Saturday, December 31, 2011

Poetry Station

Yikes! The holiday break is going by quickly! I'm starting to think about plans for next week. I'm planning for Lit Stations and coming up with some poetry to use. So I have some to share and I think I'll take this opportunity to answer some questions I've neglected to respond to. I'm no expert at any of it but here is what I do if you are interested.

How often do you do poetry? I introduce a poem about once a week. I usually do it as "Guess the Covered Word" (see previous post) which is a great way to review using context clues. Then students all get a copy which they glue into their journal. We chorally read it several times and perhaps add words from this poem in the Words to Know section of their reading journal. Sometimes we do: Actors and Reciters. This is where half the class reads it and the other half acts it out silently. Then we switch roles. My goal is to have them read it MULTIPLE times to develop that fluency. Kids just think it's fun and it allows them to get out of seats for a bit and be dramatic! Think of multiple intelligences!

What do you teach from the poem? Lots! Sometimes my grammar lesson comes directly from a poem. I can teach contractions, prefixes, suffixes, even comprehension skills like making inferences, drawing conclusions, etc. It becomes my Shared Reading time!

Where do you get poems from? All over! But I really try to have them fit what I'm teaching and many times they are content area specific. Sometimes I just google for a poem subject and usually have success.

What do kids do at the station? After we have used the poem in the whole group time it is ready for station work. When kids go to that station, they read the poem at least three times. Once with their partner, once with the earphones, and once by themselves. I have those amplifier microphones there too if they want those and can handle it! Then they illustrate their poem for meaning...I'm very picky about this part. It needs to be quality work and they are given a score for their illustration (1-5). The illustration shows meaning. They have learned that Mrs. Young loves captions and labels and often add those to their drawings. Finally they do the follow up sheet. They then do the follow up and do the search and finds etc. I also sneak some testing type questions in here. Plus it forces them to go back and reread again!
I also have other poetry books there so they can read more or collect some more for their poetry journal.

Here are two poems I will use next: The New Year's Poem fits so nicely with our study of fantasy/realism. We will add the words: distant and wondrous to our Words to Know section.

New Years Day Poem
Kids can relate to this one....text to self connections! This winter poem is great for teaching the -er suffix
Poem Winter Labels for the Poetry Journal if interested (:

Poetry Journal
Do you use poetry in your class? I LOVE LOVE LOVE your comments and emails (even if I don't respond right away)!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Where in the World?

Third graders are responsible for knowing a lot about a lot! I'm feeling the pressure of teaching them all the new third grade content plus reviewing all the K-2 social studies learning so they are prepared for the May state tests. One way I review mapping is by pulling out our floor map puzzle pieces. We do this everytime we are "going somewhere new" in our studies. We pulled it our when we were just beginning to learn about Greece and then again for Rome.

Kids love putting this together. We push back the desks to make a big open area on the floor and sit in a big circle, then put out one piece at a time and place it. Throughout the entire process I am reviewing latitude, longitude, hemispheres, continent and ocean names and cardinal/intermediate directions. We use yarn for the Prime Meridian and Equator and index cards with the names for the Oceans.
Then we use unifix cubes to mark all the spots they are responsible for knowing: VA, USA, Egypt, China, etc. etc. It takes teamwork! Kids who are participating well earn the right to place the pieces. Lots of motivation there! Everyone wants to help!

The pieces were done with big colored poster board. They are not laminated but have held up through the years. Using an old opaque projector is the way to go and this would be a great job for a parent volunteer!

Third graders need to learn continents around the world and what geographical features are found in each one.  My students go on to making their own atlas.  I am sharing these printables in a set I've included in my TPT store.  You can check it out here: 

Geography: Continents and Landforms Atlas

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Paragraph Writing: Main Idea and Details

My third graders have been loving our Ancient Civilizations Unit. We have been working on identifying Main Idea and Details during our reading block so it seemed natural to transfer what we were learning into our Writing Block and integrate some Social Studies too.

Third graders need to know the different contributions the Ancient Greeks made in the areas of architecture, arts, government and sports. So I had them pick one of these areas and told them we were going to write a paragraph with what they knew. We had just studied this so it was pretty fresh and current. We started with a picture walk through our social studies book to get some visuals in our brains. They then decided on the main idea and picked four details to support that idea and recorded it on the main idea table (see below). It was the one we were using for our reading so they were familiar with the table idea.

