Category: 3rd Grade

IMG_8729Recently our other group of 3rd graders has been working on dinosaurs.  I read Dinosaurs by Kathy Weidner Zoehfeld and gave some dinosaur background on the different groupings of dinosaurs.  The 3rd graders were then responsible for reading Dinosaurs by Elizabeth Austin.

We learned about 4 different types of dinosaurs;

  • Theropods
  • Sauropods
  • Certopsians
  • Pterosaurs

After reading in depth about the different types of dinosaurs, the students had to make a brochure writing and drawing about the 4 different dinosaur sub-groups.

Once we were finished we moved on to astronauts and space.  I read Solar System by Gregory Vogt and Planets by Elizabeth Carney.  We learned some background information about the planets and spent more time reading and learning about our moon and astronauts.

Students then were able to read All About Astronauts and learn about how people get through space camp/school and life as an astronaut.  They were then to write about how life is different on earth vs. space.


IMG_0126Our (I say our because I have started to phase out teaching and Ms. Wilson, my student teacher, has started taking over for me) 3rd graders have been working on Fairy Tales and Fractured Fairy Tales that last couple of weeks.

I started out by reading some different version of the 3 Little Pigs:

  • The Three Little Tamales by Eric A. Kimmel
  • The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz
  • The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf by Mark Teague

IMG_0125Students had to take notes on the characters, setting, and plot while I read.  They then were able to read their own story; The Three Little Pigs by Alyse Sweeney.  When they finished they had to take the book they had just read and select one of the books I read to compare the two stories. (Photo to the left)

From there Ms. Wilson took over.  She read some more Fractured Fairy Tales;

  • The Three Samurai Cats by Eric Kimmel
  • Wolf’s Coming by Joe Kulka

While Elizabeth read, the kids were asked to listen carefully and listen to character traits from each character and mark on a character trait graphic organizer what kind of character they are (smart, lazy, hard working, etc.)

The kids then, again, had their own version to read entitled Surprise for Big Bad Wolf.  When they were finished, collectively the group was to write summaries from all the Three Little Pigs that had been read over the course of the last two weeks.

IMG_0111I have been trying to have my 3rd graders work on reading more carefully and thoroughly.  We recently read A Dragon’s Lullaby where a dragon named Dario doesn’t feel appreciated by the town he sings a lullaby to each night.  I had a great graphic organizer that went ovIMG_0113er different character traits and the kids had to decide if that was a strength or weakness for the character and then explain their rationale.  I was impressed by how they really dug back into the book for evidence when they weren’t really sure.  They had to analyze the main character like they hadn’t had to before.  At the very end of the graphic organizer it asked them to come up with their own and they had a fun time picking out one and then asking their group mates to answer if it was a strength or weakness.

We’ve really been working on digging into that text more and looking for more literal comprehension than deep since they have been struggling with some of the surface features such as important characters, main ideas, and problem/solution.


IMG_0107My 3rd graders have not been too enthusiastic about writing lately and I decided one fun way to write is to do stop light paragraphs.  I have done this is the past with 3rd graders, who seem to be the age group that get the most Picture 50burned out from writing, and it’s always been a favorite and memorable activity.

In the past I’ve had students use a graphic organizer, but this year I had the students help me with a group message using the chosen animal of rats!  They were just so anxious to get going, I sent them on their way after our group message.

In their journals they wrote in green, orange, and red to symbolize what sentence they were on.  I went around with black pen to help while we conferred.

They were able to then write their final sentences on sentence strips after we had writing conferences.  We had read Animals With Wings and they each had to choose an animal from the book to write about.

They did a really great job and it wasn’t even like pulling teeth to get them to write! 🙂 Hmmm…maybe I’m onto something!


IMG_0069My 3rd graders just wrapped up a couple of weeks on volcanoes!  I started out by reading them The Magic School Bus: Volcanoes and Earthquakes. From there I brought in vinegar and baking soda where the kids were able to make a mini volcanic explosion in the classroom.  Let’s face it, I would have loved to have made a big mess, but it was a tablespoon of vinegar and a tablespoon of baking soda.  Don’t worry–it still got plenty of “whoa’s”, “ooooo’s” and “ahhhh’s”.

The students then read National Geographic Kids: Volcanoes and read about the different kinds of volcanoes, the difference between lava and magma, what happens when lava cools quickly or slowly, and the different kinds of lava.  On note cards they had to write about geysers, cinder cone volcanoes, stratovolcanoes, shield volcanoes, and calderas.  They each then made their own diagram of one of the volcanoes they wrote about.

Each day they asked if they could make another volcanic explosion.  They were disappointed I wasn’t THAT cool to do daily explosions!

IMG_0369I love fractured fairy tales and I love whenever I get the opportunity to use them in my teaching.  This past week with my 3rd graders we had the opportunity to do some more extensive work with fractured fairy tales.  The kids were going to read A Surprise for the Big Bad Wolf, which is a fractured fairy tale of The Three Little Pigs.  I set the kids up for how the story would twist by introducing some other Three Little Pig fractured fairy tales.  I read to them Three Samurai Cats by Eric Kimmel, which was a pretty far stretch of The Three Little Pigs, but we made it work, A Wolf at the Door by Nick Ward, Wolf’s Coming by Joe Kulka, and The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz.

We had a lot of fun reading the different fractured fairy tales and talking about how they were different from the original and how they maintained some of the same characteristics of the original.

The kids got to read their own fractured fairy tale and then discussed it as a group.  We talked about our favorite versions and what made them our favorites.  Together we wrote about that version on how it was different from the original.  I typed it up and glued it to our poster.

