6 Traits of Writing – Ideas

This year is my 2nd year teaching writing. While I have been here for four years, the first two were spent teaching math to the 4th graders while the 4th grade teacher taught Language Arts to my 5th graders. We switched last year for a number of reasons, but because of the switch, last year’s writing curriculum was a bit scattered.

I knew what “paper” was coming next – personal narrative, how-to essay, formal letter, etc. – but didn’t really throw in much “instruction”, per se. I mean, we had several discussions on good introductions/conclusions, and at my school we use Four Square organizers so we spent the first few weeks refreshing the kids’ memories on how to use a Four Square. But there wasn’t much else. And I didn’t like that!

After much thought over the summer, I decided to implement teaching the 6 traits of writing. During the big back-to-school sale at TeachersPayTeachers, I purchased Down Under Teacher’s Six Traits VOICES Bulletin Board Headers and Cards. I created a bulletin board on the back of my bookcases after doing some rearranging (wish I had more wall space, but you gotta work with what you have!). I also purchased Ruth Culham’s 6+1 Traits of Writing to guide my teaching.

I started out the year by discussing the trait of Voice. I was going to start with Ideas but I had some great ideas for Voice that I really wanted to use to get the kids excited for writing!

To begin our discussion, we first talked briefly about each of the 6 writing traits and why we would be learning about them. We talked about how they can make us better writers if we are intentional about including them in our writing!

I love and have always loved the book The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use it! If you don’t know this story, it is a MUST read!! It tells the story of the three little pigs from the perspective of the wolf, who wants to make you think he is innocent. I shared this story with my class, asking them to pay attention to how the author made you feel about the wolf, the main character.

After reading, we talked about how the author was trying to portray the wolf; most of them agreed that he is seen as an innocent victim that we should feel sorry for. I described how this is the “voice” that the author chose to use in his book. He could have made the wolf continue to seem evil, or maybe made it a mysterious story, but he chose a voice of pity and innocence.

I then had the students choose a fairy tale that they could rewrite from the perspective of a “misrepresented” character. I reminded them to think about the voice they wanted to use – how did they want to portray their character? These were SO well done! I gave them about 30-45 minutes total over the course of a few days and allowed students to share when everyone had finished. Some of the fairy tales my students did included “Snow White”, writing from the queen’s perspective, “Hansel and Gretel”, writing from the witch’s perspective, and “Little Red Riding Hood”, writing from the wolf’s perspective. I was quite impressed with how well they did and hope to share some of them with you as soon as I collect their journals in which they are written!

The next activity we did I got from Ruth Culham’s book. I used Spotify to play for the students multiple versions of the song “Hey Jude” by the Beatles.  I love this website because you can search for and play full versions of songs without having to pay for them or download them! I used versions by Elvis, Bing Crosby, Earl Scruggs, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra, as well as the original. As I played each version, the students wrote down thoughts about each one – images they got when listening, words that described the version, etc. After listening to all of the versions, we made a big list of everything the students came up with. They tended to enjoy the more upbeat, exciting versions rather than some of the ones that made you feel like you were going to fall asleep 🙂

I asked the students how listening to music can relate to writing. They realized that, even if I gave each student the same topic, no one would write the exact same thing – everyone’s work would “sound” different, just as each version of the same song was so different from the others! I think this is really what drove the point home.

We then made a master list on chart paper of all different voice descriptors (ideas can be found in Ruth Culham’s book) which I will leave posted in our room throughout the year.

As a last fun activity, I read the books Diary of a Worm and Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin. We thought about the voice the author used in each of these – silly, humorous, sarcastic at times – and then I gave the students an opportunity to choose an animal’s diary to write.

I am so excited to move on to all of the other traits. In fact, we started Ideas yesterday, but that will have to wait for another post! I really believe this will pay off in the students’ writing.

How do you teach the 6 traits? I’d love to hear more ideas!!

PS: You should most definitely go check out my friend Jenny’s blog! She and I went to Grove City together and now she is teaching 1st grade at my school. Her classroom is the CUTEST and I am so excited that she is joining the teacher blogging world! Yay Mrs. B!

