Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Geo Challenge!

Teachers get the entire summer off, right?  Well....that's not quite true.  The fact is, true teachers don't get the summer "off."  They spend their summers scouring Pinterest, Facebook, teacher blogs, and Twitter for new ideas to incorporate into their curriculum the next year.  In the middle of June, I was browsing Facebook and I saw this geometry idea that challenged my thinking.

The post was titled, "How to Turn 2 Circles into 1 Square" and you can find it here on their blog.  I couldn't get my head wrapped around this and I had to watch the video.

I took to Twitter and tweeted the video to my teammates to keep in mind for our geometry unit this year.  Our 2nd grade Texas learning standards have us "decomposing" shapes to make new shapes.  First, I gave each learner an index card.  We discussed the attributes of the card (it's a rectangle...four sides, and four vertices).  Then, I told the class that I wanted them to cut the rectangle into two three-sided figures....with NO leftover pieces from the card.  They did great!  While a few kiddos had trouble at first, they quickly figured it out and we cut the rectangles into two triangles.

Now, it was time for a challenge.  I had the learners pair up with a partner and take two strips of paper.  We made the strips become circles by gluing the ends together.  Finally, I told the partners their challenge was to make the two circles into one square.

This was a great opportunity to discuss the attributes of a square (four equal sides) and how it is similar, but different from a rectangle (where two sides are long and two sides are shorter).

This first group was QUICK QUICK to get it!  And they eagerly and professionally shared their thinking with the class.  They cut the two circles apart into lines and then glued them together into the form of a 3-D square.

This group did great thinking, too!  They took the circles apart, then glued them on top of each other to make a perfect 2-D square.

I can't leave out these two future teachers!  They needed to use the board and markers to teach everyone their thinking.

I know you're as impressed as I am!  Great job mathematicians!

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Week Full of Thanks!

Being turned into an elementary teacher, I've grown to have a fond affection for thematic teaching.  This week is the week before we get out for an entire week to celebrate our Fall Break over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Here's a peek into how we integrated Thanksgiving into our classrooms this week.

First of all, I planned our Word Study this week to help out my sweet teammate as she traveled out of state for a family matter.  So, I got to really let my crazy out and have some fun with using Thanksgiving themed activities to help us review our November sight words.

First, we played Look-Say-Cover-Write.....with a ~TWIST~! I found the closest thing I could to a 30-second Thanksgiving/Fall themed timer on YouTube, inserted it into a Google Slide so I could easily share it with my team, and projected it onto the board.  I wrote one of sight words on the board and had the learners LOOK at it.  Then, they had to SAY it.  After that, I COVERED it by erasing it off the board.  Finally, the learners had to WRITE the word.  But, here's the twist...I set the timer and told the little spellers they had to write the sight word as many times as they possibly could during the given 30 seconds.  They absolutely ate this up!  They loved the challenge and loved seeing which words they could write the most of.

By the way...did you notice what we're writing with?  Monday, we made our very own quills using new pencils and a feather.  You would've thought we had transported back in time and got ourselves some genuine quills!  :)  We also got a piece of manilla paper, cut it into a animal skin shape, crumpled it up, then smoothed it out.  We did this to mimic writing on deer skins the way some Indian tribes wrote.

On Wednesday, my craziness REALLY showed up!  While searching on Pinterest for ideas on ways to practice our sight words while paying homage Native Americans, I came across these beautiful pictures of Talking Sticks all over Pinterest.  I fell in love with them and they became my inspiration.

My sweet husband and I gathered sticks for our team around our land.  My sweet kids and I painted them in true Talking Stick style.  Then, at school, each learner was assigned a sight word from our November list.  They had to illustrate and write their word on a leaf.  Then, we hung them from our Talking Stick and proudly suspended it from our ceiling for the perfect Thanksgiving decoration!

