Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Teacher Tips Tuesday

It's Tuesday, and I had a fabulous day with my students. However, I'm POOPED. Fortunately, I'm not too tired to link up for a brand new weekly series: Teacher Tip Tuesday. Thanks to Erin at Mrs. Beattie's Classroom for hosting!

My quick tip is to use paint strips to assign student groups that will rotate.  I teach small groups in spelling, grammar, and during a half-hour intervention block. There are four or five days of centers/activities. Groups rotate through one center each day. I use mini-pocket charts from Target and paint strips! At the end of each day, I rotate the cards.

I have several sets of paint strip groupings. I just rotate them throughout the year. 

Head over to Mrs. Beattie's Classroom for more tips. You might even consider linking up yourself. 


Friday, March 25, 2016

Five for Friday-FINALLY!

Welcome to the weekend! This post is more like Five-for-the-Month-of-March! It's been a long while since I managed to link up with Kacey at Doodlebugs Teaching for Five for Friday.

If you read my blog regularly, you've seen many photos of Herbie. What you have NOT seen is Herbie on my lap! He almost never sits with me. I think he just likes the blanket I finally finished crocheting. 

One of my students brought these in for her birthday. She decorated them herself, and I thought they were brilliant! The students were impressed by her creativity. Basketballs swishing into nets? What could be better?

We've been working on fractions. I love to teach about fractions, because there are so many creative ways to teach the concepts. I use all sorts of materials. Above, you'll see number line interactive notebook materials by Blair Turner and a Skittles Fractions Activity created by Ashleigh. They are two of my go-to people for amazing math materials. 

We've started reading Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner, which has to be one of the best novels for third graders ever written.  I'm keeping prep simple. The students are reading each chapter and coming up with THICK questions to write in their notebooks. They're also searching for interesting and unfamiliar vocabulary words. I am going to use this novel to teach the students how to do all of the Literature Circles jobs.

To grab a Stone Fox freebie, click here.  

Speaking of good books... My husband surprised me with this book by one of my favorite authors. I didn't even know she was writing it! The books behind it are two that I bought for myself. They're historical fiction novels by Francine Rivers (another favorite author of mine). 

Happy Easter. I'll leave you with a link to one of my favorite songs

Living, He loved me.
Dying, He saved me.
Buried, He carried my sins far away.
Rising, He justified, freely... forever
Someday He's coming, Oh Glorious Day!   

Monday, March 14, 2016

Dog Days Literacy 4: Opinion Writng

Photo by Z is for Zebra; Digital Papers by Connie Prince & Trixie Scraps.
Students are opinionated! Sometimes it's exasperating, and at other times it's great fun to listen to what they have to say. 

Since students are so naturally full of opinions, I always enjoy teaching opinion writing. Today, I'm sharing some tips, ideas, and resources that will get students writing about dog-themed topics. 

Adopt or Shop?
Each year, my students spend some time researching dog adoption. They also read passages about purchasing purebred dogs from breeders. You can grab the passages by clicking here.

Once we've read both passages, we create pro/con lists for each viewpoint.

After we've created pro/con lists, I like to share some videos. We do a "first watch" where we get the "gist" of the video. Then, we watch it again, pausing to discuss the content and add to our pro/con lists.

The following video shares reasons why adopting a pet is safe, while also being beneficial to families and the dogs they take home with them.

The image below is a screenshot from a video produced by The American Kennel Club. There is also a brief article about hypoallergenic dog breeds. I show this video to demonstrate that there are times someone may need to acquire a dog with special characteristics that may not be available through a shelter.


Related Resources
Tracy Tegeler of Creekside Teacher Tales has created a wonderful resource related to dog adoption. My students greatly enjoy using her materials each year. Although this is primarily a reading resource, students do need to closely read text to match dogs with owners. Then, students write a letter to the chosen owners explaining why they were chosen using details from the text. Click here to find this resource in Tracy's store.


Other dog-related opinion topics:
  • Some places allow pet dogs to accompany their people on patios and in other outside dining areas. Do you think this should be allowed? Why or why not? 
  • Students could read about several different dog breeds using online resources, then write about which breed would be the best for their family. The website Puppies N' Dogs has information about MANY different dog breeds and includes photographs. 
  • Dogo News has a free article for kids titled Cable Television Goes to the Dogs - No, Really!.  You could ask your students to write an opinion piece about whether or not subscribing to DogTV would be worthwhile.
  • There's always the tried-and-true persuasive letter to parents asking for a puppy!
    Thank you for stopping by. If you missed the last three Dog Days Literacy Posts, you can go to them by clicking on the links below. Each post includes links to great resources and freebies.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sunday Scoop

It's report card time! I have everything graded and I'm ready to start. My goal is to have 15 done by the end of the day. I have another 5 that I need to complete with colleagues at school.  For those of you with large classes, I sympathize! I'm sure to many of you 20 doesn't sound a like a lot.

My socks are slouchy, so I'm planning to take a report card break later to buy some new socks and perhaps some Easter basket goodies.

