Friday, January 27, 2017

Using Weebly Blogs as "Cloud Storage"

This year my school has 2 computer labs that the elementary classes can access, when they are not being used for testing. I also have 6 computers in my own classroom that students use regularly, so we have quite a bit of access to technology. However, we don't have any school specific "cloud storage." So, at the beginning of the year, my students would begin typing a story in my room and then we would go to the computer lab and they wouldn't be able to get to their story. My school alsodoesn't allow flash drives because some students were accidentally bringing viruses to school with them. So I had to think up a quick way to have "cloud storage" for my students. 

Use weebly to create cloud storage in the classroom - ideas from Raki's Rad Resources

I decided to have my students type their writing on their very own Weebly blogs. This way the students could work on their writing anywhere that they had access to the internet. We generally type in the computer lab, but my fast finishers can use those extra 5 minutes to type on the computers in my room. My slower typers can continue typing while we move into another activity, or even take the typing home for additional practice. It's been a life saver this year, and on top of that the kids have created nifty little "writing portfolios" where they can see their own writing progress and share that progress with their family and friends.

Creating Weebly blogs is quite simple. As a teacher you can create up to 30 blogs for free on your account. Then the students can access them with their own individual usernames and passwords. The students have the ability to individualize their blogs and to create many different kinds of posts, including those with picture slideshows, hyperlinks and embeded text. This year on their blogs my 3rd graders have:

 - published realistic fiction stories

 - published narrative stories about a time they were brave

 - published informational articles about animals where they added pictures with captions

 - completed a 2 day "quick write essay" about a book we read in class

Next week the students are publishing their completed storybirds by ebedding the HTML code directly into a blog post. While this may sound complicated, Weebly is set up on a very intuitive drag and drop system that the students pick up on very quickly. In fact, the students often figure out additional things they can do with their blogs that I didn't even know was possible. This is generally because kids are more open minded than adults, and because they have more time to fiddle around with things.

So if you're looking for an easy and free "cloud storage" or a way to make student blogs, Weebly is the place to be.

*** I am not in anyway affiliated with Weebly, these are own observations based on really using this website with my own class.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

3rd Grade Hallway Displays Connected with Serious Learning

My hallway displays are often very minimal but right now I have a few cute displays that I would like to share with you. The reason I generally don't have great hallway displays is that I refuse to do "cute" for "cute's sake". Every assignment in my classroom connects to a math or literacy skill. These assignments just happen to allow students to create "cute" products while they are working on real skills. 

Text to self connection posters to increase reading comprehension and engagement - created by Raki's Rad Resources.

My class has been working on text to self connections. The students made connections with this week's story The Frog Princess using my Reading Strategies Response Posters. The students loved getting to decorate the posters in any way they chose and I loved getting them to write good, solid text to self connections.

Multiplication and division fact family houses - a great way to introduce students to the inverse relationship between multiplication and division - created by Raki's Rad Resources.

Understanding the inverse relationship of multiplication and division is an important concept for my students to understand. I usually teach this concept through fact families, stressing to students that in a fact family only the numbers who "live" in the house can be a part of the related multiplication and division sentences. These houses help students with this concept, because the only number tiles they are provided to make the house are those of the "relatives". These houses are a part of my Fact Family Interactive Notebook Pages.

Mystery genre book reports with many different creative ways to present your understanding - created by Raki's Rad Resources.

My students' Mystery Book Reports created a great wall display that was very individualized. Each student read a different mystery and had a different choice on how to present their comprehension. The book reports in the picture are "haunted house posters", comic book summaries and a diorama.

What is in your hallway display right now?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

3rd Grade Lesson Plans for the First Week Back from Winter Break

The winter holiday for me is always a time to relax and enjoy time with my family. I recharge my batteries and then right before it's time to go back to work, I do what I call "super planning sessions" where I look at what we have left to do during the school year and I map it out. Then I turn the idea map into a series of lesson plans. Taking the real break before I start planning allows me to come at my plans with a clear mind and not the frustration that has often built up by the craziness of those final weeks before the holidays. 

So yesterday I sat down and wrote out four weeks of lesson plans. I worked subject by subject and walked through what I want to accomplish in the coming weeks. So for example I did 4 weeks of math lesson plans first, and then moved on to our shared reading plans for the same 4 weeks. This allowed me to connect my guided reading plans to my shared reading plans and my writing plans. One reason I enjoy lesson planning for multiple weeks together is that I can see the links that I want to build for my students betweeen the various lessons. I'm kind of a big picture person.  

Now I have only sent next week's plans to my administration because as much as I like to plan, I live in the real world and I know that nothing in life, and very little in my classroom works exactly as planned. So on Friday of each week I will take five minutes and look over where I planned for us to be and where we actually are. Then I will adjust the plans as necessary. When I get to that last week that I have complete, I will repeat my original process and plan out another month of lessons.

Now that I have shared the process I use to create my plans, I'd like to share with you my actual lesson plans for this first week back from winter break. Each Friday or Saturday this school year I will be posting my actual lesson plans here on my blog.

3rd grade lesson plans with activities and center suggestions from Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

We start our day with Math every day. We review homework, begin our calendar books and take our daily timed fast fact quizzes, which my students call "number sprints". 

Then we do problem solving centers. I copy and paste each of the word problems from my lesson plans onto my problem solving graphic organizer (which is available at my TPT store in an editable format). Then I work with a small group of students on that problem while the remaining students work in small groups to solve the same problem. We have 30 - 45 minutes for this activity so many of my students finish the daily problem early. When students finish their daily problem early, they work on our problem solving path journals or tiling puzzles.

Once we have finished problem solving, we spend an hour on math rotations. Many people would call this time "guided math". However, for me this time is different because I very rarely do whole group lessons during Math, so this is really my minilesson teaching time. There are some days that I teach the same lesson 3 times as students rotate through their centers. However, more often the students are working on independent practice while I am there to guide them. While students are not with me, they work on calendar books, practice math facts and work on IXL.

3rd grade lesson plans with activities and center suggestions from Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

After math we have about 45 minutes and we use that time for writing. This week we are going to use the excuse of the new year to look back at the writing we have already done this school year and make some writing "resolutions" for the new year. We will also start exploring Story Bird, a great website for creating online storybooks. My students are going to be using this website to create their own folktales.

Lunch follows writing and after lunch (and recess and bathroom break) we work on grammar. A portion of our time goes to reviewing Daily Language, which we use as homework. Then we will spend time working on our parts of speech worksheets from my parts of speech unit.

Also featured on this part of my lesson plans is our country study project. We only do country study on Fridays. Fridays are an early relase day and the day my students take all of their "specials" - PE, music and keyboarding. So rather than try to squeeze in math and literacy too, we do all of our science and social studies on Fridays. My students chose countries earlier this year and we are working through monthly units using those countries. This Friday we will begin our science unit on rocks, soils and fossils. First we will learn about the types of rocks and then they will figure out which of those types of rocks can be found in their country. The students build incredible buy in to each of our science and social studies topics by making it personal by researching "their" country.

3rd grade lesson plans with activities and center suggestions from Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

We end our days with reading. First we do whole group and shared reading, introducing vocabulary and working on genre and reading strategies. This week we begin our unit on folktales with the Alaskan folktale The Frog Princess. We will also begin looking at making text to self connections with our reading strategies posters.

Next my students take a Spanish class. And then we do our guided reading block. During the guided reading block this week, I unfortunately have to complete reading assessments. My students know that when we are rotating, if I am doing assessments, they will have a different activity to work on. This week they will be creating genre charts using old scholastics order forms. 

Meanwhile at the other centers, my students will work on: contractions vocabulary packets, IXL and book reports. My students have been slowly working on book reports all year long. They started with mystery book reports, which most (but not all) of my students have finished. Then we began working on informational book reports, this is what most of my students are working on. However, some of my fast workers have finished those and have begun working on their historical fiction book reports.

Finally, we finish the day with our read alouds. This week we are working on folktales, so we will be reading The Little Red Hen and two versions of The Emperor's New Clothes.

So that's what my class is doing this week, what's your class doing?