Wednesday, August 30, 2017's third grade going?

I'm quickly discovering there are lots of new and interesting behaviors in third grade students.  I'm used to the fifth graders, where many of these behaviors have subsided due to maturity or social pressure.  However, that's not the case for third graders.

Let's recap how third grade is going:

There's a lot more nose picking in third grade.

We've had the "everybody farts" talk several times already this week.  It's Wednesday.

We've had the "please say excuse me and don't laugh at farts" talk several times this week.  Again, it's Wednesday.

I don't want to tie shoe laces.  Those shoe laces are dirty and have gone through urine puddles on the ground in the boys' bathroom.  No thank you!
If you take your eyes off them, they may roll around on the ground, practice roaring like lions, or just start randomly doing push ups.  Yes, all these things happened this week.

They will find the one staple on the ground and interrupt your lesson to tell you about it. 

They will tell you lots of stories.  I keep waiting for a question at the end but no, there's just a story they wanted to share in the middle of the lesson.

I didn't realize I'd have to explicitly teach how to carry chairs or use a paper clip, but both of those mini-lessons were necessary this week.


However, I love it. I feel like I'm able to be such a better teacher when I'm only responsible for twenty four students (not thirty seven).  They are so eager to learn, enthusiastic about school, and I'm excited to see how much they'll grow and mature this year.  


Monday, August 28, 2017

Why didn't I think of that before? (round 2)

This past week, we've used a lot of math manipulatives for repeated addition, multiplication, and division.

I store the cubes in a plastic bin from one of the three tiered organizers (from Target):

I'd walk around and give out cubes by the handful.  It was working alright, but took a few minutes and in that time, students would start to play with them.  Once they've started, it's hard to reel them back in to the task at hand.  (Yes, they had explicit directions not to touch them before I said go.  Yes, they had "free play" time with them before we started using them for math.  But they're eight.)

Clean up was fairly efficient. I'd walk around with the large white bin and they'd take turns scooting the cubes off the table and into the tub.  There were minimal spills with this method.  (Attempt one was them bringing me the cubes, but I quickly realized that took too long and their hands are small, so we had lots of spills.  On to plan 2!)

However, I noticed I had several blue bins just sitting in the cabinet.  Last year I used them for tables to keep supplies in, but this year I'm trying pencils boxes.  I don't love them, but I forgot to take them off my supply list.  It's not too big of a problem (yet), but we had the class chat that if they become a distraction, they need to go home.

I grabbed the bins and started putting cubes inside.  The kiddos were working on their writing, so I thought I'd seize the opportunity to get ready for math.  Then I noticed something magical:

These four bins fit perfectly inside the white tub.  Why didn't I try this before?

As we wrapped up writing and transitioned to math, I pulled the kids to the carpet to share what I'd discovered.  Now I simply put four tubs out and they are fully in charge of the clean up aspect.  Not only did this save time, but the tub is more organized.  Double win!  It's the small things.

It worked wonderfully the first time, so I hope it continues!

Sunday, August 27, 2017


Earlier this month, I shared about my desire to {reclaim my weekends}.

Working all the time doesn't make me a better teacher. It drains me.  It doesn't make me a good wife, a good partner, a good (pet) mom, or a good friend.  

There needs to be balance and this is something I've struggled with for most of my career. 

I'm getting better at this balance.

I left work at 4:15 on Friday.  I stayed after to quickly grade their math quizzes, prep Monday's smart notebook, and run copies for language.  More importantly, I was having dinner with a friend and couldn't arrive too early, so I kept myself busy with some small tasks.

Friday night we went to the craft store to get stuff for her daughter's upcoming baby shower. I'm making a scrapbook and wanted her input on the album.  We stopped by Target for some very exciting items (batteries, carpet cleaner, and command hanging strips) before stopping by Panera.

She just completed her second week of teaching and needed to process the events.  She's subbed for me before, she completed her student teaching, but now she's in the classroom full time.  It's an adjustment and there are lots of growing pains when starting at a new school with a new team.

We had a nice long dinner and it was nice to catch up.  The rest of Friday night included going to bed early because teaching is hard.  I did come home to these:

Saturday brought about sleeping in and then attending a friend's bridal shower.  

We met up with friends for dinner and then played games at the house afterward.  I clearly made great choices at dinner:

My hubby did very well at picking out a birthday cake:

Sunday meant more sleeping in, lunch with family to celebrate birthdays (his mom and I are two days apart), a Target run, a nap, a bubble bath, decorating for fall, and talking with my momma on the phone.

