Tuesday, February 28, 2012

More Map Fun & A Sale Reminder!

Today, we spent some time learning about map keys as part of our Pirate-tastic Map Unit!.  I was waiting on pirate themed silly bands to arrive from Oriental Trading, but I am truthfully really only patient with children.  Beyond that, I have no patience.  Especially when it comes to waiting for shipments.  :)  I am running a tight ship... pun intended... so I have to keep moving along with this unit.

As a result, we improvised.  We pulled my map key poster up on the SMARTboard and had a little discussion about the purpose of this map feature.  Then, we created a map key using the symbols from my bundle & chart paper.  After that, the kiddos made pirate maps with map keys on brown construction paper.  The highlight?  Crumpling them up to look like a real pirate map.  This was very exciting to third graders!  Hahahaha.  Go figure.  :)  I know that my Droid's photo crispness leaves something to be desired... so I'm sorry!  I'm the world's lousiest blogger.  I have had so many things to lug back and forth to work lately that I have intentionally neglected toting my Canon with me.  :)  Lo siento! {I'm sorry!}

Also, just a reminder!  The BIG Leap Year Sale is tomorrow!  I've been stocking up my cart with goodies, and I am super excited about it!  Here's the 411 on the promotion!  Click on the image to pull up a pdf file with links!

Click the icon below to browse my wares:

For a more comprehensive list of sales and stores, click on through to the linky party!  :)


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Exploring Maps: Pirate Style {The Basics}

Phew!  I finally uploaded my maps unit, and it is nothing short of a miracle.  It's been one of those units that has really evolved as I've been teaching it, and if I let myself, I am fairly certain that this end up being a 150 page file.  I have to stop though.  I need to enjoy my weekend!  :)  Plus, there's a super cute guy out in the living room reading about finishing basements, and I am fairly certain that I should check in on that.  And spend time with him!  :)  Anyway, I've added a lot, and it ended up being a 68-pager in the end.  If you're interested in finding out more about the supplemental file, you can learn more about it HERE!  {I've had trouble with thumbnails lately, so if you want to see what the contents look like, make sure to check out the preview!}  Some of the lessons involve things like inflatable globes, hula hoops, silly bands, and laminated pirate map place-mats.  So much FUN!  I am also SO excited to incorporate Hope King's edible landform maps this upcoming week!  If you haven't checked out this post, it's a MUST!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Rubric Set-Up

A few bloggy friends were asking about how to set up the floor rubric for my Chocolate Chip Rubrics lesson, so I took a picture today at school!  Truthfully, I have absolutely ZERO photographs from last year, and that saddens me.  We haven't gotten to this lesson YET this year, but I hope this helps with your implementation of the lesson!  I promise to post LOTS of pictures once I teach it this spring!  My kiddos are begging to do this after seeing the pieces and parts, so I suppose I should try to fit it in sooner rather than later, eh?  :)  Anyway, this rubric would be used to taste and rate several different brands of chocolate chip cookies.  The kids rate independently first, then consult classmates.  The groups rate the cookies by placing a Post-It with the cookie's number {or the actual cookie itself} onto the rubric.  This is a very concrete way to introduce kiddos to rubrics, as I have mentioned before, and the cookies serve as a vehicle to help them understand that rubrics rate students based on predetermined criteria.  :)  I hope this helped provide some more clarification!  :)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Aargh! Exploring Maps: Pirate Style!

I am knee-deep in maps, and I am loving it!  I am in the middle of tweaking/teaching a unit about map basics like the parts of a map, the difference between maps & globes, and a whole slew of other fun stuff!  The kids are LOVING the pirate theme, and I am too!  I'm hoping to make the unit available by the end of the week, so keep your peepers peeled.  In the meantime... here's a peek at what we've been up to!  {Forgive the cell phone photos.  I didn't plan ahead!}  This is our hula hoop compass! I usually have the kiddos gather around me on the floor in a big oval when we do anything involving a hula hoop except for the clock on the white board.  As an alternative, I played around with the idea of hanging the compass up as the kiddos shared out directional schema.  :) You can find the pirate goodies HERE!  Happy Map-making!

