Saturday, September 15, 2012

Writing Character Descriptions & a GIVEAWAY!

Last year, we took a little looksie at Farmer Brown from "Click Clack Moo" to learn how to write a character description.  This year, we focused on "The BFG".  As I've mentioned before, this is one of my absolute favorite read alouds, and it is the only story that I consistently read with a voice.  A distinct BFG voice.  It's remained the same for four years now, and every year, the kids eat it up with a spoon.  Just a note of caution though... Roald Dahl can be a little borderline sometimes.  If I come across something even borderline questionable... like mentioning wine... I paraphrase or censor it.  :)  Seriously though, my husband lovingly calls me "Chastity Prudence" when he thinks I'm being too conservative, so it may be a character flaw.  It's a fabulous book though... and definitely worth reading!

We started out listing the BFG's actions... and then we talked about what his actions say about him.  Then we started listing character traits!  I think my kiddos did a really nice job with this.  

Okay, and just so you don't think I am the worst ear-artist ever.  Here's a little snapshot of Roald Dahl's version.  It will help me sleep at night if you don't think I am seriously artistically challenged.  :)  Ahem. 

Now that I got my own insecurities out of the way, let's keep going! Ha! After we talked about his character traits and actions, we worked together to write a paragraph about our friend, the BFG.  Once we completed our paragraph, we reviewed the process together, and I passed out a more complex character description from Reading Street.  We talked about the composition and what the author did well, then I told them that it was their turn to write about a character!  We didn't finish them yet... but they are SO INTO IT.  I'm hoping to wrap up on Monday!

One of my little guys is totally into "Ricky Ricotta's Giant Robot", and he went ALL OUT with his drawing.  I wish I would have snapped a second photo once he started describing the character, because it was precious.  He had a hard time coming up with character traits at first though.  He told me, "Mrs. Nickerson, robots don't really have personalities.  They're robots."  So, I had to ask lots of questions about the giant robot to get him to realize that, even so, even though it's a machine, we can still describe them.  :)  Maybe we need to tackle personification a little earlier this year.

We had our first spelling test of the year, so I officially got to test our my new (free) spelling test template.  Here's the verdict:  I LOVE IT!  I graded the tests, then I passed them back face down to keep grades under wraps.  Then, I talked to the kids about how it's so important to set goals, and I shared a few examples from my life.  After that, I asked them to peek at their grade and think about whether their scores made them feel happy, excited, indifferent, or disappointed.  They wrote about how they prepared (or didn't prepare) for this test, then they wrote about what they will keep doing or do differently next time.  I had them share their goals with me to make sure we were on the right track... and they definitely were.  I am hoping this reflective tool helps them with study skills and goal-setting this year... and in the future!

The first nine-weeks is kind of hairy. It always is. Plus, we teach on a rotation, so I don't do a different story every week.  I often start new stories mid-week, which is exactly what happened this week.  We just started "What About Me?", so I don't have a TON to share, but I am LOVING the essential questions and daily questions posters.  Having them ready to go has been such a help this year.  I wish I would have had this last year!!!

We squeezed in our first gallery walk of the year, and I was so happy with the outcome.  Check out the poster for the word knowledge.  It's kind of hard to see on the screen, and it kind of looks like a hot mess, BUT I was especially happy to see the following comments.  "Your brain grows when you learn something" and "memory box in your brain".  We've been having lots of talks about schema & metacognition, plus we've been doing lot of "Brain & Book" work.  If you look really closely, you'll see a box with dendrites in it.  Dendrites, friends!  I was explaining why we stop to do brain breaks once in a while... complete with a mini-lesson/drawings of the brain showing how our brain grows & changes when we learn something... and how we want to activate both sides of our brain to do our best learning.  I was happy to see that it stuck with someone.  Can I also just say how much I love the picture of the girl thinking about cats, math, crayons, dogs, art, and pencils?!  Cuteness!

