Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Teaching Kids to Write: Writing to Inform

Posted by Rhonda McDonald on Sep 30, 2014 8:00:00 AM

McDonald-picThis is a guest post by Rhonda McDonald, a Title 1 Reading Specialist in Botetourt County Public Schools, Virginia and author of two books in our Kaleidoscope Collection: Polar Bears and The White Whale. She has been writing a series of posts on teaching children to write; you can view her earlier posts by clicking here!

Writing to Inform

Writing to teach or inform someone about a topic is a strategy that can be useful in all subject areas. Keep in mind the audience that will be reading the finished product. Age-appropriate projects can be adapted to target the participating students. This type of writing must be accurate. Often research is required to verify factual information. Incorporate research lessons into the search for historical or scientific facts. Take the students to the library and guide them as they locate appropriate resource books on their topic. Parents may be asked to assist at home with internet research.

HOW-TO

One of the simplest forms would be writing captions for pictures of how to do something, such as make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Children could list the ingredients, draw the steps and then label the pictures.

An extension to this activity would be to create a sandwich with colored construction paper to be glued onto the paper with the “How To Make” directions. To conclude the activity, bring the ingredients to actually make the sandwich and have a tasting party. As one student reads what to do, another student would follow exactly what they are told to do. If the sandwich turns out as desired, Great! If not, revisions may be needed in the directions. If you have students with food allergies to peanut butter, you could vary the activity with “How to Make Pancakes” or some other favorite food.

Teachers often ask preschool or kindergarten students to tell them “How to Cook a Turkey” at Thanksgiving. Their inventive answers are recorded and shared.

Older students may wish to write on the topic “How to Grow a Sunflower.” Combine visual representations of plant parts with the written directions. Have the students grow sunflowers in the spring. Start the seeds in the classroom and transplant them somewhere outside or at home when they outgrow the original container. It would be a fun summer project to measure the height throughout the summer and create a growth chart. At the end of the summer, the large bloom of the sunflower could be collected for seeds. The sunflower seeds could be used in a bird feeder or baked to eat the kernels.

The following books can be found in the Kaleidoscope collection of leveled readers:

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Where Does It Come From? (Level D): “Where do apples come from? Apples come from apple trees.”

Seeds (Level G): “Apples, grapes, and lemons have few seeds. A peach has one seed. This seed is called a pit. Strawberries and melons have many seeds. Some seeds grow in flowers. Sunflower seeds can be eaten.”

INFORMATIONAL TEXT

Writing for informational projects may take many forms, from travel brochures about points of interest to stories on a particular topic. Choose a location and plan an imaginary or real class trip to that location. Have the students research and write about facts on the area, history of the destination, etc. What makes it a place that people want to visit? The field trip will be a success when the students are prepared to see things they have already learned about. If going to the actual place is not an option, some places offer virtual field trips on the computer. Students could create math word problems on distance traveled or elapsed time on the start to finish.

To extend the field-trip idea, plan a pretend weeklong trip to several destinations within one region. Research the weather for the time of year you might travel and create a suggested packing list. Assign different ways to travel on the journey to different groups. Ask them to write about how their trip might be different if they went by train, airplane, ship, car, bicycle, etc. Schedule a sharing time for the finished trip reports.

Choose a health-related topic and ask students to write about why it is important to their health to practice this habit. Examples include brushing teeth, exercise, or eating a balanced diet. Ask them to research factual data to support their presentation. Progress for the individual or the class could be charted. The data could be analyzed and written into a summary.

McDonald-12-3Create a set of factual trading cards on a topic. An example could be important historical people and their contributions. Students could work with a partner to research information to include. This could be an ongoing project as the class studies about different folks from the past.

Select a topic from history and ask students to write about how it has evolved over time. An example would be the purpose of horses. In times past, horses had a very different meaning to people than today’s horses do. The book Work Horses will show students why these horses were needed to help with jobs.

Work Horses (Level F) “Before there were tractors, farmers had big horses called draft horses. Draft horses pulled plows and helped the farmers work the fields.”

Children have a natural curiosity to learn factual information. Tap into this and let them suggest topics of interest to learn more about. We can learn many things from each other and from the personal experiences the children bring to the task of writing.


For more information on the Kaleidoscope Collection containing books written by this author, you can download an information sheet by clicking on the image below. 

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Topics: Joy Cowley Collection, Kaleidoscope Collection, Rhonda McDonald, Teaching Writing

Teaching Kids to Write: Writing to Persuade

Posted by Rhonda McDonald on Jul 2, 2014 11:46:43 AM

McDonald-picThis is a guest post by Rhonda McDonald, a Title 1 Reading Specialist in Botetourt County Public Schools, Virginia and author of two books in our Kaleidoscope Collection: Polar Bears and The White Whale. She has been writing a series of posts on teaching children to write; you can view her earlier posts by clicking here!

Writing to Persuade

Can I have a pet? Can we go to the pool? Can I buy a new bike? Children are experts at coming up with things they would like to have. Truth be told, we as adults are very similar, though our wants may be a little pricier: a new car, a new house, or an exciting vacation. We are bombarded with media trying to convince us to fulfill our wants.

