Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Next Year, New Grade

I have enjoyed my time these past two years in third grade very much. The students are independent (they can tie their shoes!), our class discussions were filled with details (and fewer "stories"), and the subject content was so interesting. Next year I will be moving to fourth grade, which is departmentalized, and teach two mathematics and science classes. A dream position! I am glad for the summer but already looking forward to next school year!

Sunday, May 14, 2017


I have noticed a couple of similarities with third grade students who need extra help with reading.

1. They are still tracking print with their finger when reading. This slows the reading and then affects their comprehension. Decades ago (in first grade) the rule of thumb was to give them a bookmark or an index card to place under the sentences and then move down as they read. I think in an effort to make students appear more "engaged" we have prolonged tracking print with their fingers.

This is especially important to fix as students are reading more passages and articles on the computer, especially for testing. You might see them reaching out to touch the screen or rereading words, phrases, and sentences more often.

2. For vocabulary, using context clues should be used in conjunction with structured vocabulary lessons. Has the common core standard which requires students to use context clues in reading replaced the need for teachers to just teach words? No doubt they need to use context clues when reading. Sometimes context clues are not enough, they need more direct instruction.  It is not just science and social studies content words that are difficult, but words like "remember" or "disappointed." 

One strategy I have used this year is before reading the passage together (choral or partner), I dedicated the first five minutes for them to read it silently and highlight words that are unfamiliar. As a class we discussed the words and sometimes I would display a visual for the word using my laptop.

My reasoning for this was to allow them to first use the context clues to find meaning and provide support only for those words they had trouble with. I worry with the reading shift away from using books and instead using passages as the primary source for reading instruction, that we are limiting students' vocabulary. If we move away from using books for reading instruction, then maybe we should bring back a scheduled read-aloud time for the intermediate students.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Retirement...not mine

Just wanted to give a shout-out to my mother who is retiring at the end of this school year after spending 36.5 years teaching. Her experience spans all lower elementary grades and Title I reading. We have spend most of my career teaching at the same schools and I will miss seeing her daily. I have no idea what we will talk about now! I can not remember a time when my mother was not either a college student taking education classes or actually in the classroom. It is a bittersweet time, more for me than her. Congratulations mom, I am so proud of you!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

My New Rug

I have missed having a space for my students to meet for some of our whole group lessons.
Most of the rugs I found were too cute, too large in size with an equally large shipping fee, or were just too expensive. I found these 5 x 7 rugs from and bought two of them so I would have more than enough room for all my students. Surprisingly, my students enjoy sitting on the rug with their laptops and center tubs during small group time. It was also great to use when demonstrating area! I have a few pom-pom puff balls in blue, green, and yellow hanging above the rug, and will add red, hot pink, and orange to hang over the ceiling space above the rug.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Folded Fraction Strips

At the beginning of our fraction unit, we fold strips of papers to make the fraction units, but it can be difficult for some students to fold equal parts. My students will use these strips throughout the unit in many lessons. This year I decided to make strips with dotted lines for students to use as a guide when folding. If you are looking for these, you can find them here.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Poppy the Pumpkin

Every grade-level/team at our school decorates a pumpkin as a Storybook Character. The entire student body votes on their favorite to decide the winner. We also have a Storybook Character parade.
This is our third grade team's pumpkin-isn't she a cutie!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Math Facts Fluency

Math Facts are important for students to know fluently. The automatic recall helps students solve complex problems easily instead of using all their mental power to solve each problem by drawing pictures, arrays, equal groups, etc. You know, students who tediously draw arrays for 4 x 5 and you want to whisper "It's 20."

I have created a packet that has everything you need to help students solve math facts fluently, for addition to 20, subtraction to 20, multiplication to 10, and division to 10 and it does not involve the use of flashcards! I plan to use this for my third grade Math RTI,  but it could be used for math small groups or as enrichment for K-2 small groups.

All games are printed with only black ink and all printables can be printed and placed in plastic sleeves so you will NEVER need to stand in line at the copier to make any additional copies for a small group of students!

Let's begin with the presentation. I made a binder cover to use as a Math RTI for all four operations, but I also made individual binder covers for each operation. I anticipate that each operation will need a separate binder as I collect activities to use. 

A simple, editable lesson plan sheet is included. I check the activities planned for each day.

Each activity in the packet has an activity sheet "How to make" and "How to use with students."

This Bingo Game is designed so you will never have to print anything after making the cards and game boards. They place the board in a plastic sleeve and you tell them what numbers to randomly write in the spaces using a dry erase marker.
Memory Games are so engaging and once you print and laminate the cards, all you will need to do is grab and go!

Using the same cards from the Memory Game, the students sort the equations by difference, sum, or quotient.

