Every year, my school does a Curriculum Night. You might call this Open House, Parent Night, or something along those lines.

Basically, parents are invited into the classroom (without their students) to learn about:

  • grade level curriculum
    • content
    • resources
    • standardized testing
  • schoolwide expectations 
    • PBIS
    • important policies like transportation changes
  • classroom expectations
    • schedule
    • behavior
    • homework
    • communication

It can be super intimidating, but it's a chance to show your parents that you LOVE THEIR KIDS and that together, WE'VE GOT THIS. 

First, the parents trickle in. This year, I had them each sign in because I had confidential paperwork that I handed out to them and they had to sign for it! (In the past, I haven't asked them to sign in.) Also on my table I had my volunteer sign up form, which is provided by my PTA, and sometimes I put my wish list there, too.

Then parents go find and sit at their child's desk. On the desk, I included a copy of our grading policy (since it's a lot of information) and a fun "quiz" to give parents something to do while they wait. I use this "Parent Night Kid Quiz" from Rachel Lynette, and it's super cute!

Once parents are done rolling in, I start my presentation. I have a Google Slides presentation that I just update each year with new information. I always start my presentation by thanking parents for coming then telling them how much I love their children. Way back when, my mom told me that that's all parents really want to know. (Moms know everything - Thanks mom!) Then I introduce myself and talk through everything mentioned in the bullet points above.

Since we switch for math classes, we let our parents swap too! I put a sticky note on each child's name tag so that the parents would easily know who their math teacher is. After I finish my homeroom, I chat with my math parents. Our math time is a lot shorter. I fill them in with a little info about me, then I only talk about math curriculum and procedures.

That's a wrap!

If you have any questions, leave them in a comment below and I'll get back to you ASAP.

BEST OF LUCK to you during your Curriculum Night / Parent Night / Open House / whatever!

No matter what type of class we teach, we always have a range of levels that requires many levels of differentiation. I know. It's a challenge that all teachers face.

However, I'm facing a new challenge this year: a split-level math class.

For me, that means half of my class is starting at the beginning of the third grade curriculum (place value and rounding), while the other half is starting halfway through the third grade curriculum (area and perimeter) and will begin fourth grade curriculum in January.


Image result for friends i'm fine

I know the gradual release model to scaffold students towards independence. I know how to differentiate to meet the needs of different abilities and learning styles. I know how to pull small groups for remediation and enrichment. But teaching a class two totally different, practically unrelated content units? This is new for me.

I stressed about it all summer, asking WHY and then WHY ME?

Well, I've been in the trenches for two weeks. I've failed a lot. I've had many discussions with my students about how adults problem-solve too by trying new things and occasionally having to scrap ideas to try and find something better. It's been a learning experience for all of us. Math is my favorite, and I'm determined to keep it that way. 

Image result for try again quote

As I shared my fears with you on Instagram, you asked me some questions about my newly-structured math block:

Why is this a thing? - Heather

Girl, you are speaking my language! I DON'T KNOW!

Okay, I do know. My district does something called "continuous achievement." Basically, students take math placement tests that place them at the level they are currently learning at. There are three levels of this model: on level, advanced, and accelerated.

Last year, I taught the advanced math class and I loved every minute of it.

This year I'm teaching advanced again... but half of the class is on level.

It's all about meeting students where they are.

What curriculum are you using? - Alison

My school adopted McGraw Hill's MyMath curriculum last year. Before that, we didn't have a curriculum, so we've used MyMath as more of a supplement for our other resources. We use some resources provided by the district as well as resources that we find on our own. We follow our district's pacing guide, which actually doesn't even match up with MyMath! #frustrating

How did you start your centers and small groups? - KC

Very slowly! We didn't do any rotations for the first week of school. During that week, we did "math about me" activities and other review activities to start of interactive notebook and classwork procedures. As a whole class, I taught them how to play some simple multiplication games (applicable to both groups), how to access my online resources, and to always check the board for the next instructions. When we started trying small groups, students completed independent activities that they were already familiar with.

As far as creating the groups, I was honest with my students. We talked about how everyone has different needs and therefore will be learning different things. I chose colors for the groups - green and orange - to match the workbooks. Trying to make this thing as easy as possible! (Sidenote: This is already driving me crazy because orange is my least favorite color!) I allowed the groups to name themselves, so now I have the Lizards and the Tigers.

On my classroom Symbaloo, I have my math blocks color-coded. Green buttons are for the Lizards, orange buttons are for the Tigers, and blue is for both.

Do you see every group every day? What does your schedule look like? - Kayla

Yes, that's the plan. I have to teach both groups a full year's worth of curriculum, so I have to meet with them daily in order to stay on pace! My math block is only 75 minutes long. We start with a spiral review to warm up, then the goal is for each group to get 30 minutes of direct/guided instruction each day.

At first, I was projecting the rotations on my board. I quickly realized that I wanted to use my board to teach my groups, but then the independent workers couldn't see their tasks. DUH. *facepalm* Thus, the guided math poster was born.

I made it by gluing and labeling colored paper, then laminating it. I write daily tasks each morning with dry erase marker. I find it really helpful to let students know what they will need for my small group so that they can get prepared quickly and independently.


Do you level independent work activities while you are working in small groups? - Stefani

Yes and no. Right now, independent activities are leveled solely based on group placement. Students pick up their independent work from a labeled tray, and turn their work in to a tray that matches their color.

I plan to eventually provide even more enrichment to students who need it in the future once we get in the swing of things, probably through digital tools like Seesaw and Nearpod.

What are you using for centers? - Katie

I use the gradual release model, so the first thing students are doing is independently practicing the new skill. So far, this usually involves a...

  • workbook page
  • interactive notebook page
  • district activity
  • Nearpod
  • Seesaw assignment

In case anyone finishes early, because they will,  I'll usually give them a followup task like...

  • iReady (adaptive math program)
  • online games (color-coded on Symbaloo)
  • practice multiplication facts (flash cards, online games, dice, card games)

How are you tracking data? - Alison

I'm tracking data the same way I did when I taught a regular math class, I'm just keeping everything separate as if it's two different classes... because it is!

  • I use exit tickets or quick checks to see which students have grasped a new concept and which need more support. 
  • I like to keep track of pretest and posttest scores for each unit so I can compare them. I do this on the checklist pages in the back of my planner. 
  • iReady is an adaptive program that my district provides, which will give me lots of data!
  • My district takes FastBridge (a screener) three times a year. 

Is there a professional book you would recommend reading before implementing guided math? - Karen

I haven't read any, but another Instagram friend, Mike, actually sent me some suggestions! (Thanks Mike, you're the GOAT!) Authors Laney Simmons and Donna Boucher have written a few books about guided math. Mike suggested Guided Math: A framework for Mathematics Instruction, Guided Math Workstations, and Guided Math Workshop. All can be found on Amazon and are relatively affordable. I've added them to my Amazon list of books for teachers, along with some of my personal favorites for teaching math.

Still have questions for me? Leave them in a comment below, and I'll get back to you ASAP!

Last year, I blogged about my first week of third grade. That's still a good resource for you if you're looking for ideas, but I did change things up just a little this year, so I thought I'd provide some more details for you.

  • Students come in with the option to read a book or draw a picture. 
  • Read aloud Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse and complete activity to make inferences about the teacher, then inferences about other students. 

  • Discuss class mantra (Be kind. Work Hard. Have Fun.) What does it mean to you?

  • Discuss team jobs (blog) - How do we take care of our classroom?
  • Teach call and response. 
  • Team building activity: cup towers. 

  • Read aloud The Crayon Box that Talked. Make chart for "Accountable Talk" to discuss how our words and tones matter. 

  • Another team building activity: tangrams (free). Afterwards, discuss. Did your team work together better this time? Were you more successful? Why? (Accountable talk!)

  • Practice drills: evacuation, shelter, & intruder - Talk about the WHY behind safety drills. 
  • Read aloud The Important Book. Students write on a sticky note what is important about them, then they do a gallery walk to see everyone else's. Start mentor sentence for the week on an anchor chart. (Students will start in their notebooks next week!) 
  • Discuss hallway procedures before walking to specials.
  • Discuss lunch procedures before heading to cafeteria. 
  • Complete "I AM" poem (free) and draw a self-portrait. (I am having my students record themselves reading these! More on this later.)
  • Start our first read aloud: How to Be Cool in the Third Grade
  • FIRST DAY task cards / SCOOT - Afterwards, go through the questions about things they are still wondering!
  • Pack up / prepare for dismissal / reflect on the day. "When your parents ask you what you did today, what are you going to say?"

  • Organize and label all binders and notebooks.

  • Read aloud: Recess Queen.  Discuss recess expectations before heading out to recess. 
  • Teach turn and talk. 
  • Read My Mouth is a Volcano. Discuss how to be respectful (by not interrupting). Talk about how to be problem solvers instead of interrupting a lesson. Students generate "What If" questions that they are still wondering about, such as: What if I need a bandaid? What if my device doesn't work?
  • Introduce Class Dojo and behavior economy.
  • Have a snowball fight! (This is always a huge hit!) Students write 3 facts about themselves on a piece of paper but do not write their names. Then they make "snowballs" by crumpling up the papers. I usually give students the length of one song to have their snowball "fight." When the song ends, they unroll and read their snowballs aloud one at a time and we try to guess who wrote it. 
  • Read Giraffes Can't Dance.
  • Watch Class Dojo "Big Ideas" video: Growth Mindset Chapter 1
  • Compare and contrast book and video. 

  • Review hallway procedures before walking to specials.
  • Quick class meeting.
  • Review cafeteria expectations then head to lunch. 

  • Pack up and review dismissal expectations. 
  • Read aloud: How to Be Cool in the Third Grade

  • First math class: 
    • Get supplies organized. 

