Community Building Brain Breaks

Hi, Teachers!

Today is the day I get to show you the two new products I've been working on! I'm so excited to share them with you because I know your classes will love, love, love them, and they are just in time for the TPT Cyber Monday sale!! They are debuting today, and will be 20% off for the rest of the day and tomorrow until midnight. Snag them while you can!

I don't know about you guys, but my kids need to MOVE AROUND. My kids are really active. I also find that my classes are... oh, I don't know... A BILLION TIMES more well-behaved when they really know each other. These mini games will help you to accomplish both of those tasks at one time. These are my Community Building Bingo Boards! They will last you ALL. YEAR.
Community Building Bingo Brain Breaks for the FULL YEAR! - By A Word On Third

Here's what a sample page looks like. My kids grab clipboards and a bingo board and play for anywhere between 3 to 10 minutes, depending on the time we have. They just mingle all over the room. Students fill in each square with a classmate's name who fits the rule in the square. These are perfect as quick brain breaks to get kids moving throughout the day, or you can use them during the "Activity" portion of your Morning Meeting. These will help your kiddos build assertion, communication skills, and much, much more. For best results, keep using the boards all year long. Some of the boards can be used more than once during the year. The first version of the year-long product has more than 25 boards. I like to use one per week. The best part? ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS PRINT AND COPY. That's right... no prep! Whoo hoo!!!

The year-long bundle includes boards that go along with a theme. Some themes are: Valentine's Day, Saint Patrick's Day, Halloween, Winter Holidays, math, writing, reading, science, social studies, recess games, Physical Education, Art, super heroes, spring, winter, fall summer, classroom experts... the list goes on! I'm also happy to create extra boards if you want them. Just leave feedback on TPT and you can re-download them when I update them. 

You can grab the freebie here (it has a few boards you can use if you aren't sure you want the product yet), and the paid product here. WHOO HOO!! I'm so excited to share this with you because I think it's FUN.

On a silly note, I saw this meme this morning and had a chuckle. Who can relate??

What are you buying for Cyber Monday? Did you buy something on TPT? Did you find any great teaching products? If so, post them below so other teachers can snag them!


Hi, Teachers!

I just wanted to let you know that everything in my store will be 20% off on November 30th and December 1st. Get your wish lists ready! This the biggest sale I've had yet! Click the banner below to go to my store and preview the products you want to buy on Monday or Tuesday. Remember to use the code "smile" when you check out!

720 × 90

I don't usually post on Saturdays, but I'm hard at work on some really cool community building tools for you, and I had to let you know! I will have one small freebie for you and one BIG, new product to last you all year long in my store by the next time I post! What could they be!? Well, they are fun, they are games, and they can take as little as 3 minutes or as much as 10 minutes if you really want to stretch it out and get crazy with it when you use it. I can't wait to share it!

This week was short in my classroom, but we had a blast. Wednesday, especially, was fun. We shared our Tom the Turkey stories, played a Native American stick game that built probability skills, created some comics about pilgrims and turkeys during writing. It was a blast! I also totally melted because one of my students made me a superhero identity card. A SUPERHERO. IDENTITY.CARD. WHAT!? I melted into a million puddles!! HOW CUTE IS THIS!? 

Congrats to Susan K., the winner of my Thanksgiving giveaway! I may not have the most wildly popular blog (YET!), but I am thankful for all of you, Readers!! I hope everyone is recovering from eating massive amounts of turkey. I, myself, am a vegetarian, so I haven't been extra sleepy due to eating turkey. Instead, I've been making Mr. Word On Third some interesting, new recipes with our leftovers! I'm making turkey taco soup in my slow cooker right now. Are you guys interested in a post about some of my favorite go-to meals? This blog is about all-things-teaching, after all, and teacher SELF-CARE is totally important and relevant in my opinion! Food is fuel for super teachers! Also, what did you snag on Black Friday? Anything catch your eye for Cyber Monday? Comment below to let me know!

Special Books By Special Kids & The November Blues

Hi, Teachers!

Happy Thanksgiving! In honor of today, I want to share with you something beautiful and amazing that I found while checking out all the teacher websites I visit. Watch the video. It's amazing, and it will fill up your heart. It's created by Special Books By Special Kids. I recommend checking them out. Here's the video that made me cry!

WOW. Just wow. After my last blog post on having fun in the classroom, I learned that the "November Blues" were an actual thing. So, check out this article by Responsive Classroom too! Between the video and article, you should be in a positive mindset when you go back to school on Monday! 

Today is the last day to win my free math enrichment pack, so click on my last blog post (linked here again) to enter my giveaway. 

