I have shared a video of our protocol of “Stand up, Hand up, Pair up” before, and also shared an example of how we got to know each other with a Find Someone Who activity.
Here’s an example of how we used it in a different way: in Science with weather vocabulary.
We have already done some reading, writing and talking about these words, and so much of today was a review and check-in to see what they remembered. There was one word that was new–climate–and we were going to talk about how that new word was connected to what they already knew.
As we did with the previous Find Someone Who, kiddos had a sheet with words and they were tasked to find someone who knew what the words meant and could tell them. I reminded them that “whoever does the writing does the thinking” as we reviewed the directions and then they got to work. I love how again kiddos showed up and did the work in just the way they were asked to. These kids are awesome, y’all! Check it out in action:
I am sure I mentioned it in a previous post, but these are new-to-me Kagan cooperative learning protocols I learned this year from my superstar colleague, Dr. Grayson. It’s so good to have a refresh on how to get kids thinking and talking together and I LOVE how it’s working out so far! More to come, so stay tuned! 🙂
I am sure by now you know that we practice phonics every day in 3rd grade. Last year we began an official program to help all grades K-5 standardize and tighten up their phonics instruction. The program we are now using is called Sunday, and it has five basic parts. Every day kiddos read sounds, write sounds, read words, write words and then learn some new material. Every 5th lesson we have a Mastery Check and kiddos show how they can transfer the lessons they are learning into new situations. Are you ready to see what it looks and sounds like? Here we go!
First we read sounds and write sounds. These are review as well as new ones we’ve learned so far in 3rd grade.
Next we read words (and a few sentences).
Next we write words. These words include sounds we’ve learned together as well as sight words that we have practiced.
After we review, then we learn something new. In this lesson, students are introduced to two new sets of sounds that come after a short vowel at the end of a word. I know it sounds funny, but I do not remember learning this as a child! At least not the “why” of them and/or how to use them. That’s one of the things I love about what we’re doing here: talking to kiddos about what to do as well as the reason why they should do it! Makes it so much easier to apply a “rule” if you know why!
New material: ff, ss, zz, ll
More new material: -ck
I love this hard thinking and work we do every day with phonics! I love that we start with it, as it allows us so many opportunities to practice and apply the new learning throughout the day as readers and writers!
We are learning so many new things about how sounds and words work. What do you remember about phonics?
Have you ever wondered how classroom “rules” are made? Read on to find out!
In our room, these rules are called expectations, and we decide on them together. It has been a process, and kids were involved all along the way. Let me show you!
We started in what may be a surprising way–with questions. I put 6 charts around the room, and kiddos spent time answering them with post-its as they walked around.
Now, not all of these questions will help us create our expectations, but they definitely help me get a feel for what they want, who they are and how they need things to be.
We mostly zoned in on the question that asked “What do you want our classroom to be like?” The answers to that question are KEY to the next step. Check out what they said: like home, family friendly, calm, kind, quiet, fun, respectful and following directions. Sounds like a great place to learn, right? WELL…if that’s what they want, then we have to figure out HOW we will make it that way.
The next step is to have crews brainstorm what our expectations we would need in order for our class to be (or become) those things we mentioned. Teams worked together to suggest what they thought good rules would be.
Can you guess what happened next?
I took the most popular suggestions and put them together on a new sheet, then crews had to choose the most important five expectations.
Once we made crew choices, then we compared those and made the final decisions as a class. Some of them we combined, and ended up with this:
I’m excited to see what happens now that we have our collective expectations and can helped each other to them. Our plan is that following these expectations will help us have all of those things we put on our list. :).
Hey–come closer. A little closer. I have to tell you something. Ready? I teach 3rd graders and we have choice time in our class. Yep. Maybe every day. And they love it.
I know that to some (many?) people that is a controversial statement. To some (many?) 3rd grade marks a change in school. This is the year when kids are supposed to get serious. They’re supposed to have moved on past the play time and ease of primary grades and be ready now for real school, where they should be expected to sit still and work silently (often in a desk), have lots of homework and get ready for middle school (oh man, don’t even get me started about that statement….maybe more on that later…). Gone are the days of games and free time and arts and crafts. Now is the time for work.
While I am by no means an expert on third grade or third graders, I have spent a lot of time in a classroom and have taught grades on both sides of it, so I know some of how parents and teachers alike expect third grade to go. I’m going to suggest there’s another way to do it. A way that values both play and learning, as play IS a way children learn.
