Thursday, April 17, 2014

Work on Writing: Poetry Pan Centers

April is National Poetry Month and a favorite of mine is to work with poems of all shapes and sizes to give students a broad sense of what "poetry" is.

Something that is always a hit in my classroom are "Poetry Pans" and I am excited to share several variations with you that have helped us not just with poetry, but with story-making as well!


First up, I am loving the pizza pans from Walmart that are less than $1 and are not too deep, but offer a tiny lip to keep the magnets inside. No matter what the project, they will work beautifully and won't break the bank! They also offer a rectangular sheet as well, but circles are so much more fun, amIright!?

There are several ways you can incorporate magnets for this center. First up is with the pre-made magnet kits. There are tons of versions available, but I prefer to stick with the kid versions to ensure that I won't have any surprise words pop up and that every word is easy to understand.

Kids' Poetry Kit


This is what makes an appearance every April. There are tons of magnets in this kit, so a minilesson is definitely in order when bringing these out since they can easily be lost!

What's fun about this kit is that it includes tons of suffixes, which is hit pretty hard in third grade, so you keep your students accountable for having the poetry "make sense" by adding the correct endings to fit the phrase. For example, you can see how the letter "y" is added on top of the word "gentle" to make the word "gently".

This will no doubt be a popular center, so if you do want to make the words available to two students and get them each a pizza pan, it works. I have them work independently, but share the box of magnets. This kit is a bit pricey, so I only have one available, although you can sometimes get them on sale or for a bit cheaper on Amazon.

Since our Writing Groups time is about 20 minutes, I have them work on the magnets for about ten minutes, writing what they created for about five minutes, and then clean up for the last five minutes. I am always in Teacher Time, so I can't monitor these increments strictly, but by the end of third grade, after a year of this routine and time schedule, it is very doable for the kids to be responsible.

The poems can be funny or serious or a mixture of both. Because there are hundreds of magnets, each time a student works on the center they can come up with new and unique poems. They probably don't have time to read through and organize a long, long poem, so I often suggest they get the first line or two of a poem that they can finish on their own later. In my class, this works more for an idea-generator, but depending on your schedule, you could have students create full-fledged poems during their writing time!

Story-Maker Kit


This is another fun way to incorporate magnets in a pre-made package that is easy for you and your students, plus is a guaranteed way to get even your most reluctant writer writing!

These are the Story Maker Magnets and, as you can see, they come in a variety of colors depending on their element. Characters are in blue, actions are in red, places and times are in yellow, and connecting phrases are in green. There are so many hilarious possibilities, this may be the perfect way to generate ideas at the beginning of the year or create silly end-of-year stories for when your kids swear they are out of ideas.

While these don't make poems themselves, they can easily lend themselves to ideas for poems that are written in more of a story format, so you can really use these throughout the year for any purpose.

These, too, are a bit pricey, so keep your eyes peeled for sales and on Amazon, which is why I also only have one set. These are a big hit and you won't regret the purchase, though :)

Make Your Own

Since these do cost some money and sometimes just one kit isn't enough, I did want to share one idea that has helped in years past. It doesn't seem to be as durable as these kits, but the potential to personalize them, as well as the reduced cost, may be worth it for you!

Have you heard of magnetic paper?


Avery has a set and the big box stores have their own line as well. For around $10 you can get 5 sheets (8 1/2 x 11") that will work with your ink jet printer. Simply type in the words or poem or sentences in a word processing program and print. Once they dry, you can cut them out and use them in exactly the same way as the pre-made sets, but having saved some money!

These are great for:

  • Reconstructing a class poem or poem(s) that you want them to memorize
  • Reconstructing a poem that is a class-favorite-- you can have a laminated copy of the real poem, then a baggy full of the cut-apart poem and kids will work to reconstruct it
  • Printing words in different colors to make your own story-maker magnets

There are lots of possibilities and I have found these sheets to be durable enough to last through lots of use!

Have you used these magnetic sets or sheets before? I'd love to hear other ideas for these in the comments below!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bright Ideas: Student Interactive Poetry on ReadWriteThink.org

Welcome to another wonderful round of Bright Ideas!


I am so excited to share this wonderful website with you today to help you celebrate April and National Poetry Month!

Have you heard of ReadWriteThink.org? If not, you will be incredibly amazed at all of the free resources available to you all year long. But the times we love using it as a class the most is creating wonderful poems using their Student Interactive Poetry resources!


If you click HERE (or on the picture above) you will be taken to a list of all of their interactive resources. These are appropriate for K-12 with differentiated lesson plans for each of the levels.

The only requirement is to have Flash installed on your computer which is a free download from Adobe. Your computer will let you know if you need an updated version and/or the program, with a link to the site to download directly if you don't already have it. Easy peasy!

From there, my kids would go nuts trying out the different styles! I usually tried to present one different style every other day and then allow them to experiment with up to three styles at the end of the week in Computer Lab where they could access each of the interactives.

Each type of interactive begins with a description and example, then moves into a planning activity for the student's topic of choice. The plan then moves into the next screen which allows the student to manipulate the words and phrases into a poem that fits the style. At the end, the poem is complete and there is an option to print, save as a PDF, or email!

