Making Over Third Grade!
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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Field Trip: Off to the Exploratorium

I love going on field trips. No really. I do. I just hate all the nervous build-up to them. I always feel like there is so much to worry about when getting ready for a field trip but the happiness on the kids' faces always makes up for that in the end. This year is no different.

SF ExploratoriumAs a Title 1 school in Northern California, we are able to go to the SF Exploratorium for free.
Schools just have to pay for the buses to get there. Since it is so cost effective, I like to make sure that we are able to go each year. (We are generally allowed only one field trip a year.) This was the third year we have been able to make it happen and the second at their new location on the pier. It is a beautiful place. If you are ever able to visit, I suggest you block out the entire day to explore and engage in all of the hands-on activities.

This year we had four parents plus two teachers for our class (one of the
SF Exploratorium
many upsides of having a co-teacher). As such we assigned 4 - 5 students to each parent and we were able to walk around and monitor the various groups and their behaviors. After this experience, I will never go back to assigning myself a group to watch. This was much less stressful and much more entertaining.

Where do you go on your field trips? How often are you allowed to go on field trips each year?

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Lucky Me (Again) & Oriental Trading

As a teacher at a Title 1 site, I know what it means to not have a lot of money for art supplies and other fun items for the kids. The arts are just as important as the core subjects and they just make the kids beam so I am always willing to shell out money for these supplies. This year I have been so lucky to have been asked to participate in the Oriental Trading Ambassador Club. I don't know how I got so lucky but as a member, I have been gifted with items for my class.

Valentine's Day is usually a big deal for our kids. Most students are gift givers to their teachers (this is huge for them - it is like a candy Christmas). So I usually make sure that they have a party for the holiday that is a bit bigger than our Christmas party and it is not unusual to spend quite a bit on this. On the heels of Christmas and all the family birthdays between November and March, it is not the best time to spend a ton of money on my class but nonetheless, I always do.

This year will be a big year for us and for Snoopy! I have always loved Snoopy but my mom was an even bigger fan. After her passing three years ago I somehow became an even bigger fan. I think in some ways it makes me feel close to her still like she is still with me. So when Eureka came out with Peanuts school decor well it just HAD to find its way into my classroom. Naturally, this means that it is also the kids now love. Oriental Trading has a lot of Peanuts items - especially for the holidays, and Valentine's Day is no exception. No, I mean really, a ton! They have a whole page just devoted to the links to all of their Peanuts items.

This year my students will be bombarded with Peanuts items for Valentine's Day. First, they are getting these super cute foam stickers. There are so many (300!!) that I am keeping 1/2 of them for the beginning of next year for students to use to decorate their iPad cases in August. I mean seriously, they are cute!!

They are also getting Snoopy pencils and erasers. Even though we have iPad in our class and most of our work is done digitally we still do quite a bit with pencils and my students LOVE specialty pencils. These pencils and erasers are sure to be a hit.

I am going to go a bit overboard here - one more Snoopy item...students are also going to receive the Peanuts temporary tattoos. They are so cute I just couldn't help myself. I mean really, how could I not get them Snoopy images to wear?! 
So I didn't go completely crazy with the Peanuts theme (though I could have!). Students are also going to have these plain white favor boxes to decorate and use to collect and take home all of their cards and other goodies. I love that it is sturdy enough to carry their cards, and any leftover cookies and the like.  

Finally, I just couldn't resist these magic color scratch hearts. I love watching the students use their self-expression through their art. These magic color scratch hearts are the perfect quick art project for our end of the day activities. Don't you think so? 

What do you do for Valentine's Day? Big, small, or no party at all? Please let me know in the comments below. 

In full disclosure, I was compensated for this post. All opinions are my own. 

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Monday, January 2, 2017

It's January Already!

It is the new year, a new adventure, and all the promise that a new year brings. I have a list of resolutions that I make each year and each year I watch them go down in flames. This year I am not making any resolutions but rather making changes in my attitude about the things I want to change. Things like blogging more. I say I am going to do, I promise to do it, then, well...I don't do it. I love sharing my ideas and the things (good and bad) that are going on in my classroom with others. I love the reflection that blogging provides for me and that is why this is now going to become part of my weekly lesson plan routine. I am hoping to blog at least once a week so that you will not forget I am here but also not so much that you become sick of hearing from me. :)

This week promises to be a difficult one as I will only be in class on Tuesday and then Maria and I are out for 2 days for training and then we are off to Monterey for a California League of Schools Tech Conference where we will be presenting! I am both nervous and excited about this. I hate getting up in front of a room full of adults to speak but according to Maria I find my groove and then run with it. LOL I promise to blog about the sessions we will be discussing while at the conference. Who knows, maybe we will even see some of you there!

What are your plans for your first week back?

