Friday, March 10, 2017

The Power of a Friendly Read

I love book clubs and I love when students are reading the same book. But we do not have the time to do book clubs all the time and plus I know kids get tired of having an assigned reading. Due to both of these things I decided to start friendly reads! 

So, what is a friendly read?

Friendly Reads are the new type of book club. They are a book club that will motivate even your most reluctant readers to want to read new novels.

Students are externally motivated by their friends and their peers. We all know this because us adults are too! So, as teachers we need to use that motivation to help our students want to read more interesting novels. Friendly reads can do just that!

For a friendly read I find two best friends or two students that have very similar interests. If I am not sure of two students that are best friends or have similar interests I will pull up a student to my desk. This student is typically a reluctant reader or a reader who I really want reading a new novel. I will ask them about some people in the class who have similar interests as them or ask them about someone they would love to read a book with. This conversation can help lead to the group.

Then, I pair two students together. You can pair two or three students together, but never go past three because if you go past three students you have changed from a friendly read to a book club! :)

The two students meet me back where I house my book club books. I ask them both the following questions:
1. What type of books are your favorite?
2. What series of books have you enjoyed in the past?
3. What is something that you are both interested in?
4. If you had to pick a favorite genre what would it be and why?

Then, I use the answers to those questions to find similar interests. I will hand them at least two books to try. You want to give them some sort of options because it makes them have ownership of what they are reading. They will do a book walk and discussion and decide if one of those books are a good fit for the two of them. If not, I will hand them more books till they find a book that works for both students.Then, you give them both a copy of the same book to read. They each need to have their own copy if you want to run these correctly.

There are some rules that go along with these friendly reads, but I try to not put too many  stipulations on the read. One thing I find is that students need to just read for enjoyment and not because they have to read the assigned pages or because they have to fill out the graphic organizer when they get done. The point of the friendly read is to just  get a student reading and motivate them to want to finish their novel, not to force them to read.

When they start the friendly read I tell them the following things:
1. You want to stay close to the same spot in your books, so when you are talking about the book no one is giving away important parts. I suggest that when we have silent reading you sit near each other to make sure that you are reading around the same pace. If one of you are reading ahead of the other one, stop and read a different book to let your friend catch up.
2. You may discuss your book immediately following silent reading each day for 5 minutes. This is not a structured discussion because I just want you to talk to your friend about what you are reading, but you have to talk about the novel the entire time.
3. When you have completed the novel, I will give you some enjoyable online assignments to fill out to show me you know what you read! Then, you can complete a book project together on the novel.

The students then go on to read the book, discuss the book and complete the final project. They are motivated to read and understand what they are reading because their best friend is doing it too. They also love the idea that they will get to complete a project together when they are done! You will watch your most reluctant readers finish whole novels because they are motivated by their best friend completing the novel too. The power of peer motivation will be amazing in your classroom!

When the students are done I will give them one or two graphic organizers to fill out. These will just show me that they understand key reading terms that we are working on related to their novel. I put these on Google Drive to make it more engaging to the students. You can find those here! 

When they are done they get to look through my book club project binder. They pick one project that they want to complete and then they get to work on going through all of the steps. You can find all twenty book club projects here! 

I can't wait to see how friendly reads change your classroom reading program!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

10 Memorable Read Aloud Novels

We LOVE read aloud in third grade! I love reading aloud just for enjoyment and I also love completing novel studies with my students.

So, what is the difference of a plain read aloud and a novel studies?

Well, we do a read aloud every single day. For a read aloud I read to the students and ask questions for discussion throughout the book. But we do nothing with the book. No graphic organizers, no tests, no nothing! We just read for enjoyment and discussion.

For a novel study, we all have a copy of the book. We read it together and complete discussions, quizzes, projects and work on skills for each chapter. When we are in a novel study it is my main teaching source during that time. I am not reading other books or working on anything else. We just are working on all skills throughout the entire novel.

Many people ask me all the time what my favorite novels are for third grade. So, this is a round up post of my favorites. If you click on any of the books it will take you right to the novel on Amazon. (these are affiliate links)

Third Grade Angels
This is a great read aloud to start out third grade. It teaches students all about kindness and rules in third grade. If you have a VIP program it is also a great introduction into the program. It is all about a kid working very hard in third grade to be the first "Angel" of the class, but in the end it shows that kindness is more important then anything else.

This is a great book about a giant and a little girl that teaches the students so many life lessons. It is also very entertaining and engaging.

The Lemonade War
This is a great book to teach during your economics unit. This teaches the students so many economics skills, plus it is very relatable and engaging. We complete this novel study with the book and this economics unit when we are done!

This is a classic book that students LOVE every year. Every student loves a good dog story and it is great for them to compare life today to life back then. We complete this novel study with the book!

Stone Fox
This is my favorite novel study of the year. The students always LOVE this book. Plus, it ties great into the Iditarod, which we study each year. Read how we focus on the Iditarod here!

Magic Tree House- Fact Trackers
These are the best nonfiction novels I have ever found for read aloud. They are engaging and entertaining to the kiddos, but they also offer lots of facts. The best part is each fact finder goes with a fiction book. So, after you read the nonfiction book you can have the students read the fiction book to compare and contrast the two!

Cam Jansen
These are GREAT books to introduce the mystery genre to your students. They are easy to read and understand so every reader can comprehend the book, but they are engaging to even your highest reader. I suggest Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Stolen Diamonds!

The Secret Zoo
My students LOVE the Secret Zoo series. It is all about a group of kids that get trapped inside a zoo where the animals talk. It is a zoo behind the real zoo. It is very engaging and after you read the first one your kids will want to read the rest!

