The Power of Choice

There is power in giving your students a choice in what they read and where they read! This can help them show ownership of their reading, and take pride in it!

Reading is so important in any classroom! I also believe that the power of choice is super important.  By giving students a choice of what they are allowed to read then they feel empowered, and I believe they are more excited to read.  Not only do they get to pick what they want to read, but I also give my students the choice of where they SIT during our quiet reading time.

Students love to pick their own seats and books! Giving them a choice allows them to feel empowered!

Now, before you leave this page and say there is no way your kids can do this, I promise, they can!  Every routine or idea that you put into your classroom takes time and training! At the beginning of every year I take time to set the expectations I have for my students, and have them show me that they can accept the responsibility of their choices.  We break out slowly, and practice sitting in seats around the room.  Think of flexible seating, but just for reading time, and not all day.

Students choose where they want to sit, and some days they find creative ways to sit, but then they are engaged and reading!

My students love being able to find a cozy seat to curl up and read with a good book.  Some days it is at their desk, under their desk, with a pillow, or leaning against the wall.  They know their expectations though, and know that I do have the ability to move them if their choice is not working out for everyone.  By giving them this choice it has actually eliminated the amount of time I have had to use to redirect them, and instead has given me more time to work with students one on one.

Books have a lot of power in a classroom, especially when you give students the CHOICE of what they want to read!

Another choice that I think is very important is their choice in book!  I have hundreds of books in my classroom because I believe that students need to choose a book that will keep them engaged during the reading time.  I also only allow them to choose books once a week, so they know that they need to fill their book boxes for the week.  I do help direct their choices when we meet during reading time, but they are more excited about what they are reading when they have the power to choose.

Do you let your students have choice when it comes to their reading?  I would love to hear what you think about this!

Teaching Inferential Thinking with Feelings

"Inferring is about reading faces, reading body language, reading expressions, and reading tone as well as reading text"~Stephanie Harvey, Strategies That Work

Hi everyone!  It's Kim, again, from Elementary Antics and I'm excited to share one of my fave reading lessons today.  (My other favorite lesson is the Great Garbage Mystery!) Using feelings to teach inferring is one of my favorite lessons from Strategies That Work that I used year after year to introduce inferential thinking to my students.  I love that you explore different feelings and show students how you infer and use inferential thinking in everyday life.

Start off by choosing some feelings that you think your students are familiar with. Write them on a sticky note. (Once you call your students to your meeting area for the lesson, you may want to review some feelings with them.) Choose one student or ask for a volunteer. Pick one of the feeling sticky notes and put it on their back. I usually begin with easy ones- happy, sad, mad. Turn the student around to show the rest of the class what the feeling is.  The student doesn't know what feeling is on his or her back. Make sure they know that the class knows they cannot say ANYTHING about what the feeling is, but tell them to start thinking about things that made them feel this way.

Then, ask the class, "Who has a clue for (student)?"  Have students raise their hands and give clues and examples to help the student figure out what feeling they could be wearing on their back.  Each student begins their clue with, "I felt this way when....." and finishes their clue.  I always remind the students how to start their clue multiple times so they do not accidentally say the feeling.

So, if the feeling is mad, some clues might be:
".... my sister hit me in the head."
".... my brother took my iPad and deleted my favorite app."
".... my mom said I had to go to bed early for no reason."
".... I got a bad grade on my spelling test because I didn't study."

After about 4-6 kids have shared I ask the student, "What can you infer the feeling is?"
They usually know it and answer.  Then I will ask, "How did you know that's what it was?" And they will use one of the clues to explain.  The kids love this game and it really shows them how we can infer in so many situations.  It's a perfect lesson to build up to inferring using the text in subsequent lessons.

7 Ways to Empower Young Readers

When I first started teaching, I didn't enjoy teaching reading. I taught from the textbook because that's what I was told to do.  And in those days, there wasn't this fabulous online community of teachers sharing the best ways to teach.  It wasn't until I began to teach reading with quality literature and giving students more choice that it turned that enjoyment around!  I think it's crucial more than ever to give students a positive association with reading. Here are 7 ways you can make reading more impactful in your classroom.
Teaching your students to love reading with 7 ways to empower young readers.

7 Ways to Empower Young Readers

7. Give students positive reading experiences.

We try to do something special at least once a month to celebrate reading.  Often it's the simple act of Flashlight Friday in which we read our books by flashlight.  Sometimes it's a little snack to eat while reading or reading with blankets.  When the weather's nice we go outside to read.  It's just adding the little things that make reading fun!
Teaching your students to love reading with 7 ways to empower young readers.Teaching your students to love reading with 7 ways to empower young readers.
Teaching your students to love reading with 7 ways to empower young readers.

6.  Use the power of read-alouds.

I read aloud to my kids daily!  It's one of the non-negotiables in our classroom.  I try to choose read alouds that either relate to what we're learning about in a different subject or the season or even in their lives.  I also choose read alouds that I know they might not choose independently.

5.  Model reading

Not only should you model reading for expression and fluency.  You should also model your thinking while reading.  It's so powerful for students to see the process of thinking about what you're reading.

4. Expose students to LOTS of books.

Read alouds help with this, but one way I expose students to lots of books is through Scholastic Book Clubs. I send the flyers home every month for students to purchase.  But I also get so many books for free with the points.  I always make a big deal when the new books arrive and show all the new classroom books to the kids.  We sometimes have a raffle to see who gets to read the books first! It goes back to #8 and making those positive reading experiences.
Teaching your students to love reading with 7 ways to empower young readers.

3. Read just to read! No assessments needed

Yes, as teachers we must make sure students held accountable for their reading.  We need to know their reading level so we can teach them accordingly.  BUT that doesn't have to be ALL. THE. TIME.  Allow your students to read just because!  All of my students independent reading is chosen by them.  I don't restrict them to a certain level or type of book.  We only do leveled reading in our small group instruction.
Teaching your students to love reading with 7 ways to empower young readers.

2. Talk About Reading! Book clubs, literature circles, book chats, book reviews

When you find out someone is reading the same book as you, what's the first thing you do?  You talk about it!  Give your students opportunities to talk about the books their reading.  Teach them how to talk about books, you'd be amazed at what they can do!
Teaching your students to love reading with 7 ways to empower young readers.

1. If you want your students to love reading, you have to let them read what they love.

How many books did you really enjoy that you were assigned to read when you were in school?  My guess is not many if at all.  So of course it's the same way for our students.  Give them the choice to choose what they want to read.  They'll be more likely to keep reading!

Teaching your students to love reading with 7 ways to empower young readers.

How do you create a love for reading in your classroom?

Celebrating National Hot Chocolate Day!

Hello friends! It's Anna again from Hanging with Mrs. Hulsey! During the winter months I like to reward my students for good behavior and/or homework returned by giving them hot chocolate! This works especially well in the winter when something like an extra recess is out of the question.

I recently discovered that January 31st is actually National Hot Chocolate Day! I thought it would be fun to have a day built around hot chocolate. So here are some fun ideas I hope you can use in your classroom too!

Give students a close read about the history of hot chocolate (or let them research it on their own). I learned a lot of cool facts while writing this article (For example, I wasn't aware of the difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate!) You can find this close read and its questions here in my TPT store!
For writing, have students sequence the steps in making hot chocolate. Afterwards, have them write down some amazing adjectives for the drink (or anything extra they add to it!) You can find so many variations of this activity on Teachers Pay Teachers. Here is my version:
My version includes 2 mugs that say #tasty and #delicious. I thought it would be fun to print them on cute scrapbook paper (or have the kids decorate the mugs themselves).
We have been working hard with division and multiplication in math-- and I thought marshmallows make the perfect hands-on tool to practice making arrays or equal groups. But you could also use marshmallows in measuring objects, graphing, and building 3D shapes.
For science I thought it would be fun to do an experiment involving marshmallows and 3 different temperatures of water. But, you could also do marshmallows and 3 different liquids (like vinegar, water, and soda) and see which type makes the marshmallows dissolve the quickest. Here are my 3 cups of different temps (cold, warm, and boiling):
If you enjoy art projects-- I added in a "designer mug" challenge. Students can design and decorate their mugs-- then you can have students vote on various awards (like most colorful or most creative). I also included little award certificates-- but I thought it would be fun to give out a prize like a real mug, hot chocolate mix, etc.
I also found these fun recipes online:

You can check out my mini unit here in my TPT store-- be sure to download the preview for a freebie! Hope this gave your some great ideas to incorporate on January 31st!

