End of Year Writing Portfolios

writing portfolio binder

Several months ago I submitted my name to guest post on the teaching blog, All Things Upper Elementary. Today’s the day that my post goes live! In my guest post, I share one of my favorite teaching projects of the year. My students always create an end of year writing portfolio to showcase their writing (and growth in writing) from the school year.

Whether you are a parent or a teacher (or a writer) being able to look back through a year’s worth of work is always a thrill. In the case of my students, there are obvious changes in handwriting, sentence structure, word choice, and style. Since I am with my students every day, I am not always aware of how much they improve over the course of nine months. As soon as my students complete their portfolios, and I can compare writing from August to the writing from April, it is immediately obvious how much a child’s writing can progress in a school year.

portfolio requirements

My students use a 3-ring binder and select favorite writing from the year based on a checklist I give them. They organize the writing with a table of contents. Since we complete this project at the beginning of May, these portfolios often end up as Mother’s Day presents (hint, hint).

my children's work

With my own children, I keep *significant* project and writing samples that come home. I deposit these special items in a big pile on a shelf in my closet (and secretly throw away school work that does not make the cut when THEY are not looking). At some point during the summer, I sort the stack and organize the work into a storage box with Miss Priss and Mr. Star Wars’ name/year on the front. Then, I am ready to start over again in the fall.

If you have not already clicked through to my post at All Things Upper Elementary, feel free to do so now. The writing portfolio teacher instructions and handouts are available for free at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Happy almost end of the school year!

portfolio samples

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Hot Vidalia Onion Dip

hot vidalia onion dip

It’s a sad day on my friendly little street. One of our neighbors (and primary organizers of the neighborhood potlucks) is moving. Last night we had a casual farewell party for our dear friends. Even though they will not be moving far away, our street and neighborhood gatherings will not be the same.

In honor of this special event, I needed a dip untasted by the group. I pulled out a recipe for a Hot Vidalia Onion dip that I have not made in years. Man, is this stuff good. It falls into the “face food” category meaning you want to stick your face into it to eat. The dip lasted about 17 minutes (after picture below).

Ingredients

  • 3 c. finely chopped Vidalia onions (the Vidalia part is important)
  • 2 c. mayonnaise
  • 2 c. grated Swiss cheese (I combine 1 1/2 c. baby Swiss and 1/2 c. Gruyere)
  • 2-3 dashes Tabasco sauce (or to taste)
  • 1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • paprika to taste
  • Wheat Thins

hot vidalia onion dip bite

Directions

  • In a medium bowl, mix chopped onions, mayonnaise, Swiss cheese, and Tabasco.
  • Spread mixture in a 9 x 13 inch glass baking dish.
  • Sprinkle Parmesan evenly over mixture and sprinkle with paprika.
  • Bake ~30 minutes at 350 degrees or until golden and bubbly.
  • Serve with Wheat Thins.

hot vidalia onion dip after

Word Trains

Bifocals Word Train bigger

Some of my favorite teaching ideas happen on the fly. My students completed the final lesson in our vocabulary book this week. The vocabulary book is based on Latin roots, common prefixes, and suffixes. Now that it is the end of the year and our “root bank” is full, students have been noticing words all over the place that are combinations of the roots and prefixes we studied all year (Yeah!– something stuck).

So, here is what happened. We studied the root “loc” this week, which is in the word “locomotion”. “Loc” means to move from place to place. A student recalled that we already knew the root “mot” meaning to move or to do. And then the game began.

Have you ever played 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon with movie actors? The Word Train game is the nerdy teacher variation of that game.

  1. You begin with a word that contains 2 known parts like DISORGANIZED (dis and organ).
  2. Connect it with another 2+ part word that shares a root, prefix, or suffix from the original word like ORGANIST (organ and ist).
  3. Add a third word that shares the newly added word part like ACTIVIST (ist and act).
  4. Keep going from there by adding REACT then RECAPTURE then CO-CAPTAIN then COOPERATE then OPERATOR.
  5. To really play like the Kevin Bacon game and test a student’s word knowledge, give them the first word and the last word in the word train and ask them to create the connection. For example, try to get from reheat to illiterate.
Capture Word Train

Click on the picture to view the sample

This was a great vocabulary review, and the students got supercompetitive (super is a prefix from our list, by the way). We have standardized testing coming up, and I am trying to practice reading comprehension and vocabulary skills. This activity forced the students to look at word parts and give definitions based on the parts. It is much more strategic than memorizing definitions.

How many words can you connect? My record is 9. I am sure I could go further if I pulled any word root, not just the ones from my 4th Grade Common Prefix, Root, and Suffix List. Can you beat me? My students did. To download the complete lesson plans for free, click here.

