Opinion writing is my favorite! There are SO MANY fun ways to practice forming and supporting opinions. I've done candy wars, Chandra's sweet vs. sour, and other fun topics. However, writing data has shown my grade level that are students are showing weakness in supporting opinions with examples and citing text-evidence.

We turned to one of our favorite resources for nonfiction texts - ReadWorks.org. ReadWorks is free for educators, so if you don't have an account yet, make one RIGHT NOW. (Seriously, now!)

So we picked some articles from ReadWorks that could provide some prompts for our opinion writing unit. We let our students choose from 4 prompts:

Should we have year-round school?
Should students wear uniforms?
Should people be allowed to own exotic pets?
Should dogs work?

After they chose their topics, I gave them the corresponding article(s) from ReadWorks. I gave them time to sit with students that had chosen the same topic to read and discuss the texts. Many of my students actually changed their stances after reading - which I loved!! Then we began the writing process. We use many resources from WriteScore (as assessment we use) to teach writing. We taught explicit lessons on introductions, choosing reasons, finding examples, citing evidence, conclusions, and so on. They turned out great!


 I ended up displaying the entire writing process so that growth is evident.

   




I printed some photographs for my students to use and gave them the option for them to find and bring in their own. Some of them even illustrated instead of using a photograph!



To make this process easier for you , I developed a product that matches everything we did in my classroom. 

I know that your opportunities are endless when it comes to teaching opinion writing, but I firmly believe that students should learn to support their opinions with text-based evidence. Each prompt included in this download has a corresponding article on ReadWorks.org (again, free for teachers!!) that students can use to research and gather evidence.

In this download, you'll find:

  • a table of contents matching prompts to articles you can find on ReadWorks
  • a brainstorming page
  • a graphic organizer for planning
  • 14 prompts


Prompts were chosen to appeal to 3rd-5th grade students. Prompts include:
  • Should students wear uniforms?
  • Are extreme sports too dangerous?
  • Should schools offer healthier choices?
  • Should dogs work?



I suggest choosing a few prompts that you believe your students will get most excited about. Then, use this resource to teach students how to support their opinions with text-based, factual evidence.

Interested? Check it out RIGHT HERE, where it can be yours to use - forever and ever - for only $3.00! 





As long as I've been a teacher, I've had parents ask me for book suggestions. I struggle the most with suggesting books for advanced readers. So many popular book series are set in middle school and contain content that I consider inappropriate for my elementary students. My third graders don't need to be reading about girlfriends/boyfriends, over the top violence, any reference to alcohol or illegal substances, or foul language.

In order to be able to suggest books to parents that are academically challenging yet age-appropriate, I've compiled this list with the help of Scholastic Book Wizard, Common Sense Media, GoodReads, and some teacher friends on Instagram. I hope it helps you out!


Level P:

  • Wayside School series
  • Rescue Princesses series
  • Puppy Patrol series


Level Q:

  • American Girl Doll series
  • Who Is...? / What Is...? series
  • Little House series

Level R:
  • I Survived... series
    • E.B. White books (Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little...)
    • You Wouldn't Want To... series


    Level S:
    • Goosebumps series
    • many Matt Christopher books
    • Roald Dahl books (Matilda, James and the Giant Peach...)
    • Lemonade War series


    Level T:
    • Animorphs series
    • Chronicles of Narnia series


    Level U:
    • The 39 Clues series
    • Secrets of Bearhaven series 
    • Warriors series*


    Level V:
    • Harry Potter series
    • Series of Unfortunate Events series
    • NERDS series*
    • Story Thieves series*
    • Spirit Animals series*


    Level W:
    • Percy Jackson series
    • Wings of Fire series* (I'm a bit torn on this one. Common Sense Media states the first book is very violent and gory, but I have students who LOVEEE the series.)


    *Books marked with asterisks were suggested by other 3rd grade teachers and then researched, but I haven't actually read them myself! 


    *          *          *          *          *


    Are you looking for some appropriate yet super-engaging read alouds for your third grade class? Look no further! I've got you covered right here






    There are so many professional resources out there for teachers to use to grow their practices, but it's so hard to know where to invest your time and money. I plan to honestly review some popular resources, and I'm starting with one of my favorites: The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo. 

    The book is organized into 13 chapters, each named with a reading goal, beginning with fluency, moving towards comprehension of fiction and nonfiction, and ending with writing about reading. 


