Series Reading Groups

We have been working with series of books in Readers’ Workshop lately.  Our newest unit, which has a focus on patterns, characters and changes, is asking students to look at a series of books (one per group) to find similarities and differences.  Each kiddo in the group is reading a different book (which is something I’ve never done before) and when they meet, the team is responsible for talking about what they’ve each found in their books individually.

We’ve worked on looking at what is always the same (patterns in the series), what we can learn about characters, asking ourselves why certain things are important, marking the text with post-its so we don’t forget what we’ve noticed, talking “long and strong” about our post-it notes, making sure we understand what our partners are saying by asking clarifying questions, and using a Venn diagram to model what we notice between the books in our groups.

We’ve chosen books series that match each level of reader in my classroom: Horrible Harry, Roscoe Riley Rules, Berenstain Bears, Clifford, Mercy Watson and Little House on the Prairie.

It’s been really exciting to see what they’ve been able to do with this study.  For many it’s the first time they have really read a chapter book.  While each group has different conversations based on the members and the books, each works with diligence and purpose as they discuss what they are learning about their texts.  They are really thinking deeply about their books, having fun with literacy and their reading conversations are leaking over into other parts of our day.  The other thing I’ve seen is that many have been positively pressured to higher levels of thinking and participating because of what they see their friends doing.  Love that kind of friendly competition!

I know this kind of thing would be best explained with videos, but all I have is pictures.  Imagine that you can hear quiet murmurs of engaging conversations around books that kids love and it would sound just about right!

What series do you enjoy reading?  We’d love some recommendations for our next choices! 🙂

 

The Greatest Star on Earth: Kate Klise

I love introducing kiddos to authors.  Whether it’s via Twitter, a new book or an actual author visit, helping students connect with the “real” people who write the stories or information they love is a great treat.  Perhaps the best part is how special and important they feel when we send a question or comment to a writer and they answer.  Ralph Fletcher is particularly special to my class as we have read both Marshfield Dreams and Fig Pudding by him this year (and he responds to all of our tweets!), but my students have also personally connected with Lisa Campbell Ernst, Maribeth Boelts, Marla Frazee (who I just realized illustrated Clementine!), Mary Casanova, Betty Birney, and also Kate Klise (who was just at our school this week!).  The way they feel so special and important when an adult responds to their words is pretty priceless and immeasurably motivating. The way these writers have both encouraged and inspired my students to some of their best work is pretty amazing. 🙂

So when I heard that we were having an author visit shortly after Winter Break I was really excited….but then I heard the name of the author and thought how completely strange it was that I had never heard of her; I pride myself on being up on books, writers, reading and things of that nature (by the way, Twitter has been HUGE in helping me with this–you should totally check it out!).  Luckily this was not a problem, because our amazing librarian, Mrs. Meihaus, works hard to introduce us to the writer and their books so that when they do come, we’ll be ready. 🙂

Our class read just a couple of her picture books (and since then I’ve found out she has written over 25 others!), and found that we really enjoyed her writing voice, as well as Sarah Klise’s (her sister is her illustrator) pictures.  We tried out Shall I Knit You a Hat? and Little Rabbit and the Meanest Mother of Earth, and when she was here she read us Grammy Lamby and the Secret Handshake.

Once she got here, we were all abuzz, excited to hear what she would tell us about herself and teach us about writing.  A couple of friends took their Writers’ Notebooks to be sure to catch Ms. Klise’s smart words.

Basically, her presentation was a workshop where she taught us (2nd and 3rd grades) the necessary elements for writing a good story.  She told funny stories, made us laugh, and most importantly got us involved in the show.  We hung on her every word!

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And, because authors are rockstars in our world, we had to take a minute for a photo opp!  Thanks SO MUCH, Kate Klise, for taking time out to spend the morning with 2nd graders who are working to grow as writers and share their stories with the world!

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It’s the 100th Day–HOORAY!

In case you’ve missed our 100th Day journey, be sure to catch up on our previous conversations here.  And then stay tuned to read about what actually happened–spoiler alert: it was AMAZING!!

We began the day much like we normally do, with our regular routine of washing our hands and then working on the math apps we use every day: Front Row and Dreambox.  I got together some supplies, Tyrin took our pizza orders for lunch, and then we all got together to start our 100th Day of School.

We had narrowed down our choices to the ones that most closely matched our purpose for the day (reflecting upon or thinking about learning), but still we would not have been able to do all of those things in just the time we’re together on a normal school day, so I had to whittle it down even further.  Also, since we had come up with the SUPER list from our Little Red Riding Hood book as well, we actually had a new (and pretty big) job that we had added.

And since I can’t leave well enough alone, I gave them one more reminder about how this wasn’t truly our “100th” day, so we did a little bit of math: 176 + 176 + 100=452, meaning we were actually celebrating the 452nd day we had been in school!  WOW!  Too bad we couldn’t have had a whole list of activities related to that number!

First, I gave them a framework for book that we had decided to write together about our 100 days of 2nd grade and how much we had learned.  There were stems on each page that kiddos were supposed to fill in, and since we were doing it on our iPads, they could use pictures from their camera roll, drawings (that would then be added by taking a picture), typing or writing on the pages.  We use a Learning Management System called eBackpack to give and receive work, so they were to work on their pages (each kiddo was given 5) and then send them back to me.

Once they got started working, I began to call small groups over to start making muffins (based on our super smart ideas from Little Red Riding Hood: A Newfangled Prairie Tale by Lisa Campbell Ernst) to share with our 2nd grade friends.  There are conveniently (if you’re connecting to the number 100) 101 kiddos in our grade, so we had a lot of baking to do; we had figured out through some HARD work the day before that we needed to make 9 batches in order to have enough.  Wow.

Well, thankfully, my friend (who typically comes to help us during Math on Thursdays anyway) was free in the morning today, because looking back now there is NO WAY we could have made 100 muffins with 21 kiddos with just me.  Thanks, Mary Beth!  She took one table and I manned another one and we measured and poured, stirred and scooped and ultimately took all of our muffin tins to the Robinson kitchen to be baked.  Again, if not for Ms. Denise in the kitchen who took charge of the ovens, we wouldn’t have had any muffins.  She was a lifesaver today.

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Although I would have love to add pictures of the many trips we took to the kitchen and back, and share a picture of Ms. Denise, as well as how beautiful our muffins were while they were baking, I was carrying muffin tins and opening doors and having to be a teacher (hee hee), so you’ll just have to imagine that part.  I also wish there was smell-o-vision so I could share how wonderful our muffins smelled while they were baking (believe me, I was told my multiple people that they could smell them all over the school!), but alas, not this time.  Just imagine the most amazing aroma ever and that’s what it was like. 🙂  Ultimately we only ended up making 8 dozen (not sure what happened there), so we had to do some quick math about our shortage (which was a great lesson in scarcity!) and figure out how we could best share with our friends as well as have some muffins for ourselves.

After we figured out how many muffins we had:

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we made some plans for how we’d get them to our friends.  We agreed (ok, well they did after I convinced them) that it was the right thing to do to give muffins to the other 2nd graders before we served ourselves and so we go together in groups and created little pitches to share with them about what we did and how we wanted to give so to them.

We had a little bit of time after both muffins and our book (but more about that in another post–we have some revising and editing to do there before we’re ready to share), so kiddos had a choice of a board game, reading, or writing.  I always love to see what they do when they are in charge:

Because our day was filled with two other special events (roller skating in PE and a farewell assembly for a beloved custodian), we only had time for one more thing, and we decided it should be puzzles.  After that conversation the other day and the question from Ja’Mia, we knew it would be fun, hard work and would definitely allow us to use all of the grit, patience and teamwork we’ve been building lately.  Look at what we were able to do!

For all the thought (perhaps OVER-thought) that I put into this day, I am pleased with what happened.  It was all that we wanted it to be (which was to focus on learning and growing) and we had fun along the way.  I think that they things we chose to participate in match up with what we are about everyday (engagement, choice, thinking, teamwork).  I enjoyed the day, and I’m pretty sure they did, too.  The last thing I heard before we left for the day was “This was the best 100th Day EVER!”  I agree, friend, I agree! 🙂

 

 

LRRH–Inspiring Sharing and Caring

I started the story recently about our culture/geography/literature study of Little Red Riding Hood.  We’ve done many things along the way with stories and maps and learning about regions (which I promise to share later!), but today there’s another story to tell.

