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My Favorite Poetry Read Alouds

Since April is National Poetry Month, I thought it fitting to share some of my favorite poetry books to read aloud this time of year.

Poetry is such a fun genre for kids to explore and there are an infinite amount of great books available. Many of these authors have an extensive collection of titles in their name, so it's worth a trip to your library to check them all out, if you can!

Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky are old favorites from my childhood, and their style is timeless. If you haven't delved into the work of Douglas Florian, be sure to do so, especially for your students who love science and nonfiction!

I love dog-related titles, but I need to give a Kleenex alert for Love That Dog (an entire BOX worth!). Dogku is an adorable tale of a dog's day told in haiku, and a very easy entry into a sometimes challenging poetry form.

I use the entire series of You Read to Me, I'll Read to You in my Read with a Partner time during Daily 5. They are varied and engaging, plus easy to read so there isn't a concern with mixed reading levels in a partnership.

Another series I'm getting hooked on is reverso poems, like Mirror Mirror! Read one way, it tells one point of view. But when you read it from bottom-up, it's entirely different! Be sure to check out all of the books by Marilyn Singer in this format.

To read more about these books, simply click on any of the covers below. Each will link you directly to its page on Amazon where you can preview the inside, read the reviews, and find similar titles. 

Click away here: 

Image Map


I hope this list gives you lots of ideas for read alouds for this month, or really any time of year. Be sure to let me know of any additional titles in the comments below. I would love to add to this collection!

Fun & Free Typing Programs

We begin the school year by learning cursive (we use Handwriting Without Tears) and end the year learning how to touch type in a short ten minute chunk each day after lunch recess. It's a great way to work on fine motor skills and develop the automaticity needed in both of these writing styles. Plus, I find that by the end of third grade, their hands are all large enough to spread across the keyboards of our class Chromebooks.


*Confession: I am *not* a touch typer. In fact, I only use the first two fingers on each hand and still move my eyes back and forth from the screen to the keyboard (Ack!). I do prove to my kids that I am not that accurate, especially when I can't look at the keyboard, so they enjoy witnessing that when I demo the importance of learning the correct way to touch type.

Our district has a subscription to Typing Pal, which is very helpful as kids move through the grades since it tracks their progress, but I am always on the hunt for additional resources that can help strengthen their practice. Sometimes one program doesn't work for every kid, and since I would love for them to practice three to five times a week for about ten minutes a day, I want them to enjoy the program they use.

I have tracked down a few free and fun sites, several that require no login and others that will require a parent's email, but I hope you find these helpful as you introduce touch typing to your own classroom of students.

Dance Mat Typing



This site does not require a login and is my students' top choice for an alternative typing program. It is hosted by a British rock-and-roll goat, so what could be better?! I have found it to be the most kid-friendly program, both in how it teaches the kids and simultaneously engages them. The only downside is, because you can't login, students will be required to remember what lesson and level they are on each time.

Typing Club



This program also received rave reviews from several of my students. While it does require an email to login, it provides a clear interface and tracks progress across all of the lessons. Helpful progress trackers are included, and you get points, badges, and stars along the way! It also unlocks upper levels only after you have passed lower ones, so it encourages kids to stay on track and not skip the foundations. The data provided on this program is also very easy to read and includes words per minutes, days practiced, and more. You can even replay typing sessions to see how the student did! There is a free and paid school edition that you can read more about HERE.

Typing.com



This is another site that is free (removing ads is a paid option) and requires an email login, but the instructions are clear, the practice is right on target. Kids can also move quickly through the levels as they complete them accurately. I love that they can jump to any lesson at any level because they will be able to use this as a supplement to our current program without having to start from scratch. Each level comes with clear instructions and advance into some amazingly challenging territory-- even medical terms to help learn transcription!

Kidz Type



For a wide variety of typing activities, I definitely recommend KidzType. They have lessons, exercises, practices, and (best of all) games! There are many choices for each and this is a great "free choice" site after kids have learned a chunk of letters, like home row. The do not require a login and kids can practice letters in a wide variety of ways, so it's a great break from a lot of the traditional typing practice they receive on the other sites.

Typing Arm Activity

One of the main reasons I encourage my students to learn to type is to build muscle memory in their fingers and to make typing much faster, easier, and more accurate. To prove that there are tiny muscles and tendons hard at work when they type correctly, I have them hold out one arm and "air type" correctly with their fingers (basically, just tapping all five fingers in the air). While doing this, they rest their other hand on the typing forearm and are in awe when they can feel (and sometimes even see) these small parts of their body at work. We do this for both sides. I then have them hold out their pointer finger and pretend to peck at the keys like a "non-typer" would. They feel their arm muscles not working at all, plus they are able to only do one letter at a time, with large arm movements. Definitely not fast, easy, or efficient!

Do you have other typing suggestions? I would love to hear them, so please leave me a comment below. Happy typing!



Morning Meeting in 5 Minutes

One of the most meaningful parts of our day is Morning Meeting. It has been for nearly ten years and no matter what, it is always the first thing my students do when the 8:00 bell rings. In fact, if I'm ever out, I rarely have to put much into my sub notes about it, it's become such a student-led and fundamental part of our day.

Before reading, I encourage you to check out my previous posts on Morning Meeting HERE and my E-book and resources on TpT HERE.

One of the challenges I face this year is squeezing this important time into just five minutes. This is a huge adjustment from the previous 10-15 minutes we used to have. We begin transitioning to math class (which requires some shuffling of students across multiple classrooms) at 8:05. That leaves us with such a short amount of time to participate in this important activity, so I wanted to share how we were able to do this, in case you were also feeling the time crunch!


Seating

The most efficient way to begin our meeting is in assigned spots. I have to take attendance as soon as possible, so I have them sit in number order (by last name) in a circle around the rug. They are in these spots all year, unless they are Meeting Leader, in which case they sit at the meeting chair. While this may seem boring, it alleviates any debate over who sits where and helps to get us off on a familiar foot each day.


The Bell

Everyone is required to be sitting in their spots when the bell rings. If a chair or two goes unstacked, or if there is still something to be put away, no big deal... that can all be done after Morning Meeting. I try to impress the importance of this meeting from Day 1 of third grade, so kids know that the bell means we get straight to business. The Meeting Leader also knows that the bell is the time to start, so it helps to remove me from being the "time police", which is always a good thing!


Greeting

Eye contact and Level 3 Voice (Normal Talk) are important when students give each other the "Good Morning" greeting. They also say each other's names and reply with a "Good Morning, ___" to that person. Even my most quiet and reserved students participate in this, and I think the predictability of seating choices helps them the most. Making everyone feel welcome by speaking each child's name aloud twice in the first five minutes of school is cause for celebration in and of itself! They are passing a talking stick around at this time and when it gets back to the Meeting Leader (a job that rotates each week), we move onto the next part.


Community Building

This is where the fun stuff happens, all in about three minutes. Most days, our Meeting Leader will pull a question from a jar (available HERE). Students will then need to answer the question in a complete sentence, using that question for their sentence stem. Not only does this help with their speaking and listening, it's an easy segue into writing and PQA: Putting the Question in the Answer. I have found this predictability has also been so helpful for students who have trouble speaking aloud or are second-language learners.

The talking stick is also passed around during this time and when it gets back to the Meeting Leader, I will give my announcements, if any, and dismiss them straight to math.

I know it may seem rushed or impossible to complete in five minutes, but I promise, there are days we finish with time to spare! With kids in charge as Meeting Leaders throughout the year, and knowing the familiar structure, it is very possible to carve just five minutes out of your day for this important, engaging, and meaningful community-building exercise.

