Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Holiday Pack of Christmas Poems

Is there anything more festive than a Christmas tree? I got this one up in my classroom and must say it was as much for me as it was for my kids. I spend most of my waking hours in these four walls, I want it to feel bright and happy. We are working on ornaments to dress up this tree. I will show those to you in a later post. I think they will turn cute! : \
I am also managing to squeeze in some holiday reading and just got a set of holiday poems written up and posted in just the knick of time. 

We worked on one about a child who became overzealous in making a gingerbread house.
I liked using this one because it hit so many of our current reading targets. 
Here is my CAFE board.  I use this space to record our reading round targets. 
We used the poem in our "Read with Partner" round. 

Some of my students need fluency work in a huge way. They will read this poem multiple times, but have fun doing it. 

Before reading, we worked on using our reading buddies to help us decode some multisyllabic words. 
Third graders need lots of work with this. 


We pulled "Eagle Eyes" and "Chunky Monkey" off the board to help us decode these two words. 
Eagle Eye helps remind us to "look closely" inside a word for familiar word parts. 
Chunky Monkey helps to remind us to break long words in pieces to help us decode or sound it out. 


After reading it with a partner, they will add it to their poetry journals. Collecting poems in a journal allows them lots of opportunities to read and reread poems again and again. 


Students are getting better at monitoring for meaning. My third graders are understanding that making a visualization or mind movie is a powerful comprehension strategy. 
Here they had to sequence the making of the gingerbread house and show how it looked in the end. They had to read closely and carefully to catch the details.


This poem told a story with a problem and solution. Students recorded their understanding of 
the story elements in their pictures. 


The next day, the students work on answering the poetry follow up. This includes comprehension questions and some word work activities. 

I love integrating math and reading, so I had my kids work on some math thinking connected to our poem. We are constantly reviewing past skills...they can't do it enough!


I have shared this set of holiday poems and math/language follow ups on my Teachers Pay Teachers store. You can check it out here: 

How are you celebrating the season with your students? 
Would love to hear!
Email me at
or comment below!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Teaching World Geography: New VA Standards

Hello All! 
Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. What a great one it was! I've got my sights on Christmas next and am itching to start decorating. But, I'm so behind on my posting and have tons of pics to share so first things first.  
This year I have been a bit consumed with this: 

VA teachers know what this is and what I'm talking about. These are part of our new social studies standard of learning objectives. We have had a major overhaul to what we teach in the area of social studies. We no longer teach the explorers or famous Americans...all gone.  Instead our focus is on the Ancient Civilizations. 
My team decided it would make sense to begin with our geography standard. In this one students need to be able to identify the major land and water features of 5 of the 7 continents. 
We have no resources to teach these standards with, so here is what I managed to put together:  :
I decided to combine my language arts standards with this new one and have my students make a third grade atlas. We began by studying ones I got from our library and students went on an Atlas hunt during their reading station rounds. This helped me hit the language arts standard: 3.7 Students will demonstrate comprehension of information using a variety of print and electronic resources. 
From there we began looking at each of the continents and adding maps into our own atlases. 

Students used a map key to color code each feature and then cut and glue words on as well. 


Here are the landforms and water features found in the United States that our VA third graders need to know.

We took a look at photographs of these different areas around the world and then drew our own representations of them in our atlas. Students recorded key information about each one. 

Here is our European page: 

More essential knowledge: 


We use Benchmark Literacy in our county. We pulled any and all resources we could find to help support and extend learning. We didn't want kids to just memorize facts that they would later forget. 
This Benchmark Literacy book contained information about the different regions in South America and the animals that live there. I love it when I can integrate!

I got my kids on computers to research one of these physical features and collect information. 
This helped us hit our main idea and details target in reading. Students worked on asking and answering questions using nonfiction text. We have access to the Kids World Book through our library system. SO good! It gives students the ability to research all kinds of topics using kid friendly text. There is even a function that reads the text aloud to students. 

The students used a four square organizer to answer questions and then reported on their findings using this sheet: 

Each student became the expert in one of these physical features. 

We posted it here to share and for everyone to read. 


Students compared and contrasted the different landforms and shared their opinions using this "Would You Rather" writing idea. They had to justify their answer using the information they read. 

Their atlases make a great study guide and then will become a resource we go to when we work through our Ancient Civilization units.  

I've got this posted to my Teacher Pay Teacher store if interested. Check it out here:

I'd love to hear from my Virginia friends! 
Have you found good resources to support the teaching of our new curriculum pieces?
Please share! Email me at or comment below.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Teacher's Day of Thanks

We've made it to Thanksgiving! I can't even put into words how much I appreciate this time to unwind and maybe catch up a bit. 
We have been busy, busy, busy. I'm going to try to get some pictures and thoughts down on this blog while I have the chance. 
This Thanksgiving I am certainly grateful for my students, my children. As busy and chaotic as our days are, when we get right to the heart of what our work is all about, it is about them. It's not about the scores, the curriculum, the tests. These kids are not just a number and name on a data report. As young as they are, each child came into my classroom with a story. For some, that story is already filled with obstacles and hardships. Some deal with such tough stuff that it makes me ache for them.   As their teacher, I get to play a major role in their lives. I am thankful for the opportunity. I pray that I can live up to the responsibility. 
We began the year with students sharing about themselves through a ME Museum project. 
They truly are incredible, amazing and marvelous. 


I love sharing writing time with them. They have taken off and we are writing up a storm. 
Here is our Writing We Can Roar About board where we post some of their pieces. 
Some of them write with such personality and humor. Writing allows them to share bits and pieces of themselves with me. I love reading what they come up with. 


We wrote about a magic cape here. Kids love reading each other's stories. 
One topic led to so many different ideas. 

This was my kind of magic that allows you to eat 12 cakes in one minute every day!

Besides our writer's workshop time, my students write each week as part of homework. 
I pick two students' papers to place in our "SMILE" and "COOL" displays which are part of our reading area. 

Here is a little one who has the right idea about Thanksgiving. She is writing about a special person who helped her through a tough time. I keep telling my kids that the words they put down on paper have the power to make people feel different things. These words made me tear up. 


I'm going to end this blog post with Kid President whose words always make me smile and laugh.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Complaint Free Living Challenge

"Trade Your Expectation to Appreciation and The World Changes Instantly" ~ Tony Robbins Gratitude #Quote:

It's nearly Thanksgiving....time to give thanks and gratitude for all that we have. I love this quote by Tony Robbins. He goes on to advise us to "stand guard at the door of your mind: Condition empowering emotions such as gratitude, courage, faith, determination, compassion and love. Break your pattern and avoid emotions that create stress."  

As a teacher, there is so much about my job that is out of my control and somedays it feels like all I face is one stressful situation after another. Standing guard at the door of my mind is a full time job.  I am reading this international bestselling book by Will Bowen:

A Complaint Free World: How to Stop Complaining and Start Enjoying the Life You Always Wanted by [Bowen, Will]

Like Robins, Will Bowen believes there really are no stressful situations, only stress filled thoughts. If you take control over your thoughts, you can live a stress free life.
Hmmm....what do you think, teachers? 
Over 6 million people in over 80 countries have taken the 21 Day No Complaint Challenge and they have shared their testimonies. 
You can listen to Will Bowen talk about it here: 

So the challenge is to go 21 days without complaining, criticizing or gossiping. 
Get a bracelet and read the rules from Bowen’s book:
1. “Begin to wear the bracelet on either wrist.
2. When you catch yourself complaining, gossiping, or criticizing, move the bracelet to the
other wrist.
3. If you hear someone else who is wearing a bracelet complain, it’s okay to point out
their need to switch the bracelet to the other arm; BUT if you’re going to do this, you must
move your bracelet first! Because you’re complaining about their complaining.
4. Stay with it. It may take many months to reach 21 consecutive days. The average is 4 to 8

Brian writes:
“To be clear, being Complaint Free isn’t about pretending there aren’t any challenges in our lives or in the world. There are. A lot of them.
The question is, what do we DO about it?! Let’s say we’re dissatisfied with something. Do we choose to DO SOMETHING constructive about it or do we choose to sit around and complain about it?
That’s really what this is all about. Will we be a victim or will we be a creator?”
There are four levels that you go through while doing the challenge; apparently most people quit at stage 2:
1. Unconscious Incompetence (Complainers who aren’t aware of how much they complain)
2. Conscious Incompetence (Complainers who are aware but still stuck in the habit)
3. Conscious Competence (Non-complainers who have to think about it)
4. Unconscious Competence (Non-complainers who just ARE it)
This is a tough, tough challenge! I didn't realize how much "complaining" I did until I started focusing on it.  I am stuck at stage 2. I was on day one forever.... then went to day two...slipped up and back to day one. Like Bowen says, it is not failure to bounce back, you are building awareness. No great change happens overnight, right? 
I have had to move that "bracelet" back and forth more times than I'd like to admit, but am determined to push through to 3!

 Bowen says working through these 21 days “diligently, patiently, persistently and playfully”, will rewire your brain to higher and happier levels of being. As Bowen said, “competence and happiness become your unconscious setting.” That sounds good to me!

Click the link below to check out Will Bowen's book: 

Anyone interested in hooking up and taking this challenge? 
Email me at:
or comment below!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Book to Gobble About - A Thanksgiving Freebie

Hello Friends! I CAN NOT even believe that we are into the month of November!!  Where is the pause button?? Can't seem to find one so I believe I am in for a wild and fast ride this year.  I put away my Halloween decor this weekend (seems like I just put it up) and now it's time for turkeys and Thanksgiving. I love this month and love the whole idea of giving thanks for all that we have. With that in mind, I want to thank all of my friends and followers who are still checking this blog and are emailing me to see if I am still breathing. I love and appreciate every single email I get from you all. THANK YOU!
Good news is...yes, I am (still breathing)! And even better, than that, I am here with a quick post to share a November themed book report idea. 
My students are working on writing book responses.  
In this turkey talking book report, my children are sharing a "Book to Gobble About".
They will be telling about a book they are reading during their independent reading time. 

