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Happy Sunday, friends! Let the craziness begin! The end of the year always brings mixed feelings for me. Happy and excited to enjoy summer and recharge for next year... anxious about getting in everything I have to do before the last day... proud as I watch my kiddos work together and shine... the end of the year can be a stressful time. I've put together 5 simple tips to help you make the most of those final days with your students - and still come out in one piece!



1. Realize you can't do it all - and that's ok! This is the time to channel your inner Elsa and "let it go!" Yes, there are pats of the curriculum or skills or topics you wanted to cover, but haven't. Yes, it would be so fun to do that amazing craft you found on Pinterest at 2:00 yesterday morning because you couldn't sleep. But the reality is, time is limited. Choose what is most important to you and your class and focus on that. Is this a group that needs all the love and caring and connections you can give them? Make that your number one priority these next few weeks. Does your group STILL need practice with an important skill? Work that into what you're doing as much as possible. You know your class, and what they need. Stay true to that.

2. That brings me to number 2 - go with what you feel is right. You know your class best. If they thrive on structure and consistency, then maybe changing it up to do a camping day or a pajama day is just not going to work. Countdown activities are fun - but they can wreck havoc for kiddos who need to know what to expect. Instead of making the whole day different, maybe you can use the end of the day to do some fun things. And if you can't - see #1. Every class is different, and for some students, the thought of not having that safe and loving place to come to every day brings on more worry than cheer. The last few weeks of school are crazy enough, with assemblies, awards, testing, etc. Don't add to it unless you know your kiddos can handle it.

3. I know you WANT to bring some fun and enjoyment to those last days. Try integrating it into what you already do! Done with your reading series? Use the time to read about amazing animals (I've got some great nonfiction resources HERE), learn about different places or try theme days. That way you can still keep your regular schedule, but add in some fun. Play math games instead of independent work. Try a read the room activity. Be creative! And if your class can handle more - go for it!

4. As you're finishing up this year, think about next year. (I know you're already doing that!) Make notes about things you want to change in the fall. Keep a bin or basket with ideas for next year. Start copying things you might need for the first few weeks in the fall so you're a step ahead! Thinking about moving things around or trying something new? Try it now! Every class is different, but you might gain some insight into whether or not what you want to try will work. Bring in some flexible seating. Try a different room arrangement. Run math a different way. Doing it now will help you feel more comfortable when you really roll it out for next year.

5. HAVE FUN! Remember - whatever you do with your kiddos these last few weeks will be the memories they take with them through the summer. Amazing room transformations, cute crafts and themed days are fun,  but the most important thing to keep doing now is making connections and showing your students you care. That's what they'll remember most!


Happy Sunday, teacher friends! The month of May has arrived, and with it comes the excitement of the end of the year. For me the last day is still a few weeks away, but I know for some of you, it's coming up fast! Let's get this month started with a little Currently, from Farley over at Oh Boy It's Farley. This is going to be the LAST Currently link-up ever, folks! I've always liked checking in at the beginning of each month and seeing what everyone is up to. But all good things must come to an end... so here we go with my May Currently!

Quiet. Yep. I sometimes feel like I'm one of the only ones who actually LIKES to work when it is quiet. No tv... no music... just the quiet. I get so much more accomplished that way.

My life has been a bit crazy this past month, but it's settling down and I feel like I have a handle on the coming week. 

This time of year, I find myself thinking ahead to next year. What do I want to change? Move? Do more of? There are some changes coming in the next school year (stay tuned!), and I'm excited for what the future holds!

Then.... there are my snowmen. Still sitting on the shelves and tables in my living room. Maybe I'm not as caught up as I'd like to think.... sigh....





How about you? Share some currently with me in the comments! I'd love to hear what you're up to as May begins :-)


Happy Sunday! This month has been all about spring and Earth Day in my classroom. I have a few favorite books for Earth Day that I love to read, and some go-to activities that I pull out every year. We are usually not in school on Earth Day (spring break!) so I do most of my Earth Day activities the week before.

