Helpful Hints: THANKFUL Linky Party

I'm back for day 2 of Blog Hoppin's THANKFUL linky part! Here are a few hints I use throughout my day to keep me semi-sane...

Just Dance Videos for Transitions
I don't know about you, but most of my kids LOVE to move and dance. I started using Just Dance Kids videos to get them up and moving, but not as many kids participated. Once I started using songs that they know and love, more of them got involved and got moving. They are great for brain breaks, but they also work really well for transitions.

Sometimes, I need a minute or two to clean up one thing before I can move on to the next. Especially in the afternoon, as I have 4 different groups of kids come in and out my door (we have intervention, follwed by our content areas of Science, Social Studies, Art, and Health where each 3rd grade teacher departementailizes in one of those areas, word work where we again each teach a different group based on Words their Way, then finally my homeroom back for writing). It can be a little cray-cray with all that movement! So I have a bunch of Just Dance Videos saved as bookmarks on my computer from Youtube and they dance away!

Here are a few of my student's favorites! Click to be taken to the youtube clips.

Some Hints for Use:
*If you can freeze or blank your SMARTboard screen, that is best. Some of the videos do occasionally have ads- some of which aren't always appropriate.
*End the video 1-2 seconds early. Again, Youtube shows you other videos you may be interested in at the end of a video- you never know what you'll get)

As your students dance (the dances are structured with actual moves so you don't have a bunch of crazy kids running around) and get the wiggles out, you can tidy up, get something ready, take a breather before the next task!

Guided Reading Board
I meet with 3 different groups a day. Often times, my students would forget how far they had to read in their book, what they had to do, and when they had to do it by. Not to mention, I occasionally would forget too because my notes weren't always the clearest. I came up with this system and it works on so many levels! At the end of our meeting, I write 3 separate post-its: To Read, To Do, Due By.

Old Version- you can see though how I use post-its
To Read: What book and to what page they have to read
To Do: Any little jobs (a post-it jotting, a graphic organizer, etc.)
Due By: When they have to have it done

Next to the board, I have a little blue bin for them to turn in anything (old books, quizzes, etc.) It's worked really great this year!

Updated version- you can see my little blue bin for handing in things
Some Hints for Use:
I write the post-its with my kids at the end. That way, as I tell them, I write them, and they are listening.
I have the students go take the old ones off and put the new post-its on. They have more ownership that way.

Book Shopping Schedule
Students have their own book bags where they keep their independent just right books. I had to come up with a system so that students weren't always getting new books, so I set up a book shopping schedule.

We use a 6 day-rotation at school. So I set up a 6 day rotation. I used my student's numbers and made a little flip sign to hang in our library. Our librarian turns the sign each day to reveal what book shopping day it is and who that includes. These students get the first 6 minutes of independent reading time to book shopping. This limits the library to 4-6 kids so it isn't too crazy. Also, kids know that they can only shop on their book shopping day (or first thing in the morning when they get to school) so they are pretty serious about picking enough books to last them that are at their level (we have a rule of between 3-5 books). It's one less thing I constantly get asked during our precious reading time!

Can't wait to read about the other helpful hints you all share!


Monday Made It & Time-Saver Linky

I'm double dipping today and linking up with both Tara for Monday Made It and the Blog Hoppin' crew's We Are THANKFUL linky party. They both are just too fun to skip out on. Plus, my post goes with both today! Prepare for a doozy of a post!


 I've recently opened my TpT store (it literally has only been a few days), so I have been reworking things and creating new things all week to add it to. I'd love for you to check my store out here! One thing I am constantly reworking is my independent reading time. We do Reader's Workshop, so after our 15 minute mini-lesson (on a lucky day) students go off to independently read while I pull groups. One goal of mine this year was to meet with 3 groups a day. So far, most days, I manage that!! But it takes serious pre-planning and organization to do so. Cue my godsend: Reading A-Z.

If you haven't checked out Reading A-Z... you are missing out! It's a wealth of resources. I use it to plan most of my guided reading groups as well as my intervention groups. It is a TOTAL time saver.

