Saturday, August 31, 2013


I was excited to try my first foldable inside the SNB's this week!  It turned out better than I expected.  As we talked about different landforms, students added them (as a class) to their foldables.  The main landforms covered in the 3rd Grade curriculum are rivers, islands, peninsulas, mountains, deserts, and forests.  I was disappointed there were so few listed but getting through those was plenty of work without adding a lot of extras!  After we completed half of them, I read students a couple of books about the rivers and islands.  For rivers I read selections from the "New True Books" series, Rivers.

Off-Topic Side Note:  Can I just say that some of my most favorite books in our school's library are the super old "New True Books" series?  Now I know that when I say they are super old and you look them up in your library and find that they were published in the 70's and 80's you are going to judge me, but for a library book?  Come on, that's old!  They aren't shiny and new, that's for sure!  I loved them when I taught Kindergarten (even some of those kids read and loved them!) and I love them even more now!  My ELA buddy next door had never seen them until I showed her and she was excited because one of her biggest goals this year is to build up students' reading stamina and this fits exactly.

And for islands I read a book I just discovered, An Island Grows.

I modeled a Venn Diagram for students about Continents and Oceans and tasked them to make their own Venn Diagram for islands and rivers.  The next day we finished up our landforms foldable and on the bottom half of the same page they had to add a second Venn Diagram for their choice of two other landforms.  They did well with the concepts, but getting them to write sentences instead of phrases was a struggle with some!

Here are my SNB pages.  Again, I write more of the directions in my SNB so absent students can keep up.  Students' homework was to color their landforms.

Mapping Our World

For map skills, I read students the book Mapping Penny's World.  They really got into all the maps and immediately started asking if they could make their own!  I told them they would have a chance to do that, but they would have to wait.  I loved the freebie from TeachersPayTeachers called Mapping Our World and did a little tweaking to make it work for our SNB.  I printed a map key for each student because I could fit 12 on a page (have I mentioned enough on here that I'm being SUPER picky about how to spend my copies?!?) and prepared a SMART Notebook presentation to walk students through what to do.  They did a fantastic job and really loved it!

My picture below is from my SNB which lists the instructions instead of an actual map like theirs.  I had decided that my copy of the SNB would be set up with the intention that students who were absent (or didn't finish) could go to my copy during station time to make up what they missed which has worked out extremely well for all of us.

*I will try to come back later and add a student sample.

Parts of a Globe

Our class about parts of a globe ended up taking two days to complete.  I am still working on timing and learning an appropriate expectation of their pace.  Anyway ... I didn't read all of this fantastic book pictured above, but instead I focused on the parts of a globe.  As we read, we marked the corresponding places with colored pencils on their papers which were glued inside their SNB.  I made up an impromptu game of Simon Says with North Pole (hands on head), South Pole (touch toes), Equator (hands at waist), latitude (arms back and forth in front of them - "crossing the T's" as I told them), longitude (arms moving parallel to each other up and down).  They are still asking to play it weeks later!

Here's my copy of the SNB page:

American Flag Timeline

My friend who teaches 3rd Grade ELA next door to me likes to start the year with a close read of The Pledge of Allegiance.  To support her focus, I spent almost a week teaching timelines by incorporating the American flag.  Based on a worksheet from called "American Flag Time Line," I copied the flag's most significant dates into a table in Word.  I printed and laminated 5 different color copies and hid them around the classroom.  Tables worked as teams and each were given one of the cards so they would know what color their group was.  They had to find their team's cards, return them to their table and order the events by the date listed on the card.  We worked together to build a timeline in their SNB's and I showed pictures of the flag at each point using this picture timeline on  Here is a picture of my SNB page:

We made our line down the left side, started at the bottom, then worked our way up, talking about each event and how to best summarize the information on each card before writing it.

Scientific Method

I started the school year with teaching my students about the scientific method.  I found some fun videos on YouTube (one Scientific Method Rap that I really liked, one done to Gangnum Style, and one to Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend").  Then students worked through making a table of the scientific method in their SNB's (Sci/SS Notebooks).  The rest of our first week was spent bringing the scientific method to life as I followed the "I do, we do, you do" teaching framework.  I modeled the process of the scientific method myself where we ended up doing an experiment involving balloons and pushpins.  Through my explanation of why you can insert pushpins at the tops and bottoms of balloons without popping them, I talked to the students about polymers.  It's not part of the 3rd Grade curriculum, but they were definitely engaged!  Then we went through the process of the scientific method together.  Using what they knew about polymers from the first experiment, we focused our attention on ziploc bags filled with water and pencils.  The pencils pierce the bag without dripping any water ... except in one class which led to a discussion on human error.  Oops!  On the third day, I modeled dropping water on a nickel and the class got to do the same with water on a penny - a HUGE thanks to Walgreens Pharmacy for donating 30 medicine droppers to my classroom!  I know that in these brief explanations, these all sound like "cute little experiments" but each of these was so much more than that.  Please know that we spent an hour or so on each of these days making observations, asking lots of questions, forming hypotheses, of course doing the experiments, recording and analyzing data, and drawing our conclusions.  One of the best things they got out of these experiences was discovering that the more you learn, the more questions you should have.

Here's what our very first ever SNB page looked like:

By the way, please note that this is my personal SNB page but the students did the same in theirs.  Since our teacher copies were cut in half this year, I had students draw the table by hand as well.  I think next year I may cut back somewhere else and give them the basic table to glue in their books!  One thing I was glad that I did (thank you Kindergarten background for making me a teacher who anticipates students' need for details!) was to tell students to start at the second line, then go down 12 lines to make their first big box.

The First Few Weeks

   The first few weeks of 3rd Grade Science and Social Studies have been off to a pretty good start!  I have covered Scientific Method, did a mini-unit on the the American Flag in conjunction with the reading teacher and tied in to Timelines, covered Parts of the Globe, Parts of a Map, and Landforms.  I will follow this post with more details on each of these topics including the SNB (Sci/SS Notebooking) pages.
   My kiddos are doing a beautiful job with stations - which now that I think about it, I will also try to follow up on how those looked during the first couple of weeks - especially once I had my ducks more in a row.  I learned in Kindergarten and am being reminded in 3rd Grade that kids can do anything you ask them to do (stations in particular) as long as you set them up for success by modeling, modeling, modeling.  At least my older kids can read directions for the most part whereas my Kinders needed pictures for everything!  In both cases though it is a lot of work which is no surprise to anyone.
   So all was going well and I was in my groove until this week when I had a conversation with my principal which sent me into a tailspin.  Throughout our school system, elementary schools are being asked to focus on 3rd Grade Reading and pour all resources into making sure that 3rd Graders are reading on level.  Therefore, my principal wants me to get in the Sci/SS skills while also being "a second Reading teacher."  During the last two years I've known that God has been trying to teach me to be less of a control freak and I feel like I've really grown.  But let me assure you that this sent me into full panic mode!  I had a plan ... and all my routines were in place ... and my kids were just starting to get trained ... and AHHHHHH!
   I felt so completely lost for two days!  I am used to juggling a lot of "stuff" and I'm pretty good at it but this week I just hit a wall.  First of all, while I incorporate reading skills into my lessons (I think that's a given for all of us), I knew that this meant I needed to up my game and all my routines would change.  I usually love change because I can adapt quickly, make new plans in my head, and take off without missing a beat.  This was different though because I have ZERO resources for teaching reading.  I don't have enough books and our copies this year have been slashed.
   The turning point this week came when my principal approved my request for the school to buy subscriptions to Scholastic's Super Science magazine.  I am so grateful!!!  My new plan of attack is to do a whole group Sci/SS lesson for 20 minutes, then students will do 20 minute daily rotations of stations, project time, and small group with me where we will focus on close reads of the magazine articles.
   I hope this new plan is one that I can make work and I really am excited for the challenge!  This week I will re-train students on the procedures and get the ball rolling.  I'll try to post soon about how it's going!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Teachers Pay Teachers Sale!

We are throwing a sale ... 10% off items in our Teachers Pay Teachers store!  The sale runs Sunday, August 4th through Wednesday, August 7th.  Happy Back to School Week!