A Word Train

Click on the picture to view the sample

I apologize for the tiny pictures. I kept resizing, and I could not get them to appear larger in the post. If any web experts have advice, please share.

Dirt and Worms

dirt and worms close

In honor of the gardening unit Miss Priss and her class are completing right now, we will be sending Dirt and Worms for kindergarten snack tomorrow. Miss Priss thought it might not be a “healthy” snack, and she is probably right. I did a little rationalizing much like Bill Cosby’s reasons for serving chocolate cake for breakfast, and I think the milk in the pudding bumps the snack into the safe zone.

Ingredients

  • 2 (20 oz.) packages Oreo cookies
  • 1/2 stick butter (4 T.), softened
  • 1 (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • 3 1/2 c. milk
  • 2 sm. vanilla instant pudding boxes
  • 1 (12 oz.) Cool Whip
  • Gummi worms

dirt and worms first layer

Directions

  • Cream the butter, cream cheese, and powdered sugar together in one bowl. Mix pudding together with the milk in another bowl until stiff. Add the Cool Whip to the pudding mixture. Mix the cream cheese mixture into the pudding mixture until smooth (I use a whisk).
  • Crush the Oreos in a food processor. Start with 1 1/2 packages, then crush the rest if you need more crumbs.
  • For individual snacks, Layer 1 heaping tablespoon of Oreo crumbs, then ~1/2 cup pudding mixture, then another tablespoon of crumbs in 9 oz. clear plastic tumblers. Top with 1-2 Gummi worms. You will get ~20 individual cups.
  • Can be made the night before and refrigerated until time to serve.

dirt and worms tray

Variations

  • Replace the vanilla instant pudding with chocolate. I think the chocolate pudding makes the snack too chocolate-y, which is why I use the vanilla. The chocolate pudding color is obviously more authentic as real dirt.
  • Use graham cracker crumbs instead of Oreos, and mini Swedish fish instead of Gummi worms, and top with a small drink umbrella to make “the beach”.
  • Line a flower pot with tin foil and layer crushed Oreos and pudding in the pot. Top with Gummi worms and a plastic flower(s).

There is a chance we will have one more kindergarten snack opportunity this year. Any thoughts? I don’t think I can top the Dirt and Worms.

dirt and worms cups

Going on a Field Trip

field trip

The bulk of the field trips my teammate and I schedule occur during the last 6 weeks of school. This includes a 3 day overnight trip related to our science curriculum. If it were up to me, I would not have any field trips and definitely not any overnight trips.

When my students are in the confines of the school building, I have full control (more or less). As soon as I leave campus with my students, all kinds of untold dangers are lurking around every corner, and the number one thing on my mind is getting these students back to their families in the same condition in which they left.

We have parent volunteers accompany us on all of our expeditions and let me tell you, I am slightly picky about parent volunteers. It is not always first come, first serve in my classroom. This is what I need from parent volunteers.

Charlestowne Landing

  1. Have a cell phone in case of emergency but do not use it on the field trip. Do not make a phone call or check e-mails or texts. If you have a job that requires you to check in often, do not volunteer to chaperone.
  2. Spread out from the other parents. If all parents clump together at the back of the group, you can’t help with crowd control, discipline, and safety, and that is why I invited you along.
  3. Be at the pick up and drop off locations on time and as instructed. If you decide that it would be nice to take the kids in your car out for ice cream on the way home, or if you drive them to your house for pick up at the end of the day rather than back to the school for regular carpool line, you just created a giant liability issue for the school and me. If students ride together on a bus, this problem is eliminated!
  4. It is OK for you to discipline students if they wander away, are too loud, or are rude to the tour guide. I want your help in this area. If you are uncomfortable disciplining, let the teacher know. Please don’t sit back and watch the unacceptable behavior continue.
  5. Do not complain about school issues or faculty members on the field trip. This is not a time to vent any problems you may have with the school. It puts me in an awkward position, and it is poor manners. However, feel free to tell me what a great school year it has been.
  6. Do not try to have a parent/teacher conference while on the field trip. I can’t give you my full attention, and it is not exactly a private forum.
  7. DO enjoy yourself and this time with your child and his/her classmates. Field trips are supposed to be a little bit of fun. I do want parents who participate in the activities when appropriate and are engaged.
Here I am on our field trip related to our studies of Colonial America.

Here I am on our field trip related to our studies of Colonial America.

Managing parent volunteers on field trips for my classroom has made me more aware when I attend a field trip as the parent volunteer for my own children. I try to anticipate where a teacher might need back-up even if it is simply counting children and letting the teacher know everyone is present. Because, in the end, I always consider it a successful trip if I arrive back at school with the same amount of students I had when I left. What are your best (or worst) field trip stories? The teacher or parent version!