Monday, July 13, 2015

Charlotte's Web Activities and a Freebie

For the last few years I have read Charlotte's Web by E.B. White with my 3rd graders and loved it. Not only is it a great story, it is so well written that nothing in our anthology comes even close in quality.  I love to focus on the writer's craft as we read it.  We talk about word choice, rhythm, and description along with giggling over the goose's idio-idio-idiosyncrasy.

This year was our most successful year with Charlotte's Web thanks in large part to the new set of activities I used.  I decided to try an interactive lap book approach this year and let me tell you, I am sold!  I created a number of interactive items that focused on the Common Core standards and allowed me to focus my teaching while keeping things fun.

I think my favorite part was the character cards.  Each of the main characters has a card with a cute picture on the front.  But the best part is inside.  The kids wrote about each character's physical traits, feelings, character traits and motivations.  Then on the back they found a favorite quote made by the character.  By the end of the book my kids were experts at each of these key areas.

I made a little video to show all of the fun details for this interactive lapbook project.  Check it out below.

Check out this video to see the complete project.

Once we finished reading the book and had completed our lapbook I sent home a  book report homework assignment.  The kids were given 10 different options for how to do their book report. The options included everything from making a diorama to videotaping a news report about the goings on at Zuckerman's barn.  The most amazing part of this homework assignment was that EVERY SINGLE child completed it, even the kids who hadn't turned in a homework assignment all year. They were SO motivated to participate.  Once all of the assignments were turned in, we had a Charlotte's Web Day and invited the parents to come and see all of our hard work.

Zuckerman's barn.  Don't you love the web?

I love that Wilbur is white in this project.  Way to use details from the text!

This kid learned how to weld while doing this project with his dad.

I love that their personalities come out through their projects.  This kid is obsessed with Minecraft™, so he did a Minecraft™ version.

And of course... Legos™... a must for any school project.  

If you're interested in checking out the book report homework assignment I sent home you can find it as a freebie here.

You might also want to check out the Charlotte's Web Interactive activities product at my TpT store.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Anchor Charts and Behavior Management

I have fallen in love with anchor charts.  I've started using them for everything and they are really helping my students to remember what they have learned.  I love that I have an easy reference for them to look at each time they need the information we already discussed.

One way I really love to use anchor charts is to help teach classroom expectations. At the beginning of the year we took a lot of time talking about classroom behavior.  Anchor charts are always a key part of that discussion.

This year I found the cutest clipart over at Educasong on Teachers Pay Teachers.  For those of us with little to no drawing skills this clipart is a fun way to make the anchor chart really pop.

 When we talk about behavior expectations we really focus on three main areas, active listening, following directions and lining up.  I usually find that these three areas cover most issues that happen during learning time in our classroom. For each behavior we focus on what a behavior should look like and sound like.  When we are done the anchor charts for classroom behavior stay posted all year long.  That way, when behavior starts to slip we have an easy reference for a quick reteach.

While I've always used anchor charts for teaching classroom expectations, I'm starting to use them more for academic areas as well.  This year, with the Common Core taking over, we've been talking more and more about being text detectives.  So I created this reading anchor chart to help kids remember the steps for going back to the text to find evidence for their answer on multiple choice questions. (Thanks to WhimsyClips for the cute detective kid.)

I've also been using anchor charts more in math.  This place value one was the first one of the year.  The kids copied this into their interactive notebooks as well so that even after I had to take this one down, they still have a resource to help them remember all of their place value terms.

I really do love anchor charts. I've become such an addict  that I even created a Pinterest Board completed dedicated to them.  Check out my Anchor Charts Galore board if you're looking for creative anchor chart ideas.

What do you love to use anchor charts for? I'd love to hear your great ideas.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Halloween Bulletin Board

This is one of my all time favorite bulletin boards.  I totally stole the ideas for it from A Faithful Attempt and Spoonful Make. Everyday.

The kids made the pumpkins using curls of orange construction paper. I loved seeing their different personalities come out through their creative process.

For the haunted house the kids worked in partners to take pictures of each other against a yellow background.  Then they uploaded the pictures to Skitch on their iPads and drew costumes onto their pictures.

I had them email the pictures to me so that I could resize them and print them out and I put them in the windows of the haunted house.

It really came out cute didn't it?  Do you have a favorite Halloween bulletin board?  I'd love to hear your great ideas.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

10 Best Read Alouds for 3rd Grade

There's nothing like starting out the school year with a fabulous read aloud book.  I love it when the kids groan as I finish the chapter for the day or beg me to find extra time to read just a little bit more. There are so many great books out there that it was hard to choose just ten, but for various reasons these are definitely my top ten read alouds for 3rd grade.

Be a Perfect Person in Just 
Three Days!

By Stephen Manes
I love to start the school year with this story.
It tells the tale of a boy who wants to be
perfect.  He goes through various steps to
achieve his goal, only to realize in the end
that being perfect isn't really so great. It is
a great way to start a beginning of the school
year discussion on why none of us is perfect.

