What's My Rule?

I learned this vocabulary strategy a couple of years ago and my kids love being the detectives and figuring out the rule!

Present kids with 5-6 clusters of three words from whatever story or novel you are reading. See if students can figure out the rule that ties them together. Let them guess a few times before revealing the rule.


bonnet, corset, hankie (things you wear)

emigrants, marmalade, silhouette (3 syllables)

hurricane, tornado, flood (disasters)

Your clusters of words probably won't be this different, I just wanted to give you an idea of what you could do.

Some other ideas for rules are plural nouns, places, jobs, etc...

What vocabulary strategies or activities do you use in your classroom that kids find entertaining?

Teaching Relative Location

Being at a Title I school is tough. Most of the kids have little knowledge about where they live, many don't get the support they need at home, and most of them have never even been outside their own little towns. It breaks my heart. I took a few students to the movies last year as a reward, and two out of the three said they had never been to a theater. I almost cried. I showered them with popcorn and soda until their little hearts were content.

Last week, we began reviewing where we live. We reviewed the continents and oceans (which many of them couldn't recall from second grade--I've got my work cut out for me...), we talked about what continent we live on, what country we live in, and which state, county, and city we live in.

Since third grade focuses on South Carolina history, I really want them to have an understanding of our state, what it looks like, WHERE it is in relation to our country, our continent, and the world. We looked at the shape of South Carolina and brainstormed a list of things it looks like. They said a triangle, pizza, a pie, an eagle head, an ice cream cone, etc...You get the idea.

Then, I had them get in groups of three or four and make a tableaux of South Carolina. Here is what they did.

They did such a good job! After this activity, I had them take a sticky note and draw a picture of SC without looking at a map. Inside the picture, they had to write two things they learned about our state. We still have a lot of work to do understanding our relative location, but I am ready for the challenge! I have a bunch of eager children and I'm going to give them everything I can!

Blog Awards!

I've been procrastinating posting about my blog awards, mainly because I didn't want to have to think of stuff to post about me and who else I think should get an award! Selfish, I know. Anywho, the Caffeinated Teacher has given me the Amazingness award and Confessions of an Untenured Teacher has bestowed on me the Versatile Blogger award.

I need to:

A) Thank the people who gave me the award.
B) Share 7 things about myself.
C) Pass the award to 15 others. (I'm gonna narrow this because I'm giving out double the awards!)

A. Thank the people!

First of all, thank you both so much for thinking of me! My goal when I started this thing, was to just be a resource for teachers who are looking for ideas and strategies to use in their classrooms. These awards make me feel that I have accomplished this goal or at least am well on my way!

B. Share 7 things. (Well....you asked for it...7 things you never wanted to know about me!)

1) I have a freakish fascination with the show Monsters Inside Me on Animal Planet and have also become hopelessly addicted to Big Brother Season 12. I know, shame on me, right?

2) I eat grape jelly on my bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches. People say it's weird, but I just think they don't know what they're talking about!

3) I am petrified of death by a killer asteroid and Bloody Mary.

4) I want to go on a tornado chase, which is ironic since my chances of dying in this situation are exponentially greater than death by a killer asteroid and even greater still that that of Bloody Mary.

5) I once asked a bum for money. Needless to say, he was none too thrilled. Yeah, I know I'm horrible. I can't explain why.

6) I recently convinced myself that there was a person hiding in my bathroom closet after my make up bag slowly fell over into the sink. (At the time, I didn't know it was my make up falling over). I'm not kidding though, I laid frozen in the bed for like an hour...

7) I have an obsession for Tudor history. I love me some "Tudors" on Showtime. I read all the books I can. I just find Henry and his wives fascinating!

C) Pass it on!

The Versatile Blogger Award goes to:

Babbling Abby
Classroom Confessions
Following the Footsteps
Is Our Children Learning?
Sneaker Teacher

The Amazingness Blogger Award goes to:

First Grader....At Last!
Notes From the School Psychologist
Regurgitated Alpha Bits
Science Notebooking
Teacher Stuff: Tales From a First Grade Teacher

I realize that some of these people may have already received these awards, but these are some of my top teacher friend blogs!

