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Using the B.R.E.A.K. Strategy for Text-Based Responses

31 Mar

In an effort to encourage students to use text-based evidence in their written responses this year, the third grade team in my building started using the B.R.E.A.K. writing strategy. Kudos to my colleague Jill, from Differentiated Drake, who came up with this acronym and strategy. She has some wonderful classroom posters and materials to reinforce this awesome writing strategy, and it has helped our students tremendously!

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Similar to the strategy R.A.C.E. (Restate, Answer, Cite, Explain), the students are prompted to read, understand, and provide text-based evidence in their writing. The students spend extra time BREAKING APART the text and digging deeper into text details. I like this particular strategy because students are encouraged to include more than one evidence detail, and it reinforces paragraph structure!

B – Begin by Reading the Question

R – Restate the Question

E – Evidence Detail

A – Another Evidence Detail (or two!)

K – Key Closing Sentence

Jill (being the fabulously, generous person that she is) decided to make her easy-to-use graphic organizer FREE for all of you. Be sure to leave feedback and check out her other strategy resources. She offers bookmarksposters, and an additional version of her graphic organizer!

(Download the FREE graphic organizer HERE or by clicking the image below.)

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Our third graders are now at the point where they write B.R.E.A.K. at the top of their pages and use it as a cross-off checklist. After completing the response, they also search for each element of B.R.E.A.K. in their own writing and mark the elements with the specific letters.

Below are some examples from a writing response my third graders completed a few weeks ago. The students used the free iPad app Skitch to take pictures of their first drafts and mark-up their responses to show each element of B.R.E.A.K. Later, we transitioned to marking these elements with just our pencils. The Skitch app was a motivating, first-step tool in the revision process for this strategy. (Want to learn more about Skitch? Check out my previous post about this wonderful tool!)

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NOTE: You’ll see that many of the students used “+” symbols for additional evidence-based details. This is helpful for students who include more than two details from the text. 

Students had a menu of sentence starters to use and were encouraged to also use non-fiction text features as evidence to support their answers. Grab my FREE sample of text-based evidence sentence starter cards to use with your students. This is part of my larger Common Core Booster product.

(Download this resource by clicking here or the image below!)

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PLEASE SHARE! — How do you teach students to include text-based details in their writing? Comment below or send me an email! I’m always looking for new ideas! 🙂

Happy Teaching!

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Hello Spring! — Poetry Writing Using iPads

14 May

I meant to write this post for Poetry month in April, but as usual, life just gets in the way! Better late than never though, right? Here’s an idea to tuck away for next year.

A few weeks ago, I came across a blog post from Grade ONEderful about students writing Goodbye/Hello poems. She completed this writing activity with her first graders, but you could really integrate this idea with any grade-level.

Pic Collage Poetry

I decided to take it one step farther and use Pic Collage for the students to publish their poetry.

I’ve used Pic Collage for other projects, including my QR Code Summary Posters (tutorial for Pic Collage is included in that blog post!). I like the idea of using technology and iPads to publish writing. It was a fun 1-2 day activity for my students. Not only was it great for vocabulary practice, spelling, and visualizing… but students were able to take home a poem that THEY wrote and were proud of. We also practiced reading them for fluency for a Poetry Showcase during few minutes at the end of the week!

Here are two examples:

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A few additional blogs and websites that share ideas and templates for writing your own Goodbye/Hello poems in the classroom:

If you’re interested in a web-based template, here’s one you can use for creating your poems. I personally prefer for my students to brainstorm ideas in their writing notebooks (see below), but you can use whatever format works best for you.

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Even though this idea is too late for the end of winter, Goodbye/Hello poetry would be a fun end-of-the-year writing activity to celebrate summer. Goodbye Spring, Hello Summer? Goodbye School Year, Hello Summer Vacation? Goodbye Stress, Hello Relaxation? (Oh wait, that one is just for the teachers!) 🙂

P.S. New blog post about using the Trading Cards app from ReadWriteThink coming soon!

Happy Teaching! 

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Valentine’s Day Poetry Fun!

12 Feb

Hope everyone is having a fun Valentine’s week!

I thought I’d take a few minutes to share a fun poem and activity that I’m using with my 3rd and 4th graders this week. The silly poem I shared below is great for fluency (and for laughing… my students LOVE Jack Prelutsky’s poetry!).

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I Made My Dog a Valentine

By: Jack Prelutsky

I made my dog a valentine,
she sniffed it very hard,
then chewed on it a little while
and left it in the yard.
 
