Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: May 2017

Tips and Resources for New Third Grade Teachers

Advice for a new third grade teacher

If you ask me (and I am pretending that you did), third grade is the BEST grade to teach! 

Third graders are still young enough to love school, love their teacher and get excited over simple things like coloring. However, they are old enough to be independent workers and thinkers. Most third graders know how to read and are now learning to love to read. Third graders are eager to learn multiplication and cursive handwriting. It is a year of huge growth both academically and socially. Seriously, it is the BEST!

Did you know that I have a Facebook group that is dedicated to all things third grade? Well now you do! It is a great place for third grade teachers to ask for advice! If you teach third grade, and would like to join, click on the banner below.

I recently asked the group what tips they would give a brand new third grade teacher. I have mixed some of their tips with some of my own! I hope this helps!


  • Stop stressing about the testing! I mean it! If you stress about the test, so will your students. What good comes of that? The best testing tip that I can give you is to teach the standards all year while differentiating for your learners. You were going to do that anyway! Every kid won't get a proficient on the test. That's ok. They will do their best because you gave them the tools to do so. A wise third grade teacher said, "The test is important, but their futures are more important." So repeat after me, "The test does not define me or my students." I'll wait...
  • Read to them! #everyday Read chapter books Read picture books. Introduce them to lots of authors series and genres. One of the greatest joys of third grade is helping students to find their love for reading. I blogged about my very favorite third grade books. Click HERE to see the list.
  • Third grade mathematicians still need manipulatives and pictures. Don't be scared to spend lots of time with base 10 blocks, fraction bars, number lines, etc. Algorithms should not be the focus until students have a very strong grasp on the strategies and meanings behind the skills.
  • Third graders still like to be rewarded for positive behavior and academic growth. They are still kids and they like stickers, positive notes, compliments and brag tags. Are you ever too old to like being told that you are rocking it?!
  • Plan to spend LOTS of time teaching and practicing rules and procedures at the beginning of the year. If you do, third graders can be very independent! Centers work well in third grade because they have more stamina, focus and independence than the younger grades. Just don't rush into curriculum without teaching the expectations thoroughly! Click HERE to read about some fun ways too practice routines and grab some freebies!


Teaching vocabulary is a must in third grade. Explicit vocabulary instruction will help your students in reading comprehension, writing and on standardized testing. Check out the post below to see the routine I used to teach tier two vocabulary with only ten minutes per day.

Third graders need regular writing instruction. They need mini lessons that focus on the craft of writing. Simply asking them to write in a journal is not enough. In the post below, I explain how I run my writing workshop.

If you looking for more tips for teaching writing (and free lesson plans, anchor charts and rubrics), you might want to sign up for my free writing workshop email course. Click on the photo below to learn more.

I love that third graders are able to really dig deep into text! I spend quite a bit of time teaching students to respond to text because I think it leads to huge growth in comprehension. If you click on the blog post below, I share tips for teaching your third graders how to write about text.

I have found that book clubs are one of the easiest ways to teach and practice reading standards while helping to grow your students' love for reading. If you click on the blog post below, you can read about my tips for implementing book clubs.


If you make math fun, your third graders will beg for more math! I am not kidding! If you want to read about some ways to make math fun for third graders, click on the post below.

The best thing I ever did for my students was to implement guided math and centers. I start by teaching a mini lesson using our curriculum and then we move into centers. I am able to move fast during the mini lesson, because I know that I don't have to teach as the speed of my lowest learners. I will be able to meet with them during guided groups to help fill the gaps. It's so powerful! If you want to learn more about how I manage my math center time and how to get them started at the beginning of the year, click on the picture below. to read my math center blog series.

As a third grade teacher, you will be spending lots of time teaching multiplication. PLEASE spend tons of time teaching strategies before you ask students to memorize facts! Familiarize yourself with different ways to model or represent multiplication facts. I find that it helps to give third graders several tools and then allow them to use the strategy that works best for them. Check out the post below for a list of my favorite multiplication models.

Favorite Third Grade Resources 

I make so many resources that work really well in the third grade classroom. I hope that they will save you lots of time and help you to provide meaningful and engaging lessons. Here are a few of my very favorites.

Advice for a new third grade teacher

Welcome to third grade! I just know that you will love it and your third graders are lucky to have you!