Science Notebooks

We have been setting up our science notebooks this week. I saw someone's blog that had the students cut out science pictures and glue them to the cover of their notebooks to make a collage and so I stole the idea! So glad I did! They turned out awesome! I had a ton of leftover student National Geographics and Scholastics and they went at it!

Here are a few--

Then, for the first activity in the science notebook, I asked all of the kids to draw a picture of what they thought a scientist looked like. (One girl asked me if her scientist could be a girl? Well, of course! Sooo cute.) After they drew their picture, they were then asked to write down any words or phrases that described what a scientist does. We shared as a class and came up with things like experiments, read, study, discover, create, ask questions, mix things, potions (haha), observes, etc...

I then asked them some of the following questions:

1. Do you observe things around you?
2. Do you ask questions?
3. Do you ever create things?
4. Do you study?

They sould start to realize that they ALL do these things, therefore everyone is a scientist! I Here are some of their drawings:

This one is supposed to show the scientist making an accidental explosion! HAHA I love these kids!

Do you use a Science Notebook? If so, what activities do you put in them?

 Here are a couple of great blogs about science notebooks.

My Science Lessons Blog (Great blog for lessons)
Science Notebooking (I totally love this one!) 

I survived!

First and foremost, I survived the first day back to school with the kiddies! **3 cheers for Ginger** Only 14 showed up on my doorstep out of the 16 I was supposed to have and that, unfortunately, only means one thing...I will be inheriting all the new kids. Ugh. But, my class was lovely, and sweet and I heart them already!

The worst part of my day was the afternoon dismissal, which was a huge honking nightmare and took almost an hour to get ALL the little car riders into their cars and gone!! I guess that's what happens when you test out a new method on the first day! Generally speaking though, the first week always takes longer than usual so I am hoping our new plan of action improves throughout the course of the week.

Second, I recently recieved two blog awards which I will hopefully get around to spreading by this weekend, because I just don't have the time to sit down and do it this week being the first week of school and all!

My feet hurt, my brain is disheveled from all the "what's to come" thoughts swimming around in my head, and I am utterly exhausted from today (but in a good way). I will try to post a few times this week, but we will see how much energy I have!

**Note to self and others -- Do not wear even the slightest high heels on the first day back to school. Bad idea. Very bad.

That's all the wisdom I can muster today.

Back To School Teacher Swap!

Jen, over at Following the Footsteps is hosting a Back To School Teacher Swap to share your favorite books for kicking off the school year!

I have a top 3 that I read each year. I will also be sharing pictures of my finished classroom since I didn't have any good ones on for the Classroom Tour!

My first back to school book is Crysanthemum. I love this book for the first day because it teaches about accepting the differences in others. Many of my students have names that I can't even pronounce so it's great because other students can learn that it's okay to have a unique name. There are tons of activities you can do with this book such as graphing your class names, doing making words with your name, sorting names, etc...

The second book I like to read is First Day Jitters. I enjoy having students discussing what jitters are and then writing down their own first day jitters. We always share them after!

I realize that the other two books are commonplace in elementary classrooms so this should be a bit of a change. My absolute favorite back to school book to read is Oh, The Places You'll Go! by Dr. Suess. There are soooooo many amazing things that you can do with this book and I'm going to share a few things that I am going to do this year since our classroom theme is Oh, the Places We'll Go in Third Grade!

* Have students write down their academic or behavioral goals for the year.
* Ask students to paint a picture of a place they want to go and write a few sentences about where they want to go, why they want to go there, and what they'll do there! (I will be doing this and hanging them outside my classroom!)
* Play Balloon Geography - Start by reviewing geography facts (continents, oceans, landforms, states, cities, etc.) Blow up a balloon and have the class stand in a circle. The object of the game is to keep the balloon from touching the floor, but every time a player hits the balloon they must name a geography fact. If they can't say one fast enough, they are out! I would focus on one topic at a time. Play one round of continents and oceans, then landforms, etc... This is a great way to review at the beginning of the year!
* Have students analyze different parts of the poem and discuss what they mean. For example, "You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch. And your gang will fly on. You'll be left in a Lurch."
* Give students a copy of the words to the book and highlight the words that speak to them and how it relates to their own lives.
* Make a book jacket for the book based on the students own uniqueness and goals.