I did end up differentiating for this lesson quite a bit. My struggling writers were called to me and we created a chart of this table together. We discussed together and I wrote it on the big chart and they recorded it on their paper. This allowed me to help them use this graphic organizer successfully plus I snuck in some reteaching of these Social Studies concepts and words!
My high achievers ended up doing extra research. We just learned the basics about the Greek government so my skilled writers researched more about this topic to get more interesting details to include in the paragraph. This worked great and they ended up teaching this info to the rest of the class.
From the main idea table it was easy to form the paragraph. We revised and targeted the organization trait and then edited for spelling.
Our final step was creating the pop ups to go along with the writing. Here are the final products: My kids said it was 3D and thought that was cool!

Everyone ended up with a well formed paragraph and product they were proud to have hanging in the hallway:

I like the idea of these pop ups and they can be used for many different ideas. They work great for story structure: background shows the setting, the characters go on the pop ups and they can write about the problem and solution in the paragraph.

Here is how I cut the papers. You really need to use cardstock paper if you want them to stay up. I simply fold the paper in half and make two cuts as shown below.

Then open and pull out the pop up. I cut the bottom of the paper close to the pop up so it stands up better when hung. The bottom is just the ground that the characters are standing on.

Here is the organizer I used for both reading and writing:

Main Idea Table
I'd love to hear your comments if you are going to try this activity. How else can we use this organizer and presentation idea?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sunday's Words for the Week

Hope everyone had a blessed Christmas Day with family and friends.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Third Grade Christmas

Well, we made it! A third grade Christmas all wrapped up and delivered! It has been a BUSY couple of weeks. There were so many ideas I WANTED to do with my kids this year but the curriculum couldn't be put off so I did some and some will have to wait until next year.
I was able to sneak in some reading fluency and comprehension practice during reading round time with some fun holiday poems.  Students cut the poem from the questions and glued them into their poetry journal. They illustrated their mind movie visualizations beside the text. They will leave third grade with an entire book full of poetry that they illustrated. I love that!
A Pack of Poems: Holiday Poems with Language/Math Practice
A Pack of Poems: Holiday Edition

I also was able to share my favorite holiday read aloud: The Christmas Crocodile.
The Christmas Crocodile: A Day of Integrated Holiday Activities
The Christmas Crocodile
I shared the story and lots of laughs as I read aloud this silly book.
Then we made our own Christmas Crocodile. Kids had a great time making this simple craft with just a few materials.

Then it was holiday party time! Here are some highlights:
We wrapped our Christmas presents to our families. It was a potholder that kids decorated with fabric markers.
Click the link below to see the the craft we made for our parents: 

 They loved wrapping the presents.

We played Minute to Win It Winter Version. Kids LOVED it! First up was Snowball Toss. They simply had to toss minimarshmallows to their partner who was holding a cup.

Next up was Stacking Snowmen. Here they had to build as many snowmen as they could in a minute with the minimarshmallows.

This one was called Shovel the Snow. They had put the pile of the snowballs (minimarshmellows again) into the cup using a straw. It was totally quiet in the room! Loved this game!

Then it was Build a Snowman. Gave them a roll of toilet tissue and they had to cover their partner with white! Fun game.

My great parent volunteers handled the party! They did a craft with kids. Here they were making a Dangling Snowman out of wire and foam. They turned out so cute.

Another mom had them make a Candle Cupcake. Adorable as well!

Now it's time to focus on family and friends and what Christmas is really all about. I hope everyone has a great, restful holiday break!!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Editing for Spelling using Brain Buddies

Do your kids struggle with editing during writer's workshop? Are they slam dunking the composing part of the process, yet are dropping the ball during the mechanics stage? In our class we call that part of the process the "Clean Up" stage and in the end, we were leaving our drafts still a bit of a mess. I really want my kids to become more proficient in finding and fixing their own spelling mistakes. Right now they are relying WAY to much on me yet I want THEM to own this part of the process. We really need to work towards more independence with this Brain Buddies to the rescue.... Last year I used these guys primarily for decoding help for my kids. (See earlier post). This year I've had the brainstorm to use them for encoding as well. They work like a charm and my kids love using them.