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Full of Gratitude & Giving Thanks

makingoverthirdgrade.blogspot.comIt has been a while since I posted here. I could apologize but then I know we will likely be in the same boat again in a few weeks. I am just not one of those bloggers who seems able to commit to O EXTREMELY grateful for you who read it. I love sharing the adventures of my classroom with you even if I don't share them as often as I should!
posting several times (or let's face it, even once) a week. I am doing my best and I am S

Thanksgiving is this week and it has me thinking about all I have to be grateful for at the moment. This is the first year that we will be having a family dinner, the way my mom did them, since she got really sick before she passed away. Holidays were my mom's thing. She loved everything about them and she made them magical. In order to celebrate with family and still have the much desired leftovers I have made a dinner for us the day before the holiday and then we would go visit family on Thanksgiving. Once mom got sick I made two complete dinners then took one all in containers to my parents so they could celebrate without the work. This has been the routine for the last 5 or 6 years. This year we are all gathering at my parents' house and I will be cooking there. I am thankful that I have a family to spend the holiday with, and for the special shared memories we have of how mom made it special. I know she will be with us this year.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to share my classroom with Maria and embarking on the adventure this year has been as we have taken on this new role of Instructional Specialists. I am (surprise!) very particular and controlling about my classroom. Working with Maria I have learned to just let some things go. This is a good thing. Working with her has made me a better teacher.

I am thankful for the ability to work with other teachers in their classroom and assist them with curriculum. It can be nerve-wracking putting one's self on the line to walk into someone else's room,
but I think it is even more so having someone come in to your domain and I am thankful that so many teachers have allowed Maria and I to come into their rooms this year.

I am thankful for my third grade team at my site and those not on my team but who are essential to keeping me grounded, sharing the ups and the downs, and for just being there each day. I do not know what I would do without them.

I am grateful for my students and their families who make my job worthwhile. With the events that have occurred in our nation since election day I have seen the fear and uncertainty in their eyes and we have tried to answer questions without scaring them. When so many of them are worried about what comes next for themselves and their families. I am grateful that I get to be their teacher and share this year in their lives.
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Monday, October 10, 2016

Halloween, Day of the Dead, & OTC

Teaching at a Title 1 site there are some things that we have easy access to, things like technology, we are able to ensure that each student has access to. When it comes to things like art supplies we have a limited budget and we often have to go without or pay for these supplies out of our own pockets. I am always spending money on my class. Now that Maria and I are working together it seems we are both spending more, not less, than we have in the past. So when Oriental Trading Company approached me last month asking me to review their products in exchange for the items I was reviewing I jumped at the chance. In thanking their representative and telling her about our Title 1 status she suggested we team up throughout the year in order to provide items for my students (and save me money) I jumped at this offer too.

Therefore, this post is dedicated to the items for the Day of the Dead (which is big where I teach) and Halloween which I am so very grateful for receiving from Oriental Trading Company. While I was compensated for this post, these opinions are my own. (I will update this post with class photos once we work on these projects).

I am attempting to get a Trunk or Treat event at my school as they are so much fun and in neighborhoods like the one I teach in that is mostly apartments, it is safer than kids going up and down the stairs in the dark. I brought this up with my admin and we are going to start with two slots in the district Trunk or Treat event at another site. One of our cars has a Day of the Dead theme. With a large Hispanic student population, this is a big deal and we usually teach something about this holiday as well as Halloween. To help us with this, Oriental Trading is sending us these Color Your Own Day of the Dead Masks for our lesson (and which we can then use for car decorations as well).

Our district has a no sweets policy and we cannot have food in our classroom that doesn't come from Food Services (do not get me started on this - I do not believe that birthday cupcakes and holiday treats are the reason so many students are overweight, but I digress). So in order to provide our students with something special for these holidays we are also getting Day of the Dead Cellophane Bags for stickers, and a few other things to make the day special for them.

I am on a Peanuts kick this year. I have incorporated a lot of Snoopy items with the polka dot theme of our room and I couldn't go without giving the kids some Snoopy related items. Thanks to Katie at Oriental Trading we are going to be able to to give our students Peanuts Halloween pencils and stickers.

Finally, we are trying to do more art this year (we only have art instruction from an art teacher once a week for the last half of the year) as part of our STEAM curriculum. I saw these Color Your Own Halloween Bags and I couldn't resist! What a great thing for our kids to color their own Halloween bags and write a creative story to go along with the image on the bags. Well you can't have cloth color your own bags and not have the fabric markers to color them. We are so very lucky that we were able to get these from Oriental Trading as well. I am so very excited about this project! I can't wait to read the stories they will write and how they will make their bags unique to their personalities. (I will add photos once we do the project.)

You can find all of these items, along with a plethora of others at the Oriental Trading Halloween Headquarters.

What do you do to celebrate Halloween and/or the Day of the Dead?
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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Gro Your Guided Reading with This New App

While working on making this co-teaching classroom productive and to ensure that we know exactly where each teacher left off in particular lessons we found we needed a better way of keeping track of all of the information for our guided reading groups. That is when Maria and I found GRO. This app i is $9.99 but it is worth every penny and then some!

