January 23, 2014

The Scoop at School

As I said in my post last night, I've been terrible at blogging about school this year. So, this is my attempt to share some of the things my third graders have been working on since we got back from the break. 

The break that started out as two weeks and then slowly crept closer and closer to three weeks. Maybe that's why it took me a full week to get readjusted to being back at school. And, quite honestly, I'm not positive those cute little kiddos I spend my days with are adjusted yet! Ha.

Anyways, the first thing I want to share is our text-tackling strategy. Last year, about a month before TCAP, I realized that the main reason my kids were terrible at answering questions was because they had no strategies to attack the test. Just the length alone completely overwhelmed them! I know what you're thinking... Really, it took you until a month before the test to figure this out? But, remember, it was my first time teaching third grade and I just had no idea what I was doing. 

That's not at all to say that I know what I'm doing now, because I DO NOT. But, I made the decision this year to expose them to long and difficult texts, all the time, and teach them how to work through them.

So, I used the strategy I found last year and then adjusted it a little and came up with this: 

And, guys, we use it. We use it weekly, if not daily. I still teach reading skills and Common Core. I do. But, I teach them within difficult text. And, I try not to force it. Because, finding the topic sentence is practicing main idea. And cause and effect comes up in pretty much every passage we read. And, compare and contrast? It's everywhere. I just feel like it needs to come naturally. 

And, in my humble and not-so proven opinion, there's no better skill I can teach them than to be able to tackle any text I put in front of them.

I try to find passages that they'll enjoy. We've read about the Titanic, sea turtles, whales and about a million natural disasters. They really like those! Last week, I chose two passages about a blast in Siberia. One was a scientific review and one was an eye-witness account. Here are some pictures of what their passages look like when we do this: 

To this point, we've done it together mostly. We read a paragraph at a time and go through each step together. I never tell them what to underline or what to circle, but we share our thoughts and discuss what's happening in the text. 

My next goal is to get them doing it completely on their own. They've done it on their own some, but we still need more work on it. And, we've got plenty of time to practice it. If we didn't, I'd make the time. 

We've also worked on prefixes and suffixes. We transformed my extra word wall into a word parts wall. 

We use index cards to dissect the words. White cards are the root words, yellow cards are prefixes and blue cards are suffixes. They're getting better at it, but it's one of those things that I never quite feel like I can stop because they've all completely got it. Believe me, there aren't too many of those skills :)

In math, we've been focusing on graphing.  We practiced it for a week and then this week, they did a graphing project. I can take NO credit for this project! This is something that my team did loooong before I was a part of it. I'm so blessed to be on a team that works so well together. I don't say that enough. 

But, anyways, the kids got to come up with their own topic/question, collect the data and make graphs and questions to go along with it. 

To model this, I let them all have a Skittle and we graphed the data five different ways. 

Here are the projects they made:

The yellow flip books are where they wrote their questions. I was able to modify the project by giving them all different amounts of questions. 

We also started a little landform mini-unit this week. They thought this was really fun and were extremely into their projects. 

We obviously have a few more to do.

And, speaking of exciting, this little book right here has provided quite the entertainment during these freezing cold days when we can't go out to recess:

Seriously, not a single kid all week has even mentioned recess. They practically run back from lunch and then plop down on the carpet and don't say a word until I stop reading 15 minutes later. Then, they usually moan and groan and beg for me to read more. Which, I totally wish I could! I'd love to just sit and read this book to them all day long! Being as obsessed with gods and goddesses as they are, it's really been a fun experience. And, I've never read it before so it's exciting for me, too! We're on Chapter 10 and it's getting GOOD, y'all! 

Okay, one last thing. 

Look what made a return to my classroom this week: Evil TCAP Man! We are not fans of this man, believe me. But, I honestly think this "guy" is a great motivator to the kids. We tell the kids that he works in Washington and his job is to make kids fail the TCAP. If the kids pass the test, then he didn't do his job and he gets fired! They are all about getting this guy canned from his job! Each problem we do, I have the kids verbalize to me how he tried to trick them in that problem. 

Plus, it's funny when I find them staring at his picture. One kid shook her head sadly and said " He looks so normal! Why would he do this?" Ha! 

I also added a new thing to my morning meeting. We now have a class song. It's called Sieze the Day and it's from the Newsies soundtrack. If you don't know it, google it. Seriously, it's the catchiest song ever. And it's really short! We play it every morning now and the kids just sing along. We went through the lyrics and talked about what they meant and I applied it all to the Big Test. 

Sieze the Day means we're going to take advantage of every single minute we have to prepare. Seriously, if they're lethargic, all I have to say is seize the day and they're a brand new bunch!

Slay the giant means the test. That's the big thing we're facing and we're going to take it down! 

One for all and all for one means that it takes every single one of us to do our part. It's not a success unless every single person does their best.

It's just a cute song that gets those kiddos pumped up to learn every day. 

I know it sounds like I'm TCAP obsessed from this post. And, I'm really not. But, in my mind, from now until then, we're in prep mode! That will be more intensive closer to time, but it's starting now. I know some people don't believe in talking about it with the kids or stressing them about it. And that's fine.

But, to me, I think it's important to talk about it. I think they need to know it's coming because it helps them to understand why we do the things we do. And I never talk about it in an intimidating way: I always talk about how they're going to be so ready and do so good on it. I just think if you don't talk about it, it becomes some big, scary mystery. No thanks. 

Well, I've gone off on a tangent. As usual. I think I'll call it quits here and head to bed. 

Thanks for reading! 


Marianna Dunn said...

I miss very little about teaching third grade - until I read one of your posts! Seriously if I could just teach with you I would LOVE third grade!! You rock sister!

Lindsay said...

Girl, thanks! I love your blog, by the way. Cracks me up. I think we'd be great friends in real life :) Ha!

Theresa said...

LOVE the Evil TCAP Man poster! You have amazing ideas, looks like you know what you're doing to me! ;)

Anonymous said...

I really like the graphing ideas. Kuddos to your team!