Earthdance, by Joanne Ryder is one of my favorite books for Earth Day. It's the perfect book for a read aloud and to work on visualizing. I like to read it out loud first, showing the pictures, then read it again, asking students to draw what they see. We point out the use of strong verbs, similes and figurative language. After we've read it a couple time, I put on some piano-type music and read it again - this time having students move to the words. They start small, growing with the text. We talk about how the word choice helps us to know exactly how to move. I also encourage my kiddos to draw and write about what they "see" when they hear the words and phrases.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2ize_mAbVGMdHczXzVXdmExOVE/view?usp=sharing

My kiddos this year have been OBSESSED with animals of every kind. Second graders usually do like animals, but these guys have taken it to a whole new level. I knew that I needed to pull out some endangered animal texts this time around. A great one to use is Almost Gone, by Steve Jenkins (from the Let's Read and Find Out series). There is information about all kinds of endangered animals, from ones my kiddos already know, to some unusual animals they might not be familiar with.


I use this opportunity to build on their interests by doing a "walk the room" search for different animals. I have 8 different endangered animal fact pages around the room. Students need to search the room to find them, and use the text to answer the question hanging nearby. Again, some of these animals are familiar, and some are a bit different.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Endangered-Animals-Nonfiction-1162986

After our animal research has been done, we sit down and talk about what we've learned. I created a flip book for them to use to highlight interesting information abut each animal. Before completing the flip book, we work together to complete a chart synthesizing information from all the animals. I divide my kiddos into groups, making each group an "expert" about an animal from the fact cards. This way, everyone contributes.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Endangered-Animals-Nonfiction-1162986
Besides endangered animals, I also like to make sure my students understand that everyday activities are important in taking care of the earth - it's not just Earth Day for one day! We read Earth Day Every Day, by Lisa Bullard to get a brief understanding of what Earth Day is and how we can make a difference. Then we brainstorm all the ways we can think of to help the earth. I like to use Miss DeCarbo's Earth Day resource for this. It's a great way to use QR codes to find information and we use what we have learned to write about ways we can be planet protectors.

Finally, I always make sure to find out a little more about my kiddos with a "Find a Friend" activity. This is perfect for starting a lesson or a quick activity at the end of the day. Each student has a copy of the grid and walks around trying to find the names of other students who do the things listed.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2ize_mAbVGMdHczXzVXdmExOVE/view?usp=sharing
 
You can grab a copy of the Find-a-Friend activity and the Earthdance sheet by clicking HERE (or on the images above. The endangered animals resource is in my store - click HERE to check it out.)

Earth Day is every day, and this is the perfect time to get kids interested in what they can do to help protect the earth. What are some of your favorite Earth Day activities?


Happy Sunday, friends - and happy spring! I'm planning for a week of bunnies and baskets and bright colored eggs, even though we're set to get snow tomorrow and may not even be in school! You've gotta love New England!

We're finishing up our money unit in math this week and I'm going to send my kiddos on an egg hunt - money style! 

I'm filling plastic eggs with different amounts of coins, and then hiding them around the room. When the hunt begins, everyone tries to find an egg! After each egg is found, students carefully open the egg, count the coins and write the amount on their recording sheet. (The eggs are labeled A-X to match the sheet.) Then they must put the egg back right where they found it, so someone else can find it!

This activity is great for differentiation. Just use different colors for certain amounts. For example, green and yellow eggs do not contain quarters, but red and blue eggs could have any amount up to half dollars. Have groups of students look ONLY for their color eggs.

Once student have found all the eggs, I leave a few answer keys out so they can check their work. Got an incorrect answer? Find that egg again and recount!

You can grab the recording sheet I use HERE (or click on the image below).
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2ize_mAbVGMY0lxbE96MFdpd1E/view?usp=sharing

I'm also putting out some BUMP games with an Easter theme. Money, place value and basic facts all need review this week! (The games are in my store HERE.)
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Easter-Math-Games-Bunny-BUMP-and-more-1172977

It's going to be a short week, but a fun one! Have fun!


Happy Saturday, friends! I'm back with part 3 in my blog series all about morning meetings. (You can see part 1 HERE and part 2 HERE.) Today I'm focusing on the end of our morning meeting time - a group activity.

As I've said so many times before, I find our morning meeting time to be THE most important part of our day. It sets the tone for what's to come, gives me a chance to connect with my students, and gives my kiddos a chance to have some fun with each other.

We always end our morning meeting with a group activity of some kind. I'm constantly on the look-out for games and activities that fit my requirements for a good morning meeting activity:


1. Easy to learn: Ain't no one got time for long, complicated directions that are even harder to explain than they are to understand! I have 20 second graders - give me quick and fast, with little prep and I'm in!

2. Keep everyone involved: This one is a biggie. Games in which someone gets "out" early on and doesn't get to play for the rest of the time is a recipe for fooling around! I try to find games and activities that either keep everyone involved in some way, or I modify them myself!

3. Add content: While this one is not a deal-breaker, (I think that cooperative games in which students have to work together, learn to take turns, etc. are just as important), if I can add some content while we're doing it then that's a bonus!

I get my activity ideas from everywhere! My go-to resources are resource books from The Responsive Classroom. The math and science ones have really been a lifesaver in allowing me to keep our games fun, but still focus on learning! I check Pinterest for PE games, and often will change up a favorite game to go with a holiday, season or theme.

That being said, my kiddos' top 3 favorite games are NOT content related - go figure! Every Friday, the "helper of the day" gets to roll the dice on the Smartboard and we play that game. We change the games on the dice every month to keep things fresh. These 3 are ALWAYS there!

MUMBALL
I learned this game a LOOOONG time ago. I remember doing it in my classroom, then teaching it to a few teachers, who used it with their kiddos. By the end of the year, EVERYONE in our school knew how to play this game! It's very simple and the best part is.... it's quiet! I have everyone spread out and find a place to stand somewhere in the room (create boundaries if you need to). One person starts by tossing a ball to another student. If they catch the ball, they stay in the game. If they drop it, they're out and must sit down. (I'll tell you how I keep everyone involved in a minute.) The key to the game? Everyone has to be SILENT. You talk, you're out. No excuses. When we first play the game we model how to get someone's attention in a silent way so they know the ball is coming. Pointing, eye contact, etc.... We also practice tossing (not throwing) the ball... gently... underhand...The last one standing is the winner.

I did modify this game in a few ways. First, if the person doesn't catch the ball, then BOTH people are out. That eliminates throwing the ball in a way that the other person will never be able to catch it and is automatically out. (Kids are smart - teachers have to be smarter!) If the game is taking to long, I bring on the "five second" rule. You have 5 seconds to toss the ball to someone else or you're out. (I count in my head.) Second graders can take all. day. long. to decide who they're going to toss that ball to. Keep it moving, friends!

So how does everyone stay involved? Once I have a bunch of kiddos who are out and are starting to get antsy, I call out "switch!" and everyone  who is standing has to sit, and those who are sitting get to stand and be back in the game. I do it as often (or not) as necessary. The game usually ends after about 10 minutes when I'll say, "Everyone who is standing is a winner!"

FOUR CORNERS
I'm sure many of you already know this game. Give each corner of your room a number. One person closes their eyes and counts to ten while everyone else quietly walks to one of the corners. The person who is "it" chooses a corner and everyone in that corner is out. When there are 4 people left, everyone has to be in a separate corner. Last person left is the winner.

I don't worry too much about keeping everyone involved with this game. It usually goes fast enough that we can play a couple times. Sometimes instead of numbering the corners, I put up pictures to go with the seasons/holidays/theme we're doing. For instance, in March we'll play with leprechaun/rainbow/shamrock/gold instead of corner numbers. This game can easily be adapted to review content - just choose 4 categories (parts of speech, states of matter, place value, etc.) and give students slips of paper with things that go in those categories. Their job is to move to the corner that fits with their idea.

7-UP
I remember this one from my childhood! Everyone sits at their seat with their head down and their thumb up. The people who are "it" (I choose 4, not 7) go around and secretly put down one person's thumb. Everyone who's thumb is down has a chance (or two) to guess who put their thumb down. If you're right, you stand up and the other person sits down. There's so many ups and downs with this game everyone is involved at some point.


