Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher

Sharing and Celebrating Student Writing in Writing Workshop

It is important that writers are given the opportunity to share their writing with others. That is the reason that a writer write! 

Publishing a piece just means that the author is given the chance to share their work. This can be done many ways. It doesn't (and shouldn't) always mean copying the story over again. Change it up to keep it fun and interesting!

Ways to Share Student Writing

  1. Give students daily opportunities to share parts of their writing with a partner and occasionally with the class. When I was having students share their entire story with the class it took forever and students were not engaged. So I started just having them share a small part. After we revised our leads, I could have a handful of kids share their lead. It was fast and effective.
  2. Have students share their writing during small group writing conferences. I divided my class into five groups and I met with one group each day during writing workshop. Students share their work and we helped them to make improvements and set goals. 
  3. Give students some fun paper to write their final draft on. You can display the final drafts on a bulletin board or put them in a binder. The binder can be kept in the classroom library and students can read the stories during their independent reading time!
  4. Allow students to use technology to type their work.
  5. Allow students to record themselves reading their story.
  6. Host an author celebration at the end of a big writing unit!

What the heck is an author celebration?

I think of an author celebration as a party thrown to honor the authors in your classroom. It's crazy fun! 

My students would get so excited about having an author celebration at the end of a unit that they would work extra hard on their masterpiece. It was so motivating to them!

I have compiled a list of six of my students' favorite author celebrations.

Author Celebrations

1. Story Time

I love snuggling under the covers reading a great book! Bring that cozy feeling into your classroom.

Have students come to school wearing their pajamas. They can bring blankets, a pillow and a stuffed animal. Move the desks out of the way and get comfy on the floor. Dim the lights and snuggle while student authors read their stories to the class. 

To keep all students engaged, I recommend giving them 3x5 cards or scrap paper where they can write one specific compliment for each author.

It is so relaxing and a great break after all of their hard work.

2. Camp Share-A-Story

Who doesn't love sharing stories next to a camp fire?!

Have students bring in a sleeping bag and camp on the classroom floor. I like to display a camp fire from you tube for the extra effect. Students take turns reading their stories using a flash light.

My students were still talking about this celebration months later!

3. Red Carpet Authors

How about treating your authors like celebrities?!

Grab some inexpensive red fabric and have your students get a little dressed up. They can take turns walking the red carpet while the paparazzi photographs them. Give them a microphone (that isn't turned on) and have them share their story with their adoring audience.

Parents love to see the pictures!

4. Story Buddies

Do you have buddies from a younger grade level?

How about pairing up with a first grade class and having your students read their story to their younger buddy? They can even help their buddy edit their writing!

My students got very attached to their buddies and were constantly begging to see them!

5. Lights! Camera! Action!

Do you have access to technology is your classroom? How about using technology to have students make a video of themselves reading their stories? 

Pop some popcorn and watch all of the videos together!

6. Open House

From time to time, it is fun to host an open house. 

Invite parents and families to the classroom to enjoy student work. Student writing can be at their desk where they can read it to their parents. They can also show parents where they write, where writing materials are kept and give them a peek in their writing notebook and anchor charts.

Parents love feeling involved and students love showing off!

Celebrating your authors and giving them lots of fun ways to share their work, makes their writing more meaningful. Writing should be fun and these celebrations really make writing an exciting part of our classroom!

More Writing Resources

If you are looking for more information about how I teach writing, check out THIS blog post.

I also made a free video about my writing instruction that you can see HERE.

Do you want to step up your game as a writing teacher? I wrote a free email course with tons of tips for teaching meaningful writing lessons. You can sign up HERE.

Are you looking for writing resources that include EVERYTHING you need to teach writing? Check out my writing units. They have lesson plans, anchor charts, mentor text passages, student printables, task cards, rubrics and more! 


Have a Not So Wimpy day!

Winter Olympics Activities for the Classroom

Fun academic classroom activities that involve the Winter Olympics!