These are just a few fun things you can do with this book! Here is my outside bulletin board that I will hang their watercolor paintings.

And here are the pictures of my classroom I promised! This is the view of my classroom when you first walk in.

This is from the other side of the front of the room looking at the back.

This is from the back left corner looking to the front.

And this is from the back right corner looking to the front.

Here is my essential questions board at the front.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed my activities and classroom photos! We have our first day with kids tomorrow so I will keep you posted as to how the week goes!

Teacher Week: Online Resources

I am a little sad that today is the last day of Babbling Abby's Teacher Week! I have so enjoyed reading everyones ideas and viewing all the lovely little classrooms! On top of that, I've gained about 7 new followers! I want to take this opportunity to welcome you and I hope you keep stopping by and sharing your ideas and thoughts!

Today, we are sharing online resources and I have been so excited about sharing new ones that I have recently discovered! I posted my Top 10 Websites when I first began this blog, so I wanted to try to share some new ones that I have found useful.  

1. Delicious - This is a social bookmarking website that is great for accessing your favorite websites from any computer location. You never know when you will need one of your "favorited" websites, so this is just a good way to make sure you always have access to them. If you are familiar with PortaPortal, then this is very similar.

2. Curriki - This website provides amazing free lesson plans and resources for educators at all grade levels. I just recently discovered this one and thought it would be just like a lot of those not so great teacher lesson plan sites, but this one has it all!

3. Prezi - The coolest new way to create a presentation. I call it the next generation of presentations! You can see an example of one my prezis here. Soooo cool!

4. Critical Past - I also just recently discovered this website and I love it! If you teach Social Studies, this site will be your new best friend. There are about a gazillion video clips and images available in this database for use in your classrooms! The best part? It's freeeee! Unless you choose to download any of the material, in which case you must pay.

5. Creat-a-Graph - I love this website because you can quickly and EASILY make several types of graphs with just a few clicks of your mouse!

6. Knowitall - This is mainly a resource for teachers in South Carolina, but you may find some of the activities useful. If you teach 3rd grade in SC, you will love this website. It has so many grade standards based activities to teach your students!

7. Internation Children's Digital Library - This website is full of books available online from all around the world.

8. Prepdog - We use MAP testing to assess our students learning throughout the school year. This website contains practice test questions, education tools, and video tutorials for parents, students, and teachers! I always use this website to practice and prepare my students for the state standardized test.

9. Free Teacher Resources - Jam packed full of great stuff for teachers from lesson plans to professional development to worksheets! I'm lovin' it!

These are just a few more of my go to online resources!

Step into my classroom

It's day 4 of Teacher Week over at Babbling Abby's! You know what that means...Classroom Tour! I meant to take a bunch more pictures of my room today before I left, but I had some other things on my mind and so I forgot...

Here are the pictures that I do have! This one is a picture from last year of my promethean board. It's at the front of the room.

This is part of my reading area along with part of my desk area behind it.

This is the other part of my reading area...

One of my desk groups...and some other stuff in the background. (I promise better ones to come later.)
This is my back bulletin board featuring our lovely state, State Carolina! Oh, and the computers obviously.

I will post better pictures later this week. I was really meaning to take a picture of my welcome bulletin board on the outside of my classroom because it is soooo dang cute. I'll keep the secret for now...but you just wait til tomorrow!

Beginning of Year Activities and Icebreakers

I apologize for post number 2 of the day, but I want to share these since many of you are starting school soon or may have already and can still make use of some of these ideas.

I love the beginning of the school year! There is no pressure for testing, you can do more fun activities that you couldn't otherwise, and your classroom is typically behavior problem free for at least a month!

