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 https://lexile.com/analyzer/   
  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.

https://lexile.com/ 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

Friday, December 19, 2014

Two Christmas Freebies: Color by Multiplication Fact & December Break Reading & Writing Challenge

I know most teachers have started their holiday already but it's never too early to plan for next year! Anyway, I wanted to link up with freebie Friday, so here are two recent freebies I've made. You can find the links on my teachers pay teachers store or by clicking the pictures.

Working in an international school usually means about half of my students do not celebrate Christmas. I wanted to create something that was not Chirstmas specific for my students to complete during the break. I've made this optional because most will be traveling great distances, but for students that are staying in Rwanda (or for parents that have requested extra help!) this an option to keep reading and writing skills sharp. I also created a BONUS websites for practice page that I photocopied back to back with the challenge page. I had a few parents request extra practice for mathematics and spelling.

This is just a fun 3 page color by multiplication fact freebie with a bonus blank page where students can create their own color by fact drawing for a friend. These kinds of things are always lifesavers for me on the last day or two before a big break from school. I hope you enjoy!

Visit teachingblogaddict.com for more freebies!

-- Jennifer

Long term plans 2014-2015 for third grade

 long term plans 2014-2015

 long term plans 2014-2015

Since I'm on break this week, I've spent some time reorganizing my long term plans for this school year. We're implementing IPC (International Primary Curriculum) this year, so I've added those units in as well, although I didn't teach the Active Planet unit yet. We did start with geography, landforms, and weathering/erosion though, so I thought I would just update it with the IPC unit instead.

I plan to come back to this post and hyperlink other posts as I talk about individual units I complete with my students. The first unit I will likely share is the Explorers and Adventurers Unit as I finish up planning for that one. The plans can be downloaded as a .pdf by clicking either of the pictures, or by clicking here.

CLICK HERE for a FREE long term planning template for powerpoint, and visit my TPT STORE for more freebies and resources for the classroom!

-- Jennifer

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Favorite Read Aloud Chapter Books for Third Grade!

Let's talk about books! There are a few books you go back to year after year and every group of students seems to enjoy them. I really value the 15-20 minutes of read-aloud time I spend with my group third graders each day. It's something that I've always made time for and there are a couple of reasons for that:

1. I find that it is a perfect time for students to unwind and just practice listening for enjoyment's sake. They aren't focused on main idea or summaries or analyzing characters (though I hope they're doing that organically!). It's a time for enjoying a good story and that's where I believe building lifelong readers really counts.

2. It's a short bit of time for me to relax! Our day is so jam-packed with all of the things that students are supposed to be learning that I find I need a few minutes of quiet concentration. Plus it's always nice to revisit an old favorite and enjoy a good book along with my students!

3. Spontaneous Teachable moments. I don't generally plan lessons around my read-aloud (although we have been known to pull out the spider nonfiction books when I'm reading Charlottes web). Teaching moments do happen though. We stop and talk about characters or plot or motivations, etc, but it's not something I plan and I quite like that! I like it a lot!

I've chosen six favorites to share with you today. Five are books that I re-read nearly every year, (and are timeless in my opinion) and one is new to me (and was to my class this year as well), but I see it as a perfect addition to my read-aloud favorites for years to come.

In no particular order, here's the list: 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
I didn't read this book prior to reading to my class for the first time three years ago. I'm not sure what I was waiting for exactly! This is a great fantasy book and can be a bit challenging for my third graders, especially in the beginning, but once they're into it, they won't let me put the book down! I've also had the experience that once I read the first book, then I will notice several of my students will asking forthe second book, then the third... It's great to get them hooked into a series and watch them enjoy the series individually and discuss together in groups.

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White 
I love reading Charlotte's Web in October or November because it isn't a challenging book for my students to follow but it has a really powerful message about friendship that is great for the age group I teach. It also has a good mix of characters. My students always love Templeton. He's still one of my favorite book characters of all time.

Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard & Florence Atwater 
I enjoy coming back to this book each year because it celebrates a man that has a simple idea and turns that idea into his dream. It really teaches students to dream big and you can pretty much do anything you try! I also use this book as a great lesson on comparisons between books and movies because each time I read this, at least half of the students immediately shout out "I've already seen the movie!" And I get to go into my speech about how different books and movies can be. Most of my students agree that the book is much MUCH better than the Jim Carey film after I read it to them! 