The kiddos used our classroom examples to fill in their own compass template, and then they came up with their own mnemonic devices to remember the cardinal directions.  Sure, we've all heard the saying, "Never Eat Soggy Waffles", but what about, "Never Eat Sweaty Wrestlers" or "Never Explode Soggy Watermelon"?!?!  Those were pretty new to me... and of course... humor is totally brain compatible and aids in memory retention.  :)  Just sayin'. Give them five minutes to get their creative juices flowing!  I promise, you won't regret it!

In other news, we completed Amy Lemons' adorable Camilla Cream craftivity today to work on cause & effect.  It was the perfect anecdote to give my kiddos more cause & effect practice prior to their big test on "Wings" in Reading Street.  {Plus, third grade RS buddies, it fits in nicely with the theme of Unit 4: being unique and being yourself. Cha-ching!}  You'll definitely want to snag a copy of Amy's adorable freebie!  We are running out of basically every kind of paper imaginable, and we are on a white paper ration in particular, so please forgive our mish-mash of papers.  I am pretty sure we never have black construction paper, so we improvised!  You just make it work, ya know!  :)  "You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit!"  I try to practice what I preach!

We also spent a little bit of time doing a President's Day activity.  When I say "a little", I mean it.  In third grade, we don't exactly have a lot of extra time to delve into holiday fun, so I pulled out the President's Day Popsicle Stick Interactive Lesson from Lesson Plan S.O.S.  Instead of following the rules and following their lesson, this year, I decided to pull the kiddos back to the floor and simply make a Venn together.  We've been comparing and contrasting like crazy lately, so of course, it was only a matter of time before one little peanut said, "Mrs. Nickerson!  This is Social Studies and Reading... all... together... whoaaa!"  It's sometimes the little things that blow their minds, isn't it?! Anyway, this is a great resource to have on hand.  I am looking forward to taking the presidential study a little deeper once we hit our Government unit later in the year!  For now, I'm going to hit the proverbial pause button.  :)  Have a great week, friends!  Happy Hump Day!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mystery Hat Giveaway WINNER!

I didn't exactly pull the winner out of the Mystery Hat, but I could have!  :)  It's such a great tool, and for $17.99, it's a steal!  I LOVED reading all of your lessons and management ideas, and I am looking forward to trying them out.  If you want to read through some of the ideas yourself, click HERE, and scroll to the bottom to check out the comment section! :)   

Congratulations, Katie!  You are the BIG winner!  I will be emailing the Mastery Hat file to you tonight, and then I will send your email address to Learning Resources.  You should be hearing from them soon! Thanks for playing along, friends!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Time Capsule of Teacher Goodies

Have you ever found money in your pocket or purse before?  It's so exciting, right?  Well, I felt that way today when I decided to go through the archives... a.k.a. a Rubbermaid tote from my Title I days.  It was akin to opening a time capsule, especially considering how much I have grown as a teacher since I worked with the little ones.  I don't think I've opened it in at least five years, so I had no idea what I would find in there. I wasn't sure if I could use anything with my current kiddos, but there were a few surprises.   I love shopping at my own house!  Most of it will be going back into storage since I won't exactly be working on phonemic awareness or the alphabet with my third graders.  :)

I pulled out these alphabet cards.  Truthfully, they aren't fancy or necessarily cute.  I acquired a stack of old discarded text books in college, and so I cut photos out of one of the textbooks to make these.  I used them for a bean bag toss game, because there were firsties in my Title rotation that didn't know their letters and sounds yet!  I think I may have posted about it once already.  Basically, the kids threw a bean bag at an alphabet grid formed by the cards, and they had to say the sound of each letter.  When they got better at sounds, we worked on initial sounds, medial sounds, and ending sounds.  This is so simple and versatile, so before it went back in the archives, I snapped a photo to share with all of my early primary bloggy buddies.  Someday, I really want to teach first grade.  I LOVE third grade, but first grade has my heart.  Truly.  :)

I also found a stack of cards I made with word strips and the same discarded text books.  If I were to do this now, I would totally glue cute clip art onto the strips.  Mine look a little sad.  At any rate, I used these strips to work on CVC words, and initial/medial/final phonemes.  I know I mentioned this one before too, but here's a close up at the cards without dry-erase marker all over the place!  :)

I was super excited to find my old Tic-Tac-Toe Word Work envelope.  The kiddos used to build real and nonsense CVC words using magnetic letters, and it was always a HUGE hit with the kids.  Plus it's easy to manage and organize too!  If you're interested, I've typed up teacher directions, student directions (to glue to an envelope), and I've put together a new & improved recording sheet.  You can snag this simple center at my TpT store. 

