In preparation for President's Day, my class also learned about National Symbols. I purchased a unit from What the Teacher Wants, then decided to add in a research article and an art project around the bald eagle.  My friend Michelle from Third Grade Al Dente posted about this bald eagle art project earlier this year.  She was so sweet and sent me her 9x17" master in the district courier (she works at another school in my district). 
Via Third Grade Al Dente
In my classroom, I like to use a lot of cooperative groupings (see my post about OCDE Project GLAD® here).  For the research essay part of this project, my students did a jigsaw activity.  I handed each table a different article for them to buddy read and highlight the important information.  When they were finished, they got together as a group (5-6 kids per table) and filled out the graphic organizer altogether.  We then shared out as a class to see how each table collected different information based on their articles.  This was a fun way to see how the articles cover the same main ideas, but don’t necessarily have the same details.  With completed graphic organizers, each child then wrote their own 3 paragraph essay about eagles, using the Step-Up to Writing method of a topic sentence (on green paper), 3 main ideas (on yellow paper), 2-3 details for each idea (on red paper), then a conclusion that restates the topic sentence and ends with a feeling or thinking statement (on green paper).  Go here for some more great resources on Step-Up to Writing.  The essays turned out great!  I had the kids read their essays aloud to the class as a speaking exercise.  Some were super nervous, but they all did such a great job and I was so proud of them!

After we finished up our essays, we got to work on the art project.  I have to admit, this took about and hour and a half.  With my eagle master from Michelle, I copied it onto white, 9x11" paper for each child.  I then gave each student 9x12" sheets of construction paper in white, dark brown, and light brown.  Each child also got a half sheet of yellow.  First, I had them place the yellow paper over the beak, trace, cut it out, and glue it down onto the beak.  Then, folding the dark brown paper in half so they can cut multiple feathers at once, they cut out feathers shapes.  I taught them how to cut the feathers close together so they use as much of the paper as possible.  My school is having a construction paper shortage and supply budgets are frozen, so we need to make this paper last long!  They glued the dark brown feathers halfway up the body, then switched to light brown.  Once they got to the head, they switched to white paper, and cut out an eye with the leftover yellow paper.  

Here are some of our eagles, hanging up in the classroom.  You'll see my President posters in the background from the What the Teacher Wants unit.  They are the red and blue ones hanging in front of the window.

Some kids did better than others on filling in the eagle with feathers and leaving no white spaces.  Some were rushing through it or didn't have the patience for it.  Either way, I still love them.

How do you teach American National Symbols?  
I'm following and linking up to The Clutter-Free Classroom's project for organizing my classroom.  I've done a ton of work so far: gave you a tour of my classroom in the "Before" stage, cleared off a shelf of my stuff so student supplies can go there, cleaned out and organized a shelf for teacher supplies and resources, am still working on my desk (its a slow process!), and made Emergency Sub Plans.

This project is all about storage and using what you already have!

For years and years, I have used white plastic containers originally used for frozen juice to store pencils, colored pencils, and skinny markers.  All I did was put cute contact paper around the container after making juice and washing it out.  You can find all kinds of cute contact paper on Amazon and don't even have to change out of your pajamas!  Score! :)  I have the first pattern.  I covers what was originally printed ont eh container well and the pattern isn't too busy for me.  I also have the polkadot pattern and love it, but it doesn't cover pre-printed patterns that well, since there is so much white in the design.

When I taught kindergarten and 1st grade, I had shared supplies in the middle of my round tables.  I bought these containers for each table:

I put one juice container in each of the smaller compartments.  One container had pencils, the other had either colored pencils or skinny markers (I would trade about every other week).  The larger compartment was for boxes of crayons with the child's name on it.  I kept glue and scissors in other areas, since I didn't want the kids to have access to these at all times (I am afraid of glued up books and cut hair!!)

You can see the green container inside the red caddy on this table.  This was my kindergarten room back in 2007, back when I had blonde hair! :)  I am helping a reading group with my first Donorschoose project - LeapFrog LeapPads!  The kids LOVED those things!  I gave them to another kinder teacher in my building this year, since my 3rd graders have graduated to iPod touches.  Gotta change with the times!  Read more about Donorschoose here.

What have you upcycled?  How do you store supplies in the classroom?

In my classroom, we do the Daily 5 during reading time. While an assistant and I are meeting with small groups to work on strategies or do assessments, the other students are engaged in reading activities that require minimal set-up on my part: Read to Self, Work on Writing, Listening to Reading (Technology), and Word Work. We'll be slowly adding Read to Someone this spring.  My group of chatty 3rd graders just haven't been ready for it.  We do lots of buddy work in math, science, and social studies, so I figure they get enough of it to where they aren't completely missing that piece.

When we do Work on Writing, my students have several options. They can work on something from Writer's Workshop, start a new piece, write a friendly letter to me or to a friend, or write a list.

