Sunday, March 4, 2018

St. Patrick's Day for Third Graders

It's March and boy did it come roaring in like a lion! 
In fact, many schools in Virginia were closed this past Friday due to high winds, falling trees and power lines.
Things have calmed down since then and I'm so excited to see some signs of spring!
This month we are working on writing book summaries as a way to share books with each other. 
My kids LOVE their BAM  (Books And Me) Time.  This is the time of day when they can pick and choose their own books.  

To make them accountable for reading through their books, I will have them respond to their reading in different ways. 
We will be working on book reports this month in which they are required to summarize a fictional book using the 5 story elements. 

Teaching with Props: Summarize with a 5 Finger Glove

After lots of shared writing practice, most students are independently writing summaries and are using them to tell others about the books they read. 

We will create these little leprechauns to go along with our book sharing display.

I've bundled this book report frame with some other St. Pat's Day goodies. 

My students will add this leprechaun poem to their poetry anthologies. They will have fun using the clues in the poem to make their mind movies and draw their leprechaun. Then they will get practice using different reference books as they complete the follow up.

I've add a language arts "pit stop" that I give my students to check up on their writing and editing skills. The first part is an editing activity in which they have to correct mistakes involving punctuation, capitalization and spelling. They rewrite the sentences after "cleaning them up". Then they will write a few sentences to a prompt so I can gauge their sentence writing skills. Finally there are three questions related to word knowledge and grammar.

Check out the link below to grab this free St. Patrick's Day file!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

How to Master Multiplication and Have Fun Along the Way

My third graders are most excited to learn "Big Kid" how to write in cursive and how to multiply.  Actually, they start excited and then begin to realize that both can be challenging if you are not willing to put in the time to practice.  I have heard it said that "practice is the mother of skill". I would have to agree.  So we are practicing up a storm as we work on mastering multiplication. 
I'm always on the hunt to find resources to make what could be tedious practice more fun and engaging. I hit the jackpot with the book, Mastering the Basic Math Facts in Multiplication and Division. 
It is by far my favorite go to book for strategies and activities to help my students "move beyond the memorization of the multiplication facts".  I love, love love this resource! It includes all that you need to make moving through the facts engaging and meaningful.  There are literature connections for each set of multiples, real life application activities and games to reinforce the learning.  

 Our math standards focus on using models to represent the facts.  Using the set, array and number line models help to reinforce the idea that multiplication is repeated addition. 

Along with the models, we analyze the patterns as we work through each set of multiples. 

Working and playing with their flashcards helps them to build their speed and automaticity. 

We're tracking our progress with the facts by adding a bubblegum sticker for each set of multiples we master. 

I am so proud of the way they are focused on this goal. It's amazing what they will do for bubblegum and a sticker!

They will often pull from the "On My Own" tray during wise choice time without me even suggesting. 

Partners and games help to keep the practice playful and lively. 

I've added the flashcards and modeling pages to my TPT store. 
You can check it out here if interested: 

Do you have a favorite resource for teaching and reinforcing the multiplication facts? 
I would love to hear!
Comment below or email at

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Valentine's Day

Here's a quick post on Valentine's Day. I'm off to Target to find a few goodies for Valentine's! I'm not doing too much for students. My thought is they will get enough sweets as it is and with V Day being on Tuesday, I'll be the one living with the aftermath all week long. Instead I'm giving them a Homework Pass Scroll down and grab a copy of it if you wish. Kids and their parents love this gift!

Here is the Valentine holder my third graders make. It is pretty simple and big enough to handle the cards they get. Third graders still get into making and decorating for this holiday. I know mine will be thrilled if I give them time to make these.

Here is the Valentine's Day poem I'll be doing with my kids. They will cut and glue the poem into their Poetry Anthology. I love Jack Prelutsky. He has awesome poetry books for every holiday.

This set has been added as a FREE product in my TPT store!
Click the link to check out the file!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Groundhog Day: Math/Language Arts: Free File!

Groundhog's Day is Friday.  We have  NO time to devote to celebrations such as this one, unless I can figure out a way to integrate it into what we are already learning about. 

Since I read aloud daily, I will be sharing this one on February 2: 
Image result for phyllis groundhog

I created a foldable reading response booklet with questions related to the book. 
Students will get practice in summarizing and identifying character traits. 

During my reading rounds, students can read and respond to a fun poem. 

We'll add some groundhog problem solving into our math station work as well. 
All these materials are included in this free file. 
Head to my TPT store to grab it. 