These monthly book reports are one way I hold my students accountable for their "on my own" reading time...otherwise known as BAM time (Books and Me).  Isn't that cute...heard that one from a teammate and it stuck like glue. My kids love BAM time!

We have been working on the monitoring skills of identifying main idea as we read.  Students do that by asking two questions: WHO and WHAT.  Students are also recognizing the power of visualizing. 
For this strategy we verbalize our "mind movies" as we read. We are learning that if the mind movie stops playing then we must stop, rewind and try playing it again. This usually requires slowing down and reading more closely. 

Finally, a connection takes a reader from within the text to beyond the text. 
Students need to connect something they have read to another character or story. 

I have posted this book report sheet in my TPT store as a Freebie. 
Go check it out here: 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Increase Engagement: Flocabulary Free Trial Offer!!

Hello Friends,
Boy, it has been awhile since my last post! I had every intention in the world of posting weekly...but then school started. Need I say more!  In the hustle and bustle of September some things just need to slide and this little blog was one of those things. I have a couple of weeks of school under my belt and am getting into the school routine. Doesn't it feel good to breathe again??? I wanted to check in with everyone and share good news and a fabulous deal. So read on....

I am a lucky, lucky teacher!  I have the sweetest of sweet children, but the beginning of the year is just way around it.  Third grade is such a big transition year. I see my little ones trying to adjust to the demands of this new isn't easy for them or for me. Coming from a relaxed summer break to a busy school day of learning can be exhausting for everyone. For us, it can be a huge challenge to keep these little learners focused on what we are teaching them.

During the first week of school, I watched in frustration, as one by one, they checked me out and let their brains wander to some far off place. Who knows where they go...maybe they're in Pokemon land (I have kids absolutely obsessed with these little creatures this year), or they could have drifted off into the world of Mindcraft? All I know is that they are anywhere BUT room 43 listening to old Mrs.Young ramble on and on about how to make a bar graph.

It's crazy hard to compete with all the high voltage stimuli that fills our world these days. It is tempting to  react to our frustrations by complaining or trying to find someone to blame for it, but really, who has time for that?  Instead, let's figure out how to respond to this ever growing problem by seeking ways to increase student engagement.

 Luckily for me (and you now too)  I have some tricks in my teacher bag for combatting "stray mind syndrome." One of my favorite engagement tools and a sure fire way to get everyone's attention (yes, even the little guy who is busy sawing his pencil into a million little tiny bits inside his desk) is just one click away.

Do you know about and use the highly engaging educational website called Flocabulary? Are you teaching in one of the more than 60,000 schools that have used Flocabulary's standards-based videos, instructional activities and formative assessments? If so, you have seen the magic of this powerful tool. If not, you need to be!

Flocabulary provides teachers with hip hop style videos to support us in teaching our content in a fun and engaging way.You can find songs and videos for all subject areas and  across many grade levels.
I personally embed the use of Flocabulary's many resources into my language arts, math, social studies and science teaching. It is a great hook into any lesson, but because this site offers us so much more than just a catchy song or lyric, it can also be used as the core component of your teaching. This website offers more than 750 instructional units to support instruction in math, science, social studies, ELA, vocabulary, current events and life skills. The fine folks at Flocabulary are responding to our ever increasing needs by adding new content all the time. Take the time to explore the ever growing bank of resources and here is what you will find:

There are songs and videos on all kinds of different topics. I recently used the song and video about Main Idea. It was so fun and catchy that my kids kept wanting to sing it even when I turned it off...they told me it was "stuck in their heads"!  Exactly what I hoped for!!

Besides the song and video, look at all the resources you have at your fingertips:


Quick reviews, lyric notes, fill in the blank activities, etc. etc. 
I used the Printable as part of one of my reading had to do with being good classroom friends. Perfect for what we were learning about.  Students had to read the text and determine the main idea and details. They were provided with a graphic organizer to record on. 

Check out ALL the printables you have easy access to. Each video comes with all of this, plus lesson plans and teacher guides!


Ok, here is a brand new option that is soon becoming my favorite: The Lyric Lab. With this tool, you can have your students create their own rap on the topic. Are you looking to increase the complexity of your student tasks..this one hits high on Bloom's Taxonomy. Flocabulary provides you with a word bank and the music...your kids create the lyrics. When you get to the end of each line, the program generates a list of words that rhyme with the last word you wrote....AMAZINGLY fun!!

Main i:

Well,  here's the best part of all...

I am partnering up with Flocabulary and giving away free memberships! You have the chance to win a FREE year-long subscription! I get to give subscriptions to three lucky readers. Plus you have the opportunity to earn a 45-day extended free trial that is accessible to not only you, but everyone at your school just for entering! Sign up by clicking the link below. After signing up, you will receive an email that will allow you to access your free trial for the week of October 18.  Also, you will be entered for the chance to win a FREE ONE YEAR SUBSCRIPTION!  Winners will be announced on October 18th
You must enter by OCTOBER 16 @ 11:59pm EST!

In the meantime, check out the link below to visit the site and see all that it has to offer: