Monday, April 14, 2014

{Must Read Science Mentor Text} - Dirt: The Scoop on Soil

Hey all! This is my first time joining Amanda & Stacia over at Collarboation Cuties for their weekly Must-Read Mentor Text Linky!

This week, the subject area that we're linking up with is science. Me being the Science teacher at our school in the 3rd grade, I love Science! I love finding new books to help support the curriculum.

While we're no longer on soil/resources (now we're on space.. woohoo!!), I have a great mentor text to share with you.

It's called Dirt: The Scoop on Soil by Natalie M. Rosinsky. 
This book is a GREAT book for students to help them get a "closer look" at the different types of soils out there, along with what you can use different types of soil for in your every day life.

The Amazon description is as follows:
Discusses the nature, uses, and importance of soil and the many forms of life that it supports.

While the description is very short, it's a simple book that can help supplement the discussion of soils in your classroom. We first looked over the different types of soil in our textbook. This made it difficult for my students because the textbook is written on a higher level than our grade level. While quite a few understood the differences between soil types, the DIRT book above helped drill those into their brains so that my students knew the difference when it came to assessment time.

Here are a few pages of the book:

So that's it! Here's my mentor text memo for Dirt: The Scoop on Soil.
What kinds of mentor texts do YOU use in your classroom for your science instruction?

I can't wait to check out the linky for some more ideas!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Library Organization: A Bright Idea!

It's time! Time for the third round of the Bright Ideas linky! 150 bloggers have teamed up this time to bring you some more bright ideas to help make things in your classroom go 150% easier!

My bright idea has to deal with library organization - your classroom library!

{GRAPHIC CREDITS: Krista Wallden (Creative Clips) & KG Fonts}

My kiddos enjoy reading more than any other children I have ever met - therefore, our classroom library is stocked full of tons of different books across all different genres.

To name a few, we have biographical, science fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, folk-tale, and so on!

So, I needed a way to organize those books. 
{GRAPHIC CREDITS: Krista Wallden (Creative Clips) & KG Fonts}

Meet my classroom library bins. They're no longer this organized… but you can walk in my room and tell my kiddos love reading!!
I got the bins from Big Lots at the beginning of the school year and have LOVED them ever since. Easily stores most chapter books and each bin stores around 20-25 books. Perfect solution.

Then, I arrange my bins based on the series rather than genre - this makes it easier than having 15 bins for fiction and 17 for non-fiction. Instead, we've got bins for Magic Tree House, Who Was/What Was series, Junie B. Jones, and so forth. The kids know which books go where and if they are in search of something, they read the tags and find it really quickly!
{GRAPHIC CREDITS: Krista Wallden (Creative Clips) & KG Fonts}

THEN beyond that, my kiddos and I are all about Accelerated Reader, otherwise known as AR. 

Each time they read a book, they then take a short comprehension quiz on the storybook. This shows whether they understood what they read or not. I, as the teacher, get a detailed report of each students' progress on EACH book's quiz they take. I love it, and they love looking at the data that they receive AFTER they complete the test.

We also rely heavily on our AR levels - otherwise known as our ZPD levels. This level is what helps my students choose their books that they can read AND understand.

To help solve the issue of not knowing which books are at which level, I have begun (never too late!!) to label each book with their AR level and how many points their quizzes are worth.

BACKTRACK: I set a goal for each of my students to reach a certain amount of points by taking AR tests. That's where the point obsession comes into play.

But, I am running out of steam when it comes to writing the words "AR level" and "Points" in each book, so I created these to help save some time and energy:

VERY easy and simple! Now I just have to write two numbers, peel it, and stick it. DONE!

These are just two SIMPLE ways to organize my library to truly keep MY sanity! And, to make it easier for my kiddos to find that JUST right book :)

What are some things you do in YOUR classroom library to make it easier for your kiddos? Sound off in the comments below!

And for MORE great ideas, please look below and browse through the link-up, choosing the topics/grade levels that you'd like to check out! But, I won't lie to you - you may want to check out EVERY idea… they're all SO brilliant!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

April Reading!

I'm joining Jen from Teacher by the Beach for her Spring Themed Books Linky: April Books.

In our classroom, we love books. When I say love, I mean LOVE - in all caps, bold, italicized, and underlined. 

We have hundreds upon hundreds of books in our classroom library. My kiddos know that I will buy a book like I'm buying my weekly (okay, who's kidding who here… my DAILY) Starbucks coffee! I just can't risk passing up something that interests my students.

We're currently working on a poetry unit in our classroom during our ITBS (Iowa) Testing this week and next week. It's actually going to continue for another extra week because my kiddos are truly enjoying it. On top of that, April is National Poetry Month. Therefore, I HAD to get some poetry books for our classroom. So, I just ordered poetry books to add to our classroom library collection!