    Pros:
    • Strategies are for reading levels A to Z.
    • Each goal has its own super-organized table of contents, ordered by increasing reading level.
    • Each page is set up the same way. Each page tells relevant reading levels and text types are appropriate to be used with the strategy, which smaller skills can be tied in, and additional tips. Servallo even gives you child-appropriate language and prompts to use when teaching. 
    • Each page provides some sort of visual aid, whether it's student work or an anchor chart. 
    • Use it with a whole group, a small group, or one-on-one. The possibilities are endless!



    Cons:
    • Fiction chapters cover plot, characters, and themes. Nonfiction goals involve main idea, key details, and text features. This means that some smaller reading skills are either missing or hard to find relevant strategies for practice. Some skills that I have found to be lacking include identifying genres and understanding cause and effect. 
    • You won't find common core standards listed anywhere in this book. Of course, that's only a con if your district heavily emphasizes the CCS. 


    I already loved my Reading Strategies Book, but then I found these tabs for free on TPT. Now I love this resource even more! I printed them on cardstock, laminated, cut, then just used clear packing tape to attach them.


    Final Grade: A

    I use my Reading Strategies Book weekly - if not daily. It truly helps me meet the needs of all of my students in engaging, memorable, time-effective ways. Should you treat yo'self? Absolutely! 



    I posted an image on Instagram recently and got a huge response that I wasn't expecting. 

    We're all having the same problem, right? I'm glad it's not just me! 

    If your students are anything like mine, they can tell you what makes a great sentence. They can tell you that it starts with a capital letter, ends with some type of punctuation, has correct spelling and neat handwriting... but they're not doing that in their own writing. 

    So they have the knowledge, and they also have the application skills. If I ask them how their sentence is looking, they can quickly notice and correct their mistakes. 

    Apparently, writing with correct conventions hasn't become a habit. I'm not sure if that's related to effort... or what. 

    So my thought was that if it's related to effort and motivation, what can I do to make my students care more?

    We talked about what it means to be an author and when we will need to use writing in real life (aka ALL THE TIME).

    We also talked briefly about work ethic and how their work reflects back on them. I said something along the lines of, "You can tell me that a sentence needs to start with a capital letter. So if I'm hanging your work in the hallway and your sentences don't start with capital letters, what does that say about you and your work ethic?"

    Lastly, we talked about the word oath, then we wrote our Author's Oath. 




    After students signed the oath, I hung it up on my wall in plain sight. So now when we are working on writing, I constantly remind my students to remember their oath. If students are forgetting aspects of correct writing, I'll just ask them, "Are you following your author's oath?"

    I've had a few teachers ask me if the oath is in my store or available anywhere for download. The answer to that is no, and it's not going to be, because you need to write the oath with your students. Kids aren't going to take the oath seriously - or take any responsibility or ownership - if it's someone else's words. They need to come up with it themselves.

    Use my picture as a reference if you want, but don't show it to your students! It's only going to be meaningful to them if they create it themselves and feel that sense of ownership and responsibility. 

    Hopefully it'll pay off for us!

    If you're looking for some resources to help your students become better writers involving grammar, conventions, etc...

    • I use mentor sentences by Jivey and they're amazing! Mentor sentences make such a huge difference in my students' understanding of grammar and writing conventions. See them all here
    • Also, Kim Bearden does a great, interactive punctuation lesson about teaching students to be "Grammar Police." Such a fun way to practice punctuation with your students! See it here
    • I do have a resource of my own that has worked pretty well with my students. My "Missing Punctuation Paragraphs" are paragraphs that are missing punctuation. There are four different levels - involving various types of punctuation - and students have to figure out where to place punctuation and capital letters. You can read more about it on this blog post


    Good luck - We've got this! 



    Hey teacher.

    You're incredible.

    Do you have a variety of flexible seating options for students to choose from?

    You're a great teacher.

    Do you [still] have desks?

    You're a great teacher, too.


    The seating options we provide our students certainly impact students' learning environments, but they do not define you as a teacher.


    Flexible seating is amazing. Search #flexibleseatingclassroom on Instagram, and you'll find more than 5,000 images of gorgeous, modern classrooms. Students are working in spaces that are comfortable for them: couches, bean bags, picnic tables, and so on.

    Is it for me? No. 

    It's just not. As a teacher, I like order, and clean lines, and structure. As a student, I like having a spot to call "mine" that I can return to at any time for a feeling of comfort and security.

    The closest I ever got to flexible seating was when I swapped to tables for a few years. This gave students the ability to choose their own places, and I lowered about half of the tables for students to sit on the floor if they wanted to. They loved it and I loved it, but then I moved to third grade.



    In third grade, we do standardized testing. In the classroom. This is why I had to switch back to desks.

