cards or ten-sided die.  I also give them whiteboards for this game.  They play in a group of four during math workshop.  But you can also play whole group if you want to take a quick visual assessment.  Our rule for writing on whiteboards and then revealing an answer later is "write it and hide it!".  They make sure to keep their answer secret this way until they are told it's time to reveal.

First player draws a number card or rolls the die and announces the number and says, "What's Missing? Write it and hide it!"  Everyone, including the player write the missing part of the equation to make ten.  Then the player says "Shoooooow me (insert number)" and everyone flips their boards around.  We do a straight up Price is Right voice for the show me part.  If there are different numbers represented, each different number has to explain why they picked what they did.  The whole group comes to a consensus and then they do the equation with the gestures I showed in a video on this previous post.

This game worked well enough for kids that have a pretty good grasp of the concept anyway, and love whiteboards.  But I have some kids that really, really, no I mean really, need a concrete representation.

So I thought about those games where we race to thirty and to one hundred and all that and thought about trying to make it into a race to ten.  But I also didn't want the game to be over in a heart beat.  So, for this game you use connecting cubes or unifix cubes, and number cards or a die ten. We played in groups of three or four, but you can easily play this as partners.

To play, in the first round each player rolls the die ten and takes that many cubes of the same color. If you roll a zero, you miss your turn.  If you have the number cards, take the zeroes and tens out.

There will not be a winner in the first round.  The task really begins in the second and consecutive rounds when they continue to roll the die or draw the cards.  They can only add to their tower IF they roll the exact number needed to make ten.  If they DON'T roll or draw the exact number, then they have to start a new tower.  If they DO roll or draw the exact number, then they finish the tower in a second color, so they can see the two numbers and then do the gestures for the equation.

You can see here how this lucky moose was able to finish her equation or tower of ten and win that particular round.  However, none of the other players loose any of the towers they've begun to build.  So there comes a point where there is the potential for another winner each round.

Now, this little moose has gone three rounds without a finished tower. Another way to make this game more challenging is for the player to say what they HAVE to roll to finish a tower. My guy told his group that he would win IF he rolled a 1 or a 7 - but any other number would begin a new tower.  Note his grand moment of disappointment at rolling a 2.

The game goes for as long as you want.  At the end of time, the winner is the person with the most completed towers of ten.  My kids play for fifteen minutes and then move to another workshop. In this picture, four people they had gone six rounds, and you can see that one player has made a tower of ten.

My moose really enjoy games that are slightly competitive- but also based on chance, so that the winner is not determined purely on skill.  I like this game for workshop, and I think it is definitely adaptable for greater numbers, but I'd like to add a bit of accountability into it as well.  I can make a simple sheet with columns of ten boxes that they color in two colors to represent the equations they made during the game.  That should do nicely.

What sorts of games are you making up in your classroom for your kids?

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Writing on Notecards update

Took a video of my kids working on their notecards for writing that I wrote about in this previous post.  I took it actually to prove to my kids that they are capable of working diligently without screaming for thirty minutes.  But then I thought you might like to see the different levels of engagement.  Sorry that I'm not a fabulous cameraman.  Maybe I need to set up some sort of camera dolley on the ceiling or something...

At this point, working tandem with my ESOL teacher, we've given the kids the following mini-lessons to go along with their writing:

1. Who are you writing for?  A very limited exercise in Author's purpose, we identified that when we write a story it's usually for someone else to read.  So we talked about what we wanted the reader to get out of it.  We DID NOT touch on persuasion, my kids aren't ready for that yet.  We did say that if we wanted our reader to learn something new, we would be writing for giving information.  If we were writing for our reader to enjoy a story (entertainment) then we wanted the reader to get wrapped up into the emotion of the story.

2. What do you want the reader to feel?  We talked about how to write a story from the perspective of a BIG EMOTION. We were hoping to get the kids to zero in on a target emotion so that they could write better smaller moment stories.  I'd been getting recounting stories of "I woke up, I pooped, I ate chicken, then I drove to the store. I bought chips. I went home. I watched TV. I went to bed. The End."  So we made up a quick graphic organizer to keep in their writing folders where they answered what, when where and why questions before writing.  What- the emotion.  When - age, time of day, year of school, etc. Where- location of moment of big emotion. Why- three bulleted items of what happened to make them feel that big emotion. 

The little page I drew up has space for ten different emotions, and they fill in a box or two before going back to the card story they are currently working on.  Most of the kids have about two stories in their folders now.

Next up for the mini-lessons is to make a much more specific graphic organizer for a story where we really explore what we want the reader to get out of the story and what connections we want them to make, so that we can stay in the moment better.  My co-teacher Mr. Morales is also starting to prep them for putting a problem into their story.  we'll be getting to that too.

Enjoy the video!

 I know many of you said you were going to give it a try in your rooms.  How is it going?
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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The marriage of handwriting, fine motor, and sensory play

 Handwriting.  True, it's sort of a done deal by the time they get to second grade- but I don't think it's wrong to try to help them make it a bit more legible.  And I think a lot of that comes down to some fine motor skills.  And then there's that whole thing I have for trying to add in sensory experiments in my room.  So here's my nefarious plot:

First of all, I went to Sparklebox to get some free print outs of ground, grass and sky letters.  I also put the download up on my promethean board so I could lead them through the formations on handwriting paper. 

After the alphabet exercise, which we now store in our writing folders for reference, I created this "workshop".  I decided not to call them centers this year because my students think centers=play time.  So we're calling them workshops.  When they get to that station, they are "at work" in "a shop" and I shouldn't hear them when I'm in "my shop" because walls should buffer sound.  Some days it works, on others it doesn't. Still going to give it a try though.  Anyhow- they use the handwriting paper to write ten words in their BEST handwriting.  At the moment I have them choosing their classmates' names to write.  I have the names written on sentence strips s they can see the ground grass sky formations as well.  After they've written ten- then they can get some playdoh and create "snakes" to form the words with.

This is where the fine motor exercise comes in.  I showed them how to knead the dough to make it soft, and how that worked our wrist and palm.  And then how they could roll it into a ball, working their palm and wrist also.  And then finally into a snake and how that exercised our finger muscles.  I was actually extremely surprised that they did not know these general playdoh mojo moves.  They all gasped in surprise when I rolled a snake.

 Notice in that second picture how they've got their j backward?  This was a great moment where I was able to show them and let them physically move the dough to get it right.  And then fix it on their writing paper as well.

Now, for the sensory part, I went to my fave- you know it!- Pinterest baby!  And found this recipe for Apple pie scented dough.

It was actually, not hard to make at all.

Right when you think that it is NEVER going to become anything and this is the worst idea in the world...
The kids are now using this dough exclusively for the workshop.  And they like it. A LOT.  Many have asked for the recipe.  And nicely enough, I am seeing some improvements in their handwriting legibility.  I'm adding in sight words this next week so they can practice these as well at this workshop.  I plan to make a new play dough scent or texture every few weeks, and consistently change out the words for sight words and content vocabulary during the year.
I think this workshop is working because they are motivated to "play" with the dough- and in exchange for that treat, I get some handwriting practice ( and potentially word work...) and fine motor building.
Anybody else out there trying to combine these three ideas?

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Reading Comprehension salad

Sometimes, I find myself hating buddy reading.  GASP!  But it's because a lot of the time, well, they aren't reading.  Or if they are reading, they aren't you know, really reading.  Or one of them is reading and the other isn't paying attention.  Or they aren't really talking about the book.  Or a million other things.  And when I thought about it, I think it has a lot to do with that they really aren't sure what to say.  Even when we do give them prompts and sentence stems.  They just don't get it.

