Teamwork is Tops in Rm. 202!

This month at our school there has been a door decorating contest.  Since our class seems to always be doing 10,000 things at once–all fun and motivating, of course!–I chose not to participate in this project.  It was running for the last two weeks and the classes on both sides of us (Hi, Ms. Turken and Mrs. Appelbaum!) have been creating amazing displays, and no one in my class has really said anything.  A couple of friends inquired in passing, but were fine with my answer of “We are doing so many other things right now!”  It wasn’t until the last few days of the contest when someone finally asked me about it and wasn’t so happy with my answer….instead of “ok,” he asked, “What if I do it?”  I am almost always on board with kiddos taking the lead on things, so I was willing to play the game with him.  I told him he could TOTALLY do it, if he was in charge of the whole thing and that the only time I had to give them to work was recess.  I have to admit I was a little surprised, but he was instantly on board.  This was Friday, so he was given the weekend “homework” of figuring out the theme, the plan and the ideas for how the rest of the class could help get it done.

I have to be honest that I was expecting him to come back on Monday having changed his mind, but instead he had a pretty well developed plan and excitement to include his classmates.  We made plans for who would come to join us at lunch and recess, and almost the whole class wanted to help!!

We only had from Monday until Thursday after lunch to complete our BIG job, so on the first day we brought our lunches up and worked for as much of our 40 minute lunch period as we could.  By the end of that day, we had the background up and a great plan for what we would do the next day.  Oh, and we ate our lunches. LOL

Can you tell our theme just by this picture?

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Well, if you know my friend who planned it, that would be an easy give-away, too, but I’ll just tell you that we had the theme of teamwork, shown through a football game.  We have a HUGE rival down the road in Webster Groves, so that’s the reason for the red and orange end zones. Our rough-draft plan looked like this:

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On this first day we had about 16 kiddos working and not many jobs, so I worked it out with one friend to be our photographer.  I needed pictures to document our work and he wanted to help, so bingo!  I am super happy I did it, now, too, because it’s so great to get a kids-eye-view on what we’re doing.  Obviously he took very different pictures than I would have (and I’m even in some of them! Thanks for being kind–LOL), and it makes me think I should hand over the iPhone more often!  Check out the work we did on our first day. Oh, and I didn’t edit them at all.  I kind of thought it was very organic and “real” with his fingers were in some of them.  I also love that you can see conversations happening in many of them, as well as how messy it is working with 2nd graders; I think often I try to crop and edit our life into just the right picture.  But you know, honestly sometimes we just watch.  And sometimes we leave big piles of paper laying around, and often it takes 6 people to do the job of 1 person.  But no matter what, we work together, solve problems together and have fun with each other.

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Our second stop in the process was to create the field, with yard lines, names and goalposts.  Some friends started on bleachers and a crowd, but we quickly had to scrap that part for time’s sake.  Next decide about teams, then create football player and cheerleader versions of us to play the game.  For this job, I did give them some class time, as there really wouldn’t have been enough with just recesses to make that part happen.  We divided in half, created the parameters (7 inches tall), and even decided that we should have a mascot (Remember my photographer friend?  He was cast as Pioneer Pete!).  Again, here’s what it looked like while we were working, from a kids’-eye-view of the room:

Once we were all said and done, our entry into the door decorating contest looked like this:

I was SUPER impressed with how quickly it came together, with how well everyone worked together towards a common goal, and how willing my friend was to lead us all to this great product!  On Tuesday at the end of the day, as we were having our closing circle, more than one kiddo thanked him for being a bold leader.  What a great way to end the day! Way to go, Rm. 202 friends!!

 

 

 

Second Grade Math Warm-Ups: Week of February 22-26, 2016

I have three warm-ups to share this week.  We had a surprise snow day (which was a little funny because where I live there was no snow!) on Wednesday, so no warm-up that day!  We are in the middle between our money unit and addition/subtraction up to 1000, so the problems reflect that.

Monday

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As we discussed this problem, we tried a similar one:

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Tuesday

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Friday

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IMG_0737-minWe modeled the solution to this one in three different ways (which we related to the ways we had done 2-digit addition earlier this year).