Teaching your students to write a persuasive essay creates an opportunity to channel their passions. Ask them to brainstorm 3-5 things they want or would like to accomplish:

  • Wants: a dog, summer camp, new tennis shoes, an iPad, a fishing trip
  • Accomplishments: guitar lessons, swimming lessons, gymnastics class, job, horseback riding lessons

Next, ask them to discuss the list and prioritize the items. This requires some conversation about why each thing is important. The dialogue would also provoke a possible plan of action to reach the goal. As they discuss the list, ask them to jot down notes that are important points in the discussion. Ask them to compose a one-page argument using the notes. Share the essay with a partner first, then a group or class. They may want to revise the ideas based on feedback from others. 

After a few opportunities in organizing their own thoughts and opinions and creating a plan of action, the class might like to come up with a group project. Small groups of students could prepare speeches as to why their project would be best for the class. After this information is presented, a vote could be taken to select the most popular idea. 

Examples could include cleaning up a playground, recycling soda cans, making signs to help with littering, or teaching younger students about bicycle safety and why they should wear bike helmets. These ideas could be McDonald-1written as a plan of action to be shared with other classes, an entire school, or a Parent Teacher Association group

I Want to Be a Scuba Diver by Anita Goodwin (Level H) in the Kaleidoscope Collection is told from the point of view of a young boy. He tells about the adventures that his family members have while scuba diving and why he wishes he could join them.

“Mom likes to dive with her underwater camera. She takes pictures of sea turtles and different kinds of coral. Dad likes to dive in caves. He has lights on his helmet. He looks for fossils in rocks. I ask Dad, 'When can I dive?'"

This book could be used as an example for showing how the boy creates his reasons to want to be a scuba diver. 

McDonald-2Pet Day by Nancy Brekke (Level G), is another book in the Kaleidoscope Collection. This is a story about children bringing their pets to school. Read the book as a discussion opener to why different people prefer various pets. Ask the children to look for describing words about the pets.

“Carter brought his salamander. It was very slimy.”

“Ethan brought his pot-bellied pig. It looked kind of ugly.”

“Brianna brought her guinea pig. It had a potbelly, too.”

“Our principal brought his pet. It was a python snake. No one wanted to touch it.” 

Talk about the care that would be required for each of these pets. Each student could create an illustrated brochure listing the positive reasons that they think their pet is best. Share with the group to develop speaking skills. 

Extend the activity by thinking of some unusual pets: hedgehog, lamb, spider, etc. Talk about why some animals do not make good pets and are best left in a zoo or the wild. Examples include a monkey, raccoon, skunk, or deer.

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Three fun books from the Joy Cowley Collection are told from the pet’s point of view. They give advice on what to do and not do.

“Do not fly over the dinner table. Humans do not like feathers or anything else dropped in their food.”

“In your new home there is an oven with a glass door. This is not a dog TV.”

Providing children with a personal reason to write is a fantastic way to motivate them. Persuasive writing, when applied to real life, can show them that words on a page can create positive change. Newspaper editorials are another example of persuasive writing. This is just one example of author’s purpose. Ask the question, “Why is the author writing this piece?” They may wish to respond to an editorial with their viewpoint.

  • Create situations where the students are assigned opposing roles on an issue. Ask them to defend their views. Then, mix up the group and have some students switch views. It may be an eye opener to look at the issue from the other side.
  • Create a school survey to take the pulse of how students feel about a particular issue. Tally the results. Assign groups to defend each view. Share.
  • Many stories have been written that show a traditional tale from the other point of view. Look in the library for these titles and share with the class.

For more information on the Kaleidoscope Collection containing books written by this author, you can download an information sheet by clicking on the image below. To learn more about the Joy Cowley Collection, which includes the book shown in this post, click here to visit our website, or click the image to the right below for the information sheet for that series. 

 

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Teaching Kids to Write: The Author's Purpose and Writing to Communicate

Posted by Rhonda McDonald on May 5, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Rhonda McDonaldThis is a guest post by Rhonda McDonald, a Title 1 Reading Specialist in Botetourt County Public Schools, Virginia and author of two books in our Kaleidoscope Collection: Polar Bears and The White Whale. She has been writing a series of posts on teaching children to write; you can view her earlier posts by clicking here!

The Author's Purpose:
Writing to Communicate

“Why do we need to learn to write?” That is a valid question raised by many of our children and our students. In this blog entry, we will explore writing to communicate. Students need a reason for the practice of writing. We sometimes call this Author’s Purpose. In this age of texting and e-mail, many forms of writing have been abbreviated to the extent that written communication has been lost. Let’s consider some forms of writing to communicate.

GROCERY/SHOPPING LISTS

Ask students to help plan a trip to the grocery store by making a grocery list. Let them read labels and pick out items on the shelf from the list. They may want to include items to pack in their lunch box, plan out a special meal, or plan items to buy for a birthday party. For your own children, keep a notepad in a special place in your kitchen to write grocery requests. Some of these notepads have a magnet on the back to place on a refrigerator door.

NOTES

Write notes to your students or children to encourage them at school:

  • “Have a great day at school!”
  • “I’ll be thinking of you today on your field trip. Have fun!”

Post-It notes are great for this short type of communication. Tuck the note into a lunchbox or bookbag. Give them a blank Post-It or notecard and ask them to write a note back to you about how their day was or something special that happened.

Model note-writing by writing short notes to a teacher in an assignment book.

Brief notes can be nonthreatening reminders to complete chores.

  • “Don’t forget to feed the cat.”
  • “Please fold the towels in the clothes dryer.”

Ask your children to write notes to you as reminders:

  • “Mom, don’t forget to wash my basketball uniform. I have a game after school tomorrow.”

Place a note on the dash of the car as a reminder.

