Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Day 100 is Soon!

Day 100 is only a week away in my school district.  Some of you have already celebrated, and some will be celebrating in the next week or so.

We do a number of things to celebrate the 100th day of school, most of them have something to do with internalizing the number 100.  I've got a game of 4 digit numbers, where the children will be adding or subtracting 100 from the 4 digit number.  We'll be making sets of 100, using the base 10 blocks, skip counting to 100 and by 100s.  We'll brainstorm 100 things we love, 100 things we learn, and 100 things to do.

My favorite part of the day is a little tradition I've started in my school.  We go "Day 100 Caroling".  I have several songs that have to do with Day 100 that we sing.  We visit as many classrooms that will have us, and sing a song to each room.  It's a great treat for the kids, since they typically rarely go into other classrooms.  I see many of my former students, who remember the songs and sometimes get up and sing with us.  The office staff and the kitchen staff wait for these moments all year.  Most of the songs I can't share because I didn't write them, but this one I wrote myself, and I'm sure you know the tune... Yankee Doodle.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I spend a lot of time working to develop answers on Open Response questions.  This is tough for many kids, and I think it's important that they pick up a few techniques so they don't go into the tests blindly.  Our reading program (Reading Street) offers a weekly Open Response question to go with the weekly reading selection, which is usually the one I use.  (They call it "look back and write".)
At the beginning of the year, we just talk our way through it.  I'll read the question, and they talk about the story and what happened in the story that goes with the question. We talk about using words from the question to start the answer.  (Example:  Why did John take the green car?  John took the green car because...)  I must say, with practice, most of my second graders are getting pretty good at this!

As the year goes on, the children do more and more of the work without help.

I think the thing that helps the most is when I read the responses of the best ones.  First, I talk about what the actual answer was. I emphasize what the child did that was done well, and make sure they know what is expected.  I always emphasize the importance of making sure they answered the question thoroughly.  (Sometimes there are more than one question!)

According to my feedback chart, (see this blog entry)  I  highlight the child's name in green if they do what's expected for a second grader.  This lets them know they are on track, and answered the question properly.
But there's also the possibility of going "above and beyond expectations".  To do this, they have to not only answer the question properly, but they have to add extra information to back up their answer.
Then I highlight their name in purple.  That's much better than a sticker.  They strive to do this.  They go crazy trying to get purple.  It's amazing how many of my lower readers get purple, simply because they know how to answer these questions now.  Plus, they're super motivated to do well.

Even better than getting purple... I'll read their answer to the class.

Even better... they get to keep a little flag on their desk for a week.  (I have a collection of flags... from various countries)

They would do just about anything for a flag.  I know, it's bribery, but it works!  Plus, it gets them to really think about what they're doing!  I'm pretty impressed with these kids, these questions aren't easy, but they've got the strategies, and do extremely well on these!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Writing Warm Up

I was struggling with my Writer's Workshop time, thinking about how I had children with fantastic
ideas, yet their writing wasn't flowing.  I knew they had it in them, but I was struggling to get them past that hesitation... the fear of it not being "just right".  A lot of writer's workshop time is being wasted because their writing isn't fluent.

After much thought, I remembered a writing exercise I'd done in the past at Seminars and training on writing.  I also thought about how I believe in a need for a warm up in all areas... reading, math, even singing and sports!

I've used discussion as well as graphic organizers for a writing warm up, but they didn't quite do the trick, so I made these booklets.  They use these booklets, and write anything they can think of for two minutes.  The only rules:  No erasing and they have to keep the pencil moving.  If they can't think of anything, they simply write "I can't think of anything". The purpose is to get the thoughts flowing from their brain, through their fingers, onto the paper.

We have been finding that these booklets are helping the children come up with new ideas for writing!

I've been noticing a difference in their writing fluency!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Lessons Learned

This is a story I often repeat to parents of my students about when my daughter had her first ice skating experience.

When my daughter was 6 years old, we went ice skating with a couple of friends.  My daughter had never skated before, so I was a little nervous about how she'd take to it.  We both laced up our skates, I took her by the hand and we both stepped onto the ice.

She started skating right away!  A couple of times she started to lose her balance a little bit, but I was right by her side and helped her find her balance every time.

After a while I noticed something odd:  she was no longer trying to keep her balance.  That's when I realized I was doing exactly what I frequently advised parents not to do.  I was catching her every time she lost her balance! I knew what I had to do.

Of course, I backed off.  She fell a few times.  She got right back up and skated.  By the end of the day, she'd gotten her balance and had a nice rhythm in her skating stride.  She was a skater!

It was a nice reminder how parents sometimes need to let their children fall.  It's definitely not easy, but it's not in the child's best interest to constantly be there to catch them.  Sometimes we have to let them fall.

How do we know when to step back and let them fall?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Martin Luther King Jr. Resources

I love teaching my students about Martin Luther King Jr.  He was an incredible man, and stood for peace.  Although I'm giving away my age, I remember when he was shot.  I was a little too young to understand the impact at the time. (I was far more interested in the boys than the politics of the day.) Today I can't watch his speech without tears rushing down my face.  It disturbs me to think that a man who worked so hard for non-violence was killed in such a violent way.

I find literature to be a valuable part of my teaching.  I've read many books about Dr. King, and they always keep the children engaged.  He was clearly a powerful man.  Here are some good ones: (Each image is a link to Amazon.)

A video also grabs the attention of the children.  Check out this one from Brain Pop.

Although his speech is kind of long for the little ones, this is the last part of that famous speech, and it's worth showing at least part of it to the children.  This video from Youtube is the last part of his speech, and I think the children will understand Dr. King's passion:﻿

Dr.  King taught the world about peace.  Here are some children's books that help with the concept of peace.

I also recommend this video:
It certainly tells the story of peace that I want children to learn, and I suspect it's the peaceful world Dr. King dreamed of.  Plus, the lyrics are right on the screen for the kids to sing along... over and over!

Finally, here's one my own products - it's a freebie sorting activity that's sure to get the kids talking! And their conversations defending their opinions are amazing! Click the image for the activity Just or Unjust?

Speaking of activities, I have a couple of MLK activities in THIS resource:
A mapping activity, based on important places in Dr. King's life.

And making timelines based on Dr. King's life.

Click any of the images above to see Science and Social Studies Printables for January! (There is other fun stuff in there, too!)

I'd love to see your ideas for MLK too!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Filling our Buckets

I read this book to my second graders on the first school day of 2012, and it was a big hit!

My students have done some brainstorming, and they came up with lots of ideas about how they can fill the buckets of others.

These are some of their ideas:

Invite a friend for dinner.

Play a game with someone.

Help a friend with his math.

Help a friend break a bad habit.

Help a sister/ brother clean her/ his room.

Share colored pencils with someone.

Ask someone to sit with you.

Treat someone like you want to be a friend.

Pick up their jacket if it is on the ground.

Say hi to people when you pass them, or smile.

Tell your mom, “I really appreciate you for doing the laundry for me.”

Say, “Good job!”

If I played with my friend, that would fill my bucket and her bucket.

If you see someone without a friend, you could play with them and be their friend.

First thing, smile at them.

Stand up to the bully when someone is getting bullied and getting sad.

Don’t tattletale.

Do the Pledge of Allegiance every day.

You can invite a friend to your house.

Say, “Would you like to be my friend?”

Say, “You’re a nice friend.”

You could walk to the nurse’s office with someone if they’re sick.

If someone is lonely, you could meet them and make a friend.

What a great bunch of kids... we even decided to change our "high/ low" time to sharing how we filled each others' buckets!  (See this post for information about high/ low!)

I did find out that this series of books has a website!  It's called Bucket Fillers!  They have resources, and links, and even an e-newsletter!  Take a peek!

Sally

Monday, January 2, 2012

Writer's Workshop

Have I mentioned I'm a big fan of Writer's Workshop?  I've been doing Writer's Workshop in my classroom for years, and have seen a great amount of growth in the children's writing skills.

I've been very lucky to have worked with several wonderful mentors who have helped me learn how the Writing Process works, and how to set it up in my classroom.  I've watched some fantastic examples of writing conferences and mini lessons.  I've used many materials, and have tweeked them to fit my personal style and the levels I teach.  I've learned about 6 Traits as well as the Writing Process and have combined it all to fit my needs.

I've been working on some materials to share with you that I've developed for Writer's Workshop in my classroom.

Click the image to see my Writer's Workshop Collection:

Click the image to see my Writer's Workshop Horizontal Paper.

Click the image to see my very favorite book on Writer's Workshop: