Tuesday, May 31, 2016

End of the Year Letter...

One hundred seventy-six days.  When I say it that way...it really doesn't seem like very much time.  So how is it that it only took only a fraction of that time for me to fall in love with your child?  

As I reflect upon this past year, there are things that I want to make sure you know.

I hope you know that...I love each one of them.  More than any other class that I have ever taught, I am PROUD, I mean downright PROUD, of each of your children.  We've had a year of great days, but we've also had a year of days where we lifted each other up through our own tears.  Literally.  But this is why I am so proud of your child.  It is true they grew in stature.  And it is true they learned "second grade" academics.  But it is true also that they learned a lot about life...and that is why I am so proud of them.

We faced days that made us want to stay home and snuggle with Mom.  But we persevered and snuggled tight with our family here.  We faced days that scared us silly.  But we persevered and laughed ourselves silly with our family here.  We faced days that make most adults shrink back in fear.  But we persevered and stood tall with our family here.  We became smarter, sure.  Of course we became taller, but we also became strong little people.

I hope you know that...you not only helped your child grow this year, but you helped this teacher grow this year!  I am so appreciative of you!  Yes, YOU, the parent!  Did you have any idea that when your child was placed in my class you were getting the "crazy" teacher?  ;)  You got the teacher that likes to step outside her comfort zone and try new things.  You got the teacher that likes to toss out the textbooks and give a fresh approach a try.  You got the teacher that scours Twitter and Facebook and blogs searching for ideas I might not have ever thought of.  You got the teacher that decided homework needed a makeover and gave the new "Knowledge Quest" challenges a try.  And you were so supportive!  You never once questioned me.  You never once complained.  You somehow "got" my personality and my teaching style and you supported it!

I hope you know that...you have done a great job raising your children.  If you have not already heard, I will be moving up to the middle school next year.  I am very excited, but also quite nervous.  My teaching career began in a fifth grade classroom and I loved it, but I have never taught a true "middle school" grade.  Next year will be a year of new adventures for me also.  Today, I had your children "grade" me on a report card.  Many of the comments were very sweet, but this one hit me like a ton a bricks.  Is this child living inside my head?!?!  No...she is simply being her own sweet, "free-spirited" self and encouraging me with the love that YOU, the parents, have instilled in her.  Great job to you all!

One hundred seventy-six days.  I have loved each one of them!  Thank you for a GREAT year and for sharing your children with me!  They're going to be AWESOME third graders!

Check out this collaborative ABC book we created showing what we've learned this year using Google Slides.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Writer's Craft Book Tasting Event

It's been a week of Mo Willems here in our classroom!  We began our week look at a mentor sentence from Willem's book There Is a Bird on Your Head! from the Elephant and Piggie series.  We took a look at this sentence:

     "I do not want three baby chicks, two birds, and a nest on my head!"

Yesterday, we noticed all the things about the sentence that make it a great mentor sentence.  We noticed the number words, the pronoun I, the emotion shown by the exclamation mark, commas used in series, and plural nouns (our Word Study this week!).  Wow, we were amazed at all the description Willems used and how we could see Gerald the Elephant's face just by reading this sentence.  

We also began an author study of Willems in our reading block.  We read Knuffle Bunny and began recalling literary elements in fiction writing.  We remembered that literary elements are found in fiction writing and that fictional writing has a plot, setting, characters, rising action, climax, and falling action.  We are quite the smarty pants 2nd graders, I tell you!

Today, we continued our author study and incorporating our writing into our reading.  We gathered books that used speech bubbles in them...Geronimo Stilton, Captain Underpants, comics from the newspaper, and Mo Willems's books--OF COURSE! 

We gathered in small groups and had a small book tasting event.  Each group had a collection of various texts.  They first scanned the books and talked as a group about the similarities they saw in the writing styles of the authors.  We rotated texts and did the same for the new set of books.  We did this until each student got to put their hands on each text.

After debriefing with our small group, we gathered as a whole group and discussed the texts with these higher order thinking questions.

We noticed each author used speech bubbles in their writing to get their message across to their readers.  We noticed that ALL CAPS letters means you are really wanting to express some emotion, but we also talked about how it is possible for an author to use too many all caps words.  As one student said, "No one really goes around yelling all the time." and this is very true.  As authors, we have to be choosey when using all caps and use them only when we really need to add some serious voice.  We also had a conversation about which type of sentence structure works best with speech bubbles: short, simple sentences like Willems's work best.

Finally, it was our chance to try out writing with speech bubbles.  We each designed two characters and made them interact with each other using the speech bubbles.

The Adventures of Dirty Plate and the Sponge

I'm too powerful!

Keep writing, Second Graders!  Your voice matters!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Getting Ready for Open House!

These kiddos have amazed me with their creations this week! We researched famous African Americans and created a project of our choice to teach others about them. Check out these Voki presentations. Great work, kids!

Brady's Voki

Cash's Voki

Jamison's Voki

Katie's Voki

Monday, February 15, 2016

Looks Can Be Deceiving...

To the "outsider's" eye, this shot of our math time today may make you cringe a bit.  Students diligently working seated in their chairs, computing math problems in their individual textbooks...whole group instruction, no differentiation, no critical thinking...just roboticly working away.

Maybe it conjures up a picture in your mind like this.

And you are probably wondering just what in the world is going on?  We know this isn't best practices.  We know our mathematicians all learn differently, so why are they getting a one-size-fits-all instruction today?

The truth is...they aren't!  We began three-digit addition today and, yes, we used our textbooks.  But we used them in a collaborative critical-thinking activity.  Here's how:

The class was divided into "random" groups of four.  I say "random" in quotations because while I do believe in heterogeneous groups, I also know what research says about placing gifted students together.  So I made sure and put my kiddos who are on that higher level with a buddy who can push them as well.

In each group, each student was assigned a number, 1-4.  I read the math problem aloud to the class and set a two-minute timer.  The groups had two minutes to solve the algorithm and have each member of their group agree to one "correct" answer.

Once the answers were agreed upon, I used my new favorite tool from www.classtools.net (look for a post later this week to see other ways I use this online tool!) to create a spinner numbered 1-4.  

I spun the spinner and the person from each group who is numbered whatever number is shown must go to the board and show their strategy for how their team solved the problem.

Teams then earned points for solving the problem correctly, using a logical strategy, and justifying their work.

Working in groups can sometimes be risky.  Usually, the class extroverts do all the talking while the introverts sit back.  But our class is a whole new risk!  We have almost all extroverts so I have to make sure our group work is always on task.  As I walked around monitoring today, I was so darn IMPRESSED at the math conversations I heard.  

I'm telling you, this activity turned a textbook assignment into a collaboration of minds.  LOVE it and will definitely be using this again.  You see...even though you think we're just a boring old math classroom...take another gander...looks can be deceiving!

Have a great week!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Good Monday Morning!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Cry Baby Extra Sour Plot Events!

Have you ever tried to endure the torture of a Cry Baby Extra Sour gumballs?  They are definitely EXTRA SOUR!  I used them this to teach our class about plot events in a literary (fictional) text.

First, we just observed the gumball.  Some chose to sniff the package.

Then we opened them up and popped them in.  The reactions were priceless!

Now, how does this teach plot, you may ask?  Here's how:

Together we created this anchor chart.  We talked about how when I handed out the gum, we sniffed it, we rattled the wrapper, we oohed, and we ahhed!  We were told to open up the package and try the gum, if we wanted.  Our anticipation grew as we popped the candy into our mouths then....BAM!  Here came the sour!  That was definitely the "climax" of our lesson, the most exciting part, or even the problem.  Then, as the sourness wore off, our tastebuds settled back down, we could feel our tongues again, and life was all good as our problem was resolved.

This series of events is just like the events of a story.  We talked about how oftentimes at the beginning of a story, we get off to a slow start and our anticipation builds.  Then, when we get to meat of the story, the problem, the climax...we hit the high part in the middle.  The events afterwards are all bringing our climax to a resolution and our story finds it's stop.

Was giving out the Extra Sour Cry Baby's to my sweet babies mean?  I guess that can be debated. ;)  But one thing's for sure...they can definitely tell you about plot events!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Monthly Sight Words

 Click here to print your own lists or download as a pdf file.