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Opinion Writing Activity for Fall

Opinion Writing Activity for Fall: This blog post contains ideas and samples for the transition from summer to fall, and a freebie opinion writing activity for beginning writers.

We're having some fun bringing the Common Core into the classroom!  Here in New England we are enjoying the changes from summer to autumn, and the colors are truly fantastic!  This is the time of year that I really count my blessings that I live in New England.  Well, there's also winter, spring, and summer, but we won't get into that yet!

I read these two books to the children, talking about why seasons happen, and sharing specifics about summer and autumn.

After a great discussion, the children made drawings to compare summer and autumn.  
Aren't their pictures awesome?  

They really grasps some of the major differences between the two seasons!

They spent a couple of days on those awesome pictures.  As my second graders are still beginning writers, I wanted to make their first Opinion Writing piece successful.  I made a graphic organizer for them, complete with topic sentence choices and concluding sentence choices. (See freebie below!)

Their first Opinion Writing piece of the year?  They had to write about which season they liked best, summer or autumn!  

After filling out the graphic organizers, they had to use the ideas in the organizer to tell their stories. 

The telling of the story is a very important step, especially for my beginning writers.  They ended up telling the story a few times, each time the quality of the story getting better and better.  This "rehearsal" always makes for a more organized, fluent story.  They'll be doing lots more Opinion Writing  pieces this school year, but their first one was a success!

Click the image below for the graphic organizer, and two kinds of writing paper.


Why Do We Practice Nonsense Words?

Why Do We Practice Nonsense Words? Most kids prefer to use real words in context, but here are a few reasons why learning to read nonsense words matters.

Brain research tells us that learning needs to be meaningful.  We need to connect our learning with things that are important in our lives.  Typically, it's not too tough to convince children that reading is meaningful.  In fact, reading has its own reward:  as you get better at reading, the books and stories get better.  

It's a little tougher to convince children why we practice reading nonsense words.  Despite what I've heard from some, it's not to have more successful test scores on the DIBELS tests.  

This is what I tell the kids: to practice the "sounding out" skill, so we'll be better at figuring out new words!

if we practice the "sounding out" skill with actual words, the visual memory can get in the way of this skill, and they're not actually practicing the "sounding out" skill, they're just recognizing the word from the way it looks.  Therefore, we use nonsense words.

Of course, there are some children who are strong sight word readers, and feel they pretty much know all the words.  

So we talk about some of those ten dollar words they'll see as they grow as readers.

Words like Constantinople, or Emancipation Proclamation, or Deoxyribonucleic acid or even supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!  

Here are some activities I do to practice that "sounding out" skill .

Just click the images to learn more!

Word sort by vowels:

Nonsense word game:

Multisyllable nonsense word game:
What do you use to help your children practice looking for letter sounds and patterns in new words?

Some Ideas for Autumn in the Classroom!

It's autumn! That means it's time to learn!  Here are some books that will bring autumn into the classroom:

Can you tell I love Gail Gibbons?  I think she really captures the level I teach, combining interesting information along with the second graders reading level.

The Tree for all Seasons goes along with our science curriculum.  We have a "Class Tree" which we observe, record, sketch, and follow through the seasons.

I was able to convince my class to choose the maple tree right outside our class window.  We went outside to sketch it the other day, but it sure is convenient in the dead of these New England winters to be able to sketch it from inside the classroom!

Here are a few You Tube videos to get fall started:

This is by Harry Kindergarten Music.  It's a little young for my second graders but I love the "riddle" verses.  I might just have them make up their own riddles after listening!

It's Bill Nye the Science Guy! To me, he'll always be a star, especially with fun videos like this.  It shows fun activities for each season the kids will love, and a fun song explaining the earth's tilt as it relates to seasons.

As much as I hate to see summer end, I always look forward to Autumn in New England! I hope you enjoy it!

Build Number Sense With Daily Routine

There are some important number concepts that can be practiced just through our daily routine. Here are a couple of examples:

Often, when I call on the children to line up, or to go to their next activity, I'll call the odd numbers first, then the even numbers. (Or even, then odd.)

Sometimes I'll go beyond the number of kids I have in the class so they can really hear the pattern.  After a while, they anticipate the pattern I'm calling and are super ready when I get to their number.

Sometimes I'll count by 5s, then go 5s +1, then 5s +2, etc, while pointing the pattern out on our class number grid. (5, 10, 15, 20, 6, 11, 16, 21, 7, 12, etc.)

Other times I'll call a pattern like... 1, 11, 2, 12, 3, 13, and so on.  They always watch when I point these out on the number grid as I call out the numbers.

Then there are days I just call out the numbers in order, or in backward order.  Sometimes I start with 1, and other times I'll just start with a child who is behaving properly (as opposed to rolling around on the floor, which second graders often see at the end of a lesson!). Then, I've been
known to start with a random number off the top of my head for no reason. I like to keep them on their toes!

Another way I keep them thinking about numbers during their daily routine is by consistently writing odd numbers in red and even numbers in green. Why? Because red means stop!  Why do we stop for odd numbers? Because someone or something doesn't have a partner! Since the even/ odd concept is in the common core for second grade, I mention it often, and constantly bring up that odd numbers are odd because they can't be paired off.  They know what it's like to be without a partner, and that personal connection helps them remember why even numbers are different from odd numbers!  (Brain research tells us this.)

Here's another thing I do that helps the children internalize number concepts:  I change my jobs after each set of ten! Most teachers change their classroom jobs weekly. I used to do that, but I realized how changing after 10 days will help internalize that concept of ten for these kids, especially since sets of ten is huge in our number system!

Do you have any routines that help secure number concepts? How about reading concepts?

Seven Ideas for Reading Accurately

I've finished my DIBELS, and my kids are all over the ball park as far as their needs go. I have noticed that several students had high "Words Correct Per Minute", but their accuracy was low. These kids read loads of words, but were adding, changing, and omitting lots of words. These same kids also had trouble with punctuation, and retelling the story. They need work on accuracy!

Seven Ideas for Reading Accurately - Reading fluently is great, but accuracy is important, too! Here are seven ideas to help your readers become more accurate.

Here are some ideas for working on accuracy.

1.  Tell them that's what they need to work on. Yes, seriously, give them the feedback they need. That's the number one trick to improvement, knowing what you need to work at! If necessary, go back to the "finger pointing" stage to help them focus on the words that are really there.

2.  Partner reading - One partner reads, the other partner checks to make sure they're reading accurately. This works best if the children are evenly matched at their own reading level. See the blog post I wrote about using this app for partner reading HERE.

3. Read with an adult - Grab a spare adult somewhere to read with students! It might be a teacher assistant, a parent volunteer, or maybe even the librarian, phys. ed. teacher or music teacher! Anyone that has a few minutes can sit down with a child and listen to them read. (Make sure they are ready to give feedback!)

4. Have them read "out soft" - often!  The more they read so someone can hear, the more accurate they will become. That "sense of an audience" really makes a difference. When my students come to reading group, I have them bring a book they are working on, and they are expected to sit down and start reading it "out soft". That means: loud enough so that I can hear them across the reading table, but not loud enough to be heard from across the room. They find it a little awkward at first, but it doesn't take long for them to feel comfortable reading their book just loud enough to be heard. This trick also gives me a chance to listen to individuals, give a little extra time to some kids, and has the children warmed up and ready for reading group. I notice huge improvements in accuracy and fluency when I start doing this!

5. Readers Theater - As mentioned above, that "sense of an audience" is a big motivator! Plus, Readers Theater can be fun, which is another plus! There are plenty of sources of scripts out there.  Just google it! (or search on Pinterest!) Just beware of the danger of readers theater: after reading it a few times, they memorize the script. Then it isn't real reading anymore!

6.  Reading song lyrics - Music is very closely related to the memory. If they already know the song, they'll be able to read the lyrics. Give out song sheets and have them "finger read". As above, just make sure they are truly reading, not reciting something that they have memorized. (Nothing wrong with memorization, but that's not the skill we're trying to improve!)

7.  Practice sight words and phrases - In order to read accurately, they've got to know the words! Experts recommend that children learn sight words in context. Click the freebie below for several phrases using the Dolch pre-primer list. There are plenty more of these for other levels, too!

Seven Ideas for Reading Accurately - Reading fluently is great, but accuracy is important, too! Here are seven ideas to help your readers become more accurate.

What are your ideas for building accuracy?
Seven Ideas for Reading Accurately - Reading fluently is great, but accuracy is important, too! Here are seven ideas to help your readers become more accurate.

Seven Ideas for Reading Accurately - Reading fluently is great, but accuracy is important, too! Here are seven ideas to help your readers become more accurate.

Fun for Constitution Day

My school is going all out this year for Constitution Day!

The kids are wearing red, white, and blue, and the whole school will be reciting the pledge outdoors at the flagpole.

We've all been given 1700s USA flags for the kids to color, and copies of the school promise to sign with a quill pen. I also heard that later in the day George Washington and Benjamin Franklin will be stopping by the classrooms with a little skit about the signing of the Constitution.

Of course, I might read a book or two:


Here's one of my favorite Schoolhouse Rock Videos!

And, of course, I have a couple of Patriotic Freebies:

Here's an explanation of 6 USA holidays, and some suggestions on how to celebrate our country.

Here's another freebie:  a variety of paper with a USA theme:

Still looking for more?  
Look at all the cool stuff I found when I did a Constitution Day search on Pinterest!

What are your ideas for fun on Constitution Day?

Ten for Day 10!

Well, we made it through out 10th day of school for the year.  Here are some of the things accomplished so far:

1.  I finally finished my DIBELS!  I've got some good information to work with.

2.  I finished my Words Their Way screenings.

3.  I've almost finished my Math assessment.  (I don't have anything wonderful, but at least it's some evidence about my kids and their math skills!)

4.  My kids are getting the hang of how I run my centers.

5.  My kids are getting the hang of coming in in the morning, passing in their homework, and getting settled in for the day.

Here are a few more things we'll be working on in the next week.

1.  Staying focused and building stamina during Independent Reading.

2.  Rule #1:  Follow directions QUICKLY!  (They take FOREVER to get settled!)

3.  Coming to the reading table ready to work, not fool around and chat.

4. Taking responsibility for getting their work done and passing it in.

5.  Looking me in the eye and responding when I say good morning to them!

What have you accomplished so far?  What's next?

Five Ways to Practice Counting By Fives

I've got some kids that totally need practice counting by 5s!  This is a pretty important math concept, as it is needed to count money as well as tell time.  As they get older, it will help with multiplication.  
Five Ways to Practice Counting by Fives: Here are several ideas to help students practice skip counting, including a few freebies!

Plus, it's in the Common Core State Standards for second grade:  
CCSS.Math.Content 2 NBT.A.2: Count within 1000; skip count by 5s, 10s, and 100s.

Yes, that does say within 1,000!  That means they should be able to start at 825 and keep going by 5s through 1,000!
That's why I brainstormed this list of 
Five Ways to Practice Counting by Fives!

1.  Here are some You Tube Videos that are great!  They combine music, rhythm, visuals, and fun!  That's a brain based recipe for learning!

Exercise and Count by 5s - Jack Hartman

Blast Off!  Counting by 5s

Counting by Fives Song  by Have Fun Learning

Counting by Fives - Schoolhouse Rock

Whacha' Gonna Do?  (Rap counting by 2, 5 and 10)

As I was posting these, I listened to them.  That last one (the rap) is now stuck in my head.  I suppose that's great if it happens to the kids who need to learn to count by 5s!

2.  Learning Games!  I posted about this game just the other day.  It's great for learning any sequence that needs to be memorized. Ton download the directions, click the image or click here: How to Play Countdown.

Five Ways to Practice Counting by Fives: Here are several ideas to help students practice skip counting, including a few freebies!

3.  Let them see the pattern!  I like to have loads of laminated copies of number grids around the room for the kids to look at, talk about, and mark up with their wipe off markers.  They can call out the numbers by 5s as they circle them.  It really helps those visual kids to see the patterns. (Brain research tells us ALL students benefit from visuals! You can download a freebie color coded number grid HERE (or click the image) and you can download a freebie color coded number grid here: Color Coded Number Grid.(or click the image.) Plus you can download your color coded grid to 1,000 grid here: Numbers 0 - 1,000.

Five Ways to Practice Counting by Fives: Here are several ideas to help students practice skip counting, including a few freebies!

Five Ways to Practice Counting by Fives: Here are several ideas to help students practice skip counting, including a few freebies!

4.  Get physical - and funny!  Kids need to move, and we know that movement and exercise help bring oxygen to the brain, therefore helping the memory!  We do loads of movement while counting, such as follow the leader, brain gym exercises, jumping jacks, push ups (the boys love these... and think they're doing them right with their little behinds up in the air!) and just about anything we can think of to get the counting to be automatic.  Since laughter also brings oxygen to the brain, it's fun to do the counting with a funny voice.  For some reason, I often break into a southern accent while counting by 5s, and the kids giggle like crazy and join right in!  (Waving y'all to all my southern friends... feel free to break into a Boston accent with your kids!)

5.  Don't stop at 100, and leave out the "and"!  I know, this isn't actually a 5th idea, but it's a pet peeve of mine.  My second graders are learning that counting by 5s keeps going after 100!  Those first 2 rows after 100 on the hundred grid are the toughest for the kids to learn, so it's important to go at least past 120!  Did you realize the proper way to say 105 is "one hundred five" without the word and.  Technically, the word "and" stands for the decimal point, so "one hundred and five" really means 100.5.  (OK, you'd really say "one hundred and five tenths", but let's get the kids in the right habit now so the kids won't get confused when they learn decimals!) 

In case you're aching for a fifth "Counting by Five" idea, HERE is a link to a Pinterest Search for Counting by 5s!  Once you see all these ideas, you'll come up with tons more on your own!
Five Ways to Practice Counting by Fives: Here are several ideas to help students practice skip counting, including a few freebies!

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