Don't Miss This Epic Giveaway!

My little website has been growing, so I wanted to celebrate with a Giveaway from Oriental Trading! This is one of my (and my school's) go-to stores for classroom supplies! Click the picture below to check out how you can enter the giveaway.




The details:


  • The giveaway starts TODAY, July 16 and ends July 30 at 11:59 pm.
  • There are tons of ways to enter.
  • You will have the gift card mailed to you if you win! It can take up to a week to be mailed, but it's usually mailed sooner than that.
If it were my gift card, I might buy some of these awesome classroom items:
  • Math manipulatives - I don't care how old or advanced your students are, they STILL need manipulatives for real learning to take place!!
  • String lights - I think they add a nice, soft light (unlike the headache-inducing fluorescents so many classrooms have) while adding some personality to the room. I got the vintage bulb string lights last year.
  • Time timers - these make a big difference in my classroom, especially in my writer's workshop. You can read how you can use them effectively here.



The next time I post, I'll be launching a series about my best tips and tricks for conferring and launching your reader's and writer's workshop effectively. What are you wondering about conferring and the workshop model? Make sure to comment below, because I'll answer your questions in the next few posts.


If you're already thinking about setting up for next year like I am, make sure you go download my teacher's toolkit to help you launch reader's workshop. The free product preview is a practical, easy-to-use tool that you won't want to miss out on! The conferring toolkit is discounted now, so make sure to download it while it's still at its lowest price; the price will go up in a week or two. Click here or on the picture below to see the toolkit (and, of course, to download the free preview) with my ready-to-go lessons, anchor charts, conferring note-taking templates, materials for your students, and much, much more!



By the way, if you haven't already subscribed, we'd love to have you! Join our community by signing up in the box right under my bio to the right. That way, you won't miss any blog posts. I promise not to clutter your inbox! And make sure to follow me on Instagram for more classroom inspiration.

4 Innovative New Books I'm Reading Now To Get Inspired

Summer is our time to recenter and refocus. I'm excited to give these books a whirl this summer, and I hope you will be too. Click on the pictures of each book's cover to see more information about it on Amazon. (By the way, these are affiliate links!)


1. I Wish My Teacher Knew

I'm stoked to read this because it is supposed to discuss all sorts of things that relate to a child's social-emotional development and well-being in the classroom. Topics listed in the table of contents include: building engagement, growing a positive classroom and school culture, dealing with transitional times, teaching in low-income areas, etc.



I've seen a lot of people raving about it on Instagram, so I can't wait to see what all the fuss is about! I hope I find it as inspiring as everyone else seems to.

2. The Wild Card

This book is meant to help teachers inject their creativity into their classroom. I hear it's great for everyone... the already passionate teachers and the teachers who are feeling burnt out and need a boost.


Apparently, it discusses ignoring the "Joker" (and let's face it, we all deal with them), and figuring out the "Ace Up Your Sleeve." I'm assuming this book will help me to identify and utilize my strengths more effectively. I'm down for that!!

3. Education Write Now

I'm not going to lie, one of the only reasons I wanted or even paid attention to this book was because Kayla Delzer wrote a chapter on relationships.


However, there's even a chapter on mental health. NOW, LADIES. (And also GENTLEMEN.) WE KNOW WE NEED TO MAKE IT A POINT OF FOCUSING ON OUR MENTAL HEALTH IN THIS JOB. We just do. So I think this will be a really cool book to read!

4. Happy Teachers Change The World

It seems that this book is going to blend self-care and promoting mindfulness in the classroom.


If you know me well, you know mindfulness is something that I deeply value in my classroom.  I want my students feeling engaged, peaceful, and ready to tackle the day, but I need to feel that way myself too.

These books have me totally stoked, and I can't wait to read them!! Which should I read first?? Comment below. I'm leaning towards What I Wish My Teacher Knew.



If you're already thinking about setting up for next year like I am, make sure you go download my teacher's toolkit to help you launch reader's workshop. The free product preview is a practical, easy-to-use tool that you won't want to miss out on! The conferring toolkit is discounted, so make sure to download it now while it's at its lowest price! Click here or on the picture below to see the toolkit (and, of course, to download the free preview) with my ready-to-go lessons, anchor charts, conferring note-taking templates, materials for your students, and much, much more!



By the way, if you haven't already subscribed, we'd love to have you! Join our community by signing up in the box right under my bio to the right. That way, you won't miss any blog posts. I promise not to clutter your inbox! And make sure to follow me on Instagram for more classroom inspiration.

3 Must-Read Posts To Help You Stay Sane At The End Of The Year

The end of the year can stress any teacher out. Make sure to check out these 3 posts to hold onto your sanity as the year closes!