  • “Take lunch money to Ted.”
  • “Parent/Teacher Conference at 4:00”

POSTCARDS/GREETING CARDS/INVITATIONS

When traveling to new places, I like to send postcards to my students. When I receive one from them, it is a special treat. This is practical writing that shows they are adept at the writing skills that were taught in class. This task takes little time due to the small space on a post card. Students are excited to receive their very own piece of mail. These were written by rising second-grade students.

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McDonald-10-4 McDonald-10-5

In class, design a post card of a place you have been studying or to a place they would like to go. Design a postcard to a character from a book they have read. Make up a creative address:

Winnie the Pooh
503 Hunny Pot Lane
The Hundred Acre Woods, WV 27604

All sorts of creative ideas may go into designing greeting cards or invitations. Cut the card into an animal shape. Make up a verse or short poem for the inside message:

This little panda would like to
Send a special birthday wish to you.
Celebrate and have a blast!
As you remember the year that’s past.

Valentine’s Day is a fun time to practice making cards to send to classmates.

Ask children to design an invitation to an event (birthday party, swim party, cookout, sleepover, skate party, baseball game, etc.). Include important information:

  • WHAT
  • WHEN
  • WHERE
  • TIME
  • WHAT TO BRING
  • CONTACT INFORMATION (RSVP)

Decorate with colorful markers, stickers or glitter.

LETTERS/PEN PALS/ENVELOPES

Teach the students to correctly write their address on a lined piece of paper. When they have mastered the proper spacing and information, transfer the information to an envelope.

Ask them to pick a friend in class and exchange addresses with them. Use this friend’s address on the practice envelope. Talk about the return address and the address of the letter. It may help to draw boxes on the envelope as a guide to enclose the 2 addresses. They may wish to draw a stamp in the upper right hand corner of the practice envelope. Talk about the information included in the address, state abbreviations and zip codes.

McDonald-10-6-1  McDonald-10-7

Wishy-Washy Letter from the Joy Cowley Early Birds series is a fun book to read with children when you talk about the job of a stamp on an envelope. Mrs. Wishy Washy’s animals thought they should STAMP on the envelope with their feet.

There are many excellent children’s books that tell a story by writing letters to various characters. Children can see models in these books for a friendly letters or postcards.

Letter-writing to friends, family members, or pen pals will provide practice in written expression. To actually send the letter and receive one back is exciting.

LETTER WRITING CENTER: You may want to have a mailbox in your classroom for interclass mail. A student could be selected as the designated mailman each week to deliver letters on a particular day of the week. Provide colored paper or stationary for the letter writing center. Thank-you letters to grandparents or relatives for birthday or holiday gifts are fun to write.

E-MAIL: Some schools may have the capability for students to write and send interschool e-mail. The content should be approved by an adult prior to sending the e-mail.

SKYPE: If your school has the ability to Skype with a school in another part of the country or world, this is an exciting exchange and an opportunity to meet pen pals. One of our first-grade classes in Virginia had the opportunity to Skype with a class in Tanzania, Africa where my daughter was teaching for a year. The time difference was a challenge, but we were able to work that out. It was an amazing experience for both classes as the image was projected onto an interactive Promethean board. The children talked, sang, and answered questions about their school.

In closing, I would like to reinforce the purpose of writing to communicate. Provide your students with an intended audience. It will motivate them to produce their very best writing!


For more information on the Kaleidoscope Collection containing books written by this author, you can download an information sheet by clicking on the image below. To learn more about the Joy Cowley Early Birds series, which includes the book shown in this post, click here to visit our website, or click the image to the right below for the information sheet for that series.

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Teaching Kids to Write: The Standard Spelling Stage

Posted by Rhonda McDonald on Apr 16, 2014 9:00:00 AM

Rhonda McDonaldThis is a guest post by Rhonda McDonald, a Title 1 Reading Specialist in Botetourt County Public Schools, Virginia and author of two books in our Kaleidoscope Collection: Polar Bears and The White Whale.

Developmental Writing Stage:
Standard Spelling (9–12 years old)

For the past year, I have been writing these guest blog posts about the developmental stages of learning to write. Developing the skills to become a writer closely parallels the skills of learning to read. One stage builds upon the next in a predictable, sequential order. This is the final stage in this progression. When children reach the Standard Spelling stage, they have acquired a strong foundation for print. Words are recognizable with correct spelling in place. Students are developing an understanding of root words, compound words and contractions. This allows them to correctly spell similar words. If you would like to review the previous stages, you can click here to see my earlier posts.

Students who have mastered early writing skills are beginning to view writing as a way to express their thoughts and ideas in a controlled manner. They are able to respond to a reading passage or text and share what they were thinking about the story. Sentence structure is evident with correct word usage. Correct punctuation with a variety of sentence types is also evident. The choice of vocabulary is descriptive and helps to paint a picture in the reader’s mind. Let’s take a look at some examples from first- and second-grade students:

McDonald-9-2-200   McDonald-9-3   McDonald-9-4-140

One of our motivating tools to encourage student writing is a portable, battery-powered, word-processing keyboard. This durable keyboard is powered by four AA batteries. It can be used in the classroom, outside, or on a field trip. They have files to store up to eight stories. Work is automatically saved as they type. When the story is completed, the keyboard is connected to a computer with a USB cord and the story is sent to a computer file. Saved stories are easy to revise and edit. When a story appears perfect, it is printed and displayed in the classroom. Here are some examples of stories created using this tool, written by third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders:

Silly Jilly (written by a third-grade student)

McDonald-9-5Last morning I accidently put jelly in my hair. Then I missed the bus. I ran with hard jelly spiked in my hair. When I finally got to school I walked into the classroom. Everybody was laughing. This was the worst day ever!

