May 22

Looking Back at May

It’s been another exciting month for the Third Grade Thinkers!  Sure, we started taking our SOL tests, have spent a lot of time reviewing, but we’ve still managed to sneak in some fun activities.  Students made fun little cards for their moms, it was interesting to see how old they thought she was, but so sweet to see what they would buy her if they had all the money in the world.

"As Wise as Athena" (love the educational application here!)

“As Wise as Athena”
(love the educational application here!)

We spent some time reviewing our plane shapes (uh-oh third graders forgot about some of the characteristics of squares, triangles, and circles), and then made 3D shapes using toothpicks as the edges, and marshmallows for the vertices.  The kids always love getting sticky while learning, who can blame them?!  We explored the shapes of the faces of the different 3D shapes, the number of vertices, as well as the number of edges.


Finally, our new iPad minis have arrived!  The kids were thrilled to see Mrs. LaNeave walk in our door with them.  We have to share them of course, but we were the first ones to try them out.  With so much going on, I haven’t had much time to upload apps to them, but during  stations, kiddos got to rotate to various activities…one being a synonym and antonym QR code activity,  And for fun, students have been coloring pictures from the Chromville website/app which makes their pictures come to life….Grant shared one that he had been working on

Augemented Reality is AWESOME

Augemented Reality is AWESOME

Apr 27

Third Grade Goes East

Last week third grade took a field trip to the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News, Virginia. In addition to being excited about going on a field trip, the fact that we were taking a charter bus made it even MORE exciting.

Headed back from our field trip

Headed back from our field trip

We signed up for a lesson about how Abraham Lincoln used the moon to help solve a crime.  Sounded pretty interesting–and SOL correlated–learn about moon phases and review Abe Lincoln, all while in the planetarium, SWEET!  However…the lesson was a little bit too mature and advanced for third graders (and many adults like me), and I kind of wish we had just done a regular planetarium visit where the kids could look at the stars and still have that experience.  I would recommend the Abraham Lincoln and the Case of the Missing Moon to upper grades.

The lesson wasn’t our favorite thing, but all the other stuff the museum had to offer kept the kids busy, inquisitive, and happy–and kept the adults on our toes as we tried to move from one exhibit to another.  There was so much to see there, and we certainly didn’t have enough time to give each part of the museum.  We explored various regions of Virginia and what types of animals and plants you might see.  The museum sets up everything from the Piedmont Regions and Coastal Plains to the Appalachian Mountains and outdoor exhibits that feature various wildlife of VirginiaHoppy Kids

Field trips aren’t just “days away from school.”  They’re experiences for the students–it helps connect them to the content, to the community, and maybe even to a new interest.  Field trips, when chosen properly, help peak kids’ interest in educational content, and encourages them to ask “why,” rather than to just accept that it is.  The Virginia Living Museum was, as the kids said, one of THE awesomest field trips ever–and I think we will go again,

Apr 21

Re”FLEX”ing our Math muscles

I was lucky enough to secure a one-year grant from Reflex Math to try the program out in my classroom.  We all know that kids LOVE using the computers, the LOVE games, but they don’t always love math.  Many come to third grade without having mastered their basic addition facts, many using rulers, number lines, and all sorts of tricks to solve simple addition and subtraction problems.  In third grades, students are expected to master basic MULTIPLICATION facts–but that can’t be done until they can add and subtract.  After reading some reviews on Reflex, teacher testimonials, parent feedback, I figured that I definitely wanted to give it a try.  My guys started using it right before winter break, getting used to it by working on addition and subtraction, and I threw them right into multiplication when we got back.  Now, Reflex isn’t going to work magic unless students get on with consistency, a minimum of three days a week, and of course, have an understanding of what multiplication and division are (repeated addition/subtraction).  As we’re closing in on the school year, I can say with a fact, that Reflex had a positive impact on my students, and I hope that there is a way to continue using the program next year!  Below is a pictured that highlights and celebrates our students’ Milestones.Wall Of Reflex Leaders

