Design Challenge: Earthquake Proof Buildings

A week or so ago I saw this tweet:

Since we had been studying slow changes and fast changes in Science for a while anyway, it made perfect sense to try it out!  And unfortunately, there had also just been some major earthquakes in both Japan and Ecuador that same weekend, so the idea of creating earthquake proof buildings was a real life one to solve.  And yeah, it would be fun. 🙂

We began by reading a pretty great Seymour Simon book on earthquakes to gain more information, and answer any questions that might come up about how they work.  Knowing exactly what happens helps us build stronger buildings that would withstand the tremors.

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We talked and discussed and made predictions and inferences.  Then we got with our partners and planned–most on paper and some with some help from their iPad.

Then we got busy building.  The 1st building part was actually spread over two days (an afternoon and then the next morning) because we ran out of time.

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We used this design cycle protocol to help us know what to do, and wrote down the timing so we could keep on track.


Some even tried out their prototype on the earthquake machine before the “real” deal.  They got some ideas about redesign or shoring up their foundations.

Caught some groups in their planning stages:

We took videos of our trials, and many kiddos voiced their ideas for redesign in their recordings.  We all did some writing/thinking about it, but I’ll share those in another post, since after I add our videos, this piece will already take you 7 hours to read it!  Thanks for hanging in there–it’s worth it, I promise!!

Charlie, Evan and Joshua

Ella Marie and Emily

Millie, Amelia, Ja’Mia and Tyrin

Makayla and Ava

Amber, Sara and Thomas

Peyton, Baron and Landen

Forces that Shape the Earth: Slow and Fast Changes

I shared some building challenges we had done a couple of weeks ago, where we solidified our understanding of both bodies of water and landforms.   We still had some thinking to do, as well as demonstrating that we understood the difference between slow changes and fast changes that happen on Earth.  Besides using things like Legos, big blocks, pattern blocks, and other things to build with, we often incorporate art into our science and social studies work and represent ideas with pictures.  This was one of those times.  It was a mural/collage project, much like these that have happened in 5th grade (with both regular units as well as with test preparation).

Our first step was to jot down what we remembered about slow and fast changes we’d already learned about.  We made this chart together:

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We brainstormed what we knew about the difference between slow/fast, as well as examples of each, and the causes for these effects on the land: wind, water and ice.  Their directions were then to create a representation (2D with paper and other art supplies) that everyone could recognize and explain when they looked at the poster.  No words (except for the two parts of EROSION and WEATHERING since these were important vocabulary terms) were allowed.

While kiddos worked, they went through the design cycle as they planned, created, tested (by sharing their representation with another group or two to see if others could recognize the concept they were trying to display), redesigned and then shared by putting their creation on our poster.  This mural did a couple of things for Rm. 202 learners–helped them solidify understanding of concepts, demonstrate that understanding, as well as remind them of that learning as they connect the picture to the idea in their heads.  I plan on using the images on this poster as a part of our assessment at the end of the unit (I just haven’t fleshed out exactly what that will look like yet…still in the design phases!).

Here are the images on our mural.  Can you tell what each of them represent?

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Each one up close.  Half are slow changes and half are fast changes.  Oh, and there is one image that we thought was an example of both:

I was really impressed with the diligence portrayed while they worked on this project.  There were a couple of pairs who had to go through 2 or 3 versions of their creation before they figured out one that made sense to someone but themselves.  There was lots of cooperation and suggestion that happened during our work session, too, as kiddos bounced ideas off each other, shared supplies and asked other pairs for help.  Another example of an engaging, motivating and focused way to practice science without pencil/paper or just reading about it.  Way to go, Rm. 202 scientists!

If you want, leave us a comment about what you think our pictures are images of.  We’d love to share our learning with you.  What questions do you have?  We’re becoming experts on these ideas of forces that shape the land! 🙂

Second Grade Math Warm-Ups: Week of April 18-21, 2016

This was a 4-day week at school, but since we’ve moved our MWU to the afternoon (instead of first thing in the morning), it has seemed it’s been easier to make them happen every day.  Maybe it’s just because of the unit we’re in, too, but our conversations about them have been SUPER POWERFUL lately.  Can’t imagine teaching without this part of our day!


