2015 - Amber from TGIF (Third Grade is Fun)

Fall Classroom Activities for Busy Teachers

I have such amazing memories of Fall and Halloween from when I was little.  As an adult, I love this time of the year, BUT it can be exhausting too!  So....I am sharing some tips as a veteran teacher of 21 years.   

At our small school, we don't have an art or music teacher.  I want to expose my students to both, but on top of all the other items I prep every week and add in data collection, SLO's, intervention documentation, I feel a bit stretched each week.  I have found my saving grace in The Art for Kids Hub on YouTube. The artist on the video, Rob, is fun to watch and he knows just how to explain everything in kid friendly terms.  He is also so encouraging and helps kids understand art terms and that each piece will be unique.  

Our first attempt with this video/art combo went so well that we have already tried more!  Rob explains step by step how to draw these cute pumpkins and how to blend and shade each part.  The ONLY supplies we needed were white paper, a black marker and oil pastels (but we just used regular crayons and it worked out great).  My students were so engaged!  Here are some pictures of my students' artwork.  
Each pumpkin is hand drawn by the students and then they add shading and blending techniques.  My students learned so much about using more than one color on a section, how to blend the colors, and how to use shading techniques to give it a realistic look.  Each student then added their own flair to their pictures and we hung them up on the wall.  The BEST part of this was it took less than 30 minutes from getting out supplies to hanging the artwork on the wall.  I call that a MAJOR success.  We even tackled an origami project in less than 30 minutes this week.  

I am telling you that you will thank yourself for incorporating The Art for Kids Hub into your week.  It is a wonderful brain break for you and your students.  Check out the video here:

I am also excited to share with you one of my students' favorite games to practice their division fact fluency.  The Monster Bump Division Game is available in my TpT store.  This is my go-to game when my students need fact fluency practice.  Busy teachers need easy to create games for their centers and practice time.  All you need to do is to print the game board and the game cards (fact cards) that you want your students to practice and have some type of game pieces.  (I use Unifix cubes.)  It really is THAT SIMPLE.  My students request this game ALL the time.

If you are interested in a similar multiplication bump game, here is Bump That Paw! Multiplication Game.


Halloween Classroom Story Elements Stations

October is finally here and along with it comes a flurry of activities!  As teachers we need activities that the kids will be excited about and so will we!  Every year I start the year off with a lot of non-fiction and I transition to fiction in the month of October.  What a perfect month for fun, wacky fiction, and I kick it off with a story elements unit.  

Here are some of my stations.


1.  Listening Center - Let the group pick a fictional story to listen to and then record the problem, events, and solution.  You can pick this sheet up for FREE in the link below from my TpT store.  

<<<Story Elements FREEBIE from Amber from TGIF>>>

2.  Writing Center - This writing activity really helps students understand that the solution in a story must be tied to the problem.  Let your students write their own story about a problem they once faced and how they solved it.  Put each sheet on a clip board, add some colored pencils and put it all in a basket.  DONE!  This sheet is also free in my TpT store with the link just above.

3.  Story Elements Sort & Match - There is so much you can do with these cards!  There are 24 sorting cards with the categories of character, setting, problem & solution.  First, I have my group sort them.  (Put all the character cards together, the problem cards together...)  Then they must then match the character, setting, problem and solution that would make a complete story.  I then challenge the group to complete it in 5 minutes or less and then a third time they must beat their previous time.  Then I have them mix the cards all up and turn them over so they are looking at the blank side.  Now they can play memory match.  (A match would be turning over two problem cards or turning over two setting cards.)  These cards are great to add to your permanent centers too.  

<<<The Story Elements Sort and Match is available in my TpT store too!>>>

4.  Reading Center - Now for the center that I leave up for the WHOLE month of October!  You can see from the pictures below, I just use what I have - I don't run out and buy anything.  I make a tent in my classroom and leave it up all month long.  (I am sure the janitor LoVeS me.  Hehe.)  This year I used PVC pipe my husband had and old sheets to create my tent.  In previous years I used my daughter's old pink princess tent and not one single student complained!  I did drape a sheet over it though.  In a basket, I add The Closet Creature story (available for free from Super Teacher Worksheets), story elements page, and comprehension questions on clipboards.  Then I add the MAGIC - FLASHLIGHTS!  The group climbs into the tent and reads the story out loud while tracking the words with their light.  I keep the tent and flashlights out all month and I add books like Black Lagoon, Goosebumps, and There's a Nightmare in My Closet.  My students love getting to read in the tent with flashlights.


Fall in Love with Teaching Blog Hop

Well, most of us have made it through one month or more of teaching.  Congratulations!  We have survived thrived through the most exhausting part - back to school.  Now that you are starting to establish a routine, it is time to let loose (okay, don't let the reins loose on maintaining discipline) and fall in love with WHY we chose teaching as a profession in the first place - helping students.  

Do you have students who struggle in math?  Recently I had a student who struggled with adding ten to any number (9 + 10 more).  Since we were adding multiple numbers and numbers in the hundreds, I knew I needed to intervene and soon!  Number sense is crucial to students becoming fluent mathematicians.  Students need a good grasp on strategies when counting, estimating, measuring, adding/subtracting, and multiplying/dividing.  Without number sense fluency, students struggle with all math concepts. Out of this struggle, came two number sense activities.  

The following two number sense activities are available in my TpT store.  Click here to see these Number Sense Activities from my TpT store or create your own following the instructions below.   

1. Race to 100

Materials needed:  two different color dry erase markers, laminated 100's chart and cards that say "10 more", "10 less", "1 more," "1 less."  

Students will shuffle the cards and lay them face down.  Partners will take turns drawing and moving their way up or down the chart.  (If you are at 1 and draw a "ten/one less" card then you lose a turn.  Players use their color of dry erase marker to mark their new spot on the board.  The player who reaches 100 first is the winner.  

Number Sense:  This activity was a huge help to my struggling mathematician, since they finally started to recognize the patterns (10 more means that the tens place changes but the ones place stays the same) after repeated play.  

2. Pentomino Puzzles to 120

Materials needed:  2 Pentomino sets per puzzle you want to make.

The two Pentomino sets need to be constructed in two 6x10 arrays (click here for a link to an image).  Number the Pentominoes from 1 - 120.  Deconstruct and put them in a Ziploc bag.  Students will construct the puzzle using the numbers as clues for the placement.  This will be harder than you realize for your students who struggle with number sense (patterns, mental math, making math judgement).

Challenge your students who master this concept by making more challenging puzzles.  Try writing only the even and odd numbers or just random numbers.     

 Number Sense:  These Pentomino Puzzles help students become familiar with place value, ten more/less, one more/less and number patterns up to 120.  For those that struggle, these puzzles can help their number fluency with repeated practice.  Encourage your students to not just complete one, but to also try to beat their time!  I am especially glad I spent time on this when my students get to elapsed time.  It is a huge help when they have to add 20 minutes to 4:23.  

Science Fun AND Learning - Lava Lamps

This lava lamp lesson is so quick and easy!  Bonus points!!!!  The students love it and are so engaged with lots of discussion.  Solutions, mixtures, suspensions, density, molecules and polarity - oh my!  This lesson has it all.  Yes, even the teacher will love this lesson.

any clear plastic bottle with a lid, vegetable oil, water, food coloring, funnel, duct tape and Alka-Seltzer tablet

1.  Fill the bottle 3/4 full with vegetable oil, and fill the rest (almost to the top) with water.  (Make this step go faster - you can already have this step done since it has potential to be the messiest.)
  •  If you would like to, let the students put their caps on tightly and let them shake the two substances.  This is a great opportunity for a discussion on suspensions (see below).
  • Make sure you give enough time to let the oil and water separate again before adding the food coloring in the next step.    

2.  Add 3-5 drops of food coloring.
3.  Break the Alka-Seltzer tablet in half.
4.  Add the half tablet to the bottle and watch in amazement!  When the bubbling stops, add the second half.
5.  When the bubbling stops again, put the lid on tightly and put a piece of duct tape over the lid and the neck of the bottle to secure it.  
Science Discussion Questions
When adding the water to the bottle with the oil:
  1. Why does the oil float to the top and the water sinks to the bottom?  (the oil has a lower density - a teaspoon of oil weighs less than a teaspoon of water)
  2. Are the water and oil a solution, mixture or suspension?  (suspension because they separate over time)
  3. Have you ever seen a sheen (rainbow colors) in a puddle?  That is oil floating on the water. Or have you ever seen an oil tanker spill in the ocean?  What happens to the oil? (floats - but can be cleaned up since it is a suspension)
When adding the food coloring:
  1. What happened when we added the food coloring?  (the food coloring slipped through the oil and began to spread out and mix with the water)
  2. Why did it mix with the water and not the oil?  (Food coloring's main ingredient is water.  Water molecules are polar and the oil molecules are non-polar.  They are attracted to the molecules that are similar, so water molecules "hook-up" with other water molecules.  Oil molecules "hook-up" with other oil molecules.)
  3. What do I mean by "polar?"  (Polar means that the water molecules have a negative end and a positive end.  The positive and negative ends hook together [+-+-+-] just like magnets do.  That is why when we shake the bottle, the oil and water seem to mix up, but they pull back together - just like if you pull two magnets apart, but the snap right back together.)
  4. Is the water with food coloring a solution, mixture, or suspension? (solution - you cannot separate the water from the food coloring again) 
**  Magic School Bus Meets Molly Cule is a great book or video to explain molecules.  **

When adding the Alka-Seltzer:
  1. Why is the Alka-Seltzer creating the bubbles?  (It is creating a gas - carbon dioxide.  As the gas rises, it takes some of the colored water along with it.  When it reaches the top, the gas escapes and the water floats back down because it has a lower density.)