Happy Sunday! Have a great week. Head over to The Teaching Trio. Kristen, Juliet, and Cassie host this fun linky each week, and you can see what everyone else is up to.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Springing Into Learning: Almost Effortless Review Freebie!


March has arrived, which means spring will officially be here before you know it. Several bloggers have joined together to offer tips and freebies just perfect for spring. Many thanks to Kim at Elementary Antics for her hard work in putting together this blog hop!

Spring means new growth and warmer temperatures. My first tip is to get outside if at all possible. In Connecticut where I live, March isn't always warm enough for that!

Last spring I took students outside to measure and draw square yards and square meters.

For many of us, spring also means that thinking seriously about test prep is starting to become a priority. It can be overwhelming at times to figure out how to fit all the content in! 

My tip is to sneak in moments of review whenever you can! And it's possible to make review engaging and fun. 

 I place little cards on students' desks.(They're laminated, so I can use them again and again!)

When it's time to line up or when it's time to pack up at the end of the day, I can give directions such as the following:

"If you have a card with a parallelogram, please line up."

"If you have a polygon with one set of parallel lines, please line up."

"If you have the product of 8x3 (or 6x4...or 2x12), please line up."

You could also use these cards as part of your brain breaks. The directions might sound like this:

"If you have a shape divided into thirds on your desk, stand up and wiggle for ten seconds."

"If you have the product of 4 x 4, hop on one foot 5 times."

This is a quick, easy way to review math concepts and vocabulary. An added perk is that it also aids in classroom management. 

My freebie was created just for this blog hop. You can download the sets of cards I'm using by clicking here or on the image below.  

Thanks for stopping by! Happy Spring! Visit the other participating blogs to find more tips and more freebies! 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Dog Days Part 3: Literature

Add Photo by Z is for Zebra; Digital Papers by Connie Prince & Trixie Scraps.

Sometimes my students cry. It's unintentional, but I make them cry.  My two favorite fictional stories about dogs MAKE KIDS CRY. In fact, these stories often make teachers cry as well. I thought you should be prepared. Have tissues handy.

Tear-jerker #1:
Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
Little Willy must take over the farm when his grandfather becomes ill. When things get really desperate, Willy competes in a sled dog race. His hope is to win the prize money and save the farm. His one and only sled dog is his beloved pet Searchlight. There's SO much in this short novel. The characters are well-developed, and there are so many themes that will get students having higher-level, rich discussions about the text.  I'm not telling you the end! You'll need to read it for yourself. Remember the tissues.

Favorite Activities and Resources for Stone Fox:
Literature Circles
Laura Candler has some excellent resources for literature circles. There are literature circles printables and more information about how to implement literature circles on her website. Many of her resources are free.

Character Chit-Chat Tic-Tac-Toe

After reading a passage or chapter, students circle three choices from the menu to create a tic-tac-toe. Then, partners take turns discussing the questions with one another while referring to the text. Often, students ASK if they can write their thoughts down. So, I break out the sticky notes and cheerfully say, "Go ahead! Use details from the text!" This activity sheet is included in my Describing Characters product, which can be used with any fictional text.

End of Novel Activities

Agree or Disagree?
The characters in Stone Fox make some big decisions. Students can work in small groups or with partners to discuss whether or not they agree with the characters' decisions.  I always circulate around listening as students share their opinions, I prompt them to use specific evidence from the text to defend their responses.  Grab a copy of some FREE discussion cards by clicking here or on the image below. 


As an end-of-book celebration, I like to use the Stone Fox Word Work materials created by Stephanie of 3rd Grade Thoughts.  Stephanie always includes vocabulary that stretches 3rd graders, and I like that.


There's also A SONG by Open Books Open Doors that my students LOVEIt does reveal the ending of the book, so you can't play it for students until the end! 


Tear-Jerker #2:
The Blue House Dog by Deborah Blumenthal
A young boy named Cody patiently wins the trust of a homeless dog who has lost his owner. Cody knows what it is to miss someone, because he lost his dog Teddy

Favorite Activities and Resources for Blue House Dog:
Examining Illustrations
The illustrations in The Blue House Dog are gorgeous. This book has been perfect for getting students to explain how illustrations contribute to the story (Common Core State Standard RL 3.7).

A sneak peek at some of the illustrations:

Grab these free sheets to get students writing about illustrations. 


Another book that is perfect for examining illustrations is Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School. The good news is that this one does NOT make students cry.


The full-color images in this text depict what life is ACTUALLY like at obedience school--luxurious, relaxing, and cushy. The black and white images are the HORRIBLE, FALSE view that Ike communicates to his owner, Mrs. LaRue.

One of my colleagues found a free story online that ties in perfectly with The Blue House Dog.  You can have students read it online, but I type it so students can annotate it.

The story is called A Dog for Jenny, and my students really enjoy it each year. Visit lumoslearning.com to find it.

The next Dog Days Literacy post will focus on opinion writing using source material. Thanks for stopping by! 

If you missed the last two Dog Days Literacy posts, click on the links below.

Dog Days Literacy Part One: Informational Text

Dog Days Literacy Part Two: Poetry and Figurative Language