Tag Archives: Writing

Week 14 – USF Inquiry Conference

On Monday, I participated in the USF Inquiry Conference for the second year in a row. I presented my inquiry, which is about creating and writing a children’s book that incorporates both mathematics and reading strategies. I am also excited about my inquiry because it was the basis for my Honors College Thesis about what strategies, research, and resources I can use to write a children’s book. I presented in a roundtable format in which guests listened to me present and had the opportunity to ask me questions about my work. I am so happy for this experience because I am really proud of all of my hard work and I was so happy to share it with everyone. I was also excited to see other interns in the Residency and Cohort programs present with posters or in roundtable sessions.


For my presentation, I discussed the children’s book that I wrote and read to my students. I collected data to discover their interests and mathematical needs. I wanted my book to reflect their characteristics and experiences as well so the book would be relatable so they could make connections between the text and themselves. I found a lot of research that revealed the benefits of using mathematic literature for lessons; read alouds are already engaging and mathematical literature helps students make connections, learn vocabulary, and see real world problems.


My students really enjoyed all of the elements of the book, from the title to the main character and the plot. They were able to explicitly name the math strategies that they learned about and they even tried to solve the problems as I read the book to them.

I would love to get my book published in the near future; however, I would love to see what other teachers think about my book first so I can make improvements to it. I see my book as a resource for teachers to use as a read aloud to engage students before a math lesson. I created an example lesson plan for my book so teachers could get an idea of how to use it in their classrooms. There are also many phonics skills incorporated into my book such as long and short vowel sounds, contractions, possessives, and compound words. I created a page for parents and teachers to help their students learn and practice these skills using my book.

I was so happy to have a second opportunity to present research in the USF Inquiry Conference. I have definitely grown a lot over the past year. I am excited for what the future holds for me and I hope to take my book to a publishing company some day and see it in a store.

Weekly Reflection – 9/8/14 – 9/12/14

This week I taught a few lessons about writing to my students. I have been observing the students and taking anecdotal notes on their writing and I noticed that when we write about reading, some studies tend to copy word for word from the text. I believe that the students copied from the text because they feared being “wrong” if they wrote their own words. So this week, my collaborating teacher and I focused on modeling good writing to the students and explicitly showing and telling them to write their own words and not copy from the text.

I led two lessons about writing: one in which the students helped me find the main idea of two texts and then we wrote sentences about the text and another in which we discussed the concept for “free writing” and how that should look. I believe that these lessons are important to teach because the students need to be able to put their thoughts onto paper without copying from the text. By writing their own words on the paper, I can see if the students truly understand a concept based on how they answered a question or wrote about what they read. This lesson is also important because first and second grade has a big focus on writing as the students learn to read at higher DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment) and Lexile levels.


For my first lesson, I performed a read aloud of an article that we have been focusing on from the Journey’s text. This article is called What is a Pal,? which is written and photographed by Nina Crews. (This article can be found on page 15 in the link above and continues on until page 24). I read the story out loud as the students followed along while reading silently in their heads. When I finished the read aloud, I modeled how I would write about the text.

These are pages 18 and 19 from the article What is a Pal?.


I made a drawing of the page and wrote two sentences about the pages. One sentence was word for word from the text and the other was my own summary about the content in the pages. I had the students decide which sentence was a better version of writing about reading. I made sure to emphasize that when we write about what we have read that we need to use the words we came up with inside our brains, not the words already on the page.


            I also modeled labeling my pictures for the students. I emphasized labeling pictures because they add details that help the reader understand what is going on in the picture. By adding the names, the reader can see who each person is because otherwise the reader would have no idea what the picture is about or if it related to the sentence below.

Then I had the students help me label a drawing to show the importance of adding details to your writing and picture.


            When I first started, the picture was just of two figures who had a jump rope and basketball. I asked the student who the one figure was and they could not tell me. Then I wrote in that she was a girl and I asked them what her name was and they still could not answer. I told them that without the labels/details, a reader does not understand what you have shown him or her. So I continued to add details to the picture to help the students understand what was going on. I added a picture of a bicycle and then asked the students where I should put the label. At first I wrote it in the bottom left corner and asked them if this was correct. I emphasized that labels must be written right next to a picture and that drawing an arrow or making a connecting line from the label to the picture helps the reader understand what the drawing represents.

After I finished my drawing, I wrote a sentence about the picture and showed the students how my labels helped me write the sentence. I wrote “Pat and Ron are pals that are playing basketball, jump rope and riding a bike.” I circled all of the labels from my picture and showed them that 7 of my words came from the picture. By making this connection between the picture, labels, and sentences, I showed my students how they should structure their writing.

After I did this activity, I read Chuck’s Truck by Peggy Perry Anderson. During this read aloud, I stopped and performed a few think alouds to show the students how to make connections and think about what they have read. When I finished, I modeled writing about the reading and had the students help me label the picture.



