Saturday, December 13, 2014

Life Lessons

Image from The Six Steps to Overcoming Adversity
The Internet is down at our house (we're switching plans) so I decided to go to our local coffee shop to work on lesson plans for the week and enjoy a Passion Tea Lemonade with a Peppermint Bliss Bar (compliments of my sweet class).  As I was sitting in one of the comfy chairs a young lady walked up to me and asked "Do you mind if I sit here?"  and I replied "Of course not!  Please, have a seat!"

This immediately made me think of what I am trying to teach my students on a daily basis - lessons they can use throughout life.  Instead of having a designated door holder, I teach my students how to hold the door for the person coming behind them and to say "thank you" and "you're welcome"  as they take hold of the door before going through.

Another life lesson we work on is choosing our seats.  I have a couch and ottomans that students can sit on during our whole group lesson. Needless to say, these are popular seats in my class. While students are gathering for our group, it is inevitable that someone will need to go back to their table for a pencil, a book, or something.  So as others join the group they should ask if someone was already sitting in one of those spots before they sit down. We practice saying things like "Excuse me, is someone sitting here?"  before taking a seat.

My goal is not to control who sits where, but to help them understand that kindness and respect goes a long way.   Do they always get it right?  No!  But we're working on it.

Now, thanks to a very polite stranger, I have a new phrase to share next week, "Do you mind if I sit here?"  I think that one will work well with choosing seats in the lunchroom, don't you?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Multiplication Madness

 I found these free Multiplication Multiples on Judy Hopf's Teacher Pay Teacher Store. I knew I wanted to use them in my class but wasn't sure exactly how.  Then it hit me!

I inherited a Multiplication Race Track display when I moved to my new room this year. I loved it and didn't want to take it down.  So I paired the two together for a perfect math center. I added the Multiplication Multiples to the track and the kids now have a great way to practice their facts.  Here's how.

Have you ever used number ladders for students to learn their facts?   The students bounce a tennis ball as they say the multiples for the digit they are working on.  Brain research says that the bouncing and repetition of the multiples makes the learning stick for the kids.

They also build arrays, use Cuisenaire rods and lots of other multiplication partner games from K-5 Math Teaching Resources to help them learn their facts. Then it's time to assess.

I must say up front that I am not a fan of timed tests. OK, I feel better now.  Having said that, each child takes a test for whichever number they are working on.  We call them "Scoops Test".  I got the "Scoops Test" idea from Laura Candler many, many years ago when I taught fourth grade.  I tried to find a link on her website, and on her TPT store, but I couldn't find it.  I was able to find a link to her multiplication and division sample pack. She has changed it a bit since I used first used it.

Here's what we do.  To get ready for their test, each student writes the number they are working on 10 times down their paper.

 Once everyone has their paper ready, I call out numbers 0-10 (in random order) and they add the second factor to their paper.  To make sure we all start at the same time I say a little chant that goes like this:  "Raise your pencils in the air, and wave 'em like you just don't care.  If you're ready to take this scoops test, somebody say Oh Yea!" and the kids respond loudly, "Oh Yea"!  They have 1 minute to write their answers.

Once they have passed their test (with 100%), I make a note of the date on my recording form.  That way I can check-in with any students who get stuck for too long.

They color in the next "scoop" (get it:-))  on their recording sheet and move their popsicle sticks to the next number on the board. When I originally used this idea, each student had a cone on a bulletin board, and they added scoops to their cone as they passed their test.  You can get the student recording sheet and scoops from Digital Classroom Clipart's TPT store.

Now they are ready to practice the multiples for their next number.   Each student keeps their recording sheet glued on the last page of their math journal.  When the class learns their facts we will have an ice-cream party to celebrate!

I wasn't going to put the sticks in the pockets, but they wanted to.  The sticks have their student number written on them. I also added the Touch Math Memory Cue Poster so my students can make the connection when they are multiplying.  It has become a popular center in my room.  What do you do to help your students learn their facts?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Writing and Edward Tulane

Our Class is reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane as part of The Global Read Aloud. You can read about the GRA here.  So what does Edward Tulane, scary funny creatures, and descriptive writing have in common?  I'm glad you asked.

First, let me back up a bit.  Each week we read a different poem to practice fluency and look at elements of grammar.  This week Jack Prelutsky's, The Creature in the Classroom, was our poem of the week.  We noticed the different synonyms he used for the verb "ate" and we also talked about adverbs.  The poem describes all the different things the creature ate, but it never tells you what the creature looks like, so we made our own. 

 I pulled out several different colors of construction paper, 
googly eyes, yarn, pom-poms, scissors, and glue. 

 They could use anything they wanted to create their creatures.  
Anything EXCEPT markers, crayons, or colored pencils!

Well, we couldn't just create creatures, even if it was Halloween and Pajama Day all rolled into one!  So I decided to have the students write narratives about their creatures.  I wanted them to focus on introducing the setting and their characters in the beginning of their stories. We took a look at how published authors introduce their characters, since we are all authors, by the way.

And guess which book we used?  You got it.  Kate DiCamillo does a terrific job of introducing the setting and describing Edward Tulane in the first 2 pages of her book.  In case you've forgotten here is her opening sentence:  "ONCE, IN A HOUSE ON EGYPT STREET, there lived a rabbit who was made almost entirely of china."  She then goes on to describe Edward in great detail.  I reread those pages to the students and then we quickly brainstormed different settings for their creature stories:  "Once, under a bed in an old wooden mansion . . . Once, in an underground tunnel in China . . . Once, in a classroom at Cheatham Hill lived a creature. " You get the picture.

 Next, we went out in the hall so they could get a better look at their creatures 
as they wrote their descriptive paragraphs. 

Then they shared their introductory paragraphs as the rest of the class checked to
 make sure they had done a good job with their descriptions.

Now that their introductory paragraphs are complete, they are ready to work on the rest of their story. I believe it's time to introduce my third graders to Google Docs.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Poem About Reading: Today Was a Good Day!

I looked around my room today and what do you suppose I saw?

Children deeply engaged in reading. I was totally in awe!

Is it always like this, you might ask?

No, they're children, at times they get off task!

So exactly what do I do?

It's simple, I give them the freedom to choose

which books they want to read 

and where they want to sit.

Do I have to redirect them?

But on days when I look around and this is what I see,

I smile to myself and then I say . . .
Today was a good day!

Trust them to choose!

Don't judge my poetry skills. :-)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Third Grade Rocks!

It's 3:00 in the morning and I am still singing the lyrics to 3 Types of Rocks:  "There are 3 types of rocks in geology..."  I love this song! It has a catchy tune, but more importantly it teaches an important concept - or so I thought.  I often use music to teach concepts to my students.  Well, after singing this song over and over, I realized the third grade standards (in Georgia anyway) does not mention anything about learning the different types of rocks nor the rock cycle for that matter! Hummm . . . .

It does say, however, that "Students will investigate the physical attributes of rocks and soils ... using observation, measurement, and simple tests..."  Well, what do you know about that? So I created a Rock Journal for my students to record their observations and tests.  You can see it here on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  But if you follow my blog and leave a comment below, I will send you a copy... for free!  I still love that song and I added it to my library on Edmodo so my kids can sing it to their little heart's content! After all, they do need to understand that "scientists classify rocks by using observations", so . . . we'll keep singing.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Why I like Kidblog

He scores!
I started using Kidblog with my fifth grade students and I loved it!  It gave my students an authentic audience for their writing and I was able to make suggestions to help them improve their writing through private comments.  I could even use my cell phone to review their posts while sitting at the soccer field watching my nephew score a goal!
I must admit, I was a little hesitant to begin yet another online program with my third grade class. But I couldn't wait any longer.  We had already connected with our Book Buddies for the Global Read Aloud and it was time to begin blogging about what we were reading.  I had to introduce my third graders to Kidblog.  So, I bit the bullet!

Here are some helpful things to remember with any online program:

1.  If you are going to be using multiple accounts, whenever possible have students use the same username and password for each account they have.   Kidblog doesn't require a username to log in.  The students join our class and then select their first name from the class list.  Once they've done that they just have to enter their "secret" password.

2.  Have students record their username and password in a safe place.  I use their agendas and have them write the information on their birth date, so they can find it.  Just in case they forget.  And they will forget.

3.  Make it easy to find the programs from home.  I link each program we use on our class website and on Edmodo.  When we're at school, we use the apps.

4.  Encourage parents to set up parent accounts for each program.  This keeps them in the loop and they always have access to their child's work.

5.  Start slow.

We first learned about writing quality comments by watching Mrs. Yollis' Class video. Then together we read comments and decided whether or not they should be published.  Next they commented on a post I had written.  I was able to give individual feedback to each student before they started writing their own blog posts.

I check all comments and posts before I approve them to be published.  As I said, this is the perfect way to reinforce writing and grammar skills.  And Yes, the kids love it!

What tips do you have for integrating technology in classroom?

Monday, October 6, 2014


am linking up with Deb at Crafting Connections to share this Reading Comprehension Anchor Chart.  When I saw this acronym on our County's resource page, I knew I had to make an anchor chart to illustrate it.  If you have ever used Larry Bell's UNRAAVEL strategy, then you will recognize this as a simplified version.  

To prove their answers, students simply write the corresponding paragraph # beside the question where they found text evidence that supports their answer choice.  I also have them underline or highlight the text evidence in the paragraph that helped them answer the questions.

If you love anchor charts like I love anchor charts, you will want to head on over to Crafting Connections. Deb hosts an Anchor Chart Linky party every Monday.  I just saw one on a previous linky about prefixes and suffixes that I need to make for my kiddos!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

In Search of the Perfect Room Arrangement

"Teacher" Desk

When I moved to my new room, I also inherited a teacher desk, a nice new teacher desk by the way. . . with nice drawers.  I haven't used a traditional desk for years, but it was nice to have the drawer space.  So I kept it. . .  and felt guilt about the enormous amount of space it took up.

Then one day it hit me!  So I swapped the desk with one of the computer tables.  I put the student desktop computer on top of the teacher desk and it became a shared space.  The sign-out sheet is there and students use the desktop computer when they need to.  I have a little space on the left side plus I get to keep those drawers! Problem solved.

Now what to do with that extra computer table?  I couldn't just toss it. So I moved it to the front of the room (where I had my trapezoid table). Now I have enough space for both my laptop and my document camera.  I also gained extra space to work one-on-one with students at this table. Sweet!

Computer table

This is where my desk used to sit

I have 2 couches. I love the comfy feeling they give my room. Students are free to choose these spaces to enjoy a book or to complete assignments. One is in the whole group meeting area and the other is in the class library.  I thought I might have to give 1 away when I moved. As it turns out I was able to keep them both.
Reading Corner, but not really a corner
Whole group meeting space

Waiting Spot
I almost got rid of this worn out well loved puzzle seat.  I am so glad I didn't.  It is now the official "waiting spot". Let me explain.  I am adjusting to the fact that my little darlings are a bit more needy than my fifth graders.  I've even tried "Ask 3 before me", but it seems there are a few that always have something that needs my personal attention.  So now, when I am working with a group or an individual student and another student is "puzzled" and needs my attention, they sit on the puzzle piece and patiently wait.  I call them over as soon as I have a break.  This helps them and me.  I haven't been interrupted once since we started this.  It's only been 1 day, but what a difference a day  makes!

These are the major changes I've made in my room since school started.  Anyone who knows me knows I am always looking for the perfect room arrangement.  I think I may have found it . . . time will tell!

Update: I went to my room the other day (yes, it was during Fall Break) and moved a shelf to the end of that table behind the puzzle.   It made the writing supplies more accessible to the students and it gave me a little more space near that chart tablet to the right of the puzzle. I'll have to see how it works when the kids come back tomorrow.  I guess there is no such thing as the perfect arrangement after all!

Please tell me I'm not the only person who is always looking for a better solution and changing their room around?  Leave your comments below.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Celebrating Dot Day

We celebrated Dot Day last Friday.  This was a perfect way to introduce ourselves to our Global Read Aloud buddies. After reading The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds, we made postcards. On the back we introduced ourselves and shared a little about ourselves, without revealing any personal information of course!  Then we decorated the front using tiny dot stickers.

I will mail these to the class we have connected with in California and they will send us their postcards.  Once we receive their postcards, we will use them to help us pick our book buddies for the Global Read Aloud which begins in October. The kids are so excited!

The Dot helped us learn about theme.  The students discussed Vashti's character at the beginning of the story and then again at the end.  Some of the themes we came up with were perseverance and compassion.

We also used the ColAR app to make our dots come alive.  Students took screenshots and posted them on Edmodo to share with their classmates.  In the words of  Jackson, "Dot Day is Wicked!"

Our class having fun on Dot Day!

The official Dot Day song! I didn't even know there was one.  :-)

If you celebrated International Dot Day, please leave a comment and share what you did below.  

Arrays in the Real World

We are just beginning our multiplication unit.  The students needed to be able to relate repeated addition to multiplication.  We began by watching a great video I found on YouTube, "Real Life Arrays" By Miss DuBose.  Then the students were ready to find their own.  They went on an array hunt (in small groups) all around the school. I had a parent volunteer help with this part of the activity. Armed with their iPads, they took photos of all the different arrays they found.  And they found tons of them!

The next day, they picked their favorite photos for their project.  They used Pic Collage to show how repeated addition and multiplication are related.  They also had to include a title and of course their name.  I was able to assess some language standards ("capitalize appropriate words in a title" and "forms and uses possessives") as well as their math standard ("represents multiplication as multiple groups of the same number").  I am going to print them out and bind them together in a book.  It was our first time using Pic Collage in third grade! Not sure why some of the  "+" symbols changed, but I think they turned out nice!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What I Know About Flipping 3rd Grade . . . TODAY

This is Week 6 in Third Grade and I have quickly learned that flipping does NOT look like in did in my fifth grade class!  Here's what I know about flipping 3rd grade . . . TODAY:

1.  My videos have to be short,  real short.  I mean 3-5 minutes short.  Closer to 3 minutes.

2.  My videos must be straight to the point.  I am almost taking notes for them.  I actually say "Step 1...., Step 2...." and "write this down"( Now that I think about it, I probably should have said that all along).

3.  I remind them to write the date, title, and important info. during the video a lot.

4.  I also went back to using a graphic organizer and having them glue it into their math notebooks.  and finally . . .

5.  Crystal, I revised your W-S-Q.  "S"  now stands for "list the STEPS" instead of summarize.  So they W-watch the video (write the title ), S- list the steps, and Q-write 1 question they have.

Here is an example of 1 of my student's notes from a video.  I just took a picture of this one because it was an excellent example of what their notes should look like.  I know, we still need to work on coming up with a higher level question.  :-)  I will share some others later.

Oh yea, another big difference . . . for the most part the students are watching the videos in class while I am working with other students.  I also use the video after I have done a "quick-teach" (I think I just made that up) or face-to-face preview of what they will learn in the video.

Update:  Here are some other examples of WSQ notes:

Pretty good, huh?:-) 

Living Above the Line

Several years ago (and I do mean several) our school embraced "Quantum Teaching".   Does anyone remember this?  We attended training and had to incorporate the ideals in our lesson plans and ultimately change our way of teaching.  I believe this may have been the catalysts for whole brain teaching.

Anyway . . . today I actually called upon a particular aspect of Quantum Teaching known as "Living Above the Line". After having had a discussion ( for the ump-teenth time) about accepting responsibility and being kind to others, I pulled out a sheet of paper and we had a discussion about what it meant to live "Above the Line".  The students gave several suggestions of what that meant and looked like.  Then we talked about living "Below the Line". They gave more suggestions of what this would look like.  This also gave me an opportunity to talk about some common prefixes and root words.  Had to throw a little content in there.

But the real magic happened later during reading.  We are learning how to identify the theme in literature.  We had just reread The Dot* by Peter H. Reynolds and we were trying to identify the theme of the book.  So we took a look at the main character, Vashti, and how she changed during the story.

When I asked  the students what was she like in the beginning of the story, one of my darlings raised their hand and said "She was living below the line"!  I almost feel out of my chair!

 I was so excited. When I got home I searched for that book.  Low and behold, there it was on my shelf!  I may need to revisit and revise that chart with the kids.  The line is supposed to represent "responsibility" and there are some other characteristics/habits that should be included as well.  But I think they got the message!  Let's see if it makes a difference.

*If you are reading The Dot for Dot Day, check out this idea using colAR app.


Wow! I can’t believe I have not posted anything this entire school year! I’m not sure what that means. I have decided that I will be retir...