Snow Globe Winter Writing Prompt

The snow globe in winter has to be one of my all time, favorite writing prompts!  The kiddos are so engaged and the parents love it!  Plus you're bound to get many compliments on your display!
Snow globe winter writing prompt and bulletin board display.

I honestly don't give much instruction with it.  I let them get creative and move through the writing process.
Snow globe winter writing prompt and bulletin board display.

I plan a day when they bring in their hats, gloves, scarves, etc. (We live in the south, so we don't get to wear them often!) and I take their picture in whatever pose they chose.
Snow globe winter writing prompt and bulletin board display.

Students then write their story on the snow globe paper, draw their background, and place themselves in the globe.  We add a dab of fake snow in the middle, then I hot glue the clear plastic plate on.  VIOLA! Snowglobes!
Snow globe winter writing prompt and bulletin board display.

It makes such a cute display!  We also make snowflakes to go around our bulletin board.  I give them coffee filters and let them go to town.
Snow globe winter writing prompt and bulletin board display.
What's your favorite writing prompt for winter?  Share below!

My Favorite Winter Holiday Books With a Message

Hi everyone!  It's Kim from Elementary Antics today.  I'm sharing a few of my favorite winter holiday read aloud books just in time for the season!  

Fist on the list is Silver Packages by Cynthia Rylant.  This is one of my all time favorites!  It has a great message of gratitude, thankfulness and kindness for the holiday season.  This Appalachian Christmas story is about a boy, Frankie, who desperately wishes for one special gift from the Christmas train. He really wants a doctor's kit, but year after year, gets things he really needs like mittens and socks with little toys.  Years later, he moves back to his small town after fulfilling his dream of becoming a doctor. Read more about how I used this book in my classroom here.

Another favorite is Dear Santa, Please Come to the 19th Floor by Yin. This one takes place in a rough neighborhood in a high rise apartment with Carlos and Willy.  Willy sends Santa an email to come visit his friend, Carlos, who is feeling pretty down. Well, Santa does come and brings happiness to his friend. The message of hope is strong in this story.  Chris Soenpiet (the illustrator) has a great website with lesson plans and ideas for using this book in your classroom.

It wouldn't be a list of my favorite books without one by Patricia Polacco! The Trees of the Dancing Goats is a wonderful memoir of how one Jewish family helps keep the spirit of the season alive for their neighbors who won't be able to celebrate Christmas because they are sick.  It's a story of unselfish giving at it's finest.  It truly celebrates the spirit of humanity- regardless of different backgrounds or religions.  Patricia Polacco is such a gifted story teller!

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Rick Bunsen isn't one you'd probably think of as a book with a message, but it truly is.  I know we usually just think of the beloved animated show and Christmas classic song, but after reading this I realized it has so many great messages for our students! Rudolph was essentially ostracized by his peers and even felt like he didn't belong with the group of misfits.  In the end he realizes he does belong and it's okay to be different.  So, main message here- It's GOOD to be unique and different! Rudolph's "defect" of having a red nose actually ended up being his biggest asset! Embrace your natural gifts.

Graphing: Freebies and Fun Ideas!

This time of year my students are studying different types of graphs-- and I decided to make their activities a little more exciting than just filling out a page from our math curriculum.

Here are some suggestions for making graphing fun in your classroom! I usually follow these same steps no matter the type of graph-- but I usually teach the graphs in this order: bar graph, pictograph, and line plot.

1) I always begin with a fun introduction-- Star with this FREE video from BrainPopJr.! My kids love bringing their whiteboards to the floor and answering the questions while the video is playing! (Be prepared to pause at the right moments!)

2) Next, we practice the graph whole group! So I come up with a quick question like "What is your favorite color?" or "How many pets do you have at home?" (something simple). I have a volunteer keep tallies on the board, and then we turn those answers into our own very own class bar graph! (Also, I recommend doing it on anchor chart paper so you can always refer back to it) Check out this anchor chart from That Teaching Spark:
3) Have them practice using technology! I have a set of 12 student computers, so I can cycle students through as a center to practice different graphs! Here are some bar graph websites I found just by searching "bar graphs 3rd grade interactive":

4) Partner students up and hand out containers of objects that you've prepped ahead of time. (This is a great option if your school doesn't allow sugar!)
I use Ziploc bags or small Tupperware filled with these types of items:

  • Lego pieces
  • Unifix cubes
  • Puff balls
  • Stickers
  • Mini erasers
  • Buttons
Give each group a blank graphing freebie page, and I also have a generic bar graph question page for your students to use after they create their graphs!

5) Let them try it "hands on" by themselves! I always like to do candy graphing (use any candy that comes in different colors)! It's simple yet effective! I buy the packages of individual M&Ms, but you could easily buy larger bags and separate them into baggies or bowls. Here is an easy print-and-go graphing product you can use to help your students be more engaged:
5) Practice and review. I go back every day for a few days after introducing the graph and quickly review. I will pull up IXL on my board and we will answer a few questions-- or I will find a quick graphing page for them to practice with! This let's me know who still needs help and who's got it down!

6) Repeat this process for pictographs and line plots. You can find several ideas for graphing on my Pinterest board-- and Teachers Pay Teachers also has many valuable resources! Don't be afraid to search around for fun ideas for your unit! Here is one last freebie I've used this year (click pic to see):
How do you handle graphing your classroom?

Thanks for stopping by our blog-- I hope you found something useful today!

Teaching Multiplication Strategies

Hello darlings! Amy here from That Teaching Spark.  Multiplication is such a critical skill for third graders.  It is the foundation for many of the concepts students learn in fourth and fifth grade.  I always try to stress how important it is for kiddos to memorize their facts.  I assign to my students each night for homework.  It is a great fact fluency program that you should look into.

I wanted to share a few anchor charts I use when first introducing multiplication to my students.  We first discuss the purpose of multiplication.  I make sure to explain that it is simply repeated addition, but that it was created because adding the same number over and over again takes forever!  "Ain't nobody got time to add!"

Next, I teach them different strategies to solve multiplication problems.  I create an anchor chart and kiddos take notes to glue into their math journals.  I spend a few days on each strategy, but I eventually let them choose the one that works best for them.

In my district, kiddos also have to learn how to multiply 3 digit by 1 digit numbers.  We do this first with place value blocks and then once they understand the concept, we move onto the traditional algorithm.

The math game below can be used for 1 digit by 1 digit, or multiple numbers.  I have my students create our own classroom scavenger hunt game.

First we make snowmen. As you can tell from the pics below, I don't give them patterns.  I think they come out to be so much more unique when you just give kiddos construction paper and let them get creative.  Kind of like STEM but for art!

 Next, I have kiddos create a multiplication problem on the front.  They have to solve it, check it with a calculator, and write the answer on the back.  You will notice, one snowman has one problem and the other has 3 problems.  I gave students the option to create one problem or challenge themselves and create 3 problems.  Some kiddos like to challenge themselves.

 Then, each kiddo writes their secret agent number (student name order number) on the snowman and they choose a spot to go hang the snowman around the room.  They create a grid on their paper and number each box for the amount of students.

Finally, students walk around the room and try to solve as many problems as they can.  Before they go on to the next snowman, they check the answer.  If they were incorrect, they have to solve it again and find their mistake.  I have them write the mistake on the back of their sheet.  For example, "For number 7, I said 8x8 was 63, but it's 64."  This keeps kiddos accountable for fixing their mistakes and attending to precision the first time.

The reason I love this activity so much is because I didn't have to do a thing.  I gave my students all the responsibility and they were excited to be the ones to create problems for their classmates.  We have to work smarter, not harder.  The kiddos are the ones who should be going home tired, not us!  Would I use this as a grade? Probably not, but I know my kiddos worked hard and they had a lot of quality practice.

Want another fun multiplication craft?  Download this FREE Holiday Tree!  It has 3 different levels of multiplication and division skills.

Happy Multiplying!

Organization and Storage for your Math Centers

Hello teacher friends!  I am Amber from TGIF, a 3rd Grade teacher who loves sharing my survival tips for the classroom.  I love incorporating math centers in my classroom, but I really, truly struggled with how to organize them the first few years.  I am going to share some of my secrets with you, in hopes that it makes your math rotations and centers a success.

This is the most important rule!  Why?  No two classrooms are alike.  We each have different teaching styles, number of students, and student dynamics.  My centers change from year to year and they vary depending on my class's needs.  Every class is different.  Take these ideas and make them work for you and YOUR classroom.

Well....two places actually (because that is what works for me).

1.  I store all my year round supplies in baskets that I purchased from Dollar Tree.  Since they are each $1.00, I don't get upset when one of them may crack.  With that said, I have had a lot of these baskets for 4 years now!  These baskets remain on my shelves all year long.  Sometimes I let the students choose which basket they will work on and other times I choose for them.  If I want them to work on a particular topics, say number sense or time, I just have them take the basket to their table or area.  The small group has several options to choose from.  Some activities can be done independently and others in a group.

2.  If my center is a holiday/seasonal theme or it is one from our current math chapter, then I have them accessible to my students in a file folder organizer rack.  I love the clear portfolios for storing each center (but more about that below).

I have purchased a few mini baskets that I have kept on a shelf labeled with what is inside.  It makes it so easy to find, even for my students.  You can see that inside each of the baskets, I also put 4 plastic cups on the inside to house those small items.  If you are worried about your students putting the items back where they belong, or you don't want to lose that precious time everyday, you can put the supplies inside each clear portfolio envelope for the centers or inside the basket that your students are currently working on.  The clear portfolios are perfect for storing your center games and activities with dice, pawns, counters, or whatever math manipulative you need.

All of the above!  I like having a mix of holiday, seasonal, and everyday theme for several reasons.  Everyday centers are a must because no matter what time of the year you teach a topic, these centers will work.  I really love how the holiday and seasonal centers bring fun and excitement to my students though.  They help keep my centers fresh and exciting.  I do tend to have more seasonal centers because they last for a longer period.  I can only use my holiday centers for a few weeks, but the seasonal centers can be used for 2-3 months.  It allows all my students time to get a turn at that center and allows for repeat use.

I do store my year round centers in the baskets on the shelves that my students grab to take to their desk or "spot" in the room.  However, my seasonal/holiday centers and centers that I have organized by chapter, get stored in one of two places.

I have a file drawer that is dedicated to my math book supplies.  In it I have file folders organized by chapter.  In each chapter file, I have the teacher's edition for that chapter, any chapter vocabulary posters, extra practice pages I have picked up over the years and my centers that match that chapter. These centers are the ones that I store in clear portfolios with the hook and loop closure.  They fit perfectly in the file drawer and all of the game pieces (game cards or pawns) are stored neatly in the portfolio so they don't get lost.

Some of my centers are more seasonal or holiday based.  I store these inside portfolios too (and sometimes gallon zipper bags because let's face it, all this storage gets expensive).  However, these center supplies get stored in monthly 12x12 scrapbook boxes that I purchased from Michael's.  They are available at other craft stores too or any place that sells scrapbook supplies.  Buy a few at a time or wait until they are on sale.  I scored these for $4.00 each! If you ever have a classroom wishlist, you could add these to the list of items parents can donate.

Some of my centers are more seasonal or holiday based.  I store these inside portfolios too (and sometimes gallon zipper bags because let's face it, all this storage gets expensive).  However, these center supplies get stored in monthly 12x12 scrapbook boxes that I purchased from Michael's.  They are available at other craft stores too or any place that sells scrapbook supplies.  Buy a few at a time or wait until they are on sale.  I scored these for $4.00 each! If you ever have a classroom wishlist, you could add these to the list of items parents can donate.

Sometimes I use numbered baskets and other times I don't.  Not only will your years look different, but sometimes times of year too.  Remember, "Rome wasn't built in a day."  You may not have all the supplies you want those first few years.  My centers have been built up over several years now.  I have also thrown away some of my original centers at this point.  Your centers will evolve over time and become better and better.  Be patient.  Just like your teaching craft, your centers will improve over time.

If you need resources for your math centers, check out these different options:
Year Round Math Centers:  3rd Grade Math Centers Bundle 
Winter Themed Math Centers:  Winter Math Centers
Spring Themed Math Centers:  Spring Math Centers
Ready to implement your math rotations now, and you aren't sure where to start?  Check out this detailed blog post about implementing math group rotations.  You will be ready to start in no time!