Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday's Words For the Week

I'm hoping everyone made it safely through the storms this weekend!

Nothing left to say. Wishing everyone a peaceful week.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Word Closets

We are having WILD weather this afternoon! Hurricane Irene is on our doorstep and we may be in for a stormy night. Hope everyone on the East Coast is hunkering down, safe and sound!

We've only been in school for two days but we have already begun collecting words. I thought today I'd share an idea that goes well with the EXPAND VOCABULARY section of the CAFE board.
We have a "Word Closet" in my third grade classroom. This is where we hang our collections of word posters. I take a full piece of chart paper and cut it in half and fold it. Then we hang them on hangers. During read aloud, shared reading or guided reading we listen out for what we call "Pizzazzy Words". These are words that we can use to replace tired words when we write. We categorize them and write them on posters.

Here is a picture of my word closet from last year. I will not reuse these but will start fresh ones with this new class. I want these kids to feel ownership..I believe they will use the words more if they are the ones who found them.

Here is the poster unfolded and displayed during Writer's Workshop time. They were writing small moment stories describing a happy time so the "Positive Feeling Words" poster came out of the closet. I love having them on hangers, so easy to pull out different ones when needed.

Other categories of words we collect are: Negative Feeling Words, Movement Words, Texture Words, Taste Words, Instead of Said Words, etc. Many times we also write a child-friendly definition or explanation beside the word so they can remember what it means. Kids really begin tuning into new words. Let the hunt begin!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Earthquake,Tornado and Hurricane, OH MY!

I had no idea how appropriate Sunday's Words of the Week were going to be! Those of you on the East Coast are well aware of the Earthquake we had here on Wednesday. We are located less than an hour from the center of that earthquake. I was in school in a classroom talking with teacher friends when it happened. I know folks in CA think what we had was minor but let me tell you, it was SCARY!! What a bizzare and terrifying feeling!

My highschool son was home alone when it happened. Teachers ran from the building not entirely sure of what to do. As soon as I got outside my phone rang. It was my highschooler saying, "Mom, I think you need to come home, something's wrong with our washing machine!" God, love him! We just don't get quakes here in VA!

Schools stayed closed on Wednesday so they could check for damage. We've already used our first snowday and it's August!! Yesterday we had late afternoon storms and tornadoes. A teacher had a tree fall on her house and boats thrown about! Now we are awaiting the hurricane spinning up the coast! So crazy...what a week!

In the midst of all the weather, we did open on Thursday and I've had two days with my new third graders. I read aloud the first chapter of : Stuart Goes To School and we followed up the reading with this pictograph of our First Day Feelings!

Glad to see many felt excited and happy when they came to school! It's a big class with 26 students but we had a fun day and I am looking forward to the year! Hope your first day went well!

After introducing graphing with Stuart, we will continue to study graphing as we explore the picture graph, bar graph and line plot. You can check out the graphing sets on my TPT store page. 
Click the link below!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday's Words For the Week

My school year officially begins with children on Wednesday. There is still much to do yet very little time. I pray for strength. Here are words not only for the week but for the year that lies ahead.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Back to School Book Idea

I love networking with other teachers and getting inspired with new ideas which is why I love blogging! Recently I got a chance to have lunch with some friends I taught with many years ago. We had a great time catching up but as always managed to let teaching talk creep into the conversation.

We talked about our favorite books to read aloud and I thought about this one. Stuart Goes to School by Sara Pennypacker is a great one for the beginning of the year. I like it because it is a chapter book and I want to teach my readers how to build their reading stamina and maintain comprehension throughout. I use this one to add to my CAFE board too.

This humorous fantasy perfectly captures the child's eye view of elementary school life.
Stuart is excellent at worrying and finds plenty to agonize over as he starts third grade. You will laugh out loud with your kids as you read about Stuart worrying over wearing his father's cowboy shirt and green plaid pants or getting stuck in the boy's room. But Stuart has a magic cape that helps him deal with all his troubles! Your kids will groan when you have to stop reading this one!

After reading the first chapter on the first day I like to talk about our own First Day Feelings. We create a word map with the words they use. This is a great opportunity to expand vocabulary as you introduce them to words like: unsure, nervous, apprehensive, etc. They then draw a picture of just their feeling face on an index card. We then graph our first day feelings on a big poster as our first pictograph of the year. So it ends up being a nice reading to math connection.