  • Read Chocolate Milk Por Favor. Make predictions. 
  • Discuss independent reading expectations. 

  • Students practice independent reading. Teacher begins pulling students to record themselves reading their "I AM" poem. 
  • Set up writing notebooks. Make a T-chart about what 3rd grade writers DO and DO NOT do. Students brainstorm together. 

  • specials / class meeting / lunch / mentor sentence
  • Read What If Everybody Did That? and discuss implications. 
  • Review IPICK/ "just right book" procedures. Some students begin book shopping while others work on ME/WE book. 
  • Bandaid lesson: Fair isn't equal! Discuss our meaning of the word FAIR. 

  • Pack up and review dismissal expectations. 
  • Read aloud: How to Be Cool in the Third Grade

  • Math class:
    • Tour math supplies like dice, cards, cubes, flash cards, etc.
    • Give first timed test.
    • Students take pretest for unit (district mandated) while teacher grades timed tests and calls one student at a time to tell them results. On the back of the pretest, students write to tell me their favorite thing about math and their least favorite thing about math. 
  • Make predictions before and while reading Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind. Review IPICK and book shopping expectations. Students practice independent reading while some book shop. Teacher pulls students to listen to them read aloud (for about 30 seconds) and to complete the interest inventory

  • Give students a few more minutes to work on writing T-chart, then discuss as a class what 3rd grade writers do and do not do. 
  • Students look at their lists of what 3rd grade writers do and use it to make writing goals.
  • specials / class meeting / lunch / mentor sentence

  • Introduce STEM bins and create class norms for usage.
  • Introduce technology and access instructions. 
  • Girls practice STEM bins while boys practice accessing online resources (for 10 minutes), then swap. 
  • Discuss expectations for buddy reading, then practice for a few minutes.

  • Pack up and review dismissal expectations. 
  • Read aloud: How to Be Cool in the Third Grade

  • Math class:
    • Read aloud The Math Curse
    • Brain dump: Students list everything they learned in 2nd grade. 
    • Teach students how to play Battle (multiplication card game). 
    • Students choose: Play Battle or make a poster about something they learned last year.  Teacher pulls students for timed tests.
  • BrainPop: Predictions video and activity. Students glue predictions anchor chart (free) in reading notebook and use it to make predictions as we read The Juice Box Bully
  • Students practice Daily 5 rotations: independent reading, buddy reading, and Epic! 
  • Discuss what it means to be an expert. Students make a list of things they are experts at. (We will begin informational writing next week.)
  • specials / class meeting / lunch / mentor sentence
  • BrainPop: Bullying and quiz

  • Read aloud: How to Be Cool in the Third Grade
  • Pack up and review dismissal expectations. Students complete their team jobs.
    • highs & lows of the week

    Whew! We did it! 

    Here are a few things you need to know before you go to start planning your first week:

    • All of the books mentioned in this blog post are linked on my Amazon page. (Look for the list titled "Back to School Books and More." Know that when you buy something through my Amazon influencer page, I receive a small portion as commission. It doesn't cost you anything extra, but the extra funds help me keep this blog up and running! 

    • Expectations are so important to starting off a successful school year. I wanted my students' first week to be a mixture of fun and academics, but don't be fooled. We intertwined expectations into every activity. How to come to the carpet, how to transition, how to line up, and so on were all addressed each day as we worked through activities. It's imperative to start point out that expected behavior that some students demonstrate to help others get on track. (For example, "Oh my goodness, I love how John came to the carpet for our reading time! He walked calmly, he sat in a smart spot, and now he is sitting down with his hands in his lap ready to listen with his whole body. He didn't even need any reminders! Wow! Can you look like John when you get to the carpet?" ALL. DAY. LONG.)

    • Have any questions? Need any clarifications? Leave a comment on this post, and I'll get back to you ASAP!

    Year six has officially kicked off, and I had a successful Sneak Peek with my new students.

    Here's a few things I've learned throughout the years:

    1. Be explicit with visual instructions. 

    You may be mid-conversation when a new family walks in the door. Don't let them feel uncomfortable while they wait for you! 

    2. Make sure there is a (labeled) place for everything. 

    Again, you may be mid-conversation. Make your expectations clear to set students up for success right away. 

    3. Set the tone with your new students. This is your first impression, and it's important. 

    Learn their names before they arrive. 

    Smile, greet them at the door with a handshake, and make genuine conversation.

    4. Start laying the foundations to develop students' love for reading. 

    Before my students leave Sneak Peek, I ask them to pick out two books for their book boxes. Right away, I know what types of books their drawn to, and they have familiar books to look forward to on Monday morning. 

    This year, I tried an idea from my friend Alisha at Missing Tooth Grins so that I could read to my new students before the first day of school. I hope it was a pleasant surprise found in their folders when they got home! 

    If you are looking for any of the supplies you see in my classroom, check out my Amazon lists or leave a comment below.