Friday, June 23, 2017

Freebie Friday: Creating a Reading Strategies Board

Hello Friends! Are you basking in the realization that we have time to stop and breathe again? 
I am. 
I spent the first few days of break doing absolutely nothing. Now I am feeling the itch to get something done. Do you have a list of summer "to do's" to do?  
I have written down what I want to accomplish and love the feeling of checking things off as I go. 

One goal I have is to clean out my computer and delete files that are cluttering up my computer space. What a job! It will be awhile before I can cross this one off my list. I am spending a little time daily doing this and am sharing some files on my TPT store. 
I've just added the strategies that go along with my CAFE board.

Unfortunately, I am unable to claim that I truly utilize all of the CAFE system in my classroom. The CAFE system was devised by the team of Gail Boushey and Joan Moser aka "The Sisters". These are the two same geniuses that designed the Daily Five system.  
You can check out their book and blog here: 

My county has adopted and is utilizing the Benchmark Literacy Program so that really limits my time. I have needed to tweak things to get everything I want to fit in my language arts block of time. Although the real intent of the CAFE board was to be used for an assessment program, I do not use it in that way. For me, the CAFE board serves as a way of recording and reminding students of the reading skills and strategies they have been taught. I often reference it as a way of "activating prior knowledge" before beginning a reading minilesson. It begins as a blank and empty board and by the end of the year it is filled. I hold them accountable for the learning that we have done!

I use this board in conjunction with my students' reading journals. This is also a place that we glue in notes and record our learning. 

Cooking With Comprehension: Create a Comprehension Notebook

I have added the strategy cards shown on this board to my Teacher Pay Teacher store. 
Click the link below to check it out. 

Reading Strategies Board

I will continue adding free files on Fridays. I'm hoping this promise to you all will keep me motivated to do my file decluttering this summer. What is on your summer list? Would love to hear! 
Email me at or comment below.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

End of Year Activity: Welcome Third Graders!

It's feeling like school should be out when the thermometer in your car is reading a hot 90 degrees! Yes, it is feeling like a VA summer..more hot weather in the forecast for next week too.

It has been a weekend filled with the typical end of the year paperwork.
I am happy to say I am working on grading my very last stack of assignments for the 2016-17 school year!
I am looking forward to spending the next five days with my kiddos before I send them forth to fourth! Before I let them leave, I'm going to have them write some advice to the third grade newbies who will be taking over their spots in a matter of months. I did this last year and got a kick out of the advice they thought they needed to pass along. I kept these papers and put them on the desks of my students on the first day of school.  It turned out to be a nice opening activity and a good way to jump into third grade procedures and expectations.

I've also had my students write letters to the new group in the past. Here is this option if interested:

I've added these to my Teacher Pay Teacher store. You can check them out here if interested: 

I'll be starting a new feature this summer called Freebie Friday. I'm determined to go through my computer files and get things out and uploaded.
So be sure to follow my TPT store or this blog so you know when things get posted. 
Enjoy your final days with your third graders!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Sharks! Integrating Math, Science and Reading

With only nine days to go, I am reviewing past skills and trying to keep students engaged. I want my third graders to enter fourth with the essential math skills down pat. Students need to arrive at the next grade being able to subtract with good accuracy. I used the book, Shark Swimathon to give them math practice while also tying in language arts skills.


This book is about a swim team of sharks who have entered a swimming contest.  They have to swim a total of 75 laps by the end of the week. The books shows the sharks gathering the data each day and then using it to determine how many laps they have left to swim.  I created a recording sheet so my students have to solve these problems during the reading of the book. This is a popular math book written by Stuart Murphey.  You can probably find a copy in your school library!


I used the reading of this book as an interactive read aloud. The kids got into the story and the math. I liked that the story plot revolved around a real world application of a math skill.
Using the recording sheet while reading forced all children to be active listeners and to pay attention to the details of the book.


After reading, I had my students fine tune their language arts skills by working on a reading response.
I created a one page booklet that gave students practice in identifying story elements to write a "Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then" summary.
Inside the booklet were some questions relating to the word work and reading skills we covered this year.

Then we read some nonfiction about sharks and then wrote about what we learned.
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I've also had my students create these shark acrostics.  We make the shark out of recycled newspapers.

During math time, we continued to work on problem solving. Some students used paper shark manipulatives to model the problems.


If my students were respectful, responsible and productive during their work time, they were offered one of these sour sharks! A little treat goes a long way in encouraging good behavior right now!


I've added this set to my Teacher Pay Teacher Store.  You can click the link below if you are interested.

The Animal Antics sheet is part of this set 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Money Skills: Counting Coins and Making Change

We are coming to our final weeks of school.  How are you spending your days? I see these last weeks as an opportunity to fine tune our skills.  Money skills tend to be an area that needs more work and review. With the onset of debit cards, it seems there is very little real world exposure and practice of counting and totaling coins, yet it is still in the curriculum and must be taught. I dug into the contents of this bucket in my classroom and brought the money back out for one final look before fourth grade. 
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I love to integrate reading with all content areas. Author Stuart Murphey has created a series of wonderful math related books. I LOVE reading and using them in my third grade classroom. These books are super easy to find. I bet you have them in your school library. If not, check Youtube for a read aloud online version.  They include a storyline that students can connect to and also incorporate math thinking through the problem and solution of the story. Here is one that I use when teaching or in this case, reviewing  money concepts: 
The Sluggers are a baseball team and they need new team shirts for the playoffs. They come up with an idea of having a carwash to raise the money they need. Customers come and the Sluggers start earning money. I want my students to work the math problems along with the characters so I created a problem sheet to go along with the story. 
I don't have multiple copies of this book so I use it as a class interactive read aloud. I pause at the problem solving pages and have my kids do them.  Then we compare their math with the solution the characters came up with.  This lends itself to great math talk as we discuss the multiple ways to arrive at the answer. Here is an example of our third grade math thinking: 


After the reading and math problem solving, we transition into math stations. Here's where I integrate a language arts component. I give my students a chance to respond to the story by completing a language arts foldable. I like using this as one of my math station activities during math rounds.  This is a simple one page foldable.  On the front is a place for them to document the characters, setting, problem and solution of the story. On the back they do a short writing activity connected to the story.  

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Inside the booklet, students respond to a variety of word work and comprehension questions. 
This gives students a few more practice opportunities with these language arts skills plus it gives me another grade for the grade book. 


For another math station, I created an independent activity and a partner game.  Here is the "On My Own" practice I have my students do.  Third graders need multiple exposures to two step math problems. Here students need to solve the word problem, then use paper coins to show the money. 


For my "Work with a Partner" station, students play this spinner game. Students take turns spinning the spinner 8 times to collect 8 coins.  They draw them on their sheet and then total them up.  I made sure to include the backs when I made the spinner.. my kids still get tripped up when looking at the backs of coins. 
After totaling, students use a greater than or less than symbol to compare the amounts.  The student with the greater total wins. It's a super simple game and one kids can do on their own!

I run these three activities for my math rounds.  This gives me the time I need for my reading assessments. If kids work productively, respectfully and responsibly, they get a small prize. 
Image result for chocolate coin
I found these chocolate coins and I am not above bribing  encouraging them at this point in the year with a sugary treat. 

I added this set to my Teacher Pay Teacher store.  You can click the link below if you are interested in using it with your students. 

How are you getting through these final weeks?  I would love to hear!
Comment below or email me at 
Would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

VA SOL Third Grade Math Test: Prep and Practice

It is hard to believe that we have less than a month of school left! I came across this picture of our Target Board from back in the beginning of the year. Virginia has high expectations for its students in third grade. We have worked through a TON of math targets since the fall.  :

Thankfully, we are at the point now where we have introduced all our standards and are working on reviewing them for fourth grade and making sure students can answer the rigorous questions that they will face on their end of the year SOL test. Third graders will be expected to work through questions that cover the six math strands of: number sense, computation and estimation, measurement, geometry, probability and patterns/function/algebra. Whew...that's a lot!  Along with all that math thinking comes a lot of words.  

We have the words on this math vocabulary vine. It starts out bare in the beginning of the year. Then as we teach new concepts and learn new words, we add them to the vine. By the end of the year it is completely filled. Hopefully these words are also filled in the minds of my students! To be sure, we use our final weeks of school to create math vocabulary rings. This allows us to take a final look at all these words plus they can take them home and review them prior to the third grade test and over the summer. 


 On one side of the card is the term and the other is the definition and visual representation or example. We fill it out together, then students just cut the cards across and fold in the middle. We add about 3 sheets of words each day for a week.  They are super simple to make. The folded paper makes it thick enough so that the kids can turn the cards without the paper ripping. I like that making this set of cards now, after everything has been taught, allows us to review it all one final time. 

Then the fun begins. We get to play card games.  We play games like class pictionary or math baseball with them. The kids need some down time at this time of the year. Games like these let them have fun while still reviewing. 

I've added these to my TPT store. You can click the link below to check them out. 

Along with the cards and card games, we get down to the more serious business of answering tough third grade questions. It can be hard to find questions that are as rigorous as those on the SOL test, so I've used released items from the state to create some similar practice questions.  These questions are arranged by strand. That way students practice being flexible thinkers. Their little brains need to bounce from strand to strand as they answer geometry questions to number sense to computation questions. 

I like using this for classwork or homework practice. I make sure we go over the answers together and talk about what strategies we used to get the correct answer. If you need practice questions, you can also find these in my store. This set includes ten pages that I run back to back. This will give you five days of practice pages. Each day my students answer 12 questions - two questions from each strand. 
You can check it out by clicking the link below. 

 I know it's a stressful time of year as we get our students prepared to take their first attempt at these types of tests. 
Wishing my Virginia teacher friends all the BEST!
Questions/Comments?  Email me at or comment below. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Comprehension Freebie: QAR Strategy Printables

We all have heard about the shift in reading that happens in grade three. Less of our reading time is spent learning to read and much more of it is devoted to thinking about the text. We spend a lot of time asking and answering comprehension questions. In my last blog post I talked about running comprehension clubs.  I had some people ask me to talk more about it. First though, let's talk about how we can help our students be more successful answering questions in the first place.  Many experts in the area of reading promote the use of QAR as a comprehension strategy.  QAR stands for "question-answer relationship".  
This strategy focuses on teaching students that different questions involve different thinking. Through the use of this strategy students will be encouraged to think more deeply about the question before attempting to answer it.  When students begin to analyze comprehension questions they are more successful in answering them. 
Comprehension questions can be categorized and classified into four levels:
Level One:
These are the questions in which the answers are right there. Often words used in the question are the same words found in the text. We call these “NO EXCUSE” questions.
Level Two:
These answers are gathered from several parts of the text and put together. This takes some work and effort- like putting a puzzle together.
Level Three:
These questions are based on clues provided in the text. Students need to make inferences and think like a reading detective to answer the question.
Level Four:
The answer to these questions are not in the text. The reader should be encouraged to “think like an author” to answer them. They use their background knowledge and some common sense to answer them.
Introduce these four levels of questions with your readers. Have them begin thinking about the question before trying to answer it. 
Here is the poster that we have hanging in our room.  Kids also have this printed in a smaller size and have glued them into their reading journals

I've added the printables for this to my Teacher Pay Teacher store as a free item. 
I'll be uploading some other language arts freebies in the next week. Please
                      follow my store and let me know if these materials have worked for you!
Click the link below to check it out. 
                                                              QAR Printables Pack


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Virginia SOL Reading Test Passages and Questions


Hello Friends,
With temperatures soaring to 90 degrees here in Virginia, I feel like I should certainly be on summer break! Summerlike weather makes it hard to focus on all that still needs to be done. Kids feel it too, don't you think?
This is the mindset message currently hanging on the wall. I usually change it the first of each month. But this is such an appropriate one for this time of year. Students and teachers are getting squirrely! We can't lose focus just yet, our state tests are just around the corner!

Our next monthly mindset message is also appropriate to this time of year. May is the time of year for plants and flowers to grow but our children also have more growing to do before I send them to fourth grade. This message helps students to realize that it is OK to make mistakes as long as we can learn and grow from them! Click the link below if you are interested in using these monthly mindset poster in your classroom.

Throughout the year, we have been introducing reading strategies and skills and then have worked on applying them during whole group and small group lessons. We've talked a lot about being 3C readers. The three C's are close, careful and critical.  Third graders are learning that if they are not reading closely and carefully enough, they will let important clues slip right by them and they'll go from clicking through the text to clunking!  We've formed comprehension clubs and are working being flexible in working through our skills and strategies as we read and show what we know about what good readers can do.


Students are excited about their comprehension clubs. I had students get together with their club members to create a club name and sign. They can earn stars for things like: teamwork, close reading, comprehension conversations, etc. Clubs are working through reading tasks in which they have to do a close reading of a text and then answer comprehension questions that involve all of the strategies/skills we have worked on so far.
They begin their club meeting working solo.  Kids do an independent reading  and then work on a question by themselves. They sit with their club, but in a back to back formation to do their independent reading and thinking.
When I ring the bell, they turn and face each other and begin their comprehension conversations. Each club has a reading task cube that looks like this:

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Each club member has a specific job to do. They turn the cube with each question they work through so different members get to do each job.  The comprehension club time is a favorite of both students their teacher. The real beauty of it for me is that many little teachers emerge in each of the groups and students start tutoring students..reviewing, reteaching and clarifying the reading skills we have worked on.  It gives me a chance to observe students in action and to see who has a firm enough knowledge of skills to teach them and who still needs to review them. It is a great opportunity to take anecdotal records and fill out observation checklists on my readers. Club members want to earn stars so they encourage each other and make each other accountable for participating. No more teacher nagging...they do it themselves!

Right now we are working on reading nonfiction texts and answering questions similar to those that they will face on the upcoming Virginia SOL reading test.  I've uploaded a set of these passages and questions onto my TPT page. The nonfiction passages all relate to some of the social studies and science learning we have done this year so it's a win-win. We get reading practice while integrating important content area learning and review.

If you are interested in using these materials, you can check them out on my TPT page: