Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Peek at My Week (before break!!!) 3.24.14

Well, it's, why does it come so fast?  I don't know about you but I feel like Sunday is usually the day that I try to catch up on everything, but sometimes nothing gets done. Ok, I need to give myself more credit than that--I did have a productive weekend... I just spend Sunday doing all of the prep stuff for my week: grocery shopping, meal planning, school work, cleaning, etc.  As you can see, I haven't gotten really far on the personal stuff....

The meal board is still empty.  My husband is on Spring Break this week, so maybe I'll just cut my losses for this Sunday evening, and make him be in charge all week.  :)  Since it's Sunday I'm linking up with Jennifer from Mrs. Laffin's Laughings to share what I've got planned this week.  I have to admit, I'm trying to cram about a million things in before break, when we only have time for 100.  Let's hope I can get all of it accomplished and have a great week, just like I did last week!

Math- We're wrapping up our addition and subtraction unit this week, and we still need some practice and work on story problems- the two step ones.  I've been struggling with the teaching of this, because I feel that when we talk them out and the kids work together in class they have it.  Then they do some on their own, and we're spending the next day fixing everything.  It's like they instantly go back to seeing three numbers, picking two and adding them together, and then subtracting the littlest one to get their answer without taking the steps that we've learned. So again, I'm going with task cards from our book to show some different strategies to solve 2 step problems.  We're going to spend the first part of the week doing as many word problems as we can.

Source: Houghton Mifflin Math Expressions

LA- We're going to hit the ground running this week on our Pioneer Simulation. We will spend most of the 4th quarter working with non-fiction materials and use this pioneer simulation to spark motivation with our students!  I'll be posting more in-depth once we actually start moving along with it.  Our pioneers aren't officially leaving on the trail until after we get back from break, but this week we're prepping to leave.  We've spent a lot of time building background and the biggest thing we did I talked about it my Five For Friday post this week.  So for our preparation, we're bringing in a school interactive learning experience tomorrow called 'The Adventures of Ma and Pa.'  Students will get an interactive assembly where Ma and Pa come in with all of the items that they could possibly pack into their wagon and talk to us about the supplies, food, tools, family heirlooms, and much much more!  This gives students the visual of the different items that they will see on their packing list later this week.   Students have been grouped into 4 wagon train groups, and tomorrow will be given their pioneer names, along with their family history.  They will then work with their groups to prepare to leave on the journey out west.

This is a small sample of the list of items that the pioneers can pack.  It's a big list, so hopefully after Ma  and Pa, we can figure out what is important to pack with us!

We will be working a lot with vocabulary.  Students will be asked to use their new pioneer vocabulary while we're on the trail, so spending time to work with and use new words will be important.  Students will each be given words to look up for their group.  We will use the dictionary for definitions and also we will use some pre-made word lists with definitions with some students.  This is a great way to differentiate but also give each student the opportunity to contribute to their wagon train groups.  We'll be using my vocabulary boxes from my TpT store as well, and sharing as a class.  We will then hang the papers up so we can refer back to them!

Here is a small sample of some pre-made vocabulary words that students will be given. My co-worker put these together for our use with this unit!

Click photo to go to TpT.

In their small groups, students will be learning about various locations that either they will pass through on the trail, or that the pioneers did encounter while on the Oregon Trail.  They will read and learn about these places to share with the class so we can discuss different things that happened at each location. We will be talking about pros and cons for stopping at different forts along the way and also talk about why/how certain places may have gotten their names.  We will then look at the map that we will be traveling on to see if we can find any similarities on the Hacker Trail (the trail we will be traveling on) to the places that we have spent time discussing. This will give groups the time to discuss some of the new places on this map to discuss pros and cons to the different routes that are mapped out (Massacre Canyon probably = death....why???!!).

Just a small sample of reading we will do to prepare for different locations on the trail. 

