Writing Warm-Ups: Second Grade Debut

A couple of years ago, I tried writing warm-ups in 5th grade.  The idea was the same as our math warm-ups, and would give kiddos a way of getting their thinking ready for whatever my writing lesson was going to be for the day.  For some crazy reason I stopped doing these, and totally forgot about them.  Until this week.  And then I forgot again between Monday and Wednesday and finally remembered to try one on Thursday.  So this 2nd grade debut of Writing Warm-Ups only has two examples.  But hopefully they’re really great and that will make up for it. 🙂

Thursday

We are in the middle of a fiction cycle, and were to going to begin revising.  Our lesson on this day was about adding details into your draft and making the story more interesting for your reader.  This got them thinking about that before we started, and so when we read our mentor text and got into our conversation, they were ready.

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Friday

Can you tell what today’s revision lesson was about?  Yep–leads! And since I knew I’d want them to collect some good examples for us to use in our discussion, I had them do that as their warm-up.  Again, a win/win because it got them thinking, and saved time during our Writer’s Workshop since had already done that work.  They did a great job of paying attention to how the intros sounded and were able to make connections to how writers need to make their leads hook the reader so they’ll want more.  🙂

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It’s only been two days, but I can already tell these are going to give us a really big bang for our buck.  Stay tuned–I’ll have more to share next week. 🙂

 

 

Culture Projects Come Together

Remember how I told you about how we started reading all sorts of versions of Little Red Riding Hood?  And then how we started researching the cultures from which each version came?  Oh, and how I only was able to tell you those parts of the story because of the changes I’ve made this year?  Ok, good, glad you’ve been here so far for this much of the story, cuz here’s the rest. 🙂

Kiddos spent many days researching the cultures of many countries and several regions of our own United States: Germany, Ghana, Spain, China, the Midwest, the West and the Southeast (Cajun culture).  They worked in groups of three to discover important facts about many culture and geography topics: language, flag, location, landforms, holidays, food, games, religion, school, art and music.  One group decided to add info about clothes, as well.  This part of the project took longer than I had expected, mainly just because there were so many topics to find out about, and 4-Squares to fill in.

After enough days of research work for kiddos to have something to put in their planners, we worked together to draft what we thought our topic sentences should sound like.  Each group worked on their own to add in specific details about each topic, but we all used a general common starter for our first sentences to add continuity.  We worked on some general ones, first, to get the idea of a paragraph (topic sentences, details and a conclusion) solidified in our heads, and then tried one from one of our countries together.

Once we had agreed upon our starting points, kiddos got busy crafting their own words into their organizers.  These would then become each page of their book.  We saved the introduction and conclusion for last.

Eventually we got to the point where we were ready to put all of these fabulous facts and wondrous words into a draft of a teaching book that we could later share with our classmates.  There were many options for how to do that, and students were allowed to choose whatever format made the most sense for them. Most students chose to use Keynote at the way to create their book, as adding in the text features we would need would be the easiest in that app.  One friend thought Notability would be best for her, and two friends decided to hand write their books.  Regardless of the how, though, we add worked toward the same goal together.

Students then spent the next few weeks (yeah, i know, this project was LONG!!) putting together the words first (you have to build the house before you can decorate it!) so taht they could then plan how they would add in text features to enhance their reader’s understanding of the topic.  For that lesson we talked a little about “app smashing”, where you take more than one app and “smash” it together with one or more others to create something even better than you can do with any one single app.  Kiddos made plans for their text features and showed me what they were thinking, many of them smashing together their camera and Notability or their camera and Keynote.  Some friends smashing Safari in there, too, and used images from the internet.

Ultimately we will share our final drafts on our blogs, or print them to create actual books for our classroom (or both!) or we could publish them as ebooks and share with other readers in our school…we haven’t decided on this yet.  The first step was to share with each other, though, and we did this the other day before we left for Spring Break.  Kiddos were able to project their book on the big screen (either by AirPlaying from their iPad or just by displaying it through my computer since they had turned it in to me through eBackpack).

While we were listening to kiddos share about their cultures, two other meaningful things happened, thanks to my friend and teammate Mrs. Appelbaum (remember her and her amazing Tower Garden adventures?).  One, kiddos had a big sheet where they were to collect information from their classmates’ books; they could write or draw anything they found interesting, a connection they made, something didn’t know, something they wanted to remember, etc.  It made it so much easier to pay attention through the 12 books we were able to share that day.

The other super smart thing that happened was that I was able to knock out much of the grading part of this project while the presentations were taking place.  This project was a big part of kiddos’ social studies, speaking and listening and writing grades.  I was able to sit with our rubrics on my lap and make notes about what I observed right in the moment.  this is really a big deal because I usually leave things like this until the last minute, and this was just such a smart, efficient suggestion.  Thanks, Shannon A.!

While my kiddos’ final drafts are WAY better than this one, here’s an idea about what they ended up looking like.  I’ll share theirs when we all come back in 4th quarter, but here’s mine (well partially finished one) about Australia:

 

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Please let us know what you think!  This project has definitely been a motivating and engaging one for us in Rm. 202.  Can’t wait to share the final drafts with you!!

