Choice Board

My 3rd grade ELA team has been doing amazing things lately! I've decided in order to post blogs about the great things we are doing--I must make my blogs short but meaningful! :) I am hoping that by doing this, I can blog more often! So here it goes...

We are revamping the way we are doing our interventions for our kids (a blog for a different time.) Anyway, we needed some enrichment activities, without the dreaded question every week of..."what do we do now?" So we decided to create a choice board that matched our kids needs! I have linked it below!

Our goal for the choice when the students have finished all of their intervention activities (or they did not have any intervention activities because they are just that fabulous...) they will be able to choose something from their choice board. The students will color in a square when they get finished with the acitivity. We are going to have the students try to finish 5 in a row (like BINGO) for a prize. I cannot wait to give these to the students! I think they are going to love it! :)

Feel free to download it and use it for yourself and your kids! Also, read some of the squares...they are funny and will be great for the kiddos!


Non-Fiction Unit Resources

Well, it is the beginning of the 2nd 6 weeks and we are starting our Non-Fiction Unit with our kids. We will teach all of our Non-Fiction TEKS in the next 6 weeks. I was going through pulling all of my resources and realized that I haven't shared them on my blog yet (nor have I blogged in...well what seems like forever!) I guess you could say it has been a busy year thus far! I am excited to get started on here we go!

I always start off by teaching the differences between Fiction and Non-Fiction. (I find this ties well into Text Features which comes next.) We usually use a Venn Diagram and compare two books--such as Goldilock and the Three Bears (simple, I know) and a Non-Fiction book about bears. The kids enjoy seeing the differences between the two books. This can be done with any books about animals though...just a fiction and non-fiction book! I am also going to use this in a station this year. The students sort different titles of fiction and non-fiction books and glue them under the appropriate category!
From there, I work on teaching text features! We do a few different things for text features. One direct teach tool we use is a Powerpoint. I am using two different ones this year! Hey, it can't hurt right? Here are the links to both of them! PP1 and PP2. One of them I created, the other one is from Scholastic! I think they are great ways to show students the defintions of the text features and pictures of them as well!
I also create an anchor chart for my students that we fill in during the week--this is a picture of one that looks close to what mine will look like when the week is done! I have the kids bring examples of text features from home--they love it!

I also created a fun text feature game for the kids! It can be found on a previous blog of mine--feel free to download it! :)

We also do some scavenger hunts throughout the 6 weeks on text features. We usually have the students look through our set os Time Magazine for Kids. We use this Task Card for the scavenger hunt, the kids do a great job with it! (Just make sure you have plenty of sticky notes!) :)

Here is another good scavenger hunt card to use! You do not need sticky notes, just have the kids make tallies!

I also have my students respond many times using magazines and non-fiction books! Here are a couple of the responses I use!
I also think this is a great anchor chart for responding to non-fiction! I haven't made this yet, but I plan on doing so this year!
We also use these great graphic organizers when exposing the kids to new non-fiction texts! I suggest taking a look at them and purchasing them! I did, and it was a great buy!
I believe the most important part about non-fiction is exposure to the texts! The students just don't have much background knowledge when it comes to non-fiction, they need that constant practice reading and processing those texts.
I hope all of these resources help you find what you need to help your children be successful with non-fiction! Make it fun! :)

Fiction Resources!

 We are about to start our Fiction unit in 3rd grade where I teach. I always find that kids love fiction much more than non-fiction--probably because it is more imaginative. Fiction is fun to teach as well! There are so many wonderful books to use with fiction units! Here are a few we use to introduce (or reintroduce) the students to fiction!
We use many more books, of course, but these are some of my favorites! They are full of wonderful characters, great changes with the characters and other amazing uses of the fiction story elements.
We always start with an anchor chart--explaining what a Fiction book is! Here is an example:

Fiction books have many different parts (elements)--Here is an anchor chart that I found on pinterest, it shows the basic story elements! We have our students create one of these to glue in their reading spiral notebook!
I also love this page for the kids to put in their notebook! It is an easy way to remember that the elements are all part of the big "fiction" picture. Here is a link to it!
After we do the initial teach of fiction and the different elements, we have students practice all year through responses and graphic organizers. The more they are familiar with the different story elements, the more comfortable they are answering questions about them. Here are a few of the graphic organizers and links to print them--some are younger level (for differentiation) and some are on grade level.



I haven't made this yet--but I love it! Story Map--Any Grade! (Take out Theme for lower grades!)
I have used this graphic organizer for enrichment activity before--the kids really enjoy it! Or they can use a friend instead of themselves. (Nice words only though!) :)
Another great enrichment (or even whole group if you have them time) activity is to create a foldable with the different fiction elements. We are going to do this at the end of our unit--so I don't have any pictures yet...but I know the kids will love it! We will use this tool to assess the student's learning of fiction elements. The students will create the foldable--label it with the different parts, then fill in the parts from a book we have already read in class. Learning made fun! Yay! :)
Here is one last resource that I hope you will enjoy!
Our principal is huge into technology--which is great! He is in the process of trying to get an ipad in every classroom. The process is slow because they are expensive--but I believe there are at about 20 or so on the campus now, not too shabby! I do not have a school one, because I have a personal one (no need to have two.) But, this is a free educational ipad app called Toontasic! It has a lot of different features, but one thing you can do is create your own story map--and create your own characters, problems, and solutions for the characters. This is new for me...but looks like FUN for the kids! I am going to try it out next week with my kids!
As you have noticed--character is a huge part of fiction so we actually teach those two concepts in the same week! We try to tie it all in together. There are a TON of resources out there...too many to list. I hope this helps you in your classroom though! I always believe that the more resources you have...the less likely the kids will get bored. :) Have a great weekend!



Differentiated Instruction

What is Differentiated Instruction?

Differentiation Instruction is tailoring instruction (or learning) to meet individual needs of the students. Whether teachers differentiate content, process, products, or the learning environment, the use of ongoing assessments and flexible grouping makes this a successful approach to instruction.

These days, classes are not full of the same learning styles or even the same levels of students. Teacher's have to learn to make their classroom a place where all students can feel comfortable learning; teacher's also have to meet students where they are in the learning process. In some cases...teachers may be faced with having a range of about three grade levels in one classroom.

So what now?

I'm going to tell you my views on how to have a successfully differentiated classroom...I am still learning myself though, so if you have any ideas or thoughts--please share!

I believe the most important starting point is finding the true level of all of your students. For us, we use the Rigby assessments for Running Records. (Any form of Running Records are great though!) These are great assessments for finding the *instructional* reading level of students. (Instructional is important--you want to meet them where they are for instruction.) From here...I have a good idea of the obstacles my students may be facing...or where enrichment needs to come in if they happen to be above level. Here is a more extensive link on Running Records. In order to meet the needs of all of your will need to know their starting point.

From there it is time to divide up your students into guided reading groups and get started with small group instruction; I do not believe this is the hard part though--the hard part comes in during centers and whole group time. How does a teacher address the needs of all of her students (ranging many different grade levels) and still meet the requirements of the state skills for each grade level? (in our state--TEKS.)

I have found a few different ways to do this--they may seem simple or difficult...depending on your views, but they have worked (thus far.)

I believe it is always important to teach whole group instruction on the appropriate grade level. One way to help students that may struggle though is to have peer partners...that way if they are needing a little nudge in the right direction--their peer partner (usually a higher level student) can help.

However, for guided practice or center/station time, use activities that your entire class can do; but reach the individual needs of your students with the texts they read for these activities. For Example: Graphic Organizers are amazing for differentiating instruction.
These are just a couple--but I use all different kinds in my classroom (or even better--have the students make their own!) Then...I give them books on their level to read (may be 1st or may be 3rd grade level)...but something they can comprehend. Now as a teacher--you know if your students are getting the skill (even if they aren't reading on grade level quite yet.)
Another great way to differentiate is through games. FCRR (The Florida Center for Reading Research) has a ton of sight word games, vocabulary activities, partner work, graphic organizers, etc. I love it, because it is sorted by grade levels. So if some of your small groups or station groups are at a first grade level, some are at 2nd and some are at can find some activities to stretch their minds but still not frustrate or bore them. 
I use graphic organizers and games mainly in stations/centers. I do not grade stations so this is great opportunity for the students to practice their reading on an instructional level for them (so they can hopefully climb to the appropriate grade level) and practice the skill taught so I can see what they understand and where they still need help. I believe the reading levels will come throughout the year...but if the students misses the skill along the way because they couldn't read the story, we have a big problem and LOTS of reteaching to do. In other words...choose your battles. I would watch a child progress on reading level and increase understanding of skills...then to fight the battle of a frustrated child that can't read on grade level (because they are reading on a frustrational level all year) and also can't do the skills because they don't understand one thing they read. Do what is best for the child--always.
Another question I get asked a lot though do you grade students if they are all reading different books and doing different assignments? I think the first thing to address not give the students different assignments (unless it cannot be avoided.) First of all--it isolates the students that are struggling; it also leaves question as to whether the students are actually doing grade level material. Like I said...have the students do the same activity but meet them where they are and work your way up! Grading...that has to be up the teacher and the school. Some schools do not give as much freedom as others. I say, use your professional judgement, but rubrics are great for differentiated instruction. Just a thought. :)

My suggestions are just that--suggestions.

Students cannot learn if they are always a step behind; meet them where they are and go from there. I am not saying we always teach them below grade level...I am simply saying give them the opportunity to learn where they are and meet you where you are, it may be a fine line, but it can be done.


New Classroom Management System!

Wow, I probably shouldn't be taking the time to blog right now...considering I am covered up with school starting, graduate classes starting, a baby, and football season starting for the hubby! But...we all must do what we enjoy sometimes...or we will go crazy. :)

I must start by saying once again how excited I am about the up-coming school year! See, our team had a lot of "turn-over" this year...we have 4 people staying and 4 new people--plus we are down one teacher from last year (we went from nine to eight 3rd grade teachers.) Anyway--I'm not at all complaining; it is going to be great! However, with a lot of new people, come a lot of changes. One of our "new" team members (new to the team--not to the school) had a wonderful classroom management system in his class! I had seen it before on Pinterest and loved it, but wow...once he explained it to our team--I was excited and hoping the rest of the team would want to jump on board! I sat quietly though...searching their faces and looking for signs of excitment as well. I was thrilled to notice that they all loved the idea!! Buuuut, considering it was Friday at 3:30 PM (the Friday before school starts), they were not too keen on creating this new system over the weekend to have ready on Monday morning. I however had a simple way to do this--and so, the words flew out of my mouth: "I will make all of us one." So...I did!
I had a hard time fitting them all in the picture as you can see--but there they are! I know you are probably thinking--why in the world would you do all that, when above you were complaining about being so busy. Let me explain: Teachers are busy people--and by nature, hard workers. I did not want the teachers stressing the weekend before school starts; I wanted them to be able to enjoy their time off and come in refreshed on Monday. Plus--I seriously love my team, they have worked so hard all week--they needed a break. :)
Making so many was actually simple. I did not cut any of the colored paper, I just layered it behind the others and glued it. (20 minutes) Then I typed the "labels" and printed them. (10 minutes) Then I cut them, glued them on, and laminated them. (30 minutes.) Now I did spread this out between my son's meals, naps, etc...but all in all, it took about an hour! Assembly lines work great for mass production! :)
Now let me explain the system:
We use clothes pins with the students names on them to move up and down the banner.
Ready to Learn: Everyone starts on this each day!
Obviously if you move down the poster, you have made some bad choices and need to change your behavior. We have Fun Friday each week (extra recess time). If the students get one yellow--they lose this priveledge. However, it is only if they are there at the end of the day. They may get on yellow and move back up.
I love this system though because a student can move back up with a positive change in behavior AND they can get above green! If they move to purple; they basically get a pat on the back; kudos to them! BUT--if they move to pink (in my class) they are going to receive a package of pink glowsticks (or bracelets). May seem silly and you may think boys won't want that, but last year the boys loved the pink (really red-ish) glowsticks! So I think this will work great!
Now for the awesome part: If they get to white; they get to decorate one side of their clip with paint, glitter, markers, etc. If they get white TWICE, they decorate the other side and get to keep their decorated clip on white for the class to see the rest of the year (and they get to start a new one.) I think the kids will love this!! The wonderful addition to our team that brought this idea came up with all of this--I love it! I am really excited to implement this Monday! I think giving the students chances to redeem themselves and also move above green is amazing! I hope you can use this idea in your room! Have a wonderful first day fellow teachers! :)

A View of My Classroom!

Wow, it has been a busy week but a GREAT week! I am so excited about this upcoming year! I just really feel like our campus is on fire this year! We made tremendous growth with our kids and as educators last year...even though it was tough! I am just excited to see what this year has in store!