I drew the picture quickly to model that the students should make a “quick pic(ture)” to match their writing so they do not waste time. Then I had the students help me label the picture. I tried to draw the chicken and duck to look very similar to each other because I wanted the students to have to guess which was which. The students disagreed about which was which; one told me that based on the way I drew the feet that the duck was on the right and chicken was on the left. I did this because I wanted to have my students experience the confusion of looking at an unlabeled picture so they can understand the importance of labeling their pictures. I think that this really helped the students see that the drawings were so similar that it was very hard to see the differences and tell what they were. Although it might not seem to matter in my picture, it can be difficult to sometimes read what a student has written or drawn so the labels really help the teacher/reader understand. Labeling also helps students practice their writing as well as indirectly teach them about making a diagram, which they will see when they study informational texts.

I wrote a sentence to match my drawing to yet again model how to write about reading to the students. I circled the labels that were in my sentence again to further emphasize how a picture not only helps the reader understand, but helps the writer figure out his or her thoughts. I had the students help me write the sentence based on the main idea of the story so we could work on that skill as well.


This lesson plan helped me connect to the Florida Educator Accomplished Practices (FEAPs) through FEAP 1A: “Aligns instruction with state-adopted standards at the appropriate level of rigor.” The standards that match this lesson are:

  • 1.RI.1.2 “Identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.” LAFS.1.RL.1.2 “Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.”
  • 1.RL.1.3 “Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.”
  • 1.SL.2.5 “Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.”

I accomplished these standards by modeling writing about the main idea of the story Chuck’s Truck by writing the main idea and events of the story and drawing a picture with the main characters that was properly labeled to foster understanding. I was able to accomplish FEAP 2E: “Models clear, acceptable oral and written communication skills” by modeling the writing for my students. By modeling of writing about reading using two texts—one informational article and one story—I was able to accomplish FEAP 3B: “Deepen and enrich students’ understanding through content area literacy strategies, verbalization of thought, and application of the subject matter.” In order to know that this lesson was necessary to teach the students, I had to perform FEAP 3C “Identify gaps in students’ subject matter knowledge” because I determined that the students needed help when writing about reading, which I was able to provide through my modeling.


A few days later, I taught another lesson in which I modeled writing to the students. I taught the students about “free writing.” “Free writing” is a student friendly term for writing a small paragraph/story any idea of concept that he or she desires. I showed the students that they can free write about any concept and then I modeled free writing for them so they would understand how to do so in the future. I did this after the lesson mentioned about because I wanted the students to learn how to write using their own words first so this concept would be easier for them to do. By doing this, I was able to accomplish FEAP 1B: “Sequences lessons and concepts to ensure coherence and required prior knowledge.”

When I introduced the idea of free writing to the students, we worked together to create and anchor chart of ideas that they can write about. I wanted my students to learn that they can write about anything because I want my students to be interested in and passionate about writing because I know that when a student is interested, he or she is more likely to be engaged and produce better quality work.


            I had the students generate ideas and they I did my best to group ideas based on common themes. For example, the students mentioned movies like “The Lego Movie” and “Frozen” so instead of writing all of the movies down, I simply wrote “movies.” I tried to make sure that all of the ideas were relevant to the students so I had them come up with as many ideas as possible and I only included a few of my own ideas. I also wanted to make sure that the ideas that I wrote down were things that they either have done or could have done easily. For example, one student mentioned going to Disney World. I know that this is a fun place and that young children love that theme park but since some of my students may not have experienced this, I decided to write down the broad term “Disney” which can include television shows, movies, toys, etc. that would be more relevant to the students. By creating this anchor chart, I met FEAP 3E: “Relate and integrate the subject matter with other disciplines and life experiences.”

After we made that anchor chart, I modeled how I would free write to the students. I decided to use the idea of going to the “pool” and “swimming.” (Please note that the names used in the pictures are not the names of any students in my classroom, they are names of people that I know in my personal life. By not including any other information about them, I am still protecting their privacy and rights.)



I showed the students how my writing constantly matched my drawing and that all of my sentences made sense in that order. I again showed them that labeling the people in the picture was important because although they were correct that the girl in the middle is me, without a label, they could not be sure. I also added in the “pool noodle” to my drawing to show students that you can go back and add more detail to your drawing and story.

This lesson allowed me to meet FEAP 1A: “Aligns instruction with state-adopted standards at the appropriate level of rigor.” The standard that matched this lesson is LAFS.1.SL.2.5 “Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.”


It is important that students understand how to put their own words down onto paper. I modeled two different writing activities—writing about reading and free writing—to show students how they can put their own words onto paper. I taught these lessons because I noticed that some students copied from the text instead of writing with their own words. I will assess this lesson with my collaborating teacher as we read their future writings and take anecdotal notes about what we observe during writing.



