Monday, April 30, 2018

We're Becoming Metric Measuring Marvels!

Centimeters, liters, grams, milliliters, meters, kilograms....for most third graders these are unfamiliar, rather confusing math and science words. They get so jumbled in their little brains!  Learning the metric units and understanding them to the point of applying them can be a struggle. If your students are anything like mine, they need plenty of exposure to the words and lots of hands on practice using them.  

We are working on becoming "Metric Measurement Marvels"!
If we are to become one, then we must be sure we understand the units, can measure with them AND make reasonable estimations.

We will work through measurements of length, weight and capacity and record our learning along the way.  Here are the pages that we fill out with all the important information that we have to learn.
Last year we folded our pages and stapled them to make a booklet.

We are keeping math notes in a marble composition book this year.  
It comes in handy as we can go back to prior learning if we need to review a concept.

As I introduced units of length, we added them to our journals.  
We learned benchmarks for each one....the centimeter is about the width of our fingernail and the meter is about the width of an arm span.  Referring to these benchmarks helps when we need to make estimations of length.  

Students get practice using the tools to measure items and then they record them on a chart and finally transfer the data to a bar graph.  I'm always looking for ways to connect prior math learning and this allows students another opportunity to apply graphing skills.

The pages are set up for students to work through:  "What I Know",  "What I Can Do" and
"What I Can Create" using each type of metric measurement.

My students worked on their measurement skills at a math station during guided math time.
It was easier to gather the materials for six students at a station as opposed to the whole class trying to work on it at the same time. Really, since my students worked in partners, it was just three balance scales, three tubs of rice and three rulers.
Having to record their measurements in the booklet or math journal made them accountable for the work.  Allowing for whole group math talk time afterwards helped to make sure students were understanding the concepts.

The other part of our standard involves students making reasonable estimations.
Students enjoyed playing these spinner games with a partner.
Working with a partner allowed students to share their thinking and their rationale.
Here is where I wanted to hear them using their "benchmarks" to help them.

Verbalizing their thinking is essential.  When doing a paper task like the one below, I always have the class check papers right afterwards. 
Immediate feedback on a skill like this one is so critical!

We still have more learning to do!
This is a skill that needs to be intentionally reinforced and will show up in more math stations as we go through the rest of the year.
I'll be posting how I reinforce measurement through my behavior system next.
Follow my blog or check back soon!

If you are interested in using these materials with your students you can check it out in my store.
Just click the link below:

Metric Measurement Marvels: Measuring Weight, Length, Capacity

Metric Measuring Marvels

How do you handle the challenge of teaching the metric units to your students?
Would LOVE to hear!
Let's help each other out....
Comment below or email at!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Hello Spring! An Easy to Follow Poetry Writing Activity

It is finally beginning to look and feel like spring in Virginia!  I'm so excited to feel the warm sun again.  We had a good soaking rain and the world has burst into bloom.  It is time to say hello to spring and bid farewell to old man winter.  What better way to do this than with poetry? 
My students and I had the best time writing and celebrating all the joys of spring time. 

As with most of the writing activities we do, I start with a mentor text.  For this one, I checked out a variety of Spring related poetry books from our school library.  We read poem after poem and enjoyed the flow of the language and the beauty of the springtime illustrations. 
Our favorite was Swing Around the Sun by Barbara Esbenson. We were lucky enough to have a digital version of this one so I could project it and could use it as a shared reading activity. 
Image result for swing around the sun

This acrostic poem book about Spring gave us good inspiration for writing our own poetry. 
After enjoying the poetry of others, my students were ready to draft a poem of their own.  We used a venn diagram to compare and contrast winter and spring.  We were careful to think of contrasting ideas that correlated with each other.  For instance, if we wrote that we drink hot cocoa in the winter, we would record a spring time drink like lemonade on the opposite side.  Because we always say "two brains are better than one", my students brainstormed with a partner.  Then we shared ideas as a whole class.

The next day we were ready to draft.  We used our ideas from our venn diagrams to help us craft lines using the pattern Hello..... and Goodbye......   I modeled how to add adjectives and verbs to jazz up lines and make them more interesting to read.  For instance instead of writing Hello sandals and Goodbye boots, we could say..."Hello strappy sandals that let my feet breathe and Goodbye furry boots that keep my toes toasty warm."  My kids came up with some amazing lines!  I love to pause during the drafting stage to have kids read their "Golden Lines".  Hearing the creative lines they were coming up with really inspired the other writers in the room. 

The revising and editing stage came next. It is at this point that I share the writing rubric that will be used.  We talk about their third grade writing targets.  Students get a copy of the rubric and meet with a writing partner.  We always revise in green pen and edit in red.  Students give "Positive Praise" and "Friendly Feedback" during this process.  They give specific compliments about word choice or ideas and then can give helpful advice about a line that may sound confusing or words that may be overused. 

It comes to me next.  It is at this point that I grade the writing piece using the rubric that was shown to the students.  I make any additional corrections so the students get a cleaned up draft to copy.  They copy in their neatest handwriting during the publishing stage. 