Now, I do truly love and adore the book Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor.  She has a great activity called reading salad in her book.  In the activity, you show kids how real reading is thinking, and that as we put in our lettuce pieces for thinking and our red tomatoes for the text we read, we end up with salad that is big on greens.  Meaning- we think more than we read.  I love making reading salad with the kids.  But then I got to thinking that it really shouldn't be a one time deal.  So I started doing it for every book I read aloud.  And then I was thinking about putting the other comprehension strategies into the bowl in the form of other vegetable mnemonics.  And why not train the kids to make salad for themselves?  Giving them this task as they buddy read will help me to get a quick visual on who is on task and who isn't.  Also, giving them their own salad pieces to take home in my universal homework folder gives them a way to make reading more concrete at home with their parents.

So here are some kids using the pieces in a wicker basket I had on their tables.  But the basket is not necessary.  You can easily just make a pile of pieces in front of you as you read.  The green is for thinking, "lettuce think" about what we're reading.  Anytime they have any thought or use any comprehension strategy as they read, they put a piece of lettuce down.  They only put down one tomato if they had a thought on a particular page of text.
It also works well when you have to make a triad in buddy reading. It gives the third person an active role.  No one is passively listening, they all add pieces in to the salad.

The white pieces are onions.  I still have to draw circles into them.  I decided on onions being for connections, after doing a lesson out of Tanny's book called "Concentric Circles of Connection".  The kids agreed that a sliced open onion looked like our chart.  At the moment, we are concentrating on text to self connections. Any time we have one, we discuss it and add it to the salad along with a green piece of lettuce, since it's a type of thinking.  We also have talked about making our connections return to the text.  I showed them this picture I saw on pinterest:

So when we are making a connection to the book, I start my finger at the top of the book, and as I say or they say their connection I make a big loop outward and then bring it back around.  So they've started making that gesture too when they make a connection.

I made orange carrots for Questioning.  And honestly, it was just for the "k" sound.  Questioning Carrots.  I liked the sound of it.  Any time we think of a question about the story, or about a character, we put in a carrot and a piece of lettuce to go along with the text tomato.  I've had to talk to them a lot about words that begin questions- because they weren't sure.  They were actually more likely to make a prediction- "Maybe...such and such will happen" rather than a question-- so it's a continued work.

Making the pieces is not exactly easy.  I will come up with a better way for next year- but for now I've been cutting 280 pieces of each veg out of construction paper.  I have had to create an assembly line of forced labor.  Here we're making the cucumbers for visualization.  We also had to draw on the outer ring of green and seeds.  I picked the cucumber for this strategy because of how you put cucumber slices on your eyes at a spa.  They kids get it, and when we visualize we put the pieces up to our eyes when we talk about it.  When teaching this though, it takes a lot of modeling.  I've had to keep the book nearly shut when I read so they can't see the picture and guide them through a visualization before I show a picture.  They aren't doing this independently yet- but we will get there.

Next up for the assembly line is cutting out yellow bell pepper rings.  I've decided to go with Peppers of Prediction/Prior Knowledge for the inference piece.  We'll be hitting that by the end of the week.  What I have left to get to in the next weeks are Main Idea (summarizing), Synthesizing, and Monitoring for Meaning.  I know I want to do salad dressing, originally I thought for synthesizing, but now I'm thinking it would be better for main idea (summarizing).  I want to do croutons.  And I was thinking this morning of doing mushrooms for Monitor for Meaning, but maybe I should do mushroom for Main idea, and salad dressing for synthesizing, and croutons for Monitoring...decisions, decisions....

I will try to take a video of a read aloud where we use the pieces so you can see it in action.  Ideally, I'd like to do a parent tutorial video and have my ESOL co-teacher Mr. Morales do it in Spanish so I can post it on my school web page.

What do you think? Something worth giving a go?

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

coLAR App on Dot Day

Confession:  I had never read The Dot by Peter Reynolds.

But then I went ahead and participated in Dot Day because of this pin:

I do love technology- so trying out this coLAR app seemed like a fabulous idea.

We read the book first, and it is, indeed a GREAT read.  I think it is empowering about making a mark on the word, and inspiring others, and seeing beyond the "I can't" that stops us from ever achieving greatness.  I had borrowed the book from the library, but now I know that I will purchase my own copy for my regular read alouds collection.

