Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Parent Conferences - It's That Time!

Hey there teacher friends - do you know what time it is?  It's parent conference time!  I am knee-deep in everything spiders and nonfiction over here in second grade story-land... but tonight I'm busy getting everything busy for parent conferences later this week.  I'm blogging today over at Who's Who with some tips for successful parent conferences - and an awesome freebie!
Click on the image to head over and see what's  up. 

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cue the spiders!

Are you afraid of spiders?  I really am not.  I don't particularly like them, but I don't run screaming like I do when I see, a moth, let's say.... Then again, where I live we don't have many really scary looking spiders, so that's a good thing.

We have a short week this week (two early dismissal days for parent conferences), which mean I only have 3 writing blocks.  I wanted to start some nonfiction writing, but I needed something quick and easy because I'm launching into bats next week.  I decided to combine our study of nonfiction text features in reading with our writing about spiders, to create a large hallway display showcasing what we will have learned. 

(Notice this is all written in the future tense - I haven't actually done this yet, but those are the plans!)

We're going to start out with a quick review of the structure of nonfiction text writing - just the basic topic sentence, details, closing sentence.  Then it's time for some research!  I'm going to use my brand new "All About Spiders" unit as the basis for our research.  There are 6 "fact cards" filled with information on different spider topics - anatomy, babies, webs, etc.

I'll project each card on the whiteboard and we'll identify the main idea (start thinking about topic sentences!) and the details of each, writing down interesting facts for our writing later. 

I also want to use this video from Mocomag Kids Magazine.

The facts are pretty much what are already in the cards, and since we'll be reading other nonfiction books about spiders, I think I'll put this up as a morning activity for students to watch as "morning work" one day.

Which reminds me, I also found this article from Scholastic News online -
I'm thinking it will be another morning activity - maybe read and talk with your partner about something....
Anyway (you can see how I get distracted when I'm creating.. it's a real problem sometimes...), after the research we'll use a graphic organizer to plan our writing.  Here are the organizers I'm going to use (you can click on the images to download them for yourself, if you'd like):

Then we'll write our paragraphs - but here's where the fun comes in!  I'm dividing the class into groups and giving each group a topic to focus on for their writing.  (I'll base this on information I get from their work on the graphic organizers.)  Then each group will use the details they came up with to write a group paragraph - along with one or two examples of text features that fits with their topic (ex. bold print, map, diagram, fact box, etc.)  When we put everything together, we'll add a table of contents, glossary, index and headings to the board.

Woo-hoo! I'm getting excited just writing about this!  We'll end up integrating this into our reading block and writing blocks this week, so we'll have plenty of time.  I'll be sure to show you the finished display at the end of the week.

In the meantime, if you're looking for some spider fun for your kiddos, check out my "All About Spiders" mini-unit.  Not only does it have the fact cards, but there are 3 sorts (main idea/detail, fact and opinion and true/false), a fun "walk the room" activity to go with the fact cards and more graphic organizers and writing pages.


I also included a fun and easy craft to showcase all those spider facts your kiddos learn.  I've done this in past years and it always turns out great!

You can check out my spiders unit by clicking the images above, or by clicking HERE.

And just because I'm so excited about my plans this week, I'll give away a spider unit to one lucky person who comments below with an interesting spider fact or great spider book (Don't forget to leave me your email!).  I'll choose a winner on Friday.  Good luck!

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Five for Friday - long weekend style!

Hey there!  It's Friday (ok, it's really Saturday... but just pretend, ok?) and that means it's time to link up with Kacy from Doodlebugs to get the scoop on what went on this week.

We REALLY needed some practice with our doubles, so I created a grid on the floor with the sums of doubles 2-10.  We played games all this week as our morning meeting activity to practice those pesky doubles facts.  We rolled the dice and jumped to the answer.... tossed beanbags, and played hopscotch.    I also gave everyone a doubles fact for the day - each person was responsible for knowing their fact.  We lined up by facts, transitioned to the rug by facts, and sometimes I just called out "14's stand up!"  I do think most of us know those doubles by heart now!

(And yes, I know there are FOUR different colors of tape there.  I ran out of black, so I used red, which I also ran out of, so I had to go with yellow... which as you can see, I didn't have enough of either.  Arrgh!  That's what happens when you come up with ideas in the shower that morning!)

We had our annual Fire Safety assembly on Thursday.  Our local fire department comes to talk with the kids and show them their equipment, we watched a video and then the best part - out to look at the fire trucks!  Everyone got to walk through the ambulance and the kids were SO excited to watch Mr. Firefighter climb up that ladder.  If you're still looking for fire safety activities, you can check out my throwback post HERE.

Friday was "Free Your Feet" day!  Our school had earned enough Husky paws to reach our first goal and the reward was a day without shoes.  I wonder what our next goal and reward will be?

Can you see it?  Fall has arrived!  (I did not take this photo as I was driving  I pulled over and took it from the side of the road.  For some reason the angle makes it look like I'm in the middle of the road!)  The leaves are definitely starting to turn and we spent the last two weeks working on fall fiction stories.  Next week we'll start nonfiction - bring on the apples and pumpkins!

