Thursday, December 22, 2011

Game Day

Finally, the last day of school before vacation is finally tomorrow.  We'll be spending the morning writing Thank you notes, and designing 2012 calendars, but I'll be giving the kids some time for playing strategy games.  Some of the games are not easy for second graders, but I love the games that encourage thinking!  These are some of my favorites:
Yahtzee
Jenga
Apples to Apples
Scrabble
Battleship
Chess/ Checkers
Mancala

What are your favorite strategy games? 
Do the kids get to play in school?
Sally

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thank You Cards

Well, since our class "Winter Party" is scheduled for Thursday, and we still have school on Friday, guess what the kids are doing Friday morning!  We're writing Thank you notes!

At our class party, each child will be giving a gift to the class.  I will have a visitng parent write names and gifts on a paper (like at a wedding shower or a baby shower).  I'll type these up on little slips of paper, then on Friday, we'll go over the parts of the Thank You notes, and write them up.  The fun part is that they get to deliver them to each other in person! 
I think Thank You notes are a lost art.  But they are worthwhile and valued.

The parts of a Thank You note:
The Heading:  since this is a note, not a letter, all that's needed is the date, not an entire return address.
The Greeting:  Dear ______,  that's it!
The Body:  I was always taught that the body of a thank you note has two basic sentences. 
The first sentence is very specific:  Thank you for the _______.  The only time you're not very specific is when it's money or a gift card.  Then you just say thank you for the money. 
The second sentence tells what you are going to do with the item. 
It's ok to add another sentence or two, just friendly stuff, but those two sentences are essential to a thank you note.
The Closing:  Your friend,  Your classmate, Sincerely, or if you're writing to family... Love,
The Signature:  Your name.  That's it!

Enjoy writing your Thank You notes!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dangling a Carrot When Your Brain is Fried

My brain is in need of a vacation!
We're working all the way up to the 23rd of December.  The kids are totally fried and aren't getting much done at all.  I'm working hard to keep things fun and keep them interested in what's going on, but I feel like I'm fighting a never ending battle.  It's weeks like this that make me feel like I should have been a dentist. (I've had lots of practice this week at "pulling teeth"!)

My experience has taught me to always have some sort of a carrot to dangle.  This week, it's the class party.  I've always found it best to have that party the day BEFORE the last day of school.  I have always found that once the party is over, the children are amazingly calm on that last day.  They've been told all week that they have to EARN the winter party on Thursday.  Today wasn't great, but they've promised tomorrow will be better, and they will earn that celebration!

I have all my kids bring a gift for the classroom.  They can bring books, craft materials, consumables, games, etc.  I've been doing this for years, and I've always found the children bring some great stuff for the class!   They take such pride in what they bring, and they want to use the stuff for the rest of the year.  I have each child open one gift, then all the other children give a chorus of thank you, since the gift is for everyone!  Of course I have a few extra gifts on hand, so everyone will be sure to have something to open, even cute little younger siblings who are visiting.  The rest of the party consists of checking out the new stuff and trying a few things.  And, of course, music and dancing!

I also give each child a book and usually some little token. (This year it's a kaleidoscope.)  I couldn't imagine NOT giving them a gift, they're practically the most important people in my life! 

Sally

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Band aid or Lasso?

Do you have students who use apostrophes for everything that ends in s?

I remind my kids to think if the apostrophe works as a band aid or a lasso.  If it doesn't, it's not needed.

I don't claim the band aid story.  My students gave it to me, but it
sure is clever!  They told me the apostrophe is like a band aid in contractions.  Since the two words were squashed into one, some of the letters popped out, and the band aid is needed to heal the spot where the letters popped out. Of course, this story has evolved, and now I tell them certain letters were "surgically removed". They really enjoy saying "surgically removed", so I enhance the story to keep their attention! I also mention that the surgery doesn't hurt at all, in fact, it tickles!

I do claim the lasso story as my own.  When teaching possessives, I make sure the kids know the word "possess" means to own or have something.  I'll get into stories of rodeos, telling them how cowboys throw their lasso and claim their cattle.   I show them pictures I've googled of cowboys and lassos.  In a possessive, the noun with the 's owns the following item.  I even get into turning the apostrophe into a lasso and circling the next word.  They practice this on their whiteboards (I'm a whiteboard fanatic!) and love to draw the lassos. 


Naturally, if the word they're thinking about doesn't need a band aid or a lasso, they shouldn't be using an apostrophe. 

We know how these little stories help the children remember.  After 35+ years of teaching, I have lots of little stories and "tricks up my sleeve".  Recent brain research shows us these little stories help make the connections in the brain so the children can build their knowledge.  Plus, it's fun!

One of my favorite games has this Band-Aid/ Lasso theme. Click the image for the link!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Ladybug Picture Book Award

Here in New Hampshire, we have a really cool activity in the month of November.  Children (K - 3) from all over New Hampshire get to vote for the Ladybug Picture Book Award!

I'm not sure how it's done in the other schools in New Hampshire, but in my school, all ten books that are nominated are read to the children by various adults from the school and the community.  (I had the chief of police read a children's book in my classroom, the kids were totally fascinated!)  All of the books nominated are new picture books, so the children get a chance to hear a nice variety of new literature.  I let the children have a copy of the sample ballot so they could write notes after each book was read so they could make an informed decision when voting time came. 

Well, the votes are in, and the winner is... Memoirs of a Goldfish written by Devin Scillian and illustrated by Tim Bowers.

I think it's a great learning process for the kids.  They hear some great literature.  This year really showed them a wide variety of writing styles, too!  Then of course, the children are learning the democratic process of voting and making an informed decision.  Plus, they got to meet some of the key members of our community who came to our school to read to them.  (That alone shows them the value of reading!)

Be sure to check out this link to see the other nominated books and how the voting went!  It was a great experience for all!

Sally

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Celebrating With a Freebie

I have some reasons to celebrate.  In the last week, I have past 300 Facebook Fans, and over 800 Twitter followers!  Naturally I'm pretty excited about that, so I thought I'd celebrate by giving you this freebie I did with my class today!

Click my cover page to download 25 pages of homophones for the children to illustrate.

My students did a fabulous job with this activity today.  They had some fun, and really proved their understanding of the different homophone pairs!

I'm so grateful there are people out there who appreciate what I have to say.  Thanks so much!
Sally

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dabbling in DIBELS

Last week I went to a two day training period for DIBELS Next.  DIBELS Next is an assessment program for early readers.  It stands for Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills. 

We learned how to deliver every part of the test for every level.  Typically the assessment is given 3 times a year:  the beginning, the middle, and the end.  Different levels are given different parts of the test.   Teachers are able to Progress Monitor children who don't meet benchmarks.  The best part?  All the materials are available online for free.

The tough part?  It takes about 10 minutes per child at my level.  The tests are given individually.  The tricky part is finding time to do this while keeping up with all our classroom responsibilities. 

But it's a wealth of information!  This is the first time in years our school district has used any kind of assessment that is standardized.  The older children have the state mandated tests, starting in third grade, and we've had the unit tests from the reading program we use.  DIBELS will be giving us specific information concerning what our students know (or don't know) about reading.

Why is this good?  Because it tells us specifically what we need to teach the children!  (I suspect you already knew this!)  With all the testing we've been forced to do over the past few years, it's a pleasure to have an assessment tool that helps us figure out what we need to do. 

DIBELS doesn't necessarily tell us what to do to raise the scores, but there are tons of resources,  many of which we explored through the 2 day training. 

So, I've started Dabbling in DIBELS.  During the last couple of days, I've Dibbled 4 of my students.  It's a little late for the beginning of the year baseline, and a little early for the midyear assessment, but I'm just practicing giving the test.  (And getting information about my kids!)  Honestly, there's not really anything I didn't already know about these kids, but it's valid information that I can bring up at meetings and share with parents. 

So far I'm happy dabbling in DIBELS!  Whatever keeps them reading!

Sally
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