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Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I LOVE using this site as a quick assessment tool in our second grade classroom.  I almost forgot all about it until a co-worker asked me what it was called the other day.  This afternoon I introduced TodaysMeet to my tech savvy second graders.  TodaysMeet is a kind of mini facebook or twitter type website.  Students make posts to specific questions that I ask and those posts appear in real time on the site for all to read.  Using this site allows me to assess understanding for a specific question I am asking and also clues me into a students independence with spelling and other conventions.  Students get practice writing a response for others to read as well as more practice reading which is great.  You can create a TodaysMeet page that lasts for as little as 2 hours or one that continues for up to a year.  Today we wrote about what we liked most about reading and a response to what we thought Dr. Seuss was trying to teach us by telling us the story of Gertrude McFuzz.  I am sure there are a million different ways we could use this tool in our classrooms.  Here is a link to the two we used today.  They will only be "open" for one week.

What do you like most about reading?

Gertrude McFuzz

What are some other ways you might use TodaysMeet in your classroom?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

     I am hopelessly addicted to downhill skiing right now!  This is the first year I have been able to ski more than a couple of times during the season in years.  My family and I have been driving up to our tiny ski hill every Friday since the New Year and everybody is getting so much better!  We are all feeling stronger and more willing to take calculated risks on the slopes.  As I sat down tonight to plan for the upcoming week my mind wandered back to last Wednesdays P.E. lesson and my new love of skiing.  During our P.E. lesson students were warming up by skipping, galloping, side sliding, jumping, jogging, etc. across the gym.  One little boy in my class had to be first across the "finish" line for every skill.  His need to get across the gym first trumped any kind of technique.  As I watched him (and few of his classmates) flail across the gym my mind raced to figure out how I might get them to focus on technique instead of speed.  Then I had an AH HA! moment and sat them down for a brief story about a recent experience I had.  The previous weekend I was skiing with friends.  Friends who have more finesse and skill out on the slopes than I do.  I told my students about skiing with these friends and trying my best to keep up with them.  However, in my attempt to keep up I was skiing out of control and I was not enjoying myself very much either.  I realized half way down the run that I needed to slow down and concentrate on my technique.  I started skiing better, enjoying myself more and in the end I wasn't to far behind the rest of the group.  I then mentioned that if they felt like they were a little out of control while practicing our basic skills they might want to try what I did and slow down a little bit.  Miraculously this worked for them and reminded me that living a life outside of school can make me a better teacher.  This week I will remind students to concentrate on their "technique" across the curriculum and that "slow and steady" wins the race!

How has your life outside of school made you a better teacher?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Daily 5 - Read to Someone

All year we have been doing Daily 5 reading in our second grade classroom. The Read to Someone choice hasn't always been a successful time for every reader.  Even with lots of coaching and reteaching some children continue to have only one partner read the entire time...until now!  My students are loving the "You Read to me, Ill Read to You" books by Mary Ann Hoberman and Michael Emberly.  If you haven't discovered these books yet I highly recommend them.  My class especially loves the Very Short Fairytales book.

Do you have any suggestions for making Read to Someone successful for students?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mountains Full of Art

Enjoy when you can, and endure when you must. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Today we enjoyed art and writing very much.  We started exploring the different kinds of lines we could make.  After our line exploration we thought about hills and mountains.  We discussed which lines would be best to use when drawing hills and which lines would be best for drawing mountains.  We decided on curved lines for the hills and jagged lines for the mountains.  After sketching their hills and mountains students used crayons to color their pictures.  Once the picture was colored students painted them with a "wash" using water color cakes.  Here a few of my favorites.

Students were also introduced to writing "found poetry" today.  Together we read an informational piece about mountains, highlighted our favorite words and phrases and put those words/phrases into a poem.  I am looking forward to trying this writing strategy again during our folktale unit.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Counting Money

This week we are doing some review of money and counting coins before we head into our next math unit; Games, Graphs and Toys.  I made a strategy poster of the three ways to count coins and a worksheet for a math station where students practice counting baggies of coins.  There are 12 bags of coins for students to count while at the station.  In our upcoming math unit students will explore the idea of making purchases and receiving change so a little review should be helpful!

Counting Coins

Counting Coins Worksheet

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Guided Exlporation

Here are a few pictures showing how "Guided Exploration" is going down in my second grade classroom.  I am calling it Guided Exploration because I am purposefully making activities available that students have expressed interest in as well as activities that support what we are learning throughout the day (reading, writing, math, science, social studies).  

This where some of our materials are located.
Do you allow your students to explore freely?  If so, what kinds of activities do you make available?


Call me crazy but I decided to dive into another research project with my second graders. I like to integrate what we are doing as much as possible so we are up to our eyeballs in biographies this month (reading, writing, social studies). I found a great Wax Museum research packet on the Teachers pay Teachers website.  Each student is hard at work finding out as much as they can about their famous person. During our previous research project my students worked in pairs.  This time they are researching independently. I think the most amazing part of this is that they are learning to take notes like "big kids!"  They are so proud of themselves. I have tweaked a couple of the research ideas in the Wax Museum packet so I could stay consistent with the research strategy we were already using.  Here is a picture of what we have done so far...

What have we done so far?

1. We spent two days exploring biographies.
2. On day 3 students chose a famous person to research.
3. I modeled writing down "dash-facts" while we read about Helen Keller.
4. Students had three 40 minute work sessions to read and collect "dash-facts" about their famous person.
5. Students cut dash facts apart and organized them into four categories (fame, childhood, contributions and fun facts) using a mini pocket book.
6. Students wrote paragraphs for each category using their facts.  I modeled how to do this using our Helen Keller research.

Where we are headed?

7. Students will edit their drafts and write a final version.
8. Students will write up a plan for their wax-museum costume with their parents over the weekend.
9. Students will learn how to take their research and turn it into a speech.
10. Students will write and practice speeches.
11. Students will participate in a wax-museum where they come to life and share about themselves with their families, schoolmates and friends.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I love the Blog Catching Readers Before they Fall.  In her January 22nd post, Playing with the Big Kids, Katie Keier suggested giving 2nd graders an exploration time during the day.  Over the weekend I did some brainstorming and came up with a second grade version of "Guided Exploration." We started on Tuesday morning and we all loved it!  In 20 minutes the following occurred: A students water color painting of an owl led to a discussion with three other students about what they learned about owls last year.  Another student exploring magnets wondered why they "wouldn't stick together like they were supposed to" so we pulled out some books about magnets for him to read.  He discovered that magnets have poles and that opposite poles don't attract to each other.  He also discovered there was a special magnetic rock called lodestone (all of which he explained to me and several classmates in great detail).  Four little ones problem solved and divided up tasks while building different kinds of race tracks with geoblocks.  Another group of students painting with water colors shared techniques that they knew with each other.  This was such an "aha!" moment for me.  I LOVED listening to them share with each other as well as being invited in by them to participate in their activities.  I have a feeling they will be teaching me a lot more than I bargained for during this exploration time.  I can't wait to see what I learn from them tomorrow! Thanks Katie!