Morning Meeting Resource Pack

Find more information, as well as loads of ideas if you have ten to twenty minutes to dedicate to meetings, HERE. There you will find tons of quick questions to start any length of meeting, a comprehensive e-book explaining the why and how-to for launching Morning Meeting in your classroom, editable agenda posters to help keep longer meetings on track, and more.

Enjoy this packet and I hope you and your students enjoy each morning with with the addition of this memorable and engaging routine!




Math Talk {Anchor Chart}

We have been working on Accountable Talk in our class, nicknamed "Team Talk" with students. You can read more about the visual cues we've been using HERE.


Math is a particularly important subject to use good discussion strategies, since there are often so many ways to solve a problem, and really understanding the concepts comes from being able to articulate them to others. We call this "Math Talk" and I like to break it down into three different pieces: Explain, Evaluate, and Extend.


Explain

This is a familiar step in which students walk through the work they did to arrive at the solution. They will explain their steps and the conversation they were having about the problem in their mind so we can all get on the same page as to how they solved the problem. Listing the steps is an important part of this first section; this helps us as we get to any error analysis or alternative solutions in future steps.

Evaluate

In this part, other students can now chime in and either agree or disagree with the solver. In order to do either, they need to be able to back up their thinking with their own work and strategies, similar to the "Explain" step above. This forces students to look carefully and try to see where the student presenting did things differently. My favorite part of these conversations is not just correcting an error they may have caught, but it's in finding multiple ways to arrive at the same answer. It's a great opportunity for the students to be the teacher as they share their thinking about a problem.

Extend

This final step is sometimes interwoven into the "Evaluate" step, but it has its own place outside of strategy-sharing. Similar to reading, I like students to make connections in their math work to other problems, strategies, or Math Talks to reinforce strategies and concepts throughout our entire year. I also like for them to ask questions of each other about the how's and why's of strategies. Sometimes this can seem pretty far-out, but allowing for this section to take place can also allow for follow-up around areas of misunderstanding or lingering confusion. I will also use this opportunity to model different strategies that may or may not work out, so that kids can see and hear me think aloud through various possibilities.



I hope this anchor chart around Math Talks can help your own class hold more in-depth conversations around problem solving and strategies. For more Accountable Talk stems and how I use them in class, be sure to see my Team Talk Pack on TpT HERE or read more HERE.

Studying Polygons

We have been working on geometry this week and have been using pattern blocks to create some very cool polygons.

I loved having them share these using "Team Talk" (read more HERE) and we worked on sharing our shapes on the overhead projector and the different ways you could create the same polygon using different blocks.

While our curriculum only calls for knowing 3,4,5,6,8, and 10-sided shapes, it was fun introducing heptagons and nonagons, so I created this fun freebie to look at all of the polygons together and practice their names.


I didn't require them to use rainbow colors, just a different color for each polygon, and it turned out to be a great way to cover a lot of shapes in a fun, one page activity.


To pick up this freebie in my TpT Store, click HERE.

Team Talk: Accountable Talk in the Classroom

What I love about third graders is the growth they make throughout the year, both academically and socially. It's a wonderful age and it's a great privilege each year to witness the transformation that our class goes through as they become more confident in themselves as learners.

Because they will often be so excited to share ideas or thoughts, they will often neglect whomever is speaking, just waiting for them to take a breath before they jump in. I admit, this is something I am guilty of, so that's probably why this strikes such a chord with me.

Team Talk

While I want my students to be vocal, I want to channel that in a way that is both respectful and constructive to our class discussions. One way that I have always found to work is through Accountable Talk. This type of talk builds upon what the speaker is saying first, then seeks clarification, adds additional information, suggests alternatives, etc.

While we teachers know this term well, I prefer to use the term "Team Talk" when we discuss it as a group. It encourages the community aspect of these conversations and is also much more third grade-friendly. It's more natural for me to say, "Let's remember to use Team Talk when we respond to so-and-so..." or "Let's use Team Talk with our partners today so they know they are being heard when they share their thinking."

