Saturday, March 31, 2012

Daily 5 Series: Word Work


  1. Read to Self
  2. Read with Someone
  3. Word Work
  4. Listen to Reading
  5. Read with a Teacher/Teacher Time
Word Work is still my work in progress, so look for updates to this post as I continue to grow and add to the effectiveness of this choice :) For now, though, I will give a brief overview of how it goes in my class.

First, the anchor chart of expectations:
 All students have five independent spelling words (aside from the class list of words) that they work on each week. These are kept in their spelling folder (I'll blog about this after I get some pics) and include third grade words from the district and list of 1200 high-frequency words from Rebecca Sitton.

Students are responsible for these five words and have the chance to practice them, as well as class list words during Word Work time. Students have a variety of ways to practice these words:
  • White Boards- (a class FAVORITE!)- they can practice cursive, print, and/or sentences
  • Stamps- I purchased several of these sets and ink pads in multiple colors (be sure they are washable!) and this is a close second favorite
  • Sign Language- kids will work with a partner using these sheets to help and try to guess the words

  • Secret Code Spelling- each letter is worth its place in the alphabet (a=1, b=2, c=3, etc.) and kids will work to spell out their words in numbers, then switch with a partner and decode (This is available as a freebie HERE.)
  • Scrabble Tiles- I post more info about this center HERE.
  • Money Words- similar to secret code, but each letter is worth a coin amount. I blog more about this center HERE.

I am always on the lookout to add more individual spelling practice activities. You can keep updated on my quest here on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/3rdGrThoughts/word-work-spelling/

What I noticed was that sometimes students' stamina in practicing these words waned, especially with our 25 minute session length. Also, we don't have spelling words every week (short weeks, in particular), but we do Daily 5 every day, so what were we to do?

Enter DonorsChoose.org!! (you can read more about my love of Donors Choose here)

I found a wonderful product at Lakeshore Learning that covers all of these amazing word skills that I teach throughout the year, including:
  • synonyms & antonyms
  • context clues
  • prefixes, suffixes & root words
  • idioms
  • similes & metaphors
  • analogies
  • and more!
Their At-My-Desk Vocabulary Set was perfect- already assembled, quality pieces, directions card that is very easy for kids to understand (yay!), and full of concepts that always use extra practicing :)
The price was jaw-dropping a bit steep, so I applied to Donors Choose and ta-da! it became a part of our Word Work Center! Yippee! {happy dance}

Seriously, donors have no idea how much they make my students' and my day! <3

Now, when kiddos feel like they have had enough practice with their words, they can go to our spinny activity center and choose an envelope to work with at their desk. They LOVE them! And the best part is that, while some of them are a once-and-done activity, most of them a student can do over and over!

So that is my Word Work in a tiny nutshell. Are there any great activities that I should add? Let me know how you do Word Work- I would love to continue to tweak this to make it more perfect for my students :)



Thursday, March 29, 2012

Donors Choose

**UPDATE: My project was fully funded on May 17th! Yahoo!! Thank you donors!**

Have you ever considered setting up a DonorsChoose.org account? I have submitted four projects over the past two years and three of them have been funded! It is a wonderful way to ask for some of the larger items that I will never be able to afford for my class that make a huge impact. Have you ever noticed that classroom furniture and supplies seem to double in price once you add the word "school" or "classroom" to the description? Eeek!

I have asked for and received fraction manipulatives, word work activities, a rug for my classroom:
Most recently, I have asked for an easel and seating combo (fingers crossed!):
Note: I don't use Big Books in 3rd grade BUT I actually prefer the shorter chart paper, so this setup works perfectly. The best news is that this combo is full of storage and actually takes up less space than a larger chart/easel stand :) Something to think about if you don't have the space like I do for one of those big guys!

