Saturday, October 22, 2016

Product makeover & a Freebie

Happy Saturday! I don't know about you, but this last week felt like it was at least three! Whew! Full moons are not a joke! I think Monday might have been three days all by itself. ;)

I'm coming to you today with a quick product makeover and a quick freebie!

I do not have the time, nor the inclination to create a billion products on TpT. I am very grateful for teachers who do have the time because about half the things I use in  my classroom on a daily basis I have purchased from TpT! Alas, every once in awhile, I find something that works for me that I'd like to share.

First up is a product makeover. A few years ago, I read Total Participation Techniques. I was instantly sold. I created a printable set of Total Participation Task cards and it is by far my most popular product. I just gave the front a little makeover today.

I totally love this background paper :) Since this is currently my only paid product on TpT, I decided to put it on sale for the weekend. You can save 10% of this product today and tomorrow!

I also added a new freebie skills tracker and accountability sheet.  This is a very simple form (no fancy schmancy design or anything), but very useful for helping students stay accountable to the goals they set and complete. This one is and will always be completely free.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Fun in 3rd Grade

I am all about rewarding my students for working so hard all week. Friday is seriously my favorite day aside from the obvious (almost the weekend, wearing jeans at school, etc). For the last five years I have been pretty successful at keeping my Fridays pretty darn epic. This year is no exception. Our Fridays look something like this:

Arrrival tasks (pledge/morning work)
Circle Up Brag Tag celebrations (absolutely the highlight of the week!)
Spelling test
Computer Lab (weekly test)
Literacy (assembling the notebook for the next week and read aloud)
Lunch and Recess
Math (with a visit to the school store mixed in)
Fun Friday

So I teach one thing all day and get to enjoy my kids and celebrate them. It's pretty wicked. These friends are so stinkin hilarious and sweet too. I just love them.

Today I had a student success team meeting in the morning so I was only in my room basically long enough to do the Pledge and take attendance. Some of my kids still forget we cover our heart with our right hand so I always show them by turning every which way to show them no matter what direction I face, it's still the same hand. Today one friend was trying to be helpful and said "yeah it's the one with that tattoo"...and I had to burst her bubble and say that wasn't a good reference point because I have a tattoo on the left side too (it's covered by my watch so they don't notice it much). Maybe you had to be there but it was funny.

This afternoon at recess duty a colleague told me she overheard one of my kids say to a 2nd grader that she would LOVE third grade because she would have the best third grade teacher ever (meaning me). So sweet <3 div="">

And finally for Fun Friday, the friends who earned it got a lesson in the circle of life...we have a gecko I got from a colleague 18 months ago. He lives at school during the year. I had to feed him before the weekend and the kids were fascinated watching him eat his worms. (It IS pretty fascinating.) We also had to "give him a bath" by putting him in a tub with a small amount of water to help him shed. They thought it was the coolest thing in the world. 

I am so, so thankful for this group this year. They are so kind and sweet and I just enjoy going to work to be with them every day. :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Literacy Rotations in 3rd Grade

One of my very favorite things about teaching is how vastly different every year and every class is. I can learn and grow alongside my students and experiment with new procedures that work for a specific group of students.

Last year I had a very large class and zero technology in my classroom except my document camera. Literacy stations was a complete and utter nightmare last year because of trying to keep 30 kiddos on task without the support of any technology aside from that document camera and a CD player. 

This year, I have a much smaller class (currently TWELVE less bodies than last year!) and also have three laptops and four tablets! Man oh man what a difference having the technology makes! I am able to have groups and keep the rest of the kiddos on task with other literacy related activities without a huge fuss. Game.Changer.

My student teacher and I tried three groups (with six or seven kiddos each with a total of 20 kids) for a few weeks and finally I decided it was not working. There were too many kids in each station and they were off task and not engaged. That was not going to work for me at all. So last week I sat down and created a rotation chart. It looks like this. 

This is only Monday's. Each day is different so that I can see each group twice per week. This schedule really changed it up for me because I have 5 groups and none of them have more than 4 kiddos. Firstly they fit so much better around my group table but secondly, the amount of kids in each of the other stations has been cut almost in half and thus the kids aren't having to argue over who gets what and when. It's actually QUIET in my room during stations now :)
 Each kiddo has a folder. I labeled them with their group letter A-E so to make it easier to sort them. They keep all of their literacy stations work in the folder along with their checklist.

 This folder is from a student in the higest group. You can see on the left she has her checklist. I circled the stations that the kiddos visit each day based upon their group and then as they complete the groups (before we rotate to the next station) they check it off or cross it out. This helps keep them on track and provides a nice visual. (For the checklists, I just used pencil so I can make changes later, then I photocopied them so I have a master set that I can just copy each week.) The work from any of the stations goes into the pocket on the right. They will be collected daily so that we can cut down on a ton of grading at the end of the week.

This is another student who is in the intensive group. Same concept. They use the same worksheet/assignment to get exposure to the grade level material but I can differentiate with this system by having them only complete half of the problems so that I can see if they are understanding the concept without overwhelming them.

The best news is we now have Google Classroom and I have figured out how to turn these worksheets into Google Docs so next week the kiddos won't have ANY paper/pencil during literacy except the work they do with me in groups and their vocabulary :)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Intentional Educator Planner {Review}

I am so excited to share this review video with you today. A very special teacher that I met on Voxer (seriously if you aren't on Voxer, you are missing out!) designed a teacher planner that is just awesome. She was very kind to send me a copy for free and I decided to do a vlog to showcase it because talking about it just isn't good enough for this product.

Check out the video below!

This planner was designed and created by a high school teacher. This means some of the design features aren't as beneficial for elementary teachers. For example, there are five boxes for plans each day where most elementary teachers would probably need six or seven. I also wish there were checklist pages included because I totally use checklists for EVERYTHING (i.e. I always spend the extra $10 to get the extra checklists in the Erin Condren planner because I end up using all but like 4 pages throughout the year). 

That being said, however, I would still buy this planner. Elementary teachers are creative by nature and I would definitely figure out a way to make this planner work for me despite having a desire for more boxes to plan in. It is less than half of the price I have been spending on my EC planners (even with the discounts) and it definitely lends itself to reflection and cultivating a growth mindset for the TEACHER. 

Check it out and let me know what you think. Be sure to visit Nicolette at to learn more about this great product and order your own copy.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Week 3

Three weeks down! Unbelievable! (Somehow I expect that will be my refrain this is FLYING!)

We had a great week this week. The kiddos are really settling into routines and I can definitely see who needs a tighter reign in order to stay on track during stations time. 2nd grade team did stations all last year so it is disheartening to see several friends who talk and mess around instead of doing their work. We have had to have some conversations about responsibility and doing what we are supposed to do even if the teacher isn't sitting next to you.

I am huge into Growth Mindset and we have talked a lot about how they are hurting themselves if they aren't asking for help and getting their work done. I have one student who NEVER finishes her work on time. I mean, not a single week has passed where she had everything done on time. She is able to do everything in group (without specific help so I know she isn't confused or lost). We have a couple of days where our specials make it difficult to complete an entire lesson of certain subject so I will be using that time for conferring and/or reteaching and she is the first one on my list for a meeting because third grade moves fast. I don't want her to get behind.

I feel so much more at ease this year as well. Obviously, ten less students makes a HUGE difference, but I also feel so much more comfortable with the curriculum the second time around even though I am using a different math and science program than I did last year. I guess I just feel more confident that I can help move them along. We just finally finished up our MAP testing (except for one friend who has been absent) so I am looking forward to getting the kiddos into the habit of looking at their own data and making goals for improvement also (hmmm...that conferring and reteaching block is already filling up fast haha!)

On Mondays my kiddos take home their STAR folder with all of their work from the previous week. It also includes behavior sheet that needs to be signed (the kiddos are in charge of filling these out each week). I write a short comment on them and there is a spot for the parents to comment and then sign. For each of my families that came to Open House, I wrote a short note thanking them for coming. One parent (whom I have had another child of before) wrote how happy they are that I have their daughter. :)

On Wednesday I was out for the morning only and my student teacher is not ready to sub yet so I had my usual sub there in the morning. Most of the time if I know I am going to be gone, I tell the kiddos but I had forgotten in our rush out the door on Tuesday. We do a check in each morning so we can see how the kiddos are coming in (emotionally) each day. My student teacher had collected them Wednesday morning since I wasn't there and she said at least half of the kids wrote that they felt worried because I wasn't at school. How adorable and sweet is that? :)

On Friday my student teacher was out sick (bad reaction to some medicine) so it was just me and the third graders. Fortunately Fridays are SO EASY that it wasn't a huge deal at all. We also had the school store (Estrella) is run by mom volunteers. Each class has a 20 minute block of time to go shop. My kids did a great job waiting in line for their turn and they went two at a time in the bins so it wasn't a complete disaster and mess. 

At the end of the day, after Fun Friday, I reminded the kiddos to put their ticket envelopes back into their pencil pouches so they wouldn't lose them. One of my boys called me over to his desk and was clearly upset. He said he had 6 tickets when we went to the store and now he had 5. I thought he was trying to tell me that he had lost one. But he said no, he spent 5 tickets but the mom volunteer only took one and gave him back 5. He didn't want to keep any except the one he knew he was supposed to have. Melted my heart. What a great display of honesty and taking responsibility! So I relayed the story to our principal and she is going to issue this friend a Golden Ticket next week :) (The golden tickets can only be given out by her and are worth 10 tickets so they are a big deal.) 

I am so proud of this little guy. Even better, when we were still at the store and he was waiting his turn to go, he says to me, "Mrs. Wood, my mom REALLY likes you" :) Sweetpea, you have no idea that us teachers absolutely LIVE for feedback like that :) (Note: I also had this friend's brother a few years ago so mom has known me for awhile.) 

I'm happy I have these friends this year! After two years of some incredibly tough kiddos, it is pretty awesome to a) have a small class and b) have such NICE and THOUGHTFUL kids. They make going to work such a joy.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Guided Math (Third Grade Version)

I attended a free webinar about Guided Math at the end of the summer and decided I was going to just jump in with both feet and do a math rotation this year. I have tried it before but never really went all in and therefore it was not successful (no surprise there).

But this year, I decided to go all in and make it work. I gave the students a pretest of the first unit which is on rounding and adding and subtracting within 1000 (3.NBT.1 and 2 respectively). Some of the students did pretty well on it but a good amount of them were totally lost on it as well. So I used that data to form my groups for this unit and we have taken to teaching most of the math lessons in a small group (some I do whole group because it is just easier with the type of lesson). 

We are using what I have dubbed "The Georgia Units" as our curriculum this year because we have had the old version of Everyday Math since I started teaching. Not only is it outdated but it is also not Common Core aligned and our standardized tests are. We have common assessments in our district that are Common Core based so we were told as long as we use the common assessments we could use whatever resources we wanted. As soon as I heard that, I knew I would toss the EDM curriculum out the window in terms of whole group teaching. I don't hate EDM but since it doesn't align well to what kids need to know, it is not gonna cut it.

So I checked out the Georgia resource and convinced my team that we needed to use these units this year. They are perfect for Guided Math. So many of the lessons are hands-on games or activities that let the students actually practice rounding or manipulating numbers. Plus doing them in a small group I can see immediately who is totally lost or who is getting it with some extra support. 

I have 20 students this year so for now we have 3 rotations. It may change if I get new students throughout the year. 

My rotations are: Teacher, Technology and Workbook. 

At the teacher station, they are working with me at the small group table. They play a game or complete the task with me right there to guide and support their learning. My lowest group gets much more hands-on direction from me than the highest group does because the higher group catches on so quickly. I can basically sit back and observe with them which is nice too because it helps me to know what I need to do to continue to push their thinking. The middle group ("on level") gets the general lesson but I can quickly scaffold up or down based upon the particular lesson or strategy because there are, at most, 7 students in front of me and I can see them all around the table. It's been going awesome so far.

The Technology station is where they use the iPods to play math games. I have all of the Everyday Math apps plus some fact fluency apps and games that help them to practice their facts quickly and efficiently. That has been helpful because they love the games and since I am using small groups, each student gets their own device and they think it is awesome :)

The last rotations is Work Book. I do use the Everyday Math journals for this time. The kids either review with math boxes or they work on pages that are similar to what we have been working on (or as close as I can get them). This station they are allowed to work together with their group for extra support if needed and it has been a great reinforcement tool so far.

I spend about 15-18 minutes with each group and it has been going pretty well for just jumping in and trying it! The only thing I need to be better at is remember to take anecdotal notes when the kids are working. I am watching them of course but over time I know I am not going to be able to remember what I saw with the first group when I get to the last group. So I need to be better at making sure that I use sticky notes or something to jot things down as we go along so I can make better instructional decisions. I just haven't figured out the form or method I want to use for that quite yet.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Two Weeks Down!

I still can't get over how different this year is! I feel so relaxed and happy when I go home at night which is refreshing and so needed.

I have a great group of kiddos this year too. I am enjoying them so much. Even The Husband has pointed out how much happier I am when I come home :) 

It's been so busy though I haven't had much time to think, let alone blog :) I did want to quickly post and update some of the pictures from our room.

 The first week of school we talked about our brains and how important it is that we drive our own brain toward learning mastery. We talked about growth mindset and how that means not giving up and using the word "yet" when we don't know something (i.e. "I don't know how to do this, yet"). It was a powerful lesson and I love the brain cars :) They are so cute. The kids refer to this poster ALL THE TIME during the day which is even better. I hear them telling each other "you should say YET"

Last year I did away with my prize box and used Brag Tags instead. I wasn't sure how it would work out but it was awesome. The kids LOVE them and honestly it is so much more meaningful than a dumb trinket that will break because they get to KEEP these at the end of the year. This is our Brag Tag board. Each student has a ball chain necklace and they hang their brag tags here all week. On Friday morning during our Circle Up time, the kids get their brag tags and I present any tags that were earned that week. They then get to wear their brag tags around on Friday (except to lunch and recess because I don't want them to get lost or broken). The kids LOVE it and it was so fun to see them talk about their Brag Tags to their parents at Open House too. :) 

I bought some foam insulation at Home Depot and a fabric shower curtain at Target and made this word wall (or "No Excuse Words" Wall as I like to call it). It is so stinkin cute! It has words on it now but I didn't take a new picture of it after I put them up. I just love how this looks. So adorable and fun.

I am truly enjoying my job so much more this year. That is such a nice feeling. I liked my job last year but I am LOVING it this year. So much less stressful with fewer kids and my only behavior problems are talking. Since I get paid to talk all day, I can definitely deal with that :)

And we had a full moon yesterday and my kids were not crazy! (Hoping that doesn't mean they will be on Monday haha). This year is off to such a fabulous start and I can't wait to see what happens next.