For dinner we had squash. I do not like squash! I had a big plate of it. I had an idea. I called my dog Princess. She ate my whole plate. I said, “Done!” Then, I had a big plate of cake. My dog had squash all over her mouth. Mom took the big plate of chocolate cake away. And you know what? I got grounded for four days! My brother was giggling. My brother is a hair ball.

The next day was school. When I woke up, my mom said we missed the bus again. I could not find my shoes. So I had to wear my brother’s shoes. My mom took me to school. I was so embarrassed I tried to hide them under my dress, but they showed under my pants. I missed the spelling test. I had to do it with the principal.

When I went home, I slipped off those stinky shoes. After that, I took a bath. When I put my PJs on they had marker all over my PJs. I was so mad! I wanted to spank my brother so hard.

The next day when I got home, it was my birthday. I opened my presents and I looked in the big box. My favorite pink pillow from Justice was in the box! There were pink and purple balloons on my cake. I had the best day of my life!

What I Am Thankful For (written by a fourth-grade student)

McDonald-9-6Look for opportunities to publish student work. Following is an assignment that we worked on in class and submitted to our local newspaper. Four of the students' stories were selected for publication in our Thanksgiving edition under the section titled “What I Am Thankful For.”

I am thankful for my life because if I was not born I would not be here right now. I am glad I have food, water shelter and clothes.

On Thanksgiving, my Elf on the Shelf comes. His name is Larry. Larry is a little elf. You can’t touch him or he will lose his magic. Only Mom or Dad can touch.

On Thanksgiving I am super lazy. All I want to do is ride my dirt bike. My dirt bike might be small but it is fast, and it can jump high.

I love my family. They are very funny. My cousin’s name is Conner. I love my cousin. He is funny. My cousins live far away. Only two of my cousins came. They are at my house right now. They both have a lot of freckles. I think I got my freckles from my cousin Kristin.

We start to cook the turkey when it is at home. My family loves turkey so much we just devour the turkey. I am thankful for my family because if I didn’t have my family I would be lonely.    

Army Knife (written by a fifth-grade student)

McDonald-9-7This story was written as a follow up to a survival story we read in class. I asked the students to think of a tool that they might want to take with them if they were stranded somewhere and write about it.

It was Christmas. My dad said, “Ben you need to be careful with what I’m about to give you.” “Now,” he said, “Here it is.” He handed it to me. It was a Swiss army knife. This is what it had. There was a punch, knife, screw driver, flat head screw driver, and a saw. It was red, black and silver. It was amazing! He said, “Also, Ben, something else. I got you a ticket for a boat ride. Ben, use this for things necessary.”

It came to be spring. It was time for me to use that ticket he gave me for Christmas. I went to the boat dock. The driver said, “Sit up front. Now we are going to go around an island about five miles out.” I got on the boat. It was a Jet-Max that was a speed boat. We got closer to the island. Suddenly, the driver screamed! He said, “NO! Get off of me!” I looked over and saw a snake biting him but it was not poisonous. He passed out. I did not know what to do. I tried to wake him up but it did not work. We were heading for a rock. So I did what I did and jumped off the boat. The boat hit the rock and the driver hit the rock with his head. As I swam, I saw the island he spoke of before we started our journey. So I swam to the island.

I thought an island was not that bad because it will be warm at night to sleep. Also it is long so I can explore it all. The ocean was next to it, so I could fish. I’m glad it was spring because it is warm to stay alive.

“Now,” I wondered, “What are my dangers on an island? They are poisonous snakes, wolves, piranhas, bears, and tree frogs? What am I going to do to protect myself?” Maybe I could build something with the boat parts that washed up on shore. I found two rocks pressed together. I took the side of the boat to cover the entrance. The next day, I found a stick to sharpen to catch fish. Then I found a coconut. I took the punch on my knife. I hit it as hard as I could and it made a hole. I did it a couple more times. I took a drink. It was delicious!

Before I went to bed, I made a fire with my knife. I scratched my knife against the rock and sparks came down on the pile of dry leaves. It caught on fire after I blew on the leaves.

When I woke up, I was in the hospital. I looked next to me and saw my family. I asked, “What happened?” My dad said, ‘You were unconscious for three days because after you got in the wreck with the boat, you hit your head. We found your body alive.” I said to them, “I had the worst dream! Want to hear it?”


Learning to write can be an enjoyable experience. Encourage students to bring out their personalities as they write. Talk to them about selecting the right words to portray voice and emotions. Work on dictionary and thesaurus skills as their vocabulary grows. Teach the students how to be an attentive listener and offer constructive critique for their peers. Model writing practice by writing with the students. In my classroom, we like to turn on some background music when we are writing. If I forget, usually one of the students will ask to turn on the music. That’s when I realize that they look forward to the writing process as much as I do. It is a time for them to relax and let the creative ideas flow.


For more information on the Kaleidoscope Collection containing books written by this author, you can download an information sheets by clicking on the image below.

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Topics: Rhonda McDonald, Teaching Writing

Teaching Kids to Write: The Transitional Stage

Posted by Rhonda McDonald on Mar 12, 2014 8:35:00 AM

Rhonda McDonald 180This is a guest post by Rhonda McDonald, a Title 1 Reading Specialist in Botetourt County Public Schools, Virginia and author of two books in our Kaleidoscope Collection: Polar Bears and The White Whale.

