Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Pure Michigan and Perfect Paragraph Planning

Yep.  I now live in Michigan and this was my backyard two days ago.  Can you say Snow Days?! Not just day, but days (with an S!).  Pure craziness and freezing-ness out here.  It's way better today though. We hit 19 and it felt like summer. :)
 Little Lily just looked like this for 2 days straight - poor babe.
 When we did force her outside she had serious reservations.  :)
I loved the break and the excitement of getting the "snow day phone call", but I don't think I'm completely cut out for this whole extended snow day thing.  Day 1 and 2 were so much fun, but Day 3 was a little blech-fest.  Of course I loved sipping my coffee until 10, leisurely making a crock pot dinner at noon, and listening to lovely music all morning long (I can not tell you how much I absolutely LOVE Spotify!).  But, there's something about not getting out of pajamas for almost 72 hours, napping as much as the dog, and posting Instagram pics of said dog in a coat that make me feel a little blah.  It's 7:25 EST now, so I don't think I'm getting another call about tomorrow.  I'm happy and ready to go.  Bring on the second graders!
Are you teaching informational writing in the near future?  If so, this activity might be helpful.  I like to introduce simple paragraphs using "Stars and Bars".  In years past I've had parents use the fancy dicut machine, but this year I had the kids cut out all the parts (T, stars, bars, C) and it went wonderfully.  It took awhile, but I think the kids will remember it better - or at least I'm hoping all that kinesthetic cutting will emblazon the T, star, bar, and C in their sweet little second grade brains.  :)

I think the Star/Bar organizer might be a Step Up to Writing idea.  One of my teammates who shared this idea with me had been Step Up trained.  I don't know a lot about that program, but I do know I love this simple way to introduce basic paragraph organization to kids - even the littler guys.    

It's easy-peasy:
T = Topic sentence

Star = Detail

Bar = Supporting detail ("Tell me more" about the detail)

C = Conclusion

I like to color code the T green (go!), C red (stop!), with the stars yellow and bars orange, but it doesn't really matter on the star and bar color - I'm just set in my color coded ways.  I ask students to provide 3 details with supporting details, but for the super little ones, one detail and supporting detail should suffice.
On day 1 we cut and pasted our T, C, stars, and bars.  We also wrote the 3 details we wanted to include in our paragraph on the stars - for this paragraph our favorite winter traditions.  Then on day 2 students wrote complete sentences for each detail and supporting detail.  On day 3 we had a class mini-lesson on topic sentences.  Day 4 was conclusion mini-lesson day.  Day 5 was read your completed paragraph day.  Hooray for paragraphs!    


  1. I love this!! Will definitely be sharing this idea with my teaching partner, we have Grade 2 this year and this activity will be spot on when we tackle information texts. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Mrs Poultney's Ponderings

  2. Very nice idea! I found your site because we are fellow students at TBTS! ;) Looking forward to keeping up with you. You can visit me at

  3. I absolutely love this prize pack!!! Would be awesome for someone like me starting out without much....


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