Sunday, October 2, 2011

Open for Business!

Last Friday, I opened our first bank and store of the 2011-2012 school year! Students had filled out their "payforms" the day before, so everyone knew how much they were getting paid for the month (they are paid once a month - the last Thursday of the month - store is on the last Friday of the month). I will have to take a photo of one of their completed payforms and post it here so you get a visual. Each student has the potential to earn $25/week: $5 for excellent behavior, $5 for all HW completed, $10 for doing their classroom job, and a bonus $5 if all of the above. That means that every student has the potential to earn $100/month. However, only one did this month (Yay Jaedon!!!)! I would definitely like to see more than one student earn $100 this month.  : )

In order to minimize disruption to academic instructional time, I decided to do our store during lunchtime.It actually worked out beautifully. Most of my students bring their lunches from home, so at our regular lunchtime, they took out their lunchboxes, while the few kids who buy their lunch went down to the cafeteria (and came right back up to class). I put on a movie (okay, it was Spongebob!) to keep them relatively quiet while I called three kids to the back table at a time to make their purchases. We were pretty much all done within 30 minutes, which was just perfect.

Some of the items purchased include (from least expensive to most expensive):
mini notepads
tiny bowling set
lunch in the classroom with up to three friends
be a Mystery Reader

I reminded my kids that the first store usually has "lower end items" because they've only had one month to accumulate their money so only the cheap stuff is out! If they save, then they'll be able to purchase bigger and better items at the end of October! Of course, everyone bought something (I understand the idea of money burning a hole in your pocket), but most saved at least some of their money for next store opening.

I have been doing a Classroom Economy of some form for the last four or five years now, and I think I have finally worked out most of the kinks, and the current incarnation is pretty good! I hope the kids are enjoying it!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Unexpected Recognition is Awesome!

A few weeks ago, I linked up with Marygrove College to discuss how I use Bucket-Filling to help create a positive classroom climate in my third grade class. Last week, I was notified by Colleen from Marygrove that my contribution would be featured in their Guide for Successful Bucket-Filling Techniques! Pretty cool!

Then, this morning, I found out that I was awarded The Versatile Blogger Award by Nannette Third Grade's a Charm! Thank you so much! What a nice surprise - I appreciate knowing that people are reading what I'm posting here (and liking it!).

In order to accept this award, the rules state that I must divulge seven things about myself and list fifteen other bloggers who also deserve this award.

First, seven things you might not know about me (since I have already listed ten things about me in a previous post, this list may be a little fluffier and more random than the other list!):

1. I am a big fan of nail polish, and I own close to 100 different colors.
2. Lizards, skinks, newts, and salamanders gross me out.
3. I love creating organizational systems that are practical and pretty.
4. I have been interested in name history and etymology since I was a kid.
5. Just after graduating from college (and not quite ready to settle into teaching), I worked at a make-up counter at Dillards department store for about six months.
6. In my early 20s, I went swing/rockabilly dancing about four nights a week - I loved it!
7. When I was a kid, I used to compete in synchronized swimming.

Now, the harder part is choosing just fifteen of the amazingly inspiring bloggers that I read as often as I can. Since I try to keep up with over 100 teachers across the country, narrowing it down to fifteen in tough! Here we go in no particular order...
Pitner's Potpourri
One Extra Degree
Keeping Up With Class
Get in the Fold
First Grade Parade
Create Share Teach
A Series of Third Grade Events
Life in 4B
Runde's Room
Clutter-Free Classroom
Guided Math
The Craft Junkie
Third Grade Meanderings
Go Fourth! With Mrs. Owens

Thanks to everyone who takes the time out of their day to read my little blog!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Author's Purpose

Last week, we focused on the skill of author's purpose and author's perspective. We discussed that most of the time, authors write to persuade, inform, or to entertain (P.I.E.).

We started off by reading The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry, and pondered why the author would have written this entertaining fantasy. Many of my readers came to the conclusion that Lynne Cherry wrote the book to persuade people to take care of the environment and to avoid destroying the rainforest, as it is home to many animals.

The next day, we took it a step further and analyzed author's purpose within a text, using an article about Bill and Melinda Gates. We were able to determine very quickly that the author's purpose was to inform us how the Gates Foundation helps people, but then we talked with our reading partners about why the author included specific information. The author chose to inform us of several things: who the Gates are and how they became so successful, what their foundation does, what their current goal is, and why they think it is so important to help others.

