Teaching Informational Writing

I think Mother Nature is confused.  This is Georgia, people.

I took this picture from my front porch earlier this afternoon.  I think we have between 2-3 inches (please don't laugh at us, seasoned weather vets).  Roads are NUTS.  Schools didn't close in time and kids will be stuck there overnight.  Yes, you read that correctly.  School buses are still stuck on the road.  WITH kids. I can't even imagine.  My husband's 1 hour commute took SEVEN hours. It is gridlocked and scary.

But, anyway.  You want to read this whole post to the bottom. Pretty please :).

A few weeks ago I got a Facebook message from a friend of mine from the school.  I am sure the message is one most of you can related to.  It said something along the lines of, " I am tired, over worked, and can't think of a single creative idea for informational writing.  Please help me and see if you can spark the creative juices."

 I got sucked in like nobody's business and had ALL KINDS of ideas. And once I get started on something, I have a hard time letting go.  The idea gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger until I am usually squashed by the snowball.  My coteacher and  I always joked last year that if there was a hard way and an easy way to do something, we inevitably took the hard way and adjusted it to make it as complicated as we possibly could! LOL!

So that simple little spark my friends asked for turned into this and this.


I wrote two different units.  The Georgia Hero Unit is specifically aimed at Georgia third grade teachers and the Famous African Americans Unit is specifically aimed at third grade teachers in states that are using the Common Core Standards. 

The units are mostly identical, except for the people being researched.  All of the lessons are the same, so there is no need for teachers to purchase both.  We would all just be sad :(.

This thing is HUGE- over 130 pages each!  It is pretty much your entire informational writing unit with every informational writing standard addressed EXCEPT for publishing with technology.  I specifically left this out because I did want to make any assumptions about a teacher's technological resources (or lack thereof).

Included in the pack are 23  days of EXPLICIT lesson plans for students to select, research ,write, revise and edit a four paragraph essay about a Georgia Hero or famous African American.

Students use Post It Notes and a flip book to order and record research.  Flipbook and step-by-step instructions are included.  Small, mini books are included on all the Georgia Heroes (except for Caser Chavez and Lyndon B. Johnson) and on all 6 famous African Americans.

Two page list of suggested, authentic texts is included.

Tons of materials to teach the informational lessons, including 6 posters.

You can get your packs here and here.

For the next few hours this is going on:

Better hurry!  It won't last long!!

I also created an abbreviated pack of the famous African American unit.

I also created an abbreviated version of the Informational Unit Focusing on Famous African Americans with two exceptions.  I added  a different graphic organizer and  the comprehension questions  for each figure.  It is 43 pages and is a steal at only $3!

For each famous figure there is:
  • ·     A mini book for students to read and use for research
  • ·     Three comprehension questions about the mini book
  • ·     Answer key for the questions
  • ·     Graphic organizer about the figure’s life
  • ·     A list of suggested resources for additional research
  • ·     Paper for students to write a final draft
       However if you buy EITHER the Informational Writing Unit Focusing on Georgia Heroes or Famous African Americans, you get this free. Simply email me at mandyholland@hotmail.com and I will send it to you!

And last thing, if you don't follow my store,  you want to.  Trust me ;).



Celebrating Reading with Author Research

A few years ago I created (in my opinion) a really neat research project all about that famous Doctor guy that has a cat that sometimes wear a hat?  Do you know the one I am talking about?  Yeah, him.

My students loved the project and it was a really popular product. Look how much fun that was!


And then the copyright and trademark police descended and I realized I was in all kinds of wrong.  See anything pretty much that has to do with the good doctor is copyrighted AND trademarked (I believe).  Even that famous day where we read all through the United States in March? Trademarked. That means no one should be making any money on anything with these words, or they could held liable. I yanked that product down like a hot potato.  Trust me, it burned.


It made me sad because my kids were reading and researching and having FUN. And I wanted to share that fun.