Here are some of the activities I have done or will be trying this year:

* Gallery Walk Consensograms - This is a great activity to get to know your students learning styles/likes/dislikes. Give your students a sheet of sticky dots and post questions with multiple answers all around the classroom. Sample questions:
  • What is your favorite subject? Math, Science, Reading, etc.
  • Which way do you most like to complete your work? Alone, In a Group, With a Partner)
  • My favorite reward is... Candy, Free Time, HW pass, Verbal Praise, etc.
* Musical Icebreaker - Embed music clips into a powerpoint or just play a selection of songs. I use about 5. Let them listen to the song for a minute or two and then write down a memory that the song makes them think of. I always give a few examples. Call on students to share. Tip: Try to pick songs that you know most of the children have heard of.

* Snowball Fight - Have students write down 2 facts and 2 opinions of themselves in random order on a sheet of notebook paper. Once they have all completed this, have them ball up their sheet of paper and have snowball fight for 2 minutes. When you call freeze, the students must pick up 1 snowball near them, open it, and read the statements. They must label the statements as either facts or opinions. Then, go around the room and have students try to guess whose paper they have! (I have never tried this one, so use with caution and have lots of rules! I will be trying this one this year!)

* Skittles Activity - Let students take as many Skittles as they want from a bag. For each Skittle they take, they must divulge one fact about themselves.

* Read, "Crysanthemum," and discuss what's in a name! There are more great ideas for this book at Jen's blog, Following the Footsteps.

* Teacher Scavenger Hunt - Every year, I gather a bunch of things that are important or that represent me and scatter them around the room. I have the kids walk around the room and try to find the important things about me! Once someone finds one, we stop, gather around, and discuss the item that is important to me. After this activity, the students are asked to create an about me bag in which they must fill with at least 3 important things.

What fun things do you do at the beginning of the year to "break the ice?"

Creative Ideas

Babbling Abby's Teacher Week topic today is Creative Ideas. (How about that use of alliteration!?) I am going to share some ideas of things I do in my classroom that make life a bit easier for me and hopefully will for you too! Some of these ideas are actually activities that you can use when teaching content areas.

1) Gem Jar - This is a classroom management idea I use to reward whole class behavior. I have a cut out of a jar taped to my whiteboard. There are also a bunch of magnetic gems. When the class WOW's me, I add a gem to the class jar. When other classes compliment our behavior in the hallway, the cafeteria, or Related Arts, I add a gem. When the class fills the whole jar, I let them vote on their class reward. We've done Pajama Day, Popcorn Party, Brownies, Ice Cream Sundaes, Movie, etc...

2) Flow Charts - I love flow charts! They are great for all subject areas and for classroom procedure. I made a flow chart this year for my morning procedure which is pictured below! I also have a print out of the flow chart for their PRIDE Planners. You can use flow charts for a ton of different math skills (adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, etc...) The possibilities are just endless.

3) Finger Language - I am sure many of you use your own version of this, but I like to keep it simple. I just have three hand signals. 1 finger for a question, 2 for the restroom, and 3 for using the trash can. I love not having children ask me if they can go do something. This way, I can just acknowledge their request in silence so as not to disturb the rest of the friends while their working. =)

4) Classroom Map - In third grade, we teach South Carolina history and geography. This year, I decided to make a blank giant map of South Carolina posted to one of the front bulletin boards. At the start of the year, we will mark our location and a few other major cities. As the year goes on, we will add important locations, events, regions, and people. For example, we teach about the 3 major Native American tribes in SC, so we will mark their locations as we discuss each. There are also 6 regions of South Carolina which will be added to the class map when we come to it. The map itself was made on laminated poster board. This way, I can write on the map with Vis-a-V or white board markers so I can wipe it clean at the end of the year and use it again!

