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Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Book Whisperer--Chapter 6: Cutting the Teacher Strings

This was probably the hardest chapter for me.  Not because I didn't enjoy it, but because it made me take a truly critical look at my practices.  I have been guilty of teaching great books instead of teaching readers.  My practices have changed over the years, but in some ways, I certainly have done it.

For a variety of reasons, I have not taught whole class novels for a couple of years.  I place a lot of emphasis on our read-aloud novel.  It is a great place to have discussions and to practice a variety of skills.  It encourages kids to find similar books or books by the same author.  I have also used share-read in the classroom.  I am going to look closely at my use of extension and arts/crafts activities with literature, too.  As we are standard driven, I think I do a pretty good job of making activities match standards, but I am sure that I do some that aren't developing the students as they should.

I really like the idea of teaching comprehension tests as their own genre.  I do not give many comprehension tests throughout the year, but we do practice the format and going back to use our text to find the answer.  I have never been a fan of AR or any of those programs, so it was good to have her thoughts on that match mine!

We do not complete book reports in my class either.  Students are responsible for sharing about a book they are reading about once a month.  However, they do not get to choose their day to share, I have a schedule set up.  I do this sometimes as well.  I liked Ms. Miller's ideas of teaching them about the term spoiler.  We have a lot of set things that the students discuss in their short book share, but sometimes I do have a student who wants to tell a little too much...

My students are given reading log pages to keep track of minutes read at home, but I am still undecided about this year.  I have no requirements about it.  I just ask them to turn it in at the end of the month.  I watch for increased minutes.   I think of it like being on a diet and recording the food you ate....for some people it really helps them to have some accountability to themselves.  For my own sons, two were VERY motivated by recording minutes each month, and two could care less.  It was just one more fight.  That is why I really deemphasize them in my class.

I have never appreciated popcorn or round robin reading!  When I taught older students and we read a lot more from the text book, I would give out reading assignments the night before so that students had plenty of time to read and practice their portion before reading it to the class.  With my third graders, I use a lot of partner reading or listening to the text from a CD.

I have questioned the use of incentive programs before, too.  One time, I heard a speaker say that the best incentive was a new book.  For example, Pizza Hut should reverse their program.  Instead  of earning a pizza for meeting a reading goal, students should earn a free book every time they eat a pizza from Pizza Hut!  That would really be encouraging reading!

So, I have some practices that I need to reevaluate.  I certainly want to be a teacher who teaches a love of reading rather than just great books!

The Book Whisperer--Chapter 5: Walking the Walk

I liked this chapter. (Who am I kidding? I liked the whole book!) It made me think about myself and my practices in the classroom and at home.

I have read a lot of children's books, and I am not afraid to share my thoughts and ideas about books I have read with my students. Students feel comfortable asking me for a suggestion because I have read so many. However, I find that I am best at recommending to my more-developed readers. I taught junior high and 5th grade for a number of years, and during that time, I developed a love of literature for this age. I rarely read adult books, but I don't read enough books that are at a 3rd grade level. I resolve to do better at this, and I have tried to do that this summer.

One way that I am going to do this is that in my classroom, I am going to have a display showing the book that I am currently reading. I am planning to put myself to the same 40 book challenge that I am giving my students. I have created a list that I will have posted by my desk, and I will plug each book into its category as I complete it. Not only will this model reading, but it will be a reminder to them to keep their own list updated.

Click on the picture to access my book list that I will post by my desk to show me meeting the 40 book challenge.

To link up with others' ideas about this chapter, go to Create Teach Share.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

New Technology Video

The video above was shared with me at last week's conference. What a comical way to show how times continue to change. Obviously, this monk wasn't a risk-taker!

As educators, we need to remember that there are students, parents, and other educators who still feel this way about technology. Not only is it our job to use technology in our classroom to enhance learning, but to help provide a comfortable setting for others to explore technology.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Great week of professional development

This week, I have had the privilege of joining a team of educators from my district at a digital conversion workshop in North Carolina.  It was so much fun!  I learned so many new ideas, and it challenged me to think of ways to teach in a 21st century way.