Happy Thanksgiving, Teachers! What did you like eating today? Did you cook?

What I Learned From ALWAYS Obsessing Over Best Practices... & A Giveaway!

Hey, Teachers!

Lately I've been spending some time reflecting on my teaching in a different way. I've taken a step back and stopped worrying about best practices. I am not worrying about the Common Core, my curriculum, or my lesson objectives. I am not worrying about how Lucas is going to complete his writing project or how Anna is going to get her math done. When is the last time that you took a step back from your plans, the emails, the copies... and asked yourself, "Am I having fun?"

I hope it is not a time you can't remember. If we aren't having fun, how can we expect our kids to have fun? If we are so stressed and overwhelmed by the amount of work we have to do, are we pushing that stress onto our students? Now, I know we might really enjoy teaching reading. I know you plan dynamic lessons all of the time. What I'm wondering is... did you spend some time making one out-of-this-world kid-approved fun lesson? Did you make something explode in chemistry? Did you let the kids use art supplies? Did you do something that you know your class would love and would spark learning and bring the joy back into your classroom? THAT is the fun that I'm talking about. Sometimes, though, it can get pushed away with SGOs and observations and standardized tests sometimes.

Here is my number one rule for every week (but ideally each day): 

This probably seems obvious. But we don't always do it because we are so busy and stressed sometimes. I've gotten so caught up in worrying about best practices, the Common Core State Standards, my curriculum, the needs of my students, aligning my perfectly-worded objective to 40,000 standards, and the never-ending to-do list, that sometimes I will forget why I chose this job. 

According to Responsive Classroom/The Northeast Foundation For Children, kids need 3 main things in order to learn. This is what needs to be met ALL OF THE TIME:

1. Belonging: Kids need to feel like they are cared for and belong to your group.
2. Significance: Kids need to feel significant and important in your group. 
3. Fun: Kids need to have FUN in your group!

If one of these basic needs are missing, kids will try to fill it. It's human nature! It's why adults fool around in faculty meetings at the end of the day. We need to have some fun! If we don't have fun, we make our own fun. Are you letting the pressure get to you? Find something fun. It'll build your community, and chances are, you will find a way to make it work for you and your curriculum anyway!

This is why I wanted to step back and focus on just one thing I did for fun this week. This doesn't mean that I don't care about the standards or that my instruction isn't rigorous. It does, however, mean that I remember I am teaching 8-year-old kids who need to... well... be kids!!! I think this lets them soak up the academics much more effectively.

This week, we created some Tom the Turkey projects for Thanksgiving. We decorated and disguised our turkeys (so they won't get eaten on Thanksgiving) and wrote stories to go along with them! The kids have been loving it. They rush over to the display every morning to see the newly added turkeys not-turkeys. Some of our funniest... not-turkeys... so far include: Taylor Swift, a chocolate chip cookie, a minion, a crazy sheep-vampire, a snowman, and more. See for yourself!

As you can see, our minion does NOT have tail feathers. That's because it's not a turkey. It is carrying bananas. And the writer of that story wants you to know that turkeys. don't. like. bananas.

That's not a turkey you see all the way on the left. That's Taylor Swift. You can tell by her glittery dress and shoes. Turkeys don't wear those, you know! Guys, I have a celebrity in my classroom!!!!

The crazy vampire-sheep gets me every time. It is SO hysterical to me. There are no words. I just love it!!!! LOOK AT HIS FACE. Adorable!

I am glad I gave my kids a chance to share their creativity. We are going to share our turkeys during Morning Meeting on Wednesday before the break. We will also read our stories to each other and give feedback. All of a sudden, when we think about what we expect from a narrative writing piece and we use a checklist, this becomes a FUN but completely educational experience for the kids. They can be creative while assessing each other and thinking about the qualities of good writing. Fun, right?! It's not so bad!

So, to all of my friends at my school (who I know feel the pressure given the current political climate in New Jersey) or elsewhere, I CHALLENGE YOU TO FOCUS ON DOING ONE FUN THING PER DAY. If that feels like too much, then I challenge you to focus on doing one fun thing per week! Remember, I am not saying you aren't fun. I KNOW you are fun! I just want you to give yourself permission to live a little while you teach! Maybe it is spending 5 minutes between classes to do a class game or brain break. Maybe it is using clay during math one day. 

What will you commit to doing this week? Comment below for a chance to win....

my Common-Core Aligned Math Extension Activities!!! That's right... fo' free! Click the picture above to view this in my store. I wrote about this product here. Seriously, all you have to do is commit to doing one fun thing tomorrow, or this week if you need to take baby steps, and comment what that is below. If you don't end up doing it, I won't send the fun police after you. I want this to feel...well... fun! Try again the next day if you need to. Get commenting!

