Write like a Book Author

A great way to encourage good writing is to have students write like a book author. Some of my favorite novel study writing activities require students to analyze sections of the author’s writing and mirror the style from a favorite passage in their own work.

At the end of the year, my students reviewed Lois Lowry’s descriptions of pleasant memories in The Giver. They recalled a favorite memory of their own and brainstormed verbs, adjectives, and other descriptive words that went with the special recollection. Using Lois Lowry’s description of a sled ride as a starting place, they wrote their own version of a personal memory. By following Ms. Lowry’s sample, the students were able to successfully practice descriptive writing at a high level.

Write-like-a-book-author

How to Write Like a Book Author

  • Describing a Person: Find an example of an in-depth description of a book character. Pull the descriptive passage(s) out of the book or story and remove key words. Replace the key words with a blank line and label the space with the type of word or part of speech that should go in the blank. Basically, build a literary Mad Lib. To see my Mother’s Day activity inspired by The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and download a free activity page, CLICK HERE.
  • Describing a Place: I have a descriptive writing activity about the setting in my full novel unit for The Cricket in Times Square available HERE. Students read Chester’s description of Times Square in New York City and list the details about how this famous landmark looks, feels, smells, sounds, and tastes (the 5 senses) based on the author’s words. Then, students recall a place they have visited personally and describe the new place using their own word choices.
  • Describing a Memory: Find an example of an in-depth description of a scene. In my example from The Giver, it was a vivid description of one of The Giver’s memories. Using a handout like THIS ONE, have students brainstorm a list of adjectives, verbs, and nouns that relate to a chosen personal memory. Once the list is created, students return to the original passage in the story. Using the passage as a frame, students replace verbs, adjectives, and key phrases with their own words to create a unique writing sample that mirrors the professional writer but is their own ideas.
write-like-a-book-author

Using published writing as a starting place helps students build confidence in their writing abilities. If you create a Mad Lib style template, you can reinforce grammar skills at the same time since students need specific types of words to re-build the paragraphs. By creating word banks and brainstorming prior to writing, students stretch their vocabulary and practice word choice skills. This activity can also be used to reinforce the concept of “mood” in literature. You can ask students to change the feeling of a passage from happy to scary or sad to exciting. My students always find success when using a published author’s writing style as inspiration for their own writing.

To purchase my complete Giver novel unit with additional reading and writing activities, CLICK HERE!

write-like-a-book-author

Longitude and Latitude Battleship

 

While I know this generation of students will simply pull out a phone to find a location, I still like to spend time teaching longitude, latitude, and other map skills. I want my students to have a mental map of the United States and the world in general. I want them to have a general sense of north and south, and I think the math aspect of calculating distances between two points and understanding the way maps work reinforces many thinking skills. My students were not really getting the coordinate grid system for longitude and latitude, so I compared it to the game of Battleship. Hands suddenly shot up. “I play that game!”

longitude latitude battleship map skills games #mapskills

If you can play Battleship and pinpoint a location on a grid, you can understand longitude and latitude. I converted a U.S. map into Battleship size and attached it to Battleship game boards. My students agreed to bring more games from home, and we had a few game days in class. It was a hit (pun intended)!

battleship-full-game-board

How Can Students Practice Longitude and Latitude?

Materials

  • Battleship game boards
  • 6″ x 6″ maps with longitude and latitude lines (2 per game board). CLICK HERE for the map gameboard.
  • a ballpoint pen to help poke holes

Setting Up the Game

  • Print and cut U.S. maps and place them on the Battleship game boards. You need 2 copies of the map per board for a total of 4 maps per pair of players. To fix the maps to the game boards, we used 2-3 white pegs at the corners of the maps (the outermost hole on the Battleship grid board).

battleship-game-board

  • Getting the pegs to poke through the paper is tricky. I poked holes in one game board and photocopied that game board with a dark piece of paper behind it. The copies showed faint hole marks that lined up with the grid underneath. Students could then take a ballpoint pen and gently poke through the paper, so they knew where the pegs should go. Because the Battleship grid is fixed, the holes do not line up exactly on the center of each state, so the students marked locations that were as close as possible to the center of a state.

battleship-student-playing

Playing the Game

  • Students placed 3 red pegs on their game board (the one that rests on the tabletop).
  • One student begins by calling out a pair of coordinates that represents the location of a state. The opposing student names the state that they think the coordinates represent to confirm the location and announces “hit” or “miss”.
  • The guess is logged with a white (miss) or red (hit) peg on the upright part of the game board for the person making the guess. The location is logged on the bottom game board for the student receiving the guess. White indicates a miss. If it is a hit, the red peg is already there, and the player can push an additional red peg on top of the first peg as a reminder that the location has been guessed.

Skills

  • The students do not have the benefit of being able to hone in on a location they way you can when you play with the battleships that contain multiple pegs, so it is blind guessing, but they have to match coordinates with state names.
  • They have to estimate numbers between given coordinates since the longitude and latitude lines count by 10s and 5s. Students need practice with figuring out the halfway mark between new numbers when you do NOT start at 0.
  • The map I used had the postal state abbreviations, so the students were practicing state abbreviations too, which is something I consider to be a lifeskill.

For more practice with U.S. Map Skills, visit my teacher store to purchase practice activity pages by CLICKING HERE.

battleship-student-playing-2

Magazine Text Features

text features scavenger hunt

Kids don’t always have to be reading chapter books to build good reading skills. Mr. Star Wars and Miss Priss enjoy reading magazines targeted at elementary aged children, and we have a few subscriptions delivered to our house monthly. We particularly like the National Geographic Kids, but we like Muse and Spider as well. When we finish reading at home, I donate the magazines to my classroom library. Recently, my fourth grade students and I worked on several activities to reinforce better non-fiction reading and expository writing skills using the magazine text features for guidelines.

PicCollage magazine text features

Standard non-fiction text features like captions, tables, sub-headings, and sidebars are great ways for students to clue in on the main idea of what they are about to read. If students have a prediction about the general topic in their reading, they will anticipate certain vocabulary and ideas, and their reading will be more accurate. We completed a fun iPad activity where students went on a text feature scavenger hunt. I gave each student 3-4 magazines to peruse and a Magazine Text Features Definition List. When the students located one of the text features, they snapped a picture. Once they had at least 7 different examples, they pulled the pictures into a PicCollage and labeled their images.

PicCollage magazine text features sample

Reluctant readers often do very well with the short articles and images you find in magazines particularly if the magazine focuses on a specific interest of the child. Help your reader clue into the common features of magazines and build those reading skills.

Paraphrase It

paraphrasing student samples

There are many reasons paraphrasing is important for school aged children. It enhances vocabulary. It forces students to change ideas into their own words, which confirms understanding. It builds a stronger memory when words have been changed into your own personal version. My students practiced paraphrasing this fall, so we would have a foundation for notetaking when we start the big research project in January.

3 Rules for Paraphrasing:

  1. Paraphrased words must be correct and make sense.
  2. Paraphrased words must be your own version (in your voice).
  3. Paraphrased words must say the same thing as the original phrase.

If your child is having trouble with paraphrasing and notetaking, start by paraphrasing single words. Look at key words in a paragraph or reading passage and replace the “important” word with a synonym or group of words that will mean the same thing as the original. This activity has the added bonus of building a student’s vocabulary bank.

Next, try replacing chunks of words. Work with short phrases. Instead of “under the sofa,” you could say, “beneath the couch.”

Finally, break a paragraph into the main idea and 3-4 key details. Make a list of the main idea and details (this will look similar to an outline). Now, ask the student to convert the list into sentences using their own words.

Other Tips:

  • Not every word can be changed. Proper names will stay the same when you paraphrase. Susan can stay Susan. Empire State Building can stay Empire State Building.
  • Little words like a, an, and the might not change either.
  • You will not always replace one word with one word. Paraphrasing larger groups of words and sentences do not require that you have a new sentence with the exact same amount of words as the original, nor do the ideas have to be in the same order. Susan’s backpack was crammed with books and weighed a lot can become Susan’s heavy school bag held many books.

paraphrasing sample 2

After my class went through the steps of paraphrasing words, phrases, and whole paragraphs, we reviewed by playing a written version of the telephone game. I pre-wrote detailed sentences in the first row of about 8 Paraphrasing Sentences Charts and made enough copies for a class set. I gave each student this Paraphrasing Sentences Chart with the starter sentence. The student paraphrased the sentence that appeared in the first row of the chart and then folded the paper, so only the newly written sentence appeared (row 2). The students traded papers and repeated the procedure. We traded papers 4 times, and at the end, unfolded the papers to read each version of the sentence to see if the message from the first sentence stayed the same as the words written in the final sentence.

paraphrasing gameSometimes the message from the original sentence stayed the same; sometimes it didn’t– just like the real telephone game. We had fun reviewing the changes in the sentences from one line to the next, and handwriting played a big factor in whether the sentence stayed on track!

Teacher Gift Giveaway

teacher emergency kit filled and gift tags

Have you entered to win a fabulous Back to School Teacher Emergency Kit? The giveaway ends Sunday, August 4 at 7 pm (EST). Two winners will be selected.

  • Click on this Entry-Form link to enter the giveaway!
  • Kit contains travel toothbrush and paste, Tampax, chapstick, Advil, Tums, mints, Bandaids, and hair elastics.
  • But wait, there’s more. Not only will each winner receive one filled Back to School Kit, he/she will also receive not ONE but TWO oven mitts because I had to buy oven mitt SETS to get the potholder I wanted, and I now own about 10 mitts!

Entry Form Information

  • The entry form links to TheRoomMom on Bloglovin, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest where you complete the regular “like” or “follow” procedures on the social media sites directly then submit the entry form after you complete the like or follow. Just hitting submit does not create a follow or like.
  • Already follow TheRoomMom? You can leave a comment below and enter the name you used to comment in the entry form. You can enter a new comment every 24 hours and submit another entry form creating more chances for you to win.
  • All likes, follows, and comments are “verified” at the end of the contest, and the two winners will be randomly selected. The entry form is not as user friendly as I would like, but I am testing the waters with my first giveaway tool.

Worried you might not win but want an Emergency Kit anyway? Click here or here for directions to make one yourself.

teacher emergency kit gift tags

Back to School Teacher Emergency Kit