Google+ Followers

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Iditarod in the Classroom!

Traditionally, February in the classroom means all things Valentine's Day.  But for me, it means my favorite part of the school year... Iditarod time!  This post will fill you in on how to incorporate the Iditarod into your classroom, and there's also a giveaway!

using Iditarod lessons in the classroom

Year after year, the Iditarod is my students' favorite unit, too.  Whenever I have students come back to visit me, one of the first things they'll ask is, "Do you guys still study the Iditarod?" You better believe it! I think the most appealing part of it is "following" mushers and the competition of the race.  Everyone like a good race. 

After we've had some time to learn about Alaska, I share the book Togo with my students.  It's so great.  It tells the story of a dog whose team took part in the 1925 Serum Run to get life saving medicine to Nome where there was a diptheria outbreak.  The book is a great lead in to the history of the Iditarod. 

Iditarod classroom powerpoint presentation
For a Powerpoint Presentation that explains everything you need to know about the Iditarod, click on the photo above.

The real fun begins when students pick the mushers they'll be learning about and following during the race.  I print off a list of mushers from the Iditarod Website and do a drawing for names.  I usually have my students work with a partner, because it seems to be more fun when you have a classmate who's on your "team".  The first thing to do learn about their mushers.

students researching Iditarod mushers

writing letters to Iditarod mushers
You can find resources to use to follow mushers by clicking on the photo above.

Next, it's time to learn more about the rules of the race. Students enjoy "packing" their sled with mandatory items, and getting creative about what they'd bring with them during the race.

Click the photo above to check out my other Iditarod Activities.  
Students also create a flag for their musher that they use to keep track of where their musher is during the race.  The kids BEG me to check the website to see where there mushers are during the day, and I've heard from parents they they're checking at home, too.  One parent even admitted to me that she was checking on her daughter's musher while she was at work! (Not gonna lie, I've "picked" the same musher to follow for the past few years, and I may be a little attached.  Go Martin Buser!)

Using this checksheet helps students keep track of where their mushers are. 

When the race is over, students write letters to their mushers.  They are FULL of questions for them.  It's a great way to practice writing with an authentic purpose.  I have students use their home addresses, and they're so excited about the possibility of getting mail at home.  I'd say that ideally about half of the students get letters back.  They love bringing them in to share with their classmates.

Last year the Iditarod Unit was right before our standardized testing.  I realized my students needed more practice answering questions and writing about paired texts, so I created two nonfiction texts and some writing prompts to go along with the Iditarod.  It was perfect, because I could use the excitement and engagement about the Iditarod to get some great writing practice in.  You can check those out {HERE}.

If you've been thinking about using the Iditarod in your classroom, I highly recommend it.  It's something your students will always remember.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Multiplication Sundaes!

Memorizing multiplication and division facts is such an important part of 3rd grade Math!  With everything else I do with my students in Math, I aim for higher level thinking, digging deeper, etc. But when it comes to multiplication and division facts, we just need to MEMORIZE!  We use lots of different strategies to help memorize facts, but the best (and most fun) motivation to memorize? Multiplication Sundaes!!!

multiplication sundaes

Each fact (2s, 5s, 10s, etc.) is a part of the sundae.  Students have to pass the quiz to earn that part of the sundae.  We set a date for the Multiplication Sundae party, usually towards the end of the year.  Whatever they've earned on their paper sundae, they get to have in their real sundae!  At first they don't believe that we won't just give everything to everyone, but once they realize I'm not bluffing, they're so excited to start passing those quizzes! 

multiplication fact quizzes

We practice learning the facts in an order that is easiest to trickiest, not numerical order.  For each fact, there are two different quizzes.  After the first test, different students are taking quizzes on different numbers, so I call out each number, and students come to get their quiz. The Quiz A and B options are great when students don't pass their quiz the first time. 

I give them one minute and then all pencils are put away.  To save time and increase ownership, I have students take out markers to correct their tests.  I'll read off the answers for one quiz at a time, and it really does pretty quickly.  By the time I get to the last few answers, it's awesome to see the excitement as students can tell they're about to pass!  We've talked about being sensitive about cheering since not every classmate has passed their test, but it's inevitable for a "Yesss!" to slip out here and there! :)

multiplication sundae tracking page

There are some different ways to display sundaes.  In the past, I've hung everyone's sundae on the wall, which makes for a fun display, and an extra bit of motivation.  However, the way my classroom is set up now, I don't have any wall space that kids can reach.  (My room used to be a middle school science room...I've got counters for days!) I'm thinking of some other options - taped to cabinet doors, maybe? - but for now they keep their sundae in the math section of their Data Binders.  I do like that their parents can see the sundaes weekly and know what facts to help with at home.

multiplication sundae parent letters

I have letters to send home to parents when we start the sundaes explaining the process.  When it's time for the party, I have families sign up to bring in everything we need. Since we do our parties in the spring, it's GREAT to be able to go out to the park next to our school where ice cream drips aren't a big deal. :)  In my Multiplication Sundae packet, there are editable letters to help you organize each step of the process.  