There are several very cool things about DonorsChoose.org:
  • They really know how to work social media- there is a Facebook and Twitter option, as well as email links to get the news out about your project
  • Companies often run matching grants for donations- once, even Groupon had a deal where you spent $10 and received a $50 DonorsChoose.org credit! There is sometimes even a 1:1 donation out there from a larger company, so keep your eyes peeled for those match codes!
  • It is very low-impact for the teacher- I have written grants asking for less money that have taken up more time and energy than DC's process. DC.org does a great job of keeping things simple and easy to understand. They provide email updates about your thank-you package due dates and that is very helpful for forgetful me!
  • It doesn't take long to accrue points that can then allow you to ask for big ticket items. 
  • Their vendors sell EVERYTHING, so chances are, if it's out there, DC can fund it.
  • You can receive donations from anyone- I have received countless funds from people I don't even know and that is so amazing to think about. It really does make a huge impact on my kids and I to know that total strangers want us to have better materials and a better learning environment. Very cool!
As a teacher and new mom, it is becoming harder and harder to afford big classroom purchases, so I highly recommend taking a look over at DonorsChoose.org to see how they can help you and your kids!


**Don't forget to enter my Spring Break Giveaway HERE! The deadline is Tuesday, 4/3, so hurry on over for the chance to win some Starbucks :)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Story Starters- Anchor Chart & Printable

I wanted to share an anchor chart I have used to teach story starters. I love these little doodles- I sometimes find my boys trying to copy them in their notebooks, so I guess when I am squeezing in some instruction with cartoon doodles, we all win :)

Here is my (long!) chart- I end up having to put two together, but it's not too bad and you could use smaller handwriting:
They are inspired by one of my most favorite teachers online: Beth Newingham. Her site was what initially inspired me to rethink, reorganize, and redo so much of my classroom- if she ever reads this, Beth, you are ah-ma-zing!

She posted a top 10 list last year each month and her January list focused on Writer's Workshop. She has great posters she used, but I like making charts with my kids and using scented markers (my daily zen), so I took her ideas and created this chart.

When my students and I created this, we were thinking about the story of being late to school on the first day and all of the craziness that would ensue. It was the beginning of the year, so we had read First Day Jitters recently and the humor of the first day of school was fresh in our minds.

Here are the six story leads (written in dark blue on the chart, with our class brainstorm of a good lead in light blue below it):
  1. Dialogue (Talking)
  2. Sound Effect (Onomatopoeia)
  3. Ask a Question
  4. Action Leads
  5. Snapshot (Small Moment)
  6. Flashback
The little doodles match nearly perfectly with these- the "Snapshot" one may be a bit of a stretch, but we compare it to "Gather Ideas" on our Writing Process and ideas being stars that we choose and zoom in on during writing.

I then had my kiddos work on this worksheet to accompany the chart:
It was a nice way to link the anchor chart with our own work.

If you would like these doodles and the explanation sheet that accompanies them, head over to my TpT store and pick them up for free! You can also find the worksheet with this file as well :)

If you use them, I would love, love, love to hear how it went!!

Last link-up with Ladybug's Teacher Files Link Up for Grades 3-6!

PS- Like Starbucks? Head over HERE to enter my Giveaway for a $10 Gift Card! Woo hoo!

Daily 5 Series: Listen to Reading

  1. Read to Self
  2. Read with Someone
  3. Word Work
  4. Listen to Reading
  5. Read with a Teacher/Teacher Time
Listening to Reading was one of the more challenging choices for me to get underway. I actually worked with my Daily 4 of Read to Self, Read with Someone, Teacher Time, and Word Work for quite a while before I took the plunge into this center.

What held me back the most was a shortage of resources (or so I thought) and the management fears I had (What if a riot broke out because they couldn't all listen at the same time? lol!). Both proved to be unfounded, like most of my fears, but it did require quite a bit of tweaking to get it working just right.

I never considered it, but after reading The Daily 5, I began understanding the power of listening as a way to get better at reading. I also thought outside of struggling readers and began to contemplate the power that listening to reading would have on my grade level and above grade level kids.
Prior to starting Daily 5 this year, I did not have a Listening Center in my room. In fact, besides our class computers, there was no technology available to me to even throw together a Listening Center on the fly. Here are some things I went about doing to gather resources for Listen to Reading:
  • Our school's PTO was looking to fund some grade-level technology ideas, so I wrote a proposal to get some iPods into our classrooms (with LOTS of splitters!) 
    Audio splitters=cash-strapped teacher's best friends! {{love}}
  • Our school library has a subscription to TumbleBooks accessible from our classroom computers
  • Free read aloud websites (see below), mostly picture books, but for a 25 minute rotation, that works out nicely
Some free Listen to Reading websites we use are:
My biggest organizational challenge is making sure kids have the books (or written form somehow) of what they are listening to. This is easy when words are on the computer screen, but for iPod books, I have a separate book bin in our classroom library with our available LtR books. I searched through used book stores and thrift stores so that I was not pulling the books from our library- I wanted to have as much access to these texts as possible.

