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Happy Shark Week, friends! Although Shark Week (does that really need to be capitalized?) really comes during the summer, you can do a shark week theme any time of year! I love to do a week about sharks toward the end of the year when my kiddos are starting to lose interest and need something engaging and exciting to keep that interest going. And what's more interesting to kids than sharks?! I like to get as much mileage out of a topic as possible, so I'm always looking to find ways to integrate different subjects.

I love to start my shark week activities with a book - and there are TONS of great books about sharks out there. My favorite one to start out with is by Nicola Davies, called Surprising Sharks.

The biggest reason why I like to start with this book is that it makes sharks a little less intimidating. Don't get me wrong, the author shares some amazing shark facts that definitely make my kiddos say, "WOW!" - but the illustrations and focus are a little less scary  - and by the end of the book everyone wants to know more about these animals!

Here are a few ideas for some "after reading" activities:
  • Talk about the fact that surprised you the most - make a chart, write about it in a journal, share with a partner
  • Changing schema - was there something you thought was rue before, but now you know is not? (or vice versa?)
  • Opinion writing - Should people be scared of sharks? Use info from the book in your reasons

I always like to integrate nonfiction into everything possible - and studying sharks is a great opportunity to bring in some math! This book by Jerry Pallotta is so much fun.

The book uses math to teach information about sharks! There is everything from the size of sharks (big, bigger, biggest), to how much they weigh, how far down they can swim, temperature, etc.... this book puts a new twist on learning about sharks! The focus in this book is on greater than and less than, but you could fit any shark facts into your math curriculum.


How can you bring this idea into the classroom? Easy! Just think NUMBERS! There are so many numbers associated with sharks - number of teeth, how long they are, how much they weigh, how many babies they have....
  • Have students do some research and find out different numbers that have to do with sharks. Challenge them to come up with questions comparing information about two or more sharks.
  • Create a "Math About Sharks" poster with a shark illustration and facts that include numbers.
  • Work in groups to focus on one type of comparison - big, bigger biggest (teeth, bodies, etc.); light, heavy, heavier, heaviest; deep, deeper deepest
Here's a little freebie I created using the weight of different sharks.

You could use this in lots of ways! Hang the task cards around the room and give each student a copy of the shark facts and answer sheet (double-sided). Students walk around the room using their fact sheet to answer the questions. Shrink down the answer sheet (85% works well) and have students glue it into a notebook and write their answers there. Use it as a center!

This freebie is actually part of a larger resource about sharks and math - and the full math/nonfiction resource will be available ONLY to my newsletter subscribers later this week. Want to be part of the fun? Sign up by clicking the image below!


Looking for MORE shark activities? I just finished a brand new reader's theater unit on sharks. It's just another way to integrate subjects - this time nonfiction/science and reading fluency. This resource contains 4 partner plays and 2 reader's theater (6 parts) scripts.

There are comprehension activities to do with all the plays.

There's also a flip book to go with the "All About Sharks" script, and a fact card sort for the "Super Sharks" script. They're all written at about a mid-end of second grade level.

I'm planning on getting it finished for this weekend, but in the meantime, you can win it before you buy it! Just comment below with your thoughts on sharks - and don't forget your email! I'll pick a random winner at the end of the weekend. Good luck!

Happy summer Monday, everyone! (Hopefully, for everyone... and for those of you still waiting for that last day... the end is in sight!) This is the last part in my series on Morning Meeting.

Morning Meeting: Part 4 Sharing Time Helping students build connections and practice listening and speaking skills.

Do you do a sharing time with your students? I admit. I had a love-hate relationship with sharing during morning meeting. On the one hand I know how important it is.
It builds connections.
It helps students (and teachers!) to get to know each other.
It provides opportunities to practice listening and speaking skills.

But.... Sometimes it just took so loooooong for everyone to share. And my kiddos just weren't listening - they were focused on what THEY were going to say... or how what the person was sharing connected to THEM... or they were looking around the classroom thinking about anything except what was being said....

Another confession - I know my students got bored listening to what everyone did over the weekend. Every Monday for Weekend News. It began to be the same thing over and over. Johnny played video games. Ryan watched tv.

Sharing became LAST on our list of things we enjoyed about Morning Meeting and FIRST on the list of things to go by the wayside when we didn't have time in our day.

But.... the teacher guilt set in. I knew that sharing was an important part of building relationships with my students. Sharing was window into what went on outside of school and I just did not want to give that up. But something had to change. I started to think about what I REALLY wanted from our sharing time.
- Sharing during Morning Meeting (or any time during the day) needs to be purposeful.
- It needs to be structured.
- It needs to be engaging.

I came up with these tips:

The longer and more drawn out sharing time is, the faster kids are going to lose focus. Set a timer, play a song, designate a topic - anything to keep things structured and purposeful. I share some ideas how to do this later in this post.
This is KEY! Find a way to get everyone involved. Share in partners or with a small group. Ask questions, make comments. 
Don't keep doing haring the same way all the time - especially if it's not working! Here are some ideas you can try to spice up your sharing time.

Whether you share with your students everyday, once a week or just once in a while, try some of these ideas to put a fresh -- into your sharing time.

Weekend News: go around the circle and give everyone a turn to greet the person next to them with, Good morning Evelyn (or whoever). What's the news?" And yes, I do let students pass - especially at the beginning. For some students, sharing in front of everyone is just too much. And for some students, their weekend events may not be ones they want to share. Trust me, after a few weeks everyone starts to share.

