Toolkit Tuesday

 making exemplar text 

what can we add to our teacher toolkit? we can add mentor text created by you... the classroom teacher!  
teacher toolkits for reading and writing workshop

we first learned about the idea of adding stories to your writers toolkit by celena larkey. we have been creating stories for examples during our mini-lesson's but celena made us realize we should be creating exemplar text for the different thing we teach to our students during the workshop time.

tiny tips when creating exemplar text:

  •  refer to the checklist from the units being taught
  • look at student writing and exemplars in the pathways book
  • work as a team to create examples attending to structure and development
  • create examples that are similar to your students' work 
exemplar text for writing workshop k-2

tiny tip: make one story with pictures and PHOTO copy it five times. if you look closely below you will notice that i kept making the picture over and over again. 

here is an example we created focusing on kindergarten
examples of teacher created mentor text for writing workshop

how can i use these exemplar stories in my classroom?

  • pose questions and work together with students
  • for example if you have a child who is creating a bare bone book you could use the demonstration or student sample to show them how to add words or labels to lift the level of their writing.
  • if you have children that need support with elaboration show them how you went back to the ghosting book and added more details using the green pen    
  • put a plastic sleeve over a page of the exemplar story and let students give it a try
  • leave an artifact of what you taught
example of inquiry for mentor text

happy tuesday toolkits!

jessica & laura & melissa


big blue thing on the hill

once upon a time there was a class that listened to a story. they listened to a book without seeing any illustrations.

it was a story about animals... talking animals.  one day a mysterious BLUE THING arrived and created quite a stir amongst the animals of the forest.  would they be able to figure out what the mysterious blue object could be? would they be able to get rid of it? children will love trying to guess what the BIG BLUE thing on the hill could be.

tiny tips for interactive read aloud:

  • cover the book
  • children can listen to the first clues and develop a mental image. they can turn and talk or draw their initial image of the object 
  • read some more and ask kids to listen for and then share clues.
  • let them make predictions (turn and talk) about what might happen.
  • let them adapt and change their mental image
  • read some more
  • again allow students to listen, share and talk about clues and how their mental images change based on more details and information from the story.
  • finish the book and give them one more opportunity to talk.
  • on day two read the story again. this time allow them to see the actual cover and illustrations throughout the book.

    project idea: 

    after the first day and reading the book without seeing the cover or pictures, allow your class to draw pictures of their thoughts on " the big blue thing." 

    you can create a bulletin board of all the BIG BLUE THING possibilities.  use interactive writing to create a list of clues given in the story.

     a thank you to dara gaul for recommending this book to us!

    happy reading!

    jessica & laura & melissa


five favorite things at reading and writing workshop

friday favorites for reading and writing workshop
our favorite things this week...we loved having our students act out some of the problems they have encountered while reading. a helpful anchor chart  we used was the drop that bad habit chart. the children are realizing that reading nonfiction books can be tricky.
drop that bad habit
this anchor chart was created in our first unit of study
first-graders had a TEA party celebrating the books they are reading.  how do you have a tea party? all the children come to the rug and learn that at a tea party you get to chit-chat with a friend about something important to you.  for this tea party students get to chit chat about some of the facts they are learning from their nonfiction books.  it's tea party time! 
we have been using many of the strategy lessons from  jenn serravallo's book (we 💜 this book). in the lesson below, students had to read the words, look at the picture and think, what in the picture is the same as what's in the words? what's new? next students had to try to write extra facts from looking at the picture.
saying more from the pictures
example created by the teacher

mentor text

tiny tip: we found using books with heavy picture support works best.

giraffes have long necks.

saying more with the pictures
plants can die and cars get ruined
another strategy lesson we implemented was one in which the children reread a part of their book to add more details.  we were excited to try this lesson out because rereading books is such an important part of our workshop time.

this lesson takes rereading one step further by having students read, sketch and think about adding more details to their initial thoughts. each time they sketched they thought more about what they learned and deepened their understanding about the topic.
learning about penguins

click here if you would like this sheet

another lesson the kids loved in the getting smart about nonfiction reading was the mini-lesson on chatting and learning. in this lesson the children learned about the power of conversation and they learned that sometimes we find the most interesting information and we are introduced to new topics because of our friends.
we hope you had a fabulous fantastic friday!

jessica & laura & melissa 


Making Teacher Toolkits

one of our goals this year has been to work on making reading and writing toolkits.

teacher toolkits

we were introduced to this concept  by celena larkey, kate and maggie roberts and jennifer serravallo. a teacher toolkit can be used during a one-on-one conference or during small group instruction.  

