Monday, May 29, 2017

Money Skills: Counting Coins and Making Change

We are coming to our final weeks of school.  How are you spending your days? I see these last weeks as an opportunity to fine tune our skills.  Money skills tend to be an area that needs more work and review. With the onset of debit cards, it seems there is very little real world exposure and practice of counting and totaling coins, yet it is still in the curriculum and must be taught. I dug into the contents of this bucket in my classroom and brought the money back out for one final look before fourth grade. 
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I love to integrate reading with all content areas. Author Stuart Murphey has created a series of wonderful math related books. I LOVE reading and using them in my third grade classroom. These books are super easy to find. I bet you have them in your school library. If not, check Youtube for a read aloud online version.  They include a storyline that students can connect to and also incorporate math thinking through the problem and solution of the story. Here is one that I use when teaching or in this case, reviewing  money concepts: 
The Sluggers are a baseball team and they need new team shirts for the playoffs. They come up with an idea of having a carwash to raise the money they need. Customers come and the Sluggers start earning money. I want my students to work the math problems along with the characters so I created a problem sheet to go along with the story. 
I don't have multiple copies of this book so I use it as a class interactive read aloud. I pause at the problem solving pages and have my kids do them.  Then we compare their math with the solution the characters came up with.  This lends itself to great math talk as we discuss the multiple ways to arrive at the answer. Here is an example of our third grade math thinking: 


After the reading and math problem solving, we transition into math stations. Here's where I integrate a language arts component. I give my students a chance to respond to the story by completing a language arts foldable. I like using this as one of my math station activities during math rounds.  This is a simple one page foldable.  On the front is a place for them to document the characters, setting, problem and solution of the story. On the back they do a short writing activity connected to the story.  

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Inside the booklet, students respond to a variety of word work and comprehension questions. 
This gives students a few more practice opportunities with these language arts skills plus it gives me another grade for the grade book. 


For another math station, I created an independent activity and a partner game.  Here is the "On My Own" practice I have my students do.  Third graders need multiple exposures to two step math problems. Here students need to solve the word problem, then use paper coins to show the money. 


For my "Work with a Partner" station, students play this spinner game. Students take turns spinning the spinner 8 times to collect 8 coins.  They draw them on their sheet and then total them up.  I made sure to include the backs when I made the spinner.. my kids still get tripped up when looking at the backs of coins. 
After totaling, students use a greater than or less than symbol to compare the amounts.  The student with the greater total wins. It's a super simple game and one kids can do on their own!

I run these three activities for my math rounds.  This gives me the time I need for my reading assessments. If kids work productively, respectfully and responsibly, they get a small prize. 
Image result for chocolate coin
I found these chocolate coins and I am not above bribing  encouraging them at this point in the year with a sugary treat. 

I added this set to my Teacher Pay Teacher store.  You can click the link below if you are interested in using it with your students. 

How are you getting through these final weeks?  I would love to hear!
Comment below or email me at 
Would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

VA SOL Third Grade Math Test: Prep and Practice

It is hard to believe that we have less than a month of school left! I came across this picture of our Target Board from back in the beginning of the year. Virginia has high expectations for its students in third grade. We have worked through a TON of math targets since the fall.  :

Thankfully, we are at the point now where we have introduced all our standards and are working on reviewing them for fourth grade and making sure students can answer the rigorous questions that they will face on their end of the year SOL test. Third graders will be expected to work through questions that cover the six math strands of: number sense, computation and estimation, measurement, geometry, probability and patterns/function/algebra. Whew...that's a lot!  Along with all that math thinking comes a lot of words.  

We have the words on this math vocabulary vine. It starts out bare in the beginning of the year. Then as we teach new concepts and learn new words, we add them to the vine. By the end of the year it is completely filled. Hopefully these words are also filled in the minds of my students! To be sure, we use our final weeks of school to create math vocabulary rings. This allows us to take a final look at all these words plus they can take them home and review them prior to the third grade test and over the summer. 


 On one side of the card is the term and the other is the definition and visual representation or example. We fill it out together, then students just cut the cards across and fold in the middle. We add about 3 sheets of words each day for a week.  They are super simple to make. The folded paper makes it thick enough so that the kids can turn the cards without the paper ripping. I like that making this set of cards now, after everything has been taught, allows us to review it all one final time. 

Then the fun begins. We get to play card games.  We play games like class pictionary or math baseball with them. The kids need some down time at this time of the year. Games like these let them have fun while still reviewing. 

I've added these to my TPT store. You can click the link below to check them out. 

Along with the cards and card games, we get down to the more serious business of answering tough third grade questions. It can be hard to find questions that are as rigorous as those on the SOL test, so I've used released items from the state to create some similar practice questions.  These questions are arranged by strand. That way students practice being flexible thinkers. Their little brains need to bounce from strand to strand as they answer geometry questions to number sense to computation questions. 

I like using this for classwork or homework practice. I make sure we go over the answers together and talk about what strategies we used to get the correct answer. If you need practice questions, you can also find these in my store. This set includes ten pages that I run back to back. This will give you five days of practice pages. Each day my students answer 12 questions - two questions from each strand. 
You can check it out by clicking the link below. 

 I know it's a stressful time of year as we get our students prepared to take their first attempt at these types of tests. 
Wishing my Virginia teacher friends all the BEST!
Questions/Comments?  Email me at or comment below. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Comprehension Freebie: QAR Strategy Printables

We all have heard about the shift in reading that happens in grade three. Less of our reading time is spent learning to read and much more of it is devoted to thinking about the text. We spend a lot of time asking and answering comprehension questions. In my last blog post I talked about running comprehension clubs.  I had some people ask me to talk more about it. First though, let's talk about how we can help our students be more successful answering questions in the first place.  Many experts in the area of reading promote the use of QAR as a comprehension strategy.  QAR stands for "question-answer relationship".  
This strategy focuses on teaching students that different questions involve different thinking. Through the use of this strategy students will be encouraged to think more deeply about the question before attempting to answer it.  When students begin to analyze comprehension questions they are more successful in answering them. 
Comprehension questions can be categorized and classified into four levels:
Level One:
These are the questions in which the answers are right there. Often words used in the question are the same words found in the text. We call these “NO EXCUSE” questions.
Level Two:
These answers are gathered from several parts of the text and put together. This takes some work and effort- like putting a puzzle together.
Level Three:
These questions are based on clues provided in the text. Students need to make inferences and think like a reading detective to answer the question.
Level Four:
The answer to these questions are not in the text. The reader should be encouraged to “think like an author” to answer them. They use their background knowledge and some common sense to answer them.
Introduce these four levels of questions with your readers. Have them begin thinking about the question before trying to answer it. 
Here is the poster that we have hanging in our room.  Kids also have this printed in a smaller size and have glued them into their reading journals

I've added the printables for this to my Teacher Pay Teacher store as a free item. 
I'll be uploading some other language arts freebies in the next week. Please
                      follow my store and let me know if these materials have worked for you!
Click the link below to check it out. 
                                                              QAR Printables Pack