Then, in Science class, we're talking about resources (renewable, nonrenewable, and reusable) along with the different types of soil, pollution, and ways to help our environment. It's all about resources, my friends! Therefore, I had to buy a few books for the classroom to get these topic ideas across!

Our two favorites out of all the books are, "Dirt: The Scoop on Soil" and "Where Does the Garbage Go?" The dirt book got the idea that there are several different types of dirt in our environment that make up the ground we walk on. The different layers represent different things.

But, the garbage book made a LARGE impact on them. Inside the story, it talks about recycling for a majority of the book. This opened my students minds on how to help the environment in more than one way using reduce, reuse, and recycle. It lead to a GREAT conversation so I highly recommend it!

Our next topic we'll be starting in Science class that they ALL are so excited about is Space. This covers the planets, the facts about the planets, our moon and it's facts, along with constellations. They will be doing quite a few projects during this topic in Science class, so any kind of book that I can use to help out, believe me, I bought it!

Finally, I have to share one of my favorite springtime books to read - I bought it while I was doing my 2nd grade internship about 2 1/2 years ago and I still love it.

It's called "Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms." If you're from the North, like me, and have moved to the South, like me, this book brings back all those snowy memories. While I am glad I didn't have the Winter that the North had this year, it still makes me miss the snow flurries… but, this is a different kind of snow in the book :) You'll have to read it to find out!

I love books and my kiddos do, too. They read ALL. THE. TIME. Sometimes, it's me making them read. Other times, they ASK to read.

I'll tell ya… I rearranged our room yesterday to where all desks are on the outside of the room and there's a LARGE space in the middle now. At the end of our crazy day yesterday, I had the students read after they were done.

I walked over to help a student that was still working on the assigned classwork before they could read and I looked in front of me. EVERY. SINGLE. CHILD. had a book in their hands and were actually reading it. They were all so intrigued and involved in their books that they looked up for nothing. Until, of course, I told them it was my favorite sight to see in the whole wide world and one asked, "Oh, so you don't like to see our faces?" :) My witty children… but boy, do I love them!

So, have you bought or borrowed any books lately?? Sound off in the comments below about some of YOUR favorite April reads! I'd love to hear them :) Then, go link up with Miss Jen for her linky, Spring Themed Books Linky: April Reads!

Have a good day, y'all!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hands-On Science Project

Hey there!
Welcome to the 2nd installment of the Bright Ideas Blog Hop! There are roughly 185 bloggers participating this round and I KNOW for a fact that there are some more fantastic ideas. That's what's great about teachers… we're full of ideas!

So, you saw my title says hands-on science project.

Well, in our 3rd grade classroom, we're learning all about landforms and the water cycle. To make the landform concept more concrete for my own students, I had them complete a landform Play-Doh project.
This activities allowed for the abstract concept of a variety of landforms to become hands-on and more visually THERE… especially for those students that haven't seen an archipelago or a volcano besides in a picture. It's almost as though the landforms were in their own backyards!
The only materials needed for this project were some sort of cardboard box for the base (I used post office boxes I had in my spare room from another project) and some Play-Doh. I'll be honest - I spent quite a bit of time trying to find the perfect colors for the project but then found a box of colors that had anything from pink to black to orange to green.
As you can see in some of the pictures, there are pink islands, red and yellow mountains, and a variety of other mismatched landforms to what they are typically colored. My students understood that there really aren't pink islands, orange mountains (well… if you count Arizona soil/dirt, then it would be red/orange!), and so forth.
Regardless, my students had a blast and wanted to do another topic in Play-Doh. I'm constantly trying to find ways to keep my students engaged and involved in their education, and this project… well, it was a home run!
Excuse the glue bottle and the Zoobreak book… the were gluing their labels on to their landforms so that I could tell which landform was what. They loved it!

What kinds of hands-on activities do you do in your classrooms? Even if it's not in Science, I'd love to hear about the projects!

But, now - what about storage?? What teacher doesn't need EXTRA storage for all their junk… er, I mean learning tools… in their classroom? Lydia from Owl Be in Kindergarten has a FANTASTIC post on finding that space in the tiniest of ways (and one of the cutest and easiest DIY ways). Head on over to her blog post by clicking her button below.
Owl Be In Kindergarten
And if you'd prefer to just hop from one topic to another instead of from blog to blog, feel free to check out the linky below! There are two separate linkies - one for "K through 2nd" and one for "3rd and up". Each person that has linked up has linked up by their BLOG POST title - not their specific blog! So, it's much easier to find JUST what you need. But, I suggest going from blog to blog because you'll find FANTASTIC ideas! :)

Happy Hopping!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Pronoun Flowers - A Pronoun Activity

Hey y'all!

My kiddos were learning ALL about pronouns for the last 3 weeks - regular pronouns and possessive pronouns alike. But, I wanted to make sure they understood pronouns in general.

