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!