A Tale Unfolds: Part 1

a tale unfolds Next week I will start A Tale Unfolds with my class. It is an 11 week ELA/ELD/Writing unit where the end product is a movie that the class has written, performed, and taped. As this is a UK Standards aligned unit, I looked over the lessons for the upcoming week and was pleased that on Day 1 ten (5th grade) CCSS are covered. While the lessons are complete on their own, I will be able to enrich them with conversations and expectations.

Along with the lesson plans, there are Promethean Flipcharts and SmartBoard resources, a ‘book’ (2 levels), and in certain cases leveled resources (depending on the activity). The focus of the writing is on quality, not quantity.

Overall, I am excited to get the unit started. I think the students are really going to enjoy it.

You Know It’s Working

I had a few ‘it’s really working’ moments this week. Two of them centered around ‘8*pARTS of Speech‘ by Jon Corippo. In this activity, students are shown a rather silly picture (my favorite was the elephant on a giant toilet). The sillier the better! Each day my students practice writing and using the 8 parts of speech. We also address subject, predicate, and similes. Oh, and write 1 paragraph EACH DAY. They are also getting pretty proficient at using quotation marks.


Writing the parts of speech and a paragraph based on a photo (from pixabay) is more engaging than a boring prompt!

It’s Working Moment #1

We were working on writing. A student commented that the word ‘on’ was an interjection. Immediately, another student corrected the first by stating, “No, ‘on’ is a preposition.”

The first student looked at the second and said, “Oh yeah, that’s right.”

Seriously, how awesome is that? AND we’ve only been doing this activity for 3 weeks!

It’s Working Moment #2

Earlier in the week, a student asked if she could find pictures we could use for the daily activity. Um, yes! Now I don’t have to look for photos for a few weeks. This has caught on and I have a few students sending me pictures. Looks like I’ll have to make a GForm in order to help organize it all.

Here’s My Advice

Try it! The first few times, my 5th graders and I did it together. They quickly caught on and can now complete the entire page in 15 minutes or less. I still have a few that need extra help (in the form of previously completed papers). That’s okay, they’re making improvements and that’s what I want to see!

And finally, a big thank you and shout out to Jon Corippo for sharing this nugget of awesomeness!

Bibme – Score Your Essay

I love when my students want to improve their work. One way in which they have been doing this is by using Bibme‘s Score your Essay option. In short, you paste in your essay and the program grades it on several points – for FREE! Not only does it score it, but tells you what you can do to make it better. The results appear quickly: And even though my essay scored a 5 of 5 in Organization, it still gave me a suggestion. Love that! And at the end, it gives you a final score. Is it perfect? No, but it is pretty great. And FREE, did I already mention that? Give it a try.

The Literacy Shed, ELD, and ELA

For a few years now I have been using The Literacy Shed, based in the UK, as a jumping off point for ELD lessons. These lessons blend seamlessly into ELA and writing. I was first introduced to the site by ELD specialist, Ana Alvarez. Unlike Ana, I was not consistent with its usage until this year.

The Literacy Shed is an amazing resource full of teaching ideas, videos, and in some cases, examples. What makes it so powerful for the ELL, is the simple fact that the videos are all non-verbal. This allows all students access to the idea, theme, and/or concept. The videos are of a high quality and visually pleasing. The site is broken up into ‘sheds’. The ‘sheds’ are “broadly thematic”. Some ‘sheds’ include: Inventor’s Shed, Thinking Shed, and Inspiration Shed.

As I’ve stated, it wasn’t until this year that I began using this site consistently. My partner teacher and I have been planning weekly lessons around one video or another. This week, we were in the ‘Inspiration Shed‘ and doing a lesson based on ‘The Windmill Farmer’ (second video on the page). We decided to have the students write a first person narrative based on the video. Before we let them loose on the writing, we did a lot of talking first. We viewed the video through once in its entirety, then talked about what we noticed. I was impressed when students noticed the music had changed with the seasons. We viewed it again stopping to talk at key points. We paid attention to the mood – based on music, visuals, and body language of the farmer. After viewing it one more time, without interruption, they split into groups of 2 to 3 students. They were to tell their story. As I circulated around, I was struck by how many had difficulty giving a first person perspective. We had discussed the pronouns to be used: I, me, and myself. While they were using the correct pronouns, they still weren’t putting themselves in the role of the farmer. I heard stories beginning with, “If I were the farmer and my windmills were destroyed…” With these groups I then began modeling what a first person narrative looked, and sounded, like.

When I was satisfied that the majority of the students had an understanding of what was expected, I invited students to share their stories with the class – thus further reinforcing what a first person narrative looks, and sounds, like. Their stories were rich with details. One student noted that the ‘chicken thing’ on top of the house “was going crazy”. At this point I did stop him to give a quick mini-lesson on weathervanes. I had front loaded vocabulary, but as it was a minor detail in the video, I didn’t pay much attention to it and failed to front load ‘weathervane’.

It was only after several periods that I allowed the students to begin their writing. This was such a successful lesson, that I am eager to see the results. They will finish their writings this week. Not only am I inspired to continue using The Literacy Shed, but I know that I WILL consistently use this resource for the rest of the year – and probably the rest of my career.

The lessons are not only inspiring, but align perfectly with the new ELD standards (California) and ELA Standards (CCSS). Even if you don’t teach ELL’s, this is a great resource.