Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Final Science Review

We are wrapping up the year and doing final reviews before the students take the big walk down the hall to the fourth grade wing! I had my students begin their Science Diagrams and Illustrations booklets before the state tests as a way to review. They are finishing them up now and many put forth great effort. I made a simple booklet that included the heading with the page number in the text book that they could turn to for a quick refresher. Then they completed the diagram with labels and captions. This was a great independent activity for them to do while I did end of the year assessments this week.

7 days to go!!!!!

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Memorial Day Poem

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Memorial Day! This is a day of great significance for my family as my husband's father was a green beret killed in duty serving during the Vietnam War. My husband was only 6 at the time and ended up fatherless at this tender young age. We are fortunate to live just an hour from Washington DC and have visited the Wall and his grave site at  Arlington Cemetery with our children.
  Because of all the SOL testing last week, I did not get a chance to focus on this national holiday with my students. I will be doing it tomorrow and will begin by reading aloud two of my favorites on this topic.  This first one is an informational book about the holiday and why we celebrate it.  

The Wall by Eve Bunting is a beautiful, touching book about a family visiting the Vietnam Memorial.  It can be hard for me to read without Kleenex handy.  We have the pencil rubbing of my father in law's name that I bring in to show my kids.  This is a must read for this holiday and is  Eve Bunting at her finest!

Now I must share a wonderful site I discovered this weekend.  It is called

Amy writes her own poems and shares them on her blog.  I asked permission to use her Memorial Day poem with my children and to post it on my blog.  She was gracious enough to say yes.
So here is the poem I plan to use tomorrow.  It is  full of feeling and deep meaning. I just love it!
My students will cut out the poem to add to their poetry journals and will complete the follow up as a language arts review.  I like doing the search and finds because it forces the students to keep rereading the poem to find the words.  A great fluency practice!
Poem Memorial Day

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week

So relieved that the state tests are behind us and students and teachers can get back to a normal schedule for the last two weeks! With another year of tests under our belts, this quote seems appropriate!

Have a great week!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Geometry Testing Review: Treat or Torture?

Must testing review and practice be a torture for students and their teachers? I'll admit it is my least favorite time of the year.    We will be testing Social Studies tomorrow and Math on Friday.  In an attempt to make the review more enjoyable, we have been watching clips from Scholastic's Study Jams.  If you are not familiar with it you should definitely check it out!  They have lots and lots of entertaining study jams on topics that we cover in third grade. My kids really like it! I've sent the website information home with my students and have gotten a good response from parents as well.  It reteaches and reviews information.  LOVE!

Our current math review has been on geometry and geometric solids.  We are lucky to have the die cut shapes of these that the kids can fold together and create.  This is a great hands on manipulative that they can take home too.  Perfect for counting edges, faces and vertices.  We glued them on a piece of paper so that we could take them home. 

Are you all lucky enough to have math specialists helping you with your instruction? I have learned so much from mine! Here is a geometry idea that my fantastic math specialist shared with us.  It uses spaghetti and a round cereal.
From these pieces my students created a poster to represent a point, line segment and angle.

Here we were ending our lesson with some kinesthetic reinforcement.  Students demonstrated their understanding of these math terms using their bodies.  We even played Simon Says for repeated practice.  See testing review can be fun and games after all!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Math/Science Connections: Soaking the Soil

Testing week....  Kids are reviewed OUT and  I believe will run out of the building screaming if I give them one more study guide.  Yet  there is still more to learn and still more to  practice.  What's a teacher to do?  Here is what I discovered: if I want to engage my learners, even those reluctant ones, I let them experiment. I rarely have incidents of students not paying attention or losing focus when they are actively involved in science investigations like this one.

So here we have an experiment that allows students to think scientifically while applying their math measurement skills. I believe strongly that we need to give students real life opportunities to practice what we teach.  I know I must get these math/science tools into their hands if I want them to truly understand how to use them.

Here we explored the ability of different soils to absorb water. We had previously examined the physical characteristics of these three types of soil and so now were ready to work with them.
Third graders are ready to use the scientific method as they experiment and we began with our question and our hypothesis.  They are learning to state their hypothesis in an IF....THEN....statement.  Great cause/effect practice.  After a discussion of what we thought and why, we were ready to begin.

Students used measuring cups to add a specific amount of soil to a funnel. Here is a great place to talk about controls and variables in experimentation.
Next they used a graduated cylinder to measure water to add to the soil sample.
In it goes:

Here a student is watching the soil drain out while his partner times it with a stopwatch for thirty seconds.
Here is their result.  This is recorded on their experiment sheet in a math table. (see sheet below)
After getting all three results, they graphed it on the back. We discussed which type of graph made sense to use for this type of data.  We decided against a line graph or pictograph and went with a bar graph.  We decided a scale that increased by 2 would work for the data we recorded.
After the bar graphs were completed, students answered the two thinking questions.  This allowed them to apply their problem solving skills.  I included a box for students to show off their math thinking. 

Here a student is demonstrating her math thinking through math talk.  She is circling key words that helped her think through how to solve it.  Kids listen to kids way better than they listen to me sometimes. They also discover that there is usually more than one way to arrive at the same answer.  The verbalizing of the thinking is extremely valuable...I try never to skip it! 
Interested in trying this one? Here are the sheets. I run them back to back:
Soil Soaking the Soil
Soil Soaking the Soil 2

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week

     Hi Y'all it's Jill Stewart here!   
   I'm guest blogging today for Doris and Words for the Week. Yahoo!
When the tough gets tougher and the rough gets rougher you can count on a friend to give you a boost, right?
(How darn cute are these pandas! )

Alright, so maybe I'm not a guest maybe I've hijacked her blog and am forcing her to do her work.  Doris and I go way back and so I'm allowed to do stuff like that. I'm a Georgia Peach and she's a Jersey Girl but we work fabulously together. 
So here you are my dears, the words for the week:
Doris, listen up!