Cover, Copy, Compare is an activity we will use every day. I made this version so I would not need to make any copies. They will slip the grid in a plastic sleeve and I will write the facts on a folded piece of paper.

I hope you take a look at my Fact Fluency Kit at TpT. You can find it here!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Classroom Photos

I'm ready for the students! I have finished decorating and organizing the classroom, lesson plans are ready, and copies have been made. These photos were taken before I placed names on their desks. I used owl name plates and placed magnets on the back, then stuck them to the front of the desks. 
I learned from my first year in third grade last year, that desks arranged in rows facing the front were the most comfortable seating for my students. I can see them, they can see me and the board, but they are still clustered together with other students so they have a shoulder partner or partners. I created a row down the middle because I like to move around.
The front of my classroom houses the center carts. I use 20 sets of task cards for math centers and 20 sets of task cards for literacy centers. Usually they use notebook paper to record their answers so I do not have to make so many copies, but I did copy the recording sheets for this month. Each student rotates through most of the 20 drawers throughout the month, so each student has his/her own center everyday. They just take the drawer their desk. I purchased the task cards from many, many TpT authors. I switch the task cards at the beginning of each month.
Because the math and literacy centers allow the students to practice many different skills, I use these anchor charts to create a reference wall. I am able to take the math charts off (magnetic) and use them on the document camera during my lessons.
My small group area
I use the stacking trays on the counter as student mailboxes. I purchased some nifty folders to use this year from Nicky's Folders. I am so excited for the students to use them as a Take Home Folder.
Hallway Display to showcase student work
The owls are hot glued to clothespins and have labels with the student names on them.

I hope you have a great school year!

Saturday, October 17, 2015


Lapbooks remind me of the days when I was a stay-at-home mom. We made them during some of our homeschooling lessons. I think lapbooks are going to be useful once again, but this time in my classroom and with my students!

Next week we are beginning a science unit on Matter (Mixtures and Separating) and a Social Studies unit about South America. I have lapbooks to use with both topics.

The Matter Lapbook contains pieces from kits I purchased from TpT.
The pieces are mixed and matched from Paper Bag Matter Book from Hooty's Homesroom and States of Matter Lapbook from Amber Polk. Both of these can be found in their TpT stores.
I made some of the pieces to cover other topics that will be taught but were not included in their kits.

Here are the directions for adding an insert. I needed one so the students can keep their reading passages and notes in one place. It will be easier for them to study for a test when all the information is compact and organized.

This is the lapbook for South America. I created this lapbook and it is in my TpT store 
It includes 5 lessons with reading passages and the lapbook pieces to use as a follow-up activities.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Reading Passages-Binders vs. Files

Fall Break is halfway over and I have completed many of my big projects. One of them was to organize reading passages. In Kindergarten I used leveled readers, mostly the books from readingatoz. These books were simple to organize, put a rubber band around them and place them in hanging files. The bulkiness of the books seemed to give some breathing room in the filing cabinets so finding them, and filing them after we read them, was a breeze.

In third grade, we read a lot of passages during small group and organizing them has been a challenge. I started piling them and then forgot which passages I had copied and copied them again and the pile grew bigger. I asked a lot of teachers how they organized their reading passages and it seemed to be one of two ways - files or binders. I decided to go with the binder organization. It took 2 days to get them copied and organized and really this is just a good start, there are many more passages out there to copy and put in these binders.

Step 1: I purchased 16 binders from Sam's Club, they came in packs of 4, and a couple of boxes of sheet protectors. I looked through my passages and decided to separate them by reading skill.

Step 2: Find all the passages and materials I have about that skill. This binder is for Main Idea & Details. I placed my anchor chart in the pocket (anchor charts are from Amy Grosbeck's TpT Store-Reading Comprehension Strategies and Skills Posters)

Step 3: Gather all the graphic organizers to use with that skill and place them in the front.

Step 4: Use bright, happy colors of paper as dividers for the levels of passages.

Step 5: Put the passages in each section. I printed 7 copies of each passage and if they came with text-based questions, I printed 7 copies of those and placed all of the copies in a sheet protector (grab and go style). I started my collection with the Scholastic Passages and have added some from readingatoz. I purchased  the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade books (thanks LJ for the idea) to use for each small group.
I also use task cards for skills practice during small group. My first set was purchased from Rachel Lynette's TpT store (Reading Strategies) and I place those in drawer organizers that I labeled by skill. I do not cut the cards apart, the students slip them in the dry erase pockets so they can mark the text, erase, and then the cards can be reused. The passages are used the same way-placed in a dry erase pocket so the students can mark the text, but then erase and they can be used later with a different group.

Step 6: Take the binders to school and find somewhere to put them for easy access (my next challenge) and continue to search for passages to use with these reading comprehension skills.

Next Post: The Seatwork Disaster

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