Developmental Writing Stage: Transitional  (7–8 years old)

 

Children in the transitional stage of writing display the ability to create meaningful sentences to communicate a message. They have mastered basic mechanics, starting a sentence with a capital letter, ending with the correct punctuation, and correct spelling. They may still mix the use of capital and lower case letters. Writing on lined paper is introduced as they gain control of the size of letters. Spacing of words on a page is improving. To share examples of this stage, we read the story Mrs. Wishy-Washy and the Big Wash by Joy Cowley. We created a group story with students contributing a sentence and an illustration.

MWW Wash 275  McDonald 8 1 275

In the story, Mrs. Wishy-Washy had no water to wash her animals. She decided to take the animals to town to find some water to wash them. She took them to a car wash where they drove the truck thru and the animals were washed. I asked the students to think of another place where Mrs. Wishy-Washy could have washed the animals. The answers were as follows.

McDonald 8 2 275

 I will take the cow to the beach.

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I will take the duck to the pool.

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I will go to the beach. I will take the pig to the beach.

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I will take the pig after it rains. I try to keep the pig out of the mud.

 MWW Wash 2 300MWW Wash 3 300

After the animals are clean, Mrs. Wishy-Washy takes them to get some cakes.

Lesson Ideas

  • Rewrite the story and change the farm animals.
  • Think of a new way for Mrs. Wishy-Washy to reward the animals.
  • Make puppet cut-outs of the animals, mount them on a craft stick and role play the story.
  • Rewrite the story in a different setting and change the animals, for example, in the jungle with a monkey, a toucan, and a tiger.
  • Write about what happened next when the animals went home from town.
  • Write about why Mrs. Wishy-Washy wanted her animals to be clean (e.g., maybe they were going to a fair).
  • Make animal headbands, dress someone like Mrs. Wishy-Washy and role play the story.
  • Read the story with character voices, emphasize expression and fluency

~~~

For more information on the Kaleidoscope Collection or the Joy Cowley Collection, you can download information sheets by clicking on the images below.

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Teaching Kids to Write: The "CVC Words" Stage!

Posted by Rhonda McDonald on Feb 5, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Rhonda McDonald 180This is a guest post by Rhonda McDonald, a Title 1 Reading Specialist in Botetourt County Public Schools, Virginia and author of two books in our Kaleidoscope Collection: Polar Bears and The White Whale.

Developmental Writing Stage: "CVC Words" (6–7 years old)

 

The magic of writing begins in earnest as children move to the developmental writing stage of initial, middle, and final sounds. We also refer to these words as "CVC words" or consonant-vowel-consonant. This would include words that contain short vowels in a medial position (examples: box, cat, run, hit, pen). Children are excited to write as they gain confidence in putting words together. Practice with CVC words may include word building with foam or magnetic letters.

McDonald 7 1 McDonald 7 2

Children will select the letters that they hear in the word and place them into letter boxes. As they say the sound of the letter, the child will touch the letter and push it slightly upward. At the end of the sounding out /l/ /o/ /g/ the entire word is pronounced. /log/ Practice with word-building will improve quick recognition when they see the words in the text of a story. This skill will also extend to their writing.

McDonald 7 3 McDonald 7 4

In these writing examples, you will see a well-constructed sentence. A capital letter at the beginning and a punctuation mark at the end are evident. Spacing between words is present. The second example shows lines under the words indicating that the child has a strong concept of word. The writing is well positioned on an unlined page leaving space for an illustration below. The size of the letters is proportionate with appropriate letter formation. A child at this developmental stage is able to control a writing tool such as a pencil or marker.

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In the 3rd and 4th examples you will notice that the students were able to correctly spell the CVC words, but not necessarily other words. The word /the/ is spelled /hte/ in the 3rd example. It is considered a sight word and does not fit the CVC rules for sounding out the typical alphabet letter sounds. The letters in the sentences are well formed with a couple of reversals. Children are beginning to add more details to their illustrations that bring out their individuality.

Oops, Mr. Wishy-Washy is a charming story from The Joy Cowley Collection. In this story, Mr. Wishy-Washy goes outside to feed the animals and forgets to turn off the kitchen tap. With a little help from the cow, pig, and duck, he is able to clean up the mess and wash all the dishes before Mrs. Wishy-Washy returns from town.

  • After reading the story, play “I Spy” with the CVC words: tap, ran, pig, mop, had.
  • Build word ladders with a dry erase board or magnetic letters by changing one letter of the CVC word to a new word. Give the children a clue for the next word.

Example: "pig"

- Change one letter in pig and make a word that is the opposite of little: big

- Change one letter in big and make a word that is something you put groceries in: bag

- Change one letter in bag and make a word that is something that tells a price: tag

- Change one letter in tag and make a word that means to pull on: tug

  • Give the children some play dough. Divide it into three small balls. With each ball, create the lower case alphabet letter that represents the sounds in the CVC word. Ask them to touch each letter as they sound out the word.
  • Form CVC words with bendable pipe cleaners or Wikki Sticks. Touch each lowercase letter as it is sounded out, then say the entire word. The tactile approach reinforces the unique shape of the letters and involves the sense of touch with sight and sound of the letter.
  • Extend the skill by looking for CVC words in the story with an /s/ added: cups, pots, pans. Talk about how adding an s creates a word that means more than one thing.
  • Introduce blends and digraphs by looking at how the sounds blend in these words from the story: plug /pl/, fast /st/, went /nt/, sink /nk/, duck /ck/, with /th/, path /th/.
  • Write about the story with different animals. Ask them how they would solve the problem in the story.
  • Role play the story. Encourage the use of different voices for the characters.