There are tons of options available in this packet.  You can choose if you want your students to memorize fact up to 10 or 12.  There are also division quizzes for every fact, so if you want, you can have your kids pass BOTH multiplication and division before they get the next part of their sundae. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Whole Class Journals

Last summer, I was looking for some easy additions for the Work on Writing area in my classroom. While searching around on Pinterest, I kept seeing the idea of Whole Class Journals.  I decided these would be a perfect, EASY addition to my classroom.

using whole class journals during wriitng

Each day during our literacy block, the students who have a Work on Writing rotation have the option of writing in a Class Journal.  They can look through the basket and pick out a journal topic that interests them.  

Whole class journal notebooks
The basket sits on top of the bookcase for easy access!

Then they head back to their seats to write.  Most students like to read what their classmates have written before they get started with their own writing.

The Class Journal covers have reminders about expectations for the writing inside, however I've found that students really put forth their best effort knowing that their audience is their peers!

whole class journal notebooks class journal

Having a bunch of journal covers to choose from is great, because I can rotate them out to keep things from getting stale, or to incorporate seasonal topics.  I stocked up on composition notebooks before school started to take advantage of those great back-to-school sale prices.  I like to use composition notebooks because they're sturdier than spiral notebooks and do a good job holding up with the amount of use that they get.  

Whole Class Journals have been a perfect addition to Work on Writing.  And I honestly think they've helped build a community of writers as kids read each other's writing much more frequently and even have conversations about it.  ("Hey Megan! I play soccer too!")  I'd highly recommend them for any classroom, whether you use them for Work on Writing, a Writing center, early finishers, etc.

If you're interested in the Class Journal covers in the post, you can grab them HERE!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Power of Student-Selected Behavior Goals

behavior goals for classroom management

Deciding to have each of the kids in my class choose their own behavior goal has been a game changer for me.  Game. Changer.  

We have a token system, where kids can earn classroom "currency."  It works well, but something was missing. My class can earn "brownie points" as a group and earn rewards as a whole class.  They love it.  But, again, something was missing.  There were still a handful of students who made me want to bang my head against the wall! (We've all been there, right?)

I knew that for us to have a great classroom community, I needed this student to stop blurting out, that one to keep track of his belongings, this one to ask for help, and that one to share his ideas with his classmates more, etc.   So I made a list of all the behaviors that I wanted to see more of.  I was thinking off the kids in my class as I wrote my list - both the ones with great behavior and the ones are more disruptive.

I made goal sheets for each behavior on my list, phrased as an "I can..." statement.  There are 10 boxes on each, and when students fill up the boxes for showing the positive behavior, they'd get a reward coupon.  The next morning, I printed them off, cut them up, grabbed some stickers, and crossed my fingers that this plan would work. 

students pick behavior goals

At our Morning Meeting, we talked about Growth Mindset and Goal Setting, topics we've covered a lot this year.  I explained that I wanted them to think about a behavior they could get better at, and then I read all the goal choices to them.  The next part is when I had to take a leap of faith - letting them pick their own goals to work on. 

And you know what, I wasn't disappointed.  All but one student picked the exact goal I would have picked for them.  I feel proud that we'd gotten to a point where they are able to be reflective about their strengths and weaknesses.  With that one student, I asked, "Are you sure you don't want to pick 'I can finish my work.'?"  His response was, "You let everyone else pick their goal, why can't I pick mine?" Touche.  

It's been working really well.  It's amazing how much it helps for each student to have ONE behavior to really focus on. And they are bought in since they were able to choose what they need to work on. One girl asked me to add "I can ignore distractions" because she told me she found herself paying too much attention to what was going on around the room.  I loved that she was being so reflective and quickly added it to our goals.

student behavior goal sheets
You can click on the picture above to purchase my set of goal trackers.

Tips for using the Goals:
  • I use stickers - the ones from the Dollar Tree or Target Dollar Spot fit perfectly - but my teammate uses a stamp, and that works great for her.  Just make sure it's something the kids don't have access to! :)
  •  Keep the extra goal sheets in a place where it's easy for kids to access them to pick new ones.  
  • Pick a designated time for students to trade in their completed sheets for a reward.
I hope these are able to be as helpful to you and your students as they are to me and mine! 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Friday Letters - Easy Parent Communication

I'm always trying to think of new ways to keep parents and families in the loop about what's going on in our classroom.  I use lots of different ways to meet different parents needs -- paper newsletters, e-mails, the Remind App, but I've decided on my favorite...FRIDAY LETTERS!