Never Get Distracted While Teaching Again: Introducing The Parking Lot

Hi, Teachers.

Have you ever had a student who really wanted to share a personal story while you're teaching a mini-lesson? 
Have you ever had a student ask a great question that doesn't connect to what you're teaching at the moment? 
Have you ever had a student who had a problem while you were working with another student?
Have you ever had a student want to talk to you when you had to get something done?

If not, you can leave this blog right now since you are clearly Mrs. Super Teacher. If you do experience this (like me and... umm... EVERY other teacher in the world) I have a GREAT solution for you. It's...... a PARKING LOT!

Do you see how happy these teachers are? THIS COULD BE YOU! When students ask questions or have stories to share but you just can't get to them right at that moment, have them jot a word or phrase (one that will help them remember their issue) on a post-it and stick it to the parking lot. I separate my parking lot into two categories. One is the "emergency parking" section, which means that the student CANNOT complete his/her work without having his/her question answered and that they need your help right away. The other section is for non-emergencies.

Save Teaching Time with A Word On Third's "Parking Lot" Strategy

It's really important that you discuss and model this with them when you introduce it.
 They need to know...

  • what qualifies as an emergency. 
  • how long to wait if you don't see that they are on emergency parking
  • to write their name on their post-it so you can get back to them
  • that you will get back to them ASAP. 
  • that asking you to help them over and over again when you have told them to put their thought on the parking lot will not work.
If you choose to use this method, you need to commit to answering students questions at appropriate times and in a timely manner. However, this will save you SO. MUCH. TIME. So much time it's ridiculous! And wonderful!! Here's my one rule with the parking lot... Are you ready? It's really important. It can never be broken if you want this to work.


This is so important! If a child wants to ask you a question and you say, "parking lot," or whatever agreed upon phrase you will use (another popular one is "Burning Questions"), the student must not ask you again. You must not cave when you hear, "But, Miss X, it's just that..." The only things that you can do for this system to work is to repeat yourself by saying "parking lot" or just ignore further attempts to get your attention.

I like to teach my students how to interrupt, however, if there is a serious emergency. If someone is physically hurt, students can interrupt me and say "Miss Savage, there's an emergency. Someone's hurt!" That is THE ONLY way I will listen to them at that moment. If they say that and there is no true emergency, I simply tell them to put their idea on the parking lot. I do a lot of practicing this throughout the year, but it is a huge time saver. I am able to get quality teaching moments in uninterrupted. 

Do you use a parking lot or burning questions board? How do you help your students to be more self-directed when solving problems? How do you squeeze in extra teaching time? Comment below!

Eliminate Homework Problems: Monday Made It

Hi, Teachers!

I'm super excited to be linking up AGAIN with 4th Grade Frolics for her Monday Made It linky party!

Today I'm sharing something I made for a student's brownie meeting. She is working on an organization badge and asked if I'd help out. I happily accepted! I felt so warm and fuzzy that she asked me. 

Do you have trouble getting kids to do homework? There are a few strategies for this that I want to cover in today's short post.

1. Give students a checklist.
I made a freebie for this in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Click on the picture below to download it for free! OH YEAH.

Sometimes all kids need is a little structure at home to complete their homework, and this might help to provide it. Use this checklist to help students become more self-directed at home when completing homework. By working with students individually and modeling how to use this plan, you will help most of them to be more successful at home when it is time to do homework. Simply print, laminate, and cut the checklist and provide your student with a dry-erase marker so he/she can use it over and over again. You may even want to tell parents you are providing students with a checklist.

2. Practice homework at school first.
What!? Seriously!? Homework? At school? Yup, if this is something your kids need to work on, set aside some time to work on it in school first. Once they do things really well on their own, they are ready to try again at home.

3. Communicate with parents.
This might seem like a no brainer, but have you contacted parents? Have you explicitly described your expectations for homework? Parents need to know what their kids are supposed to do. Have kids from families that speak another language? Can you get the ESL teacher to translate your expectations? Make sure to communicate clearly. I have a class website that includes my expectations from week to week. I also included uploads of all documents which are used weekly (reading logs, word study activities, etc.), so that they can be printed out at home if they are forgotten.

4. Give students choice.
I created a choice menu for word study so that students can choose which assignments they want to complete. This makes homework much more enjoyable for kids. If they want to do different activities each week or the same ones each week, I am OK with that.

5. Consider a logical consequence if homework is incomplete.
If I am assigning a reading for students to complete in order to participate in a book club, I expect it to be done. Book clubs are FUN and the kids absolutely A.D.O.R.E participating. If students haven't read and prepared for their club, the consequence is that they cannot participate in their club meeting. Make sure your consequence is logical. If they just need a few minutes to prepare, they can join the club late.