The coLAR site has free printables for coloring to make 3D art.  And the app is free too!  We colored up our dots and then took turns manipulating the art and taking some screen shots.  If you are a one iPad classroom- this is an app that they could easily use and you could still do a whole group activity but not need everyone on the iPad at once.

Here's some shots of the coloring action:


 And here's some shots taken with the iPad using the collar app.  It can actually do about four or five different 3D designs, but these two are my favorite:

The large spinning globe. I think this would be pretty useful for kids making a flat world map and then seeing it fold into a globe, I'll have to give that a try.  It's nice that you can push pause on the app to stop the spinning at a particular place to take a picture. Also you can put your hands in the picture and the picture shows over top.

I call this one "bouncy balls".  The kids also found it outrageously exciting for them to all be bouncing at once.

My only complaint is that once it was over, well, it was, over.  I haven't figured out how to stretch out the experience past the picture phase.  I know there are lots of coloring pages available on the site for printing out and using with the app.  I'll have to investigate them.  Perhaps I could combine the still photo of the 3D art with a voice thread, or a kid's blog post, or even writing description. Not sure yet.

Has anyone else tried out this app?

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Storytelling and map making

My kids are having trouble drawing maps.

They can tell me that they are supposed to pretend that they are floating on the ceiling and look down to draw it- but then they turn in maps that look like they stood at their door and took a picture.  I don't know if it's just an age thing or what- but "perspective" is kicking my butt.

Also because of their age, paying attention for any good length of time- also tripping me up.  I decided to combine something I knew they liked- being told a story- with creating a map they could look at from up above to get some perspective.

You know from previous posts that I dig on The Three Pigs.  So we all sat down on the carpet and I grabbed up some construction paper, a pair of scissors, and a roll of tape and set to work.  I told my version of the three pigs.  (I'm working on putting it into book form- so you'll see it soonish, promise.) As I told the story, I cut simple shapes of paper and folded them into house forms.  This enthralled my ducks, I have to say.  WHOA! HOW DID YOU DO THAT?  They went absolutely nuts at just about each house.  Which also tells me, crafting will be fun with them this year.  They clearly haven't had a lot of experience- so if I can integrate that into the lessons, I'll get their attention.

At the end of the story I had a pretty simple map.  We each took a turn standing over the top of it to see how it looked.  I took this picture with my iPhone:

And then I popped it up on my promethean board, drew the basic outlines overtop of the photo and then removed the photo so the kids could see a map from an overhead perspective.  And then they went out to make their own.  They haven't finished them yet- but they are doing a much better job that previously. 
I've decided to get some other things to help with up in the sky looking down perspectives.  I figured- why not use dollhouse furniture when we try to make maps of rooms?  You can lay out the pieces in any arrangement and then just lean over the top of your desk to draw it- or even take a picture and put it up on the board like I did with this picture.  I also have lots of Toobs ( I bought mine at Hobby Lobby- but I think Michaels sells them too, and also Amazon) that I think I can also use to set out these little landscapes and create maps.  And then- here's the big moment- after I do this a couple of times- then THEY can create scenes and make maps.

I love map making, how about you?

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Pardon me, do you have the time?

We've been reviewing telling time to the hour these past couple of weeks.  They had completely forgotten all the parts of a clock.  It's worrisome, their small little memories.

It was a nice opportunity to use the watches I'd made this summer, and my Pardon Me, Do You Have the Time pack.


First off- I totally had them hooked once they saw the watches.  This group I've got- they are young and they like to play.  So anytime any lesson seems like a game- we go all Mary Poppins over it. 