There is so much going on in this unit--- I could write for days! To spare you the longest post ever, I'll be sure to update this week like I said and as we move along the trail.  I'm getting excited, and so are the kids.  I have to share one thing quick before I'm done.  On Friday I collected some student work and looked over it this weekend.  I shared the graphic organizers that were used to discuss connections between the movie American Tale, to some big themes from people leaving their country to move to another one.  Everyone did a great job relating the movie to our big themes.  The last two questions they had to answer were opinion questions.  They were asked what they were nervous about with the upcoming unit and what they were looking forward to.  I had one respond with.....

"I am nervous because I am going to get a wife......" Tomorrow students get their identities, and some will find out that they have a significant other, who is imaginary, but they will have to make sure they are taking that, their occupation, and if they have any children into consideration as they pack to leave on the trail.  It's so sweet that someone is nervous about that.

Have a great week!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Five For Friday 3.21.14 {Best. Week. Ever!}

Happy Friday, Friends!!!  I don't know about you but for me, this week did fly by as compared to last week.  It's always so much fun when you have things going on through the week that help get your through.  With some nice weather here and there this week, that helped a lot too.  Sadly, March is still March...and the cold will be back again next week.  I'm just happy we got a small sample.  I'm linking up today with Doodle Bugs Teaching for the weekly 5 for Friday post!  I hope everyone had a great week... mine was really amazing!  Ahead of time, I'll apologize for my long post... just had so much to share!

Of course with it being St. Patrick's Day, I must share some of our special projects for the holiday.  First of all I didn't go overboard this year.  I kept things simple, and it still was a super fun day and week of work.  I got a big box of Lucky Charms, and each student started the day with some luck on their desks.  Since the box was so big, through the whole day when I saw someone making a '4th' grade choice or acting like a '4th' grader, I filled their cup back up.  It was amazing.. you could hear pins drop.  Now I can totally say, "Hmmmm I know that you can act like 4th graders, because you showed me on St. Patrick's Day!!!"

We have started rocket math to work on our multiplication fluency. I feel that this week the kids got the routine down perfectly and it is not a part of our usual math routine!!!  They're loving the challenge too, which always makes it fun! 

This is the chart we use to have students keep track of their progress on timed tests.

We're building background knowledge this week to get ready for our Pioneer Simulation to start next week.  One way we started that this year was to start on a very small scale, which at first I was a bit apprehensive about but now looking back on this week am thrilled.  As a third grade team we watched the movie 'The American Tale' with Fievel.  We focused on a few big themes to bring through to pioneers.  The themes were: People being treated poorly in their country, people moving from one country to another, or immigrating, hardships or things that happened while traveling to a new country, what people did to stay positive, how people worked together, how people were hurt or taken advantage of, and misunderstandings when arriving in a new country.  

Image From:

I've told you all before that I work very closely with our ESL teacher for writing time at the end of the day. She has been such a great help, and really has taken the lead in terms of helping to build background for students with pioneers in ways of writing.  It's great to have a different perspective on something that I've done for several years. I feel so refreshed and excited about this upcoming unit and it's all because of her! She put together two different organizers that we worked on this week that helped us use movie to build some background as to why people, like the pioneers traveled West leaving behind everything that they knew and had.  The conversations that we have had with students has been very eye opening and so valuable!  She really helped me scale down the start of this unit to make it much more useful to students. I'm excited to keep you updated, and the students are beyond excited too!

Lastly, with March Madness going on, we've had some exciting games to keep track of.  Our school does a college theme where each classroom adopts a college and does various things with that college through the year.  It's to promote college to everyone, even those is 5K and that college can be for everyone. In grade school we focus on 4 year colleges/universities, in the middle school they focus on 2 year colleges along with 4 year colleges/universities, and in high school they talk about all choices after high-school including trade schools.  It comes from the idea created by Damen Lopez called "No Excuses University." We've seen him speak several times as a district, and although we have not decided to become an actual No Excuses U, we've taken some of his spirit and ideas to do our own thing.

“College readiness is not the belief that every student will go to college. College readiness is the idea that every student deserves the opportunity to be educated in a way that prepares him or her for college if he or she chooses to attend.” (Source: No Excuses University by Damen Lopez)

I am The University of Arizona.  My room is decorated in AZ gear, students learn where AZ is, and what the college has to offer.  We talk about majors and minors, and what the college is known for. We talk about college through the school year randomly when the opportunity presents itself and I incorporate vocabulary about college into their daily school routine.  I have bulletin boards dedicated to the University, I get mailings from them to send home with the kids (brochures and course catalogs) and we have the attitude that we can go to college no matter what!  They were on TV today for the big games, and are currently ranked number 1!!!! I got permission to stream about 10 minutes of the game for them to watch and they were mesmerized!  It was so neat, and we had some really cool discussions about college sports today!  I hope I have some future Wildcats in my room! :) 

Whew! That sure was a lot!  If you're still reading: THANK YOU!  One more week until break!  Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tried it Tuesday- Homework

It's Tuesday, so that brings me to another edition of 'Tried it Tuesday' and linking up with Fourth Grade Flipper.   I had to laugh when I decided to do this post, because today was NOT a good day for turning in homework in third grade land.... tomorrow is a new day though.  So here we go.......

I've officially hit the point of the school year where I feel like we aren't looking forward, but looking back to where we were on day 1.  It may be the long winter we've had, or the fact that my students are just way to comfortable with one another right now and we need Spring Break to come fast..... or it could just be that natural dip in the year where you feel like progress is going nowhere!  Whatever it is, I am really feeling it this year, so I decided to do something about it and tackle one of the biggest problems head on....HOMEWORK! {Or should I say lack thereof???} 

I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, not knowing what was late, who was missing what, what was already put in the grade book, who was behind, and who was needing to stay back from recess to finish their work.  I thought I was keeping track of what was missing, but then I realized that I was working harder, my kids weren't doing what they needed to do and I'm guessing their parents had no clue that it was becoming such a chronic problem.  

Well, I started where anyone else would.... with a rant!  Good thing Jennifer, from Mrs. Laffin's Laughings teaches the grade above me, and appreciates all the hard work that goes into prepping kiddos for 4th grade.... she was the lucky one that caught my rant.  Lucky Her! :)  I thought talking to 4th grade would be a good idea, because after all I'm trying to get my students ready for 4th well as expectations!She actually helped me out in more ways than one.  Be sure to stop by her blog for great ideas on everything!!!!

1- First, several weeks prior she gave me the 'Late Notice' red sheet that they use in 4th grade. She passed it along and I filed it away, because I didn't really need it at the time.  Well...I pulled it out and we officially started FOURTH GRADE in my classroom.  I sent a note home in my newsletter explaining what the expectation was (just as a reminder) and then what we were going to do to improve this to be ready for 4th. Whenever a student has a late or missing assignment (even not filling out their reading log) a red late notice sheet goes home stapled to the assignment that was not complete.  They are required to fill out the basic assignment information, write down the due date, and also say why they didn't do it. They also owe be $5 from their Bentin Money for each late assignment. They don't like giving up their money, and they also don't like when they don't get paid. So if they don't get their homework it's a double whammy to their bank accounts!  In order to earn their free time or recess back they must bring the late notice back signed.  It's worked wonderfully! (except today...we won't talk about today!!!) I still have my homework offenders, however it's much more managed and out of my hands! I also like that now students are more in charge of their actions. 

I love this quote, because it is true of many students who decide not to do homework.  Saying "I don't get it" doesn't always cut it.... I respond with.. "Well, what have you tried???! Show me!"

Source: Bing Images

2- I invited Jen to come into my room and say something about the long list of missing assignments on the board.  She even questioned students about it and asked why they didn't have it done.  It was an eye opener for kids to realize that others were noticing if they weren't doing their job, and they wanted to impress their possible 4th grade teacher.  She even sent down her "Good Job" jar full of sweet treats several days later to give to any student who wasn't on the list of 'No Homework!' 

**Man, this post got long, sorry for that! I'll save my fun math trick for next time. Thanks for stopping by.  Any other suggestion on late or missing work.....I'm all ears! Send them this way!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday Made It

Happy Monday!!! :)  2 more weeks until break.. my husband asked me this morning "Are you going to be able to wake up on your own next week???"  His break is in 1 week...oops! I didn't think about that.  Not cool! :)  I'm super excited today to be linking up with 4th Grade Frolics  for the first time for the weekly linky called Monday Made It!  I've been pretty busy making stuff at home lately, so I don't have any school things to share, but plan to do my best to get some going before I leave for maternity leave.  I'm loving this linky as it has inspired me to make some projects! I am always a fan of crafty things and school projects!

After making several banners for my friends bridal showers, baby showers, kids birthday parties and bachelorette parties, I had someone approach me from work to hire me to make a banner for their daughter's first birthday! This was the first one that I made from request and the first one I was 'hired' to do, so it was a bit nerve wrecking, but I think that it turned out great. I have a cricut machine so I use that to cut out all of my designs and letters.  Simply string and there you go---- instant decorations! Don't let me fool you though, from start to finish I have about 5 hours put into this banner.  It's not super quick, especially when there are a lot of parts.  I do love the final product though.

Her theme was Minnie! Please ignore my clearance frames in the background.. I wasn't sure where I was putting them so I decided to try them out first!

Here are two other banners I have made in the past for events as well---

I'm horrible at panoramic photos, so the middle of this picture is messed up, but you get the idea! :)

I've also recently made a message board for our house to put by the calendar.  I love using calendars, and I always keep track of what we have going on. In fact we have a Google calendar, I have a school calendar, and then a house calendar.....ok ok,  I'm slightly obsessed!  I like to use them, but it's easier for me to look at a week or so at a time.  So this was my weekly snapshot idea that I saw on pinterest that I decided to create. This could also be used at school as a calendar or message center!

It was super easy to make! I took an old picture frame that I had sitting around the house and scrapbook paper.  I decided to make it a 2-week look so I didn't have to change it every week.  I just measured the frame length ad width  so I could cut the slips of scrapbook paper to fit evenly for each day of the week times 2.  You don't have to use different colored paper, I just put this up in my pantry/laundry area by the garage door----so I wanted a pop of color.  The last thing that I did was stamp the letter on each page for the day of the week that it corresponds to.  With my dry erase marker, I've been putting the date above so I can keep track of where I'm at. I'm excited for how it turned out and I also have changed it every two weeks since I've put it up on the wall (which has only been for one week....)

The last thing that I put together and hung up this week was for the baby's room.  Being a teacher makes me crazy about books... my husband is also a teacher and so were both of his parents, so our soon to be little one has a FULL library already. 

We were given a very large crate of books from my husband's family.  Some of the books were even from when his dad was born 70 years ago.  We loved going through them all, but found there were a few that were quite fragile and old from wear and tear.  The three books that we loved but were scared to put on the shelf for fear that they would get ruined were Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, The Little Engine that Could,, and last but not least And to Think that I Saw It On Mulberry Street.  As you might be able to see by this picture, they are very old copies and early editions of all three books.  In fact, they are all only printed in a few select colors because of how old they are.  We thought it would still be neat to put them in the nursery so we made them into decorations.  I bought three shadow boxes from the craft store, and matted them with pieces of scrapbook paper.  We then carefully hung each book in a shadow box, careful not to compromise the covers or pages.  We used clear plastic book sleeves, for each corner and then attached with 3M hooks to the paper and plastic.  Instant room decoration and what's the best yet is I didn't have to pay an arm and a leg to get them custom framed!

Thanks for stopping by! I'm excited to see what everyone else has been making.  Have a great week!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Peek at my Week |3.17.14|

Happy Sunday, everyone!  I'm excited to say that I'm on top of things this week to be able to share what I'll be doing for Jennifer's weekly linky, A Peek at my Week.  Be sure to check out her blog at Mrs. Laffin's Laughings, as well as see what others are planning on doing this week. 

I will be using one of my favorite read alouds to spark some imagination with my kids to write some leprechaun stories to go along with St. Patrick's Day this week.  I don't even know why I love this books o much, I think it's because the kids laugh and giggle through the whole thing! It's called Leprechaun on the Loose. This week will be more about creative writing and having fun.  I will review some of the basic sentence structure elements that we've been really hitting lately, and then let them write their own leprechaun story. Students are also doing a sentence writing activity in centers this week to practice using linking words to combine sentences together.  I'm hoping that I'll see a lot of that in their stories!!!! Hopefully we'll get some very mischievous leprechauns causing problems!

