Writing Lately

Elementary school is an interesting thing.  Because of the way that school has been structured for years and years, we teach and learn all the subjects together in one day, yet each one is compartmentalized into it’s only little spot in the schedule.  Well that’s how it’s traditionally done, but I try my hardest to help my kiddos see that “writing” is not just something we do from 10:30 to 11:15 every day, just like “reading” doesn’t only happen from 9:00-10:30.  These are just things that we do as learners and they are ways we learn and show our learning.

That being said…we do have specific things that we do as writers on most school days.  One of those is write.  During Writers’ Workshop.  (I know, I told you it was interesting).  I wanted to share two things that we’ve done lately that help show our growth as writers over time.

First of all was a writing challenge.  I love how when I told my kiddos that we were going to have a writing challenge they pretty much all cheered.  I don’t know if it was the “writing” part or the “challenge” part, but either way I was pleased.  The challenge was to take a piece of writing they had done at the being of our last writing cycle (Small Moments) and work to improve it to show the things they had learned over the last few weeks that they didn’t know before.  They would revise and edit their piece and then publish a final draft.  They worked with a writing partner (which is also something we typically do as writers in our room) to help make sure they didn’t miss anything.  They sure worked hard and their final pieces turned out pretty great!

Secondly, remember how I shared that everybody has their “big” notebook now?  It means I finally got to share the lesson about how to take all those super smart entries they wrote while they were learning about Writers’ Notebooks and save some of them. Basically they had to ask reread the entries in their tiny notebooks, and then ask themselves if they were: 1) important, 2) something that showed what they can do as a writer, 3) something they could use in the future, or 4) something they wanted to remember.  If the answer was YES to any or all of those, then they taped it into their big notebook to save for later.  It was great to see their reflecting and thinking as they evaluated their writing over the last few months.  Great stuff happening there, too!

Arrrgh! The Pirates of Rm. 202

Arrgh!  How rrrrrr you?  Well…in Rm. 202 we rrrrrr great, but we have been taken over by pirates!  No worries, though, it’s a good thing. Let me tell you about it. 🙂

A couple of weeks ago, about the same time that we started our Little Red study, I also brought in a big pile of books about pirates and just left them laying around.  Kids noticed them and started reading them but didn’t really say anything.  Then, as my next pick for read aloud, I chose Pirates Past Noon (a Magic Tree House book) and the questions started flying. “Is this that pirate thing you were talking about?”  “Are we going to start talking like pirates?”  “Arrghh?” “What are all these pirate books about, Mrs. Bearden?”

Gotcha.  That’s exactly what I wanted. 🙂

It goes back to a little after Thanksgiving when I finally got my hands on the book Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess.


The book has been around for a few years now, and wasn’t new to me (I mean, come on, I am on Twitter after all LOL), I just hadn’t had a chance to read it yet. I liked the whole premise of the book, and much of it resounded with me. I also was exited because I felt like I do much of it already (and no, I don’t mean I have it all figured out–that will NEVER happen!).

Around the same time I learned about this pirate book, I saw that there was also a student version, likely named Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz.

This one was more up my alley. It’s the piece I have wanted to tackle but hadn’t yet figured out to do. Reading it was so fun and really got my juices flowing about how to take the structures and ideas he used in his class (which was 5th grade) and adapt them for our community of 2nd grade learners. The suggestions he gives in his book are centered around the acronym PIRATE like this:

He told amazing stories about how self-sufficient his class is with the day-to-day running of the room.  His students are in charge of EVERYTHING, including transitions, lunch count, attendance, signing up and bringing down the laptop cart, even teaching mini-lessons!  They work towards a Silent Day in the Spring when Mr. Solarz isn’t allowed to speak for the entire day.  What a testament to the way the class works together that that is possible!  Obviously, this scenario is not exactly replicable in our room (for many reasons), but we are surely capable of implementing many of the big ideas to help encourage and engage us as a learning community.

As with many other things, we based our conversations around books, have discussions along with our read aloud.