3 Must-Read Posts To Help You Stay Sane At The End Of The Year by A Word On Third

1. My 3 Best Secrets For Finishing Report Cards Quickly

Report cards don't need to ruffle your feathers. I get mine done in a day or two. My comments take a day at most.

Start by selecting your grades so you can beast it with your comments. Click here or on the picture below to see how you can do the same.



2. 4 Steps To Deconstructing Your Classroom In Just ONE Day

I love Angela Watson (the author of this post) because she is so darn practical and organized. She wrote this awesome post on how to clean up and take down your classroom in a few hours (just one school day).

I'm leaving my classroom up and running 100% until the second to last day of school. I'll be using her system. Click here or on the picture to snag her spectacular ideas. I recommend purchasing her product on Teachers Pay Teachers too; I'm so thrilled to be using it this year!



3. How To Introduce Supplies And Routines Easily And Effectively

When I introduce routines, I always use interactive modeling. It's easy to forget that interactive modeling is crucial for the end of the year too!!

Click here or on the picture below to check out the 7 steps to interactive modeling and see which ones you can skip at the end of the year when routines are well-established.



I hope these 3 posts help you to sleep easily before your school year ends! I think the one that will make me happiest for next year is Angela Watson's post for packing up quickly and effectively.

If you're already thinking about setting up for next year, make sure you go download my teacher's toolkit to help you launch reader's workshop. The price will be going back up soon, so grab it while it's at its lowest price! Click here or on the picture below to see my toolkit with 27 ready-to-go lessons, anchor charts, conferring note-taking templates, materials for your students, and more.



By the way, if you haven't already subscribed, we'd love to have you! Join our community by signing up in the box right under my bio to the right. That way, you won't miss any blog posts. I promise not to clutter your inbox! And make sure to follow me on Instagram for more classroom ideas than I put on my blog.

4 BIG Reasons Why You Need A Class Mascot

One tool I love to use when building my classroom community is using a class mascot. Our class' mascot is named Puddleton, and he's a stuffed pig. He travels home with a different student each night in his canvas bag, and that student writes about what they did with him in his diary. Here's why you absolutely need a class mascot too!


4 BIG Reasons Why You Need A Class Mascot



1. It creates community.

Taking the class mascot home is a big deal for my students. They are so excited to bring a piece of the class home to their families and share about their day. It's also meaningful for my students to share a bit of home with something from the class. Blending home and school into the same world for students is so powerful.

My students feel like Puddleton is our own little inside joke, something only our class gets to experience. I tell the class that Puddleton wants to go on whatever adventures the students go on each night and ask them to take him with them everywhere. He really does. My students often draw or glue pictures about what they do with him.

So far, Puddleton has eased anxiety at doctor's offices, gone on vacations, visited grandparents, celebrated birthdays and attended birthday parties, and more. My students read to him (whoo-hoo for practicing fluency), and he meets with their stuffed animals.

I've been told it's "too babyish" for third graders, but I let my students be the judge of that. For several years now, my third graders LOVE Puddleton! They love taking him home, and they even ask classmates to trade days with them if something important is going on. I never force them to take him home, but it's never been a problem.


A post shared by Marla Savage (@awordonthird) on



2. It strengthens writing skills.

Giving kids (especially your reluctant writers) a little time to practice writing with a different mindset is really important. The nice thing about writing in the class mascot's diary is that it seems less tedious than other writing assignments.

Whether each student writes in several lengthy paragraphs or writes in a bulleted list form and adds some pictures, this is still valuable. At the very least, it helps students to practice organizing their ideas and writing sequentially. Since diary entries naturally share what the writer did first, next, last, etc., it allows for writers to think about the structure of their writing. This is a huge push in the elementary grades, and something my writers tend to find challenging at the beginning of the year. Every little bit counts.

As a bonus, I can look at diary entries and sometimes see what I need to teach to specific writers too!


3. You can learn about your students' personal lives.

I really enjoy stopping to read through the entries my students write in Puddleton's journal. This is a pretty accessible way for my quieter, more reserved students to share a snapshot of their day at home. Sometimes I learn about frustrations my students have at home. Other times I learn about outrageously cool hobbies my students have that they didn't share about. I know when mom or dad goes away on a business trip or a baby sibling is crying all night and preventing my student from sleeping.

Knowing this information helps me to show up as a better teacher for my students. Of course it ends up being ridiculously entertaining, sometimes too... like the time one of my students wrote that his family ate bacon for dinner and it "offended" Puddleton. (Remember, he's a pig!)

It's such an easy way to know what's going on in my student's lives.

