Saturday, June 30, 2012

Drumroll.... D5, CAFE & WBT Freebies!

Well, my Daily 5 and Whole Brain Teaching products took a little hiatus while the whole copyright issue was worked out.

I am happy to announce that they are back! Best part? They are now FREE! Woo hoo!!!

The following sets are now listed for free in my TpT Store. Pick them up today and enjoy :)


Disclaimer: The Daily 5 & CAFE resources are unofficial adaptations of the Daily 5 by Gail Boushey & Joan Moser. This freebie is not endorsed by the 2 Sisters.

The Whole Brain Teaching posters are my unofficial adaptations of information found on

Visit both of these sites IMMEDIATELY, they are awesome :) 

Happy weekend :)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Daily 5 & CAFE Book Study- Are You Ready? (and a Freebie!)

I hope that all of you upper elementary teachers are getting excited for We Read, We Blog, We Teach's inaugural book study on The Daily 5 and CAFE books by the Sisters, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser!

We Read, We Blog, We Teach

The book study begins July 1and you're all invited!

Find more information by clicking the button above or read my original post HERE.

In preparation for the book study, I have made a helpful notes page that you're more than welcome to use!
Fonts from Kevin & Amanda, Clip Art from Scrappin Doodles

This is available for free in my TpT Store or from Google Docs and can hopefully catch all of your thinking and ideas relating to this and any other book study you are participating in this summer and/or school year!

Freebie Fridays

Can't wait and see you soon!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Music During Work Time in Your Classroom

Do you use music in your classroom?

I do and I couldn't imagine it any other way :)

Every year I seem to appreciate having it more and more. Especially this past year, with my boy-heavy group, I really enjoyed the tranquility and focus it gave us during our reading, writing, and other quiet work times.

Many of you may have heard of the Mozart Effect (read about it HERE)- its basic premise is that listening to Mozart for as little as 10 minutes improves certain parts of a student's IQ.

If you Google "Music in the Classroom" you will find numerous websites, articles, and books all about the benefits of background music and its impact on learning, environment, and classroom management.

One article worth reading is The Benefits of Incorporating Music in the Classroom by Audrey Merrell. She points out the highlights of several research studies that support the role of music in learning. A few key points are:
  • Music is a set of patterns and and processes that benefits the brain and the act of learning
  • Music increases attention and lowers behavior problems
  • Music lowers stress and anxiety levels within students
  • The type of music played directly relates to the mood you can create- calming music=calm class, stimulating music=raises energy
This might be a nice article to show to your administration since Ms. Merrell quotes quite a few books and articles throughout her paper.

Ok, so onto how I use music in my class!

In the Classroom:

Have you ever used Pandora? I am in love with it!

It is a free music program that is web-based and allows you to create your own radio stations based on a song or artist.

It's free, but with commercials. I spent the $36 for a one-year subscription that allows me to listen commercial-free- this has paid for itself 10 times over and makes using Pandora in the classroom possible.

You can create up to 100 stations and believe me, they have nearly every artist and song imaginable in their database!

Best news: If you hear a song you love, you give it a thumbs-up and it will direct more music of that style to your station. If you hear a song you don't like, give it a thumbs-down and you won't hear it again :)
I name my classroom quiet work time music "Classroom Guitar Music". On this station you will find acoustic, classical guitar artists with no lyrics. It's all very steady and lovely- the music is complex, but not distracting.

The artists I love include:
  • Don Ross
  • Andy McKee
  • John Danley
  • Tommy Emmanuel
  • Leo Kotke
  • and many, many more!

What's great is that when you create a station, you can "Add Variety" and add additional artists to the station to make it more diverse and finer-tuned to your needs.

We use this music during Independent Writing Time and during DEAR (Silent Reading). I have also used it during Daily 5, social studies and research time. It fills the room quietly and really does help my students stay focused.  I have even reminded students that their voices need to stay quiet enough so they can still hear the music if they are whisper-reading or conferencing.

Helpful Hints:
- If you are interested in using Pandora, START NOW! It takes a while, in my opinion, to make a station "your own" and ensure no wild cards are in there ;) This would be a fun summer project!

- Pandora requires consistent internet access- your district may block it (boo!), so you may want to find some fun artists you enjoy and get their music on iTunes and make your own playlist

- My laptop is my best friend during the school year, but the speakers are not great- it sounds so tinny and doesn't project the sound across the classroom. I purchased these speakers which are perfect and simply plug into the USB port, no extra power cord needed!
click to see them on Amazon
- I have highlighted classical guitarists- you may want to use Mozart or other genres (Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar is AWESOME!)- play around and make a station that you wouldn't mind hearing a lot- you need to love it and it needs to soothe and relax you, so then it can benefit your students :)

- Try finding other fun music that fits with your content areas and/or the time of year! We listened to some instrumental Celtic music during St. Patrick's Day, Bluegrass Instrumental and Native American Flute during our unit on Pioneers & Native Americans, and Holiday Instrumental during the wintertime. The key for me is to remove the vocals so kids are not distracted by the words and a sing-along doesn't break out in the middle of Workshop time. You can choose to include vocals in your selections, it's up to you and what works for your group!

- Stuck trying to find artists that fit your style? Ask your music teacher in your school or in blogland!

Do you use Pandora, iTunes, or any other music in your class? How does it go? I would love to hear about your experiences :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Word Work: Place Value Words

I am looking to add to my Word Work Center this summer while I have time to actually think and plan :)

The important aspects I wanted to include were: ease of use, practicality, and the ability to self-differentiate (so kiddos who are spelling "also" and "admission" can both use it without any complex adjustments).

I have received great feedback on my current activities, including Scrabble Tile Spelling and How Much is Your Word Worth? In fact, I have exciting news in the next week or so about them :)

What I loved about both was the incorporation of mental math and money math- something we always need to practice!

Well, on that note, I created another activity that checks all of the boxes and will be especially helpful at the beginning of the year: Place Value Spelling!
This is a similar concept to Word Worth, which will be great because easy-to-follow directions are important when building independence and ensuring kids have enough time to do the work.

Each letter is worth a place value block- either a one, ten, or hundred. Students will need to figure out the value of their word and can use the place value blocks to help- in fact, I would strongly encourage it!

For example: DOESN'T= 10+10+1+10+100+1+100= 232

At the end, there are questions that extend the lesson- ordering from least to greatest, naming the word that is the least and the greatest, and asking if any words had the same value. This is a nice way to squeeze in some math practice during literacy time!

I am going to print these out in color on cardstock and laminate them (just like the others) so they can get reused over and over again.

I have also bundled all three Word Work activities (Scrabble Tiles, Word Worth & Place Value) into a trio set in my TpT Store as well.

Both the Place Value Words & the Word Work Trio Set are on sale in my store for the next few days :) Enjoy!

Friday, June 22, 2012

North is Up? Chevron Directional Signs to the Rescue!

How many times do you ask your class which was is North and a little kiddo points to the ceiling?

No, North is not up to the sky :)
One piece of classroom decor that is always around are the directional signs: North, South, East & West. I place these on each of the corresponding walls and use them throughout the year.

Included in the packet are the cardinal and ordinal directions:

The other great uses for directional signs?
  • Back to School Room Scavenger Hunt- Where is the attendance sheet? On the West wall!
  • Voting- If you agree, go to the South wall. If you disagree, go to the North wall
  • Multiple Choice- each wall is an answer- GREAT way to check for understanding and get kids moving
  • Splitting up into groups or meeting areas
  • and more!
These match all of my chevron products, including the oh-so-cute Welcome Flag Banner with the lovely chevron background in red, blue, green, teal, orange, gray and purple. Plus, there is a blank background if you would rather print on colored cardstock.

Would you like these directional signs? They are listed now in my TpT Store :) Want them for free? Comment below with your email address and the first two people will get them delivered straight to their inbox!

Last Chance! Have you voted for the 2012 Really Good Education Blog Awards? 3rd Grade Thoughts is nominated in the Elementary (1-3) Category! Today is the last day to vote :)

Hope you are all enjoying your summer!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Whole Brain Teaching: Reciting the Rules on Friday

Every morning, at the start of our Morning Meeting, we recite our five classroom rules.

The rules I use are similar to Whole Brain Teaching's, but with a twist. I use the set from The Polka Dot Patch. You can read all of the specifics on the rules and gestures HERE.

Something fun that we do every Friday is reciting the rules in a different voice. It helps keep up the interest and engagement, plus, we all need a laugh Friday morning :)

I have seen different fluency practice ideas a lot on Pinterest and I think these would be a wonderful resource for rule-reciting. Sometimes the Meeting Leader has an idea themselves- one girl decided to recite the rules as if we all had a mouth full of food!- but other times, the student may need some inspiration.

Here is a pin I loved:

All I am doing is printing these on cardstock, laminating them, and putting a binder ring though a hole in the top corner. I will keep these near our Morning Meeting Bucket and talking ball for our Meeting Leader to use if he/she needs them.

Do you have these fluency cards in your class? Try incorporating them into your rule recitation- it's a great way to wrap up the week!

PS- Have you voted for the 2012 Really Good Education Blog Awards? 3rd Grade Thoughts is nominated in the Elementary (1-3) Category! Voting is this week only :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Biggest Surprise Evvvvvvver & Monday Made-It!

Ohmagoodness, I am so excited to share with you the email I received yesterday!

Really Good Stuff (aka the company that gets most of my paycheck besides TpT during the school year!) sent me an email letting me know that my blog is a finalist in the 2012 Really Good Education Blog Awards in the Elementary 1-3 Category.

Whaaaat? I was stunned!! {peeling myself up off the floor}

Then, I looked to see who else is nominated in that category and the other categories and I became even more floored! My blogging heroes (and heroines)! Those who inspire me daily in and out of the classroom!


I am just so happy and humbled and truly, truly, truly blown away.....

Voting started this morning and ends on Friday, June 22nd, so head over to cast your vote HERE.

There are SO MANY familiar (blog) faces on there and each name links to its blog, so this is a great way to check out some other amazing and wonderful resources! The winner will be announced next Wednesday, June 27th.

Now, onto Monday Made-It and my new favorite shelf in my room:

I have always had this awkward space below my white board in my meeting area. The problems are the outlet boxes- they are bulky, ugly, and make it difficult for kids to sit up against the wall. I have covered them with outlet covers to keep the kids safe, but they continue to be annoying :(

In the past, I have also struggled with adequate storage- there are shelves in the room, but I have been wanting to keep white boards and clipboards close to the space where we use them most- the main carpet. When they were in the back of the class, the transition time to grab either would take a while.

When I saw this WONDERFUL idea on Pinterest I knew it would be the perfect solution!

I will admit, Jennifer's, from Grade 2 Happenings, is way cuter than mine :)

This project is awesome because it took about 5 minutes and involved shopping at Target!

Because I wanted a shelf, and not a bench, I purchased my shelf from Lowe's and made sure one side was beveled (curved), so if a student were to sit up against it, or a teacher bump her leg against it (all the time!), it would not be too painful ;)

I spray painted it with several coats and also had the employee at Lowe's cut it down to size- for 4 crates and the space I need to cover, I had them cut it to 2 yards, which is a nice length and about 3" overhang on the right and left.

I already had the milk crates- you can get some HERE if you'd like- and they were looking for a nice home, so this was a perfect (and cheap) solution!

I went to Target and got the Closetmaid fabric drawers for about $7 a piece- I chose navy, but there are TONS of colors, and you can also mix-and-match.

Last, I grabbed some zip ties from our garage and some strong scissors (zip ties are impossible to cut!).

Easiest assembly ever:
  • Place the 4 crates together, long ways (the bins fit short ways, too!) and secure with zip ties- I used three per connection
  • Place the shelf on top- I did not secure it with anything more than a few drops of hot glue- it is against a wall and too heavy to move or cause any danger
  • Unfold the bins, fill with all sorts of goodies, and place them in the crates
  • That's it! Be sure to see Grade 2 Happenings for how she made a bench

Enjoy the simplicity and immediate gratification of this project- these bins have been a lifesaver at home in our one year-old's room since they look great and hide all of the messes. Why I never thought of them doing the same job at school is beyond me, but this project is the perfect use for them!

I am currently storing some building supplies for Choice Time (Legos, K'nex, and Zoobs) as well as some noise blockers for kids who prefer more quiet work time inside of them (you can see them peeking out from the tops from this angle, but not from the front, which is nice).

Enjoy and let me know if you make one- I would love to see all of the possibilities!

PS- My set of Brain Breaks are also on Summer Sale :) It was #25 last week on TpT's Best Sellers- another huge surprise!

Thank you again and have a very happy Monday!