Check your school library because we had this one in ours. There are also two other Stuart books in the collection and my kids all want to read the other ones after I share the first!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday's Words For the Week

A teacher friend and I have been sharing what we call "Words for the Week" back and forth for over a year now. It gives us something positive to focus on as we prepare to deal with the demands of a new work week . Today we thought why not begin sharing them with all our blogland friends as well.

Here are the words for the week for this Sunday:



Saturday, August 13, 2011

Back to School Poem and Activity

I LOVE teaching with poetry! Here is a fun one for one of the first days of school. It's called "What I Found in My Desk" by one of my favorite children's poets: Bruce Lansky. He writes hilarious poetry that is guaranteed to make your kids smile! My kids have a poetry journal that they glue their poems in. We average one a week. By the end of the year they have a whole anthology of Third Grade Poems and illustrations. They love reading back through them and some kids even started collecting their own poems to put inside.

This Desk poem will be their first. I introduce it with a strategy that I call: "Guess the Covered Word". I simply type the poem on the Smart Board and cover up some key words with the fancy pen marks. Then the kids attempt to guess the covered word by using context clues, structural analysis or rhyming patterns. They write what they think the word is on a dry erase paddle and then show it to me. Once someone in the group has guessed it, we reveal the word on the SB. The kids LOVE this activity!

Afterwards, I give them their copy and they glue it in their journal and draw meaningful illustrations beside the poem to show their visualizations. Finally, the next day or so they will revisit this poem at the Poetry Literacy Station where they will read it three ways and do the poetry follow up sheet.

I use this poem to introduce desk set up then train my kids on how to keep their desks organized on that first day of school. I even make a Desk Map for my kids to follow!

Desk Poem

Here is the Follow Up Activity my students do at the Poetry Literacy Station:

Scan Desk Poem Post 0001
Here is an idea for a graphing activity to do after reading the What I Found In My Desk poem:

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Whole Group Reading Area

One of my favorite times of the day is when I read aloud to my students. I reserve a spot beside the window for my big blue chair and clip our genre posters besides it. I usually call my students over and they sit on the floor right in front of me. I read somewhere: "Proximity breeds engagement" and I must say I agree!

Kids never cease to surprise me and here is an example: One day, I was getting ready to call students over and saw that they were a bit squirmy, so off the top of my head I made up this line:" OK, I'm looking for students who are quiet and calm because they are the ones getting the front row seats for my read aloud today. " Well you would have thought that I was offering a pound of candy! Mouths shut and heads plopped down on desktops (Don't you love how kids think they are being good when they lay their heads on desks??) All looking in my direction eagerly waiting to hear their name for the front row seats! All I can say is it is the power of a good story! I was so glad to see evidence that they love read aloud time as much as I do!

So after that I made up these Front Row Seat tickets that I sometimes hand out when I need kids to bring it down a notch, it works like candy! Who would have thunk it!!!

Front Row


This Link Works!

Beginning of School Connections

Sorry about the dead link on the previous page. This one should work!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

First Week Lesson: Classmate Connections

I promised a follow up post on how I use the book, "Spaghetti in a Hotdog Bun". 
This book is about a girl who brings spaghetti on a hotdog bun to eat for lunch. She gets teased for it and then a bully continues to tease her about her hair and other things. In the end she has the opportunity to help the bully out of a difficult situation and does. The bully then becomes her friend. Third graders can relate to the problem of getting picked on for being different.

After reading the book, I tell them I'm going to teach them a "juicy" word that describes the character's classmates and the students in our class too. I then present the word: Diverse and then present the noun: Diversity.

I use Marzano's procedure for introducing new vocabulary and then this word is posted on our board. ( I'll post more on this procedure in upcoming days) The word "Diversity" is part of the social studies vocabulary we teach in third grade and it seems appropriate to introduce it with something the students can understand.

I tell students they will participate in an activity to compare/contrast themselves with another friend in the class. The students then go back to their seats and work on labeling and illustrating the "Classmate Connection" page below. After they are finished, or perhaps later in the day, I will pair them with another student. This is where the candy comes in. I will have a bag on different kinds of candy and students will pick on from the bag without looking. I have prepared the bag so it has two of each kind of candy. For instance, two tootsie rolls, two starbursts, etc. They will find the student who has the matching candy. They will find a quiet spot on the floor to work and will bring their Classmate Connection sheets with them. They cut out all their pictures then will share their responses and check if it is something they have in common or something that makes them different. They will then glue it in the appropriate place on the venn diagram. By third grade, most students have done venn diagrams before, but I always model the procedure for them before they meet and greet their partner. After everyone has a completed Venn Diagram, we lay them out on our desks and take a walking tour of our work. This way everyone can see the responses of the entire class.

