Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: 5 of my Favorite Classroom Resources

5 of my Favorite Classroom Resources

Innovative classroom resources won't mask poor teaching, but fantastic classroom resources can magnify great teaching. Having quality resources to teach reading, math and writing can help you to be a more creative teacher who is able to meet your students' various needs. Having great materials can also help to save you loads of time when planning and prepping your weekly lessons! 

I have used countless resources in my third grade classroom. It is difficult to choose my favorites! However, I have compiled a list of five resources that I could not live without.

1. Math Centers

I have been using math centers since my very first year of teaching. I found that I was spending hours each week prepping new centers. I was also using a lot of valuable class time teaching students how to complete these centers. I decided that there had to be a better way to conduct a meaningful math center time.

So I created math centers for every third grade skill and kept the directions and format similar throughout. I included student friendly directions that made it simple for students to be independent workers. I made each unit with ten different centers and just one recording book so that the centers take 3-4 weeks to complete. Now I am only prepping new centers approximately once a month. And since they are not holiday themed, I know I will be able to use them year after year regardless of how the order of my instruction may change.

Third grade teachers have been loving these so much that I have started creating the same type of centers for my fourth grade friends!

You can read more about my math center time by clicking HERE.

2. Math Interactive Notebooks

I love to use interactive notebooks and math is my favorite subject this use this resource. My students are so engaged by the hands-on activities. They actually cheer when they see a new activity waiting to be added to their notebooks.

I love how these interactive notebooks cover so many important skills and math strategies. There is also built in differentiation for most activities. All students can be working on the same notebook activity, but groups of students can have different numbers that help me to vary the level of difficulty. 

But the very best part of these notebooks is that they have super simple cuts! My students figure out how to cut these activities and are able to do it independently and without wasting class time. 

You can read more about how I use interactive notebooks in the classroom by clicking HERE.

3. Vocabulary Word Builders

After years of watching my students struggle with vocabulary and getting frustrated with the random words included in our reading basal- I decided to create vocabulary units that would make my instruction 100% more valuable.

Since time is super tight in the classroom, I created a routine that would only take ten minutes per day. I wanted the weekly words to be tier two words that students are most likely to encounter when reading text. So I poured over research, books and the dictionary to come up with grade level lists that are meaningful. 

I also included biweekly assessments rather than weekly assessments. Honestly, I don't need one more thing to read every week (even if it is a super easy assessment to grade). I also discovered that biweekly assessments do a better job of assessing a student's understanding of the words because they have more words to recall and work with.

I am super excited that my students (and so many others around the country) have become excited to truly study words! 

I made these units for third grade, fourth grade and fifth grade.

You can learn more about my vocabulary routine by clicking HERE.

4. Reading Response Menus

I have always had an independent reading center where my students are encouraged to choose any book and enjoy time reading. I firmly believe that this helps to cultivate a love for reading. 

I wanted to incorporate reading response into my centers. I thought this would help to hold my readers accountable, integrate writing and help to practice various reading standards. But I had a problem! Since I allow my students to choose any book that they want, assigning a specific reading response question to my entire class didn't work. My student reading a nonfiction book about sharks could not answer a question about character traits. And my student who had just started a brand new book could not write about the problem and solution. 

I knew that I needed to create a resource that could be used with ANY book and allowed for student choice. These reading menus fit the bill! There are 36 menus, so I can assign a new menu every week of the year! Each menu includes nine different question- six that are intended for fiction text and three that are intended to be used with nonfiction text. (I did this because more of my students choose fiction chapter books.)

I included a simple rubric directly on the response sheet so that students would know exactly what was expected of them and it makes grading a piece of cake. 

You can read more about how I teach my students to respond to text by clicking HERE.

5. Reading Exit Tickets

My math curriculum actually comes with exit tickets. Even if it didn't, it is so easy to write a math problem on the board and have students answer on write boards or scrap paper.

A quick assessment of reading standards is much more difficult! I don't want to be writing stories on the board! And I certainly do not want to wait until the summative reading test to determine if my students understand main idea or context clues.

I created these reading exit tickets to be a simple way to assess students on both literature and informational text standards. Each exit ticket includes engaging text and three multiple choice questions. Grading is super simple and they don't take students long at all to complete! Also, the tickets take only half of a sheet of paper which helps me to save that precious supply. 

I use the results of these exit tickets to help guide my reading group lessons. They help to make my teaching more meaningful!

You can read more about how I quickly check for understanding by clicking HERE.

I hope that that these resource suggestions can help you and your students!