Thursday, May 31, 2012

Obsessed...Who Me?

Bonnie at Living a Wonderful Life is having an oh-so-fun linky party, and I'm joining in!  She's asked us to share our obsessions - personal or professional.  I have a little of both!

It is SUMMER!  Yay!  Sooooo, I am just a little obsessed with the lake!  It's hot outside, and I love being on the lake!  Boating, swimming, floating, occasionally fishing, and...tubing...I love it all!  
Me & The Hubby tubing on Memorial Day Weekend! 

Yes, that is me, still hanging on!

Google Reader and Pinterest are 2 more of my obsessions!  I love browsing through everyone's amazing blogs and seeing so many amazing ideas!  I find so many good ideas for cooking, and my house, and my classroom, and my children...that don't exist...on pinterest!

Scented stickers!  Oh. My. Goodness...I love them because my kiddos love them!  They're the perfect reward for a job well least my third graders think so!  They collect them on their binders!  You can find them at Michael's or in the Target dollar spot sometimes!

This is my stash! haha

So, like I said before, it's summer...which means I'm in a swimsuit most weekends...which makes this obsession BAD!  I LOVE CHOCOLATE!  There I said it...It's no surprise to pretty much anyone who really knows me!  My third grade team teachers know to come to my room if they need a little cocoa pick-me-up!

And one last obsession (for this post) that isn't so bad...water!  I drink lots and lots of water!  My wonderful husband got me a gift for Christmas that I use every day.  My UK Tervis tumbler goes to and from work with me every day - you rarely see me without it!  It's the big one...24 ounces, and I still had to get a filtering pitcher to keep in my mini-fridge so I could refill during the day!  And I think my kids noticed!  I got this little beauty as an end of the year gift!  {Love the school spirit!}

Now go check out Bonnie's blog and link up!  And don't forget to enter my first giveaway!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pay It Forward

What a nice back to others when you have been blessed by the kindness and generosity of those around you.  

Recently I have been fortunate enough to benefit from the kindness and generosity of men and women I have never met and likely never will!  This normally unlucky person feels so lucky to have had four donors choose projects worth $1,229 funded in the past year and to have won several giveaways from amazing bloggers in just the past few months!  Katie at Dirty Hands and Lesson Plans has had some success with Donors Choose too, and she is planning on posting some of her tips for getting your projects funded too!  In the meantime, check out the rest of her blog!

I want to share my good fortune with others, so I am hosting my first giveaway!  I am so excited to do this, and I have been thinking about it for some time now.  I had planned to hold a giveaway when I reached 75 or 100 followers, but I just don't want to wait!  So here we are!  I hope to have the opportunity to brighten someone's day and make them feel a little lucky too!

I'm giving away two prizes to two winners!  The first winner will get a $15 gift card, and the second winner will get a $10 gift card!  You get to choose between a Donors Choose gift card and a Teachers Pay Teachers gift card or a combination of the two (TPT offers a $10 gift card, so if you are my first winner and would prefer a TPT gift card, you can get $10 from TPT and $5 from DC)!

Enter by following my blog and leaving a comment on this post telling me which gift card you would choose!  Grab my button for your blog or add 3rd Grade's a Charm to your blog roll for two more chances to win!  Mention my giveaway in a blog post and link back to this post for 2 more entries!  You can link back to this post by grabbing the button below for your post!  (Hopefully it'll work!  If not I'll be tweaking it!)

3rd Grade's a charm

What are you waiting for??  Enter now!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't miss out on these other great giveaways either!

Sweet Michelle, at No Monkey Business, is having a giveaway to celebrate 100 followers!  She's giving away 10 items from her TPT or TN store, and let me tell you, you want to win!  Her stuff is great!  Be sure to go check it out and enter to win!

No Monkey Business

Brittany from Sweet Seconds (love that title - every second counts!) is having an amazing giveaway as well!  She too is celebrating 100 followers!  Stop by and enter to win a TPT gift certificate or an Amazon gift certificate!

Sweet Seconds

Every New Beginning is hosting a giveaway as well to introduce her new blog!  Stop by and take a look around!

Friday, May 25, 2012

It's Officially Summer...

...and just in time!!

I spent all day yesterday working in my room to finish packing up for the big move.  I was on a mission!  I was going to get. it. done.

