Saturday, October 17, 2015


Lapbooks remind me of the days when I was a stay-at-home mom. We made them during some of our homeschooling lessons. I think lapbooks are going to be useful once again, but this time in my classroom and with my students!

Next week we are beginning a science unit on Matter (Mixtures and Separating) and a Social Studies unit about South America. I have lapbooks to use with both topics.

The Matter Lapbook contains pieces from kits I purchased from TpT.
The pieces are mixed and matched from Paper Bag Matter Book from Hooty's Homesroom and States of Matter Lapbook from Amber Polk. Both of these can be found in their TpT stores.
I made some of the pieces to cover other topics that will be taught but were not included in their kits.

Here are the directions for adding an insert. I needed one so the students can keep their reading passages and notes in one place. It will be easier for them to study for a test when all the information is compact and organized.

This is the lapbook for South America. I created this lapbook and it is in my TpT store 
It includes 5 lessons with reading passages and the lapbook pieces to use as a follow-up activities.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Reading Passages-Binders vs. Files

Fall Break is halfway over and I have completed many of my big projects. One of them was to organize reading passages. In Kindergarten I used leveled readers, mostly the books from readingatoz. These books were simple to organize, put a rubber band around them and place them in hanging files. The bulkiness of the books seemed to give some breathing room in the filing cabinets so finding them, and filing them after we read them, was a breeze.

In third grade, we read a lot of passages during small group and organizing them has been a challenge. I started piling them and then forgot which passages I had copied and copied them again and the pile grew bigger. I asked a lot of teachers how they organized their reading passages and it seemed to be one of two ways - files or binders. I decided to go with the binder organization. It took 2 days to get them copied and organized and really this is just a good start, there are many more passages out there to copy and put in these binders.

Step 1: I purchased 16 binders from Sam's Club, they came in packs of 4, and a couple of boxes of sheet protectors. I looked through my passages and decided to separate them by reading skill.

Step 2: Find all the passages and materials I have about that skill. This binder is for Main Idea & Details. I placed my anchor chart in the pocket (anchor charts are from Amy Grosbeck's TpT Store-Reading Comprehension Strategies and Skills Posters)

Step 3: Gather all the graphic organizers to use with that skill and place them in the front.

Step 4: Use bright, happy colors of paper as dividers for the levels of passages.

Step 5: Put the passages in each section. I printed 7 copies of each passage and if they came with text-based questions, I printed 7 copies of those and placed all of the copies in a sheet protector (grab and go style). I started my collection with the Scholastic Passages and have added some from readingatoz. I purchased  the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade books (thanks LJ for the idea) to use for each small group.
I also use task cards for skills practice during small group. My first set was purchased from Rachel Lynette's TpT store (Reading Strategies) and I place those in drawer organizers that I labeled by skill. I do not cut the cards apart, the students slip them in the dry erase pockets so they can mark the text, erase, and then the cards can be reused. The passages are used the same way-placed in a dry erase pocket so the students can mark the text, but then erase and they can be used later with a different group.

Step 6: Take the binders to school and find somewhere to put them for easy access (my next challenge) and continue to search for passages to use with these reading comprehension skills.

Next Post: The Seatwork Disaster

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Random Ideas

Treasure chest...a time of digging for that one perfect reward...a reminder all week to make good choices.  Many years ago I happened to walk in the classroom of a very talented third grade teacher as she had the top drawer of her flat file pulled out. I was very impressed with the organization of her treasure chest. I believe she used an economy system (store) with her rewards, but my students just choose one item. Anyway, there is no digging, but there are reminders. It is located in the first drawer of my flat file.

In the past nine weeks, I have rearranged the desks and tables probably 5-6 times. I am trying to figure it all out. The whole rearranging was not a problem, instead it was the chorus of comments from the students on Monday mornings, such as,  "The classroom is different AGAIN". The rug disappeared for a few weeks, then reappeared. I added wire bookcases for each table group because I was getting dizzy passing papers out to the students and then taking them back up when they were finished. Now the top shelves of the bookcases have a basket-they just lean a little and place the completed work inside. No more playing in pencil boxes, they were collected and placed on the BOTTOM shelf of the bookcases, far, far away.

The whole pencil fiasco was another problem. I really wanted the desks to all face the board so they can see. This arrangement prevents desks from facing each other in a table design so there are no buffers to stop pencils from falling and rolling on the floor. To stop the pencils from falling on the floor (and having that student along with 3 more students who are "helping" get out of their seats to  pick them up),  I purchased long baskets for the pencils and attached them to the desks. Lots of problems, people.
Each of the baskets have tags with the students' names on them. This student's name has been blurred. I punched a hole in the tag and attached it with a zip tie. I put name tags on both sides so it would be helpful for a sub. First, I attached them to the desks with sticky velcro dots. They wore out quickly even though they never removed the baskets (that I am aware of). Then I used sticky magnetic strips, one on the desk and one on the basket. It was just not a strong enough attraction. Finally, I used what any good crafter would use-hot glue. I just put a line of hot glue on the bottom magnet and then stuck the basket magnet on top. So far, so good.

I am pleased that this is the design I have settled on for the last several weeks.
Even though the rug is not large enough for all students to sit on it at one time, it is back to stay (well, for now). I alternate who sits on the rug. I have the students at the back desks sit on the rug during instruction (when needed) and then the next time the students from the front desks sit on the rug and the students at the back desks sit at the front desks. I have clipboards for the students sitting on the rug to use if during that lesson any writing is involved.

Displaying work was important to me. I decided to use my cabinet doors to display work from each student. I use binder clips to hang the work and attached the clips to the doors with sticky velcro dots.
But I wanted more student work displayed and I needed to be able to put it up quickly with no tape, no hot gluing clothespins, no measuring for placement, nothing complicated, etc. I used a jewelry making rope-like string and tied it from the empty holes which are used to keep the bulletin boards in place. I have small clips that hold the work on the string.  (The work that is displayed are mobiles of the branches of government.)

I hope some of these ideas help you in some way.
Next Post: Reading Passages-Binders vs Files

Monday, October 12, 2015

Text Features

My third graders enjoyed learning about text features. I used textmapping with "text scrolls" to help cooperative groups of students see the entire book. I plan to use these again for other skills (they are great for allowing students to mark text). We covered this skill for three days during whole group reading. 

Here are the details:
As we discussed each feature, the students used the chart to complete notes for each feature using cloze sentences. They "filled in" the important word that was missing for that feature.

Day 2: The students had a "Scavenger Hunt" to find the text features on the text scrolls. I reduced the cards and had a set at each scroll so they could see if the book had that text feature. They used a recording sheet with all the text features listed and highlighted the ones that were in each book. We had 6 scrolls and I used books from
These cards were used at each scroll.
Some groups flipped through them as if they were a deck of cards, and some groups matched the cards to the text feature on the scroll. 
The scrolls were simple to make. Just glue the book in order on a strip of bulletin board paper.
I did go back and staple just the bottom of each book to the paper.
I kept space at the top for text marking.

They were warned about this book beforehand and instructed not to scream!

The discussions among the students were so varied-some were confirming the text feature and some were asking for clarification about the text features. The small cards were a great reference.

Day 3: The students were placed in cooperative groups and given 1 text scroll to list all the text features, the page number, and what they learned from that feature.

These were fun and engaging lessons and really had little prep except for the scrolls. I did not let them mark on these so I can use them again. The students could always take ownership of the scrolls and glue the book pages and that would save you some time. Storage is quick and easy, just fold each side over until they meet and place in a flat drawer.

For more information about text scrolls, visit this website.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Literacy Centers

I know, I know, Daily 5 is the way to go.... but for me, well, just take a look at the centers I use in my third grade classroom. I change them every 5 days.

At the Language Center, the students practice grammar skills that have been taught this year. 
They use task cards with a recording sheet and are able to use the answer key to check their answers for immediate feedback.

At the Writing Center, the students have a reading passage and a writing prompt to complete, or just a writing prompt. 
These rough drafts are stored in their Writing Notebooks as a possible writing to edit and publish in the future.

At the Science Center, the students have task cards to read and record the answers on the recording sheet. They check the answers with an answer key.
At this center, the students are reading content with a purpose (the science book is available as a reference).
The task cards are a review of content covered during Science.

At the Social Studies Center, the students have task cards to read and record the answers on the recording sheet. They check the answers with an answer key.
Just like the Science Center, the students are reading content with a purpose.
This week they were using an atlas to help with map skills.
The task cards can be found  here.
The task cards are a review of content covered during Social Studies.

At the Word Work Center, the students have a choice of activities to use with the weekly spelling words or reading vocabulary words.

The Literacy and Math boards are placed behind each other. I just move the Math boards to the front before the Math block.

And this is how I feel after finding, buying, printing, laminating, cutting, and organizing these centers:
Isn't she adorable? Yes, that tongue is always sticking out!
Next post : Text Features

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Mathematics Centers-Fractions

I survived my first nine weeks of third grade. It has been the best quarter of school I have ever had in my career. No joke, third grade is the best, if given the chance you should give it a try. The curriculum is so interesting, they can do so much, and I come to school every day excited about my teaching my lessons. 

We just finished up a unit on fractions and all of the math centers were hands-on using manipulatives. I have never seen students so eager to get through the whole group lesson so they could work at the centers. For the most part, my math centers have been used as a spiral review of the math skills taught this year. I use task cards with a recording sheet for the students to complete. I decided to switch it up this week and use some of my familiar tools from kindergarten. 

Linking chains in bathroom cups
Students took the chains out and wrote the fractions for each color.

Unifix Cubes
Students wrote the fractions for each color in the stick.

Teddy Bear Counters
Students made a set of bears and wrote the fractions for each color.

Domino Fractions
Students counted the total number of dots and then recorded the 2 fractions (top, bottom) for the set of dots.
Set of counters in a cup
Students emptied the cup and wrote fractions for each color of counters in the set.

Honestly, these were the easiest centers I have created so far this school year. I did not need to print (or laminate) anything except the notes on the boards and the recording sheets. 

I organize my literacy centers this same way and I will post those tomorrow.

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