Rm. 202 Kids Take Over–Read Aloud!

Last week I was having a reading conference with a friend, and as we were talking about TBR piles and good book recipes, another idea came to me that would help one reader, and then in turn many others: kiddos doing read aloud.

As I continued to talk to this friend about books, I suggested that he choose a book from his new TBR pile to share with the class.  We talked about how he would have to prepare to do this, including practicing holding the book up so that everyone could see the pictures.  It was totally picture-worthy while he was working.

And maybe the best part was when he turned to me and said, “Wow, this is hard.  My arm hurts!  Is it hard for you, too?” We had a great little chat about how teachers have to have strong arms. 🙂

He continued to work and was ready to present to us.  Man was he excited!

Check out the stories he shared with us:

Well…as you can imagine, this sparked interest by many other people to be able to share with us at read aloud time.  And what a great idea, as I considered all of the many things kiddos learn on both sides of this opportunity.

We began to schedule read alouds in a couple of ways: I gave some friends the assignment based on books we were reading in our small group together, and some friends just began to request a spot.  And since then it’s become a “have-to” for everyone.  It’s just such a good idea that we (ok, probably I) decided all should participate!

Amber took the next turn, and did a super job of matching up to what my lesson would have been that day anyway–good readers use evidence from the text to support their thinking.

Then on Friday, Emily took her turn and taught us about fiction/non-fiction (as well as using some pretty great teacher moves for management!) with The Little Work Plane.

Now don’t worry if you don’t see your favorite Rm. 202 friend in this post–each will get their turn.  While I had originally never intended to take this path with readers in our room, it’s a SUPER example of how organically ideas come up for us, and how kids’ ideas are often the BEST ideas! Thanks, Rm. 202 kiddos for taking chances, learning new things and then sharing that learning with the rest of us!

Mystery Skype–April 14 (#3)

We’re on #3 Skypes in about 2 weeks!  YEHAA!!  Today was the 2nd in two days!

Like last time, we had jobs, but at the end of the last session we decided to trade.  Unlike last time, our camera worked, though (did I mention that?  They were Skyping with a blank screen the whole time! 😦 ).

By the way, this post has made me think it might be a good idea to start a new page just devoted to Mystery Skypes.  Would make it easier for us (and everyone else!) to find the archives when we need them.

This was another great session, and at the end I’ll share what we know now that we didn’t know just three short sessions ago. 🙂

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The debrief this time was a question about how much more they know now than they did just a couple of short days ago.  Here where their responses when I asked “What do you know now?”

  • “I am a better greeter because I’ve practiced three times. I don’t need my dos/don’ts sheet anymore!” JH
  • “Now I can visualize a map in my head when they ask a question.” KB
  • “My job was easier today [than yesterday] because I wrote shorter words.” EM
  • “I think doing a job more than once makes it easier.” AM
  • “I know more about maps.” PM
  • “I know more about what to do as task manager.  I can just sit and watch what’s going on [and give reminders when they need them] instead of walking around.” AK
  • “I know where to stand and use better angles to take better pictures.” CB
  • “I am better at Twitter.  I did it almost alone!” JM

What great thinking, Rm. 202 friends!  As always, you amaze me with your reflection and insight. 🙂  Keep it up–excited to see what happens as you keep going with Mystery Skypes!

Culture–Final Drafts!

We worked for much of last quarter on culture, based on many versions of Little Red Riding Hood.  Here are our final drafts of the books we published about the cultures of the various regions and countries we studied (not all kiddos wanted me to share, by the way–since I know now that I should ask!).

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Khalani B.–THE MIDWEST

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Charlie B.–THE WEST

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EmilyM.–GHANA

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Evan R.–THE WEST

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Ja’MiaM.–CAJUN

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MillieR.–GERMANY

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Baron E.–CHINA

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Nate R.–CHINA

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Sara R.–SPAIN

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EllaMarieG.–GERMANY

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Makayla M.–SPAIN

Thank you for reading!  We worked so hard and would love your feedback! 🙂

Writing Warm-Ups: Second Grade Debut

A couple of years ago, I tried writing warm-ups in 5th grade.  The idea was the same as our math warm-ups, and would give kiddos a way of getting their thinking ready for whatever my writing lesson was going to be for the day.  For some crazy reason I stopped doing these, and totally forgot about them.  Until this week.  And then I forgot again between Monday and Wednesday and finally remembered to try one on Thursday.  So this 2nd grade debut of Writing Warm-Ups only has two examples.  But hopefully they’re really great and that will make up for it. 🙂

Thursday

We are in the middle of a fiction cycle, and were to going to begin revising.  Our lesson on this day was about adding details into your draft and making the story more interesting for your reader.  This got them thinking about that before we started, and so when we read our mentor text and got into our conversation, they were ready.

