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!

Getting Started with Writing: Tiny Notebooks

Ok…do I need to start by explaining my love for the teaching of writing?  Or just my love of writing itself?  Probably not.  You’ve read those stories before, right? 🙂

We got started with writing in 2nd grade on our second day.  I started by reading two books:

I chose them partly to be funny (The Incredible teacher one was because their notebooks used to be full-sized and are now only half-sized notebooks like I used here.  By the way, they didn’t think this was funny. LOL), and also to give us an idea for somewhere to get started (an entry about something they had done over the summer).  Before they left we had a quick reminder of how to label each entry, as well as a reteach of how to use the date stamp (yes, there is a lesson for this!).

Ignore that big blue scribble...it was from another conversation we were having about how authors sometimes sign their books....

Ignore that big blue scribble…it was from another conversation we were having about how authors sometimes sign their books….

After our lesson, most kiddos got to their spots and got started quickly.  Some took a little extra long with the date stamp, and some did a lot of thinking.  I’d say most of us got something on the paper, but I did hear some of those dreaded words: “I don’t have anything to write about!” Ugh.  But then I remembered they were second graders AND it was the second day of school, so they may have been a little rusty.  I worked with one friend to put an ideas list in the back of his notebook (like we had done last year but he had probably forgotten), and had multiple conversations with friends about how to find an idea (like talking to another friend about their writing, thinking about their day, showing them an example in my Writer’s Notebooks or using a book for inspiration).  We had a quick share at the end of our writing time and got ready to move on.   I LOVED it when the next question was, “Can I take this journal home and finish my writing for homework?”  Well, of course, dear friend, you can do that! 🙂  I LOVE this not because I wanted my little friends to have homework, but because it shows me that they are already getting the idea that writing can happen anywhere, and that their stories are important enough to them that they want to finish sharing them.  And yes, those notebooks came back the next day. 🙂

This whole “I don’t know what to write about” thing had me thinking about what to do the next day.  I needed to get them thinking again about how ANYTHING could be an idea for writing, not just great big events or monumental occurrences.  Ideas come from watching the world in a new way and expecting to see stories.  Those can happen on the way to school, while you’re eating breakfast or at recess.  And probably when you’re least expecting them.

This made me think about how to connect this idea to something they could understand.  I thought about we could explore the idea of a scrapbook and how your Writer’s Notebook is a place to collect things you don’t want to forget.  I pulled out my very first notebook (which I started in the summer of 2005, 10 years ago), and read a couple of entries (I wish now I’d brought that notebook home so I could show you those entries–boo. :().  I talked about how the moments I wrote about were not “BIG” deals, and I wouldn’t remember them now if I hadn’t written them down.  We connected this to how in Inside Out the memories turn gray in long-term memory and are sucked away forever (good thing I’m up on pop culture, huh? Never know where a connection will come from!).  We don’t want this to happen to our memories, and it doesn’t have to if we collect them!  For them, 10 years from now is when they go to college–how cool for them to be able to think about things they want to remember at that point in their lives.  Totally didn’t mean for that connection to happen, but was SUPER glad it did!

Then we read a book (as another way to help them visualize the possibilities) and made a chart of the small stories in there that we could write about:

This got many kids thinking and they shared new sparks they had: one friend said he could put in the necklace he wore this summer on the airplane when he flew by himself, and another friend wanted to bring pictures of his dogs–because they will probably be dead in 10 years and he doesn’t want to forget them.  Cute, right?  That same friend wanted a picture of me so he could remember me in college, too.  He wrote this entry with that picture:

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 9.36.11 AMWhile of course I love this entry because it’s about me (ha!), but also because it is the definition of how I want them to be thinking about their notebooks as a way to collect and curate their thoughts.  Plus I think it’s just cool how deep and wide 2nd graders can think when we give them an invitation and opportunity to do so. 🙂

2nd Day of 2nd Grade Selfies!

Last year we shared our super-sweet pics of ourselves on the 1st Day of 1st Grade.  So what could we do this year but share super-cool pics of ourselves on the 2nd Day of 2nd Grade??

While some of these are silly and some are serious, I think in many ways they show the personalities of the kiddos who took. And if I’m being honest, they weren’t all actually selfies, because I told them where to stand and probably micro-managed the whole thing a little too much.  Boo. 😦  Sorry!

But the whole idea of selfies came from this article posted by my principal in our school’s ShareTank (which is a Facebook group where teachers can share learning and ideas with each other).  It’s all about using selfies and other strategies to give kids more control and voice in the classroom.  It is, after all, OUR classroom not just mine.  And I know from the work I did on my Masters’ project last fall that choice and voice in the classroom increases engagement and perseverance, so why not?!  I feel like I tend toward this direction anyway, but I can always do better at making sure my students are helping to direct their learning, with me alongside helping to facilitate that journey.  I feel honored and humbled to have that opportunity. 🙂  Here’s to a great year of student-centered, student-directed, everyone’s-engaged learning!!

Marshmallow Challenge: 2nd Grade Style

If you’ve been here for a while, then you are familiar with the Marshmallow Challenge that I’ve done a couple of times.  Both of the previous times it’s been attempted in Rm. 202, though, it’s been with 5th graders.  Well obviously I don’t have any of those anymore, so I wanted to see how my 2nd graders would rock this challenge.

Now, I must add that since most of us were here together last year, we had a little bit of an advantage, rather than doing with people who are relative strangers.  The activity, however, was new to everyone.

I gave them the same directions and supplies as have been given before:

25 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of string, one yard of masking tape and a marshmallow

25 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of string, one yard of masking tape and a marshmallow

I put everyone together in our new Room Teams, and their first job was to create a name for their team (which is new for us–last year we just went with numbers).  They were super creative, and came up with GREAT names like Cherry, The Blue Angels, The Legendary Black Dragons, The Golden Girls and the Lion Kings.  Cool, right?

Ok, so next step was to plan.  And that was fun to watch; each team had a different way of going about that:

Once I said “GO” the fun began and the teams tried to create the tallest free-standing tower they could.  I was SUPER impressed with how well each team worked together and also with how they built on each others’ ideas.

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When time was called and everyone stepped away, only one tower was still standing:

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 12.47.44 PMBut we did go ahead and give a 2nd place nod to the Legendary Black Dragons for the height of their tower before it fell.  Check it out:

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 12.47.38 PM

They admitted that they should have worked on making the bottom stronger. No worries! Next time. 🙂

Now…we could have walked away and left it there, but of course we could not.  We had a debrief on what worked and what didn’t, and talked about plusses and deltas for that activity.  Here’s our chart of what we said:

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 12.57.22 PMOur conversation after the challenge was perhaps the best part.  We could have said that most groups failed and that just the tower that stood was successful, but we were not ok with that.  We agreed that we had many points that proved that we were successful in spite of the fact that our towers fell over.  We had focused on the process and the product was not the biggest deal.  We have come back to this chart already a couple of times, too, and used some of the plusses for other activities together!

We’re excited to try again!