Mar 31

Lifelong Learning

Over the past few weeks, I had the opportunity to attend THREE different conferences for education.  The first one I attended was the EdTech conference on the VCU campus here in Richmond.  Somehow this conference ended up in my newsfeed, and I immediately started looking into, and registering for it.  As with most educational conferences, there was SO much to learn, and not near enough time.  And, it isn’t an “elementary specific” conference, so picking sessions that would be applicable for my students wasn’t difficult, but choosing only three was a challenge!  I chose to attend one on Project Based Learning or Problem Based Learning as it may also be referred to.  This session was helpful in showing examples, but I really wanted to dive deeper into how to integrate the process, how to formulate guiding questions and provide support in the process.  The facilitator, an ITRT in Hanover County Public Schools, did provide us with some websites/sources to reference, including, and Edudtopia.  the second session I attended was led by two Henrico County ITRT’s,  David and Alfonso called “End the Mapathy”  They covered SO much during this session that I’m not sure my brain retained it all, but I know I want to use ALL of it.  That’s where I get into trouble, there are so many great resources, tools, and ideas out there, but just not enough time to do it all.  I know that I will certainly employ various parts of their session when I teach geography in the next school year, and also as a tool to help trace the routes of explorers Christopher Columbus, Juan Ponce de Leon, Jaques Cartier, and Christopher Newport in the next few weeks, as well as to work on a digital field trip to the ancient civilization of Mali.  Finally, the one I was MOST excited about, was about using Augmented Reality in the classroom–it was advertised with a “Harry Potter” reference, so who wouldn’t be excited.  This guy had TONS of experience with augmented reality, and while he had tons of cool ideas, I walked out of there with some cool alphabet cards, and some apps that I knew would do something “sweet.”  For all of you early elementary/preschool teachers, check out the ARFlashcards appIMG_2124



.  You can print out cute little ABC flashcards, and watch an animal come to life, and even say it’s name, and the letter it begins with.  Little ones are sure to adore this one, we were also introduced to the app ColAR mix, bringing coloring pages to life, and then of course the all popular Aurasma and DAQRI.  I’ve toyed around a bit with Aurasma, but still have a lot to learn, we will be using it to feature some of the 7 habits at our Leadership Day in April.


Mar 24

“Third Grade Funk”

There are SO many things to love about third graders, it’s really a GREAT age.  They still love learning, aren’t afraid to be silly, they’re curious and charming, challenging and delightful.  My class worked long and hard on a project in which they had to build a structure to withstand a specific storm, after much research and planning, you can view some of their project explanations here.

We had TONS of snow days here in Richmond, so we got off track a bit, and it took longer than expected to finish our project once and for all, but boy was it fun!  Using the tune of Marc Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” featuring Bruno Mars, students performed their own version, “Third Grade Funk,” in which these third graders truly “Built it UP.”  ThirdGradeFunktitle

Mar 04

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

Life Cycle of a Snowman

WEEKS ago, I stumbled upon a fun science activity when I searched “Lifecycle of a Snowman.”  We were wrapping up our unit on matter, and I thought this might be a fun way to not only do the science, but incorporate some writing skills as well.  It just so happens that, as any teacher knows, time gets the best of us–throw in a week’s worth of snow days here in Richmond, and you’re not only behind, but you’ve forgotten that “grand” idea, and moved onto another.  I was determined that eventually we would get to it, and finally we did.

I took three balloons and filled them with water, placed them in paper bowls, and then put them in the freezer.  I had planned for them to be in the freezer for about 2 days, but with another bout of snow days (and a weekend following that), they got some extra time to chill, and I had a great ice breaker to kick off the week.

The kids were very curious as I brought the three balloons in, and removed the balloon material, exposing three ice spheres…this alone proved to be incredibly exciting.  Following the hints I found online, I used some salt to help them stick.  The eyes, mouth, buttons, scarf, and nose were all made from scraps of felt, and again, a little salt helped them stick.  Pictured below is the snowman we started with…well almost.  Due to the middle sphere being very unstable, and our poor snowman, named Baymax, after the character in the movie “Big Hero 6”, kept falling apart.  So, we settled for a snowman with only two spheres.