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Friday

Can you tell what today’s revision lesson was about?  Yep–leads! And since I knew I’d want them to collect some good examples for us to use in our discussion, I had them do that as their warm-up.  Again, a win/win because it got them thinking, and saved time during our Writer’s Workshop since had already done that work.  They did a great job of paying attention to how the intros sounded and were able to make connections to how writers need to make their leads hook the reader so they’ll want more.  🙂

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It’s only been two days, but I can already tell these are going to give us a really big bang for our buck.  Stay tuned–I’ll have more to share next week. 🙂

 

 

Second Grade Math Warm-Ups: Week of April 11-15, 2016

What? This week I did MWUs every day?  Partly that happened because we actually had every day this week at school, but also because I moved the MWU to a different time of day and it made the timing easier (sometimes mornings can get a little crazy and sometimes I have other things I need them to do instead).  Now (at least for the time being), we’ve moved Writing Warm-Ups to the morning and Math Warm-Ups to right after lunch, and that conversation is then the beginning of our math time together (that part is still the same).  Confused enough now? Don’t worry–the big deal is that I have FIVE MATH WARM-UPS TO SHARE!!  They’re pretty great, too, so I’m glad you stayed through that long intro to check them out. 🙂

Monday

We have been working on subtraction lately, and my kiddos have started to do some amazing thinking with negative numbers as a means of figuring out differences.  It started with just a couple of friends a couple of weeks ago and now probably at least half the class has tried it!  The chart here is similar to the HTO model (which we called Sticks and Dots back then) we used in 1st grade, but connected to an investigation we did with the T-Shirt Factory and refers to the inventory of t-shirts.  The come in Boxes of 100, Rolls of 10 and then loose ones.  Same idea, but inside the context it makes much more sense.  Like most times, you’ll see we did it using two other strategies, as well.  The green numbers on top are from the strategy Making an Easier Problem, in this case by adding 11 to both numbers (which we know is possible because of the idea of constant difference).

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We also tried it with Circle, Split, Subtract and modeled our thinking on a number line.

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And check it out–we got 289 every time!

Tuesday

Another concept we’ve been playing around with is the inverse relationship between addition and subtraction.  This one also asked them to analyze someone else’s thinking.  We tried it by adding up…

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…as well as with our negative number strategy.  Again, we got the same answer both times!

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Wednesday

On Tuesday during math, I gave kiddos a check-in sheet to see what they could do on their own with subtraction, now that we’ve been working on it for a while together, and the last problem was a challenge problem.  Ok, it really isn’t that much harder (just another place), but I wanted to see what kiddos would do when I added 1000s to our work.  Landen and Ava decided to that the BRL chart would probably work the same way if you just added another column, and suggested that we try it together as a math warm-up the next day.  Great idea, kiddos!

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Somehow I took my picture before we had done our work on the chart, so you can’t see it, but believe me–it worked just like they thought it would.  Oh, and when I was using this chart again with someone later that day, we decided that instead of just T for thousands (which doesn’t fit the context of the t-shirt story), we’d say T was Trucks, because you could put 10 boxes on trucks.

Thursday

We’ve been working on both geometry as well as subtraction in math for the last couple weeks (and some still also on money from our last unit), but I decided that we’d use the MWU as the start for our conversation by throwing up some geometry vocabulary I needed to emphasize.  So using examples and non-examples, I had them think about parallel:

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They were able to figure out the meaning (for the most part), although many kept saying it meant “straight” and we had to clarify what they really meant, because ALL of those lines are straight….and while I don’t like math tricks, I did show them that in the word PARALLEL are clues to what it means: PARA for the PAIR of lines, and that the l’s make two parallel lines themselves (ok, well they do if they’re lowercase…see, told I don’t like tricks).

Friday

Today’s MWU was geometry again, related to work we’d done this week, as well as connecting to the work I knew I’d have them do during Math Workshop today.  Win/win! (Oh, and I realize now I mislabeled the trapezoid as a parallelogram.  Oops.  I’ll fix that on Monday. 🙂 ).

