Saturday, November 26, 2016

Teaching World Geography: New VA Standards

Hello All! 
Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. What a great one it was! I've got my sights on Christmas next and am itching to start decorating. But, I'm so behind on my posting and have tons of pics to share so first things first.  
This year I have been a bit consumed with this: 

VA teachers know what this is and what I'm talking about. These are part of our new social studies standard of learning objectives. We have had a major overhaul to what we teach in the area of social studies. We no longer teach the explorers or famous Americans...all gone.  Instead our focus is on the Ancient Civilizations. 
My team decided it would make sense to begin with our geography standard. In this one students need to be able to identify the major land and water features of 5 of the 7 continents. 
We have no resources to teach these standards with, so here is what I managed to put together:  :
I decided to combine my language arts standards with this new one and have my students make a third grade atlas. We began by studying ones I got from our library and students went on an Atlas hunt during their reading station rounds. This helped me hit the language arts standard: 3.7 Students will demonstrate comprehension of information using a variety of print and electronic resources. 
From there we began looking at each of the continents and adding maps into our own atlases. 

Students used a map key to color code each feature and then cut and glue words on as well. 


Here are the landforms and water features found in the United States that our VA third graders need to know.

We took a look at photographs of these different areas around the world and then drew our own representations of them in our atlas. Students recorded key information about each one. 

Here is our European page: 

More essential knowledge: 


We use Benchmark Literacy in our county. We pulled any and all resources we could find to help support and extend learning. We didn't want kids to just memorize facts that they would later forget. 
This Benchmark Literacy book contained information about the different regions in South America and the animals that live there. I love it when I can integrate!

I got my kids on computers to research one of these physical features and collect information. 
This helped us hit our main idea and details target in reading. Students worked on asking and answering questions using nonfiction text. We have access to the Kids World Book through our library system. SO good! It gives students the ability to research all kinds of topics using kid friendly text. There is even a function that reads the text aloud to students. 

The students used a four square organizer to answer questions and then reported on their findings using this sheet: 

Each student became the expert in one of these physical features. 

We posted it here to share and for everyone to read. 


Students compared and contrasted the different landforms and shared their opinions using this "Would You Rather" writing idea. They had to justify their answer using the information they read. 

Their atlases make a great study guide and then will become a resource we go to when we work through our Ancient Civilization units.  

I've got this posted to my Teacher Pay Teacher store if interested. Check it out here:

I'd love to hear from my Virginia friends! 
Have you found good resources to support the teaching of our new curriculum pieces?
Please share! Email me at or comment below.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Teacher's Day of Thanks

We've made it to Thanksgiving! I can't even put into words how much I appreciate this time to unwind and maybe catch up a bit. 
We have been busy, busy, busy. I'm going to try to get some pictures and thoughts down on this blog while I have the chance. 
This Thanksgiving I am certainly grateful for my students, my children. As busy and chaotic as our days are, when we get right to the heart of what our work is all about, it is about them. It's not about the scores, the curriculum, the tests. These kids are not just a number and name on a data report. As young as they are, each child came into my classroom with a story. For some, that story is already filled with obstacles and hardships. Some deal with such tough stuff that it makes me ache for them.   As their teacher, I get to play a major role in their lives. I am thankful for the opportunity. I pray that I can live up to the responsibility. 
We began the year with students sharing about themselves through a ME Museum project. 
They truly are incredible, amazing and marvelous. 


I love sharing writing time with them. They have taken off and we are writing up a storm. 
Here is our Writing We Can Roar About board where we post some of their pieces. 
Some of them write with such personality and humor. Writing allows them to share bits and pieces of themselves with me. I love reading what they come up with. 


We wrote about a magic cape here. Kids love reading each other's stories. 
One topic led to so many different ideas. 

This was my kind of magic that allows you to eat 12 cakes in one minute every day!

Besides our writer's workshop time, my students write each week as part of homework. 
I pick two students' papers to place in our "SMILE" and "COOL" displays which are part of our reading area. 

Here is a little one who has the right idea about Thanksgiving. She is writing about a special person who helped her through a tough time. I keep telling my kids that the words they put down on paper have the power to make people feel different things. These words made me tear up. 


I'm going to end this blog post with Kid President whose words always make me smile and laugh.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Complaint Free Living Challenge

"Trade Your Expectation to Appreciation and The World Changes Instantly" ~ Tony Robbins Gratitude #Quote:

It's nearly Thanksgiving....time to give thanks and gratitude for all that we have. I love this quote by Tony Robbins. He goes on to advise us to "stand guard at the door of your mind: Condition empowering emotions such as gratitude, courage, faith, determination, compassion and love. Break your pattern and avoid emotions that create stress."  

