Halloween falls on a Thursday this year - AKA a full school day... YIKES!

Don't be too frightened; I've got some ideas to help keep you sane on one of the spo0o0okiest teaching days of the year.

Need a class pumpkin?

It's not complicated or fancy, but I actually loveee this basic class pumpkin - simple and sweet! I'm totally doing this again this year.


#easiestideaever

Need a read aloud?

I love reading Junie B books during the holidays. They are hilarious and timeless - even my third graders love Junie B! The short chapter books are easy to read to your class in a week - or even just a few days - in order to cover those holiday bases and then move on.

Junie B's Halloween book is called Boo, and I Mean It. It's less than five bucks on Amazon!



It's perfect for discussing character traits because, well, she's one of my favorite characters ever!


Need lesson plans to keep you - and your students - sane?

No problem, friend! I've got you covered.

Are you looking for an engaging resource to make Halloween meaningful, academic, yet super-engaging? Want a simple, no-prep resource that you can use ALL DAY long on a crazy holiday? Are you hoping to cater to varying learning styles and free up time for yourself to enrich or remediate as needed? Look no further!

WHAT'S INSIDE?

It's PowerPoint document containing two editable choice boards: one for literacy, and one for math. 18 unique tasks (9 on each board) were designed to engage your students while also reinforcing skills. This choice board was designed with 3rd grade in mind, but you can edit to fit the needs of your classroom.

There are 6 additional pages that you can print to go along with the choice boards if you wish. 3 of the math tasks and 3 of the literacy tasks have matching printables that are an option to provide structure for students who may need it, but not at all necessary!




WILL IT WORK FOR ME?

Save your sanity on Halloween, and use it all day long! Copy it front to back, and ta-da!

The tasks on the choice boards are completely editable. There are 9 tasks included on each choice board, which are the 9 tasks I use (or would use) in my own classroom. If you have your own task or activity that you want your students to complete, you can add that in too!

You will need basic classroom supplies like construction paper, notebook paper, writing utensils, markers, crayons, and technology.


*               *               *               *               *

You've got this, teacher. Have no fear. Halloween is near, but we've totally got it under control. Most importantly, remember to HAVE FUN. They're only young once! 


   



Choice boards are a staple in my classroom. I've explained why and how to use choice boards and even how to easily create your own choice boards, but what if you're just getting started, and you aren't sure how to begin?



Trying something new in your classroom can be daunting, but I'm here to help you answer this question:

How do I get started with choice boards?

When your students see a choice board for the first time, they will likely be overwhelmed by the unfamiliar layout and amount of print. Combat this by explaining how much you love choice boards - remember that your excitement is contagious! Explain that choice boards allow the students to choose how they learn and how to show what they learn. It's intended for students to choose tasks that interest them in order to deepen their understandings.

In order for students to be successful, you'll need to set expectations. The higher your expectations are, the more your students will achieve!

At the beginning of the year, I discuss and display exemplars to show students the quality of work that I expected from them.



Click here to view and use my exemplars.

After the first few choice boards, students are pros and will likely not need exemplars anymore in order to create quality work.

One problem I've had with choice boards in the past is students rushing through tasks to try and get them all done. We had to have a class meeting to discuss that getting all 9 things done is not the goal. Creating something to enrich your knowledge and to demonstrate your understanding of the content is the goal! We just need to change their mindset.


How do I grade choice boards?

That's easy - I just don't!

It's completely up to you, but in my classroom, choice boards are used for remediation and enrichment. It's something students work on after they finish class assignments.

You could definitely grade a few pieces of the choice boards, most easily the tasks that tie in to reading or writing, but you'd have to create a rubric. That's not for me at this time, but it's definitely a possibility!





What do I do with the products?

I have my students hang on to their choice board and their products in a folder throughout an entire unit. To wrap up a unit, I have a "presentation day" (usually right before or right after the test). Students love to present their work to the class! They are so proud to show off their hard work, and they get to work on those speaking/listening skills.

Choice board products make a great and super easy hallway display! Students can hang up their work as they finish something they are truly proud of. Your hallway display will be cohesive yet differentiated - win win!



When the unit is all wrapped up, students take their work home to make room in their folders for a new choice board. I've found choice boards to be extremely successful and rewarding in my classroom, and I hope they work for you, too!



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Are you new to teaching third grade?

Whether you're a newbie or a veteran teacher, here's what you need to know:


1. Multiplication is king.

Multiplication RULES third grade math. Our standards say that students must memorize facts within 100, but it doesn't say how we have to do it. Lots of games and teaching of strategic thinking can make multiplication the norm in your classroom! Additionally, skills that students learn later in the year (finding area, etc) comes so much easier when they don't have to stop to think about what 7 x 8 is.

Math Slide is always a hit! 


Here are some simple ways to build fact fluency:

  • Classic flash cards - because some students benefit from having the answer on the back to check.
  • Dice in a cup! Place two dice in a cup. Students shake then determine the product. (Tip: Use foam dice for noise-free fun!)
  • Play "multiplication war" with regular ol' playing cards. Students play in pairs. Each child flips over a card. The first to say the product wins the cards!
  • Online games on RoomRecess.com: My kids love Fast Facts and Shot Clock
  • Math Slide (free app - up to 4 players at a time on one iPad!)
  • Class games like Around the World. 


2. Kids are done learning to read; They're reading to learn. 

In third grade, you likely will not be teaching any sort of phonics anymore. Although you will teach fluency and comprehension strategies in small groups, reading for understanding is the focus.

When it comes to books, less is not more! 

Maintain a print-rich environment in your classroom. Visit the library in your school (or the public library) to fill your shelves with lots of books about your current science or social studies content. Students love perusing books and finding interesting facts to share; They are truly reading to learn at this stage instead of learning to read. 


3. Get ready to dig deep.

In third grade, students are prepared to dig deeper into content than they ever have before. They are curious and love the act of researching topics that interest them. I love the depth of understanding that third graders have and the high level of conversations that we can have during class discussions.

My students love choice boards so much that I have one for EVERY science and social studies unit! 

One way that I encourage my students to dig deeper into content is through the use of choice boards for my content areas. You can read more about my choice boards here. The plethora of options empowers students to dig deep into content, making learning meaningful and memorable!

4. Writing is a serious hurdle.

There's a big learning curve for third grade students when it comes to writing, in Georgia at least. The expectations are high, but their experience is (typically) minimal.

We do a lot of practice to get students ready to write constructed responses. That means they write answers to open-ended or free-response questions. But of course, there's a process. They are expected to restate the question to demonstrate understanding of the question, answer the question in full, and cite evidence from the text and/or explain thinking.

Yeah, that's a lot. Prepare to be overwhelmed for your students to be overwhelmed, too.

Luckily, there are tons of awesome resources on TPT regarding the strategy that I use in my classroom, RACE. You can make RACE practice fun by playing games such as musical chairs to practice answering open-ended questions.



On another note, one of my favorite units that I teach to my third graders is opinion writing with text-based evidence. You can read all about it here.


5. Testing. You know the drill. 

I'm sure that you already know how HUGE testing is in third grade. (Boo.)

It's super stressful boring, but I *suppose* it's a little important.

I think the most important thing is to not let our anxiety as teachers overflow into our students. I've written multiple blog posts about how I approach testing in my classroom.





In both blog posts, I give book suggestions and explain activities that I do with my students to mentally and emotionally prepare them for standardized testing days. 

Are you ready for this?

You've totally got this, third grade teacher. And if you get stuck along the way, I'm always here to help, just an email or a DM away!




Pin me!




I'm not sure what I want to be when I grow up. I'm loving the classroom right now, but I think I'd eventually like to move towards teaching teachers.

Over the summer, I was looking for some books to read to help myself grow into a teacher leader, so I asked my community on Instagram to share suggestions.

Note: 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!


You guys gave some awesome suggestions, and I promised I'd share:

5 Levels of Leadership by John Maxwell
Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler
Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
How to Thrive as a Teacher Leader by John Gabriel
Lead Like a Pirate by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf
Life is Short, Don't Wait to Dance by Valorie Kondos Field
Shaping School Culture by Terrence Deal and Kent Peterson
Start With Why by Simon Sinek
Step In, Step Up by Jane Kise and Barbara Watterson
The Disney Difference by Wayne Olson
The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon
The Truth About Leadership by James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Here's the whole list on Amazon. 

Of all of the recommendations, Dare to Lead was BY FAR the most recommended. I borrowed the eBook from the local library and fell in love with Brené Brown!

I think Step In, Step Up is next for me. What's next for you?





This post was made possible through the support of Cochlear. All opinions are my own.

It’s back to school season, so I bet you’ve spent lots of time arranging (and rearranging) your classroom! As we all do, I’m sure you’ve spent at least a little time reflecting this summer on how you can improve this year. 

One area that I’m aiming to grow in this year is to better meet the needs of my students with exceptionalities, including kids that suffer from hearing loss. 

As a Cochlear partner, I’m excited to share some research-based suggestions to help you set up and manage your classroom in order to best meet the needs of any students that you have in your classroom now - or in the future - with hearing impairments. 


STRATEGIC SEATING 

Students with hearing loss should have priority seating towards the middle of the classroom, with proximity to the teacher and visual aids. The goal is to position the child so that he or she can get the best auditory and visual information from the teacher and other students. Make sure that his or her seat is also located away from noisy windows and doors. Fans and air conditioning can produce a lot of noise, too! 


IMPROVE YOUR ACOUSTICS 

Background noise can make it more challenging for children with hearing loss to understand the spoken language. Rugs, pillows, curtains, and cork boards help absorb that background noise and improve the room’s acoustics. Covering chair legs with felt or tennis balls helps, too! 


TRY A MINI MICROPHONE 

Some students may benefit from your use of a Cochlear™ Wireless Mini Mic 2 or 2+ so that your voice stands out clearly. This makes listening and understanding much easier for a hearing-impaired child in a busy, noisy classroom.

GIVING INSTRUCTIONS 

Have high expectations for your students’ behavior. Wait for the whole class to be quiet and respectful before giving new spoken instructions.

If a student with hearing loss needs additional support, alternate giving directions with actionable steps. That way, the student can take a break from the concentration needed to hear and then process instructions.


WORKING WITH OTHERS

When working in groups, reduce the number of students in each small group. Less students means closer quarters and less people’s conversations to keep up with. 

If necessary, you can use the buddy system. Let classmates take turns being the child’s “hearing buddy.”


PREPARE WELL  

Depending on your situation, you may need to inform school staff and classmates before the child starts school. Providing information about hearing loss in general, as well as the child’s specific hearing impairment and device, can help minimize teasing that occurs due to ignorance. Teach the class about basic strategies to make listening and communication easier for their hearing-impaired classmate.


Although these suggestions are a good starting point to make learning more accessible for your students, it’s just the beginning! Find more information, including a guide for teachers, on Cochlear’s Live Life Learning site.

Views expressed are those of the individual. Consult your health professional to determine if you are a candidate for Cochlear technology. 

Please seek advice from your health professional about treatments for hearing loss. Outcomes may vary, and your health professional will advise you about the factors which could affect your outcome. Always read the instructions for use. Not all products are available in all countries. Please contact your local Cochlear representative for product information. 



@Cochlear Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Hear now. And Always and other trademarks and registered trademarks are the property of Cochlear Limited or Cochlear Bone Anchored Solutions AB.


I used Class Dojo to manage student behavior this year.

It was AMAZING.

If you've never heard of Class Dojo, you're in for a treat.
 If you are a Class Dojo veteran, can I get an AMEN?!

ABOUT CLASS DOJO


Class Dojo is an online program that I can access from a computer, my iPad, or even my iPhone. Students can earn or lose points all day long, no matter where we are in the building. Students can earn points by setting a good example, staying on task, and following directions. Students may lose points if they demonstrate behavior that is disruptive to the learning environment.

Class Dojo also has the ability to create reports, which are great to use for report cards and parent conferences. You can check reports for today, yesterday, this week, last week, this month, last month, all time, OR a custom date range. It's incredible!

The best part about Class Dojo is that parents can create their own Class Dojo parent account and log in at any time to check on their child’s behavior. At the end of the week, Class Dojo will automatically send parents an email summarizing the child’s behavior for the week. Cool right?





CLASS DOJO TIPS AND TRICKS 


Did you know...?

Behaviors are customizable. You can create your own behaviors that you want to award or take away points for. I don't like to have a TON of behaviors because it can get confusing. I do like to have "recess," "lunch," and "specials" as behavior options, especially for negative behaviors. If I feel like I need to give a parent more of an explanation, like that Susie lost a "lunch" point for throwing food, I can send the parent a private message.


You can give class points. Just click "Select All," then choose the behavior. Each student will receive a point. I give class points for "Specials" if the class receives a good report from their specials teacher for the day. I also give points for "Teamwork" if they can pack up before the 3-minute timer goes off. It's great for encouraging them to help others. 

It's great for bribing. I bribe my kids with points ALL THE TIME. "If you bring your progress report back TOMORROW, signed, you get a responsibility point!" "If you bring your field trip form and money before Friday, you'll get a responsibility point!" I never have to call parents to remind them to sign something or send something in; The kids do all the bugging for me because they want that point! It's amazing what some kids will do for one measly point. I say "jump," they say, "how high?" (Not really, but you know what I mean.) 


You can change the avatars. Students can create their own monsters by creating student accounts. Or, as the teacher, you can create new sets of avatars completely! See this post on My Little Firsties for step-by-step directions to create avatar sets.

BEFORE
AFTER (Next time I do this, I'm going to choose only pictures with white backgrounds. They look better.)

ADD THE ECONOMY

On Fridays, usually every other week, students trade their Dojo points for classroom rewards such as eating lunch with a friend, going to recess with another class, or using a special pen for a day. Bigger prizes will be worth more points, teaching students the concept of earning, saving, and spending. 

I have a menu that I've printed and laminated. I made it on Google Drive so that it's easy to update throughout the year.



Want to use my reward menu as a starting point? Enter your information below to join my VIP list, and I'll immediately send you the link to access the menu on Google Drive. 

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    After I have spoken briefly with each child, I reset all of the points - only for students who bought prizes - back to zero. (This does not delete history for data, just current points!)

    { Side note: Currently, Dojo does not have the capability to delete just a specific amount of points. You only have the option to set it back to zero. }

    When students buy a prize, I write the prize that the student bought on a sticky note and stick it behind my desk on my filing cabinet. I know it's sloppy and not very pretty looking, but it works for us! I don't have to keep up with prize cards or hand anything out to kids. On a day that works for me, I place the sticky note on the kid's desk before they arrive at school. They know what that means! 



    REASONS WHY I LOVE ME SOME CLASS DOJO AND WILL NEVER OWN A CLIP CHART AGAIN


    As IF you actually need any more convincing.

    1. It does the parent communication legwork for me. Parents can receive behavior information EVERY night, if they want to check the app. They can also check it throughout the day, and behavior points are timestamped! 

    2. The messaging feature is great. I can easily text parents without giving out my cell phone number, and parents can easily send me a quick message. They know I am likely to see a Dojo message before an email since I use Dojo all day long. I can text individual parents, or send a "broadcast" to all parents. (Can you guess how I got all of my parents to sign up? I offered the kids points for each parent that registered - duh!)

    3. It's a great nonverbal prompt for students who need to correct their behavior. I don't say a word. I just choose a child that is on task or setting a good example, I make sure my volume is turned up, and I give them a point. That "ding" makes the rest of the kids straighten up without me having to reprimand.




    4. It's FUN. The kids love it - really. They love changing their avatars and seeing their peers' avatars. They love seeing how many points they can earn in a day, and they work hard to do so. 

    5. It focuses on the positive. Yes, I take away points. Often. I'm harsher now than I was at the beginning of the year. The sad sound that Dojo makes during a point loss sometimes hurts my heart just as much as it hurts the kid's! (And some days it just feels realllly good.)

    All that being said...


    Class Dojo works so well for me, and maybe some of it will work for you. 

    Let me know if you have any questions about Class Dojo or if you need any help!

    Note: This post is in no way affiliated with Class Dojo. I am not receiving any perks for endorsing it. I JUST LOVE IT THAT MUCH! 

    Kids. They're so great, but boy can they get LOUD.

    I like to maintain a fun, exciting, interactive classroom environment, but with exciting activities comes excited voices. As you know, students get louder and louder in order to be heard over each other until they are no longer using inside voices.

