Getting Spooky with Brain Breaks!

I've got a fun post over at A Classy Collaboration for you!

I gathered up some of my students' favorite not-so-spooky brain breaks that are perfect for this time of year! If you already use Symbaloo, you can easily add this webmix to your own collection. If you don't use Symbaloo, this is a great time to learn!


Just click on the picture above to see what I've put together!

If you're interested in more (and mostly free!) spook-tactular resources for the month of October, make sure you're following my October: Classroom Resources board on Pinterest. Click through the picture below to take a peek!


Happy Thursday! :)

Fall Into Proper Nouns {a FREEBIE!}

I have a super quick freebie for you today! 

I teach in a school with a large ESOL population, and one of the skills I always spend time reviewing is recognizing and writing proper nouns correctly. I found several homework pages I made last year and threw them together in a small packet! 

Click on the picture above or on the link below to grab it from Teachers Pay Teachers! Don't forget to leave feedback if you like what you see! :) 

Grab the freebie packet from Teachers Pay Teachers!

I also have a bigger packet with 30 pages of common and proper noun goodies if you're looking for something more substantial for your classroom. 


Grab the bigger packet from Teachers Pay Teachers too!


Back in the Groove!


It's been a minute since I checked in with you! :) In case you missed it on my Facebook page, there is a VERY good (and really cute!) reason I've been "out of the office" for the last few weeks. :)

Meet Harrison!

To say I am in love is an understatement. :) He is such a good baby and I am a lucky mama.

When I think about the fact that we only have 5 weeks left together before I have to go back to work, I want to cry. :( I know other people have done it thousands of times before me, so here is my question for you veteran mamas:

What would have made your transition back to work easier? 

How do you reconnect with your love for teaching when a big part of your heart would rather be at home with your baby? :) 

I'd love to hear from you!


Wanted: Lots of Classroom Leaders!

I know that most of us have a set of classroom jobs in place, but does every child in your classroom have a job?

It was honestly something I hadn't thought much about until we started our Leader in Me training three years ago. And I wasn't doing a very good job of rotating responsibilities either. Assignments were "hairy scary" and my kids were not invested in their jobs at all.

After our LIM training began, I recognized that every child in my classroom should be a leader and it should be a job they want to have. They should also have the opportunity to try out different leadership roles throughout the year, which meant we would need to change them on a regular basis.

So I started with this:

Click to check me out!

My teaching partner and I sat down and planned out some of the nitty-gritty details together: 
  • Every child would fill out a job application. We would MODEL the first one in class to make sure our expectations were clear, and then give them time to complete their first application in class. We made sure they gave us 3 choices so we could try to give them something they wanted to do.
  • If we had to give a child a job that wasn't on their list, we made a note of it. That child would be sure to get a job of their choice the next time. We kept all of our job stuff in a folder and made a running list of kids we needed to keep up with. 
  • The kids would get new jobs once a month. This gave them time to develop new skills and feel confident about their role in our classroom. 
  • After the first month, the kids took the job applications home for homework! It's great persuasive writing practice and they are invested in making sure it's turned in. :) 
  • Our students would also keep a running list of all of the jobs they held throughout the year in their Leadership Notebook. They would refer to this when they were applying for a new job so that they made sure to try new things throughout the school year. It also became a great talking point at parent-teacher conferences.
We kept a display board up in the room that was easy to change around from month to month.

Wall space is precious, so I used the back of a bookcase!
My student teacher hot glued the cards to black ribbon and taped them to the bookcase in rows. We used clothespins to label each card with the leader's name. If I were back in the classroom this year, I would use pictures of the kids' faces instead of clothespins. They didn't always hold up so well. Plus, those little bobbleheads look SO CUTE! :)


I've had lots of great feedback on my leadership jobs packets lately, and I've added several new color schemes to the mix. :) The backgrounds are easy for me to swap out, so if you have a particular color, print, or pattern in mind to match your room, let me know and I can add a listing for you!

The purple dots packet is brand new today!
I just added the year-long tracking sheets to all of the packets, so if you've already purchased this make sure you go back and get the new goodies! 


A *Berry* Cute Back-to-School Freebie!

If you're looking for an easy and inexpensive treat for Meet the Teacher or Open House, this is it!

I know this is the time of year where we spend the most money on our classrooms. I tend to spend the kind of money that makes Mr. Bookworm feel like he is going to have a stroke. ;-) So when we were walking through the grocery store and I got the idea for this treat, he and I were both very excited!


All you need is a set of tags to match your grade level or class, and enough fruit snack packs for each student to get one! I managed to put together welcome back gifts for all 40+ students for under $10. Can't beat that!

I've included several different pages to include grades K-6, departmentalized and self-contained classrooms. However, if there's a specific classroom description I'm missing and you'd like to see it added let me know! Shoot me an email: thirdgradebookworm@gmail.com


Click on the picture above to grab your free copy from TpT! Enjoy!


Morning Work Alternatives (An August Bright Idea!)

Morning work in any elementary classroom can be a struggle, but it doesn't have to be! Give kids alternatives to traditional morning work may be one of the best decisions you make as a teacher. If you're ready to make some BIG changes, make sure you check out this post on soft starts as well!

I've taught for 12 years in the same school, and for 11 of those years I fought the same battle - getting kids to finish their morning work. I tried different books, segmenting one worksheet into smaller chunks, alternating the skills we practiced and reviewed throughout the week, etc.

That's a long time to fight the same battle!! And looking back, I really wish I had given in to my amazingly brilliant teaching partner's thinking earlier. She saw the writing on the wall. She had the bright idea. I fought it... WHY?! :)

When we sat down to talk about it, we had to identify the problem: Kids weren't finishing the daily workpages.

Why? Well, unlike many other schools in our district, most of our kiddos ride the bus to school each day. We have up to 2 runs of 7 buses every morning and afternoon. Some kids arrive at school at 7:15, ready to go and others don't walk in the door until 7:50 just as the bell rings. Very few of my students are car riders or walkers. We always had a chunk of kids who finished their work, and another group that were struggling to make it to breakfast before they came in the room. It wasn't fair to either group.

We knew we wanted the kids to practice and review skills we currently teaching OR had previously taught. We didn't want it to be a chore. We didn't want the kids to hate it. We looked around our rooms and saw lots of games that the kids were playing for a week or two during the year before we put them back for next year's group.

A-ha! Enter the bright idea!

For 2 days a week, the kids played language arts games. On those mornings, I would set out or send down the games I wanted the kids to play. At the beginning of the year, I like to pull out sight word and spelling games. It's an easy way to reinforce skills they've already learned, and to help them begin to build the sense of community and family that is key in our classrooms.

There are also 2 days a week where our kiddos played math games. Most of the time, these were fact fluency games. My brilliant partner had staggered sets of facts, and our kids knew which "set" they needed to pass in order to move to the next level. They often took the initiative to make sure they played these games with friends who were working on the same fact set. :)

We also tried to set aside at least one day each week for something fun and creative. They were particularly fond of this Minion Maker. We all need the chance to chill out and color sometimes, right?

 A few more points I want to leave you with:
  • Our kids were so engaged in the mornings. They loved being able to come in, unpack, and connect with friends. Kids were excited to get to class and they didn't drag their feet coming in from the bus or the cafeteria. Everyone started the day with a smile on their face!
  • They were quiet --- and on task!! I stopped redirecting behavior and got lots of housekeeping stuff done in the mornings. Glory!!
  • M and I alternated Math and ELA days. This kept materials together and we didn't have to make extra sets of games for the other classroom. 
  • As we inched closer to state testing, we were able to set out games that reinforced skills we noticed were weaker in our students. This acted as a "safety net" and preserved LOTS of small group and whole group instructional time. 
I'm not saying paper and pencil morning work needs to go. It just didn't work in my room, and I wish I'd thought about alternatives for it sooner. Hopefully this leaves you with some fun alternatives to think about!

I'd love to connect with you in other places too! You can find me on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook as well!

Make sure you look through the 100+ posts below from some of my most brilliant blogger buds.


Using Data Walls {A JULY Bright Idea!}

We're back with more bright ideas! :)

I thought this would be a great tip to share before heading back to school. It's not something you have to start right away, but it would be good to keep in mind as you head into the new year.

We have a bulletin board in our rooms dedicated just for student data. It's up to each teacher to determine how to use it, so for my classes I chose to chart our reading level data as a group. I want to make a couple of "hairy scary" points first:
  • I never, ever put student names on the reading level data wall. I'm afraid it would defeat the purpose of the data wall being a motivational tool. 
  • We have several conversations about how everyone is at a reading level that is just right for THEM.
  • GROWTH is the focus for us as a team, and as individuals. The "goal" for each 9 weeks is just a guideline.
We have a "reading target" for each 9 weeks according to our district, but I try not to focus on that too much, as many of our kids suffer from the "summer slide" or they're already a few reading levels behind.

After each 9 week grading period, I create a chart that shows the students what our "team" of students looks like as a whole. It's also a great tool for my teaching partner and I as we think about reading groups and math groups. We make a couple of "swaps" between homerooms after each 9 weeks to balance out our groups.

As the year progresses, I keep the most recent chart and the previous grading period's chart on the data wall.