If you Google “quotes on play” you can sit for hours and go through all sorts of things that people say about play. Here are just a few:
As an early childhood educator, I was taught–and firmly believe–that children are the crafters of their learning and my job is one of a facilitator. I provide the opportunities and invitations, and kiddos do the thinking and discovering as they figure things out and own their knowledge. Yes, there are times when you have to give them information, but more often than not, leading them there and having them find out things for themselves is the best way. The more they do for themselves, the more they remember and the more ownership they take. Also, it’s way more fun to figure things out than to always have the adults around you be the experts telling you all the things.
Why do I even mention this? Because like I mentioned before, people find choice time–or art, LEGOs, games, building, recess–to be a no-no for older kiddos. I need you to know that this is an expectation in my classroom, and we will work hard through play, choice and fun.
Especially at the beginning of the year, unstructured time with new people in a new classroom is crucial–both for students and for me. As I give them time to make choices of what to do and who to work (play) with, I am learning as much as them. I can get info on who they work well with (and who they don’t!); what they do when they are frustrated; what makes them happy; what they enjoy doing; how long they can stay engaged with an activity; what they know about problem-solving, creativity and figuring out what to do on their own; how well they clean up after themselves (or don’t LOL); more about their language skills; and countless other things. They can learn about their friends, meet new ones, relieve stress, create things, learn a new game or skill, become comfortable in our classroom and of course, it’s FUN! I honestly do not know what I would do in my classroom if there was not time or room for kids to play. It’s good for all parts of them, and it’s good for me, too. Some of the best conversations I have had with kids have come during unstructured time in our room when they don’t feel pressure to be “on” or like I’m expecting something from them. They are at ease and are often more likely to share things that then help me in future interactions with them as learners.
I look forward to the ways we will play and learn together, and how I can encourage kiddos to do new and hard things by presenting the challenges to them in a fun, welcoming way. Sharing my own stories of play are important, too. I’m sure we will make mistakes, get messy and learn a TON together. Hope you are along for the ride!
Tell us, what is your favorite way to play? Leave a comment and we’ll be sure to respond soon! 🙂
We have gotten into some “actual” school things and we did something in particular that I was especially excited about. Based on some learning I did this summer, I am making it a goal to include more of a variety of text types into our reading work. After all, reading is at its core making meaning from a text, with or without words, and no matter what kind of text. So one of our first “read alouds” was a short called “Pip,” an animated short about a dog who goes to guide dog school. Here it is if you want to watch it, too!
As we “read,” I had given kiddos the job of paying attention to what Pip was feeling, as we would be keeping track of his emotions and how they changed throughout the story. There are several stopping points and we recorded words that described his emotions at the time. I added in additional vocabulary that connected with the words they suggested, and we talked about how they were other ways of saying the same thing. We also made predictions of how or whether we thought his feelings would change as we went through the rest of the video.
At the end, I added another teaching point: the difference between emotions and traits. We discussed how emotions were feelings that could and would change, based on the characters circumstances or mood. Traits are words that describe how the character always is; words that describe their personality or how they tend to act most of the time. This second part was a little tricky at this point, but we will definitely come back to it again and again as we go through the year. Here’s the chart we made together:
In addition to making this chart together to revisit with later texts, it also served as a model for something students will be able to use in their own reading, recording their thinking in their reading journals. Here’s an example of the rough draft thinking of it in my journal as I planned:
I was really pleased with how this lesson went, as kiddos were really engaged, and had great ideas to share–many of which I had not thought of when I watched the short! The whole thinking behind using a short first is to get everyone on board and with you from the very beginning. With no text to read, and a short story to hold on to, it’s easy for readers of all levels to join in and contribute an idea. They feel included already and can more easily form a mindset that “Reading in this classroom is for me! I can do it!” Isn’t that what we want for every reader every day?
As we go on, I hope to be able to incorporate more shorts like this one, as well as a wide variety of text to help readers see the possibilities! Make sure you’re subscribed to our blog so you don’t miss the next time I tell about it! 🙂
If you haven’t had a chance to read part 1 of these highlights, be sure to do that first! Don’t want to miss anything. 🙂
What to Do With a Box
We read a great book called What to Do with a Box by Jane Yolen. It’s about a kiddo who does amazing things with a box and their imagination. After the book, kiddos saw this on our carpet:
As they thought about which box they wanted to use, they were matching it up with what they thought their box could become. There were not at many parameters for this one–“Make something new out of your box,” were the only directions. They could add anything we had in our classroom to the project. Oh, except paint because we haven’t gotten that out yet. LOL. They could choose to work alone or with a partner, putting their boxes together to create something bigger (and probably better!).
