Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

As I sit curled up on the couch with my family,  I wanted to send out a short post wishing everyone out there in the blog world, a very Merry Christmas! I hope that everyone is enjoying a wonderful and relaxing Holiday!

Here you can see the adorable Christmas plates that my students created for their parent gifts! We used cheap plates from the dollar store and my collection of colored sharpies. I created a simple directed drawing for them to follow and my aide and I baked them in the oven for 30 minutes at 450 degrees! I hope that my students' parents enjoyed unwrapping them this morning, as much as we enjoyed creating them!

Now to sneak a Christmas cookie and read a little of my brand new, Ron Clark's "Move your Bus!" book before getting dressed for Christmas dinner!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Nonfiction with Native Americans

Every year during November, my class studies nonfiction. I've found some incredible resources for teaching nonfiction and I love using all of them, BUT one of my favorite ways to START teaching nonfiction is to simply let them explore and discover it on their own!

I do this by splitting my students into research groups. I lay out numbered folders on a table and let each group choose a folder! I ahead of time prepare the folders to contain a set of questions, pictures, a project rubric, a map of the US and a nonfiction book about a Native American tribe. It may sound complicated but I've been compiling stuff for a few years and just have it saved as a pdf on my computer to print and throw in the folders now. It makes it way easier! lol

The questions directly relate to the nonfiction book each group has in their folder. If you haven't discovered "True Books!" yet, then boy have you been missing out! I first found them at my local public library, but have since slowly been purchasing them used on Amazon.

Each group's goal is to find the answers to their questions somewhere within their nonfiction book and to then create a presentation and a poster about what they've learned! I explain that they don't need to fully read the entire book but that they need to do their best to fully understand each aspect that they are looking for in order to present effectively to their classmates. We go over the rubric and I encourage them to start by familiarizing themselves with the questions, but I offer no other guidance then that. I then just sit back and watch them work. I love watching their brains start working!

Typically, almost every single group begins by reading the book line by line. It's time consuming and can be pretty boring at first. Eventually, as all second graders do, they get squirmy. They start flipping through the book and suddenly see a picture of corn or clothes or something that could answer one of their questions. They start noticing the captions, diagrams, images, the table of contents and even the index!

I love when the first group discovers the index or the glossary! They usually lean over to another group and share what they learned! By searching for the answers within their books, my students don't only begin to discover the elements of nonfiction on their own but they also discover its use and importance! It becomes far more meaningful for them and they can likewise apply it much quicker to new and more difficult material later.

At the end of the first day, we gather as a whole class and discuss what we learned and how we used our resources. Then begins my direct instruction. We talk about each element that we discovered and add it to a running list of parts of a nonfiction book that help a reader learn and understand. Each day during the project, we reference this list and add to it. After the first day, I walk around the classroom, helping the groups refer back to the list, so as to continue to find their answers!

They then use their answers and what they've learned to write a script for their presentation and to create a poster to show their classmates. In year's past, we've then video taped their presentation on the iPad or have used the app, "Videolicious" to record their scripts and to display their posters.

This year however, I decided to give my students even more choice and ownership over their project! I let them choose the apps or technology they wanted to use from a list of all the apps, we'd used so far this year.

Most groups started with the most recent app we've been using, "Canvastic" to illustrate something they learned about their tribe. They then used various apps other apps to create a video or poster to go along with their presentation. Here are some of the short videos they created below!  :)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Halloween Recap!

Hey everyone! I can't believe how fast the year is going! I blinked and October just flew! I probably should have been posting as it went, but with parent teacher conferences, progress reports, field trips, and school scheduled functions, I got a little behind. But I'm back and ready to do an October recap. Here are my top 5 favorite things we did last month! :)
#1: Reading Comprehension and Story Development: Below you can see my second graders holding up their Jack O'lanterns in front of one of my favorite October projects, "Our Halloween characters!"

How are cute are they!? I just love this picture! 

During October, we worked a lot on the development of character. We read fun October stories, analyzed how characters are described, and how they can change as a story progresses. 

Students created Halloween characters using paper, scissors, and glue. (no drawing or pencils allowed! Just cutting!) Then, they have to describe their character using proper organization and structure. We share them as a class and hang them on our Second grade writing wall! They each turn out so unique and different! 
 We then read the book, "Too Many Pumpkins" by Linda White and discuss the character of Rebecca Estelle. We talked about how her feelings towards pumpkins changed over the course of the story and we mapped out the evidence from the story that shows this change. We also wrote about what we would do with too many pumpkins and create Jack o'lanterns, just like Rebecca Estelle, to hang in the classroom windows for our Halloween Carnival.
#2: Math Manipulatives: This month we also used tons of fun manipulatives from the Dollar Store and Party City to make Math and 3 digit addition more exciting! 3 digit numbers are written on eyeballs, witch fingers, and gravestone cards to create engaging ways to compare, order, and add 3 digit numbers. 
Here you can see the kids using the eyeballs and grooves in our school benches to order the eyeballs from least to greatest. You can also see the kids using the witch fingers to add together on whiteboards and the gravestone addition problems in a fun Halloween cup to solve 3 digit addition with no regrouping. 

Manipulatives make strengthening concepts that much easier! They are naturally more engaging and fun. There is so much you can do with them! Here are some other ways we used them this month! 
  • We used the cards to play a scoot game to review 3 digit addition with no regrouping.
  • We used the eyeballs to practice greater than and less than symbols. 
  • We used the witch fingers to practice adding more than two addends.
  • We hid the eyeballs around the classroom and went on a scavenger hunt to create Math problems. 
  • We even combined the app, Doceri, to create instructional videos using our manipulatives to explain how to solve 3 digit addition problems.
Here you can see the eyeballs being used to compare and order numbers at a Math station!

#3. Quotation Marks with Candy Corn: What is one of the most exciting parts about Halloween? Well... the candy of course. In October as part of our study on characters, we learn about dialogue and use candy corn to learn about quotation marks! 

Students pick a scary Halloween character to say something. We write our sentences on strips and glue the candy down. We then create silly stories about visiting a Haunted House. In the story, Halloween characters talk to the author. We focus on the importance of differentiating what words we use, so as to make our story more interesting. You can find this activity here if you want to try it next year with your kiddos! 
#4 Halloween Technology: As a Blended Learning teacher, I am constantly trying to use technology in the classroom with my kiddos to help transform their learning, build deeper connections, and apply their understanding.  

During October, we used Doodle Buddy Stamps to help solve Halloween Word Problems. Below is a video I took of two of my students solving a repeated addition problem about spiders and their webs. You can see how they used the stamps to create a visualization of their thought process. They then created their own word problems! 

Here is an example of one of the problems they created! 

We also used the app, Chatterpix, to create Monster stories that outline what a Monster likes to do on Halloween. Students used clay to create silly monsters. They then wrote a script from their monster's perspective and used chatterpix to make them talk. 

We likewise used another app called Pic Collage, to create collages that show some of the fun Halloween stuff we did in class in October! 

#5 Dress up: Ok, so the last and final favorite for the month isn't so much a classroom activity but I loved it anyways! My primary staff dressed up as Jurassic Park for Halloween! Some of us dressed as escaped dinosaurs, while others dressed as the tourists being chased! I just love Halloween! We had such an awesome time! 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Group Maps!

Have you ever had one of those days, where your lesson plans fail majorly and then you wing it and end up with something crazier and way better then you ever imagined!!!?

I both LOVE and HATE when that happens.

These past few weeks, my students have been studying Maps in Social Studies. Now each year, I like to mix up my activities and projects just a little, so as to keep my instruction fun and to meet the needs of the current class I have. But at the same time I don't recreate the wheel, I DO of course stick to some of those trusty lessons that always work. 

Unfortunately this past week, one of my trusty lessons didn't work as well as I expected it to. My students blew through the material and I suddenly had 27 pairs of eyes staring at me with over 45 minutes of now what next!? 

Since we were studying the characteristics and parts of a Map, I thought ok well they can create maps in groups for the next 45 minutes. I gave them paper and modeled how to draw roads, symbols, a map key, a map scale and a compass. My intention was for them to finish up within those 45 minutes but they LOVED it. 

They took it to a whole new level and designed towns with themes. They planned out what they wanted in their towns and discussed whether or not it was ok to have more than one ice cream store or football stadium. They took out rulers and analyzed how long they would want to drive to get from one location on their map to another to help determine their map scale. I even overheard one group discussing where to put their own house on the map, finally determining that it should be on the north side of the map because its closer for Santa to reach at Christmas. It was incredible thinking skills!

A 45 minute map activity, turned into a 3 day project, one where they were digging into the material and thinking more critically than I had ever intended. We even added that Tech Twist by presenting our projects through the use of one of my favorite apps, "Shadow puppet!" You can see two of their presentations below. 

I loved that this group added me to their map! 

They worked so hard and I was so proud of their finished projects!

Obviously I'm going to keep planning out my lessons. I'm way too OCD to wing it everyday but its definitely nice to remind myself that sometimes a great lesson can come from a last minute thought! :) 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Color Splash

Happy Tech Tuesday! I thought I would share this super cool app that one of the parents in class introduced to me recently. Color Splash! Use the app to take and make black and white photos with pops of color! How totally fun and awesome is that!!?

After completing our unit on Farm to Table and attending our field trip to an Apple Orchard, this amazing mom in my class came in and used her iPhone to take a picture of each and everyone of my students holding a red apple! She then used the app to highlight only the apple. She mounted them on black card stock and we sent them home as a fun fall keepsake for each parent to keep! 

Here you can see the picture she took of me.  I wish you could see how adorable the ones of my students turned out! They looked so cute with their little apples! The contrast the color creates with the black and white is such a fun and exciting effect. After watching her use it, I tried it out myself and found it extremely easy to use! The wheels in my head are already spinning for how I can use this app in class this year! So many ideas! Can't wait to try them all out! :) 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pope Francis : a Second Grade study!

This week in honor of Pope Francis and his visit to the United States, we've gone pope crazy! We've been projecting him onto our whiteboard and watching him live all week! On Tuesday, we cheered when he landed in D.C. and watched him meet and shake hands with President Obama.

We then read about his trip to the states, from an amazing freebie provided by Catholic Cutie. We answered fun discussion questions about where they would want to take the pope, and how we can listen to his message and make the world a better place. I loved looking at all the responses my students came up with. One little boy wanted to show him our classroom, while another thought the pope might like to go to Hawaii and relax! 

Yesterday, we watched part of the canonization mass of Saint Junipero Serra and created a fun directed drawing of the pope. Here you can see a simple video of me drawing it step by step! I obviously went much MUCH slower with my kiddos. 

We ended up hanging our drawings alongside our Catholic cutie discussion questions on our second grade board in the faculty room. I love how they all are turned out!! 

Today, we also learned some fun interesting facts about the pope (Did you know he used to own a Harley-Davidsons!? and that he once was a bouncer in a bar!?), while creating cute little pope puppets from Catholic Icing!

My students absolutely loved them. They kept him on their desks all day and talked to him, while they worked. I wish I could have posted a picture of them "buddy reading" with Pope Francis! But here you can see the Pope hanging out with them, while they worked on ST Math during Math rotations today instead! 

Tomorrow, we're going to end our wonderful week with Pope Francis by watching him visit schools in New York! We're also going to do a fun interactive project with our classroom iPads, where students will receive a Pope Francis quote and use their iPads to record what they think that quote means and how we can use that quote to help ourselves grow both in our faith and our relationships with others. I can't wait! 

It's definitely weeks like these that make me so beyond glad to be teaching at a Catholic school! :) 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

My Big Classroom Reveal!

Hey everyone! As we roll into week four, I am excited to share with you my newly improved Second Grade classroom! After two years with the same bulletin boards and colors in my room, I decided I needed some change! I started by pulling out our school ladder and began by attacking my giant bulletin board. 

At my school, I am blessed with super tall ceilings. They make my classroom feel extremely large and the windows let in awesome natural light. The downside is that one of my bulletin boards is colossal! As you can see in the picture on the left, I have to use a 20 foot ladder to reach the top! Now if you've never done it before, trying to hold paper just right while you staple it and balance on a very tall ladder is absolutely terrifying!! So as you can imagine... I don't get the ladder out all that often. ;)  


But unfortunately this summer... it couldn't be avoided. Although I wanted to keep my school's Mission Tree and my Last Supper board, the paper behind them was beginning to fade. So, I had to pull down the entire board and redo it. In the process, I decided to shorten the tree and condense the Last Supper, so that it would allow for me to move my Writing wall to this side of the classroom. It took me way longer than I expected, but I think it looks awesome with all their work on it! Here, you can see their "Can you Guess the Second Grader?" projects for Back to School night. 

Because I moved my Writing Wall to the West side of my room, I had to also move my Word Wall and Accelerated Reader wall to the other side of the classroom. As you can see, I have tons of bulletin boards. This one here is 30 feet long!
From left to right you'll see my ST Math board, my blue information board, two clotheslines with student work, my Vocabulary/Word Wall, and my All Star Readers board. You can also see my "Back to School Board" above the sink!

Here's a close up of it! I ended up adding my students' names to the soccer balls! The soccer girl in the bulletin board is actually my sister! She's played soccer all her life and currently plays in college. I thought it would be a fun touch! Little did I know though, that my brother would be disappointed that he wasn't included! lol!    

So I of course ended up adding him to my classroom as well! My brother played basketball in college, so I created a basketball themed board above my small group reading table that includes reading posters from Kelly Knighton's tpt store! I'm going to change the posters on this board throughout the year to represent strategies that we will be working on in class.

In this picture below, you can see my view when looking from my reading groups table. I love my little kidney table because it allows for me to see everything! You can see my classroom door, and our classroom cabinets, as well as my back table and every student desk in the room.

On the cabinets is where I hang more student work! Each student makes an "I am poem" during the first two weeks of school. I type them up and add their first day of school picture to them. We laminate them and keep them on the cabinets all year long. Next to their poem is where I hang some of their new work each month! I also hang work on the front cabinets and in the windows of our classroom!

Last but not least... you can see what the front of my classroom looks like. I've divided my whiteboard into three sections. The first is where I keep the "I can" or focused objective that we're currently working on, the date, our progress in ST Math and my reading groups. The second section is used as just a typical white board or can using an apple tv be projected on. And the third section is our Long Term Target board. I write our long term objective for each subject, so that students can see what we're working towards. We reflect on how our learning is progressing and what else we need to do to achieve such mastery.  

Finally, if you look above the board, you are able see one of my favorite additions to my classroom, the vinyl quote of the year! Our school wide theme is "Trust in the Lord with all your heart." I learned how to use my cricut this summer and was extremely excited to make this. 

So yes! Sorry about the long post! But I hope you enjoyed getting a sneak peek into my room! I'm looking forward to posting more photos throughout the year of the work we create and the learning and fun that we have!