kindergarten reading toolkit

a toolkit is a collection of tools that help teach our tiny readers and writers

celena larkey shared lot of different purposes for creating a toolkit but the definition that resonated with us the most is that a toolkit can keep our teaching memorable

we all want that!

kindergarten reading toolkit

for today's blog post, we are going to focus on the demonstration/ strategy notebook. this is a large art book in which we can create visual tools to help our teaching.

demonstration notebooks

teaching with a toolkit can help our teaching stick too. having a teacher toolkit can also help us reach lots of different learners in our classroom. we all know that our teaching is stronger when we don’t just tell our kids what to do but to actually show them.

people remember:

10% of what they hear

20% of what they read

80% of what they see and do
 we often leave a post-it reminder with the child of what was taught

our teaching toolkits gives us a resource to use right at our fingertips. we think creating toolkits helps us to dig deeper into the unit we are about to teach and figure out ways to reach our readers and writers. 

 laura often puts reminder post-it notes of possible teaching points in her toolkit


one of the biggest obstacles we found with making toolkits is the time it takes. we all agree that a toolkit can have a huge impact on our teaching but the reality is… how can I teach and make this toolkit and try to use it in the classroom? 

so below are some of tips that have helped us get started:

Tip 1: making a toolkit is a process that you can create slowly over time. 

Tip 2: decide what kind of tool works for you. do you want to create a toolkit with a binder or a demonstration notebook? our favorite notebooks are Strathmore sketch books (really melissa's favorite).

Tip 3: think about organizing your notebook to support your teaching. at first we were teaching lessons and putting lessons in the demonstration book randomly. we realized it would be better if our demonstration notebook had parts that go with our teaching.

teacher toolkits

For example in kindergarten for personal narrative writing our writing toolkit may go in this order: storytelling, drawing, topic idea, sounding out words, etc.,

tip 4: go to your GO TO books and get some ideas for your toolkit. our kindergarten team was recently creating a toolkit for reading workshop and they used the fountas and pinnell continuum, kathy collins growing readers book and jenn serravallo’s strategy lesson book.  Make a list of possible ideas before you begin. If you work with a team, remember many “hands make light work.”
books we love

tip 5: don’t be overwhelmed remember it’s a process

we hope our tiny tips will help you get started! 

If you are making toolkits what is working for you? 

jessica & laura & melissa 


writing workshop

one of our favorite part of the day  is writing workshop. we believe if you want to teach a child to read, you teach them how to write.

in our building we use some of the teacher college units of study and develop some of our own. one of our favorite go to resources is katie wood ray and lisa cleveland about the authors, writing workshop with our youngest writers. we have learned so much about teaching writing from these master teachers.   


workshop happens every day 30-40minutes

we believe that kids get better at writing, by writing every day.  we also feel it's important to show them how to do it.
dating work helps keep track of student growth

where there's so much debate about appropriate practices
 in the primary classrooms we have to say, we believe that making books is appropriate practice.  we are often reminded by katie wood ray that writing workshop is about making stuff and kids love to make stuff. we know this because the minute we announce it’s choice time… kids begin creating stuff with joy and energy. 

this child wrote a BLURB on the back of his book.

the beautiful thing about making books is that every child can do it. katie and lisa remind us why making books is important in the primary classroom. 

  • making books encourages volume right away
  • student communicate with both pictures and words to make meaning which is similar to the picture books they have read to them
  • the pictures hold the most meaning which makes a lot of sense for our tiny writers
  • picture books are an important tool for teaching
  • the work may seem small but the work is so BIG
  • lastly, katie reminds us that picture books is a form, a container in which different genres can be written and this will come in handy when we introduce kids to different kinds of writing
  • students begin to read like a writer 
    mentor text for writing workshop

when we give kids the time and the tools to make books we believe that joy and enegry happens at our workshop time too.

happy bookmaking and go pats!

jessica & laura & melissa


books for winter

best in snow by april pulley sayre 


many people and place experience snow as part of their winter weather, but how many have actually stopped to consider how snow is born, how it descends upon us and what happen when it does? this book, beautifully photographed and simply but poetically written, gives adults and children an enticing invitation to ponder and wonder and revel in the delight of a winter wonderland.


tiny tips: 

  • explore how diverse a genre can be- is this book fiction, nonfiction, poetry? and why?
  • wonderful words: the words in this book are sparse yet the word choice is surprisingly rich
  • study the photos for more information (nonfiction study)
  • use as a jumping off point for a study of snow  
  • investigate writing about snow in multiple genres

before morning by joyce sidman & beth krommes

joyce sidman and beth krommes team up again (earlier in swirl by swirl 2011) to tell a story about a child wishing for the coming snow to keep her mom home. told through a stunningly worded poem and through evocative illustrations, this story reminds us of the weight of wanting and the power of wishes. 