    Sad, I know.




    It's okay if you still have desks.

    I know this, because I still have desks. 



    I still have desks, and I know my students are learning.

    I still have desks, and I know my students are happy.

    I still have desks, and I know I'm being the best teacher I can be right now.





    In my opinion, the idea behind the educational buzzwords "flexible seating" is empowering students by providing them with CHOICES and opportunities to create their own path for effective learning.

    Empowering students through choice increases intrinsic motivation, engagement, and sense of ownership, all of which in turn increase achievement.

    I still have desks, but do I force students to sit at their desks all day? Of course not!

    If I'm teaching whole group, students can sit at their desks or on the carpet.

    For partner work, group work, or independent work, they can sit anywhere. I always encourage them to choose a "smart spot" where they are able to do their best learning. Rugs, pillows, and tables/desks are all we need!





    My students are comfortable in my classroom because of the way I treat them.
    The relationships we have and the way I manage my classrooms allows students to feel comfortable, safe, and secure in their learning environment.

    Have you enjoyed creating a classroom environment with flexible seating trends?

    You're an amazing teacher.

    Do you [still] have desks?

    You're an amazing teacher, too. 









    Whether you are looking to #treatyoself, add items to your wish list, or shop for the amazing teacher in your life, this is the list for you!

    Here are 5 items I truly CANNOT imagine my classroom without:


    1. PAPER CUTTER

    This is one of those items that I didn't know what I was missing until I had this in my life. I use this ALL. THE. TIME. Seriously, at least once a day. I use it to pre-cut interactive notebook pages and cut out lamination (all the task cards)... It is truly a major #timesaver.

    Mine is a hand-me-down gift from a retired teacher, but it's by Swingline. You can find a similar Swingline paper cutter HERE. It's 15", self-sharpening, and has a safety lock... win, win, win!



    2. CORDLESS GLUE GUN

    Yes, this is a thing. It actually exists. It works great, and it's so handy. It's so much more convenient than your regular glue gun that you'll actually use this one more often!

    Surebonder doesn't make my model anymore - It's 5 years old and still going strong - but you can find a newer version HERE.



    3. STRATEGIES BOOKS

    Okay, this may be a *little* less exciting than the other gadgets, but I truly LOVE these books. I use The Reading Strategies Book DAILY. I don't use the writing one as much, but I aspire to! It's great for writing conferences.

    Honestly, I try not to spend a ton of personal money on my classroom, so these books were on my Christmas list last year, and Santa delivered. I am oh so thankful, because they are a literacy gamechanger!!

    Click to check out The Reading Strategies Book and The Writing Strategies Book


    4. A CAMELBAK. Or maybe 5. 

    Recently, a student asked me if I have a different color water bottle for each day of the week, and I totally said yes. I literally have 7 of these in my house. I've been a Camelbak user for about 10 years now (!!!) and if that doesn't prove my love for them, I don't know what does.

    For our health, it's important to stay hydrated. For some reason, the Camelback straw helps me drink water faster than I would out of a normal water bottle or cup. Don't ask why, because I don't know, but my first Camelbak truly turned me into a fish and taught me how to love drinking water!

    Here's why I love Camelbaks in the classroom:
    - The insulated bottles don't sweat. Put it on your papers, on your planner, whatever.
    - They don't spill. I held my water bottle upside down the other day to amaze my students. (I was looking for the capacity label on the bottle, and they all gasped, not yet knowing how magical the Camelbak is.) That means you can throw it in your teacher tote at the end of the day and not worry about spillage. Whoohoo!
    - Save the environment, duh!

    You can find the style I like here. Add a monogram sticker for more fun!



    5. COMFY SHOES

    For teachers, comfy (but stylish) shoes are a MUST-HAVE. We're on our feet all day long, which can get painful!

    I have 3 pairs of these Dr. Scholl's Madisons that I plan to wear all winter long.

    For warmer months, I love sandals by Vionic




    What are your 5 things? Any must-haves I'm missing, besides a big stash of Advil and candy? Let me know in a comment below!





    **This post contains Amazon affiliate links. By purchasing an item from Amazon using these links,  I will receive a small commission on your purchase, although your price stays the same! I use that commission to keep my blog up and running. Thank you!**





    I receive a lot of questions about how I run my literacy block. At my school, our schedule is blocked out, but I have freedom to arrange my own blocks (if that makes sense). So my literacy block is 9:40 - 11:15, and this is what I've decided to do with it:



    We start right away with our minilesson. Students are fresh from recess and eat their snacks while I read and model strategies.

