Table Supplies & A 'Sharp' Giveaway!

Since switching to tables from desks, I have had to deal with the lack of quick-access kids used to have to pencils, erasers, sticky notes and the like. Granted, oftentimes these items were buried in their desk, so I use the term "quick" loosely ;)

I wanted to share with you what lives on top of our tables and how we manage these supplies communally:

The eraser label is a part of my School Supply Label Set on TpT.
Inside each bin are 2 pencils and one eraser per student and a pad of sticky notes.

I have two supply helpers as a class job and they help me throughout the week ensure that the pencil and eraser supplies are up to snuff. I also have all the kids help before I dismiss them for recess- clean table bin= dismissed first to go outside. It's amazing how quickly that gets the cups, pencils and sticky notes back in order :)

The teal bins are from Hobby Lobby- they had a whole teal bin extravaganza over the summer and I cleared them out. I will have to show you my table supplies for markers, color pencils and glue soon- that's when it really becomes obvious! I bought the tealish-clear cups from the Dollar Store (8 for $1!) and they are cheap, but easy to replace if they crack. I used my friend Kristen's idea for glass pebbles in the bottom of the cup so that it won't tip over when empty. She's a super-genius :)

Here's another thing that's different when it comes to table supplies: I don't have a pencil sharpener available to students. BIG adjustment this year, but hearing that awful thing in the middle of a minilesson was so deflating, so it's been worth it.

Instead, I have been using the Sharp & Dull Pencil Buckets and those have rocked!
You can get this FREE download in my TpT Store
This system does leave me as the primary pencil sharpener, which I actually don't mind.

Why, you ask?

Well, because even though I don't have a pencil sharpener available to students, what I do have rocks my socks! It's appropriately labeled "The Quietest Pencil Sharpener" and it makes me more than willing to be the Sharpener Queen :)

Not only is this little guy quiet, it also sharpens pencils of any quality (cheap dollar store all the way up to the amazing Ticonderoga). This has been wonderful because I love offering pencils as prizes, but those awful plastic-coated ones from Target's dollar section would always jam my electric sharpeners :(

It's also super-fast, no matter what the quality, and best of all, the point is incredibly sharp!! Now, my kids can use a pencil for much longer than their dull electrically-sharpened counterpart (this also doesn't eat the pencils to death like my old electric one).

Here's proof:

See?! Holy smokes!

This sharpener has turned pencil sharpening into my zen time :) It's super-simple to use and there's even a helpful video on the website to help you out, since it is a bit funkier than the traditional sharpener. Once you get the hang of it, though, it goes very smoothly!


Listen to Reading Tip: Headphone Cord Management

Quick TpT Update- I have updated my Hamburger Paragraph Plan as well as my Writing Process Mini-Posters- If you have purchased these, head over to TpT, click on "My Purchases" and you can redownload them for free! To read about the updates, click on the product link above :) Thanks!

In our Listen to Reading Daily 5 Center, we have several iPods that I received through a grant. They are super-helpful and loads of fun, but OHMAGOODNESS, the headphones were the bane of my existence!

I don't have a "before" picture, but I can easily say that hours were spent over the course of several weeks trying to constantly untangle the seemingly endless cord that come on these headphones.

I do really like these headphones, I promise. For one, they are inexpensive, so I don't feel bad if my kids accidentally break them (accidents happen). They also are pretty clean, especially compared to the ear buds- the idea of my 27 kids sharing things that go inside the ear just didn't seem ok. They are soft and adjustable, so really, they fit the bill well.

Ok, back to my rant... no joke, these headphone cords are so long, which may be fine for me, an adult who is way way taller than a 3rd grader. But for my thirdsters, these were a mess. They were always in a knot, no matter how neatly they stored them. They would always get twisted and end up in a huge black gob. Then, they would bring them to me and I would use my planning time trying to undo them.

Well, that had to change ASAP!!

A genius parent helper and I put our heads together one afternoon (as I was getting ready to throw them all in the trash) and came up with idea of zipties.... aha!

This has been a lifesaver! To do this, simply wind the cord around your palm nice and neatly, from the plug all the way to where the cords split to go to each ear- if they are like mine, that still leaves plenty of room for the kids. Then, zip the cords down in three places as tight as you possibly can! Then, pull tighter :) Trim the excess ziptie and enjoy!

 Now, I can easily store each pair of headphones in their own ziploc baggie and never, ever, ever have to deal with huge cord knots again!

Aaaaah, I am in Teacher Heaven!
Do you have other creative ideas for storing headphones in your class? Share below- I'd love to hear about them!


{Oz Love}: "Over the Rainbow" Character Study

In my top five movies at any given time in my life is always Wizard of Oz. Sigh.... I just love it! Such a positive message, so many wonderful characters, and of course, I love subjecting my family to my beautiful singing voice for except the "King of the Forrest" one, but I digress.... :)

Whenever I see Wizard of Oz clipart, I purchase it, if for no other reason than it makes me happy. Just looking at it and singing songs ;)

Good news- I have incorporated it into my newest unit! I wanted some quick reference posters to use for character study. My kids this year are pretty good with fiction comprehension, but the new Common Core State Standards specifically mention characters in a few of their parts, and I wanted to take my kids deeper than just test-self connections. Here are the third grade standards this packet addresses:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.3 Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.6 Distinguish their own point of view from that of the narrator or those of the characters.

And, honestly  what story has better characters than the Wizard of Oz? So, my "Over the Rainbow" Character Study was born :) Somewheeeere....
This handy-dandy packet will help you introduce and name not only types of characters, but will be a helpful reminder when it comes to thinking about traits, feelings & motivations.

There are nine posters total relating to the character study and include some complex character vocab (like protagonist and antagonist) along with kid-friendly terms (main character and opponent) and a question that will help students define each term (ex: Who is the story mostly about?).

The best part? The lovely characters from the movie are on each of the posters to help kids along.
There are three posters with definitions and examples of character traits, motivation, and feelings. I used the movie as an example for these as well.
Last, to help incorporate some of these terms and ideas in classwork, I have included two forms that I really like using when it comes to teaching characters in a story.
The first one is a character map that includes a character study during a certain event in the text and thinking about his/her feelings, motivation, and traits.

In the past, I have used this throughout a text to track how the character changes from beginning to middle to end. I have also waited until the climax of the book and had kids use the main event/turning point to fill this out.

I always start using them in small reading groups during our Daily 5 Teacher Time, but by the middle-ish of the year, kids are independent enough to complete this on their own using their individual Read to Self books.

The second worksheet is what I call the "triangle sheet"-- kids will be asked to think about an event (that they sketch and describe in the center) from the protagonist's & antagonist's perspective. They will then think about how they would have acted and if they agree or disagree with how the protagonist/antagonist dealt with the event. I LOVE this sheet because I think we are quick to always side with the main character and not think about the villain-- don't even get me started on how my world was rocked when I read Wicked! Anyways, this gets them thinking about both characters and relating to both on some level.

Those of you with an Oz-themed classroom, can I come and visit? I hope this unit can sprinkle in some of the magic from the movie (no matter what your theme) and make you happy teaching characters! Pick them up today in my TpT Store :)

I'll leave you with this funny:


Scholastic News, Nonfiction Text Features & Star Retells.. oh my!

Happy Thanksgiving Week, friends!

We are off this whole week and it's going to be wonderful to get caught up- it's amazing how I forget every year how crazy the first few months of school are. Now that the first trimester is over, it is so nice to be in a routine and to really start to delve into the good stuff :)

Now that I've caught my breath a bit, I wanted to let you know a bit about how I teach nonfiction through current events in our class.

First, our class has a weekly subscription to Scholastic News. These are simple magazines (just a cover, two inside pages with articles, and a back page with questions) that cover main events, fun facts, and oftentimes kid reporters, all on a grade-appropriate reading level. Note: Scholastic doesn't know who I am, I'm just sharing my personal opinion :)

One of the features I have been using all of the time this year is their interactive website, found HERE (not sure if you have to be a member to access it, but it's worth exploring nonetheless). This has made Current Events so.much.FUN! There is the full version of the magazine that I project full-screen onto our white board and they also include short 2-4 minute videos for a couple of the articles that week. These have been the highlight, naturally :) It's also very fun for me, too!

We have been using my Nonfiction Text Features packet with Scholastic News this year and it's been so easy -peasy! Last Friday, we worked on finding certain nonfiction text features in the election results issue. I used different color sticky notes for each of the features and that was super-helpful when it came to guided practice.

Here's what my version looked like:

And here's a pic of my cuties working on their copies:

The final version:

There was a map on the back we labeled and we used the nonfiction feature posters to help us. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know I am obsessed (to put it mildly) with adjusting the print size of PDFs :) These posters were no exception.

I have regular-sized posters for our classroom, but for each table group in my class, I printed off the posters in 1/2 size (using this tutorial HERE and choosing 2 pages per sheet on Landscape Orientation). Luckily, my printer at home prints on front & back, so that saved me even more room and laminating time. I assembled these like I did with my Bloom's Taxonomy cards using a binder ring. This allowed kids quick access if they forgot what a feature was ("caption" still seems to cause us problems).

We then worked on Scholastic's 10-question "No Sweat Test Prep" multiple choice test  (included with the subscription) and began working on our Star Retells. This is a new way for us to approach writing about our reading, especially in nonfiction. I really wanted kids to be more careful readers when it came to nonfiction. My group this year has awesome fiction comprehension, but when it gets to the nitty-gritty of nonfiction, I lose them :(

Enter our Star Retell packet (which I forgot to take pics of- I guess I was already on "break mode," sorry!)

I had the kids practice looking for and underlining the 5 W's in the main article of that week's edition. They then plugged the information into the planning organizer:

We haven't delved into making complete paragraphs yet, but this was a great start. The nicest part about Scholastic News is that it gives us a chance each week to keep on practicing.

If you're interested in picking up either of these units, they are much more extensive than I have even talked about here (the Nonfiction Text Feature Packet has a scavenger hunt that I'll be blogging about when we get back from break- it's a hoot!) and are listed in my TpT Store- make sure to download the previews for a freebie on the Nonfiction Text Feature Unit, too :) Click on the pictures below to be taken to the specific item:

If you're interested in my Nonfiction Text Features Packets, they can be found on TpT:
I hope that was a helpful peek into my weekly current events lessons. Do you use these classroom magazines or newspapers to teach current events? I'd love to hear about it- leave me a comment below :)


Hamburger Paragraph Planning

One of the joys of teaching third grade is getting the kids ready for standardized testing (insert a hefty amount of sarcasm here!) ;)

We started delving into paragraphs the other day and I was super-inspired to spruce up something I've been using for years: The Hamburger Paragraph Plan!

I have always compared paragraphs to hamburgers in the past, but this year really went to town in making lots of graphic organizers (hamburger-shaped) to help kids streamline their thinking. I am blessed with a lot of lovely, creative writers, but on the whole, we really need to work on focusing our thinking :)

The structure of the Hamburger Paragraph Plan is:
  • top bun= introduction
  • three layers (mine are lettuce, burger and cheese)= three strong supports
  • bottom bun= conclusion
The prompt we started with actually came from our Morning Meeting Question that day: What is your favorite junk food? This was a great way to start, since they had already thought about it and shared it aloud with the class during Greetings and Question. For more Morning Meeting info, click HERE.

We began by working on the Hamburger Plan- one side was blank with labels and the other side had labels and lines for sentences. We started on the blank side with labels and planned it like so:

Sorry it's a bit small, but the basic idea is that their answer to the question is on the top bun and their three supports are boxed in each of the middle layers. I then had the kids add three bullet points of added descriptions using sensory images, similes, and comparisons to really make the support come alive for the reader.

I modeled along the whole time with my own piece about cheesecake.... which was a bad idea, since that's all I have been thinking about since! I should've chosen carrots ;)

We then flipped to the back to start working on changing their ideas into complete sentences. We talked about very simple introduction and conclusion sentences:

They had two choices for the introduction sentence (in green) and they only had one choice for their conclusion sentence (in red). I am never, ever this prescriptive, but like I said, this particular group needs focused writing, so until we do the Story Starter Lesson (after Thanksgiving), I am the Intro & Conclusion Police :)  It also freed up their brains to focus on their supports, which was important for this first go-around.

I didn't worry about spelling, just complete sentences and making sure we didn't have "broken record" writing- I had to explain records... I never feel old until I have to start explaining these things more and more each year!

When they had their intro and conclusion buns written and their burger layers into descriptive sentences (1-2 per layer), then publishing was the easiest thing in the world! Typically, I have them write in their Writer's Notebook, but for this example, we used the simple publishing page and it was perfect! We thought of creative titles, added our name underneath, talked about indenting, and then just copied the sentences from our hamburger plan over to the published page.... voila!

