Category Archives: Third Grade


Shared reading is my absolute favorite thing right now. I’ve done shared reading in the past where I put a piece of text up on the document camera and read it and we talk about it, but there wasn’t any real engagement. So I decided I wanted the text in my kids’ hands!

I started doing some diggin (no pun intended) on looking for cheap books. Holes jumped out at me right away and it was only $3.50! It is a bit above most of my students’ reading level, so it was perfect for shared reading. I had all my parents order their kids a copy online and we got reading!

Before we started we made a lapbook with some background info, some graphic organizers and some maps. We also included little printable books to take notes on all the characters that I got from this blog. 



Now, I’m a reader, and I HATE when people tell me I can’t keep reading, especially if I’m hooked. I just want to keep going! So I rarely do that with my kids, but this one time I am doing it: they are not allowed to read ahead. (Lots of them have seen the movie and have an idea about what’s going to happen anyway, but I’m still keeping up the suspense this way.) To ensure they are following along I made each of them a colored notecard with their “Holes name” on it: first name and then first name backward. So it might say Jordan Nadroj or Asher Rehsa (many of which sound vaguely Indian.) They have to follow along with this notecard to prevent inadvertent skimming ahead while I read. It also helps to save their place when we stop to talk about something, which we do frequently.   do a ton of annotating in my class (like on every piece of paper I hand them.) We write question marks when we’re confused, put stars next to important parts, underline when we find the answer to a comprehension question. I’m really focusing on vocabulary right now, so we’re doing a lot of finding our spelling words in our books, noticing when words have prefixes and suffixes and how that changes the word’s meaning, using a dictionary to look up words we can’t figure out.

In general, we do a ton of annotating in my class (like on every piece of paper I hand them.) We write question marks when we’re confused, put stars next to important parts, underline when we find the answer to a comprehension question. I’m really focusing on vocabulary right now, so we’re doing a lot of finding our spelling words in this book, noticing when words have prefixes and suffixes and how that changes the word’s meaning, and using a dictionary to look up words we can’t figure out. We are also adding small doodles at the beginning of every chapter to help us remember what happened in that chapter, like a visual summary.



We talk about how writing in a book, one that belongs to you, is truly a magical thing. I write in all my personal books, but I usually don’t tell them lest I find doodles in all my class library books. I underline sentences I like mostly. The kids are only allowed to write in pencil, so it can be erased (I write in different colors of pen: orange for vocab, green for figurative language, purple for examples of good/bad character.) Everything the kids write must be for a purpose. They can doodle if it helps them learn about the plot better. They can circle and underline words that they choose as long as they have a reason. I should NEVER see meaningless scribbles in their books. So far I haven’t had a problem.

I also send my kiddos with the para in small groups to discuss comprehension questions and vocabulary words. I got these from Super Teacher Worksheets. This is what they look like.



This kind of teaching for me is very authentic. I’m not reading from a script. Most of the time I don’t even prep to see what we are about to read that day, I just start reading. And when I come across a difficult word or an interesting sentence or scene, we stop and talk about it. If the kids make a connection and we tangent for a few minutes, that’s fine! The beauty of shared reading is that I am modeling how I read for my students. They can follow along with my thought process, how I work through difficult words, connections I make, things I wonder about as I read.

And the very best part of this particular shared reading is how engaged and excited the kids are about it. They groan and shout NO when I have to stop. When they are chitchatting (which they often are) I just start reading and they all stop talking immediately and begin following along. They are truly getting lost in the book and that is so rewarding for me to see.

What books have you used for shared reading or read aloud with your class? 


Student Led Conferences

I am SUPER excited to tell you guys about my plan for upcoming student led parent teacher conferences! Many student led conference plans I’ve seen include the teacher spending tons of time making giant portfolios for each student. I am not a fan of that. My plan is much simpler.

During daily 5 rotations the week before conferences I am going to meet one-on-one with each kiddo to go over what they are going to say during their conference. I also emailed the parents to let them know what to expect. They should plan on their child being in charge (I’m hoping to not talk much except to support the kiddos and answer questions. Maybe I won’t lose my voice this time around!) It’s important to emphasize to the parents that if I had any major concerns I would have already contacted them. No surprises at conferences!

Here is what will be included in students’ conference folders:

  1. A poem for their parents: We’re working on free verse, shape poems, and acrostic. They could be about their parents or about something we’re learning.

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2. iReady reports: These take some time for the kids to understand, but I had them write notes on the forms themselves about their scores, their growth beginning to middle of the year, and what sections they did best and worst on. IMG_3657.JPG

3. Goals: After we go over their iReady scores a lot of the kids use those to help them set a goal for themselves. This kiddo chose to work on social studies.


4. Their last math test. I had the kids pick one problem to explain how to solve it to their parents. It could be one they got right or wrong.


5. Writing- we just finished our state non-fiction books. This is an example from one of my lower third writers.

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How do you do student led conferences? 

The Power of Music

Music is a super powerful tool for learning. When I was little my mom would put my spelling words into songs becuase that was the only way I would remember them! And this old commercial jingle is the only reason I know how to spell bologna:

When I was in third grade we learned a song that contained all 50 states in alphabetical order, and wouldn’t you know it, I can still sing the whole song today! In fact, I teach that song to my third graders now.

I got a lovely email from a parent about this song:

Christie, I hope you had a nice long weekend! Thank you so much for the 50 state song. We were blessed with our son singing it every day, all day since Friday. We decided to ski yesterday in part so we could wear our helmets to block out his beautiful singing voice. This reminded my wife and I of years ago when Wiggles songs would get stuck in our heads for weeks on end. You can ask him to sing it for the class as he has it down pat!!! 😉 Thanks for all you do and caring so much about the kids!

And that same kiddo went home and found a bunch of cool videos about the states to share with our class. Here is one of them!

There are learning songs online about almost everything.


Long Division:

Ancient Rome:

If you’re about to tell me you’re not really a singer, get over that, your kids will not care, and start singing! 🙂

Choose Kind


We read Wonder by RJ Palacio at the beginning of this school year. My class absolutely loved it and they groaned every time I had to stop reading aloud. This book is so applicable to my students lives every day (and my life as well.) It is an amazing story of good character and perseverance and friendship. The book shows us that people make mistakes, but they can change and be forgiven in the end. We get to hear from different characters’ points of view, showing us to… 59f8c60b48c6ee178ca96d1e88e0460a

Becuase of this, my class is currently working on the Certified Kind Classroom Challenge. 

Being a third grader is hard. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking only about yourself. For eight-year-olds, thinking about how their actions and words impact other people is a really difficult concept for them to grasp. I am very hopeful that by focusing on choosing kind, I can change that for my kids. Third graders have a very strong sense of justice and want everything to be fair, but we learn in Wonder that choosing to be kind, even when you know you were right, can be a better choice. d3015742145454ef1bc77d102e7ef30e.jpg



These are a few of my favorite things…

a-few-of-my-favorite-things-jan-7-2011(Sing this to the tune of My Favorite Things)
Students on iPads and mixed up math classes, comfy class couches, teaching in sunglasses, fostering students to all love reading, these are a few of my favorite things!

Every teacher has their own unique style. Mine is comprised of several pieces, all contained in my song parody above 😉

IMG_0181.JPGFirst of all, for the parody itself, Music: I’ve always thought that music is a powerful teaching tool. You could go up to any 9th graders at my school and ask them how far the sun is from the earth and most of them would sing you “The sun’s about 93 million miles away, and that’s why it looks so small” from the They Might Be Giants Song I taught them way back in third grade. Music sticks in your head better than just about anything.

img_2529Technology: I’m a tech guru. I love trying new tech tools and apps and websites. If I could have a class set of iPads, I’d be in seventh heaven. Google apps are amazing and Tiny Bop Human Body is the most fun science app I’ve found.

Flexible grouping: I’ve come to realize over the years that I am a middle and high kid advocate. Yes, our low and struggling students need our support, but I refuse to believe that I should sacrifice 24 students for the benefit of 1. So I love flexible classes. I’ve taught the high math class at my school for the last five years and I love it! We finish concepts quickly and then I get to show my students how cool it would be to become an engineer one day. We build Mars rovers and landers, we play Simple Physics, we research careers in math fields, web build structures out of straws. In flexible classes it’s easier to give all the kids what is best for them.

Flexible learning environments: I call this my deskless classroom. My research on this comes from The Third Teacher. It says there are three teachers of students, adults, their peers, and the physical environment. Our classrooms set the tone for their education, why not use that to the best of our advantage?


img_2089.pngTeach like a Pirate: my parody teaching in sunglasses line was a bit of a stretch, in rhyme and content, but I can make it work. Teach like a Pirate is all about doing what it takes to engage students authentically. So that might be wearing a silly costume (or sunglasses,) or playing a song, or going outside for a lesson. If kids could choose whether they go to school or not, would they go to your class?

Reading: This is my favorite thing to do in the whole entire world. I love to read. My goal for 2016 is 125 books. I’m currently up to 95 as of the end of September. It’s unfortunatley a subject I have a hard time teaching becuase so often too much curricula and programs and stuff gets in the way of learning to love to read. I’m working on that.



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.