Fast forward two years later.  It suddenly occurred to me that I could make this a more generic activity in which students could reach ANY favorite author!  Light bulb moment! I recreated and updated the wheel and here it is:

It has all kinds of goodies inside including a brochure for students to create that reinforces text features, a note taking/ research sheet, a rubric for assessment, and a list of 15 authors to research with kid approved websites. 

I even included a Word document of all the websites so you can cut and paste it onto your class blog or website so students have easy access to the websites.   If you don't have access, I also published a blog post of ONLY the authors and websites for students to use here on this blog.  You can find that link here

And the best part?

The deal only lasts until 10 pm EST so get it while it's hot! :) Check it out here.

So, are you already making plans for that special day in March where reading is celebrated all across the United States ?



Suggested List of Famous Authors and Websites for Research

Below is a list of suggested authors and websites for students to use while researching.  Please make sure to practice internet safety and double check ALL websites prior to allowing students to use them.

David A. Adler

Chris Van Allsburg

Jan Brett

Tomie dePaola

Beverly Cleary

Kevin Henkes

Laura Numeroff

Mary Pope Osborne

Dav Pilkey

Jerry Pinkney

Patricia Polacco

Cynthia Rylant

Dr. Seuss

David Shannon

Jerry Spinelli



Geometry Round Up!

I love living in the warm and sunny south.  Wait up, what did you say? Check the weather? I think that temperature is missing some numbers...

Five.  That little five needs a friend.  Like, say a seven in front of it. It looks a bit lonely all up there by itself.

I was going through some of my files and found a few geometry ideas so I thought I might do a round up post. 

First thing we do is make a web of everything we know about geometry.  Some years I am surprised at how much they remember.  As we learn new concepts in the unit, we add them to the web. We also add questions and see if we can answer them.  Nothing fancy, just a dumping ground for out thoughts.

The we use geoboards while reading The Greedy Triangle to learn about 2D shapes. You can see more pictures and printables for this lesson here.  The kids love it and I usually stretch it over a few days.

Some kids still struggle with the shapes and attributes so we make these flip books.
Here is the outside.

I made them with regular copy paper but cut it vertically to make them nice and long.  Just something a bit different for the kids to remember- and I was able to get two books for the same amount of paper as one!

Here is the inside.

This would work for 3D shapes as well.

Other kids made shape books with some hands on activities.

Some kids needed a bit more work so we used tooth picks to build the polygons on the table.  I would give them a specific number and see what they could build and then we would name it.  Sometimes I would name it and see if they knew how many tooth picks to use to build it.  Then they glued the tooth picks down and wrote the number of sides, angles, and vertices alllll around it to help them remember. Then we stapled them into a small book.

We played Geometry Bingo.

It is available for $3.50 in my store here.

I also have this geometry pack that has TONS of activities.

Click here for this great pack of FREE math centers, plus get tips and updates from me!



Winter Wonderland of Freebies!

I am excited!  Today I am participating in my VERY first Facebook hop!  I have downloaded and collected the goodies from hop, but have never been a part of one myself! Squee! I hope it all works for you guys!

So here is how this works...

First, you are going to start at Tori's Teacher Tips.  She is so awesome and actually organized this whole event,  so make sure to give her a big thank you!

Click on the "FB HOP" button once you are there.  It looks like this:

Then you will see a whole list of bloggers.  Here is a snippet of what it looks like:

Start by clicking on the first button which will take you to her freebie.  

Download, save, print, whatever you want to do with that freebie and then close out those windows.  You want to get back to the list of bloggers on my Facebook page.  Everything should open up into a new window to make it easier for you to get back to the "hop."

Make your way through all the bloggers as they will ALL have FAB stuff for you...for FREE!!!  
Each new FB page will have the same "FB Hop" image- just find that and click there.
Make sure you like the page to get your free product.

Oh and say "Hi" and "Thanks" while you are there... we love your comments/feedback!

Ok.. what are you waiting for... GO HOP!!

Several bloggers ALSO got together to participate in a Giveaway!  Second grade teachers go big or go home.  So this giveaway is definitely a "Go Big!" Enjoy!!!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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