Tips for Teacher Interviews

This is that time of year when new teachers begin looking for their first teaching job. It's also that time when current teachers start thinking about applying for a job closer to home or in a new grade level. Sadly, lots of teachers are also looking for new jobs after having their current position cut. I recently asked teachers on my Facebook page for their best teacher interview tips. They had such such great ideas, that I wanted to share them with anyone who might be interviewing for a teaching job. 

1. Do your research!

Make sure that you spend time really researching the school's and school district's websites before going to the interview. Take time to learn the school's mission statement. Look for any published goals or improvement plans. You might also want to take some time to look at teacher biographies and/or websites. Some of these teachers will probably be on the interview committee! 

2. Prepare for the typical questions.

There are certain questions that seem to get asked at almost every teacher interview. Do yourself a favor and spend some time writing answers to these questions. Then practice saying your answer. Ask for feedback from friends, coworkers and family. When you get asked the question during the interview, you will be able to answer without as much nervousness. 

Why did you decide to become a teacher?
Talk about your classroom management strategies.
How do you differentiate in your classroom?
What is your biggest weakness and your biggest strength?
Tell about a time that you had to deal with a difficult student or parent and how you handled the situation.
Tell about a lesson you taught that failed and what you learned from that lesson.
Where do you see yourself in five years?

3. Bring samples or pictures.

Bringing samples of lessons that you created or pictures of your classroom can be a great way to set yourself apart. It shows that you are innovative and that you make learning fun. You can bring hard copies. It might be nice to give each person on the interview panel a page with pictures. You could also upload samples to Google drive and send a link to the file prior to your interview. Some principals will look at the material and appreciate the effort. Some principals will never look. I think it is better to be over prepared though! 

4. Be honest.

You are not perfect and you don't need to pretend that you are. If there is something that you don't know, you should just let them know that this is an area you will need some support in. This let's them know that you are willing to learn new things and able to admit when you need help. Principals like knowing what teacher need help with.

5. Send a thank you.

You know that teachers and administrators are very busy people. It takes a lot of time to conduct interviews. It is very polite to send them an email and thank them for taking the time to consider you for the position. One email will suffice. Don't be the crazy one that sends a message and calls every day! #creepy

Good luck with your interview and enjoy the next adventure!

A Typical Day of Writing in my Classroom

Take a look at how I use writer's workshop to teach writing everyday in my classroom.

Writing happens all day in my classroom. Students respond to text during reading. They write about their math strategies using math journals. Students write informational paragraphs in social studies and science. Even though our pencils are dulled from all of this writing- we still have a dedicated time for writing instruction. If you really want students to be better writers, you have to teach them explicit writing skills. I use writer's workshop to teach writing in my classroom. 

Here is a look at what writing looks like in my classroom:

Mini Lesson: 10-15 minutes

Writer's workshop starts with a mini lesson. It is a MINI lesson- not a MAXI lesson! This is the time when we are teaching our students a skill that we want them to use in their writing. If we spend too much time talking, then they never get to the writing! 

During my mini lesson, I love to share mentor texts. I think that reading great writing is the best way to grow great writers. There are wonderful picture book mentor texts for nearly every writing skill. However, I can't always find the books at the library and it gets pricey to buy them all. I started using mentor text passages instead. I like them because they can be used as a close read during reading and students can highlight and underline interesting words, dialogue and other great writing skills. Plus, students can glue the passages into their notebooks for future reference.

Most of my mini lessons also include anchor charts. The charts are a great way to practice a skill. I don't have a ton of wall space, so I prefer to display a digital version of an anchor chart and fill it in with student input. Students can create the same anchor chart and put it in their notebook as a reminder when they write.

Work Time: 25-35 minutes

The majority of writer's workshop is spent writing! Students are given a specific task to work on in their masterpiece story. 

If the mini lesson was about using transition words, their task will be to go back through their piece and add transition words. If the mini lesson was about using dialogue, students will be asked to add dialogue to their piece. Giving students a very specific task, and resources for reference, helps students to write for the entire time. When a student completes the task for the day, they are able to work on extra stories in the back of their notebook. They will come back to their masterpiece the next day when we learn a new skill during the mini lesson. 

Writing Conferences:

While students are writing, the teacher is conferencing with students. I used to conference one-on-one with writers, but I never seemed to be able to get to every student in a week. I also found that I was giving the same feedback to many of the students. I decided that it made more sense to meet with a small group of writers each day. Students were grouped based on their writing goals. Students with similar needs are grouped together and this drastically cut down on the amount of time I spent giving the same feedback. It also helps students to learn from one another. 