Story Thieves
These books are all about students who find themselves trapped in different novels. You will get your students to love this series, but you will also introduce them to so many books that the characters jump into!

The Adventures of Humphrey
All my students love the Humphrey novels. They are all about a class pet hamster. It is written in the point of view of the hamster and the students find it HILARIOUS! When they are done reading one of the books they will want to read the whole series!

I hope you can pull some of these books into your read aloud or novel studies. Each book (besides Shiloh and Stone Fox) are apart of a larger series. So, after you read one of the books to your students they will be begging you to read the rest or just begging to get to read the rest!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Iditarod in the Classroom

Every year we teach the Iditarod to our students. They LOVE it! It is so much fun teaching them something they have never heard about, there engagement is so high!

On the first day, I decorate the classroom in lots of snow! I buy cheap snow packs when they go on sale after Christmas. Then, I pretty much just put in everywhere! I also try to make sure that I have some sort of "Igloo". You can make that Igloo with milk jugs or you can throw some snow around your reading center!

I also like to hang lots of snow flakes. On the windows, from the ceiling, really anywhere a snowflake would fit!

Iditarod in the Classroom- Quick and Easy Ideas to Teach the Iditarod!
I transform our door to the starting point, so they are excited the minute they walk in!

Then, on the door I put all the checkpoints. I put them from start to finish. You can grab the checkpoints here for free. Then, when the race starts the students will research a Musher. They will track that Musher everyday and move their name on the checkpoint door until the Musher wins!

We do TONS of research! Here is the research that we do in the first week!

1. I put the checkpoints around the room. Each student takes a checkpoint. They research that place in Alaska and find at least five facts on the place. Then, we do a "Iditarod" and we walk to each checkpoint. When we reach that checkpoint the students present their information.
2. We research the whole Iditarod using this cute booklet made by The Peppy Zesty Teacherista. You can find it here!
3. We research a Musher to track throughout the Iditarod. 
(We do all our research through

Then, we spend the next month reading some great books that support the Iditarod.
(Click on any of the books below to be taken to an Amazon affiliate link for the book!)

 1. Stone Fox- We read this novel as a class and complete this novel companion. I also have it completely on google drive here! We cover tons of skills, do fun projects, and learn more about sled dog racing. This unit is a favorite for my kids every year!

2. Akiak, The Great Serum Race, and Togo- All of these books are about stories of dogs that participated in similar races to the Iditarod. We read each thought the month! After we read all three books the students become "news anchors". They pick one scene in the three books and make a newscast that describes that scene! It is so much fun and the kids have a great time with it!

3. Balto of the Blue Dawn- If your kids like Magic Tree House, this is a great book to add the the library! It is all about sled dogs and the kids love it! They even have a nonfiction book to go with it called "Dog Sledding"! We don't do anything with these whole class but they become popular books during the Iditarod unit!

I always have to have a little fun in the snow too! I love the Iditarod race and so do my kids!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Polar Express Day

Polar Express Day Ideas and Freebie
We LOVE Polar Express Day in our classroom. We love reading the book, doing all sorts of activities, and watching the movie! I love to make this day as fun as possible. It is a memorable day for all my kiddos and I like to set the stage to engage!
First, I set up a train in my classroom. All I did was put my tables in a long row and line my table with black paper. 
Then, I cut out a red and yellow circle and a black steam/smoker (not really sure exactly what they call this and google is giving me a lot of answers! :)) 
Then, you have to tape it to a ruler unless you use thick construction paper. We used hot glue to make it stick to the paper on the table!

Polar Express Day Ideas and Freebie
With every train you need a conductor!! How cute are these hats that my bestie teacher made?! I mean seriously!

Polar Express Day Ideas and Freebie
We put train tracks all throughout the hallway. This was the BEST part! I was laughing so hard because every kid that walked through the hallway stayed inside the tracks. Every kid no matter the grade level enjoyed walking down our hallway that day and it sparked excitement for my kiddos. 

Polar Express Day Ideas and Freebie
It wasn't as glamorous setting them up as it looks like! :) Luckily, I have a great teaching bestie who helped me pull down the train tracks! We just got  3 rolls of electrical tape from Walmart and pushed it down on the floor. If you have help it only took us about 20 minutes to get them finished! It pulls up super easy too!

Polar Express Day Ideas and Freebie
Of course you need a railroad crossing sign coming into your classroom! ;)

Polar Express Day Ideas and Freebie

Then, it was PJ day! I LOVE LOVE LOVE PJ day, except whenever I wear PJs to work I get nothing done! But, who cares it is Christmas time! I got this super cute believe shirt at Target and got ready for the day!

Polar Express Day Ideas and Freebie
We had a hot chocolate bar for the kiddos. I just bought two gallons of milk and heated in my crockpot all day. Our elf brought us marshmallows and candy canes to add to our hot chocolate! 

Polar Express Day Ideas and Freebie

The students earned tickets to come to the north pole by completing the north pole word problem race. The students had 8 word problems that had to deal with Santa. They had to get through the entire race in order to gain their ticket! This was super fun and engaging for my students.
So, for the secret santa exchange today I am going to give you the one step version for FREE!! Put these around your room and your kids will be so engaged working on word problems!

Polar Express Day Ideas and Freebie

Have a wonderful Polar Express Day!!!
Check out the other blog posts in the secret santa hop for more amazing freebies!
Polar Express Day Ideas and Freebie

Polar Express Day Ideas and Freebie