I've discovered what I like best about playing this game as one big mass group game- is the oral language opportunities.  16 of my 23 ducks are ESOL, so this is huge for them.  Plus, especially here at the beginning of the year, some of them still are having trouble with their classmates names, and part of the recording sheet has them write down WHO had that time on.  All they are supposed to say is "Pardon me, <classmate's name>, but do you have the time?" And the other person can only hold up their watch.  Then they go and record it on their paper.  Then they got obsessed with finding out EVERYONE'S time, and who had the same time on as who, and can I finish filling out my paper before you?  Maaaaaaagical

Our ESOL teacher, Mr. Morales.  It was a big treat to be able to ask him for the time.

Filling out our new discovery on the sheet.

Small groups begin to form to check sheets.  "That's not the time I got for him!" and then off they would scamper to see who was right and who was wrong.

 I'm glad I made the watches my wrist size.  Even though they were loose on a couple of the kids, it turns out I have a few that have a wrist similar in size to mine, and I think it was better for them that it fit.

Problem solving the spelling of names- they went to my name frames I set at each table to help themselves out.
Overall- really glad that it works with the kids.  Really glad that at the end of the game they said "Can we play that again tomorrow?!!"  And, extra bonus- after they played- it worked out that everyone had a match up with someone else (completely random, mind you) that I was able to use for the next partner activity.
What sorts of games are you using to help the kids learn how to read an analog clock?

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

A new (for me) technique for planning writing

I am grateful for creative teammates.  My new buddy Cyndy tried this in her classroom and told me about it, and then I gave it a go, and I have decided that (for now anyway) this is the best thing since sliced bread.

I struggle with the following when teaching second graders to write:
1.  They think once they put it down on paper- it's done.
2. I feel bad asking them to redo it completely, when clearly they have spent a million hours on the illustrations. (also part of the reason why they think they are done- because they are all "Don't be messin' with my artwork, lady!")
3.  They freak when they are handed a booklet stapled together.  They think I've asked them to compose War and Peace.  And they shut down and maybe write a page or two.
4. They tell a different story on each page.
5. When you're trying to get them to the seed idea, as opposed to the watermelon- they don't like it when you rip the booklet apart and hand them the one page they need to work on expanding.
6. They don't believe you about revising and editing.
7.  They never believe they "forgot" a part of the story. And even if they do get around to admitting it- they aren't going to actually add it in- because the story is finished.  There's a staple in the top corner that proves it. "Dang, lady, what is your problem already?"
8. The fifth page says THE END.  Even if the story isn't done- they ARE.NOT. going to get another piece of paper.

Anybody else out there?  Am I seriously the only person who has kids like this?

So here's Cyndy's magic:
Tell a story orally.  Do quick stick man sketches on index cards.  Tell the story again while pointing at the cards. Let your audience ask you a question about that story.  IF they ask you something, it probably is a detail that you left out and need to add a card for.  Tell the story again while pointing at the cards.  No more questions?  Time to write what you said OUT LOUD on the back of the card.  Forget what you said?  You have the person next to you that you told the story to that can probably remember. Spelling doesn't matter.

And I had listened to Cyndy tell me this is what she did and I was like, yeah, ok.  Cards.  I've got cards.  Shoot, kittens, I have everything in that closet of mine.  It's a teacher's black market in there.

I sat down with a small group and told them the story of a time I went sledding and fell down a hole.  I made ridiculous stick figures with no detail at all, except for a frowny face and tears on occasion, and a big speech bubble that said "HELP!".  I labeled the tops of the cards with ordinal numbers (ooooo-math tie-in) and then said "What do you think?".  They kids asked me A LOT of questions actually.  And it turned out, that three of the questions they asked actually were important details to the story that I had left out.  So I added in three other cards and renumbered them.  This was within ten minutes.  It doesn't take that much time to  draw really, really, bad stick figures. So then I said- "Do you think you can do that?" And they were ready to go!  One kid asked "Can I use as many cards as I want?" Right there, I knew this was going to work.

They had about thirty minutes to work on the cards that first day.  All but two of them finished drawing on the cards.  And, they made more detailed drawings as they always do- but they weren't in color, it was obvious that they weren't "finished". I was able to go to each of them and touch base and have them tell their story to me while touching the cards.  I was able to ask them a question that drove their story in a new direction.  I was able to point out a moment that I thought was really interesting and would like to hear more about.  And nobody got miffed because it was just on cards.  They hadn't even "written" anything down yet.  They did not mind at all going to get another card or two to add in to their story.

The next day, I brought my cards back out, and had them bring their cards as well.  I retold the story again.  In fact, I found that I even changed my wording a little as I told the story.  They noticed. 
"Hey, you said it differently yesterday!"
 "Well, which sounds better?  Which way did I tell it and make it more interesting?" 
"Oh, today sounds better, definitely."
So I told them that the goal today was to finish their card drawings if they hadn't yet, and tell their story again to a partner while touching the cards and see if their partner had questions that would point them in the direction of adding new cards. They had really only done the drawing the day before, so I wanted to make sure they told the story to someone other than me today. And off they went, happy as clams, and worked the entire time.  Did a couple of the girls get together to chat off topic?  Yeah, Cheesy Pete, it's not like that is ever NOT going to happen.  But I did notice that some of my kiddos actually chose to move away from the distraction- they were definitely into creating their stories.

Third day, I got out my cards, and they got out their cards, and I told my story again.  Touching each card as I went, changing my language up a bit again on the third day.  And I even realized a part I had forgotten- as it was a true story and happened to me twenty years ago- telling it three days in a row had revived my memory. So I added in a card.
"You can still add in a card?!"
"Sure, why not?"
"But, aren't you done?"
"Well, I thought I was, but when I told the story again I remembered a part.  Do you think it's ok that I add in the card?"
"Yeah, ok, since you forgot."
Then I showed them how now I was ready to write on the back of the cards.  I wrote exactly what I had told them as the story for each card.  When I got to my third card I said, "Hmmm, how did I say this part again?" And So I wrote it down.  So here, on this third day, I had them go out, tell their story again, add if necessary, and then begin to write on the backs of the cards.  I told them that it was OK if they didn't finish that writing part today.  I said the important thing was to get the story down the way they wanted it to sound when they touched their cards.  And off they went. To actually CARE about their writing.

Why am I getting more excited about these cards when they haven't even finished yet?
This is why:
1. It's not a finished looking product.  They will not believe that it's "a book" until we put it into one. which means...
2. They will be willing to revise and edit on these cards. 
3. I don't have to mess with their pictures.  We write ON THE BACK of the cards- so even if we end up crossing things out and adding things in, if they really want to keep their picture, they can, it's untouched on the other side.
4. When they lay out their cards and tell me a story, I can pick the card or cards that contain the seed idea, pull them down, and tuck the other cards in a paper clip in their folders for another time and have them add cards before or after the seed idea to zero in on that smaller moment.
5. Because the card is small, and they get to sketch first, they don't freak out about length.  Some of these kids I worked with had only written me two sentences when I gave them the Lucy Calkins stapled booklet.  When I had them work with the cards and I didn't put any limitation of the story, they drew out a ten page story.
6. Plus, they are saying more than one sentence when they point at the card, and since the writing part of the assignment asks them to write exactly what they said out loud on the back of the card- they don't blink.  They have probably already told the story five or six times to someone before they get to the writing part, and they have another person able to remember what they said- so they don't forget what they wanted to say.
7. So far, not a single one of these cards say "the end" on them.

My plan is to let them create three or four of these card stories for their folders before we go to the next step and I have them pick ONE that they like a lot and would like to take to the next level.  I plan to hook them into this part of the process by saying they create colored pictures.  I'll have them concentrate on the words they wrote on the back of their cards, and look at their quick sketch to see if they should add or change the picture to go along with the words.

I let go of the idea that they constantly need to finish a story.  You know what, folks- they have to be able to write a finished piece AT THE END of the year.  I have 170 more days to get them there.  I'd rather spend the time getting them to be able to tell a story, and LIKE (for heaven's sake!) telling a story, so that I can completely trick them into becoming authors.

Whatcha think, kittens?

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