Soon after Weekend News has begun, we add a new piece - making comments and asking questions. (We've already made anchor charts for how to be a good listener and speaker and modeled these behaviors. This is the next step.) We talk about asking questions first. What makes a good question? What more do you want to know? I listen to the questions asked and use those for quick mini-lessons. I once had a group of kids who just could not get away from questions like, "What time did you see the movie?" "What color were the blocks?" We make an anchor chart of question stems and refer to it when someone can't think of a question. After we're good at asking questions, we move on to making comments. Same idea... same procedure. We talk about making sure your comment does not have "I" in it. We want to focus on what the person has shared.

(Note: I do this all in a circle with everyone taking a turn sharing something - ONE thing :-) - and the person next to them asking a question or making a comment. We can usually get around the circle in about 5 minutes once we've done it for a while. But just like anything.... modeling is important!)

And what about those kiddos who just don't know how to be concise? Those students whose stories seem to go on and on and on....? Timers can work. So can limits on the number of sentences. I just came across a fantastic idea from Raegan Tunstall that she calls Bear Share. It's the perfect way to not only keep those stories and sharings manageable, but gives students the oral practice they need to understand written formats. Topic sentences, 3 details, closing sentence... perfect! (You can find the link HERE.)

"5 Little Words" is another way to keep the stories from getting to drawn out. Students can only use 5 words to share their weekend events (or whatever number you choose.) For example, "camping, rain, muddy, cold, awful!"

Need something a little different? How about "Give Me 5!" Call on three students to answer each of the following: 1) good news 2.) compliment someone 3.)something you're thankful for in the past 24 hours 4.) joke or something funny 5.) a question of your choice for everyone to answer.

Question of the Day: Write it the whiteboard. Pick from a bunch in a jar. "What's your favorite ____?" "What animal would you like for a pet?" "Do you think we should go outside even though it is snowing?" Do some "Would you rather...?" This is a quick way to share. We go around the circle, everyone responds. Boom! - 2 minutes tops. Try tying the question into what you're studying - writing, reading, science... anything!

Topics: How about a different topic for each month? The first couple months can be share something you're good at, something you like to do... (you decide if bringing something in is ok, or if it should just be talking about it.) Tell about your family, traditions, great days in the snow/rain/fall... the possibilities are endless. Involve your students in generating the topics and not only will they be more engaged and interested in sharing, but they'll be empowered and you'll find out what THEY really want to know.

For this kind of sharing we have a sign-up sheet. 3 students sign up for each day - and I only plan to do it 2-3 times a week. I had to be realistic - everyday just was not working for me. By the end of the month everyone who wants to share has had the chance. And oftentimes kids who didn't want to sign up to share at first would sign up towards the end after seeing their classmates share.

I also have a couple of favorites from Responsive Classroom that I like to incorporate.
"Maitre-d" is a fun way to keep the groupings changing. Have one person call out "Party of 3!" (or whatever number you want). Students make groups of that number and share whatever is decided (weekend news, answer a question, etc.) Call out a new party (you can use a new sharing topic or the same one) and make new groups. Easy and fun!

Another fun one is "Mill to Music." Put on a song, have students move around, and when the music stops they share with someone nearby. Do a few rounds, then return to the whole group and ask a few students to share what others said.

See? Sharing doesn't have to be filled with long and drawn out stories, blank expressions and forgetful students. Change it up, keep it fresh and do what works for you!

If you're looking for ideas for other parts of morning meeting - take a peek at my other posts HERE.

Happy Sunday, teacher-friends! Are you enjoying your summer - or just waiting for it to start, like I am? One more week and I'll be in summer mode. Except.... my mind is full of ideas and thoughts for next year! I know teachers do that all the time, but I have a special reason to be thinking ahead - I'm moving grade levels next year!

Before I tell you which group of littles I'll be joining, I wanted to share some thoughts on the prospect of change. I know many of you are changing grade levels, or schools, or districts next year. And for some of you it is by choice.... for others, the change is not so welcome.

 I've taught second grade now for almost 20 years. I looped with my kiddos from second to third for a while, then when back to straight second. But for all intents and purposes,, I've always thought of myself as a second grade teacher. A good one. I know the grade level. I know the kids. I know the curriculum. And even though I like to change things up every year, I really didn't have to think about what I was doing.

And therein lies the problem. I didn't have to think. I was just floating around. Enjoying life as the years moved by. But there was a catch. I was moving.... but I wasn't growing. And don't we always tell our students the importance of growing? We talk to them about taking chances and moving forward and not being afraid of change... and here I was not really living what I was saying.

I started talking with my principal about leaving second grade. He thought it was a great idea. I was terrified. Second grade was all I'd ever known. What if I wasn't good at another grade level? Then he asked me... Are you afraid that you won't be good, or afraid because it's different?

Pause. Thinking.... I know I am a good teacher. I love to teach - anything and everything. I connect with my students, try new things in the classroom, learn what each kiddo needs and use it to help them grow. Being a good TEACHER doesn't change depending on what grade level you are at. WHAT I teach may be different, but HOW I teach is still the same. 

I've been teaching for so many years now... but I' not ready to leave the classroom. I love trying new things, and seeing what works. And even though there are things in education now that I may not agree with... I'm not ready to leave. But it is time for a change.

Soooooo..... I am excited to share that starting next year, I'll be opening a new chapter in my teaching book and moving to FIRST GRADE! I must admit, I taught first grade my first two years of teaching. And I loved it. I have been so excited to share this news for a while now! Some of you have caught hints of the change on my Instagram and Facebook posts. But now I'm making it official!

I'll still be posting ideas and creating resources for second grade. But I'm excited to be jumping in to a new chapter with my firsties! (I love being able to say that :-) Second Grade Stories isn't going anywhere.... I'm just opening a new book!

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.


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.

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.
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.
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).

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.)

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

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