You can tell this app was made by a teacher and with teachers in mind! It is so easy to use and it has transformed my guided reading time. I have always been really inconsistent about taking notes during groups (I know...I am just horrible and shouldn't be teaching). I'm not the best at keeping track of which groups I need to meet with without looking it up each and every time, if someone was absent or not, or sticking to a set time to meet with each group. All of which was going to be an issue when I was now going to have to communicate what I taught, whom I taught it too, and how well it went for each group. Additionally, if we agreed to meet with set groups on certain days and I wasn't mindful of the time I would prevent Maria from teaching what she had planned to teach. Then we found GRO (Guided Reading Organizer). Best of all it takes hardly any time to set up and get going.

Adding Students

       For each student you add his/her name, reading level (you decide based on DRA, Lexile, or several other leveling systems), reading goals, and whether he/she has an IEP/504, or is EL, plus there is room to add additional student information. You can even add a student photo which you can take via the app if you wish.
      I love, I mean LOVE, the fact that there is a data chart to quickly view the student's achievement over time; as well as all of the notes from each group session. All of which can be shared at data dialogues, SSTs, and RtI meetings.

Building Groups

Once you have input your student info it is time to build your groups. This takes just a few minutes. You select groups, create the name, select the color for the group and when you want to meet with the students, as well as which students will be in each group. You can even put in the specific time you want to meet if you'd like! Then again here is another chance to add notes if you wish. 

Lesson Plans

The app provides you with two different lesson plan templates that are easy to use, a general plan, and a guided reading plan. Both plans are great! The general plans can be  used for math groups, reteaching, and other intervention groups. 
The general plan has a box/dropdown menu for which group and for the date. The lesson plane content is completely blank for your use. 
The guided reading lesson plan has space for the name of the book, how you will introduce the text, vocabulary to focus on, word work/writing, and which reading strategy as well as boxes for you to add your content. This is great for notes about what to focus on, questions to ask, and the expected outcome of the lesson. 
This is where the timer is as well. Yes, a timer!!!! The savior of my guided reading time. You can select how long you want to meet with each group and then when with the group open the lesson plan and press start. It is literally that easy. I LOVE it! 
The best part? You can duplicate the lessons you have already created when you have another group working on the same skills or if another group has the same book. Not visible in the photos below there is also a way to share the lesson plans with anyone else who has the GRO app. Work as a grade level and split the work for intervention and guided reading lessons. What is better than that?!


As I mentioned a moment ago, there is a timer to keep you on track. The dates you meet with each group will self populate in the calendar if the lesson plans have that date. Quick way to look at which groups you have meet with, or need to meet with. When you are teaching a group and have the app open to the lesson plan you can select on "Show Student Notes" and with a simple touch to each student you can add notes about how he/she is doing and the notes will automatically save as well as show up on their individual student pages. AMAZING! 


The Giveaway

I had emailed Amanda (one of the creators of the app) about a question I had and mentioned to her that I loved this app so much I was going to blog about it. (I have NOT been compensated in any way for writing this post. All opinions are my own.) I suggested a giveaway and she agreed! So one lucky reader will win this wonderful app for use in your own classroom. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Take the Good and Leave the Bad

Some days you need a reminder to, in the words of Gloria Loring (singer of the Facts of Life theme song) "take the good and leave the bad" and remember that the "facts of life are all about you." After the last two days, I have taken this to heart. It is a conscious choice to focus on the negative or to focus on the positive.  I choose to focus on the positive.

There are a lot of changes happening at my school at the moment and there are a lot of unhappy and scared teachers. They are all going to be 1:1 with devices in the next few weeks and they do not necessarily want the devices or to be 1:1. This is a whole new world - one they are not sure they want to explore let alone live on.

It is hard for me to watch this. As a teacher who has had 1:1 devices for three years I can see all of the benefits of adding the technology and yet, I can also see how these changes can be something to be apprehensive about. I don't quite know how to help since they are not seeking my advice, and because when I try to offer it I am often shot down with a negative response.

I am hopeful however, that once they have had the devices for several weeks that they too will see the positives and opt to "take the good and leave the bad." It can only help them make these changes with a more positive outlook.

I know how hard teaching can be. I know that change is not easy. I know that sometimes our kids are rough and tumble (they are kids!). Yet, I also know that despite this, change can be good.

I have had students (just this week) get into fights, be defiant, and pout. I can opt to focus on these things (and the fact that I dumped my lunch on me today, had difficult interactions with an adult, or that I didn't teach some lesson well, or that...well...a million other "or thats"). Instead I chose to "take the good and leave the bad." It is the only way to come to school each day with a positive outlook and attitude and everyone deserves that. Don't you think?

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