I remind students that LtR isn't just about listening, but about matching the words they hear to the text on the page (or screen). This has proved to be very beneficial for my higher-level readers who can now hear and read challenging vocabulary that they may have skipped over before.

Our Anchor Chart of Expectations:
I cannot even remember how many times we reviewed and practiced proper iPod procedures! I still reinforce that about as much as stamina because my little darlings can sometimes be very absent-minded and I do come across a stray iPod on the floor from time to time.... well, actually just twice all year, but still :) Clean-up is another big procedure we practice and we have a bit of a checklist going that was student-created after some frustrating choice times:
  • Make sure the iPod is off completely
  • If there is less than half battery left (good fractions practice!), tell the teacher so it can get charged before the next day
  • Wind the cords around the headphones neatly
  • Place all items back inside of the bag and the bag back in the bin (more on D5 centers in a later post)

We chose "Respect" as the character asset to work on for this choice because it tied in well with Rule #3- we have to not only respect the equipment, but because there are less iPods than children, we need to be respectful and let others share, decide what book to read in a fair way, etc.

I will say that I have been highly impressed with this center, more than any other, for building unlikely partnerships- I spoke about these forming in Read with Someone, but I am convinced that nothing brings kids together better than using technology!

I have a post coming up about DonorsChoose.org and if you are looking for a way to make Listen to Reading more feasible in your classroom, I highly recommend submitting a proposal for an iPod or two. Seeing how involved kids get with their book and the fun they have with the texts (especially Shel Silverstein- you MUST download Where the Sidewalk Ends and Light in the Attic!!) makes this center the easiest to manage once it gets off the ground.

Do you have any other free/inexpensive resources to add to make Listen to Reading happen in your classroom? Please add them below in the comments, I would love to build on this list!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Daily 5 Series: Read With Someone


  1. Read to Self
  2. Read with Someone
  3. Word Work
  4. Listen to Reading
  5. Read with a Teacher/Teacher Time
After we successfully build stamina in Read to Self and I feel we are on the right track, I introduce Read with Someone.

Read with Someone is a fabulous opportunity for students to partner up and read any book in our library, including some specifically designed for multiple voices. This choice focuses on building a child's fluency and accuracy, while also building classroom community, which to me is fundamental in a successful year :)

We begin this choice with an anchor chart:

This anchor chart starts to deviate from the Sister's anchor chart. I noticed that, as I was beginning to write Teacher expectations on the right side, all of these charts would look exactly the same, so that seemed silly. I therefore started to branch out-- which the Sisters encourage!-- and added the orange "Choices" section. I find students referring to this a lot, so next year, I will probably change the entire right side to reflect the choices available to students during Read with Someone time.

What can students read during this choice?
Students can read anything! That includes picture books, poetry, chapter books, nonfiction texts, class publications, reading group books.... anything!

I also purchased some wonderful partner reading texts this year, all from the "You Read to Me, I Read to You" series, and they have been a hit!

Here are some examples:


There are a wide assortment of choices in this line, including Fairy Tales, Short Stories, Fables, Tall Tales, Scary Tales, Mother Goose, and more!

Sometimes, students won't have a partner to read with, so I had to get creative this year and discovered that Toobaloos make fabulous partners!

I found these on Amazon as well, and the kids LOVE them! They have to whisper into them, otherwise it is too loud, so it helps with management as well. Sometimes partners forget to use "spy voices," but that never happens with anyone partnered with the Toobaloos :)


How did you introduce Read with Someone and Read to Self?
We had Read to Self up and running for a few days and were building our stamina. I then worked on the anchor chart and had two actors demonstrate negative and positive behaviors.

When we were ready to practice class-wide, I split the class in two. The first group would work on Read to Self while the other half partnered up and worked on Read with Someone. We only did this for a few minutes, then reflected on what we did well and what we could improve. Groups then switched so that everyone could practice both choices in one day. 

Again, this took a while to establish, so don't be afraid to take your time. It was important for everyone to practice both sessions in one day, since that would be what we are working towards, and also for them to recognize the importance of voice levels, book choice, partner choice, etc.

