Monday, July 31, 2017

First Week of School: Back to School Book and Lessons

Do you ever get tired of starting the year in the same way with the same activities? I do and am always looking for new ideas. Well, I stumbled upon a GREAT new "back to school" read aloud that I have never used before. I'm super excited to try it out with my new crop of third graders this year. It is the perfect book to start the year out with, yet really has nothing to do with kids going to school. 
It has to do with Calvin and Calvin can't fly. 
So I guess it does have everything to do with kids going to school. I know so many of my kids may be walking into their new classroom door feeling worried and unsure of their abilities. They'll be thinking about all the things they CAN'T do. Reading this book will help ease their minds. 
This fun story is called, Calvin Can't Fly (The Story of a Bookworm Birdie) and is by Jennifer Berne.  Calvin is a starling and can't fly because all he wants to do is read. 

Calvin is not your typical starling he is different from the others. 
I love that this book will help me to initiate a conversation about respecting and appreciating individual differences. The first week of school is all about getting to know each other and the very beginnings of relationship building. We will be talking about how it is OK for Calvin to be different and for all of us to be different. 
We'll read how at first, the other starlings made fun of Calvin....
I love the language of this book...I will be sure to stop and talk about some of the vocabulary on this page. It is a quick read aloud but meaty, it's filled with great stopping and talking points. 
 Calvin heads to the library where he spends much of his time with his beak in a book. 
When it's time to migrate, Calvin is in trouble!
I like how we can talk here about how although we all have our favorite subjects and activities, we need also need to spend time learning other things too. 
Here is one of my favorite pages: 
The other starlings do not leave Calvin behind! They figure out a way to help him. 
Another great talking point for the classroom. I want my kids to know that although there will be times they are facing hard learning and they may not get it right away, we will work together to make sure everyone learns all that they need to. We will leave no one behind. 
Well, the birds, including Calvin, start on their journey but run into a problem and guess who has the know-how to save the day?  
Yes, Calvin learned all about hurricanes from reading books! He teaches them and they take cover. 
Calvin ends up learning how to fly and the story concludes with them flying off as one big happy family.  This is a fantastic book to use prior to launching your reader's workshop time. 
It hits home the idea that reading is enjoyable and also how we can learn so much from books. I want my students to feel as though they don't need to wait for me to teach them what they are interested in. They can teach themselves just by spending time with a book!
I started creating materials that I plan on using along with this book. I think I'm going to lead my kids through the writing of their very first book response using this book. I made this one page booklet for us to practice doing what good readers do...we will "Prepare for Reading", "Think Before Reading", "Ask and Answer Questions", "Identify Problem and Solution" and "Describe the Character". 

I plan on doing this all together with lots of discussion. It will serve as my training session. 
I also created a blank response booklet that my kids will attempt to fill out on their own later during the second week of school. I like my students to do some sort of book responding at least once a week on a book that they choose during independent reading time. 
After reading this book, I want my kids to spend time getting to know more about their new classroom family. I'm going to have them play this simple book inspired game. They will simply spin the spinner and move their "Calvin" to a question that they will answer. 
It will give me an opportunity to watch my new students working with a partner and taking turns speaking and listening to each other. Afterwards, they will fill out this "post play" form to tell what they learned about their new friend. 
During writing time, we will talk about how, like Calvin, we all have things we can do well and things that are still hard for us. Third grade gets tough fast. I want my kids to feel empowered and not ever give up on themselves. We will celebrate our talents and talk about goal setting as students write about themselves using this sheet: 
It fits inside this Calvin booklet. Sometimes kids need a break during that first week of school. Having them create a quick craft gives them that mental break while allowing me to check out their fine motor skills and their ability to start and finish a project. 
Plus it can be displayed with the title: We Are Going to Soar in Third Grade. Then kids can read about other kids and hopefully make more connections. 
Once I started creating using the themes of this book, I could not stop. 
I think I may do a whole day with Calvin in mind. 
Here is a math page that is also inspired by this book. It will give me a glimpse into what kind of math thinkers they are. The problems are ones that they should have been exposed to as second graders. I included a checklist for students to use after completing each problem. 
I teach my kids to take responsibility for their own learning. 
Part of that is knowing what is easy or hard for them and then focusing on it. 
Again, like Calvin, not everything is easy for us and that is OK. 
We may end week one with a quick and simple STEM activity to allow them an opportunity to work in a cooperative group. I want to see them in action. I can learn so much about my new students by observing them in situations like this one. They will work on designing and creating a contraption to get Calvin from a starting point to his migration destination. I will simply put out a sampling of recycled materials and see what they can come up with. Working alongside each other is the best way for them to bond and building relationships with their new classmates. 