I learned so much, and I certainly can't post everything all in one day (besides--I have had very little sleep...), so I am beginning with a fun website.

The website is called  On this site, you can take a photo and add a mouth and a recorded sound so that it can talk.  The one I am attaching is really nothing, but think of the ways it could be used in a room... a character sharing his point of view, an historical figure asking your students their opinion on a historical event, you talking to your class on a day when they have a sub...  (We recommended to our superintendent that he begin our opening institute with himself

So, check out my short little clip, and then check out the website yourself!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Kristina for winning my 50 Follower Giveaway!  I'll send the Amazon giftcard to the email address you left in your post!

Thanks again to everyone for following my blog.  I love all of the ideas I get from others, and I hope that you find some things you can use here, too!

Post It Note Linky Party

Create Teach Share is having a fun Post It Linky party!  Think of a way that you use post-it notes in your classroom and link up!

We use post-its a lot in our reading and writing.  The kids love them... and I do, too, if it gets them writing!

However, here is my favorite way to use them.  I run my rubrics off on them.  I  create a template in word (usually about 6 rubrics post-it size will fit on a page).  Then, I put my post its on the paper and run it through the printer.  It saves me a ton of time and paper.  You can find template pages online, but I just create a word doc with two columns and then create my rubrics to a size that will fit on a post-it note.  I copy and paste them until I have 6 to 8 on a page and print it out once.  Then I put post-its over the printed copies and run it back through again.  Voila!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Last Chance for Giveaway

The chances for my giveaway end on Sunday, July 17th.  I will be picking a winner before going to bed on that night--so around 10 pm.  I will post the winner that night.

Thanks to many of you who are following this blog.  I hope that you find some things that are as helpful as the things I find on other people's blogs.

I am excited to say that I will be attending a digital conversion workshop next week with a team from my district.  I hope to have a lot of neat things to blog about to help everyone, so stay posted!

Thanks again!

The Book Whisperer--Reading Notebooks

I have used reading notebook for a number of years.  I have changed it a million times. I have changed the format, the amount of entries, and the amount of times I collect them. 

 I have to be honest--I am not disciplined enough about grading them.  I have tried a number of things to help.  I usually start the year very strong, but as I get busier, and we get more familiar with each other, I don't look at them like I should.   Hopefully, this year's method will help this dilemma.

I do like that they really help me to get to know my students and their reading a lot better.  I give them a sheet of response starters to help them get going, and I can often tell the readers who struggle more because all they can tell me about is a little bit of what is happening in the book.  With third graders, it is often a new skill, so I have to do a lot of modeling and talking about what I might say in a response besides just retelling the plot.

This year, I plan to try Kidblog with my students for their book responses.  Students will be responsible for one blog per week in which they talk to me about their book.  I think I will start the year with prompts, but as the year goes, I want to allow them more choice in their blogs.  I do have plenty of other classroom times when I ask the students for reading responses.  These will supplement our blogs.  Hopefully, using Kidblog offers some excitement for my students, and it will be more efficient--less space to store our notebooks and easier access for me (and no notebooks to carry around).

In my CAFE binder, I will have a spot for reading response still.  This way, students can take notes while reading and put them in there for themselves or to use when composing their blogs.  We use a lot of post-it notes while reading, so students will be able to write on a post-it note and then just stick it in this section of their CAFE binder.

My biggest goal with reading responses this year is to talk with the kids about their responses during conferencing.  That way I can work with them more on this writing skill while discussing their books.  I will still give them feedback to their blogs by commenting, too.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

An Amazon Delivery!

Today, I received a box of books from Amazon.  It contained books that I found while looking at other people's favorite fall read-alouds.  How exciting for me!  I took the boys to the pool, and I read picture books in the sun.  What great ideas I got from everybody!  Some of the books were on multiple lists, and now I can see why.

