Duck into Third Grade

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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!