Monday, May 28, 2018

Yes We Can! Third Grade Writing: Four Paragraph Research Paper

Third graders are naturally curious. 
They have lots of questions about lots of things.
One of my objectives as their teacher is to get them to realize that they don't really need me.
If they have pondering, questioning, or wondering minds then they can do something about it...
they don't need to wait for me or anyone else  to teach them.
They can teach themselves by picking up a book.
That's just what we did during our animal unit. 
I primed them by teaching them some vocabulary words connected to this science unit.

We learned about carnivores omnivores and herbivores.
We learned about predators and prey.
We learned about terrestrial and aquatic environments and SO much more.
Then it was time to use those words along with our good reader strategies and skills.
It was time to dig into nonfiction text resources like nonfiction books, encyclopedias and internet resources. 
It was time to research.
So I went to our school library and checked out a ton of books about an assortment of animals.
I love the New True Books about Animals and Nature's Children Books.  They are very third grade friendly and have all the nonfiction text features like indexes, glossaries and tables of content that I want my kids to get practice with.

I let my students pick a research buddy and an animal and we set to work. 

We made a simple research folder out of a piece of construction paper.
Students cut out the four categories or topics that we wanted to include in our research:
habitat, diet, physical and behavioral characteristics. 
These are aligned to the science learning objectives that are part of our curriculum.
I helped kids out by adding some guiding questions under each category. 

We glued those into the center of the folder. 

On the front they glued a cover that included a place to write the animal they were researching.
Then they filled a circle map with a picture of the animal and facts that they already knew about it.
This helps kids tap into their prior knowledge and gets them thinking about what they  want to learn. 

On the back cover, we glued another page to record the questions we had about the animal we were about to research.  This helped us set a purpose for reading.
The back page also include a place to record the sources they used to gather information. 

I required my students to use at least three different research resources.
We started with our books. 

Partners helped coach partners in using the index and table of contents to locate the specific answers to questions we had.  Students used post it notes to record information. 
Students bulleted information rather than writing complete sentences for this fact finding mission. 
One of our learning objectives is to understand what plagiarism is. 
No plagiarists here!

Working in groups kept everyone accountable. 
There was lots of conversation and I used this as an opportunity to ask questions and take some anecdotal notes. 
No need for a multiple choice test...authentic assessment at its finest!

Later in the week, we also used the children's online encyclopedia and the research site: Pebble Go.  Kids loved this site!
We kept collecting information on our post its and added them under the category in which they belonged.  

After days of researching and collecting facts, it was time to begin recording them in paragraph form. We have been working on paragraphing using the "Hamburger" method all year long. 
Lots of shared writing had paid off. 
My kids did a great job coming up with a topic sentence, adding details and then a conclusion sentence. 

We had some peer revising and editing to do.  We reviewed our writing targets and students helped students clean up our drafts. Then it came to me.  I had quick conferences with students.
We corrected words like the homophone...roam/rome. 

My students begged to do the final draft on computers. 
It is amazing how fast they are picking up keyboarding skills!
All that was left was to add an illustration.
I had my kids create "pop up" art work that highlighted the animal's habitat.
Here is their end product.
A four paragraph research paper!
Mission Accomplished!

My students loved working on this project.  They were engaged readers and writers and were able to use the skills we worked on all year in a truly authentic way.
Are you interested in having your students attempt this mission?
This set is included in my TPT store.
You can check it out by clicking the link below!

Animal Research Project Materials

Animal Research Project

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Collection of Card Games for Word Work Review

We are winding down our school year and spending time reviewing a year's worth of learning. 
Third graders have been exposed to words, words and more words. 
From prefixes to suffixes from synonyms to antonyms, we covered it all.  
 We have evidence of our learning throughout our room. 
We've posted words on our Word Wiz board...

On our word wall...

On charts....

and in our word closet....

Do they have them all straight in their little brains....probably not entirely.
Lots of words need lots of practice.  So I've added games to our Work With Words bucket.
Playful practice will give them a way to review what they've learned while holding their attention. 

My third graders love card games.
Here is antonym Go Fish

Synonym Bingo

Prefix Boom!

A suffix match game...

I've added these games and more to my Teacher Pay Teacher Store.
If you are interested in checking it out, just click the link below.

Reading Third Grade VA SOL Test Practice Card Games

Sunday, May 6, 2018

SOL Reading Test Practice and Comprehension Clubs

I read this on Robert Marzano's twitter feed today:

"Probably the most powerful way to communicate high expectations for reluctant learners is to interact with them in a rigorous manner when they respond incorrectly to a question. Pay them the same deference you would a high-expectancy student."

In other words, we are not to let any student off the hook....Here is how he suggests probing:


We are using the think-pair-share strategy during our comprehension club time.  I tend to run club meetings more often as we get closer to state testing time.  The first step in forming comprehension clubs is to group students heterogeneously with 4 students in a group.  I make sure that I have one student who is a strong, "take charge" type in each group.  "Reluctant learners", as Marzano refers to them, are mixed into each of the different clubs as well.  With this set up, you have student "coaches" in each group.  By this time of the year, I have many students who have the third grade reading strategies and skills down solidly and end up sounding just like minnie me's as they work with their club members. 
Kids learning from's a good thing! 

We always have a first meeting in which students just meet to share what types of reading and books they like the best and then they come up with a club name. 
 Here are our clubs this year: 

My personal favorite: The "Read Hard or Go Home" about rigorous expectations!
Plus how fun would it be to sit on a mushroom or flower while it!

I attach their club signs to the 3C Reader Poster.  Clubs can earn star points for working productively,  respectfully and responsibly with their clubmates.  

During their club meetings, my groups have been working on reading different types of texts, discussing and analyzing them, and then answering comprehension questions.  
This is where I get some state test preparation in.  

We read the text outside of our club meeting time.  This allows me to support those who need some reading help to get through the passage.  Everyone is responsible for thinking through the questions independently though.  They meet with their clubmates and sit in a circle facing away from each other.  They read and answer just one question at a time on their own.  They make sure they have found proof of their answer using the text and have highlighted words or sentences as needed.   

After I ring the bell, the group members will face each other.  They each have a job to do. 
Student One will read the question aloud along with any answer choices. 

Student Two gives his answer and justifies it by referring back to the text and explaining why he answered as he did. 

Student Three confirms.  This mean he will either agree or disagree with the answer given. He will add on to further justify why he agrees or give alternate proof as a way to explain why he disagrees. He will also manage the group as the group further discusses how they believe the question should be answered.  This is the most interesting part of the process for me.  As a teacher, you can really witness who has a good understanding of reading and thinking skills. It is as if you can get a glimpse into their little brains as they discuss how and why they think as they do.   I take plenty of anecdotal records during this time.  

After a bit of debate, the club usually reaches an agreement as to what they believe a good answer is.  Student Four checks everyone's understanding.  This is necessary because I will pull a random student pin and that person will need to report for the club.  

We will have a quick whole class reporting of the answer and then move to the next question.  We turn the job cube with each question so everyone gets a turn to take on the four roles.  I will have to say that kids don't let kids off the hook and they have high expectations for everyone in their club. 
A little peer pressure tends to work well in holding everyone responsible and accountable for thinking and answering.  It's amazing what they will do to get me to draw a star on their club sign. 

Thoughts about Marzano's tweet?  
Would love to hear your take on it!
Interested in running comprehension clubs using the Role Cube? 
Email or comment below and I'll send it your way!