Monday, January 28, 2013

Make a Promise. Make a Difference.

As part of our expedition on how humans influence nature, my students decided that they wanted to do something to help the various living creatures they learned about in Colorado. Despite being only seven and eight year olds, they thought that they could make a difference by pledging to promise to always be a positive influence and not a negative. They created the below video to spread the word and encourage others to be aware of the impact humans have on the environment. It's been shared by the US Fish and Wildlife Mountain Prairie Region and the National Black Footed Ferret Conservation Center Facebook Pages! 

The link to its location on youtube is below as well. Help my second graders spread the word by sharing the video with your friends and family!

All photos of the black footed ferret were taken from
Check out their amazing conservation efforts!

Photo Credit:
R. Haggerty/USFWS - BFF1
R. List - BFF2
M. Lockhart/USFWS - BFF3
K. Tamkun/USFWS - Prairie Dog 1
M. Lockhart/USFWS - BFF5
M. Lockhart/USFWS - BFF6
R. Peters/USFWS - BFF7

All photos of Colorado were taken by B. Modak and M. Crowley.

Humans and Nature

Hey everyone! January is speeding by! I wanted to share with you my students final product in our Expedition on Humans and Nature. Below is the book my students created about various Endangered, Threatened or Species of Concern that exist in Colorado today. Everything in the book was either written or drawn by my students. The only thing I contributed was the instruction as a teacher and my shutterfly formating abilities. I'm extremely proud of all my students hard work. We hope you enjoy it!

You'll love award-winning Shutterfly photo books. Start your own today.

Monday, January 21, 2013


As part of our recent Expedition, students learned about the various characteristics that determine whether an animal is a mammal, reptile, amphibian, bird or fish. By the end they were able to not only list each group's characteristics but also organize given animals into the various categories. 

Students were then introduced to Shel Silverstein's poem, "The Toad and the Kangaroo." After reading and analyzing the poem as a class, students were encouraged to create their own made up animals by combining two animals from the same animal group. They were then asked to write a paragraph discussing the characteristics of this new imagined animal. 

Some of the animals they created are adorable! Check them out below! 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Meet Raider

Hey everyone! Hope the new year is going well. I've only been back to school a week and we've already done so much! I have so much to post over the next month and I can't wait for the big unveiling towards the end of the month of our Humans and Nature Project. 
It's going to be awesome! I'll have to post little sneak peaks here and there. :)

But for now... I wanted to introduce you to my classroom bear! This here is Raider. As you can see he's dressed in my school's uniform and sitting on a little yellow chair. Raider spends everyday learning with us. My students absolutely adore him. 

Given as a gift from my mom, he's modeled after a bear named Simon from when I was in first grade. 

My students alternate taking him home on weeknights and weekends. He travels in a little gray backpack with his own change of p.j's and his very own toothbrush. He has a little journal that travels everywhere with him too. My students record their adventures with him in the journal. They draw pictures of him at dinner with their families, watching movies, playing games. He's even been to a few amusement parks and one time he went on a skiing trip. He is a very well traveled bear. 

In class he reads with them during Read to Self and Read to Someone time. Sometimes he helps out with group work or comforts a kid when he or she is having a sad day. Sometimes he even goes to Recess, but most of the time he sits in his little chair reading or listening to what's going on in class. He's a very good little bear. Though... he has gotten in trouble a few times from the principal for being out of dress code. Sometimes Raider forgets to tuck in his shirt.

Raider is a perfect way to have a classroom pet with out the extra cost or maintenance. He's also a wonderful way to spark excitement and desire for writing and learning in class.  Every early elementary classroom needs a Raider. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Elves everywhere!

One of my favorite projects to work on with my second graders near christmas time is our Elf Project! 

In October my students create Halloween characters and write third person narratives about them, but in December my students write first person narratives about what its like to be an elf living at the North Pole with Santa! We start by brainstorming what we believe the North Pole might be like. We then read the book, "The little Christmas Elf." We map out the story on the board, and compare Nina's story with our brainstorm of the North Pole. 

The Little Christmas Elf
The next day we watch a youtube clip showing the funniest moments from Will Ferrel's movie, Elf This helps us imagine what its like for an Elf in our world and wonder what it would be like for us to be elves too. 

We then discuss first person perspective. We learn that this means writing in a character's voice and not in our own voice as an author. I show them examples of books that we've read as a class that are from a first person character perspective and we compare them to books from the an author's perspective. We then do a simple assessment. I put my students in groups and hand each group 6 index cards that have a 3 to 4 sentence passage on them. Students group the index cards as either first person character perspective or third person author perspective. Its a quick and effective way to gauge immediately who is beginning to understand the concept.  

The next day... I then surprise them by showing them the Elf Yourself videos that I created! I make each and every one of my students into an elf that dances!  Every Christmas Office Max joins with Jib Jab to make it easy to send Elf dancing videos.

My students love it! It helps them truly imagine what it would be like to be an elf and gets their brain thinking from an elf's perspective.  We then do some ART! The one below is my teacher model. The students' elves were sooo cute. But how could they not be? 
Its hard not to be adorable when wearing elf clothes!!

Then we spend a full week using the Writing Process to create our stories. My students pick an Elf job and write a story about a time when they were doing that job. Each and every one of them turn out unique and creative. 
We hang their stories in our hallway and have their elf art hang next to the stories. 
I love doing this project! My students are always highly engaged and write a ton. 

Elf Names
Next year we're going to figure out our elf names too! I wish I had found this sooner! 

Christmas Ornaments

Merry Christmas!!!

Here is the tree I created in my classroom with my second graders! By overlapping numerous green pieces of paper, I was able to create this adorable tree for one of our bulletin boards. We then added the ornaments that my students made for their parents. 

Each ornament is a salt dough bell that was baked and then painted. Students were given green, red and white acrylic paint. After they dried, we glued their school picture on and used embroidery floss to hang them. These are the exact same style ornaments that I made as a second grader! My own mom still hangs mine on the christmas tree every year! They last a really long time. 

Here is the Salt Dough Recipe that I used. I baked the ornaments at home and then brought them into school for the kids to paint. Hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday!