Sunday, April 21, 2013

At the Last MInute! The Lorax Comprehension Questions

Tomorrow is the last day before our big state test, but it also happens to be Earth Day- perfect timing, right?! I want to discuss the holiday with the kids, but I also need some last minute test-prep to make myself feel better (ha!). So, I whipped up (and I mean literally whipped up- like in the last twenty minutes) this little ten-question comprehension quiz for the kids to complete after we read The Lorax tomorrow.

If you are interested and happen to be in the same boat I am, click the link below the picture to grab your copy! It's not cute, it's not pretty, it does not a have a single piece of clip art on it (terrible, I know!), but it will do for now!!!

Have a great Monday!!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Five for Friday Carnival Day Edition

This week is OVER and I cannot be thankful enough! It has been one of THOSE weeks- and I haven't had one that stressful in a long time- ugh.

But today the sun is out and I feel tremendously better! I feel so good that I have decided to link up with Doodle Bug's Five for Friday linky!

My partner and I at the last minute, and I mean the LAST minute, decided to do a little carnival themed fun day!

I set my room up to resemble a carnival. The decorations were minimal. I already had this stuff from when we did an all-out blitz a few years ago.

I LOVE to do rotations on days like this, so I set up FIVE different stations. Here's a brief description of each of them:

1. Books!
Of course my kids would never make it through a day in my classroom without reading a book! I'm kind of a book hoarder so when the Scholastic Book Fair came to our school last week, I went a little crazy. I had to have so many! The kids were thrilled to have the opportunity to dig through the new stuff.

2. STAAR Bingo
Y'all I am not even proud to show you these! Good 'ol hand written words on blank bingo cards and hand written calling cards on index cards. Not pretty, but effective. I focused on all of those pesky testing words that can stump kiddos- selection, section, passage, you get my drift. I remembered AFTER I had hand written all of these cards that we live in the 21st century and we have electronic bingo card maker websites. Big sigh. You can bet I'll remember that for next time!

Now to my favorites!

3. Vocabulary Bean Bag Toss

Every day we do a buzzword of the day to increase our vocabulary. We always learn the definition and then put a motion or hand signal with it. The kids love it! For this station, I put all of our old words in a bucket and taped down this board on the floor. The kids had to choose a word out of the bucket, toss their bean bag, and then complete the activity written on the space they landed on. It was a hit! I had dry erase boards and materials on hand for the activities that required writing.

4. Bucket Dive

This had to be the favorite by far. Way back when I did my Knowledgeable Knight activity, the kids went absolutely crazy when they had to dig through the buckets to find words. I wanted to create a different version that activity. I really wanted to use the plastic balls that you find in fast-food restaurant's ball pits, but I didn't have time to search for them. So, I went for a cheaper route- balled-up paper!

I filled the bucket with the colored paper balls made from butcher paper and hid copies of Rachel Lynette's
Context Clues task cards, also balled up, but on white paper, in the bucket. The kids had to dig through the bucket and look for the white paper balls. When they found one, they pulled it out and filled out their recording sheet using the card (card number, underlined word, definition). They repeated this process until they found all the hidden cards.

5. Synonym Duck Pull

This station was a hit as well! I created a very crude duck pond using a hula hoop and blue butcher paper. On the bottom of each rubber duck was a plain word- happy, sad, make, mad, etc. Also written in smaller print  were synonyms for that word. One at a time, a student would pull a duck from the pond and read the plain word to the rest of the group. Together they would come up with synonyms for the word using the smaller words on the duck only if they got stuck or needed other ideas. Then they wrote a sentence using one of the words.

And of course, we had to have snacks!

Carnival Day was a great change-of-pace and a fun way to sneak in some targeted practice. It was the perfect way to end the week on a positive note.  I'm thinking Bucket Dive and the Duck Pull will be constants in our station rotations from now on!

Now to get some rest this weekend before the big test next week!

Have a great weekend!!!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Roll and Read: My New Favorite Activity!

Several weeks ago I stumbled upon the most amazing resource ever: Roll and Read! Now, maybe I have been living under a rock, but I had never seen this before! Maybe it has been more popular in the younger grades, but anyway, It has become my (and my kiddos, too!) new favorite activity!

If you are like me and have never heard of roll and read, here's how it works:
The paper has a sentence or sentences for each number on the die. The students roll the die, tally the result under the correct number at the bottom of the page, and then read the sentences out loud. After they have read the sentence, they repeat the process. Great fluency practice!

I first found this roll-and-read from Shari Edward's post on Scholastic Top Teaching using lines out of the Dr. Seuss book Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories.

First of all, I absolutely adore the stories in this book- they all have a wonderful message.  The kids loved meeting Yertle and especially Gertrude McFuzz. So when I pulled out the roll-and-read sheet, the kids were so excited! They loved that their favorite lines were included and that they could read them over and over and over! I think some of them secretly rolled the die just right so they could read certain lines more than others- oh well, they were reading! The sheet also had a place where the kids tallied the number of times they rolled each number, which we then turned into bar graphs and the kids compared their graphs with others' around them. It was a great math connection.

A few weeks ago, I read one of my favorite stories aloud- Hooway for Wodney Wat.

If you haven't read this one before, it's a must for any classroom. Poor Rodney cannot pronounce his R's, and his classmates tease him. However, through a hilarious turn of events, he becomes a hero and the classmates cheer for him, hence the title. It's a great lesson on acceptance and being proud of who you are. Anywho, I decided that it would be fun to create a roll-and-read for our fluency Friday activities using lines from the book. The kids were IN LOVE! Of course they loved reading the lines pretending they also had trouble pronouncing their R's,  but they made sure to really pay attention to their emotions as they read the lines. They could really get in character!

The kids love the roll-and-read activity. It's hands on, fairly fast-paced, and even my most struggling readers can participate. I'm sure there are all kinds of ways to differentiate this activity, but for now, I will just enjoy the sounds that fill my classroom when these babies make their appearance!

Click on the link below the picture to grab your own copy of the roll-and-read for Hooway for Wodney Wat!  I'm not the most tech-savvy, so when you download it there will be an extra blank page- my apologies! I couldn't get that darn page to go away!!

You can also pick up your own set of FREE dice clip art from First Grade Brain. Let your creativity run wild!!!

Do you use roll and read in your classroom? If so, I would love to hear how you use it and with what resources!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Must-Have Resources for New (and Experienced) Teachers

Wow. This week has been an emotional roller coaster! Lots of stuff going on and only one instructional week until the big test. Ugh. I saw this picture on Hooty's Homeroom  and I HAD to share.

'Nuff said.

Besides the stress of testing, one of the teachers on our team is out for maternity leave (great timing, right?) and we have a new member on our team as a long term sub! She is so wonderful, but this is her first time ever being a long-term sub. She is walking into a super tough situation at a super tough time of the year. It all made me reflect on what it was like my first year teaching (especially the first few weeks) and how stressful and overwhelming it was! It makes my heart race just thinking about it!

Looking back, it's amazing how much I have learned in a few short years. This is only my fourth year teaching and already I feel like I have grown exponentially. Our school has some tough-to-love kiddos and lots of challenges, but we work together as a team and we make magic everyday. But that magic does not come without hard work, LOTS of learning, and sacrifice.

I wanted to share some of the resources I have used over the years that have truly made a HUGE impact in my teaching. I'm sure you probably know already about most of these, but I'm sharing them anyway!! :)

The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher 
This one is amazing- full of ideas and lots of preparation materials for the first day and beyond. A must-have for any new teacher.

Setting LImits in the Classroom: A Complete Guide to Effective Classroom Management

This one is full of practical tips and strategies to combat all kinds of behavior problems and how to be proactive to avoid problems in the first place. A great read for anyone who struggles with discipline or has those "challenging" kiddos. Even if you don't, it's still a great read for perfecting your classroom management skills.

Ron Clark's The Essential 55

This one describes Clark's 55 rules for his students. A great read for setting and maintaining high expectations in the classroom.

And now, my absolute favorite: Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College

This book truly deserves a post all its own. It has truly changed my teaching. It points out so many seemingly small things that can make a massive difference and has helped me truly reflect on my teaching. If you have not read this one, it's a MUST read for any teacher, regardless of how many years you have been teaching.

Those are my top four!

The amazing thing about teaching is how different each year can be. Every group of kiddos is different and provides its own share of challenges. Teachers have to adapt and change and be truly flexible. It's a tough job, but so rewarding. However, if you struggle with management and discipline, the rewarding moments are fewer and farther between.

Our profession is one of on-the-job training. No amount of student teaching or college courses can truly prepare you for what you face "in the trenches." That's why it's also very easy for a teacher to be drowning without anyone ever noticing. It's our job as teachers to support each other, help each other, and mentor each other so that we all can experience the true joy of teaching. :)

What resources have helped you become the great teacher that you are?? Please share!!!

