Happy New Year - Currently

Happy New Year everyone! I hope 2015 will be your best year yet.

I have thought about writing blog posts all vacation, and thank goodness for Farley's Currently -- it's getting me moving :)

Listening: I have been enjoying Pandora this month!

Loving: I read a wonderful book called "Simplify" by Bill Hybels recently, and I decided to clean up and purge. I have made many trips with boxes full of items to donate. This afternoon I got the last closet done!

Thinking: I sketched out next week's lesson plans before we got out of school, but now I need to refine and also start planning for my formal eval.

Wanting: I'd love to get my current quilt finished, but I'm not going to have enough time :(

Needing: I don't like shopping at the mall -- I've avoided it for 2 - 3 years -- but one of my students gave me a gift card to Macy's for Christmas. I want to be able to tell him how I used it when we go back Monday.

Yes - I will continue to get healthier. I have not been eating as healthy this fall, but plan to get back on the wagon right away.

Maybe - I have looked into some possible other positions, including stepping out of the classroom for awhile. We'll see!

Wishing - I wish I would get my blogging act together!

How about you? Link up and share!


Math Lit: Give Me Half!

I always like to review the concept of one half when we are ready to begin fractions in third grade. There  seems to be a handful of students who really don't understand what it means. A few months ago I decided to look for a book that would help, and came across one in my favorite "MathStart" series by Stuart J. Murphy.

When we start back after Christmas break I plan to share this book with my classes to begin our discussion of fractions. It is a story of a brother and sister having to share a lunch. Sharing with a sibling is a common experience, so students will be able to relate the concept of "one half" to real life.

I blogged about another favorite book, The Doorbell Rang, here. When we begin fractions that one also comes out and we look at it differently -- instead of division, we talk about the fractional part of the cookies that the kids are sharing in that story.


Math Lit: One is a Snail, Ten is a Crab

My math coach recently mentioned this book to me, and when I read it I immediately fell in love with it. The illustrations are wonderful, and it can be used for a wide range of learners. This was one of those books that I felt I needed to make a packet to use in my classroom!

A couple weeks ago I asked her to come and share this book with both my classes. They loved the book as much as I did. I'm still putting together a whole packet to go with the book, but I want to share a small freebie with you today. In my class we used it as a springboard for multiplication, but you can use it in primary classrooms as an addition book. Check out this picture of some of the work my kids were doing:

In this example, they are working in groups of three to solve the problem at the top of the chart paper in as many different ways as they can. This one says, "Make combinations for 58 feet. You must use at least 3 different animals." They choose the animals they want to use, glue them on the chart paper, write a factor and the X to the left and an = and the product on the right of the picture. Then they add up the products to equal 58. A lot of math talk, a lot of checking and self-correcting to get to the right number of feet, lots of strategies for the multiplication problems --- and they were having a blast!

The pictures they were using were supplied by our math coach, but I made my own page to use. This was such a great activity that I plan to use it again, giving them regular sheets of paper so they can work individually. You can download my pages of animals by clicking the picture, and of course you could do this activity without the book -- but I recommend you get it if it's not already in your library!


Happy Thanksgiving!


Math Lit: The Grouchy Ladybug

This book may already be on your radar for when you teach telling time, since both the hour and the day of the week is referenced throughout the story. Did you know it can be used for multiples of 10 also?

I've been a collector of Eric Carle's books for years, ever since I was a preschool teacher. As many times as I have read "The Grouchy Ladybug" I never noticed that the ladybugs have 10 spots! We read the book in our math meeting one day, and then came up with word problems about ladybugs to solve. We had already read another book when I introduced multiples of ten - I blogged about it here - so this book was a great follow-up.

I have been having students write their own word problems in their interactive math notebooks and using books as a hook has really helped them come up with good problems. Have you tried this?


Fiction Friday 2

I'm back for a second edition of Fiction Friday, where I recommend a couple books that are good classroom reads. Today is an all day literacy event at my school, so I am blessed to be able to spend all day reading with my students. FUN!

A few weeks ago my school had the privilege of having an author visit our 3rd through 5th grades. Chris Grabenstein is the author of "Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library," which was selected this year as one of our Sunshine State Young Reader Awards books.You can find out more about Chris at his website here. To get him to our school, our media specialist only had to purchase a certain number of book copies at $5 each and resell them to students and staff. No problem -- the demand was so high she had to order more!

This event set of a flurry of reading for my students. Somehow when you meet the author your interest in his book goes way up! I had not read the book myself until I got my signed copy, and then I flew through it quickly. It is a fun story for adults too, who will recognize more of the book references than students will.

OK, confession time. Until recently I had only seen the movie of this story (actually both of them). My teaching partner loves this book and kept talking about using it with our students. I decided I had better order it and read it -- I did that first before I confessed to her my deep dark secret! And when I read it, of course I loved it.

Today we celebrate Literacy Week with bell - to - bell reading. We decided to include some themed activities to go with her reading of this book with our students, so I will be teaching them to make "traveling s'mores" and we will be dipping some pretzels and nilla wafers into melted chocolate. Hopefully we survive the sugar rush!


Math Lit: Snowflake Bentley

Do you know the story of Snowflake Bentley? A farmer from Jericho, Vermont, he became the expert on snowflakes. I grew up knowing about him, because I grew up in the Jericho area myself. When I first saw this book a few years ago I knew I had to get it. 

This week I was able to use this book in our math class as we explored patterns in multiplying with a factor of 6. Because of the work of Wilson Bentley, we know that most snowflakes have 6 branches. So, we wrote story problems about snowflakes!

If you don't have this book, may I recommend a youtube video of the story found here. 


Fiction Friday

During the past few summers I have enjoyed being part of a linky called Fiction Friday. Not only do I love to get new book recommendations from other teachers I also enjoy sharing my own finds. I decided it's time I did some fiction Friday posts here on my own blog, and I am hoping some of you will share what you have been reading in your classroom. I'm not going to write summaries of the stories, just bring to your attention some books we are enjoying this year.

I read this classic to both of my classes as part of preparing to teach my "Chocolate Economics" unit in social studies. If you use this one it helps to familiarize students with the story of King Midas - mine had never heard that tale.

This is my current read - aloud book, chosen because I loved it when I read it this fall. Each chapter tells the story of one of the characters, and my home-room students are enjoying putting the pieces together to find out who each person is and how they are connected to others in the story.

Please share what you are reading and loving!


Pumpkin Cousins: An AIMS Activity Freebie

Clipart from Graphics From The Pond

I am a big fan of materials from AIMS for both math and science. If you are not familiar with their many resources, check out their website here. I follow the AIMS blog, and about a year ago there was a post which included a free activity for download. The post about relating multiplication and division can be found by clicking here. I highly recommend it!

Candy corn time is the perfect time for this activity. In third grade, it is also the time when students are working with multiplication and division. I started using this activity last year and found it a great way to practice "equipartitioning" or dividing into fair shares. This year I left it for my sub to use when I was out for a whole day. Both the sub and the students told me what a great activity it was. I used it myself last week for another group of third graders who I work with four days a week.

Click on "Grin and Share It" for a direct link to the free activity.

To make it simple for a substitute teacher, I made a set of task cards with the problems from the activity. If you would like to have a copy of my cards, click on the graphic below.

Do you use AIMS activities in your classroom?


Math Lit: A Three Hat Day

In "A Three Hat Day," Mr. Pottle collects all kinds of hats. Sometimes he wears more than one at a time; if he is sad he will sometimes wear two hats. On this day he is feeling very sad, so he wears three: a bathing hat, a fireman's helmet, and a sailor hat. Mr Pottle is lonely, and he dreams of meeting his wife -- who will be wearing a perfect hat!

My students loved this very sweet story. After reading it, we did word problems about how many hats would be needed in different situations -- for example, if 4 people are feeling very sad how many hats will we need?

As we have been using a variety of books as a springboard to talking about a particular factor we have made charts to help us explore patterns. I have been impressed at my struggling mathematicians who are starting to identify the patterns that they see in the products. While we could do this without math literature, why would we?! I absolutely love being able to use these stories and my students, who love books, are so engaged!

I'm excited to share with you next time about how we used the book "Snowflake Bentley!" 


Phases of the Moon

Last night my students finished their observation of moon phases, and Monday they will be turning in their journals. This year I had them start on the night of the full moon, knowing that would be an easy one for them to identify. I also have cut the project down to just three weeks rather than a whole month -- it's hard for third graders to go that long!

I introduce moon phases with a short video clip from Discovery Education that shows the phases and gives them the vocabulary, then give each student this little journal.

They watch the sky, filling in the date that they see each of these phases.

This past week we went a little bit farther with the phases, using oreo cookies. The packages of double stuff oreos have been sitting on a shelf since the beginning of the year, and student kept asking when we were going to eat them! They were so excited to come in on Wednesday morning and see plates, knives and packages of cookies on the table. Finding out we weren't eating them was a bit of a letdown, until I told them what we WERE doing with them :) They were quickly on board.

After several years of doing this, I've learned how to make it pretty simple. Each student gets four double stuff cookies -- I used to use regular ones, but it is so much easier to have thicker filling. They carefully twist them apart and we use both parts -- I show them how to carefully take filling off one side and place it on the other so there is no wasted cookie.

They had so much fun, and I heard a lot of comments connecting the activity to what they were seeing in the moon observations. And our classroom smelled wonderfully of cookies all day :)


Math Lit: Counting on Pablo

One day recently we were exploring multiples of five in our math lesson. After working with a hands-on activity where we were putting 5 pennies into a given number of piggy banks and then working with a 50 chart (in a plastic page protector) to look at the patterns created by the multiples of five we gathered for our math meeting and I read this book to them:

The math concept in this book is skip counting, and in the story the produce for the market is counted by 1s, 2s, 5s, and 10s. I had students bring their 50 charts to the rug and put them on clipboards. As I read the book we circled numbers to show the counting. I probably should have put a 100 chart in the page protector also just to make it easier (note to self for next time). I felt that using the story really enhanced our exploration of number patterns in multiplication.

Do you have a favorite books for skip counting? Comment below.


October STEM

We had fun with October's challenge, and a couple of the students came to me later to say they thought it was the most challenging activity we had done yet (they are starting to see my plan of beginning with simple activities and upping the ante!).

This month I used this wonderful activity from Get Caught Engineering. This product is found at TPT for just $3; I purchased it during the back to school sale this year.

If you are interested in some simple to put together STEM ideas, check out this store; they have several free items.

We started the activity about a week ahead, because this one required students to gather outdoor materials. Rather than take them out during the school day I chose to give each of them a one gallon zip bag and have them gather their materials at home. The instructions were simple - gather materials you think birds could use to build their nest. They gathered dried grass, leaves, twigs, sticks, spanish moss . . .  and filled up their bags.

When the day for our challenge came I put down newspaper at their desk and gave each pair of students some type of tray to build on. To mix things up, I used Class Dojo to generate random names and paired them up very differently :) One thing I really enjoyed about this was that the two boys that others seemed to think would not be very successful (you could tell by some eye rolling and body language) were be far the best engineers! Here is a picture of their completed nest:

The only thing I supplied was balls of string and yarn; they could cut off as much as they wanted. This nest was awesome - you can pick it up and it holds together. There are three small stones in it representing birds' eggs and they were completely secure. 

Some other engineers came up with these variations:


We had a lot of fun with this challenge, and definitely a new appreciation for the engineering genius of birds! We followed up with a short video clip about birds' nests that showed different types of nests and talked about whether the males, females, or both did most of the nest building.

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