What’s in a Name? (One More Time!)

Picture books, Notability with pictures, inch tiles, Legos, games and paint??  Who knew there were so many ways to practice writing, reading and CELEBRATING our names?  Well, Rm. 202 kiddos knew, because they’ve been doing loads of things with names lately!

As we continued our study, I shared another great book from the unit Mrs. Wessel shared with me:

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This is a great story for many reasons.  It’s a story about a refugee family, where the little boy is struggling with fitting in, and many keep mispronouncing his name.  He feels like he’s “lost his name in America.”  He comes up with a great idea for how to help his classmates (and teacher!) learn his name, and it includes pictures.  I also love this book because it features main characters of color.  We’ve been talking about (and reading!) books in our room lately with African-American characters and authors (as well as some that are of other backgrounds), and how important it is that kiddos see themselves in the books they read!

Well, along with reading this gem of a book, we send kiddos home with a little job to do.  It’s a suggestion from the What’s in a Name unitWhat’s in a Name unit that was shared with me, and was too good not to try.

The sheet asked families to share their stories about the origins of student names, any family connections, info about meaning and nicknames, as well as what the kiddos thought were interesting about their names.  What fun it was to go around the circle and share personal stories about kiddos’ names, and watch their faces light up as we talked about THEM and THEIR special details.  We heard about things we never would have learned without this activity, and I think in many ways the special thoughts (and giggles) we shared here will continue to help weave us together as the beautiful quilt we will become.  All different and unique, from different places and made of different cloths, but tightly stitched together with respect, experience and love. 🙂

After we shared the book and some stories, kiddos got busy creating art like Sangoel did (his name is pronounced Sun-goal, by the way).  I gave each kiddo a slip of paper with their name written on it and they were to use a variety of mediums to create a colorful representation of themselves.  Many chose to use what they had learned about the meanings of their names (Aadish means “sun,” Allie means “nobility” and Ayonna means “beautiful flower,” for instance), and others just added their favorite colors and patterns or images of things they like.  Regardless of their choices, we will add this to the collection of beautiful things in our room that remind us of who we are and how special each one of us is. 🙂  Plus they look pretty great hanging in the hall right now.  I LOVE our bulletin board out there!

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What’s in a Name?

We already have done many interesting and fun things as we’ve started this new year together.  And as we get into more “real” learning (yes, I know all learning is important and in many ways the “soft” skills might be more important, but I digress….had to call it something!), I am looking for ways to continue to stress the themes we’ve started with: everyone is valuable, we are different and we are the same, we support each other, we are all starting in different places and that’s ok–we’re all growing and learning together!

So when I saw this unit shared by our friend and AMAZING coach (and I don’t use the word AMAZING lightly) Amy Wessel, I knew I needed to find a way to use it–it matched up with all of those goals I already had in place.  Plus it was interesting and fun and we LOVE those things!

Ok, so I didn’t follow the unit completely as written, but I did utilize the book list as well as the ideas for “homework” to use with families.

Let me tell you the story…

As you’ve already seen from our #classroombookaday tweets and posts, we are a class the LOVES to read and often bases lessons/discussions on a good book.  So of course as we started to talk about our names, I went to the book list shared by Ms. Wessel, as well as some others I had found on my own at my library (which is another AMAZING thing!).

Together we read Hello, My Name is Octicorn (which isn’t so much about names as it is about accepting those who are different than us and making new friends but has NAME in the name LOL) and Thunder Boy, Jr. (which was surprisingly about a boy who has the same name as his dad and wanted his OWN name that told about him).

Then, since I wanted them to get into those iPads that had shown up in our room, we went on a little letter hunt around our room.  They were supposed to find all the letters of their name, take pictures of them, then crop the images and upload them into Notability to build their name (which is similar to the directions from our Outdoor Adventure Writing Outdoor Adventure Writing from the other day, too).  THEN they were to take a screenshot of that image and later send it to me in eBackpack so I could see it (and share it here!).  Oh, and they were supposed to take a selfie to use as their lock screen (which is how we tell everyone’s iPads apart when they’re laying around).  See?  Told you they know how to do LOADS of things already!!

They’re a little messy, but I did write/draw the directions for them, since it really was a long list of things to remember and do:

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They did a great job of following the directions, talking to each other when they needed help (I had to encourage this with some friends, as they are still learning that I am not the only one with the answers!), and sharing things they found out with the rest of the class.   These images will become the Home screen on their iPads for now.   Check out some of our creations!

What a great start!  Can’t wait to share more! 🙂

…yet

Last fall, when I was doing my final project for grad school, I came across the idea of “the power of yet,” which goes nicely with all of the work of growth mindset we’ve been introduced to by Carol Dweck.  We began using that word all the time, and I helped my friends learn to add it to the end of many sentences they spoke to me and to each other: “I can’t do this yet...”; “I don’t know yet, but what I think right now is…”; “I’m not sure yet, but I’m going to keep trying!”  At first it was just me, but slowly and surely, I started to hear kids saying it to each other when they’d hear their friends discouraged about something that was challenging them.

I knew it was something that I would incorporate again (and continue, really, since most of us remember it from our 1st grade together), but wasn’t quite sure how I’d bring it up again.  And then I found this book:

IMG_5072I was first intrigued by the use of the ellipsis, since I knew it was something I thought I kids would remember learning about last year.  Ok, and I have to stop and give a shoutout to JK right here for TOTALLY remembering what we talked about.  Before we started reading, we were discussing the title and cover and trying to figure out what we could learn about the story–as well as why the author would choose to use that particular punctuation mark like that.  Well, JK totally whipped out–all casual-like, “Well, that’s an ellipsis, and an ellipsis means that you’re waiting for something, and the mice are always waiting for Nick.  So …and Nick means there’s suspense and you’re trying to figure out what happens next.”  I was TOTALLY impressed, and TOTALLY proud.  And yes, other kids knew it, too.  YAY for first grade punctuation studies!!

Well, while the part about the ellipsis was exciting, it wasn’t all I had up my sleeve with this activity.

My team had copied these blank butterflies for me, with the idea of using tissue paper to decorate them and then make a goal for 2nd grade, and I found them to be a great place to apply this “yet” idea for us this year.  Instead of tissue paper, though, I decided to get out the watercolors.  (On a side note–can you believe we’ve never painted together before?  NEVER.  We got all the way through 1st grade paint-free.  And now we’re going to change that.  Big time.  So paint it was for our butterflies!).

Ok, back to the paint for a second: the thing I noticed when I put a paintbrush in some of my friends’ hands is that I saw work I’d NEVER seen before.  The creativity, the focus and the engagement was beautiful.  Don’t get me wrong–I’ve seen it in other ways, but this was eye-opening for me in many ways.

So after they painted their masterpieces, they were to think of something they don’t know how to do. Yet.  And then they wrote that as a sentence: “I don’t know how to __________yet.”  This was put on a label, and stuck to the front of their butterflies.  These are now flying high on our walls where we are 1) reminded of …yet by the title, 2) encouraged by how if we work hard we’ll be able to do those things, and 3) given something beautiful and colorful to look at.  Fly beautiful butterflies, fly!

And then today, I found a video, that I will incorporate to our yet conversation.  It’s a song and it’s catchy, so I’m sure we’ll be singing it for many days to come!

Weak side/Strong side

Much of the first days of school is spent learning routines and procedures for how to make the classroom run smoothly, and learning how to be a good learner is part of that.  In second grade, we use the idea of weak side/strong side to illustrate how kids can (and should) make good choices that benefit both themselves and their classmates.

As with many lessons, we began with a book.  We read Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon.

IMG_5074I explained the idea of weak side/strong side by talking about how everyone has two voices in their head.  You know, that one that encourages you to do your best, think happy thoughts, follow the rules–the shoulder angel.  There’s also that other one that whispers and tells you how great of an idea it is to pinch your sister or blow bubbles in your milk or slide down the banister on the stairs–the shoulder devil.

In order to make the concept a little more concrete, and move visual, we created a class chart (which I will later make a little neater and hang on our anchor chart wall) with our ideas of things we could do or say that would fit under each side.  Students started with partner thinking–where many of them recorded thoughts using a t-chart–then we put our ideas together.  As of today, our chart looks like this (but it is ever-changing–I think we’ve added to it every day!):

IMG_5057It’s definitely sinking in, too, because I am hearing kids use the language of their chart when they speak to each other.  🙂  We’re by no means working perfectly all the time, but we’re on our way!

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 with Reading: Second Grade Reading Museum

I hope that like writing, it’s no secret that I love reading and books.  And getting great books in the hands (and ears!) of kids so that they can have the feeling of losing themselves in a good book.  One way we do that in 2nd grade (ok, in all my classrooms no matter what grade they are!) is read A LOT, and talk A LOT about books.  This year, since our kiddos are older and wiser, we also added in a Reading Museum, like I’ve written about with bigger kids.

It started out much the same, with this invitation:

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 8.41.43 PMI changed the criteria for choosing books a little from when I taught 4th and 5th grade, but really the goal was the same: bring your favorite books to help us learn something about you as a reader.

When Friday finally came, we got ready by setting up our “exhibits” and discussing the etiquette for visiting museums.

As kiddos circulated through their friends’ exhibits, they were expected to be thinking about these questions:

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 9.31.49 PMWe turned on some soft music and got busy with our museum:

I was very impressed with how quietly they were focused on checking out all the books on display.  It became very clear, though, that most kids were not thinking about making connections with friends.  They were instead focusing on just the middle question:
Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 9.35.49 PMThey were reading new books and finding new favorites, and you know what?  That’s amazing!  The goal of the museum (and in general) is to get kids excited about books and reading and see that it’s for them.  When we shared at the end of our museum time, I was reassured that they actually were paying attention to whose books they were looking at, too, as they shared where they’d seen some of their new favorites.  YAY!

I should have expected that they’d go about it in a little bit different way, and but I shouldn’t have been surprised that they still accomplished the goal I had set out.  These kids are super amazing, after all.  So glad we did this!

Second Grade Math Warm-Ups: 8-18 to 8-21

When I first started using math warm-ups a couple of years ago, I had no idea how useful they would end up being in my classroom.  They are quick, easy and definitely give me a bank for the buck.  So of course I am using them again now that my mathematicians are second graders!  Here is how we got started this year:

Wednesday

I waited until the second day of second grade to start, and since we spent all last year doing this, most of my friends knew exactly what to do.  I just had to introduce my new friends (there are 4 of them) to this routine.  I started with a question everyone could answer (and if I remember correctly, it’s one of the first problems we did last year, too).

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 2.49.46 PMFriday

As I think about how we’re getting started in Math this year, our focus will be on making sure we have a firm foundation of basic skills and facts before we move on to other things.  That means we’re going to review combinations that make 10, doubles, doubles +/- 1 and basic addition/subtraction facts.  Hence the next question:

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 2.50.00 PMNote that I had to revise my question, since kiddos wrote 1 combination and thought they were finished.  I drew the visual of the 10s “rainbow” as we discussed the problem, and it was good to hear a couple of friends say, “Oh, now I get it!”  Like me (who is a visual learner), seeing how those numbers connect is important to their understanding.  This is definitely become an anchor chart in our classroom!