Posts tagged back to school
Back to School Butterflies

In British Columbia we head back to school tomorrow morning.  

Where has the time gone?

Although this summer was full of ups and downs, and not all that restful, it is time to hit the ground running tomorrow morning.    I snuck into my class one more time this morning (on a holiday... gasp!)  to tie up any loose ends and make sure I was fully prepared to welcome my 24 brand new kiddos into my room tomorrow morning.

I think that even after four years of teaching in my 'own room' I still get the nervous butterflies before the first day of school.  A part of me misses the group that inhabited the room the year before, and another part of me is nervous about what is coming next.

I have to keep reminding myself of Philippians 4:6-7:  "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, and with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  

So I'm giving this year up to the One who holds forever in His hands.  I know that there will be more 'bumps' ahead, but I'm not in it alone.

Thank goodness!

Take a look at my classroom for the 2016/2017 school year:

Above: My teacher desk - love this new print from Hobby Lobby! 

I do all of my read-alouds from my IKEA chair, and we start each carpet time with a reminder how to do  Whole Body Listening (from Especially Education)

Reading Corner - the book bins and storage may not match, but I love how many play-based learning option I have! 

Hand-In Buckets - I separate hand-in and classroom work storage by subject and project.  

View from the back of the classroom - check out my new crate seats!

Permanent whiteboard set-up.  I write my schedule up on the board so it can be specific, and kids help to assign a weekly classroom job rotation.  I love accountability in a primary classroom! 

I'm starting to feel ready for the year ahead.  How about you, is your classroom ready ? Or if you've been back for a while, how are you settling in?

Back to School Shopping

Back to School shopping is a necessary part of the school year.  Like report cards, full-moon-Fridays, and wiggly students... it just cannot be avoided!  I have love/hate relationship with back to school shopping.  I love the shiny new things:  the fresh notebooks, the reams of unused paper, the unused smelly markers...   But somehow I always come home with way more than I intended.

Please tell me I'm not alone here?!  Does anyone else frantically try to hide back-to-school items around there house in a way that makes it less obvious?  I feel like a small-scale hoarder of all things classroom related.  I have bulletin board borders under my couch, book bins in my closet, and new novel sets in my car.  (Shhh, don't tell my wonderful hubby!)

I got together with some of my favourite teacher-authors to brainstorm our favorite back-to-school purchases:

  • Smelly Markers (every anchor chart should smell like mint and lemon)
  • Chart paper with invisible lines (to make those anchor charts!)
  • A new teacher tote bag (you have to treat yourself)
  • Good quality pencils (the cheap ones just won't cut it!)

Even after a summer of planning and creating, there is always more curriculum to organize as well.  And that can get expensive.  Making sure that school works for a classroom filled with different kinds of learners does not come in a one-size-fits-all curriculum.

Thank goodness for Teachers Pay Teachers and it's endless supply of affordable curriculum.  I love that I can stock up on so many different and differentiated materials and still have room left to head to Target!  

What's on your back to school list this year?  Anything that is a 'must buy' heading into the new year?  Let me know in the comments below! 

Morning Routine in Third Grade

In Third Grade the morning routine is one of the most important parts of the day.  It sets the tone for the day and is one of the most valuable 'chunks' of time.   I've found that students are never more 'alert' than in those first 45 minutes.  While every school, grade, and district may have their own required morning activities, these are the routines and procedures that I have found to be the most effective.

Third Grade Morning Routine:  Don't Over Plan

I can remember my first year of teaching Third Grade.  I tried to do it all.  I had a morning routine that was 5-6 items long: grammar, cursive writing, close reading, math facts, spelling, vocabulary... we did it all!  But we did not do it well.  I could not figure out why almost every student was doing average (at best) on each section of the morning routine.  No one was "mastering" anything, and I felt like I was constantly trying to re-teach concepts.  Not to mention the piles and piles of marking!

I found that to make the most of our mornings I had to seriously cut down on the number of things that we were trying to accomplish.  Instead of trying to do it all, I picked which pieces were the most important.

So I cut it down.  By more than half.  And it totally worked.  Instead of floundering in piles of work, my students began totally ROCKING the few assignments they were given.

I suggest choosing no more than 2 or 3 individual assignments each morning.  (Some of my 'fast finisher' students work on a bonus project when they are done, but for the majority of the class this is the perfect amount of work.)   Each morning my students walk in and independently begin:  spelling practice, a quick morning grammar, and cursive writing.  And I love the look on their faces when they begin to feel successful at each!

Third Grade Morning Routine:  Teach It

It's so important to make sure to explicitly teach each part of your morning routine.  Don't assume that students will "just know" how you want them to complete their grammar and vocabulary practice:  teach them to do it, and do it painfully slowly.  

In my class, we spend the first month doing our "morning routine" as a whole class, and I model each part of our morning routine multiple times.

Using my document camera I will walk students through how to practice their spelling (including where it goes when they are done!),  how I would like their grammar to be completed, and the proper formation of each day's cursive letter.

As students are ready I will gradually move from instruction to guided practice.  Here, I will write the instructions on the board and gently remind off-task students what I am expecting.