The book I am going to talk about is one that I don't think I found on someone's list.  It was listed below another book where it says "Customers who bought this book also liked..."

What a great book!  I loved its emphasis on words and definitions, and the story line was clever, too!  I looked online, and Debra Frasier has a website that offers some additional resources to use with it, too.  It is cleverly written and may be better for students in Grades 3 and up, but maybe some of you will tell me differently.

If I am mistaken and found this book in your list of fall read-alouds, I apologize and thank you for the recommendation!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Yearn to Learn's Blog Mixer Linky

Yearn to Learn is having a Blog Mixer Linky.  I am going to join in the fun.

1.  A New Kid on the Blog:   The Sweet Life of Third Grade is just getting started.

2.  Blogger in the Same Grade Level:  I always enjoy reading The Thoughts of a Third Grade Teacher.

3.  Blogger from a different grade level: Shepherd's Shining Stars is a great technology reference blog.  She is making things happen!

4. Cutest Blog Button:  This is a new blog, but she has been busy!  Lots of posts.  Cute site.

Book Whisperer Chapter 4

Discussion Questions:
1) How do you plan to give your students reading freedom?

2) What are your favourite reading lessons to start the school year with?
3) What would your genre requirement look like? Why would you pick these genres?
4) As we are half way through The Book Whisperer what goals have you made for your reading program for this coming school year?

I am in the habit of giving my students reading freedom.  When we conference, I may try to nudge them another way, but I let them go with what they want if they want.   I think it is important.

I start the year with a lot of focus on Choosing Good-Fit books.  3rd graders are all over the place in their reading abilities at the beginning of the year, and that is ok.  We talk about that point a lot so that everyone is comfortable reading what they need to without embarrassment.  We also talk about the different ways a person can read a book.  These lessons are designed to really help build community.  Depending on the makeup of my class, sometimes these are easy lessons that have to be done only at the beginning of the year, and sometimes we have to review them at different times throughout the year.

I have really thought about this reading requirement.  3rd graders are typically still such novice readers, and I really want to build confidence.  However, I also like to set high expectations.  I have decided to go with a 40 book requirement, but I am going to be sure to stress to parents that it is not for a grade, and the students will not be punished if they don't meet it.  I will review with them the importance of reading for pleasure, the value of reading different genres, and my desire to challenge their children. 

Here is my 40 book requirement by genre:

realistic fiction--2

historical fiction--2

graphic novel--2


science fiction--2


books recommended by friends--2

informative books--6

picture books--10

free choice books--10

Here are my reasons for some of the choices:  I intentionally left poetry out, because we read poetry each week together, and the students do 4-5 poetry recitals a year where they must look through poems, choose one, and read it to the class later in the week.  I read them poetry a lot, too, so I feel like they are very exposed. 

I added picture books because they are so integral to our classroom, and my students enjoy reading them.  They will be an easy way for them to boost their numbers and gain some confidence.  Besides, for some of the year, picture books are just-right books for some of my students.
I added a category called books recommended by friends because we spend a lot of time talking about books, and I want them to see how that can carry over.  I am going to work harder to remember to share with them who recommended the books that I read.  I want it to be a real-world reading thing.

My genre choices are all 2 books.  I want them to get more than one taste of a genre, but I didn't want to favor any genre over another.  If a student really enjoys a genre, they will have the opportunity to explore it more in their free choices.

My biggest goal for this year is to require more student accountability.  I am going to pay more attention to their Daily 5 check ins, conference about their blog entries, and monitor the 40 book requirement with each student.  I will have to work to find a good balance between this accountability and the freedom that Ms. Miller describes.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

50 Followers must mean a GIVEAWAY!

I am so excited to have 50 followers! To celebrate, I had better have a giveaway!

Because so many people have been discussing books, I have decided to giveaway a $15 giftcard to Amazon.

You have 3 ways you can enter.

     1)  Become a follower of my blog and tell me in my comments section.

     2)  Blog about my giveaway and create a comment below.