By Roald Dahl
This is one of my all time favorite read alouds, especially if you like to do voices.
Roald Dahl does such an excellent job of
using figurative language in this book
about a girl who gets kidnapped by a friendly
Charlotte's Web

By E.B. White
Nothing beats Charlotte's Web for beautiful
imagery.  This classic tale of a spider that
saves a pigs life has my students riveted in
their seats every year.  I also love to pair it
with Stuart Little and work on comparing
Grace's Letter to 

By Peter & Connie Roop
This non-fiction story is a fabulous peek into
the history of Abraham Lincoln and the slave
trade.  It is about a young girl, Grace, who
wrote a letter to Lincoln suggesting that he
grow a beard.  While it briefly introduces the
heavy issue of the slave trade, it does it in an
age appropriate way and is not the main focus of the story.
The Jacket

By Andrew Clements
This story is a great opener to a discussion
on racism and the assumptions we make about others.  In the story Phil assumes that an
African American boy stole his brother's
jacket only to discover that he was wrong.
Helen Keller: 
Crusader for the 
Blind and Deaf

By Stewart & Polly Anne Graff
There are many fabulous stories around about
Helen Keller. I appreciate this one for its age
appropriate approach.  My kids are always
fascinated by Helen's life.
Bad Kitty vs. 
Uncle Murray

By Nick Bruel
If you ever just want to laugh with your kids this book is it.  Bad Kitty is hysterical to
grownups and kids alike.  Kids also like that
it rotates between paragraph and comic book
styles of writing.
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: 
The Lightening Thief

By Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson will always have a special place
in my heart because it was the first chapter
book that my then 3rd grade son ever became
totally engrossed in.  This epic adventure is a
fun way to talk about Greek Myths with a modern twist.
The Mouse and the Motorcycle

By Beverly Cleary
Ralph Mouse finds ways to go on grand adventures even though he never leaves his
hotel home.  This book is a great introduction
to the fabulous Beverly Cleary and is a book
both girls and boys enjoy.
The Secret School

By Avi
Set in 1925, The Secret School is a
fascinating snapshot into what life was like
for children at that time.  It is a fabulous
beginning of the school year read aloud as
it tells the story of a group of children that
went above and beyond to make sure they
could continue their own education.

These are my favorites,  but I'm always looking for a new favorite.  Share your favorite read alouds in the comments below.

Tips for Keeping Your Week's Supplies Organized

As an elementary teacher I have gone through many systems for organizing my weekly supplies over the years. I've tried a crate with hanging files, but found the files getting too stuffed and the items I wanted hard too dig out. I've tried stacks by subject area on a book case right at the front of the room.  But the stacks kept getting messier and messier.  I've even had moments when I just gave up and had random piles of paper all over the room.  But this year I think I finally found a system that will work for me.

This year I began using my rainbow drawer cart and I think I've found a winner.

What I am loving about this system is how easy it is to use and maintain.  Just this morning I ran into school to make a few photocopies for next week.  When I was done, I paper clipped each set and threw them in the correct drawer.  And voila - all mess was hidden away, and I'm totally ready for next week.

Unlike hanging files, which I've seen many teachers use, I find these drawers helpful for all those little things you need for your lesson.    In the picture below you can see my "Current Math" drawer.   Not only does it have my Interactive Notebook and worksheets for the week.  It also holds the place value cards I will use on the white board.

In my "Homeroom Reading" drawer this week I have  my clipboard for taking anecdotal notes on kid's reading, our vocabulary cards (doesn't that judge look scary?), envelopes with sorting activities cut and ready to go as well as a few worksheets.  

When I need something from the drawer, sometimes I can just slip it out, but other times its easier to take the whole drawer out of the cart, pull out the multiple items I might need, and then slip the drawer back in.  Either way, everything is easy to see and keep in place.

Some other tips I've found useful for keeping my papers organized over the years....

Tip 1: Whatever container you use to keep your materials for the week, clean it out weekly.  That worksheet that you didn't get to this week, are you REALLY going to get to it next week.  Don't let it live your storage area for week's on end.  Sometime the recycle bin is your friend.

Tip 2: Have a place to store the extra copies of your worksheets when you're done.  I converted a box lid into a paper tray (I prettied it up with duct tape.) and every time we finish a page I toss the extras in the box lid.  Now, when Johnny's paper turns up missing, or you have 10 no name papers and no heavenly way of deciphering whose is whose, you have easy access to your extras.

Tip 3: When students finish working on a worksheet, immediately clip the set and the answer key together with a paper clip.  It is so much easier to tackle that basket of grading when it's already organized and tidy.

Tip 4: I frequently have large numbers of math worksheets ready and waiting to be used, because I have the binding cut off our math books.  Instead of keeping the entire stack in one math drawer, I pull out the worksheets I need for this week and put them in my "Current Math" drawer.  The rest of this unit's worksheets go in a separate "Math Unit" drawer.  It makes it way easier to sort through what I need as I'm pulling things out for the current math lesson. Plus it leaves room for other types of materials that I'll need for this week's lessons.