Our next piece of text was an article called "Hooked!", which was about children who are hooked on video games. By reading the article headings and skimming through some of it, several readers made the prediction that the article was written by someone with the perspective that there should be limits to how much kids play video games. We were able to use evidence from the text to prove this point.

When I assessed my readers' learning today, I was very pleased that the majority of my class not only understood and applied the information they learned about author's purpose and author's perspective, but more than half scored 100%! Wow!

Next week, we will be exploring story elements of fiction, with an emphasis on character and character development. I'll be reporting back to fill you in on the details next weekend! 

Writing From the Heart

In my Writer's Workshop, I provide a mini-lesson, usually share a read aloud that incorporates the skill that I would like my writers to try out, model that skill in my own writing, and then students have the opportunity to write about a topic of their choice for about 20-30 minutes, applying the skill that I just taught. At the end of Writer's Workshop, it is important to share and celebrate each others' writing. We have been working on gathering ideas, since the most prevalent issue that some young writers (and adults, for that matter!) face is what to write about. We discussed the importance of writing from the heart. That is, writing about what matters to us. My writers filled out a heart-shaped graphic organizer, to include people they care about, places they've visited, and memorable moments and experiences. I advised them not to fill their entire heart up, as to make room for future important people, places, and things. Here's how they turned out:

I can't wait to see what they come up with during Writer's Workshop!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Beginning Reader's Workshop

In third grade, we kick off Reader's Workshop right away! I wanted to share a few of the lessons I have taught my students, as they are essential for building a strong classroom community of readers.

One of our first lessons was about keeping track of our thoughts while we read, since, after all, we should be thinking during reading. We charted the many things we could jot down on sticky notes while reading. My students came up with a bunch of great ideas, which I recorded on large paper for future reference:

I modeled for them how I jot down my thoughts, while doing a read aloud, and then students had the opportunity to jot down and share their own thoughts relating to the book. During independent reading, students had a stack of mini-sticky notes to make tracks in their books, as well. Here is a postcard I gave out to remind students what they should be doing while reading:

During the first week of school, I sent home an "assignment" requesting that students bring their very favorite book to school. Since we will be doing a lot of reading this year in third grade, why not get started with books that have already inspired us and have a special place in our hearts? One lesson last week included how to partner read. It is important for both partners to be able to see the book and read along while sharing. This helps to engage the student who is not reading aloud. I teach them a little poem, called EEKK! (not my original idea) to help them remember how to sit.
My students did an awesome job practicing EEKK! while they shared their favorite books last week.

 In a future lesson, coming soon, we will discuss the importance of being a reading coach to our partner when we read together. Both partners are then accountable for the reading.

We also created a great chart in which we created a very long list of what good readers do. All of the behaviors on our list support reading. For example, good readers get started right away, read the whole time,  keep track of their thoughts, stay focused, make good book choices, "real" read instead of "fake" read, and so much more. I was quite impressed with my students' responses!

During independent reading that day, we stopped about 15 minutes in to discuss how it was going. Was everyone in our class making good choices as readers? Without naming names, we talked about how sounds of beanbags, whispers of students reading near one another, or students' laughter (hey, the book was funny!) could be distractions for other students. We discussed how we could minimize those distractions in order to benefit best from independent reading. During the second half of our independent reading time, we noticed an improvement!

I am looking forward to a great year of Reader's Workshop with my third graders!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Will You Take the 40 Book Challenge?

I love to read. Always have. I remember bringing a book with me everywhere I went when I was a kid. Of course, I don't seem to have as much time now that I'm an adult swamped with responsibilities, but I still make time to read for pleasure mostly every day. For the past couple of years, I have taken on the 50 Book Challenge, which is a group of people across the world whose goal it is to read 50 books within the year. Of course, you can set your own individual goals as well (read more non-fiction, only read books that are more than 200 pages, etc). For me, I don't include books I read to or with my students in my personal 50 Book Challenge. Nor do I include short books (under 100 pages) or rereads (I don't do much rereading anyway - I like new reading material!). However, I do include professional reading, as I do read many books related to teaching. As of today, I am on book #36, and I have no doubt that I will achieve my 50 book goal by the end of the 2011.

Now, on to the 40 Book Challenge, which I am planning to introduce to my students next week: The goal of the 40 Book Challenge for young readers is to get students to leave their reading comfort zone and explore new reading genres. Ultimately, I would love to see my students' love of reading flourish, as well as for students to make big academic gains in reading. Let's face it, the best way to become a better reader is to read VORACIOUSLY. And the 40 Book Challenge helps with this!

Although 40 books sounds like a lot, students will only have to average one book a week. This can be accomplished by reading during our independent reading time at school and spending at least 30 minutes reading daily at home. Some books, like shorter non-fiction books, can be read possibly in a day or two. Some books will obviously take longer to finish. By making the right books choices, I am confident that all students will be able to achieve the goal of reading 40 "just right" books in third grade this year.

We will be keeping track of our books on a display in our classroom. Every time a student starts a new book, he or she will record the date, title, and genre on an index card and attach the index card onto their colored paper. Once the student completes the book, he or she will write the date finished on the index card, take it off the display, and add the index card to a little O Ring, which will be hanging on hooks in the classroom.

Here's where things get a little more interesting: in order to expand my students' reading worlds, I will be expecting them to read  a variety of genres, specifically 5 realistic fiction books, 5 informational books, 5 fantasies, 5 mysteries, 4 biographies or autobiographies, 2 historical fiction books, 2 science fiction books, 2 poetry books, and then 10 books of their choice. I will be doing a lot of book talks this year in order to expose my students to new books and genres, so that they can then check out the ones that pique their interest.

Books must be on students' "just right" reading levels in order to qualify, and books over 300 pages will count as two books from that particular genre. Students must have their independent reading books at school every day. We go to the media center to check out books every two weeks, and my classroom library is chock-full of great books available for check out, too:

I can't wait to begin this challenge with my students! Now, get ready...get set...READ!!!


Have You Filled a Bucket Today?

 It is essential to establish and warm and caring classroom environment these first few weeks of school. I try do that in several different ways, one of which includes Bucket-Filling. The idea of this comes from the Bucket Fillers website and this book that explains it all in the simplest of words and illustrations:
The concept is simple: we all carry invisible buckets with us everywhere we go. When people are kind to us, our buckets get filled, and it makes us happy. When people are unkind, they have dipped into our buckets, which makes us feel sad or upset. To make this idea more tangible, each student has decorated their own individual bucket. In the blue bucket (below), I keep little slips of paper that read "I would like to fill ________'s bucket by saying __________________. From _______"

I have noticed students slipping these little papers into other students' buckets during transition times or if they have a moment after completing their work. It never interferes with instruction or other academic times, as student understand what the appropriate times are for filling the actual buckets. On Friday afternoons, I allow students to check their buckets and read their slips. They can't wait for this moment! I saw many smiles today as students read the kind words from their fellow classmates. I encourage students to fill not only the buckets of their best friends, but of students they don't know that well. What better way to make a friend?

I reinforce bucket-filling by incorporating a number of books into my shared reading time during Reader's Workshop. We discuss themes common to the books - kindness, courage, perseverance, and acceptance. Many of the characters in these books share these traits and are bucket-fillers because of the good choices they make. On the flip side, we also get to see what happens when people make poor choices and dip into other people's buckets. These books include:


I think using the concept of bucket-filling has really helped my students see themselves as part of a family or team, rather than individuals functioning alone in the classroom. The key is to make sure bucket-filling endures, and is not a beginning of the year thing or one of those ideas that fizzles out after the first month. I hope to do this by continuing to discuss kindness and teamwork and bucket-filling language within the context of the literature that I read to my students. In addition, I plan to fill my students' buckets from time to time, especially if I notice students who have empty buckets.

Check out Marygold College's blog to find out how other teachers across the country have implemented this fabulous program!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Welcome to Third Grade!

The first week of third grade has come and gone quickly!  I hope your child enjoyed their week as much I did.  

Your child brought home a colored file folder and a red and white First Day Packet (if you did not pick this up at Meet the Teacher) inside their red folder today.  It is filled with a plethora of items requiring your attention.  

