Gobble Up Some Freebies!

We all know that the holidays can be a stressful time... That's why the girls from iTeach Third decided to help ease up some of that stress by offering up 8 days of FREEBIES for you to Gobble Up! 

All you have to do is visit our Facebook page starting today. Check it out by clicking here!

Books Teachers Love for December

I am so excited and honored to join some very talented teacher bloggers for the Books Teachers Love linky! If you are not familiar with this blog series- it is a monthly event where bloggers share seasonal book recommendations for the classroom and activities that use with the books. It is a great way to get a head start on reading plans for next month! 

Every December, I read The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy to my third graders. They always love that the book is written from the point of view of a puppy. Petey asks his mom for a little boy for Christmas. His mom tries to get him a boy but sadly reports to Petey that there are no boys to be found. Petey goes on a search for a boy of his own. The book has a heartwarming ending where Petey ends up finding himself 50 boys! 

The holiday season is a tricky time to keep kids engaged in the important skills that we must teach. I think that using some special holiday mentor texts can help disguise the practice! I like to read the book whole group at the beginning of the week. Then I place the book and some interactive notebook activities in a center for the rest of the week. Students can practice important skills such as retelling, problem/solution, cause/effect, etc. The students barely notice that they are working thanks to the fun holiday book, the cutting and the gluing. I know the truth though! They are getting in some valuable review of the reading skills we have practiced during the first semester. 

You can grab my Christmas Reading Interactive Notebook Activities, by clicking on the picture below. They are perfect to use with ANY holiday book and include a variety of reading skills.

I also like to extend this book into writing. The puppy really wanted a boy for Christmas. I ask my kids what they REALLY want for Christmas. We use a graphic organizer and write letters to our parents trying to convince them to give us the gift we really want. It is a fun topic to use as a practice for our persuasive writing. 

You can grab my FREE graphic organizer and writing paper, by clicking on the picture below.

Four bloggers are giving away a copy of their favorite December book! Those are some great titles! Be sure to enter using the raflecopter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to check out the book recommendations and lesson ideas from my blog buddies too!

Choosing Books for Book Clubs

I use book clubs (also known as literature circles) in all of my guided reading groups. Students love reading chapter books with their peers and they are very low prep for the teacher. The success of your book clubs is tied very closely to the books you choose to read. When the right sets of books are chosen, a teacher can have students engaged and practicing all the skills needed to master the grade level standards! Here are some tips that I have learned for picking good book club books.

My school uses Lexile levelers. Regardless of what type of book level system you use, it is essential that you are choosing books that meet the group's needs. No one enjoys reading a book that they don't understand, but we still want to challenge our readers. Spend some time determining the reading level of the students in the group and look for books that are on the higher end of their level. I consider this to be their instructional level. They may need my support, but they will be able to comprehend and decode most of the text.

What standards are you teaching during the next month or two? Be certain to choose books that will allow students to practice these standards. For example, during quarters 2 and 3- I teach informational text standards. During those quarters, it would not make much sense to have my book clubs reading fiction books. Instead I choose informational text books such as Who Was books and Fact Tracker books. If the book you choose helps to farther the standards that you are teaching- it will be easier to find time to squeeze it all in!

It is important to choose books that are most likely to grab the interest of your readers. If I have several kiddos interested in animals- I might choose a book about endangered species. I do not choose books from a series that I know students are interested in already. They will read those on their own! I don't need to make it a book club book. However, I can look at the series they are reading and use it as a guide for choosing another book that is similar in style or genre. For example, if students like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, maybe I can introduce them to another graphic novel series such Big Nate or Robots.

I use book clubs as an opportunity to introduce students to series, authors and genres that they have not yet read. I love to choose the first book in a series. After we finish the book club, every student in the group is anxious to read the next book in the series! Now they are highly motivated to read independently. I very rarely choose a book that isn't part of a series or by an author with several other similar books. I also do not choose books in series that my students are already very familiar with such as Magic Treehouse. Reading one book in a book club is great, but inspiring a child to read a series of books is a teacher dream come true.

How long do you have to complete the book? How many pages or chapters can you reasonably read each week? I highly suggest taking a calendar and penciling in a schedule. There is nothing more irritating that starting a book and not having time to complete it. I try to have books finished before long breaks. I also want to have my nonfiction book club finished before we go back to literature standards. Sometimes this means that I have to find a shorter book. Other times, I need a longer book so that my high group isn't finishing the book in a couple weeks. 

Where will you get the books for your book clubs to use? How many copies are available? You may think of the most perfect book, but if you can't get your hands on the right number of copies- it will never work! Take some time to look at the library or a local used book store. I also like to check to see which books scholastic is selling in sets and what books they are selling for $1. If you have technology in the classroom, you might check to see what books are available on Kindle.

You cannot rely on book levelers alone! I have chosen books based on their Lexile only to discover that they have lots of difficult vocabulary or use figurative language that make the book far too difficult for my readers. Reading the book will help you to have meaningful conversations with your book club groups and to make certain the book will be adequate for the standards you are teaching. If you don't have time to read a new book, consider choosing a book that you have previously read.

Need materials to use with your book club groups that support your reading standards? Check out my Book Club Bundle by clicking on the picture below.

You can read more about how I organize my book clubs by reading my blog post Literature Circles Made Easy. Click on the photo below.

10 Upper Elementary Pinners 2 Follow

I wanted to share this post that I wrote for iTeach 3rd.

I don't know what teachers did before Pinterest! If I am being real honest, Pinterest was my primary source of professional development  during my first year of teaching! Pinterest is very visual, full of ideas, and incredibly addicting! Save yourself some time on Pinterest by following pinners that are pinning valuable ideas (not just products), pin often and pin about the grade level that you teach. Here are 10 pinners that you need to follow if you teach grades 3-6.

(Click on their logo to be directed  directly to their Pinterest page.)

Sorry about the shameless plug for my own Pinterest boards, but I really am proud of the thousands of hours that I have spent collecting the greatest ideas and blog posts! My boards just got a big facelift.

My favorite boards: iTeach Third and Classroom Tips & Ideas.

If you are not following Rachel Lynette yet, you need to follow her NOW! I'll wait.... WOW, right?!

My favorite boards: A+ Teaching Tips and Minds in Boom Guest Posts.

Kristin is a prolific pinner. If there is a great idea out there- you can find it on Kristin's boards! She clearly spends lots of time looking for great ideas to share and I appreciate that.

My favorite boards: Classroom Management & Organization and 3rd Grade Math.

Jenn must spend all day on Pinterest! Her boards are jam packed with ideas!

I just love how neat and organized all of Melissa's boards are! She has some unique boards too.

My favorite boards: Teaching Critical Thinking and Problem Solving and Technology & Digital Citizenship.

Ashleigh teaches 3rd grade and so her pins are always so relevant to my classroom

My favorite boards: Classroom Management & Organization and Teacher Fashion on a Teacher Salary.

Mary has a HUGE collection of pins for every topic! I like that the focus is on upper elementary and I don't have to dig through Kindergarten posts.

My favorite boards: Classroom Tips & Tricks and Classroom Organization Ideas.

Kelly has a few amazing collaborative boards. That means that she has lots of awesome teachers pinning on her boards. It leads to some fantastic ideas!

My favorite boards: Teaching Upper Elementary and Creative Classroom Pics.

Jodi from Clutter-Free Classroom has over 150 Pinterest boards! I love how she organizes her boards so that the current holiday or season is right at the top. It makes it easy to find the ideas that I need for right now.

My favorite boards: Classroom Organization and Classroom Management.

Blair Turner has sensational boards for the upper elementary teacher. I love all of the blog posts that she pins!

My favorite boards: One Community at a Time and One Anchor Chart at a Time.

Looking for even more AMAZING pinners to follow? Don't forget to follow the boards of the 10 collaborators of this blog. They are all such talented third grade teachers who share amazing ideas with others! Click HERE for links to their Pinterest boards, blogs and other social media.

Do you teach upper elementary and have a Pinterest board? Leave a link in the comments so that we can all follow you!

Take a Look at my Lesson Plans!

The week of Halloween can be very stressful in the classroom but it can also be a great week to get kids engaged in their learning. I thought I would share a peek into my lesson plans for this week. I don't do this every week because many of the activities stay the same (such as centers) because I am all about constant procedures. I often get questions about how I use my products (and those that I purchase) in the classroom. I hope this peek at my week will give you an idea or two!

We use the Eureka curriculum and will be completing Module 3, Lessons 5, 7, 8 & 9 this week. These lessons focus on strategies  students can use to solve some of the tougher facts. We will continue to explore the commutative and distributive properties. 

Guided Math Groups & Centers:
In my guided math groups, we will be doing some activities from my Multiplication Interactive Notebook. I am especially looking forward to the distributive property activity. During their independent center, students will be working on my Addition & Subtraction Centers. I like to make my independent center activity a spiral review of skills we have already covered. This helps students to be successful and to review skills throughout the year. Students will also go to centers to work on their online i-Ready lessons, xtramath for math facts and Zearn for extra practice on our Eureka lesson. (I will be blogging more about my technology centers next week.)