Our grade level rotated through each teacher this week and each teacher had a different Thanksgiving activity to complete.  In Mrs. Hill's class, we wove paper place mats, Pilgrim style.  In Mrs. Serio's class, we produced the super cute Thanksgiving play posted earlier this week.  Mrs. Gentzler helped us draw and paint some very artsy Native America art.  Mrs. Crow got her teepee making skills on and helped us make our own!  Ms. Mullenix helped us create our own cutest little paper strip pumpkins.

In my rotation, we created Grateful Stones.  We took a stone, cleaned it up, cut a heart out of tissue paper, and Modge Podged it onto our stone.  Now every time we look at our stones, we know to find something to be grateful for.  They turned out really well!

Finally, one of my sweet learners is rocking PicCollage!  She captured our day perfectly:  two sweet friends ready to celebrate, the teacher projecting our Thanksgiving Math Minds prompts, and more friends working to recognize their sight words with a mystery picture.  Great job snapping shots of our morning, Ally! ;)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Hooray for Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!  Thank you to Mrs. Serio for such a cute video!

Friday, November 13, 2015

November Sight Words

Spelling Tests

You remember taking spelling tests, right?  You know...the assignment when you had to fold your notebook paper in half, number it one to ten (or twenty, if you had a tough teacher) and wait on your teacher to call out your spelling words to you while you wrote each one...skipping lines, of course.

I despised those days!  Not because Phonics and I weren't friends, but rather, because I would sit there for fifteen minutes bored out of my ever-loving mind!

Yet when I began my first year of teaching in a fourth grade ELA classroom, I assigned spelling words each Monday and I did the dreaded sit and spell spelling test on Friday.  After moving to second grade, I still did the same test.  Now, I did evolve a bit and went to allowing the learners to choose their own words, but I still assessed them in the same old way.

About this time last year......I WAS OVER IT!  I needed a new way to assess spelling (although, I must admit, this article is convincing me that I need to stop the tests altogether!) so I got the bright idea to try to do it thematically.  For example, my learners completed their spelling test during the week leading up to Halloween on spider web paper.  Heck, we even tested our /oi/ and /oy/ words on tin foil.  But the process was still the same.  I was just changing the paper.

Then BAM!  That's when the idea hit me!  I created a Google Form spelling test and I have never seen learners so engaged during a spelling test!  They loved it and their scores reflected it.  Through the rest of the year last year, that's usually how we tested over our words.  Click here to see an example test.

This year, I've had to get a bit more creative.  Our computer carts are now hot commodities and it's hard to get one booked consistently (a good problem to have, right??  That means our campus is rocking technology!).  Today was one of those days when I needed a great idea.  And to be VERY honest, it seriously hit me RIGHT BEFORE I gave the test:  I TOOK THE TEST TODAY.

You read that correctly.  I, Mrs. Thompson...the teacher, took the test.  I called out each word and spelled it on the board.  Some of our words I decided to spell correctly, but some words I decided needed to be misspelled.  What did the learners do?  They GRADED ME.  

For each word I spelled correctly, they put a check mark or smiley face by that number.  For each word I spelled incorrectly, they put an X or a sad face.  Then, here's the kicker, they had to correct my spelling.  It was a mixture of editing practice and a spelling test all rolled into one.  And guess what?  It was a HUGE SUCCESS!  The class absolutely loved getting to "grade" me, they giggled (during a spelling test...WHAAAAT???) as I misspelled some "easy" words, and they did great!  Perhaps their most favorite part was that they got to "be the teacher" for a bit.  One little guy even wrote his name as "Mr. Will" on his paper!  Ha!

Next week, we're on to Sight Words, where we will be assessed by identifying our words from a Wordle-style doc.  Word Study, too, can be creative and engaging!  Have a great weekend!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Storybook Character Pumpkin Patch

Years ago I saw an idea on Pinterest that has held my attention every year since.  This year, I finally got to experience the idea!

I saw a pin where a teacher had her class design a pumpkin to resemble a character from the book they were reading.  Our 2nd grade team this year loved the idea and we added it to our Second Grade Knowledge Quest menu.

The learners created their favorite storybook character in pumpkin form.  The results were AMAZING!  Check them out in this short video.  Great job, 2nd Graders!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Cowboy Boot Inferring!

How can we become better readers by learning from a rugged, dirty, cowboy boot?

Last year, I wrote a blog post about my most FAVORITE professional book E-V-E-R!  Check it out here  It served as inspiration for this lesson today...

This morning, I plopped my husband's riding boots (the ones he usually has spurs on...the ones he usually has trampled through mud and cow manure in...the ones that don't exactly look or smell quite ordinary...) and asked my learners the question, "Who wears this boot?"  As the boot was passed around the class, many of the learners began firing off observations.  I guided their observations into inferences.  One sweet girl said, "Ewww!  It's muddy!" so I helped her infer that whoever wears this boot has walked through the mud.  One little guy noticed the dried green lump on the bottom of the boot and informed the class he knew that was cow "poo."  So we used inferring language and said we knew that whoever wears this boot has stepped in cow manure.  Before long, the entire class was using inferring language and telling me what they know about the boot.

 We recorded our inferences down onto a chart.  After we filled up our page, we then had to cite our evidence for our inference.  Once we did that, we realized that sometimes an author doesn't always tell us everything we need to know about the "behind the scenes" action of a text.  So, we have use our background knowledge (we call it schema), add it to text clues from what we're reading, and the result is an inference.  We are really trying to open up our minds to think deeper and more rigorous about what we're learning.

Tomorrow, we'll collect some inferring thinking stems to help us start our thinking.  I am really excited about the thinking of this group!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Our VAES Principals Matter!

This month, we celebrate our amazing principals here at VAES.  I've worked at two other districts in my career and I can honestly say...these two ladies here at VAES are the most kindhearted, caring, and genuine leaders I've worked with.  Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Odom, thank you for creating a fun, family-esque, safe, and challenging learning atmosphere for our kiddos!  #YouMatter!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Matter PBL and Fraction Dance Party!

We are ready to start wrapping up our matter PBL unit!  We have worked so hard on it and have done a fantastic job working as a team on our DIYs!  This week we began having workshops.  During a PBL workshop, the Workshop Managers from each team gather with me at the Teacher Table to conduct a quick experiment.  Then, they are responsible for taking their new learning back to their groups and teaching the rest of the team members what they learned.  WOW!  I was AMAZED at the job those Workshop Managers did!  They were better teachers to their groups than I could have been! In the workshop pictured in the slideshow, we observed matter changing states due to temperature.  We made Jello (with Texas A&M molds, of course!) and watched the solid Jello mix turn to a liquid when we added boiling water.  We watched the water change to a gas when it got so hot it began to steam.  Finally, we couldn't believe our eyes (and taste buds!) when we saw the liquid Jello change to a solid through refrigeration!  It was a great week for our PBL teams!

Click through the slides to see how we learned during our PBL this week.

We have been working with fractions in math.  One of the most difficult concepts for 2nd graders to grasp is how even though the denominators of fractions get larger, this actually means the size of the parts gets smaller.  For example, 1/2 parts are larger than parts of 1/8.

To help drive this home, we had a Fraction Dance Party!  We got a piece of newspaper and laid the whole thing flat.  We turned up some Kidz Bop tunes and showed off our dance moves on our paper.

After a minute, I stopped the learners and had them fold their paper into halves.  Then, cracked up the tunes and danced.  We noticed it was a bit harder to dance in a smaller space, but it still worked.

We then took it a step farther and folded our paper into fourths.  We had to get creative to dance in this small of a spot!

Finally, we folded our paper into eights and oh my!  We could barely keep on balance on that smallish thing!

Once the song stopped, we set our brains to work and we really truly honestly understood how parts of a whole get smaller as the denominator gets larger!  What a great job our mathematicians did!

Have a great weekend this weekend!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Fall Parent Conferences

I can not wait to talk with you about your child's genius!  Be sure to scroll down for more options.  See you soon!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Five for Friday!

Take a look at five things that made our week FANTASTIC!

1.  Read to Someone!  I had the students choose a partner (boys had to choose a girl and girls had to choose a boy…it's heaven having an even number of boys and girls!) and gave them a leveled reader to partner read.  I tried to "split the difference" of the partners' reading levels and have them read a book that they could both be successful at.

At first they all thought I was even crazier than they think I already am for partnering them with a friend from a different gender, but I know they secretly LOVED it.  They all were on task and very productive!  I praised them and praised them for the job well done they did (more Fuzzies went into that jar!) and we reflected about how nice it was to get our jobs finished quickly.  

We have been practicing retelling a story in a logical order this week, so after they finished their texts, they logged onto our Google Classroom (with my help) and worked on creating a Google Slides show to retell the story they read together.

The Slides aren't completely finished, but they are coming along great!  I will be sure to share when they are finished.

2.  Google Forms as assessments!  I am constantly looking for ways to make spelling tests more engaging.  One of the best (and easiest!) I've found is by using Google Forms.  I make the form with multiple choice and write-in text questions, then share the Form with the class.  They simply fill out the form and submit it.  Then, I use a Google Add-On called Flubaroo to grade the assessments for me.  You know what they say…work smarter, not harder. :)

The learners loved taking their assessment this way!  I pulled them to the Teacher Table in small groups so I could help them in filling out the Form.  I can't tell you how many times I heard "That's it?  That was fun!" after clicking "submit"!  That's awesome in my book!

3.  Project Based Learning!  We launched our first PBL this week in science.  We are investigating the states of matter and the affects of heat, light, and sound energy upon them.  We learned who our PBL Teams were today and what our roles were in our teams.  We created and signed our Team Contract today and completed our first DIY together in our teams.  The engagement is through the roof in our classroom during our PBL!  The kids are absolutely loving it!  I love watching how independent these little guys are.  They are doing great.

I made my own PBL role cards using papers and clipart that matches our classroom.  I really like how they turned out.  Such a "boho" and creative feel that will hopefully spark creativity and risk-taking in my learners!

4.  Screaming Good Retelling!  My teammate, Mrs. Hill, found this idea from Teacher Idea Factory.  I took my kids' pictures on Tuesday, printed them, and had them cut their faces out.  I found out I mistakenly had my learners face the wrong direction, so we learned from my mistake and problem solved!  We just cut out the speech bubble, turned it upside down, and slapped it down onto some construction paper.  Viola!  Problem solved!

We listened to the online book Russell the Sheep and then worked to retell the story, this time in written form, using our Retelling Rope model.  I was SUPER IMPRESSED at the summaries!  

5.  Positive Punches!  I needed a new class incentive.  I had used dollars, but trying to be proactive and handing out the dollars for small acts of goodness was breaking my classroom bank!  And I didn't have many kids earning the $5 needed to buy a reward.  My teammate uses a money system using fake cents, but I didn't have enough of that either.  So, I quickly made these punch cards.  Punches, to me, have a bit of a negative connotation though, so I renamed them "Positive Punches."  When I catch a kiddo doing something great, I ask them to bring me their punch card.  I hole punch it, then give it back.  Once they get five punches, they get to make a "Positive Purchase."  So far, it's been working great and has made our week go very smoothly!

That's it for this week!  Enjoy the cooler fall weather, Texas!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Google in our Classroom

Remember when Google was just a search engine? Not anymore! Our district is a Google Apps for Education district, meaning that we use Google sites (Drive, Sheets, Classroom, Docs, etc.).  This year, I was so super excited when our district assigned Google accounts to our 2nd graders!  That meant I could take my teaching with Google to the next level.

This week, we worked on signing into our Google Classroom.  A Google Classroom is essentially an online classroom where I can assign students tasks, they complete them, and turn them in all through Google.  I am new at Google Classroom, but I am beyond ready to have this book delivered to my mailbox!  I can't wait to begin reading up on what all I can do with Classroom!

We have been studying character traits in the books we've been reading.  I created a Google Slides template and assigned each student their own Slides presentation to complete.  In their presentations, they analyzed the character traits, motivations, and changes of the main character in Kevin Henkes's Julius, The Baby of the World, one of my most favorite books!

My little 21st Century learners were so engaged with their presentations!  Those that chose to work with a partner collaborated so well together.  Check out a few examples of presentations below.

C.'s work turned out great!

And you have to love B's honesty!  "I hated my baby brother a lot of times."

On another note, I need to give a big shout out to my teammates!  I work with some of the best teachers and people I know!  My teacher teammate, Mrs. Hill, came up with these amazing higher order thinking questions to take math in her classroom deeper.  I totally stole them!!!  My learners had great number talks during our Think it Through today!

Have a restful weekend all!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Pen Pals and Baby Faces!

You have never seen excitement like 2nd grade-today-we-mailed-our-Pen-Pal-letter excitement!  It's official...our first Pen Pal letter is on its way to Canoga Park, California, to meet Mrs. Dixon's class.  After much debate, we finally decided to type our letter because we had so much to ask!  We introduced ourselves and our classroom in a brochure found here.  We can not wait to hear back from Mrs. Dixon's class!

Signed, sealed, and waiting to be delivered!

I have found that most second graders still need help with gaining automaticity with their basic math facts.  To up the "engagement" piece, I created Baby Face Math today.  I found the most interesting picture of a baby's face online and added digit values to it's facial features.  Then, my learners work with a partner.  The first partner touches two facial features on their own face.  The other partner must connect the feature to the value and solve the equation.  For example, if your partner is touching their nose and left ear, your equation you must solve it 2 + 4.

Here we are in action!  They did great with it and decided it was much more interesting than pencil and paper practice.
Then, they began requesting variations on the game like, "Mrs. Thompson, can we do Grumpy Grandma Math one day?"  Ha!  Absolutely, kiddos!  Stay tuned!

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Five for Friday!

Five thoughts about our past week together (and a little more about me!).

1.  Warm Fuzzy Jar
Our tribe spoke...and it wanted Warm Fuzzies!  I asked my learners to vote on the whole-class reward system and they chose the Warm Fuzzies.  Each time our class as a whole does something WOW-worthy, I grab a handful of fuzzies and transfer them to the small jar.  When the jar gets full, we get a prize!  The kids are loving it and filling that jar quickly!

2.  Read to Self
Our class's stamina is amazing!  We have set a new record...over 11 minutes!  As I was monitoring the kiddos reading, I got tickled at the "comfy" spots they had chosen.
Sprawled across one of our benches.

Perched high up on a stool.

Guarding my teacher desk!

3.  Pen Pal Pair Up!
I used the app called Nearpod to display a teacher-paced presentation of clues about our Pen Pal class's location.  With Nearpod, I control what the kids see on their screens, so that way I eliminated the peekers who might skip to see the answer. :)  We are so very excited to get to write Mrs. Dixon's Darling Dynamos all the way in Canoga Park, California!

4.  Math Differentiation
During our study of place value, I knew I had various needs throughout my class.  Instead of making them all work on one assignment, I split them into three groups according to their needs.  It worked really well for us and we got to have some amazing math talk conversations about number sense!
This group was able to brainstorm their own numbers, draw a base ten representation of it, and write it in expanded form.  Awesome!

This group was shown a numerical number and they converted it into base ten drawings.  So cool!

And this group was shown a base ten, hands on model.  They counted it up and recorded it numerically.

5.  Currently...
And for something extra, here's my first ever "Currently" list.
Have a great weekend!