teaching students to use adjectives in their writing

Last year my students' writing was a little, well, ummm.....boring. We were stuck in a rut of writing the fact, just the facts. Honestly, they stuck to the basics like nobodies business. So we spent quiet a bit of time working on adjectives and how to use them in our writing to help create a picture in the reader's mind.

First we started with this video (cause I LOVE Schoolhouse Rocks and am old enough to have watched in on Saturday mornings!!!)

So......we ran with the concept of "unpacking" adjectives and used a vacation theme for our learning and writing : )

Here are some books we used to focus on both adjectives and vacations.....

adjective picture books

How I Spent My Summer Vacation shows what can be accomplished with a vivid imagination.

A Moment in Time is all about simple summer activities - so that even students that have not been on a big summer vacation can relate.

Roller Coaster shows how to describe one specific event from a special day.

Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street is another great book for those students who have not been on a trip or think they have nothing to write about.

Here are some books if you want to teach about adjectives without the vacation theme.....

picture books for teaching adjectives

When teaching my students about adjectives - of course we watched the video - a couple of times. We used the video to help us come up with a definition of an adjective and start our class list.

Next we looked at our mentor texts to see how these authors used adjectives to help us, the readers, create a picture in  our mind. We picked out words and sentences that we thought really worked.

Then it was time for us to start working on using adjectives. To get started I created some picture prompts.

I displayed the picture prompt and first we would talk about the things we could see - what nouns are in the picture. I would take 3-4 of the nouns we picked and then we would brainstorm like crazy all of the words we could think of to describe the noun. Students placed their words right on the picture using sticky notes.

I printed off the pictures and added them to a suitcase (construction paper!!) with our brainstormed word list. Boom - we had class created lists of words that we could use when writing.

After working as a class to describe our vacation picture prompts and some independent practice it was time to look at the words we were using. It was time to look at more interesting adjectives.

We looked at some adjectives from our class lists - nice, good, hot, cold, happy - you know, the old standards. Don't get me wrong, I was happy to see my students stretching themselves and using any adjective but - hey - if you want more, sometimes you have to model more!!!

We took  some of the standard adjectives and looked at other ways to say the same thing. This is easy enough for students to do if you start with the right word. "Big" is one that they seem to be able to go crazy with (since someone always wants to say ginormous!!).

I took the standard words, printed them on suitcases, then printed on bright paper. The words went on the cover of a file folder.

Inside I put a list of other words you could use that have the same meaning.

I put a hole at the top of the file folder and then put a brass fastener through it.

I stapled the back of the file folder to the bulletin board....and ta-da....an bulletin board students can use to "unpack" adjectives.

We also created a class travel journal - that the students loved to read through during reading time.

If you want to check out the resources I used you can see them here or by clicking on the picture.


It has hit, the end of summer panic is setting in! I have been relaxing and enjoying the summer but I can feel the panic slowly setting in and the ideas are popping into my head at the worst times (a.k.a. when I am sleeping!!) and everything I see I try and think....how can I use this in my class.

Luckily (for the idea generation) a big part of our summer has been this...

These are the lovely creatures bunking in with us. There is our dog Faith and our fish. We are also hosting two African Dwarf frogs - my daughter's class pets that she offered to watch for the summer. We are also hosting our friends' bearded dragon while they are gone and with the lizard comes crickets.

Last year I used pictures of the bearded dragon and the crickets to engage students in solving a math problem. It was our first problem of the year, my students were still getting to know me and I took the opportunity to introduce them to a little bit about me and my family through this problem. I showed them pictures of our pets, my daughters and the lizard. We shared what we knew about lizards and pets. We talked about what they ate (kale, mealworms and crickets). Then I showed them pictures of where the crickets lived and how we had to get them out of their home to feed the lizard. The cricket house has 2 black tubes that the crickets crawl into. I told my students that I needed 10 crickets and I knew that there were 10 left in the house but I couldn't see them cause they were in the tubes. They needed to figure out how many crickets could be in each tube. This was a great opportunity for me to observe how they attacked a problem, how they modelled their thinking and if they could find more than one solution.

