Pin It button on image hover

Friday, March 30, 2012

These Books Kick it up a Notch!

Two of the  books I have read this spring break really "kick it up a notch!"  The first one I read was by John Grisham, Theodore Boone:  Kid Lawyer.
Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer

I do not typically read books written for adults, but I am aware of John Grisham, so I bought this book earlier in the year because of his name on the cover.  I ripped through it over break.  It was a good story, and really broke down the law system for kids.  It reminded me a lot of Encyclopedia Brown (he was always one of my favorites!) but had a much more serious crime that Theo pursued.  Throughout the story, Theo's classmates came to him for law advice, and his knowledge was enough to set them on the right path.  I liked it so much, that I headed off to the bookstore to see if there was a 2nd.  They didn't have the 2nd one in.  It is called Theodore Boone:  The Abduction.  I will have to look for it this summer!

The second book that I read was very short, but pretty intense.  It was called On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer.

On My Honor

This is not a new book, and you may be aware of it because it was a Newbery Honor Book.  It is a book that really spotlights character vs. himself conflict.  The entire book is told from the point of view of Joel who "gave his honor" to his dad that he would ride his back right to the park and back, but he doesn't, and tragic events incur.  It really made me sad to think of how this boy struggled with this one little decision and the effect that it had.  This book really emphasizes "Wrong is wrong even if everyone else is doing it and right is right even if no one else is doing it."  Serious book with a strong message about our actions and how they affect others.

Two of the books that I have read this break.  Life is good.  :)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

The winner of the $25 Target gift card is Miss B., Alysia Battista! Thanks so much for following this blog!  You forgot to get me your email address, though!  Get it to me, and I'll send you your giftcard!

Now, it is off to the rest of my spring break!  :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Solar System and last day for Giveaway!

I am spending parts of my spring break getting ready for my units when we return.   I have had a student teacher the last couple of years at this time, so I haven't taught the solar system myself.  I am using the student-interest model for this unit.  I will teach core lessons/activities 2-3 times per week, but on the other days, students will be able to drive their own learning by exploring what interests them.

I am going to use ClassConnect to post a variety of articles and activities for them to access during this time, plus I will have a lot of books for them to use, too.  All of it will end with in-class projects which have clear guidelines but allow them to focus on the material they found most interesting.

Anyway, I'll give more specifics later.  Today, I wanted to share this awesome resource that I found today. offers games, interactives, teacher resources, and online classes for kids!  It covers all of the material that I am asked to cover (moon phases/constellations/the planets) and more!  It is a great starting point for students and is written in an easy way that they will be able to understand! 

I'll post more as I put together the details of this unit. (in between books and naps.)   :)

Finally, don't forget my Target gift card giveaway ends tomorrow morning.  I plan to pick the winner by 10 am, so get your entries in before then!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Daily Differentiation and fractions

I try to work to differentiate daily.  I have students with learning disabilities in my room as well as students who are identified as gifted and talented.  I began this process years ago, and I find that inch by inch.....I can meet my kids needs.  If I can add one or two differentiated activities to a unit per year, then eventually, I will be there, right?

Well, I keep trying.  I enjoy the challenge, and my students do, too.  I have come to the conclusion that it doesn't all have to be a totally new lesson.  In fact, in my district, we are encouraged to extend the lesson rather than teach a different lesson.  Below is an example of what I did with Mrs. Bainbridge's fraction kite idea.

I love to color and have lots of those cool design books. I took those design books and used them to design my kites.  The simpler kite ( top design) is made up of 100 equal pieces, and the students had to use 6 different colors.  The more complicated kite did not have equal pieces.  Using the smaller size as a unit, the kite had 650 pieces.  Students then had to use at least 4 different colors for their design, and then had to count and convert the big pieces into small pieces.

Here are examples of what the grids looked like:

The students received a kite shape already made out of these patterns, and they were told how many equal parts there were.  The kids had fun, and it was an appropriate challenge for those kids who needed it.  When the students were done writing their fractions under the kite, they had to check their work by adding the numerators of each fraction to be sure it equaled the appropriate denominator (100 or 650).

Last week, we also used Mary from Pitner's Potpourri idea.  We looked at Ed Emberley's Picture Pie and created our own picture pie.  Differentiation was natural on this one.  Certain kids were told they must use 4ths and 8ths in a certain number of colors while others just used 4ths.  The artwork created was fun and beautiful!

Both of these were great activities that I received from my blogging world.  They show that all of the time I spend in blogland is worth it!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Everyday Math Algorithm Powerpoints

Have you seen this site with great Powerpoint presentations of Everyday Math algorithms?  The site was put together by South Western School District in Pennsylvania.  I like to use them at some point during our instruction of these skills in class, but I also like to use them as a reference tool for parents.  It makes it much easier for them to understand what their child is learning.

