Friday, September 18, 2015

Spy Writing Project!!


I present to the world........The Spy Writing Project!

Click on this pic to see it in my TPT store!

I cannot even tell you how much blood, sweat, and tears have gone into this BEAST of a writing project! Just know that once this bad boy is up and posted there will be a mountain of weight off my shoulders!

So I started doing these writing projects because I found my students were often bored by the writing process (Let's be honest, it can be pretty boring reading over your own writing for mistakes and then rewriting the WHOLE ENTIRE thing, in neat handwriting none-the-less). I wanted to jazz it up while keeping in all the steps and making sure the students understood how important writing skills are! (I use 6+1 Traits and love it!) And writing projects were born!

This Spy Writing Project is one of those get-to-know-you-at-the-beginning-of-the-year writing assignments. At the end of the process each child has a paragraph (or more, depending on the child) about their REAL IDENTITY. They write the paragraph under their made-up spy name and I like to hang mine up so the kids can try to guess each others real identity. (That adds to the interest factor! You should see them try to guard their "clues" as they work on the rough draft.)


I began the whole unit by asking them what they knew about spies. Some knew surprising little...... Then I really ramped up the interest factor by playing them this little video clip! (So much fun to make btw!)

For some reason this box is steadfastly refusing to get larger. If you'd rather watch it without a microscope you can head over to my Youtube page by clicking here!  

Afterwards, we talked about how spies have REAL IDENTITIES and SPY IDENTITIES complete with code names. This fit in nicely with the prewrite graphic organizer which focuses on the things they like to do and other facts about themselves.                                                                     Some of the kids got really creative with the categories and I got responses like,                                                                                                                                    STRUGGLES WITH                                                                       thinking of spy code names and doing a cartwheel                                                                                                                    In the next writing lesson we focused on turning the short responses from the prewrite into actual sentences in the rough draft. They actually surprised me with how quickly they caught onto it after a few examples. Because this is the beginning of second grade, I used the rough draft that already included the main idea and conclusion sentences, but in the packet I included ones without as well. I think next time, I'll let my higher ability writers come up with their own!
After the rough draft comes the hardest part to teach.......the DREADED self and peer checks!! (Dun, dun, dunnnnnnn!) I tried to make this as easy and as valuable as possible by making a simple checklist and comment section. I have to model these steps like WOAH or it just turns into a check-fest with none of the students actually looking at their own writing or their partner's. 

I usually have them do the self check first and then when they finish that, I try to strategically pair them on ability levels for the peer check. (I don't like the real high and real lows together because then the high student just redoes the paper.) I always have them read their writing out loud to their partner, cause sometimes they hear the mistakes they don't see when silently checking. 

Once the checks are past, the rest of the process is a breeze! They write the final copy in the NEATEST POSSIBLE HANDWRITING and then to really nail down the fact that this is a final copy I have them trace over their words with a skinny sharpie. (It also makes it easier to read when I post it on the bulletin board!)

During these writing projects I like to have a little craftivity of some kind to break up the hard writing bits! For this one it was quick, but exciting none-the-less! We did a fake fingerprint card for each student. I just used one of my classroom inkpads and the kids had a ball studying the patterns on their fingertips. (The ink didn't exactly wash off well though, so I'm surprised I didn't receive any disgruntled emails that night!)

Here is one of the finished products hung on my bulletin board!

My other favorite thing to do with these writing projects is stage a photo shoot complete with costumes, props and the final copy paper! It's super exciting for the kids (cause who doesn't like pictures in costume?) and it really pops when posted up on the wall! I scrounged around in the drama department for coats and hats, the science center for the magnifying glass and asked the maintenance men for some precaucion tape. (In Guatemala all of the caution tape is, naturally, in Spanish) I already owned the sunglasses. (I can totally rock those babies!) And WALA! you have a slick spy outfit!

Finally, I get to work grading these suckers! I like to keep my rubrics short and sweet. I teach the Traits throughout the year and they come to me with basically no knowledge of writing paragraphs so I use a very simplistic rubric for this project. (Focusing on periods and capital letters and other conventions mostly) In the packet, I also threw in a rubric centered around students who already had a grasp of the 6 Traits. 

Finally (finally!) after I've graded the writing, the students take one more good look at their own writing as well as what I've written on the rubric and do a real short reflection. We usually look back at this before starting the next writing project!

Before you go, check out a few of the final drafts!!

Thanks for coming by and I hope you enjoyed this Spy Writing Project!! Happy writing!!

Whoops! Almost forgot! I promised you a picture of Semuc Champey (where I went this past weekend) Here you go!

This paradise is the reason my Spy Writing Project couldn't be posted earlier!!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Internet Fail!

Hi everyone,

Sooooo I know I promised a post on my Spy Writing Project this week, but unfortunately the internet in my apartment has been down the past 4 days! As a result, I couldn't get my post ready in time. (Just a little issue you deal with when teaching abroad!) I would post this weekend, but it's a long weekend which means I'm heading out of town until Tuesday. (I'm going to Semuc Champey, a Guatemalan river full of beautiful lagoons! I'll post a pic when I get back. This is an example of a perk of teaching abroad!)

Sometimes you just gotta roll with it.

I'll leave you with a few of my favorite kid-isms to help with the pain of having to wait a bit longer for the Spy Writing Project.....

While walking down the hallway to lunch:
Me: Guys, are we walking in a line or in a hoard? 
Kid: (thoughtfully) I don't know what a whore is....

In the cafeteria:
Kid: Miss Fano, I can't eat lunch today because it's pizza and I'm not allowed to eat things that start with the letter P. The doctor said so.
Me: Oh...... well this is cheese pizza. It starts with the letter C. 
Kid: Oh! Ok!
(Don't worry. I talked with this parent. The child IS allowed to eat pizza.)

In the middle of a lesson:
I watch a child pick something up off the floor and proceed to roll it all over his face.
Me: If you found it on the floor, please don't rub it on your face!!
Kid: Don't worry it's mine. I dropped it there yesterday.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Budget Friendly Shared Supplies: Holla to the Dollar Tree!

To start, I LOVE having the kids sit in table groups! Table groups foster the collaborative environment that I strongly believe in and teach the kids the oh-so-important skill of sharing (waiting your turn for the table glue is rough those first few weeks!). In these table groups it makes sense to have communal supplies within easy reach at the middle of the tables. Over the years (with trial and error) I've figured out what works for us in the buckets. 

Here's a closer look at our table buckets (thanks Dollar Tree!!) 

Each table is color coded and each bucket includes a red cup for crayons, a pencil cup, some scissors and glue sticks as well as some big erasers. (The kids trying to figure out how to share the scissors and glue sticks is one of those classic second grade learning experiences.)

I spent less than 5$ on each set: 

Bucket = $1
Pencil Cup = $1
2 Scissor Pack = $1 (though you might be able to find these cheaper at Walmart)
Red Cups = $1 for a pack of 3

The rest of the stuff in there is either provided by the school or brought in as student supplies.

Thanks for coming back this week and because this was a bit of a short post, I'm going to sweeten it with a sneak peek at the special project that will be coming up next week!

**Special Sneak Peek**

Get ready for some getting-to-know-you writing with a secret agent twist!

And remember, if you like what you've been reading so far click the Follow Me! button up and on the right to stay updated!!