As a teacher, there is so much about my job that is out of my control and somedays it feels like all I face is one stressful situation after another. Standing guard at the door of my mind is a full time job.  I am reading this international bestselling book by Will Bowen:

A Complaint Free World: How to Stop Complaining and Start Enjoying the Life You Always Wanted by [Bowen, Will]

Like Robins, Will Bowen believes there really are no stressful situations, only stress filled thoughts. If you take control over your thoughts, you can live a stress free life.
Hmmm....what do you think, teachers? 
Over 6 million people in over 80 countries have taken the 21 Day No Complaint Challenge and they have shared their testimonies. 
You can listen to Will Bowen talk about it here: 

So the challenge is to go 21 days without complaining, criticizing or gossiping. 
Get a bracelet and read the rules from Bowen’s book:
1. “Begin to wear the bracelet on either wrist.
2. When you catch yourself complaining, gossiping, or criticizing, move the bracelet to the
other wrist.
3. If you hear someone else who is wearing a bracelet complain, it’s okay to point out
their need to switch the bracelet to the other arm; BUT if you’re going to do this, you must
move your bracelet first! Because you’re complaining about their complaining.
4. Stay with it. It may take many months to reach 21 consecutive days. The average is 4 to 8

Brian writes:
“To be clear, being Complaint Free isn’t about pretending there aren’t any challenges in our lives or in the world. There are. A lot of them.
The question is, what do we DO about it?! Let’s say we’re dissatisfied with something. Do we choose to DO SOMETHING constructive about it or do we choose to sit around and complain about it?
That’s really what this is all about. Will we be a victim or will we be a creator?”
There are four levels that you go through while doing the challenge; apparently most people quit at stage 2:
1. Unconscious Incompetence (Complainers who aren’t aware of how much they complain)
2. Conscious Incompetence (Complainers who are aware but still stuck in the habit)
3. Conscious Competence (Non-complainers who have to think about it)
4. Unconscious Competence (Non-complainers who just ARE it)
This is a tough, tough challenge! I didn't realize how much "complaining" I did until I started focusing on it.  I am stuck at stage 2. I was on day one forever.... then went to day two...slipped up and back to day one. Like Bowen says, it is not failure to bounce back, you are building awareness. No great change happens overnight, right? 
I have had to move that "bracelet" back and forth more times than I'd like to admit, but am determined to push through to 3!

 Bowen says working through these 21 days “diligently, patiently, persistently and playfully”, will rewire your brain to higher and happier levels of being. As Bowen said, “competence and happiness become your unconscious setting.” That sounds good to me!

Click the link below to check out Will Bowen's book: 

Anyone interested in hooking up and taking this challenge? 
Email me at:
or comment below!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Book to Gobble About - A Thanksgiving Freebie

Hello Friends! I CAN NOT even believe that we are into the month of November!!  Where is the pause button?? Can't seem to find one so I believe I am in for a wild and fast ride this year.  I put away my Halloween decor this weekend (seems like I just put it up) and now it's time for turkeys and Thanksgiving. I love this month and love the whole idea of giving thanks for all that we have. With that in mind, I want to thank all of my friends and followers who are still checking this blog and are emailing me to see if I am still breathing. I love and appreciate every single email I get from you all. THANK YOU!
Good news is...yes, I am (still breathing)! And even better, than that, I am here with a quick post to share a November themed book report idea. 
My students are working on writing book responses.  
In this turkey talking book report, my children are sharing a "Book to Gobble About".
They will be telling about a book they are reading during their independent reading time. 

These monthly book reports are one way I hold my students accountable for their "on my own" reading time...otherwise known as BAM time (Books and Me).  Isn't that cute...heard that one from a teammate and it stuck like glue. My kids love BAM time!

We have been working on the monitoring skills of identifying main idea as we read.  Students do that by asking two questions: WHO and WHAT.  Students are also recognizing the power of visualizing. 
For this strategy we verbalize our "mind movies" as we read. We are learning that if the mind movie stops playing then we must stop, rewind and try playing it again. This usually requires slowing down and reading more closely. 

Finally, a connection takes a reader from within the text to beyond the text. 
Students need to connect something they have read to another character or story. 

I have posted this book report sheet in my TPT store as a Freebie. 
Go check it out here: