Saturday, February 23, 2013

Five for Friday and a Freebie

I found this fun link-up called Five for Friday.

I get to list five random things that happened this week.  So here they are for you!

1. I started my new math centers.  I've posted about them earlier, but I am really excited about the results so far.

2. Some of the cabinets in my classroom got a good cleaning.  I donated a bunch of books to the teacher's lounge and now there is more space for me to fill up with new books.  Take a look at them now!

The Cabinets After

The Cabinets After

3.  I tried some new suffixes activities in my classroom and the kids actually cheered by the third day.  They were excited for the assignment.  Check out this product that I made for them.

suffixes learning activities

4.  Here is a personal one - I watched with delight as my 3 year old, almost 4, learned how to hula hoop.  I laugh because I can't get that thing to go around once.  She stands there for about a minute and it just keeps going.  It really is super cute!

5.  I found the time to add a fun freebie to Tpt.  It's a St. Patrick's Day theme, but that is coming up so fast.  Maybe it is something that you can use.

grammar activities

Thanks for taking a look at my list.  I'm interested in taking a look at what everyone else was doing this week.

Have a nice weekend!


Friday, February 22, 2013

A Busy Week

It's Friday already?  This week went by so fast.  It helped that it was only four days and I was busy trying some new things in my classroom.

The first big change was my math rotations.  I talked about them earlier this week and I'm still happy with them.  The biggest difference in my new rotations was not having a whole class lesson.  I now teach the daily lesson in small groups and it is working out so much better.  I can slow the lesson down for some kids and speed it up for others.  Why didn't I ever think of this before?  The three rotations are: meet with teacher, paper/pencil and games/manipulatives.  I was inspired by some posts on another blog:

3rd Grade Thoughts

Another change was the space in some of my cabinets.  I posted last week that I was participating in The Clutter-Free Classroom Project.  This week the assignment was to streamline our teacher resources and create an organized place to store them.

I am so fortunate to have a bunch of cabinets in my room, but sometimes that can be a bad thing.  I end up holding on to books and papers because I have the room to store them.  This week I went through all my books and got rid of about half.

My philosophy was: If I haven't used it in the last two years, get rid of it.

I laughed because I put them all in the teacher's lounge at 8:00 A.M. and by lunchtime they were almost all gone.  I wonder how many of the teachers that took books will end up putting their new treasures in a closet and forgetting about them just like me?

Here are some before and after shots of the cabinets.  There are not big changes, but I can tell there is a lot more space available for new books!

The Cabinets Before
The Cabinets Before
The Cabinets After
The Cabinets After

The cabinets and math rotations were different organizational changes, but both made me feel like a better teacher.  If you are interested in joining The Clutter-Free Challenge, click below and start organizing!

Clutter-Free Classroom

Hope you have a great weekend! 


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Math Rotations

I don't know about you, but I'm always trying to figure out the best way to meet the needs of all my students.  This year I have a wide range of math abilities in my room.  Helping each student reach their full potential in math has been my goal all year.  Last year I started having math rotations to meet my needs.  Here was my hour long math schedule:

10 minutes: review/math timed test

20 minutes: mini-lesson

30 minutes: math rotations

My class was divided into three ability groups and participated in three rotations - teacher/paper/pencil, manipulatives and games.  My inspiration for this format was Beth Newingham.  If you get a chance, check out her site.  She has some awesome ideas!


As I continued the rotations this year, I ran into a few problems.

1. I didn't have enough time with each group.  I helped students as they worked on their paper/pencil sheet, but I wasn't able to have small group lessons.

2. Many times I was rushing through the last rotation.  My high acheivers worked on paper/pencil during this rotation and I always wanted to give them something more challenging.  By the time I explained it to them, there was only about five minutes left.

3. Math was starting to take over an hour each day.

4. I was having a hard time coming up with new games as the kids were getting bored.

Just as I was starting to question the rotations, I received a blog update from 3rd Grade Thoughts explaining her math rotations.  I decided to rearrange a few things and try this new format.  Check out this great blog that has some very helpful information about the rotations.

3rd Grade Thoughts

Now my math schedule is:


10 minutes: review/timed tests

50 minutes: rotations


My new rotations are:

Meet with teacher: I am able to have teach the lesson of the day in a small group setting.  It gives me a better idea of who understands and who needs some more support.

Paper/Pencil: The students complete some practice problems related to our lesson.  Then comes the part I love!  My high acheivers start with paper/pencil and meet with me last.  I give them their assignment when they meet with me and they finish it the next day during their first rotation. 

Games/Manipulatives: Each day I will let the students know if there is a game or they complete a manipulative activity.  Some manipulatives I have used in the past are tangrams, pentominoes and Logic Links. 

Product Details

I've been using these new rotations for a couple of days.  I feel I am getting more quality time with my students and meeting their needs. 

I really would love to hear about how you teach math.  Are you using rotations?  If not, what makes your system work?

Have a great evening!!  


Friday, February 15, 2013

An Organized Desk

I LOVE organizing, being organized and helping others organize.  So this summer when I found the blog and website, Clutter-Free Classroom, I was super excited.  I discovered so many new classroom organization tips and theme ideas.  It was wonderful!

A few weeks ago, I received a blog update about the 2013 Clutter-Free Classroom Project.  I have received many comments from colleagues about the organization in my room, so I figured I wouldn't be participating in the project.  Then an email came on Monday about the newest challenge - organizing the teacher desk/work area.  I looked at my desk/computer area and this is what I saw:

messy desk
I didn't like all the files on my desk, many of the binders on the shelf I wasn't using on a regular basis and the bulletin board was getting crowded.  So I decided to take the challenge and make some changes.  The biggest move was I brought over some file cabinets that were on the other side of the room.  Then I moved all the files into the file cabinets.  I put away the binders I wasn't using and got rid of some papers on the bulletin board.  Here is what my desk looks like now:

clean desk
I feel so much better when I see this picture.  I make sure my desk looks like this every day before I leave school.  I only keep out the binders I really need every day and make sure papers get filed as soon as I am done with them.  What do you think?

If you are interested in this challenge or getting some awesome organizing tips and ideas, be sure to check out Clutter-Free Classroom.
Clutter-Free Classroom

Making Inferences

Making inferences is always a skill that can be difficult for students.  The answer isn't stated in their reading and they actually have to do some deeper thinking.  I enjoy teaching this topic because there are so many fun activities to use and the answer isn't right in the book.  Last week I tried a new making inferences activity with my kids.

Before the lesson started, I cut out a bunch of magazine pictures.  I cut the pictures so that very little background was showing.  To start the lesson, I showed one of the pictures.  It was a picture of two girls playing soccer.  I asked the kids where they thought the girls were playing soccer.  Of course, they all thought it was a soccer field and we discussed why that was the choice.  We were making inferences based on what was shown in the picture and what we knew about soccer.  Then I asked them, where would the girls not be playing soccer.  I heard a swimming pool, Mars, the desert and many more.  The kids thought it was so funny.  I repeated the activity using a picture of a man running.  I saw many hands being raised during this activity.

Once I knew the kids understood the activity, I sent them to work on their own picture.  First they chose one of the magazine pictures that I had cut out and placed it on a piece of white paper.  Then several students were given an opportunity to share their inference about where the picture was taking place.  Once they shared, the students then had to think where the activity was not happening.  That became the background of their picture.  I saw some volcanoes, swimming pools, train tracks and clouds.  The one change I would make is to not allow the students to share their ideas with other students.  I saw about 4 with volcanoes and 3 with swimming pools.  I'd love to see everyone's own creations.  Either way, the kids loved it and some even asked for a second picture.  The kids in the gifted reading program came back from their class and they wanted to join in on the fun.

Here are some pictures of the kids at work.

A kid eating macaroni and cheese in the desert.
A kid eating macaroni and cheese in the desert.
A truck in the water.
A truck in the water.

A fish on train tracks.
A fish on train tracks.

What are some fun activities you have used with making inferences? 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Valentine's Day Freebie

Happy Valentine's Day...a few days early.