I did manage to squeeze in a little school work this weekend.  I cut out photo booth props (shout out to Teach Create Motivate and her cute {freebies}), graded one of their beginning of the year math probes, and finished grading their diagnostic Words Their Way spelling inventory.  In total, this all took maybe an hour out of my weekend.  

I'm ending Sunday night with reading, touching up my pedicure, and heading to bed before 9 pm.  I'm walking into Monday with lesson plans done (for Monday), materials prepped, and no meetings.  I'll spend before school and prep getting ready for the rest of the week.  I have happy hour plans with friends after work (because it's my birthday) and plans lined up for next weekend.


Friday, August 25, 2017

Why didn't I think of that before?

It's the start of the school year, so naturally I've got all of my meet the teacher information handy.  Instead of just filing it away (or recycling it), I decided to make four bags of "meet the teacher" information for potential new students.

Inside I included:

My "meet the teacher" flip book (created by Chalk and Apples, a fellow TpT seller.  Snag yours {here})
Parent survey
Student interest survey
Student information sheet
A cactus to color (for the bulletin board)
Social media policy

I sealed all of the information in a ziplock bag and it's ready to go for new students:


As an added bonus, I have all my back to school forms ready for next year in one place.

Why didn't I think of this before?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Eclipse Mania

Like most of the country, we were swept up in Eclipse Mania this week.  (Funny how we don't doubt scientists about the eclipse, but attack them on everything else....hmmm....)

 The Thursday before the eclipse, I sent home permission slips from the school in regards to watching the eclipse (with proper eye wear of course).  Not all of the permission slips were returned by Monday, which caused some tears from my third graders.

Another member of my grade level managed to acquire 29 pairs of viewing glasses, so my class got to go out in smaller chunks.  I must say I love being part of a team that shares and values collaboration.

Las Vegas weather (rain, go figure) made viewing the eclipse rather difficult, so we live streamed from NASA instead.

My students loved seeing scientists of all genders, races, and ethnic backgrounds.  I didn't point it out, but it was heart warming to hear "hey, he looks like me!".  Diverse role models are important. 

We did have specials at 10:15, so I simply paused the live stream and we continued when they were back from music (thanks You Tube!).

We acted out the earth and moon's rotation around the sun, discussed important science vocabulary words, and set up our science notebooks.  We practiced making diagrams like scientists:

I didn't plan to devote two hours of my teaching day to the eclipse, but I'm glad I did.  By the time the next eclipse rolls around, my sweet third graders will be high school seniors.  That's a little terrifying to think about.

10 days in...

I'm exhausted.

It's only two weeks in.

Open House was last week and I still haven't recovered.

In addition to ya know, teaching, I've sat in on a planning meeting for our upcoming Rodeo night, an ELL presentation, had a meeting about advanced students, had a grade level meeting, and gotten my room ready for Open Wednesday.

Thursday morning I helped to lead a new teacher training, will teach all day, make a quick run to Sonic, and get ready for two hours of Open House.  

I've got amazing parents who brought me cookies for Open House:


Thank goodness Friday was already planned, next week is planned, and I've got a busy weekend ahead of me!

There were some late nights, but I've got this view:


In terms of long range plans and grade level plans, I'm already behind.  I was behind on day 2.  I'm not really sorry about it.

By no means have we wasted time in the classroom.  Instead, I'm in an adjustment period where I'm quickly realizing things in third grade take much longer than I'm used to...because they're 7 and 8 years old.  

In math, we've explored number talks, built problems with cubes, learned about arrays, and started making the connection between repeated addition and multiplication.  

I picked a student who was struggling to give me the number of items in each box.  That ownership and helping me make our reference guide was really important to that kiddo.

They've taken their first three "entrance tickets" (10% formative assessments) and are continuing to learn about math discourse.  Two of them went into the grade book.

In reading, we've built up our independent reading stamina, read several picture books,  taken our STAR test for beginning of the year benchmarks, reviewed fiction and nonfiction, completed sorts, and I've begun benchmarking for AIMSweb oral reading fluency.

In writing we've covered nouns (common vs. proper), friendly letters, and brainstormed ideas for our letter to ourselves at the end of the year. 

(The post-its were a spur of the moment decision but I like how the notebooks turned out.  Students wrote their own examples underneath the post-its.  We also got up and labeled different nouns around the classroom.)

