Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Helpful Hints!

The teachers of Blog Hoppin' are hosting a week long linky party! I'm so excited to participate in today's linky- H is for Helpful Hints.


I've got three helpful hints for you today...

My students use to always argue over whose turn it was to be on the computer. We only have 3 student computers and 20+ students. I decided to assign each student a computer for an entire day. Each card has the student's name on the front and their individual login information on the back. The cards are hole punched and hooked together with a book ring. Each ring of cards hangs from a 3M hook on the computer. My students know each day whose turn it is for the computers and can even check to see when their next day is going to be. It's also really handy having their login information on the back of their card to eliminate questions, disruptions, etc. So easy!

Last year, I used one turn-in basket for all of my students' completed work. It was a nightmare! The basket would pile up, I'd have to sort the papers, and I'd get overwhelmed and procrastinate with grading (sound familiar?!) This year, I found this really neat 5-basket organizer from Really Good Stuff. I thought about labeling each basket with the days of the week but decided to organize them by subjects. I have mine organized into the following five categories: morning work, math, word study, reading, and other. This has been such a tremendous help in managing papers to grade. It's not so overwhelming and the papers are already organized at the end of each day. I love it!

We all know that classroom storage space is limited so we have to get creative when it comes to hiding storing all of our materials! An easy way to do this is to use the extra cubby space in your classroom. If you have a couple of empty cubbies, use a piece of fabric and Velcro to cover the extra space. You can store a ton of materials by doing this! Whenever you need something, just pull back the fabric, grab what you need, and velcro the fabric back on. It's so simple and looks cute too!

Alright, those are my helpful hints for today! Tomorrow I hope to blog about activities that I love to use in my classroom. Be sure to head over to Blog Hoppin' and check out all of the helpful hints being shared!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Using Trifolds in Guided Reading

Does anyone else struggle with holding your kids accountable for reading their guided reading chapter books? Or what about keeping them focused on a strategy while reading their assigned chapters on their own? These are two of the biggest issues that I face with my guided reading groups. To help with this problem, I started using trifolds to help keep my kids on track while they went back to their seat to read on their own. These have proven to be really helpful for my kids in so many ways. They now know exactly what to focus on when they are reading, they have opportunities to record their thinking, and we are able to have meaningful discussions about our reading when we meet as a guided reading group again.

Here are some tips for using guided reading trifolds in your classroom: (I'm not an expert, these are just things that work for me!)

1. Focus on a specific reading strategy for the majority of the book

This is something that I've learned over the years while teaching guided reading. Instead of changing the focus every chapter of the book, decide on a specific strategy to use for the majority of the book. This is less confusing for the kids and helps them focus on using the strategy over an extended period of time. Find a book that really lends itself to the strategy/skill that you are teaching. For example, in one of my groups we are focusing on inferring character traits. I thought about which book would really lend itself to teaching character traits and decided on Because of Winn Dixie. In this book, you really get to know the characters and there are lots of different traits that can be used to describe each one.

2. Explicitly teach each reading strategy/skill before using the trifold

A great way to do this is to use think-alouds. I love to read books aloud to my kiddos (during our reading workshop minilessons) and think-aloud for my students. It really models the thinking that goes on while reading. Before having the kids practice the skill independently on their own using the trifolds, allow them many opportunities to hear you think-aloud and to discuss their own thinking as a whole group. Once students understand the skill/strategy that you are teaching, you can have them try it independently using the trifolds in guided reading.

3. Plan for time in your guided reading groups to discuss each student's writing in their trifolds
Do you have times in guided reading when you ask the group a question (What is a summary of this chapter? How would you describe Winn Dixie?) and all you get is blank stares? Ahhh!! It drives me crazy! These trifolds allow you to have meaningful conversations with your students using the writing that they recorded while reading independently. Instead of the blank stares, students are looking at their writing and sharing their thinking with others in the group. This is so powerful! I always encourage each student to use evidence from the book to support their thinking (see the example below where a student referred to a part in the book and wrote down the page number). This makes discussing each chapter so much easier!

If you are interested in learning more about using guided reading trifolds, you can check out the product below that includes trifolds for 11 different strategies (character traits, character feelings, inferring, questioning, summarizing, making connections, making predictions, setting, unknown words, visualizing and sequencing). The download also includes posters to use while teaching each strategy. Just click on the picture below to see more views of everything that is included!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

November Currently!

I absolutely can't believe that it's November already! I love this time of year and everything that comes with it (well except grade cards). I've linked up with the wonderful Farley at Oh' Boy Fourth Grade for her November Currently. Here's what I am currently up to...


