Another Number Skype–Inside Robinson!

On Friday we were able to have another Mystery Number Skype, with some friends INSIDE ROBINSON!  We’ve done this before, the last time I taught 1st grade when we were learning to Skype and we called Ms. Turken’s class who was in Mrs. Fry’s classroom.  This time we answered a call from Mrs. Dix and Mrs. Bell and talked to their second graders.  We were excited!

We are getting so good at this and at asking questions that knock out a large group of numbers at once.  Our 2nd grade friends guessed our number and we did, too!  What a great way to practice what we know about numbers and place value!

Do you want to Skype with us, too?  Leave a message here, or tweet to us at @jbeardensclass@jbeardensclass.  WE LOVE TO CONNECT!

Second Grade Math Warm-Ups: Week of February 22-26, 2016

I have three warm-ups to share this week.  We had a surprise snow day (which was a little funny because where I live there was no snow!) on Wednesday, so no warm-up that day!  We are in the middle between our money unit and addition/subtraction up to 1000, so the problems reflect that.



As we discussed this problem, we tried a similar one:






IMG_0737-minWe modeled the solution to this one in three different ways (which we related to the ways we had done 2-digit addition earlier this year).

Ok, now for a confession…I was surprised when my kids made some of the connections they did this week between money and 3-digit addition.  I know, right?  Probably shouldn’t happen that way, but it was honestly something I hadn’t really noticed, or at least thought about it as specifically as they did.  I think it was nicely pictured in the problem from Tuesday, where we solved each problem in red–they made connections between how you can add whole dollars just like the hundreds in the 2nd problem (and that’s just like 100 cents, making the amount with pennies); the tens were dimes and then the ones were pennies.  Ok, so that part is not surprising to me–obviously I have this knowledge as an adult–but I honestly didn’t expect kiddos to use this to help them solve the 3-digit addition.

It went even farther yesterday when I had a kiddo working on a pre-assessment for this next unit and was doing the problem 451-238.  He told me he needed the money bag so he could use coins to help him.  Since I always allow kiddos to use whatever manipulatives or strategies they need to figure things out I said “ok,” but I honestly was thinking this would hinder him more than help him, or that he’d end up more confused.  When we first looked it he seemed confused with how he’d subtract 8 from 1 (which told me he wasn’t really solid with regrouping yet).  He started by making $4.51 with half dollars, dollar coin, dimes and a penny, and seemed a little unsure about it as this point, too, asking me about names and values as he made his amount.  But once he got his $4.51, he could easily take about the $2 from $2.38, as well as the $.30, which he did with 3 dimes (and I wonder if he made that $.50 that way on purpose since he could think ahead to having to break it apart later on).  Then he sat with only 1 penny, and the need to subtract 8 cents.  And so yes, here’s where the money came in handy–the concrete nature of being able to think about trading a dime for 10 pennies (which is what he is doing abstractly when regrouping) helped him see the constant value and how he could then actually take about the 8 pennies (8 ones) from what was there.  He then counted the money he had left and told me it was $2.19.  We then talked about what that would be if we were just talking about hundreds/tens/ones instead of money and by drawing it in a chart he eventually saw it as 219.

I’m excited to see how this connection to money plays out for some of my friends who need to actually hold/touch/feel the addition and subtraction.  Yes, it’s something we’ve done with other kinds of math tools and strategies, but I wonder if this might even be the best connection, yet, since it’s all based on place value anyway.  Oh yeah, and maybe that’s why this unit was placed after this one in the sequence….

The conversation around this problem the other day was the kind of thing that reminds me that I don’t know everything.  Obviously I know this, but it’s refreshing when kiddos remind me that they are figuring out things I hadn’t thought of.  I love sharing with them those moments, too.  It reiterates the fact that I am not the only teacher in the room, and that I have things to learn as well as they do.  And I hope it’s a lesson that all of us will remember–and use–for days to come.

Second Grade Math Warm-Ups: Catching Up

If you’ve been around here for a while (thanks!), then you know that one of the “regular” posts I do is to share our math warm-ups each week.  For many reasons that hasn’t happened for the last few months.  So this post is to catch up on some of the best ones from recently. 🙂


Before the holidays we were working on measurement (mostly length) and had some questions at the beginning to get minds thinking about how and why we should know how to measure.  The last one also addresses being able to visualize the size of a unit (centimeters) and apply it to appropriate situations.  In between and after all of these, we did lots and lots of measuring with different units, tools and objects.

Measurement (Time)

I only ended up with one picture (sorry!) of this round of warm ups, but after we came back from Winter Break we were still working on measuring, only with time!  There were several days of questions related to where the hands would fall on the clock, how many minutes would have passed if the minute hand were on a certain number, as well as one where the had to tell all the ways to describe a certain time (4:30, half past 4, etc.).


Measurement (Money)

Now we’re on to money, and so we’re working on some foundational questions that get kiddos thinking about the numbers behind it first.  Then we’ll work more specifically on counting amounts, giving change, etc.


This first one was just to get kids thinking about groups.  What was great (and what happens often when we discuss the problem later in the day) is that while I never mentioned anything about money, someone used that model to help them figure out the answers and then once we made that connection, it made sense to other friends, too.  Then we could explicitly connect the numbers to coins and amounts we knew (or needed to learn!).

This one got kiddos thinking about combinations that make 25 (which I knew meant a quarter, but wasn’t saying that yet)…

…and then the next day I asked that same question with new parameters (which again I knew was connected to money) to connect to that previous thinking:


As with most everything else I throw at them, kiddos are doing great things with making connections to previous knowledge and incorporating new concepts.  It’s great to watch them think like teachers and figure out the method to my math warm-up madness–often kids will say “Hey, you asked this question because….”  Good stuff!