OR 3)  List my blog in your blog list or put my button on your blog and leave a comment.

I will choose a random number on Sunday, the 17th to determine the winner of the giftcard.  Thanks again for following my blog.  :)

Parent Involvement Linky

Mrs. Bee is having a parent involvement linky. I have a number of things I do that probably everybody does: Friday folder, daily assignment book, website,volunteers...

However, when I began teaching 3rd grade six years ago, I began a great activity that kids and parents love! About a month before we do our state testing, I send home a letter to my parents explaining the testing and thanking them for all of their support...At the bottom of the page, I stick a post-it note for each day of the testing. Parents are asked to write encouraging words to their child and send the notes back to me (preferably without their child knowing) before testing begins.

Each day during testing, I place a different post-it note on the child's desk. They almost always think their parents came to the classroom and put the post-it on their desk! They look forward each day to see what their parents wrote! I firmly believe it gives them an extra boost as they sit down to take the tests.

Parents are often very creative and loving in their comments to their children. Some of them nearly make me cry.

The notes can't be on the students' desks during testing, but many of them keep the notes lined up on the inside of their desks for weeks after testing. Even as our testing changes in the coming years (Hurrah!), I will find some way to keep this activity going in my room.

The Lesson Plan Diva's Giveaway

Congratulations to the Lesson Plan Diva on 500 followers!  She is having a great giveaway!  Get over to her site to check things out.  Good luck!

Monday, July 11, 2011

My Daily Schedule

I have no idea what my schedule for the fall will be.  My principal did an AWESOME job last year of scheduling my specials at about the same time each day, so that made my schedule easy to do.  She also made sure that all four of us 3rd grade teachers had common prep times so we could collaborate as necessary.  Is she great, or what?
Anyway, I am posting two schedules.  One is my schedule from last year, and one is my "dream" schedule.

Last year (2010-2011):
     8:30-8:45  Arrival/Morning Activities/Announcements
     8:45-9:15  Targeted Instruction Time ( whole 3rd grade remediation/extension)

     9:15-9:25  Choral Reading

     9:25-9:50  1st block of literacy student choice (I meet with groups or conference)

     9:50-10     Students share reading/writing

     10-10:25  CAFE Minilesson/ Partner Read to practice skill

     10:25-10:50   2nd block of literacy student choice (I meet with groups or conference)

     10:50-11:15  IMC  or Art  or  Music 
             (I am messing with my times a little here because each day of the week was different.  Students had IMC on Monday for a half hour, Music on Tuesday for 25 min., Art on Wednesday for 45 min, IMC on Thursday for one hour, and Music again on Friday for 25 min.)  So this time started some days at 10:45 and ended others at 11:45,but you should get the idea. 

     11:15-11:55 Math

     11:55-12:45  Lunch

     12:45-1:05  Read Aloud

     1:05- 1:30  Math

     1:30- 2:00  Social Studies

     2:00-2:20  PE  (every day)

     2:20-2:50  Science  (on Fridays we did Kindergarten Buddy activities)

     2:50-3:10  Writing

     3:10-3:15  Dismissal

Of course, on typical days, these times ran a little into each other, but I work hard to stay pretty much on schedule.

My Dream Schedule

     8:30-9:05  Check-in/Announcements/1st Literacy Block  (I conference or work with groups)

     9:05-9:10   Students share reading/writing

     9:10-9:15  Choral Reading

     9:15-9:40   CAFE minilesson and partner reading

     9:40-10:05   2nd Literacy Block  (I conference or work with groups)

     10:05-10:30  Writing/Spelling/Grammar

     10:30-11:00 Targeted Instruction Time

     11:00-11:30  Music, Art, or IMC  (approximate times)

     11:30-11:55  Math

     11:55-12:45  LUNCH

     12:45-1:05   Read Aloud

     1:05-1:45  Math

    1:45-2:15  Social Studies

     2:15-2:35  PE

     2:35-3:05  Science

     3:05-3:15  Independent Reading

     3:15  Dismissal

     Obviously, I was pretty lucky with last year's schedule.  It was pretty close to my dream schedule.  Who knows what this year's will look like?  We have a large school, so it is likely to change somewhat.

   Go to Simply 2nd Resources to check out the linky party and other people's schedules!


Vocabulary Linky Party

Pitner's Potpourri is having a linky party!  Link up to share some great vocabulary ideas!

I am sharing a SMARTBoard doc that I use to review the prefixes over-, non-, and dis-.  I used the flyswatter template and filled it with a variety of questions about these prefixes.  Each page has feedback so that the students know whether their choice is correct or not. 

You will need SMART Notebook 10 in order to use this document.

I hope you like it! 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Thinking about CAFE

So many people are talking CAFE and Daily 5 right now, it is hard to slow my thoughts down!

One great thing I have found to do: 

It is important to focus on only one strategy when you are doing a minilesson, but it is HARD!  As a good reader, I want to stop and talk about other things I notice, and inevitably, my students do, too! 

As we acquire more and more skills, and our CAFE board starts to look like there is something on the menu, I take a day where we read a new book and see how many of our strategies we use while reading it.  I have little post-its, and when a child uses a strategy on the menu board, he gets to go put a post-it on that strategy.  As students use other strategies, we do the same thing.  When we finish the book, we look to see how many strategies we used, and we discuss the importance of so many strategies.  It is a great lesson, and we do it 2-3 times a year. 

The visual of the CAFE board is a great asset to this whole workshop approach, but for this lesson, it is essential!

Another great read!

I borrowed a copy of The Book Whisperer from a friend, and when she gave it to me, she also lent me a copy of the book, Igniting a Passion for Reading by Steven L. Layne.

I had been busy reading some other professional books this summer, so I just got a chance to read it.  What a great read!  Another book that speaks right to my heart.  It is very easy to read, and his examples are all so real.  In the book, he gives examples of things we can do in our classrooms to get kids excited about books.  You may find much of it to be similar to the message of The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, but it is different enough to make you want to keep reading.  Definitely, if you like The Book Whisperer, I think you will like this one.  A big thank you to my friend, Christa, for sharing both books with me!

One of the things that I have really liked in this book is the repeated message of teachers reading children's literature.  That is pretty much all I read, and I have had that same feeling that Dr. Layne talks about when all of your adult friends are talking about some adult book that you have never read or heard of.  Two of my sons are voracious readers, so I am lucky to have new children's literature in our house quite often.  Like Dr. Layne, I like that I can read a children's book in  a day.  I can get through them quickly, and I enjoy the stories!  Also, as he states, it gives me a stronger voice with my students.  I know the books they are reading and I know how to recommend others that are similar because I have read them myself!
If you get a chance to read this book, I think you'll like it, too!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Reading workshop that works for me

I have had a couple of people ask about my reading workshop, so I am going to try to explain it.  I have been doing some sort of this for many years, so I just keep tweaking it to adjust to my changes, my students, and my school's expectations.

Every day, my students participate in independent reading, choral reading, partner reading, listening to read-aloud, and writing.  Most days, they also participate in a word work activity.  While I do kind of use the Daily 5, Students only get to choose when to do independent word work, self-selected reading or independent writing.  I typically designate the time where they will partner read and when they will listen to reading.  (I know this is not completely aligned with the Daily 5, but it is what I have found that I am most comfortable with)

Currently, I have an hour and a half of interrupted literacy time daily.  In addition, I have 20 minutes to a half hour dedicated to read-aloud, and another half-hour (4x per week) dedicated to writing/grammar lessons.  Some days, I use my social studies or science time to squeeze in partner reading or word work.

My hour and a half block looks KIND OF like this: 

We start with a 5-10 minute time period where we practice reading aloud a poem or quote that I have chosen for the week.  Throughout the week, we discuss its meaning, rhyme scheme, interesting words, places for well as reading it as a class.  Some days we read whole group, some days in rounds, some days just boys, some days with get the idea.  These are usually seasonal or inspirational poems or quotes and really exposes kids to thinking about the meaning and word choice of authors.