Welcome to My Classroom Tour!!

Whew, I survived the whirlwind of the first day of school! Does anyone else feel like it is one of the toughest days of school?? I love love LOVE meeting my new kiddos (though I knew most of them – one of the benefits of teaching in a small school!) but getting back into the swing of things with no real schedule is always a big difficult. So much of the day was filled with discussing policies and procedures for 5th grade, but I tried to break up the “boring”-ness with some fun too!

Anyways, now that school has actually started, I figured it was about time to give you the grand tour of my 5th grade classroom – welcome!!

Here is my classroom! This is the view from the door – notice the lovely Big Lots rug that is all over the teacher bloggy world…I love the pop of color in the middle of my room:


This is my computer area to the right of the door, as well as my WOW Work display board:



WOW Work board up close – I actually hot-glued the clothespins to the board because it is actually a chalkboard and there is no way to get them to stay up there any other way!!:


My desk area, to the right of the computer area:




Calendar area behind my desk. I used to have my fridge back here too (notice the plastic cabinets in the bottom left of the picture…), but I had to move it due to safety violations with the plugs…haha. So the pictures that used to be on the fridge of my previous classes are now posted above my calendar:



My Writing Process pencil – this used to be on a bulletin board near my bookshelves, but after some rearranging, this is where it ended up! The door on the right leads to the 4th grade room:



Here’s the back corner of my classroom with the doorway to the 4th grade room, my unit bulletin board, class supplies, books relating to our unit, and games:



Here’s a close-up of the bookshelf and surrounding area, including my newly-moved fridge. This month we are obviously studying the universe (if you didn’t figure that out from the previous picture’s bulletin board!) so all of the books on the top shelf here relate to this topic:



This is my early finishers spot, on the wall caddy corner to the unit bulletin board. Here I have ideas for the students if they finish an assignment early and need something to do. I included ideas for both Language Arts and Math (excuse my hand…I forgot to hang up 3M hooks today!):



I keep supplies for our literature centers next to the back bookshelf. We do centers once (sometimes twice) a week. Students can work 3 to a center and they include topics from “Fiction Books” and “Poetry” to “Imagination Station” and “Typing”. Many of these ideas I got from a book about literature centers (but of course I can’t remember the name of it now…):



The kiddos’ desks all set up and ready for them to come! I always get them small pencil holders that are designed for lockers and stick them to the side of their desks filled with a few small goodies, but this year the magnets would NOT stick! It was terrible! I decided to velcro them to their desks instead and this has worked great so far:



The front of the room with Morning Work posted for the first day. The area on the right of the board is where we write our homework every day:



Here’s a close-up of the board with the cursive alphabet above, a few motivational posters, and the brain teaser of the week:



I ran out of wall space, so I did a little rearranging and pulled some bookcases away from the wall – voila! Instant wall space! I purchased this awesome writing set from TpT and I can’t wait to use it here. You can also see my tired words pocket chart that I made last year:



So excited for this classroom Boggle board I made!! I was inspired by this Boggle board and was pleasantly surprised to see that our school Cricket had the exact cartridge I needed to make the cute scalloped background for each letter. I laminated 3 sets of the letters and keep them in a purple basket, along with the recording charts, below the board:



Here is my library/reading area. I just got that chair from Big Lots for $25 and the kids love it already! I have tons of books – I am and have always been an avid reader so I love having lots of options for my students to read. They are organized by AR levels, but the kids are encouraged to read based on their interests too. I got the blue chair at Big Lots last week and my students were loving it all day:



Last but not least, here is my beautiful lovely stunning wall of wood! Isn’t she a beauty? Oh boy…haha. The closet doors on both side of the “nook” will be filled with reading/writing vocabulary and math vocabulary. The bulletin board in the nook is one that I do every year – the students decorate puzzle pieces that we hang up on the 2nd day of school. I also have the always wonderful chart paper posted here which is wonderful and gets lots of use:



So that’s my classroom! Thanks for taking a tour and checking it out. Any suggestions or ideas or comments??