Third Grade Morning Routine:  Keep it Consistent

In my third grade classroom, consistency is key.  I make sure that every morning has almost the same routine so that students always know what to expect when they walk in the room.  I try not to change up our morning routine without a ton of notice, and I find that students respond very positively to the consistency.

When students come in each morning I write their "Morning Work" on the whiteboard along with a short cheerful message.  As each student files in they quickly glance at the board to read the message and see which supplies they will need.

One of the things I developed for my class last year was a Grammar Practice Book that specifically covered the grammar and writing skills that I felt were the most vital to third grade.  Take a peek here and see if it might be helpful for your class.

Do you have any specific things you love in your morning routine?  Anything that always works?  What about any utter disasters?  I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!

Third Grade Morning Routine tips
Planning for the First Day of Third Grade

The first day of school is exciting and nerve-wracking for students and teachers. I can remember anxiously preparing for my first First Day as a brand new teacher.  I had run through so many different scenarios in my mind of what I thought could happen. The reality was a lot more chaotic and I was so glad to have planned so much in advance.

Tips and tricks for the first day of third grade by Poet Prints Teaching

In our school, the first day is a half-day to meet teachers, find classrooms, and get orientated.  That doesn't mean I don't have to be prepared.  It's surprising how much needs to be done in four short hours, so making a plan is key.

Here are my most important tips for the First Day of Third Grade:

First Day of Third Grade Tip One:  Have a plan for school supplies.

Every school and district manages school supplies differently. Sometimes teachers purchase and organize all supplies, other times students purchase supplies from a set list.  Our school does a combination of the two.  While I purchase some supplies and am able to organize them ahead of time, students arrive on Day One with backpacks full of pencils, paper, scissors, and all sorts of other personal supplies.

So what do we do with them? Here is how I organize school supplies in my third grade classroom.

On the first day of school, I have empty dollar store washing buckets set out on my bookshelves. During the year, these will be labeled for each subject.  However, on the first day of the year, I label each bucket with the name of a school supply.

  • pencils
  • erasers
  • lined paper
  • blank notebooks
  • glue sticks
  • liquid glue

These supplies will become communal.  I put them in my back cupboard and ration them to be used for the whole year.  Students have access to my back cupboard (I try not to make most of my classroom 'off limits') but it helps to make our school supplies last all ear. 

On the whiteboard, beside a greeting to my new class,  I write a clear list of the supplies that can go inside of their cubby and/or desk (depending on the year).  These are supplies that are not communal.  When students come in on the first day, they take a look on the board, and begin to sort their supplies before meeting me on the carpet for our very first morning meeting!

First Day of Third Grade Tip Two:  Plan a fun get to know you game!

Every year, a good portion of my new students will inevitably walk in awkward and shy.  Even if I have invested time into getting to know the second graders before they left for the summer they will be nervous on the first day of school.  This is where a fun, non-threatening get-to-know-you game is key.  In my classroom, I love to use a beach ball to ask students fun facts about themselves.   Using a beach ball is a great way to get students moving, and to break away any first day jitters.  Make sure that your questions don't provoke any awkward answers.  The point is to allow your students to open up, not to embarrass them!

On her blog, Teaching in Paradise has great suggestions for how to set this activity up, and sample questions to use on your beach ball.  Check it out here!

Beach Ball Questions from Teaching in Paradise

First Day of Third Grade Tip Three:  Have something for your students do to.  

No matter how hard I plan, and over-plan, there is always something on the first day of school that does not go to plan.  (Mild chaos is inevitable!)  I make sure that my students each have a Back to School Workbook at their desks that gives them something to do during the first day (and week) back.  This way, should the unexpected happen (like a nervous parent who needs to talk, or a student in tears who needs a moment of one-on-one time) the rest of the class has something to work on.  

Back to School workbooks  also allow me to gather vital information about each of my students.  They are not just busywork.  With the workbooks I am assessing basic skills:

Can you begin working independently?

How long can you work independently?

Can you write legibly?

Can you form sentences?

Are you able to follow written instructions?

Can you infer?  

Can you make a logical connection between these two pages? 

This year, I made my students a Back to School book to specifically assess their skills and learning styles.  I want to know how they view themselves as learners, and what basic skills they may have difficulty with.  So while this book helps to occupy some students during moments of chaos in the first few days it is actually so much more.

I have two versions available:  one Bible-based version, and one non-religious Back-to-School workbook

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Back to School essential skills workbook by Poet Prints Teaching

 

First Day of Third Grade Tip Four:  Do a project together. 

Two years ago I started doing an Art project on the first day of school.  

Really.

I taught a full Art lesson.  And it was glorious.  

I don't particularly like teaching Art, but I love the way my students come out of their shells when they are working intently on something and being a little creative.  It also gives my quieter students a chance to showcase their personalities without having to be the center of attention.  

My favourite project to do on the first day back is a Lego Self Portrait.  I get the Lego template from Art Projects for Kids and follow the basic lesson from Art with Mrs. Nguyen. 

I begin by handing out Lego people around the classroom.  We talk about what students can see. What shapes make it a lego person. (Curved hands, rounded head, rectangular legs).  Then together, we sketch me!  What am I wearing?  What could I be wearing?

Then students are set free to draw themselves as Lego people.  I love seeing what they come up with.