I typically link to these interactives straight from our classroom website since students love them and want to continue making them at home. You can easily include them as a homework assignment and have them email finished poems to you, or print and turn them in the next day.

ReadWriteThink.org also includes classroom, parent, and even community resources to extend these lessons far past the interactives.

These became a quick and, best of all, fun way to explore and experiment with many poetry forms during the month of April. We especially loved making them for our first grade buddies to share.

If you enjoyed this bright idea, please consider joining me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for more great ideas.

For more bright ideas from 150 different bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Technology Resources for Earth Day

Earth Day is coming up on April 22nd and it is such a wonderful way to celebrate not just Spring, but a call to action to help our planet!

Teaching in a public school, it's hard to celebrate Spring through Easter, so I always loved Earth Day because of the many ideas kids had to take care of our planet better and the many teachable science moments it initiated.

I'm excited to share some of my favorite technology resources for this holiday!

BrainPOP & BrainPOP, Jr.


Of course these would make my list, as they always do for each holiday. These movies are GOLD in my opinion-- engaging, short, full of facts, and the related material they cover is enough to stretch these lessons across several subjects.

I've included lists to my favorite videos from both BrainPOP, Jr. and BrainPOP in the image above. I think the best thing about teaching third is that both levels are appropriate, so we take full advantage! Free videos are marked and these are great conversation starters and overviews for the week of Earth Day, as well as any additional curriculum you may be using around Earth Science.

Find BrainPop HERE and BrainPOP, Jr. HERE.

Naturebridge.org's My Garbology


I am in *love* with this interactive website that teaches kids the difference between what goes into compost, recycling, trash (landfill) and what can be reused!!

Kids will drag each item into its appropriate container. They will then be taken on a journey through how the item changes and learn lessons in a humorous and very kid-friendly way. The captions are read aloud by the characters, making this a wonderful lesson for your whole class, no matter their reading level.

Be sure to click on "For Teachers" at the bottom of the page for tons more PDFs, lessons, and handouts!

Find all of this at MyGarbology.org HERE.

EcoKids Games & Activities


EcoKids has some wonderful games and activities that range from Primary to Intermediate levels and cover math, reading, and riddles. This is definitely a site you'll want to sift through first to choose the activities that are best-suited to your students' levels, but you can also come back to this site over and over all year for ways to practice lots of different strategies in new ways.

Their sections on Waste and Climate Change are full of the lessons I use the most. It is a Canadian-based site, so measurements are in metric, which I loved since it helped my kids use a different format, but it is something to be aware of.

To find these great games and activities, click on EcoKids HERE.

The Lorax Project (TM)


Of course, one of the best Earth Day movies to sing along to is The Lorax! The book is also such a beautiful read and worth rereading to your kids whether they have heard it a million times before, seen the movie, or whatever :)

This site is full of resources to help you save real-life places-- the most endangered forests and species that are at-risk. I loved that this tied in the fantasy of Dr. Seuss into a real-life call-to-action. Plus, there are pictures and descriptions of these places and animals that need our help, so there are wonderful ways to incorporate this into a literature or science lesson. You could even do a quick scavenger hunt for information-- there are loads of possibilities with all of the information on this site!

Of course, there's also fun links to coloring pages and matching activities.

For more, visit The Lorax Project (TM) HERE.

I also have loads of Earth Day packets on TpT to help support your ELA and Math lessons. Just click on the pictures and/or captions to find them in my store.

Qr Codes to practice 2&3-Digit Addition, 2&3-Digit Subtraction, 3&4-Digit Addition, and a Discounted Bundled Set

Brain Breaks for Earth Day- get your kids up & moving!

Earth Day, Every Day Word Work and Earth Day Fraction Fun

I hope these ideas help you have a wonderful Earth Day in your classroom!

And remember...

Friday, April 4, 2014

Using Student Numbers to Keep Organized

I know this is not a new idea, and that many of you may do this already, but it was always such an integral part of my day, I wanted to share and hopefully gain even more ideas from you!

One of the best tips my teammate gave me once upon a time when I first started teaching was to assign a number to each student. From there, the ways to stay organized are endless!


I always organized my students from 1-20-something by their last name. This made it easy to take attendance for me as well as a sub since that was the order the district assigned them. They were given this number on the very first day of class and carried it with them all year.

One of our first tasks at the beginning of the year was to memorize our student number, along with who was before and after you. We did this a variety of ways the first week to mix it up and ensure that, by the end of the week, their number was memorized.

Lining Up in Number Order

One of my favorite go-to's was to have them practice lining up silently using only their gestures to help them. Then, I would say "Roll Call!" aloud and my #1 student would say "1" and the person behind them would call their number (hopefully 2!) and so on down the row. If there was any kiddo in the wrong spot, it was easily fixed and we would practice again at the next transition time.

I had them practice number order each and every time we lined up to go anywhere those first few weeks. This helped them with memorizing their numbers and also took out a lot of the line spot troubles that often arise the first few weeks of school when I was trying to build community more than anything else. We would practice "Roll Call!" before we left the room and if everything was a-ok, we could leave the class and head down the hallway to our destination.