Visual Cues

While encouraging this style of talking, both practice and visual cues are key, since many of these sentence stems are new or may not flow naturally with students just yet. Putting these 25+ stems on both posters displayed prominently on a bulletin board, as well as having a bucket full of these same cues, is so helpful to get them practicing and familiar with them in a variety of situations.


When engaging in Team Talk, students can look to the board to get ideas for responding, but can also preplan their responses by pulling a popsicle stick with a stem they would like to use in the conversation.

While this may seem scripted or not authentic, I have found that it is both a welcome support for students who need a bit more help in speaking and listening, and can also challenge some of my naturally verbose students to hone their questions and choose their words a bit more carefully.

Team Talk Resource Pack

Ideally, I would love to hear students engaging in these Accountable Talk-style conversations each time we meet in small groups to discuss a book, or when they meet with a partner to talk about a math strategy. But in reality, if they can incorporate just a select few into their lexicon so they can be better listeners, conversationalists, and friends (because what makes a better friend than a better listener?), I'm thrilled!


To pick up this resource or learn more, you can find it in my TpT Store HERE. Be sure to download a preview to see more.

Enjoy incorporating these ideas into your classroom and I hope conversations grow deeper and more engaging with the help of these simple, yet powerful, Team Talk resources!



Monthly Thoughts: March


As I head into my final trimester of this school year, I'm excited to be picking this series back up on my blog called "Monthly Thoughts".

Each month this school year, I will be uploading a clickable PDF themed around that month. There will be twenty ideas on that page that will link you to a post, idea, resource, freebie, quote, etc. from my blog or store. Each month will be a new collection of ideas, both old and new, and I hope it will help make the school year and planning easier to navigate.

Be sure to download the calendar page from my TpT Store HERE each month when it's released. It's a clickable PDF, so you will be redirected to my blog, TpT Store, or another website for all of the information when you click the small image.

While I have themed many of the months around holiday items, there are also plenty of ideas geared towards other academic areas, like nonfiction, getting ready for state tests, and more. And if these don't align with your own scope and sequence, hopefully a few can add to your bag of tricks when you do cover those topics in your own classroom.

Today I'm offering the calendar of March, which you can find in my TpT Store HERE.

Monthly Thoughts: March

Click to be taken to the FREE download.

As with many of the holidays throughout the year, you can find St. Patrick's Day-themed Word Work and Writing Prompts, as well as QR Codes for math computation practice, Brain BreaksTechnology Resources, and thought-provoking Did You Know? Facts.

You can also find the link to some of my favorite read alouds for this time of year. These include some very funny leprechaun stories as well as lessons and tales from Ireland that are sure to be a class hit!

I have linked up some of my favorite go-to resources to help jazz up some traditional topics including my Nonfiction Bloom's Taxonomy packet and Force-themed Subjects & Predicates.

You will also finds lots of freebies to help with Reader's Workshop, Parent-Teacher Conferences, and math terms.

There's plenty more, so take your pick and click away to find more information on any and all of the images you see.

Download HERE and enjoy! I hope these ideas will get you excited for the month ahead!


My Favorite St. Patrick's Day Read Alouds


I'm half-Irish, so St. Patrick's Day has always been a favorite holiday for me. I love sharing parts of it with my students each year and using these read alouds not only incorporates parts of the holiday, but discusses lessons and character traits in a fun, engaging way.

If you want a very informative, but kid-friendly history to St. Patrick's Day, Gail Gibbons' book is a great go-to. Eve Bunting is another familiar author, and her book does not disappoint. Playing on some of the traditions and superstitions, The Night Before St. Patrick's Day is a festive play on the familiar Christmas rhyme. And a new addition you may not have heard of, Discovery in the Woods is part one of a three-part series written by a retired teacher.

To extend these read alouds, be sure to see my holiday Word Work, Did You Know? Facts, Writing Prompts, QR Math activities, Brain Breaks, and more in my TpT Store HERE.  There are also some great technology links for St. Patrick's Day HERE, and be sure to check the additional links at the bottom of that page for even more holiday-themed tech ideas!

To read more about these books, simply click on any of the covers below. Each will link you directly to its page on Amazon where you can preview the inside, read the reviews, and find similar titles. 

Click away: 

Image Map


I hope this list gives you lots of ideas for read alouds for this festive holiday. Here's wishing you a Happy St. Patrick's Day. Be sure to let me know of any additional titles in the comments below. I would love to add to this collection!


Student Reflection Sheet for Parent-Teacher Conferences


Our school hosts two parent-teacher conferences each year: one in mid-October and one in early March. The first conference is set up as a "goal setting" conference and the one we're in the middle of now is all around yearly progress, wrapping up the year, and even thinking into peer groups for next year. It seems crazy to think we're already in the last trimester!

While we don't have students sitting in conferences with us, I do want them to have their voice represented in some way. During October conferences, since they have only been with me about a month, I give them a very basic sheet that you can find HERE.

For Spring Conferences, however, I want this to be more in-depth and more reflective of the work we have been doing, both in the classroom at-large and in our writing time. 


The first two parts are meant to be written in short paragraph form, with strong reasons as to the "why" of their answer. We have practiced this kind of writing with my Writing Prompts throughout the year, so it's a familiar format.

Before we begin, I brainstorm projects and topics on the board so they have some guidance and can reference these words as they write. This also gives them a chance to orally plan (as well as listen to others do so) as they suggest ideas and give reasons.

The third section asks about peer groups for the next year when they go off to fourth. While I have a good idea of who they work well with in my own classroom, I love gaining additional insight into students in other rooms, as well as learn more about the "why" for each name they choose. This list also gives me some talking points with parents at conferences.... sometimes kids have been put into separate classes for a reason!

The final question is for any odds-and-ends the students would like to add. It's often about checking out a piece of writing hanging in the hallway, or looking at their work displayed in the classroom. I also leave the back blank so they can draw a picture or add on to any of the sections if they run out of room.

I have made this reflection sheet grade-neutral, so if you would like to use it in your own classroom, click HERE

Happy Conference season!

My Favorite Valentine's Day Read Alouds


This is my first Valentine's Day as a singleton, having just gotten divorced late last year, so I think you'll find that these titles will make you laugh and giggle since I am determined to keep my spirits up during this time. Plus, there are some spectacularly clever books around this holiday, so I'm hoping you'll discover some new titles for your own collection.

If you haven't yet read Somebody Loves You, Mr Hatch, go read it immediately! This has always been my go-to, and there is even a wonderful read aloud version available on Storyline Online HERE, read by none other than Hector Elizondo! It's a perfect way to share this book with your class if you can't get your hands on a copy.

The rest of these books help teach great lessons around kindness, inclusion, caring, and more, but in new, unique, and engaging ways. The characters alone (zombies, Crankenstein, Mr. Goat) are a hit with both boys and girls, and the extra onomatopoeia practice in Groggle's Monster Valentine are a fun grammar lesson just waiting to happen. I'm including a chapter book in this list, too. My kids love the Geronimo Stilton books with the cartoons, wacky fonts, and quick-paced story lines, and I love seeing them hooked into such a great series. 

To extend these read alouds, be sure to see my holiday Word Work, Did You Know? Facts, Writing Prompts, QR Math activities and more in my TpT Store HERE.  There are also some great technology links for Valentine's Day HERE, and be sure to check the additional links at the bottom for even more holiday-themed tech ideas!

To read more about these books, simply click on any of the covers below. Each will link you directly to its page on Amazon where you can preview the inside, read the reviews, and find similar titles. 

Click away here: 

Image Map


I hope this list gives you lots of ideas for read alouds for this lovely time of year. Here's wishing you a wonderful Valentine's Day. Be sure to let me know of any additional titles in the comments below. I would love to add to this collection!

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