The kids' last day was last Monday.  We worked Tuesday.  I worked last Wednesday, this Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.  But I'm finished...for now at least!  I packed up all of my stuff in boxes and then moved my computer upstairs to my new room and found.....a leaky air conditioner.  Puddles were forming!  It had frozen up...something to look forward to in the heat of early August!

Our wonderful janitors were moving our boxes and student desks yesterday and today, and movers are coming to move the rest of our furniture on the 28th.  That won't be the end though!  They've told us not to unpack things we won't need because we'll be renovating.  Yes, renovating.  During the school year.  But we'll have new windows and cubbies to look forward to!  Silver lining, right? :)

If you're still in school, I hope you have a long weekend to look forward to!  Everyone enjoy your Memorial Day weekend!  We'll be having 90 degree weather here all weekend so I'm hoping to see the lake at least a day or two!  But more importantly than the warm weather, the lake, and the cookouts many of us will enjoy, remember why we celebrate Memorial Day!
Source: Arlington National Cemetery Website

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Summer of DIY

Welcome to my extreme classroom makeover!  I can call it extreme since it will be a whole new room, right?  If you haven't seen in my past post about all of my packing (ugh), my school district is switching buildings.  Nearly everyone P-8 is moving to a different building!  Luckily 3rd and 4th stay in the same building so I'll just be moving upstairs.  Even luckier, we have help!  I don't have to move everything myself!

Every year in the third grade we change themes.  
My first year in third grade the theme was cars and racing.  Take a look!

Last year our theme was monsters - so colorful and fun!  And I got tables (mostly)!  Yay!  Love them!  Here's a peek!

This year we have a school-wide theme...

Peace, Love, & Dogs
(we're the bulldogs - sometimes we spell it dawgs)

Since I can't get into my classroom for a while, I'm going to spend some time working on projects at home!  I think Classroom DIY might just be my best friend this summer!  If you haven't checked out Charity's newest venture yet, run, don't walk to see all of the DIY projects and tutorials on this new blog!  If you use one of the ideas on the blog, you can submit pictures to be featured on the blog.  I decided to try out the DIY dry erase boards for next year using report covers and peace themed and tie-dyed duct tape!  One of my pictures is on the DIY in Action page right now!

Looking around online for things to go with our new theme I found Shindigz, a party supply website.  They have super cute funky and hip 60's and 70's themed items of all kinds.  You can even make personalized banners, candy bar and drink wrappers, and stickers like this one I personalized!

Personalize a sticker with your school colors and mascot at Shindigz!

Do you have any great ideas for our groovy theme?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Writing in Our Classroom

I am sharing my love of the written word in partnership with the Superb Writers’ Blogathon. Sponsored by Grammarly grammar checker, this series is bringing helpful hints to aspiring superb writers all across the world wide web.

Writing in our little corner of the school is constantly evolving and growing!  Like most subjects, the way we teach writing changes from year to year, class to class, and often student to student.  This year I was surprised to find that a lot of our third graders had poor handwriting...a few were nearly illegible!  I kid you not!  So I started with the basics.  We generally begin teaching cursive at the beginning of third grade, but my kiddos were not ready for that this year!

I had to improve their handwriting skills, so we talked and talked about the importance of neat handwriting.  I wrote on the board in different levels of "sloppiness", and we discussed how easy or hard it was to read the different examples.  

I found a great way to illustrate and discuss neat handwriting that was relatable for the kids thanks to Rachelle at What the Teacher Wants. I introduced "the handwriting house" to my kiddos soon there after, and it made it so easy to talk about neat writing!  Here is a peek at the handwriting house anchor chart I made for my class!

All capital letters and the tall lowercase letters touch floor and the roof.  Most lowercase letters like a, e, m, and v sit on the floor and look out of the window.  Letters like g, y, and p sit on the floor and hang out in the basement.  It's a really easy way to talk about letter formation with the kids. It's something they can all relate to pretty easily!

Since we straightened out our writing and learned the correct letter formation we could move on to doing some real writing!  My biggest problem obstacle in writing is grading their work and giving them feedback...especially timely feedback!  I was always so overwhelmed with all of those papers...all of that writing staring back at me, page after page.  There always seemed to be something more pressing that I had to do!  When I did manage to get everything checked and make all of the notes they would need, there was so much on the page that the kids were overwhelmed!  They didn't know where to start to make their corrections!

I think I have finally found a solution that works for me and for the kids!  I've found that it's unreasonable to expect my third graders to do everything right at the beginning of the year, so now we take it a little bit at time.  Instead of marking every mistake on their very first piece of writing and destroying their confidence, I focus on the things that I know they have learned!  I'll check for capital letters, end marks, and complete sentences in their first piece of writing, and we add more conventions of writing to that as we progress through the year.

Another thing that I have begun doing this year is allowing more time for peer editing and self assessment of the kids' writing.  I love allowing them the opportunity to look for mistakes before I do.  It gives them an extra opportunity to improve their work and more practice in finding the little mistakes that we all look over sometimes.  We do this from the beginning of the year on, and we always remind each other of the importance of checking our friends' work respectfully.  I use checklists or rubrics to lead my little editors in the right direction and remind them what they're looking for.  Whenever possible I print the checklists or rubrics on sticker paper, and we stick them right into a corner of the work we're looking over.   

This is one of the checklists we used about 3 months into the year.  We had already learned about the parts of a letter and practiced writing letters together in class.  

We used this peer editing checklist after writing a letter to Santa!  As the editor looked over their friend's letter they marked any mistakes they saw and then filled out the checklist.  Click on the picture to download your own copy! {{Updated May 30 to correct download link - sorry for the mistake!}}

I've used peer editing and self-assessment in other ways in my classroom as well.  You can see one of the checklists I used near the end of the year in my blog post about our adventures with the hilarious "Sideways Stories from Wayside School" by Louis Sachar!  Next year I want to keep improving my writing instruction and implement writer's workshop in my classroom!  

How do you make grading writing assignments and giving feedback a more manageable task in your class?  Do you have any tips for a writer's workshop beginner?  
There's always more to learn!

Happy writing!

My Summer To-Do's and a Giveaway

Summer has arrived!  Sort of...I'm still packing up my classroom for our big move.  I did take a couple days off last week and went out of town for the weekend, but it's back to work this morning!  Back to cardboard and packing tape and stacks and stacks of boxes....

I have a lot of plans for this summer to make the next school year even better, and I thought the best thing to do was blog about them!  Accountability, you know?  So here goes...

Summer To-Do's

1. Make my plans for writer's workshop!  We wrote so much more this year than last year.  However, I want my kids to write something every day!  So next year, I want to do writer's workshop in my classroom!  I really wanted to this year, but just didn't get to it last summer with the class I was taking...excuses, right?  Anyway, I have already been reading up about it and taking my notes!  Corinna from Surfin' Through Second left me a sweet comment with a couple of suggestions for good resources on my last blog post too!

2. Create materials for Flat Stanley literature circles and a unit to go with Muggie Maggie which I hope we can get!  My kids this year loved chapter books and I hope know my kids next year will too!  We'll be reading Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown as a class next year (we did that one this year too), and then doing literature circles using some of Flat Stanley's Worldwide Adventures.  I'm hoping we can get a class set of Muggie Maggie by Beverly Cleary for next year because that book is just too cute!  If you haven't heard of it before, it's about a little girl (Maggie) in 3rd grade who does NOT want to learn to write in cursive.  When she tries writing her name in cursive, her teacher says it looks more like "Muggie" than "Maggie" so she decides she will never read or write in cursive.  But then Maggie is appointed class messenger and suspects that some of the cursive notes are about will she solve that problem??  It's a super cute book, for my third graders especially, because we work on cursive!

3.   Design a class website & new labels and beginning of the year activities to go with our new theme for next year.  Our elementary school decided to use a school-wide theme, so I'll be decorating with tie-dye, peace signs, hearts, and smiley faces.  Our 2012-2013 school year theme is Peace, Love, & Dogs (our mascot).  Any great ideas floating around out there to go with our new theme?

4.   Create units, centers, and activities for math and cross-curricular journal prompts for reading!  I want to develop lots of fun and useful activities to supplement our math series this year and make our learning even more hands-on!  I've already started working on a place value unit!  For reading, I'm working on cross-curricular journal prompts.  They will each include sentences with grammatical and/or spelling errors, and those sentences just happen to be math problems, gasp!  Aren't they always so shocked the first time they see a math problem in reading?  I have the prompts for the first week ready and for free download in my TPT store.  We use the Scott Foresman Reading Street series, so this set of prompts goes with the story Boom Town by Sonia Levitin.  If you use Reading Street as well, I'd love to know what you think about the prompts as I finish up the first unit!

