Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday Scoop: I'm Already Pooped!

I am so envious of all the bloggers out there who teach full time, have children and families of their own, blog on a regular basis, and create things often for TpT.


Looking back at my blogging history, September thru December are pretty dead around here. I just can't find the time. And I only have a husband to look after (or more like he looks after me... except now basketball started so he's coaching and I have to "cook" dinner myself- boo).

So, it's nothing too earth-shattering, but here's my Sunday Scoop and perhaps it will explain why I can barely function as it is, let alone blog about it.


  • If I could get rid of homework, I would. Our school day is so intense and kids don't get home until after 4:00 pm (for some of them, they don't get home until 5:00 3 days a week now that we have Targeted Services- more on that later). They read for at least 20 minutes and fill out their book log (which seems to be going fine) but then they also have a math page most nights too. And they are pretty good about doing it and turning it in. I'm not so good at checking it in though and have a huge pile that needs correcting. I need to do it before report cards. But I just wonder how valuable it is (for both my students and myself).
  • Targeted Services is an after school program where we invite students who need extra support in certain skills. One of my teammates and I are sharing the load and only teaching one day a week. But I want that time to be purposeful and helpful. I teach on Tuesdays and all we are working on is addition and subtraction (word problems, multi-digit, money, etc). We only have like 50 minutes, but it takes up a lot of my time to prepare for it still. 
  • I'm helping out this committee and have to prepare resources for the members before the end of November. I've been putting it off since the beginning of November. I've got to get going.


  • I've been making stuff and testing it out in my room. I just haven't had the time to make it "TpT" ready. Maybe soon. (But not likely)
  • Report cards are due soon. Next Wednesday, yes, the day before Thanksgiving, we have a PD day and half of it is for report cards. My goal is to have report cards done before then so that I can use that time to organize my room and finally sync all my files over to Google Drive. Our district is moving our current cloud system to Google Drive and we have to move it over before December 31st. Ugh. 


  • My sister in law is returning to MN after spending the last few months at a salmon hatchery in Alaska. We're having dinner with his parents and his sisters tomorrow night to welcome her home and hear her stories. On Friday, we are celebrating my Grandma's birthday. I'll be going down to spend some time with my family members, which will be nice since we haven't seen everyone since the summer up at the cabin.

Well, until next time (which who knows when that'll be).

Friday, November 7, 2014

Character [traits] is a journey, not a destination- Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton definitely meant this to be true about teaching character traits to 3rd graders. He must of just left out that one important word.

Each year I feel like it is journey with so many possible roads I could go down. 
And some of that is due to our curriculum. Which I'm not a fan of.
And another part is due to the fact that each year I have different students.
But one thing remains the same....
traits are tricky to teach.

We took a different approach this year and spent a lot of time looking at what our characters say, do, think, and feel and how they do these things and why they do these things before we even started naming traits.

It was the last bushel of leaves we added to this little tree chart we've been growing for the last 3 weeks.

And I thought half way through it was a big mistake. 
And so did my co-teacher.
[or at least that's how it seemed].

But this past week, with all the work we've been doing, I'm feeling a bit more at ease.
And knowing we have around 15 more days in this unit, I think we can continue to see some decent progress.

Here's how we taught into some vocab this week to help with naming traits for our characters. Having a lot of ELs (and just because they are ALL  3rd graders and need to be pushed with their vocab), my co-teacher and I felt like we had to do some instruction and practice around vocabulary, so after my co-teacher shared this resource, (if you are in need of some ideas for teaching traits in RW, check it out- lots of ideas) and I scoured through my Pintrest boards, here's the steps we took this past week.

Pathway 1: Exposure
We started in morning meeting by playing charades using these cards from Erica at One Lucky Teacher. 

They are free and totally awesome- we used them in multiple settings this week. Any word they used to guess the trait word, I would chart. We only used the words on the cards and the person acting out could read the 'scenario' on the card for inspiration. We did allow people to talk, since we look at both what a character says and does (and thinks and feels), but we had to put up some guidelines. They loved it and it fit perfectly for a morning meeting game. Later we moved them onto this chart:

We tried to add more by giving an antonym for a word. For example, they came up with the word "lazy" during the game and so we thought of a word that meant the opposite- active. This provided us to get more words and have an idea of what they mean by thinking of the opposite. The ideas popped into my head after remembering an awesome anchor chart from Deb at Crafting Connections. Her's is much better than mine, but this was created on a complete whim so we'll go with it for now.

Pathway 2: Classifying
So, we've got some decent words (still need to get into so more "juicy" words, but we'll get there- journey...) and we tried using them and I noticed I got a lot of feeling words. This seems common because it's happened each year. So we first did a sort with the words they shared earlier between feelings and traits. Then, we sorted them by negative and positive traits (and added these words to the top of the above chart- in which not all of the words were on our chart). 

The conversations at tables were great, it got them saying the words, and discussing what they mean. We kept using the term, "Would you want to be a _____ kind of a person?" to help us figure out if it was a negative or positive trait 

Pathway 3: Extending
So at this point, they have more words to pull from. Which is great. But now I wanted to tie it back to our trunk of our tree- we pick words based on what our characters say and do (text evidence). But not all students still knew what each of these words really meant or what it would look like in books. So I had my partners each pick one of the trait words and glue it to an index card. Then they wrote down 3-4 things that a person who is that trait would say, do, think, or feel.

(I only had one repeat- otherwise, each partnership picked a different word)
I collected them, and whenever we have a spare minute or two during transitions, I would read the "text evidence" and the class would have to guess what the word was. I'll allow students to create more and keep them in a box for them to reference if they forget what types of behaviors go with that trait. 

We then returned to those awesome trait cards from Erica to think what the characters on the cards would do next to promote them to start thinking about the patterns in their characters' behaviors to pick a strong trait. This also went over pretty well. We did that during the whole group mini-lesson.

Today, I had them do a long write 'essay' on their character from their series using a character trait and multiple pieces of evidence to support it. As opposed to the one they did a 2 weeks ago, they wrote for 10 minutes non-stop and I could see a lot of strong thinking. I haven't had a chance to look them all over (they accidentally got left at school on my desk... oops) but I know we've grown in our understanding.

And I have to keep reminding myself that it is a journey- this trait work- and I think we are on the right path for now.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Chart that Keeps On Giving: Writing Personal Narratives

Yesterday, I shared this picture of a chart we have been building and creating over the last couple of weeks. 

I'll be sharing how I've used this chart in a few different ways over both our reading and writing units. For today, I'm showing how we used this chart to check that the personal narratives we were writing had all parts to a narrative.

We were wrapping up our first drafts for our personal narratives and I noticed some kiddos didn't really have a climax, falling action, and/or solution. We had been studying other writers of personal narratives with text like Owl Moon and Come on Rain. Both are excellent examples of personal narratives and follow this story arc. We used those to study what each part of a story looks like, sounds like, and feels like. They made their own story arcs in their writing binders color coded to match the example below that is on our chart.

Just like when we write, we don't always realize what we have and what we don't have. It helps to have someone else experience our writing and give us some insight. So we used this g.o. I made to help out a classmate and get some advice as well. 

(click on the image to download it)
Now, this covers the words and ideas that I've taught into over the last 2 weeks, so it might not be exactly what you use, but it worked so well with my group!

The first step was to label their arcs with their partner to see if they remembered the parts to a story. 

Next, they took turns reading their stories. One partner would read and the other one would check each part that they could clearly notice in their partner's writing. I of course modeled this with my own writing first and we reviewed what to listen for in each part of a story before we started this.

This was really powerful for students! A lot of them realized, due to their partner, what part(s) of the story they needed to revise in their own story so that the reader could follow along.

Lastly, students asked for suggestions from their partner. I was really impressed with the suggestions they gave their partner. It sparked students motivation to go back and start revising that part of their story. This was such a great way for students to get some feedback while also practicing the skills we've been learning about. I was impressed how even one of my students (who loves to write, but struggles with presenting cohesive ideas) was able to give a suggestion to one kiddo who has probably the best personal narrative I've had a student write in the last 3 years. It showed that even the best of stories can be improved. 

We'll keep using this chart during our series book club unit as we discuss how characters "drive" the story and why characters act the way they do. It's become the most useful chart we've created this year!