Reading Whole Group:
We are starting on informational text unit this week. My primary goal is to teach students the procedures I want them to use while close reading. I will spend some time modeling how to find the main idea. I decided to use this free passage about bats. In vocabulary, we will be starting my 2nd unit of Vocabulary Builders. The 2nd unit is not available yet. I want to test it with my class first. You can read more about how I teach vocabulary HERE

Guided Reading Groups & Centers:
In our reading groups, we will be starting our informational text book clubs. I got several Magic Tree House Fact Tracker books for our brand new Kindles. We will be using the K-W-L and main idea graphic organizers from my Informational Text Book Club unit. In their centers students will be completing i-Ready lessons, reading to themselves and completing reading responses from my Reading Response Menus unit.

We are continuing on informational writing unit this week by working on organizing facts into paragraphs. I love using sticky notes to teach student how to categorize their facts. We will be using my FREE Pumpkin Life Cycle Sticky Note Report unit. In language, we will be starting the 2nd unit of Mentor Sentences

I am going to be introducing the scientific process this week. We will conducting my Pumpkin Seed Science Experiment. Students work to determine if the size of a pumpkin relates to the number of seeds in the pumpkin. It is lots of fun! 

We won't be getting any social studies in this week due to a school-wide  literature parade and a Halloween party. I still think that it will be a very productive week!

5 Multiplication Models You Should Teach

When we were in school, we were taught to memorize algorithms, rhymes and math facts. For some people, this worked. But for most- they hated math, thought they weren't good at math, didn't understand numbers and/or forgot the rhythms and algorithms. Math education looks so different now is most classrooms. Teachers are showing kids WHY and giving them multiple strategies that focus on place value. Students are being taught to make models, or simple drawings, to show or prove their work. These drawings don't always come naturally and often require lots of concrete practice with manipulatives. But the times is well spent. Students remember what to do and, more importantly, why they are doing it. 

One of the biggest skills taught in the 3rd grade is multiplication. I love teaching it using all kinds of manipulatives and models. Here are five models that I teach my 3rd graders.

This is probably the most basic multiplication model. It really helps to reenforcement the concept of multiplication as a collection of equal groups. The first factor in the math fact tells how many groups there are. Students draw a circle for each group. The second factor tells students how many objects are in each group. They can draw Xs inside each of the circles. Now students can count each X, skip count the circles or use repeated addition to solve for the product.

I think that it feels very natural to teach the number bond model after teaching equal groups. Again, it makes it easy to see the repeated addition. This model is easier to draw because the student uses numbers instead of Xs. However, this is a bit more abstract and your intervention group may need more time before jumping to this model. The large circle represents the whole or the product. Each of the smaller circles represents a part or a group. The number inside the small circle represents the number inside each group.

I call this model a tape diagram because of the math curriculum we use. If you are familiar with Singapore Math, they call this a bar model. Either way- it is an amazing model. It typically becomes my students' favorite because it can be used with any operation and with multi-step problems. It also is a good precursor for fraction models. The entire tape represents the whole or the product. The tape is then divided into equal groups. The number inside represents the size of each group or unit.

I teach arrays because it really helps students to best understand how and why the multiplication  chart works. It will also help lay the foundation for solving for area. An array is also easy to use when demonstrating the distributive property. You can have one large array and use a line to break it in half to make two smaller arrays. The only downside is that the students must draw all the Xs and sometimes they are a bit sloppy with this. Graph paper makes it neater! The first factor tells the students how many groups or rows to draw. The second factor tells how many are in each group. When it is all drawn, students can skip count the rows to solve. 

A number line tends to be a bit more abstract than the other models. I like to use it though because I believe it lays the foundation for using a number line for elapsed time. The first number tells the student how many jumps they will make. The second factor tells the student how large each jump will be. They will need to be able to add or skip count to make this model efficient. If they have to draw in every line and count- it takes far too long. 

Some final thoughts....

Teaching math models requires lots of modeling from the teacher. I typically use word problems when teaching math modeling rather than just a fact. However, students do want to draw bananas if the problem is about bananas. That is why I always call them models instead of drawings. I remind students that this is not art class!

Not all of my kiddos will master all five of these models. And that is ok! I have given them several tools for their toolbox and they can choose the one that they are most successful with. Most of my kids will master several of these models and will have a strategy to use when checking their work. 

I require that my kids use some sort of math model for every math problem. We have a problem solving routine that helps them to be consistent. You can read more about that by clicking on the picture below.


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