Next we have a 25 minute block where students can choose whether they would like to read/write/or do word work.

After this first block, a student (who has been assigned) gets up to share reading and another gets up to share a recent writing.  I keep a calendar of this information so that everyone is responsible for sharing both a reading/writing monthly.  This takes about 5-10 minutes.

Next, I typically do a whole class mini-lesson introducing or reviewing a skill on our CAFE menu.  I often use picture books or articles during this time.  When I am done, students are placed with partners in real text.  Using this text, they are asked to practice the skill that we just talked about.  I use a lot of book excerpts, children's magazines, and comic strips for this partner reading.  All of this takes about 20-25 minutes.

Once we complete this whole class activity, students move into another 25 minute block where they get to choose again whether they are doing word work, self-selected reading, or independent writing.

Some days our 90 minute block runs over just a little.. but not too much.  I hate being too off schedule.  :)

Now-during those 25 minute blocks, I work with CAFE skill groups, word groups, guided reading groups or lit circles, and do individual conferences.  I like my CAFE, because it forces me to make my conferences short and sweet.  I listen to the child read, discuss how he feels about his reading, and review his current focus skill with him.  I schedule about 4-5 conferences a day.  I meet with kids who have higher needs a lot more often than those kids who do not need as much support.  (3x a week versus once every 2 weeks)

In addition, my students have a weekly writing assignment that should be completed prior to independent writing for the week, and a words activity assigned for each week,too.  This year, they will write about reading through kidblog, and they will have various opportunities to do this. When I conference or work with small groups, I often try to support them in these assignments.

Students are encouraged to discuss ideas with partners and to review each other's work, but some are not assertive enough for this, so I often have to "prod them along.."  I do this by occasionally making partner reviews part of the writing process or asking them to think, pair, share during class lessons.

I also use my daily read-aloud time to review/introduce CAFE skills, have book discussions, and to read like a writer.  I like it because it helps to build community.  At the end of each novel, students choose one main character to illustrate.  I choose my favorites to represent each character, and we add them to a classroom display called "What a Character!"  We use this wall all year long to remember previous characters/stories, to compare and contrast characters, and to ponder how certain characters would act in certain situations.

During my daily writing lesson, we discuss things like:   the weekly writing assignment, its challenges, and its rubric and expectations, work on key writing skills including conventions, organization, voice, and word choice, and we also have some days where we just write--by ourselves, with partners, or in small groups.

This may sound like a lot of rambling, but I hope not.  I hope that it kind of gives you an idea of what literacy in my classroom kind-of looks like most days.  Not everything is set in stone, and I do use other elements occasionally, too.  Right now, this works well for me, and my students like it, too.  It is structured, but they have a lot of opporunity for choice.

Things that really haven't changed in 15 years of workshop approach--student choice, student sharing of books and writing, teacher conferences, and teacher listening to students read aloud during independent reading.  Other things come and go or we do more or less of them,but typically these elements have been there from the beginning, and I don't have big plans of them going anywhere!

The Book Whisperer Chapter 3

This book completely validates my ideas of independent reading!  You gotta love that!  I have used a workshop approach with my students for about the last 15 years.  I currently use the CAFE/Daily 5 ideas as my management system.  I am not a purist with them however, and I use major pieces from them with other ideas I have gained from experience.

My students have total choice in their independent reading.  (I can SO remember a job interview 14 years ago where I told the principal that we didn't read a bunch of books as a class, but that the kids did activities on their own personal reading--his expression is burned into my memory.  Needless to say, I didn't get the job!)  I often recommend books to individual readers.   During conferencing, we discuss whether their current book is a just-right fit.  We discuss how all readers sometimes read books that are too easy for them, and sometimes struggle through or read the pictures in a book that is too hard for them.  It is good for them to think about how doing this helps us to grow as readers.