Snowball Fights in the Classroom

Hello darlings!  Amy here from That Teaching Spark.  Another cold, but rainy day here in the Show Me State!  I wish it were snowing instead!   One game my kiddos love every year is a Snowball Fight. Yes, we throw paper around the classroom and act crazy, but you know what?  Those kids are learning!  They absolutely love it!  I've been doing this for a few years now and I can tell you, it gets more fun for me each time!! 

So what did we do?  Each kiddo got a snowball card with a  multiplication problem on it.  Before they even solved it, they crumpled it up into a ball and when I yelled "Snowball Fight!"  they threw the ball across the room.  (I can see you are panicking...)    

Next, they grabbed a snowball, opened it, and had to solve it as quickly as they could on their recording sheet before I yelled "Snowball Fight!" again. When I yell the secret words (or ding a bell, etc) kiddos crumple up their paper again and throw it. We kept repeating this.  (It is okay, hang in there!)  

I do have a lovely conversation with them BEFORE we start about appropriate throwing methods.  They CANNOT throw it directly at a person or purposely throw it behind something.  They are basically TOSSING the paper.  I demonstrate exactly what I expect.  Be dramatic.  They love dramatic.  

To make it a little more exciting, there are yellow snowballs mixed in.  If a kiddo grabs a yellow snowball, they have to go to a designated spot in the classroom and do 15 jumping jacks and wait for the next round.  I didn't tell my kiddos what the yellow snowballs represented.  I told them to make an inference.  They got it.  Yuck! 

Needless to say, EVERY single kiddo was working hard to solve his/her math problem.  Even my kiddos who like to melt down or refuse to work, were working, smiling, and giggling!  It was fun even for me.  I didn't think to take pictures since we were having a blast! 

 Click the pictures below to download the game of your choice and while you are at it, check out the rest of my highly engaging Winter Math Centers here.

Other suggestions:  Play this game as a SCOOT game by placing the cards on each desk and students "scoot" around to each desk to solve OR tape the cards on the walls around the room and have students solve the cards by walking around.

Happy January!

Have a Snow Day in the Classroom

In my little part of the world, we usually get some snow in winter, but so far this year we have missed out.  Whether you get too much snow or none at all, kids really do love the idea of a "snow day."  So, why don't you bring a "snow day" to the classroom?

Here are some ideas for each subject.

My friend Anna, also recently held a Snow Day in her classroom.  On her blog, Hanging with Mrs. Hulsey, she shares how her students made snowflakes using pipe cleaners and Borax.  They turned out so great!  This picture is the "before" so you must visit her blog post to see the "after."  Check out the post here to learn the recipe and secrets to this fun science project.  

I love Art Hub for Kids for all their directed drawings.  We don't have an art teacher at my school, so that means I have to be a "Jack of all Trades" and pretend like I know what I am teaching.  Check out this directed drawing of How to Draw a Snowman.  

This activity will actually work for Fine Arts and Language Arts!  Bonus!  My friend Rachel wrote a great post about a Snowglobe Winter Writing Activity on the All About 3rd Grade blog.  It is the perfect "snow day" writing activity because it is short, fun, and writing with a different perspective.  Didn't her bulletin board turn out so adorable?  

Here is a fun activity from my friend Kim at Elementary Antics called Donut Math. You can read about it here on the All About 3rd Grade blog.  You can see how I just took the idea and made it super, extra cute Snowman Math!  What is so amazing about this activity it that you can easily make this practice for multiplication or addition! 

