Duck into Third Grade

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Fondness for the Fourth of July

What memories of years gone by does the Fourth of July conjure up for you? I remember way back when Jaws was the movie to see and the Bee Gees were Jive Talkin’, my brother decided to put on a fireworks show for the family. Since we lived out in the country this was the only fireworks display we’d be seeing so it was a command performance you might say. Somewhere during the dynamic demonstration a bug flew in my dad’s ear and brought all the fun to a screeching halt. Much to dad’s dismay the insistent insect decided to homestead in his ear and could not be convinced otherwise. We heard the noisy tenant report each morning, “It woke me up at 2:36 and at 4:17, what a night!” This report replayed over and over, kind of like The Groundhog Day movie. Finally, the bug stories became a faint memory, whether it gave up the ship or expired my brother nor I cannot remember but we smile each Fourth of July remembering our crazy connection. My dad passed away years ago but I can still him hear him giving the exact times he was awaken by his unwelcome guest. Memories often are made in less than ideal circumstances.

Yes, the Fourth is much more than my mini memory, it is connecting with our country’s roots and telling stories about the founding fathers that set up a country for the free and about the brave soldiers that paid the supreme price for that freedom. We should not take these blessings for granted.

Time and tide wait for no man. Take a moment to stop and notice the little things. Make a memory, watch a firefly, put a puzzle together with a child, share a book, tell a story or listen to one, try out a new recipe or make one up…then write about your experiences down in several sentences. I use  Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project-one sentence journal which lasts for five years. Check it out. Recently, we reconnected with our grandchildren in Washington and made many memories to treasure. A grand time was had by all.

In the classroom, memories supply the foundation for learning. We must make connections. Students need to know where they come from is important and it will catapult them into  writing like nothing else by making it real. Connecting with students makes the learning authentic and carries on with them throughout life. Learning is ongoing, it is not just from August to June. Teach them well. Model savoring the moments and making learning stick…                  what better gift could we give?


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Practicing Predicting with PURPOSE

How important is it to teach kids to be predictors? Adults often forget that predicting takes time.  It comes more naturally for some students than others.  It is definitely a learned skill that improves with practice. Summer is a time to s-l-o-w down and  b-r-e-a-t-h-e!  Look for examples to try out and teach predicting to those fortunate folks in your nucleus.

I wonder if those are rain clouds because they are…

I think this movie will be good/bad because…

This character is very determined so I predict he will …

If I don’t double check my packing I will probably…

The dry weather is tough on flowers, if I don’t water them they will …

Speaking of flowers, I discovered this red balloon wrapped around my rose bush, I had to do a double take.  It made me smile to think I actually thought it was a flower at first glance. Double takes are vital in life and in the classroom.

Teaching kids to have a second look and giving them time to reflect and check their predictions is huge:

Was I right on the money?

Do I need to tweak my predictions?

Do I need to do a 180 and rethink?

Isn’t this a life skill needed by all?  Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent.

Summer is the perfect time to practice predicting with pizazz!

 


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Powerful Picture Books

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Duck into Third Grade

Did you know that kids are naturally curious? If you’ve spent any time around them you know they can ask more questions than IRS tax forms. What happens to a naturally curious kid after they’ve been assigned worksheet after worksheet? My oldest son  didn’t work at a fast pace and when the worksheets kept coming he couldn’t keep up so he became overwhelmed and frustrated. His solution was to stick the papers in his desk.  His teacher soon became wise to his unsuccessful solution and sent the 23 papers she pulled out of his desk home with him for homework! Yikes!

As I reflect on my 35th year in education, I was blessed with another great group of kids. Note to self… Activity to definitely do again, simple-yes, easy-not.  It all started with a Nelson Mandela picture book and we took the powerful story about a man who never gave up…

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Powerful Picture Books

Did you know that kids are naturally curious? If you’ve spent any time around them you know they can ask more questions than IRS tax forms. What happens to a naturally curious kid after they’ve been assigned worksheet after worksheet? My oldest son  didn’t work at a fast pace and when the worksheets kept coming he couldn’t keep up so he became overwhelmed and frustrated. His solution was to stick the papers in his desk.  His teacher soon became wise to his unsuccessful solution and sent the 23 papers she pulled out of his desk home with him for homework! Yikes!

As I reflect on my 35th year in education, I was blessed with another great group of kids. Note to self… Activity to definitely do again, simple-yes, easy-not.  It all started with a Nelson Mandela picture book and we took the powerful story about a man who never gave up and turned the information into a bio poem which evolved into them later doing their own bio poems that blew me away.

I carefully chose 7 or 8 picture books that were biographies I knew my students would be interested in. They made their own groups according to their interests. Each group read the book and wrote a bio poem to share with the class. They were engaged for longer than I had allowed for the activity and were begging for more time when I was attempting to draw things to a close. When they pleaded for more time to read, write, and discuss I was putty in their hands. The extra time given was time well spent because their first attempts to write bio poems without any help turned out to amazing. As the poems were shared I could tell my students had even impressed themselves! That day we learned about Louis Braille, Audrey Hepburn , The Day-Glow Brothers along with several others!

I have always encouraged  teachers and parents to read to their kids daily.  I have always read my students and with my own kids however I wish I would have added more nonfiction. It has only been in the last 6 or 7 years have I been collecting well-written picture books about real people that accomplished something great using grit.

I’m  learning right along with the kids, everyday was/is a learning adventure! I just got the Boys of Steel, it will be waiting for some eager readers next!


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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!