We started with our schema about pirates.  Not surprisingly, kiddos had many ideas to share about what they already knew:

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It was a pretty good list, I’d say.  We agreed, though, that many of the things on the list could be seen as negative traits/descriptors and perhaps not things we wanted to model ourselves after (which was something I had explained at this point we were going to do–be like pirates!).

I asked them another question:  If the things we know about pirates are mostly negative, then what might it mean to LEARN LIKE A PIRATE?  They talked with their partners first (which is typical in our class), and then shared out their first thoughts.  We agreed that this “chewy” question was one that we’d come back to again and again, as we learned and discovered more:

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It was really great to hear the explanations behind how they had spun the bad into some good, something admirable that we would want to emulate.  I’m excited to share this list once it’s finally finished (whatever “finished” means!?).

As I reflected on the book and considered our first steps, I quickly knew what we’d try first: an attention-getting protocol Mr. Solarz’s class calls “Give Me 5.”  In 5th grade, students have learned (by trial and error, as well as encouragement and modeling) how to stop the class, get their attention by saying, “Give Me 5!” and then asking or telling what they need.  We already have a universal attention signal at Robinson that our kiddos know (“May I have your attention, please?”), so it made sense to use this one instead of creating something new.

I introduced the idea slowly, more individually than corporately.  When a situation came up where a kiddo was asking a question that perhaps would be answered more quickly or more easily if it was asked to everyone rather than one person at a time, I’d encourage that friend to use our classroom mike to ask it out loud.  Sometimes kiddos figure things out while we’re working (on our iPads, a writing piece, in a game, etc.) and it seems like something that could benefit everyone–I encourage them to share their new discovery with the classroom by getting everyone’s attention.  It’s been really great to watch how kiddos have stepped up and started to use this new structure to solve problems, figure things out and help each other.  I haven’t really had to do much coaching past the initial suggestions, as they’ve figured out how to use this protocol for really meaningful reasons.  My favorite thing, I’d say, is that they’ve started using the attention signal to request that the class work more quietly when our voices get too loud during partner or group work.  It’s amazing how much more meaningful and effective this is when it comes from a classmate instead of me!  I think the kiddos have truly internalized many of our expectations and rules, too, as they can better monitor their following of them on their own, without input from me.  This is a life skill.  Started here in 2nd grade.

Even small things have been “taken over” by kiddos recently, too.  For instance, I don’t have to change the calendar anymore.  When we came back in January, our calendar (which has Velcro numbers that we add the new day to each morning) still said December.  Very early on, someone pointed it out to me and said, “We need to change the calendar.  It’s still last year!”  Instead of giving that friend the job, or doing it myself, I simply asked, “What do you think we should do about that?”  I think I remember this friend just shrugging and going on with his morning, not really addressing the issue at that moment.  But eventually, when 3 or 4 days had passed and I had asked the same question, or on very much like it, I noticed that that same kiddo was changing the calendar!  I guess he figured out it was a task that he could take care of, and that it wasn’t my job to do it.  Since then (which I think has been at least 2 1/2 weeks) our calendar has been correct–with no input from me. 🙂  Lunch count happened that way, too.  I think I did originally ask a friend if he could take care of it for me, but then he automatically came in the next day and recorded everyone’s orders again.  Voila! It’s no longer up to me to do it.  Beautiful.   It’s funny how much time that frees up for me in the morning to spend with students instead!

Ok, loyal blog readers, I know you know how hard it is for me to step away from this story and leave it unfinished, but I look forward to updating you on another pirate celebration soon.  Thanks for continuing to embrace the messy with me!

By the way, if you read this and you’ve tried to Learn Like a Pirate with your kiddos, could you leave me a note and tell me how it’s going for you?  What had you tried?  How have your kiddos amazed you?  What suggestions do you have for us on our own journey of learning? 🙂

 

 

Over the River and Through the Woods

Little Red, Pretty Salma, Petite Rouge, Little Roja, Lon Po Po. The list goes on and on.  And it’s a pretty good list, eh?  Rm. 202 thinks so!  (Do you know what it’s a list of?) We have just begun a study much like one (only better!) that we did last year.  And you know how I told you about this thing I have the other day?  Yeah…well I am afraid that because of that thing I didn’t tell you about that awesome study last year.  UGH!  Luckily things have changed, though, and I’m starting this story much earlier. 🙂

This quarter we’re studying culture, and because of the unit I found last year (I used a variation of this Cinderella unit from First Grade Wow.  It went SMASHINGLY and was a great combination of literature, non-fiction text, culture AND geography.  It was also tons of fun to boot, which increased the engagement with a topic that is already generally interesting for first graders.  Win, win, win all around!