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After this conversation we went on a great shape hunt challenge outside, but you’ll have to wait about it.  We’re not quite done yet.  🙂

Note: See that “next” on the bottom?  I’d tried many versions of that extra question this week on math and writing warm-ups.  It seems that when I put “bonus” there, kiddos thought that meant they didn’t have to do it. LOL  So I tried “next” and also “big ?” to help them see that they could do both of them. Or at least start thinking about the answer, since it would be what we’d be talking about anyway.

 

Mystery Skype–April 13 (#2)

Remember our Mystery Skype last week?  Well after that AMAZING experience, the first things that came out of my kiddos’ mouths were “When are we doing this again?”  That meant that I had to get busy because I needed to schedule another one for them! I tweeted out a request and quickly I got many requests.  One of them was today.  Here’s the story. 🙂

We are all about learning in Rm. 2o2 and so the first thing we did was reflect on the experience from last week and talk about what had happened.  I showed them the blog post I had written and asked them to think about what they saw.  We analyzed the photos and talked about what we would do the same and what we would change.  Some noticed that there were not pictures of everyone, and we agreed that the next photographers would make sure to get images of each job that we had on our list.

Next I showed them the video from our first try.  We did the same analysis and noticed somethings we could change.  Many of the “issues” just came from the fact that this was the first try at something like this for our videographer.  We talked about some technical things like shooting at people’s faces (and not their legs and feet), not moving the camera too fast (because it makes the watcher d-i-z-z-y!), not talking over the recording  and making sure–just like the photographer–to get the WHOLE room in the video.  We made sure everyone knew that we were only working on how to make our next try even better, not saying that anybody did anything wrong.

It was time to pick jobs and so we sat down to decide what each person would do.  After our debrief from last time, we had decided to add in Tweeters (check out the AMAZING job Mrs. Sisul, Ja’Mia and Makayla did today!) and Closers, so that made just two people doing each job.  Rather than the chart we made the first time around, I thought I’d try to start digitizing some things, so I made our job list in a Google Doc like Mr. Solarz’s example.   I just made a doc that we can add pages to for each MS (at least that’s my plan for now) so we can keep track of who’s done what during each session.

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I hope to start using a Google Doc for questions next time, too.  For today we hand wrote them and I entered it into the table:

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We had to go to PE right after this, but before we left, we agreed we should get everything set up, since we only had 10 minutes from when we got back until we got started.  I was SUPER pleased that this was what I saw them do:

The Data Enterers had their area ready, the maps for the Researchers were laid out, the chairs for the Questioners, Greeters and Closers were in place and the Photographers and Videographers had their iPads raring to go!  Isn’t it amazing what 7-8YOs can do when they are motivated and have a purpose? LOVE!

Here are the photos we collected from our session today:

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And the video.  Don’t worry–this one’s a bit shorter than the one from last time.  And you should get sick and dizzy either.  At least I hope not. 🙂

Then, when we were finished we sat down to debrief.  We said many of the same positive comments as last time, but I noticed many kiddos were a little unhappy about their jobs this time around.  Well, some of them were.  When we went through the assigning of jobs, obviously some kiddos got the one they wanted, and the others didn’t.  We talked about what to do about it, and we were divided about how to fix the problem.  We suggested that we could stay with our original jobs, since we felt that we had done a great job of finding the right person for each one (which we had agreed upon after we finished the first time around).  Not surprisingly, not everyone liked this idea.  We also considered just staying with the new ones we made today, since we didn’t really have time to reassign before our next scheduled Skype tomorrow morning.  Again, not everyone agreed this was the best.  Then, someone quietly suggested that we could trade.  He said, “What if I want a new job and so does someone else. Can we trade jobs?  That might work.”  BINGO!  Everyone loved this idea and so we quickly had the “traders” meet on the rug and most got a satisfying trade out of the deal and walked away happy.  Unfortunately, since there was an odd number, one person did have to stay with a job they don’t really like, but I’m sure it will all work out and next time she’ll be able to try something new.  Oh, and I had forgotten until now, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that one of the reasons someone gave for trying new jobs every time was “I like to make mistakes so I can learn something.  That happens when you try new things.”  HA!  Pretty amazing, right?

And you know, as fun as this is, and as much as it reinforces geography and inquiry and does loads for engagement and motivation, I just love watching what happens when you get out of the way, let kids do their thing and they run the show in ways that are far beyond what you’d think the realm of 2nd graders would be.  But then again, I continue to see it over and over, so I should stop being so surprised, right? 🙂

Design Challenge: Landforms

Last week we tried a challenge in Science where kiddos had to create a representation of a body of water.  Since then, I’ve heard multiple times “When are we doing this again?”  Then, when my friend, Mona, asked me if I was planning on doing the same thing with landforms I knew we just had to!