Parody Play Writing

This has been a wonderful summer!

Ben and I have traveled to Niagara Falls, Toronto, Rochester NY, Rehoboth Beach DE, and will soon be spending a week in the Adirondacks in upstate NY with my husband’s family.

We’ve celebrated my nieces 1st birthday, the marriage of several friends, and the passing of the PT board exam.

We have seen many movies, from Brave and 21 Jump Street, to Spiderman and Dark Knight Rises (well, we’re going to the drive-in to see it tomorrow!).

Most of all, we have just enjoyed time together and time with friends and family.

But it is approaching the start of the school year (already?!?!), which means time to get back into the classroom. Every October, I lead a 3-day, 2-night class trip to Philadelphia with the help of several parent chaperones. It’s getting to be the time where I make reservations for our trip. I still can’t believe 3 months from today we will begin this incredible trip! Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled and excited, but I definitely want to enjoy the rest of my summer 🙂

Before getting into all of the fun stuff for next year, I wanted to touch on something I mentioned in an earlier post and something that my class had a blast with at the end of the school year! Now, keep in mind that this was my first year teaching writing (the 4th grade teacher had always taught language arts, while I taught math to her kiddos), so I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing…but I think they learned and had fun 🙂

Our last unit in writing was play writing. In order to introduce this unit, I printed off several examples of plays, mostly silly and interesting for the students. We chose parts and simply read through the script once. After a quick read-through, we went back and looked at any stage directions, words in italics to show actions, and other notable features. We payed attention to how the characters interacted and talked about what made these plays unique.

Once we had looked at plenty of examples, I explained to the class that they would be writing a play together as a class, however our play was going to be a parody of a popular story! We discussed parodies, which they had learned a bit about in previous grades and in earlier lessons, and spent over an hour brainstorming ideas for our play. After narrowing it down to “The Wizard of Oz” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, we learned that a previous class had already done “The Wizard of Oz” which made our choice easy 🙂

I will say, the students were throwing out lots of ideas but we had to talk about what would be widely known to all ages (as we would be performing for the school) and what had a good story line with plenty of characters. It took them a while to stop throwing out crazy ideas (like “Transformers” and “Sesame Street”), but we got there eventually.

After coming up with the idea, we then began to think about the parody aspect of it. We first changed each of the characters’ names – so “Charlie Bucket” became “Ike Pail”, “Grandpa Joe” became “Grandpa Moe”, “Willy Wonka” who owned a chocolate factory with Oompa Loompas became “Billy Bonka” who owned an ice cream factory with Goopy Loopys, “Veruca Salt” became “Veronica Pepper”, and so on. The students were so incredibly creative and did a great job at this! We had very few disagreements and when there was a debate, we simply did a blind vote.

Once coming up with character names, we then went through the actual story and figured out what each scene would include. We talked about main ideas to be included in each scene and what was important about them.

Then came the most time consuming part – writing the script. It’s rather difficult to write a script when you have 13 kiddos all contributing ideas for what each character should say next…but praise God we made it work! I hooked up my laptop to our projector, opened a Word document, and off we went. We decided that we needed a narrator to introduce each scene, so that was a good place to start. We then broke it down, scene by scene, character by character, and ended up with an amazing script! There were a few disagreements, however a blind vote was considered fair by everyone and solved these problems.

After completing the script, I went back through and edited it, adding a few lines here and there for flow and continuity, but honestly, the students did the majority of the writing. Once we had the script complete, we decided on characters. I had each student write down their top three choices. This ended up working fairly well because there were only two parts which were wanted by more than one student (can you guess how we solved this problem?? That’s right, a blind vote!). We then discussed costume ideas, props that were needed, and scenery that could be made.

The students spent most of May working on memorizing lines, creating scenery/props, and writing the songs that the Goopy Loopys would perform after each contest winner would “disappear” in the ice cream factory (ps – these were HILARIOUS!! They did an AMAZING job. I split the class into four groups, one to write each song. They used the tunes of “Moves Like Jagger”, “Black and Yellow”, “We Are Young”, and “Party Rock Anthem” – I found instrumental versions of each of these to play during the performance and it worked out so well!).

We performed the play during the 2nd to last week of school. Everything came together amazingly well (as I knew it would – God has a way of making things happen!) and the students blew me away with their enthusiasm and energy. From their stage presence to their enunciation, they were little actors and actresses 🙂 And I have never heard the rest of the students at my school or the teachers laugh so hard!!

So with that, I leave you with a picture from “Ike and the Ice Cream Factory”. I wish I had more, but I was involved in the play (helping move scenery, playing the background tracks for the Goopy Loopy songs, etc.) so I couldn’t take any until afterwards. Oh well, such is the life of a teacher 🙂

From Left to Right: a Goopy Loopy (they were supposed to be “ghetto”!), Ike (wearing the white shirt), Goop Dawg (the kids with the sunglasses on – he was the head Goopy Loopy), Billy Bonka (in the awesome purple outfit), a Goopy Loopy (in the sideways hat; he also played Mr. Pail), another Goopy Loopy (in the other sideways hat), Michael PC (in the Angry Birds shirt), August Bloop (in the Pens jersey), Veronica Pepper (in the white dress), Grandpa Moe (in the suspenders), Scarlett Boulevard (in the red shirt), Mrs. Pepper (in the blue dress; she also played Mrs. Pail), and the narrator.

If you are interested in having a copy of our play to use with your own classroom, let me know! I’d be happy to share the love.

Have you ever written a play with your class? How did it go? Any tips or advice for next year??


Sweet Heart Writing

Last week on Valentine’s Day, I wanted to do a fun writing activity with my kiddos. After a bit [ahem, an hour] of searching on Pinterest, I tweaked some ideas I saw and came up with Sweetheart Writing!

Each student was given 6-8 Sweetheart candies…you know, the ones with the sayings on them like “hug me” or “sweetie pie”…as well as a piece of red cardstock and a glue bottle. The goal of this assignment was to write a letter to someone using all of your conversation hearts. Some kids wrote serious letters to their parents; others wrote silly letters to imaginary characters. One student wrote a break-up letter, another wrote a real love letter to a “stranger”!

The kids had a blast completing this assignment and kept asking for more hearts – not to eat, but to fit into their letter! I loved writing their finished copies and they enjoyed sharing them with the class. Here are some for your enjoyment:


*Sorry that some of them are hard to read – without the flash they were too dark!*

So as you can see, they did a great job and were quite creative with how they used the hearts.

One of my favorite things about Valentines Day in 5th grade is our service project. Rather than purchasing store-bought Valentines for everyone in the class, we had parents send in supplies to make Valentines to send to the kids at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh! We spent one afternoon spread out on our carpet using pink and red card stock, sequins, ribbons, and LOTS of stickers to create cards for the kiddos who might not otherwise receive them. We really tried to focus on loving those who might not feel God’s love and I hope my students understand how much their cards will mean to the kids who received them!

What do you do with your 5th graders for Valentines Day? I find that as they get older, it is harder to do the crafts and games that are so popular in the younger grades. Do you have any fun ideas??

Groundhog Day Fun

Fifth grade is a difficult year to find fun activities to do for holidays that aren’t too juvenile but still worthwhile. After some searching and combining ideas, I came up with this!

I gave the kids a page of facts about Groundhog Day to read for morning work. They had to highlight three or more facts that they learned or found interesting. Lots of kiddos thought it was cool that Punxatawney Phil actually lives in a library during the year! Many of them also didn’t know that Punxatawney is really not too far from our hometown of Pittsburgh.

Later in the day, after discussing the interesting facts that they found, I wanted to do a quick, fun, yet still educational Groundhog Day craft. So I pulled together several ideas that I had seen on Pinterest and on various blogs. We created the head of a groundhog by using lots of different hearts – an upside down large brown heart for the head, a medium brown heart cut in half for the ears, a medium white heart upside down for the teeth, and some used a small pink heart for the nose. They had fun adding eyes, whiskers, and other features to the face!

