Happy Birthday!


Do you celebrate birthdays in your classroom? At my school the birthday kids get to go on TV during announcements and have their special day announced, which they love. Sometimes parents will send in a treat for the class and students will share it at lunch.

With the economic difficulties most of my families deal with (my students all have free or reduced lunch) there are not so many birthday treats at school. A couple years ago I decided to do something to make birthdays special for my students, and the Birthday in a Bag was born!


Now we celebrate on the last Friday of each month for anyone who has had a birthday during the month. I bring in a cake or cupcakes, we sing and enjoy a little celebration. The bag makes it seem really special for the kids.

Pretty much everything is from the Dollar Store. We have a centerpiece,


some birthday hats,


a small bag with a few items from the prize box (the birthday kid chooses an item),


some festive plates,


and voila!


I even made a cake plate from a candle holder and a plastic plate (both from the Dollar Tree)

And one more thing -- the birthday boys and girls get a card from me that includes a homework pass, good for one "no homework" night! Here's a free one to download (click the picture).

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday



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Place Value Freebie

Freebie Fridays

Many of us teach place value early in the year. Here is a fun way to review - Place Value I Have, Who Has. Just click the picture to grab a copy.


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Displaying Data

For the first few weeks of our math workstations I have focused on concepts in our first chapter: Place Value, Estimation, Addition, and Subtraction. Along with practicing those concepts we have been learning how to do work stations -- what they should look like, sound like, and how to record learning. Overall it's gone well, with just a few kiddos needing to be reminded that it is a time for working on the practice activities.

We are finishing up our second chapter, Data, and it's time to change out some of the activities. When I pulled out my Data Analysis station box, though, it was empty!


While I have a few things in my files (like the ever popular M&M graphing) I don't have anywhere near the number of activities I have for chapter 1. I suddenly realized that it is time to get busy and create some. Wednesday night was our Title I night, so I was at school until 7:00 PM (parents could come in anytime between 5 and 7). About half my families popped in, but there were stretches of time when I was all by myself. During that time I came up with a great work station activity, pulled out materials and started to put it together. Today I laminated and created a booklet to go with it and next week it will be featured in our new Data workstation.


We have consumable math books, so I took extra lesson pages, cut out the tables and graphs we have worked on together, glued them to index cards, laminated them and numbered each card. If you don't have a resource like this you could collect them from newspapers or magazines, old math textbooks, or create your own. You may want to check out the Create a Graph website for a simple way to make your own graphs. While my set includes a couple dozen cards you can certainly start out with a smaller number.

The booklet I made includes one page each for a pictograph, horizontal bar graph, and vertical bar graph. Later I'll add other ways to display the data but I want to keep it simple at first. I also plan to have them use their math journals to display the data -- Fridays are data analysis day in our math warm-ups.

You can get a copy of the Displaying Data booklet by clicking here. Please let me know if it works for your class!





Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

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Happy Constitution Day!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
I posted this simple little Preamble to the Constitution Readers' Theater recently. If you missed it, you can download it by clicking the picture. My third graders will be performing it and recording it today as part of our social studies learning about the Constitution this week.
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A New Freebie For Friday

Freebie Fridays

Today is a first for this school year -- the first time I won't be at school to welcome my students. I have an early appointment with the specialist to follow up on my broken arm. It's been one month, and I've made a lot of progress in the last week as far as getting back a lot of use. Hopefully the doc will let me get rid of the sling!

This means someone will be covering my class at the beginning of the day, since I don't expect to be there until 30 - 60 minutes into the school day. That's science class for my first group, so I need to leave a plan for that time.

One of my go - to science activities when I'm away is to find a good video on our current topic. Our district subscribes to Discovery Education, so I have many to pick from. I usually go for The Magic School Bus. My 3rd graders always love them, and there is so much good science content. Since we are starting our Earth and Space unit next week, they are going to watch "Out of this World" as a great introduction to our new topic.


I decided this week that I don't want them just watching the video (it's supposed to be a learning activity!) so I created a page for them to complete. Since it's on a half sheet of paper we'll be able to glue it into our Interactive Science Notebooks as a record of the learning. I wanted something that would be useful for any video I want to use during the year, so here it is. I hope it is something that will be helpful for you, too!
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Thursday Techday: Dropbox

How do you transfer your work from home to school? Thumb drives can be handy; so can an external hard drive. I've used both methods, but my very favorite is Dropbox. Dropbox is free (my favorite price!) and syncs between all your computers and mobile devices. You can even share your files with others if you choose.

I am always blogstalking from home, and when I find that great new product that I MUST use at school tomorrow I just put it in my Dropbox. When I get to school I can print it out, get it laminated, and it's ready to go.

Since my files are stored online, I don't have to worry about losing them if I have a computer crash. If I have an unexpected absence from school, I have a way to easily get plans and activities to my sub. We have a computer login that is school-wide that can be used by a sub. By downloading Dropbox under that login, I can put some items in my Sub Folder. My emergency sub plans give directions for how to retrieve them. Since I live about 40 minutes away from school, I am not one of those teachers who runs to campus when I'm sick to get the plans ready :) (OK, confess -- a lot of you do that!)

Dropbox - Secure backup, sync and sharing made easy.

If you have not tried Dropbox, click on the logo and watch the video. It might be just what you need!


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Book Study: Chapter 2


Boy, did I get behind on this book study! Not so much because of the difficulty typing with the broken arm as the difficulty focusing on the reading. I'm determined to continue, so 4 weeks late here are my thoughts on chapter 2!

One takeaway from this chapter was the Problem Solving Framework identified by George Polya (1945). The principles are:


  1. Understand the Problem
  2. Devise a Plan
  3. Carry out the Plan
  4. Look Back
I think most of us have probably taught problem solving with a similar framework, but maybe with different terminology. In What's Your {Math} Problem? the Launch, Explore, Summarize instructional model is explained. I'm currently digesting this, thinking about how it fits in with the Guided Math ideas I'm trying to implement. In a few weeks I'll be starting to do math intervention for our 3rd graders. They definitely need to learn how to tackle problems, so I'm planning to try out some of what I'm learning here. I especially like the Effective Questioning section of chapter 2, and plan to make myself some cards to guide me in using good questions.

Have you been implementing any of the ideas so far?


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Data Folders

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday


This summer I decided to add a new folder to my students' collections -- a Data Folder. Having never used these before, I decided I'd just figure it out as I go along! We've just finished our third week of school, and it's time. In math class we have completed our Prerequisite Test, so I have a pretty good idea of who mastered 2nd grade math skills. On Friday we had our first chapter test (as always happens, they bombed it!), and we are in the process of completing a formative test on all of 3rd grade math which provides me with the baseline data I need so that I can track their progress throughout the year.

I decided that I would create a graph for them to keep track of their results on our chapter tests. I also wanted to include a reflection piece to encourage them to think about what worked and what didn't work. For example, on this first test many of them never wrote down and worked a math problem. This is in spite of my telling them over and over that they would have to do that or fail the test! The reality is that my 3rd graders can not do 5 and 6 digit addition and subtraction problems in their heads. I want to be sure they recognize what caused them to do so poorly on the test, and writing it down in their data folder is one step.


Since our Math Big Idea 1 is covered in the first 6 chapters of our curriculum text, my first graph goes with those chapters. I'm making it available as a Word doc so you can adapt it to your needs (click the picture to download).

You can also download the reflections page (pdf) by clicking above. Enjoy!

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September Currently

Better late than never . . . I'm linking up with Farley for the September Currently.


I've not been a radio listener in the house - just in my car - but somehow this summer I got hooked on Pandora :)

While dealing with the broken arm I've kept up with most things at work, but it takes a huge effort to file 
stuff! Every week there's a huge improvement, though.

I'm really enjoying getting to know my two classes - I've got some fabulous kids this year. Many of them are very low academically, though. We really have our work cut out for us.

I have been slowly implementing parts of Guided Math -- loving it! I'm also trying to learn about Whole Brain Teaching and try that out, too.

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Saturday Science: Apps for Space Science, part 2

I had so many great space science apps to share that Thursday's post just couldn't contain them all! Here we are for part two; please note that I seldom actually pay money for apps so the emphasis here is on freebies!

6. SkyORB This app includes 3D images of the planets - in real time



7. SkySafari I especially like the pictures of the constellations and that you can click an info button to read about them. You can click on SkyWeek and find out what is going on in the sky. For example, while I am writing this post it says that Jupiter and the last-quarter Moon rise together around 11 or midnight.

8. GoSkyWatch Planetarium I'll be honest -- I really don't know where to look or what I'm seeing in the night sky most of the time. With an app like this even I can identify some of what I see. It's designed to be used outside.



9. Spacecraft 3D This is an augmented reality app that I have just begun exploring. I chose "Curiousity" - the Mars Explorer - to see how the app works. After printing the Marker I placed it on my table and centered it on the screen (must have a device with a camera). Next thing I saw was the spacecraft on my screen -- this is so cool; I can't wait to share it with my students!

10. Planets Another guide to the solar system; this one comes with 2D and 3D sky views. There is a rotating globe that I students will enjoy; it's a cool way to demonstrate day to night.

In my class I'll be wrapping up our Investigating Questions unit this week. I plan to demonstrate several of these apps toward the end of the coming week to get the kids excited about what comes next.

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Thursday Techday: APP Edition

I'm trying to get back to my regular blogging pattern, including the series I started this summer of blogging about technology on Thursdays. If you can stand a little bit of pain, you can actually type with a broken arm :)

I've been wanting to share some favorite apps with y'all, though I know not everyone is fortunate enough to have a device they can use in school. I have an iPad 2 that I earned from my district by taking lots of tech courses; you can use your iPhone in the same way.

Since my second science unit is Earth and Space, I'm going to share a few of my favorite apps that support our study of space. First, the indispensable tool (I purchased mine at Target):


This VGA adapter allows me to plug my iDevice into my projector for display on my Smart Board. I used it in the first week of school to share read aloud books from my Kindle app on the iPad. As we move into our space science unit, I will be using some of my apps.

Here are some apps I've collected to use with this unit:

1. Moon (free)
Each year I get my students looking at the night sky to watch the moon going through its phases. Last year we did the activity modeling the moon's phases with oreo cookies - check it out on my Pinterest science board here. The Moon app is a great supplement to this. It gives you a panel with up-to-date info about the  moon at any time, including the current phase.There is a "fun facts" button which includes all sorts of information that students will love. You can set up notifications for the full moon -- I know some teachers who track that 'cause they think it affects their class!



2. Moon Globe (free)
You can orbit the moon, see the spots where spacecrafts touched down, identify physical features, There are two viewpoints, globe and telescope mode.

3. Mars Globe (free)
This is like the moon globe, and is a great way to tie in to all the information about Mars in the news lately.

4. NASA HD (free)
Absolutely gorgeous images - my students love to just have a slide show of pictures from space. This app also includes news stories, which is a great source for nonfiction text. You also get live streaming NASA TV and videos. With Neil Armstrong's recent death there are some videos remembering him. Be aware though, if your district blocks You Tube you will not be able to access some of the video. This single app will give you things to explore for days!



5. AstroApp (free)
This is a great resource for finding out about the Space Shuttle missions and crew. Since I teach in Florida about an hour and a half from the space coast, this always engages my students. Once cool feature is being able to put your picture into a space suit!

I could go on and on . . . . but everybody would stop reading! Watch for part 2 on my Saturday Science series, returning soon.

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Constitution Day Freebie

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday


September is here, and we will soon celebrate Constitution Day (September 17th). A couple years ago I put together a little Reader's Theater script for my students. Every year, we practice and then record the Preamble to the Constitution. I post the audio file on my classroom home page so they can share it with their families.

We always start with the classic Schoolhouse Rock video - after we've played that for a few days prior to our Reader's Theater presentation most of the kids have the Preamble memorized.




After we are very familiar with the words, I give them the Reader's Theater script to practice and perform. For a copy of the script, just click the picture below.

Something new I am planning to use this year is an awesome classroom book made by Hilary at Rockin' Teacher Materials. Click the link to go to her blog post and pick up copy of her We The People book.

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