Each of the 3rd graders was in charge of a specific book, which worked out because they each had a different favorite.  They had to write about how the book they chose was different from the original Three Little Pigs.  They did a great job and we had a lot of fun laughing about the stories.

IMG_8586With all the snow we’ve been getting here in Waterloo, I thought it would be so fun to do the From Milk to Ice Cream book with my 3rd graders and make snow ice cream.  Everyone has been doing it on Facebook and they were even talking about it on the radio.

IMG_8587I bagged up all the ingredients and got a ziplock baggy full of the best snow I could find at my house.  I hyped the kids up about it and we started our creation….and it failed.  Apparently, from what we’ve learned, you REALLY need the just fallen fluffy perfect snow.  My snow had ice chunks/crystals in it and it was more like as if I had just blended up ice instead of fluffy fresh fallen snow.  Our ice cream failed.  The kids agreed it was like a root beer float.  No worries–they still loved it, but it was far from our vision of this wonderful snow ice cream.

This still gave us the chance to write down the procedural steps using Linda Dorn’s graphic organizer.  The kids, as a group, filled out the graphic organizer on how we made snow ice cream.  This set them up to make their own graphic organizer on something they knew how to do or make and wanted to share with the rest of the group.

We took the next couple of days filling out our own graphic organizers and writing, using connecting words, different procedural steps on how to do something.  The 3rd IMG_0367graders were then able to share their writing with the group.

Since then the kids have been asking me daily if we can remake the snow ice cream with better snow, which I promised them we could do the next time we get fresh snow.  This of course happened last Wednesday…school let out early…and then 2 days for conferences…2 days off…yeah, the snow wasn’t fresh anymore.  Ok, so we don’t need A LOT of snow, but if we could get one more LIGHT snow where I can bring in fluffy snow for my kiddos that would be greaaaaat!

3rd grade: Geode Cracking

IMG_8374Today was the day my 3rd graders have (im)patiently waiting….WE CRACKED GEODES!  (We did have a safety session IMG_8373first–don’t worry!)  We had to move our cracking to the floor as our table tapping just wasn’t cutting it.

So we cracked open our geodes and each student was able to take a half, analyze their geode, and write about what they saw.

Things I was looking for…

  • How was this different from the “geodes” we made?
  • What colors, shapes, textures do you notice?
  • What type of rock do you think this is?
  • How was this different than you expected?

Today marked our last day working with rocks and minerals.  Earlier in the week we worked in pairs to make posters about the characteristics of metamorphic and sedimentary rocks (we did igneous together) and I was so impressed at how they were digging into their books and really finding the important pieces of information.  I didn’t get a picture of their posters because I let them take them home already!  Oops–but trust me–they were awesome!

It has been an extremely fun two weeks doing experiments and reading about rocks and minerals.  Next week we’ll be making ice cream and learning about procedural steps and reading a book about From Milk to Ice Cream!  Check back in with us.

IMG_0359My 3rd graders continue their quest of studying rocks and minerals.  We started reading Rocks and Minerals from National Geographic Kids (LOVE this book, by the way!) and read the first half of the book.  The first half goes over how rocks are made (the “rock cycle”) and goes into more depth on minerals, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks.

IMG_0357After the kids finished the first half of the book (“20 pages, Ms. Acuff!!!?!?! How are we going to get through all of that?!?!?!) We did some analysis on a box of rocks I have.  They had to decide if the rock was a mineral, igneous, sedimentary, or a metamorphic rock based on the information they had from their book and by looking at the rock.

Next we’ll continue by writing about the different kinds of rocks and analyzing more rocks.  They are looking forward to being able to crack open their own geode and writing about it.

IMG_8060IMG_80503rd grade checked back in with their home-made geodes today.  Several of the egg shells had fully evaporated and the salt crystals really showed up.  Students were able to use a magnifying glass to take a closer look at where the salt crystals were–some all over and some just around the edges of the circle while the center was still filled with liquid, although all of the liquid had evaporated quite a bit from yesterday.

We started a new paragraph and wrote about what we noticed with our geodes on day 2.  What did it look like?  What changes did you notice?  What do you smell?  How did the color change?

They made me laugh by saying, “OH MY GOSH! LOOK AT MY GEODES!!!”  I had to remind them that this wasn’t a real geode.  We were just mimicking the properties of a geode.  It was still exciting.

From there we started a new experiment: do rocks float?

They all said no, rocks don’t float.  Rocks are heavy.  I passed around a series of IMG_8054rocks that they were able to inspect and examine and they had to decide if the rock would sink or float.  First up, pumice.  They were loud gasps and cheers when the pumice floated at the top of the glass.

We passed around rose quartz, magnetite, popcorn rock, and Iceland glass.  Each of the other rocks sank!  I was even surprised the tiny piece of magnetite sank.  It felt light and airy, but alas, it sank just as fast as the others.

Each student got a chance to scoop a rock back out after it sank.  After we put the rocks to the test then we wrote about what surprised us about the “do rocks float?” experiment.  Which rocks did they think would sink that floated?  Which rocks did they think would float actually sank? (After pumice floated then they shifted their thinking quite a bit!)

We were having such great conversations about the rock experiments that we only got through checking on our geodes and the floating experiment.  We are hoping to get through 2 sections tomorrow, but our excitement is keeping us from being more productive.  However, a lot of great IMG_8055learning is going on.  I’m enjoying see them get out the magnifying glass to take better looks, writing notes, checking with other teammates on what they notice, and examining all the different pieces.