Listening- As soon as it hits November, I give myself permission to start listening to Christmas music. Anyone else???? I know it sounds crazy but it just makes me so happy =)

Loving- I NEVER get to sleep in. It seems as though my son wakes up earlier the later he goes to bed the night before. Today, however, was an exception. I couldn't believe it when I looked at my phone and realized it was 9:30. Pure bliss!

Thinking- I only have two more months to prepare for this little girl! We are so absolutely excited to welcome our little Makenna Grace into this world!

Wanting- Have you had a three day weekend yet? We haven't and I am DYING for one. I always feel like I just need one more day each weekend.

Needing- I DESPISE grading papers. I wish I would be better about grading them periodically but I always end up procrastinating right up until grade cards. Oh well!

A Yummy Pin- Easy No Bake Peanut Butter Bars. These are absolutely delicious! I've made them several times and they really only take a couple of minutes and a couple of ingredients.

Here is the pin from Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/97320041919569838/
And the website where the recipe came from:


You will be thanking me for these- they are amazing! Alright, that's it folks! Be sure to check out Farley's linky and see what everyone else is currently up to =)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

5 Kinds of Number Stories Posters FREEBIE!

Do your students struggle with tackling number stories? This is an area of math that my students always have difficulty with. In the new Common Core standards, it says that students need to be able to solve one and two-step word problems involving situations of adding to, taking from, putting together, taking apart, and comparing.

To help my students with these problems, I decided to explicitly teach the five types of number stories. I created a poster for each kind and we did a lot of practice identifying the 5 types in various word problems and discussing which operation to use to find the answer. This has made such a difference for my students! Number stories are no longer a mystery for them and they are able to tackle them much more easily.

If you'd like to grab a copy of the posters that I created, just click on the picture below. They are FREE! I hope the posters help your students as much as they helped mine. Enjoy! =)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Helping Kids Understand the Three Properties of Addition

Since this is my first year teaching third grade, this was my first time teaching the three properties of addition- commutative, associative, and identity. I knew I was going to bore my kids (and myself!) if I just stated the properties and expected them to remember the meaning of each one. To make it a little more engaging, I used a pan balance, unifix cubes, and hand motions to explain each of the three properties.
First up was the Commutative Property of Addition. We discussed the base word in commutative- commute. I explained that my commute to work is the drive back and forth. To help remember that commute meant back and forth, we used the hand motion below:
After we practiced the hand motion a few times, I used unifix cubes to model how the Commutative Property works. On one side of the pan balance, I placed 3 purple cubes added to 5 black cubes (to represent 3 + 5). On the right side of the pan balance, I placed 5 black cubes added to 3 purple cubes (to represent 5 + 3).
3 + 5 = 5 + 3
I then asked the students if the left side or the right side had more. Everyone agreed that there was the same amount. The kids drew the conclusion that it doesn't matter the order in which you add numbers, you will still get the same amount.

For the Associative Property of Addition, we also discussed the base word in associative- associate. I explained that associate means to put things together or to group them. I showed them an equation with parentheses and we talked about how the parentheses group numbers together and tell you to add them first. To remember the meaning of associate, we used the hand motion below:

Next, I used the pan balance and unifix cubes to model how the Associate Property works. On the left side of the balance, I placed 3 purple cubes on top of 2 green cubes next to 5 black cubes. On the right side, I placed 3 purple cubes next to 2 green cubes on top of 5 black cubes. This represented the equation ( 3 + 2 ) + 5 = 3 + (2 + 5).

( 3 + 2 ) + 5 = 3 + ( 2 + 5 )
I again asked the kids which side had more. They agreed that both sides were the same and drew their own conclusion that it doesn't matter how you group numbers together in an addition equation, the answer will still be the same.
Last up was the Identify Property of Addition. This is by far the easiest to understand and model! The hand motion that we used for the identify property is below:

This helped the kids remember that the Identify Property of Addition means "zero change" to the number. To model this property, I placed 6 purple cubes on the left side of the pan balance. I then demonstrated adding zero more (I used my hands to show that I wasn't adding any more!) I asked them which number should go on the right side of the pan balance to make both sides of the equation the same. They told me that I needed to add 6 purple cubes since the number didn't change. They drew the conclusion that any time you add 0 to a number, the number stays the same.