I love that I can find books based on F & P levels since that is what our school uses! They have both fiction and non-fiction books for each level.

Once you choose your book, you print them off and assemble them (you can also project them on a SMARTboard as well if you don't want to make the books)! It comes with a lesson plan for the book (which I find has TOO much... however, it does allow me to pick and choose- I also could ditch the lesson plan altogether if I feel my group needs something else, but it's nice to know the resources are there especially for sub days).

You get a ton of graphic organizers, discussion questions, and one of my favorites the comprehension quizzes for each book (more on that lower down).

They also have Paired Reading books for you to use to help compare/contrast. This is HUGE for me, as our state test now has students read two separate passages on similar topics and answer questions on them.

This is something new that I found: they even have resources for trade books! Graphic organizers, lesson plans, the works! Ah-Ma-Zing.  Now, I don't pay for this- our school does. But I totally would even if the school didn't now that I see the wealth of resources it has.

One thing I LOVE about Reading A-Z is the comprehension quizzes. I use them in different ways based on my groups, and have found a way to organize my data in a way that allows me to know exactly how each student is doing. Introducing- my 'group' folders:

Very fancy and high-tech... I know.
 Each group has a folder. Each student has a sheet of paper. I can take the sheets out when I shuffle groups around, but I can use these to keep track of the work we do in group. I got this genius idea from my amazing team member and have modified it to fit my needs. I've created other labels to also use in my folders (which are in my TpT store). I simply keep a couple pages of labels with me so I can quickly jot down what we worked on, and later on I can stick it to the students page. No more rustling through pages in a notebook during groups! Not to mention, when I need data about a particular child, it's easy to find and organized.

I have one label with their name and where I will keep track of their reading level progress over the year. I left their levels at school, so that is still empty. I have 2 other labels then too:

1 label is for when I am conferring with students in small group (see below). I jot down miscues, notes, errors. I also write down 1 strength (s) and 1 teaching point (tp). These labels were made my team member. I have since made some others that I will use once these run out.

The other label keeps track of their comprehension quizzes. I record the date, level, score, and if it was a pre or post test. Once I score it, I note what area they need help in most and write that on the line for future lessons. I accidentally put these labels in the wrong order on this friends page (oops).

I also sometimes (mainly for my two higher groups) give them their book, give them some quick background knowledge on it, then send them off to read and do the quiz. I call this a pre-quiz, because I am not doing any teaching with the book. I then can score it and notice what skills my students are struggling with most. I love doing it like this, because sometimes it's harder to see what guidance my high kids need. This has worked great so far, and I feel like I'm totally allowing them to guide my instruction.

Reading A-Z is a great resource, but I still like to create some of my own things to tailor to my students and classroom (especially my higher readers- although A-Z does now include literature circle plans for their books). I noticed I didn't have any notes on my highest group and wanted to change that. I used my knowledge of Reading A-Z book construction and created my own Book Club booklet for Judy Blume's Superfudge and labels to go with that.

You can pick up this chapter-by-chapter reflective student book from my TpT store. It has 3 focuses per chapter, a note and question page, and a reading assignment page. I made labels like the ones above that I can use for note-taking with this group. Below are directions on how to assemble the booklet.

The longest blog post of all time is wrapping up. Click on the picture below to check out the labels in my TpT store! They're free! Have a great week everyone!



Five for Friday- On Saturday

I didn't get a chance to get into bloggy land yesterday, as my day and evening were jammed packed! So here I am, a few hours late for Doodlebug's Five for Friday! Head over to her blog to see what teachers were up to this week!

1: Sub Day
On Tuesday, we had another day of professional develop around literacy, which mean, it was a sub day. We reviewed our guest teacher chart, since my sub hadn't been in our classroom this year. I felt a little bad to give her this craft project, but I really needed to change our decor out by our door, and I think they turned out great! Not to mention, Tuesday evening brought our first snow fall for the year, so it was totally appropriate!

