Jumbled Thoughts

One of the things that happens to over-thinkers thinkers like me is that there are often loads and loads of jumbled thoughts all up there in my head at the same time.  I find it a very rare occurrence that I am only thinking about or planning thing at a time (is this called multi-tasking or just crazy?!).  Today is one of those days when there are many things filling the space between my ears, and so as a means to think some of it through, I’m writing about it.

This weekend means that yes, I’m “off” because it’s not a school day, but when you’re a teacher you’re never really not not thinking about school or how to make your classroom a better place for the learners you spend every day with. Today this thinking was magnified as I was attending #edcampStl (Ed Camp St. Louis), learning and growing with other fabulous educators.

As with every EdCamp experience, I left with my head spinning because of all of the inspiring conversations.  Along with the general planning I’m thinking about for next week and the coming month, I’ve got some other things on my mind after today:

  1. Teaching Artistic Behaviors–100% Choice Learning:  Today I went to a really great EdCamp session with Kelly Lee (@yogagirly).  I wasn’t really sure what I was in for (but thought maybe it was how to add more art/design into regular subjects), and then I found out it was by an art teacher and I was really more unsure (I have a good record of picking badly by the title of the session…).  It ended up being something really inspirational, and now I’m trying ot figure out how to use her ideas in my own classroom with 2nd grade.  The basic premise is that in her art class, Ms. Lee has her room broken into “studios” based on mediums (collage, drawing, fiber, digital and painting).  Each day, artists listen to SHORT lesson or inspiration (based on a concept, artist, etc.) and then choose which studio in which to work for the day.  In their plan book, students make a goal and plan for the class time, and then spend time in that studio working to achieve their personal goal.  At the end of the class time, 5 minutes is provided for reflection on the day’s work.  As I sat and listened, I tried to imagine how I could tweak this idea to include all the subjects I teach, perhaps with just 5 studios (or decks since we’re working on being pirates!) that would work for everything we do.  Right now I’m trying to decide if something based around the multiple intelligences would work….
  2. Biography as Narrative Non-Fiction:  I am not sure if I’ve mentioned here before that my team does a really cool thing with planning, and each person (there are 5 of us) is responsible for creating the plan for everyone for one subject.  I’m in charge of writing, and so I’ve had the opportunity to share some exciting things with my teammates (and therefore their students!) this year, like blogging, a new way to think about Writer’s Notebooks, and a punctuation study.  Right now we’re about to start a new unit–biography per the curriculum calendar–and I’m having a hard time getting started.  I remember teaching that unit with 4th and 5th graders and it was BRUTAL!  I’m really not so excited about 1) trying to write that genre with little kids, and 2) planning a non-fiction unit right after we did one (we’re all working on creating picture books about the cultures we’re researching in Social Studies).  So…I’ve been on the search for some fresh ideas of how to teach biography to young writers and help them be able to successfully write about inspirational characters–most of whom are probably from long ago and hard to understand.  I know that I want to include lessons on important vs. interesting information, as well as investigations into the elements of a biography as well as the definition of a paragraph, but beyond that I am dreading the whole thing! I ran across a unit online the other day, though, that explains how to write biography as a form of narrative non-fiction, rather than expository or descriptive non-fiction (which is what we’ve been doing anyway).  I like the idea of trying something new, as well as thinking about how this could be a good transition between NF writing and the narrative fiction that we’re doing next.  This could be the bridge.  Most of the texts we share with students are written in this genre anyway, so it might not be as hard as maybe I first thought…..
  3. Valentine’s Day Questions (yep, I question a lot of things….): ‘Tis the season to celebrate.  Two weeks ago it was the 100th Day of School–which I think we ended up with a great plan for–and now this week has Valentines’ Day (ok, well, V Day is not until Sunday, but we will celebrate it on Thursday).  Again, I feel pulled to do a litany of “cute” things that kids will enjoy, full of glitter and glue and hearts and fun (here’s how we decided to spend the day last year).  I’m not at all opposed to having fun (we’ve talked before about how we have fun every day in Rm. 202!), but to put aside our learning to….wow–even as I just typed that I had an epiphany….(weird, right?)…

