Thursday, January 28, 2016

Engaging Students With Music: Free Flocabulary Trial

Well, after 5 snow days in a row, we are back to school tomorrow.
A friend sent me this video of Ron Clark dancing with his students to get me charged up and motivated. It did the trick and I  had to share it. 

What an amazing teacher and what a thrill it would be to teach at his academy. 
It is possible that I would pay him to allow me to work there, that's how much I respect what he is doing.
I think what I admire most about him is his dedication and determination to help all students, not just those who are easy to teach.  He will do anything and everything to get them to learn. In a recent interview, he talked about how important it is to find a way to connect with students on their terms, on their level.  He says music is one way to make that connection.

I get that, has a way of engaging even the hard to reach student. I know it because I've seen it work. We sing a lot in my class. We make up jingles and songs to help us remember math, social studies and science content. 

I'm also a big fan of a program called Flocabulary. It's is a web-based learning program that uses educational hip hop music to teach students and increase achievement. My third graders absolutely love it. I use the Flocabulary songs and corresponding materials to teach and reinforce language arts skills like parts of speech, synonyms, antonyms and even reading skills and strategies like making predictions and inferences. 

They also have great songs to use as you teach math skills.  We are using the multiplication songs now to help students develop their speed and accuracy with the math facts.

Interested in try it out?  Flocabulary is offering up a special free 75 day trial. You can sign yourself up, your teammates and your entire school.
 Click the link below to check it out: 

Do you use music in your classroom?  Would love to hear!
Comment or email me

Monday, January 25, 2016

A Blizzard of Books...A Book Report and Craft Idea

The Blizzard of 2016 came and left.  
Left us with mounds and mounds of snow and another snow day to savor and enjoy. 
It is breathtakingly beautiful. I spent some time outside in awe just marveling at the splendor of it all. 
My jack russell can't stand being cooped up inside. I can so relate! He is meant for speed and action and despite his small size and lack of warm fur, he tore through the snow. 
He's my example of how to have a good time!


As I am grading my rather large stack of student papers, I am wondering what my kids are doing with all their free time. I am hoping they are doing some reading. I should have loaded them down with books before I sent them off last Thursday.  
Here is our classroom library.  Too much time on my hands has me thinking about my book organization.  I have them organized by genre in these baskets.  I recently read a post from a blogger who has gone to shelving books rather than putting in baskets.  

How do you organize all your books?  Would love to hear!


Along with lots and lots of reading, we are doing lots and lots of writing. 
It has become a way my students communicate to me about what they are reading and what they are thinking. My mantra is "reading is thinking"  and books need brains, so it is important for them to share what is going on in their minds as they are turning those pages. 


. Whether it is reading for information or for pleasure, I want my kids to respond to what they are reading.
Here was a Fall reading response they did that we called: 
"Here's a Book to Gobble About". 
They told me about about a book they were reading during book nook time 
(independent self choice-stamina building reading time). 
This response sheet works for fiction and nonfiction.  My students LOVE nonfiction and I love that they love it.  It builds background knowledge and helps develop Tier 3 vocabulary.
Many of these responses were nonfiction based. 

We enjoyed reading each other's book responses. 

This writing activity helped me to assess how deep they were going in their thinking. 
I asked them to use the skills we have been working on so far:
identifying the main idea, visualizing and making connections. 
Then they got to be show their artsy, creative side by making a turkey to go along with it. 
I gave them all the same exact template, yet the turkeys were all so different. 
Love the way they make it their own!

I'm doing that again once we get back into the classroom.  
I'm calling this one: "It's a Blizzard..of Books!"

We've moved onto writing summaries, so I want to see if my students can sum up their book by just identifying the most important parts.  We are hitting vocabulary hard, so I also want them to find an example of a pizzazzy word in their book. They will write it down and share its meaning. 
How will they know what it means?  Using context clues of course, and then they will confirm by using a dictionary. 

I am big on having students share their "mind movies' with me...aka..visualizations. 
They have a spot to draw the **most important** visualization of the entire book. 
We'll see if they can narrow it down to that one scene. 
The "cool connection" box gives them a chance to share a text to self, text to text or text to world 
connection.  Even those who struggle to read and getting the hang of connecting to the text. 


I have added this set to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. 

Click this link to check it out: 

Would love to hear what you have been spending your snowy days doing?
Planning for first day back?  Please share!
Comment below or...
Email me:

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Blogging Through the Blizzard and a Winter Writing Activity

Hello! Greetings from snowy Virginia. 
I'm joining Trisha and the "Blogging through the Blizzard" Group. She threw out a bunch of questions to the group. Here are my answers and pics.
Question: What does it look like outside your window? 
Here you go......  

The wind is kicking up the snow.  Even my favorite porch chair is covered. 
Hard to believe I was just reading in the sun in this very spot last weekend!

Snow: Snow:
What are you spending your time doing? 
So I've been indoors this weekend and am feeling super grateful that I have power and heat!
I've been baking and eating and drinking WAY too much coffee. 

Snow day:
Yes, we made a full dozen of these yummy cranberry muffins and that's all that remains. 
Like I said, way too much eating going on. 

What are you reading? 
Here is the stack of books I am supposed to be reading. I'm rereading some heavy ones like F&P's When Readers Struggle and some fun ones like Toys Come Home.  Love that book for making inferences. 
BUT, instead I made the mistake of starting Jodi Picoult's, 
The Storyteller on my Kindle and now can't put it down. 
But I think that's what snow days are meant for, don't you? 


What's your most current project and how do you stay motivated to work when you could play?
I'm trying hard to maintain a healthy life/work balance so I work some and play some. 
Too much of either is not good for me.  I will say that I've jumped on the "essential oil" bandwagon. 
I keep this Doterra stash in my home office and put some on before I work.   