6. Re-evaluate your homework policy.
This might seem silly, but it's so important. Because I teach third grade, I make sure students complete no more than 30 minutes of homework a night, and 20 of those minutes are dedicated to reading. That means no more than 10 minutes of other stuff can happen each night! I follow the grade x 10 rule (third grade = 3, and 3 x 10 = 30 minutes). I think it's a great way in the elementary grades to find a developmentally appropriate time frame for homework completion. Take a step back and notice the patterns in your classroom. Are you asking too much?

So those are my thoughts on homework teachers. These strategies won't all work for every student, but they will help! I promise! What do you do to get kids completing homework assignments? And what are you doing for Thanksgiving!? Comment below!

3 Easy, Never-Fail Ways To Build Student Confidence

Hi, Teachers!

We've all had students who have needed that extra push to feel good about themselves. Today's short post will highlight some cool ways to build confidence among your students.

1. Positive reinforcement

Easy Ways To Build Student Confidence - A Word On Third

There are sooooo many ways to do this. I love to send emails home (I've written about ways to make that manageable here), but the EASIEST way to do this is to just jot down the specific behavior you like that the student displayed on a happy note. You can create your own, or you can click the picture above to be taken to a freebie in my Teachers Pay Teachers store! I have a color and black-and-white version available in this freebie. Just make sure that you are specific when writing your feedback. Instead of writing "Johnny did a great job in reading today," try writing "Johnny was so focused when he read with his partner and made sure to read the dialogue with expression." I wrote more about using happy notes here.

2. Use students as mentors in your anchor charts

I love this idea, which I got from reading one of my favorite books Smarter Charts. I totally recommend it because it COMPLETELY changed my charting habits. Charts are actually useful tools instead of things taking up space and collecting dust on the walls. Go read that book. Go read it right now. You'll thank me later!!! You can click on the picture above to be taken to the author's blog. Imagine how you will build a reluctant writer's confidence when you use his or her copied writing on your class chart!!!

3. Create an expert board

Create An Expert Board To Build Student Confidence And Save Yourself Time! - A Word On Third

This makes your classroom run smoothly because you don't have to fix everything yourself. I put experts on the board all of the time. Our board is updated and changed every day! I make sure everyone gets to be an expert. I know this isn't the prettiest expert board, so feel free to get creative. However, because this is is always changing, I like writing on post-it notes. You can see that I cared less and less about what color the post-it notes were as the days have gone on. This is do-able no matter what grade level you teach. If you teach kindergarten, assign a student or two to be your resident Shoe-Tying Experts. I always ask students before I add them to the expert board!

What do you do to make your students feel good? Comment below!

The Best Way To Post Student Objectives That No One Is Talking About... Yet - Monday Made It

Hi, Teachers!

I'm super excited to be linking up with 4th Grade Frolics for her Monday Made It linky party!

I know that posting student objectives is a popular frustration among many teachers. Some schools require objectives to be posted every day. My current school does not, but I have worked in schools where this was standard practice. I'll be honest--at first I thought this was annoying and a waste of time until I realized... posting your objectives is meant to be valuable for the students

Research proves that when you restate your teaching point more often, your lesson becomes more powerful for kids. In fact...

Studies show that lessons are more effective when teaching points are repeated 7 or more times!!

That means I have to say the same thing 7 times!!! When you're in a mini-lesson that is 10 minutes long, and lots of that time is taken up by kids turning and talking or trying a strategy, that's tricky. It's even trickier when it's a short strategy group or a 5 minute private one-on-one conference. Posting your objective for each lesson becomes really important no matter what type of lesson you're teaching--it keeps kids aware of what they are learning about. I came up with a CRAZY EASY way to do this that also addresses my visual learners. Ready for it??

How To Post Student Objectives In The Most Effective Way - A Word On Third

All I do is write my objective for the day on my handy-dandy thought bubble! I created a thought bubble on a piece of white paper and wrote the word "Readers" on the top corner. I laminated it so that I fill in the rest of the sentence with the teaching point in student-friendly language by using a dry-erase marker. Do you notice anything interesting about the handwriting there?? THAT'S RIGHT--IT'S KID WRITING!!!! I'm sure the spelling of "charater" tipped you off. -_-

Want to give your kids an extra job at the end of the day? I have my kids peek at my lesson plans and write the objectives for the following day on my thought bubble. On the back of my reading thought bubble is my writing thought bubble. Now there's 2 less things I have to do for the next day. Phew!!