Next students get to create art work for to accompany their poem.  We used cupcake liners to craft spring time flowers.  They flipped the liner inside out so the pretty bright colors showed.  Then they used scrap paper to add grass, bugs, leaves, etc. 

Now they were ready to display for others to read and enjoy. 

They make a colorful and cheerful display. 

ALL my students were successful in creating a poem that they were proud to hang up for others to read.  
I've added this poetry activity file to my TPT store if you are interested in trying it with your students.  If you do, my students and I would love to read some of your Hello, Goodbye poems!
Email me @

Happy Spring and Happy Writing!

Let's Write a Spring Poem: Writing Resources and Rubric

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Challenge of Teaching in 2018

I started teaching in 1985.  Life was different, society was different, schools were different and teaching was definitely different.   Technology has played a huge role in the change. There has been much discussion about the challenge of teaching today's children. Never before have I seen so many young elementary students suffering from anxiety and depression. As adults, is it time to reevaluate the choices we are making in the raising of our children? What is to become of us if we don't? 

Please take a listen to Simon Sinek as he addresses the concerns of a new generation.  

According to Simon Sinek, "We have the responsibility to make up the shortfall and help this amazing, idealistic, fantastic generation build their confidence, learn patience and learn social skills, find a balance between life and technology because frankly, it's the right thing to do."  

As teachers, I feel as though we need to lead the charge in this area. What's to be done?  
I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Comment below or email at 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Animal Vocabulary and Rubber Band Books

Lions and tigers and bears....oh my!! Yes, my kids are WILD about animals.  We are studying animals and their amazing adaptations.  We've learned that ducks have oil glands to keep themselves dry, that rabbits run in zig zag motions to outmove their predators and so much more.

We are learning about how different animals are suited for different habitats.

Students are preparing to begin researching an animal.  They will become an expert on it and then teach us all they have discovered. 

But before I set them on their own to dig into books and nonfiction articles, I must teach them some content specific words.  This will help them as they read texts about animals.  Then I want to see them using these vocabulary words when they speak and write about their animal.
There are a TON of them!  We are creating an mini animal glossary booklet to help us keep them all straight. 

We view information on a set of slides and then students illustrate each word.  These are meaningful illustrations and through their drawings they must demonstrate their understanding of the term. 

We cut them all out and then we must put them in alphabetical order...just like a real dictionary or glossary.  

We glue them into the pages of this little rubberband book.  This is the perfect size!

Have you made this type of book before?  They are super simple. Once you show your kids, they will want to make them again and again.

I use the jumbo index cards that measure 5 inches by 8 inches. 

I fold the number of card I need for the book and cut a small slit at the top and bottom of the crease.

I used these cheap hair ties that I found at the dollar spot at Target to bind the pages.

And there you go, a great little booklet.

If you teach an animal unit and are interested in creating an animal dictionary or glossary, you can check here for the slides and cards.
Animal Unit Vocabulary Words and Slides

Animal Vocabulary Cards and Slides

Monday, April 2, 2018

Ancient Civilizations: Studying Ancient Greece

Hello Friends!  Unfortunately, it's a cloudy and cool first day of Spring Break in my neck of the woods. Fortunately, that gives me an opportunity to stay indoors and finally blog a post or two. 
I'm hoping to document some of what my third graders have been into this year before we say goodbye to the school year.  Has time been on fast forward for you? 
It seems like it goes by faster each year.  

Our state standards in the area of Social Studies have changed and now we are responsible for teaching five different Ancient Civilizations.  We have recently finished up the study of Ancient Greece. 

One of the first things I do in preparation for teaching anything in the content areas, is check out a wide variety of books on the subject.  My kids love picking books to read from our classroom library section.  For the study of Greece, I also added myths and Aesop's fables.  Aesop was a Greek slave who was believed to have told these short stories to teach his listeners lessons. 

We continue to add sections to our learning logs.  Students will go home with a journal that is stuffed with all the science and social studies learning we have done this year.  
It is the first year I have put all of it together in one journal but I really like having it all in one place!

Their journal notes serve as their study guides for our unit tests.  

I like to have my students read and write through the social studies curriculum. 
We continue to work on paragraphing using main ideas and details. We use a table organizer for this with the main idea as the table top and the details as the legs that hold up or support it.   I scaffold the instruction by giving students a bank of words that can and should be used.  They work on combining words to form sentences that will support their topic sentence.  

For this final activity, students decorated an orange pot with a scene from Ancient Greece. 
Then they described what they discovered about Ancient Greece by writing about it.  We hung these up as a way to remember all that we learned. 

Writing postcards for one of the ancient Civilizations was another way we concluded our Ancient Civilization unit.  Students needed to pretend they were a visitor in Ancient Greece and write about what they saw and did.

Finally, students partnered up and were given a bridge map to contrast a relating factor of two of the ancient civilizations that we have studied so far. 

Some of the relating factors were location and physical characteristics. 

Others were architecture and contributions. 

I've added a Greece file to my TPT store. It includes all the teaching slides and pages for learning logs. 
You can check it out here if interested: 
Ancient Greece Slide Show and Materials Bundle VA SOL Aligned