I definitely should have taken a before and after picture of this one.  The circles were all filled up with post-its when we sat down to talk, but we had to work through them and decide which ones sounded like things mathematicians would say about these polygons.  Many of them were vague or didn’t use mathematical terms.  They said things like “they’re different” or “they’re the same.”  We talked through the definition of polygon (hence the words over there) as well as what some mathematical terms were that we should listen for as we narrowed down the choices.  This idea of comparing is something that students are expected to know how to do independently with two different polygons by the end of the unit, so trying some together along the way was crucial.



This one matches up with both some work on shapes we had done earlier (names and attributes), as well as a replay of the question from the day before to see how they’d do in the same situation with different shapes.  The number of specific, mathematical responses was much greater this time and we had less work to do to make our Venn Diagram make sense.



This question has a great story to tell (which is SO long and involved I’ll be nice and put it in a different post!), and really gave us lots of math to chew on.  And I thought I would be an easy one.  Those are always the problems that surprise me.


Do you see the marks on the word HALF up there? Here’s a close-up:


We’re applying our knowledge of lines, angles and polygons everywhere we look!  This wasn’t even part of the question, but of course was a great part of the discussion!


After all our hard work (which I hope you’ll pop over and read about), I wanted to see if they could remember and apply it to a similar but new situation.  Most could see how the knowledge we had gained the day before about halves applied to thirds (and therefore to fourths, fifths, sixths, etc.).


What did you work on as a mathematician this week?  What warm-ups would you suggest to us that include angles, polygons or fractions?  We’d love to try some more! 🙂

Second Grade Writing Warm-Ups: Week of April 18-21, 2016

This was our second week of second grade writing warm ups, and they have been just as successful as they were when I first started them in 5th grade (remind me of this for next year when I forget that again, ok? LOL).

We’re in the drafting/revising/editing part of the writing cycle, so that is reflected in the warm-ups I had them try this week.  Check ’em out!  We’d love to know what you have to say about them, too, so leave a comment when you’re done! 🙂


This warm-up goes with the one we did last Friday, as we added details to our fiction with adjectives.  And yes, I quickly realized there were WAY TOO MANY WORDS on this chart, when someone’s first response was “Wow–that’s a lot….”  Oops.  I think they got it, for the most part, though.  Since this day we’ve been recognizing them everywhere and talking about how they help the reader.  Many have added some to their drafts.   I’ll revise for next time.  🙂



This question is obviously very general, mainly because I knew that our focus in Writers’ Workshop this day would be to finish up (hopefully!) what we’d been working on for the last few days (rather than something new).  We had a design challenge planned for pretty much the whole morning and so our time would be cut a little short for writing, as well.  It also helped me get a better gauge on where everyone was with their drafts.  There are a couple of post-its that say “I haven’t revised yet.”  These friends obviously needed more time!



I tweeted this picture after we did on it, because I was so impressed by the work they had done on it!  The endings they chose to post were really thoughtful ones, and then our synthesis of what makes a “good” ending was also great thinking!

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I had them finish this stem “A good ending…” and this is what we decided upon:

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We had a great conversation about how a “good” ending is not any one thing, and that it depends on the story you’re writing, as well as your goals for how you want your reader to respond to your text.  Notice the adverb that someone pointed out from our conversation on Monday. 🙂


I’m not even sure where I learned that phrase, but long ago I was taught that about the idea of editing being a “courtesy to the reader.”  We touched on it at least a little last year in first grade, but I wanted to get their thoughts on it now, as we began editing our pieces for publishing next week.  And since I knew they might need help (or at least a reminder) with what courtesy means, I added it to the question.  They had great suggestions about how it helps the reader understand your message, as well as making it so they know what to read and how to read it, but we had to really focus our conversation in on HOW to do that.  Many 2nd grade writers still talk a good editing game, but don’t always show that knowledge in their actual final drafts.  We’ll continue to work on that next week as we finalize our published texts.


What did you work on as a writer this week?  What do you think of our warm-ups?  How would you have answered them?

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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Charlie B.–THE WEST

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Baron E.–CHINA

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Makayla M.–SPAIN

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