Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ready, Set, Write!!


The kids had a great time yesterday decorating their writer's notebooks. They are now covered with pictures, stickers, and other mementos that will hopefully spark ideas and enthusiasm for writing. The students will use their notebooks to practice the writing genre we are working on. Currently we are beginning to write personal narratives. Each student will write many personal narratives in their notebook during this unit. At the same time, they will learn the mechanics of writing and also learn about the writing process. At the end of the unit, they will choose one story from their notebook to edit, revise, rewrite and publish. The notebooks will make great keepsakes at the end of the year!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Math Booklet Mania

Second graders love math booklets. Well, okay, they love the Tootsie Pop they receive when they finish a math booklet. I'm usually not the kind of teacher that condones bribing kids with candy, but these little math booklets sure help with math practice so I guess a Tootsie Pop here and there isn't going to hurt anyone!

Math booklets are simply packets of practice sheets stapled together that the kids work on when they finish their morning work or math sheet. Very simple and "old school" but they have a useful side too. You see the packets are leveled. There are 17 of them and each one gets progressively more difficult. The skills at the beginning are review of first grade; addition, subtraction etc. But then, they begin to introduce new skills in level 3. Missing addends and minuends, double digit addition and subtraction with and without regrouping, advanced patterning, money, multiplication and even long division. I have found that these little booklets let advanced math students learn new skills at a faster pace and provide extra practice for students who need it. Plus, students love the little celebration we have during morning meeting when they have completed a booklet accurately.

That's a win win in my book. Just don't tell your child's dentist!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Read to Someone

Partner reading can be a very useful reading tool if used the right way. I will admit that up to this year, I have always been a little hesitant to have kids partner read because 9 times out of 10, one partner is goofing off while the other is reading. Or, they both end up playing around.

Much like all of the other components of Daily 5, with proper training, partner reading can be fun and enjoyable.  The children are taught that there are several ways that they can read together. The first video that you will see shows a pair of children demonstrating "I Read, You Read". With this method, one child leads the reading while the second child echos. Then they both check for understanding (this particular pair forgot to check for understanding). This method is great for building fluency, especially if the lead student is a fluent reader.

The second video shows another method of paired reading called "2 different books". This strategy is great for kids on different levels because they each read from their own book. The first student reads a page of his/her book while the second listens and then checks for understanding. Then the second student reads from his/her book while the first listens and checks for understanding. The two girls in the second video illustrate this method perfectly!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Never Ending Bathroom Dilemma

It seems that every year I get a few students who abuse their bathroom privileges. These are the students that suddenly need to go "really bad" at a convenient time for them, like when they are supposed to work. Before I know it, little Suzie has spent the entire work time in the bathroom and because I was busy helping other kids, I failed to notice.

The other typical bathroom caper is the child who needs to go two or three times a day who swears he/she will have an accident if they don't go RIGHT NOW!! Not only do they have to go immediately, but this child will announce the desire to use the restroom in the middle of story time 5 minutes after returning from recess.

Now don't get me wrong, I know there are medical issues that require kiddos to need to use the restroom more often, and kids aren't adults so they don't always manage their restroom usage effectively, but on average, the typical 7 year old should not have to use the restroom at recess, lunch, and three other times during the day.

I feel like yelling out like an evil villain in that deep "I got you" laugh... because, lo and behold, I have solved the never ending bathroom dilemma.

I'm sure this is nothing new, but it is new to me. 

This year I started using bathroom passes. Each child receives 4 passes on Monday. They may use the restroom as needed during class by handing me a pass. Once they are out for the week I start deducting time off of their recess each time they need to go. If their time spent in the restroom was too long (we're talking over 5 minutes and only for kids who tend to live in the bathroom) I take another pass. Of course they can go at recess and lunch for "free". Kids with all 4 passes left get a small token at the end of the week.

It's amazing how well they manage their bathroom breaks now. This may seem trivial or "mean" to the average person outside of education, but I can assure you, no one will end up wetting their pants and more time will be spent learning, which of course is the main objective here!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect!

Like anything worth learning and doing, it takes practice to get better. This is especially true with reading.

I can teach strategies, pull guided reading groups to reinforce and observe how children use these strategies, and meet with kids one-on-one to give them reading goals.

But, if kids don't spend a significant amount of time practicing on their own, it is quite difficult for them to make significant gains.

I have learned many things with experience. One important thing that I have learned is that you can't expect beginning of the year second graders to walk in on day one and read quietly for 20-30 minutes. They need time and direction on how to build their reading stamina.

We began Read to Self on the second day of school with a 3 minute block of time. We are now up to 15 minutes. We have discussed what behaviors are necessary to maximize our Read to Self time. The students came up with the following:

  • Find a quiet place to read and stay there
  • Read the whole time (no pretend reading)
  • Don't talk or make noises that will distract others
  • Get started quickly
As soon as I observe a behavior that goes against those listed above, I stop the children and bring them back to the meeting area. We then discuss what we need to do to fix the problem for the next time. This process can be slow and tedious, but the children learn that reading time is valuable and we must take it seriously. This video clip is a quick peek inside our Read to Self time. I love how engaged all of the kids are with their reading!

Believe it or not, it takes them only about 20 seconds to choose their own spot and begin. What amazing kiddos!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

"Magnificent" Monarchs!

We are finally done with our "Magnificent Me" beginning of the year project and I think it turned out great! I found this idea online and thought it would be perfect for the first week of school. The kids drew and painted a large picture of themselves and then cut it out and glued it on another sheet of construction paper. They also cut out a large magnifying glass and traced and cut out their hands. The final step of the project was to write a bio poem that we typed up and copied onto transparencies. These poems then became the "glass" in the magnifying glasses. We have a few proportion issues; but, the kids had fun and they make a great display! Thanks Martha for your help with this project!