Writing Center

Writing centers are used in the classroom to encourage students to write and practice skills related to writing. The 6+1 traits of conventions, ideas, voice, word choice, organization, fluency, and presentation can be taught through writing centers. Students can practice these skills with specific activities including worksheets as well as hands on activities. I believe that a writing center should be an important part of the classroom because writing is a key skill that people use on a daily basis. I think that students should be encouraged to participate in academic writing as well as free writing so they can be creative as well as work on skills.



Rainbow Name


            This activity is called “Rainbow Name.” It is similar to an acrostic poem in which students write a poem using the letters of a single word (typically their names). For the “Rainbow Name” activity, students write their name on a cloud and use different strips of colored paper to write a word for each letter of their name. Each word should describe the person.

I would love to use this activity in my future classroom because I believe acrostics work well for increasing vocabulary and working on word choice, which is one of the 6+1 traits. I think students will enjoy this activity because it has creative and artistic elements. Students can share their “rainbow names” through a presentation in the front of the class, which could be a good way for students to introduce themselves and their characteristics.


Sand Hands


In the “Sand Hands” activity, students are given a bin filled with sand and paper seashells. The seashells have sight words written on them and the students write out the sight word in the sand. The accountable task for this assignment would be for the students would then write the sight words on a worksheet and try to use them in a sentence.

I really like this activity because it is hands on and it allows students to practice using either new words or words that they need extra help with. The teacher can change out the sight words as students gain mastery or the teacher can use other words that students need extra practice with. I think the accountable task is a necessary element so students stay on task; however, the teacher can also monitor students if he or she has a group who need to work on the same words.

This activity has many great ways for students to work on writing conventions from the 6+1 traits. Students practice conventions by learning how to correctly spell words that they can integrate into their papers. The teacher can adjust this assignment so students write down synonyms of the seashell word, which would allow students to work on word choice. The seashells could also contain topics and the students could write a few key words in the sand to help them brainstorm ideas, which is another one of the 6+1 traits.


“I Can…” Writing Ideas Poster


This poster gives students ideas of what they can do in a writing center after they have finished their assignment. The students can “write the room,” which means that they can search for words around the room to use. The students can “write a card or note to a friend” in order to practice writing letters. The students can “write a list,” which can be used to inspire ideas. And finally, the students can “work on unfinished writing.”

I think this is a great poster to hang up in a writing center so students understand what to do once they have completed their assignment. Students can practice skills such as using their resources in the room by “writing the room.” They can also practice different forms of writing by working on letters or making a list. Students can use this poster to gain ideas for what to write for the 6+1 traits. When the students make their choice, they can also work on organization by following the ideas of the chart—practicing writing letters and lists will help students understand how to organize their ideas.


“Fix It Up!” Worksheet


            This worksheet is called “Fix it Up” because students must rewrite the sentences with the correct punctuation and capitalization. The sentences are related to one another and can be read as a story, which the students can illustrate on the back of their papers if they finish early.

I really like this activity because students can practice using conventions and compare how a sentence looks with and without proper capitalization and punctuation. The teacher can adjust this assignment to include the 6+1 traits of voice, word choice, and ideas by having the students re-write the sentences on the back in their own words. The students can also add more detail into the sentences as an extra assignment to do when they are finished. I think this would be a great bell-work assignment for students and the teacher can work with a small group on a similar assignment if these students need extra help with conventions.


“Working on Writing: I can write a …” Writing Board


This is the board that I would decorate behind my writing center. This board contains examples of different types of writing including a book, story, list, letter, and a card. The board also has examples for the beginning of sentences including: “This is a …,” “I like …,” “I see a …,” and “It is a …”. The poster on the top left corner is the “I Can” writing poster listed above.

I think this is a great board to give students ideas for what to write and how to organize their writing. The examples of each piece of writing are really helpful because the students can see how to organize their own writing and what should be included in each piece. I think the starter sentences are great for students who have ideas but are not sure how to put their ideas on paper. I would refer to this board many times as a teacher but I would also encourage my students to use it by themselves to help inspire them. I really like that this poster has ideas of creative writing pieces so students can express themselves through their voice in a variety of methods.

Weekly Reflection 3-31-14 – 4-4-14

In the past week, I took on more responsibility in my classroom. I led two literacy lessons, which was slightly nerve wracking but very rewarding. Next week, I will be doing an enrichment social studies lesson for six students and I will be working one-on-one with a student in mathematics. The lessons that I led in the past week were a read aloud and writing.