Please sign and return:
* the emergency dismissal card
*the paper-clipped items in the colored file folder
* any PTA forms - membership, purchasing T-shirts, etc.
* SERVE forms - if you plan to volunteer or chaperone any field trips
* Supply donations
* Free/reduced lunch forms - if applicable
* the detention letter
* the Internet/video/picture permission form
* the lunchroom rules
* the attendance policy

Thanks for your prompt attention to these matters.  Thank you to most families who've turned in ALL papers!

I feel certain that many of the children will be hungry before lunchtime in the coming days.  It takes a while to readjust to a school schedule.  Our lunch time is from 12:08-12:38, and I imagine that I will need to nibble on a small, healthy snack myself mid-morning. Please tuck a small, healthy snack in your child's backpack if you'd like. Thanks!

  • Parents: :) Please turn in completed forms as soon as possible.  We've asked that you take some time to write to us about your child--be sure it's "In a Million Words or Less"...check the assignment for more details.  (It came home in a manila folder and is due on August 31st. Thank you to those parents who have already completed this assignment!)

Please send in Boxtops for Education anytime.  Hopefully, you've been saving them all summer long.  We have a Box Tops collection box in the room for them.

Thank you to all of those who've sent in all their supplies! We have plenty of paper towels, baggies and hand sanitizer! You guys rock! :)

Here is a suggested supply list for third grade:
• Scissors
• Plastic pocket folders with center clasp (one of each: red, blue, yellow, green, orange, and purple)
• 24 pencils (no mechanical)
• 24 pencil top erasers
• Box of markers, colored pencils, crayons
• Highlighter
• Glue sticks – 3 total
• Four composition books
• Pencil box or pouch
• Wide-ruled notebook paper

Each night your child will bring home their "Communications Folder." which contains everything to help keep them stay organized. This red 3-pronged folder houses our weekly newsletter, homework, and other important information that assists with communication between home and school. They should be taken home and returned to school DAILY. We will begin using our Communications Folders as soon as possible.

This year Early Release Days will take place EVERY Monday. On Early Release Mondays, students eat lunch at school and are dismissed at 1:15pm, instead of 2:15pm. 

Third graders love when their parents come in to read! I have plenty of Fridays available for you to come in as a Mystery Reader. Please email me with dates that you would like to read, and I will check the schedule and confirm with you.  

I love documenting our "practices" and events throughout the year and because I want you to see what goes on in Room 123 (and around Gorrie), I post photographs weekly on our classroom blog, and I sent home a form last week requesting your permission to post these photo on-line. I encourage you to check often to see new pictures! You can even share with relatives that may not live here in Tampa, but still want to keep up-to-date on the happenings of your little super star! :)

Communication is important. Feel free to contact me when you have a question, comment, or concern. You can reach me by email at or write me a note on the Communications Log in the Communications Folder.

Would you like to see something on the class site?  Email me at with your suggestions.  I love suggestions!
Mrs. Robinson 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Meaningful First Week Activities

The first week of school generally consists of getting to know one another, in addition to discussion and practice of classroom procedures and routines. We also got our creative juices flowing by creating summer reflection writing pieces, squiggle stories, and "All About Me" mini-posters. Students are getting to know one another and me, and we are learning to work together to build a successful and positive classroom environment.

On Wednesday, I wrote out six questions, all having to do with how to make our classroom and ourselves function to the highest level, on six pieces of chart paper. Students, in groups of three, spent two minutes at each chart, collaborating and responding to each question on a sticky note. After all groups visited each chart paper station, I hung all of the charts up and we discussed each answer and noticed some very interesting trends. Here's the finished product, which you can click on to enlarge:
Inspired by Life in 4B

To tie into the previous activity, I was inspired by my wonderful teammates, Mrs. Fadden and Ms. Mattox, to develop at class pledge with my students. We reviewed our responses to the above questions, and then we put all of the ideas together to form a cohesive paragraph that we have all agreed will help us to remember why we are here at school and what our common goal is. Below is the rough draft of our class pledge (which I will type up, make pretty, and have all of my students sign):

Since we were able to develop a class goal (to achieve success in third grade), I also had each student determine an individual goal after reading the story Matthew's Dream by Leo Lionni. I displayed our "Hopes and Dreams" for third grade near the classroom door, so that we can refer to, and revisit, them throughout the year. Lots of students are interested in learning how to sharpen their cursive skills, multiplication and division skills. I was very impressed by the number of students ready to take on our 40 book challenge! More on that later! Here's our class display of our hopes and dreams for third grade:

Lastly, I read a book called Have You Filled a Bucket Today? The premise is that everyone carries an invisible bucket everywhere they go. When your bucket is "filled" you feel happy.When your bucket is "empty" you feel sad or upset. People can fill buckets by lending a helping hand, smiling, being kind, including others in games, and more. People can empty buckets by teasing, being ungrateful, acting disrespectfully, and more. I encourage my students to recognize the actions of bucket-fillers by writing them quick note and sticking it in their bucket display. This helps make everyone feel good. When we feel good, we want others to feel good. Therefore, kindess is passed from person to person. This is our bucket-filling display, complete with ways we can fill buckets and ways we can empty buckets:

I look forward to more of these types of meaningful activities that promote teamwork, kindness, and achievement with your child!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Meet the Teacher Day: Success!

It was so wonderful meeting my new third grade students and parents today. I was also happy to see so many of my former students and their parents stopping by for a quick hello! I hope my students enjoyed picking out their seats for the first day of school. Since some students have a little bit of anxiety about being in a new grade with a new teacher and new classmates, I thought giving them a little ownership over where they sit would help ease those nervous feelings. Now, whether those new seats will last beyond the first day may be another story once I see the group dynamics!  : )

On every student's desk was the Gorrie First Day Packet (folder). I gave it out in advance so that parents aren't swamped on the actual first day of school, as I plan to send home my own little packet of parent paperwork on Tuesday. I promise that the papers will ease up after the first week! Oh, and there's a little friendly competition between the teachers to have all emergency cards completed, signed, and returned to school first, so please get that emergency card to me as soon as possible! Thank you for your cooperation!

Enjoy the last weekend of summer vacation!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Countdown to the First Day!

Thanks so much for stopping by our classroom blog! Only a few more days until the official start to the 2011-2012 school year! I have been working very hard to get the classroom ready for my new third graders! I hope to use this blog as a tool to communicate our studies, achievements, homework assignments, important dates, etc. to students, family, and friends. I plan to update this site on a regular basis by posting pictures of what the students are working on (with parent permission, of course) and what is going on in our classroom. I look forward to meeting my new friends on Meet The Teacher Day, which is this Friday, August 19th, 2011 immediately following the Info Fair from 12:30-2:00pm. If you would like to bring your school supplies on Meet the Teacher Day, please feel free. It might help to alleviate that first day of school stress. Please take a look around our class blog to learn a little bit more about me and the things we'll be doing this year. You can subscribe to this blog via Google Reader (one of my new favorite tools!), or you can even get new posts sent directly to your email. Hope to see you on Friday!

Monday, July 18, 2011

How I'm Spending Summer Vacation

Another fabulous third grade teacher, Jodi from Clutter-Free Classroom, is doing a fun little writing "assignment" this week, in which bloggers are responding to a topic she posts (kind of like those 45 minute timed writes we give monthly to our students!). Hope this gives you a tiny peek into my world! I'm going to include photos, just because I like to add a little flair.

Before summer vacation started, I made a list, with Ben's help (he's my almost six year old son), of a bunch of places to go and things to do. Otherwise, we would spend way too much time watching TV in our PJs. So, the first thing we ended up doing was making dino eggs. Ben loved it!

We've visited our local parks (but's sooo hot!):

We've spent time at the beach with buddies:

Ben has started tennis lessons, and he is actually getting pretty good!

We've had fun at the Children's Museum with friends:

My husband and I went to the NASCAR Coke Zero 400 in Daytona:

We set off fireworks for July 4th:

Ben and Eva both took swimming lessons:

We went to the "Twilight Swim" at our local pool and Ben was not afraid of the high dive:

We've done "science experiments":

We went to the aquarium:

And we went to the zoo:

This week is going to be pretty low-key, and I have a couple trainings next week (I try not to do too many out of the house trainings - three this summer, but I do a TON of professional reading over the summer). I am hoping to get into my classroom next week to get a little head start on getting things ready for the new year. The week before teachers go back to school, we are taking a mini-vacation over to Disney. We're only planning to do one theme park and then hang out at the hotel for a day to relax and enjoy the last little bit of summer.

Hope everyone else is having a fabulous vacation!