Wednesday, May 24, 2017

VA SOL Third Grade Math Test: Prep and Practice

It is hard to believe that we have less than a month of school left! I came across this picture of our Target Board from back in the beginning of the year. Virginia has high expectations for its students in third grade. We have worked through a TON of math targets since the fall.  :

Thankfully, we are at the point now where we have introduced all our standards and are working on reviewing them for fourth grade and making sure students can answer the rigorous questions that they will face on their end of the year SOL test. Third graders will be expected to work through questions that cover the six math strands of: number sense, computation and estimation, measurement, geometry, probability and patterns/function/algebra. Whew...that's a lot!  Along with all that math thinking comes a lot of words.  

We have the words on this math vocabulary vine. It starts out bare in the beginning of the year. Then as we teach new concepts and learn new words, we add them to the vine. By the end of the year it is completely filled. Hopefully these words are also filled in the minds of my students! To be sure, we use our final weeks of school to create math vocabulary rings. This allows us to take a final look at all these words plus they can take them home and review them prior to the third grade test and over the summer. 


 On one side of the card is the term and the other is the definition and visual representation or example. We fill it out together, then students just cut the cards across and fold in the middle. We add about 3 sheets of words each day for a week.  They are super simple to make. The folded paper makes it thick enough so that the kids can turn the cards without the paper ripping. I like that making this set of cards now, after everything has been taught, allows us to review it all one final time. 

Then the fun begins. We get to play card games.  We play games like class pictionary or math baseball with them. The kids need some down time at this time of the year. Games like these let them have fun while still reviewing. 

I've added these to my TPT store. You can click the link below to check them out. 

Along with the cards and card games, we get down to the more serious business of answering tough third grade questions. It can be hard to find questions that are as rigorous as those on the SOL test, so I've used released items from the state to create some similar practice questions.  These questions are arranged by strand. That way students practice being flexible thinkers. Their little brains need to bounce from strand to strand as they answer geometry questions to number sense to computation questions. 

I like using this for classwork or homework practice. I make sure we go over the answers together and talk about what strategies we used to get the correct answer. If you need practice questions, you can also find these in my store. This set includes ten pages that I run back to back. This will give you five days of practice pages. Each day my students answer 12 questions - two questions from each strand. 
You can check it out by clicking the link below. 

 I know it's a stressful time of year as we get our students prepared to take their first attempt at these types of tests. 
Wishing my Virginia teacher friends all the BEST!
Questions/Comments?  Email me at or comment below. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Comprehension Freebie: QAR Strategy Printables

We all have heard about the shift in reading that happens in grade three. Less of our reading time is spent learning to read and much more of it is devoted to thinking about the text. We spend a lot of time asking and answering comprehension questions. In my last blog post I talked about running comprehension clubs.  I had some people ask me to talk more about it. First though, let's talk about how we can help our students be more successful answering questions in the first place.  Many experts in the area of reading promote the use of QAR as a comprehension strategy.  QAR stands for "question-answer relationship".  
This strategy focuses on teaching students that different questions involve different thinking. Through the use of this strategy students will be encouraged to think more deeply about the question before attempting to answer it.  When students begin to analyze comprehension questions they are more successful in answering them. 
Comprehension questions can be categorized and classified into four levels:
Level One:
These are the questions in which the answers are right there. Often words used in the question are the same words found in the text. We call these “NO EXCUSE” questions.
Level Two:
These answers are gathered from several parts of the text and put together. This takes some work and effort- like putting a puzzle together.
Level Three:
These questions are based on clues provided in the text. Students need to make inferences and think like a reading detective to answer the question.
Level Four:
The answer to these questions are not in the text. The reader should be encouraged to “think like an author” to answer them. They use their background knowledge and some common sense to answer them.
Introduce these four levels of questions with your readers. Have them begin thinking about the question before trying to answer it. 
Here is the poster that we have hanging in our room.  Kids also have this printed in a smaller size and have glued them into their reading journals

I've added the printables for this to my Teacher Pay Teacher store as a free item. 
I'll be uploading some other language arts freebies in the next week. Please
                      follow my store and let me know if these materials have worked for you!
Click the link below to check it out. 
                                                              QAR Printables Pack


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Virginia SOL Reading Test Passages and Questions


Hello Friends,
With temperatures soaring to 90 degrees here in Virginia, I feel like I should certainly be on summer break! Summerlike weather makes it hard to focus on all that still needs to be done. Kids feel it too, don't you think?
This is the mindset message currently hanging on the wall. I usually change it the first of each month. But this is such an appropriate one for this time of year. Students and teachers are getting squirrely! We can't lose focus just yet, our state tests are just around the corner!

Our next monthly mindset message is also appropriate to this time of year. May is the time of year for plants and flowers to grow but our children also have more growing to do before I send them to fourth grade. This message helps students to realize that it is OK to make mistakes as long as we can learn and grow from them! Click the link below if you are interested in using these monthly mindset poster in your classroom.

Throughout the year, we have been introducing reading strategies and skills and then have worked on applying them during whole group and small group lessons. We've talked a lot about being 3C readers. The three C's are close, careful and critical.  Third graders are learning that if they are not reading closely and carefully enough, they will let important clues slip right by them and they'll go from clicking through the text to clunking!  We've formed comprehension clubs and are working being flexible in working through our skills and strategies as we read and show what we know about what good readers can do.