    From there, students move into their Daily 5 rotations. (Our school using CAFE & Daily 5, but I don't have time to rotate students through 5 stations daily, so I make sure some aspects of Daily 5 are integrated throughout the day!)

    I keep this as simple as possible. I occasionally change it up, but rarely!





    I have a chart in my room so students know exactly what their options are for each rotation.

    During this time, I pull small groups. You may notice I do not include myself as a rotation. I do this in order to provide flexibility for myself. Sometimes, I don't need to work with all students in one group, depending on the skill I'm teaching. Sometimes I pull students from multiple groups. I probably end up doing strategy groups more often than guided reading groups, so it just makes sense to me to leave myself out of the rotations. (I use The Reading Strategies Book (affiliate) to hold my strategy groups... more on this later!) I try to pull students when they are working on buddy reading, since I know they'll be buddy reading at my table with me!

    After our rotations, we take a quick brain break (thanks GoNoodle) before transitioning into writing. I do a quick (10 minutes or less) grammar lesson at the beginning of our writing time. It's definitely hard to find time to fit it all in!

    Writing looks a little bit different every day due to lack of time. On a typical day, I teach a minilesson and then students have the opportunity to try it with a partner or on their own.


    Any further questions about how I run my literacy block? Leave a comment below, and I'll get back to you!






    I am SO thankful for you, so I thought I'd share a freebie with you that I hope will be useful in your classroom!

    My text features products are some of my absolute favorites.




    I originally created them my own classroom. I needed a way to assess my students’ understanding of text features other than by observation, and I wanted the assessment to tie in curriculum and relevant content. Thus, this product line was born. The kids have fun using different colors to identify the different text features, and it provides great work samples for me. I first made them about science and social studies topics, then biographies, then holidays!

    I'd love for you to download the Thanksgiving text features passage for FREE! 






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      At the end of the first quarter, teachers at my school are expected to hold conferences with each child's parents. This is the third year that I have chosen to do student-led conferences, and I don't plan on ever turning back! Let me tell you why:

      • It takes a LOT of pressure off of me. Students do a lot of the preparation and the spotlight is on them. 
      • Students take responsibility for their own learning, behavior, and progress. 
      • Students get to practice their speaking and presenting skills. 
      • Parents see their child in an environment and situation that they do not typically get to observe. 
      • Teachers can see how students interact with their parents, and parents can see how their children interact with the teacher. 
      • Students, parents, and the teacher work together as a team to set goals and determine next steps. 
      It is truly amazing. It's an excellent learning experience for the students - and for the adults - and the sense of pride they walk away with is priceless!

      When I first started researching student-led conferences, I read two super helpful blog posts: this one by Brooke Brown and this one by Alisha from Missing Tooth Grins.

      I actually use most of Brooke's student-led conference product combined with some of my own handouts that I create for the students and parents.

      In the weeks leading up to conferences, we prepare a little bit at a time by completing about one page a day. (This includes self-evaluation checklists and work samples.) Students keep everything in their data folders. Once all the papers and work samples are ready to go, we start practicing! We make two lines in the hallway: one for students and one for "parents." Students buddy up and take turns presenting their conference materials.

      They begin by welcoming their parent to the classroom, saying hello to me, and telling their parent where they can sit down. Then, they just follow their checklist!


      Yes, this takes some class time - maybe 20 minutes a day for a few days - but I believe that the time is valued by building those speaking and presentation skills.

      Conferences last for about 15 minutes, but I keep a buffer of 5 minutes between conferences just in case one runs over! Any behavioral or academic concerns that need to be addressed with the parent should come as no surprise to both the parents and the student. I think it's a great chance for all three parties to talk together to hold students accountable for making improvements.

      If parents don't bring their students, I simply use the materials that they prepared to hold the conference. It goes just fine.

      Are you thinking about trying student-led conferences? Let me know in a comment below!


      I'm really trying to be better about holding writing conferences this year.


      These simple questions have completely changed the quality of my writing conferences:
      🔹What did you write about? Why?
      🔹What was the easiest part of your writing process?
      🔹What was the most challenging part?

      I've found students to be very open and honest. It's helped me build relationships and obtain valuable insight. It makes note-taking easy!


      As for feedback, I'm just using sticky notes. It's easy, fast, and they stick right in students' notebooks! For now, I'm making a "Glow" sticky note and a "Grow" sticky note. This keeps conferences short and sweet, just like this blog post. ;)

      If you're looking for a conference log, I have one that you can download for free in my TPT store! 

      Happy conferring!