Category Archives: Third Grade

The Jade Serpent…Published!

Hi Friends!

I am so excited to let you know that I have just published the second book in The Treasure Chest Mysteries: “The Jade Serpent.”

You can find it on Amazon in print and Kindle formats.

I’d like to ask your help in spreading the word to all your friends who might be interested (or know someone who might be interested) in a fun adventure story for approximately a 3rd grader (7-9 yrs old).

ALSO If you purchase one on Amazon – I’d be oh so grateful if you would write a review as that is how books get noticed and ‘suggested’ on Amazon.

Thank you so much for your support!  I hope you enjoy.    Gretchen

Outsmarting looters, crawling into dark, dripping caves, and escaping spear-throwing villagers is
half the battle when ‘afraid-of-heights’ Koen is forced to jump off a giant temple,
climb to the top of the tallest tree in the rain forest, and swing for his life – like Tarzan – through the jungle.

Putting his trust in: a medicine man, a monkey and a mouse… No Problem.
Koen and Titanus are off on another adventure.
But it’s a race against time.
Can they find the stolen treasure before the thieves get their dirty hands on it and it is lost forever?

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Filed under Adventure, Third Grade, Writing

My First Book, The Launch

Hi All,

A few months ago my mom found a really fun, wooden chest.  It was covered in a circus motif and painted by a local artist in her town.  With my nephew’s baby on the way, she snatched it up and sent me a picture of it.  Seeing the chest sparked an idea and I started writing a story with the thought of giving it to the parents, my nephew and his wife, at Christmas.  So I have been working on the story and attempting my first illustrations.  With the great encouragement of friends, family and my current 6th graders that I am teaching, I decided to not only give it to my nephew, but to publish it.

I decided to self-publish through Amazon’s Create Space.  It was a fairly painless experience and now my book is listed on Amazon!  I am beyond excited.  I am finally coming down from my initial high and working on promoting the book, as well as writing the next one, as it is to be a series.  But I have to be careful not to over publicize right now as my nephew might see the PR blitz!  That would ruin the fun for Christmas.

So as soon as my nephew has the book in hand, I’ll launch my Facebook page etc. and let you know.  I did take the plunge and set up a Twitter account as well.  I have also created a website for the book which you can view here.  But for now, if you know of anyone that has a child reading at the 1st – 3rd grade level – I would really appreciate it if you would pass the word on about my book – it ships internationally!

You can see one of the main characters on the side bar to the right with a light blue background – Titanus McDuff.  Below is the cover of the book.

Cover Trade

Thanks and have a happy, creative day!



Filed under Adventure, Animals, Fourth Grade, Third Grade, Writing

Spinning Tornadoes To the Rescue!

I’m excited to say that my third graders, the self proclaimed Spinning Tornadoes, have out done  themselves.  Through weekly bake sales and an all school walk-a-thon, they raised not the original goal of $2,500, but $3,814!

This money will give 153 people clean water for life through  I’m very proud of my little troop.

Water Project Group Photo

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Filed under DIY, Education, Myanmar / Burma, Third Grade

Holiday Craft Fun!

Just a quick post to show you some fun my student’s have been having making Christmas crafts.

We’ve been making heart-hand letters to tell mom and dad how much the student’s love them.  Colorful chains for decorating the halls, paper plate snowmen and snowflakes.  Tomorrow we have a Secret Santa gift exchange and then we will watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – the original version.  Great way to round out the week.  Hope your holidays are warm, full of family and friends and lots of laughter!    Gretchenphoto-3

Heart HandsPaper Chains 2 w JackPape Plate Snowmen

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Filed under Crafts, Design, Myanmar / Burma, Third Grade

Clean Water for Everyone!

After half a year of opening the eyes of my third graders to the plight of people less fortunate than them, they decided it would be really great to give back some how.  I was thrilled.

I introduced them to brainstorming and we came up with tons of wonderful ideas.  Then narrowing it down, they decided that clean water was something that everyone needs and where they wanted to put all their effort.

So I did some research and found a bunch of organizations that work around the globe bringing clean water to folks in need.  We reviewed the sites and decided on

Then we brainstormed a fun team name and voila, the Spinning Tornadoes were born:

Spinning Tornadoes;

Spinning around the world filling buckets with fresh water for those in need.

Next came how to raise funds.  And my super creative third graders came up with a Water Bucket Carrying Contest.  Then we added a walk-a-thon (absolutely foreign concept here in Myanmar) and bake sales.  Our goal is to raise US $2,500.00 by the end of January.

Of course it has not helped that I have been sick for the last 8 weeks – but I was alive enough a couple months ago to explain it all to the other teachers and send letters home explaining what we were doing and what in the world a walk-a-thon is.  I’m still not sure the concept is completely getting through, but I think we’ll have a decent showing.

Our bake sales turned out to be donation from bakeries, sales.  The kids themselves have so many “helpers” (maids, nannies, drivers etc.) that they simply couldn’t comprehend actually baking something at home and bringing it in.  Odd I know, but I haven’t been able to get any of them to do it.

The walk-a-thon is in two weeks.  The water bucket carrying competition is in January.  Our bake sales revenue (3 weeks worth) so far has brought in at bout US $50.00.  So we have a long way to go.

Water Project Poster Making

Working hard creating our Spinning Tornadoes poster for the hallway.

I started a fundraising site on the website.  If you have any interest in helping us out simply go here and you can make a donation with a credit card. And please, spread the word – we need all the help we can get!  Thanks!

Water Project Group Photo

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Filed under Crafts, DIY, Education, Myanmar / Burma, Third Grade, Uncategorized

For the Love of Baking

On Thursday I took my third graders on a field trip to a bakery.  We had such fun.  Last week I started a mini-unit on career exploration.  We talked about what a career is (it was a vocab word last week) and what types of jobs are in each career and then specifically what jobs one could do at a bakery.  Then Thursday we ventured out to Min Thiha Bakery.

First we were introduced to the art of making chocolate cupcakes.

Boys Baking

We watched the ingredients mix with fascination…

Mixing Fascination

Then we got our hands dirty!

Making Cupcakes

SandraAs our creations were baking, we took a tour.  It was so fun watching their faces and discussing all the important jobs at the bakery.  Nothing seemed un-important to them.


Pastry Making

Pastry Making 2After our tour we returned to eat our delicious chocolate cupcakes.


Great questions, so inquisitive and enthusiastic about everything.  They were all on good behavior and genuinely had fun.

MikeWe came home and talked about what jobs they all noticed and then what was involved in each.  Then I took a show of hands to see which jobs appealed to the kids.  I was amazed, considering these kids are from the very privileged, that so many were interested in cleaning and hands-on baking.  But they were and thought it all looked so fun.

Next week we are going to one of my student’s snack factories.  Another chance to see lots of diverse jobs.  I’m looking forward to it.

Have a great week.


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Filed under Adventure, Education, Food, Myanmar / Burma, Photography, Third Grade, Travel

Recycled Beads and Mud Mountains

The last couple of weeks have been really fun with my third graders.  I think, after 3.5 months we are all getting into a rhythm and I must say it is so nice.  We wrapped up a unit on global poverty in social studies with an inside look into how people are helping people through micro-enterprise with a video from Bead For Life and then proceeded to make recycled paper necklaces.  They just loved it.IMG_1006Recycled Necklaces Project 1Recycled Necklaces Project 2Then last week we finished a unit on how the Earth changes slowly with an erosion project.  In groups, they all went outside and made mountains in the mud.  The biggest surprise to me was that many had never put their little hands in it before.  Initially they were literally revolted.  But once I told them they simply had to put their hands in the dirt in order to build a mountain, they finally got into and the whole hour was full of big smiles.  They scavenged for rocks and weeds to act as trees.  It was great.  They tried making ponds and artificial rivers (out of pebbles) to ease the water to where they wanted it to flow.  They were really creative.

Erosion Project 1Erosion Project 2But of course the boys just couldn’t resist slinging a bit of slime, so a mud fight rounded out the event and before I could snag the culprits, many were covered.  As you can see they were all pretty, darn happy.

Hope your week is creative and fun too!


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Filed under Crafts, DIY, Education, Myanmar / Burma, Photography, Third Grade

Joys and @?#($&^~!! of Third Graders

Hello again!  I’m sorry for the absence.  I really do have multiple excuses: Myanmar internet cable was severed under the Bay of Bengal, constant server troubles, slower-than-dial-up internet when we have it, so slow that most of the time my blog host tries to load and errors out.  But really its more to do with my lack of patience.  I have not felt like sitting for 15-20 minutes watching the little circle spin, hoping that the internet might load without erroring out.  And when it does trying again.

But enough excuses, the internet is slowly working today, so here we go.  I promised to write about the school and the students…

Tomorrow ends week 14.  There are 36 weeks in the school year.  I feel like I have been here much longer as the weeks seem to zoom by.  I can’t believe it is Thursday already!

Is it bad of a teacher to love some students more than others?  I have a couple students that just brighten my day when they walk into view.  They are full of that wonderful happy energy and radiant smiles that just fill me up so completely.  It takes a lot of strength not to just scoop them up and hug them and tell them how wonderful they are – remember they are 8 – 1o years and most are quite small, so scooping is still possible.

I can honestly say that I like all of my students, individually.  I can see the good in each and the potential.  But some are definitely more trying, even in their eagerness to please and be right, they grate.  But I am not so bad as to not realize that giving them encouragement is just as important, if not more so.

IMG_0710Now collectively it is a different matter.  Unfortunately my students succumb to “group mentality” syndrome.  When they are a group, again, unfortunately more often than not,  I want to strangle them.  As a group they can be such brutal little monsters.  They are so cruel to each other.  I know that they are just feeling something so lashing out because they are still trying to grapple with understanding nuances.   But as rational as I can be here, removed and writing about it, during the moment(s!) it sometimes takes all my grown up control to not lash out as they are.

I have yelled at them.  I painfully admit this.  I am not as good of a teacher as I want to be.  But when I have exhausted my arsenal of quieting and calming techniques there have been times that I know my loud, very unhappy voice will shut them up.  Don’t hate me for my lack of grace.  I try not to do that very often.

But on the contrary, yesterday and today were really fun.  Yesterday just flowed.  Nothing special in the morning, just calm, energized learning that was full of smiles, laughter, concentration and good discussions.  In the afternoon we did an activity to simulate how mountains are formed.  We watched a very short video, more for visuals than the details, about tectonic plates and then each table group was given four paper towels and a cup of water.

Now I had tried my little activity (from our science book) early in the morning and thought it was so boring and silly that the kids would scoff at it and that water would be spilled everywhere.  But no, the kids took on their duties with passion.  As instructed they slowly poured the water onto the towels so they wouldn’t over dampen them.  Some even scooped the water out of the cups and sprinkled it on their towels!

Mountain Forming Project 2Mountain Forming Project 3Mountain Forming Project 1Then they took their little hands and pushed the towels together slowly forming ridges that created all sorts of landforms – valleys, plateaus, canyons, mountains.  They were thrilled.  Once everything had been documented they unfolded and refolded their towels in a different way and did it again.  The collaboration, laughter, squeals of delight in what they had formed made me grin from ear-to-ear and giggle right along side them.  Both teacher Ei Mon Than (my assistant teacher) and I couldn’t believe that it was a hit.

Since we had time and the kids were obviously enthralled, I kept it going, this time with only 2 sheets of paper towels.  Then again with only one.  Then each group reported back how many mountains they had formed.  So proud of their accomplishments.  Really fun.

Today in social studies we were studying ancient societies and ways of communication.  So after reading about Egypt I handed out the Egyptian hieroglyphic alphabet (roughly corresponds to the English alphabet).  We all wrote our names in Egyptian and then proceeded to write silly sentences and pass them around for others to decipher.  Silliness and creativity – good combo.  Tomorrow we are learning about the Navajo Code Talkers and they’ll be creating their own secret languages with a partner.  Should be fun.

So these good days are really fun.  I just need to find a way to make them the majority rather than the other way around.

Thanks for your patience.  I will work on having more and trying to not curse the lack of internet service and use the loading time to meditate – or would it be hypnosis as I watch the circle spin?

Anyway – have a great end of your week and I promise to write again soon.



Filed under Education, Myanmar / Burma, Photography, Third Grade

Working at a New International School

The last few weeks have been full of figuring out the loose system we are working in, learning what levels the students AIS-Schoolare bringing to their studies and adapting to the lack of internet and communication ability.  First, the loose system is mostly due to the fact that this is a brand new school, only in it’s second year and the developing of school policies and procedures is still very much under-construction.  As frustrating as it is, I am amazed at what has been accomplished on top of the fact that the enrollment nearly doubled from last year to this (400 students 1st year, over 750 this year).  Lots of growing pains accompanying the rapid expansion.

The students are far below what I was expecting English language-wise.    After my observation by the principal, he told me that I speak too quickly.  I took that information to heart and have now slowed down my speech dramatically as well as started to ask the students to circle all the words that they do not understand in something we are reading.  It was a shock the first time I observed all the words that were circled in just a few paragraphs.  I’m now trying to devise ways to incorporate vital vocab into everything we do…without the kids realizing it.

The textbooks we are using are decent, but so US-centric and out-of-context for my students that I often completely re-write the subject matter to make it relevant.

Second week of class – students grouped in 4’s. Now they are in 3’s and I’m up to 28 students.

The internet, or lack there of, is probably the most distressing.  I was under the impression that it would be more available and consistent.  On the contrary, it is rare when have access and it is usually only during school hours, when we do not have time to use it.  Utilizing Youtube and other great sites for educational videos or materials is out of question as the connection is too slow and inevitably we lose power all together (many times per day).

Re-reading this it sounds like I am just complaining.  I really do not mean to be overly critical.  I am definitely frustrated at times, but it is an adjustment period coming from the US where everything runs so smoothly (99.99999%) of the time.  I’m adapting, with a few ‘growls’ and ‘arghs’ at times.  But I am really confident that the administration of the school is trying very hard to make it a great place to learn and teach, it just needs a bit more time…and so do I.

Tomorrow I am introducing my Read Around the World program to my students.  Even the non-readers are excited as they are going to get passports that will be stamped (stickers) when they reach certain places around the world (after they have turned in their book report and country activities) as well as prizes at milestones.

I’ve also started teaching ESL to the parents two nights a week.  It is really fun to teach adults.  They are just gobbling up the info.  Its also giving me a connection with them and they get to see my teaching style, which is an insight for them as to US teaching methods.

The School Newspaper club launched last week.  Mark, another teacher and I are the club leaders.  The group is split 50/50 of 7th graders and 3rd graders.  We all brainstormed ideas for the look and types of stories.  They all took on projects to turn in this next Wednesday.  It seems like a fun and energetic group.  We are hoping to have a name for our Newspaper this Wednesday.

So here’s to a great Monday and week.  I hope you enjoy yours too!



Filed under Education, Myanmar / Burma, Third Grade