Duck into Third Grade

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Farewell to September #10thingsmyclasstaughtme

Be Grateful 8x10 full     Six weeks we’ve learned together, shared our thoughts and our creations, along with  laughing a lot. I have a very special group of 21 third graders this year and this is what they taught me in August and September:

  1. Come to school early because some are waiting for me to open the door so they can work on their writing, these are my early birds with beautiful smiling faces and sparkling eyes so eager to begin the day. They bless the start of each day.
  2. The right to bear arms means the right to have  body parts : ) Humor is a must. We share a joke or two (sometimes 3) a day.
  3. Don’t forget STATUS OF THE CLASS…It’s a BIG deal to announce where they are in their independent reading. (Early out day I almost let this slide but they were not about to let it happen! LOL)
  4. ALWAYS have Read-to-Self time, as one student said, “I’ve been waiting for this all day.” Sweet!  Those early out days or pictures days, etc. something has to be eliminated but it won’t be this time for sure.
  5. Read-Alouds build community with laser fast speed. Benny is real. He has a pink cup, we all want a pink cup, too, LOL. (The Boxcar Children taught us to work together). Roxie was persistent and flexible, she changed the hooligans by doing the right thing and she inspired us to be change we want to see in the world. (Thank you, Roxie and the Hooligans)
  6. Ask them to explain their drawings, deep insights await me when I take time to listen.
  7. Wait, wait, wait…Give them time to figure things out. They will not disappoint. My favorite question this six weeks was how are addition and subtraction alike and how are they different? Their answers were amazing after they were given think time!
  8. Grit Grows in 3B-Thank you, Jaxon, for a great class motto! They mention grit time after time and know that it is not an easy thing. Most of them listed grit on their 6 week reflection, Ten Words I learned this six weeks and what they mean.
  9. Don’t underestimate them. Teaching the learning traits has empowered them. They are using Persistence, Optimism, Flexibility, Resilience, and Empathy in their speech daily. I’m very impressed with all the connections and applications they have made and continue to make!
  10. Brain breaks are a must, whether its a secret handshake or a rousing game of Jeopardy or a scribble turned into a masterpiece…mix it up, just don’t forget it.           I am so grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and anticipate future ones! Thank you, 3B!51endezutkl-_sx329_bo1204203200_
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Powerful Picture Books-#Somethingforeveryone

Teaching is tough. Why? Demands are many and time is limited. What makes it worth it? STUDENTS!!! I challenge myself to read a picture book a day to my class. The good thing is if time restraints press in on us the class will remind me : )Habits are so powerful!  They look forward to the class read-aloud, read-to-self time, and even status of the class (telling the class what they are reading). The sharing of these books are their favorite times of the day! We connect all of our learning to the variety of books we share.

Our learning trait this week was EMPATHY, many students had given money for those pummeled by hurricane Harvey, so we talked about how sympathy is feeling bad but empathy prompts you to act on those feelings as Wilfred does in Wilfred Gordan McDonald Partridge, Mem Fox’s adorable book. When this big-hearted little boy hears his friend, age 96, has lost her memory, he attempts to help her regain it. We had read My Fantastic Elastic Brain and one of my students said, “I guess when you get old your hippocampus gets stuck.”

I have had many students return years later and talk about a book I read to their class and how they were moved by it in a big way. No one has ever returned to talk about how much a worksheet impacted his/her life. Lessons in literature abound! Let’s embrace the challenge of sharing powerful books and growing as learners right along with our students!

 

 


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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!