4. Your students can learn about each other.

Because it's such an easy way to learn about students, my students learn about each other by reading through diary entries too! It can help my students learn about common interests they have with their classmates. Since it's so often used as an outlet for students to share personal news, students love talking about what they wrote about in the diary with each other.

My kids LOVE reading his diary; I find that some even write it in their reading log. I'm totally fine with that! At the beginning of the year, I even include a full diary (which is just a notebook) from the previous year's students. That way, they see where Puddleton has been, see that he's an important part of our class, and there's always plenty to read.



If you're looking for another way to build community, go download my bingo mix boards for under a dollar; they'll last you all year! Click here or on the picture above to check them out or be taken to a freebie if you want a sample.


By the way, if you haven't already subscribed, we'd love to have you! Join our community by signing up in the box right under my bio to the right. That way, you won't miss any blog posts. I promise not to clutter your inbox! And make sure to follow me on Instagram for more classroom ideas than I put on my blog.

6 Ways To Ease Your Students' Test Anxiety

Do you have students who display signs of anxiety during testing season? Whether you're stuck administering the PARCC test, the STAR test, or some other standardized test, the anxiety that comes along with testing is very real for some students.

If you work hard to build students' confidence and a healthy classroom community, you already know that that anxiety can be very damaging. Here are 6 tips to help off-set some of that negativity.


6 Ways To Ease Your Students' Test Anxiety by A Word On Third


1. Meditate.

You might be thinking, who has time for that weird, fluffy stuff? First of all, it's not all fluff at all; meditation is scientifically proven to have so many benefits. Second, we need to make time if it means our students will feel better. Meditation will help your students clear their minds.

A meditation might only be 1 or 2 minutes long for students at an elementary age. It doesn't have to take long. You can search YouTube for pre-exam meditations, kid-friendly meditations, or a 1 minute meditation that's not specific to kids or testing at all. Try this one with your class.



2. Be honest.

What is the test really about for you? In my state, standardized testing is really about evaluating the teacher. It has no bearing on my students and their future class placement. If your situation is similar, you might tell the kids just that. 

Each year, I tell my kids that the test is meant to measure how well I've taught and how much they learned. I tell them that they can get a 0% or 100% and neither score will impact them positively or negatively. They'll be in the same class no matter what their scores are, and they won't miss out on any opportunities due to a low score. All they need to do is try their best; they're already prepared.

It also helps to remind the test that it doesn't measure them as an entire person. A test can't measure how friendly, artistic, creative, or hardworking you are. It just measures how you can show what you know on that particular day.


3. Model being calm.

This one is probably a no-brainer, but it's important enough to mention. If the test stresses you out, your kids will be stressed out too. If it's hard for you to not be frazzled by the test, then model other self-care and calming techniques for your students. If you ooze peacefulness, your students will pick up on that. Try to hide your own anxiety about the test if you have any.


4. Celebrate.

There are so many ways to celebrate taking the test, and doing this boosts your classroom's morale. I saw this adorable idea on Instagram and decided to follow suit. I grabbed some light-colored pants and had my kids sign them; now on testing days, I wear my "smarty pants." It makes my kids smile and relax, and since I administer the test, I walk around in my smarty pants which is comforting to them during the test.



While I do not believe in giving kids prizes for behaving well, I do think it's nice to share a few treats every now and then for no reason other than to celebrate! I've been giving my kids a small treat (pencils, erasers, etc.) every morning of standardized testing, just like @thirdgradegoals on IG!

A post shared by Marla Savage (@awordonthird) on



5. Use positive affirmations.

Have your kids say a password to enter or exit the room. The trick here is to make the password a positive affirmation. During testing this week, our class password was, "I can do difficult things." Click here or on the picture below to learn more about using a password in class.




6. Communicate with parents.

Tell the parents what they need to know about the test (see point number 2 on this post). What are they responsible for and what are you responsible for when it comes to testing? I tell my parents the best way to help their child is not to study or cram for the test; instead it's to get their child to bed early and help them to eat a nutritious breakfast.

Parents often get stressed about their child's performance on the test because they worry about how it will impact their child. That's why it's so important for you to model being calm to your students and their families!



Good luck with testing, guys!! On a separate note, did you download the free growth mindset learning progression I shared with you last week yet? If not, what are you waiting for?! Click here or on the picture below to grab it! 





By the way, if you haven't already subscribed, we'd love to have you! Join our community by signing up in the box right under my bio to the right. That way, you won't miss any blog posts. I promise not to clutter your inbox! Make sure to follow me on Instagram for more classroom ideas than I put on my blog.

Download This Free Learning Progression Before You Forget!

