It's almost that time! *sigh*

I've learned a lot about standardized testing throughout the years - unfortunately. Here are 4 of my favorite ways to help reduce my students' testing anxiety:


1. Put a Positive Spin On It

Your language is important and will absolutely impact your students' attitude towards the test and therefore their performance. Start saying things like, "This is your opportunity to show how much you've learned this year," and "Your parents and I cannot wait to see how much you have grown!"

Image result for kid president quotes

Do you test in your classroom? Me too. That means I have to use butcher paper to cover up basically everything in my room, which is U-G-L-Y. One idea to make it better: Write inspirational quotes on top of that butcher paper.




2. Read All The Books

There are many books about testing, but it's also a great time to talk about reducing anxiety and having strong work ethic. Here are some of my favorites:



Testing:

Reducing Anxiety:

Building Confidence:

*These are Amazon affiliate links. The products are at no extra cost to you, but I do receive a small portion that I use to keep this blog up and running. Thank you!*


3. Gather Letters from Parents

I love the Internet and all of the amazing ideas out there! One concept that I adopted last year is having parents (secretly) write letters to their children to be distributed on the first day of testing.

I write a letter explaining the process and include it in an envelope along with a blank note card. You can be cheap, but cute, note cards at Dollar Tree or in the Target Dollar Spot.

Kids LOVE this, and I would guess that it does wonders for their moods and confidence levels on day one of testing.


Want me to send you my letter template so you can edit and use it for your own students? Join my newsletter list below, and I'll send it straight to your inbox immediately!

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    4. Lots of Yoga and Affirmations

    Don't underestimate the power of some yoga and affirmations in the morning before testing. GoNoodle has plenty of yoga options for kids, and some of them are themed!

    After students have their testing areas setup (since we test in our classroom), we take a moment for some yoga to get blood pumping. Then, simply do some repeating of affirmations.

    Here are a few examples:

    I am well-prepared for this test.
    I have what it takes to rock this test. 
    I can stay focused and do my best.
    I have strong stamina. 
    I am smart.
    I love being challenged. 
    I can do hard things. 
    This test does not define me. 


    *               *               *               *               *

    Okay, teachers, get out there! Maybe do some yoga and affirmations of your own as we enter testing season. WE'VE GOT THIS!

    Just a reminder - this test does not define YOU, as a teacher, either. 
    You're amazing, no matter what.




    So I heard you love Ivan as much as I do... !

    We finished reading last week, but my students weren’t ready to let go yet!

    I love completing these activities after I finish reading The One and Only Ivan to my class. I don’t tell them that it is based on a true story until after we finish the novel. The surprise makes the content even more captivating and engaging!



    Ivan was actually adopted by Zoo Atlanta - where we live! - which makes my kids go crazy with excitement! We spent 3 days using these resources. Day one was for researching, day two was spent comparing and contrasting, and on the last day, students chose a newspaper prompt and wrote their articles.

    Of course, it’s totally up to you how you wish to use these resources. I like to give my students plenty of time to research on their own using QR codes linked to kid-appropriate news articles and videos.  . You may want to copy the “Field Notes” or "Observations" pages double-sided depending on how much time you are going to give your students.


    The Venn diagram is great for hitting that compare and contrast standard (RI.2.9 or RI.3.9), while the writing topics are great for assessing those opinion writing, narrative writing, and point of view standards.

    You can check out my Ivan resources HERE. I hope you find them as engaging as I do and that you enjoy using them with your students year after year after year! 


    Want to save this idea for later? Pin this image: 






    I was shocked to find out that most of my students had never read A Bad Case of Stripes! It’s usually a back to school book for me, but pulling it out in February to help us talk about empathy and compassion was perfect! 

    I tied it in to our reading skill - comparing perspectives - and then we had a class meeting to reflect on what makes each of us unique and why that’s so important. 


    To take it a step further, students wrote about something that makes them unique. I snapped some quick pics and printed them on computer paper for students to color over. It looks great in the hallway! 

    Want this writing template? Simply join my email list (no spam - I promise!) and I'll send the freebie your way immediately! 

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      Talk soon!

      We recently finished one of my favorite units: pollution and conservation.

      Over the years I've gathered ideas and resources that I thought you may be able to use to freshen up your own science unit!

      1. READ

      Integrate your new topics into your literacy block. There are SO MANY wonderful options out there - both fiction and nonfiction - that you can use to teach reading skills while also building background knowledge for your students.


      I used some Scholastic Reading Club points and my public library to stock up on texts related to our unit.

      Favorite fiction: The Wump World

      Favorite nonfiction(ish): The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle

      Based on a true story: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

      You can find all of the above and the rest of my favorites linked on my Amazon list under "Conservation Books."




      2. EXPERIMENT

      A coworker suggested this idea and I am going to use it EVERY YEAR from now on.

      For one day only, I hid the trash cans in my room. Each student walked in to find a gallon Ziploc bag on his/her desk in the morning. They were tasked with carrying their waste around with them ALL DAY. Every piece of waste students made - paper towels, snack, lunch, bandaids, and so on - was placed in the bag and carried with them to PE, recess, and home at the end of the day.



      We had a great discussion at the end of the day to reflect on what we learned.

      Were you surprised by how much waste you created in just one day?
      Think about how much waste we create in a week! A month! A year! 
      What can you do tomorrow to help eliminate waste?
      What can you work on changing to limit the waste you create?

      I, for one, was shocked by how many sticky notes I use and toss each day! #teacherproblems


      3. EXPLORE & EXTEND


      I love choice boards. My students love choice boards. We all love choice boards!

      I have used them for every science and social studies unit this year. The use of choice boards provides students with opportunities to extend their learning down paths that they find interesting. They can select tasks aligned with their learning preferences and therefore their engagement skyrockets.

      At the end of the unit, students get to present their products which is great practice for that speaking and listening standard.



      You can find this particular *completely editable* choice board HERE.


      4. APPLY & CREATE


      For a culminating project, we read City Green, a story about a girl who cleaned up and repurposed an empty lot in her neighborhood. Then students were then tasked with solving a problem of an empty lot in our own town. We showed them examples of blueprints and proposals before they made their own. First, their proposal had to be approved by "the city," AKA me. Then, "the city" had to approve of the blueprints before students could create a 3D model.




      This "Land-Reuse Plan Proposal" page came from a resource my school has called AIMS.



      Their ideas were so creative, and of course building 3D models is always fun for all!



      5. REFLECT

      I'm a big fan of tying science and social studies topics in with writing to make writing more meaningful for students. This is the perfect opportunity for a prompt like "Recycling is important because..." or "We can take care of our Earth by..."

      If you are teaching opinion writing, that's even better!

      I love pairing this writing activity with Art With Jenny K's Earth Day Agamographs. They make for an amazing hallway display!



      Have fun teaching one of my all-time favorite topics! 






      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.