5) 8 Step Model Drawing - This is the method used in Singapore where problem solving is a whiz due to the use of this method. I implemented it last year and have noticed a significant difference in my students abilities to understand and SOLVE word problems correctly. The thing I love most about this, is there are steps and children can feel successful when completing the steps. For more information on Singapore Math, visit this link. I purchased this book to help guide me last year when I was just starting out. I really recommend it!  

6) Wheel of Choice - This is an idea I got from a previous teacher to help children learn to solve their own problems instead of always "tattle-telling!" This is a great idea for students to build a better classroom community and teach kids more responsibility for their actions. This isn't my actual wheel (mine has more choices), but this is a good example. My students are told to try two strategies to solve their problems before they come to me to deal with the situation. This rule obviously doesn't apply to situations that are more serious. The trick is to teach them the difference between serious offenses and minor ones that can be solved on their own.

Teacher Must Haves

I didn't participate in Day 1 of Babbling Abby's Teacher Week as I only discovered her today! I will be participating in the Teacher Must Haves for Day 2! Here they are--

1) Avery printing labels are like my numero uno teacher tool to make things as cute as teacherly possible. Here is an example of my Writer's Handbook labels and my Science Notebook labels.

2) Magnetic Strips - I love a good flow chart. It's even better when they are magnetic and I can move them around on my white board. My morning procedure is posted in a flow chart and it's genius, not to toot my own horn or anything...

3) Velcro dots - These are amazing! I use them for hanging stuff on my walls and most importantly my word wall. I have a sentence strip connected to the bottom of the letter. The sentence strip contains the exact number of velcro dots on it for words under that letter. When I introduce that word, I just attach it to the sentence strip under the previous word.

I also used the velcro dots to make a Where Am I in the Writing Process wall hanging that of course uses velcro dots! I will have the students name on an arrow and they will move their name to the spot that corresponds to where they are in the writing process! (Sorry the picture isn't great!)

4) P.R.I.D.E. Planner - Our grade level uses a 1 inch binder that contains all the things you could possibly need to send home with your students. PRIDE stands for Practicing Responsiblity In Daily Endeavors. Since our school mascot is a lion, you see why we created this acronym. Anywho, in each planner you will find a pencil zipper pocket for money/doctors notes and a pencil (so your students can never say they didn't have one...), clear plastic sleeves, and two tabless dividers. We put the weekly newsletter, a list of previous and current grade word wall words, a class roster, class schedule, and a response to reading sheet in the clear plastic sleeves. The tabless dividers with pockets are for homework and graded work. There is also a spiral notebook in the back where students complete their nightly reading log. The front pocket of the planner is for School/PTA information and the back pocket is for the parent to take out and keep at home. Each section, sleeve, divider, and notebook is properly labeled of course. =) These are like sacred to our classroom so we really chalk it up how important it is to take care of them. Here are the cover sheets that go in the front and back of the binder so you can get an idea of what it looks like.

5) Flair Pens - I know almost every teacher who participated in this Teacher Must Have said these were among their favorite, but I bet you don't love them more than me!

Out with summer, and in with school!

Tomorrow is the first day back for teachers in our district. I can't believe the summer has already come and gone. I worked on setting up my classroom several days last week, but I still have a few finishing touches and little projects to accomplish. I will be posting some pictures of my classroom's back to school decor this week so keep your eyes peeled! I don't really have anything productive to say today other than I'm ready for my new crop and new year!

What do plants need to grow?

If your students tell you they don't know, then teach them this little ditty.

Five Things Plants Need to Grow

(The the tune of BINGO)

There are five things plants need to grow
Each one is so important
Water, sunlight, space, food, air
Water, sunlight, space, food, air
Water sunlight, space, food, air
Each one is so important!

Anyone know any other cute songs to teach about plants??

Place Value Activities

We always start each year in math with Place Value. I always find that kids at my school have a hard time with place value because they don't have a good number sense. I plan on starting the year with some very basic activities to scaffold their learning.