Just start by drawing a snowman on your white board for the number of teams you want.  I just usually draw two snowmen because....well you get it....who's got time?  I divide my class in half and they make two lines in front of the snowmen.  

Write a number in the center of the snowman and that is what the students will multiply (or divide by).  Each student answer one problem (any one they want) and they pass the dry erase marker onto the next person.  If an answer is incorrect, someone in the line has to fix it as "their turn."  Students are not allowed to whisper or call out an answer or let another student know their answer is wrong.  The group that has all the answers written down correctly, wins that round.  This is the perfect activity to have right after the students are coming back from lunch or recess.  I start it as soon as the kids start arriving.  At our school, the kids are a bit pokey about changing their tennis shoes back from their gym shoes or they dawdle in the bathroom, so if they aren't back then they miss out on the fun and they hate missing out.  

I utilize centers a lot in my classroom because it gets my kids out of their seats and focused on some review skills (and sometimes a introductory skill).  For our snow day, I had several stations set up.  

#1 Work with a Partner - I had two different games for the kids to choose from here:  winter division bump and winter missing factors.  You probably have a few games already that you could use in this center.  If you are looking for some winter themed games, check out the links below.  

#2 Fact Practice - For fact practice time on our snow day, we did a fun, get up and active practice.  The students that were in the group each took a time at the snowball run at least twice.  (That way they could try to beat their previous time.) 

I made flashcards with cardstock paper although you could use flash cards you already have in the classroom.  I made them self checking by putting each answer on the back of each flashcard.

I wrote answers on pieces of paper and wadded them up like snowballs.  The snowballs go in a pile behind a line.  Have another student time the player and record their time so they can try to beat their own time the second time they play.  (I encourage my students to beat their own time and not worry about other student's time.)  The player picks up one snowball, unfolds it and matches it to the two factors that equal the product inside the snowball.  They keep coming back for one snowball at a time and continue matching until all the snowballs have disappeared.  Have them check and record their time and then check their answers with the products on the back of the flashcards.  Now it is player two's turn.  Play again and try to beat their previous record.  

#3 Tech Time -  Usually during Tech Time, my students work on a program my school has purchased called IXL.  It allows to students to practice and master ALL of the 3rd grade math skills.  For every ten skills they master, I award a brag tag.  This helps keep my kids motivated.  HOWEVER, today I totally splurged and let them work on winter themed math games on Cool Math.  (See link below.) 

My students also love a lot of the themed winter fact practice games on  (link below)

#4 Independent Work - I love using math sorts for independent work.  On this particular day, my students were reviewing missing factors since we were in a division chapter.  Students sorted the snowballs (factors) onto the snowman with a missing factor body part.  I also had prepared a multiplication and division fact family center, multiplication riddle sort, and multiplication more or less sort.  There were several options for them to choose from and I allowed them to start with any one of them and then trade.  (link below)

#5  Work with the Teacher - Of course any activity would work at this rotation, but on this particular day, I worked with my students on subtracting across zeros because I had noticed that this particular skill had went POOF!  (You can relate, right?)  We called it working on "Sub Zero" and I worked with the kids on the boxing in method.  You can see the steps to practice below.  

Where did I find the resources for my snow day math stations?

Snowmen at Night and Snowmen at Work by Caralyn Buehner make great snow day books with tons of activities.  If you don't have copies of the books, below are videos of the two books being read aloud.  Some of the activities can include: compare and contrast (of the two snowmen's adventures), finding rhyming words, and making predictions.  

We did a quick research of current temperatures across the United States.  I gave each student 2-3 states to look up on the internet.  They found out the capital of that state and the current temperature.  I gave them a mini post it note and they recorded the temperature and stuck it to the state.  We talked about the temperature that it needs to be to get snow and how many states could be getting snow that day.  Nothing huge, but it is a great way for the students to learn how to research on the internet and they may learn a new state or capital.  Not everything has to be a huge deal!

I hope these gave you some new ideas for your classroom this winter!  I'd love to hear which ones you have tried or how you implemented your own "snow day."

My friend Cassandra held a Snowman Day in her classroom. Check out the ideas she had here.