We spend at least one Reader's Workshop period looking at the chart, reflecting, and setting individual goals for the next 9 weeks.

The kids have loved seeing how the levels move across the chart, and we celebrate our successes as a team!

At the end of the year, we are amazed at how much growth they've made as individuals and as a team. It's an easy way to get your students connected to the data you look at all the time, and they're a bit more invested in their progress. :)

I hope you enjoyed this bright idea! Make sure you keep up with me on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest! Don't forget to check out the rest of my Bright Ideas Peeps in the link-up below!


Reading in the Wild: Wild Readers Share Books {Chapter 3}

Welcome back! I'm so excited to be caught up with this book study. I promise to get my guided math posts off the ground soon! :)

Our fearless leaders this week are...

This week's topic - Sharing Books and Reading With Other Readers - is an area I need to grow in as a reading teacher. I don't give my students enough time to share books they've read with their classmates. If and when I find myself back in the classroom, this will be a top priority for me as a reading teacher.

I added a page to the freebie pack that I have used in the past, just not recently. It was a recommendation chart that hung on the back of our classroom door. I think this would be a really neat tool in a departmentalized setting as well. I would love to see my kiddos recommending books to one another across classes. :)

I added a new page on top whenever we needed it.  The kids loved looking to see if someone had left them a note, and it promoted titles within our classroom.

One of the things I did encourage on a regular basis was for my students to read together - as buddies, in trios, or in groups. I found that this did 2 important things for my students:

1. It helped my students who were embarrassed, or reluctant, to get excited about reading to do just that. We had several mini-lessons about buddy reading behaviors, but after a few weeks my students were much better about making their buddy reading time productive. 

2. It gave my struggling readers access to texts that they would not be able to read successfully on their own. This was a huge confidence booster! Their friends were encouraging and excited to read with them, making the texts they chose together much less intimidating. 

If you'd like to check out my other posts in this series, please see:

Wild Readers Dedicate Time to Read {Chapter 1}
Creating a Workshop Schedule That Works For You {Chapter 1}
Wild Readers Self-Select Reading Material {Chapter 2}
Curating a Classroom Library {Chapter 2}


Make sure you click on the picture above to grab the updated freebie pack, and visit the rest of our Reading in the Wild posts below! This is some of the best professional development I do all summer! :)


Reading in the Wild: Curating a Classroom Library



My classroom library is always the first thing I start working on each school year and the last thing to feel "finished" before the kids arrive. It's a constant work in progress - much like our classroom!


Several years ago, I had the idea to store the kids' book totes away from our library. It cut down on a LOT of clutter and made it easier for everyone to get settled once they came in. I LOVE this double-sided bookshelf. It holds 50 book totes - up to 25 on each side! And I still have room for class novel sets up at the top! 😍😍😍


All of our library shelves work their way around the group meeting area. There is a large gap in the back, and another gap on the side where the students and I can enter. I've had lots of parents, teachers, and students tell me it makes our room feel like home --- score! When you create a space that other people like spending time in, you're doing something right. :)

I also made sure to create a space I could see "into" from anywhere in the room. By scrounging up all of the short shelves I could find, I was able to work with groups at my kidney table and monitor what was happening in the library during independent work time. All of the tall shelves run along the far right wall. This way they don't block my view of anything else happening in the classroom.

Our library is broken up into 3 sections - author baskets, fiction genre baskets, and nonfiction genre/topic baskets. I designed our labels to match the baskets.


The baskets are from Really Good Stuff and range in size. I have different sized baskets in my room to accommodate everything from chapter books to giant picture books. I love that the labels all fit the same way. :) I tried taping them on, but I found that my librarians were constantly running around trying to fix the fallen basket signs. I bought 1-inch binder rings and used my electric hole punch to create a more permanent solution.


I stopped organizing my books by level several years ago because I found that my kids were only looking for books in the basket that matched their level. They weren't seeking out books according to genre, author, or topic. It made me sad, book-peeps. They weren't falling in love with books and that absolutely had to stop.

Every book is still labeled with a level so the kids are aware of what they are reading, but it also has a genre sticker on it. This helps the librarians and me to put the books away correctly. It also makes it easier for students to log the books in their reading journal.

I'm happy to report that I had the "problem" this year of several children reporting to me, "Mrs. S! I've already read all of the Dan Gutman books." Or, "I can't find any new dinosaur books to read. Do you have any more?" Music to my ears!!!

The first two or three weeks of school are hard. There are always books to put away, and my librarians are still "in training." However, after a little training and supervision, the library is up and running without me. WHEW!