Groundhog's Day: Poetry, Reading Response Booklet, Math and More!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

January Reflections: Failing Forward

January...for many teachers it is the month of reflection. 
It serves as the midway point, the time of year when we assess how far our children have come and  how far they still need to go. 
It can be the month that the struggle becomes even more real and our challenges can appear insurmountable. 
The testing data is in, calculated and analyzed. 
Are you pleased? 
Teachers are often more critical of themselves than anyone else would ever be of them. 
We expect a lot of ourselves.
The names and numbers on those data sheets and screens can reflect that the majority of our students are growing by leaps and bounds; yet, the names that stick out, the names that we fixate on are those one or two students who are not making the gains we expected we would see. 
How we react to that news is critical. 
It can mean the difference between a student's and a teacher's stagnation or growth. 
For as much as we want our students to grow, we as teachers, also must grow and develop alongside our students. 

At these times, I always reflect back on a book I read a while ago. 
In the book, Failing Forward, author John Maxwell shares his insight on the topic of failure. 
He believes that the major difference between achieving people and average people is their perception of and response to failure. He covers the top reasons people fail and shows how to master fear instead of being mastered by it. 

Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success by [Maxwell, John C.]
It is a powerful read...check it out by here:

So let's not let those data graphs and scores scare us into despair and paralysis. 
Let's see challenge instead as an opportunity to overcome and to "fail forward".  

Are there instructional strategies and methods that you haven't ever used?
Teaching challenges are sometimes needed to inspire us to stretch, grow and develop our teaching techniques.
Let's allow our teaching setbacks be the springboard that propels us into action. 
Struggle make us stronger. 
So never give up...together we can move mountains for our kids. 

Move Mountains Enamelware Mug

I'm revamping some reading interventions and will add a Syllasearch component on a more consistent basis to see if it will help my readers who struggle with phonics and word solving. 
If you are interested, let me know and I'll be back to document the progress. 
You can read about the Syllasearch Intervention in this book by Isabel Beck: 
Image result for syllasearch

So, what are your struggles? 
I'd love this blog to be centered around Teachers Helping Teachers.
So please me at or comment below. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

We Can TACKLE Tough Problems: A Math Problem Solving Approach

If you have been teaching awhile I'm sure you have noticed how our math standards have changed over the years. Expectations are high and the rigor of the problems our third graders are asked to solve has increased with each passing year.   In our classroom, we say "Two brains are better than one" and so we are "tackling" these problems as a team. 

We have created a "Game Plan" to help us.  It hangs in our room and states the problem solving strategies that help us achieve our goal of winning the game or solving the problem.

Students have this game plan glued into their math journals and we review it before our "problem solving partners" time. 

To make it a bit more fun, I am using this football Easter Egg basket that I got on clearance after Easter last year.  Inside it, I put football eggs with some tough problems for us to tackle in each one.  I have modeled these after those I know they will face on upcoming end of the year tests. 

I have my kids participate in "Problem Solving Partners" time about three times a week. 
We pull out a football and crack it open to reveal the problem we will be tackling with our team (class).

I have multiple copies of each of the problems already cut and pass out one to each child. Students glue it into their math journals and read it by themselves first.  This allows everyone some quiet think time to process the problem before they attempt to solve it with a partner. 

Then they meet with their Problem Solving Partner.  This changes weekly. I have a math station board that we use to post who their partner will be. 

They meet with their partner to reread, discuss and work through the game plan to solve the problem. 
This is my favorite time.  I LOVE listening to how different groups are solving it in different ways.  It is also a great time to do some informal assessing. I will walk around and sit and listen and jot notes down onto a recording sheet. I have a page with all students' names on it.  I try to visit each child once a week to ask them questions and hear how they are processing through the problem. 
If they finish before I ring the bell, they are encouraged to come up with alternative ways to solve or represent their answer.  This is when I really see them stretch their brains. It is a great time for those strong students who are ready to extend their thinking and great for those struggling who need to listen to how others think through math. 
After all partners had a chance to tackle the problem, we come together as a class team. 
This is our math talk time.  We pick some partners to come up to share their solution. 
We place their journal under our document camera and they explain their math thinking. 

This problem solving approach has really worked for my class.  Just solving one problem at a time allows students to dig deep.  Solving with a partner, helps students feel more comfortable and gives them lots of opportunities to verbalize their math thinking. My kids become little math coaches...I love listening to them teach one another. 

I've created this set with poster printables and a set of 30 problems.  You can check it out in my TPT store if interested. 

Math Problem Solving Test Prep: We Can Tackle Tough Problems

What are your thoughts on the increased rigor of our math standards? Do you have a strategy for dealing with it? 
I would love to me at or comment below!