November 29, 2011

Draw... Then Write: Workbook for Reluctant Writers

Struggling to motivate a reluctant writer?
I bought Draw...Then Write a few years ago to use with my English language learners. Since then, it's been great, not only for ELLs, but also for native English speakers who are reluctant to write or just need a little prompt to get the creative juices flowing.

The concept behind Draw... Then Write is simple. Students are given easy, step-by-step instructions for drawing high-interest objects--mostly animals, people, and vehicles. The drawings are so simple that no child will fail and not too much time will be spent drawing at the expense of writing.  The students' drawings become the basis for fun writing activities. Each drawing has writing prompts at three levels of difficulty to facilitate differentiated instruction. The activities range from completing sentences with a choice of preselected words, through brainstorming and writing sentences, all the way to composing complete paragraphs.

I make copies of the (legally reproducible) pages for my students, but the drawings are so simple that I could see a teacher copying them by hand on a whiteboard and prompting writing that way. My Draw... Then Write book is recommended for grades one through three. There is also a version of Draw... Then Write for grades four through six, which I have not used. See sample pages for both books on amazon.

Do you have a favorite way to motivate reluctant writers? Please share in the comments.

November 28, 2011

Eleven: Fun Card Game for Practicing Math Facts to 20

Eleven - Fun Card Game for Math Facts

"Eleven" is my favorite card game to help students practice addition and subtraction facts up to 20. It's for any number of players, and all you need is a deck of cards.

Remove the face cards and jokers. Count aces as one. Shuffle the cards and place them in a pile face down. 

The goal of the game is to reach the number 11 exactly by adding and subtracting the value of drawn cards. The first player draws the top card and places it face down next to the  pile, saying  the number on the card. The next player draws a card, adds the two cards' values, says the sum of the two cards as a number sentence and places the drawn card on top of the pile. The next player draws and adds the number of the newly drawn card to the previous sum. Play continues until the total reaches 11.  If the sum exceeds 11, then players subtract the number on the drawn card from the total, and state the difference as a subtraction sentence. Play continues until the sum or difference is exactly 11. If you want to keep score, the player whose card makes exactly 11 gets the whole pile of cards.

A typical game might go like this.

First turn: With a 3 showing, player draws a 4 and says, "Three plus four equals seven."

Second turn: Player draws an 8 and says, "Seven plus eight equals fifteen" (This is more than 11, so the next player subtracts.)

Third turn: Player draws a 3 and says, "Fifteen minus three equals twelve."

Fourth turn: Player draws an 8 and says, "Twelve minus eight equals four."

Fifth turn: Player draws a 7 and says, "Four plus seven equals eleven!" This player takes all of the cards and play resumes again with a new card drawn.

There's nothing magical about the number 11. If you want to practice math facts with bigger numbers, you can play 21, 50, 100 or whatever number you want.

Questions or comments? They are welcome below.

November 23, 2011

Make a Paper Bowl

The Chinese invented paper over 4000 years ago. For our unit on ancient China, we made our own paper bowls in the classroom last week. The main things you need are construction paper, newsprint, water, a blender, and a kitchen sieve. For step-by-step instructions with lots of photos, check out my How to Make a Paper Bowl page.

November 22, 2011

Top Three Circle-Time Songs

Anyone who has worked in a preschool or as a camp counselor knows that a good song can break the ice, set a fun tone for the whole day, and get kids in a great mood. These are three of my favorites. I've written  in detail about them all elsewhere, but thought it would be nice to round them up here.

1. Going on a Bear Hunt teachers rhythm, and attentiveness; can be useful as an introduction to a study about bears, and provides the scary-fun feeling that little ones love. I wrote a web page about the Bear Hunt song that includes lyrics, activities, lesson plans, printable worksheets, and a zany video of Michael Rosen performing a version of the song based on his classic book.

2. Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar? is another clap/slap icebreaker chant that helps kids in a group remember one another's names. It gives a little rush of adrenaline when children hear themselves accused of the dastardly act of stealing a cookie. I wrote a web page about the cookie thief song too that will help parents and teachers extend extend their children's learning.

3. Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes is great for getting the blood flowing when children are a little sleepy. It's good for learning parts of the body, and you can try out some alternate lyrics for even more fun and learning. Here is my page about Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.

Question: What is your favorite circle-time or campfire song. Please share in the comments.

November 6, 2011

Borrow Kindle Books for Free from Amazon

Amazon has recently announced that its prime members who own kindles can now borrow a book a month for free. This is exciting news because there are already 5300 books available for the Kindle Owners' Lending Library including over 100 current and past New York Times Bestsellers.

Kindle Books to Borrow for Free

Several of these books are featured on the Lending Library Home Page, but others are hard to find. For those who are interested, here is a link to

all 5000+ titles that are available to borrow for free from the Amazon Prime Lending Library.

Besides the ebook lending program, Amazon Prime members get free 2-day shipping on most purchases and free streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows.

I have a Kindle that my son and I fight over. It works great for us living in Japan because we we can order books and start reading them right away without having to pay overseas shipping. He especially likes the built in dictionary feature where you just take the cursor to a word and the definition pops up.

Question: Do you have a Kindle? If so, are you intrigued by the lending library?