Once we finished, kiddos created an “exhibit” to tell about their creation. They wrote 3 sentences to tell about what it was and how they made it. We set them all up around the room in a mini-museum and then did a gallery walk (after we talk about what they meant and how to follow museum etiquette, of course! 🙂 ).
Oh, and by the way–kids LOVED this! It was definitely one of the highlights of the day, and probably the week. Which was kind of the point, really. I always have a goal during these first few days (and always, really!) of helping kids see that learning is fun, that our classroom is a safe place to make and share your ideas, to create things, to make mistakes (and messes!) and a place to explore new things by yourself and with your friends. I want to set the stage for the year from day 1!
“My Favorites” Game
Kiddos played a game with their crews where they answered questions about their favorite things. This was one fun and can be played over and over again with different groups. Oh, and this one was a good place to teach kiddos how to roll dice in my room. Yep, you heard it right. I HATE the sound of clicking dice on floors and tables, and also hate when learning time is spent running after roll-away dice, so I have a lesson the first time we get the dice box out. I know you’re wondering what that lesson looked like. hee hee If you have a student in this class, be sure to have them teach it to you, and if you don’t leave a comment and I’ll add a video to show you. ;). Anyhow, they really enjoyed this way of learning about their friends.
I love a puzzle! I have loved doing jigsaw puzzles all my life, and even today usually do one daily, on an app on my iPad. Every year on Global School Play day, our class puts together a 500+ piece puzzle together over the day. So as we begin the year together, I had to introduce puzzles to the class. Besides being fun, there are sooo many other skills that doing puzzles supports. Kiddos practice problem-solving, perseverance, stamina for hard things, focus, communication, play and free choice options, cooperation, and also just time to be with friends and/or make new ones. And guess what? They loved this, too. 🙂 Check out these amazing puzzle-solvers!
Library Tours–our classroom and Robinson’s!
We spent some time getting to know our classroom library, as well as the Robinson library–the latter with a scavenger hunt. So fun! I usually do this during the first days anyway, but we definitely had to do it sooner. They were dying to go book shopping and of course I had to oblige!
We needed some mini versions of ourselves so we made some! This activity came after the book Happy in Our Skin, and we had fun creating a beautiful classroom line of US! We’ll use these as decoration as well as a way to keep track of who’s in charge (which is what we call helpers in our class!).
Ok, that’s all for now. But like I said before, keep coming back, because there will be A LOT to show you as we go through this year! I already have a list of things that aren’t on this list of “first week” things. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the next post! Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave us a comment to let us know what you think about what’s going on in Rm. 204!
Yesterday’s grand opening meant an air of excitement, brightly frosted cupcakes and lots of money spent on new books to add to my ever-growing collection. I mean, come on—is it possible to have too many books?
The inside of the shop is small, but nicely decorated and clear on who’s important here: the little readers who fill those tiny chairs and spend time finding a new favorite book! There is definitely a South City vibe, which is great. And the best part? I can walk there! (Although I guess that does cause some trouble in that it limits the size of my book haul to whatever I can carry! 😆 Oh well, I’ll figure it out. Maybe a wagon??)
Speaking of “book haul,” let me show you what we bought!
I found two new titles I am excited to share with my kiddos, and one that is an old favorite—but in paperback!
I hope to be able to visit this little gem of a store for years to come and that they get to grow and grow, putting books into the hands of Little Readers all over town! Visit them, will ya?!
I have been busy in my new room, and yesterday I made a breakthrough! Have been working on getting the library–which is all around our meeting area rug–put together and the rough draft of it is pretty much done. I’m so excited to share what’s starting to take shape. There are many small details I have to fix, but I am so excited for our new class to gather in the library every day for learning!
Check it out! And I’d love to know what you think–leave a comment below! 🙂
I was thinking about a suuuppppeeerrr cute shirt that was delivered today:
Of course, the first thing I thought was about how I already miss my old team, but also how excited I am about the prospects of a new one and what we will accomplish together this year. I thought of all the young teachers and learners that will start with me next month—and how I get to tell them all I’m their teacher on Monday!
And then I thought about how weird it feels to say “3rd grade strong” or “I’m on the 3rd grade team.”
Don’t get me wrong, I am totally on board with the strong and the team part, but the 3rd grade part feels very strange in my mouth. Saying it doesn’t yet roll off my tongue.