After recess, our kids always line up and I had them do number order there as well-- pretty much anytime they needed to line up, I would have them do it in number order-- and this also alleviated the problem of "firsties" and the race to the door (with subsequent "winners" and "losers"-- not how I want to start class time after recess!).

My sweet kids in the back of the line were not forgotten, since I would choose certain days to be "Reverse Number Order" or "Reverse Roll Call!", thus allowing them to lead the line and mix it up a bit after we had the order down :)

Fire Drills & Field Trips

Staying organized during these two stressful times is key to make sure there are no missing students and you can get a quick head count as soon as possible at any given time.

Because we had practiced it so much at the beginning of the year and throughout our day, I could simply say, "Roll Call!" and have my kids start to call their number aloud. It was easy to hear who was missing (if any) and because the kids had also memorized who was before and after them, they could help in case there was a sub present who hadn't memorized the order like I had.

I always had my kids line up in number order once we had gotten to the field during a fire drill, which again was an automatic thing since that's how we usually lined up, and the only difference was that my Line Leader (from Classroom Jobs HERE) would go to their regular spot and not be the head of the line during the drill.

On Field Trips, it was a quick and easy way to make sure all kids were on the bus. It always impressed the bus driver to hear kids yell their numbers from various parts of the bus. Plus, in about a minute, we were done and ready to roll! Of course, I had memorized the order of my kids to make sure the right ones were saying the right number and always had a list with me to run down as they called to double-check, but this was much quicker and student-led than the traditional "Here!" that I had done when I was a student.

Collecting Papers

Probably the greatest way to keep all of those papers organized was to have students write their numbers next to their names on every thing they worked on, whether they turned it in to me or not. This helped them remember to write it on everything :)

When students turned in something, I checked off their names and kept it organized in number order. It became very easy to see which numbers were missing so I could easily track down a student for missing assignments. Plus, it made filing a breeze!! I would create my class list in Word and put as many as I could on a page (usually three), then run lots of copies, cut them into thirds, and keep these slips handy throughout the year.

I kept a small stack in our Substitute folder and in our class' emergency backpack that we were required to take outside during recesses and fire drills. I could also hand these lists out to parents for Valentine's Day and/or birthday parties, so they came in handy a lot!

Around the Classroom

Student Numbers popped up everywhere in our classroom. Here are just a few examples:

I got these magnets from Etsy (or you could easily make your own) and you can read more about Class Jobs HERE.
Above their bin spots so they always put them back in the correct space. Plus, I could reuse these every year! Read more HERE about these numbers.
I also use numbers when labeling classroom supplies that would be used year after year. For example, on our classroom calculators, I used silver Sharpie (by far my most favorite in the world!) to put a number on both the calculator and the lid. Then, each year the student with that number used that calculator. Easy to keep track of and easy to know who is using the correctly.... or not!

I am sure there are *hundreds* of other ways to use student numbers in your classroom. Please share your ways below and we can keep this list growing!

Happy Friday!

Image Clipart and Fonts from Scrappin' Doodles, KG Fonts, Educlips, and Graphics from the Pond

Friday, March 28, 2014

Spring Cleaning Sale!

Well, I was originally excited about the arrival of Spring, but woke up this morning to a fresh blanket of snow on the ground..... d'oh! Guess I need to wait a few more weeks to pull out the spring clothes!


But on a happy note, it's time for a Spring Cleaning Sale!!


Starting tomorrow and going through the end of the month, I will have all of my Spring-themed items (including Earth Day!) on sale for 20% off-- no coupon code required! Click HERE to see all of the items.

Some of my new items include QR Critters to practice 2 & 3-Digit Addition, 3 & 4-Digit Addition, and 2 & 3-Digit Subtraction with an Earth Day theme. Plus, there is a discounted bundle set that includes all three!

Click the picture to find this in my TpT Store on SALE!
To learn more about these QR Critters, visit this post HERE.

I have also uploaded some new Brain Breaks that are holiday-themed! The Earth Day set is 20% off and all of these match my best-selling Brain Breaks for the Classroom, so you can easily incorporate them into your classroom bucket, or use the included label to make a new one.


This set includes ten different Brain Breaks with an Earth Day theme that includes energizing, calming, group, partner, and solo activities. Lots of fun and an additional way to incorporate learning through movement that week.

Plus, I have now included the definition of each break in a matching circle that you can glue to the back of each stick! This makes them easy for you, a sub, or anyone to pull a break and quickly know what to do!


Pick up these Brain Breaks on sale this weekend!

Click the picture to find these in my TpT Store.
There are also some Spring favorites that are tried-and-true in both Word Work and Math:

Earth Day Word Work & Earth Day Fraction Fun
Springtime Word Work & Springtime Math Centers
Remember to leave feedback on your previous purchases on TpT! This feedback turns into credits for you to use on your next TpT purchases for an even bigger discount. Plus, your feedback totally makes my day!


Have fun shopping this weekend and, if you're like me, this type of Spring Cleaning is waaaaay more fun!


Happy Spring!

3rd Grade Thoughts - Widget
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