Happy Monday, folks! It's so hard to believe that we're already beginning the month of February! I always say that February is the craziest and shortest month in teaching! (November ranks a close second!) With Groundhog Day, 100th Day, Presidents' Day, Chinese New Year, Black History Month, Valentine's Day... well, you get the picture.

I thought I would share with you some of my favorite books for the month of February. Some will be titles you already know. Teachers always have their favorite books that they love to share with their student each year. But I also tried to choose a few titles that might be new to you. I always love to find new books to add to my collections.

So, without further ado... here's my Top Ten Booklist for February! (in no particular order :-)

1. Starting off the month with Groundhog Day, I chose two titles that I like. This first one is a fun story abut a groundhog who just can't fall asleep. He wakes up during each month from October through December, until finally he falls asleep for the winter. I like this book because each time Groundhog gets up, the structure of the text is the same, but the details for each month are different. For example, in October he sees scarecrows and jack-o-lanterns, meets a witch and drinks a glass of apple cider. In December he sees lights and wreaths, meets Santa and enjoys a glass of milk and some cookies. Students enjoy predicting what each month will be like, and it's fun to have students choose another month not in the story and write about what Groundhog did, following the same structure.

2. Another great Groundhog Day book,, this one is a fun look at how Groundhog decides he needs more help predicting the weather. He enlists the help of his friends, who must first go to "Groundhog School" to learn everything there is to know about being a groundhog. This book is filled with interesting facts about groundhogs and the speech bubbles, fact boxes and dialogue that carries the story makes it a favorite for kids. I could see a "Top 10 Facts I Learned in Groundhog School" writing activity coming from this one, long with great practice with fluency and expression.

(If you need some groundhog ideas to get you through the week, you can hop over to this post of mine - there's a freebie!)


3. Our 100th day of school is early this year, so I'll be pulling this fun favorite out soon. Mr. Wolf is determined to fatten up the chicken he wants to eat, so he brings all sorts of fun food to her house - 100 pancakes, 100 donuts... The ending is adorable and it's fun to make a list of 100 things the wolf could bring to the chicken's house.

4. Another 100th day of school story, this one follows Jessica as she tries to come up with what to bring to school for her 100th day collection. She can't decide and her family is so busy, that by the 100th day she still has nothing to bring. Her family comes to the rescue and her teacher lovingly turns what could be an embarrassing moment into the best collection in the class. I like to read this one before the 100th day sometimes, to remind students that it's not how beautiful the project looks, but the work and love that went into it that counts. A great way to discuss theme!


5. Presidents' Day means lots of focus on George and Lincoln. This trio of books (I'm counting it as one book :-) shares the story of how Abe Lincoln, with a little encouragement from Grace,  decided to grow his beard. These are great stories to let students know that they CAN make a difference! I do these in book groups and have students talk with each other about the facts they have learned, character traits and so much more.


6. The middle of February brings Valentine's Day! I swear this is my favorite holiday with second graders! Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch is such a great story about making everyone feel important. Mr. Hatch is always lonely and by himself until he gets a mysterious valentine delivered. This makes him more outgoing and sociable and he becomes friends with his neighbors and people on the way to work. Unfortunately, he finds out that the valentine was not meant for him and he goes back to his old ways. Students love predicting what's going to happen at the end and if Mr. Hatch will once again be with his friends. This is the perfect book for talking about character traits, how characters change throughout the story and getting details from the illustrations. Letter writing is the perfect tie-in to extend the story.

(I've got a great way to put some learning into those Valentine cards, and an easy way to pass them out! It's all HERE!)

7. What kid doesn't love slugs? And slugs in LOVE - ewwwww! This is the adorable story of Herbie and Marylou's romance in the garden. Herbie tries desperately to get Marylou to know he likes her, but his every attempt is thwarted. Meanwhile, Marylou writes sweet notes to Herbie - if he could only figure out which slug she is! This story is just plain sweet. It's fun to guess how Herbie will write his next love letter - and what will happen to it! Students can retell or summarize the story and work on cause and effect with this one.