I’ve taught primary for lots of years, and always felt perfectly confident claiming the “1st and 2nd teacher” title, I knew exactly what the meant: I teach kids to read, lots of kids loose their teeth, I encourage independence and problem solving rather always looking to the teacher for help, there are still sometimes tears because we’re not first in line (this is of course not an exhaustive list 😀). If I heard someone else claiming the title also, I could immediately commiserate or celebrate with whatever story they were telling.
The same thing happens with “4th and 5th grade teacher.” I spent almost a decade on that end of the elementary spectrum, building on what had happened in primary—extending learning and challenging kiddos to do great things with those basic skills they had developed early on. I knew that being an “intermediate teacher” meant dealing with new hormones and drama, but also being able to be more sarcastic, have deeper conversations about books and current events, and teach a really great unit on multiplying and dividing fractions (really—I still miss working through that one with 5th grade mathematicians!).
That same thing doesn’t happen now. I know some of this comes from not actually haven’t been a 3rd grade teacher yet, but I think some of it is also the “between” nature of third grade. It’s not a primary grade anymore; I’ve heard all about how this is the year we begin to read to learn, since we’ve already learned how to read. It’s a year of great transition and growing, both socially and academically. Thirds graders are still little enough to really love their teacher and love school, but are old enough to push a little further, so harder things. But it’s not yet a true “upper grade”, and all that comes with that.
That brings me to the title of the post. I wonder if 3rd grade is a little like being in kindergarten again. Just like when kiddos bring their preschool suitcase with them to the primary grades—ready to be big kids and do “real” school—3rd graders are doing that same thing as they begin their intermediate journey. Their bags are fuller now: stuffed with reading and writing strategies, lessons they’ve learned about how to be good friends and have a growth mindset, math skills and memories of their “firsts”—when they did great things for the first time and were really surprised.
What does that mean for me as I embark on this journey with them, as a first time traveler as well? I’m at the same transition stage as my students, only I know both what has been and what will come a few years down the line. I wonder what this “between” time will do for me as both a teacher and a learner. What tools will I add to my own toolbox? What skills and strategies will be in my suitcase at the end of this year that aren’t there now?
You know what? Not knowing is kind of the best part. I’m heading out on a new adventure, uncharted territory of sorts, jumping into the deep end of a pool in which I’ve never swum (or is it swam?? Sorry grammar police 👮). I am going to do new things that I know will be hard and might feel impossible. I’m going to attempt things that will fail, but also accomplish things I never thought possible. Just like my students will. And they will be there to celebrate with me, cheer me on along the way and pick me up when I fall. And I will do the same for them. We’ll do it together. 😀
If you read my last post, then you know we were just on a family trip to San Francisco. Yesterday was a really long day of flying home (from San Fran to Burbank, then Burbank to Phoenix, and then Phoenix to St. Louis, because I know you were wondering 😉).
As I began each leg of the flight, I listened as the flight attendants (who are amazing group of people, I should add!) explained all of the safety protocols and what to do when and how and all of those essential things. It made me chuckle each time as they said the word “mask,” as I thought of how our understanding and use of that word has changed soooo much over the course of this last year and a half.
Yes, originally when that safety spiel was written, it referred to the yellow plastic cup with the rubber strap that I’m supposed to put on myself first and then on my child in case of a sudden drop in cabin pressure (which, thankfully I’ve never had to do!). I was further reminded during one presentation of the possible confusion when the attendant closest to me actually pulled down his fabric mask to demonstrate how you’d have an extra step now of removing one mask for the other mask to work appropriately.
Also there in my memory is how the word mask used to be relegated only to Halloween, something that I hated to wear a child because they were so hot (and you don’t really need one when you dress up as Laura Ingalls Wilder or Jem—shout out or anyone old enough to appreciate that reference 🤣), and that now I also know you’re not supposed to bring to school for the classroom parade but instead save for “real” trick-or-treating at home later that night.
Enter 2020 and COVID-19 and of course that word has a completely different definition and as well a different connotation depending on the wearer. (And no, dear reader, I am not going to spending time here on any political statements or judgments of right or wrong. I am simply going to tell stories about masks. Stories that I am sure will be highly entertaining, so I hope you stick around. 😉)
I remember the beginning of the pandemic when the whole idea of masks came up and my friend shared with me a tutorial on how to make one out of a dish towel or a t-shirt and how silly I thought that was. She was of course over-reacting, we were never going to need to know how to do that. Right?
