Monday, July 8, 2013

April in the Classroom

Thank goodness for my class Twitter account. Without my planbook, (being returned to school by my long term sub this week), it's awfully hard to remember the day-to-day happenings of Room 16. We sure do stay busy! I'm appreciating our Twitter account more and more as a chronicle of days, weeks, and months past. (Follow us @MrsMacksGrade3!)

In Literacy, we were continuing our unit on Visualizing. I think they kids enjoyed this unit in particular because it channeled their creative and artistic sides. I enjoyed it because it focused on reading for detail--a strategy often overlooked by eager readers. I also really enjoyed many of the recommended read alouds including Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

I also really enjoyed these visualizing task cards from Teaching with a Mountain View. These cards are great  after a mini lesson or when you find yourself with a few extra minutes during transitions. I think the kids really liked them.

Another great visualization activity I discovered online was reading Jack Prelutsky's poem "My Sister Ate an Orange." The template below allows for students to illustrate their initial visualization and then a subsequent one later in a reading. After listening to the first two stanzas of the poem, readers believe the sister ate an orange fruit. Students sketched illustrations to portray that. Only after hearing the third and final stanza, do students realize that she has eaten an orange crayon.

 In Math, we were tackling geometry--and lots and lots of vocabulary. Foldables and flapbooks were a fun and different way to teach the vocabulary using text and visuals to build comprehension. They also can serve as at-home and in-class study guides throughout the unit and year. Here the girls at Table 3 are working on point, line segment, line...

A few days later, the kids created their second foldables--this time on the challenging topic of quadrilaterals. Students need to know that a square is also a rectangle, a rhombus, a parallelogram, AND a quadrilateral. It sure was tricky for some.

As part of Poetry Month, and simply to enhance writing through the use of vivid verbs and descriptive adjectives, writers received new inserts for their Reading/Writing binders. These pages, from Banish Boring Words helps writers do precisely that--banish boring, or "dead" as we call them, words that don't help the reader truly visualize a scene. I encouraged students to use these pages particularly while drafting their Dead Word poems. In a Dead Word poem, poets choose a boring, or "dead," word such as good, bad, small, large and following a simple format, compose a poem that offers a dozen or so more vivid, "alive," words in its place. 


One of my favorite types of poems that I only discovered last year is a book spine poem. I came across a template and planning sheet on TeachersPayTeachers. You can download it for free here. It was created by the talented Loco Teacher. Forget the need to rhyme or dig for deeper meaning. Simply find book titles in the classroom library--on a related topic or not at all--and rearrange them until their book spines tell a story-albeit a silly or serious one! Here are two of my favorites from this year.

Can you guess the theme of this budding poet's book spine poem?


Continuing our unit in geometry, we learned the unique names for angles. The kids got a kick out of my connection with an acute angle as being such "a cute" angle. Ha Teacher humor. With math typically the last subject of the day, I try to make it fun and if it can involve an edible treat--all the better! Below, we're "Sticking with Angles."

A new activity this year were root trees. I discovered a great anchor chart on Pinterest that highlighted roots. throughout this year, I came to realize how truly valuable knowledge of roots can be. Knowing a root or base words expands readers vocabulary exponentially. Students chose a root word from a list of Greek and Latin roots. On the leaves, they wrote words that contained the root that we had brainstormed. I might consider doing it earlier in the year next year.


This month our school piloted Breakfast in the Classroom. As the students walk in at 7:45, students granted parental permission may take a breakfast from this rolling cart. They're offered milk, fruit, cereal, and at times a warm breakfast. I don't take for granted the fact that third graders need little assistance retrieving their breakfast, opening milk cartons, and disposing of trash. From what I gather, and do not envy, the first graders need quite a lot of assistance which results in a greater loss of academic time.

Every other week students receive a Spelling Tic Tac Toe board with an ever-changing variety of activities to choose from throughout the week. The activities include writing Super Sentences, collecting and arranging letters from newspapers and magazines for Ransom Words, composing Acrostics in April, or drawing colorful illustrations with accompanying captions that use that week's spelling words in Picasso. A class favorite is Type It! Students type their spelling words three times each and are encouraged to change the size, color, and font. The example below was so bright! Be sure to check out a bundle of 12 Spelling Tic Tac Toe boards in my TPT store here

Another April highlight-- Class Picture Day! Look at that bump! Teacher confession: the heels were put on minutes before this picture was taken. They were subsequently taken off upon our return to the classroom. :)

In addition to foldables and flapbooks, another multi-purpose, cross-curricular activity are alphabet books. I'm beginning to collect alphabet books for the classroom library perhaps for a future author study/mentor text unit. Some alphabet books I have are this military family one, Titanic one and this new dog one. I used this free alphabet book template from Denise at Sunny Days in Second Grade as a math review activity before our math state testing at the beginning of May. Students had the opportunity to work together using their math book's glossary to define and illustrate math vocabulary words of their choice.

The Scholastic Book Fair came to our school, and I eagerly filled out Teacher Wish List slips for parents to take during our annual Scoop Night fundraiser. Boy, were they generous! Look at the new titles I scored!

Denise, a fabulously talented teacher in Florida and the brains behind Sunny Days in Second Grade, makes great word work activities perfect for my third graders. They often highlight new and often challenging vocabulary--a plus for my early-finishers and high achievers. Click here to download her free Earth Day word work activity. While at TPT check out her free Earth Day task cards. I told you she was fabulous!

Another favorite blogger of mine is Amanda over at One Extra Degree. I first discovered her and fell in love with her work when our district had been implementing Reading Street in full force. We've since adopted Reader's Workshop, but I still find myself supplementing with some Reading Street texts, leveled readers, and resources. Recently, I came across her Formative Flaps freebie and love them! They were great morning work activities to kick start math review days before state testing. 

In an effort to ease test anxiety and build excitement for the kiddos' first experience with MCAS, I arranged an MCAS balloon surprise countdown much like I had done at the end of school last year. The idea for this originated from two great finds through TPT-- a Balloon Popping Bash from Abby at the Wizard of Boz and a Summer Countdown balloon activity from Lindsey at The Teacher Wife. Each day we would pop a balloom to reveal the day's special activity. (We began with actual balloons but they soon warped and deflated due to the significant temperature changes in the classroom from morning to night.)

Another balloon surprise was a laid-back afternoon tackling what I called the Cereal Box Project. The scavenger hunt resources and printables called You Can Even Read a Cereal Box came from Cynthia Vautrot at the 2nd Grade Pad. Working independently or with partners, students read cereal boxes for details as they searched for ingredients, caloric counts, the cereal's company, a recycling symbol...

One of the kids' favorite balloon surprises was the opportunity to Skype with their Pennsylvanian pen pals. Normally, this wouldn't take place until later May or June but knowing my maternity leave was slowly approaching, I coordinated an earlier Skype date with their teacher. Normally very outgoing, confident, talkative kids became shy and nervous when conversing with their pen pal on the Smartboard's big screen. (A few weeks later, I received letters from previous students recalling fond memories from their time in my classroom. One student, in particular, an older sister of one of my current students, recalled her Skyping experience two years prior. Coordinating and maintaining any pen pal exchange can be a time-consuming task, but sweet letters like that remind me that it is all worth it and that the students truly treasure those moments and opportunities.


Ta da! It only took days--maybe a few weeks-- to compose this post! 
Blogging sure has become a coveted naptime project.

Off to tackle a few more items off my to do list!

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