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 part of a larger resource with even more ways to integrate math and shark facts. Click on the image to see the entire resource.
Looking for MORE shark activities? I love using reader's theater in my classroom! 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. You can click the images to find out more!

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!

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