I also used the post-its on the anchor chart:


Last week we began drafting our three paragraph essays and revised/edited with partners.  Final drafts are due Monday, but it's not for a grade. I'm using their first papers as a benchmark so I can make a list of mini-lessons the class needs.  We've also been doing morning journals (available {here}) and I'm slowly incorporating mini language lessons about restating the question in the answer, capitalizing proper nouns, and using evidence to explain our thinking.

They also built up their writing stamina and enjoyed free choice seating:

They've learned about summaries and practiced whole group (to My Mouth is a Volcano and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day), in table teams (to Thank You Mr. Falker), and individually with their books.

We've reviewed fiction and nonfiction writing. They also cut up extra book orders to sort into F and NF, which allowed me to go over procedures for gluing, cutting, and using class supplies.

We spent a few hours doing activities on Monday's solar eclipse and have most of our classroom routines down.  

We've already changed seats, know where our privacy folders are kept, and have our graduation count down board ready. 

We've established our sentence frames for talking to one another:

We've done some get to know you activities and brain breaks as well.  We've practiced gallery walks and structured movement in the classroom.  We've taken pictures, celebrated a birthday, practiced routines, and taken pictures in our class photo booth. We've reviewed assembly procedures and learned about our first fundraiser for the school in a popcorn assembly.

I'm not a sit quietly and do worksheets kind of teacher.  So while I may technically be behind 10 days in, I think we've done some quality learning.  That's what makes this worth while. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Reclaiming My Weekends

After school on Friday, I stayed late to hang my bulletin board. It's a two person job and I'm grateful my hubby came in to help.  We tackled a few other chores (labeling books, stapling letters to the wall, setting up folders) before calling it a day and picking up take out food.  

I took very little work home with me this weekend and it felt great.

On Friday's prep, I finished the lesson plans for the next six days.  On her prep, Ms. H finished the copies.  Team work there.

My weekend tasks for school included:

1) Purchase a new book bin from Joann's.  I had coupons and already needed to stop by the neighboring Bed, Bath, and Beyond for a wedding gift.

2) Put names on clothes pins for the data board.  This is easily (mindlessly) accomplished while watching TV.

3) Put washi tape on the bottom of markers and colored pencils to color code by table.  Annoying, but necessary for keeping order.  Full disclosure, I only did the markers this weekend. Oh well. We aren't using colored pencils today anyway.

4) Make a new seating chart.  I let them sit where they wanted the first week and now it's time to make some adjustments. I have 2 tables of 6, 1 table of 5, and 1 table of 7.  It's been bugging me for a week.  I have one student at the back of the room that I just got a medical alert for that states the student needs to be up front.  Oops.  Another student was having trouble with a neighbor and told family, who then told me what happened.  And some boys just got too cozy with their best friends and while school should be fun at times, they were having a bit too much fun.  Time for some changes.  

I do have them write to me about where they'd like to sit.  For the first time, I had them tell me a classmate who might help them learn and if they speak Spanish (I have a very new to country kiddo who is just learning English and needs translations).

That was it in terms of school work. I'm okay with this because I'm reclaiming my weekends in the name of work-life balance.

I'll have a late night this week to get ready for Open House (which is Thursday) but am looking forward to my classroom being fully set up so I can leave around 4 each day.

So what did I do instead of work this weekend? 

Friends marathon with my hubby

Slept in while he made a breakfast casserole

Went shopping and got some jeans and wedding gifts.  Lids also had a buy 1, get 1 half off sale and since B couldn't find a second Broncos one he liked...

I got a new Cardinals one!  I also practiced making funny faces while I spent more time than I cared to looking at cleats at Dick's Sporting Goods with the hubs.  He suggested we get a kayak.  I am horrible at kayaking. 

Had date night at Dave and Buster's with 2 other couples.  

This drink was too overwhelmingly Fireball, but I got to keep the sea monster.

Took a dear friend out for a champagne tea for her bridal brunch.  She gets married in 2 weeks!  

It was fun to get dressed up and have girls time.

I feel as well rested as I can be and ready to start another week of school.  Next weekend is already planned, so it's nice to have something to look forward to at the end of a long week.  But to be totally fair, I'm also looking forward to the eclipse mayhem being over.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Bulletin Board, round 2

Ah, bulletin boards...

They look beautiful once they're done but are certainly quite the pain to put up!  (Read more about the process {here}).

On the first day of school, I had my students select a cactus to color:

I put their names on the potted part and then laminated them. 

I used a hot glue gun to attach the laminated cacti to clothes pins:

Which would then hold their work:

The banner says "our class is sharp" and looks better in person.  We (the hubs and I) finished up late Friday night and the lights to the pod were off.  