When my students write lists, they write lists of their favorite books, of things learned in science that day, the names of their friends, of toys they want for their birthday, of places they want to go on vacation, and much more. We write lists of ideas for writing all the time, so practicing this skill in a self-directed way is a great use of their time during Daily 5.

I found a couple mini clipboards in the dollar section at Target and clip the lists to them. Students who want to write lists can get a clipboard, find a comfy space in the classroom, and get to work "right away" - just like the Daily 5 book says! :)

Here are the kiddos who chose Work on Writing today and wrote lists of ideas for their writing journals:

You can get a full set of lists for writing from my TpT store for only $3.00.  Check them out! :)
Rachel from the Sub Hub tagged me as "it"!
12 Random Facts About Me:

  1. I am married to my college sweetheart and have two children - a boy and a girl.
  2. My son's 6th birthday is tomorrow!!!
  3. I don't really like dogs, but we have one.  He's ok.
  4. My first year of teaching was in my hometown Newport, Oregon on the beautiful Oregon coast!
  5. I've never traveled outside of North America, but I really want to!
  6. I used to be a dancer and I miss it everyday.
  7. I minored in Spanish in college, but don't speak very fluently.  I really want to do a teacher study abroad program to learn the language better.
  8. I LOVE gummy bears!
  9. I could eat crackers with warm brie and roasted garlic everyday of my life.
  10. I am obsessed with being a teacher!  I love my job so much!
  11. I'm on the board of a nonprofit, PDX Summer School, that offers free summer school for ESL students in a low-income community.  It feels so good to help this organization grow and give back to the community in this way.
  12. My girl friends and I started a sewing club where we get together each month and help each other figure out new sewing projects we want to do.  It's super nerdy, i know, but we have a ton of fun!

Answers to 12 Questions from Rachel:
  1. What subject do you like to teach the most? I used to like writing the best, but these days I've been all about science and social studies!
  2. What is your favorite drink? It's a toss up between a Chai latte or a glass of Pinot Noir
  3. What is one piece of advice you have for a new teacher? Come up for air once in awhile, finding balance can be hard as a new teacher.
  4. What is your favorite teaching website/or blog? Mine!  Haha.  Seriously though, I really like the ideas from The Teacher Wife, What the Teacher Wants, Laura Candler, Lesson Plan SOS, I could go on...
  5. What is your favorite type of music? Adult contemporary, with a hint of alternative.  
  6. What is one of your guilty pleasures? Pinterest!
  7. What type of books do you like to read? I love all kinds of books.  Some of my favorites are Marley and Me and Les Miserables.  I've recently read some series that I really like, too: The Hunger Games, The Girl With the Dragon TattooOne For the Money and anything by Chelsea Handler.  Love that crazy girl!
  8. What are some of your hobbies? Reading, crafting, cooking.
  9. What is something you do to stay organized in terms of grading/lesson planning/copies for school/etc.? I made a desktop organizer that I saw on Pinterest with hanging files to sort things such as "To grade", To copy", "Next week", etc.  It's been great keeping piles off my desk!
  10. What is your favorite snack? Fancy cheese and crackers
  11. What was your favorite vacation? My family went to Kauai in December and fell in love.  I want to move there!
  12. How did your husband propose? On New Years Eve 2005, we went to an outdoor concert in Phoenix, AZ.  Right after the entire crowd counted down and screamed "Happy New Year", he got down on one knee and took my hand.  The crowd parted into a circle around us, and everyone cheered!!!  It was so exciting!
These past couple of weeks, I have been linking up with the Clutter-Free Classroom to help organize my classroom a bit.  I've already purged old teaching materials and files, cleaned off an entire rack that now can house student materials,

re-organized a bookshelf for my teacher resources,

gotten rid of two half size filing cabinets, gave away my rolling cart of drawers to another teacher in my building.  I actually gave it away!  Woo to the hoo!
And I started cleaning up my desk {can you believe I found 3 boxes of staples in my top drawer - 3! I don't think I need that many staples on hand!}.  I'll blog more about that process as it unfolds.  I'm about half way finished with my desk cleaning.
Ahhh!!  This desk will eat you alive!! :)

After reading this post over at the Clutter-Free Classroom and reading posts from the Sub Hub {awesome blog!!}, another thing I started working on is making a Sub Binder full of resources for my subs to have and an expanding file of Emergency Sub plans for when I have to be out last minute and don't have time to run down and get everything ready.  I usually have my subs continue with my regular curriculum, but when I can't be in the room to write my plans {"turn to page 453 in the math TE", "copy blackline 45", etc}, I need to have a back-up plan.  I usually take HOURS prepping for a sub, making sure the copies are ready, the TE's are opened to the right page and labeled with the subject, posters needed for the day are ready to be used, guided reading materials are waiting at the teacher table to be used with groups, and the classroom is clean and orderly.  It's exhausting.  I'd honestly rather teach for the day instead of spending all that time, just to have a random sub who has never been to my school not do the activities and have the kids do whatever they want all day long. 