Here are pictures that may help illustate the process.
Here is an example of a finished product:

Go to my TPT page to download this FREE  lesson and printable

Another PERFECT back to school book to read during the first days of school is this one:

Calvin Can't Fly: The Story of a Bookworm Birdie is a story of a bird who doesn't learn to fly because he is can't stop reading books. It is all he wants to do! His bird friends make fun of him which hurts Calvin's feelings but he keeps reading and learns SO much from books.  When it's time to migrate, Calvin's friends figure out a way to bring him along for the trip.  On their migration south, they run into a hurricane, good thing they have Calvin! He learned about this type of storm through a book and  teaches them about this type of storm and manages to keep them safe.

You MUST seek this book out to read to your third graders. It is the perfect springboard for discussions about how reading helps us to grow and learn and so much more. There are so many lessons taught through this book. Using teamwork, Calvin's friends helped him...they didn't leave him behind. I will talk with my students about how our class is like that team of birds....we will help each other learn this year.Then we will do a STEM lesson!  Use this book to also spark talking points on other things like: how different people have different interests and talents and how making fun of people is unfair and can really hurt. I'm so excited to have found another book to add to my first week of school collection!

I created some activities to go along with this one. I'm going to have them work through their first reading response using this Calvin inspired response booklet:

It is two sheets copied front to back and folded. It makes a simple one page booklet. We will talk about how good readers: prepare for reading, think before reading and ask questions about their reading. We will discuss and record our thinking about the characters, problem and solution. 
I will use this as a "training session" for responding to books. 

After the reading of this book I will have my students play a game inspired by Calvin's story. 
They will use game markers to represent Calvin, spin the spinner and move to the appropriate space. Then they will answer the question on the square. 
I think I will have them record what they learned about their new friend by filling out one of the "post game" forms. During the game play is the perfect time for me to assess my new third graders and their ability to take turns speaking and listening. 

Once I started creating activities for this book, I could not stop!  I thought it would be fun to make this Calvin bird craft. This will give them a break from just listening to me all day and I can check out their fine motor skills and their ability to start and finish a project. It's a simple black piece of construction paper folded in half with the top rounded a bit. They will add simple eyes, beak, legs and wings. Since it is folded, it will open up like a booklet. I'm going to have them think about how Calvin had something he couldn't do YET...but also had something he was good at. I'll have them fill out a sheet to tell what they want to learn this year and also what they are talented in. This will help me to get to know them better...It's all about building relationships with them.
To gauge their math thinking, I also added this book inspired problem solving page. It will give me an idea of how they can perform in math and their confidence level with math thinking. 

Finally, I think I will reserve some time on Friday of that first week for a STEM project. I will have them design and create a contraption to help Calvin get to his destination. This will be super open ended...students will use a variety of recycled materials such as paper towel tubes, string, paper, milk cartons, plastic spoons, tape, etc. for their creation. I will put them in teams of 4 or so and see what they come up with.  We will test their design by marking a starting place and target and  using a pingpong ball to represent Calvin. Here's the form for this one: 

If you are interested in checking these materials out, you can visit my TPT store by clicking the link below:

While I'm on the topic of Back to School favs.  Let's chat about Stuart!
How great is this character!  There is nothing like laughing along with your students to break the ice and to build those connections and relationships. We end up talking about Stuart way after the book is read. 

 This one is about a boy named Stuart who is very nervous about his first day of third grade.  He imagines all kinds of horrible situations that will happen to him. 
He is comforted by the magic cape he made which provides him with all kinds of daily adventures.
It all works out fine in the end for Stuart and he ends up using his talents for good and makes new friends.
I like this book because it is downright silly and there is nothing better than a teacher and her students enjoying a book and laughing together. It is a perfect read for this age group since it is a good introduction to a chapter book yet still has pictures on many pages.
I love how it lends itself to lots of connections with different content areas.
I use it as a springboard for math, science, writing and vocabulary activities that quickly fill the first week of school. 

I break out my story souvenir suitcase before this reading. 
You can read about how I use this here.

I use it to build excitement for the reading ahead. I place items connected to the book inside the suitcase.  We talk about how reading can take us out of our classroom and to all kinds of other places.  I tell them that our next book will take us to another school in another town where we will meet a boy named Stuart.  We pull out the items inside and talk how they might connect into the story.  We make PREDICTIONS! 
I love using props to engage my students.  Then students listen as I read to hear when these items work themselves into the story.  Such fun!
They LOVE the story souvenir suitcase and always ask when we can use it again! 