It is hard to find  enough time in the day to offer the students to read.  My students typically get about 30 minutes uninterrupted time to read.  Many of my students pick up books at other times of the day with my encouragement.  However, I like Ms. Miller's idea of stealing reading moments.  I am going to work on this this year.  I used to read more often while my students read, but now it feels like I have too many conferences or groups to meet with.  I think that I will try to use these "stolen" moments as a way to fit in/model my own reading for the kids.  I'll be able to show my excitement about having a chance to JUST READ.

I have to tell you that if my schedule allows, my independent reading time is first thing.  What a great way to start the day.  Students check in and move into their independent reading.  Student response to this time of day has always been good.  They love the way that they get to ease into the day and the independence they feel as their morning begins.

My students are allowed to sit wherever they wish for independent reading.  Some lay on the carpet, some are under their desks, some sit on the beanbags, and some stay in their desks.  I also have some with stamina or reading problems who are on a computer listening to a story.  I have had couches in my classroom,  but currently that won't work.  It is hard in a classroom with 30 desks to designate a good reading area.  When I had a carpeted classroom, that was my favorite!  Kids were all over!  Now I have carpet placed in various places, but it is not enough space for all of them to be on the carpet.  (My classroom is still brand new, so I am still working on creating good spaces.  Because it is new, we are a little limited on what we can bring in, too...)

Great chapter!  It encourages me to keep doing what I have been doing with small tweaks for each new group of students.  I liked it when she said, Reading is not an add-on in the classroom; it is the cornerstone. Totally.

Can't wait to read others' ideas!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Favorite Books

Runde's Room is having a Linky party.  Share your favorite books of any type.  I just put all of mine onto one page.  I have so many favorites, it was hard to know where to stop.  I'm sure I will think of more later.  Oh well.  Join the party!
Click here if  you want a closer look at my poster.

Back to School Math Activity

The 10 things to Know about Me Linky made me think about a Back to School activity I do with my students.  It is a math lesson and a good quick assessment of what they remember.  I also like to use it to introduce the use of rubrics.  I use rubrics for nearly everything, and I find that students are not familiar with them and not sure how to use them to help them complete activities. 

An image of my sample is included, too.  When I explain the assignment, I display my sample and then use the rubric to score it so the kids can see what grade I would get.  Sometimes, I display one that is missing information and demonstrate what score it would get, too.

I find that this quick activity is a good ease into the school year, and it helps to show the importance of numbers in our lives!  Hope you can use it!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


I am planning to use Kidblog with my students this year.  Has anyone used it with their students?  I am excited about it, and I think the kids will be, too, but is it feasible for 3rd graders?

I don't want to spend a ton of school time for kids to enter their weekly blog entry.  I plan on them writing a blog entry each week about their independent reading.  I know their keyboarding skills are not all that, so it concerns me that it may be more time-consuming than I would like.  I am going to talk to the technology teacher to see if she is willing to give them 10 minutes a week during their computer lab to write in their blog.  I am also wondering if they will be able to access the blog from home.  If so, that would be great.  Many of them could work on it from home sometimes, too.

I would love to know if you have tried anything like this and what suggestions you might have.  If you haven't tried it, I guess you will hear more about it in the fall when I give it a go! 

Education Journey Giveaway

Education Journey

Education Journey has reached 150 followers and is having a Giveaway.  Go over and check out this blog!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Joining in the fun of the Linky Party

Go Fourth with Mrs. Owens is having a linky party!  Just post a list of ten things people should know about you.  Here is mine. 

A Book Survey

I am loving reading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, but I am especially loving the opportunity to pick other teachers' brains about what they think about the book.

I have used surveys in the past.  When I taught junior high, I had an interest survey which my students filled in and I used, but I mainly used it as a general get to know you activity.  Today I created a reading survey for my 3rd graders.  I will be anxious to see how they react to it.  I plan to display and model it on the SMARTBoard using my own reading preferences before they complete it themselves.  Hopefully, it will give me good insight to the readers in my room.  Use if you wish!
Click here to see the survey!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fireworks all year long on the SMARTBoard!

Follow the link below to see a fun site for the kids to try on the SMARTBoard!  When you are on this site and touch the SMARTBoard, it sets off a firework.  My kids like to try to write words in fireworks and see if we can tell what the word is.  Do you have any other great fireworks ideas?

Favorite Read-Alouds

Read-aloud is a huge part of our classsroom.  It is the one story that we are all involved in and following.  Below I am listing some of my (and my students) favorite read-alouds. I am also including some that I use during CAFE to model reading skills.

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     I have so many more!  I love reading aloud!  The kids like to just sit and listen.  It is a great way to introduce new skills, genres, and authors to students.  Almost always, when I am done reading a book, no matter how hard or easy it is, students want to read it independently!  That works for me.

Join the Linky party over at Learning with Mrs. Parker to find other great read-alouds!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Book Whisperer Chapter 2

Discussion Questions:1) Would you start the year off with a book frenzy similar to Miller's or would you adapt it?  I have started the year with a similar setup for the last ten years.  I have found that it is easier to do with older readers.  My 3rd grade students struggle a little more in knowing how to pick "good-fit" books, but I still find it an important part of our classroom community.

2) What were your impressions of Miller's more positive descriptions of the three types of readers?  I agree with her descriptions of dormant readers ( I have two sons who fall into this category), and her description of underground readers (I was one of these, too, and my other two sons are also underground. 
     When it comes to reluctant readers, I wonder.  I have in the last couple years had students in my room who have a reading disability, but they are great thinkers about literature.  The process of reading is SO painful for them that it takes a ton of energy for them to read a book that is  really way below them content-wise.  They are pulled from the room for reading interventions from special ed teachers, given the opportunity to read with adult volunteers, and work in small groups with students of similar abilities, yet they do not progress as necessary in their independent reading skills.  They grow in their knowledge of stories, plots, and skills, but generally in the texts that they hear read to them.  I allow them to use assistive tech during some of their independent reading time so that they can hear stories closer to their thinking level.  Otherwise, they would struggle through independent reading time each day.  Does anyone else have this happen?  I am talking about third grade readers who read at a guided reading level of E or F but comprehend stories they hear that are above a third grade reading level....

3) 40 books!!! What do you think of that??  I am wondering.  I think if I delegate genre categories like Ms. Miller, I would add a category of picture books (we use them so much for skill instruction)  that would make it more feasible for them to make it.  I don't know... what do other 3rd grade teachers think?  It is a year when students are just beginning to read "chapter books."  Is 40 too many?

I would love to hear your ideas.  Head over to Thinking of Teaching if you would like to participate in this book club!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Giveaway at 4th Grade Frolics!

Tara over at Fourth Grade Frolics is having a giveaway.  A Target gift card AND a Starbucks card.  Check it out!

History and Fun

You know you are becoming addicted to blogging when you are on vacation and just can't wait for a break so you can check out what's going on in blogworld!

My family and I are enjoying Philadelphia for a couple of days.  On our way out here, we were able to fit Gettysburg and Valley Forge in for some history learning.  We have really enjoyed the historical sites here in Philly, too.  I get chills thinking about the places we are visiting and the fact that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin lived and walked in these same places.

We have been lucky to expose our boys to a lot of historical landmarks in our travels.  While it wears me out to lug them all over (often alone because my husband is in meetings), I think it is good for them to be able to have a real reference to the places talked about in history class.  It also allows me to be  a more engaging teacher because I am talking about places that I have actually been to.

Sometimes, they aren't thrilled with going to these places.   They would rather stay in the hotel and swim.  I believe it is worth a little fight now.  I believe they will be more enriched and better citizens because of these experiences.  I also know while every moment isn't a "lovely family moment" among the six of us while on vacation, we are making memories to last a life time!