Latest from the Blog

Every Monday morning, my third graders find their job pocket stuffed with class cash. They get paid a salary every week. One of our class jobs (Payroll Courier) is responsible for distributing the cash.

A Classroom Economy Students & Teachers Love

When it comes to classroom management, some of the most common struggles I hear about from teachers are the lack of respect students have for their learning space, and a desire to maintain a more organized classroom. If you are struggling with these, I urge you to consider utilizing well-developed classroom jobs, and a classroom economy system.  Imagine this. After completing a job application, students can be hired for classroom jobs that require detailed responsibilities. These class jobs are designed to help boost student ownership of their learning space, and connect classroom jobs to the real world. In fact, students get paid a salary for each job, which they can save up, or spend to purchase class passes that unlock special in-class experiences.  It is entirely possible for you and your students to work together in very productive ways to create a home away from home that is enjoyed and

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Math problem solving task card teacher feedback sheet freebie.

An Easy Way To Boost Math Problem Solving Skills

Math Problem Solving Task Cards are one of the most productive tools for helping students build a deeper understanding of math concepts. These unique task cards include a variety of word problems that require students to utilize problem solving skills, critical thinking, precise modeling, and get routine practice with explaining their reasoning. Each day during Math Workshop, students are given time to work on these rigorous task so they can connect the math skills they are learning to real world situations. This post contains affiliate links for which I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase. To make the most of this tool, and rapidly build your students’ problem solving skills, it is essential that students are given time to engage with these tasks on a routine basis. This post includes a break down of the math task card routines and

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Core Inspiration Spring Umbrella Art Project

Welcome Spring to Your Classroom With A Little Umbrella Art

Spring is right around the corner, and those snowmen hanging on your classroom walls are probably starting to make you feel a little antsy to leave winter behind. This umbrella art project is the perfect way to freshen up your classroom as you welcome little rain drops and sprouting flowers to your school days. I discovered this project on Pinterest a few years ago. Those pins simply link to digital student art portfolios from a classroom in Maryland, so I thought I’d take a moment to share the steps my students followed to recreate this spring favorite. This post contains affiliate links for which I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase. Step 1: Design An Umbrella On the first day of this two-day project, my students each design a unique umbrella using cardstock paper and tempera paint (affiliate link). Here

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Individual project based learning planning sheet to hold enrichment students accountable when working independently on a PBL unit.

How To Make PBL Manageable With Math Workshop

One of the most common questions teachers send me on Instagram is, “How do you find the time to teach your math curriculum, do Math Workshop, and do project based learning?” My answer is always the same as I explain these three parts of my math instruction are not separate entities, they are all done together during Math Workshop. Since this question is becoming more and more common, I wanted to take some time to explain in detail how I integrate project based learning into Math Workshop. Many teachers have the misconception that project based learning is something you have to do on top of your regular instruction and Math Workshop routine. In fact, it can be something that enriches your regular instruction, and replaces some of the more routine tasks you may be doing during a particular unit. In my third grade classroom, PBL units replace rigorous problem solving

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Photo of student supply area to show how the area should be organized at the end of the day. Easy tip for getting students involved in keeping the classroom organized each day.

How Can You Get Your Classroom Amazingly Organized?

An organized classroom runs like a well-oiled machine, and you don’t have to be the only one maintaining that machine. The most organized classrooms are made that way because of collaboration between the teacher and the students. You’re all using the space, so it makes sense you work together to organize and maintain it. This post contains affiliate links for which I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase. My secret to maintaining a classroom that is extremely well-organized is a simple recipe.   Step 1: Thoughtfully set up organization systems Step 2: Model how to use these systems Step 3: Give students time to practice these systems while you provide immediate feedback Step 4: Carefully teach students how they will help maintain organization systems each day during tidy up time Here is a peek into how you can collaborate with

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Core Inspiration fact fluency reflection sheet next to fluency tracker bookmark and fact fluency quiz