The library things I do for the majority of the year include spending Scholastic bonus points to order new books, level incoming books, and repair any that make their way into our book hospital baskets. When I can't find the level on Scholastic Book Wizard, I check Booksource. I also look to see if that particular author has other books leveled on SBW - many times I find they do, and that the author tends to write within a certain "band" of levels. From there I just have to give it my best guess.

I've used Kristen's leveled labels for years. I keep them printed and in a folder so I can add them on as soon as new books come in. I love that my last name is on the back of each book so that if they get left on the bus or somewhere else in our school, it's easy for them to find their way back. It also makes it easy for parents to identify books when I have to call home and ask for their help in returning them. :)

If you'd like a better look at my library basket labels, make sure you check out my Classroom Library Kit. If you have any questions, I'd love to hear from you! I'm finally starting to feel "caught up" with some blog posts. Look for some guided math goodies and for me to be back on track with Reading in the Wild tomorrow!

Molly at Lessons with Laughter and Carrie at Being Ladylike did a phenomenal job of leading and hosting the this step in our book study. Be sure to check them out!

http://being-ladylike.blogspot.com/Lessons with Laughter


Reading in the Wild: Wild Readers Self-Select Reading Material {Chapter 2}

Still playing catch-up (slowly, but surely!), but I'm back with a few more thoughts on Reading in the Wild and I've updated the freebie pack!

We spend a LOT of time at the beginning of the year talking about how to choose just-right books and helping the kids become familiar with the way our library is set up - more on that in my next post! At the beginning of 3rd grade, most of my kiddos are excited to see baskets upon baskets of chapter books. However, that doesn't always mean that those are books they're ready to read. But considering their reading has probably been minimal over the summer I don't fight it.

Within a week of building reading stamina, they realize they need to be more careful when they are choosing books for their book tote. In fact, most of my reading conference conversation in those first few days and weeks are all about why the books in their totes aren't working. And I'm okay with that.

One of the things I do to support kids who may not be ready for third grade texts is to save space in our group meeting area for a read-aloud display.

Anytime we read a book together, it goes to live on the read aloud shelf for at least a month. This gives everyone time to pick it up and read it. Struggling readers are able to navigate the text a little easier because they are familiar with the story. These are also great texts for students to read with a buddy.

I loved this quote. I'm not always great at sticking to this, but I do my best. One of my biggest challenges this year was a group of boys who insisted on reading the Wimpy Kids books even though it was way beyond their reading ability. (I also had a hard time keeping those books in our library, but that's another post.) I didn't want to tell them they couldn't read those books - I had just gotten them excited about reading! So, I scrambled to find something similar along the lines of a graphic novel - but at a 1st grade reading level. These are a few of the titles I found that all of my struggling readers really enjoyed.

I also gave them the option of continuing to try and read the Wimpy Kid books. My only stipulation was that they check in with me frequently so that I could see they were making progress with the book. I wasn't expecting miracles, but I needed to see that they were trying to read the books and not just using them as a show piece in their book totes.

9 times out of 10, they recognized it was too hard and gave up within a week or so. The determined holdout trudged through the book and enjoyed it... although it took awhile before he tried the second book in that series. :)


I hope this is a "given" for any classroom teacher. I have new books that I try out every year, but I also have tried and true books that I LOVE to read with my kids no matter what. I really struggle to "sell" books to my kids that I don't enjoy.

In a school that celebrates a Book of the Month each month, I've inevitably come across some titles I didn't love. However, some of my best classroom conversations have happened after those read-alouds when I ask the kids for their feedback. I love to see how animated they get about whether or not the book was a good pick for our school. :)

I thought a fun follow-up chart for those discussion would be post-it votes on a chart that we could display outside of the room. I would want the kids to do more than just vote with a thumbs up or thumbs down beneath the book title. Having them defend their opinion, whether it's with a partner or on their own, could be an excellent way to tie in writing and point-of-view standards!

Charlotte's Web is one of those "Read Every Year" books for me. The year I looped up to 4th and realized I was going to have to find all new read-alouds for my kids *might* have set off a bit of panic in my brain. It ended up being a really fun challenge to find new material, but I missed the books I looked forward to each year. What are some of those books for you?

I wanted to leave you with the updated freebie pack I'm working on as we make our way through this book study. For Chapter 2, I've added 2 printables - one that asks students to "Rate Your Reads". I would use this as more of a working reading log. I've also included a "Reflect on What You Select" printable. This would be more for me. I'd like to go over it with my students in a reading conference or small group. Then I could use it to inform my choices on what to keep, purge, and buy for our classroom library. 
Click on the picture below to grab your freebie pack!

Click Me!

Let me know if you see any glaring errors! Looking forward to checking back in with you soon!