When students meet with me during conference, I will have them read their writing out loud. This is much faster than me trying to read all of the pieces. I don't have them read the entire story though. If we have just learned about writing leads that hook readers (or if that is a common goal for the group), I will have each student share their lead. This keeps the conferences short and focused. 

During conferences, I will take notes about strengths and areas for growth for each student. This helps me to remember things I want to follow up on. 

Share Time: 5 minutes

I think that it is important for authors to have opportunities to share their writing. I think that is the main reason that writers write! I used to have an author's chair and chose one student to come up each day to read their story. This took so long and meant that students were only able to share less than once per month. I want students to get to share everyday! Sharing doesn't always have to be in front of the whole class. Most days I just have my students share with their shoulder partner. 

I always give my students a very specific task during share time. It just takes too long to read an entire story. Instead, I might ask them to share a place where they used the "show, don't tell" writing strategy. I might ask them to share a place where they used dialogue. Giving a specific task helps to keep things moving and his a great way to close our lesson.

Free Writing Course & Resources

Would you like even more information about making the most of your writing time? I have put together a FREE writing workshop email course. The course includes a week of free lesson plans, anchor charts and rubrics. 

Click HERE to read more and get signed up for free!

Take a look at how I use writer's workshop to teach writing everyday in my classroom.

Helpful Product!

Would you like to have an effective writing workshop without having to write the lesson plans, find the mentor texts or create the anchor charts? I have you covered! I did all of the hard. work, so you can start teaching writing in your class tomorrow! Click on the pictures below to read more about these units!

Related Blog Posts

I have more information about teaching writing!

End of Year Tips, Tricks and Resources!

Lots of ideas for end of year classroom activities to make the last weeks or days of school extra fun!

The end of the school year is fast approaching! Wether you have days or weeks left, I hope that these end of year tips and ideas will help you to have some fun with your students before summer break. 

The end of the school year is tough! So much is being asked of us. We are madly trying to complete report cards, inventory supplies, clean and somehow continue to provide meaningful instruction until the very last day! 

There are several mistakes that a teacher can make at the end of the year even though they mean well. These mistakes will make the end of the year more difficult.

Click HERE to read more about these mistakes and some simple solutions to make the end of year more manageable!

After testing is over we start to daydream about summer break. But the reality is that we still have several weeks of teaching time! What do you do with your students? We want to keep them learning, but we want to have some fun with them too. I have ten tips that will help you keep your students learning and engaged!

Click HERE to read more about fun ways to keep students engaged at the end of the year.

Ending the year with a theme day or an entire week of theme days- is super fun! They give students a something really special to look forward. You can sneak in academics if you need to, or you can just make it a celebration. It's up to you!

Click HERE to read about 12 different classroom theme day ideas!

The end of the year is a perfect time to hold a book raffle in your classroom! I give students a book as an end of year gift and the raffle is a fun way to give out the books and be certain that every student has a book that they are excited to read over the summer.

Click HERE to read more about having a book raffle in your classroom.

On the last day of school, my students always scrubbed the desks, tables and chairs. And they had a blast doing it. I know that sounds crazy, but it is so true. They loved helping to clean the classroom because I made it fun with bubbles! I only wish that I could find a way to make cleaning my house this much fun.

Click HERE to read more about cleaning desks with bubbles!

Imagine a summer break where you are sipping fruity drinks by the pool and NOT thinking about school. It may sound impossible to some of you. The trick is to get ready for back to school BEFORE summer break. I know that you are crazy tired, but I promise that I have some simple ways that you can get ahead of the game with little to no energy!

Click HERE to read about what you should prep before summer break!

End of Year Resources

I have a few resources that are perfect for the end of the year!

I love to have a ceremony and give every student in my class a special award. I always find an award that is perfect for each student in my class. The set includes 80 different awards and it is editable!

Click HERE to learn more about my end of year awards.

The school year has been lots of fun and my students love to document their favorite memories. There are lots of memory books out there, but I think that the paper bag format is extra fun and really unique!

Click HERE to learn more about my end of year paper bag memory book.

These end of year task cards are a fun way to reminisce about the school year. You can put them in a writing center or even use them as discussion starters during those last days of school!

Click HERE to learn more about my end of year task cards.

Lots of ideas for end of year classroom activities to make the last weeks or days of school extra fun!

Enjoy those last days of making a huge difference for this group of kiddos!