Saturday, November 2, 2013

November 1

The first quarter will be coming to an end on Tuesday. It's hard to believe that our little learning community has been together for two full months. It's been a wonderful two months!

The past few weeks have been busy and we have been working hard. Writer's workshop has become a favorite time of the day for most of the kids. We have writer's workshop right after lunch recess. When I go to pick the kids up my class is all lined up in eager anticipation. I think we're the first class in every day.
Sunshine (the puppet) has been making regular visits to our writer's workshop. The kids love to help her with her writing. We have taught her about zooming in on her small moments in writing. The kids are starting to add many more details to their writing. We've also learned about adding descriptive adjectives including color and size words. Our favorite lessons have focused on the use of onomatopoeia. Our stories have been filled with creaks and bangs and swooshes.

We have also been reading some great books together as we learn about schema and making connections. We've learned that our schema is everything we know, everything we've seen, everywhere we've been and everything we've done. As readers we activate our schema when we read and we use our schema to make connections to the text as we read. Great readers make meaningful connections that lead them to greater understanding. The story of The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge helped us to understand that our connections are like a bridge to understanding. They connect the text to our understanding. We can understand not only what is happening in the story, but also how and why the characters do and say the things they do. Post it notes are being used voraciously to track thinking during our reader's workshop.

Our second math unit is now finished and we are moving on to unit three. In unit two we focused on a variety of addition and subtraction strategies to help us become better problem solvers. One particularly challenging problem we tackled was about a train. Each day it started out as just an engine with two wheels. Each time it made a stop it picked up three box cars with two wheels each. At the end of the day it had 32 wheels. How many stops did it make? Questions like these challenge us to take what we have learned and apply it to real world situations. It's exciting to see the kids grow in their ability to solve problems with mathematical thinking.

During our science lessons we have been sorting, sifting and exploring with rocks. It might be messy, but it sure is fun! We're discovering that there's a lot more to rocks than just size and color. We'll be continuing with this unit into the second quarter.

Our two new toads are doing great! They have settled into our classroom community and are becoming more active. They are very loved by all.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Fun Filled Week

What a fun filled week in second grade! Our week started out with a visit from the Franklin Fire Department and their fire safe house. The firefighters taught us about fire safety. It was so much fun escaping from the safe house as it filled with smoke. The kids learned about how to escape a fire, how to create an family escape plan, and the importance of a designated meeting place. The firefighters also talked to us about fire safety rules. It was a lot of fun.

Later in the week we went on a field trip to the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center to learn about rocks and soil. It was an incredible field trip and we learned so much about rocks. The guides taught us about igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks. We got to go down to the beach along the shores of Lake Michigan and search for the different types of rocks. It was a gorgeous day to be on the beach!

Another highlight of our week was our first Frog Shop. I wish you could have seen the kids faces as they came into the classroom after art. They had a ball shopping at the Frog Shop and spending their earnings from the month of September. I want to thank everyone who sent in items for Frog Shop and those who helped run the shop. We couldn't do it without you. If you would like to donate items for future Frog Shops you can send items to school with your child or drop them off in the office. (Candy, stuffed animals, small toys, games, puzzles, books, knick knacks, chap stick, party favors, etc.)

In between all these wonderful events we squeezed in a lot of learning. We have been working on writing about our thinking in reader's workshop. This is a challenging skill to learn. We will continue to work on this in the coming weeks. We filled in learning ladders in our reader's notebooks on Friday. We write our learning target at the top of the ladder and then write in things we can do to reach our target on the rungs. We read several wonderful books this week about people who had a dream or a target and then set out to attain those dreams. We discovered that it is very important to have plan in order to reach a target. We read Amber on the Mountain about a little girl who longed to learn to read. She set her mind to it and devised a plan and before long she was reading. We also read Mirette on the High Wire about a little girl who dreams of becoming a tight rope walker. She too set her mind to it and devised a plan to reach her goal. We learned a lot from these characters that will help us as we set targets and create learning plans.

During our writer's workshop we have continued to work on exploding out small moments. The kids are working on a story in which they zoom in on a small moment and paint a picture in the reader's mind with their words. The children are so excited about their writing and eager to share their successes with the class.

Our current math focus is on addition strategies. The children are learning not only how to use a variety of strategies to solve problems, but also how to explain their thinking. It is exciting to be a part of these deep conversations. One of our problems this past week asked children to determine what two numbers Jack might have added together to get a sum of 10. As the children shared ideas one of the children mentioned negative numbers. This lead to a quick intro lesson on negative numbers and many of the children were off and running coming up with additional possible equations using negative numbers! It was truly exciting!

I just can't wait to see what this coming week will bring!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A week in the life of a 2nd grader

My, we had a lot of fun this past week. Did you hear that Sunshine came to visit twice last week? Just in case you're wondering, Sunshine was a real hit with the kids. She wrote a story one day and shared it with the kids. They gave her feedback and she went home and rewrote her piece. She brought it back the next day so the kids could see how she had exploded out her small moment. We have all been working hard at looking at small moments in time and zooming in to explode them with details. It's hard work, but the kids are taking their writing very seriously. I have seen tremendous growth in just a few short weeks. The kids have learned so much about being better writers. They have also learned a LOT about how to use Google Drive. I am continually amazed at what they discover.

Our primary focus in reader's workshop right now is on tracking our thinking. The kids are learning to use post it notes to leave thinking tracks behind in their books. Just like we can leave tracks in the snow, we can leave thinking tracks in our books so that others can see what we have been thinking. We will be taking this a bit deeper this coming week as we learn to take one of our thinking tracks and reflect on it in our reader's notebooks. Much like writers explode small moments in their stories that they write, readers can take one thought and go deeper. This type of thinking, reflecting and writing helps us develop our comprehension. I'm looking forward to our lessons this coming week.
We have also been talking a lot about learning targets. A reader needs a plan. They must know what they need to improve and what they can do to get there. Just as a road map guides us on a journey, a learning plan guides us toward becoming more proficient readers. We will continue to work on this in the coming week as well.

We finished up our first math unit and took the unit test on Wednesday. I will be sending these home sometime later this week. We dove right into unit 2 on Tuesday. During this unit we will be working on developing addition strategies and relating those to real world situations. We will be doing a lot with our GPS groups (Guided Problem Solving Groups).

We have a very busy week ahead of us. On Monday the fire department is coming to do a presentation on fire safety. Thursday we will be taking a trip to the Schlitz Audobon Center to learn about rocks and soil as part of our current science unit. Don't forget that your child will need a cold lunch that day. Please send only disposable items. No lunch boxes or plastic containers. We have to carry everything with us after lunch. If you have volunteered to join us please be at school by 10am. The bus will be leaving Robinwood at 10:15. Then on Friday we will be having our first Frog Shop. The children will have the opportunity to use their classroom earnings to purchase items at the Frog Shop. Donated items are welcome! Any new or gently used items are appreciated (stuffed animals, small toys, games, knick knacks, notebooks, special pens, candy, etc.) Items can be sent to school with your child or dropped off in the office.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

September Learning Fun

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Buzz, Buzz, Buzzing

Our classroom is buzz, buzz, buzzing with activity! So much learning is happening each and every day. Some days I just stand back for a moment and watch as the kids engage is active learning. It's just simply amazing!

Our main focus in readers' workshop this week was on having a busy brain. We learned that reading is thinking. If we just read the words, but don't think about what we are reading we really aren't reading. Just as a pizza needs crust and toppings, reading requires text and thinking. We read a bunch of stories about pizza such as Pete's a Pizza, The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza, and Pizza for a Queen. I modeled how a reader thinks as they read and later the children participated in sharing their thinking as we read together. We created a classroom chart of Pete's head. We began listing the things that readers do and think as they read on his brain. We will continue with this focus in the coming week, taking things a bit deeper as we learn to track our thinking and reflect on our reading in our reading notebooks.

The kids have been having a ball in writers' workshop! We are using the computers with our google drive accounts. The children are becoming quite proficient with this new technology and loving it I might add. They are excited to get started with writing every day. They have become quite the writers in just a few short weeks. We finished up our silly stories on Wednesday. We have filled up our treasure chest anchor chart with many ideas that writers write about. This chart will continue to grow as we discover more things that writers write about. Our new unit focuses on stretching out small moments and exploding our writing with details. We talked about how as writers it is our job to paint a picture in the readers mind. We do this by exploding our writing with details. The children began new stories on Thursday with a target to work on adding details. You can help your child with this skill at home. I encourage you to have your child share their stories with you. Find one or two places where you can help them add a detail.

We had a blast playing Beat the Teacher in math this week as we explored the many names for a number. The children also worked in small groups to brain storm many names for the number 12. When we first started they were focusing on addition names. They are beginning to see that they can also do subtraction, multiplication, money, etc to name a number. You can play this game at home too. Choose a number. Set a timer for 2 minutes. Have your child write down as many ways to make a number as they can. You do the same on your paper. When the time goes off players call out what they wrote down. If both players have the same equation then both players must cross it off. The object of the game is to have more ways to make a number than the opponent. This game is a great way to develop your child's mathematical thinking and problem solving.

We have begun our word work/spelling instruction now. Our sight words for this coming week are their, there, they're, and said. We learned two spelling songs this week that will help us understand when to use there and their. We are also working on the ou sound chunk when we spell words.

We are still in need of address labels if anyone is willing to donate a box. Thanks! =)

Friday, September 20, 2013

3 weeks already!

What a busy week we had in second grade! We spent 2 mornings this week MAPs testing. We are glad to have that out of the way so that we can settle back into our normal daily routines.

Our classroom community is is really developing. The children are forming bonds and learning to work together. During our math time this week we spent a lot of time working in small math groups that we call GPS groups. GPS groups work on solving real world problems using mathematical discourse, manipulatives and drawings. We've learned a lot about how to work together, how to solve conflicts, and how to talk about math. The kids have tackled some challenging problems using number grids. It is amazing to see how much they have learned and grown in just a couple of weeks.

Our reader's workshop focus this week built on lessons about urgency and endurance. We learned that readers need to set learning targets and then work with urgency and endurance to meet those targets. We talked about stumbling blocks that can keep us from reaching those targets as well as things that we can do to help us reach our targets. We read a book called Thank You Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco and discovered that sometimes it can take a long time to reach our goals, but we can't give up!

One of the highlighs of our week was learning how to use Google Drive. The kids learned how to log into their Google accounts and how to create books using Google presentation. We encountered quite a few technology problems (internet connectivity problems), but the kids really showed a great deal of patience and endurance as we forged ahead. They learned to type those very long user names and passwords, how to create a file, name a file, share a file, insert slides and how to delete unwanted text boxes. They began their first Google presentation assignment on Thursday. We are working on writing silly stories after reading a book called Dogs Don't Wear Sneakers. We will be learning how to draw pictures and then insert them into our presentations next week. We had a brief lesson on plagiarism and taking other people's work or images. We will learn to draw our own images and insert them before we learn to use search features to search for images on the internet. I will be teaching the children to sight their sources when using internet images in the near future. The kids are really enjoying our project and many are eager to work on them at home. A letter went home with your child today with instructions on how to use their Google accounts from home. Their passwords can be found on the back of their frog binder.

We have begun our cursive instruction and spent this week learning some of the basic strokes. Next week we will begin to learn letter formation. =) The first section of the workbook is a review of basic manuscript. If your child would like to complete those pages at home that is fine. We will not be completing that section at school, but rather will be starting right in with the cursive instruction.

We are in need of some additional clipboards for the classroom. If you have any extras at home you'd like to get rid of, our classroom would love to give them a new home. We are also in desperate need of address labels (we use them for math journals).

Finally, I'd like to thank all the parents who came to our parent night. I hope that you enjoyed the presentation and found the information valuable. If you were unable to attend I sent home the parent packet with your child today.

I'm looking forward to next week and all of our learning adventures!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Our first week of school

Wow! Our first week of school was absolutely wonderful! We spent a lot of time getting to know each other and learning about our classroom community. During the first couple of days we talked about what makes a great learner and a great classroom. We read several books to help guide our discussions about behavior. After reading David Goes to School by David Shannon we made posters about classroom behaviors that are important. We also created a class anchor chart to hang in the group area that will remind us about behavior expectations. We also learned the 4 levels of social behavior and had fun learning new words such as democracy and anarchy and chaos. You can read more about the levels of social behavior in your child's frog binder.

Each child received a frog binder that they will bring home daily. In it there is a daily reflection sheet. At the end of each day we take time to reflect on our day. The children self assess their behavior for the day and give themselves a score of 1-4 (correlates with our 4 levels of social behavior).

The frog binder also contains a variety of other things that we will be using in class such as math game boards, a word wall, reader's and writer's workshop materials and a zippered pouch for notes and a dry erase marker. I encourage you to check your child's binder daily and to use the dry erase marker to initial the behavior reflection.

In addition to learning about classroom rules and procedures we also began our reader's and writer's workshops. We began reading a book about an antarctic expedition in the early 1900's in reader's workshop. We are learning about the importance of having stamina (the ability to do something for a long time) and endurance (the ability to do something for a long time even when it is hard) during reader's workshop. In order to grow as readers we must work hard and read a lot.
In writer's workshop we read a neat story on Friday called Something to Tell the Grandcows. It is about a cow who wants to have great stories to tell her grandcows. She goes on an antarctic expedition and experiences all kinds of neat things and not so neat things that she later can tell her grandcows. We learned that we all have stories to tell. We don't have to go on antarctic expeditions in order to have something wonderful to write about. We will be spending the next week talking and learning about how writers get ideas for writing.

We are beginning a unit in math about place value. We have been playing the dog bone place value game in math and exploring the types of tools that mathematicians can use to help them problem solving. Now that we are settling into our routines we will be diving into our math workshop next week.

One of the highlights of our week was meeting Mrs. Munch. Mrs. Munch is a frog trash can that is always hungry. She eats sound patterns. The kids have to figure out what her word pattern is based on the words that she eats and the words she rejects. She is a very cranky frog when she is hungry. The kids absolutely loved her!

We had a lot of fun getting to know each other this past week. I am excited about all the learning and growing we will do together this coming week.

A few items of interest:
* We have gym on Monday and Wednesday (please have your child wear gym shoes on these days)
* Please send a spout top water bottle to school with your child
* If you are interested in donating any items for our classroom please check out our wish list on our class website.

I hope your child enjoyed their first week of school as much as I did!

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