Let me show you a picture to explain the thought I just had:

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This wrapper was funny to me because it came from a friend the day after my coach and friend, Amy, had reminded me of this question when we were talking about 100th Day Questions.  Just now as I was in the middle of saying how I didn’t think it was the right thing to do to just abandon our work and PLAY, I was reminded of what I say I’m about; play and fun and laughter are important parts of the learning we do together.  So….see why the thoughts are all jumbled?  Who knew teaching 2nd grade would be so hard!?  It’s the parties and fun parts that make me crazy, not the curriculum!  (Maybe it’s me who’s the crazy one…).

Have any suggestions?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of my jumbled thinking. 🙂  Remember, it takes a village!

 

 

Dot Day 2015

A  little while ago we celebrated a special day along with many thousands of other kids and teachers around the world: Dot Day. The idea is simple: read and enjoy the book The Dot with your class and then explore the story creatively–in any way you want.  Easy peasey, right?  Sign us up!!

Screenshot 2015-10-11 20.25.47So we read the story, and talked about what it meant to “make your mark.”  And since we’re Roadrunners, kiddos brought up the ideas of grit, growth mindset and making mistakes.  Who knew there was so much to learn in a story about a girl and a painting?  Ok, so I knew it was all in there. Hee hee.  I’m just super impressed that my students came up with it before I even told them.  Way to go, Rm. 202 friends!

After we were done reading and talking, I set them loose to work their magic.  With paint.  Or markers.  Or colored pencils, or crayons–whatever they wanted to use to show their creativity was fine by me.  And show us they did!

Check it out:

We weren’t done there, though.  Nope.  Had to do some writing about it, of course!  So kiddos were given a sheet to help them think through how they would explain their work.  Basically I wanted to give kiddos the support with sentence starters (if they needed it), as well as the structure of understanding what they could actually explain about the process (sometimes 2nd graders just want to tell you one sentence and be done).

Kiddos were instructed to complete a rough draft (which was made of four parts: When I read The Dot, it made me think of….; So I decided to make…; I used…; and I want to make my mark by…).  On the second day of work we had to have a conversation about what it meant to be “done,” because like I mentioned before, some kiddos thought just saying “I used paint” would be a thorough explanation of what they did.  I showed them my sheet–all filled out–and we discussed the thinking I did in order to decide what to say, as well as how to use the organizer correctly.  The lesson here was simple: if you are given 4 lines to write your ideas upon, then you should write 4 lines of words.  Well, it seemed simple at least, but was not so obvious as you might think.  Once they finally had a rough draft, they were then to work by themselves or with their elbow partner to revise and edit their work before creating their final draft on special “Dot” paper.  This was perfectly tied into the writing cycle we were working through and was a nice picture of how writing doesn’t just happen during one set time of day.

It took us a week to all finish our writing, and then we were ready to share.  I was happy to see how well it all fit in our hallway, using the windows and the one vertical part of the wall.  Perfect space-wise, and perfect because we (and everyone who walks through our hallway) get to be inspired by our dots every day!

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Artists in Residence–All the Way from RWANDA!!

We are lucky at Robinson.  While I could go on with lists and lists of reasons why that’s true, the biggest reason right now is because Pacifique and Tresor are here.  All the way from Rwanda!

Through work and love and more work (and fundraising!), we (I mean Mrs. Berger) were able to secure some AMAZING artists to spend the next two weeks with us. We are SUPER excited to have them here, and it’s funny how much our kiddos treat them like celebrities.  It’s so fun to hear, “I saw Tresor in the car rider line!” “Did you see Pacifique outside?  I did!”

I think my favorite part of this once-in-a-lifetime experience is the way it was planned, and how it’s about so much more than just learning how to dance, how to play a drum or looking at beautiful paintings (although those are FABULOUS things in themselves, for sure!).  Like with most everything else we do, the focus was on bigger ideas, and on how this could change our kids in big ways for their future lives.

This residence asks our kiddos to chew on these big ideas and essential questions:

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And while I am certain that there will be more stories to tell, dances to dance, drums to bang and art to share at the end of their time here, for now I can share some pictures and videos from their first day here with us.  We had an assembly to welcome them, and to get the party started.  As you can see, the energy is contagious (and so are their smiles!)!

It was hard to decide which videos to share, but I’ll start with these:

We are excited for the weeks to come, and for all the things we will learn! 🙂

Self-Portraits 2015

Remember our FABULOUS portraits from last year?  Well, we did it again.  Partly because we had free wall space, partly because we took home the ones from 1st grade, partly because we look different than we did last year at this time, and mostly because it’s a way to reconnect our old community and connect for teh rifrst time with the new friends in Rm. 202.

We found a new book this year, which spoke to the idea of how beautiful we are in our own skin, and how that skin can come in such a spectrum of colors:

IMG_5076I really wanted us to paint our portraits, but because of a planning fail, I didn’t have those supplies ready for us when it was time to work.  Instead, we used the same fabric, paper, and yarn that we used last year (plus really anything else that could be found in our room), as well as the many different colors of crayons and colored pencils we have to try to make our portraits match our beautiful selves.

Of course during the process, it was messy:

but once we were finished, and they were hanging, they were magnificent!  I love how much they look like the kiddo who made them. 🙂 (Be sure to click on the pictures to see the full-size version. 🙂 )

Getting Started in Second Grade

Wahoo!  We’re finally getting started!  I spent some time getting ready, and it was fun to stop getting ready and finally get started!  And since we’re looping, it has definitely been fun doing just that.  I was looking back at the beginning of the year from last year to see what I had written about, and MAN–our kiddos were BABIES!!  You should take a look and see how much all those munchkins have grown since last fall.

As is usual fashion for me here on 20somethingkids, I have TONS of stories to tell you!  I am making a list of it all here, partly to help me make sure I get it all in, but also just in case you want a place to land to find it all.  Once I add the post, I’ll link to it on this page and you can easily find it again.  Ok, here we go!!

Over the last few weeks, we have done so many things!:

Marshmallow Challenge: Second Grade Style
Getting Started with Reading: Reading museum
Getting Started with Writing: Tiny Notebooks

Tiny Notebooks: Sharing

Self-Portraits
Appleletters
Reflection with plusses and deltas
2nd Day of 2nd Grade Selfies
Getting Started with Math: How Much is Your Name Worth?
Weak side/Strong side
Anchors of Learning
Math Warm-ups 8-18 to 8-2

…yet

I Hope You Make Mistakes

I know there were many things crammed into those first days together, but when I see it all in a list, I’m still amazed.  Let’s get into it!

Valentines’ Day Makerspace

I mentioned last time about how amazed I was by the Makerspace I saw at GCAA during EdCampSTL.  Well, as I have done in years’ past (mostly because of the timing), we took advantage of the need to create Valentines’ boxes and did so Makerspace style in Rm. 202!

First I had kiddos plan what they wanted their box (or container, since many where NOT shaped like boxes!) to look like.  Then they wrote down a list of materials they’d need (somethings came from home and many were materials we already had in our classroom).  We collected items for a couple of days, and then we were busy building!

It was fun, but BOY WAS IT MESSY!  But hey, learning is messy, right? Check it out!

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After built our creations, we spent some time on Thursday writing about some details about them.  Together we decided that our readers would need to know: 1) what is it (and what it’s called if it has a name), 2) how you thought of it, 3) how it works, 4) materials you used to make it, and 5) how you made it.  Kiddos used the Notability app on our iPads to work on their paragraphs, and uploaded a picture of their creation to add to their words.  We were able to use our chart from our punctuation study, as well as other writing pieces we’ve made together that are hanging around the room, to make sure we’d gotten our punctuation added correctly so our readers could understand our message.  Like with other things we do as first grade readers and writers, we used each other (as well as the word wall) as spelling resources, and reread our words often to make sure it sounded right.  Once kiddos were finished, they learned how to take a screen shot, then uploaded their paragraph to their blog to share with our blog readers.  Such hard, focused work happened in Rm. 202 on Thursday, friends!

We’re not all finished yet, but we’d love to have you visit our blogs to check out our final products! Leave a comment if you can. 🙂  You can find some Valentines’ Day posts here.  Thank you!

Self-Portraits

One thing I believe is that we’re all beautiful.  I want to help my students believe the same thing, and celebrate diversity.  One way we began to do this is to read books about the ways we are all beautiful and then create art to showcase that–art that will hang in our room all year to help us remember. 🙂

Last week we read the book The Skin You Live In, by  Michael Taylor.  It is written in the form of a poem, so it sounds good, but the point of the story is that our skin is something to celebrate and appreciate.  The pictures are really great, and everyone loved reading it!

Screen Shot 2014-09-06 at 4.15.31 PM(photo courtesy of goodreads.com)

After we read it, we talked about the beautiful skin that we live in in our class, and started a project to create portraits of ourselves.  I have done this many times with classes, and sometimes there’s paint involved, sometimes markers, sometimes colored pencils.  This time is was colored pencils, along with yarn, fabric, string and glue. 🙂

I was so impressed at how diligently everyone worked to make it both creative and authentic to themselves.

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Look! We got to practice our cutting skills with this project.

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I love that we have so many adult helpers at our school to support us! Mrs. Gaglio is helping Makayla create her portrait. 🙂

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We also got to practice our gluing skills.

I had to highlight Ava and the way she masterfully demonstrated her understanding of using "just a dot, not alot."

I had to highlight Ava and the way she masterfully demonstrated her understanding of using “just a dot, not alot.”

Here Diego is helping Briannia figure out how to make the cloth look like her clothes.  I love how projects like this have opportunities to work both alone and with each other.

Here Diego is helping Briannia figure out how to make the cloth look like her clothes. He figured out how to solve the problem, and is showing her how to sketch the shape of her shirt before she cuts the fabric. I love how projects like this have opportunities to work both alone and with our classmates, sharing our knowledge and teaching each other.    This picture exemplifies the phrase I love–everyone is a student and everyone is a teacher.

I just had to take a picture of this part of our rug as we worked.  Learning is messy, friends! (Don't worry--they know how to respect our environment and they picked it all up!).

I just had to take a picture of this part of our rug as we worked. Learning is messy, friends! (Don’t worry–they know how to respect our environment and they picked it all up!).

We had just the right spot to hang them so they can smile down on us all year! :)

We had just the right spot to hang them so they can smile down on us all year! 🙂 There are a few friends who aren’t finished yet, and theirs will fill that hole by the clock when they’re done.

 

Geometry Creations with Power Polygons

 

We were recently working on geometry in Rm. 202, learning some pretty great things about polygons, angles, area and perimeter.  While I have many things I could share (and probably will!), this post is about an art project we made using some pretty cool manipulatives called Power Polygons.  They are similar to pattern blocks, but kind of on steroids.  Each one is labeled with a letter, that makes then easy to identify and talk about with other mathematicians.


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We spent a couple of weeks learning about angles and polygons, triangles and quadrilaterals.  After we’d gained some new geometry knowledge, I had them put it to use in a Polygon Picture Project:

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It would be GREAT if I had pictures of the final products, wouldn’t it?  Yep, you guessed it, I don’t.  But I do have some pictures of Rm. 202 mathematicians hard at work creating their fabulous pictures!

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Maskarade

 

Are you coming? 🙂

Don’t miss the Art Show tomorrow!  Your kiddos have been busy making African masks to display for our exhibit at the Robinson Maskarade Art Show.  Light refreshments will be served, and several groups from our 5th grade band and orchestra will serenade you!

**BONUS:  It’s also Robinson School night at McDonald’s on Kirkwood Rd.  It’s dinner and a show for your family!  Come out and join the fun!**