Sunday, July 9, 2017

Back to School Graphs: New Friends and Their Favorites

Summer is not so much a season as it is a melody, 
that tune of contentment we hum as the days begin to beautifully blur. 
Sarah Ban Breathnach

So true, summer brings with it so many simple joys that if we are not careful, can go unnoticed. 
We went to the mountains last week and found a quiet spot in the river to swim and sit. 
I could not have been more content than I was swimming in the flow of that cool mountain water. 
Simple abundance exists all around us. Noticing and appreciating each day's gifts can unlock the fullness in our lives. Aren't we lucky as teachers to be able to shed thoughts of school and work expectations for a short while. 
Sweet sweet summer....but then I went to Target. 
Have you been recently? 
They are clearing out summer and filling it in with back to school stuff. 
Stealing my joy. 

It seems earlier each year. I know many who are beginning to plan for the next school year. 
I have a friend who does and says it is because she wants to be kind to her "future self". 
She says planning now helps keep her sane in September. 
How about you? Are you a planning ahead or planning to procrastinate? I'm usually the latter of the two. For those of you who are thinking of the next school year, I am posting some "Back to School" files to my Teacher Pay Teacher store. 

The beginning of the year can be a challenging time for me. I want to devote enough time getting to know my new students yet there is always the push to get right into the academics so we don't get behind at the start. Does anyone else deal with that? It sometimes feels like we don't have the time to ease into the much to teach in one year's time.

To deal with that, I have attempted to combine some "Getting to Know You" type activities with some of our third grade reading and math objectives. We work on graphing right at the beginning of the year. Third graders need to be able to use data to create picture graphs, bar graphs and line plots. 
Here is a file that allows students a chance to survey each other to find out more about one another at the same time they are getting practice in making and analyzing picture graphs. 

This set includes 14 different "Getting to Know You" survey questions, tally charts, symbols and graphing papers. Third graders typically deal with the symbol of a picture graph equaling more that just one. Having to represent data with the symbol equaling 2 or more raises the rigor and requires students to cut the symbol. Having to cut the picture graph symbols out and gluing them onto the graph helps to slow students down and forces them to think about how many symbols they really need. 

You can check out this set by clicking the link below. 

Do you have favorite "Getting to Know You" activities? Would love to hear!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Reason for Rules: First Week of School Activity

Planning for the first weeks of school can be the hardest to do. I so want to jump right into the instruction, but also get the importance of spending time establishing classroom expectations. I have created a set of materials that will allow me to introduce the importance of rules while still getting right to the teaching of reading and thinking skills. 

I'm going to start our discussion of classroom rules by showing this silly video clip about rules

We're going to talk about WHY we need rules in our schools. Here is where I plan on introducing the thinking skill of identifying causes and effects. I'll use an anchor chart to help record some of our thinking. Kids need to buy into the idea that rules are established for a reason, that they are not for the teacher, but rather for kids.  I want students to establish a sense of ownership in the forming of our classroom so I will have them take over the brainstorming and writing of the rules after we have spent time thinking and talking about the subject.

I like using these jumbo post it notes to make my anchor charts reusable.
Did you know you can also use adhesive spray to make your laminated anchor charts sticky? 
Spraying this makes the area temporarily sticky so you can adhere paper to the chart. 
Elmer's Fast Tack Spray Adhesive

 I laminate anchor charts so they can be left out and reused as we go through the year. The idea is that once introduced, we will continue to identify causes/effects as we learn about all kinds of other topics. 


I love using literature and poems as ways to introduce and reinforce topics we are learning about. 
Here is a cause/effect poem that we will read and glue into our poetry journals. 
It reinforces the idea that rules are created for a reason and without them our school would not be a fun or safe place. 

Students will further develop this cause and effect thinking by matching actions and outcome cards. 
Third grade students are certainly old enough to begin thinking about how consequences follow actions. We will spend time talking about how we must use our third grade self control to stop ourselves from making unwise choices.

I work hard to promote the idea that students are the ones in control of much of  what happens to 
them in school. Situations will arise and they will have to make decisions on how to respond. This game will give them practice in understanding that positive reactions will lead to positive consequences. 