Sunday, April 7, 2013


I have recently joined BlogLovin

 and it has already stolen HOURS of my life- good hours, productive hours, lots of ideas and great freebie-stealing hours, but HOURS nonetheless.

You can now follow my blog via BlogLovin if you would like, and I sure hope ya will!

Just use the icon to the right on the sidebar!

Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Why Didn't I Think of This Before?!

Do you ever get an idea and then feel so silly that you hadn't thought of it before that moment?! Well, that's me today!

A few days ago I wrote a post about how much I love task cards. They have my heart right now because they are so versatile! The only problem is they can be pesky to store. I have several sets of Edupress Practice Cards that I love to use  as well as Rachel Lynette's  task cards and now I have the perfect way to store them!

Enter- the photo storage container!

I have had this thing sitting around my house for MONTHS- empty- patiently waiting to be filled with pictures before my next scrapbooking retreat- which is many months away! Then it hit me- I could store my task cards in it- it was a true slap on the forehead moment! The container is made up of individual boxes and it all closes up and has a nifty handle, so it's portable! I. AM. IN. LOVE.

Today, for time's sake, I just labeled the boxes with permanant marker, but you can bet I will be prettying them up in the near future. :) The only problem is figuring out how to do that with such a narrow space... ideas?!

The possibilities are endless with this type of storage container- math flash cards, high frequency words, any type of game cards- you name it. I'm thinking about getting a few more of them for other various things like reader response topics, writing topics, etc. It bugs me that it's not full, so you can bet I will be on a mission to fill 'er up!

You can get this box at any craft supply store- I got mine from Hobby Lobby. I can't remember exactly how much it was- it may have been around $30, but with a 40% off coupon, that's not much! And it's worth it!

Got any fabulous ideas on how else to use this baby??! Feel free to share or leave me a comment!

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Monthly Market Linky!

Hey guys!

I'm linking up with Sabra over at Teaching With a Touch of Twang to share my ideas for the month of April! She had the great idea to link up and create a kind of "flea market" atmosphere where people share their ideas on different topics each month. Love it! To check out all the ideas, click on the link under the graphic below! If you have ideas, be sure to link up and share!

This month's topics are poetry, testing, and weather. Here are some of my ideas, although they are not the greatest- I'm not promising anything earth-shattering. :)


I love poetry!! We create a poetry anthology of all the poems we read througout the year (notebook paper stapled inside of a large construction paper cover) so the kids can pull them out and read them anytime. I love the way I introduced poetry this year and I have more ideas you can read about HERE.


 Blah. I'm a third grade teacher so this one always get to me. My little third graders have never experienced the pressure of a state test before, so I always take a good chunk of time to explain exactly WHY we have to take the test, how it's different from our regular classroom tests, what it looks like, how it will feel that day, on and on and on. Horrible.  The fear on their little faces is unbearable. I try to make them feel as comfortable as possible, but until they experience it for themselves, it's an uphill battle!

In the past we have gone all out to do "blitzes" with a theme- beach one year, carnival another year, and we would have all the kids from the grade level rotate through the classrooms to work on specific targeted skills. This year, we are avoiding the blitz idea and keeping our routine as normal as possible. After really reflecting, I realized that in the past I have been the one who has put a huge emphasis on the test and probably stressed my little ones out more than excited them... oops. This year, my kiddos have had to overcome some huge gaps and have worked really hard. I in no way want to add any more pressure or stress.

So..... this year, the only real "testing" activity we are doing is what I call our Reading Marathon. I got this idea my first year teaching from my awesome teammates.

Here's how it works:

To kick it off, I explain the whole marathon idea to the kids and we have a discussion about what marathons are and the kind of stamina you have to have in order to complete one. Marathons are not easy things. We talk about the difference between a relay and a marathon and we make the connection to our learning. The end goal is to be able to complete a marathon, or in our case, learn as much information as possible and be able to show off what you know in any format. To get us ready, we will also take part in shorter relays to hone in on specific skills and get us prepared for the marathon.

I then have the students choose a partner. I don't assign partners based on reading level or anything, I let THEM choose. They have to keep this partner for four weeks and they cannot switch! It's a great lesson in learning to work together and make it through those pesky arguments that creep up all too often! It's a little something like this at times:

I have found (through lots of trial and error) that if they are able to choose their partner, they are much more willing to work together (a majority of the time) and try their hardest, especially if they are good friends- you'll see why below.

