Gnomes Read, Write, and Think

"Yeah, I've seen those things they think are gnomes," said Ron, bent double with his head in a peony bush, "like fat little Santa Clauses with fishing rods…” -JK Rowling

Archive for the category “homework”

Heart Maps

We create heart maps in our writers notebooks to collect ideas we will write about. We continue to add to our heart maps as ideas strike us.







Homework for our first night

Congratulations on making it through your first day of fifth grade!

Tonight for homework please do the following:

Read 30 minutes
Bring a book to school
Ask your parents to subscribe to this blog!

Word Study Work

Open Sort

Cut apart your words. Initial the back of each word. Look at all the words. Look for any patterns. Discuss the patterns with a friend or adult if you choose. Sort the words into columns based on the patterns you see. Once you are happy with your categories, try to name each category. Finally, write all your words, in a different column for each category, in your notebook. USE YOUR BEST CURSIVE HANDWRITING!

Closed Sort (in class)

You will meet with me in class and we will determine the categories together. You will write the words in their categories in class.

Two Written Sorts

Sort all of your words using the categories we found in class. Write your words, in their categories, in your notebook. USE YOUR BEST CURSIVE HANDWRITING! Mix up all the words. Repeat!

Speed Sort

Find a stopwatch, watch or clock. Sort your words as fast as you can into the correct categories. Record your time. Mix them up and sort them again as fast as you can. Try to beat your last time. Record your time. Repeat at least three times. Have an adult sign your page, acknowledging that they saw you working on your speed sorts.

Alphabetical Sort

Put your words in alphabetical order. Write them in your notebook in alphabetical order. USE YOUR BEST CURSIVE HANDWRITING!

Blind Written Sort

Have a friend or adult read each word to you. DO NOT PEEK AT THE WORDS! Write the word, spelling it correctly, in the correct category. USE YOUR BEST CURSIVE HANDWRITING! Have your person check your work, using your closed sort as their correcting key. If you made any mistakes, do the blind written sort ALL OVER again until you can do it without making any mistakes! (Or until your person takes pity on you and signs your page, acknowledging that you did your best and that you might need some extra help.)

Word Hunt

Use the book you are reading right now or another book that looks promising. Look for words that would fit into our categories this week. (If we already have the word in our list, you can’t use it!) Find ten words total, spread out as evenly as possible in each category. USE YOUR BEST CURSIVE HANDWRITING! If you have searched and searched (for at least 20 minutes) and cannot find ten words, have an adult sign your page, acknowledging that you tried your best.

Glue Sort

Sort your words into the correct category. Glue them into your notebook in the correct category. You will be tested on these words tomorrow! BEWARE! I like to be tricky! I love to find a few words from your word hunts and toss them into the test to see if you are able to apply what you have learned about words in this sort! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Informational Text: The Lens of History, Research Reports

We have picked our writing up again. (Some of us with extremely glazed looks in our eyes!)

Here’s what we know so far:
When we write historical research reports we have to focus on great writing but also we have to focus on being good historians!

Good historians write and revise with the lens of geography in mind. They write with a map in their hand! They pay attention to how geography impacted history. They include information about geography in their writing.

Good historians write and revise with the lens of timelines in mind. They research dates and understand how events in the past (precursors) impact later events. They include information about time in their writing.

Good historians and good writers do not just move information from place to place. They do not just copy facts from books or the Internet. They include facts they learn from other authors and then they analyze those facts and SPECULATE about those facts in writing.

All of this is new. All of this is difficult and somewhat uncomfortable. Students are experiencing a lot of disequilibrium as they grow as writers.

At home, this may look like a somewhat messy, disorganized notebook. There may seem to be papers flying around. This is a sign of new learning. Yes, the more organized the better, but at this point we are working on many things at once: geography, timelines, research, mentor texts, drafting and revising.

Students will be moving back and forth in the process of writing. One day, they may be researching, taking notes and reflecting on those notes. The next day, they may use those notes to draft a section of their historical research report. The drafting process should include students analyzing and speculating in a written form in their drafts. On another day, students will be revisiting parts of their drafts they have already written and revise them through the lens of geography, or timelines, or something else.  The drafts will come along in fits and starts, organically. This is not a linear process and feels messy. That is a sign of growth and learning!

Reading Workshop Expectations

We have launched our reading workshop!
Students should be reading every night for at least thirty minutes. Even Fridays! Even Saturdays! Even Sundays! (Does your child say, “It’s OK, I don’t have to read tonight because we read at school…”? Don’t you believe it!) We have time for silent reading every day in school but students should also be reading at home. Improvement in reading is mostly about MILEAGE! The more pages read the more improvement we will see!


Simple Sentences

It’s a sentence if it provides answers to these two questions:

Who or what did something? (the subject)

What did they do? (the verb or predicate)


They race.
-Jerry Spinelli, Loser

Matt winces.
Maria flinched.
Matt froze.
Matt nodded.
-Nancy Farmer, House of the Scorpion

Tad watched.
Blood flew.
He sprung.
-Stephen King, Cujo

Where We Are: Realistic Fiction

As we break for the Thanksgiving holiday, here is where we stand in our realistic fiction project:

We have covered the following territory:

  • Created lists of possible ideas to include in realistic fiction
  • Looked at blurbs on the back of novels to uncover ideas for fiction
  • “Thought on Paper” about what we wanted out stories to become
  • Defined characters for our stories and wrote about the motivations and struggles the characters face
  • Created a Visual Portrait of a Story (VPS)…(see sidebar)

Next steps include intensive work on the following mechanical issues that came up in the last assessment:

  • How to punctuate dialogue correctly (see sidebar)
  • Paragraphing (!)…students should not only be writing in paragraphs but THINKING in paragraphs at this point!
  • Incorporating complex sentences into our writing (this is a huge concept and will take years to master, but we begin with small steps…)

We aim to publish on December 5 and the final assessment will take place on or around December 6.

There is no official writing homework over the break but students are more than welcome to work on their first draft.  With paragraphs.  Please.

Getting Ideas from Blurbs

We’ve been gathering ideas by reading the blurbs on the backs of books. It’s amazing the things that jump into your head!







Thinking on Paper

We’ve been compiling ideas for writing realistic fiction. All students should have two separate lists of possible ideas in their notebooks now. We are starting to “think on paper” now. We choose an idea then we start writing all the ideas we have in our heads about that story possibility. We don’t worry about the ideas being “good” or “bad”. We aim for using the paper and the pencil as a thinking aid. Later, we may choose a tiny seed from these thoughts to draft a story.






The personal narratives have been published. Assessment is two thirds done. That must mean it’s time to learn something new!


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