Students draw cards and read the situation. If the action is a positive one, the player moves forward the number of spaces indicated. If the action is negative, they move backwards. 
I like getting the students to play games during the first week of school. It keeps them from just sitting and listening to me talk at them all day and gets them working and playing with their new friends. 
I like walking around and watching them interact with each other. I learn a lot about their personalities!

We will go on to brainstorm, write and post the rules students decide on at the end of the week.
I have put together a set of materials I will be using during our first week. 
I have added this file to my TPT store. 
Click the link below to check it out!

What "First Week of School" activities do you have planned to help you establish rules? 
Would love to hear!
email or comment below!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Freebie Friday: Creating a Reading Strategies Board

Hello Friends! Are you basking in the realization that we have time to stop and breathe again? 
I am. 
I spent the first few days of break doing absolutely nothing. Now I am feeling the itch to get something done. Do you have a list of summer "to do's" to do?  
I have written down what I want to accomplish and love the feeling of checking things off as I go. 

One goal I have is to clean out my computer and delete files that are cluttering up my computer space. What a job! It will be awhile before I can cross this one off my list. I am spending a little time daily doing this and am sharing some files on my TPT store. 
I've just added the strategies that go along with my CAFE board.

Unfortunately, I am unable to claim that I truly utilize all of the CAFE system in my classroom. The CAFE system was devised by the team of Gail Boushey and Joan Moser aka "The Sisters". These are the two same geniuses that designed the Daily Five system.  
You can check out their book and blog here: 

My county has adopted and is utilizing the Benchmark Literacy Program so that really limits my time. I have needed to tweak things to get everything I want to fit in my language arts block of time. Although the real intent of the CAFE board was to be used for an assessment program, I do not use it in that way. For me, the CAFE board serves as a way of recording and reminding students of the reading skills and strategies they have been taught. I often reference it as a way of "activating prior knowledge" before beginning a reading minilesson. It begins as a blank and empty board and by the end of the year it is filled. I hold them accountable for the learning that we have done!

I use this board in conjunction with my students' reading journals. This is also a place that we glue in notes and record our learning. 

Cooking With Comprehension: Create a Comprehension Notebook

I have added the strategy cards shown on this board to my Teacher Pay Teacher store. 
Click the link below to check it out. 

Reading Strategies Board

I will continue adding free files on Fridays. I'm hoping this promise to you all will keep me motivated to do my file decluttering this summer. What is on your summer list? Would love to hear! 
Email me at or comment below.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

End of Year Activity: Welcome Third Graders!

It's feeling like school should be out when the thermometer in your car is reading a hot 90 degrees! Yes, it is feeling like a VA summer..more hot weather in the forecast for next week too.

It has been a weekend filled with the typical end of the year paperwork.
I am happy to say I am working on grading my very last stack of assignments for the 2016-17 school year!
I am looking forward to spending the next five days with my kiddos before I send them forth to fourth! Before I let them leave, I'm going to have them write some advice to the third grade newbies who will be taking over their spots in a matter of months. I did this last year and got a kick out of the advice they thought they needed to pass along. I kept these papers and put them on the desks of my students on the first day of school.  It turned out to be a nice opening activity and a good way to jump into third grade procedures and expectations.

I've also had my students write letters to the new group in the past. Here is this option if interested:

I've added these to my Teacher Pay Teacher store. You can check them out here if interested: 

I'll be starting a new feature this summer called Freebie Friday. I'm determined to go through my computer files and get things out and uploaded.
So be sure to follow my TPT store or this blog so you know when things get posted. 
Enjoy your final days with your third graders!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Sharks! Integrating Math, Science and Reading

With only nine days to go, I am reviewing past skills and trying to keep students engaged. I want my third graders to enter fourth with the essential math skills down pat. Students need to arrive at the next grade being able to subtract with good accuracy. I used the book, Shark Swimathon to give them math practice while also tying in language arts skills.


This book is about a swim team of sharks who have entered a swimming contest.  They have to swim a total of 75 laps by the end of the week. The books shows the sharks gathering the data each day and then using it to determine how many laps they have left to swim.  I created a recording sheet so my students have to solve these problems during the reading of the book. This is a popular math book written by Stuart Murphey.  You can probably find a copy in your school library!


I used the reading of this book as an interactive read aloud. The kids got into the story and the math. I liked that the story plot revolved around a real world application of a math skill.
Using the recording sheet while reading forced all children to be active listeners and to pay attention to the details of the book.


After reading, I had my students fine tune their language arts skills by working on a reading response.
I created a one page booklet that gave students practice in identifying story elements to write a "Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then" summary.
Inside the booklet were some questions relating to the word work and reading skills we covered this year.

Then we read some nonfiction about sharks and then wrote about what we learned.
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I've also had my students create these shark acrostics.  We make the shark out of recycled newspapers.

During math time, we continued to work on problem solving. Some students used paper shark manipulatives to model the problems.


If my students were respectful, responsible and productive during their work time, they were offered one of these sour sharks! A little treat goes a long way in encouraging good behavior right now!


I've added this set to my Teacher Pay Teacher Store.  You can click the link below if you are interested.

The Animal Antics sheet is part of this set 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Money Skills: Counting Coins and Making Change

We are coming to our final weeks of school.  How are you spending your days? I see these last weeks as an opportunity to fine tune our skills.  Money skills tend to be an area that needs more work and review. With the onset of debit cards, it seems there is very little real world exposure and practice of counting and totaling coins, yet it is still in the curriculum and must be taught. I dug into the contents of this bucket in my classroom and brought the money back out for one final look before fourth grade. 
 :  :

I love to integrate reading with all content areas. Author Stuart Murphey has created a series of wonderful math related books. I LOVE reading and using them in my third grade classroom. These books are super easy to find. I bet you have them in your school library. If not, check Youtube for a read aloud online version.  They include a storyline that students can connect to and also incorporate math thinking through the problem and solution of the story. Here is one that I use when teaching or in this case, reviewing  money concepts: 
The Sluggers are a baseball team and they need new team shirts for the playoffs. They come up with an idea of having a carwash to raise the money they need. Customers come and the Sluggers start earning money. I want my students to work the math problems along with the characters so I created a problem sheet to go along with the story. 
I don't have multiple copies of this book so I use it as a class interactive read aloud. I pause at the problem solving pages and have my kids do them.  Then we compare their math with the solution the characters came up with.  This lends itself to great math talk as we discuss the multiple ways to arrive at the answer. Here is an example of our third grade math thinking: 


After the reading and math problem solving, we transition into math stations. Here's where I integrate a language arts component. I give my students a chance to respond to the story by completing a language arts foldable. I like using this as one of my math station activities during math rounds.  This is a simple one page foldable.  On the front is a place for them to document the characters, setting, problem and solution of the story. On the back they do a short writing activity connected to the story.  

 :  :

Inside the booklet, students respond to a variety of word work and comprehension questions. 
This gives students a few more practice opportunities with these language arts skills plus it gives me another grade for the grade book. 


For another math station, I created an independent activity and a partner game.  Here is the "On My Own" practice I have my students do.  Third graders need multiple exposures to two step math problems. Here students need to solve the word problem, then use paper coins to show the money. 


For my "Work with a Partner" station, students play this spinner game. Students take turns spinning the spinner 8 times to collect 8 coins.  They draw them on their sheet and then total them up.  I made sure to include the backs when I made the spinner.. my kids still get tripped up when looking at the backs of coins. 
After totaling, students use a greater than or less than symbol to compare the amounts.  The student with the greater total wins. It's a super simple game and one kids can do on their own!

I run these three activities for my math rounds.  This gives me the time I need for my reading assessments. If kids work productively, respectfully and responsibly, they get a small prize. 
Image result for chocolate coin
I found these chocolate coins and I am not above bribing  encouraging them at this point in the year with a sugary treat. 

I added this set to my Teacher Pay Teacher store.  You can click the link below if you are interested in using it with your students. 

How are you getting through these final weeks?  I would love to hear!
Comment below or email me at 
Would love to hear from you!