students write Friday letters to parents

I still use the communication methods listed above, but Friday Letters have become one of my absolute favorite parts of our classroom routine. The process has evolved over the years, but the way it looks now is every Friday, my kids take out their Friday Letter notebook and write a letter to their parents about what they've learned in school that week, challenges they've faced, successes they've had, and just life in general. ("Can we please have pizza this weekend???") Then, and I think this is the coolest part, over the weekend, parents sit down and write a letter back to their child.  It honestly warms my heart seeing the letters that are written back and forth on a weekly basis.  Kids are telling their parents cool facts they've learned, what they are reading in class, that they are having a hard time getting the hang of multiplication, or that they've made a new friend in class.  The letters back from parents are encouraging, full of advice, pride, and love.  And sometimes reminders about sloppy handwriting! :)

Friday letters to parents
Writing about the books she read this week.
Friday Letters serve a few important purposes:
  • Kids are keeping their parents in the loop about what is going on in the classroom.
  • Students are practicing their writing with an authentic purpose.
  • Parents are able to model good writing for their students. 
  • They further build the relationship between parents and students. 
  • These notebooks serve as a chronicle of a (school)year in the life of a child.  Parents and/or students can hang on to these for years!
communicating with parents
Telling his mom what he learned from Time for Kids.

On Mondays, I do a quick check to see if Friday Letters have been completed.  We keep track with a chart on the back cover and a sticker every Monday each time a letter is written.  For every 5 stickers the kids get a small reward.  In a perfect world, every student would have a letter back from their parents every week, but I know life gets in the way sometimes! I'll send home reminders, and for most families that is effective. The student forgot to show their mom and dad, or it  was just one of those weekends.  No big deal.  We put forth every possible effort to get students' family members to write to them, but as a last resort, I will have our principal, assistant principal, or another adult at school write back to them.  

friday letter parent communication

I HIGHLY recommend starting Friday Letters in your classroom, even if it's the middle of the school year.  You'll love seeing the connection and communication between students and their parents!

UPDATED:  You can grab a copy of the 2018-19 cover page and parent letter (HERE}

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Fall in Love With Teaching Blog Hop

I'm so excited to be getting together with a fantastic group of 3rd grade teachers to share what we love about teaching.  I can't think of a better way to kick of my new blog, so...welcome!

A handful of years ago, my principal decided that our school was going to be going departmentalized. And he wanted me to teach Math.  He was very complimentary about why he wanted me to be a Math teacher, and I do enjoy teaching Math, but...

...what about all my books?  My classroom library is my pride and joy! I'm attached to all these books!  (Ok, to be fair, I probably haven't read half of them, but still!)  I had a really hard time wrapping my brain around how life as a teacher would look for me without teaching reading. 

Well, I was determined to still fit quality children's literature into my day in as many ways as possible.  I did my best to bring books into Math, and even more than ever into Writing.  I still got to do Read Aloud with my homeroom class, and I cherished that chance to share some awesome books with my kids. (Stay tuned for future blog posts where I share some of these ideas with you!)

After 3 years as a "Math Teacher", one of my teammates announced she was moving to another state. We wondered who would be the new Reading teacher to join our team...would it be someone in the building, or would we have to interview external candidates?  Then all of a sudden, smack dab in the middle of a math lesson, it hit! ME! MEMEME! I want to be the Reading Teacher!!  As soon as I could I went to my principal to throw out my idea to him.  I was honest.  I told him, "I need to get my spark back.  I need to teach Reading." Luckily, cause he was awesome, he agreed right away.

Just focusing on Math and Writing helped me grow as a teacher for sure, but once I got to be a "Reading Teacher" again, it felt like all was right with my teaching world.  Now we're self-contained again, and I'm loving teaching every subject!`

When my awesome Third Grade Tribe decided to do a Blog Hop with a fall theme, focusing on what we love about teaching, I knew right away that this post would be about...well, I think you can tell by now!

I've got a stack of books that I love to use as Mentor Texts (the picture above is just a sample), but one of my favorites to start the beginning of the year with is All the Places to Love, by Patricia MacLachlan.  It's a beautiful story of a boy describing his family's favorite places on their farm.  The detail in both the pictures and text is fabulous!

I have my students practice paragraph structure and the writing process, while describing a place that is special to them.   Tip: it works best to describe the place as "special" instead of "favorite" -- kids do a much better job writing about a place that is close to their heart than why __________ is their favorite restaurant!

Each student publishes their writing on a simple piece of lined paper.  You could absolutely have them type it up, we're just not quite there at the beginning of the year. They also get a full page to draw an illustration of the place they love.  

We chose one of the pictures to serve as our cover, and then I scanned it into my computer and typed a title in a text box.  I bound the pages together, and we had our first class book of the year.  So easy! 

Now for the really fun part...giveaway time!!!

I'm giving away a copy of one of my best-selling (and one of my favorite) products -- Writing Story Endings Using Mentor Texts.  Click on the picture below to check it out! It's a great way to get rid of the dreaded "THE END" and bring great literature into Writing Lessons at the same time.

You can also to enter the Grand Prize giveaway from our Blog Hop - a $50 Teachers Pay Teachers gift card.  Imagine all the Wish List items $50 will get you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Make sure to check out all of the other awesome 3rd grade blogs...there are 20 total that you can visit!