So, we made "Pronoun Flowers." Kelley from Teacher Idea Factory originally came up with the idea of Pronoun Patch flowers, but I created my own template to go ahead and get copies of each of the parts - the center, the petals, the leaves, and the stems. We called ours Pronoun Flowers and decorated our portion of the hallway with them.

They turned out SO fantastic. The kiddos truly did learn a lot, too, and began to understand pronouns like pros. I had a few that struggled but once we reviewed the ideas behinds pronouns and why we use them, along with HOW we use them, they caught right on. I attribute the success of this mini-project to their success on their grammar test over pronouns! 
Our display in the hallway. 
The pronoun "them" - this kiddo got it! 
They struggled with the pronoun "it," but once we gave examples, they understood it! 
Another "it" example! 
I know we had the pronoun "them" up above, but my kiddos truly did struggle with "them." They wanted to include themselves, but little did they realize that it would make it "WE" or "US." Finally, they got it! Both students using them were able to provide great examples.
Finally, they loved the he/she/him/her pronouns the best. It was easiest for them and they were able to get these down quickly.

Overall, the activity was a success! I truly enjoyed it and I loved how bright and fun our hallway looked - we got lots of compliments on such a cute activity, so I thank Kelley for the FANTASTIC idea!!

Anything specific you use to teach pronouns?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Bright Ideas?? We've Got 'Em!

Bright Ideas for those bright kiddos in your classroom… we've got 'em!

This is a HUGE blog hop I'm participating in (over 140 bloggers!) that is chalk full of different ideas to implement in the classroom environment. The ideas range from things with technology to how to utilize that hallway "lull" time to classroom management idea to bulletin board decor ideas and SO much more.

My specific post is going to deal with a variety of classroom management techniques. Below, I'm going to tell you about ways to get those brain breaks in (and where to find good ones), ways to use (positive) behavior markers in the classroom, and a variety of other things! After reading my post, there will be a link to the ENTIRE blog hop where you can scan through and check out other blogs for some bright ideas. Like I said, there are OVER 140 bloggers participating, so you're bound to find some fantastic ideas.
In our classroom, we work, work, work ALL day long. So, I like to break it up every once in a while and do a brain break! This is where you give your students' brains a literal break. You do some sort of fun, get-them-moving activity to help them rejuvenate themselves. You know when you're working on something and you just need a 15 minute break??? Yup, it's the same way with kiddos!

We use quite a few different things when it comes to brain breaks. Some incorporate technology while others do not.

Our favorite brain break right now is the website, Adventure to Fitness.

I have NEVER seen such an amazing website that encourages students to get up and MOVE. We do these every once in a while and MAN do my kiddos get into it. While we're on the second floor, the classroom below us probably doesn't enjoy when we complete these activities, but it gives my students that break that they need to encourage them to get back into the game once we have completed our brain break.

We also love to use the Cranium Brain Breaks set.

When I moved into my classroom, the teacher before me had left this behind. The kids LOVE the activities where they get to either A) act out the cards or B) draw out the cards. This group of kids I have absolutely LOVES drawing on my whiteboard. They want to be the teacher a lot of the time just so they simply can draw on the board. It's hilarious! So, I make sure to include the brain breaks where they ARE allowed to draw on the whiteboard or SMARTBoard. 

We also love to do the "old" activities… Simon Says, Charades, Heads Up 7 Up, and so forth. These require NO technology or tools… just your bodies & your brains. My children LOVE to play Simon Says. It's funny that when I was young, I loved to play that SAME game, and we're now in 2014 and it's still a popular game. I love how some games just carry on, regardless of the time.

What Brain Breaks do YOU like to do in your classroom with your children?
When you see the terms "Classroom Management," what do you think of? Positive things or negative things?? In our classroom, I like to do positive discipline more than I do negative discipline… although I DO have a method for the negative discipline in our classroom, too (behavior chart). My class this year is CHATTY. If you know me, you know I am the chattiest person alive… but I am NOTHING compared to my kids. They could talk all day long about anything if I would let them!

But, I try to give those who follow the directions, listen throughout the day, and so forth the positive reinforcement that they desire because they DID do what was required of them.

In third grade, we use a behavior chart. This behavior chart has cards for green, yellow, orange, and red. Every single child starts the day out on green. Our rules are posted in the back of the room. Students do know that if they don't follow the rules (no talking when someone else is talking, no talking during tests, stay seated unless directed otherwise, listening and following the directions given/written, etc), they have 3 warnings and then they move down to yellow. After yellow, they move to orange. After orange, they move to red. I've had to give out several reds this year for behavior during fire drills, but not because of behavior in the classroom - it's amazing! 
Each level has it's own discipline method that is assigned - for example, if moving to yellow, it's considered a warning. They lose 5 minutes at recess to reflect over what happened in the classroom. If moving to yellow, they lose 10 minutes of recess and they must fill out a discipline sheet stating what they did wrong and how they can fix it. This gives them ownership over their actions. Finally, if they move to red, a variety of things happen. Students must fill out discipline sheet, lose all of their recess (although I end up giving them a few minutes off the bench so they can get their energy out), a note is sent home, and they sit by themselves at lunch (cannot sit with group). 

