Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Long Past Due Post: Let's Make a Sundial

It's hard to believe it is already nearly Thanksgiving. The year is flying by and I have yet to post. I am trying to keep my head above water these days. Thanks to all who have reached out to me. Your encouragement means everything to me.  A new friend and I were just talking about the power of the song, Good, Good Father. As teachers we get so consumed by teaching that we begin defining ourselves as what we do and not who we are. I am His and He is mine. I find that to be such a comfort in times such as these.  We hope others will be blessed by listening to it as well.

Thanks for not giving up on me....I will be back to post what my third graders have been up to.

In the meantime, I must share pictures of our super cool sundials.  
We were studying Earth's rotation on its axis. For this activity, we were monitoring the change of the sun's location at different times of the day...proof that the Earth is moving.  
We were also learning telling time in math so it was a great tie in there too.

It was the perfect fall day to visit the outdoor classroom. 
Be sure to pick a day with mostly sunny skies. 

Students got practice making observations and writing conclusions. 


I love this book as a great read aloud to reinforce the idea that while we are having day, there are places around the world having night. 

Image result for somewhere in the world right now

Don't you love how you can access so many books online?
You can take a listen to this book here:  

I'll be adding the sundial experiment to my TPT store soon.
If you want it before I get it added, just email me. 
I'm happy to share. 

contact me:

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Creating a Science Station

Yes, it is with a big sigh that I say good-bye to summer. 
But, there are lots of new ideas I am excited to be trying out this year. So it is full steam ahead!
Tomorrow is the first day of our work week. As we all know, teachers have been busy with back to school preparations for awhile now. 
I am emphasizing science with a revamping of my science station. 
It was time for new, fresh scientific process posters to get my third graders excited about experimenting and exploring. 

I like having these materials readily available and want the students to know that these are THEIR tools to use. 

Last year I began running an observation station as part of my literacy stations. 
I placed an "artifact" in these boxes along with science tools like magnifying glasses and rulers. 
I believe students need time to just explore, examine and make discoveries.

I also included books on topics related to whatever was in the box. 
Students recorded questions they had and then used the reference materials to locate answers. 

I made up a general recording sheet that could work with whatever artifact I included. 

Interested in creating a Science Station in your classroom? 
I have included these materials in my TPT Store.
Click the link below to check them out. 

What are you excited about teaching this year? 
I'd love to hear!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Managing Writer's Workshop: A Writing Process Chart

The summer is FLYING by! We have less than two weeks before teachers report. Yikes!
I am working to get some projects done before time runs out. My to-do list is a long one. 
We'll see what I can accomplish! 
I am happy to cross one project off my list. 
I just finished creating my Writing Process Chart.

I'll use this during Writer's Workshop time. It includes an explanation of the 5 stages of the writing process. 

Each student will have a clothespin with his or her name written on it. 
Students will get time daily to work on independent writing. We will use their pin to record where they are in the process. 

I think this will become a helpful management tool for teachers and students.  

It will help me monitor who is making progress through the process and who has stalled. 

This set is now available in my TPT Store.
If interested, click the link below!

This chart works well with the Writer's Note Sheets. These will help guide my writing mini lessons which are intended to build skill in all areas of the writing process. 
Students can document their learning and refer back to it as needed as they work their drafts through the stages. 
You can check it out here: 

Now on to a math project.
I'll post as I get things done so come back for a visit!

What are you doing to get prepared for the 2015-2016 school year? 
I'd love to hear!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Writing Mini Lessons & Creating a Writer's Notebook

Someone recently asked me a simple question, "What's your biggest challenge in the classroom?"
My reply was, "Time".  There is never enough of it.

I read Cultures of Thinking by Ron Ritchhart this summer. 

He has a whole chapter devoted to the topic. It's entitled: Time: Learning to Be Its Master Rather Than Its Victim. A fitting title, don't you think? There have been many days in the classroom when  I feel I'm battling the moving hands of that clock, trying to defeat it, trying to fit everything in.

In his book, Ritchhart calls for teachers to do some deep reflecting on what it is they spend time on.
He points out that what we spend our time on is a direct statement of our priorities and values.
We know that the amount of "interactive, engaged time " the students experience is strongly correlated with learning outcomes. How can we allocate more time for the stuff that matters? Ritchhart calls us to shift our thinking about time in two ways: to move our focus from ourselves to our students and to move away from "prioritizing our schedule" to "scheduling our priorities".

This brings me to the topic of writing. We have a jam packed language arts block and only about 30 minutes to devote entirely to writing.  What are my priorities? If kids are going to grow as writers, they need to have time to write, share and reflect.

This year the plan is to keep skill lessons truly "mini lessons"...short and laser focused. Ritchhart reminds us that "coaching and providing feedback are what propels learning and creates momentum". Besides having kids spend the bulk of their writing time on writing, I also want to reserve time for conferencing with individuals.

With this in mind, I have reworked the way that I am going to run my writing minilessons and have created a set of lesson note sheets. I love interactive notebooks, but now feel that the time spent on folding, cutting, gluing and filling out does not make my list of priorities. The beauty of a writer's notebook is that it becomes a record of learning and a reference for them to use during writing time.
We create our writing notebooks by stapling two pocket folders together. We use the pronged folders so we can fill it with lined paper. I like the folders instead of a composition book because they provide pockets to put their drafts and mini thesaurus in.

The first notebook is reserved for our reference sheets. These are run off ahead of time and already placed inside before the notebooks are given to the student. It includes a sheet to help students brainstorm ideas for writing topics, word lists, writing trait information, etc.

My writing folder printables are included in my TPT store. 

This summer, I spent time creating a set of writing skill note sheets that students can simply slice in half and stick onto pages in their writing journals. The skill or strategy is explained on one half and there is a quick practice on the other. We'll fill out the notes together and then I'll decide if it is worth doing the practice. I think there are times when we'll do a practice using the students' own writing samples instead, but it is there if I need to use it.

I think these will be super handy during writing conferences.  The writer and I can flip back to a lesson previously taught if it is a skill that needs to be reviewed or worked on.

Here are the mini lessons I plan on teaching this year. I will let the needs of my students and my Virginia standards dictate the depth and time I devote to each one.

I have included this set of mini lesson note pages in my TPT store as well. 
You can click the link below to check them out. 

What are your thoughts on managing time during your writer's workshop block?
I would love to hear!
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