And of course, what would fall be without high school football?  My nephew is a senior this year, and even though he was injured during he first game of the season and can't play anymore, we still go to all the games, of course!  I am someone who is ALWAYS cold.  I'm cold from October through the middle of May, so I'm always looking for fashionable ways to stay warm.  Here's my latest find - boot socks!  They are warm and cozy and I LOVE the cute little lace and buttons at the top.  I also have a pair of tan knitted ones that are thicker.  LOVE!  (I got them from Grace and Lace, - click HERE - who actually were featured on Shark Tank.)

Next week we have a 3-day school week.  Monday off and a teacher day on Tuesday.  I'm planning on using this weekend to catch up on everything I've let go since school started.  Enjoy the weekend!
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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Fire Safety - a throwback

Happy Sunday everyone!  This week is Fire Safety week and as I was planning for the week, I realized I had done a post last year filled with resources to use for fire safety.  I checked the links and only one seems to not be working, so it's definitely still worth checking out.  There's a word search freebie, a link to my Fire Safety activities on TpT and lots of other websites, videos and ideas to help with your plans.

Click on the link below to check out my throwback post and get the link to the freebie.

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Fall fun with Henry and Mudge

October already!  I can't believe the first month of school is already past us.  September is always a blur for me, so it is nice to finally start feeling like the whirlwind of back to school is over and the year can finally get started.

Even though the weather here has not been very fall like, we started our foray into fall with some fiction stories this week.  (I love alliteration :-)  We focused on Henry and Mudge Under the Yellow Moon and spent time talking about how the setting impacts the story.

We did a first reading of the story in partners, looking for story elements.  (This was a great way to review what we'd been focusing on the past couple of weeks, and a preview of what would be to come the following week.)  The story is usually a pretty successful read for most of my kiddos and they always love the way Mudge does things just a little bit different!

The next day, we narrowed our story element focus to setting.  We charted what setting meant, what components made up the setting, and how it impacted the story.  Then we returned to the text to look for clues for the "when" and "where" of the setting in this story.  If you've ever read the story, you know the setting pretty much jumps out at you from the beginning - so it was the perfect way to begin our setting focus.

Students worked in partners to reread the story and look for clues in the text and illustrations that showed the setting.  We did one page together, then I set them off.  They really rocked this activity!  It was great to walk around and listen to them talking with their partner (accountable talk, we call it) and recording what they found.  Here is the sheet we used:

After coming back together and adding all our ideas to one class chart, we were ready for some critical thinking.

The next day we revisited the idea of how the setting impacts the story.  How would the story be different if it didn't take place in the fall in the woods?  After a little "turn and talk," we were set to begin thinking about creating our own setting for the characters.

First, we listed all the fall activities Henry and Mudge did together (that's the middle column).  Then we went back to the text to find how each character did that activity a little differently.

Now it was time for the creativity!  Each kiddo chose a season and an activity that Henry and Mudge might do together.  Then they write how Henry would do that activity, and how Mudge would do it.  Add illustrations and a catchy title and ta-dah - a whole bunch of new ideas for stories!

This was a great way to show how the setting truly can change the story.  During book groups that week, each group read a different Henry and Mudge story set in a different season.  On Friday we all came together and shared what we had been reading, read favorite parts to each other and compared books.  Each group also worked on a reader's notebook for their story.  They LOVED them! 

Check out the notebooks at Michael Friermood's TpT store:

and if you'd like the sheets I used this week, just click on the link below.

Next week we'll continue to focus on fall fiction, but move our focus to how the action rises and falls.  Anyone have some good suggestions for fall fiction stories?

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Math in My Room

Whew!  I'm finally feeling like we're getting into the routine of second grade.  It has taken me a bit to find out what really works for my kiddos this year, and math has been no exception.  My class this year is pretty active - but very hard working and is enthusiastic about EVERYTHING.  They also seem to go with the flow pretty well, so I've tried switching things up every now and then to see how things go.  I think I've finally hit on how my math time will run this year so I thought I'd share it with you.


 I am lucky enough to have a full hour for my math instruction - and then another half hour after that as a math intervention time.  (I'll tell you more about that later!)  Let's take a closer look at each part.

I do A LOT of math during my morning calendar time (on the Smartboard).  But I always want to make sure we are reviewing everything and touching on things to come.  I've been using two things each day for our warm-up

I put the daily Number Cruncher problem on the board (smartboard) as my kiddos are transitioning from snack to start math.  This gives everyone something to do while everyone gets settled.  They know their job is to talk with their math buddy (assigned by me and stays the same for a few weeks) about the problem and HOW you knew the answer.  We briefly talk about it once we're all set and then move on to the Daily Math. 

Again, I've found it easiest to project it onto our smartboard and work through the problems together.  We move fast so all my kiddos stay involved.  We've only done a couple weeks of them, but I'm seeing lots of engagement and great progress so far!