Love ya!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Learning About Capacity with Gallon Man

When coming up with lesson ideas I try to keep in mind that it is the process not the product that is most important. Here is a great example of that statement. We were working through our measurement unit and were reviewing capacity in standard units. We had worked through filling gallons with quarts of water, pints, and cups.   Today we were taking a look at it again using Gallon Man. I love having them make Gallon Man and they love doing it. The process begins with giving students a paper that represents a Gallon. From there I gave them another piece of paper which would represent the quarts. We discussed how many quarts filled the gallon (I had my water and gallon, quart, pint and cup at the ready so we could fill and dump once again)  and students determined how they should fold the paper to get the number they needed. We determined it would be fourths. One of my kids had the ah-hah moment and called out, "This reminds me of when we made our fraction bag." Yes, this ends up being an excellent review of fractions! We continued in this manner until they had created all the pieces they needed. Then I sent them to the floor to build and rebuild their Gallon Creations.

My students' creativity and originality were on display as I walked around to see what they created. We had Gallon Woman:
Gallon Gladiator:

My personal favorite: Gallon Panda:

Then I asked them to use some time to write an observation using their pieces or to come up with a question to pose to the class.  One student started us off by writing this and the magic began: 

We ooohed and aaaahed over the brilliance of that child's smart thinking. That sparked everyone to rush back to their gallon creations to come up with some more problems.  It was a frenzy of math thinking!
Love, Love, Love how this child is showing her math thinking on this board!
Someone drew it out in chart form!!! All without my prompting!

More equalities!

I let them go and I just basked in their brilliance.  They wanted to start posting it for other to see so I let them use the board.  It was FILLED with marvelous math thinking by the end of the lesson and although I was coaching and asking questions as they created, it was really all student generated!

I told kids I was going to use their questions to make the next day's worksheet for the practice session. They were feeling really proud.  So we bagged our Gallon Creation pieces in a Gallon Sized Ziplock for the next day.
The next day we reviewed what we learned using a smartboard lesson I found on The Smartboard Exchange. It included this other way of remembering the same material. 

Next I gave them the student created worksheet and their gallon creations and they headed to the floor to work through each other's problems. 

They used their gallon creation pieces to check their thinking and prove their answers.

I think this repeated practice of filling and refilling the units will be what  helps them recall this information in the end. 
We bagged all the pieces again and I will have them build and work with  them again next week and by then we will be ready to glue and hang them as a reference tool. In my mind, it's the process and not the product that is most important when I teach with Gallon Man. Do you have a lesson idea for measurement.  Please share by comment or email!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Character Trait BioPoem for Famous Americans

We've been working on expanding vocabulary all year long. Recently we've been working on character trait words. This fit in nicely with our unit on Famous Americans and Biographies. I gave all my students two pages of character trait words. (See below..found on Pinterest) We've been through this list several times so far. Each time we highlight a few more words and write a "KID FRIENDLY" definition or
synonym beside it. These are staying in our writing folders. We use this bank of words to write reading responses, character descriptions, or more recently for our BioPoems.
The BioPoem is a patterned, nonrhyming poem that is based on a person's life. Having students write a poem versus a full page paper focuses their attention on the person's most important points.  Here is the frame I created for my students to use for their writing. 
Through this lesson I got in: vocabulary expansion, parts of speech , social studies content, editing practice, research skills, main idea....the list could go on and on. 
Students applied the meanings of the character description words as they created these poems.
George Washington looks like he means business! 
This project was also a great review of all the people they need to know before leaving third grade.
Can you guess from the pictures who these two are?
Students created illustrations of the person they wrote about to accompany their writing.
Explorer Christopher Newport looks like he's been at sea too long! (:
It's always a good thing when I can tie language arts in with my content studies. A great way to maximize my time.
 Here they are:  Our parade of Famous Americans.
Let me know if you are interested in the BioPoem Frame and I'll send it your way!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week

  Yes, I can laugh about it now but  I am anticipating a hard week ahead. Students in my class will be taking the Virginia SOL tests in reading on Wednesday and Thursday. For the most part I feel they are prepared and ready but these tests are long and can be tricky. Students will need to bring it on and have the stamina to think through hard questions for an extended period of time. And I'll have to deal with the frustration of watching them make mistakes and not being able to coach them through their thinking.

Add to that, we will be giving these tests on the computer this year. I love using technology in my teaching but will flat out admit that I can not troubleshoot when I run into a problem..Yes,there is a definite potential for feeling stressed, frustrated, nervous and anxious next week.

As teachers, can we be present enough to stop the constriction and tension we feel when it first starts to happen within us? Can we keep the miserable from being more miserable?

I have been following the writings of Terri Cole recently. You should check her out! She is a licenced psychotherapist and transformation coach and is the founder of Live Fearless and Free. She is working on a book entitled: Flip Over and Float. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that title. I've been using this phrase and its visualization to help me check and change my feelings in times of stress lately.  Instead of  always struggling to swim upstream I am trying instead to stop, flip over and float. For me this means  take a deep breath and let it be.  . 

Trust this...Things will fall into place with ease and grace if we just allow them to.

So here is the challenge...I encourage all my teacher friends, when you are feeling that stress begin to build inside you (and you know you will)....

flip over and float

Best of luck to all the VA teachers giving the test next week!