~~~

For more information on the Kaleidoscope Collection or the Joy Cowley Collection, you can download information sheets by clicking on the images below.

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Teaching Kids to Write: The "Consonants Represent Words" Stage!

Posted by Rhonda McDonald on Jan 10, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Rhonda McDonald 180This is a guest post by Rhonda McDonald, a Title 1 Reading Specialist in Botetourt County Public Schools, Virginia and author of two books in our Kaleidoscope Collection: Polar Bears and The White Whale.

Developmental Writing Stage: Consonants Represent Words (5–6 years old)

Children in the “Consonants Represent Words” stage of writing are learning that letters of the alphabet can be arranged in different order to make a unit called a word. They have mastered alphabet recognition and the sounds of each letter. The child is learning to leave spaces between word units on a page. Words are combined to create a message.

Phonetic inventive spelling will be present because they spell exactly what they hear (e.g., luv/love, haws/house, wachid/watched). Vowel sounds may be left out of the words (e.g., blt/built). Knowledge of silent letters is not evident in the writing (e.g. pla/play, lik/like). The child is building a bank of words from letter sounds and sight words that are often used and quickly recognized (e.g., the/and/at/to). Sentence formation is beginning to appear as they leave space on the page between words. Left to right movement across a page is evident.

 McDonald 6 1 270  McDonald 6 2 270
I like to play ball.   One day one pig built his house out of bricks.

 

McDonald 6 3 270

 

McDonald 6 4 270 

Look at the rain. It is falling on a pig.   Meli did bark when she watched TV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Create words with magnetic letters. A metal cookie sheet or pizza pan are easy portable surfaces to use with magnetic letters. Select letters that are accurate representations of the letters. Say the word and listen for the letter sounds (phonemes) in the word. Select the letters that are needed and create the word. As they say each sound, push the letter with an index finger. When they are finished sounding out the word, pronounce the entire word. For an extension, try mixing up the letters of the word and ask the child to unscramble the word.

* Encourage the children to illustrate their text. This helps them to connect meaning to the printed words and show what they are thinking.

* Writing down the message as they dictate allows children to see the words modeled correctly. Ask them to tell you about their sentence and illustration.

* At this stage of writing, it is best to use unlined paper. Spatial awareness is still developing and controlled writing on a line is not yet recommended.

* As the child reads his or her own writing, ask the child to listen and count how many words are in the sentence. Read the sentence again. Ask the child to count how many words are in the sentence by touching the words.

* You may begin to introduce the idea that a period will come at the end of a sentence or complete thought. Talk with them about the idea of the period acting like a stop sign to signal the end of a thought.

* Talk about how stories are made up of more than one sentence. Help them to construct a short story using one page of paper for each sentence and illustration. Ask them to read their story to two or three people.

* Collect their own stories and put them in a special shoebox or basket. Let them decorate the container. Select one or two of their stories for them to practice reading at bedtime.

* Encourage and praise their writing efforts.

In the Garden is a story in Set C of the Kaleidoscope Collection. It is written on Level D and contains repeated phrases and predictable text. “I can see a worm. It is in the dirt. I can see a bee. It is on a flower. I can see a ladybug. It is on a leaf.” This style of writing is encouraging to beginning writers/readers because they can readily recognize the predictable sight words. Most children will be able to relate to the text because it speaks of concrete things found in nature. You may wish to encourage the child to create a pattern story similar to this book.

Mrs. Wishy-Washy and the Big Tub is a story from The Joy Cowley Green Collection. It is written on Level I. In this story, Mrs. Wishy-Washy takes her cow, pig and duck on a train trip to the beach. “The sea is like a big tub!” she said. After reading and discussing this story, you may encourage children to write about a place that they have visited. If they have been to a beach, they will be able to relate their experience to Mrs. Wishy-Washy and the animals. You could talk about creating a new ending to the story, or changing the animals in their version of the story.

~~~

For more information on the Kaleidoscope Collection or the Joy Cowley Collection, you can download information sheets by clicking on the images below.

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Topics: Joy Cowley Collection, Mrs. Wishy-Washy, Kaleidoscope Collection, Rhonda McDonald, Teaching Writing

Teaching Kids to Write: Beginning Sounds Emerge!

Posted by Rhonda McDonald on Dec 4, 2013 8:00:00 AM

Rhonda McDonald 200This is a guest post by Rhonda McDonald, a Title 1 Reading Specialist in Botetourt County Public Schools, Virginia and author of two books in our Kaleidoscope Collection: Polar Bears and The White Whale.


The Developmental Writing Stage of Beginning Sound Emergence: 5–6 years old

Children in the “Beginning Sounds Emerge” stage of writing are learning that each letter of the alphabet has a definite sound. When these sounds are arranged in a particular order, a word is created. They are starting to write strings of letters as a word containing the initial sounds they hear.

McDonald 1 250 McDonald 2 250

Sentence formation is beginning to appear as they leave space on the page between words. Motor control of forming letters and gripping a writing tool improves as muscles in their hand mature. The child at this stage may switch between holding the writing tool in the right or left hand. One of the first words to be mastered is their name. Focus on this strength and play word games with their name.

  • Make a name puzzle: Write their name on an index card, cut apart the letters, mix them up, and ask the child to arrange the letters of their name in proper order.
  • Make a collage: Cut out magazine pictures of items that begin with a given letter in their name.
  • Practice writing their name: Be creative and use different ways to make the child’s name: markers, colored pencils, glitter, play dough, noodles, and seeds.
  • Work on learning names of other family members or pets: Mom, Dad, etc. Take a picture of the person, print it out, and help the child write the correct name under each picture. (Variation: Cut the names off the pictures, mix them up, and ask them to match the names with the pictures.)

The book Where Does It Live? (guided reading level D) from the Kaleidoscope Collection is a nonfiction book about animals. The White Whale (guided reading level I), also a nonfiction book, is about the beluga whale. Both are illustrated with photography that will show children the animals. Read the books together and identify the words for the names of the animals. Play “I Spy” and touch a given word on the page. Draw on the child’s prior knowledge of animals to build new concepts and add words to their speaking vocabulary.

  • Go visit a zoo and take pictures of the animals. These pictures can be printed and used to build word knowledge.
  • Make word cards as headers for how you would like the child to sort the pictures. Sort the pictures by birds, mammals, reptiles etc. Sort them by animals with fur, feathers, scales or those that fly, swim, walk, run, or crawl. They could also sort by color as you teach color words.

McDonald 3 200McDonald 4 200describe the image

Atlanta Zoo, Atlanta, Georgia

describe the imageMcDonald 7 200McDonald 8 200

Monterey Aquarium, Monterey Coast, California

  • Create a nonfiction picture story book about one animal. Guide the child to listen for the sound of the words as they write.
  • Create a fiction story with the child as the main character and one animal. Keep it short, 3–4 sentences, and encourage listening for the sounds of words as they write. They might want to add on to the story another day.
  • Choose a favorite stuffed animal to write about.
  • Learn more about the animal by reading books from the public library.
  • Make picture fact cards about the animals. Add words to describe, for example, on the penguin card, you could put swims, black & white, bird, chick, and egg. Then play “Guess the Animal” as you take turns giving descriptive clues about each animal.

Learning to write should always be a fun activity. Young children have very short attention spans. Keep this in mind when working on new skills. Let it flow as a natural learning time of their daily routine.

~~~

For more information on the Kaleidoscope Collection, you can download information sheets by clicking on the image below.

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Topics: Making Learning Fun, Kaleidoscope Collection, Kindergarten, Rhonda McDonald, Teaching Writing, Animals

Teaching Kids to Write: The Strings of Letters Stage!

Posted by Rhonda McDonald on Sep 30, 2013 9:05:00 AM

Rhonda McDonald with BelugaThis is a guest post by Rhonda McDonald, a Title 1 Reading Specialist in Botetourt County Public Schools, Virginia and author of two books in our Kaleidoscope Collection: Polar Bears and The White Whale.


The Developmental Writing Stage of Strings of Letters: 5–6 years old

image 1 bike 250Children in the “Strings of Letters” stage of writing are aware that symbols represent letters of the alphabet. They may not know the names of letters, but they are beginning to understand that these symbols give a message. Uppercase and lowercase alphabet letters as well as numbers or shapes will be randomly mixed in a line on a page. Spacing of “words” is not yet present. Motor control of holding a writing tool is improving.

As concept of print develops, a child in this stage is able to look around the room and copy print that they see. The string of symbols will have little meaning to the reader but the child is able to tell about it. Encourage the child to draw an illustration to go with the writing. Talk about the picture and ask them to add details. Praise their efforts. Model the importance of writing to communicate messages by writing short notes to them. Your message may contain some words and some pictures in a rebus style. The child is beginning to learn the letters in their name.

image 2   shoes come in twosThe book Shoes Come in Twos (guided reading level F) from the Kaleidoscope Collection introduces rhyming. As children develop phonemic awareness, listening to stories told in rhyme makes it fun to play with words. Mother Goose rhymes or Dr. Seuss books are easy to read over and over as bedtime stories. Most are told in predictable rhyme patterns. Read a line, when you come to the next word that rhymes, pause and wait for the child to tell you the word. After a little practice, they should be able to hear the rhyme pattern. Ask them to tell you another word that rhymes with a given word: "cat…hat…sat…mat…pat…rat…bat." Nonsense words are fine at this stage of auditory discrimination: "see…tree…dee…gee…ree…vee." Many children’s songs are also told in rhyme.

Story or music CDs are easy to take along with you in the car for opportunities where reading a book is not possible. Many public libraries loan sets of story or music CDs. Introducing your child to the treasures of the public library by signing them up for their very own library card; it will show them that you value learning.

image 3   ben the big brotherBen the Big Brother (guided reading level C) from the Kaleidoscope Collection could be used to introduce the letter B and its sound. Young children often have a younger sibling in the home. They can relate to small chores that help out with a younger sibling.

* Point out the letter B in the title of the story. Trace the letter with your finger, and ask your child to do the same. As you trace the letter, say the sound /b/.

* Create upper- and lowercase Bb with pipe cleaners, wikki sticks, or play dough. Ask the child to think of other things that have the /b/ sound: bed, bird, bat, baby, ball, big, butter, basket, beach, blue, black, etc.

