Wednesday, July 11, 2018

First Day of School Quick Write Activity: First Day Freebies

 Do you struggle to figure out how to occupy students on that very first day as they trickle in loaded down with book bags full of supplies? You know the scene, students come in a few at a time, full of nerves and questions about where things go and what to do.  You spend those first minutes running around repeating directions, collecting materials and calming kids. The first day and especially the first hour can be a stressful time for kids and teachers. But it doesn't really have to be. 

  I like to have an easy and open ended activity waiting for them on their desk on that very first day. They set their materials on the floor beside their chair and work on the activity while I make my rounds visiting them. 

I like using one of these two activities because they both also give me some insight into my students.  
 For the first one, students decorate the number three or fill it with pictures that represent themselves or their new grade level. This also gives me a very quick and informal assessment of their ability as a writer and speller.  It also helps me gauge their feelings regarding this brand new year.

Here is the new and improved version for both second and third graders:

Head here to download your free copy:

In this next one, students find a lump of playdoh on their desk.  Students can mold and play with it as I make my rounds.  This is something they really enjoy and the process of molding and creating relieves those first day jitters.  

I learn a lot about my students through this activity as well.  

This student made his favorite food: a pizza slice. 

Another students molded the play doh into her pet dog. 

Then students used the recording sheet to illustrate and write about their creation.

Here is the link to this free file if you are interested: 
First Day of Third Grade Printables

Check out my other freebies while you are there. 
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How do you handle those first minutes of school? 
I'd love to hear!
Please share by commenting below or email me:

Sunday, July 8, 2018

I Pledge Allegiance...But What Does That Mean? Let's Write a Class Pledge

Can you believe it is already July!  I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July holiday!
In these troubled times we really need to stop and celebrate what makes this country great.
I saw this short video and it really spoke to me, maybe it will to you as well.

Celebrating Independence Day gave me the inspiration I need to finish up a file I had started on 
The Pledge of Allegiance. 
We stand up as a class and my kids put their little hands on their hearts to recite these important words each and every day.  Yet I know most of my third graders really don't understand the what it's all about.  It becomes a pretty meaningless ritual.  

Last September I decided to add the Pledge of Allegiance to our poetry journals.  First we dissected each line and discussed what words like "allegiance", "republic", "nation", "liberty", "justice" all really meant. I created pocket chart cards that we added to our vocabulary chart. We practiced chunking those big long words into syllable parts and then worked on reading and pronouncing them fluently.  

Our word work outs really helped us with decoding these super long words. 
Kids LOVE word work outs.  It gives them an opportunity to get up out of their seats. And boy, don't we all need that. But most of all,  it gives them practice breaking multisyllabic words

You can read more about word work outs in this  blog post:

Head here to grab it from my store: 

Word Work Outs: Active Syllabication Practice

Next, students created meaningful illustrations and practiced matching them.  
We all know how important that visual representation is!
They used them to play memory match games with a partner. 

We created this super easy foldable Pledge booklet with the text so they could read and reread it. 
I added the clipart to the other side so when they open it up, they have a picture of the flag. 

This summer, I added more to the file.  
Now I have a sheet of the Pledge divided into lines. 
Students can cut them apart, mix and fix it back together. 

Great for rereading practice and fluency work!

Here is their page inside their poetry journals.
These independent activities were perfect for my students to work on as I completed some beginning of the year assessments.

This year, I will take it a step further and use the Pledge of Allegiance as my springboard and mentor text for our own classroom pledge writing.
We will start with kids brainstorming words that describe traits of strong classroom citizens.

They can decorate their "Pledge Hand" and we can add it to the classroom pledge that we will write together.

These materials are now available in my TPT store.
You can head here to take a look:

Pledge of Allegiance and Classroom Pledge: Teaching Slide Show and Materials

Pledge of Allegiance Materials

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Virginia SOLs: Teaching the Ancient Civilizations - Ancient Egypt

Hello Friends!  Are you managing to stay cool?  I've opted for some indoor activities since the temperature has hit into the 90s.  It's feeling like summer in VA!  
I'm finally getting some files organized and uploaded.
I came across some pictures and materials that we used this past year during our study of Ancient Egypt.  I'd love to hear from my VA teacher friends....what do you think about our new history SOL's?   Are you loving/hating the fact that we teach five ancient civilizations through the course of one year? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Last year we used a learning log to record all of our social studies and science learning.  I have tried many other approaches throughout the years but this worked the best. I will be creating learning logs again next year. 