Don't forget to take a few pictures to share with parents.  They love knowing their kids are learning through activities and not just in the book!

Add Adventure to Your Math Class!

Using a math curriculum helps us focus and prepare as teachers, but let's face it, using that book every day can be BOOOOORRRRRING!  Let me be clear - I DO use the book, but every chance I get, I ditch the book and we try to get our hands a little dirty (using the book lesson as a framework).  Here are some ideas to add a little adventure to your math class:

1.  Use dice.  
In this picture, my students were practicing subtraction with and without regrouping.  Instead of completing all of the problems from the textbook, I showed my students a few examples, left them on the board and then paired them up!  Each student received 3 dice (yes, that's a lot of dice, but Dollar Tree has cheap "eraser dice" that don't make noise) and laminated paper with subtraction frames so they could use dry erase markers.  Both students rolled all their dice and they would write the larger number in the top frame and then subtract the smaller number.  I just floated from group to group and helped reinforce any concepts or clarified when the partner answers didn't match.  
They can also use dice to multiply two numbers  (roll 2 and 4, then multiply).  Write fact families by rolling two numbers (2 and 4)  and write them as fact families.  (2+4=6, 4+2=6, 6-2=4, 6-4=2)  

2.  Add a manipulative.

Food is always a great motivator!  In this case, my textbook had a lesson that was mixed addition and subtraction as a review before the test.  Rather than complete the whole page, I had them fold a paper in fourths, and we wrote two problems in each of those fourths with a circle (about the size of a quarter) between the two math problems.  Here's where the MAGIC took place.  I opened a bag of candy corn (peanut free - yeah) and placed one in each circle.  (Cheap motivation!!!!  4 pieces of candy corn per child.)  I asked the students to make the candy corn show which problem they thought was greater than/less than (making estimates) AND THEN do the math to figure the sums and differences (exact amounts).  They could then change their greater than/less than symbol (candy corn) if they needed to.  I was able to hop around the room checking each student's paper.  If they received a star on that section, they were allowed to eat one piece of their candy corn and move on to the next two problems.  

You could also use pretzels or Bugles.  If food is not an option, use triangles from your pattern blocks.  

3.  Get them up and moving.
I have found one of the best ways to keep my students focused is with lots of movement.  In this case, I was using 3 Digit Addition with Regrouping - Pirate Riddles task cards, but you can simply cut a worksheet up and post the numbered problems around the room or in the hallway.  Give your students a clipboard and a sheet to record their work and watch them focus.  I can't quite figure out the allure of it all, but when the students walk around from math problem to math problem it is sort of like a mini brain break between each task.  I have NEVER had students off task while doing this activity (shhhhh, don't give away my secret - we do it a lot).  Most of the time, I pair students up (since we are usually practicing concepts) and I just walk around, answer questions, and check random problems.  That's right!  I don't check every answer!!!  Woot woot.  However, you could use this idea as an assessment and have them complete it as individuals.  
Some of my rules are:  1.  You must whisper since you don't want to give the answers away to your neighbors.  (Haha - I trick them into being quiet.)  2.  You don't have to complete the task cards in any order, but you must write the # down so you make sure and visit ALL the task cards.  3.  Only one partner group can be at a task card at a time.  

I hope this inspired you to ditch the worksheets for an occasional lesson and have a bit of adventure!  Your students will be so engaged, you will wonder why you didn't try it earlier.

4.  Sort, Sort Sort!

I love using math sorts in the classroom.  It makes math hands-on and the students can reuse the sorts again and again!  This is such a HUGE time saver for me because after the original copy work, we can use the sorts for days (or even months when I stick them in my centers)!

Why math sorts?
- It helps your students think critically.
- It makes math meaningful and more engaging.
- The sorts can be used multiple times.
- The kids don't even realize they are learning.  It is more like completing a puzzle.
- Math sorts works well for your visual and kinesthetic learners.
- Did I mention, it saves the teacher lots of work and minimizes copies?

Want to give them a try for FREE?  Check out these sorts:

This free multiplication sort was a HUGE help to my students who were really struggling with the vocabulary.

1.  I made copies on cardstock and then had my students color the candy corn with markers.

2.  Next we stamped (or used stickers) to make the cards self-checking.  Since there are 3 sections (word, math representation, and definition), we put 3 matching stamps on the back.

3.  Now we cut the 3 sections apart.

4.  We mix up the cards and have them facing up.  The students read the cards and try to match the 3 sections up correctly.

 5.  When they think they have them sorted correctly, they can flip them over to see if their picture match!

6.  We will put them in a bag and sort them once per day for at least a week.  I also put one of the sorts in my centers for continued used throughout the unit.

P.S.  Can you find the mistake in the pictures?  Oopsie!  It has been fixed.

Here's a equivalent fraction freebie sort!

At the beginning of using these sorts, I give my students a white board and dry erase marker with these sorts.  This way they can draw pictures of the fractions before sorting them.  As they practice them several times, they are able to begin sorting them without drawing and just visualize.

Do you want to add lots more sorts to your centers?
There are more sorts available in this 3rd Grade Math Centers bundle.


Splish-Splash, It's a Summertime Blog Bash

Summer is ... (this close) ... for me!  Just a few more days and then I can let my teaching mind relax for a bit.  

I am SUPER excited to be participating in my very first blog hop - Splish-Splash It's a Summer Time Blog Bash!  I have had the opportunity to work together with almost 50 teachers!  That means you will have the opportunity to get almost 50 FREE teaching resources AND almost 50 opportunities to WIN a teaching resource on these amazing teacher's blogs.   Check out my Blog Bash freebie and awesome giveaway (there are 4 ways to enter) and then click the next blog button at the bottom to get another freebie and enter another giveaway.  Keep on hoppin’ till you get back to my blog and you’ll know you’ve competed the whole hop! 

Since the temperature is getting hotter and hotter here in my part of the world, I want to give you a way to cool your students down while they are still practicing much needed concepts this summer.

 Swim on over to my TpT store and snag this limited time freebie.  It is free for this week only (May 25-29, 2015).  Make sure and grab it now before our Blog Bash is over.  

Enter the Rafflecopter below to win this Ordering Fractions Game with Cards  + ANY resource from my store of your choice!!!!! 

You could win two resources to help make your last few days of school a little easier!  Take advantage of all the entries to better your chances of winning.

Congratulations to the winner:  Claire McCarthy

a Rafflecopter giveaway

These are pictures of my family and what our life REALLY looks like.  We have been blessed to have visited Disney (but we WANT to go back) and go swimming.  Mostly though, our summers just consist of cleaning the house and catching up on all the things that get neglected during the school year.  We finally really clean our bedrooms and search for those missing socks.  We clean the garage for my husband every Father's Day (and I mean clean as in pressure washer clean).  

And ...... like all of you incredible teachers out there, I spend a lot of my summer creating for the upcoming school year.  Thank you fellow teachers for all that you do every summer to prepare for your students to make the next school year even better than the last.  

Head on over to IgnitED's blog for more freebies and giveaways.

What are your doing this summer?  (School, home or fun related)

Summer is Almost Here - Keep Students Learning with a Photo Scavenger Hunt

The end of the year is closing in and the students are tired; and let's face it - so are the teachers!  So....how do we keep our creative juices flowing as teachers AND help the students focus on their school work?  

Have a photo scavenger hunt!  

 There are so many possibilities.  Give small groups a camera or a tablet and send them out to investigate.  You could challenge them to find examples of figurative language in any book in the room and have them snap as many pictures as possible in a certain amount of time.  In science, they could take pictures of simple machines such as inclined planes, levers, or pulleys.  

Make a list of several items you want your students to review.  You could make a cross-curricular list - don't be afraid to mix it up.  It will keep the students active and engaged.  Here is an example of a few ideas:

1.  Take a picture of a preposition from any chapter or picture book.
2.  Find an example of a 3 syllable word and take a snapshot.
3.  Take a picture of parallel lines.
4.  Find a map with your state.  Point to your state while taking a picture.
5.  Complete this multiplication sentence on a dry erase board and snap a picture of your completed work.  (42 x 3)  - Don't forget to erase your work.  

Last year my class completed two separate math photo challenges and they loved being able to move around and use the iPads/cameras.  Students had to be secretive though because they didn't want everyone else to see what they were taking pictures of.  It was an exciting (yet quiet) real-world review of math.  

Here are some of the pictures my students took last year during the scavenger hunt and the sheets that I used.  If you aren't ready to make your own photo scavenger hunt yet, but would like to give it a try, you can check it out at the TGIF Teachers Pay Teachers store.  

I would love to hear what you tried.  

Back to Top