So this year when we came to this culture/geography time of year again (which in our curriculum usually happens in January), I knew I wanted to try something similar to what we had done last year.  The big idea of the unit is that folktales and fairytale can tell you something about culture.  When talking about culture, it is also important to understand the geography related to that culture; where the people live and why they might do the things they do there is essential to the puzzle.  Makes sense then, that all of those things would be connected–integrating subjects gives students multiple ways to make new information fit in with old knowledge and therefore make for stronger pathways to memory and understanding.  And honestly, making the unit include multiple subjects and topics helps time-wise.  Fitting it all in is always a concern for teachers, and this helps me get it all in.

Starting with framework from last year, I collected books.  The Cinderella theme worked so well and I knew I had to find another fairy tale or folktale that both had multiple versions, as well as a story that would interest my students.  There were obviously many choices, but I went with Little Red Riding Hood.  This story was familiar enough (like Cinderella), but also had many variations, and had interesting characters we could study, as well.

Our focus is to be using the fairy tales and folktales to analyze story structure, characters and main idea, as well as compare and contrast different versions.  Eventually we’ll probably write about our favorite version, trying to convince our readers why it’s the best with strong evidence from the text.  We will also study geographical concepts like continents, countries (and how they’re different from states and cities, as well as what our country is), bodies of water and regions–this one is new this year.  Besides just studying cultures of other places (which was our main focus last year), we’re incorporating the idea of regions of our own country this time; there are stories from both different countries and US regions in this unit.  We’ll analyze maps, talk about how they work and what information they give us, put stars on the places from where our stories come, color and label maps and talk about the places we know about (as well as places we wonder about).  Eventually then, students will choose one culture to learn more about, and research it.  This will incorporate with our next writing unit, and then will still touch reading and social studies skills and concepts, too.

And here’s the part where the “messy” of writing about this starts.  Previously, I would have waited until the very end of the study, hoping to include all the details and pictures, including fabulous videos of us presenting our final products.  Like I mentioned earlier, that often meant that I then didn’t even get around to writing about ANY of it–usually because I either forgot the details, ran out of steam or just didn’t have time.  And yeah, it makes me sad that it’s missing on the blog.  So here we go.  You might want to wear gloves.  Or a poncho.  Maybe goggles or a raincoat?

First let me share our booklist. I compiled it from a variety of places online, as well as just by standing forever in front of the fairytale section of my library with a crooked neck reading books spines.  I know–I’m a glutton for punishment.  It’s really not so easy, either, by the way, because they’re organized not just by story, but by author and by country.  Oh, and then they’re the ones that aren’t so obvious because they don’t have ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ in the title.  Anyhow…

We are using stories from Germany (the original), China (we have two from this culture, actually), Ghana, Spain, as well as from at least 4 regions in the US (and maybe another one that I’ve forgotten.  Told you this was messy!!!).

  1. Little Red Cap by the Brothers Grimm and Little Red Riding Hood by Sam McBratney
  2. Lon PoPo by Ed Young and Auntie Tiger by Laurence Yep
  3. Pretty Salma by Niki Daly
  4. Little Roja Riding Hood by Susan Middleton Elya
  5. Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood by Mike Artell
  6. Little Red Riding Hood: A Newfangled Prairie Tale by Lisa Campbell Ernst
  7. Little Red Cowboy Hat by Susan Lowell

 While those are the “official” titles, we are also going to enjoy some others that will be specifically for the reading part of the study, where we can study version, point-of-view and character.  Those include (at least for now!):

  1. Ninja Red Riding Hood by Corey Rosen Schwartz
  2. The Wolf’s Story: What Really Happened to Little Red Riding Hood by Toby Forward
  3. Very Little Red Riding Hood by Teresa Heapy