8. I'm giving each of these next three books it's own spot because each is so powerful. February is Black History month, and I like to use these three books to focus on where we have come from. Amistad Rising is the powerful story of Joseph Cinque and his brave attempt at freedom after being kidnapped and bound for slavery. This story is best suited for upper elementary students, but I have read it to a few of my second grade classes. My students are always able to connect because the story takes place in New London, CT, a city not far from where our school is. (Who am I kidding, I'm in CT... nothing is that far away in this small state!) I would never be able to do the story justice by summarizing it here, so if you're interested, you can check it out on Amazon or do a little research about the ship and its importance in history.

9. The subtitle of this book is even better than the title: "How four friends stood up by sitting down." Sit-In is the story of four college students who decided to take a stand against segregation. The book follows their peaceful protest and the effect it had on the diner. Great for point of view, this book lets students know that anyone can make a difference.

10. My final book on the list this month is about hope. It's the story of a fence, and the two girls who live on either side of it. The fence becomes a metaphor for the separation that exists between them. This book lends itself to some great conversations about how little things can mean so much in the world. I love the way author, in her comments at the beginning, talks about how the fence has not completely disappeared... but it has been lowered. Simple, yet powerful words.

I hope you've found some new books that you can bring into your classroom this month! My kiddos love when they come in and the book display has changed. It's like Christmas to them! I'd love to hear about your favorite books for the month. Do you share any of these? What's your favorite February title?

I'm linking up with everyone over at I Teach K-2 to share some great ideas for the month of February.



Happy Saturday, friends! Welcome to the weekend!

I'm jumping on with a quick post so I can show off my brand new blog design! Eeek! Isn't it fantastic! The wonderful Megan Favre over at A Bird in Hand Designs (also from I Teach What's Your Superpower?) created the new look for me. I looooove the bright and streamlined design of the Georgia Lou Studios templates. And the mobile view..... swoon! But if you're reading this on a tablet or phone, then you already know that!

And the best part - my new froggy!!! I cannot tell you how much I am in love with this little creature! She was custom designed by Sarah Pecorino, a fellow New Englander and I am in love! Sarah knew exactly what I wanted and created a froggy filled with personality. She has some great clip art in her TpT store - her style is so bright and cheery.

Both Megan and Sarah were so easy to work with and were very responsive to my (slightly obsessive?) requests. Be sure you check out all their social media and stores for great clipart, blog design and more!

So what's new in second grade this week? We have been working our little brains to the limit with some subtraction with regrouping. This is one of those concepts that kiddos either get pretty easily, or need A LOT of support to be comfortable with.

Here's my biggest tip for successfully teaching this skill: have a STRONG foundation of place value in place before you even try to introduce this concept.  We did a little place value review for a day or two before we began this topic. We reviewed, practiced, enriched and scaffolded using games as one of our math group rotations.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Place-Value-2315966

The thing I love about these games is that the cards meet EVERY child's needs. Working on 3-digit numbers? No problem. Need a little review with 2-digit - you're covered. Ready for some enrichment? It's all there. Everyone played the same games, but used whatever cards they needed to practice with. Instant (and easy!) differentiation! (The game resource is available in my store - you can check it out HERE.)

Once we had reviewed place value, we were ready for the subtraction to start! Another thing that is sooo important with this skill is to make sure students know they WHY before they know the HOW. Just teaching the algorithm does no good if students don't understand why they're moving all those blocks around.

My favorite way to introduce this concept is with these easy-to-make boards.
http://2gradestories.blogspot.com/2015/03/subtraction-with-regrouping-transition.html

These boards, along with base-10 blocks or place value disks (I have used both successfully) work as a great transition from concrete manipulatives to the abstract algorithm. They give students a clear picture of how the process of regrouping works and gives them hands-on experience moving those blocks around. By the way - I have started calling it "ungrouping" now, instead of "regrouping." That might not be a new term to many of you, but to me it was brilliant! My kiddos instantly understood the difference between REgrouping in addition and UNgrouping with subtraction.

Ready to see how these boards work? Click HERE (or on the image above) for a step-by-step tutorial showing them in use. Not ready for subtraction yet? You can use the boards for addition with regrouping, as well!

There are so many different ways to help students understand this skill. I hope these boards have given you one more tool for instruction!


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