Are you looking forward to the Olympics?  Aren’t we all?  Nothing like curling up with the family, the TV, and some American pride! πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ

As a teacher, the Olympics are a great chance to unite the troops, so to speak. Not only can they be a great learning tool, but it’s our chance to grab those sports-minded types and reel them in.

Turn your room into Olympic headquarters with these fun ideas!

Opening Ceremonies

Want to get your classroom excited?  Host your own opening ceremonies! You can start by showing clips from past opening ceremonies. They can be found easily on YouTube. 

Then have each student(or group) choose a country to represent that will be in the 2018 games.  Have them make a flag to carry, write a paragraph about their country and team, and do a walk-through to introduce them. Maybe you can get a few classes to team up with you and have a parade around your school!
Fun academic classroom activities that involve the Winter Olympics!

Or you could have each student make their own imaginary country with flag and what talent they have that would be Olympic-medal-worthy – like Legos, Mindcraft, cupcake-making, selfie-taking.  Yes, you will get the ones that say they aren’t good at anything, but that’s why this is a great community-building activity!  (*My little hint: do an interest survey ahead of time to reference for suggestions!) Do those paragraphs and then host a walk-through to introduce your team!

Sports Close Reads

Close reading is not typically a student favorite, but if you give them something interesting to read- it can make all of the difference! 

Fun academic classroom activities that involve the Winter Olympics!

Grab THESE winter sports passages. Students will love learning about some olympic athletes and sports.

Incorporate Technology

Wanting to get those iPads into play?  Have teams race to find facts about the Olympics like when they started having winter games, how many countries are participating this year, what country the Olympics are in, what brand the USA participants will be wearing, which country usually wins the most medals, etc.  You could even ask groups of students to make iMovies about one of the countries participating. Also, be sure to a medal count check each morning and ask for highlights.  Use the Olympic website for all the good stuff! 
Fun academic classroom activities that involve the Winter Olympics!

Need to be more curriculum-driven?  Do geography of the countries participating.  Do probabilities of athletes winning.  Graph medals earned from a handful of countries. Use those language skills to tweet or email US athletes questions – they are expected to interact!

Mix Sports & Competition into your Routine

All those vocab words, spelling tests, and math facts getting monotonous?  This is the perfect time to make a competition out of it.  Every word or math fact right in the review game is a chance to take a shot to shoot a goal with your pool noodle stick and dish sponge puck.  You can even cross-classroom (country) ski with wrapping paper tube poles and pool noodle skates cut to fit and rubber-banded to feet or go the simple route with the Olympic ring toss! 

Cereal Box Craft & Research

Everybody knows the winner goes on the Wheaties box!  Have your class make their own Wheaties boxes by covering empty cereal boxes with paper.  Nothing like an old-school cut and paste project!  Each student researches an athlete that’s competing to put on the cover with a short synopsis about them and a little about the rest of their team on the back.  Use the side panels for having them research places to visit in South Korea, the weather/climate, and population.  Bonus points if you teach the kids a little about advertising in the process, too!  

Fun academic classroom activities that involve the Winter Olympics!

Oh, and don’t worry about getting cereal boxes to cover.  Ask on your school website for empty-box donations, or a swap page, or your own personal social media.  You probably have at least one family that could provide them all in one week!

Gold Medal Behavior

How about a fun behavior management competition?! Grab some medals from a party store or Walmart. Choose one table each day to be your table of the day (based on behavior and participation from the prior day). Give each student at the table a medal to wear for the day. It will be fun to walk down the halls of the school and have people ask why they have medals! Collect them at the end of the day to give to another group tomorrow.

Fun academic classroom activities that involve the Winter Olympics!

Whatever route you prefer, enjoy this opportunity to cultivate patriotism and unity.  Go USA!

Have a Not So Wimpy Day!

Tips for Organizing Task Cards

Hello, I am Jamie and I am addicted to task cards. 

I have dozens of sets. I could not imagine teaching grammar or math without task cards. I even used them during writing workshop!

I am a task card addict, but I am also a self-diagnosed OCD neat freak. I can't have stacks of task cards on every table or counter in my classroom. That would send me over the edge!

Task cards must be organized so that it is easy to find the sets you need!

Let me share some of my favorite ways to store and organize those amazing task cards.

The Cover

Do not assume that you will always remember what skill the task card set assesses. Some sets look very similar and you don't want to waste your time sifting through the set to determine if they are the task cards you need.

Print a cover card for EVERY set of task cards that you print.

Don't worry, this is crazy easy!

All you have to do is use the cover that comes with the task cards. This cover is typically an 8 1/2x11 page. That's just too big. No worries!

Print the resource cover at 50%!

When you go to print the resource, just change the percentage when printing the first page. Then it will print the same size as the majority of task cards (the ones that come four to a page).

Task Card Storage

There are many ways to store task cards. The best way really depends on your needs. How often do you use the task cards? How many sets of cards do you have? Do you have shelf space or wall space in your classroom?

Here are a couple ideas. Choose what works best for you!

Photo Boxes

This is seriously my favorite way to store my cards! These photo boxes can be purchased at Michael's.

The little boxes fit one set of task cards perfectly.

I use a little scotch tape or glue dots to attach the cover to the front.

I have a box for math cards and another for ELA cards. This makes it much easier to find what I am looking for.

CD Boxes

I bought these Sterilite CD boxes from Walmart. I think that you can find them in other similar stores too. 

The boxes fit several sets of task cards. 

You can use rubber bands or binder clips to keep each set of task cards together.

Shoe Hanger

I love using a shoe hanger for task cards because it makes me smile to see all of those beautiful cards  hanging on my wall. It's so yummy. 😍

It's also super easy to see what card sets you have because there is just one set in each pocket.

You can hang these off the back of a door if you have one. You can also use a heavy duty stapler to attach it to a wall.

Push Pins and Binder Rings

If you don't have a ton of task card sets, you might just use push pins to organize them.

You will need to punch a hole in the corner of each task card and then use a binder ring to keep a set together. If you use task cards in a center, this is a great way to keep all of the cards together!

Recording Sheets & Answer Keys

I keep all of my recording sheets and answer keys in a binder that I keep right next to my task cards. Sometimes I don't need recording sheets, such as when we use the cards with games, but it is nice to have them close by for times when I use them for scoots or centers.

I stick the recording sheet and the answer key in a page protector.

I also keep a generic recording sheet in this binder. If I can't find the specific one that came with the task cards I am using, I can just grab the generic one. I hate wasting my time searching for stuff!

Click HERE to grab FREE generic task card recording sheets!

I hope that these tips help you to get those task cards organized!

Have a Not So Wimpy day,

My Daily Classroom Schedule

Creating a classroom schedule that fits in all of the curriculum, specials, pull outs, etc is like cracking the code to a government vault. It's nearly impossible to make it all work. The number one question that I receive from my teacher besties is, "How did you fit this all in?" 

So I decided to show you my schedule.

But first...

Before I share my schedule, I feel like you need to agree to a few things...

  1. I know that every school, every district, every administrator  and every state is different. Plus, every class has very unique needs. My schedule won't work for everyone. Got it?
  2. Yes, I had a very unique start and end time. Most students at my school were in classes with a traditional 8-3 type schedule. There were a few classes in each grade that had this alternative schedule. Parents loved having a choice. Plus, it allowed the school to fit more students in one classroom because they had an AM group and a PM group that shared the same classroom (but had a different teacher.) Please look past the time of day and focus more on the amount of instruction time I used for each subject if you can.
  3. I am not in the classroom anymore. I left the classroom to work on curriculum development and professional development. You can read more about this choice by clicking HERE. I am just sharing what I did when I was teaching third grade. Okeyie-Dokie?
Let's get started!


Whole Group Math- 30 Minutes

My school used Eureka/Engage NY for math. I loved it! During whole group time, I used the curriculum. But I moved fast! I used this time to introduce concepts, but I knew that the real magic would happen when I met with small groups and we used manipulatives. 

We typically did some skip counting and/or a sprint (math facts page). Then we would do one review problem from the day before followed by the new lesson. For the most part, I did a new lesson every day.

Math Centers- 60 Minutes

Math center time was hands-down my favorite hour of the school day! It was the time that I got to watch my kiddos grow by leaps and bounds as mathematicians. 

I would meet with two groups each day for 30 minutes per group rotation. This long amount of time gave us more of a chance to dig in deep and decreased time wasted on transitions. Since I was only meeting with groups every other day, we would tackle skills from the previous day's lesson and the current lesson. Typically they went together and it made sense to practice them together.

While I met with groups, my students completed centers. The center activities were meaningful, but consistent. This meant almost no planning time for me! 

If you want to read more about my math center schedule and grab free signs to display the center schedule, click HERE.

If you want to read more about the types of activities my kiddos did during centers, click HERE.

Snack/Restroom/Read Aloud- 25 Minutes

Since my students were only at school for half of the day, they did not eat lunch at school. Therefore, they were allowed to bring a dry snack to school. Many of the kids would bring sandwiches and treat it like it was lunch! 

Time was crazy limited, so I always read to them during their snack. This was actually how I introduced my reading lessons. 

You can read more about my reading whole group lessons by clicking HERE.

Reading Groups & Centers- 60 minutes

I used a similar routine for my reading groups as I did for my math groups. I would meet with two groups per day for 30 minutes per group. We spent most of our group time practicing our reading skills and standards using book clubs. Having 30 minutes with each group gave us more time to get invested in the book before having to clean up and move on.

You can read more about my book clubs by clicking HERE.

While I met with my groups the rest of my class did center activities. These activities centered around spending lots of time reading text of their choice. That is the best way to increase their love for reading! Kids who love to read will read often!

You can read more about my reading center activities by clicking HERE.

Vocabulary & Language- 20 minutes

After reading groups, I spent ten minutes doing whole group vocabulary instruction. We always discussed new words and context clues when we were reading during book clubs, but I think that it is imperative to teach tier 2 vocabulary words too. My kids grew so much from these ten minutes!

You can read more about my vocabulary routine by clicking HERE.

I also spent about ten minutes doing language (grammar) instruction. My third graders always struggled with grammar. Most of the time they did not even know the basic parts of speech. 

You can read more about my simple grammar lessons by clicking HERE.

Writing Workshop- 45 Minutes

I used the workshop model to teach writing. This means that I would do a very short mini lesson and then students would spend the rest of the time working on their writing. Students generated their own story topics and I did not give assigned writing prompts. 

You can read more about my writing workshop by clicking HERE.

I also have a free writing instruction email course that you can check out by clicking HERE


Brag Tags- 10 Minutes

I used brag tags to reward students for meeting their academic and behavior goals. They LOVED them! To keep it simple for me, and increase the excitement, I only awarded the tags on Fridays. I usually gave about a dozen tags each week. 

You can read more about how I used the brag tags by clicking HERE.

Vocabulary Game- 15 Minutes

My students loved playing a vocabulary game with their words from the week. I usually threw in the previous week's words as well so that students were not forgetting those words. Our Friday game was typically a whole group game.

You can read about our vocabulary games and grab some free ones by clicking HERE.

Assessments- 45 Minutes

Assessments aren't fun, but they have to be done. Each week we had to do a math fact, spelling and grammar assessment. Every other week we did a vocabulary assessment. They were all very short assessments that I could literally grade as they were turning them in! 

We had math assessments from time to time as well. They came straight from our curriculum.

Science & Social Studies- Almost 3 Hours

You may have noticed that I didn't include dedicated science and social studies time in my schedule Monday-Thursday. We might incorporate some science and social studies when we were doing informational reading and writing standards, but the majority of science and social studies was done on Friday. 

I loved having a long block of time on one day so much more than a small block all week. We actually had time to do research, experiments, STEM, projects, presentations, art and more!

My school did not have any science or social studies curriculum. I would just search Pinterest and TpT for activities that fit the units I had to teach.

Have a Not So Wimpy day!