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks 
This book is another one that is a little challenging for my students to get into at first. I usually save this one for May or June when my students are practically fourth graders. Once they get into it, students really enjoy the mystery to this book. It's also a fun idea to think about: What if toys could really come to life? It also teaches students a valuable lesson about responsibility, especially when it's a real person you're caring for!

Matilda by Roald Dahl 
I remember my third grade teacher reading Matilda us when I was the same age as my students now. It was one of those books that really stuck with me while I was growing up, and I remember reading it over and over again. It's one of those classic Roald Dahl books about how kids really do have the power to overcome injustice, in this case, at school. And the Trunchbull is one of those classic villan characters that really stick with kids.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate 
This one was new to me this year. We tried it out in October of this school year, and it was a big hit. It was a bit mature for my students, and I did need to stop and explain what was happening a few times because Katherine Applegate has this beautiful way of writing stark narrative that is perfect for the story, but a little challenging for 8 and 9 year olds. My students couldn't get over how one sentence could really make an entire chapter! haha! This story is about a gorilla named Ivan who is taken from his family in DR Congo and lives in a shopping mall to entertain guests. Since we live so close to DR Congo (in Rwanda) this story was perfect for my students to relate to. I even had a student this year whose mother works with the Mountain Gorillas in Virunga National Park in Rwanda. This student was particularly excited to tell us all about the gorillas.

What are your favorite read-alouds for your students? I'd love to hear any thoughts.

 -- Jennifer

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Invention Convention

For the last week of school before the break, my students held an Invention Convention for their parents and for other classes in the elementary school to see. They did an excellent job and I'm very proud of their creativity!

We used elements of Inventors: An Engineering Workshop, as well as a unit from IPC (International Primary Curriculum) called Inventions that Changed the World. Here are a few photos to showcase my students work:


Monday, December 15, 2014

Let's try this again...

Well, it's been a long time! I suppose it's time to try keeping up with this blogging thing once more. The students are on break already. Having three weeks off at December is always nice and it makes up for the complete lack of holidays during the regular school month!

 Here are a few resources I've been working on lately:

FREEBIE: Nondenominational December Break Reading and Writing Challenge
 I used this last year and this year with my students. Three weeks is a long break from school so this gives them something to keep their minds from forgetting all of the things we spend so long on in school! It's also nondenominational because working in an international school always leaves me with a good mix of students who celebrate Christmas and who don't celebrate Christmas. I always leave this optional because I know most of my students' families will be traveling great distances and there isn't always time for extra work.

My Dictionary: A personal Word Wall
I sometimes find my students asking me to help them spell the same words over and over again! I know I'm not the only teacher with this problem! I hope this will help my students be more independent when they return in January.
I can track my Independent Reading
I always give my students 15 minutes of reading as homework for Monday-Thursday and a traditional reading log to record the title and the minutes read. Well, lately they have been getting lazy with this process and many do not fill in their reading time until Friday morning after the time it needed to be collected! So we will be using this in January and students will be using reading journals to record all of their homework for reading. I also believe this will keep them accountable to actually reading what they say they are reading, something that I've found is difficult to track when parents are not checking regularly on homework.

The next two products are research oriented. Our new Science and Social Studies curriculum (IPC: International Primary Curriculum) is very research heavy and has great sequencing guides but not very much in the way of practical resources, so I created this series to aid my students in the research process.

Let's Research: Countries of the World Every year, students in our elementary grades complete a country project as part of our International Week in October. We used this project to help us stay organized and the projects turned out really great!
Lets: Research World Exploration
I've used parts of this in years past, but we will use the full project in January and February when my students return. Our next IPC unit is Explorers and Adventurers, and this research project goes well with the unit. I'm excited to try it out fully.
Choose your adventure: Age of Exploration
The last project I made will go along with our Explorers and Adventurers Unit in January. Again, I've used pieces of this in the past, but decided to give it a makeover and make it more coherent. This project allows students to know what it might be like to travel with an explorer like Christopher Columbus in the early 1500s. It also gives them open ended tasks to complete, so I'm really excited to see what my group of very creative third graders come up with this year!