Saturday, January 24, 2015

Valentine's Day Freebies & NEW Multiplication Bingo

Here are a couple of links to two Valentine's Day Freebies over at my Teacher's Pay Teachers Store.

The first one is called Student Compliment Notes. This is something I do with my students on Valentine's Day each year. Each student designs a heart shaped mailbox and then I have them write one compliment to each of their classmates and they deliver their notes on Valentine's Day. I also make sure we talk about what a meaningful compliment looks like, because if we don't, I'll get notes like: "you're a good friend" or "you're really cool", and so we think of ideas that are specific to that person.

Some ideas we think about for each compliment:
What does he/she do really well at in school?
Think about a time when he/she was really caring or honest or brave, etc.
Tell that person one think you admire about him/her.

I always find this is a time of year when students need a bit of a refresher on how to get along with each other and how to speak with kind words for everyone, so this lesson is perfect. I also like that it isn't entirely centered around candy and chocolates! This freebie also comes with notes that are not Valentine's Day themed so you can use them any time.

The next freebie is a called Valentine's Day Multiplication Match. My students are still working on multiplication facts so I created this as a fast finisher activity during our Math block. Students cut and past the correct answer under the multiplication problem. There are 3 levels to allow for differentiation within or between grade levels. I'm going to give the 2 digit x 1 digit to my advanced students as a challenge.

The last thing I have to share isn't a freebie but it is new to my store. I just posted it today! We needed some extra multiplication practice and my store-bought bingo boards were falling apart from so much use that I decided to create my own multiplication bingo. This product comes with a bingo board template and cut and paste numbers to fill the board. There are 5 different cut and paste pages to add variety. Answer calling cards are also included. It's only $2.00 at my store right now!

Also, I LOVE comments/feedback. If you download a freebie please consider leaving me feedback here in the comments, or at my TPT store! Thanks!

I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!

I'm also linking up with:

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Persuasive Writing!

Last week we started working on persuasive writing! I started the unit by reading the book I Wanna Iguana... by Karen Kaufman Orloof and then we brainstormed things that my students really really wanted just like in the story. We discussed how they might go about asking their parents for this thing, or animal, or to go to that place.

We decided the persuasive letter to their parents needed to have:
  • flattery (Everyone likes a compliment!)
  • polite tone (using please, etc.)
  • a thoughtful argument for why it's a good idea
I then had them write the letter to their parents inside a speech bubble, cut out the speech bubble, and paste it to a page with their faces. This activity is modeled after a blog post created by Amy Lemons. You can find her downloadable template for the speech bubble here.

I am so impressed with how their writing and art turned out! I've done this writing for a few years now as an introduction to persuasive writing, and these are the best yet. I think it helped that we had a mini art lesson on how to draw faces. We started by discussing the things that all faces have and how your drawing should have the same colors and shapes that your own face has. I also modeled each step by drawing a portrait of myself on the board. We stopped after each step before moving on to the next. I think it really helped them to put effort into their work because I have quite a few students this year who will rush through everything just to get to the next thing.

This is a close up of one of my student's work. She really wanted to go to a hamburger/pizza restaurant we have here in Kigali. She had a really original idea that was specific to Rwanda and this was something I appreciated. Others wrote about wanting a dog, a cat, a ginuea pig, a chameleon, an ipad. Some wrote about places they wanted to go to: Lego Land, a favorite sushi restaurant, and Disney World.

I think this activity was a really great way to start to our persuasive writing unit! Have you found any great ways to teach or introduce persuasive writing?

-- Jennifer

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Peek at my week... January 12-16

Here's a link up about my upcoming week! Click the picture for a .pdf file that has clickable links.

Next week, we are continuing with multiplication. We're using my Minute Quiz Multiplication for fact fluency. In a few weeks, we'll celebrate learning our multiplication facts with an ice cream party. The kids are pretty excited! We're also using Multiplication Bracelets and Multiplication Fact Booklets to  increase fluency. They LOVE the bracelets. I'm very fortunate that my group of students are mostly above level this year in math so teaching multiplication has been a breeze. It's also my favorite thing to teach in third grade!

For reading we've been using my In can track my independent reading packet to be more accountable for our independent reading. This is an area I found needed improvement from the beginning of the year. Students have started journals and below is a page completed by one of my students. 

Here, they track their minutes read for homework, the name of the book they're reading, and activities they complete for the choice menu. These were completed in class last week. Next week, this will be done as homework.

We're also into our second week of our Explorers and Adventurers Unit. Last week we completed this anchor chart and discussed how we are all explorers. They came up with some great ideas for this anchor chart, even mentioning pirates and astronauts! I was really happy with their thinking.

Next week we will continue with explorers and complete a motivations foldable and start on a group project called Choose Your Adventure: Age of Exploration. The first activity is writing a letter requesting money and supplies from the King for a voyage around the world. From there, we choose captains and begin our journey with a "choose 5 items that will help you survive on the journey" activity. I think my class will really enjoy this project! I need to remember to take photos!

I hope everyone has a great week. Go link up and share your own visual plans for next week!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

January Currently

First time linking up with  Oh Boy, Fourth Grade! for a January Currently...

listening to... can never get away from the street noise. It's pretty soothing now that I'm used to it. The streets were dead this morning and it made me a bit nervous, haha!

loving... Yes, you read that right. Two pretty standard things but I've never seen them in Rwanda before! I love scavenging for new things to buy here because you just never know what you'll find. When I came here five years ago, there wasn't even reasonably priced ice cream!

thinking... This was the first Christmas I spent away from my family as I've traveled home every other year. It's definitely quieter here during the holidays...everyone just goes about their business. I suppose time is money! 

 wanting... this won't come for about three weeks, but I'm still wanting it all the same! It has some much needed cosmentics in it.

needing... yes, I've been home nearly three weeks and have yet to plan anything for next week. I think I'll go into work tomorrow and get some things done.

Yes.. I'm going to a wedding in South Africa in April. It will be my first time there and I'm meeting up with a friend that I haven't seen in a while. I'm excited but I really do need to start looking at plane tickets!

Maybe... this has been on my maybe list for two years. I'm still running regularly. Maybe this is the year.

I wish.. Yes, I think this is true for all teachers.

-- Jennifer 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Explorers and Adventures Unit Plan and Ideas

Unit Plan for Explorers and Adventurers

I thought I would share my unit plan for my next integrated Science and Social Studies unit called Explorers and Adventurers. Click here to download a .pdf version of the plans. It has clickable links that go to different products around the web.

I've used parts of this unit for the last four years, but it's nice to finally have it all pieced together neatly. Does anyone else enjoy that as much as I do? We will begin this unit when my third graders return in January and I'm pretty excited. I think I've really found a few things to engage my gifted students. I can't wait to see what they come up with for their research projects!

Freebie Links

I also have as extras for my blog visitors only. These two single lessons didn't have a place in any of my exploration resources so I decided to make them freebies for everyone that stops by. You can't find them anywhere else! Either click through on the .PDF unit plan above or download them below:

Where in the World? A Google Earth Investigation
Explorer Motivations Flipbook

Please let me know what you think of them in the comments!

All products created by me for my exploration unit can be found at my TeachersPayTeachers Store: 

Thanks for stopping by,


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

FREEBIE: 2015 New Year Memories and Goals Student Mini-Book

I know must of us are in no way ready to start planning for January, but here's a FREEBIE to get you started anyway! Click the picture for a student mini-book for celebrating the new year. This is great as independent work during the first week back to school in January! I know my students always enjoy activities like this one that they can pull out once they finish other work. It also serves as a goal setting booklet and a reminder to be respectiful and kind to each other! Something I think my students will need after three whole weeks apart from each other.

The mini-books are easy to make. You simply print and cut all pages in half and assemble in any order. There are also two blank pages (one 'Looking Back', and one 'Looking Forward') for you to prompt your students or for your students to prompt each other! Or just use them as extra picture drawing spaces. This is what I intend to use them for.

Other recent freebies:

Color by Multiplication Fact: Christmas Edition

Nondenominational December Break Reading and Writing Challenge

Please take a moment to visit my TPT store, leave feedback, and follow me for product updates. As always, thanks for stopping by.

-- Jennifer

Sunday, December 21, 2014

How to determine the Lexile Level (reading level) for ANY text

I'm finishing up a new close reading packet for my Teachers Pay Teachers store and I noticed that several other close reading packets that I've purchased over the years have a Lexile Level attached to them. I wondered how teachers had determined that, so I did a little Google investigation and thought I would share my findings with you.

  1. To determine a Lexile Level for any text, go to   
  2. You will be asked to register for a free account. A free account allows you to analyze up to 1000 words of text at a time. This was more than enough for my needs, but it looks as if you can request to have access to the pro version for longer texts. 
  3. After you register and accept their terms, it will ask you to upload a file. Since my text was in a powerpoint file, I just copy/pasted my text into a word document and clicked save as: plain text. The analyer can only read a plain text document. 
  4. Hit submit after it loads the document and you should have your Lexile Level! 

The Lexile Level for my Christopher Columbus: the Man, the Myth, the Legend close reading article was a bit high for a good number of my third grade class, but I might make a couple of versions and include different levels. This seems to be the trend at the moment anyway!

You can use a reading level correlation chart to cross-reference other systems, such as Fountas & Pinnell's A-Z system. can also be used by students to find books on their reading level, or by teachers to determine classroom library book levels. Very easy!

Please let me know in the comments if you have ever needed to determine the Lexile Level of a text before. Was it helpful for student learning?

-- Jennifer