Writing in a Straight Line on Unlined Paper

writing in straight lines on unlined paper

At various times during the year, my students write letters using unlined school stationery. Sometimes we type the letters and run the stationery through the printer for a totally professional product, but sometimes the letters need to be handwritten for a more personal touch. When students try to handwrite lines of text on an unlined piece of paper, the words start to move down the page (or up– or become a random zig zag pattern). By the third line of text, there is no attempt at straight lines any more, and the students are just trying to get all words onto the page before they run out of space.

straight lines paper

I have a simple solution. In order to keep the words straight on the page, I use a trick I learned from the woman who helped me with my wedding invitations. Trace all of the lines on one piece of wide ruled notebook paper with a semi-heavy black marker.

straight lines paper copiesPhotocopy as many pages as you need. When students need to write straight lines on blank paper, place the photocopied lined paper underneath the unlined paper. As you press down to write, the lines are visible, so you have guidelines to keep your writing straight. My students have multiple opportunities to write on unlined paper throughout the year, so I keep the photocopied line pages and reuse them. We have an ongoing Author Letter Project, we write thank you notes to chaperones and hosts after field trips, and we have a project where students create their own letterhead and exchange personal letters with other classes in the school.

straight lines on letterhead

If addressing envelopes, cover the lines on a notecard with black pen and slide the notecard inside the envelope to create guidelines for writing an address neatly and evenly.

straight lines notecard

Sometimes, the envelope paper is thin enough that you do not need to make the notecard lines darker in order to see them through the front of the envelope. Hopefully, you can faintly see the notecard lines in the center of the envelope in the picture below.

straight lines addressing an envelopeThis is one of my favorite teacher hacks that really improve the look of a finished writing assignment without creating too much work for me. And, this tip is not just for students. It is a great trick for anyone needing to write on unlined paper.

Teacher Appreciation Week Gift

teacher appreciation sachet

I am exhausted. The teachers at my school all feel the same way. We pass each other in the hallway with a slight nod and a reference to the remaining time until our summer release. I am not sure why this year I feel more tired than usual, but since it seems to be a common theme, I put together small “restful” gifts for Teacher Appreciation Week. I found directions at MarthaStewart.com for sachets filled with lavender. Apparently, if you place lavender under your pillow while you sleep, it will bring sweet dreams. Sign me up!

The parents’ group at our school organizes daily events for teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week, but I usually like to send an extra thank you to all of the teachers who work with my two children. Since I work at the school my children attend, I know teachers put in additional time with my kids who arrive early and leave late every day. The lavender sachets are meant to be a fancy version of a card. Just a small sirsee to say that we appreciate our teachers.

Materials:

  • 5″ fabric squares with pinked edges (Hobby Lobby sells 24 packs of assorted fabrics)
  • lavender buds (Whole Foods sells small quantities in the spice section, I ordered in bulk from www.thesage.com)
  • funnel (to fill sachet pouches)
  • sewing machine
  • Sachet Gift Tag
  • ribbon

Directions:

  • Sew two fabric squares together with a 1/2″ seam allowance, right sides out. Leave a 1 1/2″ opening.

teacher appreciation sachet fill

  • Poke the funnel into the opening and fill with lavender. I filled with about 1/4 c. of lavender.
  • Sew opening closed.

teacher appreciation sachet tag

  • Print and cut the Sachet Gift Tag labels on white cardstock, add a signature and short note to the tag, and tie to the sachet with coordinating ribbon.

teacher appreciation sachet 2

 For more Teacher Appreciation Week Ideas, visit my Teacher Gifts link in the side bar.

lavender sachets

Spelling Doodle (a fun word work activity)

 

Along with every other 4th grade student, I want to avoid “write the spelling words 3x each” spelling homework. I am actually not against that kind of homework (especially if the students are writing the spelling words in cursive) since I think it builds a motor memory, but we all get bored with it. One new word work activity I am using is a Spelling Doodle.

spelling doodle spelling practice activity #spelling #wordwork

Students use every word on the weekly spelling list to design a word doodle. The challenge is to think of various ways to group the spelling words. Students use a combination of phonics knowledge and word meanings to create word categories. Not only do students practice writing spelling words correctly, they are also activating their knowledge about the ways letters combine to create words, word usage, and definitions of the words.

spelling doodle with list

Give the student a piece of white copy paper and some colored pencils or fun pens. Using all of the spelling words in a list, students create groups of words and label each group with a title. Kids write the words and then add doodles and illustrations to the page to make it colorful and appealing. Talk about the words by sharing the group types. We came up with all kinds of ways to group last week’s words.

spelling doodle medial d soundWhat are good ideas for grouping spelling words?

  • Syllable Count (group by how many syllables a word has)
  • Same Root, Prefix, or Suffix (look for common word parts)
  • Same Spelling Pattern in the Beginning, Middle, or End (look for repeated letter groupings, my SPELLING LISTS are created around a spelling pattern or rule, so my students were not allowed to create one giant grouping for all words on the list)
  • Same Starting, Middle, or End Letter Sound
  • Synonyms
  • Antonyms
  • Common Situation (look for a way to group words based on an activity like words you might use at a construction site or while going to a movie– this reminded me of games like Taboo)
  • Common Topic (look for words that have a theme like baking or sports)

spelling doodle colored pencils

I told my students they should try to have 2-4 words per grouping, but if they ran out of options at the end, they could create a group that contained only one word as long as they provided a title. We used colored pencils at school, but I got out the Sharpies when I worked on my samples at home. Definitely add color. If you need an alternative to calling out words when studying for a weekly spelling test, give this spelling activity a try. It works in the classroom and at home.

spelling doodle rabbit close

To purchase spelling products based on the most common English spelling rules and patterns, visit my teacher store by CLICKING HERE.

spelling doodle sample

 

Sweet Reads

whizz pop chocolate shopMagical candy is kind of a draw in children’s literature. Mr. Star Wars recently read The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop and let me borrow it when he finished. In the book, a family inherits a closed down chocolate shop with lots of magical secrets. It is my newest Charlie and the Chocolate Factory “read alike” book. Books that use food (particularly chocolate) as a central plot detail are a big hit with kids.

Mr. Star Wars and I tried to name all of the books we know that use food in some way. We came up with chapter books with candy, chapter books with non-traditional foods– like worms (!), picture books, an even some books that one food item steals a scene. I cut us off after we started on the picture book titles because there are just so many books we could list. What is your favorite book that will make your mouth water?

snicker of magic

Candy (mostly chocolate)

beetles lightly toasted

Gross (but hilarious)

  • Beetles, Lightly Toasted by Phyllis R. Naylor
  • Freckle Juice by Judy Blume
  • How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

bone soup

Picture Books

Scene Stealer

charlie and the chocolate factory

 

Test Prep and Blog Hop

Giveaway Header ImageTesting season for many school districts is upon us. I would venture to say all teachers and parents of school aged children have opinions about student testing. I don’t think the effectiveness of a teacher should be judged by standardized test scores, but I do love to analyze my student’s test scores and compare to the previous year. I calculate averages of the whole group and look for drops and gains. One year, my class average in writing and mechanics improved 14 percentile points. I analyzed the heck out of my daily routine to figure out how to maintain gains like that. Turns out, two sentence corrections per day (DOL to the teachers out there) resulted in big success.

I noticed a drop in something called verbal reasoning. What did I miss in my curriculum during the year that created a dip in the scores? Categorizing words. My students do well with flat out vocabulary because of all of the work we do with roots and prefixes, but when they have to manipulate and compare words in groups, they were not as successful. This year, I spent more time working with word categories, analogies, and sorting words based on a given criteria. It all relates to building a bigger vocabulary and understanding the relationships between words, which creates better readers and writers.

I do not assign last minute test prep work right before testing but build activities into my daily class routine instead. I have several activity ideas that work well for my students.

verbal reasoning sample 1

Idea #1

  • Add a reasoning type question to daily language warm-up activities. I complete two sentence corrections a day, and I added an additional section to my bell ringer activity. The students complete an analogy, choose a good title for a group of words, or complete some other “word work” problem. The students complete the activity in their daily journal (a black and white composition book), and we correct together. The students see the correct answer as soon as they finish their work, and since we have a small amount of practice every day, it does not turn into a cram session. It becomes part of the students’ routine and builds a thinking habit. Click DOL and Verbal Reasoning Bell Ringer Samples to see more.

DOL verbal reasoning

Idea #2

  • Add synonym, analogy, word category, and word relationship questions to weekly vocabulary and spelling tests. Students become familiar with these type of questions and analyze how words fit together on a regular basis rather than seeing it one time during the school year– right before testing.

synonym test sample

Idea #3

  • When completing writing assignments, look for words that are repeated often. Generate word lists in the margins of writing assignments that could replace any repeated words (it’s basically a synonym list or personal thesaurus). When students edit the writing assignment, discuss which words are stronger or weaker. Rank the words in order of importance. Determine why one word might be more appropriate than another. My students just finished writing their American business research essays. The students used the word, business, many times in the essays. We brainstormed a big master list of other words we could utilize (organization, company, group, shop, restaurant, store). We discussed the difference between words like restaurant and store and why one student might use restaurant (the person researching McDonald’s), and one person might use store (the person researching Krispy Kreme). Students should be aware of the connotations different words create.

I compiled some of my verbal reasoning practice questions into a test prep product on TeachersPayTeachers. CLICK HERE to see my Verbal Reasoning Test Prep product.

Giveaway Information

Enjoy a good book and relax after a busy day of testing or buy a new read aloud for your students to enjoy during the testing days. Enter my RoomMom giveaway for a $25 Barnes and Noble gift card by CLICKING HERE. Giveaway ends March 1, 2015.

barnes and noble gift card

Click the NEXT STOP button and continue through the Warm Up and Chill Out Blog Hop for additional student testing tips, ideas, and resources as well as opportunities for more prizes to get you through this last part of winter and testing season. Prizes offered at various stops include a Starbucks gift card, Panera Bread gift card, Dunkin Donuts gift card, Amazon gift card, and great teacher materials.

Next Stop Image