Isn't this just lovely? The format is all there and she includes some great description on her own in complete sentences with a simple introduction and conclusion- the basics are down and now we can get into the work of making these more complex. If you're like me, having a solid base makes it so much easier to then teach the complexities, especially with paragraphing.

I was particularly excited to see that even my stugglers had the concept down- granted, they weren't using similes and advanced vocabulary yet, but they had an intro, three supporting sentences, and a conclusion- can't ask for more than that after the intro lesson!

We will continue to work on these for the next few weeks and I had them glue a "notebook helper" in their Writer's Notebooks so they can refer back to it later in the year when the tests get closer, when they need to write a paragraph as a written response to text, or whenever they need their memory jogged.

This activity also aligns to the following 3rd Grade Common Core State Writing Standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.1 Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.1a Introduce the topic or text they are writing about, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure that lists reasons.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.1b Provide reasons that support the opinion.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.1d Provide a concluding statement or section.

If you're interested in this packet, I have it listed in my TpT Store. Included are all of the above-mentioned forms along with anchor charts, rubrics for student and teacher, and all instructions:
I hope this is a help to you and your students and that they become better writers through planning! Have a wonderful weekend :)


Tweaking Transitions & Word of the Day

Last tweak of the week in this post :) I am just loving and adoring using Word of the Day this year! My kids this year are much more gung-ho about these words and it seems like they are always on the hunt for new words to add to our class bin. I use Word of the Day business cards first mentioned HERE that kids put into a bucket and I can choose from, especially when my brain is empty :) Another great resource is the iPad/iPhone App mentioned HERE.

This year, I'm tweaking it a bit and here's how:
As you can see, our display only looks a bit different- I write the word in red and underneath, in black, I write the definition or synonyms to help kids throughout the day. I will also draw a picture and include the word in a sentence from time to time as well. We are also trying to incorporate gestures (in true Whole Brain Teaching style) when we can.

Another tweak I have made came about from realizing that I was the one getting all of the practice with saying the words, but not the kids (not a good thing!). Therefore, when I say the Word of the Day to start our transition, they have to repeat it back to me as a class and do the gesture that matches the word. For a fun switch, I use the "Class-Yes" concept and however I say the word is how they have to repeat it (whisper, loud, slow, crescendo, etc.). This has been such a simple tweak but it's had a great impact!! They also have to gesture when they repeat and that's really helped some of my strugglers that may not retain the definition otherwise. Plus, it keeps wandering hands busy with gesturing instead of starting the transition early ;)

I have noticed kids are using these words a lot more since these simple changes. Some of my advanced kids started adding Word of the Days to their independent spelling lists and the best part is that all kids hear and act out these words throughout the day- yay!

I hope these adjustments can help you out if you are using Word of the Day in your class!


Tweaking Daily 5 Bookmarks

I have received a few questions about my Daily 5 Choice Bookmarks, first mentioned HERE.

I love these things- they help keep me organized (win!) and keep the kids moving through all of their Daily 5 choices (double win!).

Want to make these yourself?
  • Find the adorable graphics from Kindertastic HERE.
  • Find a tutorial for how to print PDF "bookmarks" HERE.
  • Find the bucket label HERE.

I did run into some problems this year that I didn't have last year, so I had to think quick and adjust these a bit.

First, I have less D5 time this year and second, my kids took much longer to get into the "flow" than my kids from last year- it was a lot for them at the beginning of the year to learn both the responsibilities of each choice as well as transition quickly between them- it was a logistical mess some days!

Also, this year I have a wider span of reading levels in my class, so I wanted to make sure that kids were reading with similar leveled kids so they were maximizing their "just right" reading level time and working on fluency with partners that were a good fit.

Enter rainbow bookmarks!

These colorful lovelies have been lifesavers this first trimester! We won't be using them the whole year- in fact, I am planning on going back to the black bookmarks after Thanksgiving- but they have worked wonders for setting us up successfully.

I gave each reading group their own color and they have been going through the rotations together and have also been coming to Teacher Time together. This has helped my kids build their D5 stamina with kids at their same reading levels which has been a huge success with getting Read With Someone and Listen to Reading off the ground. They keep these bookmarks with them from week to week (the bucket is in my closet for now) and have really built up their independence with transitioning and being responsible during D5 time (whew!).