Do you choose partners for your students?
No, and I never have. I use the Clip Chart in my classroom, so if there were partnerships that were not working well, I would either have them clip down, or have EVERYONE around them (who were doing the right thing) clip up ;) I have found the latter to be a great strategy and it forces partners to start following our expectations.

I have separated partners who continue to be a distraction and that is why I am a fan of the Toobaloos- I will simply ask them to clip down and partner-up with a Toobaloo. The kids really do like them, so it's not a punishment, just a nice way to keep the class managed.

I also highly recommend introducing EEKK (elbow-to-elbow or knee-to-knee). We modeled and practiced a lot as a whole group.


Overall, I have found that friends who read together do a very nice job and that Read with Someone is a fantastic way to build classroom community and new friendships. I have seen unlikely partnerships find common ground in a favorite book and because students are picking their own partner, these relationships develop out of their own choices, which is the best thing I could ask for as their teacher.

Do you have any other helpful tips for Read with Someone? I'd love to hear them- feel free to leave a comment below!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Daily 5 Series: Read to Self


This next part of the Daily 5 Series will delve into some details around the five choices:
  1. Read to Self
  2. Read with Someone
  3. Word Work
  4. Listen to Reading
  5. Read with a Teacher/Teacher Time
Read to Self is something that is easy to implement since most kids have, at one time or another, sat quietly and read to themselves. I will not get into the amazing details that the Sisters do in their book (I can't type that much!). Instead, I will highlight what I consider to be the most important aspects of setting up and maintaining this choice.

Anchor Chart of Expectations
I had blogged about these charts a while back and will go into a bit more detail here. First, a picture of the chart:

I set this up with the students at the beginning of the year and we filled in each side together. The voice levels mentioned are discussed in detail in a previous post here, and I incorporated a voice level (or two) on each of these charts. These charts stay up all year long, so it is important to take adequate time at the beginning of the year to write them together and discuss each bullet point before it becomes part of the anchor chart.

I also incorporate a character asset to work on while working at that choice-- in Read to Self, it is "independence" that kids are working on, as well as increasing their stamina.

Building Stamina

The Sisters provide a wonderful system around how to build stamina and we used that same system in our class this year at the beginning, after long vacations, and/or whenever we may need a reminder.

We also conducted some role plays around students not showing and showing the appropriate behavior. This always provides a lot of giggles at first, but the importance of modeling the correct behavior cannot be underestimated.

My Daily 5 sessions are approximately 25 minutes in length, but we started the year in just 3 minute blocks as we built our stamina.

When we first practice, we all do Read to Self for several minutes, then reflect on what went well and what we could do differently, then practice again. Some of my more voracious readers hate these short reading times, but for those kids who are distractions, these short times are invaluable. We also start introducing "1 minute warning" during these early sessions, as well as the wind chimes to signal the end of the session.

What do kids read?

Our school is very fortunate to have extensive classroom libraries in each room, so my students are sued to browsing for books and choosing appropriate levels, most of the time. We also have Accelerated Reader at our school, so kids are invited to read any books that are "Just Right" that will help them move closer to their AR Goal. I have books in my library organized by genre and individually labeled by Guided Reading Level, so I oftentimes will guide students to appropriate levels at the beginning of the year and touch base with them throughout the year if I see them in a book that is too challenging/easy. I have found, however, that with AR, kids are much more motivated to choose appropriate books so they can do well on the comprehension quizzes and hit their goal by the end of the trimester.

Where can kids read? How does the room feel?

As you can see from my series launch video, kids are everywhere! I love it-- when kids are at their desks it always seems too serious and structured. I want Daily 5 time to be structured, but feel free.... does that make sense? I hope that there is a system and a structure in place so that students know the expectations, but that within that system there is freedom to be yourself and get comfortable when you do your work.
I always have the blinds open (and windows open, if the weather is nice enough), lights halfway off (so natural light is the predominant lighting source), soft guitar music playing (John Danley is a great Pandora station, fyi), and I am very open if kids want to lie down, spread out, sit up, stand up, however they are comfortable doing their work.

Read to Self always ends up being my students' favorite choice and setting it up well can ensure that all students are successful during this time and your room is conducive to learning and working.

Do you have any Read to Self tips and techniques that have helped your classroom? Please share in the comments below!