Ok, now for a confession…I was surprised when my kids made some of the connections they did this week between money and 3-digit addition.  I know, right?  Probably shouldn’t happen that way, but it was honestly something I hadn’t really noticed, or at least thought about it as specifically as they did.  I think it was nicely pictured in the problem from Tuesday, where we solved each problem in red–they made connections between how you can add whole dollars just like the hundreds in the 2nd problem (and that’s just like 100 cents, making the amount with pennies); the tens were dimes and then the ones were pennies.  Ok, so that part is not surprising to me–obviously I have this knowledge as an adult–but I honestly didn’t expect kiddos to use this to help them solve the 3-digit addition.

It went even farther yesterday when I had a kiddo working on a pre-assessment for this next unit and was doing the problem 451-238.  He told me he needed the money bag so he could use coins to help him.  Since I always allow kiddos to use whatever manipulatives or strategies they need to figure things out I said “ok,” but I honestly was thinking this would hinder him more than help him, or that he’d end up more confused.  When we first looked it he seemed confused with how he’d subtract 8 from 1 (which told me he wasn’t really solid with regrouping yet).  He started by making $4.51 with half dollars, dollar coin, dimes and a penny, and seemed a little unsure about it as this point, too, asking me about names and values as he made his amount.  But once he got his $4.51, he could easily take about the $2 from $2.38, as well as the $.30, which he did with 3 dimes (and I wonder if he made that $.50 that way on purpose since he could think ahead to having to break it apart later on).  Then he sat with only 1 penny, and the need to subtract 8 cents.  And so yes, here’s where the money came in handy–the concrete nature of being able to think about trading a dime for 10 pennies (which is what he is doing abstractly when regrouping) helped him see the constant value and how he could then actually take about the 8 pennies (8 ones) from what was there.  He then counted the money he had left and told me it was $2.19.  We then talked about what that would be if we were just talking about hundreds/tens/ones instead of money and by drawing it in a chart he eventually saw it as 219.

I’m excited to see how this connection to money plays out for some of my friends who need to actually hold/touch/feel the addition and subtraction.  Yes, it’s something we’ve done with other kinds of math tools and strategies, but I wonder if this might even be the best connection, yet, since it’s all based on place value anyway.  Oh yeah, and maybe that’s why this unit was placed after this one in the sequence….

The conversation around this problem the other day was the kind of thing that reminds me that I don’t know everything.  Obviously I know this, but it’s refreshing when kiddos remind me that they are figuring out things I hadn’t thought of.  I love sharing with them those moments, too.  It reiterates the fact that I am not the only teacher in the room, and that I have things to learn as well as they do.  And I hope it’s a lesson that all of us will remember–and use–for days to come.

28 Days That Changed the World

Last year I found the most amazing book.  Books, really.  I am almost certain it as a Twitter find–since that’s where most of my teaching gems come from–but regardless, I ran out to get it and it became the basis for the conversations in our classroom during our history unit.

Here’s the main one, written by Charles R. Smith, Jr. :

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It goes through all the days of February and gives a little story about an important figure in African-American history, working forward from the 1700s to today.  The synopses are short, interesting and my favorite part is that they are not just the “big” ones taht you are used to reading about.  There are women and men, as well as children, and often the moment that changed history wasn’t even a person, but a court case or event.  We read through this book last year during our history unit–where our focus was on people who change the world–and loved it, as well as learned a lot we didn’t know.  OH, and I didn’t tell you anything about it.  Since  I have this thing–well used to–where I wait until the end of a unit/project/story to tell about it.  And then don’t actually do it.  So here’s to telling you this time around. 🙂

Oh, just a quick mention of some other FABULOUS books I found at this same time: the I Am series by Brad Meltzer.  They are along the same vein as the 28 Days book, and are little biographies about important people (not just African-Americans, though).  The illustrations are SUPER cool, and make it a really interesting narrative non-fiction text to share together.  The voice of the famous person comes through and kids are hooked from the first page.  We’ve read almost all of them (I just got Lucille Ball and haven’t had a chance to share that one yet!):

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Somehow I only took a picture of a few of them. 😦  We also have Amelia Earhart, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Helen Keller and Lucille Ball.  They are pretty great!

This year as we got ready to start February, I knew I wanted to incorporate this book again, but obviously in a different way than we had done it previously.  I was really glad that my kids were as excited as me to reread the stories again, and it’s been great to see how they anticipate who will be highlighted each day.  We really enjoy this time of our day, and I can really tell that they are learning about the people/events and their impact on our world, as they make connections between them and other things we talk about in the course of our day.  This book is more than just a book for the friends in Rm. 202.

One thing I wanted to be able to do to deepen our understanding (or at least solidify our memory) was to do some writing about each day’s text.  We had been doing some work with non-fiction, as well as main idea/details, so I figured it would make sense to write a summary paragraph to tell others about what we were learning (we had decided we’d hang them on our bulletin board outside our room).

We have been using the 4-Square organizer to make sure we have all of our thoughts (in read aloud, during Social Studies, in Writers’ Workshop as we write opinions about things), and so we decided they would make sense for this, as well.  And ultimately, I want kiddos to learn how to use the organizer to meet their needs, not just to use it when I say to, or to see it as being just for one time or place.  We wrote the first few together, discussing our topic sentence and then adding in details to explain the text for the day, like this:

IMG_0616-min After we got our thinking down on the planner, someone would “publish” it and we’d hang it outside on our board.

Last week, we had a short week with a weird schedule, which made for a little bit of a problem.  We didn’t get to finish our text for Feb. 11, then we weren’t in school for February 12-15 (that’s 4 days) and so when we returned on February 16, we had 7 pages to work on!!  There was NO WAY that we would have been able to sit and do all that work together as a whole group (can you say behavior problems?!), so we needed a new plan.

Well…it worked out SUPER well that we just happened to have 7 groups already in place for our culture study.  Each group was in charge of planning and then writing one of the  paragraphs after we all read them together.  Great plan, huh?? We thought so. 🙂

Kiddos knew what to do, since we’d been using the planner already, and I was really  impressed with how well they have been able to add appropriate, relevant details to the topic sentences (which I had given them already in their planner).

While I have a REALLY WONKY panoramic picture of it (the end of our bulletin board is inconveniently up a flight of stairs 😦 ), I’m really excited about how it all looks out there, and I love that there are things for us to share with our Robinson neighbors!

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We still have another week or so before we’re finished with the book again, but I’ve got other plans for continuing our study far beyond the end of February.  I have been doing some behind-the-scenes work with our librarian and some other teachers to find even more recent stories of Robinson personalities, or other Kirkwood figures that these friends might know.  I think it is essential to teach kiddos that change-makers are not just old people, in black-and-white pictures who have been dead forever.  Important figures in their lives are not just from long ago and far away, nor are they just “famous” people they read about in books.  I want them to see versions of themselves in the smart, successful people I teach them about; I want them to see the possibilities for their own futures.  I’m excited to finish the plan I have for this next step.  And yes, I’ll be sure to share!

**UPDATE:  GREAT story that happened today as we were reading about Thurgood Marshall for Day 22….I was talking about how he was a Supreme Court Justice and how often that means that a judge has been an important lawyer. I explained how the Justices are appointed by the President, which is a BIG DEAL, and how Thurgood Marshall had been part of a big deal court case that we knew about.  “Do you mean Plessy vs. Ferguson?”  WHAA??  Love that they could throw that one out there.  “Nope, not that one.”  “Are you talking about the 14th Amendment?” “No, not that one, either.” “Oh, I know!!  Brown vs. the Board of Education!”  Um, yeah–that one. 🙂  Isn’t it pretty great that 2nd graders can whip out those names like that?  I think so.  Way to go, Rm. 202 friends!  Love that you’re soaking it in, and making connections, and more importantly I think you’ll make CHANGES with that knowledge someday.**

Learning Buddies: Read-a-Thon

We have not had a chance to see our Learning Buddies very much lately.  5th Graders are busy people!  When we heard they were busy tackling a Read-a-Thon on Friday, we knew we wanted to join in!  While they were spending their whole day (6 hours!) enjoying a book, we were only able to be there for a little chunk of that time.  Some Rm. 202 friends suggested we should plan our own read-a-thon, though, for a future date, too!

Before we came to visit them, Dr. Grayson’s room had a lesson with Mrs. Meihaus, our amazing librarian, about how to read to a younger student.  Our buddies were then armed with their “lesson plan” and shared really great books with us after lunch.  It was so much fun!  Oh, and it was also Hat Day at our school to raise money for the NIYO Cultural Center in Rwanda (Hi, Pacifique!), which added to the festive spirit.  Enjoy some pictures of our afternoon!

 

Privacy

Recently I read a post by Pernille Ripp that was a topic I had never really thought of before.  She writes about all things education, and I always learn something when I read her words (i.e. I first learned about kid blogging from her work, and read about many other topics like homework, classroom management, genius hour, etc. from her as well).  This time I was drawn to her blog by a tweet she posted related to privacy–a topic I had not yet thought much about related to myself and my students.  Ok, yes, I had thought about privacy related to not sharing student personal information and keeping them safe in their online spaces, but not related to privacy in other terms.

Her blog post was about student work and stories and how important it is to ask their permission before you post their words to social media.  She proposed that not every kid wants you to share their news.  Not every kid wants you to tell the world about their ideas, their projects, their problem solving–even if it’s good.  And she proposes that students have the right to tell you if they want you to share on their behalf.

Wow….that was never a thought I had ever had before.  OF COURSE my friends want me to share their projects, their pictures, their super-smart ideas.  OF COURSE my friends want me to toot their horns on Twitter and our blog so that loads of other people can celebrate with them.  That’s what I would want so that’s everyone else would want, too.  Right?  Of course.  Well that’s what I used to think.  And now I’m not so sure…

After reading that post I immediately started looking at things that happen in our classroom a little differently.  While I’ve always said that it’s “ours” and not “mine,” I’m not so sure that I’ve worked that way in regards to what I have shared on Twitter and our blog.  I think I always thought: “Well no one has ever told me NOT to share their work;” “No students has ever told me that didn’t want me to put their stuff on our blog;” “Everyone is proud when they have a great idea, and so they’d want me to tell everyone about it!” I guess what I really mean is that I didn’t really think about it.  And then I had a moment (again, after reading Pernille’s post) where I thought I should ask.  Something awesome had happened, and I was taking pictures of the moment, but thought to ask permission form a friend to post his picture and he told me no.  I was a little taken aback, but then it started to make me wonder how many other times if I’d had asked that question of him if he’d have said no.  I went back to those statements I’d had previously and thought this: “Well, of course, no one told you not to post.  They didn’t know they could.  You didn’t ask them.  Maybe they just thought  ‘She’s the teacher and so she’ll do what she wants to do.”  Sure, it may also have been because they really didn’t care.  But the point is, I don’t really know.  I had never given them the opportunity to tell me.  (And for the record, if I think more about that friend and his hesitance to post his picture online, he has probably felt that way about many other things and just not told me.  Oops.)  I wonder how many others in the last five years would have said “no,” too, if they’d have had the chance.

So…going forward, I will be the one who stands for the student who never says yes.

I will be the one who asks before I tweet about something my kiddo does (and yes that counts for the ones who live in my house, too.).  They may not want me to tell everyone.  Even if it’s something really great.

I will be the one to ask before I put their picture or artwork or Keynote or writing piece–whatever–on my blog, and I will not expect them to automatically post it to their own blog, either.  They are allowed to be in charge of what is public and what is kept between us.

I will be the one to ask before I assume that everyone loves praise and digital high-fives like I do.  I can’t assume that everyone is just like me.  Ha!  Guess I already knew that was true, but just hadn’t thought about it in this sense before.

So what do you think?  How will you think differently about what you post or share about the kiddos in your care?  What will you continue to do in the same way?  I’d love to hear your thinking! 🙂

 

What If?

“What if I sat backward like this?” “What if I fell over this railing?” “What if I dropped my coat down there?” “What if I could jump really high and bounce off the floor, then touch the ceiling?” “What if I could fly but I didn’t know it, so I jumped down but right before I hit the bottom I swooped up?””What if I went to the moon?”

I could go on and on. This was just a tiny bit of what I overheard as I sat with my kiddos at the mall today. It’s a question I hear every day since I spend so much time with little ones, both at school and at home. The questions are different depending on the kid or the venue, but the beginning of the inquiry is the same: what if?

Usually I just roll my eyes or quickly answer or just ask why everyone is always asking that question; it seems like it’s the first thing someone says when I give a deadline or a requirement on an assignment. “What if it’s not that long?” “What if I don’t finish?”  The questions at home seem to be more “out there” and are usually related to outer space or super powers (remember I live with a 5- and 8- year-old. LOL).

But for  some reason I was less annoyed and more inspired by the question today. Instead, it got me thinking. In a new way. I had a question of my own: “What if teachers asked ‘what if’ more often? What if our go-to question was ‘why not?’ instead of always ‘why?'”

In my classroom, I try to build a culture of trying new things, of creating a place where possibilities are endless and of where kiddos see things in new and-dare I say-innovative ways. I try to make Rm. 202 a place where thinking happens, risks are taken and norms are challenged (in an appropriate way, of course–I don’t mean I want or let all of my students run wild and not follow directions!). I want to encourage my students to think for themselves and feel safe and free to tell me (and their peers) if they see things differently, or if they have an idea that they think might work better. I want my students to be willing to ask “what if we…” and then have the rest of us thoughtfully consider their suggestion. Whether that be a way to solve a problem (like during a class meeting), a way to show our thinking (like when I’m crafting an assignment or project), or when they think they have a passion or interest worthy of all of us investigating it together, I want to provide a venue where students can feel free to express their ideas and have ownership over their learning.

But even further than just providing a place for my students to ask that “what if?” I want to model it for them, as well. I want my 2nd graders (or 4th graders or 5th graders, my own kids, whomever), to see that I am a learner and a risk-taker, as well. I want them to know that I see what others are doing and ask myself “What if we do that, too?” I want them to hear my process as I work through the idea, deciding that it is worth it to try even if we don’t know what the outcome will be.  Sometimes I want them to see that my “what if” doesn’t always end the way I thought it would (or wanted it to), and that’s okay.  I want my kiddos to feel safe to say “What if I fail?  What if I don’t know the answer?  What if I have to try again? What if it’s hard?” and be okay with not knowing.  Not doing it right. Not “getting it” the first time.  Not knowing what will happen and trying anyway. We are always talking about making mistakes and how that’s the key to learning new things and I think “what if” goes hand-in-hand with that philosophy.  “What if?” without an answer can be really frightening; I want my students to know that I am often unsure when I try new things, too.

I haven’t always been willing to take risks and think outside the box.  Unfortunately, it was for all the wrong reasons.  I “had” to do it right, but more for myself, the parents in my room and my colleagues than for my students. I was far too worried about someone asking something about it or having me justify my thinking or even worse what would happen if somebody didn’t like my ideas.  Eventually–through much soul-searching, encouragement, many years of growth and LOTS of mistakes–I have gotten to the point where I’m more concerned with my students’ growth and development and what THEY think about what we’re doing than what others think or what the outcomes will be. At this point I am much more willing to do something new or ask–and then answer!–“what if?” than I ever have been.

The concern I have is that there are so many teachers (and therefore students) who are not willing to find out what happens when they ask “what if?”  They are too concerned with pretenses or perceptions, or even worse looking like they have it all together.  They are scared of failing, scared of falling, of not knowing the answer, of not knowing more than their students, of not living up to someone’s expectations, of not being enough.

What happens when that’s where teachers stay, however, is that they miss out on many great opportunities–great learning situations, watching their students (and themselves!) do things they never thought possible.  It’s amazing to see what occurs when we step off that ledge and leap even if we don’t know what will happen!  I know from experience that it’s almost never as bad as we thought, and usually is even better than we could have imagined. 🙂

“What if” can be a really scary question, but it can also be really exciting! 

So I ask you….”what if” you took a leap of faith?  “What if” you took a risk and tried something you weren’t sure about? “What if” you did it for yourself? “What if” you did it for your students?  “What if” you asked “what if?”  I’d love to hear what happens! Share your story, will you? 🙂