The Power of Parnterships

Whenever we take our trip to New York for the “teachers college reunion weekend” (which we refer to as our exciting vacation), we come back feeling rejuvenated and inspired. It’s like that feeling that all teachers have as they set up their classroom before the new students walk in the door… that feeling that this year is going to be an incredible year. And it is going to be an incredible year because of all the systems, routines and plans you put in place!

While in New York we were lucky enough to see Jessica Someck speak about the importance of having partnerships. In fact, her workshop was entitled… “Powerful Writing Partnerships are the Key to Engagement, Independence & Achievment”.  We walked away with a new appreciation for the true value of partner work and some ideas for the ways we might tweak what we were currently doing in the classroom.

For starters choosing partnerships should be intentional and not random. Obviously, personality must be considered, but here are some other factors to keep in mind as you make your groups:

Reading partners should be homogeneous ( so they are reading similar/same leveled books)

    2.    Turn and talk partners should be intellectual pairs so that they can have conversations that are comfortable. 

    3.    Math partners should be either homogeneous or close so that they can encourage and support one another in their thought process

    4.    And writing partners can be friends. That’s right …FRIENDS.  Friends make wonderful writing partners because they already are comfortable with one another and often have common interests. 

Once partnerships are chosen, keep them consistent if at all possible. By having the same partner students will gain trust, take more risks and will be accountable for supporting one another.

Also, it is important that partnership procedures are explicitly taught. Teach them the norms for partner work and provide them with possible language (“Here is how you might talk to your partner…”). Watch videos of successful partnerships and talk about what they notice and what went well in the video partnerships. Coach the individual groups or invite small groups of partners over for direct instruction. A personal (but creepy) favorite is the ghost coaching. This is when you sneak up behind the group and whisper ideas to the kids to get them interacting. This helps them to start talking to one another without looking at or relying on you to lead the discussion.

Finally, don’t overlook the value of a triad. Sometimes it seems teachers only group kids in 3’s when they have an odd number; but triads can be sooooo powerful and useful and should be part of your purposeful plan. Triads are great for those classrooms where special ed services and support make your room seem like a revolving door at times. When you have 3 in a group and a student needs to leave, the other member is not left partnerless. Triads also work well because they give individual kids less power. Kids are less likely to derail when they have 2 partners keeping them on task.

We created partnership boards with Velcro so that they could be adjusted as needed (swapping groups that are not working) and so that the boards can be used from year to year.

Happy Partnering!!


mentor text monday

we love how laura photocopied the mentor text night of the veggie monster by george mcclements.   the class referred to this book throughout their small moment study (lucy calkins book 1 unit 1).

laura's students were excited to try some of his craft moves in their stories.

if you gave it a try, you could add a post-it with your name to the chart.

happy almost halloween!
jess & melissa & laura


interactive writing in kindergarten

one favorite thing this week in kindergarten is labeling the classrooms with interactive writing.
 this is a great way to show students how to ssssstttttretch out words!

storytelling in first grade

during the summer we blogged about storytelling in the classroom.
jessica kicked off the school year introducing her storytelling string.
each day she shared a story with her first graders. {the class loved this}
jessica asked her class...

her class got to make their own storytelling strings. this was a simple activity using index cards and string.
jessica read the story...
happy storytelling!

jessica & melissa & laura 


using the checklist at writing time

we loved this tiny tip we got from staff developer rebecca cronin at teacher college.

what happens when you give a six year old a checklist?
they check everything on the list .  

 before kids get the checklist to use for their writing, the classroom teacher could be using the checklist during interactive read aloud.

the little strips could be glued in the book with restickable glue.

we read the book emily's balloon a few times... today we are going to check to see if komako sakai did some of the things we are working on at writing time. did komako begin the character's name with a capital letter... yup! did komako end the sentence with punctuation? 

did Komako bring her character's to life by action, detail and talk? 

we can't wait to use the checklist during different parts of the reading and writing day. we know it will help our students when they go to use it independently. 

happy tuesday tip!

jessica & melissa & laura 


monthly magical reads

ask me by bernard waber

teeny tale:
this book tells the story of a daughter and a father exploring the world while asking each other things that they like.  the illustrations are magical. this book makes you feel like your are listening in on a conversation between a grown-up and a child. there is a pattern to the text and it has a  unique organization. one person will ask a question ask me what I like

this book touches on the inquisitiveness  nature of being young and exploring the world with a loved one. ASK ME brought us back to many of our childhood memories from holding a balloon, lying in leaves and digging in sandboxes.

tiny tips:
illustration study for writing workshop/ do the colors change color depending on who is talking?
students could make predictions about the story (before reading)
students could tell a story about something they like  
read this story and have students bring in a treasure tell (something they like very much that fits in their hand) 
during interactive writing or shared writing write a book about thing we like (we like playing in the park, we like swinging on the monkey bars etc.,)
the things we like book could become your shared reading text
create a classroom bulletin board of favorite things
students could create their own ASK ME book ( Ask Me:  Do you like_________. )
  I like cake? Do you like cake?
the classroom teacher could take students on an ASK ME walk having students pose wonder questions
student's could stop and jot or stop and draw(on post-its) things they like from the walk or wonder questions.

topics: the world has many wonders, love 

why we πŸ’œ this book...

we think this is the perfect book for writing workshop. children often struggle with finding a topic to write about, this book will give students endless possibilities. we love that the amount of text is limited making it easy to read again and again.

happy monday!
melissa & jessica & laura



launching writing workshop with storytelling

we know the first month of school is filled with excitement and joy for a new year. this blog post is going to focus on possible mini-lessons for launching writing workshop in the primary classroom. our hope is that you can start thinking about some of these lessons before the start of the school year.

you're probably thinking… the start of writing workshop I need to introduce my students to all the tools they need such as markers, crayons, colored pencils, folders etc., we often think that too. 

in most years presenting tools and procedures is our number one goal. this year, we hope to make storytelling the heart of september. we know that it’s powerful for students to tell their stories; we believe in the saying if you can’t say it you can’t write it.

but in our zest to get things going; we often push full steam ahead and go straight to getting kids to write. this year is going to be different. this year we are going to let them become storytellers.

what would happen if we we gave our kids lots of opportunity to storytell and coached kids on what makes a good storyteller? will storytelling make their stories stronger? we think so.


we can start by setting aside time in the day to model storytelling. the ordinary happens in our classrooms could be the stories we sell and tell. we tell the story of the bumble bee in the classroom and how we captured and released it. we tell and sell the story of when there was mystery glitter in everyone's locker and how we tried to solve the mystery. students will quickly learn that stories are all around us. we could also launch reading and writing partnerships through this unit. 

one possible idea is to take turn telling stories (a few times) and eventually the teacher could do shared writing and interactive writing(from the stories told).

Below is a list of possible fall mini-lessons:


    •teacher models storytelling (all the time)
    •read books about storytelling 
(interactive read aloud time)
    •read books that are similar to the books you will expect them to write soon

    •taking turns telling stories in a large group (pulling names from a jar)

    •storytelling stories with three fingers

    •what happened first, next and last
 (tap blank papers)
    •storytelling with a partner

    •storytelling with a small group 

    •telling stories about what we know 

    •telling stories about what we care about (which are often ordinary things)

    •have a chair called the storytelling stool and students can sit on it to tell a story

    •find opportunities to tell stories about things happening during the day

    •use oral stories shared for interactive writing or shared writing 

    •introducing a storytelling string

    •have students tell stories about a strong feeling

    •parts of a story (beginning, middle, end)

    •showing parts of your story instead of telling your story 

    •telling stories about things we are passionate about things/ people/ foods/ animals 
    watch a storyteller (inquiry)
    •name and notice what they are doing successfully
    create a storytelling anchor chart (storytellers begin with a bold beginning)

kids love to hear stories and they love to tell stories. 

if you have to wait five minutes before art… tell a story
when kids come in from recess… tell a story.  

and remember the more you model and the more examples they hear, then the children will begin to see storytelling not as a school task, but rather a part of getting to know one another. they will see their teacher and classmates as a community of friends with stories to share and celebrate. 

we hope you will join us this september and create a culture of storytelling and sharing which in turn will extend into their writing. 

may your days be filled with stories to share!
melissa & jessica & laura 


mentor text monday

last monday we blogged about some tips we learned when using mentor text in the classroom.  our goal this summer is to share some books you may possible use in your classroom. today's post is sharing the amazing book the thing lou couldn't do by ashley spike.

tiny tips when using mentor text:
  • select a book you love
  • read first for enjoyment and comprehension 
  • you should read your mentor text MANY times and the kids should be excited to hear it
  • reread, go back to explore and chart{chart with post-its}
kids could make predictions on what they think lou can't do
this page shows us a few different things about the main character lou and her friends. the author could have told us that they run fast but instead, we learn that they run faster than an airplane. how do the words help us get a movie in our head of how fast lou can run?

we could have also have noticed...

pictures match the words
word choice = adventurers, mighty fortresses, wild animals
bold word= BRAVE, FASTER, MIGHTY, WILD {all capitals}

the author doesn't tell us how lou is feeling but what do we think? what do we notice? what do we wonder? why do we think that?

we could have also have noticed...

speech bubbles
character talking
pictures tell us more
character feelings

the power of YET!

this is a must read book to little kids!
melissa & jess & laura 


teacher tip tuesday

tiny tip 

if you use the tc reading or writing units of study you probably have notice each unit  has suggestions for small group and conferring.

the question is, have you ever read them?  

we found sometimes we get so caught up in the mini-lesson that we don't always read the suggestions for the conferring or small group work. 
casey maxwell TC staff developer showed us an easy way to plan our small groups and conferring.

you can see above using post-it notes laura and i filled in the who? what? how?

we found going back to the units and unpacking the small group and conferring suggestions were EXTREMELY helpful.
give it a try!

tell us what you think?

happy tuesday!
melissa & laura & jess


mentor text monday

happy summer!

it's been a busy few weeks and we are excited to back to blogging.  we recently went to a teacher college writing institute and it was amazing! we learned so much from the TC staff developers, rebecca cronin and casey maxwell.

each week we hope to share some tiny tips!
black out by john rocco

 on thursday afternoon, we took a great workshop about mentor text. rebecca had the audience help her mine a mentor text (digging into and looking for something significant). you probably have heard some of these tips, but we think they are worth repeating (it was helpful for us to hear them again).

 tips when choosing a mentor text:
  • select a book you love
  • select a book that has clear examples of what you are teaching
  • select a book higher that what your kids could write
  • select a book that has many teaching possibilities 
more tips from rebecca:
  • read first for enjoyment and comprehension
  • you should read your mentor text MANY times and the kids should be excited to hear it (one staff developer said it could be read seven times)
  • reread, go back to explore and chart
  • teach using chart in writers workshop  
  • you may use the language from the unit or have your class name and notice
below is our first attempt at mining a mentor text (some parts of this story):

we think this is a great book to use for an illustration study and narrative small moments. 

we could also notice the CAPITAL letters.
kids often shout out ... dot, dot, dot.
we know little kids love ellipses.
there are a few examples in this story.
we think the use of color would be important to talk about. 
how does this page make us feel? 
there are a few examples of interesting words used.

the characters are brought to life by a strong feelings, actions and talking.
how do we know how they are feeling?
click... sound word

we LOVED the idea of marking the mentor text with post-its and adding it to your toolkit for conferring.  this book could also be added to a special basket so students have access to it.

thank you rebecca and casey for all of your terrific tips! 

we would love to hear from you, what are some of your favorite mentor text to use in the classroom for narrative writing?

happy teaching!

melissa & laura & jess


five for friday

 happy long weekend!

we are linking up with doodle bug teaching 
here are our five favorite things this week...

πŸ’šthe kids illustrations

πŸ’™ a problem solving center in kindergarten

πŸ’š interactive writing {the kids made up the story}
πŸ’› persuasive writing

πŸ’š what is poetry?
happy weekend!