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I Work with Superheroes

As the start of the school year looms, I have been thinking a lot about the wonderful folks that I work with.  Many of them I have been working with for a whole lotta years, and some just a few.  But they are all wonderful.  Every. Single. One.

Some really bad stuff happened in my life last year.  Really. Bad.  The worst.  Trying to be a teacher, while also fighting a proverbial "lion" was the most difficult thing ever.  Ever. Ever.  Everyday I heard comments like, "I don't know how you are doing it."  Or...."You are coping so are so strong!"

My secret is....I am not strong.  At all.  Just to be clear, I cried all the way to work every day and all the way home.  And then usually put on my jammies and climbed into bed early. Very early.  So that I could have another sleepless night.  Even though I was exhausted.

So how did I do it.  How am I still doing it?  I work with beautiful, kind, caring, thoughtful, wonderful, exceptional people.  The people I work with are teachers, social workers, principals, parents, students, media specialists, para-pros, and have many other titles.  And they are wonderful.   The people I work with are experts at helping to tame lions.  They said the right things.  They did the right things. Every. Day.  They got me through each day, one day at a time.

I don't know what I did to deserve it.....

The bad thing.....

or the kindness I received from my colleagues, parents and students.


Of course, my family and close friends got me through a lot too.  A whole lot.  But those beautiful superheroes that I work with got me through a year of teaching third grade while simultaneously dealing with a raging lion.  No. Easy. Feat.  They made it seem so easy though.

This blog post is for them.  I love them all so much.  I know I wasn't able to show my gratitude and I want to do that.  I know this post isn't enough....most will not even see it.  So my school year will be dedicated to paying it forward.  In small ways.

The lion has taught me that small things matter the most.  Small. Little. Things.  Small things can make a person smile when they're having a bad day.  Small things can make a person laugh when they are so mad they could spit.   Small things can make you see the beauty in the world.  Because small things are actually HUGE.

I came across this in my travels through cyber space (a place that comforts me as much as Chardonnay):

It was created by someone called Winged One (an angel?).  And I thought this would be a small way to start the movement.  I am sharing it here so that you can do the same with your beautiful people.  The Winged One has made it free at her TPT store (of course she has)!  So download it.  Right. Now.  and share the love like I plan to.

If you are familiar with the Lion and the Honey proverb, you know the moral of this blog post.  It's kind of a gross story (I mean eating honey out of the carcass of a dead lion...ewwww).  But.  Through my very difficult year, I have found honey in the lion.
Thank you for listening.  I wish you a happy school year, filled with a lot of "small things."

Kathy O.

Math Workshop Monday Link Up

Hello Friends,

I've done a lot of reading this week and I feel like I have a good handle on math workshop and what it will look like in my classroom this year!

If you haven't yet read this book:

you really should get it!  This book gave me a whole new perspective on math workshop.   Math workshop is really about organizing your math instruction to give students tons and tons of real-world, problem solving experiences with math, while also creating a schedule that allows you to differentiate instruction and meet with individual students and small groups!  That is really IT in a nutshell!

I was wrapped up in creating math choice boards and centers, classroom organization and all of that fun stuff, but really it is less about that and more about facilitating high-quality math experiences for your students.

John Tapper, in his book Solving for Why, talks about three stages of math understanding that can help guide us toward meaningful instruction for our students:

1.  The use of models:  models are a cognitive structure that a student uses to understand a mathematical idea.  The models can be a concrete, representational, or abstract analogy.  Base Ten Blocks are an example of a model for place value/base ten system.  Another example of a model is a an open number line for addition and subtraction or fractions.

2.  The use of strategies:  A strategy is more complex.  Strategies use models in a specific context to solve a problem and help students to generalize approaches to mathematics.  Strategies are best learned by students as they find a need for them in their problem solving experiences.  It usually is less effective to "teach" students strategies before they have had a chance to explore a concept.  Using landmark numbers or tens when adding or subtracting is an example of a strategy.

3.  The use of algorithms:  Algorithms are the shortcuts or procedures we use to do something efficiently over and over.  Algorithms become counter-productive when students don't understand the concept behind it (i.e., WHY it works).  Thus, students need to go through the model and strategy stages BEFORE landing on an algorithm.  Otherwise, problems will arise down the road.

In the book, Tapper goes into much more detail about each of these stages, but you get the general idea.  Most important is that you can diagnose most of the issues that students are having with math by analyzing their use of algorithms, strategies and models.  Chances are your strugglers haven't built up strong models and/or strategies to solidify their understanding of certain concepts, which has a snowball effect on their math learning.

So back to math workshop!  Math workshop becomes the organizational structure that allows you to help students build bridges between these math stages!


John Tapper structures math workshop with a "Main Lesson-Menu Lesson Plan" format (which I will be utilizing this fall in my classroom).  It looks like this:

  • Big Idea/Focus (Concept Students are Learning)
  • Launch (5-10 minutes) - Activate prior knowledge and connect to new concepts upcoming.
  • Explore/Main Lesson (20-30 min) - an investigation or inquiry for students that involves lots of student interaction and talking.  Teacher facilitates with good questioning techniques.  Will usually end with one or two problem solving activities (related to the big idea/main lesson) that students can work on independently or with a partner.
  • Menu (30+ minutes) - A weekly menu of activities to reinforce concepts being taught/learned.  Usually involves at least 5 "required" menu activities and a few optional choices.  The menu is broken into these main categories:  (1) Finish Main Lesson Work, (2) Number & Operations (computation practice), (3) Problem to Solve (4) Math Game (related to big idea) and (5) Math Journal (prompts given that focus on big idea).
  • While students are working on menu activities, I can work with students independently and in small groups.
I have re-created John Tapper's form for planning your lesson and menu work.  I have provided a PDf format, and the editable Powerpoint file (in case you like to type in your plans).

I know this looks a bit different from what I was thinking a couple Mondays ago...but I am new to this and my ideas about math workshop are evolving!!

I love this approach because it offers so much flexibility and it has a strong focus on problem solving and higher level thinking.  I also love how the menu lasts all week, making it lower maintenance for me.  Within the menu activities, differentiated choices are offered to accommodate your different learners (he suggests using "one dot problems" (easier), "two dot problems" (medium), "three dot problems" (challenging) for both the numbers and operations and problem-solving menu choices.

I plan to have students use a "Math Workshop" folder to collect the work they do throughout the week, which can double as a portfolio.  They could keep a selection of problems they solve throughout the school year as a record of their evolving math thinking.  This, along with their math journal, would make a great discussion piece during parent teacher conferences.  All other weekly math work and menu work could be sent home each week.

My next mission is to come up with the activities that will be used for the weekly menu:  math problems, journal prompts, and games!  I plan to create some things and purchase a few too.  Marilyn Burns book "About Teaching Mathematics" has many suggested whole class and menu problem solving activities.  I have a very, very old edition of that book which I am going to use, because her new edition is outrageously expensive.  

I hope you find this blog post helpful!  I would love to receive your comments and feedback!  I know a lot of folks read my blog, but I rarely get a lot of comments, so I get really excited when I hear from you!  Don't forget to link up!

Have a great week!
Love and peace,


New Products Sale!


I am already thinking about my post for Math Workshop Monday....I have been doing a lot of reading and cannot wait to share my thoughts!

In the meantime, I am having having a sale!  All of my newest products are on sale for two days only!

The following products are 20% today (July 23) and tomorrow (July 24):

Happy Shopping!

Math Workshop Monday -- The Best Resources and a GIVEAWAY!

Monday already and time for Math Workshop Monday!!

This week I wanted to share some of the resources that I am finding helpful as I begin to plan implementing math workshop for the first time.

Scholastic Top Teacher Beth Newingham has some great information to be found for FREE!

I also am a huge "Ashleigh" fan!  I found her Math Workshop Guide really helpful and love the way she uses math work stations.  She's also got loads of TPT math products that are wonderful for math workshop!  Plus, she has an AMAZING blog Ashley's Education Journey!   You can find tons of resources there on math workshop and other things too!  I just love her!!

I just came across this book by John Tapper.  Every year I get one or two (or more) students who just seem STUCK when it comes to math.  This book is jam-packed with strategies to help those kiddos get back on track.  I feel it is a must-have for anyone teaching math.  It is available on Amazon.

You also have to check out the Math Solutions website, created by Math guru Marilyn Burns!  It is like Edutopia, but just for math!  You can find lots of FREE cutting edge information and resources there! It is free to register!

Finally, a giveaway!!   Join the rafflecopter below for a chance to win any THREE math products (your choice) from my TPT store!  To enter, please follow my blog on Bloglovin, my TPT store, and "like" my Third Grade Doodles Facebook Page.  You can do all of that by clicking the links above! 
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Math Workshop Monday - New Weekly Linky!

Hello Friends,

I am starting my very first linky party!  It will be a weekly linkup, created to share ideas for math workshop.  The idea of a weekly linky is daunting for me...because that means a weekly commitment, but I am going to take the leap and hope for the best!
For my very first Math Workshop Monday post, I wanted to share my thought process for how this might look in my classroom, as far as scheduling goes.  Throughout the year, I hope to post photos and ideas that show how things are going...kind of a way to document my journey into Math Workshop.  I am hoping a lot of you do the same so we can all learn from each other!  Also, I know that Math Workshop requires lots and lots of activities and I am hoping that this provides a great way for all of to share those too!

I have been thinking a lot about this and my brain is just spinning with ideas!  I have always taught math using a fairly traditional model, meaning mostly whole-group lessons followed by independent practice, and on good days, some math choice activities such as games, centers, task cards, etc.

This year I want to try out the math workshop model, to allow me to differentiate instruction more effectively and allow more time to work with small groups of students.

I have done quite a bit of research so far and have discovered that there a tons of ways to go about implementing math workshop in a self-contained classroom setting.  Clutter Free Classroom seems to have the most popular model, which she has set up very similar to The Daily Five, except for math.  Her "MATH" workshop board is absolutely adorable and user-friendly.

I am not certain that it will work for me though, since I know I will need to incorporate at least 20-30 minutes of whole-group instruction each day, in addition to the math rotations.  I don't think I am ready to take the leap of having NO whole group time quite yet.  That would be very challenging with our math program.

When I am incorporate something new in my classroom, I really like to over-think things to the point of exhaustion, and how to schedule math workshop has really been driving me crazy.  I have drafted about 20 different ways to schedule my math block!

Here is what I'm thinking might work:

I try to schedule 90 minutes for math each day.  I know that may seem like a lot to many of you, but I find that is how long we need to get everything done in math at a pace that isn't stressful or rushed for students.  So my "draft" schedule is based upon that timeframe, but could easily be tweaked for a 60-75 minute block of time.

  • Whole Group Instruction (20-30 minutes) - this would include a math mini-lesson, and/or Number Talks
  • Math Stations (60 minutes) - I like Debbie Diller's "Math Stations" model.  This model seems more flexible to me than four rotating stations (Clutter Free Classroom), and lends itself nicely to differentiation for different levels of student math understanding.  You can find her book here.  So partners would stay together during three math workshop rotations.  Each of the rotations I am thinking would have a different focus (i.e., Independent Practice (seatwork), Hands-On Game/Computer, Math Facts).
  • Guided Math (60 minutes) - During this 60 minute work station period, I would be working with students either in small groups or one-on-one with students as needed.  Since I would partner students based upon their math level, it would allow me to work with those students together.  So I could even work with 1-3 partner groups at once (up to 6 students), and that would be indicated on the math board for the day.  Another great resource that I found:
  • Optional Closure/Sharing (5-10 minutes) - this would be dependent upon how much time was used during the Whole Group Instruction session.  If we had a wee bit of time left over, it could be utilized for student sharing, exit slips, or other closing activity.
If you had only 60 minutes it might look more like this:
  • 10-20 minutes - Whole Group
  • 40 minutes - Math Work Stations (only 2 rotations)
  • 5 minutes - Closure/Share
  • 15 minutes - Whole Group
  • 45 minutes - Math Work Stations (3 15 minute rotations)
  • No Closure/Share Time
Please link up below to share your Math Workshop thoughts and ideas!!   This linky is for BLOG POSTS only, not TPT products alone (sorry for the original confusion).  Have a wonderful week!