After decorating the face, the students cut out two brown “paws” and glue the groundhog head and paws to the top of a piece of pink paper. On the paper, they wrote a paragraph from the perspective of Punxatawney Phil describing what they like/don’t like about their important job. These turned out great! Some of them were so creative 🙂 Here in PA, we have a groundhog who advertises for the Pennsylvania Lottery named Gus, “the 2nd most famous groundhog in Pennsylvania”. Several of the students referenced Gus in their paragraphs, talking about how Gus is jealous of them or they wish they had lots of money like Gus! So funny!


Anyways, I was really pleased with this activity. It didn’t take up too much time and included several important academic skills as well, such as following directions, writing in first person, and sharing with the class. They had a blast creating their groundhogs and I loved seeing how different they all were!

Did you do anything fun on Groundhog Day??

A Day in My Shoes

Today I’m linking up with “Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher” so that you can learn about a day in my shoes!

Now, as is the case with most of you, each day is a little different due to specials and other fun activities. But here’s a glimpse into a normal day:

*6:00 – alarm goes off on my clock. SNOOZE!

*6:07 – alarm goes off on my phone. SNOOZE! (continue snoozing both alarms until 6:30…I do not enjoy getting out of bed in the mornings…haha)

*6:30-7:00 – get ready.

I shower, get dressed (I always pick out my outfit the night before – this saves me SO much time in the mornings!), do makeup, sometimes hair (sometimes I spend time on this, though lately with my hair getting so long, I have been sticking up in a ponytail or messy bun), make sure I have everything (keys, cellphone, laptop, etc.), and get out the door!

*7:00-7:25ish – drive to school.

It used to take between 15-20 minutes to get to work, however they are doing construction on the main route, so I am going a different way that is longer and has more traffic. Oh well – I enjoy listening to the morning radio shows and thinking about what I need to do when I get to school.

*7:25ish-7:40 – relax.

I usually spend the first 10-15 minutes at school checking my email, Google Reader, and Facebook (we don’t actually have to be at school until 8:00) while eating breakfast at my desk – usually cereal.

*7:40-8:30 – prepare for the day.

This involves writing their morning work on the board (usually a review worksheet, cursive practice, silent reading, reciting Memory Marathon verses, or re-reading a story with a partner), making copies that are needed, and mentally preparing for the day! Every Tuesday morning, the staff meets for prayer before the students arrive.

*8:30-9:00 – students arrive.

The students begin arriving at 8:30 and come anytime between then and 8:45. They do a great job of coming in quietly and getting their morning work done, although sometimes it takes a bit of prompting 🙂 I send a student around with our attendance clipboard at 8:45, and morning announcements over the walkie-talkies happen around 9:00.

*9:00-9:30 – devotions

On Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, my students and I journey through the Old Testament together. We learn about the Godly men and women and talk about how we can apply what we learn to our lives today. We also do prayer requests and I have a student pray for the class. On Thursdays, the whole school comes together for All School Worship. We sing a song or two, then one of my student’s dads does a short devotion for the school.

*9:30-10:15 – math

Four of my students go to 6th grade for math, one student takes 7th grade math later in the day (taught by the 6th grade teacher since we only go up to 6th grade), so I am left with 8 out of my 13 for math.  We start every math class by going over the previous night’s HW and answering any questions they may have. During the lesson for the day, the students take notes in their math notebook. We do lots of examples problems together, then the students do some independent work, either in their notebook or on a mini white board. Homework gets passed out at the end of class which students must write down in their HW planner.

*10:15-10:30 – snack

The students bring a healthy snack every day to enjoy during this time. They can socialize, play games, and just hang out for these 15 minutes.