    I have an easy tool for you to have students self-monitor the volume of their voices in the classroom. This awesome management trick was a fabulous idea that I saw on Pinterest way back before my first year teaching!



    I love to play music in my classroom. Music is a great way to help students manage the volume of their voices, especially when used with the NOISE letters for support.

    When students get so loud that we can no longer hear the music, I ring my bell, and take down a letter.

    Students have three opportunities. If they lose the E, then the S, and then the I, the letters will spell NO. That means no more talking for a set amount of time. I usually set a timer on the board for five or 10 minutes depending on the situation.


    It's simple. It's quick. It's visual, and it's effective.

    It's worked for me for seven years now!


    The concept is also cheap!

    I bought the foam letters that spell NOISE from Hobby Lobby. I put magnetic tape on the back of the letters so that I could display them on my board.

    Happy new school year!



    Tieks. I am SURE you have heard of them, especially if you are a teacher that frequents Instagram and educational blogs. Tieks have a reputation in the online world of educators for being the go-to workday flats.

    I have issues with shoes. (Okay, maybe it's my Achilles that are the issue.) I especially have trouble with flats. Before I found Tieks, I also hadn't found any flats that I could comfortably wear to run errands, much less comfortable enough to teach in all day. Pairs of unwearable flats were stacking up in my closet as my frustration grew, trying to find a professional shoe to wear during the colder months. After weeks of researching, I finally made the decision to try some Tieks. #treatyoself


    The first pair that I bought was leopard, because in my opinion, leopard is a neutral. When they arrived just a few days later, I was sooo excited to wear them to school the next day! At the end of the day, my feet felt.... well, just fine. I didn't feel like I was walking on clouds or anything, but I didn't have any pain or blisters either.

    Here I am wearing Tieks on crazy sock day - ha! #teacherlife

    I've found that Tieks do require a little breaking in, but it is nothing compared to any other flats I have ever put on my poor feet. "Breaking in" Tieks for me involves a little bit of redness on the top of my foot from tight leather and a few days of the soles squeaking on the tile floor at school. After a few wears, the tightness and the squeaking are both gone forever! 


    Oops, I did it again. I bought my second pair a month later. I decided to be a little more practical the second time around and went with matte black. I wear them at least twice a week.

    After purchasing and wearing two different pairs of Tieks, I was sold on the company.  This was years ago, now. Since then, I've slowly grown my Tieks collection, mostly through birthdays and holidays. Yes, Tieks are expensive, especially on a teacher budget. (I feel you!) But you know what else is expensive? Wasted money! The value of the crazy amount of uncomfortable (and therefore unworn) shoes that sit in my closet day after day because I can't bear to wear them to work surely exceeds the amount I've spent on Tieks.

    These flats are truly comfortable. Seriously, I even wear them on the weekends! I have never had any heel pain, Achilles pain, arch pain, or blisters of any kind. Finally, I found a professional flat I can wear all day long when it's too cold for sandals. What a RELIEF!



    Not convinced yet? 

    Guess what I did next. 

    On eBay, I sold some of my prized possessions: designer flats... that just so happen to be the worst things I've ever put my feet in. I made enough money off of them to feel a little less guilty about the money I spent on Tieks. They were gorgeous, but... Let's just say that I hope the girls that purchased them sit at desks all day long and never have to walk more than ten feet. That is all.

    I was a little sad when I dropped them at the post office, but I have no regrets. Good riddance, uncomfortable "shoes."

    champagne, cardinal red, leopard, matte black

    My collection has grown to include gold, cardinal red, mint, champagne, and taupe. I have an entire shelf in my closet dedicated to Tieks, and my husband doesn't even mind! Even he knows that they are a great investment - ha!


    I have to say, leopard is still my favorite and definitely my most worn pair. I've had them for four years now. They've held up great and are comfier than ever! They're my go-to shoes for teaching, traveling, and running errands. 


    What are you waiting for? Have you tried Tieks, or are you going to try them?

    Most importantly, which color are you dying to add to your closet?! I think cobalt is next for me...



    Are you a teacher? Please follow my journey to see where my blueprints take me! My favorite space to hang out in is Instagram - @schoolandthecity. I look forward to connecting with you! 




    Disclaimer: I received a pair of shoes at no charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.