Jan 04

Put First Things First

Whoa!  It has been far too long since I’ve posted an update to all of the happenings in room 16.   But, just as we are teaching the kids, I had to use the 7 Habits, and Put First Things First. With my role in the school’s annual Talent Show, Leadership Day, rescuing, fostering, and adopting dogs–in addition to trying to keep the learning meaningful and fun in our classroom, I had to put the blog aside and focus on authentic teaching and learning. Thankfully, Class Dojo‘s implementation of Class Story has allowed me to continue  keep all my parents up to date with snapshots of our day.

As we are returning from a much needed break, I’m still thinking back to our Kindness Challenges given to us by our class guest, Buddy the Elf.  Many classrooms had a class elf, much like the Elf on the Shelf, but through Pinterest and various teacher blogs, I was inspired to have an elf come to us that would encourage us to do kind things for others.  No matter the holiday students celebrate (or don’t) , providing kids opportunities to perform tasks for others is a valuable experience.  Each day that Buddy was with us (for the most part), he challenged us with an Act of Kindness to perform.  Sure, he still got into a little mischief (like going on a s”elfie” escapade around the school), but the students were more excited to see what Buddy would have them do next.  Some tasks were more work than others (so Buddy took a day off if he thought the students needed more time), but they enjoyed each one.  Students made cards for Veterans, made cinnamon scented ornaments for teachers and staff in the building, made snowman ornaments for folks in a nursing home (and some even helped deliver them), and to go along with our project on animals, they made dog treats for dogs in shelters/rescue.

There is far too much to recap from the long gap in missing updates…but we have been busy.  Awesome continent projects, Wednesday challenges like making a Gingerbread Man Trap, creating a candy cane business–complete with a flavor catalog with prices and descriptions, logos, and a jingle, continuing work on their animal projects creating a Scratch activity to show their knowledge of wild vs. tame, and of course practicing their coding.  The holiday party where kids played Pin the Nose on the Reindeer, made melted snowman cookies, and had a snowman relay race.  And SO much more!  With all of the fun learning activities jammed into two months, I am very excited to see what the months ahead have in store for us.

Oct 12

Saving Fred, Jamming to Place Value, and Molding Readers

And, another busy week is behind us!  This week, our reading focus was on questioning, and how this helps us become better readers.  Students learned about “thin” vs.”thick” questions, and which types of questioning will help us become more involved in the text.  To introduce this objective, each of the students were given a small ball of play-doh, with  no directions at first, and then slowly Ms. Crenshaw gave them simple directions, providing no “specifics,” and I recorded their questions.  We then took a look at the Before/During/After Reading chart, and noticed that we had a lot more questions “during,” the activity.

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In math we’ve been focused on place value.  It’s a big unit, with a lot to learn, so we will spend some time on it to make sure that students can truly grasp it.  This unit covers everything from using vocabulary like “digit” vs. “number,” to understanding the value of each digit in a number, and how to write the number in standard, word, and expanded form.  Next up, we’ll be working on rounding to the nearest ten, hundred, and thousand.  We decided to do a “sing-off” with our place value song, and as you can see, there’s never a dull moment in room 16!



We started work on our BIG projec this week.  Mr. C came in, and students worked in pairs on the iPads to identify consumers/producers and predator/prey relationships.  We furthered our exploration of animal relationships and adaptations in class, and on Thursday and Friday we started the first part of our animal research.  Students used an online encyclopedia to explore different classes of animals in order to make their selection.  Next, they gathered information and recorded it on a graphic organizer.  Can’t wait until next week when we start all the fun stuff!

This week’s Work Together Wednesday Challenge was our most challenging of all so far.  This week student had to “Save Fred.”  Fred’s boat was capsized, leaving his life saver under the boat.  Student were able to use 4 paper clips per group to get Sam safely into the life saver, without falling into the ocean, and without using their hands.A couple of groups were successful in the final seconds, but at the very last millisecond, Fred was dropped!


Oct 05

Work Together Wednesday, Episode 3

It’s hard to believe that we’re already into October!  Speaking of October, did you know that it’s Socktober?  More than 600,000 American’s are homeless on a daily basis, including children.  Socktober is a community service project geared toward helping homeless shelters in the area by gathering new socks, blankets, and even canned food for the homeless. We’re hoping to get others in the Crestview community involved as well.  So spread the word, and send in some new socks! You can check out Kid President’s plea to those of us on the internet here:

During our place value study, we have been reading some great books about numbers.  In my search for good books on the topic, I stumbled upon (with Mrs. Cross’ help), Millions, Billions, and Trillions, Understanding Big Numbers by David Adler.  This was a fascinating books, full of facts about numbers.It uses real life examples to explain just how big a million, billion, and trillion are.  It even goes so far as to try and help children understand how big the estimated population of the world is at 7 BILLION PEOPLE!  The book also sparked conversation about Kid President telling us that there were 600,000 homeless people, and just how many people that is!


Our Work Together Wednesday Challenge this week was called “Mission in Jars,” (pardon my lack of creativity on the challenge).  This week students were given some typical pantry items such as potatoes, pasta, and rice, and had to get all of the items into a small container, get the lid on, and pass the shake test.  All of this in 3 minutes!

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Before the groups could start on their mission, they had to fill out a planning sheet individually, and then get with their groups, share their ideas, and then decide what to do.  Part of the whole challenge is to work on communicating and collaborating with peers, and trying to find the best solution for the problem.  And…that your solution isn’t always the best one!  One group was successful in that first three minute challenge–and they didn’t even do it how “it was supposed” to be done.  Unfortunately potatoes aren’t standard in size, so I couldn’t test them all out!


After their three minutes were up, there were of course lots of “Aw Mans” and “We were so close!”  That’s when I presented them with some more information.

missioninjars3Inspired by Habit #3 in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Children, Put First Things First, I wanted kids to think about their “big rocks,” or in this case…their potatoes.  I, again, gave them a second planning sheet.  And, as third graders do…they didn’t necessarily take the lesson I was hoping they’d find to their clipboards.  Rather, they took the things that “didn’t work,” from their previous try in order to develop a new plan.  So, still a Win Win in my book. As a teacher, it helped me reflect on how I might introduce this lesson in the future, and how I might present the information for the second trial.

This time, all of the groups were successful in the challenge, and were jumping up saying “Come Shake US!”  I’m sure that would’ve sounded a little odd to an outside observer!  Part of the challenge was that the lid to the container had to be screwed on tightly, and that it survived a good shake!  I failed to get pictures of all of the groups with their tightly sealed containers, but they finished the challenge all smiles!



During the student reflection, I noticed that many of them hadn’t fully understood the whole “Put First Things First” component of the lesson.  Because of this, we took time during our Thursday meeting to revisit the book, The 7 Habits of Happy Kids by Sean Covey, in particular the story about Pokey the Porcupine who’s faced with a dilemma.  He has a spelling test on Friday, but also wants to play with his friends.  Pokey continues to put off studying for his test, and then all of a sudden it’s Friday, and time for the test.  I wonder how things turned out for Pokey?  This is a great conversation to have for kids as they put off doing chores, homework, etc.  And also, a very valuable talk we can have with ourselves when we procrastinate.  After we discussed the story, and our own “big rocks,” the kids were able to tell me what they would’ve/should’ve put in the jar first.  And yes, even if siblings drive us crazy, we all agreed that we’d still take them with us!

Thank you all so much for your kind comments and support of these challenges.  Who knew that an idea that came to me on the evening of the first day of school would turn into such a wonderful thing!  Stay tuned for updates on our next challenge, as well as what we are doing in class!



Sep 26

Fun Run and Line Plots and Reading, Oh MY!

I didn’t get to post any photos of a Wednesday Challenge because we weren’t in school on Wednesday due to the UCI Race happening here in Richmond.  But, don’t fret, we’ll be back on Wednesday with details on the next challenge!

It’s been a BUSY first few weeks of school, and all the kiddos are adapting to new routines, expectations, and all the demands third grade presents them with!  We will be using the computers a lot in room 16–but not just to play games and draw pictures.  Third graders will access kid-friendly research sites to learn about different topics in class, create Google Slides to go with reading and content vocabulary, book reports, and so much more.  Their first experience using Google Classroom, a site I’ll use often to provide the project materials to the students, was last week.  I found an easy read web-site with information on Guinea Pigs and had students answer questions on a Google Form.

