Monthly Archives: April 2016

Things I Say

Habits are very powerful things. There are things that I say in my classroom every day that I don’t even realize how often I say them. But that’s a good thing because it gets my third graders into habits too. When you say the same thing, the same way every time it really sticks in your head.

Here are some phrases I say every day, with students responses in italics: 


It’s a great day to have a great day! (I love to start every morning with that. Some mornings we sing Zip-a-dee-do-dah; my oh my what a wonderful day!)

What’s the first thing we have to do at the beginning of every lesson? Learning Target! What’s the second thing we have to do? Essential Question! And I often add on, What’s an essential question? and have them explain it to me.


Choose Kind! <- This is part of a longer quote, but I use the short one more often: “When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.”

Do we do anything in third grade just for fun? No! We’re here to learn! 

Do teachers make mistakes? Yes! 

The answer is not the most important part, how you get there is!

It doesn’t matter what others think.

Think with your brain and not your mouth. (This goes for when I’m teaching or reading aloud. I want the kids to be thinking, but not shout out. Because shouting out steals other students’ thinking.


Is this a rock problem or a play doh problem? (Essentially what I’m asking them is, is this a problem that is within your control to fix, like play doh, or is it in someone else’s’ control and there’s nothing you can do about it, like a rock?)

Think about how what you say and do impacts others. (We’re not allowed to say “this is easy,” because it might make others feel bad. We say it makes sense to my brain.)




Think Aloud

“Where’s Papa going with that axe?” …wait, where IS he going with the axe? What’s he going to do? What’s going to happen? I HAVE TO KNOW!

Isn’t that just the best grabber? It sucks me right in. And more importantly, it sucks my students right in as well. You just have to love Charlotte’s Web 🙂


Read aloud is different than think aloud. If I wanted read aloud, I could just push play on an audiobook and sit down to check my email. Which isn’t a bad thing, just different. Think aloud is letting the kids in on the secret; showing them (a little bit of) what goes on inside my head while I’m reading. The predictions and connections I make, the questions I have and the things I wonder about. I’m teaching them how to think for themselves.

I have to read aloud (think aloud) to my class every day. A lot of times I have multiple books going at the same time, one in language arts class and one in homeroom, and throw in the occasional picture book for character. I think it is SO IMPORTANT that kids hear us read and know that we enjoy reading. They pick up on stuff like that.

I attended a presentation by Ellen Oliver Keene about oral language. Language development among children has been declining over the years. Listening to their teachers (and everyone) speak is modeling for them. This means we need to use sophisticated vocabulary words around our kids, and vary our pace, intensity, and expression of emotion when we speak. And reading aloud is giving us the ability to model someone else’s speech. It lets us portray many different people and their various speaking styles and dialects.

“I regret to inform you (pause) that King Glower, your father, (long pause) is dead.” …Okay, time for specials.


I love stopping at a cliff-hanger and hearing the groans and protests from my students, “just five more minutes!” That clip is from Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George.


Of course, besides the adventures there were many wonders on the island such as the mermaids and the lagoon. Oh, my! the lagoon is such a wonderful and magical place. If you shut your eyes and are a lucky one, you may be able to picture this place- a shapeless pool of lovely pale colors floating in the darkness. Then if you squeeze your eyes even tighter, the pool begins to take shape, and the colors become so bright that with another squeeze they burst into flames. But just before they do, you see the lagoon. Can you see the surf? Can you hear the mermaids singing?

I can see the surf! I can hear them singing! It’s like Peter Pan is flying right by me! Imagination and visualization are skills that still need to be taught. One of my favorite phrases I teach my kids every year is ‘get lost in a good book.’ What an amazing thing it is to be able to jump into someone else’s world that they have created and escape the troubles and difficulties of your own life.

And of course, picture books make for excellent think alouds as well as novels. It works for high schoolers too, even though they think they’re too cool for picture books. Below is a page from Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett. It is hilarious!


Books by Patricia Polacco are excellent for discussing good character as well as personal narrative writing since many of her books are stories from her own childhood.


Honey is sweet, and so is knowledge, but knowledge is like the bee that made that sweet honey, you have to chase it through the pages of a book.

And read alouds/ think alouds can be done even in a book with no words! This is The Flower Man by Marc Ludy and it is a beautiful wordless picture book with dozens of individual window storylines in this town. It’s great for discussing character and for student writing prompts.

I LOVE to read. I want my love of reading to be contagious and I want to infect all of my students. If we could spend all day, every day, silent reading, buddy reading, and reading/thinking aloud, I would be the happiest teacher in the world.