I made tabs for each of our topics of study.  Here is our section on Ancient Egypt.

In order to create more time for my reading block, I needed to cut my content area time to just about 20 minutes. That time goes super fast! I managed to integrate a lot of social studies and science learning into my language arts block. My students read and write about content area studies throughout their reading rounds.  It works out great.  

When we do have our content time, my lessons need to be fairly quick, direct and tightly aligned with the learning standard. 

I like using visual slideshows to introduce and then review the information they need to know. 
The slide show includes the driving question. 

We view photographs to help us create an image of the information in our heads. 

We also viewed some photographs of artifacts and paintings. 
From these, we made inferences and had conversations about what conclusions we could draw based on what we noticed. 

As we worked through the slides, students also took notes about what we learned.  These got glued into their learning logs.  They reread their notes and created "meaningful" illustrations during reading time.  This allowed them to revisit that same information again and this time they had to create the visual image themselves. This repeated practice really helped the information to stick!

During our study of Egypt, I had my students also work on some partner research during the language arts block.   They created research folders to keep them focused and organized. 

Students recorded what they already knew about Ancient Egypt on the back of the folder.
Then they recorded some questions they wanted to find out.  This helped to give students a purpose for their reading.  

I checked out a wide variety of nonfiction books.  I made sure that there were some on a lower reading level so that everyone could locate information.  

Students recorded information on post it notes and organized them under the correct topic.
Afterwards students would participate in shared writing time.  Together, we created paragraphs using the details that they found during their research time.  This was my way of modeling how to write a research report.  Later in the year, students would be assigned another animal research report to do independently.  Writing a report about Egypt as a class was a way to scaffold the instruction. 

We found some good online resources like encyclopedias and websites to use. 
All students were very focused and productive during this time.
They love to research!

I've added this Egypt file to my TPT store. Click the link below to check it out!

Here are the others if interested: 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Getting Hooked on Books

How can we get kids fired up about reading? We need to start with a spark. 
I view my read alouds as just that. I am a firm believer in setting aside a time each and every day for a read aloud and third graders are not too old for this. My kids and I both love this time.  It is precious for many reasons. One of the most important being that during this time I not only model good reading strategies, but I also impart and instill in my students a deep love of books and reading. I feel it is important to share our enthusiasm for what we are can be infectious. 

Here is our gathering spot. It includes a chair and a little table on which I can display the book of the day.  My genre signs and nonfiction text posters are hanging close by so we can refer to them prior to reading our book.  
My story souvenir suitcase includes vocabulary word cards, background photos or story props. 

Of course the most important part of the process is picking the books.

Here are some of the most memorable ones from the past year.

Stuart Goes to School
Stuart's Cape
The Amazing World of Stuart

Of course I must make mention of my collection of Stuart books.
Stuart Goes to School is the very first chapter book I read aloud to my students on that very first week of school.
Stuart is a likeable, relatable character. We moaned, groaned, laughed and cheered alongside him as he faced many trials and tribulations during his first days at school.
My kids couldn't wait to get their hands of the other two books in this series.

I could see the impact these books had on the faces of my kids while reading. The Chalk Box Kid and The Hundred Dresses are two books that I think left the biggest mark on my students.  They help to teach compassion and kindness through characters who are facing hard times.

My third graders loved reading the Stories Julian Tells. Each chapter is a different story.  We loved Ann Cameron's descriptive writing style so much that we tried to copy it as we wrote our own stories. It made a great mentor text for writing personal narratives early in the year.

One way I can make sure that I work in my read aloud time, is to have it be the hook to a content area lesson.  These three books were used during my science time.
Owen Foote Mighty Scientist is a great one to read to introduce the scientific method as Owen and his friend work on a science project.  Dirt Boy is my absolute favorite read to jump into a unit on soil. The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig is a fun one to incorporate during your simple machines unit. 

These three are some of my favorite ones to use during my social studies units. I read I Have an Olive Tree while teaching about Ancient Greece. Sophia is given an olive tree in Greece as a present. She travels and finds out the importance of such a gift.  The Mysterious Traveler is an outstanding book to read during a unit on Mali. This mystery is set in the desert of Africa and will have your students guessing what will happen next. I love reading The Boy of the Three Year Nap as we study Ancient China. It is full of great vocabulary and lends itself to so many reading skill teaching points. 

Do you have favorite read alouds?
Would love to hear!