This year we have the lizard again.....and I could use the lizard or frogs to set the stage for some math problem solving...but one night this happened....

my husband found this super cute, super small rabbit all alone in our yard while cutting the grass. Needless to say we all fell promptly in love and my daughters starting making plans for our "new pet". But being the mom meant I had to put on my grown-up pants and do some research about what we should do. What I found out (Google to the rescue) is we should not try to keep or feed these sweet creature but put it back to where we think its home might be. So basically, I was the most hated person in the world for a bit. But I did learn a lot in my research - mostly that you can kill a little bunny by over feeding it and a lot of people do that. Also that its mom would be back later that night to feed him. Soooo we took a gazillion pictures, spent time watching the sweet little guy and then tried to get him home.

Here are some pictures:

He checked us out too!

Took some time for some personal hygiene.

Size reference - I have normal size hands just in case you were wondering.

Returning the little guy to where we think he belongs.

Hanging out in the raspberry bush.

....and he's back, he hopped right on back to us, a sure sign my daughters felt that we should keep him.

She is keeping on eye on the little guy because....

...she is keeping an eye on the neighbour's cat who looked ready to attack!

It was a long night of watching and wondering and......this will be my first math problem with my students.

I will tell them about the little rabbit we found in our backyard one night this summer. I will ask students to think-pair-share what they know about rabbits.

We will do a little research on-line together about rabbits and record what we learn.
We will also record our wonderings.

From the wonderings I will introduce my question...

We will be working on the anchor of 5 - which is perfect since cottontails usually have 5 babies in a liter (a few times a year!!!). So we will work on making models of 5.
Bu there are other questions you could do with these picture prompts and story...
 Using the hand as a reference they could use a variety of tools to come up with an estimate (perfect time to review the importance of the word "about" and how to make an estimation).

If you do some class research you will find that the rabbit needs about 2 or 2.5 mL of food twice a day. This is an easy introduction into two step problems.
Another question could be about how long does the rabbit need to wait for its mom to show up - looking at elapsed time etc.
You could also use it as introduction for some science concepts: needs of living things, characteristics of animals, predators and prey (what could my daughters be trying to protect it from?).
I find that sharing stories about myself and my family are a perfect way to engage students in math problem solving. At the beginning of the year it is a great way to share a bit about myself and get them to share about themselves.They love the personal connection and talking about math that has a real life connection. As the year progresses the math that we work with is related to their lives and our classroom but I love starting out this way.
If you would like to engage students in some problem solving and/or research about a cute little bunny rabbit but were not lucky enough to have one show up in your backyard you can use my pictures and problems. You can tell your class the story about something that happened to a friend of yours (we are friends, right?) or make up your own story and problems to go with the pictures.
Since this is something that I have tried an will be trying again I am linking up with my friend Holly at Fourth Grade Flipper for .....

This summer I have been doing some relaxing reading and some professional reading.....and even some trashy magazine reading (still counts!!)

I thought I would take a minute to share some things that I have been reading with you : )

First up, the very first week on summer vacation we went book shopping (cause end of the year gift card gifts burn a hole in my wallet if I don't spend them ASAP). While there we picked up the recommended reading list. I ordered all of the YA titles from our library so that my girls and I would have a stash of books to choose from over the summer.

Here are some of the YA titles I read so far....

This one is a new fantasy series. I enjoyed it.....but not sure if I am up for another YA series. It may be a stand alone for me (unless there are movies or my girls get into it, then, maybe). I really liked the aspect of the "girl" needing to save the boy - that is refreshing and makes it a good read for girls (well there are a few sexy things that makes it not really for "girls" but you know what I mean).

I really liked one of the voices in this one (Stewart) one half of the siblings in a new blended family. I liked the issues that it addressed (blended families, social awareness, bullying, homophobia) but I really struggled to like the other voice (Ashley). I have a hard time loving a book when I find little to like in one of the main characters - even if they do make a change at the end of the book (yes, I am harsh, like Mr. Darcy, once my good opinion is lost it is lost forever, not really but mmmmmm Mr. Darcy). The story good, the dialogue good, the themes good, ugh, I just did not like Ashley.

This one I LOVED. I had not read any of Sarah Dessen's YA but I heard many good things so I was excited to give this book a read. Here is the blurb from Goodreads:

Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

See, a fun, relaxing, summer read.

Okay on to some professional reading. First up I read this...

Writing was definitely an area of struggle for me and my students last year. I had tons of take aways from this book. I made tons of notes and my brain started binging with ideas for next year. I love the advice she gives on how to avoid having students line up to talk to the teacher during conference time. If they need something they have to write it down and give you the note - see still writing and it may help some of my kiddos use other tools to solve their problems. I also like the idea of inviting students to join in and listen to a conference if you can tell they really need a break from writing rather than just stand in line and get silly with others.

Then I read this....

Again, great ideas I needed to hear again to get me focussed and thinking and planning for the new school year. I love the book recommendations and lesson ideas included. I love how she reminds the reader to focus on their beliefs about reading and children and act on them. My only problem, I kind of got overwhelmed between reading these two and thinking about trying to do everything I possibly can in reading and writing and math, so that is probably why...

this one is still on my bookshelf...

For some reason I is taking a lot for me to work up to reading it. I have heard a lot about it (all good, all good) and have done some PD on number strings and number talks. I am just having a hard time sitting down with it. But it is on tap this week!
Lastly, I have been reading this....
I do not read a lot (okay, any really) self- help like books or biographies or even memoirs but I kept seeing this book and flipping through it so I decided to give it a go. I was very worried that it was going to be too preachy or too far out of my world that I would not be able to relate (my problem with Eat, Pray, Love) but I have been very pleasantly surprised (you might even say happy : )  ). Gretchen is married with two kids (me too!) and she was happy (me too!) she just thought she should be more present in her own life, more grateful for what she had and less crabby. I can get on board with that. She almost lost me on the very first step "get more sleep". I like sleep, but I do not want to go to bed earlier, I like staying up late, I like napping, I did not want to read about how good she felt by getting a goods night rest BUT I kept reading and I found so much that made me LOL and nod my head and make me say hmmmmm, I could and should try that. I even took it to the beach to read with my friend and we laughed and shared stories, it was like she was talking with us!!
Like when she said she was the victim of  "freebie clutter" and "aspirational clutter" we could not stop sharing stories of all the clutter we have that fit into these categories. Or when she said she was the queen of making up games to play with her kids that involved her lying on the couch - I can not tell you how many times I have "played" hairdresser or salon with my girls - which involved me lying on the couch being pampered!! And when she said she LOVED her husband, would give him a kidney, but was not going to make him one more cup of coffee we KNEW she was talking to us (really, I do love my husband, donate an organ to him, save him from fire love him, lose my mind in a drive-thru cause he ordered wrong love him). Am I happier, well I was already pretty happy but this book does have a lot of nuggets that I will carry with me for a long time.

So there are some of the books I have been reading this summer. I would love to hear any recommendations (relaxing, professional, trashy) from you, so......

While I still have quite a bit of summer left I can say I have officially started some BTS planning and prepping, it is small and it is slow but it is starting : )

I am linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for her Five for Friday linky to share some of the things I have been up to this week : )


My BTS prepping and planning usually starts the same way: blog reading, Pinterest, TPT shopping and Dollar Store shopping. This year is no different!
Here are some of my DollarTree purchases.
A composition book for each student for their writing journal and a few extra for our shared writing journals.
A Teacher Journal - which is just a composition book that says "Teacher Journal" and I said I have to have that. During our journal writing time I write for the first few minutes too and yes could have just used the one like the students - but it said "Teacher Journal" so, like I said, I had to have it....and I decided my friend needed one too!
"My Story" books. They are just one page folded with room to illustrate and write but I think they will be a great motivation for my students and will be in our writing center.

I also try to sneak in purchases with other purchases so that my husband does not notice all of the things that I am buying - if I spread out the spending and hide it in grocery purchases it does not count as part of the BTS budget - clearly!  These books I picked up at Costco when buying some groceries.

Speaking of books, today is your last day to enter to win a Kindle Fire - plus while hopping through the blogs you will find tons of BTS book ideas.
Click on the button to get started.

I also picked up some more of these containers while at the hardware store - so.....these don't count as BTS spending either!!! These are for holding center materials at school but for right now at home they are so I can start printing the things I have found and bought online this summer and need to start prepping.

You may also want to pop over to the collaborative blog I am part of for a chance to win an iPad Air 2!!! Click on the picture below to head over there now!!


Hope you are having a great day and are enjoying this BTS season : )

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