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!

I have added this file to my Teacher Pay Teacher store.  You can check it out by clicking the link below.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday's Words of the Week

It is November, the month of the harvest.

My prayer and my greatest desire is to reap the fruits of the spirit.

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.


Wishing you all a week of great abundance!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Using Thinking Maps

Can you relate?? We finished our first week of Benchmark Testing this past week. Our county does them at the end of each grading period. I have a love/hate relationship with these types of tests. I love getting the data. If the test was well constructed I think the information we get back can be meaningful and can help me make important decisions in regards to my future instruction. But I absolutely hate that it takes away from my teaching and destroys my schedule. Would love to hear from others. Do you do benchmarks? What do you think about them? Useful or useless?

In between tets we did manage to finish up our Cycles Unit in Science. I like using graphic organizers with my students so I was glad to read the research supporting their use. According to the experts in the field, when students elaborate on knowledge using nonlinguistic representations, not only do they understand the material in greater depth but they can recall it more easily.

Here I had my students use the Bridge Map to relate two different parts of a cycle. I give them the relating factor and they describe the relationship and construct the map. Here are two students working collaboratively to get the job done. This type of thinking map is similar to an analogy. It is read "Snow is to below 32 degrees as Rain is to above 32 degrees.
Here are some finished examples. After creating them my students used them to reteach each other and to prepare for the test.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Science: Earth Cycles

We are finishing up a study of Earth Cycles this week. During this time we took a look at the Earth rotating and revolving. Here are two Make and Takes we created for these. We first made the model of the Earth using model magic clay and a straw for the axis. We showed how the Earth rotates or "turns like a top" towards and away from the sun creating day and night. The next day we used the model again to show how the Earth revolves around the sun. We also made the paper study guide diagram below and labeled the seasons.

Students saw how the tilt stays the same as they positioned and glued each Earth down representing the seasons.

The corners flip up to create a square and each corner is labeled with the season's name.

Here a student is showing Earth rotating using her model of Earth made with model magic and a straw for the axis.

You can click the link below to see the Model Magic I used for this project.

Crayola; Model Magic; White Modeling Compound; Art Tools; 2 lb. Resealable Bucket; Perfect For Slime Supplies Kit">

I have bundled these resources and more in one pack. This includes the teaching slides I use to teach the content. It also includes note sheets for students to glue into their journals, vocabulary cards, and even math and reading sheets and activities connected to this study. I call it an "All in All" Integrated Unit because everything I use to teach this study is included. One click and it's all there!

If you are interested in using these materials, click the link below to head to my TPT store.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday's Words for the Week

And an easy class never made a master teacher. (:

Some of us have been talking back and forth about the difficulties of our classes. Can we accept the challenges we have been given and see them as opportunities to grow as teachers?
Can you look back and see that it was teaching the struggling learner and dealing with the difficult student that helped to make you the strong teacher you are today? I know I've survived some tough years with hard to handle classes and although they were trying years I would not trade them in. They taught me a thing or two.

It's this mindset, plus accepting that many days won't be perfect and then laying the burdens down once in awhile that has gotten me through year after year. How about you? How can we help each other?

Teaching with a Sense of Urgency

OK, so I got a bit of a response from my last post. From your the emails (hello Fairfax friends!) there is no doubt that RTI is a hot topic in schools now. I do like the book I referred to in the last post, "What Really Matters in Response to Intervention". But if you are just starting out like us, I would highly recommend this one by Mary Howard:

In it she writes, "In the last decade, dedicated teachers have watched with sadness as a testing culture has put a stranglehold on education. We are at a crossroads. We can either use response to intervention as an opportuntity to rebuild a positive climate or allow it to devolve into something that takes us even further from the reason most of us became teachers."

I agree wholeheartedly. Talk about a slippery slope... I hope we can use it as it was designed. I believe in it. How about you? What's your experience? I get to listen to Tom Jenkins speak on the topic on Tuesday at an inservice. Can't wait!

It is teacher and author Regie Routman (love her!) who encourages us to "teach with a sense of urgency". Someone sent me this article below. Reading this just reconfirmed this for me!

Third Grade Reading Goal

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Fall Poem and Celebrating Reading Success

I can't believe we are into the next nine weeks of school...this year is flying by! We're running an RTI program this year and it forces us to stop and constantly look at the progress our kids are making. I know this third grade year is critical and if we are going to see any substantial growth is reading development it needs to happen by grade three. With such limited time left I know I have to pinpoint the most effective research based reading interventions that I can. This was a great read and helped me to identify what is really important. From all that I have learned I know that I must have my struggling readers engaged in lots and lots of reading.
I love poetry to teach grammar, vocabulary and reading strategies. I use it often during mini lesson time. After shared reading of the piece, I will have that poem become part of my Poetry Station during Literacy Station time. My students gain fluency practice by reading it three ways: with a partner, with the earphones and then by themselves. Here are students engaged in multiple readings of the poem:

Another activity they do is drawing meaningful illustrations of the poem in their Poetry Journal. Students must demonstrate comprehension of the poem through the illustration. I love to see them label words or write captions by their pictures.
Here is one we did this last week. It was a great one and we collected many words from it to put in our Words To Know section of our reading journal. Great for vocabulary development. They cut this paper and glue the poem in the Poetry journal and complete the follow up too. I tend not to use many worksheets for grammar review...look at all that can be reviewed here in the context of real reading!! The search and find part of the review forces them to go back and reread multiple times!


We celebrated their reading success for the first grading period on Friday. I had most make their AR goal and was so thrilled and proud of them. This little girl received her AR prize and a note home from the principal all on the same day. She left saying, "This is the BEST DAY EVER!" Teachers, does it get any better than seeing your kids leave after a long week with a smile like that on their face??? It was a great way to end the week!

Their prize this grading period was a baggie of gummy worms with this certificate stapled to it:

Read in Gar Prize Worms

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Using Dictionaries in Third Grade

Here is a dictionary reference poster that our class made to help organize our thoughts about how dictionaries help readers and writers. I just copied a page out of our class dictionary on a color copy machine for the center.

Here is a quick practice for Using the Dictionary that my kids did at a work station. My students also just loved having time to explore the dictionary. That was the "May Do" part of the station and students would have loved more time there.

Dictionary Dig