Engage! Writing Workshops with Rick Shelton

Hoggle’s Christmas by Rick Shelton

Peanut butter and jelly . . .

Grits and eggs . . .

RC and a moon pie . . .

Certain things in this life are meant to be enjoyed together. Two of those are reading and writing.

My past few blog posts have focused on student engagement. Writing is an excellent engagement strategy. Students WILL write when the writing is authentic and purposeful. Writing will strengthen their reading skills. The more reading your students do, the better writers they will become. Reading and writing were meant to be taught together. When America forgot that important fact, I simply do not know. I do know that it is high time we have our students writing again!

Allow them to write about what is important to them. Teach them to write about what interests them. Model for them how to SHOW and not just TELL with their words. When we teach them to write by giving them opportunities to write in meaningful ways, they will know how to write when it is time to begin essays, analyzing complex informational text, and citing text evidence. We expect them to pick up a pencil in the third grade and eloquently compare or contrast two complex text passages when they have never even written two complete sentences. We must model writing for them and model it early on!

I have always believed this. This week, our staff was treated to a series of writing workshops led by author, Rick Shelton. It was amazing! His workshop has awakened our little school to the many authentic and purposeful writing opportunities we can provide for our students.

If you are interested in having Rick Shelton at your school, here is his link:

Rick Shelton’s Writing Workshops




Get a clue! A context clue!

logoAll year long we have focused on finding the meaning of complex vocabulary by using context clues. This is a key skill for students as they prepare for the ACT Aspire. Students will be expected to read a passage and determine the meaning of complex vocabulary words. Students will often have to choose a word that is synonymous with the given word to demonstrate their understanding.

This video lesson is a good one. It walks the student through what it means to use context clues.

The following link takes you to a number of other context clue resources:


Our ACT Aspire at DES starts Tuesday, April 29th. Good luck to all of you!


Keep Calm and Cite Text Evidence

logoWe are now only 8 days away from the ACT Aspire. Alabama’s students have worked hard all year. This is their moment!

One important thing for students to remember is to cite the text when answering open response questions.

What does that mean?

The ACT Aspire will emphasize “text-based answers,” which means that students need to carefully read and cite specific evidence to support their answers / responses to the text. Students must cite specific evidence to support their points and opinions about a text.

This video gives a few pointers (it is sooooo cute):

Here are a few sentence starters to help:


This evidence poster came from a great blog I found:


HW this week:

Read for AR Points & Work on Research Project



Theme or THE MEssage / CCRS RL.5.2 / Video Lesson

logoLet’s ASPIRE to greatness! This post includes a video lesson that will help you master Alabama CCR Standard (RL.5.2)!

Students in 5th grade should be able to: Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text. (RL.5.2)

We have been working on this skill in our 5th grade at DES. The theme can also be called the “message” or “lesson learned” in the text. It helps to ask yourself, “What life lesson did the main character learn?”  Sometimes one might also ask, “What life lesson can I learn from reading this?”  Answering these questions help us identify the theme.

Give it a try!

The Archery Competition

Thomas was participating in the 12 year old Archery Alabama State Competition. He was in the final round and it was his turn. He grabbed an arrow and twisted the tip with his finger tips. He heard his dad scream, “Go get him Thomas!” After that, everything seemed to go quiet.

Thomas placed the arrow in position on the bow and pulled back slowly. He was so nervous. He felt his hand starting to shake. “Breathe,” he told himself. He took a deep breath and his hand calmed. He stared at the bulls eye and aimed his arrow. He had practiced this a thousand times and now he was ready. He released the arrow.

Even though it only took the arrow two seconds to reach the target, it seemed like forever to Thomas. It whirled through the air in a straight line heading for its destination. Then it happened. A perfect bulls eye was hit. The crowd roared in excitement and Thomas did it. He won the state championship.

What is the central message or theme of the passage above?

A. Nice guys finish last.                              B. Hard work and practice pays off.

C. Archery is a fun sport.                           D. If at first you don’t succeed, try again.

I challenge you to be the first DES 5th grader to answer this question in class!

This 3 minute video lesson on determining theme will help you master this skill.

This week’s HW:

Monday & Tuesday – Finish Learning Log

Wednesday – TEST DAY

Thursday & Friday – Read for AR Points

Constructed Responses / Link to Online Game! / This Week’s HW

20140303_104920Here are a few more pictures from the 5th grade’s Wonderland Hall!

Being able to respond in writing to an open response question is a skill that 5th graders need to master. It is also one of the hardest things to get them to do. Why is this so hard? I have asked myself this question over and over again. I truly believe that in our fast-paced, wait for nothing lives taking the time to write out a thorough response to a question is absolutely foreign to today’s students. It shouldn’t be! Answering a constructed response questions thoroughly will be a focus in 5th grade at DES this week. This is a great video lesson below.

I love to play games that help me learn. I know that you do too! Here is a link to a game that will help you master context clues.


20140303_105000This Week’s HW

Monday & Tuesday – Learning Log Pages

Wednesday – Study Vocabulary

Thursday & Friday – Read for AR Points

ASPIRE to Greatness / Alabama CCRS / This Week’s HW Information

logoThe countdown is on. We have 8 weeks until Alabama’s new ASPIRE test. Are we ready?

I can’t answer that. I do know we have worked hard and we will continue to do so up until this year’s testing window. The test is just that. . .a test. It is important. It will give us valuable feedback. It will not be the end of the world. . .LOL!

I will continue to post links to games or lessons that I believe to be beneficial to students. These links cover Alabama’s new College Career Ready Standards. The following link covers Point of View / Author’s Perspective.

AL (RL.5.6): 5th grade students should know how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences a story.

After the video lesson, you can go to this link to take on online quiz on author’s point of view.


This week’s HW:

Monday / Tuesday : Learning Log Sheets

Wednesday : Finish FINAL copy of Expository Essay

Thursday : This is TEST Day

Friday : Read for AR Points

This Week’s HW / Katy Perry & Maroon 5 Teach Figurative Language?!?!

download (1)Alabama standards state that 5th graders should be able to use affixes and root words to help understand new words. Check out this great information and the quick practice game link below.

Learn how to add letters to the beginning or end of a word to modify its meaning. This excellent practice exercise activity will help students understand how prefixes and suffixes are used in the English language while they enjoy the fun challenges. Add prefixes and suffixes to words and see if the result is a real word. As the challenges become more difficult try adding both a prefix and a suffix to make words. How many challenges can you complete? Give it a go and find out!


cos-01-adam-levine-deStandards also state the 5th graders should be able to understand figurative language. Would you like to learn a little bit about figurative language from Katy Perry or Maroon 5? Check out the video below!

HW This Week:

M – Writing / Work on Sloppy Copy of Narrative

T – Writing / Finish Sloppy Copy of Narrative

W – Read for AR Points / Begin FINAL Copy

T – Read for AR Points / Finish FINAL Copy

F – Read for AR Points


Grammar Gaming / Alabama CCRS

escanear0005I mentioned a few weeks ago that I would begin to post links to learning games and videos that can help students master the new standards.

Today’s link will lead you to some homophone games.

Homophones are words that sound the same, but have different meanings. Usually they are spelled differently, but they can also be spelled the same. An easy way to remember this is to remember that you listen and speak when you are on a phone. When you hear the word “phone” in homophone, remember that it means that the words sound the same or are pronounced the same. Here are some examples of homophones that are spelled differently and have different meanings:

paws/pause         flee/flea         pole/poll          ate/eight           one/won

Follow this link to play some fun grammar games.


How about a jammin’ video!



Grammar Gaming!

downloadI know that we all love to play online games as well as games on our iPods or iPads. I believe that gaming is a fun and effective way to learn. The following sites can help students master Alabama’s new CCRS Standards.

Check out these links:


The following link is my favorite. I use this one in my class. They also have an app you can purchase from iTunes.


Happy Grammar Gaming!