*Note: Please know that I am not advocating for always keeping kids in a certain color group, nor do I address them as the green/red/etc. group. This is only used as a management tool to keep the flow going since time is limited :) In fact, I often collect the bookmarks and switch up who is blue or green or red, so there is not any assumptions that red is the "highest" bookmark or anything like that.

I definitely plan on keeping these handy, especially after our long Winter Break (do your kids tend to forget everything during that time, too?!) when we need to re-introduce D5 and build up our class-wide stamina again.

I hope this idea helps and that putting the tutorials all in one place can make these bookmarks a bit easier for you :)


I {Heart} Miss Rumphius

One of my most favorite picture books is Miss Rumphius and I wanted to share a little activity we did a few weeks back that is now hanging in our hallways and makes me happy :)

First, the book Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney is simply wonderful- it has such a positive message about giving back and doing things that leave the world a more beautiful place. It goes very well with our Bucket Filling focus, which is always a plus.

I have the book in our class, but in case you don't, there is a wonderful YouTube video that tells the whole story with even a few animations of the illustrations. I showed the video this year and my kids loved it:

After we finished the video, we had a discussion all about how Miss Rumphius was committed to making the world more beautiful and ways we could do the same. I created this simple worksheet for us to complete:

Click the image above to get your copy for free!

Why are there two random lines on either side? Glad you asked- we make fingerprint lupines on them!

I used washable stamp ink in blue, red, and green and kids used their fingers to make the beautiful lupines that Miss Rumphius had planted. I pulled up pictures on Google Images so kids could see what they looked like and they also used the illustrations from the book as inspiration.

The finished product looks so lovely:

I hope you can use this idea in your class and definitely be sure to check out this book to share with your kiddos! If you are interested in picking up the worksheet, I have it for FREE on Google Docs HERE.

Happy Friday!


Using the Desk/Cubby/Bin Fairy to Keep Tidy & Organized

Since switching from desks to tables, I have been LOVING how much more organized my room is staying!

My students this year have bins from Really Good Stuff where they keep folders and notebooks. I have been very happy with how sturdy these bins are and I know I will be able to use them for many, many years (which is good, because they weren't cheap!).

What I have noticed over the past few weeks was that these bins were getting uncontrollably messy! I was worried that they wouldn't be able to hold all of their supplies, but, believe me, they can hold a LOT! I think I pulled 2 clipboards and 7 handfuls of pencils from one kiddo's alone... my little hoarder :)

I love this show!
So, I knew it was time to intro my favorite little friend, the Bin Fairy (she got a rename this year from Desk Fairy)! We talked as a class about why it's important to stay organized and how we were so lucky to have a helper in our class (The Bin Fairy) who comes by now and again to check to see if we're clean and tidy and organized. Best of all, if we are, she will leave us a note and we'll get to choose from the Dum Dum Tree!!

That last part definitely got their attention :) We brainstormed some ways that we could keep our bins tidy and make a chart of their ideas- some of my super-organized kids talked about organizing by size and color and although their suggestions made me so happy-happy, I didn't add them because I didn't want to overwhelm my little darlings who have yet to put a single thing in their folders..... baby steps :)

I received the most helpful feedback the other day on my Desk/Bin/Cubby Fairy Packet that said she had laminated the cards and that way she can reuse them over and over.... GENIUS! So, that's exactly what I set out to do- I printed out my bin cards smaller using my tech tip HERE and printed them 4 of them (2x2 on Landscape) onto one sheet. I then laminated them and they look awesome! See?

Now, I have a great system in place- after school, about once every week or two, I will inspect their bins and leave them a laminated note in the front of their bin. When they come in the next morning, they get the card, there's lots of happiness (and bin-cleaning for those kids who didn't get one- they just sort of do it without me asking, it's great!), and then during snack they can trade the note for a Dum Dum (or a sticker if they'd prefer).

Here's a note I left in the front of a girl's bin this afternoon:

Isn't it nice how it fits in the back of their nameplates? What luck!

If you're interested in these cards, they are available in my TpT Store in three versions (desk, bin & cubby) and each version has four different characters, so it's fun variety. They come as full-page graphics, but remember to use my tutorial HERE to shrink them down to half-page or quarter-page, like I did. It's a great way to save on ink and paper, but still keep the cuteness, which is tres importante!

I'm going to be sharing a few more tweaks to my systems that I have made this year during the upcoming week- one has to stay flexible in this profession, right?! :)

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