 It may be all in my head, but I do think it sometimes helps me to focus.
I also rely on a timer to keep me moving from task to task and playing Pandora in the background just makes everything more pleasant. 

My latest project just went up on TPT and the timing is perfect. 
It involve students writing a procedural text explaining directions for 
"How to Have a Perfect Snow Day". 

Students start off by brainstorming all that they like to do on a snow day. 

Then they sequence their perfect snow day using a story board flow chart organizer. 

They use a How To writing template that includes an introduction, materials and directions. 

This set has just been uploaded on TPT. 
Click the link below to check it out!

Here is a picture that one of my students drew for the very last thing to do on the perfect snow day: 

That sounds like a good plan!
Stay safe and warm!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Martin Luther King Jr. Poem and Writing Freebie

It's Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 
Here is Kid President's thoughts on the day:

I love his message..isn't it cool that we can change things? 
I love this kid too.  Check out his other videos. They all have positive messages that kids today
need to hear. 

I am offering up a free Martin Luther King Jr. poem and writing activity. 

Just the link below to download from my Teacher's Pay Teacher's Store. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Write an "Amazing Dream" Multiplication Story

We made it through our first week back after winter break. It was a BUSY week. We have so much to get through. Our math vocabulary vine is growing like a weed! It started in September with just a few math terms and as we study a unit we add the related words to the branches. It is time to add words like multiply, factor and product because we are now way into our study of multiplication.

This week I read aloud one of my favorite multiplication books: Amanda Bean's Amazing Dream. It is about a girl who loves counting and soon discovers that it pays off to practice your multiplication facts. She learns that it is a fast and efficient way to combine numbers.  

After reading, the students went on a multiplication hunt in the classroom and school They took Ipads and took pictures of examples of multiplication. 
Here a student found the equal rows and columns on the calendar. He could multiply to find the total quickly. 

Our math totes are stacked in five rows of three. 

Our old fashioned phone pad is set up as an array of four rows of three numbers and symbols. 

After finding these real world examples, students were given their own "Amazing Dream" books to fill out and illustrate. 

We find examples of the set model and the array model in this story book. 

My kids loved Amanda Bean and her crazy dream. Have you read this one? 
You can find a read aloud on YouTube also. Check it out here: 

Interested in having your students write their own version of an Amazing Dream? 
You can find this set of materials on my TPT Store. 
Just click the link below. 

What are your favorite multiplication books.  Please share!

Friday, January 1, 2016

It's January...Penguins and New Mindsets

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!
I am working on some activities to ease my students and I into the new year. 
We ended 2015 reading the ADORABLE story of Osbert the Penguin. 

My Penguin Osbert

In this story, a little boy wishes for a real live penguin and Santa delivers. 
The boy soon learns that taking care of a penguin is harder than he thinks.
We were working on story structure right before winter break and this story was perfect for an analysis of character, setting problem and solution.

It is also a good one to practice summary writing. 
I like using the "Somebody, Wanted, But, So" summary writing technique for this story. 

We use a lot of these types of open ended templates to report about our reading. 
I like using a variety of them so students have some choice as to how they are going to respond. 
Here is a fun one that I have done in the past. Students summarize the story and then rate the 
book by giving it a certain number of penguin points. 

Third Grade Thinkers: January 2012:

You can find all three of these plus the rest of my Penguin resources in the following 

Penguins: A Snow Day Winter Unit for January
Click the link below to head to my TPT Store: 

When we head back to school I will be introducing the very important reading skill of "Making Inferences".  I will introduce the Inference Equation using this anchor chart: 

Then my student detectives will be trying to figure out what their teacher has been doing over winter break by using clues I give them.  They will be using  evidence plus background knowledge to make inferences. 

Following that we will be reading another fun penguin book that works well for making inferences. 
The Tacky the Penguin books are perfect "speedy readies" for third graders. 
Tacky and the Winter Games is a Win Win book for me since while it will help me to teach how to make an inference, it is also a great tie in to our social studies unit. We just learned about the Ancient Greeks and how one of the contributions from this civilization was the Olympic Games. 

I just LOVE Helen Lester's books. They always include great "juicy" words that we can add to our vocabulary vault. 
In this silly book, Tacky is going to be competing in the winter games. 
 His penguin friends are named Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly and Perfect and they work hard to prepare for the competition. This book is a laugh out loud tale of a penguin who is less than perfect, yet keeps a positive outlook and is able to help his team achieve victory.   

 I am excited to share this book with my third graders also because it relates so well to our focus on maintaining healthy mindsets. 
There has been a lot of talk recently about  how a child's mindset can determine the extent of his/her academic and personal success.   Entire books have been written about the importance of fostering a healthy "growth mindset".
In this insightful book, Carol Dweck discusses the difference between a fixed and growth mindset. 

A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behavior, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness

I am such a believer in this philosophy that I created a "Healthy Mindset Talk" display which hangs in my room.  We refer to it as we learn and especially when we are ready to tackle something especially tough. 

You can find this set at my TPT store.  Check it out here: 

My plan is to reinforce the idea that even young people have control over what they learn and how they do in school with a "Happy New Year" writing activity when we get back. 
Again, I love to connect our reading and writing to our social studies learning whenever possible and this does just that.  We will learn that the word "January" comes from the Roman god named Janus. He was depicted with two faces. One looking backwards and one forwards.  
I am going to have my students draw a picture of themselves as Janus and then write a goal they want to make for themselves. 

They will write what their goal is, why it is an important goal for them to make and how they plan on achieving the goal. 

You can find this to download on my TPT store. 

What are you plans for 2016? 
Would love to hear!
Email Me;