I taught this lesson yesterday in math and I was totally shocked to see that they remembered the meaning of each Property of Addition today! They were so excited to show me the hand motions and explain the rule for each one. I really think that using hand motions helps the kids to remember the meaning of each property, which in turn helps them apply it to a math equation.
On a side note- I really like using the pan balance to demonstrate addition and subtraction problems. All too often, kids assume that one side of the equal sign is the "answer". The pan balance, with a notecard taped to the middle, helps them understand that the equal sign really means "the same as." The first time that they see an equation such as 4 + 5 = 12 - 3, they are totally thrown off! The balance is a great visual to help them understand!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Teaching Students How to SHOW not TELL in Writing

I was scared. I felt sad. I was really happy. Do these sentences sound familiar to you? These are the types of sentences my students were writing a couple of weeks ago when explaining how they were feeling in their writing. Now they are writing sentences such as, "My heart started pounding and my palms were sweaty." and "I jumped backwards and threw my arms up in the air!" Their writing is so much more interesting and they are really showing how they were feeling instead of just telling it.

So how did my third graders make this jump in their writing? Meet my newest unit, Now Showing... {A Unit on Showing not Telling in Writing}

To start off the unit, I showed my kids examples of telling and showing sentences. I asked them which type of sentence was more interesting to read. They all agreed that the showing sentences were more interesting. I then explained that over the next week or two, I was going to teach them how to show not tell feelings in their own writing.

The first activity that I did with my students is called "Feelings Charades." My students LOVED this activity and it really showed them how to describe a feeling in detail rather than just telling it.
Volunteers in our class acted out different feelings while the rest of the class recorded the body language/actions that they noticed (eg. hanging head, shuffling feet, shoulders hunched, etc.) This game helped my students understand how to "show not tell" a feeling in their writing. They loved acting out the feelings and were begging to do more than the six feelings I had planned.

After we finished the activity, I gave each student a "Showing Feelings Chart" to add to their writing binder. I explained that they could use this chart as a resource throughout the year if they needed help with showing a feeling. There are twelve different feelings explained on the chart.

Later in the week, I read many Patricia Polacco books to my students and had them listen for examples of "showing not telling." Patricia Polacco has many examples in one book alone. For example, in Chicken Sunday, there are 8 examples of a feeling being shown not told. Each of my students were assigned a different feeling before I read the book (different feelings were typed on cars and passed out to each student). While I was reading, they had to listen for an example of that feeling being shown. If they heard an example, they held up their card and we stopped the story to discuss how Polacco had described it. I love using mentor texts in writing workshop and Polacco's books are always so enjoyable for the students. Three of the books that I used in this unit are:


For each read aloud, I've included a chart of the "showing not feeling" examples and the page numbers that they can be found on. Also included in the unit are a brainstorming list, practice pages for students to turn telling sentences into showing sentences, and a recording sheet for students to write down showing sentences that they find while reading on their own. If you'd like to check out my unit on TpT, just click the image below!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

My Classroom Tour... Finally!

I am so excited to share my classroom this year with all of you! Since I am looping with my second graders from last year, I wanted to change up my classroom theme a little bit but didn't want to start completely over again. I spent a ton of time sewing and creating things for my room last year and couldn't bear the thought of not using it.

I came across Schoolgirl Style's Road Trip theme classroom décor set and knew that it would be a perfect fit for my third graders. A little more mature but still fun and colorful! I love the way it turned out =) Here are some pics from my new classroom...

In the hallway leading to my classroom door, I wanted a fun welcome message for my kids. I saw this idea on Pinterest {here} and fell in love with the hallway display! The cars were actually very easy to make and Melonheadz had the cutest faces clipart that I used for the little third graders in the cars!

Don't you just love pennants?! This welcome pennant is hanging right inside my classroom door.

I have this funky little corridor right inside my classroom door and wasn't quite sure what to do with it. Since I have a massive hallway display (the cute little cars) I decided that I needed a space to display my students' work. I used ribbon, mini clothespins, laminated sheets of black paper, and road trip nametags to make this display. It is so easy to change out student work using the clothespins!

Here is a close up of one of the student work displays. (Please don't mind my reflection in the paper!)

This is the area where I display our daily "I can" statements and anchor charts. I stole the idea for the magnetic curtain rods from Christina at Second Grade Sugar and Spice. It has worked for me very well so far! I'm always looking for more space to hang anchor charts and this idea was perfect!

This year, I'm using a vocab wall instead of a word wall. Each week, I introduce the new vocabulary terms as we learn them and add them to the wall. I refer to the words throughout the week and the kids use them for their vocabulary homework. To make the display, I just used ribbon and Velcro. The Velcro makes it really easy to change out the words each week.