If you’re doing math warm-ups, do you have any to share about measuring length, time or money?  We’d love to try them!

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!

Mystery Skype–INSIDE of Robinson?

On of my favorite finds in recent years is Mystery Skype.  I’ve tried it with several classes in several states, and even did a Mystery Skype with my friend Ms. Turken while she was teaching overseas in Ecuador!

As I have written about previously this year, there are many things I have brought from 5th grade with me that I’ve been excited to try with my firsties, and Mystery Skype is one I finally pulled out of the bag this week (mainly because of an invitation from a friend on Twitter to schedule one soon!).

The idea of Mystery Skype is really simple (try to figure out where the other class is located by asking yes/no questions), but it can take some time and practice to get good at it.  I knew I needed to practice with my kiddos before our first “real” MS, so I called on my friend Ms. Turken for help again.  She was totally game.

I asked her to help us by letting us Skype with her class, and at first I was just going to work out the kinks of having kids come up to the camera, making sure we talked loud enough, etc.  Then I thought it could be cool to try to actually do a Mystery Skype…INSIDE of our school!  So I asked Ms. Turken to take her kids to a secret place in our building and we would try to figure out where they were located by asking good questions!

Before they called us, we spent some time working out the logistics of how you would even begin to narrow down someone’s location in this big, wide world of ours.  Using Google Maps and a map of our school, we had some up-front teaching about continents, countries, states, cities and how to narrow down a location by eliminating the possibilities.  We talked about directions and how just asking north, south, east, west can cut out a HUGE part of the world that they are considering.  We also talked about landmarks (both natural and man-made), and how these can be helpful in determining a location, as well.  When we looked at our Robinson maps, we connected these ideas to the floor our friends might be on, as well as our school “landmarks” they might be near, like the gym, cafeteria, library, elevator or bathrooms.  They caught on really quickly, and were excited to get started!

Our friends called us and kiddos got busy!  Rm. 202 kids were paired up with a friend, and they worked together to study the map, consider the clues they got from our friends’ answers, and then decide on our next question.  Pairs took turns coming up to the computer to ask their question and get the answer.

Our questions went like this:

1. Are you in the basement?–NO

2. Are you on the first floor?–NO

3. Are you on the 2nd floor?–YES  (at this point they all knew they could just focus on the sheet that had the 2nd floor on it!)

4. Are you in the NORTH part of the building?–NO (this is the end where we are)

5. Are you in the EAST part of the building?–YES (this part had 5 classrooms in it, so again we narrowed our focus!)

6. Are you near MRS. FRY’S CLASSROOM?–YES

7. Are you in MRS. HONG’S CLASSROOM?–NO (she is next door to Mrs. Fry)


After a bit of cheering and a few high-fives, we debriefed on how the experience went, as well as what we’d do for the “real” Mystery Skype session in a few weeks.  We used the protocol of “plusses” (things we’d do again) and “deltas” (things we’d change).  I’d say they had some pretty great insights!

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 4.31.44 PMI especially thought the one “watch their actions” was a good idea.  It came because of the question we asked about our friends being “near Mrs. Fry’s room.”  Millie noticed that Ms. Turkens’ friends were snickering and covering their mouths when they answered, which told her that they were probably IN her room.  We agreed that often watching how someone reacts can give clues.

I was beyond impressed with how well both classes of firsties did, and am continually amazed at how well “little” kids do with “big” kid things like blogging, Twitter and Mystery Skype.  I’d say it’s proof that you should never underestimate someone because of their size!  WAY TO GO, RM. 202 KIDDOS!

Where in the World (Are You)? #wewanttofillupourmap

I have posted a picture much like this for the last several years:


In the past, it’s been a much bigger map on a different wall (that wall is now our word wall so we had to use a different space), but it serves the same purpose: showing kids all of the connections they’re making on their blogs, Twitter and our class blogs.  It’s an amazing feeling to have people you don’t even know read your words and find them interesting enough to talk about.  And somehow this seems even more important and amazing for younger learners.

So I need your help!  When you read our blog, talk to us on Twitter , or comment on our Kid Blogs, could you please tell us where you’re from so we can add you to our map?  We’re excited to start seeing the connections that can be made!

Learning Buddies 2014

We do this fabulous thing at our school that we call Learning Buddies.  The basic idea is that a primary class pairs up with an intermediate class, and plans activities together.  It sounds basic and simple, but the power that comes from having a buddy–both for the 5th grader and the 1st grader.  There will be more about that as things get cooking this year, but so far let me just show you how we were introduced to each other this week. 🙂

We are lucky to have Dr. Grayon’s class matched up with us, a connection I was excited to make last Spring. They came on Wednesday, with a plan to help us make an acrostic poem about friends.  While they wrote, kiddos chatted and got to know each other a little bit.   The smiles on their faces and the happy sounds in the room were glimpses of greater things to come as we learn and grow together.  I’m so excited about this year!!


Buddies getting started on their poems.


Love the way it feels in the room with so many kids working together and loving it!


See the thinking face on that friend there? Priceless. 🙂


Conversations galore. 🙂


Sara and her buddy work to decorate their FRIEND poem once they are finished. Fun AND pretty!

We added our FRIENDS poems to our Learn. Create. Collaborate. bulletin board in the hall.  Now we get to see them every day and they are inspiring! :)

We added our FRIENDS poems to our Learn. Create. Collaborate. bulletin board in the hall. Now we get to see them every day and they are inspiring! 🙂

Check out a slide show of our buddy pairs.  We noticed how many partnerships look like twins!  Funny how that happens. 🙂

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