Hot of the Press and Oldies but Goodies: TpT Cyber Monday Sale

It's here! It's been a year since I've become a seller on TpT. It's been a pretty cool ride so far. By no means am I raking in oodles and oodles of dough, but the little extra income doesn't hurt each month. But more importantly, it's allowed for me to be creative in a way that I've truly enjoyed and never knew that I possessed. It's allowed me to connect with others and really tap into the awesome resources out there that other teachers create. And it's allowed me to procrastinate from doing some of the mundane work load that teachers have and enter into an escape that is still productive. To say the least, I am very thankful for TpT and all that it's given me. With that mushy stuff aside, it's time for the Cyber Monday Annual Sale! And I've gotten a few new items in my store that I wanted to share with you as well as some oldies that are perfect for this time of year (and beyond).

(Isn't this button adorable? It's from the 3 AM Teacher)
Hot off the Press!

So... I hit a lull once school started. I don't like to just make things to make them- they need to serve me and my students in some capacity. So I waited and waited for both the time and the idea to pop in my brain. We are jumping into nonfiction next week and so I created these two new resources I'm STOKED about. 

What's included you ask?

 Here's an example of one of the pages:

13 posters all set and ready to go for your classroom!

Example Poster

 Want more of a student-created approach? Got that too in this pack!

Headers, Labels, and Examples separated so that you can cut apart and create your own chart!

Example chart that you can create with your students

Oldies but Goodies

This is perfect for the classroom when you can't (or choose not to) emphasize Christmas, but still want in on the fun of having a visitor in the room during these wintery months!

My kids loved it last year... and so did I! He's making his return tomorrow to the room. He even brought the kiddos cool shades to wear in honor of his visit! It was a great alternative to the Elf on the Shelf concept (Stuffed moose is not included). Check out my blog posts here, here, and here from last year on our Moose's happenings. 

And my current top wish-listed item from my store...

These puppies came in handy when I had to pull strategy groups on various nonfiction skills. It gave me some "go-to" strategies to help students work on these skills. This year, I'll have them glue these into their notebooks as opposed to rings to have students record times that they practiced that skill with that strategy (more on that in a later post).

Once again, thank you to all who have supported me in my TpT adventures this past year. Whether you bought a resource, downloaded a freebie, blogged about one my projects, or simply left a comment on the blog about one of my creations, I truly appreciate it! Hopefully next year, this journey will continue to bring joy. 



Thinking Through Theme and Linking Life Lessons

We ended our character unit by naming themes and life lessons and something finally clicked this year in our approach to teaching these troubling things! It was super successful and I'm about to break it down how we covered them. We used this visual of these steps/cake/pyramid (those are the names they gave it) to help us organize our thinking.

This work started when we first thought about the main problem our characters were facing. 

We used these past mentor text to gather a few different problems characters might face in books.

We talked how some books have one large problem and then some smaller ones also. Some have a problem, but it looks different for different characters. We need to pay attention to how our characters create, react, and solve their problems... more on this later.

We'll use Amber Brown as an example:

We then learned what a theme is. I phrased it in a few different ways- the main focus being that it is a big message the author wants to teach us about. I'm linking up with Deb at Crafting Connections to share the anchor chart we made about theme below!

We made this chart then. They came up with most of the themes- some aren't as strong as other (like stealing) but I put it up there anyways. They came up with many others, but we ran out of room! We linked it back to the problem then we thought of a "big message" or theme for some of our books. We started with just one/two word phrases like friendship. I then extended it to be a short statement about that theme. This scaffold really helped with life lessons. Here is our example for Amber Brown:

Think: What does the author want me to learn about in this book around this problem?

Once we had our themes, we went back to look at how the character reacted to the problem. What did they do, say, or feel? This shows us what to do (or not to do) if we were in this situation and can teach us about life. We went back and noticed how our characters reacted to this problem and it led us to some possible life lessons.

We took the extended themes and added personal pronouns to it to make it "universal." I emphasized this to help students not be super tied to the exact examples to the story. For example...

  • Without personal pronouns: Abigail wanted to ride a bike and practiced. (from Soupy Saturdays with the Pain and the Great One)
  • With personal pronouns: If you want to get better at something, you need to practice.
When we are all down, we have this visual:

Here is an example from a student in one of their own books:

Approaching it in this order and in this way really helped students pick appropriate themes and life lessons. Plus, it really forced them to go back in their text to look for how the character reacted to the problems, as this is the core to this process. It took us about 4 days from start to finish to talk first about problems, then themes, then life lessons during our mini-lessons and each day built upon the previous day's work. I was so impressed with their work and it showed on their assessments as well!



From Review to Resource: Student Created Handouts

We've just about wrapped up our 2nd unit of the year: Following our Characters through Series Books. There were ups and downs, as my team once again tried to find the best way to teach this unit. It didn't all go over the best, but there were some great successes in this unit that I hope to replicate next year while we once again keep our wheels turning on how to teach this unit.

I gave my students two major assessments on Thursday and Friday and to help support them, we did this review activity inspired by one of my teammates. I'm a huge advocate for graphic organizers (especially this unit- they saved me and gave me SUCH good information on my students), so I knew I wanted to whip up something to support my students in a review. My teammate simply had students just write ideas on a piece of paper as their "planning page" and then turned it into posters for the classroom. He then took photocopies of the planning pages and had students put them into their RW binders. I didn't have that time due to co-teaching reading. But I did like the idea of having something in their binders that they could reference all year long. So I created a g.o. of different things to consider about a given focus from this unit that each group would work on. That group would review that focus or skill and create a resource for the rest of the class to put in their binders. I modeled (very, very quickly) with "retell." Don't laugh at my absolutely awful symbol. (When I was doing it, I didn't think anyone else would see it besides my students.). The students helped me fill in the boxes while I did this under the document camera.

Then, each group was assigned one focus. They divided the work together and planned on post-its first. Then they transferred their ideas onto their graphic organizer. We did this whole thing (from model to final g.o.) in about 30 minutes. I wish I had given them more time, but we didn't have that. Anyways- here are their resources that are now in everyone's binder for reference:

Do they have perfect spelling? Not quite. Best wording? Nope. But it was very insightful on what they remembered about these concepts and what they didn't. We'll revisit these throughout other units and create new ones throughout the year o keep in our binders as a growing reference!



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).



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.


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