They are attached to my dry erase board with magnets so they are easy to pull of and use. Here is the new flow chart the kids and I came up with to help us when we are editing our drafts with spelling in mind. Do you see how the brain buddies can help support them with the process?

First and foremost I want my kids to be more accountable for spelling. That means they need to use their eagle eyes to spot words that look "funny" and they suspect may be spelled wrong. I am teaching them that it is NOT ok to just leave them like that. They must attend to them.

Third graders are attempting to use more multisyllabic words when they write. Chunky monkey reminds them to break those words apart into chunks and spell just one syllable chunk at a time.

Stretchy Snake makes them slowly stretch the syllable chunk so they can really hear the sounds used in that word.

Through the RTI process we are noting that some kids are lacking in the very early literacy skill of phonemic awareness. As a whole class we are working alot on tapping the sounds we hear and recording them. In the decoding stage, skippy frog becomes tappy toad.

I think flippy fish is important here because students at this stage are more aware if a work looks "funny" spelling wise. They know there are multiple ways to make lots of sounds, long a for example can be made with an ae, aCe, ay, etc. In the flipping part they substitute various letters until they find the right match for the word and it "looks right" to their "eagle eyes".

We also work on using the dictionary during the editing stage and students are realizing they can use a dictionary for spelling if they know the first three letters of a word.

Students now have strategies they can use to attack and attend to misspelled words in their drafts. We still have work to do to become more self reliant in this part of the process but it's a start!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Much Thanks

Thanks soooo much to Patricia at Primary Practice for this bright and cheery award and kind comments. It meant the world to me!! I have gotten so much from all my creative and talented friends. You all help me to remember why we got into all this in the first place and more importantly make me want to stay! So thanks!

So I"m supposed to answer the following questions. Here you go...

Favorite I don't wear it much but it is the color of nature and I LOVE being outside, it recharges me!
Favorite animal....I guess I'll say dogs although mine is testing my patience at the moment (: Maybe a goldfish would have been a better choice (:
Favorite number...No doubt about it...8. Both my children were born on the 8th.
Favorite drink... COFFEE.. just a splash of cream please. Can't wake up without it!
Facebook or Twitter....Neither, never got into it
Passion: My first priority must always be my faith and family. Other passions include running and of course my work. You've got to love what you do.
Favorite Day: Snowdays! Does it get any better than getting a free day and seeing your school on the closed list?? Sorry southern friends! I get more excited than the kids. Hoping for LOTS this winter!

OK. Time to pass on the sunshine. There are SO many. Let's recognize

Amanda at Check out her landform maps!!

Terri at She's a busy one yet still manages to create great stuff!

Mrs. Corbitt at Got some good book recommendations here

Jessica at Followed Jessica's work since finding her in the Second Grade Teacher Network Amazing Stuff

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Post Thanksgiving Writing and Poetry

Was that really five days?? Done. Already?? My Thanksgiving Break To Do List just became my Christmas Break To Do List! Teachers, I know you all can relate to this! DH just shakes his head at me. But there were more important things to BAKE and EAT and READ and BAKE and EAT and READ... it became a pattern! Throw some Christmas shopping in the mix and I was one happy camper.

I am excited for this holiday season though. At this very minute my daughter is playing Little Drummer Boy on her guitar in the next room. Precious...wish I could capture this moment in a bottle. How about you? Are you ready for some of this...

Yet, the reality is I will need to go to school tomorrow and face the children. I'm extending some Thanksgiving into tomorrow and plan on doing some poetry and writing. I found The Little House Treasury book at the Goodwill this weekend. It is all the Little House books in one big book with bigger print so its easier for younger readers to deal with. Got it for 2 bucks! Do you shop the Goodwill? I love to go treasure hunting at the just never know what you will find! Anyway, the plan is to let Laura Ingalls Wilder help me teach how to write a well crafted descriptive paragraph. I'm pulling a couple of paragraphs out of a chapter entitled, Little House in the Big Woods. I'll scan it and we will read it together with our writer's eyes and ears. We'll listen for how she used sensory details to help the reader feel connected to the story. Then we will attempt to do the same when we write about our own Thanksgiving dinner.

Thanksgiving Paragraph 2

Got to get some Jack Prelutsky in this season. He is one of my favorite children's poets. The kids will cut the poem and glue it into their Poetry Journal and illustrate for meaning and attempt the follow up. Check out the last two questions on the follow up. Not too early to get them used to test format questions! They will face the state test for the first time later this year.

