Valentine's Day Party Ideas

I wrote this post for iTeach Third and I wanted to share it here for my blog readers. I love planning classroom parties that are unique, engaging and fun for my students. I am not the kind of teacher that will plan a "traditional" party that students have already had many times before. I like to spice it up!

Each year, I throw a Valentine's Day Sock Hop in my classroom! It is the perfect way to celebrate our friendships, laugh and enjoy each tower's company. I got some inexpensive decorations from the party store and I use them every single year!

I encourage students to wear poodle skirts, leather jackets, etc. We play fun 50s music and dance together. We have hula hoop contents and enjoy root beer floats together. The kids talk about it for weeks to come!

I was doing some research (using the term lightly) on Pinterest and compiled a list of some other fun, but simple, Valentine's Day party ideas.

I love THIS idea of making structures with heart shaped marshmallows and toothpicks. This is a great STEM activity that can be done in collaborative work groups. Give groups the supplies and a time limit. Who can build the tallest structure. Be sure to have some extra marshmallows for eating afterwards!

Playing Musical Hearts (a rendition of musical chairs) would be so simple to prep! Add some fun music and the kids would have a blast. Check out THIS post to see how Musical Hearts can be adapted to include reading and fun movement!

This idea cracks me up! Instead of making gingerbread houses, make THESE love shacks! They are made with chocolate graham crackers. To make it easier in the classroom, use small milk cartons to form the shoe of the house. Then decorate with cute Valentine's Day candies!

Kids love doing Minute to Win It games! They are short, simple to prep and perfect for rotations. THESE ones are super cute and involve lots of Valentine's Day candies.

This free Left/Right story game is super simple and fun. Wrap a few candies or small gifts. I am such a teacher- so I would throw in some books! The students sit in a circle and as you read the story, they pass the gifts in the direction stated in the story. At the end of the story, the students with the gifts, get to keep them! This game could be played a couple times if you wanted to!

How will you be celebrating Valentine's Day in your classroom this year?

Getting Dads Involved in the Classroom

I am blessed each year with a handful of classroom volunteers that help with photocopies, grading, cutting and working with students. These volunteers are such a huge help to me and my students love it when their parent comes in to volunteer. But recently I noticed that ALL my volunteers are moms. And that got me is mostly moms at conferences, it's mostly moms at classroom performances.....and it's mostly moms as field trip chaperones. Where are the dads? All of my students' dads work full time outside of the house. Many moms do too, but I do have some stay-at-home moms, moms who work from home and moms who take off work to come on a field trip or attend a class party. I know dads are very busy, but I also wonder if dads don't come to the classroom because they feel uncomfortable and don't really know how to help. And so my mission to get dads in our classroom began!

Read Aloud Invite

How about setting aside 10 minutes at the start of every Friday for a guest dad read aloud? Set up a Sign Up Genius invite and specifically ask dads if they would be willing to come in and read one of their favorite picture books. I highly recommend doing this at the start of your day as it is probably easier for a dad to come in on his way to work or be a few minutes late to work than to leave in the middle of the day. After he leaves, you can increase the academics by asking questions about the text that relate to the weekly reading standard. You can also have your students write thank you notes to the dad in writing.

Guest Speakers (a career day)

What careers do the dads from your classroom have? Do any of the careers correlate with a topic you are teaching in science or social studies? If you have a dad who is a doctor, consider inviting him to talk to the class about how the body works, nutrition or how to avoid getting sick. If you have a dad who is a soldier, consider inviting him in to talk around Veterans or Memorial Day. If one of your dads is a firefighter, they will usually come in and talk about fire safety! I bet there are many dads in your class that could come in and talk to your students about the importance of going to college! 

To increase the academics, make sure that you teach your students have to be great audience members (listening skills) and how to ask appropriate questions (speaking skills). After the guest speaker leaves, have students write thank you notes and/or informational reports about what they learned.

Superbowl Party

How about throwing a class Superbowl party and sending invitations to the dads? Every dad won't be able to make it, but I have gotten a good chunk. The kids love having their dads at the party and the dads seemed comfortable because of the fun football theme. Every minute of class time is so valuable, so I use the party to continue practicing and reviewing math skills. You can make stations around your room with THESE  free math journal prompts. Dads can be put with a small group of students and that can rotate around the room together. 

When they complete a problem, I allow them to choose a Football Party Favor from the bowl! After we do our "work," we enjoy some fun food together!

What do you do to encourage dads to participate in the classroom?

Ring in the New Year in the Classroom

This is a post that I wrote for iTeach Third that I thought you might enjoy. It's time to start planning for our first days back!

The very first day back from winter break is a party in my classroom! We celebrate the new year together. We are a family and it seems fitting that we celebrate together. It is also a nice way to ease back into school and set the tone for the fun quarter ahead. Here are a few ways that we celebrate....

1. Watching the Ball Drop in Time Square

Each year I have a few kids who have seen the ball drop, but most of my third graders are not allowed to stay up that late. I just find a recording of the ball drop on YouTube. We count down together!

2. Hats and Horns

A New Year's party is not complete without hats and horns! I grab these at the dollar store. My kids think I have lost my mind when I tell them to make lots of noise! I highly recommend having a sign to the kids that will indicate that they must stop blowing the horns. Also, apologize to your neighbor teacher. Or, just invite her to the party!

3. Toasting

I love to teach my third graders what it means to "make a toast." I give my class a cup of apple juice. We all sit in a circle and make a toast for the new year. When we have all had a turn, we clink cups and drink! So simple and yet so fun! The kids feel grown up!

4. Reflecting on Memories and Writing Goals

My kids adore making paper bag books. They are super simple but look so very special when we  finish. First we take some time to reflect about our year and write some of our favorite memories.

Then we think about the upcoming year and the goals we want to achieve. Students choose a reading, math, writing and behavior goal. They also write about the steps they will take to reach the goals.

Want some GOOD NEWS?!!! You can grab this paper bag book and instructions for assembly for FREE! Just click on the picture below.

Happy New Year my teacher friends!

Wrapping Up Area & Perimeter- A FREE Holiday Activity

Time to be honest- I really don't like teaching area and perimeter. I love teaching math, but area and perimeter are not very useful skills in the whole scheme of things. None the less, my students are expected to master these skills so I have to come up with fun activities to practice the tricky skills. I think I have a winner for you!!!

I cut 12 pieces of holiday wrap in a variety of sizes. I labeled each piece of wrap with a letter. Students scooted around the room with their rulers and calculated to area of each piece of wrapping paper. Students loved it and barely noticed how hard they were working!

I added a challenge by including both rectangles and some irregular shapes! I also included large pieces. My students had to use the distributive property in order to solve the large multiplication equation. 

My class has only covered area- not perimeter. I only had them solve for area. But you could have them solve for perimeter as well! Click on the image below to grab a FREE recording sheet. I included a variety of recording sheets so that you can pick the one that best meets your classroom needs.

If you can't do this activity before Christmas- consider doing it with birthday wrap! Throw a party! Have them do the scoot, play the area and perimeter party game and then enjoy some cake! They can find the area of a sheet cake!

Books Teachers Love for January

I am excited to be blogging again with some talented teachers! We are blogging about our favorite books to use in the classroom in January. NOW is the time to get some of these books and activities prepped for after winter break. You will kiss yourself for being so organized!

I am a social studies teacher and heart and so I spend lots of time in January teaching about Martin Luther King Jr. I love to use Martin's Big Words to teach about who MLK Jr. is- but I also LOVE to read I Have a Dream (Book & CD) . It is the actual words from his famous speech.

I think it is important for my students to hear his beautiful words. The thing I love most about this book is the beautiful illustrations. They are breathtaking and they help my students to make meaning of the words.

The book also comes with a CD that is fun to put in a listen to reading center. It is a recording of the speech.

I don't know about you- but I just don't have nearly enough time to teach social studies. So I have to be creative. I work very hard to integrate it with my reading standards. This book is perfect for some vocabulary work! I love to preteach 5-10 words. When the kids hear them in the book- they get so excited!

It also a nice book to use when working on using illustrations. And to add a little writing- have students conclude the lesson by writing about their dreams for their own future. One book- multiple standards!

My favorite thing to do after studying MLK Jr. is to add pieces to our social studies notebook!

Students record the facts that they have learned about his life and about his famous speech under the flaps. 

This activity is the first in a series. We will continue to learn about civil  right leaders all through February for Black History Month. All of the passages and foldables can be found in my Black History Interactive Notebook.

Some of my blog buddies will be giving away 4 fabulous books for January! Head to my Instagram tonight at 8 PM EST for your chance to win.

Check out some other great book recommendations.

4 Tips for Teaching Math Vocabulary

I wrote this post for iTeach Third and thought you might enjoy!

Now, more than ever, a student's success in math is very closely tied to their mathematical vocabulary. Having a good working math vocabulary will help students to understand directions, find key words in word problems and increase their overall scores on high stakes testing. All of that is great... but I teach math vocabulary primarily because it makes my students feel more like mathematicians. It raises their overall confidence and motivation! Teaching math vocabulary is more than just telling students what a word means and having them write the definition in a journal. Here are some tips for creating a vocabulary rich math classroom that is engaging and meaningful.

1. Constant Use with Meaning or Synonym
The simplest way to teach math vocabulary is to constantly use the new words in conjunction with words that they already know. For example, I will ask my students, "What is the product or the answer?" Or, "Write an equation or number sentence that can be used to solve." I talk like this ALL the time when teaching my math lessons. It is easy to get in the habit of talking down to your students and avoiding the math vocabulary. I am trying to teach some tough math concepts and so I don't want to have confusing directions. But, we have to use these words as much as possible. Their success in math depends heavily on their ability to understand and use math vocabulary. Students are hearing the words over and over, but are given context to understand. It is not long before they sound just like you! 

(Please ignore my 2nd chin! When an eight year old is the photographer- they rarely get the best angle!)

2. Pair Share
Students need to be given specific times to orally practice their math vocabulary. I use pair shares and teach-okay (a Whole Brain Teaching strategy) to get my kids talking ALL the time. When I introduce a brand new math vocabulary word, I will ask students to teach the meaning right back to their partner. Throughout our math lessons, I ask my students to teach their problem solving strategy to their partner. I reward and compliment students who use our math vocabulary. The bigger deal I make out of it, the more vocabulary I will hear during our next strategy share. 

3. Math Vocabulary Wall
It is important to dedicate some space in your classroom for displaying current math vocabulary words. The definitions MUST be in simple student-friendly language. I think that they are even more effective if they have a picture that helps your visual learners to understand the definition. I keep my words down low so that my students can reach them. They are encouraged to use them during centers. I display the words that correlate with our current unit, but keep the others where they are accessible for spiral review activities throughout the year. I think that this helps to keep students focused on the most current vocabulary while still providing access to previously learned words. 

You can read more about my vocabulary display and cards by clicking HERE.

4. Provide Opportunities to Write About Math
I love to hear students using math vocabulary with their partner, but I also want to provide opportunities for students to use the new words in their writing. I think that it helps to cement their learning and provides opportunities for me to assess their understanding. During math centers, my students are given math journal prompts that ask them to explain their thinking. This is an excellent time to show off their new mathematical vocabulary! I encourage them to do this by asking them to color code various components of their answer. The math vocabulary is underlined in yellow. If they don't have anything to underline, they know they need to go back and revise. 

I am really proud of how much thought goes in to their responses. This little gal might struggle with her spelling, but she is correctly using some awesome vocabulary words to explain her strategy! 

This math journal question is part of my Multiplication Centers, but I also have a Third Grade Math Journal that has prompts for every standard! They pair perfectly with my Prove It With Color cards.


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