My daughter is really excited about Valentine's Day.  She helped to make her own valentines for all her little friends at daycare.  I don't care much about the holiday, but she made me think about all the kids in my class.  I know they are excited for Thursday and that is what led me to make some new task cards.

We are working on multiplication and division, so that is the skill on the cards.  I found some cute clip art and there you go!  You will find eight cards and a recording sheet.

When I share these cards with my kids, I will be using them in a small group setting.  This will give me a chance to check everyone's understanding of story problems and multiplying/dividing.

You can find these cards for FREE on the Tpt page.


Have a great week!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Spelling and Grammar Practice

I'll admit it...I'm not a big fan of the weekly spelling lists. We all know how it goes. The kids study the words, ace the test and then forget how to spell the words the next week. I wish I could teach spelling patterns/rules throughout the year and not have a weekly test. My district's report card has a space for grading spelling tests, so I have to do them.

Last year, my team and I changed our spelling program and I think it makes it a little better. Some of our units last for two weeks so that we have more time to work on the patterns. Also, each student has their own high frequency words during the unit. My students are supposed to practice their words at home every night. I usually send home some activities for them to use, but I don't collect the work. I really am not looking for more papers to be turned in to me. During the week, I do like to have a few lessons about the spelling pattern. We do lots of sorts, work on whiteboards and even task cards.  I'm always looking for new and meaningful ways to work on spelling.

A colleague of mine introduced me to a spelling activity last year. The activities incorporate grammar with spelling.  Each week the students work on two grammar skills using their spelling words. For example, this week my students were working on singular/plural and past tense.

spelling blog

I love these activities because my kids are learning to spell their words, but working on grammar skills with the words.  They are great little assessments as well.  After the kids turned in their work, I realized that many of them didn't understand the concept of singular/plural.  They simple wrote their spelling words and then added an "s."

Singular: unusual  Plural: unusuals

Guess what we are working on next week?

Another reason these activities are great is because each skill is only practiced four or five times each.  When we work on nouns, they write five of their spelling words that are nouns.  The practice and quick and meaningful.  I can tell if they get it from those five examples.  Some of the skills we practice are: synonyms, antonyms, rhymes, abc order, endings, nouns, adjectives, verbs, prefixes, suffixes and syllables.

Last year, my students did all their work on lined paper.  They needed to learn to label and number the paper.  To save time labeling, erasing, forgetting how to number the paper, I decided to just make the sheets on the computer.  Now I can pull a sheet, copy it and work on those skills for the week.  Now I feel a bit better about the weekly spelling lists because they students have a purpose for using their words.  If you're interested, feel free to check out the whole package on Tpt.

It has been wonderful seeing so many visitors from 4th Grade Frolics.  My way of thanking you for coming over is to put these on SALE! 

spelling blog

I'd love to hear your thoughts about practicing spelling words.

Enjoy your weekend!


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Multiplication and Division Word Problems

We started multiplication and division last week in third grade. Our math series has the students working on facts and word problems at the same time. My students do well with facts, but I think we moved too fast with the word problems. So this week I'm slowing it down. I started by making two anchor charts - multiplication and division.

photo1                       photo

We are going to fill in the key words for each operation.  Then we will review what they mean and the symbols that are used for each one.

I also made some fun activities for the kids.  I have 8 task cards that I will hang up around the room.  Each card has either a multiplication or division story.  I'll have my students write down if the problem is multiplication or division.  Then we will go over the problems together.  I try to make the stories funny so that they aren't boring like the ones in the workbook.  I usually will have animals eating pizza or teachers in the school doing funny things.  I like seeing the smiles on the kids' faces as they read the stories.

After we go over the problems, I'll have the students complete a worksheet with a few problems on their own.

The next day we are going to review the charts.  I'm thinking of making a foldable for both multiplication and division for us to add to our math journals.  I'm then going to have the students complete a sort.  They will need to read the problem and then place it in the correct category - multiply or divide.  Once I see that they sorted correctly, they will have to solve the problems on the sort card.

I know my students will like this type of practice because they stories are a bit different and they aren't just filling in a worksheet.

If you are interested in these activities, you can find them at my Tpt store.

multiplication division word problem task cards

Hope you have a nice weekend.