I love this book so much, I created a whole packet of materials to use along with it. 
There is a language arts booklet that students fill out as we read, math problem solving connected to the story, even a STEM project that we do. 

Check it out here if interested!

Back to School with Stuart:Book Activities for Stuart Goes to School

Looking for more ideas?
Check out my youtube channel and consider joining our community!
I'm posting more back to school book ideas here:

Youtube: Beginning of the Year Book Activities

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Words for the Week

SUNDAY. It can be such a high and low for me. I love it because it means church and getting fed spiritually and let me tell you by Sunday morning I really NEED it, especially during the work week. But by Sunday evening my thoughts take me to school and the busy week that lies ahead. I am driven by my faith in God and truly believe that I was meant to walk this path as a teacher surrounded by children and the classroom is where I belong.

As anyone who lives life as a teacher knows, this is more than a 9 to 5 job! I often look longingly at my friends who work at other jobs. They punch out at 5 and can leave it all behind! How I wish sometimes I could do that. We are studying the book, Beating Busyness at my bible class and it has really gotten me thinking about how I choose to spend my time. We read this from Beating Busyness today, " The emptiest lives are those stuffed with motion from morning to night. It is only when we have elbow room built into our days that we become still enough for God to speak to us.

So this week my plan is to make time to "wait on the Lord" and "be still"

I will take my load off as Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-30

Anyone who wants to find rest in the midst of a hectic school year may find comfort in doing the same.

Hope this wasn't too preachy a post! Have a great week and remember to take time to breathe!

Friday, August 5, 2011


We don't have a formal writing program at my school. Our kids must be writing but how we do it is really up to the teacher. I'm rethinking some parts of my program. I will continue to focus on the Writing Traits and used Amanda Nickerson's Writing Target sign on my display this year. She does the best work! Be sure to check her stuff out on TPT!!

The trait signs I made using some of the the student assessment ideas in the back of the 6+Writing Traits Book. I will focus on those key targets with my third graders and plan on doing more with having them assess their own writing.

We'll use the big board for displaying student writing. We're the wildcats, hence the "Writing We Can Roar About" title.

I reread these two books this summer and probably could go through them once again! There is so much good information there.

One change I'm considering is going to a three ring binder for my writing notebook. I like being able to collect their drafts to send to the publisher or to take home so loose leaf paper would really be more convenient. Those composition books were a pain to drag home when I wanted to check on their writing progress.

Please comment on what you use...spirals, composition books, folders??? I would love to hear!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Reading Volume

As I'm setting up my room, I've been thinking of the research mentioned in What Really Matters in Response to Intervention I've been reading this book since we are beginning to implement RTI in a big way this year. It has just confirmed to me how important increasing reading volume is in helping those struggling readers. The author stresses the point that it is HIGH SUCCESS reading that is most critical.

I want my students to always have books at the ready! I want them to get LOST in their book and so I tackled organizing my book area today. First I tried out the great tip someone sent me from PINTEREST. A teacher (SO SORRY DON'T KNOW WHO IT WAS!!) came up with the brilliant idea of using a soft book cover as a pocket for the back of a chair. Could it really work?? You betcha! So after dealing with book boxes, book bags, etc. in the past, I'm going to set up my students with a book chair pocket. This is a Jumbo sized book cover and it really does hold multiple books well and large ones too!

Here are the pics I took of my book library area. I have organized them before by Reading Levels in the past but just feel it is more authentic to sort them by genres. We focus on studying the different genres in third grade so it will reinforce what they are learning. How do you organize your books?

That's all for now.... Next on my to do list....Whole Group Reading Area!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Reading Zone

HI to all my Blogland friends!! I've been MIA enjoying time with friends and family

Well, it's August first and I spent several hours setting up my classroom for the year. I'm in inservices starting August 12 and there are changes on the way at our school. I figure if I can get the class set up then I can devote my time to the lessons, organizing files and all the rest.

I created this I Pick Good Fit Books display for my reading zone. I picked up these great big apples at Teach and Stuff not knowing what I'd use them for. I thought they worked great with my basket. PICK actually stands for the key words....Purpose, Interest, Comprehend, and Know.

I've learned you can't assume third graders make good book decisions. I want them to build their reading stamina but they need to be in the right book if that is going to happen. They really do need our guidance, at least in the beginning. I'll be focusing on getting my third graders trained for independent reading time during the first weeks of school. More on the subject to come...check back!