I made one for my parakeets,
a pretty paper heart,
they pulled it with their claws and beaks
until it ripped apart.
 
I made one for my turtle,
all he did was get it wet,
I wonder if a valentine
is wasted on a pet.
This poem is from Jack Prelutsky’s book of silly Valentine’s Day poetry: It’s Valentine’s Day. My students love them all!

Students can also read the poem on Jack Prelutsky’s website here(NOTE: His website is flash enabled so you won’t be able to use it on the iPad or apple devices.) Once you’re on the website, you have to click on the animated dog (see screenshot below!).

http://www.jackprelutsky.com/

You can also print it out here for your students so they can visualize each stanza or highlight the rhyming pattern! (Go to “File” and then “Download”… don’t click on “Share.”)

As an extension, I had one of my 4th grade RtI groups create a NEW stanza with a different animal receiving the valentine! Here is a sample from one of my 4th graders:

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I would love to hear the stanzas your students come up with! It would be great to publish a few of them as a follow-up to this blog post, too… so send them my way (msjordanreads@gmail.com) and let me know if I have permission to post! 🙂

Also, if you haven’t scooped up my FREE Making Words activity sheet from last year or this week’s Classroom Freebies, Too! post, here it is again!

Making Words!

Happy Teaching & Happy Valentine’s Day! 

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Snowballing Sentences!

8 Jan

Are you looking for a way to help your students expand their sentences to include details? 

Making Snowballs!

Try integrating this simple Snowballing Sentences writing activity! Read through the completed sentence page as a whole-group. Then, model and guide the students through the process of expanding sentences to include details.

Model writing a simple sentence with a Who and a Did What. Show them how to expand and “snowball” their sentences by adding Where (e.g., “at the park”), When (e.g., “yesterday”), or Add-On phrases (e.g., “and had lots of fun”). Sometimes it helps to highlight or underline the expanded sections to help students see the details that were added. Once you’ve modeled the full process of expanding a sentence with a few examples, guide students step-by-step through expanding a few sentences together.

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NOTE: As a CRAFTIVITY option, have students create and expand a sentence on three white construction paper snowballs. Glue the snowballs together and turn the snowballs into a snowman. (Don’t forget the top hat!) Display the class writing projects on a bulletin board or the hallway.

Are you looking for additional ways to reinforce fluency through sentence phrasing?

Scooping Snowballs! 

Use this same Snowballing Sentences activity for FLUENCY practice! Students can practice “scooping” and phrasing each snowball. The add-on expansion represents each new phrase your students should scoop & phrase together.

(Hey! Need additional ideas or want to learn more about phrasing? Check out my previous posts: Fluency Boot Camp or Exercise Your Mind and Fluency!)

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(Download this FREE resource here or by clicking the images above!)

Happy Teaching & Stay Warm! 

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Have a Spooky Halloween!

31 Oct

Happy Halloween!

After having the day off from school yesterday because of Hurricane Sandy (a.k.a. Frankenstorm), my students are energized (maybe a little too much!) and 100% ready to celebrate Halloween. Since they were jipped of an extra celebration day, I am changing my plans to include Halloween FUN for the rest of the week! (Why not?)

For those of you in school today and not home picking up storm debris, enjoy this free Fill-in-a-Story Halloween writing activity I used with my RtI students to practice sentence structure and parts of speech!

Download your FREE Fill-in-a-Story Template here!

Your students will love filling in the blanks with the words from their word lists to create silly or spooky stories. For parts of speech practice and to make the story more of a surprise, have the students fill in the word lists BEFORE even previewing the story! If you want to make this activity more of a cloze activity, skip over the word list page and have them write directly on the story page.


If you want the students’ stories to be more Halloween-focused, consider brainstorming Halloween words ahead of time using an ABC Graphic Organizer or on chart paper. If your students are unfamiliar with these kinds of stories, you may need to model the whole fill-in-the-blank story process… especially for younger students! Teach them by creating one story together before letting them work in partners or work independently.

If you have time for students to share their stories, with the whole class or in partner pairs, use this activity as a chance for students to practice oral reading fluency. Spooky stories are great for adding extra expression to our voices! I modeled what their voices should sound like  using a fill-in-the-blank story I created while they were working so hard on theirs.

Be prepared though, the stories could be very silly and the students may not be able to read them because they are giggling so much. Not that I would know from experience.. 🙂

Happy Teaching!

What did YOU do for Halloween today?

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