Here are a few activities I will be doing in my classroom:

1) Marshmallow Towers - To reinforce place values through the hundreds (or whatever place value you choose), each student will get three marshmallows (1 for each place value), three toothpicks, and a handful of fruit loops. After discussing how to read in write numbers through the hundreds in standard and word form, they will practice making numbers on their marshmallows towers. To make them, have the students place all three marshmallows in a row on their flat side. Then, the student will put a toothpick in the top of each marshmallow. Call out a number and have students make it with their fruit loops. My students loved this last year. You can adapt this for whatever place value you are studying, 1'000's, 10,000's, etc...

I used paint to replicate what it should look like. Sorry my fruit loops look so sad!

2) Riddles - This is a great way to review and practice the place values. Example: When rounded by hundreds I will be 500, I am greater than (>) 450, my tens digit is 8 and I can be reached counting by fives but not by tens. What number am I? I always have students determine how many place values there are first and then draw blank spaces for each place value to solve each riddle. You can make up your own on cards and laminate them so kids can just pull them out and do them at their seats.

3) Go! Go! Go! - Divide the class into two teams. Each student is given a digit card (0-9). On the floor are Place Cards (ones through thousands or beyond). I would block on the floor with painters tape. Teacher will call out a number (e.g., 2,369) Students with the correct digit card rush to stand in the proper place to show their number. The team that correctly creates the number first earns a point for the team.

4) Let's Go Shopping - To teach kids to read and write numbers, I do this activity. Offer to buy something from a student for a large amount of money. Write a check to that student. On a projector, look at what a real check looks like. Ask what they notice. Discuss the importance of learning to read and write numbers. Tell them it is now their turn to go shopping. Have cheap items in a "store" for sale. Model check writing again then let them shop!

5) Who's Greater, Who's Least - Put students in partner groups with a deck of playing cards. Students deal the cards out until they are all gone. Students each draw 4 or 5 cards from their deck (it depends on what place value you want to work on). Students use their cards to make the largest or smallest number. You can alternate between rounds.  Whichever student has the largest number will win a point. Game continues until someone reaches 10-15 points. Ace is worth 0 and K is worth 1. Remove all jokers, jacks, and queens from the deck before play starts.

What fun activities do you all use for teaching about place value?

Vocabulary Soul Train

Using a powerpoint or flipchart, introduce your students to the unit vocabulary for whatever topic you are studying in class. Make sure each word has a picture to go along with the meaning of each word. As you introduce each new word, discuss what it means, and give examples. Then, have students create a hand motion to go along with each one. The pictures will be helpful when the students are creating their hand motions. It's important to let the students come up with the hand motions as a class. Try not to give them too much help in creating those motions.

Introduce the first word, come up with a motion, and then practice it. Introduce the second word, come up with a motion, and then practice both motions together in sequence. Continue this way until all of the vocabulary words have been assigned a motion. I would limit the list to 8-12 words, depending on your grade level.

Once you have learned all of the words and hand motions, have students get in a line and have a Soul Train around the room, around the playground, or just wherever your little heart desires to lead you!

You can even make a game out of it! Call out one of the vocabulary words. Students must demonstrate the correct motion. If they do it incorrectly, they must sit down. Continue until one student is left standing. If you narrow it down to a few kids who just can't seem to mess up, get faster! You're bound to trip one of the up.

My first Prezi: Meet Miss Watkins

I know I just posted an example of a prezi but I wanted to show you all what I created! I am like a proud mama! It took me quite some time to figure out how it all worked, but I think I could do it much quicker next time!

I decided to make a prezi about me. Not because I am self absorbed or anything, but I thought it would be a fun way to introduce myself to my new kiddos! Let me know what you guys think!

How could you all use this in your classrooms?

The Next Generation of Presentations

I was reading someone's blog recently and discovered this fabulously amazing website! If you like to create powerpoints or flipcharts for your students, then you will absolutely love prezi.com. I am so excited to make my own, but I wanted to share it with all of you first!

Here is an example of a prezi on South Carolina. Sorry...I teach South Carolina regions and I will totally use this one in my class even though the videos within it are from like 1982.

How cool was that!? Much more exciting than a powerpoint! I will be using these from now on!