How To Strengthen Fact Fluency Without Tears

When building fact fluency in my third grade classroom, I use a few consistent routines, and give students plenty of time to master their facts. To begin, students focus on building a deep understanding of fact families, and the reasoning behind them. In addition, they participate in frequent opportunities to build rapid fact recall through timed fluency activities (yes timed…but not in the traditional anxiety-inducing sense). Students also benefit from routine reflection activities when they set goals, and make plans for becoming more fluent mathematicians. Developing this deeper understanding, and practicing rapid fact recall on a consistent basis in our classroom helps students develop the fluency they need without the stress that often results from a more traditional “timed test” approach. Teaching The Why First When beginning our multiplication and division unit, our lessons are focused on understanding the why behind multiplication and division. To introduce the reasoning behind fact

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Core Inspiration Digital Lesson Plan Book Paperless Planner Shown on laptop computer screen

A Simple Lesson Plan Book That Is Guaranteed To Save You Time

Several people have asked which lesson plan book I use, so I’m sharing all the details of my lesson planning preferences and process. MY PLAN BOOK HISTORY My plan book preferences have changed several times over my teaching career. I started with the free lesson plan book Lakeshore provides during back to school sales. I love the layout of this book, and the simplicity of each page, so I used it for years. Then I got tired of frequently leaving my plan book in my classroom, and not having access to it during meetings. I gave Planbook.com a try for a bit, which was not a fit for me at all. the layout didn’t mesh with the way my brain functions, and adding lessons felt really clunky to me. This was about five years ago, and I’m sure the site has made many amazing improvements since then, so it might

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Math game instruction cards arranged in green storage drawers

How To Make The Second Week of Math Workshop A Success

This is part two in a series of posts about how I introduce the routines of Math Workshop over the course of three weeks. If you would like to start by reading about Math Workshop Week 1, click here. BACKGROUND ABOUT THE SECOND WEEK OF MATH WORKSHOP My goals for this second week of workshop are focused around boosting student independence and incorporating collaborative work into our workshop block, while maintaining the calm, focused learning environment established during week one. These goals include: Review and solidify expectations for warm-up, mini lessons, and the at your seat rotation. Teach students how to use a “teeny tiny voice” so they can show respect, and allow others to focus while collaborating. Introduce our math game corner, and the hands-on rotation. Introduce math triads, and build a clear idea of what we’d like our classmates to do/say when collaborating. To accomplish these goals, I

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Core Inspiration Math Workshop pie chart with place value task cards nearby

How To Make the First Week of Math Workshop A Success

Taking time at the beginning of the year to carefully introduce Math Workshop empowers your students to take ownership of their daily math routines, and makes it easier for them to develop self-directed learning skills. In this series of posts, I will be sharing details for how I introduce Math Workshop to my students during the first weeks of school each year. BACKGROUND ABOUT MATH WORKSHOP IN MY CLASSROOM If you have not already read my posts about the structure of Math Workshop, I encourage you to start here so you have a detailed understanding of each component of workshop. Here is a quick refresher on how I use this guided math structure. We use Math Workshop four days a week in our third grade classroom. On Fridays, we do not have workshop simply because we have specials that occur during our math time. Although I only teach math four

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Word word teacher organization bin with list of differentiated groups

Two Tools You Need To Boost Your Word Work Organization

One of the most common questions I receive is, “How do you keep your word work materials organized?” As you may already know, I differentiate word work instruction by using Words Their Way in my classroom. More on my exact approach here. When it comes to keeping track of over 100 new words being taught to my differentiated word work groups each week, I like to keep it simple. Therefore, I’ve created a storage system (a binder and a bin) for all the lesson plans and masters I need in order to efficiently deliver instruction each week. Here’s the scoop on how my binder and bin are organized. This post contains affiliate links for which I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase. Word Work Binder Sort Storage The main reason I have this binder is to store all the books of

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Third grade lesson plan on table in folder with classroom welcome banner overhead

Free Lesson Plans for the Best First Day Ever

The first day of school brings about many butterflies for me, regardless of how many years I teach. Each August as the summer winds down, I get antsy about that first day because it is such a brief moment in the timeline of our school year when I want to squeeze in love, excitement, routines, expectations, and the first building blocks of community. Goals for our First Day of School As I plan my first day each year, I always bring myself back to this list of the MOST important goals for the first day of school in my classroom: Make sure every student feels welcome, seen, and safe Teach students how to navigate/move safely within their new learning environment Show students that our classroom is a shared space where they will take ownership Help students begin to feel that our classroom is their home away from home I also