This week in math we'll be working on story problems.  Lately I feel like that's been the story of our lives, and any of you who use math expressions know that it is full of story problems!  I have to say sometimes it's a lot, but they sure aren't afraid of them anymore or they aren't skipping them on homework. We'll be working on multi-step story problems as well as story problems with extra, hidden, or not enough information. I plan on giving morning journal questions that have wayyyy toooo much info that will need to be crossed out to prepare for this! 

I work with a small intervention group in the morning for math and looking ahead on the two step story problems for the week we're going to do a lot of prep work for it.  Math expressions has great task cards for each lesson for students that are needing intervention, who are on-level and those who are needing a challenge.  This activity comes right from the task cards, and I think it will really help students out. 

Reading Groups-
I'll continue my work on Knights & Castles this week with students to focus on non-fiction story structure and elements.  We'll be discussing clothing, protecting the castle, and medieval entertainment. Students are loving all aspects of this book study.  I just recently shared a few samples here, so if you're interested check them out.  I'm so impressed with one group, who usually struggles to get conversation going.  Vocabulary has been harder with this book with where they are, but with us working together and taking a lot of time to discuss words, I can barely get through everything that I need to with them because they won't stop talking and asking/answering questions.  I'm so excited to see how this week goes!

I hope everyone has a great week ahead! I'm looking forward to some warm weather so the wiggles can start to be left on the playground!  :) 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Five For Friday {3.14.14}

And I'm late to the party again... :)  Here's to Friday... even though it's Saturday!  Wow, it's been a great week for us in third grade, and I'm excited to see what everyone else has been up to! I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs for teaching today for the weekly Five For Friday Post!  

Of course it wouldn't be a weekly post without a math expressions update!!!  We've been busy working with addition and subtraction strategies as I've shared with you all lately.  This week our focus was on math mountains and how to use them for all 4 basic operations.  My colleague set up a banalce scale and had some fun with giving students different equations to show if they were equal or not so when I saw how fun it was, I asked her to borrow it!  The kids loved playing with the sclae and discussing numbers.  The best part was that we did mystery numbers where I wrote equations on whiteboards and only told one person.  They had to put the answer on the scale, and the reat of the class had to guess the equation.  It helped us discuss the different varaiations of numbers that could be possible.  

We also did a lot of discussion with not equal as well, which was something new to them.  :) 

In guided reading groups I started a non-fiction book called Knights & Castles.  It's a companion book to go along with the Magic Tree House books.  I don't typically do this, but I'm using the same book with each of my groups--we're just doing different things depending on their levels.  We end the year with a non-fiction pioneer simulation so this is just like a jump start to get them used to some of the things that we will be doing.  The kids are loving this book and so do I.  We've been doing a lot of discussion, as well as working on graphic organizers to talk about the information that we're reading.  We've been doing some together, and they've been doing some on their own.  Here is some of our work.

Each chapter comes with a flip book to make to review the content of the chapter. Here are a few finished ones from this week!

We've been working with homophones this week and I used this great book called 'Dear, Deer' to use as a mentor text.  We had fun reading the book and if you haven't used it I suggest you take a look!

In our centers we made homophone books.  Students picked a pair of homophones out of a basket and then created a page for our book.  Here are a few that were finished up.  We're excited to read our book hopefully to our buddy class next time we meet!  The kids were very creative, and I'm excited with how they turned out!

We've finally had some warmer weather here in Wisconsin.... it hasn't been amazing, but still just enough to make us realize that there is an end to this polar vortex of a winter that we have had.  With that being said, I wanted to share another sunrise picture from this week.  I just love when it takes my breath away, and makes me stop to smell the roses! Oh how easy it is to get wrapped up in the hustle bustle of everyday life!!!

On a personal note, we got our final piece of furniture for the nursery this week.  A rocking chair!!!  It feels great to have everything set now.  We're just waiting on baby! :)  I'm still several weeks away, but things are coming together nicely at this point! I'm excited for the memories that I will make it that very seat!

I hope everyone has a great weekend!! :)