I'm not going to lie.  I was super excited to find a stack of stencils, more alphabet stamps and a bag full of letter shaped cookie cutters to use with Play-Doh.  I will be adding those to my existing word work centers on Tuesday, for sure!  I thought I left all of this at my old school, so you can imagine how excited I was to find everything today!  Yay! :)

Let's see.  Other than that, I ran around a bit with my hubs, cleaned house a bit, and tried to tackle part of the paper mountain that I found on my desk on Friday when I returned to school.  :)  I had my kiddos work on the I LOVE ME adjective activity by the Lesson Plan S.O.S. ladies while I was out, and they turned out so cute! Take a looksie! I also found a cute little note buried in the stack.  :)  By the way, third grade Reading Street teachers, this activity was a wonderful way to celebrate Valentine's Day and kick off Unit 4 since it's all about being unique!  :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Top Quality Target- FREEBIE!

I'm home again with the flu, so I'm going to make this super short & sweet!  I just added a new freebie file to my TpT store.  This writing poster was created last year as a complementary file to go along with my Writer's Workshop: Writing on Target bundle.  Hope you can find a use for it as a checklist or as a resource in your writing center.  :)  Click on the picture to snag a copy! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Rubrics... and RaNdOmNeSs!

I have a sickness.  Literally and figuratively.  Literally, because I have some kind of virus.  Figuratively, because I spent half of the day curled up with my laptop revamping my Chocolate Chip Rubric goodies to make them a little prettier and more acceptable for sharing.  :)  It turned out to be a somewhat productive sick-day, but I am soooo taking a bubble bath and a nap after this post goes live.  I have no idea if I will be at school tomorrow or not.  Fingers crossed!  I can't stand being out... unless it's a legit vacation day... and then I adore days off.

Anyway, here's the idea behind the lesson.  Rubrics are difficult to explain to students, yet they are part of their lives because we use them, our reading series uses them, and they sometimes show up on standardized tests.  Plus, if you think about it, they will be using rubrics for the rest of their lives to access their own work before submitting it for a grade to their professors and teachers.  So, this is such an important skill to teach them, and of course, like always, if you make it concrete, the wheels start turning.  :)  My good friend Tara mentioned this to me a few years ago, and then I looked all over the Internet for resources to teach rubrics with cookies.  Ultimately, I ended up making my own stuff, and now it's just a little prettier than before.  Seriously though, this is a purely magical lesson, and it totally opens the door for discussions about why we have criteria, the rating process, and ultimately allows you to look more closely at existing rubrics with your kiddos.  Plus, who doesn't love chocolate chip cookies?!  Yes, please!  If you're interested in checking out this 52-page file of "Cookie Connoisseur" goodies and a giant floor rubric, you know the drill!  You can check out the preview file HERE!  Optional plans and guiding questions are included in the file.

By the way, before I start to ramble and forget, it's not too late to enter my giveaway for the Learning Resources Mystery Hat!  It's a wonderfully versatile classroom tool, and YOU could be the lucky winner this Sunday!  Enter HERE!!

In other news, we had our Valentine's Day party last Friday.  It was a lot of fun!  I put together the little glow-stick valentines from The Teacher Wife, and the kids LOVED them.  I already picked up more glow-sticks from Target to make sure I can do it again next year!  So precious!

We {fortunately} spent some time completing some of Abby's Sweetheart Snatcher activities.  The kids were totally into it, and even my thirdsters fell for the trick.  Some of them envisioned a heart with arms and legs.  Some of them envisioned what looked like the Hamburglar.   Only one of them swore up and down that it was me...but that was mostly because I mentioned doing some sequencing practice earlier in the week.  :)  Long story short, this was so much fun!  It was great predicting and sequencing practice on a day when I knew all of my kiddos were going to be fighting to stay on task and focused.

Okay, and I just can't resist!  You have to check out how cute these Valentine's Day boxes turned out!  If I had all of the time/storage space in the world, I would totally upload all of them!  Cuteness!

In totally unrelated news, we've been working on comparing and contrasting, and this filtered into our "writing workshop".  The term is in quotation marks, because I am still trying to incorporate craft lessons into the Reading Street curriculum as much as I can, but I haven't entirely figured out how to make this authentic, yet.  I will, if it's the last thing I do, but I haven't been able to fit it all in yet.  Here's a peek at our anchor chart of the week for what RS calls, "Writing for Tests".  I usually use this as a teaching point and color-code it rather than just passing out the blank and white worksheet we are provided with.  We also spent some time filling out a Venn Diagram for a little pre-writing practice to set them up for success.  This compares my principal and I.  Of course, my favorite part is that I "like unicorns".  Let's just say, that's a really long story involving a few realism vs. fantasy lessons.  Have a great evening, friends! 

P.S.  The first two comments will get my new Chocolate Chip Rubrics file FREE!  ;)  Leave your email address, please!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Favorite Read Alouds & Literacy Resources!

Recently I was asked, "What are your favorite read alouds?"  Oh my goodness.  You seriously have no idea how many favorites I have.  I could seriously go on forever about all of the books I love in the world, but I will try to keep this concise.  Try is the key word, so don't get too mad at me if I start to babble, k?

First of all, there are certain authors that I am just crazy over: Mem Fox, Patricia Polacco, Cynthia Rylant, Eve Bunting, Chris Van Allsburg, and of course I love the word-play in Dr. Seuss.  I don't think you could go wrong with books from any of those authors, but let's face it.  Not all books are good for read alouds.  Some are better suited for more in-depth studies or independent reading.  

If my administration ever walked into my classroom and said, "You can only read 25 books outside of our core curriculum to your students this year", these books would make the list {in no particular order}.  By the way, I have a fairly large nonfiction library, and I swear to you that we work really hard on nonfiction features and I read quite a bit of nonfiction to the class too, but honestly these are my favorites.  I feel guilty.  Sorry for the fiction overload!

1.  Saturdays and Teacakes by Lester Laminack {This is one of my all time favorites.  It is beautifully written, and lends itself to teaching personal narratives and memoirs.  I love the repetition, the white space, the interesting way he writes dialogue without quotation marks, and I love the nostalgia.}

2. Emma Kate by Patricia Polacco {This book is fabulous for teaching synthesis.  It's all about a friendship between an elephant and a little girl.  It makes the kids wonder whether it's fantasy and they really are friends or if the elephant is an imaginary friend.  They change their thinking a few times, and in the end, they learn that the elephant has an imaginary child.  I always re-read it one more time once they make this realization!}

3. Fireflies by Julie Brinckloe {This book always tops my list for teaching inferring!  It's beautifully written, and it helps kids connect to their own prior knowledge!}

4.  The Great Fuzz Frenzy by Susan Stevens Crummel.  {Of course, I have a soft spot for golden retrievers, but beyond that, this is a fabulous book for teaching predicting!  It's also very easily tied into the bucket-filler/bucket-dipper concept.  I love Crummel's fun placement of the text!}

5.  The Memory String by Eve Bunting  {Beautiful story!  Great for making T-S connections!}

6. The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg  {Great story to teach inferring!  The kids have to pay close attention to the clues to infer that the stranger is Jack Frost.  This is probably better suited for upper-elementary, because it's a definitely not obvious, but that's why I love it!}

7. A Day's Work by Eve Bunting  {This is a great story about "the important things" like honesty.  It's a great story about a young boy's relationship with his grandfather. 

8. Owl Moon by Eve Bunting {I love this book!  I have taught just about everything from mental images to poetic devices to owl adaptations with it.  In fact, I have a pretty cross-curricular unit for sale in my TpT store that I used with my kiddos in my old school district.  It's so much fun!}

9. Charlotte's Web  by E.B. White  {Such an oldie, but a goodie.  I LOVE Charlotte's Web, because you can teach so much with it, if you break it into manageable chunks.  I especially love how it lends itself to teaching about imagery and sensory details during the barn scene.  I also totally LOVE the characters.  I mean, who doesn't love Charlotte and Wilbur?! Of course, this is another book I used to extensively teach with back in the day, and I also have a unit that accompanies it.}

10.  Love That Dog by Sharon Creech  {I always like to read this book to launch discussions about the writing process.  I also love it because it approaches poetry in a fresh way, and it exposes kids to the classics in a non-threatening way.  It's also great for the kids who say they don't like to write.}


12.  The BFG  by Roald Dahl {This is one I truly enjoy reading for the sake of reading it.  The kids LOVE the story... I think it's because of the whizzpopping.  Of course, it's Roald Dahl, so I have to soften a few things here and there, but this is the only book I have a consistent character voice for.  I have cultivated my BFG voice over the years, and the kids eat it up with a spoon!}

13.  The Lorax by Dr. Seuss  {I should be excited that they are making a movie about this book, because I LOVE IT, but I'm sad they are adding so much to a book that I think is absolutely perfect.  I love the rhythm, the lesson, the adorable Lorax, and I even sort-of have a soft-spot for the Once-ler.  This is a just-plain-magical book that teaches about environmental concerns in a kid-friendly way.  It's wonderful for making connections and starting an Earth Day discussion! The word "unless" carries so much weight...}

Okay, I'm going to have to take this another direction, because this is taking me FOREVER, and I am having a really difficult time narrowing it down.  :)  So, here's what I'll do.  I'm going to point you in a few different directions if you are interested in more.  First of all, feel free to check out my Donor's Choose link on the sidebar.  There aren't any active grants right now, but I was fortunate to have a few funded last year, and several of them were for books that I salivated over and love.  If you click on the links and scroll to the bottom of each page, you will see the book lists I picked out.

In addition, if you haven't read them, you need to read the following teacher books that address reading workshop.  Many of them make suggestions for books based on the reading strategies.  I could get carried away with this too!  These are my favorite reading resources at the moment.  If you're impatient, you can also find lists online, but I highly recommend taking a gander at these fabulous books.  They have totally sculpted and changed me as a teacher over the last few years.  You can find book lists HERE... and all over the web.

Lastly, there is a newly discovered web-page blowing up Pinterest, and it caught my attention today, because reading and writing workshops really get my blood pumping.  This website is a wonderful collection of anchor charts and student work samples.  I can't wait to see how it evolves over time.  A Literate Life is written by a K-5 Literacy Coach who obviously reads many of the same books I do and then works with her staff to implement the strategies and lessons.  I was literally going, "Oh my goodness!  I love Ralph Fletcher!  Love the map activity... why didn't I remember to do that this year?!  Ohhhhh... Georgia Heard! Oh, how I love heart maps!"  Some of it was new to me like the "reading identity" activity, and a lot of it was just a fresh take on a lot of the ideas I've read about, but it's SO COOL to see how other teachers implement everything, and her charts are all PERFECT and BEAUTIFUL!  Seriously, more than anything, I was really excited by the website, because her job is exactly what I want to be doing someday down the road.  I would LOVE to be able to walk in her shoes!  Anyway, hop on over to A Literate Life to see what I'm gushing about!  You will be amazed, I promise!

By the way, check out who I met this weekend at the Tri-State meet-up!  It was so much fun to meet everyone and talk to everybody! I will blog more about the meet-up later... I'm waiting for the lovely hostesses to post since I have some of their photos and didn't take a lot of my own.  :)  I don't want to be the Reality Steve of the blog world! You'll have to be patient... but let's just say... it was amazing!  There's so much talent out there!  I had so much fun meeting old bloggy friends and making new ones!

EDIT:  Now that more pictures have been added out there, I've added more pictures to the post.  :)  I stole three out of four from sweet Michelle!