Thanksgiving Poem

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Lot of Nothing!

Hello All! Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I wish I could say that I've been productive during my four days off from school but it's been more like this:
And let me tell you it feels like HEAVEN to do absolutely nothing sometimes! I'll probably regret it come Sunday night when I'm scrambling to figure out plans for next week but I need this time to recharge before the whirlwind of the holiday season begins!
I did read quite a bit. I reread this old favorite:

A friend got me this book years and years ago. It is a powerful little book and totally changed my mindset. I've kept a gratitude journal for the last ten years or so. This writing practice helps me focus on the good that is happening in my life. It is amazing how much more aware you become of those small moments or blessings when you begin journaling about them. It makes me smile to reread some of what I've written about over the years. Most of the time they are
really little things that many times you just take for granted: my daughter's tooth finally falling out, being able to grade my papers outside on the deck in the warm sun, finding the book I've wanted in the library.

Last Christmas a friend gave me a beautiful new journal and pens and had glued this in the front:

I plan on doing the same for my daughter this Christmas.

In the meantime, I'm thankful for two more days of freedom before school starts!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday's Words for the Week

I am feeling grateful this Thanksgiving week for I have more than I deserve.


My prayer is that I am able to live in appreciation for each and everyday.

Let me share what I have been given.

Let me not turn my eyes and walk away from those with less in need.

Let me live with a thankful heart all year long.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanksgiving Letters of Gratitude

One of my favorite school traditions is to write letters of gratitude with my students at Thanksgiving Time. I have been blessed with a sweet class, students with kind hearts, so they really got into it! This was our first real try a a friendly letter so I jumpstarted us with a reading of the Jolly Postman. Such a cute book. Third graders love the different examples of mail that people get.

Next we talked about all the people who make our school so great. I had each child pick one person they are especially thankful for. At this time I introduced the vocabulary word: grateful and gratitude. We wrote them in our "Words to Know" section of our reading journal. Then I introduced the prewriting graphic organizer called the four square. Do you know this one? It's great to help students target the organization trait and develop a paragraph. I found a powerpoint of it if anyone wants it. Just email me and I'll send it your way.

Day one was filling in the four square. This is the most important piece of the process. It is where we generate ideas and organize them. We do not worry about spelling, writing in complete sentences. It's all about the IDEAS! Here is a student working on his four square in his writing office:

An example of a four square:

We talk and share a lot during our writer's workshop time. I am so thankful that I have a scanner attached to my smartboard. It just takes seconds to scan a document on and then we all can see it. Students LOVE to get their work "on the big screen"!! This little guy's piece was shown and we talked about the writing traits he hit in writing it. We get a lot of inspiration from reading each other's work!

The next day we looked at the friendly letter format and we wrote our first rough draft. Next we will do a bit of revising and editing. Students will "clean their pieces" and get them ready for the publishing and delivery! My plan is to tie some economics into a lesson next week and make a small treat for each of the people we deliver to. Check back for more on that idea

Thanksgiving Letter

Thanksgiving Friendly Letter

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fall Writing and the Traits

I'm really loving teaching writing with the traits this year. My class is writing up a storm and I love hearing them use trait words as they talk about their writing. They will say things like: "I think I did a good job hitting the word choice trait in this piece." Love it when they start owning it!! This is my favorite resource for writing right now: I especially liked the rubrics included in the back of the book. Here is our writing reference wall. We really do refer to these writing targets a lot!

Recently, we worked on a descriptive writing assignment. I can't seem to find this page on my computer or I would certainly put it up for you all to use if you wanted. But you don't even need tht particular paper is the process if you are interested: I gave them a choice of leaf cut outs to use for this. We have die cuts at our school and so I quickly cut leaves out in different shapes and fall colors. Then my kids had to imagine the leaf as something else and created a picture from it. Here are some of their creative ideas:

Next we worked on writing descriptions. We focused on word choice and I introduced the "Sound Effect Lead" as a way to begin this paragraph. I've gotten so many good resources from different people, it is hard to keep track. I do think I got this one from Beth Newingham's Scholastic Site. Her stuff is AMAZING! You must check her out! We also tried to use different senses and practiced including how things looked, sounded, felt, etc. in our description.

These replaced our Halloween writing. I thought they were so creative in their thinking!