Today we read Little Red Riding Hood: A Newfangled Prairie Tale by Lisa Campbell Ernst.  The connection was to the Midwest region (at least as far as our SS unit was concerned), but my kiddos made many others kinds of important to connections in addition!

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The Little Red story here is very different than most others (and I won’t spoil the ending for you), and so gave us some new things to think about and respond to as readers and thinkers.  Before I was even finished, the suggestions came spilling over and kiddos could not contain themselves.  Many of them were related to this picture, which is on the last page:

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Like I mentioned, the muffin-related ideas came quick and fast and I grabbed a marker and started recording so we wouldn’t forget the conversation:FullSizeRender 22-min

There are many layers to this list, and they’re not all related to the 100th Day, but that was a catchy title that Tyrin suggested.  We did decide, though, that we wanted to make these as part of our 100th Day festivities and share them with our 2nd grade friends–and there happen to be about 100 of them.  Seems like a match made in heaven. 🙂

We hope to address some of the others (and I’m sure add many more!) in the days to come.  Many of them could relate to a service-learning project and all will touch the hearts (and stomachs!) of our community.  As I keep saying, I can’t wait to continue to share this story!

 

 

Revised Pirate Code Ideas

Today we were finally able to revisit our initial list of ideas for our own Rm. 202 Pirate Code.

We used a protocol called Walk, Stop, Turn and Talk (which I saw on Twitter this weekend but sadly can’t remember who to credit for the idea) to talk about our thoughts on the first try.  Kiddos walked around until I called “stop,” in which case they turned to the closest friend and talked about which options on the list they thought should be kept.  They were supposed to give reasons based on how that addition would help us learn like pirates (based on our answers to that question which we had recorded the other day).  It looked and sounded like this:

Here’s our revisions, and then a “prettier” copy of the changes:

Pretty good, huh?  Oh, and that red part is that we decided that Learn or Walk the Plank! should be our Class Motto.  Verdict’s still out on that one. 🙂

 

 

Rethinking the 100th Day: Rm. 202 Weighs In

This whole 100th Day of School thing has got my head spinning.  Last year I thought I had answered the question (at least the 1st grade version of it), but then it came to rear it’s ugly head again this year as last week people starting talking about it and planning again for the “holiday” that falls on Thursday, January 28 in our school.  So I started thinking again.  And you, kind blog readers and Twitter friends, helped my thinking along by asking some really good questions.

For instance, @avivaloca, who was part of the reason I started this whole thing last year, had this simple inquiry:  

Now here’s where I got a little uncomfortable, because I realized my answer wasn’t as nearly as strong as I thought. Well actually, I didn’t even have an answer at that point, because I was asking a different question altogether!

I don’t remember my exact answer (although if you’re curious you can go back to that post and read my response to her comment), but basically it was “Uh….because everybody else is doing it?” “Because I don’t have a really good reason not to?” “Well I don’t know, but let me tell what we’re doing on that day to celebrate! They’re really good ideas…”

Um, yeah. Not my best day. ESPECIALLY as a teacher who likes to pride herself on not just doing things because everyone else is or because they always have been done that way.

So as the title suggests, I did just what I told Aviva I was going to do, and asked my class to weigh in on the whole deal. (By the way, as I was telling them this story and was about to say what our next step was, Makayla said that she knew I was going to ask them about it. Love that they know my moves!).

My first question to the to get our conversation going was “What do you know about WHY we celebrate the 100th Day of School? What’s it all about anyway?” Here’s what they said after having a chance to chat it over with a partner first): 

So what I heard them saying was that it wasn’t really about the number 100 at all, but that it was about stopping to reflect on how far we’d come together, how much we’d learned together and where we were going. My next question was “Well that could happen any time, right? Why the 100th day?”