I didn’t want to make the situation exactly the same, however, so I thought of ways I could change the parameters to up the level of the challenge.  Last time, students chose their own group, as well as the materials they used to build.  It was great that somehow everyone chose something different and there was no arguing about who used what.  That doesn’t happen a lot in our room, but I was super glad it didn’t come up here.  So this time I again let them choose who they worked with (which because of numbers was groups or 2 or 3), but there as more chance in both their landform AND their building material.  I wrote the choices on index cards (very high tech, I know) and put them in two cans.  Each group chose one from each container.

I was impressed with how easily kiddos accepted both of the cards without complaining.  Again, not much of that happens with Rm. 202 friends, but I was pleased with how quickly they got to work planning their next moves.  After about 3-4 minutes, most were ready.  There was only one pair who did fuss a teeny bit about how they’d be done really fast and how their cards were not a challenge.  We talked about how that meant that they needed to figure a way to challenge themselves, ask themselves “What could we do differently than we had originally planned?”

Much like last time, they had 25 minutes to work on their representations and then we’d do a gallery walk to see if we could guess what everyone had created.  They were to work for the entire time and had to use their assigned medium, but other than that there weren’t too many rules.

Ok, here’s your chance to see if you can figure out our landform creations, and then I’ll give you the answers.

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What do you think? Did you guess them?  Here are the answers:

  1. plains
  2. hills
  3. valley
  4. barrier islands
  5. canyon
  6. plateau
  7. mountains

We love how building challenges work for learners in Rm. 202, and we want to know how they work for you.  Any stories to tell us?  What suggestions do you have for future design challenges we could try?

 

 

What’s in Your TBR Pile?

Many, many years ago I was a presenter for Project Construct.  I had a super responsibility of teaching Missouri teachers about how to incorporate Readers’, Writers’ and Math Workshop into their classroom routine.  It was during this time that I learned about “nightstand books” and TBR piles.  Oh, you know, that 12-inch stack of books that sit next to your bed so you have them ready to go when you have a few minutes to read before bed?

Well, often my pile sits elsewhere than my nightstand, but for sure it’s always there.  And sometimes it’s taller than 12-inches.  Like in the summer when it’s about as tall as my 5-YO (she’s 40 inches right now, by the way. 🙂 ).  My current TBR pile looks like this:

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Anyhow, after we had learned about recipes and how they help guide us with book choices, we talked about something else readers do–make plans.  I started our conversation by asking a simple question: Why do people make plans?  I didn’t specifically say readers at this point because I wanted them to think broader and try not to guess my specific plan for the day just yet. Kids turned and talked to their partners and came up with SUPER ideas.  They connected this to how builders use blueprints and how important those are to making the building look “right” in the end.  They mentioned how writers make plans so they know what their stories are supposed to be (can you tell what we’ve been doing in Writers’ Workshop lately?).  They talked about how plans keep your organized and help you know what to do.

After that great start, it was easy to then expand the idea to how readers make plans for what they will read next.  This allows them to move smoothly from one book to another, without wasting reading time wandering around the library.  It helps readers think critically about what they want to read and why (I explained to my kiddos why each of those books is in my pile), and to be more purposeful in their choices.  This becomes especially easy if you choose books that are in a series, or if you “trust an author” and read all the books that they’ve written. I can TOTALLY do this with Ralph Fletcher, Sharon Creech, Jerry Spinelli, Joan Bauer and Liane Moriarty.

Kiddos had a great time trying out this strategy, and then send me their lists when they were finished.  We’re going to use them now and I plan to hold kids accountable to try out the books they put on their list.  While they can change, these piles (which are saved as pictures/notes on their iPads) help them think ahead and more purposefully use their time both in the classroom and at home.  I’m excited to see how they continue to help us grow as readers through this year and even beyond!

 

Recipe For a Good Book

I remember vividly the first time I ever taught about recipes in my classroom.  It was towards the end of the year, when I was teaching 4th grade (ok, I don’t remember the exact year–maybe 2006?–but I do remember the kiddo!), and during a reading conference a kiddo was struggling with finding a book that was a good fit for her.  For some reason I was thinking about how what she really needed was a plan–a recipe–for how to find a good book for her.  And since that first conference so many years ago, I’ve found that this lesson is one that almost every kiddo (and probably some adults, too!) could find helpful.  I went back to look at when I had written about it here, and I found this post from about 4 years ago.  Rather than try to explain the whole thing again, I ask you to take a few minutes and read about it from back then.  Really, I’ll wait. It won’t take long.  Just come back when you’re finished and I’ll tell you about how it worked in 2nd grade the other day (See? Told you all kinds of kids could benefit from it!  I think I’ve used it in every grade level I’ve taught over the years, and even for myself!) 🙂

Are you back?  Well, like I said before, this issue seems to come up every year and now that I think about it, maybe that speaks to the lessons I teach at the beginning of the year on how to choose books.  I wonder why they aren’t “sticking” and why kiddos eventually need this secondary explanation of “good book” recipes.  I wonder if it has to do with the fact that they change so much as readers over a given school year (especially if they are younger readers, or struggling readers making big gains) and so the books that were just-right or “good” for them in August are certainly not the same for them in March.  I guess like anything else, as well, just telling them once probably isn’t enough.  Perhaps I should find a way to incorporate book choice lessons into every unit that I teach.  In many ways choosing a just-right fiction book is very different from choosing a just-right non-fiction book anyway.  Oh, and I feel like I should mention that my definition of “just-right” book doesn’t have so much to do with a level as it does with student interest, motivation and desire.  All of that other stuff can be worked on once you help them find THE book for them.  Many times the kiddos who first need my recipe lesson are ones who don’t really see themselves as readers yet.  They don’t really know what to do when they’re standing in the aisles of the school library or looking at the buckets in our classroom library and need a hook to get them started.  That’s really what I’m thinking about when I help guide them here.

Ok, well, just like it happened in that example from 5th grade many years ago, I had a conference with a kiddo the other day who needed some guidance to find his version of a good book.  We talked about books he has read that he really liked and what it was about them specifically that he liked.  We used those things as our “recipe” and wrote them down:

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This now becomes a shopping list when he’s in our classroom, the school library, the bookstore, the book fair, the county library, etc.  The big idea is that if he knows what he likes he knows when he’s found it.  This is a HUGE idea that kids often miss.  They so often just wander through the shelves not really knowing what they’re looking for, expecting that they will just know what it is when they find it.  It’s like traveling to a new place without a map AND without really knowing your destination.  You will NEVER get there.

Well, after this first conference, I ran into two other friends in the same day that needed the same lesson and so it quickly got moved to my “everybody-needs-this-as-a-mini-lesson” list.  I then showed everyone in Rm. 202 the plan the next day by sharing my own example:

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Not everyone is necessarily ready for this right now, but everyone had a go at trying their own list and we will tweak over the coming days as they practice using it for book shopping.  The great part is that it is customizable, personal, and specific to each reader.  And it can be easily changed as they change as readers.  LOVE!

Mindfulness in the Classroom

Over the past weeks, one of our counselors, Ms. Howe, has been walking Rm. 202 kiddos through several lessons in being mindful learners.

The first step in the process was to help my students understand what in the world “mindfulness” was. She showed them this video, about a book called Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda.

In the weeks that followed, she led the class through how the brain works (and she tied this to Star Wars!), then how each sense can help you be more mindful, present and in the moment to help your brain do its best work.  We talked about how stress affects learning, and she showed us two apps that we can use to help us when we need to be calmed down.

Another thing she introduced was using coloring activities to help us calm down and we’ve begun to use them both in transition and in listening situations.  The images she gave us are very detailed and required us to really focus in.   A couple of times a day (like when we’re coming back from lunch or specials) we color for a few minutes to get us ready for quieter learning in our room.  Many kiddos also get them out during Read Aloud now, too, and color while we enjoy a story together.  The challenge is to get as many colors as we can in as many tiny spaces as possible.  And when someone finishes it’s a big deal.  So celebrate with us. 🙂

I am not entirely sure yet how these lessons will work for us.  There are definitely parts that help us transition and I have already been able to remind them to be present, to think about what we’re doing at that moment–not about something that happened (that maybe made them upset), or something that will happen (that may be distracting them).  There are many upper grade levels doing this same work, as well, and it will be interesting to see how this knowledge helps as they grow as people and as learners.

How do you use mindfulness in your life? How does it help you to be calm, present and focused? What can you teach us? Please leave a comment and tell us your story or advice!