I have three kiddos that never turned in their "all about me" forms, so I guess they'd better get that done before Thursday's open house.

First Week of Third Grade

There has truly been no greater meme then the one above.

I survived the first day of school.  More importantly, I did it without the aid of coffee or Mountain Dew.  That's right folks, you're looking at a teacher who went caffeine free the first week of the school year. Granted, a nap happened after school.  To be totally fair, a nap happened most of the first week.

I had every intention of coming home each day and blogging about what happened.  But those good intentions didn't get fulfilled.  I'll do my best to recap the whole week at once.

Monday, August 14th

Without an alarm, I woke up at 12:18 ready to start the day.  However, there was still a good five hours before I actually needed to be up and luckily I was able to get a little more rest.

I left early to grab Starbucks on the way to school.  Last week the front of the school and the nearby roundabout were torn up with construction, so I gave myself extra time.

I got to work and after finalizing my first day plans (which ended up taking three days to get through), I set up my photo booth:

We took a pod picture, but I spaced on getting a grade level one.  We ended up taking that picture on Tuesday. I also set out water bottles for their first day treats. 

Officially I have 23 third graders on my roster, but I have a push in student all day from the autism room.  24 is a great number.  Granted, I keep feeling like I've lost a good dozen students because I'm used to fifth grade numbers.  But nope, I just have two dozen kids to keep track of and it's a rather nice feeling.  (Right now, one of the fifth grade classes is sitting at 41 students.  I am so glad I switched.)

I went outside, met students and families, then we came inside to start our day.  Some teachers wanted to jump right in to teaching cursive and silent worksheets.  

We went a different route.  I explained breakfast procedures and had them write about how they were feeling.  We then watched {this Kid President} video to lighten the mood.

Afterwards, we talked about how we were going to help each other out and make this year awesome.

The first day was a combination of get to know you team builders and procedures.  We incorporated movement and practiced talking with one another.  One of  my favorites is "Find Someone Who":

Kids get up, introduce themselves to one another, and ask get to know you questions.  It incorporates movement in a controlled way, which they need after hearing about school procedures and class rules.

Lunch will be an adjustment this year.  I'm used to 12:15, but alas, lunch this year is at 11:25.  The kids get 20 minutes to eat and 20 minutes to play, but teachers are only contracted a 30 minute lunch.  I spend the first 10 minutes in the lunchroom on duty with my kids.  As a trade off, this means I no longer have morning crosswalk duty, which is a blessing.

For those of you who have never experienced the joy of lunchroom duty, it looks a little something like this:

And is best described in this {video}.

But in all seriousness, I spend half the time separating classes into two lines and walking around passing out sporks, napkins, and ketch up packets.  I often fight with sealed fruit cups and have spilled on myself every single day.  I have a new hatred for capri sun juice pouches.  

By the time my ten minutes of duty is up, I've lost most of my appetite.  Watching several hundred kids shovel food into their mouths will do that.  Still, I'd prefer the duty at the start of my lunch period because most of the other teachers have outdoor playground duty and well, it's hot outside.

We did read First Day Jitters on the first day of school and practiced procedures.  I allotted forty minutes for filling out agendas for the first time and going over back to school paperwork.  It was barely enough time.

There weren't any tears the first day, I got hugs goodbye, and as soon as the bell rang, I was ready for a nap.  

I stayed an hour and a half after school getting ready for the next day, grabbed take out (B had softball and I hate cooking for one), and was asleep by 8 pm.


I spent before school prepping these treats:

I ended up passing them out at the end of the day, but still. It's the thought that counts.  I'd also like to thank Costco for having the box of 54 rice krispies on sale for under $7.  Smaller class sizes means the hubs now has a lot of rice krispies to enjoy as a snack for softball.

We did a classroom scavenger hunt the second day (because we ran out of time on the first day of school).  It was a great opportunity to embed voice levels, team work, appropriate movement around the classroom, the location of extra clipboards (if they didn't bring their own from home), and challenges.  Plus involving students in this process means not only are they more likely to remember where something is because they discovered it, but also have a higher sense of shared responsibility and ownership in the classroom.  These feelings of ownership mean that (hopefully) they will take pride in our room and treat things with respect.

 They did a really good job with moving around the classroom appropriately:

They also worked quite well as a team:

To further practice team work, they learned how to do a sort with "No Way Jose! That's a Fact Jack!"

I created several dozen statements about third grade.  Some of them are true (that's a fact, Jack!) and some of them are false (no way Jose).  Students worked together to sort out the statements and explain their thinking.  The point of the activity was to dispel some myths about third grade and to practice team work.

