Thursday, September 18, 2014

Launching Permanent Word Work Centers {Week 2}

I hope you had the chance to see how I launched my seasonal/holiday/book-themed Word Work Centers HERE and got some good ideas for your own classroom.

After we've gone through the Back to School Word Work activities, I dedicate the next week to learning all about the permanent Word Work Centers that they would use throughout the year for any and all word lists they work with, including vocabulary lists, word wall words (Math & ELA), spelling lists, and more.

These permanent Word Work Centers include:


All of these centers live in the bins at the front of our room:
*If you're interested in these labels, they are available in my TpT Store HERE.


I began by splitting up each table into a different center. Students could practice any words from the Back to School Word List that were already very familiar from Word Work over the past week. They recorded their work on white boards to show me at the end. I floated around to provide guidance, reassurance, and give some extra help to some of my stugglers (including tips about the lower levels of the Word Worth and Place Value boards).

After a few rotations, they had a good sense of the activities and the different levels within them. During our yearly Daily 5 rotations, they will have a little longer than 20 minutes to work on the activity of their choice, so being comfortable with the options as well as knowing where and how to show their work is key during this introductory period.

By the second day, I was ready to introduce my Word Work Bingo Board. This has been a lifesaver for me since it allows the kids to choose their Word Work activity, but also ensures they are getting varied practice throughout the week. I always create a few versions and rotate them throughout the year to keep it fresh and fun!

(Since I didn't grab a photo of a full one, I'm using this old example. If you want to be able to edit your own squares and have updated fonts and choices of clip art, click HERE to find this in my TpT Store.)

Students are welcomed to work someplace comfortable in the room and spread out, if necessary, which is often needed with the supplies they use for these centers!



After students have worked in the Word Work Center of their choice for the 20-minute session, they come see me for my initials in the square. Five of my initials in a row= BINGO! In order for me to initial, I tell them I'd like to see five or more words practiced. As the year continues, I will up the ante a bit, but I'm still giving them some leeway since this is all so new. For the Sign Language center, I have them try to show me one word using the ASL alphabet and they can use the cheat-sheet if they need to. It's all for fun, so I am not too strict unless I see someone who has blatantly done no work during that time.

Starting next week, we will be using these permanent Word Work Centers for our spelling practice throughout the week. I find it a wonderful way to keep them engaged and working on cross-curricular skills, which is always a bonus! I have heard from many of you that you send these sheets home for homework as well, which is a fantastic way to have parents help in a meaningful and engaging way!

You can find all of my paid Word Work Centers in a complete set here:


I hope this gave you some organization and implementation ideas for your own Word Work Stations this year!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Launching Word Work {Week 1}

I am so excited to be teaching using the Daily 5 structure again this year. I think this marks my third or fourth year with it and I am always looking for ways to improve and build upon how things went the prior year.

This year was no different, and I really changed it up my launching Word Work first instead of halfway though! I am so thankful I did and feel like my kids already have a more solid handle on the routine!

Why Start with Word Work?

In years past, I have always launched Daily 5 with Read to Self. While I still think this is the most important of the sections, as it helps to build strong readers in a just-right book of their choice, I wanted to focus on the logistics and management of Word Work right off the bat. I also wanted to walk through my Back to School Word Work Centers with the students and build in some partner and teamwork opportunities to help cultivate classroom community early on. Because so many of my Word Work packets have similar activities, I wanted to ensure that everyone knew what each activity required and that we could all walk through one together to get any of the glitches out.


I am hoping that with the increased focus on Word Work since the beginning of the year, kids will have a firm knowledge of what is required of them at this center and that management on my end will not be as necessary as new words and activities are added to the mix.

Launching Word Work

Day 1: The very first day we began this work was on the third day of school. Because so many were still feeling the summertime restlessness, I began by introducing one of my favorite activities, the word search. We began by reading through the words together and defining a few unknown words along the way. Fortunately, most kiddos were familiar with the structure of a word search, so I was able to send them off to work with their table groups to complete it.


Working in table groups was a great way for all kids of every level to work together to find these words. I was able to wander around and watch how they interacted and answer the occasional question that the table may have. I found that this first session was also a great way to reinforce the Classroom Voice Levels we had established (Level 2 is "Table Talk" this year).


After the 20 minute session was up, no one had finished the search, so I had them keep it in the "Word Work" section of their Reader's Workshop folder and it became an Early Finisher activity for the remainder of the week.

Day 2: Our second day of Word Work began by introducing the Back to School vocabulary cards and student sheets. I passed out a packet that contained all three of the Word Work activities: Syllable Sort, ABC Order, and Parts of Speech Sort. We would work on one at a time, beginning with the syllable sort.

"Syllable" was our Word of the Day which made it helpful for kids to remember to clap/snap/count on their fingers as they segmented the words. Again, kids worked at their table spots and could use each other as resources as they completed the activity. Those who finished early could come see me and I could check them off, allowing them to work on the word search until our time was up. Those who needed a bit more time I could help along and even pull as a small group near the end. This gave me some wonderful one-on-one time with who may struggle with this center later in the year (especially when it becomes an independent activity) and I could give some explicit instruction while the rest of the class was still doing work.


Day 3: The next activity we began together was ABC Order. We began this as a whole-class because I wanted to demonstrate several strategies that could help or hinder their success in this activity. For example, I showed that if I started gluing down the words before I had read through them all, I might miss a word and then have to either peel off the words or draw arrows to the correct spot. This was a nice tie-in with our Habit #2 of the 7 Habits: Begin with the end in mind. We talked about how we could cut out each word and plan it out before gluing them down, or even number in pencil on the word cards, erasing if we get one wrong, etc.

We then split back up into our table groups and began working on this activity. I had the same routine as before for when they finished up: Come show me, I will check over it and if it's a-ok, they can work on their word search. It was either Day 3 or Day 4 that I also introduced some of my higher kids to the "Making Words" center with the letter cards. I allowed them the choice between the two and they could work someplace comfortable in the room (rug, round table, etc.) as they completed these activities.

Day 4: This was the final day we worked on the packet activities and we did the hardest of the three: Parts of Speech Sort. We began by brainstorming some examples of nouns, verbs, and adjectives and adding them to an anchor chart that they could refer back to throughout the lesson. We also discussed how some words, like "grade" could be both a noun and a verb and how they would need to justify where they placed the word by using it in a sentence, etc.

I'm glad I kept this for the very end because it was the activity that required the most teacher interaction for some kids. Because we had been working in Word Work for the week, most kids were very familiar with the words and the requirements, so it freed me up to work more closely with some of my strugglers. I encouraged them to try sorting the words they knew and keep unknown word in a pile for when I came around to visit. We could then work on the pile together and I could also watch their strategies for the known words during this time.

Day 5: This was Friday for us, so I allowed it to be a "catch up" day since the Parts of Speech Sort was a longer minilesson and several kids needed more time to finish it up. Early finishers worked on the word search and the Making Words center and I worked with the strugglers from yesterday to see how they did on day two of this type of work.


It did take a full week to get through this packet, but I am so glad I took the time to work through it with them! I now have much greater confidence that they know and understand the pieces and parts required as well as confidence in their ability to work as a team! The next packet they will see will be our Autumn is in the Air Word Work, which also contains some additional center activities, and I am already breathing easier that much of the expectations will be routine!

Our Week 2 {this week} consists of introducing my permanent Word Work Centers (Word Worth, Place Value, Stamps, etc.). Check back soon to see how I am launching that, along with Read to Self time in our class!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Classroom Tour 2014

Whew! Today was the first day of school and I am still left with a goofy grin on my face :) It feels so great to be back in my classroom and have so many wonderful students to share this upcoming year with!

Here it is! The official tour of my classroom this year! If you've followed me on Instagram or Facebook, you've seen some pics already, but I want to show and describe each section a little more in-depth.



I kept with the teal blue, navy and white theme and couldn't be happier! I changed my borders up and redid my classroom library as well as the labels on my big storage tubs up above and I liked how they turned out.

Here is the view as you first walk into my room. Each table is numbered 1-4:


My teacher desk is in the back right corner and we have that wall full of windows on the right. Each student has a chair assigned to them and their "academic" blue bin in the back of the room. These hold their folders, workbooks, and notebooks. That wall of shelves will soon be covered up by anchor charts, so it won't be visible much longer (which is a relief to me, since it will cut down on the "cluttered" look).

Here is a view the other way towards our meeting area:


Our projector/document camera and speakers are on that stand and our Chromebooks are stored in the trays on the right below the calendar. This year, I took cupcakes of the different months (from Creative Teacher Press, I think) and wrote the students' names and dates in the bottom section. Our schedule is to the right of the calendar and the homework assignments are to the right of that. To the left of the white board is my Mountain Climber Formative Assessment posters that we will use A LOT this year! The clock also has my chevron clock numbers hot glued to the border to help with time-telling.