I'm hoping to post again tomorrow with some goodies for "What About Me?", but in the meantime, who's ready for a little giveaway action?  I'm teaming up with Learning Resources to give away a set of fabulous magnetic borders.  I LOVE mine!  They really make the whiteboard POP!  See!  I also love that the border doesn't take up a lot of writing space.  It's also a nice way to create separate areas on your whiteboard without using duct tape (and leaving sticky residue behind afterward).

If you're interested in adding some PIZZAZZ and FLAIR to your whiteboard with MagnaBorders, here's how you can win a border for your classroom!

{Don't forget to leave your email address to ensure that I can get a hold of you if you should win!}
Follow my lil' ole slice of cyberspace, and share how you plan to use the recorder with your kiddos. :)
Like Learning Resources on Facebook, click their wall, & tell them that One Extra Degree sent you!
Follow their blog, and tell them I sent you!
Follow Learning Resources on Twitter.
Follow Learning Resources on Pinterest.
If you want to have a bonus entry... blog about this post and leave the link in my comments section!

The winner will be drawn next Saturday, September 22, 2012.  Make sure to check back in for the winner! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. These are SUPER cute!

  2. I switched from a traditional junior high school to an outreach school this year and it's really pushing me to try new things. This activity could translate really well with some of the topics I'll be covering this year. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Good luck! :) I am happy to hear that you think you may be able to adapt this!

  3. I have always used color duct tape to do sections on my board, but I would love this because I could move it around if needed... and it's so cute!

    1. I am a HUGE fan of colored duct tape... but this border is MAGICAL. Good luck! :)

  4. I love this post! Lots of useful information and I'm excited about the giveaway too! :)


  5. What great ideas!!

    Jessica Reinartz

  6. I love your spelling test template. Thanks so much for sharing it! Great anchor charts, too. I adore the MagnaBorder! So easy to use and pretty, too!

    Ѽ Lori
    Teaching With Love and Laughter

  7. ok I am confused! Rafflecopter says explain how you will use the recorder with our class? I would love the Magnaborder for my classroom :)

  8. I would use the border to separate my board into sections for different groups. Love this!

    Reading Toward the Stars!

  9. I might use the border to separate my schedule and objectives...or maybe for spelling and vocab words to have their own spot!

  10. I would use the border around my word wall to jazz it up! How cute!

    If you'd pop over to my blog, I'd be honored! I'm having a Thirty One giveaway right now!

    Growing Firsties

  11. I might have to add BFG to my read aloud list this year! I love your poster.

    Teaching Fourth

  12. I might be your long lost sister, *Purity Prudence* as I will also 'fix' stories that I think need fixing. There are just some things I do not need to read aloud. To a class full of second grade boys.

  13. This was a wonderful post and I have taken away a lot of great ideas that I hope to use this year. I have not been able to find magna-borders yet. I have a long wall filled with chalkboards and a whiteboard. I would love to use the magnetic border to make clear divisions between the different spaces.
    Stories by Storie

  14. Thanks for the opportunity. I would use it to make my board pop more.

  15. Love it! The border I currently use falls down too much. I need this stuff!

  16. The boarder is a brilliant idea! I would love it for my whiteboard. It would add some personality to that big white object in my room.
    Bright Concepts 4 Teachers

  17. I am so inspired to add BFG to my next unit now! I would use the borders to jazz up my boards!

  18. I would use the magnaborders to make my white board pop......they would look awesome with all the black accents in my room!


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  20. I love the magnetic border! My white board is sectioned off using duct tape, and it was such a pain to do. I'm pretty sure it is still not straight, but I gave up!

    Third Grade in the First State

  21. I would love this border. My white board seems like an endless sea of calendar, notes, homework, etc. all meshed together. It needs a facelift.
    Thanks for the offer.
    Heather W.


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  23. Thanks so much for this great post! Question for you...could you go more into detail about the dendrites talk you had with your kids? It sounds super interesting and I'd love to hear more about the little drawing/mini-lesson you did with them on it! We do Brain Breaks all the time. We talk about challenging ourselves to grow our brain (it's like brain push-ups!). If you have time I'd love to hear more!