This is our way to show students that everyone starts fresh each day, but based upon your actions, it can change or it can stay the same. Regardless of the color, though, students know that I must sign their behavior chart stating what happened in a few short words. The whole story is up to them to explain - it's that responsibility thing we're trying to reinforce like crazy this year!

Now that you've seen the negatives side, the positives are my favorite. We have a variety of positive reinforcement type things happening in our classroom. One of them is homework club.
Students are given the opportunity to be part of homework club at the beginning of every month. Depending upon whether or not they turn in their homework the next day is whether or not they stay in! For the ENTIRE month, if they turn in their homework on time and every day, they receive some sort of prize. In the past, I've given out homework passes, "no shoes day"where students can walk around without shoes on (yuck, but they love it!), extra recess, and in December, I gave the entire class a "board game day" where they could bring their own boardgames to play for about an hour the last week of school. They LOVED it! This homework club has been a HUGE motivator to my kiddos and I am so thankful for the idea from Tara over at 4th Grade Frolics. It has worked like a charm!

Besides homework club, we've also got our star chart! 
{Sorry for the blurry picture… clearly I'm not a photographer!}
This is new this quarter but it's working like a charm, too. If a student stays on green ALL day long, they get a star at the end of the day. Those with stars across the board by the end of the quarter (which is in 5 weeks), they receive a $5.00 gift card to ToysRUs from ME. How awesome of a prize is that?! They are LOVING the fact that I am the one that has to shell out the money, but it's a way to reward those who are doing well. Those who are not doing so well are realizing that they need to shape up in one way or another because they will not receive the gift card if they receive 5 or more yellows/oranges/reds throughout the quarter. My children that are typically chatty-Cathies or those that are always not following the directions are quickly realizing how serious I am about these gift cards and that those who ARE behaving and doing as they are asked will be rewarded for it. To make this star chart, I used a blue incentive chart and gold star stickers. The fact that they're GOLD stars is what gets my kiddos… who wouldn't want a gold star?!

Another positive reinforcement tool I use is homework passes. I made my homework passes on Vistaprint, which is quickly becoming one of my best friends for teacher supplies :)
I randomly pass these out and they're good for one sheet of homework - whether it be their reading log response, a math sheet, a religion activity, whatever they would like (except study guides/take home tests and projects). They LOVE getting these and they know that I randomly hand them out. The looks on their faces when I DO hand them out is priceless… it's like they had won the lottery for children! The homework passes can come in groups of 1 or I may pass out 5 at a time… they NEVER know. But, it's those who had behaved all day and followed all directions as given that receive them the most often. I do absolutely *LOVE* it when a student who typically doesn't follow directions decides to turn his/her act around and then they receive a pass - the look on THEIR faces is amazing and truly makes it worth it.

Finally, we have our Party Puff jar.
I did a post on this during the Monday Made It series throughout the summer, but I'm bringing it back into light. This is a simple, easy, and effective way to keep your kiddos engaged in your lessons with a reward at the end. This method is actually a whole class method. What the party puff jar is is when my students receive some sort of compliment from another teacher or myself, they receive 1 party puff. If someone that is "higher up" such as our Principal or Vice Principal gives a compliment, then each student gets to put a party puff in (so 22 party puffs).

When they fill the jar completely to the top (all 100 party puffs have been used), they receive some sort of party! This party can be a movie party, a board game party, a popcorn party… anything we want it to be because THEY earned it by behaving outside and inside the classroom.

My students do know if they receive a compliment that they need to come tell me, but they know that they cannot ask if they received party puffs for a compliment. They know that if they received a compliment, that equals party puffs and that I surely will NOT forget. This shows them that they are grateful for the compliments and that they should not expect a reward - but that a reward will be applied if they behave appropriately. Does that make sense??

My kids LOVE this and love telling their parents about it - I get e-mails often about receiving party puffs in class! Such a cool tool :)

So, what kind of classroom management things do YOU do in your classroom? I'd love to hear y'all sound off in the comments below - I'm always looking for new ideas!

Rae from Mindful Rambles is one to check out next! In my class, I've got two kiddos who use fidgets to keep them on track and they work WONDERS. I sometimes catch myself playing with the fidgets as I'm talking, too. Rae has made a post on how to use fidgets in your classroom. Click on her button below to head on over for some great fidget ideas!
To hop around to other blog posts, click on any of the links below. It's divided into bright ideas for LOWER GRADES and bright ideas for UPPER GRADES - so you can find what you need!