*10:30-11:30 – Language Arts

This is my first year teaching English, writing, and spelling, so it has been interesting trying to work out a fairly consistent schedule. We usually do an English lesson until around 10:50, then work on our writing assignment until 11:30. This often changes based on the day; for example, spelling pretests/final tests are given every Monday/Friday at 10:30. Sometimes I do a writing mini-lesson before they begin to work. We are about to begin our next writing assignment on persuasive essays, so tomorrow I will spend a good bit of writing workshop time introducing this to the class and reading some samples together. I also throw in some computer instruction during this time every once in a while.

*11:30-12:15 – reading

We use Harcourt Story Town for our reading curriculum. Every day’s reading instruction is different! On Mondays, I introduce the vocabulary words and we discuss some background information needed for the story. On Tuesdays, the students do Literacy Centers which I created. There are 12 centers to choose from and they must pick a different one each week. Maybe I’ll do a post on these in the near future 🙂 On Wednesdays, we read the story for the week and discuss. On Thursdays, we discuss the literary element (theme, conflicts, point of view, or whatever I am focusing on with that story). On Fridays, the students complete a quiz on comprehension of the story, its vocabulary, and the literary element we discussed. We also read a novel each month relating to the unit we study (ex: Sign of the Beaver was our novel for Colonial America), so we spend some of this time reading and discussing the novel.

*12:20-1:00 – lunch/recess

The students have lunch for 20 mins and recess in the gym for 20 mins. I am thankful to teach at a school where teachers are not required to do lunch/recess duty! We have parent volunteers in those positions 🙂 This time always FLIES by…

*1:00-1:30 – silent reading

This is the time of day devoted to silent reading. We use Accelerated Reader so the kids are encouraged to complete quizzes for each book they read. I have given them each a goal of points they must acquire by reading books and taking quizzes. There is no punishment for not reaching their goal, however they will be rewarded if they do so 🙂

*1:30-3:00 – unit

We spend the majority of the afternoon on unit instruction. Every month each grade focuses on a different topic. This month, we are studying electricity and magnetism. Therefore, the bulk of our afternoon is learning about this topic. I love using PowerPoint, so most of my instruction is through PP presentations. Sometimes I have the students fill out a notes page I have created while we are going through the PowerPoint. Sometimes we read books together that teach us more about the topic. Two of the months we create a lapbook – one of my favorite teaching tools! This month involves a lot of experiments involving static electricity, batteries, magnetism, circuits, and other electricity-related topics. Each month the students complete a project that correlates to the unit. For example, this month they are each planning an electricity experiment to present to the class. They will fill out a form that talks us through their experiment; they will also type up a summary of what they learned, and then present the experiment and their findings to the class. Next month, we will be studying Western Europe, so each student will be assigned a different country that they must research and teach the class about. This allows for a lot of creativity because they can teach the class however they would like – through PowerPoint, brochures, posters, books, etc. This is my favorite time of day – the students are always excited about what we are learning! Several days a week we have specials (gym and Spanish) in the afternoon but we always work around those.

*3:00-3:10 – pack up

The students make sure they have all HW assignments written in their planners, they pack up, and I walk them down to bus dismissal.

*3:10-4:00 – lesson plan/prep work

We are allowed to leave around 4:00, so until then I usually prepare for the next day. I try and leave right around 4:00 to avoid traffic on the way home, although I tutor on Mondays until 4:15 and we have staff meetings on Thursdays until 4:15 or 4:30.

*4:00-10:00 – enjoy being home!

I spend this time with the hubs (who is currently preparing to start his LAST clinical before he graduates as a Doctor of Physical Therapy in May! Yahoo!) just hanging out, watching shows we missed the night before, playing volleyball at a local church on Tuesdays, hanging out with my BFFL who lives upstairs from us, eating dinner that one of us (or both of us!) has prepared, reading, and just relaxing! This is my absolute favorite part of my day…as much as I love my kiddos at school, I love being home with my husband even more 🙂

*10:00ish – bedtime

I try and go to bed around 10, although I’m often not very tired so I usually end up reading for a while in bed.


So that’s what my days are usually like! Busy busy busy but there is always something fun going on. I’ve enjoyed reading about everyone else’s days too!