I am including this set in my TPT store if you are interested in trying any of these activities out yourself. Check your school or public library for Calvin Can't Fly. It is an easy book to find!
Click the link below: 

Do you have a favorite Back to School Book? I'd love to hear. 
Share below or email at

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Back to School Graphs: New Friends and Their Favorites

Summer is not so much a season as it is a melody, 
that tune of contentment we hum as the days begin to beautifully blur. 
Sarah Ban Breathnach

So true, summer brings with it so many simple joys that if we are not careful, can go unnoticed. 
We went to the mountains last week and found a quiet spot in the river to swim and sit. 
I could not have been more content than I was swimming in the flow of that cool mountain water. 
Simple abundance exists all around us. Noticing and appreciating each day's gifts can unlock the fullness in our lives. Aren't we lucky as teachers to be able to shed thoughts of school and work expectations for a short while. 
Sweet sweet summer....but then I went to Target. 
Have you been recently? 
They are clearing out summer and filling it in with back to school stuff. 
Stealing my joy. 

It seems earlier each year. I know many who are beginning to plan for the next school year. 
I have a friend who does and says it is because she wants to be kind to her "future self". 
She says planning now helps keep her sane in September. 
How about you? Are you a planning ahead or planning to procrastinate? I'm usually the latter of the two. For those of you who are thinking of the next school year, I am posting some "Back to School" files to my Teacher Pay Teacher store. 

The beginning of the year can be a challenging time for me. I want to devote enough time getting to know my new students yet there is always the push to get right into the academics so we don't get behind at the start. Does anyone else deal with that? It sometimes feels like we don't have the time to ease into the much to teach in one year's time.

To deal with that, I have attempted to combine some "Getting to Know You" type activities with some of our third grade reading and math objectives. We work on graphing right at the beginning of the year. Third graders need to be able to use data to create picture graphs, bar graphs and line plots. 
Here is a file that allows students a chance to survey each other to find out more about one another at the same time they are getting practice in making and analyzing picture graphs. 

This set includes 14 different "Getting to Know You" survey questions, tally charts, symbols and graphing papers. Third graders typically deal with the symbol of a picture graph equaling more that just one. Having to represent data with the symbol equaling 2 or more raises the rigor and requires students to cut the symbol. Having to cut the picture graph symbols out and gluing them onto the graph helps to slow students down and forces them to think about how many symbols they really need. 

You can check out this set by clicking the link below. 

Do you have favorite "Getting to Know You" activities? Would love to hear!

Classroom Library Book Worm Jar: Freebie

Happy Friday! I've got a freebie for you this morning. They have cute jars at the Target One Spot this month. I picked up one with a red lid for a new Book Worm Jar for my classroom. I added a label to the front and will stuff it with book worms (gummy worms)  when we go back to school.

I am also working on a new Book Nook sign for my classroom. I am adding some new reading spots this year and wanted to include them in this rotation poster. 
I will add clothespins with names of my students on this chart. Students are assigned to a special "book nook" during independent reading time. I just move clothespins down each day so students get a new one each time. 

Walmart carries great little plastic rocker chairs for a really cheap price! My students loved them last year so I added a couple more to our collection. 
Check the stores now and in another month when stores discount their dorm room items. I have found great book nooks for cheap prices during these sale times.
I found these "recliner" chairs at Target years ago and they still work great!

I know how important it is to have my third graders spend as much time possible reading quality texts on their level. I try to create a quiet, comfortable and peaceful environment for our reading time.
I've changed up my classroom library set up  a bit and now it will be organized by both genre and leveled readers. I started this last year and really liked it. 
When I go back in the fall, I will add more letters to these baskets. 
I like having books also organized by genre since that is something we teach in third grade. 
By this age, kids really start knowing what they prefer reading.

I also showcase books along our reading wall. These are "Teacher Pick" books that go along with our content area studies. Students tend to grab up these books and I love that since it allows them an opportunity to learn more and dig deeper into the standards that we teach. These kids become science and social studies experts and can add much to our content area discussions based on what they learn on their own during independent reading time. 

We also take turns reading to these cute bookworms that we keep in our class library. 
Third graders still go crazy for stuffed animals. If they want to read to them they need to keep reading the WHOLE reading time. Book worms only want to visit with students who are reading...ha! 
Yes, believe it or not, third graders are NOT too old for this!

Before reading time I pick a "Mystery Reader".  I tell my students I picked one of them, but will not tell who it is. The idea is that I will keep a close eye on that person for the duration of our reading time. If  that person remains a productive reading and do "real reading" the ENTIRE time, they are announced as a "bookworm" and get a gummy worm prize at the end of the reading block.  If they don't stay stuck in their book,  they are not announced but I will go to them individually and talk to them about what I saw and how they can make it the next time. 

I've added the Book Worm Jar label to my TPT store as a free item.  
You can check it out here:

 So how do you encourage productive reading during your sustained, silent reading time? 
I would love for you to share!
Comment below or email me at