Friday, September 26, 2014

Word Study

The year is already flying by!  The third graders have been working hard and are settling into routine!  This week we kicked off our third grade word study (spelling) curriculum with the review of short vowels.  Each week we will focus on learning and reviewing helpful spelling patterns and generalizations, with the goal of students transferring this knowledge to their own writing. 

All third graders will not being having a “traditional” Friday spelling test.  As a district we have been studying best research in reading and writing instruction because of the frustration of students memorizing words for Friday, but forgetting how to spell them the next week.  Instead we will focus on other research-based strategies to help students become effective spellers in their writing.

I will include information about our weekly spelling focus on the weekly calendar sheet that comes home in the back sleeve of your child’s blue folder each Monday.  This will help you review the spelling patterns we are learning with your child at home. You can also work with your child to brainstorm and practice additional words that follow this same pattern.  At school we will work with the patterns daily, and also assess each students’ word study knowledge in their own independent writing (where it really counts!).

Each student will be given a username and password that they can use online at Spelling City.  Their username and password will be written inside their blue take-home folder for easy access.  I will upload words that match our weekly pattern to this site, and it is a great way for students to practice their spelling.  They can access this site online at and/or download the iPad app for use at home also.  I really encourage you to take advantage of this great resource!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Busy Scientists

Angela Bries presents "Insect Inquiry"
A big thank you to Angela Bries, Howard County Naturalist, who came to our classroom on Tuesday, Sept. 23rd to present a program on insects.  Students enjoyed learning about types of insects, insect body parts, and other factual information.  They were even challenged at the end of the program to identify whether different "critters" were a insect or not an insect.  Be sure to ask your third grader about what they learned.

We are continuing our study of animal and plant populations in our classroom.  We recently introduced an ant farm to the room and are enjoying observing those ants.  Students are also practicing puppet plays about animals and plants that they will present to some of the younger classrooms.  It is a great way to combine reading fluency instruction with science.  They are also excited about making their paper bag puppets to use with the puppet plays.  We have some very creative students!  Topics we will be discussing next our adaptations of living things, predator and prey relationships, and food chains.  Finally we are patiently waiting the arrival of some other "creatures" next week that will find a home in the plants we have been growing.  Hint- We will get to see food chains in action.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Skype with Mrs. P

 If you can tell a story- you can write a story!

Mrs. P's Storytime

On Wednesday, Sept. 17th, the three 3rd grade classes met in the Discovery Center to participate in a Skype call with Mrs. P (aka television's Kathy Kinney) from California.  Mrs. P hosts a free website at, and she loves to share her passion for reading and writing with young people.   Students enjoyed hearing about her inspirations for writing, listening to her tell tales, and also being introduced to her annual "Be a Famous Writer" contest.  Students had a chance to ask her questions about reading and writing.  Thanks Mrs. P for visiting our classes!

Our class has been busy developing their passion for writing, and their writing stamina this fall.  It has been fun to watch their excitement over getting their thoughts down on paper.  We have discussed many ways to get ideas for stories.  We are finding that the best stories come from our own lives and experiences.  We also are finding that good writing takes work and lots and lots of practice.   Writers go through stages to make their stories the best that they can be.  Be sure to encourage your young writer and ask them to share what they are writing about at home.



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

International Dot Day- Sept. 15, 2014

Monday, Sept. 15th is officially the celebration of "Dot Day."  This day is based on Peter Reynold's book The Dot, which reminds us that everyone can be creative and make a difference.  We carried that message into our classroom- you are special, show your creativity, and don't be afraid to make a difference.  Throughout the day the students participated in different "Dot" themed activities.  Many of them also came dressed in dots!  Below are some snapshots of our day.

Students work on creating their own unique coffee filter dot to display in our

 classroom gallery.

Many dots were worn on Monday.

Dots, dots, and more dots!

"Dotted" students!

Our coffee filter dots after being sprayed. 

"Dot Day" photograph safari around the school.  These pictures were later used in PicCollages.

Creating Doodle Buddy Dot Masterpieces

We ended the day by looking at some "Celebri-Dot Creations" and with some fun dot activities.

Using the Doodle Buddy app to create a dotted picture.

Creating dot pictures.

Adding to our classroom dot mural.
Our class can make a positive mark on this world!

Creating 3D dots out of paper strips.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Our Literacy Classroom in Action!

Elementary schools revolve around reading and writing.  Those skills are so important for the children we serve to develop and master.  Our classroom uses the "Daily 5" framework to provide plenty of opportunities for our kids to authentically work on these areas on a daily basis.  This framework allows students to become independent in their reading and writing practice, so the teacher can have plenty of time to work with small groups and individual students.  You will not see a lot of worksheets or busy work when you observe our literacy block in action.  Instead we strive to have kids read and write at their own levels on topics that interest them.  The beginning of the year has been spent developing these routines and developing student "stamina."  We have also been learning and reviewing our reading strategies in comprehension, accuracy, fluency, and vocabulary.  We will soon be getting ready to kick-off our small guided reading groups.  Here are a few glimpses of the kick-off of our Daily 5 routines in our classroom.

Read to Self is always a favorite.  Nothing beats curling up with a fabulous book and getting lost in an awesome story!  Reading takes a lot of practice, so remind your students to be reading at least 15-30 minutes daily at home too.

Work on Writing is quickly becoming another favorite time as students brainstorm and talk about their interests during mini-lessons and then write about things that are meaningful to them.  It has been awesome to see their excitement during writing time.

Students eagerly anticipated the launch of Read to Someone.  It is great fun to share a story with a classmate.  Plus each student gets to be a reading coach during this time as they help their partner use their reading strategies successfully!  Ask them what it means when they say "Time or Coach."

 We keep our "Good Fit" books in book bins.  Every Friday we get to go to the library to check-out books.  We also get time to "Book Shop" in the classroom to find all those great books to fill our book bins.  Students are reminded to use the "I PICK" Strategy to help them find that "just right" book for them!

We also use "Listen to Reading" as a way to hear good models of fluent reading and to practice our listening comprehension.  We will be using different websites and apps to do this.  A student favorite is Reading Eggs on the laptops.  We will also be introducing Book Flix and True Flix (available through Keystone AEA's On-line Resources) as a place to check-out some great books.  Students can access all of these resources at home also.  We have been putting their passwords into their blue folders, so if they have trouble logging-in check there.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Fuel Up to Be Fit!

Another week has flew by!  Friday afternoon our school enjoyed our annual wellness kickoff.  At 1:30 the entire school met in the high school gym for a short assembly.  This year's theme "Fuel up to Be Fit" was announced as we continue to emphasize healthy eating and exercise.  The administration team shared some of their favorite fitness activities.  The cheerleaders have also choreographed a dance routine and taught the moves to the student body.  It was fun watching everyone "jive" with the music.  Following the assembly, students were dismissed outside.  Elementary students were treated with delicious smoothies and then had fun dancing to a DJ and bouncing in bouncy houses. It was a great way to celebrate the importance of our health.  At home I encourage you to talk to your kids about what physical activities they enjoy.  Also experiment with trying and cooking with different fruits and vegetables.  It can be a lot of fun!

As we look to next week, we will continue practicing our routines, review previous concepts, and start introducing new information.  In science we will continue exploring plant and animal populations.  In math we will examine the different ways to use numbers including making and reading graphs.  In literacy we will continue to expand on topics to write about and exploring "Good Fit" books for each person.  We have introduced our CAFE strategy board and have been adding strategies to it to help us comprehend better, read more fluently, and learn new vocabulary.  There is so much to learn!!!!  Have a great week.