  4. Red Riding and the Sweet Little Wolf by Rachael Mortimer
  5. Honestly, Red Riding Hood Was Rotten!: The Story of Little Red Riding Hood as Told by the Wolf (The Other Side of the Story) by Trisha Speed Shaskan

  6. Super Red Riding Hood by Claudia Da′vila

I’m excited to share more pages to our story as we go along! 🙂

 

 

Everybody Now

It’s been happening in little bursts this year:

And EVERYBODY has a notebook!  It’s been a long time coming, and every writer in our class has done an amazing job of working hard to prove they are ready.  I am super excited at how excited they are about learning to be better writers by WRITING EVERY DAY!!  If you know a friend from Rm. 202, please tell them how proud you are of their hard work and grit!!

Halloween 2015 (a little late…)

Yep, I know.  It’s Thanksgiving week.  And you know what?  If I remember correctly, I posted about Halloween on Thanksgiving last year, too.  And this year, too.  Man.  Oh well, it’s true that it’s better late than never, right? 🙂

I don’t have much to say about it, except that we had SUPER 2nd grade costumes, a SUPER party thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Gordhamer (it even involved an obstacle course in our room that TOTALLY worked, even among the other stations with games and a snack.  Kiddos totally ROCKED being respectful and appropriate!), and a SUPER parade around the grounds of Aberdeen Heights next door.  The residents love to see our smiling faces and fancy costumes and we waved at SO MANY PEOPLE!

Yep, it was great!  I don’t have many pictures because I was too busy having fun, but here are a few:

Ok, and since this is my blog, and so I can be a little bit indulgent sometimes, here are two more from my own Halloween at home (you know you were wondering!!):

Hope yours was fun!  Here’s to posting Halloween pics in October next year! LOL

 

Second Grade Math Warm-Ups: Week of November 16-20, 2015

I apologize for the fact that it’s been nearly THREE WEEKS since I last wrote on this blog.  I’m not even sure what happened.  Oh wait, I do.  Life happened.  And I was tired.  It was one of those times in life when you have to do really cool things and take pictures of really cool things, but not write about it, you know?  Oh well, here’s to trying to fix that.  Starting now.  So onward we go!

Monday

We were starting a new unit in math this past week, so the warm-ups were no longer addition and subtraction.  This one is connected to some essential questions we will be chewing on throughout the unit, as well as serving as a way for me to know with what background knowledge everyone is starting.

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Tuesday

Another essential question from our unit…

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Wednesday

This pic is obviously NOT a math warm-up but is instead a view of where we were on this particular morning.  I sometimes use our warm-up routine as a way to make plans for our day, or to highlight a goal that we will all be working on together.  This was related to the work we were doing last week with remembering to focus on caring for others rather than just ourselves first.

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Back on track with measurement.  🙂

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This last one isn’t a math warm-up, nor do I remember what day it’s from, but it was a great example of how math happens all the time in our room!  Oh, and it used skills we had just learned in our last unit, so it was great practice.  We were starting a new chapter book (Thanksgiving on Thursday by Mary Pope Osborne–a Magic Treehouse book), and were interested in knowing when the first Thanksgiving took place.  We figured out we could subtract or count up to figure it out.  We decided to use the Circle, Split, Subtract with a Number line strategy that we had learned.  It worked! 🙂 And….Thanksgiving started a long time ago. 🙂

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Whew!  It feels good to be back in the blogging game again. 🙂  Thanks for coming back to read!

3 Writing Celebrations in 1 Day!!

We have been working through the writing process, using seeds we’ve put in our Writers’ Notebooks.

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Once we got to the end (which took WAY longer than I remembered it would!), we were ready to CELEBRATE with our friends!  The best part about what we did was that we did it with more than one class!  Mrs. Appelbaum’s class was finished with their pieces, too, so we got together.