Students are excited about their comprehension clubs. I had students get together with their club members to create a club name and sign. They can earn stars for things like: teamwork, close reading, comprehension conversations, etc. Clubs are working through reading tasks in which they have to do a close reading of a text and then answer comprehension questions that involve all of the strategies/skills we have worked on so far.
They begin their club meeting working solo.  Kids do an independent reading  and then work on a question by themselves. They sit with their club, but in a back to back formation to do their independent reading and thinking.
When I ring the bell, they turn and face each other and begin their comprehension conversations. Each club has a reading task cube that looks like this:

 :  :
Each club member has a specific job to do. They turn the cube with each question they work through so different members get to do each job.  The comprehension club time is a favorite of both students their teacher. The real beauty of it for me is that many little teachers emerge in each of the groups and students start tutoring students..reviewing, reteaching and clarifying the reading skills we have worked on.  It gives me a chance to observe students in action and to see who has a firm enough knowledge of skills to teach them and who still needs to review them. It is a great opportunity to take anecdotal records and fill out observation checklists on my readers. Club members want to earn stars so they encourage each other and make each other accountable for participating. No more teacher nagging...they do it themselves!

Right now we are working on reading nonfiction texts and answering questions similar to those that they will face on the upcoming Virginia SOL reading test.  I've uploaded a set of these passages and questions onto my TPT page. The nonfiction passages all relate to some of the social studies and science learning we have done this year so it's a win-win. We get reading practice while integrating important content area learning and review.

If you are interested in using these materials, you can check them out on my TPT page: 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Third Grade Virginia SOL Reading Test Practice Pages


How stinkin cute is this Spring coffee cup?? 


I have so enjoyed my spring break! It is quickly coming to an end. 
I am needing to replace my hours of planting, hiking and reading with writing plans and grading papers. Truth is,  I'm dragging my heels.  Truth is, the warm and sunny days we've had got me in the summer mood. That's not good,not with 7 weeks to go. 

To add to the fun, we have state tests just weeks away. We are prepping for the chance to show all that we have learned in third grade. It is time, we have read countless numbers of books and our reading journals are full and starting to fall apart- I don't think they will last but another month of so. 
We have worked through  all our third grade skills and strategies. 

SO... now it is time to see if students can hit those targets on a standardized test. 
I wish the questions on those tests weren't quite so tricky. To give my students the best chance possible, we are taking time to expose them to the types of questions they are likely to see and have to think through. 

I've put together a packet of SOL Reading type questions that we will be working through next week. 
Students will practice using homophones, synonyms, antonyms, context clues and a lot more. 
I'm thinking I might cut out some of the cards and turn it into a scoot game that they can work through with a partner. There are enough sheets to also add to a reading station or give as classwork. 

I've added this to my Teacher Pay Teacher store thinking there may be other Virginia teachers out there who could use something like this too. 

Click the link below to check it out

Are your students taking state assessments? How do you prepare them? 
I'd love to hear!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Field Trip Follow Up Freebie

Do you ever play "Thorns and Roses" with your students? It's a simple sharing game that is great for the end of a day or week. All kids do is tell what their "thorn" was for the day (bad thing that happened) and what the "rose" of the day was (good thing that happened). 

So my thorn for the day is that it stayed rainy, cool and cloudy all day...which isn't bad, but it is spring break and you know how precious each and every day is when you are on vacation from school. The rose has been that I have actually gotten some work done. Haven't touched my lesson plan book, but have finished up some files and am actually posting on the blog. 

A definite "rose" for my students this spring was our field trip. We went to the Science Museum of Richmond this spring. It is a children's museum and is a great place for kids to be kids. They had a great time exploring and investigating all the hands on exhibits. We also got to view an IMAX movie on the Pandas inside the domed Imax Theater. I know this was a new experience for many of my students. Afterwards I had my students fill out a response sheet describing their trip in words and pictures. We posted them on our "Roaring Good Writers" board for each other to read.


I'm sharing this open ended field trip response sheet for anyone who would like to use it. 
I've posted it as a free item on my TPT store. 
Check it out by clicking the link here:  

I'd love to hear from other Virginia teachers. 
Where do you take your third graders on field trips?
Comment or email me:

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Spring Poetry : Fluency and Comprehension Practice

It's April! One of my favorite months on the year. We had blue skies and warm temperatures this weekend. There are signs of spring all around, little flowers pushing out from the ground, the sound of lawn mowers getting yards ready for planting season. I love it all. 

I'm forcing myself to slow down and enjoy what's around me.  Long walks in the sunshine help to evaporate the stress from my body. It's hard to feel down when you are surrounded by so much beauty. Today I looked up from my prayer walk and saw this: 

I took it as a reminder that He is always present and ready to give me the rest I need so I can carry on. This can be a hectic time of year for teachers as we realize the year is passing us by and we begin cramming for end of the year tests. Taking time for ourselves is good for our health and that's good for our students. 

With spring in mind, I bundled up some spring poems that my students will read and respond to this month. I've created "test like" questions that will give students practice while keeping the focus on real reading.  I've added it to my TPT store. 
You can check it out here if interested: