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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Common Core Aha Moments!

Recently I have been teaching addition and subtraction of length units using a math module from engageNY. This website contains free mathematics units aligned to the Common Core State Standards.  The word FREE often makes me hesitate when it comes to curriculum but I have been pleasantly surprised with this free resource.  The curriculum is challenging, to say the least, but my second graders are LOVING the challenge and so am I.  I won't sugar coat was HARD to get these little ones excited at first!  Our stamina wasn't up to par for the intensity of this curriculum.  Each lesson includes fluency practice, an application problem (story problem) a concept development lesson, a set of problems for students to work through and an exit ticket.  All of the lesson problem sets have included one or more story problems.  We have been working in this unit for 11 days and had major breakthroughs today.

Breakthrough number 1: 
 "I realized I did not read the problem carefully and that I needed to go back and read it again."

This comment came from one of my most gifted math students after attempting problem number 2 (see picture) and becoming frustrated. Normally she can zip through any problem I throw at her.  Today was different.  Today she realized she needed to read the problem more carefully. 

Breakthrough number 2:
 "Can I go to the next problem?"

This question came from one of my struggling students.  She needs constant encouragement to continue with each assignment.  Today we both realized her stamina was increasing (as was her understanding of the content)!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Making Learning Contagious During Retirement

This past Spring our beloved Kindergarten teacher retired.  It was a sad time for those of us who worked closely with her and watched her nurture the scientist and explorer in every child who was lucky enough to walk through her classroom door.  She and her husband spent her final teaching year planning a trip across the country.  Her goal: to leave before school resumed in the Fall and travel to all the places she spent years exploring and teaching about from her classroom.

Pat and her husband, Scott, left town at the end of August and are sharing their travels with us via their blog VanNice Travels.  Pat is continuing to nurture the scientist and explorer in all of us through her blog.  The children in my class this year spent last year studying the Mississippi River with Pat and encouraged her to visit the headwaters of the Mississippi on her journey.  The day she posted that she had made it there the kids went berserk.  They were beside themselves with happiness for her, knowing how much it meant for her to visit the birthplace of this mighty river.

My little ones are learning how to post comments to Pat's blog, are staying in touch with a much loved teacher and are being inspired everyday to continue the learning journey they were set upon when they walked through her classroom door.  She is still teaching.  Still encouraging all of us to love learning.  Thank you Pat!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Preventing the Summer Slide

Last summer I  attempted to use my classroom blog to continue our learning community digitally over the summer break.  It was quite a bit of work and I think most of my students and their families forgot about our blog as the freedom of summer took hold (It was a bit difficult for me to remember at times too!).  As I sat down to outline what our student led conferences would look like this year it occurred to me I could create a mentormob playlist with several of the websites we have used this year and have students share this with their parents at the end of their conference.  At the moment my plan is to embed the playlist for families on our last classroom blog post of the school year so it will be easy for them (and their children) to find.  The first four steps on the playlist are paid subscriptions and require a username and password.  I have included 8 other websites on the playlist that I think will be fun and engaging for second graders.

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

How do you plan to help your students keep from slipping over the summer?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Tech Support for Research Projects

In my second grade classroom we are knee deep in a unit on Space.  This week we have been researching the 8 planets in our Solar System.  Research has been a breeze for this project thanks to the recently discovered MentorMob website I found via the Kleinspiraton blog.  With MentorMob you can forget about spending oodles of class time looking for content suitable for your wee ones.  MentorMob allows you to create playlists with videos and websites that you have researched and are confident contains appropriate content.  You can embed your playlist right into your Blog, Edmodo or Wiki page and direct your students to head there.  Here is the playlist my second graders are using at the moment. This playlist was created by another teacher and made available to all MentorMob users which is something I love about the website.  You can create your own playlists to individualize instruction across the curriculum as well.

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

If teaching your students how to search for information is one of the areas you want to focus on during a research project then you might want to give the kid safe search engine a look.  My first grade son and my second grade students use it with ease and all the content we have come across has been safe and appropriate for children.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Communicating With Families About the Common Core

Last Thursday I attended the Digging Deeper into the Common Core State Standards conference in Pendleton, Oregon.  As I reviewed my notes and reflected upon the information I was given last week it occurred to me that one of the biggest shifts for our schools will need to be in the way we communicate with families about the Common Core and the new expectations that have been placed upon our students.

One of the "Big Ideas" at the conference I attended was that students need to be able to articulate whether or not they have mastered the learning target(s) (standards) we are working on in the classroom.

Each week I send home information to parents that informs them about what we will be working on the following week.  The document looks like this:

I have been thinking that I can continue to use this format but replace the "concepts" with the actual learning targets that my students will be working toward that week. It is a work in progress but here is how I see the form changing:

This is just one way I can see of improving communication with parents regarding the Common Core Standards.  In what ways are you planning to share information and improve communication with your students families?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Number Pieces App

Yesterday I was introduced to a new math app put out by The Math Learning Center. The app is called Number Pieces. The number pieces are base ten pieces which we use all the time in second grade to help reinforce place value concepts and computational skills. If you use the Bridges to Mathematics curriculum you are probably familiar with the game Race you to One Hundred and Back. Today my students played this game using the Number Pieces app. They loved it and thought it was much better than using actual base ten pieces. They liked using this app for the game because they felt it was easier to keep track of their pieces when they traded a ten strip for ones. There are two versions of the app and both are free at this time. The only difference I have found so far is that one version includes a ruler. You can change the colors of the pieces and write in the page as well.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Letter Writing Self-Evaluations

This month my second graders have begun to write weekly letters home to their families.  The letters make perfect writing samples and offer parents a chance to see what their children are learning each week.  It also gives them a look at their child's writing development.  However, It occurred to me after reading this weeks letters that my students parents might just be wondering if I am teaching their children anything at all!

 My second graders have been reading morning messages written in the "friendly letter" format for most of the school year and have written letters to their pen pals in Louisiana.  They have helped me edit our morning messages and kindly corrected my errors.  They write daily across the curriculum. We have had many conversations as a whole group and 1:1 about the format of a letter and appropriate use of conventions (capitals, punctuation, spelling). Yet,  when I set my students loose to write their letters this week they barely crafted more than 2-3 complete sentences, talked about what they ate for lunch, didn't start their sentences with capital letters or end them with punctuation.  One student didn't even sign his name with a capital letter. Ugh!!!!

Then it occurred to me.  It's time for a little self-evaluation!  I whipped up a Google Form with the areas I wanted students to focus their attention on and then met with each student individually.  Together we reviewed their letter as they answered each statement on the evaluation sheet.  We talked about what they did well and what they wanted to work on when they wrote their next letter.  My plan is to have students independently fill out the self-evaluation form each week.  My hope is that students will show me what they can really do when they invest a little more of themselves into their writing.

Here is the form I created :