"MENU" is my take on CAFE this year (more on that soon!) and above that are our Whole Brain Teaching-inspired rules.

We store our Word Work materials, iPads, and iPods in the drawers up front. Clipboards, white boards, markers and fleece scraps (aka, erasers) are up there, too:

These labels are now available in my TpT Store HERE. Fully editable to make your own!

The east wall of our classroom is all our class library. I have used these white Sterelite bins for almost ten years and they are still holding up beautifully! I organize by genre and on the corner of each book put two stickers: a round one for Guided Reading Level and a rectangle one for the genre to make sure it gets put back in the correct bin.

Kids have a separate white magazine file box from Ikea for their reading books since there's little space left in their blue bins, plus these can be moved around the room easily during Daily 5 or DEAR time. Those are numbered and to the left of the library:


The west wall is all yet-to-be-filled-in, but will soon hold things like Class Jobs, a math focus board, and social studies and/or science displays on the large board. Fortunately, my job-share partner is in charge of all of that, so I don't have to get too creative with all of that space ;)


We also have our Clip Chart and Super Improver levels hanging in that space and the large cubes to hold Legos, K'nex, and other building toys for Free Choice time on Fridays.

In the back corner of our classroom is our sink/water fountain and our larger class supply area. I got rid of that awful green countertop color by covering over it with navy blue vinyl and it's shiny and dark now, so I am oh so happy! This also is the spot where kids drop off dull pencils and pick up sharp ones. The sharpener itself is near my desk since it's a classroom job.


Our Class Voice Levels and Writing Process Steps also hang out on this wall and you can see the cardinal direction signs on each wall as well.

For the large bin signs, all I did was take the editable labels from my Book Bin Label set and make up bin names! I separated them by subject to make it easier on my job-share partner and I and got the cheap $5 bins from Walmart that are clear so we can peek quickly to see what we need.

Here's a final panoramic video of my room:


To see more of my chevron decor in my TpT Store, click HERE.

I hope this tour was helpful in seeing how my classroom is laid out and the different sections for storage and supplies. I will be adding more detail once the school year gets underway and I know there will be changes as we go through the year, but this general structure has worked really well for the past several years and I hope it gave you some new ideas!

Happy New School Year!!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Back to School Binder Fun with Avery Products

Now that Back to School Season is in full swing, I am in high gear to get things organized and ready to go for when my new thirdsters walk through the door in less than a week (EEEEK!).

One of my long-time projects has been to consolidate and organize some of the things that take up the most space in my classroom: Anchor Charts! I am also job-sharing this year, so that means I need to stay even more on top of things so that my mess doesn't spread into my co-teacher's space and make for an unfun year ;)

When Avery offered me some of their products to test, I knew this was the perfect motivation to finally get these projects checked off the list and into the routines of this year!


I finally checked off some popular Pinterest projects that I have been eyeing forever. Problem? I still can't find the original source of these fantastic ideas. Darn!!! So, I whipped up some pages to slip into the front of the binders myself and can't wait to use them this year! (If you know the original source of these ideas, please let me know in the comments below so I can give proper credit!)


I plan on using the "Notes" binder to collect all of the cute and adorable drawings, letters, and more that my students make me throughout the year. Because I am job-sharing, I made the teachers plural, but both versions are available for free HERE on Google Docs. I love the fun colors Avery offers, and the pink was a perfect match!

The other Pinterest-inspired idea is collecting photos of anchor charts throughout the year and keeping them in a binder. I absolutely love this idea since our wall space is lacking and we collect all of our good thinking on charts that can sometimes be challenging to access quickly. This solves that problem and holds them in a format that is large enough for me to project or to use in a small group. You can pick up this freebie HERE on Google Docs.

The last project I can't wait to use is the "Student Snapshot." Avery sent me some wonderful calendar and lined paper inserts and these lent themselves perfectly to capturing anecdotal notes and informal observations throughout the year.


I love that I can add in the dates so the very first page is the first day of school. Especially with job-sharing, student behavior (both good and bad) will be important to notate since we will be teaching them different subjects at different times of the day. Now, we can jot notes to each other about students and also compile longer sections on the lined paper in the back. I know this system will not only help with the day-to-day management, but will make report card comments and parent-teacher conferences much easier! You can pick up this binder cover HERE on Google Docs.

I hope these binders and organizational ideas gave you some great project ideas as you put the finishing touches on your classroom before the start of the year! Thanks to Avery for sending me such great products!

3rd Grade Thoughts - Widget
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