As with many things, the way Mrs. Appelbaum did her writing celebration was a little different from me, so she taught me something new and it was super!!  First, she shared with Rm. 202 kiddos the directions her class had come up with to share their work with a partner:

IMG_5456-minThere was also a comment sheet she had come up with, where readers would give the writer feedback based on these starters: “Something I liked about your writing was…”; “Something I learned was…” and “Something I wonder now is….”  I’ve done compliment sheets before, but they’ve always been completely open-ended.  The structure of her sheet was helpful for those that needed ideas, but was also still open-ended enough for kids to make choices on how they’d respond.

From within minutes of when we started, the room was “a-buzz” with that fabulous sound of excitement, learning, and laughing as kiddos proudly shared the work they had done to create meaningful writing pieces.

This is a short video, but here’s what it sounded like:

While you can’t really get the same experience from seeing pictures of it as if you were there, I do think you can imagine the experience.  Sometimes just seeing the pride and happiness on their faces is story enough!

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Ok, these next few will look really similar, but they’re from the 2nd go-round, where Mrs. Appelbaum’s friends came to hear our writing.  We were excited to try out her “rules” and the compliment sheet on our work!

I don’t have pictures of the last share we did, but after we had practiced with the Appelbaum team, we invited our friends from Ms. Turken’s class (they’re first graders) to listen to our writing, too.  This was the first time they had been to a writing celebration and we were hoping to teach them well about how it was supposed to work.  You’d never have known they were newbies–they were writing rockstars and worked really hard to give us meaningful comments on our work!  Hopefully we can share with them again when they’re finished their own writing pieces.

Whew! What an exciting day of celebrating our hard work, our meaningful writing ideas and our using grit and perseverance to share great stories!  Way to go, Rm. 202 kids!

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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Tiny Notebooks: Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas? (Part 2)

Ok, so as I got to #3 on the list of places where writers get their ideas, I figured I should write the story in 2 parts.

Here’s the EQ and the list, for a reminder:

Let’s get back into it:

4.) Heart Maps: This strategy has to do with how writers can sketch pictures to give them ideas, as well as how thinking about what’s in your heart (things that are important to you!) can help give you ideas.  These hearts are added to kiddos’ “real” notebooks as they get them.  They can be added to and changed as kiddos change, but here they are for now.  Look at all of those ideas waiting to be written about!

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5. Books and Each Other: While this was not officially one I put on the list this time, it came up in our conversations and we couldn’t let it go.  Often you get ideas just from hearing what your friend is writing about!  We are learning how to have meaningful conversations with other writers.

6. Lists: This one is so easy!  I shared lists in my notebook that I have written of characters, ideas for settings (really it’s places I saw on signs while I drove to Nashville), smells I like, smells I hate, lists of lists, lists of ideas for things I can write about in the future.  The possibilities are ENDLESS here!

7. Senses: Sound: For the example of this one, I shared an entry I had written in my notebook one day while I was at the pool.  Back in 2005 before I had kids and could actually RELAX when I went there (LOL, love you Riley and Allie!), I used to read and write in my notebook.  One day I heard the sounds of two birds in a bush next to me and imagined their chirps and coos as a conversation.  When we tried this one, we were able to go outside and enjoy the beauty of the new and improved Robinson Naturescape as we listened for interesting sounds and described them with our words.

8. Senses: Sight: I had another one in my notebook that I entitled “Santa in St. Croix,” where I described a guy with who looked like I imagined Santa would look like if he was on vacation.  I wrote about his “bowl of jelly belly” and how he was wearing tiny red shorts and black flip-flops instead of a red suit and boots.  I also read an entry describing clouds on a sunny morning and shoes I was wearing.  We ventured outside again, hoping to find something beautiful and inspiring in our backyard woods.

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9. Fierce Wonderings:  This is perhaps the one that is most transferable to other areas of learning.  Once we get kids wondering (which is really pretty easy), and then recording their wonderings (which for us was a little trickier), we can start to DO something with those wonderings.  it could be starting a research project, helping a kiddo find just the right book based on their interests, getting kids to imagine and create possibilities based on the unknown, or even a genius hour project.  We have them in our notebooks and on our Wonder Wall.  We’re hoping to do great things with them, and continue to wonder about the world around us!

The best part of all of this thinking and writing is that it’s just the beginning!  I hope you’ll stay along for the continuing journey! 🙂