Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Peek at the Week for October 29 - November 2

Can you believe we are almost to the start of November? Time has flown by! Let's have a great week!


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Writing...so far

You know what? I love writing. I may not be great at it, I may not be the best at teaching it, but man do I love me some writing. Give me a pen and paper and I am happy as a clam.

I also love making charts. I'm not the greatest at that either, but I try my best. Here are a few writing charts I have up in the room right now.


This one came after a lesson on dialogue. We used the Mo Willems book "I Love My New Toy" from his Elephant and Piggie series because they are fun and the kids love them.  The Elephant and Piggie books are great for studying characters. We used them to practice punctuating dialogue correctly since the characters just use speech bubbles.


This was after the dialogue lesson also. We pretended to be Mo Willems' copy editors and rewrote some of the pages in his book so they followed the rules of punctuating dialogue. We couldn't have "Piggie said" or "Gerald said" on every page, so we brainstormed synonyms for said and used those instead.


This is where most of my writing charts go. The big blue paper is for vivid words we find in our reading that we'd like to use in our writing. It also has a chart above it for what I call the "A.D.D." of writing (action, dialogue, details). To the right are some icons that go along with the things writers do to get ideas.

Writing instruction doesn't have to be fancy or complicated really. Just give them paper and pencil and encourage them to see what they can get started. Feedback from you, praise, and conferences will keep them going.

Class Reading Log



I ask my students to keep a reading log in their reader's notebooks to track the reading they do during the day and a home reading log to track the 20 minutes they do each night for homework. I also keep a reading log for the titles I have read aloud to the class. Instead of writing it down like a list, I have been copying the covers of each book or magazine article that I read and then staple it up on the wall.

So instead of a reading log we have more of a reading timeline. It is a good visual and the kids are constantly looking up to reference what books we've shared. It comes in handy when kids are thinking about text to text connections or certain characters from a book. After I do my lesson plans for the next week I round up my read aloud books and copy the covers. Some of the books are oversized so I had to shrink the cover some, but the kids can still figure out what book it is. Once I have read the book aloud or used it during a lesson I staple the cover up on the wall. This is a handy tool that the kids have enjoyed using and it is easy to do.

Great Stories


This past week we have been working on thinking about and beyond the text. We are working on higher level thinking skills that involve more than simply going right back to the text to parrot back an answer, including inferring, synthesizing and critiquing. Text choice is so important when planning these lessons. You want to choose a book that has a good meaty story that most kids will identify with. At the same time, you want to choose a book that lends itself to the particular strategy you are focusing on. You have to choose a book that you personally enjoy also and can read with some emotion and thought.

These are three books that we really enjoyed this week and sparked some deep thinking. For each of these titles I had the children stop and jot their predictions or thoughts during the story in their reader's notebooks and use their writing as a basis for a longer entry when we finished the book.


  • The Memory Coat - A family emigrates from Russia to the United States but one member of the family may not make it. This particular book is long and we split the read aloud over two days. The kids were so upset at the end of day 1 because we would have to "tune in tomorrow" to find out what happens! This one sparked a good discussion about the main characters and inferring how they would have acted if a certain event happened.
  • The Memory Box - A young man goes on vacation with his grandparents to find out that Grandpa has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Together they must make a "memory box" to store important memories. This one is excellent for predicting and inferring! Many of the kids inferred that Grandpa was losing his hearing or his eyesight before the true cause was revealed. 
  • The Memory String - In this story a young girl begins to accept her stepmother. What a moving story! Again this is a long one so you may want to split it between days. This title led to some good text connections - all the books we read had something to do with memories, all the books had some tangible item to store memories, and all were really about the importance of family and loving another.

Reading Is Thinking

During this unit of reader's workshop we have been working to develop good habits in our students. A big focus in our instruction has been to help the kids really learn to think about what they are reading. Many of our kids simply plow through a book without much thinking and then move on to the next one. They aren't plugged in to what the author or the text is truly telling them. The goal for me as a third grade teacher is to help kids to slow down and think about what the words on the page are saying.

As a teacher my goal is to make this process as concrete as I can. As adults and advanced readers we do many of the things good readers do without thinking about it. But young readers need guidance in learning to think about their reading just like kids need training wheels to learn how to ride a bike. We have done a lot of read aloud, think aloud activities and guided entries in our reader's notebooks. The kids have been surprised at how much they have to say about a book when they slow down and really engage, focus and think on the text.

I have mini anchor charts with thinking stems posted in my room. These are great starters for conversations about books. The most important thing for me though is to support your thinking with evidence from the text. It all has to come back to the text.




  • Visualizing
    • What image do you see in your mind?
    • Can you picture yourself as a character in a movie based on the book?
    • What other sensory details (hearing, smelling, touching, feeling) can you associate with the text?
  • Questioning
    • What do you wonder?
    • Why do you think the author made the choices they did?
    • What do you understand? What do you not understand?
    • What if...?
  • Inferring
    • What do you think? 
    • What is your evidence that makes you think so?
  • Predicting
    • What do you think might happen? Why?
  • Making Connections
    • What does this text remind you of?
    • How does your connection help you understand the text?
    • Is your connection meaningful?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Book It!



This year third graders will have an opportunity to participate in Pizza Hut's Book It! Program. This is a reading incentive program that rewards students for reading at home. Each month students will have a reading goal. When that goal is met students will earn a certificate for a free personal pizza from Pizza Hut.

This is a terrific program and I speak from experience! I vividly remember participating in the Book It! program as a fifth grader in Ms. Elkin's reading class. There is no cost and students will enjoy the treat. Watch your child's take home folder for more information coming home this week!

Pizza Hut also has some great resources for parents at the Book It website: www.bookitprogram.com/parents. Stop by and take a look!



Saturday, October 6, 2012

Vowel Teams

In word work this week we will be looking at the different ways to spell vowel sounds, including vowel+consonant+e and vowel pairs. Many times (but not always) when two vowels are together, the first vowel is long (says its name) and the second vowel in the pair is silent. Here is a cute song from the PBS Kids show Between The Lions that reinforces the concept of vowel pairs.