How To Post Student Objectives In The Most Effective Way - A Word On Third

I talk with the kids about using writing that everyone can read and spelling properly. After all, all the kids do is copy exactly what teaching point is listed in my lesson plans. Clearly we need to have a talk about paying close attention to spelling and copying the words properly. This is what you DON'T want to see! However, when you do see it, you know when you have to model how to do this skill again.

This is a totally do-able Make It Monday for you--it won't take you more than 5 minutes to make if you have a laminator! I also find that when I look at the objective posted, I refer to it more during my lesson! Good news all around--it's a reminder for ME and for the kids! This sits on top of my easel for every reading and writing lesson, and I have a similar strategy set up for math. I also make sure to write my objectives/teaching points quickly on a post-it note when I teach strategy groups or confer 1-on-1 with kids. Then the kids take the sticky note(s) to refer to as needed when they go off and work independently. It's always great when kids have something tangible to help them learn.

One more thing I put up with my students today was our Fall In Love With Reading bulletin board. I talk about how I make those here. I suggest checking out the link. Bulletin boards will not take you more than 20 minutes ever again. I found THE BEST way use bulletin boards to build your classroom community! In fact, the more you use my system, the shorter the amount of time it takes to make your board!

How To Make Bulletin Boards SUPER Quickly While Building Your Classroom Community - A Word On Third

Do you have to post objectives in your room? Will you try this strategy? How do you make sure your students remember what you're teaching? And also... have you spotted any good Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals for fellow teachers?! Comment below!!

I SURVIVED HALLOWEEN! And What Do YOU Want To Read About?

Hi, Teachers!

One of my favorite days of the year is Halloween, but it is just so.darn.exhausting. Are ya with me on that!? Of course, this year we had to deal with Halloween and the full moon being in the same week...

Anyway, as I mentioned before, I like making special days like Halloween FUN! I know this may sound obvious, but be honest with yourself for a second...

Have you ever said to yourself, "Oh, I just need to get X and Y done with the kids, and then we'll do Halloween stuff..."

...and then felt frustrated when it didn't go quite as you hoped? I have. 

Guess what happens when you do that? X and Y take 2365948 times longer because it's Halloween!!! You are probably feeling antsy at school yourself! This happens on the first snow day of the year, on Valentine's Day... so many other days!! I think that seriously considering what you're asking the kids to do on days like that is really important. Are you being developmentally realistic or are you asking for too much? And another question to ask yourself is: Would you want to do this? These are important questions to think about on any day, but also on special days where energy is high. 

This doesn't mean you have to sacrifice education, but you might need to get creative. I find that if you're going to do a lot of work in the content areas, that's fine--IF (and that's a BIG if) you do some extra special stuff to pull your kids in! As you know, I used my Halloween Problem Solving Math Lab which I spoke about here, and it was FUN. Here are my kids finding the mystery "envelope" from the characters in the math problem.

Here's the front of the envelope. I hid it underneath my teacher's chair (which is a saucer chair) and let the kids find it. I will admit, we stopped for a brain break which is similar in nature to musical chairs, so I moved my chair to help the kids find it faster!

And here's the back of the envelope. I told the kids I wasn't brave enough to open the envelope and that I didn't "dare." They were so funny....
"Ehhhh, I dunno guys, I have a looooooot of reeeeeally important lessons planned. I just can't push them til next week....."
They are so cute. I just love them! It sounds like my acting degree has been more useful than I originally thought. I even fibbed on my lesson plans last week because the kids use my lesson plans to update the daily schedule. They definitely would have noticed.

After we read the letter from "Teri Bull" and "Gob Lin," we unpacked the problem. This was really great for addressing the math practices standards. We don't do it enough. We literally spent at least 25 minutes figuring out everything we needed to know for the problem, reading it, checking how we knew, talking about possible strategies to attack the problem. The kids were all SO successful without support, and I believe it is because I did this with them. It really helps them to make sense of problems on their own when they get the support to do this. (Sorry for the crappy picture quality. I don't know what was up with my camera!)

 And here are some of my kiddos hard at work working on the problem. I had so much fun with this, and I learned a LOT about my kids as mathematicians watching them solve real-life problems.

And, because I can't get over how cute my dogs are... here is another thing I did this Halloween. Mr. Word On Third and I took our fur babies, Ruffles and Pongo, to Petsmart to go trick or treating. It was AWESOME. Can you tell how much Ruffles loves wearing this hat? He REALLY wants to wear more hats in the future. (No he doesn't. He hates me.)

I've been thinking... I want to write more posts that you want to read. What are you really hoping to learn more about right now? Fill out the quick Google Form below and I will write posts about that!!