After each table sorted their cards, they went to investigate how another group sorted theirs.  They couldn't touch the other team's cards, but had to practice complete sentence stems:

I agree with ___ because ____
I disagree with ____ because ____

We'll eventually post more, but for the first week, we're using just these two sentence stems.  I have a few kiddos that are ELL, so these sentence stems are a great way for them to practice and structure their responses.

We also managed to take a grade level photo (since that slipped our minds day one):

This is the first time I've ever worked on a predominately male team. It's an adjustment. I've also taught all the men about a few different technology components, so that feels nice to be helpful.  

We've split up planning responsibilities this year and I'm really excited about it.  Almost everyone is on board.  Our two newest teachers are planning math because the Engage NY curriculum is already scripted.  It doesn't mean they get off easy because of how copy intensive this program can be, but rather they get to read the scripted lessons and narrow them down to create lesson plans for us to use.  Two others are planning writing and I'm planning reading with Ms. H.  We moved down from fifth together and are quite used to sharing the responsibilities.  Language will be shared between us and the writing team.  We haven't talked about science or social studies yet, but have a grade level meeting this week. 

We also did a few gallery walks, where students use markers to answer questions that I've prepared on big butcher paper.  I use this as an opportunity to practice using markers, whisper voices, sharing ideas, agreeing or disagreeing appropriately, and moving around the classroom.

After each group visits each question, we talk as a class and make our class norms.  

We used math manipulatives in the form of cubes to practice solving math problems in a hands-on way.  I gave them five minutes of free play to get it out of their systems, then we used the cubes to solve problems.  Ms. S happened to stop by during the five minutes of exploratory free play and was delighted to see their towers:

Three tables built towers, one table built fidget spinners. 

We did actually do some math with the cubes as well:

It was a great chance to embed Number Talk norms and quickly assess some of my students' background knowledge.

This problem was awesome:

It was nice to see how they worked with numbers.

I also had student helpers solve problems on the board:

I didn't know all of their strategies (the ribbon strategy?!) but got it after they explained their thinking.

The rest of the week was a blur.  I napped almost every day after school.  We read the following picture books:

Ms. Nelson is Missing  

This classic tells the tale of a teacher who brings out her alter-ego when the kids are misbehaving.  Not only did we practice coming to the carpet, answering questions, and being good listeners, we also did a gallery walk about how we should treat each other and our teacher.

My Mouth is a Volcano

This is newer find for me and quickly became one of my favorites.  It tells the story of Louis who has a problem interrupting (erupting) others.  The tables turn when he realizes how it feels and how being interrupted hurts feelings.  His mom helps him with strategies for not blurting out.

First Day Jitters

This book goes through the typical struggles of getting ready for school, not wanting to start at a new school, being anxious about making friends, and is quite relate-able for students.  But *spoiler alert*, the main character is actually the teacher!

Thank You Mr. Falker

It's always a struggle to not cry with this one.  Patricia Polacco tells of her own childhood struggles to learn to read while dealing with family deaths, a cross country move, and bullying.  We talk about perseverance, bullying, and asking for help.  We also used this book to learn about writing summaries, which we practiced as a class and with table teams.

We practiced fire drills, took a STAR test on the computer, worked on our reading stamina, set up our daily response journals, and had some talks about choices. We learned about Class Dojo and they helped me create the categories for positive and negative choices.  Granted, I already knew what categories I wanted, but they were so excited to participate in making classroom decisions.  That buy-in from students is important.

They got new book orders:

I always give a few weeks between passing these out and having the orders be due to allow for pay day and students to do extra chores to earn books.  I put our class code and the due date on the book orders to make it easy for families.  I also gave them time to explore and get excited about books.  It's important and I get to see what books are on the "must have" list so I can use Scholastic dollars to stock up on things they want to read. 

(For non-teachers, every order placed earns teachers points.  I think if I place a $25 order this month, I get $10 free to spend on books.  It's quite nice to help me build my library.  Plus Scholastic's prices are quite low to make books affordable for kids.  It's a great system.)

We talked about how to care for dry erase markers and set up classroom supplies.  I print their names on sticky labels and use packing tape to secure the labels.  I usually do this at home and can go through the class set during an episode of Friends.

Alas, I do not do these classroom chores alone.

We made a T chart about what constitutes a nurse visit:


We learned about stamina and practiced independent reading:

We had a busy, busy, busy week.  I've gotten two love notes so far and lots of hugs.  Third grade is off to a wonderful start!