Ha! Of course I was so very wrong. Let me stop a second here to show you how wrong I was. And when I say “wrong” I mean let me show you the first versions of masks we wore around my house, which were made of strips of fabric and ponytail holders. Please be kind as you enjoy this picture:
Instead of Halloween- or airplane-related, scarcely worn and foreign, mask is now a term that has become common place to all of us. But to me it’s also become an opportunity to express my creativity and also a bit of a fashion statement. Or at least an opportunity to match a new accessory to my clothes!
We went on like that with those strip-and-rubber-band masks for a bit.
Once we knew we were going to need more “official” masks, I had a choice to make. And since I’m definitely an “I’d-rather-make-it-than-buy-it” kind of person, I knew that meant I needed to figure out how to make some better fabric face coverings. Then I remembered the scrap fabric pile in the basement and decided we needed a little bit of an upgrade. The second iteration of the Bearden family mask stash was a little better than these, and at least has some sewn elements, thanks for a PLETHORA of YouTube videos on the subject. (I’m not kidding, check it out, I am pretty sure EVERYONE has posted a video on how to make a mask as home! When you find out how many there actually are, leave me a comment and tell me the number, will ya? 🙂 ). Eventually we had a small stash of masks that were at least presentable in public, but that were mostly adult sized. My husband was the only one leaving at this time, since we were all doing school at home and we decided it was best for the rest of use to stay in as much as we could. He and I shared these first masks, and of course washed them after each wearing. At that point no one besides him was even really needing them, so we had only a few through which we rotated.
This basically got us all the way through the summer, as we tried to steer clear of places where we’d even come in contact with people. Our kids stayed at home, and we really only went on short trips to the grocery store–as were most others, too. We even managed a beach vacation, where we stayed in our condo and played on the beach by ourselves and again only ventured out a couple of times to pack our fridge or sneak a quick ice cream treat from a stand nearby. It took me all the way to June to even find a picture in my albums of someone wearing one of those masks I sewed. Seems like by that time we at least were willing to venture out a bit, I think mostly because it was summer and we could be outside.
The big turn came when–gasp!–the decision was made to return to school in October. Now, not only did A and I need a mask for every day, we also needed ones that we were willing to be seen in. LOL.
That began my search for a better design as well as prints and fabrics that were more fun. I mean, hey, if you have to wear something you may as well enjoy it right? I think by now I’ve gotten this whole mask-making thing down to a science, and can hand-sew a mask in 25 minutes from 8″ X 8″ square to complete mask with straps and pleats–like these that I just added to the stash tonight:
As I’ve been working on this post, going back to find pictures to use, I’ve realized how FEW I actually have! Some of that, I think, is because of how little we actually left our house over the last year, hence we weren’t places where we’d both be wearing masks and taking pictures. The other thing is that when we were outside, we tried to stay away from others, therefore not wearing masks. But that makes our picture documentation of the pandemic and quarantine look a lot like others years–I wonder if that will be something I will miss in the future when I look back on 2020. Guess we’ll have to wait and see. 🙂
I mentioned earlier that the return to school meant that we all needed more masks, and so I needed to get busy. My first pile of additions were made with scrap fabric, but were inspired by some of our favorite colors, characters and prints.
Once my hubby finally went back to in-person school in January, he needed another set of new masks since he’d now need them every day of the week.
Eventually, we just started finding cute fabric and making more masks not because we needed them, but because they went with clothes we have, or just because they were cute.
Like I said, I’ve learned somethings that might be helpful if you’re making your own masks. There are many, many tutorials online–and heck, you could probably figure out how to do it on your own if you already know how to sew. I used several different versions. The first looked like this, with a filter pocket and long straps so that they could fit both me and my husband. We just tied slip knots in the ties if they needed to be a littler smaller.
The style I’ve landed on–both because they are easiest to make and also because they fit the best are basically like what you can find on this post by Diary of a Quilter. We use 8″ X 8″ squares a little bigger if they’re for my husband’s face or a little smaller if they’re for my daughter), scissors, needle and thread (for hand-sewing), and nylon stretchy loops like you made potholders with when you were a kid. I found this pack of 288 of them on Amazon and will have plenty for a long time to come. You cut them in half and use one for each mask. These have been our favorite straps by far because they are soooo comfy and soft on your ears. 🙂
Whew. Wow–who knew there were so many words to write about masks? I certainly didn’t. Especially last year when masks weren’t even things I even really ever wore. Now they are everywhere, and despite what you think about their health benefit, they definitely keep people from knowing if I have coffee breath in the morning or if I had onions on my salad at lunch. LOL And that, friends, is definitely a win-win in my book.