They had some really good ideas, most of which had to do with the fact that that day is nicely right in the middle of the year; long enough in to have something to look back on and be proud of. Sara made a good point: “It couldn’t be on the 1st or 2nd day of school because we wouldn’t have learned anything yet!” I guess you’re right. ❤

We went on to talk about the origin of the 100th day celebration (which I believe is in kindergarten when kids have actually been in school for 100 days, right?), and I wasted Aviva’s question: “Why do we celebrate this day in 2nd grade? Is 100 really a big deal to us now?” They agreed that no, it’s not.  We’re working on time, money, we’re going to be adding to the 1000s, and we can count WAY higher than 100 already.  It WAS a big deal a couple of years ago, but that number is not such a landmark for us anymore.  We decided that our focus would be on looking back at our learning and reflecting on the many things we know how to do now.

With that in mind, we went back to our list to revise; we would only keep things on it that had to do with reflection, not the parts that were just about 100.  Basically the things that were related to the number 100 were crossed off, although we realized that we had a pretty good list of reflection activities already.

FullSizeRender 15-min As we revisited our ideas, we crossed off ones that were “number based,” as well as the blog posts and reading 100 books because those were things we did last year.  We decided 100 math problems was something we always do anyway, and that 100 facts about places was just what we were doing in Social Studies and so we’d wait on that, too.  The writing and notebook entries were also typical to our daily schedule.  The 100 post cards was crossed off because we’ve been working on letters in Writers’ Workshop and that would make more sense that post cards.  Pretty valid support, I’d say.

We did have a question come up related to puzzles.  Ja’Mia wanted to take that off the list, because at first it seemed to be just about the number.  She asked the class “What do puzzles have to do with learning?” (I was glad she was brave enough to bring this up to everyone, and was eager to hear their answers!)

Here’s the (long) list of what kiddos said about how they fit into our theme:

  • You have to work together.
  • You have to use problem-solving to figure it out.
  • You have to be patient.
  • You have to have self-control and keep it together if you get frustrated.
  • You have to use grit.
  • It’s a challenge (especially if there’s a lot of pieces!).
  • It takes a long time so you have to be willing to work hard.

After hearing what others had to say, she was ok with it.  “Well, if you’re working in a group to do it, I guess it makes sense.”  Good girl.  🙂 (By the way, we applied the same logic to board games, including Millie’s point that games like that help us learn how to win and lose graciously.)

So armed with our new list and some renewed excitement and understanding about the reasons behind this day, we’re getting geared up to have a great day of learning, reflection and fun on Thursday.  Can’t wait to share it with you!

 

Writing Lately

Elementary school is an interesting thing.  Because of the way that school has been structured for years and years, we teach and learn all the subjects together in one day, yet each one is compartmentalized into it’s only little spot in the schedule.  Well that’s how it’s traditionally done, but I try my hardest to help my kiddos see that “writing” is not just something we do from 10:30 to 11:15 every day, just like “reading” doesn’t only happen from 9:00-10:30.  These are just things that we do as learners and they are ways we learn and show our learning.

That being said…we do have specific things that we do as writers on most school days.  One of those is write.  During Writers’ Workshop.  (I know, I told you it was interesting).  I wanted to share two things that we’ve done lately that help show our growth as writers over time.

First of all was a writing challenge.  I love how when I told my kiddos that we were going to have a writing challenge they pretty much all cheered.  I don’t know if it was the “writing” part or the “challenge” part, but either way I was pleased.  The challenge was to take a piece of writing they had done at the being of our last writing cycle (Small Moments) and work to improve it to show the things they had learned over the last few weeks that they didn’t know before.  They would revise and edit their piece and then publish a final draft.  They worked with a writing partner (which is also something we typically do as writers in our room) to help make sure they didn’t miss anything.  They sure worked hard and their final pieces turned out pretty great!

Secondly, remember how I shared that everybody has their “big” notebook now?  It means I finally got to share the lesson about how to take all those super smart entries they wrote while they were learning about Writers’ Notebooks and save some of them. Basically they had to ask reread the entries in their tiny notebooks, and then ask themselves if they were: 1) important, 2) something that showed what they can do as a writer, 3) something they could use in the future, or 4) something they wanted to remember.  If the answer was YES to any or all of those, then they taped it into their big notebook to save for later.  It was great to see their reflecting and thinking as they evaluated their writing over the last few months.  Great stuff happening there, too!