Tip 5: TEACHER BINDERS - oh boy have I discovered the joy of having an organized teacher binder.  Check out all the great things I keep organized in my teacher binder in this previous post.  I really started utilizing my teacher binder in a new way this year and it has GREATLY reduced the amount of paper clutter on my desk.  Now, every time I get a paper from my principal with information I need to use all year, I have a place to put it and better yet, I can find it again when I need it. My binder has become my new best friend.

What tips do you have for keeping your classroom neat and tidy?  Share your ideas in the comments below.

Friday, September 12, 2014

My Classroom

I'm working on a total classroom makeover and I am so excited about how it's all coming together.   I spent a lot of time this summer making items for my room like my new crate chairs and seat cover pockets and I had so much fun putting everything together before the kids came back.

Let's start with my small group table.  How CUTE are those crate chairs!  And the extra storage space has been fabulous!  We used them first at the supply drop off to collect all the kleenex and hand sanitizer.  But now, I'm using them to store our emergency kits which is perfect, because they are right in the corner where we sit during lock downs.  So if we ever had an extended lock down, the food and water would be within arms reach.

In the background of the crate chair picture you can see my Morning Routine chart.   I LOVE this chart, because I used to get so sick of writing the same things on the board every morning.  Now, when I write their morning work, number one says Morning Routine and they know to do everything on the morning routine chart before moving on to number two of Morning Work which will be whatever activity I want them to start the day with.

I prettied up my desk this year with this fabric cover and bunting.  I plan to attach it with hot glue, but right now there are just magnets holding it in place.

Moving to the other side of my desk we come to our reading corner which I am so excited about. This summer I recovered the pillows with super soft fabric and made the bunting, thanks to Dear Beautiful Boy's tutorial.  I also spray painted the book case and found the PERFECT rocking chair at a garage sale.  I couldn't believe how perfectly the colors matched my new room color scheme.

Continuing around the corner we see the rest of my reading corner. This is the very first time that I have used Bordette on a bulletin board, and I am thrilled with how it turned out.  Again thanks to a tutorial on hot gluing it together by Maria Manore.  The book crates were ones that I already had and I was so happy when I realized that they fit my color scheme.

I'm also excited about the new way I found to label them.  I ran across these really cute little wooden trinkets at Michael's.  They are already painted with chalkboard paint.  All I did was drill a couple of holes in them and attach them to the crate with florist wire.  I use chalkboard markers to write the titles on them.

I used the same shapes to label my other book bins except this time I hot glued them.

This book case is another summer find.  A friend was giving it away for free.  It was originally all white, but I added green fabric to the back and spray painted the shelves blue.  It really transformed the whole book case.  I also redid my in and out box labels to match my new color scheme.  I LOVE how cute they turned out.

It was my hope that a lot of little touches would really help to transform the room.  I found these cans at Joann's Fabric.  Right next to the cans they were selling the flowers which are magnetic.  At Michael's I found the black chalkboard stickers which I used as labels.  These are SO MUCH cuter than my old sharp and dull pencil boxes.

Next to the student work bulletin board is my all time favorite bulletin board that I've ever made.  It doesn't match my new room color scheme, but I don't care.  We have 1:1 ipads in our classroom so this board has a lot of meaning for my kids.  

What I love best about it is that each "app" button shows something that we actually study in 3rd grade.

On the opposite wall we have my Thesaurus Word Wall.  I have had these up for 10 or more years, but this summer I updated them and made them cuter.  Cute or not, my students use these all the time to find more "precise" words for their writing.  Check out my blog post that explains more about them in detail.

Finally, we have the students' desks.  These kids are going to be so organized this year they aren't going to know what hit them.  For the past few years I have used drawers in our desks to help with organization.  Check out my tutorial on how to make them super easy and cheap.

This summer I also made chair covers.  Despite the use of the box lids, there have always been two things that I don't let kids keep inside their desks.  iPads and books that they borrow from me.  I know how kids shove things in their desks, including food, half closed glue bottles and drinks, and I just don't trust them to keep my books or iPads inside their desks.  The problem with keeping them on top of their desks however is that they take too much room and they are too tempting.  Last year I had multiple boys who just could not keep their iPad lids shut during instruction time.    Thus, the seat pocket idea.  This year the iPads and books will each have their own pocket to be stored in.  Now, their desk tops will be clean and I won't be seeing the glow of the iPad when I'm trying to hold their attention.  

Student desk all ready for the first day of school.
My final touch is my new name plates.  I made them myself this year so that they would match everything else.  They came out super cute AND I was able to personalize them with each kid's number and log in information.  A few years ago I started to use velcro to stick my name tags on desks.  No more tape for kids to pick at and make a mess of.  Now, when we move desks the kids just pull out their drawer, pull their name tag off the velcro and walk to their new seat.  No more moving furniture all over the place.  SO MUCH EASIER.

So that's my room.  I hope you enjoyed the tour.  I sure am loving working in my newly jazzed up digs.