Here is a close up of the vocabulary cards. Each card has the term, definition, and illustration of the word.

I wanted to keep the lanterns that I used in my classroom last year, but wanted to put a new twist on them. In Schoolgirl Style's décor set, there are postcards from all 50 of the states. I decided to name each table a different state using the postcards. My kiddos LOVE being called to the carpet by their state!

Okay, I have to admit something here- I went a little crazy over the summer buying chapter books for my classroom! With the transition to third grade (and the fact that most of my students have already read the majority of my books), I figured I needed to add many more chapter books. I found these amazing bins on Really Good Stuff and filled them up in no time!

Each student has their own chair pocket this year where they store their data notebooks. On each pocket, I put a license plate with the student's name. They are attached to the chair pockets with Velcro so I can easily switch them out!

Here is our "Road Trip Through the Writing Process" bulletin board! My students always seem to think that once they write their draft in writing workshop, they are done. Does anyone else hear me on this?! I thought my kiddos could use a visual reminder of the ENTIRE process!

This is our student computer center. Nothing fancy, but my students LOVE when it is their day on the computer!

I HATE clutter. So last year, I made this curtain to cover up the last few cubbies that I wasn't using. Behind the curtain, there is stuff shoved everywhere! With very limited storage space, I have to hide things anywhere I can!

Okay, can I just tell you that I am in love with this 5 drawer organizer? One of my biggest issues last year was trying to manage my turn-in basket. It would get so full with papers all mixed up and out of order. This organizer from Really Good Stuff is FABULOUS. Each drawer has a different label (morning work, math, word study, reading, and other). It has really helped me stay on top of grading papers. I couldn't live without this thing!

Alright, you made it to the end of my tour! I hope you enjoyed checking out my classroom!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Take a Peek at My Back to School Sale Purchases! {A Linky Party}

Wow! I just now realized how long it has been since I've posted on this little ole' blog. Between switching grade levels, chasing around a 2 year old, and being 20 weeks pregnant, I decided to take a break from blogging for the summer and try to enjoy all of the new changes in my life! I'm happy to say that I'm back and can't wait to share all about my year in THIRD grade!

This year, I am looping with my second graders from last year and I couldn't be more excited. I had such a fabulous group of kiddos last year and I get to keep them for another year! I usually get so nervous for Meet the Teacher night but last week when we had ours, it felt like a family reunion! It was great to see all of my kids and hear about their summers.

Since I'm switching grade levels, I am in need of a lot of third grade resources. So what did I do? Went a little crazy shopping at the TpT Back to School sale! I wanted to share some of my finds with you and I hope that you link up and share yours too! Here's what I snagged:

This year, I'm using a vocabulary wall to help reinforce all of the new vocabulary terms that we learn in third grade. I've already created math vocabulary cards but just didn't have the time or energy to create the cards for ELA. I went searching on TpT and found this fabulous resource! These cards are going to look great on my vocab wall.

This will be my first year using interactive notebooks in the classroom and I am so excited! Nicole has put a TON of hard work into these notebooks- they are over 100 pages each! I think my students will really like keeping track of everything they are learning in these notebooks. Plus, it will be a great resource for them to refer to throughout the year.
Math Camp-In Grades 3&4 by Math & Science with TLC

I can't believe I haven't discovered this wonderful store until now. If you are looking for Math and Science resources, Math & Science with TLC is the place to go! I'm always looking for ways to make math fun and exciting, and what better way than a Math Camp-In! During a Math Camp-In students hike to math "trail posts" (stations), complete rich mathematical tasks and record ideas in their Camp Journal. The Math Camp-In can be used as a day-long program, a mini-unit in the regular classroom, or as a Family Math Night. How fun!

We've had a lot of training recently about the 8 Mathematical Practices. When I saw this poster set, I knew I had to have it! (Plus, the kid-friendly language on each poster helps ME understand the meaning of each mathematical practice!!)

This product is another great resource for using the 8 Mathematical Practices in the classroom. It includes 18 cubes with questions for your students to answer before, during, and after problem solving. These cubes will help give me the language needed to ask open-ended questions in math!

Okay, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that these task cards are the first that I've purchased from Rachel Lynette. I'm so excited to try them out in the classroom! Understanding shades of meaning is such a tricky thing to teach so these should be a huge help.

Whew.... I think that's it! Link up below and share your goodies from the Back to School sale! I just might have to shop a little more before the sale ends tonight =)