Next comes the mini-lesson.  This is the skill or concept we are focusing on for the day.  I do a combination of Smartboard activities, manipulatives, partner work, etc.... whatever works to get the point across!  My objective is to keep this short and engaging - I know I'll be able to follow up with everyone in the next part of math and provide any support or enrichment needed.
I'll share what we did this week to review doubles facts.  (We are working on addition strategies so we can "see it and say it", rather than count all the time!)  I started by asking what doubles were, what the word meant and we listed the facts on the board.  We had a quick discussion about what we noticed - counting by 2's, even sums, etc.  This was really a review from last year, so I didn't send much time with the introduction.  In the past I have used this book to kick start our discussion.
What I really wanted to was to have them add their doubles facts to the math notebooks for future reference ("future" meaning tomorrow when we did near doubles :-)  I love using interactive notebooks and I have to say, we are getting pretty fast at cutting and gluing!
These come from Ashley at Lucky Little Learners.  I also use these created by Blair Turner.
Ok, after the mini-lesson, it's time for my favorite part!
I think I like his part the best because my kiddos get to apply and work with what we've been learning - and I get to see how it goes!  Sometimes I have a partner game to do, sometimes it's independent (task cards, maybe a sheet to do...) and sometimes we do small groups (well, maybe not SMALL groups, since it's just my IA and myself so there are 10 kids in each group - but it's better than a group of 20!)  Sometimes my IA or I will pull a small group during this time to enrich or support, while the other person monitors the activity.  It all just depends on what we've noticed during the whole group part. 
When we did doubles, I created a quick doubles race game for some practice.  I paired students up and each got a 10-sided dice, game board (in a sheet protector) and dry erase marker.  They took turns rolling the die, saying the doubles fact and then putting an X on the graph to show the sum.  The idea was to see which sum won by reaching the top first. 

Simple? Ridiculously so.  Did they like it?  They still ask to play it in the morning for morning work - and we know our doubles pretty well now!
You can download the game by clicking on the image.  I also included a gameboard with just 2-12, if you want to use a 6-sided dice.  I copied the boards back to back and had some of my kiddos start on the 12 board and then work up to the one up to 18. (There are 2 other activities, too - one for near doubles and one for making 10.  Enjoy!)
Finally, we spend a few minutes reflecting on what we've learned.  This week we've begun adding strategies to our anchor chart each day, then working together to explain HOW each strategy works and helps.  I've found my kiddos are not yet ready to explain their thinking in writing just yet.  By doing it together, I can model how to be clear and explain what goes on in our heads.

That's it!  This model seems to work well for my kiddos.  It gives them the right mix of whole group, small group and independent work.  The activity time gives me a chance to work with small groups and/or see how each student is doing and allows me to differentiate, as needed.  We're starting our "official" math centers this week, so I'll be back later to share how that goes!
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Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Sunday Scoop

Hi again!  Just a quick little post today to link up with the girls at Teaching Trio for their Sunday Scoop.  It's a great way to catch a little glimpse into everyone's lives - which of course right now is all about school and teaching!  Here's my scoop -
I'm sure some kind of planning is on everyone's list for today.  I know I shouldn't wait until today to plan, but I was never able to feel comfortable getting everything ready by Friday.  I tend to change things on a whim and I'm always way happier with my plans on Sunday night than I was on Friday!

Now, the laminator.... oh the laminator.  Would you believe that a few weeks ago I actually bought a second laminator to use, thinking it would be so much faster to have two going at once.  Little did I know that the SECOND laminator would soon be my ONLY laminator, seeing as I didn't follow the directions.  I know you aren't supposed to cut the sheets before you feed them through, but I only had one little thing left to laminate and I didn't want to use a whole sheet just for that.  And I've done it before.  I cut it, slide it in, and help it come out the other end.  Only this time it never came out he other end.  Not even after I ran a piece of cardstock through there to push it out.  I have a feeling that it melted to the roller.  I'm not willing to give it up though, so I'm going to take it apart and see if I can save it.  Ugh.

The grocery shopping is self-explanatory.  I simply cannot survive on another lunch of lettuce, dressing and parmesan cheese.  Time to go shopping.

And hopefully, time to work on blog post #2 about anchor charts.  I got a few really sweet emails about my first post (click HERE) from people who were concerned I was too hard on myself.  It's ok, really.  I know everything doesn't have to look perfect to be important and useful in a classroom.  That was the point of the post, actually.  I'm going to follow up with some tips that have worked for me to make using anchor charts (and creating them) a little easier.

I'm also hoping to finally make the labels for my gradebook.  My school went to standards based report cards so it's important for me to have a gradebook that shows each standard.  I have all the pages done, everything tabbed, but I need to add the labels.  And I know I can just hand write them on the little white piece that come with the tabs... but that just wouldn't look good, now would it? 

I AM looking forward to hitting "publish" on this post and go take out all my fall decorations for the house.  I love the colors of fall, the scents, the activities.... but not the temperatures.  I get cold fast and I tend to be cold from now until next May.  But, fall is just so pretty, and living in New England I get to experience it in all its glory.

Be sure to visit Teaching Trio and get the scoop on what other bloggers are doing this weekend. 

 Have a great week!

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