A few days ago, I posted a picture on my Instagram account that got a really positive response. You guys saw my self-directed learning progression and you all said you wanted it! Since you wanted it, it's up for free in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, so grab it now before you forget!! Click here or on the picture below to grab your copy.




I like this learning progression because it helps the students to assess where they are in three areas: academics, problem-solving capabilities, and social-emotional development. The rubric is also growth mindset-friendly because it moves from "Not Yet" all the way to "Wow!!!"




I used my school's poster maker to make a big copy of this progression. It hangs on our wall next to our class rules. We refer to it often. I also use these with students sometimes--they just circle the one they feel best describes where they are at a given moment.


I have two versions of the rubric, one that mentions "CARES" (a Responsive Classroom idea) and one that just mentions "good classroom citizenship." Pick the one that works for you and start using it!




If you don't discuss CARES in your classroom, I absolutely recommend introducing it at the beginning of the year. These social skills are all-encompassing. If you've got these 5 qualities under control, you're in a really good place! I always mention these to my students and say that one of our class goals will be to develop these qualities as individuals.


Did you download the learning progression yet? If not, what are you waiting for?! Click here to grab it!


By the way, if you haven't already subscribed, we'd love to have you! Join our community by signing up in the box right under my bio to the right. That way, you won't miss any blog posts. I promise not to clutter your inbox! Make sure to follow me on Instagram for more classroom ideas than I put on my blog. 

3 Teacher Routines You Need To Have A Smooth Day

We've all had days in the classroom where we feel like a chicken running around with no head. Truthfully, preparing ahead of time takes the majority of this kind of stress away. These 3 routines will let you feel more zen in your classroom.


3 Teacher Routines You Need To Have A Smooth Day


1. Prepare for the next morning before you leave.

For me, this means my morning message is ready, my schedule is posted on the board, and the morning Do Now is ready to go for my kids.

I don't want to run around like a crazy person if something delays me in the morning. Doing this takes a few extra minutes, and I don't leave the same time the kids do, but this makes me so much happier. My mornings are spent on my terms, greeting my kids at the door--not rushing to catch up.

The few extra minutes it takes to do this is well worth the investment and sets a productive, calm tone for the day.

If the idea of this sends you into a panic, have students help you with these jobs. My students know how to read my lesson plans and set up the daily schedule. Students can clean your room, prepare many materials for games or centers, etc. At the end of the day during dismissal procedures, this is all my students do while they wait for the bus. Class jobs are great for building responsibility in the classroom, but they're also great for helping you!

2. Use your prep periods wisely.

Close your door. Stop talking to your neighbors. Put your phone away.

Use each prep period to complete a specific task. When I started doing this at the suggestion of my super organized colleague Ali, my life changed. I will never forget her for sharing this brilliant, underestimated tip with me.

Here's what my schedule looks like this year. Make one that works for you.


One of my biggest changes? I make all of my copies for one week at ONE TIME. For me, this is usually Friday afternoon. If you don't want to stay after school on Friday, can you do it on Thursday? Prepare for the week ahead by gathering all of the copies you'll need and make them. 

You'll feel good because you won't be worrying about paper jams or waiting in line to copy when you only have 5 minutes before your lunch period ends. Nothing asks for a chaotic day more than being unprepared or preparing last minute and worrying about it.

You can make it pretty and Pinterest-y by using a system like the one below. Or, you could do what I do and just grab 5 file folders (one for each day of the week) and shove your copies in there. 


3. Teach a rock-solid quiet signal.

Use interactive modeling to make sure your quiet signal is never ignored. The second it is even a little bit off, reteach and remodel it to your class. If your quiet signal isn't taken seriously, you won't feel calm or have a smooth day. You'll be fighting with your students for their attention. Even if it seems like it's going 99% well, your students will eventually get 1% worse incredmentally until you notice your quiet signal is meaningless. That's not an intentional choice your students are making--it's just human nature!



Caltha Crowe is a masterful Responsive Classroom educator. Watch her above to see how she uses a quiet signal with her class. Remember--interactive modeling only needs to take a few minutes. This is not so much about introducing the quiet signal perfectly (though obviously, that helps) as it is about being a stickler to make sure it is followed. Expect perfection when it comes to quiet signals, and you will not regret it.


Obviously, there are so many things we can do to feel prepared and in control of our day, but these 3 practices really make a huge difference for me. I feel much less stressed when I practice these daily.



By the way, if you haven't already subscribed, we'd love to have you! Join our community by signing up in the box right under my bio to the right. That way, you won't miss any blog posts. I promise not to clutter your inbox! Make sure to follow me on Instagram for more classroom ideas than I put on my blog.