Sunday, August 28, 2016

From Boring to Brilliant: Adding Strong Emotions in Narrative Writing

Hello darlings!  We've been back to school for about two weeks now and we are digging into our Lucy Calkins Narrative Writing Unit for 3rd grade.  One of the things my third graders struggle with is writing with strong emotions.  They always want to say, "I was scared!" "I was happy."  "It was fun." blah, blah, blah.

I tell them that they learned how to write stories in k-2nd grade and in 3rd grade they are learning how to make those stories come alive for their readers.  No one wants to be TOLD how someone feels, they want to FEEL it themselves.  That's when writing comes to life; when the reader can make a connection with the story.

In reading we call this "walking in the character's shoes" or empathy, but how do we create that as writers?  One way I have my students do that is to think about emotions and then ask themselves the following questions.

When you feel (insert emotion here)....
1. What happens to your face?
2. What happens to your heartbeat?
3. What happens to the rest of your body?

When you see someone who feels (insert emotion here)...
1. What happens to his/her face?
2. What happens to his/her voice?
3. What do you notice the person doing?

I put the following sentence on the board (PowerPoint slide).  "I was so scared!"  I then had students copy this sentence down in their Writer's Notebooks.  I gave them about two minutes to answer the questions from above.  They created a bulleted list of ideas.

Next, I had students walk around to each person's desk and read what others wrote down.  I had them grab a sticky note and pick the one sentence or phrase that stuck out to them that they might want to try in their own writing.  They copied that onto the sticky note. (remind kiddos not to touch the sticky part of the sticky note because the oils in their hands will take the adhesive away)

After each student has a sticky note, I froze the projector and each student came up one at a time and read their new idea and stuck it on the smartboard. This was cool for two reasons.  One, students were able to hear other ideas for a second time and students got to listen to see if someone chose their idea.  

We took the sticky notes off the projector and stuck them in our notebooks for inspiration.  We repeated this entire process for "I was so happy." Now that students knew the process, it was a lot faster and they came up with better ideas because they knew their classmates would be reading their ideas and selecting their favorites.

Once we finished sharing the ideas for "happy", I had students return to their desks and find a place in their writing that they used an emotion.  (With Workshop style writing, students have many different flash drafts with different narrative stories)  They chose a place that they named the emotion and they highlighted it.

Next, they took a sticky note and chose a more descriptive way to write the emotion.

The next day I give them a little assessment using another piece of their writing to see if they understand or need more practice.

You can grab the powerpoints and assessment here!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

RTI Organization- Perfect for Fast Finishers Too!

Click here to get this FREE resource!

 Grab the Poetry cards from The Lesson Plan Diva here.

Grab the Spelling Task Cards from Amy Lemons here.

Grab the Spelling words from me here

Check out Math Games I use here.

Check out and

I hope this resource is helpful to you!  Don't forget to follow me with your email to get the latest updates and freebies!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Stop Summer Learning Loss and Free Planner!

Hello darlings!  I don't know about you, but I am always concerned with the learning loss that occurs between grade levels every summer.  Year after year, our new kiddos come to us reading at least one level lower than the previous year, and somehow that is normal and acceptable.  We work too hard with our kiddos for them to regress and not retain their learning! 

Last year I decided to do something about it.  On the last day of school, my kiddos make themselves a Summer Camp Kit.  This kit includes multiplication games, a Reading Response Journal, and Writing Prompts with a Writing Journal. 

Because my students are the ones making it, they take ownership and they don't just toss it as soon as they leave for summer!  I tell kiddos that if they bring it back completed the next year, they will earn a special treat from me.  While I would like to report that all of my kiddos brought it back last year, I was please that I did get 12 students who completed it.  I am going for a larger number this year. 

I will also be starting a Summer Camp Success Wall in my room to hang up pics of the kiddos who completed it and allow them to sign the wall.  Hopefully this will be another motivator as well.

Detailed directions with pictures
Reading Journal with suggested activities and sentence starters
Writing Journal with optional prompts
Camp Workout Game: incorporation multiplication and physical activity
Hike the Hills Game: multiplication strategy game "spotting animals"
Spinner Game: includes 3 different multiplication/division game options

I did this on the last day of school with my kiddos.  The key to these activities is that students take ownership in creating the journals and games themselves.  Students simply color each page, cut out, and staple the journals together.  They also put together the spinner and the other games.  Once completed, they put each game or journal in its own sandwich bag and then place everything inside the suitcase.  We play the games in partners and start off one of the journal entries for reading and writing.   

I hope you check this out and find it useful.  I would love to give two lucky winners this resource for free.  Just tell me your favorite vacation spot and leave your email.  You may find this in your in box tomorrow!

As promised, I updated my Teacher Planner for the 2016-2017 School Year!  If you love it, please leave feedback so I know you like it and want to continue the updates!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Springtime Freebies

Hello darlings!  I have a short and simple blog post for ya!  We all love freebies anyway, so let's get to the goods!  I'm teaming up with some amazing bloggers for the Springing into Learning Blog Hop!  Check them out!  

My Spring Freebie is all about Differentiation and reviewing skills for state testing.  In third grade, we are currently working on fractions which means skills like four digit addition and subtraction, multiplication, and division get the back burner.  But I don't want my kiddos losing those skills!  So... I created these very simple skill games.  All you need is a paper clip and a pencil for the spinner!

I use these games in the Game portion of my Math Rotations.  You can read all about Math Rotations here.  Since my kiddos are already in groups, I can assign them a specific game to play.  For example, I might want my advanced students to work on the Purple Spinner which includes all four skills, but my struggling learners will use the Green Spinner that focused on addition and subtraction.

What are you waiting for? Download this freebie and start having some fun Buzzing About Math!

I appreciate the feedback!  And go checkout all the other goodies!
Hop on Over to Powerpoint Gaming!!

PowerPoint Gaming

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Commas. Commas, and more Commas

Do your kiddos remember their commas?  Mine do!  (okay, most of the time)  I don't introduce commas by telling the kiddos the rules.  Instead, I have them come up with the rules themselves.  I give them a Comma Hunt paper and with a partner, they search through books to find three different ways that they see commas being used by real authors.  They try to find 3 examples to prove it is a rule.  Then they try to come up with a rule to present to the class.  

Once we discuss possible rules as a group, we create an anchor chart together.  I have the rules printed out and cut out already, so that I can easily glue them on.  We talk about the rules one at a time and the kiddos are THRILLED when they discover their rule is real!  I use examples the kiddos give me to record on the anchor chart.

For the next lesson, students search through books to find one example of each rule being used correctly.  They love this.  It gives them a real sense of ownership because they were involved in "making" these rules.  I tell them to make sure the authors used commas correctly, so the kiddo think they are looking for an author to make a mistake. =)

We leave the anchor chart up all year, and my little darlings refer to it often.  Enjoy!

Are you getting ready for Spring?  Check out these SEVEN Literacy Centers!

Grab the Curious About Commas Freebie by clicking the comma pics above.  Do you have any tips or tricks to help your kiddos with commas?

Sunday, February 7, 2016

President's Day Project Based Learning

Hello Darlings! President's Day is almost here!  Why not throw in a math twist?  In third grade we have learned how to convert inches into feet and feet into inches.  With this in mind, I ask students how much taller they think President Lincoln was than they are now.

To do this we made an anchor chart and did an example together to refresh their memory of conversions from a few months ago.

 They used the brainstorming sheet to convert and compare.  I had a bunch of old borders laying around so I had students measure Abe Lincoln's height and cut off the amount of border they needed.  Next, students got with a partner to measure their own height.  They marked it on the border.

As groups finished, they worked on converting other Presidents' heights into feet and inches.  

 Then they arranged the Presidents in order according to their height.
Finally, we hung up our findings in the hallway for others to see.  Abe was pretty tall!

I've included a freebie and the entire project for purchase below.  Click on the pic you want!  Happy President's Day my darlings!!

What fun activities do you do for President's Day?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Math Rotations Explained

I created my own version of math Rotations a few years ago when I just couldn’t meet the needs of all of my students doing whole group instruction.  I found that my high kids were bored and not listening, my middle of the road kids were mostly listening (I mean, I was teaching to them!!), and my low kids were staring off in space.  Not good.  That’s when I did some research and decided to do Differentiated Math Rotations.  Here is a quick overview of what I do.  I am NOT claiming to be an expert at all!! This is just works for me (and my kiddos’ state test scores) J

So.. how does it work you ask?  I pre-asses my students at the beginning of each unit.  Make it easy on yourself and just give them a five question multiple choice sheet that covers the topics of the unit.  That way you can QUICKLY assess their strengths and weaknesses.  I have to use our district Common Assessments, but it accomplishes the same thing.
Next, I group them according to the results.  I use the Cardinal Directions as groups because it is a Compass Rose, shaped like a cross.  There is not really a top or bottom because all four sides are important to find your way. 
       All 5 correct:  West   (advanced)
       3-4   correct: East
       2 correct:      South
       0-1 correct:    North (low)
I usually play around a little bit with the East and South groups to even out the number of kiddos.  I also assign each student a partner who is in their group to play at the game station.
Now remember, these groups are flexible.  I am constantly monitoring my students to see if they need to change groups.  I will usually get a few kids who can move up to West (advanced) and some kiddos who move up from North.  I have had a student or two who has moved down to North for a few lessons.  You are meeting your kids where they are.  I also DON’T do stations EVERY Day.  I do it MOST days!!

 Notice that North group begins with the Teacher.  This is so your low group is the first group of the day and they go directly to their desk to practice after meeting with you.

West group on the other hand, meets with you last.  The first thing that they do is practice. These kiddos can usually start an inquiry based activity alone and then meet with you later to discuss it.  Or you can have them practice something from yesterday’s lesson. 

Once I have all my little honey buns in groups, I teach them about the rotations they will be making each day. Each rotation is "supposed" to last for 10 mins.  I have been "flexible" with my timing for each group, depending on their understanding of the lesson.  There are four rotations: Teacher, Desk, Game, Fast Facts. While I don’t do a whole group lesson at the beginning, we do come back for share time to talk about our new learning.

This is when the kiddos come to me at the carpet or small group table for the actual lesson that is presented on their level.
Your middle groups are easy to plan.  You just use your Math Program.  North and West are more tricky.  You have to plan specifically for them. 
I do A LOT of hands-on activities with my North group.  While I am teaching a modified version of the curriculum, I am still expecting to get them to be successful on the grade level assessment.  This takes flexible planning on your part. I KNOW my end goal and how I need to get them there, but I have no idea if this group will “get” the lesson or if I will need to reteach in a different way. I am prepared either way.
West group needs a challenge.  These are most likely your gifted learners.  They do NOT need MORE work.  They have already proven to you that they have met the grade level expectation.  These kiddos can work on performance events and projects.  You will still be teaching them, but something more advanced. 
Where do I get my resources?

At practice kiddos work on the practice assignment at their desks after the lesson.  This is usually a worksheet that students work on to continue the learning they just had.  (West group starts here first since they are the advanced group.  They get an assignment before the lesson.)

 I have a game for each skill.  I usually keep the same game for one week so that I only have to explain it once. Some games are differentiated and some games are not.  We may play a game from the current unit or we may play a game from a previous unit to review skills. 

  I use the SELF CORRECTING TIMED tests from !  They have quizzes for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  I am lucky enough to have two computers with Internet access. (If you don't, get inventive.  Maybe just have them take paper quizzes and have the partner grade it with an answer key right then.)

I teach two kiddos how to log on and they are our Computer Experts.  At the start of math, they pull up the page from our favorites bar and then the page is open the entire time.  Kiddos click on the quiz they need.  They type in their name and press START.  Once they press start, the computer keeps track of the time.  Kiddos type in the answer to each problem and press enter.  I tell them to skip it and press ENTER if they have to think about it at all. When they finish, they press FINISHED (I know! Weird huh?)

 Now it will show them all the problems they missed and how much time it took to complete.  To pass and be able to move on to a new test the next day, they can only miss ONE and their time must be 3 minutes of less.  Now I tell them if it is a couple of secs over that is ok.  When they finish  they print the test and go grab it. (My kiddos have to hustle to the library.)  Next, they make flashcards  for any of them that they missed.  While kiddos are waiting for the computer, they are practicing their flashcards from the previous day.

I have also had students use for math facts.  I highly recommend this site.  We use it for homework now instead.

If you have access to more computers, I would recommend This site is AMAZING!  It gives pretests for all CCSS standards and builds a program for each student!

I hope that this has been informative and given you some ideas for your classroom!  If you would like to purchase my Math Rotation board, click here. 

// //