Beginning         MiddleEnd


We made observations about Baymax in the morning at the start of the “experiment”  The kids then made predictions about what would happen to him by lunch time, and then the end of the day.  And, as many third graders, especially coming off of a few snow days, they have experience with snowmen, but their predictions were spot on!  We were (as usual), pretty rushed at the end of the day–the time when Baymax got moved into a frying pan on a burner to quicken the melting process.  We watched the bubbles rise to the little bit of water that was in the pan with him, and the kids made observations about the water evaporating, becoming a gas, etc.  It was cool to hear them put into words, all that they had learned during this unit.  All in all, this lesson was a hit!  I think they only thing they didn’t like about the activity was my rendition of “Frozen’s” Do You Wanna Build a Snowman!




Feb 12

Surviving The Storm

Third Grade Thinkers have been working hard on creating structures that would keep them safe in the midst of a natural disaster.  My third graders never cease to amaze me, and it  goes to show that they’re only limited by the “boundaries” we set for them.  Students researched, collaborated, planned, designed, and built structures based on what they learned about the disaster that they chose. Students completed some of the research by referencing the link created in Google Classroom for them, and then used Google Drive, both independently and collaboratively with their groups to record their data.   In addition to google apps like Google Draw, the kids got to choose from various platforms to use along the way. In addition to Google Draw, they were also able to choose from Pixie or the ipad app Drawing Box to design their structure. Once they built their structure, using Legos, recycled materials, or whatever they could get their hands on, they put together a presentation about their structure using iPads, and either Educreations, Videolicious.  This has been a very exciting process to watch unfold, and I couldn’t be prouder of all my little thinkers! We’d love for you to check out our final products, and PLEASE comment on, and share for others to see!  We are so excited to hear what you have to say!

Here’s the Hurricane Structure:
, or

Seek Higher Ground in a Flood

trim.9B19F265-FF64-4EE9-883C-8E53C6A2C790 from Julie on Vimeo.

Tsunami Season


IMG 0457 from Julie on Vimeo.


Feb 09

Thinkers Get Moving

I recently stumbled upon the website GoNoodle in my search to find ways to get my class moving, and have access to brain breaks with the touch of a keyboard. Previously, I used Activity First, through James Madison University. And I will see, students really loved the idea of moving. But, after using the same site and activities for a few years, this teacher needed a change.
GoNoodle has been a huge hit with the students, and they cheer, and get really excited when the see it pop up on the screen. Friday, in preparation for the second part of our reading benchmark test, we did the steeplechase. The children had to jump over hurdles, monitor their pace, put some power in their jumps to make it over the “puddles,” and giggled all the way through.
Steeple Chase

Jun 14

Queen Szakal is looking for a good citizen to teach strong values next year

Queen Szakal has a mission.  She wants to enlist one of five famous Americans to teach her third grade students good values next year.  Students had to choose from Thomas Jefferson, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, or Cesar Chavez to do the job.  As an end of the year project, and something I did with only two days, we didn’t have a great deal of time to edit and fully prepare, but students did some research, filled out a chart, and wrote a speech.  In all, I am pleased with what they did with such short time, and look forward to extending this next year

Queen Szakal is in search of a good citizen to be a role model to next year’s third graders from Shannon Szakal on Vimeo.

Eleanor Roosevelt for hire from Shannon Szakal on Vimeo.

Thomas Jefferson for hire from Shannon Szakal on Vimeo.

Susan B Anthony for hire from Shannon Szakal on Vimeo.

Susan B for hire from Shannon Szakal on Vimeo.

Martin Luther King for hire from Shannon Szakal on Vimeo.

Nov 02

Social Media in the classroom?

Well, not quite!  Today the students were introduced to  Using Edmodo, students can communicate with each other on a ‘social media like’ site about things going on in the classroom.  I will use Edmodo to post questions, quizzes, surveys, etc that students can respond to.  Today’s question was used to introduce students to the Edmodo format and give them a chance to practice making comments–and boy did they make comments.  Our question today was about setting an AR goal, and what he or she plans to do to reach it.  Some answered the question plain and simple, while others chose to make comments on each others posts, and the use of the edmodo site itself.  Students can access their edmodo account from home, however comments should only pertain to school related activities!