Cute binder cover is a freebie from The Clutter-Free Classroom.
I made the sign for my expanding file, laminated it, and hot glued it to the front.
So, in an effort to be more efficient and organized, I set up my Emergency Sub Plans expanding file.  I have 5 different sets of basically the same structure, just different worksheets and books to read aloud.  I made the copies for Plans #1 and they are ready to go, organized by subject.  After I use these, I'll copy off Plans #2 so it's ready to go for the next time I have a last minute sub.

In my actual Emergency Plans, here are the resources I used:
  • Morning Work - I use worksheets and lessons from Time For Kids {my class has a subscription paid for by Donorschoose} or crosswords and word searches from Boggles World ESL.
  • Writing - Writing pages and prompts from What the Teacher Wants.  I pulled out 5 of them to use in my emergency plans.  The others I put in the writing center for student to choose during Daily 5. They love it!  I always include to book to read aloud to go with the prompt in my emergency plans
  • Reading Small Group - I have my sub do pre-made games from the book Language Games Galore: Comprehension and Critical Thinking, Gr. 3 from Creative Teaching Press {I got it on sale at my local teaching store, Learning Palace}.  They play the game and do a worksheet that goes with it.  Each game focuses on a comprehension strategy.  I have my sub do this with two reading groups.
  • Reading Whole Group - I have my sub do a grammar or conventions worksheet with the whole class from  They have great FREE worksheets and activities for all grade levels.  I suggest checking them out {especially since Super Teacher Worksheets is now member-only!}
  • Health - I don't have a lot of time for health instruction, so it's an easy one for subs to do.  We have The Great Body Shop curriculum and get themed packets for each student every month with lessons and worksheets to go with it. I usually have the kids buddy read the packets and do one of the worksheets together.  Easy and fun 20 minute lesson, perfect for after lunch.
  • ELD {English Language Development} - My school does ELD school-wide, with a Walk to ELD model.  I teach a group of 18 Early Advanced/Advanced ESL and native speaking students, but sometimes ELD is cancelled due to ELPA testing or other things going on in the ESL department, so I prepared my emergency plans to be used with my regular class or my ELD class.  That means, supplemental materials and not the adopted curriculum.  I have a ton of books about grammar and parts of speech and worksheets downloaded from  I have my sub read a book and have a discussion using structure sentence frames, then do a couple questions on the worksheet whole group, a couple with partners, and a couple individually {differentiating the I Do, We Do, You Do model}.
  • Math - Have I mentioned I like Well, my math sub lessons are from them, too!  They have great game ideas teaching different math concepts using playing cards.  I have my sub play one of those games on the document camera, against the class.  Then I have individual worksheets for the kids to complete after the game.  We use Bridges in Mathematics curriculum and it includes a great "Work Places" component {basically, math centers}.  The kids can play the math work place games if there is additional time at the end of the day.    
And here's a freebie - you can see how I typed up my Emergency Plans 1 here:

So that's it!  It took a couple of weeks for me to pull all these resources together, but I feel so good about having it all ready.  So if I get a cold, the flu, food poisoning, whatever.  I feel confident that an experienced sub or a brand new one to my building will feel successful in my classroom for a day.  What do you think?  What do you do for subs?  Do you spend hours of time like I used to?  Tell me all about it!

I love scouring my local Goodwill for children's books for my classroom.  They have such good prices!  I also find other great books at Goodwill, just for me.  I got my copy of Marley and Me for $0.99, a first edition of Mosaic of Thought (see my post on reading comprehension here) and Scholastic's Teaching with Favorite Kevin Henkes Books for $2.99 each.  Steals!  But, I've found something even better, something this busy mom of two/3rd grade teacher/going back to college lady can really get behind - Goodwill Books online!!  That's right, Goodwill Books has a website, where you can go online, search for books (children's, adult, textbooks, you name it!) and get great prices.  They don't always have every book I want, but when they do, I get excited.  I'm not sure how they figure out the shipping costs, but they charged me $1.19 per book.  But when I'm spending $0.25-$0.99 on each book, it still ends up being  great deal.   The warehouse is actually in Hillsboro, OR, a western suburb of Portland.  So I feel like I'm helping out my local economy and get to shop while sitting on the couch!

Check out all these books I recently got.  You'll never guess how much I paid...
8 books...

 One even signed by the author!!!!

My class is loving these Hershey's books.  Perfect intros for 3rd grade math concepts.

No guesses?? $12.75!!!!! What a deal.  Head on over to and tell me what kind of deals you find!