* Name three things (example: ball, cup, and bed). Ask them to say which word does not begin with the same sound. As you practice this auditory discrimination game, they will develop the ability to hear the correct sounds that match. Learning the sounds of the letters gives meaning to the symbols Bb on a page of print.

Pocket Pal (guided reading level E) from the Kaleidoscope Collection may also be used to introduce the letter Pp. Similar activities as those above help to make the letter Pp become real to the child.

pocket pal 200* Pour some salt into a cookie pan. Trace the letter Pp in the salt with your finger. Flour or sand could also be used.

* Spray a tabletop with shaving cream. With your finger, trace the Pp in the shaving cream. Say the sound as you trace the letter.

* Draw the letter onto a piece of tagboard. Create Pp by gluing macaroni or cereal to the letter. Trace the shape of the 3D letter.

* Paint letters onto large pieces of paper with watercolors. Introduce letters that have similar features, such as letters with a circle (o, p, c, g, q, b, and d), letters with straight lines (i, l, t, v, w, and z), and letters with tails (y, g, p, and q).

As they begin to master one or two letters, slowly introduce new ones.

~~~

For more information on the Kaleidoscope Collection, you can download information sheets by clicking on the image below.

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Topics: Making Learning Fun, Kaleidoscope Collection, Kindergarten, Rhonda McDonald, Teaching Writing

Teaching Kids to Write: The Letter-Like Symbols Stage!

Posted by Rhonda McDonald on Sep 18, 2013 8:00:00 AM

Rhonda McDonald with BelugaThis is a guest post by Rhonda McDonald, a Title 1 Reading Specialist in Botetourt County Public Schools, Virginia and author of two books in our Kaleidoscope Collection: Polar Bears and The White Whale.

The Developmental Writing Stage of Letter-Like Symbols: 4–6 years old

Children in this stage of writing are beginning to make symbols that resemble letters of the alphabet. They typically do not know the names of letters, but are beginning to understand that the symbols on a page represent specific letters or sounds. The symbols are randomly placed on the page.

letter like symbols 1 180 writing name 180

A child in this stage can tell marvelous imaginary stories about their writing or drawing. You may wish to write down the message as they dictate. Gross motor skills of holding on to a writing tool continue to develop as their hand muscles strengthen. Attention span and the ability to stay with a task are short. Providing appropriate materials with which to experiment is important:

*preschool crayons

*large paper and preschool pencils

*sidewalk chalk

*Magna Doodle type writing/drawing board

*drawing easel with paper

*finger paints

Speaking vocabulary and listening ability are growing. Reading aloud and talking about the stories will aid vocabulary growth. Wordless picture books give both participants an opportunity to express what they see in the pictures. Listening to their creative ideas will amaze you. Encourage writing attempts and display finished products. Sharing with a grandparent, friend, brother or sister sends a powerful message to the child that their work is valued.

There are wordless picture books in the Zoozoo Into the Wild series that could provide a catalyst for story telling and writing. In the book Snack Time, a lion looks at an apple hanging from a tree. The apple falls, and the lion catches it in its mouth. A lioness comes along and tries to take the apple. This makes the first lion angry, but in the end, he decides to share the apple.

snack time spread

A preschool or kindergarten child could talk about foods they eat for snacks. Connect their knowledge of snack time with the title and the pictures in the story. You could prepare some type of snack with apples and share it with a friend.

After talking about the story, provide them with writing tools and paper to express their ideas. As they draw, encourage them to think out loud about the story. If they have seen a lion or read another book with lions in it, help them to make a connection. What color is the lion? Where does a lion live? What sound does a lion make? If this is the first time they have seen a lion, compare it to an animal that they know such as a dog or cat. Which animal looks smaller or larger? Is the lion furry? How many legs does it have?

SNACK IDEAS:

*Have a tasting party of apple products: apple juice, applesauce, apple pie, apple cider, and an apple tart

*Taste different varieties and/or colors of apples: sweet, sour, tart, juicy, green, yellow, red

*Apples dipped in peanut butter or cream cheese

*"Ants on a Log": celery pieces with peanut butter and sunflower seeds or raisins

hands coverThe book Hands (level B) from the Kaleidoscope Collection is a fun book to share with your young child. Photographs in the book show children doing many things with their hands such as eating, cooking, washing, playing, reading, and sleeping.

You could trace the child’s hand onto a paper and compare the size of two or three other people’s hands, then ask the child to write about something they do with their hands. They will probably think of many ideas: brushing teeth, combing hair, petting the dog, throwing a ball, swimming, playing a piano, holding a baby, planting a seed, picking a flower, drawing a picture, writing a story, or clapping.

You may want to play a guessing game by acting out a particular thing that we do with our hands. This builds real world connections to literature and writing.

As a follow-up to this story and writing activity, you might want to play a game like Red Rover that involves holding hands.

Red Rover

You will need a group of six to ten children. Form two teams. Each team member stands side by side holding hands facing the opposite team.

Team A will select a child from Team B and say, “Red Rover, Red Rover, we call _______ over.” Then the child whose name has been called runs over and tries to go through the clasped hands of the other team.

If they are successful in breaking through the line, they can select a friend to take back to their side. This continues in alternating turns until there is only one person left on a side. The winning team has the most people on their side.

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For more information on Zoozoo Into the Wild and the Kaleidoscope Collection, you can download information sheets by clicking on the links below.

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Topics: Making Learning Fun, Kaleidoscope Collection, Kindergarten, Rhonda McDonald, Teaching Writing, Zoozoo Into the Wild

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