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Word work teacher file with post its and pencils. Organized to teach Words Their Way to five groups

How To Master Words Their Way Organization and Differentiation

When I first implemented Words Their Way, I found it completely overwhelming. At the time, our school was using Houghton Mifflin for reading instruction, which came with weekly spelling lists that were designed for third graders. As many of you have likely realized, these one-size-fits-all lists create a real instructional struggle in an elementary classroom. Giving the same spelling list to an entire class robs most students of the targeted instruction they need, and addresses the needs of a very small percentage of our learners. Teaching this way was uncomfortable, so our team made the decision to begin teaching differentiated spelling within our reading RTI block, using Words Their Way. Due to the fact that Words Their Way was taught during our RTI block, I was only managing one or two lists, and introducing lists every two weeks. Still, I felt overwhelmed. My two biggest mistakes at the time were:

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Every Monday morning, my third graders find their job pocket stuffed with class cash. They get paid a salary every week. One of our class jobs (Payroll Courier) is responsible for distributing the cash.

A Classroom Economy Students & Teachers Love

When it comes to classroom management, some of the most common struggles I hear about from teachers are the lack of respect students have for their learning space, and a desire to maintain a more organized classroom. If you are struggling with these, I urge you to consider utilizing well-developed

Read More »
Math problem solving task card teacher feedback sheet freebie.

An Easy Way To Boost Math Problem Solving Skills

Math Problem Solving Task Cards are one of the most productive tools for helping students build a deeper understanding of math concepts. These unique task cards include a variety of word problems that require students to utilize problem solving skills, critical thinking, precise modeling, and get routine practice with explaining

Read More »
Individual project based learning planning sheet to hold enrichment students accountable when working independently on a PBL unit.

How To Make PBL Manageable With Math Workshop

One of the most common questions teachers send me on Instagram is, “How do you find the time to teach your math curriculum, do Math Workshop, and do project based learning?” My answer is always the same as I explain these three parts of my math instruction are not separate

Read More »
Photo of student supply area to show how the area should be organized at the end of the day. Easy tip for getting students involved in keeping the classroom organized each day.

How Can You Get Your Classroom Amazingly Organized?

An organized classroom runs like a well-oiled machine, and you don’t have to be the only one maintaining that machine. The most organized classrooms are made that way because of collaboration between the teacher and the students. You’re all using the space, so it makes sense you work together to

Read More »
Core Inspiration fact fluency reflection sheet next to fluency tracker bookmark and fact fluency quiz

How To Strengthen Fact Fluency Without Tears

When building fact fluency in my third grade classroom, I use a few consistent routines, and give students plenty of time to master their facts. To begin, students focus on building a deep understanding of fact families, and the reasoning behind them. In addition, they participate in frequent opportunities to

Read More »
Core Inspiration Math Workshop pie chart with place value task cards nearby

How To Make the First Week of Math Workshop A Success

Taking time at the beginning of the year to carefully introduce Math Workshop empowers your students to take ownership of their daily math routines, and makes it easier for them to develop self-directed learning skills. In this series of posts, I will be sharing details for how I introduce Math

Read More »
Third grade lesson plan on table in folder with classroom welcome banner overhead

Free Lesson Plans for the Best First Day Ever

The first day of school brings about many butterflies for me, regardless of how many years I teach. Each August as the summer winds down, I get antsy about that first day because it is such a brief moment in the timeline of our school year when I want to

Read More »
Word work teacher file with post its and pencils. Organized to teach Words Their Way to five groups

How To Master Words Their Way Organization and Differentiation

When I first implemented Words Their Way, I found it completely overwhelming. At the time, our school was using Houghton Mifflin for reading instruction, which came with weekly spelling lists that were designed for third graders. As many of you have likely realized, these one-size-fits-all lists create a real instructional

Read More »