5.   Get much as I can in the midst of the move!  I am trying to pack smarter and put together the things that I will need to be together.  I have lots and lots of pins on pinterest about organizing your classroom.  My mom even has some pinned for me...she knows my weakness!  So this summer I want to scour through those and get some ideas for my room!

I think that's a pretty good start...Wish me luck!  If you have any suggestions I'd love to hear them, and remember, if you have any feedback on the Boom Town journal prompts please let me know what you think!  Come back tomorrow for a post about writing in my classroom (what worked this year and what I'll try next year)! 

Before I leave and head to work this morning, I'm checking out Jen's awesome giveaway at Hello Mrs. Sykes!  You should too!  She has reached 200 followers and is saying thanks by teaming up with some other great bloggers to give away lots of items from their TPT and TN stores!  Make your way over to her blog and enter to win! 

Happy Monday!  

Hope you have a  great week ahead!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The End is Here

The time has come.  Yesterday was closing day.  Monday was our last day with the kids.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to summer, but I honestly will miss my class!  On the other hand, I'm so excited for next year!  The kids I will have next year are the kids I taught during my very first year when I taught kindergarten!  They visited us last week for transition day, and it was so fun to see them!  I was asked a lot of "do you remember my name?" and "can I be in your class?"...and I loved it!  We gave each second grader a top ten list after their visit.  The now fourth graders wrote the top ten things you should now about third grade to pass along.  You can see my top ten list here or grab your free copy for any grade k-5 at my TPT store!  My kids came up with some great tips!  A couple that stand out are "care and share" and "listen and learn" from one of my sweet girls.  In some of their tips I could here myself talking!  I guess some of what I said this year has stuck with them!

Before I can move on to thinking about next year, it's time for me to reflect on this year to see what worked well and what I can improve.  Amber at Adventures of a Third Grade Teacher is hosting a linky party that is just perfect for sharing reflections on the past year.
Click on her blog title or this picture to join in and link up!

So we all know that every year has great moments and...ummm...slightly less than great moments.  For Amber's linky party I'm sharing a little of both - 3 great things and 3 not-so-great things!
source: Bing Images

It's Grrreat!

(Did Tony the Tiger read that to you too?)

1. Chapter Books

This year I asked my fellow third grade teachers to do something a bit different with me for reading halfway through the year!  These wonderful ladies were two of my second and third grade teachers, by the way!  Like always they followed me into the unknown and trusted my ideas.  Did I mention that I love them, and I'm so thankful to be teaching with them?  We used scholastic points to order a class set each of the original Flat Stanley and Sideways Stories from Wayside School.  We also ordered 5 each of 5 different Judy Blume books for literature circles!  My reading group started out with "Sideways Stories", and as soon as we started reading I was in love!  It seems so much more real to be reading from a chapter book than from a text book!  As I looked around at all of my kiddos with that little yellow book in their hands all following along and waiting for their turn to read, it finally seemed like we were really reading.  Does that make sense?  All of our kids loved it too!  They were so excited about reading, and they hated to go back to the basal.  I really hope that next year we can get a couple more classroom sets or series for literature circles and do even more real reading!

2. Hands-on Math and Math Journaling

This year we also went back to self-contained classes in third grade, switching only for reading.  In the past we changed classes several times a day, and I taught all of the math.  I liked this year so much better simply because we had sooo much more time for math!  We got to do some great games and hands on activities to supplement our learning.  One of my favorite activities was the perimeter and area activity I blogged about last month!  Check out that blog post for pictures and a freebie!  

Last summer I attended a local "branch" of the National Writing Project (highly recommended, by the way) and developed an action research project to improve writing across the curriculum - math journals!  The first set  of journals I developed were designed to be used with Every Day Counts Calendar Math and to help us review even and odd, multiples, and place value!  I blogged about my October Journal and posted it as a freebie way back in October!  I quickly figured out to number their pages before copying their journals - it made things run so much more smoothly!  Why didn't I think of that in the first place??  Each month I made a new set of journals.  Some of the pages stayed the same, some were left out or combined, and some new pages were added.  Our journal always reflected what we had been learning and helped us keep it fresh in our mind to review all year long!  Hopefully I'll be adding lots of ready to use math journal packets to my pretty empty very new TPT store this summer! 

3.Pinteresting Ideas and Donors Choose

So I have found 2 new loves this year...shhh...don't tell my husband!  Just kidding, I'm pretty sure he's noticed!  I love pinterest, and I love Donors Choose!  I have gotten sooo many good GREAT ideas from pinterest to use in my classroom!  You can see some of the decorating ideas I've used at this blog post from August!  A pinterest inspired, super cute, and really fun project the kids did at the beginning of the year can be seen here!  The perimeter and area activity I mentioned above was pinterest inspired too!  I have lots of school related pins and lots that aren't!  Visit my boards and follow me!  If you need an invite, email me and I'd be happy to send you one!

Donors Choose has been so great for me and my students this year!  I submitted my first project at the end of June last summer, and we have had three projects funded up until now!  All of the items we've had donated will be loved for years to come!  I am so thankful to all of the donors who have helped us out!  I couldn't give my students all of these things without their help!  I have two more projects that I'm hoping to get funded for next year's class to enjoy!
Thanks for making our journals better binded and more colorful!
So thankful for fun, factual, and mysterious chapter books!
TAG Readers thanks to the wonderful donors!

The Not-so-Great...


1. Organization

Ugh....organization.  This has ALWAYS been my BIGGEST problem!  I am so not an organized person at home or at school.  I'm trying to get better...I have so many things pinned!  haha 

I did reorganize my reading series materials this year, and I do LOVE it!  I bought 3 drawer organizers and labeled each one with a story from our basal.  Vocabulary word strips, leveled readers, worksheets, and any other materials for that week are kept inside of that drawer!  Here is a peek at that part of my room.  It's not a great pic or a close up, but they are the white containers on top of our cubbies.

2. Writing...consistently

I have to admit...I'm getting there!  My writing instruction is improving all the time, so this one could almost go in the great section (definitely in good)!  After my summer experiences with the writing project, I had big goals for myself to have my kiddos write every day!  Unfortunately, I didn't achieve that goal.  However, we did write much, much more this year, so I'm saying it's a small win...I just want to be more consistent with it next year!  I really want to implement writer's workshop though, and I just didn't get to it last summer.  My plan for this summer is to research and prepare for writer's workshop and hopefully start in the fall!

3. Moving

BIG changes are happening in my district, and I do mean BIG!  Almost everyone is moving this summer - most to different buildings (different, not new...we're switching), some to new classes (that's me).  We have to pack everything in our rooms for the move at the end of May!  EVERYTHING!  I've only been teaching for 3 years now (I'll be starting my 4th in August) and I have so. much. stuff.  I feel for my colleagues who have been teaching 20 - 25 years!  I'm still packing!  We were lucky enough to have a  fairly large storage closet on our floor this year, but we won't next year.  Uh-oh!  Look at all of the boxes from our storage room...and we're NOT done!  Where will all of this stuff go next year??

So that was my year in a nutshell!  I had a great group of kids and enjoyed our year together!  I'm so, so excited to get my kindergarten kiddos back next year!  Hopefully they haven't grown up on me too much!  

Do any of you guys have tips for writer's workshop??  Any suggestions or info I need to know?

Check out Amber's blog and link up with her!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

It's Coming to a Close

The end of the year is quickly approaching!  We have 9 days of school left...single digits!  I can't believe it!  We're working hard on the K-PREP state assessment this week, so I've been trying to come up with some worthwhile activities that the kids can enjoy doing in the afternoons.

Source: 2nd Grade Pad 

I found this great pin on pinterest and we'll be doing this activity this week.  Special thanks to Cynthia at 2nd Grade Pad for the inspiration!  I can't wait for summer to be out on the lake!  I'll have my writing workshop books with me, but I'll be on the water!

Since our transition day is coming up soon and the second graders will be visiting us I thought it would be great to have a little gift for them!  We have done some prewriting to come up with ten helpful tips for them before they start third grade.  I made a top ten list for the kids to write their final drafts on using the cute, cute font, alphabet soup, from KPM Doodles.  While I was at it, I made top 5 pages for K/1 and top 10 pages for kindergarten through 5th grades!  You can download them for free at my TPT store!

Amber at Adventures of a Third Grade Teacher is having a 300 follower giveaway!  Congrats to her for reaching that milestone!  Go check out her terrific blog (click on her button below) and enter her giveaway for an e-gift card, items from her TPT store (she has great stuff), or a handmade pinterest inspired magnet board!  Yes, I just named 3 different items for 3 different winners!  3-6 Free Resources is having an amazing Mayday giveaway too!  There are too many prizes to name!  Definitely click on their button and check it out!


So, what are you doing to mark the end of the year with your students?