Aren't these adorable!? Students also wrote a paragraph on what they are most excited about for winter. I used old scrapbook paper that has been collected dust at my house and used that for the patterned scarves. The inspiration came from a blog called Runde's Room. We used paper instead of pastels (largely because I don't have pastels, but I do have lots of scrap paper). I think they turned out cute and authentic.

2: Note-Taking
We've started our 2nd writing project which is a research project. After we learned what research is, picked our research topic (rainforest animal), generated questions about our animal, we practiced how to take quick, concise notes. We created this chart to distinguish between trash vs. treasure words when note taking.
We talked that since all of our notes would be on our animal, we didn't need to include our animal. We practiced together finding the treasure words and writing notes on the jaguar.

We also practiced organizing our notes into categories. Today, they were only looking for notes on what the animal looks like. Later in the week, when they were using their own books and animals, when they came across something interesting, they had to write the note on the correct page to keep their notes organized. So far, it's going pretty well!

3: Wrapping up our Character Unit
I feel like we have done some great work on characters in fiction. I am kinda ready for a break. We've developed this chart throughout the unit on some key aspects of growing ideas about our characters.
4: Wine & Canvas
My two closest girlfriends got together to go to a Wine and Canvas event. We got a deal on Living Social, so for 17 dollars, we got to spend 3 hours together, laughing, drinking wine, eating pizza, and attempting to paint (wine bottles none the less... how appropriate). If you've never heard of it, an artist walks you through the steps of painting a piece. Everyone there is painting the same thing. Even if you haven't painted before, it's pretty entertaining! Our paintings weren't the best in the place, but it sure was fun! I would highly recommend it!

5: TpT Store
Last weekend, I took the plunge and opened up my TpT store. I've spent most the week adding resources. I've only got 9 followers and no sales yet, but I'm excited for this new adventure and hope that it continues to grow. Feel free to check it out and become a follower! I would greatly appreciate it! Here are some of my products! Click the widget to the right to be taken to my store!



Hope you all had a great week! :)


The Great Gourd Exploration

It's been awhile since my last post- really, I'm not surprised as my life once the school year gets started is dominated by school work, planning, prepping, etc. With that said, I wanted to share what we did on this past Halloween.

Our school does not celebrate Halloween. The reality, most of my kids celebrate it, but a few don't. I knew they would be excited, so I wanted to do something special on this day. In science, we are studying life cycles of plants, with most of the emphasis on seeds and their properties. Really, this lesson worked perfectly for it! We gutted pumpkins, sorted the matter inside, and then went on observing the properties of the seeds and pulp. They loved it and it went so smooth!

Here is a glimpse into it all!
Sorting the pumpkin matter
The first step involved talking about what properties we were looking for, how we were going to show our CARES during their process (a RC acronym for cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self control), and all that other 'fun' management system. I drew 3 shapes on each table cloth for them to sort the pumpkin guts. It worked like a CHARM and made clean up super easy!

Some friends didn't like the feeling, so they used plastic baggies to scoop and sort.

Surprisingly, the pumpkins I picked up did not have much pulp at all! Each table though sorted their pumpkin contents like in the photo below. I imagined using a disposable table cloth and markers on my way home from work on Wednesday and was so glad I did. It was a breeze!

After we gutted our pumpkins, students were given this sheet to record their observations. We had white and orange pumpkins, so they noted which color they had. They were to write down strong description words using the senses we discussed (all but tasting) and then drew a picture in the larger box.

Many were surprised (including myself) that the white pumpkin had much fatter seeds than the orange pumpkin. Also, the pulp was a different color. We also noticed though, they the amount of seeds and pulp were pretty similar.

We used our observations to do a "H" chart (compare and contrast) on the SMARTboard.

Clean up was a breeze. I had one student from each group come place the pumpkins on our counter. I simply had them fold the table cloths carefully, raise their hand, then I came over, picked it up, and dumped it into the large barrel our lovely custodian brought me. My mom was up here to help (she was such a great help by carving the openings in the office while I was teaching and helping to monitor) so she took some pumpkins home to carve herself.

All in all, it was a great non-Halloween activity that fit perfectly into what we were studying!

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