With that being said...I have finally finished my classroom (well except for a few "cleaning/organizational" things.) I took some pics today...please excuse the fact that they are iphone pictures! At least you will get a glimpse into my world!

Every year, I have a very diverse class (as do all teachers)...I love these little people for my wall! They are all so diverse, perfect for my class!

My kids will use this board to ask questions as needed (any question they want...such as, where is China? How tall is my teacher? Where do pickles come from? How do you divide? ETC.) I will pick a few at the end of the day to answer! So fun!

My Station Organization!

Bleh, sorry for the glare...I tried! Anyway, this is our acronym for what STAAR means in our room! If the students do all of these things on there gets posted on the STAAR board (pictured below!) This work does not have to be a is for effort, not accuracy! But...we hope for accuracy too!


Comprehension Posters!!

 I do not have a job for each child...I find this works better and I just utilize the heck out of them! :) I will obviously have popsicle sticks in them with the kids names on them. (I will draw the sticks out each week, to be fair.)

Reading Corner Wall!

Reading Corner!

Other Wall in the Reading Corner! These are my posters for explaining important words for Great Readers!

Bad picture, but this is my organizer I made and pictures of my hubby and son!! :)

Desks pretty much ready for Meet the Teacher! I love my iPod name tags!

Boggle Board (again)! Are you tired of seeing it yet?

Early Bird Section: This is right above where they turn in their papers! I will change out the sign under Early Birds every day or every other day! The students will know exactly what to do if they finish early!!

Boys and Girls Bathroom Pass: The students will put this on their desk when they leave and then use it and put it back when they come back! :) LOVE LOVE LOVE!

Pencil Area! The little "wishing well" will have pennies in it and the students will use those for erasers!

Voice Levels! I will have a clothes pin on the poster and move it up and down as needed. Clothes pins are hard to find this year, you better stock up! :) Voice Levels helped last year, looking forward to having it again!

So there is some of my room!! Obviously not all of it, but enough! I didn't go into detail on all of the items or link them because they are all already on my blog in previous posts! So feel free to peruse my blog and steal ideas!! What's mine is yours!! 


Parent Communication! The Best Approach is the Constant Approach!

Parent Communication is extremely important for the student, teacher and parent. However the popular approach is to only call the parents when a child is misbehaving. Parents do need to be notified when their child is not acting appropriately, but it is always better to have a relationship with the parent BEFORE you have an issue with their child. So...start building relationships early!

Parents are very interested in what their child is learning at school, but they may not always know what to ask. Keep parents informed! I believe in getting the year started on the right foot and sending information home during parent night about how they can help their child! (Since I teach Reading and Writing, that is the focus.)

Here is the link for the Reading Information I send home for parent night!

I also recently found this little gem. Parent Newsletters! I believe it will be great to send home for parents when we are covering the different skills.

(For example, when we cover visualization, I would send home the visualization newsletter.)

I strongly believe in keeping parents informed, they can be your biggest support system if you will use them...(and trust me, they want to be used!--remember, you have their baby 8 hours a day!)

It is also important to give parents the resources they need to help their child. For example, I may tell them to ask their child questions while he or she is reading, but do the parents know what questions to ask? Give them everything they may need to be a successful teacher at home! I always give my parents a flip book of question stems. I have provided it below for you! It is 13 pages of goodness!! But for every one you print, it makes 2 flip books because they are half sheets. I run mine on colored paper and make each sheet a different color. It's great for asking questions at home (for parents) and at school (for you...I use them at the guided reading table.) I highly recommend it! Here is a sample of what one set of the questions stems looks like!

Here is the link for the entire packet!

Also, never under estimate the importance of a phone call...or e-mail...telling the parents something wonderful about their child! I try to send (often) post-its, post cards, notes, and make phone calls to let the parents know the great things their child is learning or the great way they are behaving! I know I would love that as a parent!

Bottom line is, keep your parents informed about the education their child is receiving. I always look at it like this--I am not their child's babysitter, so why would I only contact them when there is a behavior problem? I teach their child every day--and I NEED my parents support. Be kind to them, help them, love their kids, and then...when that inevitable situation arises where there is an issue, they have your back! :)

So get that parent communication notebook ready, get those numbers listed, and get ready to meet about 50 new adults that are very interested in you and what you can do for their child!

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