Click on the pic below to go to the home page which contains Powerpoints for partial sums, partial products, trade first, lattice multiplication, and partial quotients. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Must be time for a GIVEAWAY!

Thanks to Lorraine's 3,4, and 5 linky party, my followers have gone over 200!  Wow.  I can't believe it.  But--to celebrate, I figure I need to have a giveaway! I am going to give away a $25 dollar Target card to one lucky reader!

So, if you want a chance for a little extra spring spending at Target (who doesn't?), then  you can join in a couple of ways.  Please put a comment below for each of the ways you enter (up to 3 comments).  Please leave an email for me to use to reach you, too.

1)  Become a follower of this blog.
2)  Follow this blog by email
3)  Blog about this giveaway.

I will pick a random number on the morning of Wednesday, March 28th.  So if you are feeling lucky, enter before then!

Thanks so much for reading my little blog!  :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A GREAT read aloud!

I have read Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett to my class for the last couple of years.  It is always a favorite, and a great way to incorporate some art history into our classroom.

The book trailer above will give you some basic ideas of this book if you are unfamiliar.  It is a mystery written for late elementary kids, but it acts as a great read-aloud for my 3rd graders.  As we read, we not only contemplate the mystery, but we also learn more about Vermeer and have fun with pentominoes.

The characters in this book are very likable, and they are great role models for learning, curiosity, and perseverance.  My students often like them so much that they can't wait to read the follow-up mysteries, The Wright 3, and The Calder Game

If you or your students are looking for still more information on this great book or the other two in the series, Scholasic has a great page on it, too!  Click HERE to access it.

I love read aloud.  :)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Interactive Graphic Organizers

Here are some great online graphic organizers I found for kids to use.  Some allow for students to input and print, and some allow for students to complete and embed. 

I am a big fan of, and I have blogged about them before.  Both of these graphic organizers can be found there (plus a lot of other goodies!)  You can not print or save unless you upgrade, but I have the kids embed them.

This one is from Holt publishing, and it is a PDF which allows you to enter text.  It is a pretty good one, but this link will take you to a whole bunch of similarly formatted templates.

I found this one at Read Write Think.  It allows kids to place story information into a plot diagram.  Could be a great way to assess kids' knowledge of a text!

This one, from the BBC, is very easy to use, and allows you to save and print your final project.  There are a variety of options here, too.

As my district moves closer and closer to our digital conversion, I am encouraging teachers to try these tools with their students so that they can get a feel for all there is to offer out there.  That way, when the time comes for us to have 1:1 computers, it will seem like a gift rather than a challenge!

Do you have any great online graphic organizers you use?  Can you share?  I love to hear your ideas and comments!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Math Workshop--First Unit SUCCESS!

Today, my students took a test in math.  As I posted earlier, this is the first unit they have been tested on since I implemented our math workshop.  When they finished the test, they were asked to write to me about workshop--whether they liked it, if they thought they learned better...

The results were OVERWHELMINGLY for math workshop.  They loved working in small groups, getting more individual time from me, the games and the variation of math activities.  I was glad that they liked it so far.  I am going to work on putting together my next unit using a similar format. 

I like the way it is working out, too.  It takes a lot of front-end preparation, but it has gone pretty smoothly.  This is a great group of kids to try anything with.

Typically, I have a small group working with me while other groups play games, practice skills independently, or work collaboratively to figure out a new concept.  At most times of the class, there are about 3-4 different things going on.  Students complete about 3 different activities during the time.  I don't have the activity times or the time with me set up equally.  Some groups get 20 minutes to do an activity while another group may only get 10.  It depends on the activity and the abilities in the group.

Tomorrow morning I am going to score their math tests to see if the assessment results are as positive as the kids' attitudes about workshop.  I will let you know.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

3,4,5 Linky Party

Looking for some new upper elementary blogs?  Head over to Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies to find a listing and to link up yourself!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Finally last week....

Last week was our state testing week.  What a long week for kids!  Most of mine did well with the change in schedule and routine, but some of my kids who struggle with focus had a tough time.

I am not a fan of testing, so I try to keep them excited by offering some fun activities.  First of all, a favorite is for their parents to write to them on sticky notes--one note for each day.  When the kids come in the room, they have a snack on their desk along with a note from a loved one.  Many get so excited that they keep them on their desks well after testing.  They can't have them on their desktop during testing, so they hang them down on their desk where they can still see it and then place them back on their desks when the testing is done. 

Many of them think that their moms and dads are coming into the room when they are gone.  It is so cute.  I love seeing the creative ways parents make the notes.  It is really touching how much of an impact it has on the kids. 

On Tuesday of testing, we celebrated Michelangelo's birthday by painting our own "Sistine Chapels."  Kids had fun laying on their backs.  I posted about this activity here.  Here are our finished creations.

Aren't the colors beautiful?

Wednesday was our World Read Aloud Day celebration.  We celebrated all afternoon with a visit from our Director of Elementary Education reading Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude to the whole 3rd grade, extra read aloud from me, read aloud with a partner and a Skype event with Navjot Kaur.  She read to us from her book A Lion's Mane.  It was a nice afternoon.  One of the kids said to me, "I've never met an author before.  Now I have!"  This Skype was set up for me by LitWorld who organizes World Read Aloud Day.

Certainly, we are glad to be done with our testing, but these special events made it all a little more fun!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Loving this Sunday night!

Thanks to Angela at Primarily Primary for awarding me the above awards.  I appreciate her thinking of me and following my blog.  Be sure to check out her new blog!

These were a nice welcome home after a busy family weekend away at the state basketball tournament!  I am loving this Sunday night for a couple of reasons.  We are home, and my house isn't a TOTAL mess...and best of all, I am on jury duty this week, but I don't have to report tomorrow!  Hurrah!  I was concerned to have to have my kids have a sub on a Monday, and I really didn't want to prep for it.  Thankfully, now the earliest I will have to report is on Tuesday.  I just don't want to get assigned to a jury.  I have served before, and I have been assigned to a jury, so I already have that experience.  I just want to serve my time without a ton of disruptions to my home and my classroom.

Because I was gone all weekend, I haven't posted this weekend.  I want to share with you some pictures of things from my room last week, so I will try to get around to it tomorrow once things are settled a bit.  :)

Please check out the following blogs, as I am awarding them the Lovely Blog Award:

Here are the rules for the Lovely Blog Award:
1. Link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Pass the award onto other bloggers.
3. Follow the person who sent it to you.

Be sure to check out their AMAZING blogs!

Have a great week!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A St. Patrick's Day Freebie

I created this attached SMART Notebook document to use in the weeks after testing and before we break for spring break.  I don't want to start a new unit, so we will keep busy with some review and extension ideas.  This does a little bit of both. 

I like to use algebra as an extension for my kids who have mastered the skill.  That way they are still working on the same things as the other kids, just in a different way.

This document requires SMART Notebook to open.  I hope you like it.  Leave me a comment if you download.  Thanks.  Luck of the Irish to you! 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Hook up with Farley at Oh Boy! Fourth Grade for her Currently Linky party.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Digital Choices--Producers over Consumers

As my students and I have become more comfortable with our increased access to technology this year, I am looking to offer them more opportunities to "show what they know" with digital products.  The concern I have with the implementation of the computers into the classroom is that I don't want to become complacent and end up producing digital consumers rather than digital producers.

I have worked hard this year to present information to my students in many formats so that they can have examples of ways that they can share their information with me.

Last week was a great step towards success!  Each week, my students are given a basic writing assignment to complete before they begin their independent writing in Daily 5.  These take a variety of formats, and I often try to give them options.  Last week, they were given the topic of "What would you do with an extra day?"  They had a number of things to consider, but then they could create a product of their choice: poem, story, list, digital product....

They did a nice job really thinking about this possibility.  However, what pleased me more, is that I had a number of Powerpoints created for this assignment, some Vokis created, and nearly everyone who decided to do a story, poem, or list,  typed it up.  Finally, the best part, they all, no matter what the project, submitted these assignments to me digitally through Classconnect!  These are 8 and 9 year olds!  I am so proud of what they can do!

I will continue to work to make our assignments and projects capable of being digital so that kids can use some of the great creative sites out there.  It is empowering for them to have choice in their assignments, and it is wonderful for me to be able to receive assignments easily through Classconnect!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Happy Birthday, Michelangelo, and a break from state testing

Michelangelo's birthday is on March 6th.  We tried this activity last year as a way to lighten the week of state testing.  It turned into a memorable afternoon, and one that I am looking forward to replicating this year!

In the fall, we had read From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg.  (always a favorite!)  When we read the book, we did learn a little bit about Michelangelo, so this activity didn't take too much set up.

In the afternoon, we told the kids of Michelangelo's upcoming birthday.  We figured out how old he would be, and then reviewed things that we had learned about him in the fall.  Next, students got out their watercolor paints, we taped white paper to the underside of their desks, and they got down on the floor and painted on their backs just as Michelangelo had done when he painted the Sistine Chapel.

They laughed for the first few minutes as they got used to this new perspective and the realization of what they were doing.  However, it didn't take them long to settle in and get serious about what they were creating.  We had great fun on this afternoon, and the art they created turned out to be pretty darn good!

It will be a fun break again this year.  I'll post about our new creations!