tiny tips:

  • a great book to use for an interactive read aloud and revisiting a number of times
  • study the pictures: how a picture can tell us so much more than the words sometimes
  • wonderful words: how do the words tell the story? how do the words make us feel?


happy reading!

jess & laura & melissa


wednesday workshop time


kicking off a new unit of study   

in the lucy calkins first grade unit called  learning about the worldstudents are invited to begin a wonderful learning journey through nonfiction books. the unit recommends gathering "just right" nonfiction books into browsing baskets for each reading table. in addition, the last few years. i have called upon my students to compile list of topics they want to learn more about. i then scour my classroom library, the school and town libraries, and local bookstores to find books on their topics at their approximate reading levels. below you can see my students' treasure troves of new books for their book boxes. their enthusiasm when entering the classroom was MAGICAL!


tiny tip: give students a record sheet to list the topics they want to learn about!  
Getting Super Smart About Nonfiction Reading

tip for organizing a unit 

we have a second grade teacher in our building nicole who has a little binder for every unit she teaches. nicole finds it helpful to put all the books required, copies of anchor charts, articles and even her lucy calkins book.  below is an example of her nonfiction unit. 


magical monthly reads

  teeny tale:

"what are you doing possum?" asks skunk. a clearly petrified possum replies, i am hiding from night animals." skunk quickly joins possum in the deep dark forest as they hide together from night animals. students will immediately giggle from the hilarious illustrations and whimsical details spotted throughout this charming text. as the story continues ferocious nocturnal animal join possum and skunk in their pursuit to be safe. eventually a little bat informs the animals that they ARE night anmals! this great read aloud begs to be read again and again. on a second reading perhaps read it in the dark with a flashlight!


mentor text for writing workshop

 turn and talk:


  • look at the cover and the end page, you can see two eyes balls in the dark. 
    students could predict what they think will happen in this story  and why?
  • what is something you can be scared of?
  • this is a great book to have student turn and act.
  • Have partner A  pretend to be possum and partner B pretend to be the skunk. you job is to pretend to be that character and what you think they may be thinking or saying at that moment. it is helpful for the teacher to model and show students how you can think beyond the text.
  • at the end of this story, have student retell the events that happened first, next and last.  
  • what made this a funny book?

mentor text

reading like a reader
i’m thinking…
I’m wondering…
this reminds me...
reading like a writer

what is the writer doing?
i am thinking this story may be about an opossum who is afraid of animals that are bigger than him.

could the animals be scared of the dark?
it reminds me of sometimes seeing animals in my backyard.
gianna sets the tone of the story by making each page pitch black. this makes the reader feel scared. there are many things happening in the illustrations that aren’t happening in the words.

Ex. the skunk is clinging on the tree for his dear life and spraying every one.
Possum plays dead at times.
i think the author wanted the setting to be black because it makes the story suspenseful.  

i wonder what will happen to possum and skunk?
gianna uses speech bubbles of the animals talking to one another. we can tell how scared the night animals are feeling by their actions and expression on their faces.
students will delight in the subtle humor.

Ex. Did you hear something?
Are you trying to scare me?
the night noises remind me of noises i sometimes hear in my bed at night.

it also reminds me of the story we read, Joshua’s Night Whispers.

i wonder if the aaaarrrooo is going to eat them up.
i think it’s a wild animal that may eat them.
giana uses onomatopoeia to let us know how the characters are feeling. you can
hear the sounds of whisper words and noisy words.

Ex: aaaarrrrrrrooooooooo

I think now that the wolf is joining the
skunk and opossum.  This is a funny tale,
here they are afraid of night animals and
they are night animals!  I think it’s funny because_______________________.
gianna uses fonts and punctuation in interesting and powerful ways.

Ex. HELP ME! Help YOU!?
You’re a wolf?

But SOMETHING is following me!
what was the message of this book?
sometimes we're afraid when we shouldn’t be.
gianna has a surprise ending.  when the bat tells them that they are night animals they are relieved but quickly scared by two humans camping in a nearby tent. the book ends with everyone running from everyone else.

mentor text

unit of study: illustration study for writing workshop, character study for reading workshop

 tiny tip: give students post-its to make pictures or write about what the characters are doing, thinking and saying.

character unit of study

happy monday!

jess & laura & melissa