Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week

Such beautiful words.
Our Pastor preached on this today and I immediately thought of many of my teacher friends who work so hard and leave their print on the hearts of their students.   I love this idea of being a letter from Christ, not so much in what we say but in what we do.  This is not always an easy task.  I feel sometimes my life reads more like junk mail than the love letter God intends it to be. It is my prayer that I gain competence to do His will and to be this message of love to my students.

Wishing you a great week with your new students!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Week One....DONE!

Thanks for all the words of encouragement this week, especially from my "still on summer break teacher friends"!  Yes, I just loved getting the phone pics of you all poolside as I sat in my sauna-like room at the end of a long hard day. HA!  Let's just say your time will come!

Anyway, I'm just glad the first week is over and done with. It's good to have gotten a chance to meet the new crew and get to know them a bit, but the first week is always too much of me and too little of them.  I find myself talking WAY too much.  There is so much I need to go over and train them on. Seriously, I get tired of hearing my own self talk and  I do believe I started sounding like Charlie Brown's teacher after a while.
 I'm hoping to start running a somewhat normal schedule next week and getting more into instruction.

I did start working on reading strategy training and began by reading a long time favorite.
I know that Chrysanthemum is a popular book to read at the beginning of the year so I was glad to see that yet again my group of third graders enjoyed this well loved story.  It is actually the book and word that I use to model the "chunking" or syllable breaking decoding strategy with.
Before even showing the book, I just show the word: Chrysanthemum.  I tell them that third grade is just full of big words and that good readers are good chunkers.  This is where we grab "Chunky Monkey" off the board and I demonstrate how to decode the word "Chrysanthemum" by breaking it into its 4 syllable parts.
We read the rest of the story on the look out for other multisyllabic words to use chunky monkey with.

I like getting these decoding strategies taught early  so that students can practice applying them all year long .  I teach these in a whole group setting and then coach those kids who need it during guided reading sessions.  Even the strongest readers in the bunch can benefit from practice in breaking three and four syllable words.

After reading Chrysanthemum I gave each student a list of their classmates' names. They insisted I add my name and so we did.  Sweet.
They cut out the names and I gave them the task to see how many ways they could think of to sort these words.


These kids are thinkers!  They came up with lots of ideas like: by syllables, in ABC order, by common letters, by vowel sounds, etc. etc.   This was good prep for upcoming spelling word sorts plus it helped them to become familiar with saying and reading the names of their new friends.  

I've got some real thinkers in this room...check this out:

I also used this book during math time to get a general idea of their level of number sense. I demonstrated with my first name and together the students and I thought of many different ways to get to the number 5. We used tally marks and a clock face. We thought of 3+2 but then someone else bumped up the thinking quite a bit and offered up: 100-95. We thought of so many for mine that we ran out of time for theirs and they ended up taking it for homework.

You can find a free download of this sheet here:
Here is another math sheet I used to get an idea of what they could do with numbers:

Find this one here:
I love hearing what everyone else got accomplished week one!  Please share!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week

Thanks to everyone who responded in email discussion to last week's words! I loved hearing from all of you.  I thought Leslie put it so well when she said," I feel called by our God to teach.  It is my mission field.  There are so many times that I forget and get frustrated at the silly administrative rules.  I have to remember for Whom I am teaching.  There seems to be a lot of negative in our work environment and I want to be His light."

Leslie's message got me thinking of someone who was one such light.   Miss Jennings was my first grade teacher. I don't remember all my college professors and I couldn't tell you all those who taught me in high school, but I remember all the names of my elementary school teachers. More than that I remember how every one of them made me feel. When I think back to  Kindergarten I  remember all that I couldn't do...I couldn't cut on all those lines, I couldn't count to 100 without messing up, I couldn't write with nice straight marks and I couldn't stand school.  It made me feel incompetent and ashamed and I never wanted to go back.

But then came first grade and  God blessed me with Miss Jennings and my whole world brightened.  She had a big, old fashioned cash register and she let me practice my numbers with it until I knew them all.  When I wore my pink sandals  Miss Jennings told me she wished she had some like it and so I begged my mom to let me wear them  almost every day even when I outgrew them and they started to pinch my feet.  Miss Jennings told me I was good at reading and sometimes asked me to sit and read with a little girl who was struggling. I LOVED when I could do that because as I would help her sound out words, I could pretend I was Miss Jennings.   I remember how first grade  made me feel.  It made me feel capable and proud and I never wanted to leave.

I teach because of Miss Jennings. Teachers must never doubt their power or their influence. Over forty years later and Miss Jennings still impacts who I am and what I do. I tried to find her a while back but never could.  I wanted her to know what a difference she made in my life.

So I get to meet my new students on new classroom family.  It is my hope and prayer that God uses me to make that kind of a difference to one of my new that I can be their light... their "Miss Jennings" .

Yes, Amen.    
Thank you Miss Jennings.
Thoughts? Who has been that light for you? I'd love to hear!
Wishing everyone a great first week! - Doris

Monday, August 13, 2012

Place Value Check Ups: A Pyramid of Problems

Yes, many of my VA friends are off until after Labor Day so please think of me tomorrow as you are sunning by the pool.   I'll be sitting in a meeting for most of the morning trying my best to stay focused on that and not on all I have yet to do in my room.  I chose not to go in much this summer so I'll have to be on my game tomorrow if I'm to get everything done. Wish me luck!

Before all of that fun starts I thought I'd share the place value check ups I have my students do.  Graphing and Place Value make up the first two big math units we work on with our third graders. I give my students a bit of morning work called the "Check Up" to gauge their understanding of the place value concepts we are covering.  These are quick 10 problem check ups that they do when they come into the classroom.  As soon as they finish they place it in the "Drop Box".  I grab it and look at it quickly right then and there.  If students missed a problem they are called right over and I do a quick reteach on the spot. I believe in immediate error correction so I try not to wait until the next day to go over it with them.  I want it still fresh in their minds so I can hear from them what they were thinking as they solved it. that way  I can help clarify the concept more effectively.

Here is a collection of eight place value sheets that I refer to as Pyramid Problems.  Students have the chance to earn 100 points...each block has a problem in it worth 10 points. Ten blocks build the pyramid. Problem Sheet One is basic place value that they should be able to do from second grade learning.  The difficulty builds with each sheet.

Interested in trying these out with your students?
You can check them out here:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week

Well, teachers head back to school on Tuesday for our work week before students arrive on the 21st. I've heard from many teachers across the country who are already back at work with students.  How do we maintain our sanity in the midst of all of the beginning of the year chaos?

I tagged this book on Pinterest and ordered myself a copy on Amazon.

Pinned Image
 We manage to fit in meeting time with parents, teammates, we have enough time for this meeting? Would it help us if we did? What if we remembered to schedule time with Him each morning before we faced our students?  This is one of my favorite songs of inspiration. The lyrics speak to me and  are my words for the week.

Our days as teachers can be hectic, hurried and just plain unpredictable. I know that when I begin my day with prayer and praise I feel more centered and focused and just better able to face whatever comes my way. I need His guidance, His strength,  His wisdom for I can not do it alone.

Gosh, I hope this was not too preachy of a post! What are your thoughts? You know I LOVE to hear from you all so email me!  Wishing you a week of peace -Doris

                                    Email comments/thoughts:

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Civics and Government Lapbook: A Make and Take Study Guide

Yikes! Time is getting away from me.  School is right around the corner and there is much I have not accomplished.   I feel the need to keep time with my kids and family a priority so some projects have been left undone.  I'm OK with that but did want to honor a promise to you all about getting some files you want uploaded to TPT.
I've had many, many requests to add my Civics and Government Lapbook documents. Thanks to my current bout of insomnia, I have had time to transfer all my files and they are now available.

I teach this Government Unit at the start of the school year. It is a natural extension of the Rights and Responsibilities activities that we cover as we work on setting up a classroom community of learners.
I refer to this lapbook as our Make and Take Study Guide. It includes materials to help students review what they need to know as outlined in Virginia's state objectives and county's curriculum guide.

To make, I use two file folders per child.  I cut the tab off the back of the first folder and the front of the second folder so these two have straight edges.  I overlap the front of one and the back of the other and staple the top and bottom. This actually creates a pocket that students can use to place papers. You will end up with three panels on the inside of this lapbook to use for gluing notes and such. I hope this makes sense!!

 I had my students use construction paper to make a Branches of Government tree which they glued onto the middle panel.
 Notes were stapled to the first panel and an envelope was glued so that a small ziplock bag containing their vocabulary matching cards could be stored inside

Government songs were glued to the back of the last panel.
You could certainly design the lapbook to meet your own needs.

Interested in this set of files?
You can find them at my TPT store:

Thanks for your patience everyone!  Now I just need to do a little of this:

classic great dane

Isn't this funny?  

Update: To answer the questions...No, he is not my dog...I have friends who send me pics of sleeping things.
Sleeping babies, sleeping people, sleeping animals.  I have a whole collection. This is one of my favorites. (: 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Guided Math...Keep It Simple, Silly

KISS..for a group of my friends and I this stands for: Keep It Simple, Silly.  Streamlining and simplifying my life helps keep me balanced and focused.  So when I start to get waist deep in the busyness and clutter of my life I look for ways to simplify. Achieving and maintaining balance in my life is hard but is worth the effort.  I'm bringing this philosophy into my classroom as well and I think it benefits me as the teacher and the kids as the students.

Case in point would be the number of materials I use for learning stations. Gosh, it is easy to get caught up in creating and making  games and materials for students to use. I could spend hours and hours copying, cutting, pasting and laminating materials for students to use.  So many materials yet so little time.  In an effort to salvage time for other areas of my life I've told myself to: Keep It Simple, Silly.

 As I'm preparing for guided math and the next school year, I'm organizing materials in the math zone in my room.I'm picking around 3-5 games  for each of the math strands that we cover. Since I'm limiting the number,  I'm being careful to pick ones that are engaging, effective and somewhat open ended.  Ones that I believe will become student favorites since they will be playing them again and again.

Here are the ones I will be teaching at the start of the year. These three are simple to play and require just dice, cards or dominoes and are  great for providing practice in mental math (addition and subtraction) and strategic thinking

You can download these games for free here if interested: 

How about you?  Do you have some simple favorites that you use in your classroom.  Please share!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week

Well it is getting to be that time!  I'm coming up to my final week before teachers start back.It will be a challenge but I'm going to do the best I can to force school thoughts from my mind for the next seven days.

So here are my words (and my plan) for the week:
Enjoy the week! -Doris

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Writer's Workshop: Creating A Writing Office

Through the years I have had many questions about and requests for more information on the writing offices shown here:

Sorry for the delay in getting back on this!  We call these our "offices".  I keep them in a basket and pass them out during writer's workshop time.  They were premade so kids just inherit one and we keep them year to year.  It does take some time to assemble and then laminate.  It would make a great parent helper job if you are so lucky to have some of those!

These offices provide privacy while writing and just set the tone that we are doing important work and need to focus and concentrate on it.  It is filled with information that serves as writing resources to students.  There are commonly misspelled word lists, grammar information, editing checklists, etc.

These are each made with 2 file folders.  Cut the tabs off so you have all straight edges.  Then simply trim the printable sheets so they fit and glue on the fronts and backs.  Then use clear packing tape to attach the two folders together, leaving a tiny space so they can still fold up. I would definitely laminate them for durability.

I am offering these printables on TPT if you are interested in making them for your students to use.
You can find them here:

I have also added a separate  listing of the Me Museum Project sheet.
This makes a great beginning of the year writing activity!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Creating a Learning Environment: Music and Mind Connection

As I'm writing this I'm listening to Bach's Suite in D major No. 3.  I have a whole playlist of classical music on my IPod that I have on in the background when I work.  Jill S. and I do a lot of cowriting and when we get writer's block we say it's time to turn on Bach! Hah! Does the beat/flow of the music promote the flow of our ideas?  We think it might.

There has been so much research conducted by neuro-scientists and  neuro-psychologists on brain based learning and one piece that has been studied is the effect of music on learning and the academic achievements of children.  Those of us who have been around for awhile remember the study referred to as The Mozart Effect--the theory suggested that listening to Mozart's music helps the development of the brain. This caused a flurry of  research disputing some of its hype.  Nonetheless,  the vast majority of research through the start of the Twenty-first Century does show this style of  music's influence on learning, memorization and spatial reasoning skills.

So, as a teacher does this statement make you sit up and listen. Greater learning, better memorization? I'm all for that.

This is what they are saying, baroque style music  (60 beats per minute) has a  pitch and rhythm that are compatible with a human's brain wave patterns. This stimulates the limbic system. The limbic part of the brain is responsible for long term memory.  There is no doubt that this music produces a physical effect as well.  It relaxes muscles and slows your heartbeat. Calming a learner and maybe a teacher too!

I talk straight up with my third graders about brain research.  I tell them that scientists are studying how brains work and I share some of their findings.  Kids love when you share "big people" information with them.  My students have responded well to having classical music playing in the background.  They will often request that I put it on.  It is always on during writer's workshop.

Now that we have I Tunes and I Pods it is easy to bring music into the classroom.  I just download my favorites to play for my students. Other teachers I know have purchased CDs such as these: 

I'd love to hear from other teachers.  Do you play classical music for your students? Do you have favorites that you could share?
Do you think it makes a positive  difference?