Monday, July 30, 2012

Our Rules

When rules are explained a time or two and then left hanging on the wall, they are only decorations, not really part of the class. Students are not going to remember rules in the way that the teacher wants them to unless they are more intimately connected to them.

We will practice saying the rules while using both hands for the coordinating motions. 

Rule #1: Listen (point to your ears) when your teacher (kids point to me) is talking (move hands together and apart like a mouth)

Rule #2: Follow directions quickly. (As we say this, we snap our fingers along with each word and say the rule quickly.)

Rule #3: Respect others (point out), respect yourself (point to yourself), and respect our school (point to the ground). 

Rule #4: Raise your hand (raise your right hand) to speak (make moving mouth motion) or stand (use index and middle finger to 'walk').

Rule #5: Be safe (hug yourself), be kind (cover your heart with both hands), be honest (place right hand up, like you were about to testify). 

These rules are based on the research behind Whole Brain Teaching's five classroom rules which can be found here. Studies show that the more sensory systems we engage in learning, the greater the chance of remembering. We also know that we learn best when we teach someone else. The gestures provide visuals for those watching and the kinesthetic aspect is beneficial for those reciting the rules. Students will practice the rules as a class and teach them to each other in pairs.  

In addition to ideas for the rules themselves, I have also adopted Whole Brain Teaching's method of reinforcing our rules. If students are talking while I am, I will hold up one finger and call out "rule  one" instead of the students' names. Everyone will hold up one finger while saying the "rule number one" and then announce the rule while doing its gestures. This serves as a reminder for the entire class and avoids creating a negative atmosphere. 

This method gets class rules off the walls and into the heads of students. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Class? Yes!

Whole Brain Teaching method to bring the class together  

To get the class’ attention I simply say ‘Class?’ and they respond ‘Yes!’. The key is that they say "Yes!" in the same style that I said "Class?". This technique is engaging and results in students stopping what they are doing to give me their undivided attention.

If I say "Classity-class-class?" they have to reply "Yessity-yes-yes!" If I say it with a high-pitched voice, they respond with a high-pitched voice. If I whisper, they say it in a whisper. Students have to match my tone and intensity. This is where the creativity and fun come in. Here are two of my favorites:
"Oh Class" (response: "Oh Yes")
repeat class twice or three times

The research behind why the class-yes approach is effective can be found at

Saturday, July 28, 2012

What We're Learning in Third Grade

Here are the big units we will be learning this year along with a few of the activities we will participate in to build our understanding.

First Trimester

U.S. Government

The year begins with a unit during which students will learn to justify the purpose of government. Third graders will design a model that explains the three branches of government, write a class constitution, and celebrate constitution day on September 14th.  As a culminating project, students will decide the importance of a constitution, three branches, and levels of government while developing a school government.


Presidential Election

Third graders will learn to understand the role of citizens in the USA as they are taught democratic values. An extensive political parties simulation is the highlight of this unit. During the simulation, students will distinguish between facts and opinions, decide America’s most important issues, and support their stance on these issues. By the end of the unit, students will be able to infer how government gains its power from the people. 

Second Trimester

Our Community and Beyond

Inflatable globes, interactive Smartboard maps, and Google Earth are some of the tools that will help students will locate Earth’s key geographic features. Creating their own mnemonic devices for “North, South, East, West” and practicing cardinal and intermediate directions with our classroom will ensure students can determine directions. Large floor maps, “Stack the States” iPad app, and constructing U.S. maps with cut-outs of the states are some of the ways third graders will practice identifying the states.

Students will learn about the physical geography, climate, and natural resources of the United States. The Giving Tree will be used to introduce natural resources. We will compare rural communities, suburban communities, and cities. Third graders will choose between creating a 3D physical features community map or 3D product “made from” a community’s natural resources.

    iPhone Screenshot 4 

Third Trimester


A literature-based unit which includes selecting natural, human, and capital resources needed to start a business of choice and deciding our school's top 10 capital resources. Students will also take part in a supply and demand simulation and research imports and exports.

America's Neighbors 

We will finish the year learning about Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Students will discover the physical features, climate, natural resources, landmarks, and culture of one of the countries or islands of their choice. A postcard or commercial project with related souvenirs will wrap-up the unit. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

ASL Makes Group Time More Efficient

American Sign Language (ASL) allows students to identify what they are about to share with the class. Instead of simply raising their hands, students hold up an ASL letter to let me know what they want to say: 

The letter "A" represents "answer"

The letter "I" represents "I have a question"

The letter "C" represents "comment" 


I have a question 


There are two benefits to ASL signals. If I just asked a question, I am easily able to call on someone with an answer instead of a commentThe other advantage is that it causes students determine what they want to say. This system encourages students to be more aware of their thinking. It cuts down on commentary and distractions that can lead us off-task. Less students will be stuck saying "Umm, I forgot."
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