 

Writing About Reading

I figured out today why I have such a hard time deciding what to write on this blog: I like for things to fit nicely into categories/tags/subjects/projects, and so often, the things we do around Rm. 202 are not that way.  I find that maybe I’ve gotten to that place where many of our subjects overlap–just like I’ve always hoped they would!  I know, that sounds like I’m not doing it on purpose (which of course I am, as I carefully plan how and when and why), but I think sometimes when you’re in the middle of something you can’t really see the big picture (isn’t there some quote about forests and trees that would fit here? LOL).

So as I think about how to describe what we’ve been doing in Writing lately, it’s hard to explain just the writing part, because it includes reading (which is perfect, as those two subjects go hand-in-hand anyway, right?).  We have been working on writing opinion letters, with most of our topics being about the series books we’re reading in our book clubs.  Luckily, though, there are lots of other things to have opinions about, so we’ve been trying out that structure with other topics, too.

We’ve gone through many versions, with me teaching mini-lessons and kiddos then trying out the big ideas.  We’ve talking about format of a letter; stating opinions; adding reasons as well as details and support for those reasons; using transition words like one reason is, another reason is, last but not least (which many kiddos were doing already just based on learning them last year!); as well as just using interesting words and making our letter match our audience.  The procedure became that they would write a letter, but then rather than actually delivering it to that person, they’d give it to me, and I’d note what they did right and what they could work on for next time.

We wrote about books, 100th Day of school suggestions, ideas about why their weekends were good, as well as many other things about which you could have an opinion.  I was noticing, though, that over the last few weeks our letters had been getting shorter and less detailed (which was obviously not the goal!).  We had a class meeting and Millie suggested that the reason this was happening was because they had written so many letters that actually they were getting really sick of it and weren’t trying their best anymore.  While this was sad, I totally saw how that could be, and as impressed by her insight.  Others agreed and so I made a plan that we would work our hardest to create our best final letters (to Mrs. Meihaus, our librarian, about our vote for the Show-Me Reader Award) over the next 3 days and then be done.

So as I thought about what we would do for those next 3 days, I knew I needed to give another model to my writers about what that letter should look and sound like.  And since I wanted them to write about books, I did, too.  My letter was about my favorite read-aloud choice, Fig Pudding by Ralph Fletcher.  It looked like this:

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I had hung the letter up there before the day started, and it was one of the first things (thankfully) that kiddos noticed when they came in.  Yeah, the first response was “Wow, that’s long!”  Later on, I had them look at it, studying it to answer this question: How do I write a STRONG Show-Me letter?  Not surprisingly, they were able to notice a whole page full of things that I had in my letter that they needed to put in theirs.

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As they made their list, I marked their ideas on the actual letter (notice the different colors and the things we boxed in) so we could reference it later.  I was impressed to see that they had been paying attention, and that they could come up with that all on their own!

After this, I gave kiddos a graphic organizer to use to plan their letter and we got busy.  We’re almost done, so I’ll share our progress in the next few days.  It’s pretty good stuff!

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!

 

 

The Greatest Star on Earth: Kate Klise

I love introducing kiddos to authors.  Whether it’s via Twitter, a new book or an actual author visit, helping students connect with the “real” people who write the stories or information they love is a great treat.  Perhaps the best part is how special and important they feel when we send a question or comment to a writer and they answer.  Ralph Fletcher is particularly special to my class as we have read both Marshfield Dreams and Fig Pudding by him this year (and he responds to all of our tweets!), but my students have also personally connected with Lisa Campbell Ernst, Maribeth Boelts, Marla Frazee (who I just realized illustrated Clementine!), Mary Casanova, Betty Birney, and also Kate Klise (who was just at our school this week!).  The way they feel so special and important when an adult responds to their words is pretty priceless and immeasurably motivating. The way these writers have both encouraged and inspired my students to some of their best work is pretty amazing. 🙂

So when I heard that we were having an author visit shortly after Winter Break I was really excited….but then I heard the name of the author and thought how completely strange it was that I had never heard of her; I pride myself on being up on books, writers, reading and things of that nature (by the way, Twitter has been HUGE in helping me with this–you should totally check it out!).  Luckily this was not a problem, because our amazing librarian, Mrs. Meihaus, works hard to introduce us to the writer and their books so that when they do come, we’ll be ready. 🙂

Our class read just a couple of her picture books (and since then I’ve found out she has written over 25 others!), and found that we really enjoyed her writing voice, as well as Sarah Klise’s (her sister is her illustrator) pictures.  We tried out Shall I Knit You a Hat? and Little Rabbit and the Meanest Mother of Earth, and when she was here she read us Grammy Lamby and the Secret Handshake.

Once she got here, we were all abuzz, excited to hear what she would tell us about herself and teach us about writing.  A couple of friends took their Writers’ Notebooks to be sure to catch Ms. Klise’s smart words.

Basically, her presentation was a workshop where she taught us (2nd and 3rd grades) the necessary elements for writing a good story.  She told funny stories, made us laugh, and most importantly got us involved in the show.  We hung on her every word!

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And, because authors are rockstars in our world, we had to take a minute for a photo opp!  Thanks SO MUCH, Kate Klise, for taking time out to spend the morning with 2nd graders who are working to grow as writers and share their stories with the world!

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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!

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! 🙂