Friday, March 30, 2012

Measurement: Perimeter and Area

Since atttending the Guided Math conference a couple of weeks ago, I'm on the hunt for this book. It's by Barbara Blanke and is called Number Connect for Grade 3. It's part of the Bridges series. Anyone use this or know where I could find it???

Barbara's seminar was great. She's all about just good solid math teaching that centers around problem solving and questioning. She encourages teachers to avoid "being the source of the truth or answers." Instead she recommends asking genuine interest questions. (She provided lists of question starters to help with this.) In her words, "Be a guide, on the side." I catch myself leading my kids too much sometimes. I'm working on setting up learning situations that will allow my students to make math discoveries. Barbara is a master at differentiation through questioning. Something I'm working on.

During her presentation she used a document camera to model her lessons. I recently purchased on with grade level funds. This one was only $113.00 through Office Depot. It works great through my smartboard. It had software that includes lots of tools like highlighters and pens and such. I'm still playing with it to figure it out but love it. (oops...probably shouldn't have that diet coke right beside all my tech equipment! Can't get through my pm slump without it!)

I recently used it for a lesson on perimeter. I was trying to channel Barbara through this lesson and so started with a question. I took one of these pentominoes and put it under the document camera. I displayed it and wrote by it: perimeter=12 units. Now they had not had any experience with perimeter so I asked them what they thought the perimeter might be. After some discussion with partners they discovered that if you counted around the shape it equaled the number 12.
From there we practice figuring the perimeter of other shapes of pentominoes using the document camera. Have you used pentominoes for teaching perimeter and area? We have a fantastic math specialist at our school and I have learned so much about good math instruction from her. This lesson idea is one she shared with us.
The next day, students worked to trace and determine perimeter and area of different shapes of pentominoes. I basically walked around trying to be "the guide on the side" , allowing students to make discoveries and steering their thinking with my questioning.
Students are working on proving answers. Here students showed their math thinking on papers.
Do you have ideas about teaching perimeter and area? Please share!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring Poem: Quotation Marks

Hello Friends! Is it feeling like Spring in your neck of the woods? It has felt like spring for most of the winter in Virginia. We have seven more days until spring break here and the kids and I can't wait. Here is a cute poem about spring. It is good as a springboard into a study of animals who migrate and hibernate. I think it is a good poem for the writing trait of "voice" as well. But I love to use it to review dialog and the use of the quotation mark.

This is a great read aloud to use on the use of this type of punctuation mark:

How about focusing on "instead of said" words. We have pulled the words: piped, sang, chattered, whispered from this poem and put them on a word closet chart to use during writer's workshop time.

Here is the poem if you would like to use it:
Poem Spring

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week

This is my all time favorite prayer and I repeat it every day, sometimes multiple times.

Do you have a favorite prayer? Would love to hear.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Animal Research Printables and Food Chains

I'm thrilled that other teachers may want to use the Research Folders I described in the last post. I've posted them down below and you are more than welcome to download and print them. I don't charge for any of my stuff and gladly share what I have.

Some have suggested I post on Teachers Pay Teachers. Instead of doing that, if you would like to support me with a monetary contribution you could donate funds for an upcoming Relay for Life Walk I will be doing in April. I would be so very appreciative!! You can donate as little as $5.oo and every little bit helps so much! My Relay for Life Page link is here and it will allow you to make a contribution online.

Now to Food Chains. Are you familiar with this book? Debbie Diller presented it at a Guided Reading Conference I attended a couple of years ago. It is fabulous and has a repeating, predictable text that lends itself to choral reading. Last year I had my students create their own versions of this story in writer's workshop. They wrote stories like: Tundra Circle, Grasslands Circle, Desert Circle, etc.

Here are some other great read alouds to teach and reinforce the idea of food chains:

Again, my pictures refuse to load horizonally. Does anyone know what's up with that? Anyway, my kids were given a name of a member of an organism from a particular biome. They illustrated onto a paper plate. We then mixed them all up, handed them out and they had to try to create a food chain. This worked great and the kids enjoyed the time up out of their seats.
We stressed the point that the producer is always at the end of the food chain and someone drew the sun too since that gives energy to the plant.
Here are the research booklet documents. Hope you are able to use them! Email me with any questions!
Research Cover Front

ResearchBack Cover

Research Folder Inside

Friday, March 23, 2012

Animal Research Folder: A Fact Finding Mission

We're way into our animal unit and I'm needing to wrap things up and move on. We've spent time learning the words related to this unit and have been reading from nonfiction book and our text books about adaptations, food chains and ecosystems. Here is a triple circle map on the difference betweeen ecosystems, communities and populations. This kind of visual has helped some kids see the difference between the three. (Picture refused to load horizontally and I refused to spend time trying to get it to...sorry!)

From there I had my students pick a population of animal they wanted to learn more about. We then set up our research folders. This is done with a piece of construction paper folded in half. I gave them the three research forms and they glued them in.
Here is the front cover:

I had the kids write the name of the animal in the center circle. Then they had to write down all the information they already know about that animal. At the end of the research, kids will go back to this circle map and add what they learned from their research. The circle will probably not be big enough to fit it all!
Here is the back cover of the folder:

Here they have to set their purpose for the research. We talk about how good researchers and readers have questions in their minds that they want to get answers to. This focuses their reading. Students write three I wonder questions down. The bottom portion of this sheet has a place for them to record their reference sources. They will use one nonfiction book, one encyclopedia and one online research site.
Here is the inside of the folder. They cut and glue the four headers to the top of the folder. These have the topic words: habitat, physical characteristics, diet, behavioral characteristics. Next they get their reference book and a stack of post it notes and begin reading and searching for information to place under the four categories.
I love the New True Books for reference. They are easy enough for kids to understand and have all of the nonfiction text features we have been learning about.
The kids will be writing a paragraph for each of the four topics so they need to get enough details under each. They write words, phrases and short sentences that support the main idea. I like using post its because we can manipulate the facts and move them around when we go to writing the paragraph. Some details belong together and can be combined to make a sentence.
I added questions to think about under each category to guide their reading and thinking.
Kids have enjoyed learning about their animals! There are many great websites out there that are third grade friendly. I love Enchanted Learning because they include a great diagram of the animal with captions. We've had great luck with National Geographic for Kids as well.

Are you interested in having your students work through a similar animal research activity? 
I have included this set in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. 
Click the link below to check it out!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March Wind Poem

Hi Everybody! I wanted to drop this in quickly before March was over. Here is a great poem for teaching personification and verbs. We talked about how the author of this poem hit the "Word Choice" target in a big way with words like: rattle, puffs, scoots, etc.

Poem March Winds

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week

I feel beyond blessed to be working at the school that I do. We are a tight group and I consider them my school family. Through the course of the year many staff members have been dealing with sickness, death and misfortune. Just this weekend we got more bad news that once again brought me to my knees.
During difficult times I find myself seeking the Word of God for comfort and in particular rereading the Book of James in the New Testament. Although it doesn't take away the pain it does bring me some measure of comfort.
I so want to fix it for those stuck in a bad place! Do you find it is sometimes harder to see those suffer than for you to suffer yourself? My prayer for my friends is that they will feel HIS comfort and grace flowing freely and it will ease their pain.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Super Seminar and Mini Books

Hello All! We made it to another weekend! My daughter's basketball season is over and for once we don't have back to back to back activities this weekend. I'm actually going to spring clean my house! It really needs it.

Before I do, I wanted to tell you about an AMAZING seminar I went to on Friday. I got to see Barbara Blanke present at a BER conference in Richmond. She spoke on Guided Math: Practical Strategies to Differentiate Your Math Instruction Using Small Group Instruction and Math Learning Stations. WOW! She was great and my passion for teaching math has been renewed and restored! I can't wait to start implementing some of her great ideas. I'll be sharing my trials and errors on the blog so be sure to tune back in! It may not be pretty at fact it may be a train wreck but I'm excited to try. If you ever get a chance to see her...take it. She is that good.
Learn more about her here:

In the meantime, I wanted to share a quick and easy mini book idea. We used these books recently to make Animal Glossaries. We are working on an animal unit in science and the kids are responsible for knowing lots and lots of science vocabulary connected to this study. We are recording words and meanings in these little books. But you could use this mini book idea for all kinds of things.
You need some hair bands. I got these at the Walmart but you probably could find them at the Dollar Store as well. Look for ones that are not too thick or tight. The cheap ones probably work better in this case.
I have made these with super large index cards before but didn't have any so I just took cardstock and cut it in half. Then I put the number of pages together that I needed and then cut two slits and the center. One at the top and one at the bottom.
I slide the band over the pages and it fits in the center to hold the book together.
This is what the spine looks like. There you go....I mini book with no glue or staples! Easy!

Each child got a book and a set of vocabulary words. I told you we had a lot!!! Then they sorted the words in ABC order and we glued one on the top of each page.
As we get to words through our unit, we record the definition (kid friendly one) and students create the all important illustration:

I like to get the vocabulary words introduced before we go into our researching. That way kids have lots of opportunities to use these words in context. We have just begun the research and are working on learning about the tools a researcher uses to find information. We are lucky to have access to online Encylopedias at our school. For our intro into using those, my children picked an animal that lives in the deciduous forest and did some browsing in the encyclopedia in the computer lab to get information to create this acrostic poem.

Now that we know the vocabulary and have a bit of experience with encyclopedias, we are ready to jump into our Animal Research Project. I'll be back later to share the research folder the students create to help them organize their work and learning.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Poetry

Here is another quick St. Pat's Day post. I wanted to share the St. Patrick's Day poem I use this week. As I've mentioned before, I use my poems in my mini lessons to teach language arts skills. This one has many teaching possibilities. You can teach what a LEGEND is with it, you can focus on visualization since the setting and character are described in detail, word choice for writing, lots of great basewords and suffixes too.

