Character Traits and Stone Fox

To review inferring character traits we used Stone Fox as a read aloud. This was the second time we focused on character traits.  The first was earlier in the year with The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and a Lucy Calkin’s Reading Workshop Unit.

We modeled finding character traits for a few days and then asked students to participate.  You can find my lesson plans here.  On day 4, as an assessment, we asked students to write a character, character trait, and evidence.  This was a quick way to assess students without taking half an hour on a pencil/paper assessment.

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Third Grade Book Clubs

Earlier this month we prepared the students for participating in book clubs. After needing to postpone for a week, yesterday was finally the day.

The students had read their chosen book and prepared by taking notes on post-its.  We gave the kids this bookmark as a tool.  (It has two sides.)

ImageStudents worked for two weeks, some a little less.  By yesterday their books were overflowing with notes – regardless of their reading level.


We prepared the students by looking at pictures of their practice book clubs a few weeks ago.  They used the anchor chart we made to label the pictures of themselves in book clubs.

We covered the desks with table cloths, poured some juice, and the talking commenced.  They were so excited and for the most part on task!  As I walked around I kept expecting to hear conversations about things other than books, but they were really that excited talking about books!  And the few times the topic got off, all we had to do was ask what they were talking about next. The students would turn to a different post-it and continue their discussion, referring to evidence in the book.

I know that we have worked hard as a class, teachers and students, but sometimes after standardized testing I get discouraged.  Did I do enough?  What could I have done better?  This activity showed me how even if their learning does not show up on the test scores, they have learned so much about being a reader.

There is more to share about their conversations and reflections, but it will have to wait for another day.


Kids say it best!

Two examples of perfect comments, even though they should have raised their hands.


Writing Workshop Mini-lesson on Narrowing the Focus:

Using a sample text from Ralph Fletcher’s Craft Lessons, we demonstrated how a two minute time frame is more than enough for a personal narrative.  It was a story about a mom waking her son up in the morning.  I pointed out that it was only a two minute time frame.  The entire page was written about only two minutes.

“But it was a really cute two minutes!” says a smiling girl.



Practice with context clues:

She was so erratic that she would be in a great mood one minute and crying the next.  you could never predict the way she’d act.

Then one student shouts out, “They’re talking about my sister!”

It was another one of those times you know that you should remind him to raise his hand, but it was just too perfect!  And he did use the context clues!

One of those days…

One of those days.



English Muffin

Flying through the air

No more breakfast



Out of my control

Changes being made

I disagree

Changes not being made

I disagree



On the way home

Book Store

Flat tire!

New Tire

Money not planned on…


One of those days.


Semi-finals of Dancing


No Satellite



One of those days.


Some days it is hard to see the silver lining,

the half full cup.

Some days the gifts are not as obvious.


But I do have gifts.


Safe trip to work


Children happy

Children thriving


Flat tire

Across the street

From a Cassidy


My son at the door

Smile on his face

“Wanna watch a movie with me?”


I do have gifts.


Third Grade Book Clubs

This year’s reading workshop has encouraged children to be real life readers.  They spend the majority of the reading block reading just right books of their choice.  So, we decided to end the year with book clubs instead of literature circles.  I wanted students to participate in a book club like adults participate in.  Students will be reading a book over two weeks and then will meet with their club to discuss the book once everyone is done.

First, my co-teacher modeled reading a book (Amos and Boris) and taking notes with post-its in order to prepare for a book club discussion.  Then, students were given a simple picture book to practice.  They were grouped by a range of reading levels.  (C-K, K-P, Q-W)  The practice picture book was far below their reading level, so that they could focus on taking notes and having conversations




The following day we modeled having a book club conversation about Amos and Boris.  We also created an anchor chart with the students.  The anchor chart is based on Lucy Calkins Reading Workshop Unit:  Historical Fiction Book Clubs.  (The dark purple was written before we modeled and the lighter purple is from the students after we modeled.) After observing us and adding to our anchor chart the students began their book club discussions in the groups that they will be in for their novels.


The hardest part for the students was to stay on the same topic for an extended amount of time, but we were so impressed with their conversations.  Here is one of my favorite conversations that I overheard about Amelia Bedelia:

          D:  My favorite part was when she planted the light bulbs, but she left the kids alone!

J:  Yea, she should have gotten busted by the principal!

After our practice book clubs, we gave the students their book club books.  Their excitement made it feel like I was handing over a bar of gold!  They couldn’t wait to get started and the rest of the reading block was SILENT.



What about DOL?

Getting up in front of twenty five third graders to teach them writing does not phase me.  However, getting up in front of twenty of my colleagues and teaching them how to teach writing  – panic attack!  As the writing core facilitator for my school I am responsible for holding a professional development session about every six weeks for the staff.  This is our first year implementing Lucy Calkins Units of Study and Writing Workshop.  Many teachers are still stuck on the way they were taught and very few have cracked the books, so with little background about writing workshop this year has been a challenge for everyone.

After hearing “What about DOL?” a few times too many, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I decided to focus yesterday’s meeting on including editing and CCSS Language Standards into our writing units.

Our school moving toward a fully trained staff in Responsive Classroom, so I had a Morning Message for them up when they walked in.


We greeted each other with an E.T. greeting and then I read the message to them.  (An E.T. greeting means touching pointer fingers while saying “Good Morning, __________.”)

Then, I shared some details that I got at a workshop presented by Lucy Calkins herself.

ImageThen, we moved on to the main topic.


Don’t focus on editing for capital letters, spelling, periods, etc. until students have drafted and revised for content.



I gave them pages 54-55 from The Book Whisperer about DOL and independent reading.  After reading it, they talked in small groups about it.


I explained to them how a session would look in our writing workshop and then gave them time to plan their own lesson based on grade level standards.


As stressful as it is to present, especially on a topic that people have negative feelings toward, I got a lot of great responses.  I even got an email from my principal about it.  (Even teachers need positive reinforcement!)  She was home with her sick daughter, but was able to attend the meeting through FaceTime.  Oh, the marvels of modern technology!