On Monday during our Professional Learning Community (PLC) meeting, I asked my collaborating teachers if I could take over a read aloud during the week. This went along with one of my FEAPs goals: FEAPs 1A: Aligns instruction with state-adopted standards at the appropriate level or rigor. I mentioned this goal in one of my previous blog posts: https://nicoleleonick.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/weekly-reflection-2-24-14-2-28-14/ For this goal, I wanted to work on performing read alouds because I have little experience with this instruction. I performed shared reading with a small paper book called “Who is This?” during the week of March 17th. Although this was shared reading, I read the book out loud to my students and then had them point out sight words on the page. This was a very short lesson but it allowed me to work with the students on the sight words “this,” “is,” and “little.”

For my read aloud that took place during the past week, I read the book Armadillo Rodeo by Jan Brett.


After I volunteered to perform this read aloud, I talked with one of my collaborating teachers to determine how I could align my instruction with the standards as a part of my FEAPs 1A goal. We determined that I should ask my students questions relating to the story and the author as well as having the students turn and talk (which is called “sticky hi-five a friend” in my classroom). I took the book home with me so I could practice reading it and prepare for the next day. I wrote out sticky notes with the questions that I was going to ask and placed them in the book to remind me of how and when to ask the questions. I wrote out examples of answers on the sticky notes as well so I could remind myself of what I was looking for and help guide the students to the answers. These questions connected with my FEAPs 1A goal because I aligned my instruction with the standard LACC.K.SL.1.2 “Confirm understanding of a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media by asking and answering questions about key details and requesting clarification if something is not understood.”


The picture above shows the questions that I wanted to ask before I began reading the book. The first question was to ask the students if they knew any other works by the author and answers could include The Mitten, Gingerbread Baby, Gingerbread Friends, The Hat or Three Snow Bears. This question allows the students to connect to their prior knowledge of books that we have already read in the classroom. My students had no problems with answering this question, although they did repeat the gingerbread stories a few times.

After I asked this question, I asked the students what is special about the illustrations in the book. This connects with my FEAPs 1A goal of aligning my instruction with the standard “LACC.K.RL.3.7: With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the story in which they appear (e.g., what moment in a story an illustration depicts).” One student responded that the illustrations on the side show what happened before and after.

I read the book to the students by sitting in the front of the room and holding the book up as I read. I did this because I wanted the students to see the illustrations but I knew the text was above their ability level so I did not want students to focus on the text since it contained some complex words and concepts. This was the first time that I did a read aloud on the carpet and read to students in the front of the classroom. It was a great experience and I did not allow myself to be nervous. I tried to read the book with expression and I did not stop to ask questions. I simply read the book.

After the read aloud, I had two more questions to ask the students.


I asked the students why the armadillo thought the red boots were an armadillo. One student was close to the answer but needed a bit of guidance so I went back into the text and re-read the part of the story with the answer to help the student find her words. This question allowed me aligned my instruction with the standard LACC.K.RL.1.1 “With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text,” which allowed me to meet my FEAPs 1A goal.

For my second question, I asked the students what happened in the story. I had the students turn and talk to each other to answer this question. While the students were talking to one another, I joined one group and listened to their answers. Then I called the group back and we discussed their answers. These instructional strategies allowed me to meet my FEAPs 1A goal by meeting a variety of standards. We worked on LACC.K.RL.1.1 “With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text” as well as LACC.K.RL.1.1 “With prompting and support, identify characters, settings, and major events in a story.” By having the students work together, I included the standard LACC.K.SL.1.1 “Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about kindergarten topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.”

I had a great time performing my read aloud. I did my best to focus on the story. I was a bit nervous when the students were answering my questions and I have to say, I was surprised at how they were able to answer them really well. There was a bit of confusion with my final question about what happened in the story. The students were able to answer my question but their answers were not structured because they did not retell the events in order. If I were to go back and redo that question, I think I would have provided more prompting by asking students to consider the beginning, middle and ending of the story.



The other time that I led a literacy lesson was in writing. My collaborating teachers each pulled a small group of students to work with during writing so I was able to work with the rest of the class on writing. The students were given time to write about any topic of their choosing and I walked around the room to provide support. I was nervous because I did not expect to lead the writing time but I did my best to stay calm. The students were talkative and I am not sure if it was more so than usual but since I was nervous at first, I redirected the students as a whole twice to their assignment.

As I walked around the room, I stopped to work with individual students. I prompted the students by asking them what they were writing about. I asked the students if they could connect their topic to “sparkle words,” which is what we call adjectives in my classroom. I guided the students to use their senses to describe their topics. I did not discuss this beforehand with my collaborating teachers; however, recent lessons in my classroom in writing related to using sparkle words and describing things using the five senses so I thought that it would be logical for me to use this topic to prompt students.



I am excited to lead a lesson in social studies next week. I have never really done a social studies lesson before so this will be new and exciting. I am creating this lesson based off of suggestions from my collaborating teacher. I will write up the lesson by myself and then I will discuss it with my collaborating teachers on Monday during our PLC meeting. After we discuss the lesson and see if any changes need to be made, I will go home and adjust it and then do the lesson on Wednesday with a small group of students.