Welcome back!

September 14, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Posted in education, elementary, third grade | Leave a comment

Welcome to a new year of school! It is only the second day of school, but there is an air of excitement, possibility , and hope I have never felt before at my school. Past readers may know that my elementary school was classically bad. And I mean hopelessly bad.

But the last year has brought about many changes, and now, we have a staff of motivated and enthusiastic teachers, a staff made up of primarily the exact same teachers as before. What do I attribute this major change in culture and attitude to? The abrupt replacement of our now ex-principal with a knowledgeable and able leader who shares power and demands that her teachers wields that power in service of students’ education.

So, let us raise a glass to a wonderful year where both students and teachers learn!

Finger Math – A Fun Way to Practice Math Facts

August 26, 2007 at 8:53 pm | Posted in differentiated instruction, elementary, math, second grade, strategies, third grade | 1 Comment

For the last two weeks, my students have been having fun learning math in non-textbook ways.  One game that we have been using on a daily basis for about five minutes each day is “Finger Math”.  It quickly gives students practice adding and subtracting in a fun atmosphere, with manipulative support.  This activity is easily differentiated and appropriate for first graders, second graders, third, fourth, and so on!


  • Have two students face each other.
  • Each student choose a number from 1-10.
  • When students are ready, they show their number using their fingers.
  • Have students quickly add all fingers shown from both students and say the answer.
  • The student with the correct answer wins a point.  Have students check by counting all fingers.
  • Play continues until one student wins.  In my class, that’s five points to win.


  • Subtract the student with the least fingers from the student with the most finger.
  • Play with one hand instead of two hands (meaning 1-5 instead of 1-10) for students who aren’t ready to add the higher numbers.  Differentiated instruction.
  • For more difficult problems, have three or four students play against each other.  This is also an excellent scaffold for adding three addends.
  • After each play, have students write the corresponding number sentence in their math journal.
  • Instead of adding or subtracting, have students multiply.

How to Really Publish Your Students’ Writings and Drawings

June 23, 2007 at 7:16 am | Posted in elementary, free resources, investigation, Open Court, teachers, third grade, writing | 3 Comments

I discovered Lulu.com about a year ago.  Lulu.com is a print on demand company.  You upload a pdf file to their server and can buy your beautiful, professional looking, retail ready book.  You can buy one or a class set or however many you want.  You can set your privacy option so that only you have the right to purchase your book.  You can also set it so that other people (like parents) can purchase the book.  (I would set that function to zero profit, or make it a fund-raiser for the school because keeping profit from your students’ work is kinda sticky business.)

When I first discovered it, I uploaded some gorgeous paintings my students made for the story “Picasso” in the “Imagination” unit of the third grade Open Court Reading program.  We purchased one book to be placed in my class library.  The kids went wild.  They love seeing their work in a real book.

I’m doing it again today.  I’m uploading some seriously amazing pieces that my students wrote as part of their investigation into storytelling.  They collected family oral histories and wrote the stories down, with beautiful illustration.  Unfortunately, we’re behind on the project, so the book probably won’t get here by our last day of school.  I will order two copies, one for their fourth grade class and one for my third grade class.

The students were very motivated to do their best writing and drawing for this book because, well, it’s a real book!  You can’t get more authentic and motivating than that!

I really recommend that teachers look into Lulu.com as one of the ways that students can publish their final drafts for writing, but also a way to publish Science projects, History projects, and anything else really.

What are we doing the last week and a half of school?

June 19, 2007 at 8:46 pm | Posted in education, elementary, inner city, teachers, third grade, Workshop, writing | 2 Comments

Aimlessmiss asked a very funny question. How do you plan to pass the time? – Meaning the last couple of weeks of school given that all major testing is done.

I laughed as I read her post.

Here’s my harried response:

7:30 Getting to school 30 minutes later than planned because I’m tired. First bell is 7:55. Sharpen pencils, lay out morning activities, review plans for the day, meet with teacher to plan for teacher End of Year party, etc.

7:55 Pick up students

8:05 Students working on morning activities, take roll, give tardy students firm look.

8:10 Writing Time – Students finish final draft of family/community story for oral storytelling anthology. Deadline is Wednesday to be sent to Lulu print on demand company in time to receive published copy following week before students graduate third grade.

8:40 Begin Unit 5, Lesson 7 of language arts lesson in preparation of Unit Assessment next Monday. Lessons move at break-neck speed until Workshop time, at which time, students scramble to finish final draft (with illustration), a thank you card for donorschoose donors, and the back cover of their Third Grade Memory Book while teacher meets with small groups of students, some of whom has just a few days to improve their fluency before they get a second chance at their End of Year Fluency Assessment. (Not really the End of Year Fluency Assessment. The EOY Fluency was two weeks ago, but they can replace that score with a higher score if they take the Unit 5 Fluency which is not required of everyone.)

11:00 RECESS – Prepare for math lessons. Give a good “talking to” to students who misbehaved and got more than a verbal warning.

11:20 Math – Small group review problems from recent Math assessment in preparation for retaking the assessment on Friday because students are appalled by their ridiculous low scores (15 out of 31 is highest score) and would like another shot at it. My students can be too motivated sometime. They like teaching their fellow students on the overhead projector though, so it’s fun for them.

12:30 LUNCH – whew! Eat lunch and watch as some students return to work on their writing, some to visit the listening center.

1:10 Workshop Time again! Gotta finish those thank you cards, back covers, and final drafts.

1:30 Enter six students who are dispersed from another class. Begin Science/Art project (Create cut out art on construction paper, leave in sun to fade, remove cut out to see the non-faded shapes and then decorate the faded/non-faded artwork). FUN! Rare chance to do this as this time is usually taken up with English Language Development lessons, but it is the end of the school year, so I think we can relax a little bit here.

2:15 Prepare to go home.

2:20 Teacher prepares class for next school day. Continue packing and cleaning classroom in preparation for moving to a new classroom on June 29. Oh yea, also mentally plan for next school year which starts in 2 and a half weeks.

This was my day today. I look forward to next week because it’s going to be party time on Thursday and Friday! I plan movies and independent art projects so I can clean up, pack up, and move stuff.

Romeo and Juliet – in Elementary School? Kissing?!

June 18, 2007 at 5:43 pm | Posted in elementary, third grade | Leave a comment

Yup, we had another great program today.  Shakespeare at Play visited our school and performed the abridged Romeo and Juliet, in full costume and full Shakespearean speak.  I was afraid the 500 kids in the assembly would get bored and become unruly, but they were quite captivated!  Goes to show, you can never know.

The fight scenes of course caused quite a ruckus with the kids.  and the kissing!

Hilarious!!  There were second graders up to fifth graders in the auditorium and they pretty much all went “EEEEWWWWW!”

My class held a Circle Time discussion afterward and one student, swear to God, said, “I don’t know if it was appropriate ’cause there were second graders in there and they could go home and tell their parents”  Another student said, “I don’t think it was appropriate at all, but I guess it’s okay because it’s a play.”

Makes me wonder how many times a day I use the word “appropriate”.

There was a huge disagreement as to the reality of the play.  One child called it “realistic fiction” while another said “fantasy”.  One child said the people didn’t really die.  Another child asked if Romeo and Juliet really kissed.  My students were becoming polarized at this point, so we plan to continue the discussion tomorrow.

Sucks that I will have to send these kids off to fourth grade in two weeks, just when I’m starting to see their growth!

Day 5 of Big Test – We’re doing M&M Math!

May 28, 2007 at 10:19 pm | Posted in graphic organizers, high stakes testing, learning modality, math, third grade | 2 Comments


Originally uploaded by cityteacher
For math tomorrow, we’re going to use real m&ms to sort, tally, and graph. Lots of valuable math skills involved. We’re also using many different modalities and two graphic organizers. Math should be like this every day! The kids love this every year! I usually do this with the third graders, but with a little modification, you can do the same with younger students and older students.

Make sure you bring enough m&m bags for everyone. I will have the students work in pairs, but everyone should have their own bag of m&m to eat.

There are two pages to this activity.  The first page is the sorting, tallying, and graphing sheet.  The second page has the questions that students must answer using their graphic organizers.

You can download both pages as PDF from my box.net.

Protected: Teaching Second Grade Next Year

May 25, 2007 at 7:18 pm | Posted in behavior, second grade, teachers, third grade | Enter your password to view comments.

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NEW – Reading and Writing Homework – Using Circle Maps

May 12, 2007 at 9:31 pm | Posted in elementary, free resources, graphic organizers, homework, thinking maps, third grade, writing | 5 Comments

Just created a reading and writing homework using Circle Maps.  This homework would work well with the younger students or at the beginning of the school year.

Visit my box.net to download both as PDFs.

Back to School

May 9, 2007 at 6:10 pm | Posted in elementary, graphic organizers, teachers, thinking maps, third grade | 2 Comments

Today is my first day back teaching and boy, I’m exhausted! My feet hurt and I was starving (no time for lunch). It’s incredible that after six weeks, I’ve forgotten what it was like to teach! Exhilirating and exhausting, at the same time.

It was a successful day. No major behavior problems. A couple of students received verbal warnings, but no personality clashes, which is the norm. The students were enthusiastic and happy, eager to get back into the swing of things.

We started the day with work and ended the day with P.E. Not a spare moment in between, so no down-time allowing for misbehaving.

I’ve really added rigor to my curriculum, so even though this was the first back at school, the students worked hard and learned a lot, I’m proud to say. Let’s hope I continue to add rigor to my lessons.

Here’s our English Language Development (ELD) lesson for today.


This is a lesson in the middle of the “To the Moon” unit in the “Into English!” program, modified to add rigor of course.  The purpose of the lesson was to compare and contrast the Earth and the moon.

I brought in various photos of the Earth and the moon.  The class spent about 5 minutes wholegroup quickly identifying the features in the photos (building vocabulary).  Then, we did a Think-Pair-Share using the questions, “What is the same?  What is different?”  I gave them sentence frames such as “The moon and the Earth are the same because ___” and “The moon is different from the Earth because _____” to develop their oral language.  The Think-Pair-Share allows the students to access information from each other, not just from me, and gives everyone an opportunity to develop their language and participate.  Then, we break up the students into groups of four to create a double-bubble map comparing and contrasting the Earth and the moon.  My students are quite used to thinking maps by now and can whip them out.  Finally, the groups presented their double-bubble map to the class.  Their reporters were expected to present their findings in complete sentences using the academic language that we practiced earlier.  Done!  The entire lesson took about 30-35 minutes.

The best part?  The students did most of the work.  I merely watched, listened, and asked guiding questions.

Pat on the back!

Storytelling Ideas

May 6, 2007 at 10:23 am | Posted in free resources, IWT, Open Court, performance task, third grade, Workshop | 3 Comments

I’m getting ready to teach Unit 5, Storytelling. I did a quick search using google and found this amazing website with hundreds of storytelling ideas. I will scour the site, but I thought I should share first!

Story Arts Online

Here’s another one that I find useful.

National Storytelling Network

And author Aaron Shepard’s site on storytelling is amazing.


Opencourtresources.com has amazing resources for Open Court teachers.  One that I’m using is “Tell Me a Story” by Emily Fuhr.  I’m using it as part of our unit opener.  I’ve developed a short performance task that uses the poem.  We will work on this performance task throughout the first few weeks of the unit during Workshop time. Take a look at the pdf that I created for the performance task.

The performance task is:

You are a poet getting ready to perform a new poem with feelings.  You must listen to and read the poem.  You must sequence the parts of the poem in order to create a flow map and then perform the poem to the class.

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