Students used Google Classroom to complete a Google Form about Guinea Pigs

Leading up to Thursday’s Fun Run, the Apex guys made their way into classrooms.  Not only did Power Up Pat hand out the much anticipated prizes and alert us of our progress, he also delivered a little motivational mini lesson each day, getting the kids “PUMPED UP” for the day.  Power Up Pat made us part of the dream team by teaching students to Dive In, be Resourceful, Elevate others, have an Attitude check, and to Make a difference.  I was out on the track giving high fives, marking bags, and keeping an eye on my very excited and determined kiddos, so I didn’t get any pictures of the actual run, but I was able to capture one before they hit the track, as well as during some of our lessons with Power Up Pat.

apex collageCan you believe there’s still more?  In addition to all this fun, we’ve done a lot of learning.  We’ve been talking about rules and laws, why we have them, and who makes them.  Kids have learned that citizens have the right to do what makes them happy…yes, anything, but that with any choice, there can be rewards and/or consequences.  In math we’ve been working on analyzing data using graphs.  New this year is the line plot graph, which is often tricky for third graders as it’s a graph of “numbers of numbers.”  We’ll continue to visit this SOL as we move through the year.  Students also had a chance to use the Tumble Books Library (easy access while at school using the county network).  This is a great resource as it allows the kids a chance to search for and find a book based on topic, genre, or level, and have it read aloud, WITH illustrations.  I have NEVER seen my room so quiet, needless to say, we’ll be using this site again!

tumble books and lineplotsWe’re off to a super start in third grade, and the class of 2025 ROCKS!  Stay tuned for continued updates on what we’re dong in class!


Sep 16

“Work Together Wednesday,” Episode 2

I had hoped to get in a “back to school” post before this one, but I must have forgotten just how exhausting the first few weeks of school are!  Here we are, finishing up week two of school, and time is already flying.  Today was our second “Work Together Wednesday,” and boy was it fun.  I grouped students this time randomly.  It changed up the groups from the last challenge, but I’m not quite ready to release them into “free forming” groups right now.  I think it’s important to get used to working with all different types of folks in order to help them realize the different roles required in group tasks–and sometimes you might have to step up, and other times, you might have to step back.


Work Together Wednesday, Episode 2

pyramidchallenge1Note..I had to clarify (BEFORE we started so I wasn’t changing the rules midway), that they couldn’t use ANY part of their bodies to touch the cups–and yes, they asked. If you know third graders, you know that they would have used any method possible to build the pyramid.

pyramidrulesIf we can’t use our bodies, how are we going to do this?” was the obvious question.  I thought the same thing when I was faced with this challenge a few years ago at yet another STEM conference.


There was no time limit this time, so the kids weren’t working against the clock.  The challenge was to see which group could successfully complete the challenge, and of course, who could do it “first.”  A little competition is always motivating, but we talk endlessly about how these challenges are about the “challenge” or the “task,” and not about a “winner.”  Engineers are all around us, and without successes AND failures, we wouldn’t have so many of the awesome things we do!  Once each group had their materials, it was GO TIME.  

Each group had a different idea of how to complete the challenge, and, as usual, that’s always the fun part!


One group was determined to try to wrap the string around the cup.  It wasn’t an immediate failure, but it certainly wasn’t working to move the cup.

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Some groups struggled communicating with each other, so it was harder for them to work together on the task.  Eventually, they all figured out that this was a challenge in which they would not only have to communicate with their words, but also get their motions in sync.

The best part–the CHEERS and SCREAMS as each group successfully completed the challenge.  It was no longer about “who did it first,” but rather, who was able to be successful.  One of the goals in such challenges is helping kids realize that THEY don’t fail, but rather, their IDEA failed.  And what we get from ideas that don’t work, are even more ideas–ones that lead us to even better results.

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Check back in a week for Episode 3!

Sep 09

“Work Together Wednesday” Episode 1

This summer I took many hours of “STEM” courses.It’s always been something I’ve loved to do in the classroom, but lost sight of  a little bit in the past couple of years.  STEM activities are those in which we try to incorporate combinations of science, technology, engineering, and math.  A big part of this is allowing kids to develop plans, work in teams to devise a solution, to see some plans fail, and other succeed.

Being the second day of school, I wanted to go with a challenge that might be less intense, and pretty straightforward.  I got the kids excited about it on Tuesday, and as soon as we had done our GoNoodle for the day, I started the challenge.  This is the slide I presented to explain the challenge that they would complete with their “pod partners”:

chainchallengePretty simple directions…and very few questions were asked.  They wanted to know if they had to use one person’s scissors and glue, or if they could each have their own.  We took a couple minutes to talk about what people do when coming up with a design and working in groups, and they all said “Begin With the End in Mind,” and to make a plan.  Once I passed out construction paper to all the groups and set the timer for 15 minutes, it was go time.

Below you can see some of the groups working on their chains:

IMG_3313 IMG_3314 IMG_3315 IMG_3316 IMG_3317 IMG_3318 IMG_3319 IMG_3320It was so cool to see the approach each group was taking to make the longest chain, and ALL of their ideas made sense.  Some groups even noticed that another group was having success, and changed their idea mid-way.  We talked about how this isn’t “copying” someone, but acknowledging a good idea.  Thomas Jefferson used columns in his architectural design, and columns are credited to the Ancient Greeks.  After 15 minutes, time was up…and here were the results:

Chain Challenge Solutions

Chain Challenge Solutions

As you can see, there were some really close designs!  We took the time to listen to each group’s explanation of their approach, have your child explain the approach his or her group took, and why?


Sep 03

Welcome Back Class of 2025!


Jun 23

The Year in Review

It’s hard to believe that we have wrapped up our 2014-2015 school year.  For the most part, it seems to have flown by, but as we near the end and the students (and teachers) are restless, exhausted, and ready for summer…the days seem to move slowly.  Then, suddenly, in the blink of an eye, that final dismissal call sounds, and those kiddos are racing out of the classroom, headed for a summer in which I hope they continue to read, practice their math, and maintain all the growth they have made this year.

During the last few weeks of school, once testing is finally over, we did a couple of “theme days.”  The trick here, the kids think that they’re having “fun days,” and in reality, the motive is to keep them learning and thinking without even knowing it.  Of course we did have a relaxing “day at the beach,” where kids watched a movie (thanks to Discovery Education (where each HCPS student has a username and password access to as well) which allowed students to watch the Planet Earth series.  We had an “engineering day” where they worked in self selected groups to make the tallest, free standing, straw structure (using only tape and straws–except for the theft of some pipe cleaners.  I think they did the whole don’t ask for permission, just say “oops” later).  They had TOO much fun with this, and it quickly became a competition between the groups.  It’s also a great way to watch them problem solve, and debate about why their structure isn’t standing tall, or where else they need to add support.  They discussed whether to use thick straws or thin straws, whether the tape added weight in the right places, or if the base needed to be wider.  Of course, there was some strong debating going on with a few of the groups, but they worked it out in the end, and sometimes learned that the strongest argument isn’t always the best solution.  I got caught up in the excitement of it all, and failed to take as many pictures as I wished (and just realized that I have NO photos of the finished structures), but the important part of this project is the problem solving/communication/collaboration, not so much the final product, right?

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It was a great year, with some AWESOME students, and it’s bittersweet to let them go.  Each of them has grown so very much–building confidence, gaining self control, finding the FUN in school.  I know that I say this every year, but this has been the best group yet; this is a group whose smiles and laughter I will keep in my pocket for a rainy day.  Whose creativity and curiosity I will use to drive myself into the next school year.  I am so proud of all of them and their accomplishments–academic and otherwise, and can’t wait to see the wonderful things they do in the future.

Jun 02

“Noodle Palooza” Celebration

As an incentive for rocking it out, and trying our best on our SOL tests, we decided to have a “Noodle Palooza”  With just a few short days (meaning a weekend), to throw it together, there was plenty of potential to do even more, but the kids loved it just the way it was.  If you haven’t heard about GoNoodle, you need to check it out. It’s a simple, fun way to integrate brain breaks into your everyday teaching, and the kids LOVE it.  I’d love for you to join in on the fun too by clicking here (the incentive?  I get a tote bag and stickers with 10 referrals, and you know us teachers LOVE our tote bags).

Back to the party…In addition to streaming student requested GoNoodle activities, one of the most favorite being Pop See Koo 2.0 by Koo Koo Kangaroo, they had “pool noodle” battles, and made noodle necklaces.  One of the most fun parts was when our preschoolers came to join in on the fun and danced alongside “the big kids.”  Thank you GoNoodle for helping us make the kids think we’re doing something “fun,” when really, we are helping them learn and grow!


Helping our Preschool friends make a noodle necklace


Zumba Kids


Pop See Koo

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May 27

Celebrate Good Times!

We have been looking forward to tonight for a LONG time now.  Tonight is the Henrico 21 Awards Ceremony, and most importantly the Student 21 Fair, where selected students are chosen to showcase their 21st century work. While all of the kiddos created spectacular projects, only one “group” can be selected as our Student 21 winners to represent Crestview.  But all are invited to come check us out tonight at Glen Allen High School for the Student Fair at 5:15

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That said, once the kids found out we had to decorate a table to showcase their work, it was all hands on deck!  Their creativity and commitment to getting a job done is inspiring, and it’s one of the MANY things that I absolutely adore about them.  They measured and cut FEET of paper, painted, created, redesigned, colored…you name it, and I can’t wait to get the table all set up so their hard work can be fully realized!