Duck into Third Grade

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Poetry Pizzazz

“Can I work on my poetry notebook during recess?” No, this is not fictional quote but one recently asked by several students… the week before spring break no less! Poetry packs a powerful  punch! As my third graders handed in their poetry notebooks I was impressed that each one was as unique as the child that completed it. Their personalities really came through!
After reading the fabulous book that totally refocused my classroom thinking, Who’s Doing the Work? by Jan Miller Burkins and Kim Yaris, I don’t go to Teacher’s Pay Teachers and purchase an interactive poetry unit because my thinking now goes down a different avenue. How could my students create/make/apply the information without filling out a cute version made by someone else? TPT has countless adorable goodies… believe me I bought my fair share until Burkins and Yaris bombarded my brain with their powerful message which goes along perfectly with the well-known quote “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Confucius

My students have wowed me again and again, doing more than I would have thought possible and the work is 100% original. Would you believe 3rd graders writing bio poems without a worksheet/template? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sitting down with my feet up, sipping tea and watching When Calls the Heart…I am just teaching smarter and guiding the kids to do more of the work themselves which causes their actual involvement to skyrocket.
For example, on the bio poems I had them fold a sheet of notebook paper into eighths and label each sectionI: adjectives, lover of…, wondered about… feared… learned… discovered…made history…Is remembered for…Next, I modeled writing a bio poem on Booker T. Washington (More Than Anything Else and 50 Cents and a Dream) I didn’t even finish my poem because they were so eager to start, I turned them loose…After they  decided who they were going to write their bio poem on they were off…  BAM! It was magical. Groups were formed, books were revisited that we had shared earlier  in the year,  kids were discussing what was most important about their person and justifying their thinking. As I meandered around the room I heard facts about the lives of Louis Braille, Babe Ruth, The Day-Glow Brothers, Wilma Rudolph, Levi Strauss, Nelson Mandela, Mr. Ferris and His Wheel…the room was anything but quiet but the noise made me smile…everyone was on task, passionate about what they were doing (it was heart warming) and proud of their finished products.

The file folders were decorated in classic third grade style from cute puppies to monsters that said FEED ME POETRY : ) The only thing that I did because of time constraints was type out a Table of Contents which they could’ve done themselves if time had permitted. We just did ten different kinds of poems: Acrostic, Bio Poem, Cinquain, Color Poem, Diamante, Free Verse, Haiku, Limerick, Listing Poem, and a Senses Poem. The finished projects were evidence of much deep thinking along with the beginning stages of many being bitten by the poetry bug! Always leave them wanting more!


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Visible Thinking with CSI Meets Fab Four

What is CSI? Color, Symbol, and Image is a unique tool. It brings the students together in an amazing way. It is a flexible creation that can go with fiction and non-fiction. What’s the down side? The first couple of times may be a bit challenging even with major modeling but persevering will lead to an epic pay off. After several slogging episodes of CSI attempts, we finally made it into the end zone for a touchdown at last! The extra points came almost effortlessly!

Just this week, groups of three, created CSIs  a Scholastic News issue on immigrants and a chapter from The Chocolate Touch. The icing on the cake is that the students present their CSIs to the class. My students were speaking up so much better than they were at the onset. Complete turnaround! : )
Quick instructions: Each triad needs a large piece of paper.
Fold the paper into thirds and label each section: Color, Symbol, and Image.
Students discuss who will do which section-no hitchhikers-everyone has a job to do.
For example, on the recent immigrant issue of Scholastic News, most groups chose the colors red, white, and blue but their reasons were different. However, one group chose yellow for their color because it was a happy color and the immigrants were happy to come to America. Both are right because they show the thinking of the group.
The symbol is one picture, such as the flag or the Statue of Liberty.
Image is like a picture or scene, the ship that brought them etc.
Underneath each visual the groups explains their thinking.
Fab Four was something the kids already knew how to do but for some reason they always balked at the summary section. However, when linked with CSI (they did it on the back) the kids embraced it with a new fervor. The groups were talking and discussing enthusiastically, maybe because they wanted to get to the CSI on the back or maybe because they felt more confident, whatever the reason the difference was huge! My only must do was the Predict section of the Fab Four, then they could choose how they finished the rest. Different groups did all of the Fab Four: Predicting, Clarifying, Questioning, and Summarizing and then turned the paper over to do their CSI while others did the Predict section and flipped it over to do the CSI, they were all productive in their own way. Choice can be powerful!
This gaves the students a routine that they can own. The kids love it and they were doing some heavy duty group work without even thinking about it. Everyone got along and focused on the task at hand, shocker. After the second try, the groups ran as smoothly as a car after a tune-up. Now we can add this jewel to the d18de11a3f09d6c200de6bf8eda78ed7

csi4Cs and Compass Points chalking up three routines that give them confidence to show what they are thinking in quick creative ways.


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Grit Gives Gusto

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How does a book about Grit, a little 6 year old girl and Close Reading paired passages connect?  Each paints a picture of doing something again and yet again. Duckworth’s book expresses that grit is more about stamina than intensity. Her research suggests that early strugglers have more stamina and patience. She even has a grit test which I’m sure Milly-Molly-Mandy would score up there with the paragons of grit that Duckworth has been studying. What are the common threads found in the grit gurus?
1. intrinsic interest in what they do (natural or developed)
2. daily discipline of practicing to get better
3. purpose-their work matters to them and to others
4. hope-they keep going even when things are difficult
She quotes a kid that made a D on a math test that exemplifies hope, “I didn’t dwell on it-it was done-I had to focus on what to do next. I asked for help and tried to figure out what I did wrong and what I needed to do differently.” Powerful advice!

Milly Molly Mandy’s quote is adorable because she has learned a lot about grit at a very young age. In this simple story book which is almost 90 years old she sees her friend Billy Blunt grumbling while he weeded his mother’s flowerbed. “Father says I ought to make myself useful,” he grunts.
Milly-Molly-Mandy replies, “That’s our sort of fruit. My Muvver says we’d be like apple trees which didn’t grow apples if we didn’t be useful.” Isn’t she adorable? She opens Billy’s eyes and totally changes the way he looks at his task. Her parents have done their job well.
My favorite quote from her mother was advice to a solemn Milly-Molly-Mandy, “There are nice things happening all the time, if you keep your eyes open to see them.”

Paired Passages by Timothy Rasinski and Lori Oczkus goes right along with developing grit. Their book uses Reciprocal Teaching or the ‘Fab Four’  to push student thinking. Research has found that students engaging in reciprocal teaching show improvement in as little as 15 days by eagerly engaging in discussions. The Fab Four… predict, clarify, question, and summarize are some gritty strategies indeed. Students read and reread the short fiction and nonfiction texts and practice with purpose!

I must send out a huge thank you to my students and parents that gave gift cards because that is what I used to purchase these little jewels! A book is a gift you can open again and again!

I’m off to work on improving my grit score as 2016 is in its eleventh hour and 2017 eagerly awaits to take the helm please join me on the journey!


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Top Five Christmas Treats

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Twas the week before Christmas break and all through the school,
some distracted children were attempting to break every rule,
Thank goodness for the magic of reading, it carried us through
those difficult days of waiting for you know who…

Silver Packages was a jewel indeed,
the class sat spellbound and listened to me read,
Night Tree
kept their attention as well,
Eve Bunting had a fabulous story to tell,
Little Match Girl, a classic that encourages empathy x 10,
the class made connections again and again,
Mr. Willowby
helped to lighten the mood,
in this rhyming book we meet many a resourceful dude,
Too Many Tamales was a treasure for sure,
these books were the ultimate cure,

We also memorized A Visit from St. Nicholas and performed it many times without delay,
This narrative poem taught the class persistence as they practiced day after day,

In the blink of an eye the party day was here,
with a final performance for their parents so dear,

Then they played Christmas Scattergories and Taboo,
Then holiday good-byes were said crying boo hoo!

Finaly the time for rest, reflection, and rejuvenation is here,
Merry Christmas to all and Happy New Year!!!


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Bridging the Gap

My third graders loved Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing! We connected it to Little Elliot in the Big City because of the pachyderm potential but one smart cookie connected the bridge in the background of Little Elliot to the Brooklyn Bridge…WOW! We are learning to notice the world around us and not be thwarted by the curse of knowledge. In a world that is now saturated with information, some tend to think they know more than they actually  do and miss something important. Kids can learn to make connections and notice their surroundings by using powerful picture books as tools. Next week, we will be sharing Pop’s Bridge and I’m sure my class will go connection crazy! A bridge is a symbol to me not to carry my kids but to scaffold them in such a way that each one can be successful. I need to drop just the right kind and just the right amount of bread crumbs in just the right places to nudge them in the direction that leads to agency and engagement and enlightenment, they must have ownership of their learning! This takes time.

Wait for it… This is a code phrase I use to teach my ultra-curious and lively grandson as he explores this world with great gusto… sometimes he must s-l-o-w down and… Wait for it…not something he wants to hear, but a fact of life…We must wait for many things. The bridge books show my class that important things take time. Nothing worthwhile happens overnight. If my precious grandson can grasp this idea then I know my precious class can as well. I just hope their teacher can …Wait for it…give them time to develop from second graders into third graders as they are stumbling and falling along. Wait for it…praise  effort over  result. Wait for it…working together comes much easier for some than others. Don’t give up on group work. Wait for it…they are growing and changing every minute, I must notice and listen to the learning that is going on! My goal must to bridge gaps and celebrate growth!


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Who IS Doing the Work? Scaffolding vs Carrying

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Teachers tend to talk and talk and talk. Why? We know we can’t learn anything by talking. What should we be doing? LISTENING! Step back and listen…listen to your kids intently and get ready to learn LOTS of things.

Hector was a shy little guy that taught me it was okay to read tough books. Somehow he managed to plod through all of Avi’s Poppy series only because his desire was on fire. I wanted to suggest an easier read but he was in love with Poppy and he would have no substitutes. I was blessed to watch him evolve as a reader. Thank you, Hector, because of you, I will let my students grapple with texts they are passionate about.

Mandy was a struggling disinterested reader until she got hooked on Cam Jansen mysteries which jump started her reading! She taught me that it was possible to be a lopsided genre reader and still get advanced on the state assessment! She had been filling in her genre boxes at a snail’s pace but Can Jansen saved the day! Thank you, Mandy, because of you, I will let kids explode the genre box of their choice, an expert is a good thing to be.

Andrew was a voracious reader but he read easy texts and never pushed himself. He loved reading but he was a pajama reader, comfortable was his code. He taught me if a reader is reading, let them read. Was it easy, NO! Did I introduce many various texts in class, YES! Thank you, Andrew, for reminding me that choice is vital! Extremely tough lesson for this teacher to learn.

Burkins and Yaris have written a fantastic book! They remind teachers that there is a big difference between scaffolding and carrying students. Carrying is often done by conscientious educators every day when we do so much prompting and reminding students don’t even have to think. The result is learned helplessness, which does not help prepare kids for the real world. A talented cook adds just enough salt to make a tasty dish, we need to give just the right nudge to inspire our students toward success. We must let learners do the work because we do not want to deprive any student the joy that comes from learning something new. Burkins and Yaris call this the Grandmother method, “Wow! How did you do that?” followed by “What will you do next?”

Knock Knock My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty is a mentor text that illustrates why we don’t want to do too much for our kids. This is a beautiful story about a boy struggling to deal with his father’s absence. He doesn’t give up even though times are tough. The author’s note is powerful! Kids must be problem solvers in life, literature provides a safe place to practice!


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Summer Reading Rocks!!!

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“Encouragement works, not so much through persuasion, as it does through jogging the right memory at the right time.” -Hattie & Yates
“Failure gives valuable feedback that we use to address our regretable actions and improve our situation in the future.” -Schwalbe
“You cannot force the leaves to fall and the seasons to change, jsut as you cannot force stamina and get engagement. To that end, stamina is not a goal; engagement in learning is.” -Mraz & Hertz (authors)
Those were a few of my favorite quotes from this little jewel. The authors did their homework! They gave the latest research along many examples illustrating these traits in action in classrooms so each and every student that is under the tutelage of today’s busy educator can be enlightened. Yes, this information will help your class be better students but more importantly, it will give them the tools to help them be better people. If you read only one professional book this summer, let it be this one. The authors illustrate teaching traits that will equip students for growth mindsets vs fixed mindsets. I rearranged the order of the traits to help me remember them. F-ROPE… Here’s a quick overview of the traits.
Flexibility-try different ways to find a solution
Resilience-learn from failures and bounce back
Optimism-say good-bye to fear and get ready to learn something new (this is the trait those kids that are bored need a healthy dose of)
Persistence-don’t give up even when the task is hard
Empathy-learning to put oneself in another person’s shoes

The authors give literature picks to go along with each trait and loads of ideas to put these puppies into practice. One of my favorites was the storytelling aspect. Students tell stories illustrating real-life applications of the traits in their lives. The example given in the book about a fifth grader climbing Mount Washington is priceless.

Do your students a favor and dive into this well-written read!