My follow up this time focuses on reviewing the reference books we are using in class right now. Here is a pocket chart picture that shows the four books and has a photo of each under it. I also have sorting cards to sort under it with the explanations of each book: "provides definitions" , "provides synonyms", "provides detailed information", "provides maps of places", etc. This makes a good literacy station.
Here is the poem. Hope you can use it!

Monday, March 12, 2012


I wanted to drop a quick post to say a big THANK YOU to Jen at Lifelong Learning for awarding me with the One Lovely Blog Award.

Also many, many THANKS to Courtney at Teaching in Paradise and Abby at msalleysclass for sending me the Top 10 Award!
I am SO VERY flattered that these super talented teachers would think of me! I will be back later this week to link up and send awards along, just SWAMPED now with work but wanted you all to know how appreciative I am!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week

Did you remember to do this last night? A friend and I have a writing project that needs to be dropped by midnight tonight and being the procrastinator that I am, I haven't even started my portion. So losing that hour really hurts today!
But by tomorrow I'll get to appreciate it because I may actually be able to see this:
The sun won't set here until about 7:00 now. I have missed seeing it. Don't know about you but there have been too many nights that I've been heading home and it is already dark. It will be SO nice to enjoy some time outside after school. I have a pretty place to run and just being outside restores my soul! What about you? I think we all need to steal away moments for ourselves. I'm positive I'm a better teacher, mom and wife when I allow myself time to unwind.
Now here is one of my favorite quotes on time:
Maybe I need to give up that "not enough time" excuse, huh?
Hope your hours this week are filled with amazing moments!

Friday, March 9, 2012

A St. Patrick's Day Book Review and Response

With St. Pat's Day one week away, I thought I'd share the March Reading Response sheet. The kids are getting so much better at writing these. They respond by telling the title, main characters, problem, events and sometimes the solution. Then they give their opinion or make a connection. We are working on writing with our audience in mind. For this one it is their peers. We try to hit the voice target on this one. I can really hear some speak through their writing on these.

After writing their review, they created a little leprechaun.
They are all using the same pattern for the beard, hat and face yet they are all unique! I love how they make them their own: Here is our "Books Are As Good As Gold" display. Kids like reading these. They love doing oral "commercials" to advertise the books they are reading. These are similar, just written down.

Here is the review sheet if you want to give it a try!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Life Cycle of a Snowman: A Water Cycle Review

Our week began on an exciting note...after waiting all winter long, it finally snowed! Earlier in the year we had learned all about the water cycle.  We used the materials found in this set and students knew their stuff. You can click the link to check it out....  Let's Learn About the Water Cycle

So the kids and teachers were all a buzz about how we might finally see some frozen precipitation and the excitement was building by the minute! By nine am on Monday, the snow was coming down hard and fast. I was giddy, I was excited and then I was seriously bummed. None of the snow was sticking to the roads. Darn those 70 degree days last week! I decided to make the best of it and grabbed some buckets and scooped up mounds of snow to bring inside and the kids worked in small groups to make baby snowmen. They had the best time. Then we made a class snowman to experiment with. Here he is...Isn't he great?

We run a representative democracy in our class so I called our reps over and we had a vote to decide on our snowman's name.

Here were the names suggested. I'm not sure what the name Sylvester was about but we went with it and added it to our list of possibilities. But majority ruled and snowman was named: ICY.

We checked our room temperature...It was a toasty 75 degrees. We determined ICY wasn't going to last long. And he didn't.

Here he is getting skinnier by the minute:

The kids shouted, "He's fallen and he can't get up!" Where did they hear that from???

Less than two hours later... Poor ICY!

We decided to pour ICY into a measuring cup to see how much there was of him.

He measured at 500 ml. We left him here to see what would happen to him next.

We decided to write about his life. We used this life cycle flowchart:
It was a great review of the water cycle we had studied earlier in the year (Maybe they'll get those questions right on our spring state test???). We are now working on animal lifecycles so it fit in there too!

Two days later and he is measuring at 450 ml.
He is currently the focus of our estimation station. Kids are trying to estimate the time it will take for him to evaporate completely in both days and hours. There was great math discussion as kids were figuring it out..."if it took one day for 25 ml of water to evaporate and we have 450 ml's more to go then...

Check out this kid's math thinking: Awesome! I loved how he was breaking down those numbers.
Here is an example of the snowman life cycle sheet I made up. Use if you want to...
Snowman Life Cycle
It was a disappointing winter for snowlovers in VA this year. But I'm over it all at this point and am ready to feel the warmth of spring. Good bye snowmen, Hello Easter rabbits! Make mine a chocolate one please!