Each week on Tuesdays, we do quiz with reading passages and test-formatted questions and they get to work on it with their partner. I call this our "relay." Before they can circle an answer, both partners have to AGREE on the same answer. When they are finished working, I grade their papers and BOTH partners get the SAME grade.

You may be thinking that some kids would just copy answers and let their partner do all of the work, but this is not the case. The kids are very adamant about explaining to their partner why certain answers are right and it just takes them one time to get a question wrong (when they knew another answer was right) to learn to fight for their answers and not just circle any answer choice because their partner thinks it's right. They really do discuss and have to prove their evidence! These are my favorite days!

On Thursdays, we do a "marathon," which is just a reading passage with questions (exactly like the relay) that the students complete independently. After eveyone is finished and I have graded their papers, I average the two partners scores together to get one score for each partner pair. The pair (or pairs) with the highest average score for the week earn classroom coupons and a special award. Here comes the kicker: when the students get their papers back, they have to show their grade to their partner. Because the grades are averaged, even if one partner makes a 100, it might not be enough to win the marathon. If the other partner makes a lower grade, another partner pair could beat them. The accountability to their partner is a great incentive to work hard. I even give them time to meet for a few seconds right before each marathon to give last minute reminders, and they are so cute giving each other last-minute advice! After they show their grades to their partner, they have to work together to correct their papers.

Because they have the freedom to choose their partners, they are very concerned about each other. When it comes time to correct their tests, they become little teachers and try their best to explain to their partner why certain answers are correct and others are incorrect.

I keep track of the relay grades and the marathon grades in a different folder for each class. Since we have started our Reading Marathon, our scores have gradually increased each week. I feel like this is a great way to get in test practice, build reading stamina, and promote critical thinking. I make sure to relate everything to being the "best student we can be" and put little emphasis on preparing for the state test. I will keep the marathon format through the end of the year, but the content on the relays and marathons will look different. :) And I might let them choose a new partner. :)

I wish I had pictures of my kiddos working together to break up all of these paragraphs, but I don't... so I'll just share this one instead.

Cracks me up EVERY time! Random, I know.

Ok, back to school stuff...

I am also rediscovering my love of task cards. I see a great many of them in my future- especially as differentiated activities during our last few weeks before the big test! You can read about how I used task cards with the whole class HERE.

I teach language arts, so I don't have any weather ideas to share with you :( However, I have seen some super cute ideas for weather on Pinterest, so you can check out my Science board HERE.

That's all I've got! I wish I had more to share- which is why I'm such a blog-stalker! :)

I am all kinds of exhausted tonight. I have a date with Dance Moms and my bed is calling my name. Is 7:30 too early for TV watching in bed?!?!

Night, y'all!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Task Card Love!

I wanted to quickly share how much I LOVE task cards!!!

Some of the skills my kids need constant practice with are using context clues and drawing conclusions. These skills are closely related and I find that the easiest way to practice these is by using lots of short texts to practice with. Enter- task cards!

For years I have bought practice cards from the teacher supply store. I love them because they have many different uses, but they can be pricey. I recently downloaded a few sets of Rachel Lynette's task cards for only $2.75 each (I know! Great price!) and they are working beautifully! By the way, Rachel Lynette has no idea who I am, I am just all about sharing great products when I find them!!

I like to use these cards as a partner activity. I am all about changing up the room arrangement often to make things interesting, and right now I am loving this layout.

The desks are facing different directions and two central meeting areas are created in the middle of the desks. These central areas are where we meet as a whole group and then the students disperse to their desks to work. Its fabulous because they are less distracted by each other, have more space to work, and I can easily access each student. I feel like I am able to get so much more face time with each student with the desks like this. This will be my go-to layout for partner work!

I placed a card on each pair of desks and the students traveled around the room reading each card and recording their thinking. The cards are at just the right difficulty level to present a nice challenge to even my little brainiacs!

Each set comes with 32 multiple choice cards and a recording sheet.  I wanted my kids to record more of their thinking than just the answer, so I created my own recording sheets to go with each set. For the drawing conclusions cards,  the sheet has columns for the card number, the answer, and clues from the text. For the context clue cards,  spaces are included for the card number, unknown word,  definition, and clues from the text. Click on the links below the pictures if you would like your own copy of the recording sheets.

If you have ideas on how to use Rachel's task cards, link up using the link HERE!

It's amazing how tired I am tonight after a three day weekend! Time to get lazy and watch some trashy TV! Good luck to our fourth and fifth graders who are STAAR testing tomorrow!