April 26, 2016

Our Movie Review Celebration

In writing, my students have been working on Movie Reviews. I posted a week ago about some good YouTube examples and a little bit of info about the Let's Go To The Movies unit I sell on TPT.

Today, we had a celebration! I meant for us to do this last week, but since everyone wanted to type their final drafts and we only have four computers, we had to postpone a bit.

It was a super simple celebration. Sometimes that's all it takes. Actually, I'd venture to say that MOST times, that's all it takes!

We did a "museum walk" to share. Then, students gave out a few "Movie Tickets" to compliment the writers. We had a little lesson before this to be sure that the compliment was related to the writer's craft, and not the reader's personal opinion of the movie.

So, for example:
I want to see your movie because you said it's full of action and I love action movies.
...is a way to give feedback to the reader, not:
I want to see this movie because I love this movie!

Finally, I passed out popcorn for students to enjoy as they read their compliments and pieces again (they love reading those beautifully typed-out pieces!).

It was so nice to begin our week with a little writing celebration!

April 23, 2016

Dig Deeply Series

Hi everyone! For the past few months, I have been creating, refining, and posting new units as a part of a series called Dig Deeply Into Math: Higher Order Thinking.

I've been taking it slowly, as I have been testing these products in my own classroom. Why do I think you would be interested? Well, keep reading:

Each product takes the Common Core standard and stretches it. Take a look at this example from the multiplication unit. Students aren't just solving problems, but they must move on to connecting them to a real life story, and then choosing the best strategy for solving it.

An Example from the Multiplication Unit

Each activity offers the opportunity for tiered work. Struggling students may not be ready to do each piece, and that's ok! Their work on any portion is valid as practice or assessment toward the standard.

And Finally.

My favorite part.

Each activity has a specific assessment checklist. 
Need I say more? In my classroom, students use these to self-assess, which is such a powerful way to make students leaders of their own learning.

An Example from the Addition and Subtraction unit. 

So check out this collection by grabbing a unit in my store! OR buy the growing bundle now!

Addition and Subtraction

My Growing Bundle!

April 19, 2016

Science Misconceptions as Claims

This year, nothing has held my kids back from learning Science more than the things they think they know. Or, their misconceptions.

What's more, as we begin reading and talking and learning, they tend to make more "claims" that sound good but haven't been proved by any reading or research.

So we are making this chart to keep track of our claims. Our topic for the next two weeks is the Sun. We will study what causes day and night and what causes the seasons. I hope that this chart helps my Scientists be more reflective and careful with their Science thinking and talking. See below for a little explanation.

Sound claims using Science vocabulary. For example, When the Earth rotates on its axis, the part that faces the sun is having day and the part facing away from the sun is having night.

Needs Work
These are claims that are close, but just need a little tweaking. For example, When the Earth spins, you have day and night. 

Claims that introduce a misconception. For example, When the Sun comes up it's day and when the Moon comes up it's night. 

Needs Research
Things that sound logical based on your reading or experience, but that your teacher doesn't really know or remember the answer to or can't be found in a classroom text. For example, When the Sun goes out it will explode. 

How do you address misconceptions in the classroom?

Oh, and here is an article that popped up on my Facebook newsfeed recently, called Why Teachers  Need To Know The Wrong Answers

April 18, 2016

Whole Brain Air Punctuation

The struggle is real, am I right? Poorly capitalized and punctuated work is especially disturbing (is that too strong of a word?) at the end of the school year.

Luckily, I found this little gem on YouTube! I just had to share. It seems like something the kids would get a kick out of, I think! I hope to try it out ASAP.

April 17, 2016

Starting With the Misconceptions

Today I was gathering my thoughts together for Science. This week's topic is the sun, specifically studying what causes day and night, and what causes our shadows to change throughout the day.

My favorite way to begin planning Science, and to engage students is to discover the misconceptions that they may be bringing to their learning. So as I was thinking and researching, I found this great activity on the web, that asks students to address misconceptions or weak language that is often used when discussing the sun and Earth. I just wanted to share! It could be a fun activity to do for a classroom discussion during Science or even during your Morning Meeting if you are working on group behaviors.

It comes from the Solar Energy Center in Florida.  Click below!
Sun Misconceptions Lesson

April 14, 2016

Movie Reviews on YouTube

I found some great movie reviews on YouTube to share with my students as we began our planning for writing Movie reviews! When I looked for reviews to share, I specifically wanted kid-friendly reviews on popular movies that included a summary, adjectives, and examples to back up what they were saying about the movie. Oh, and NO SPOILERS!

I paused the videos to discuss, and sometimes we rewatched different portions with our "writer's eyes", creating a chart of good writing moves and great words the reviewers used.

Check out the videos at these links. I've only embedded one to view here:


Lego Movie


You may also be interested in checking out my Let's Go To The Movies unit on TPT. My favorite part of this unit is the Movie Ticket "feedback" (student-to-student), and serving up popcorn at our celebration. More on that later!

April 13, 2016

Book Clubs

The kids were excited to start reading for their "Book Clubs" today. 

Which made ME excited, too. Excitement is exactly what I was going for!

I'm considering this a guided independent reading task, with the main focus just being to get students excited about our reading community! It's so tough to keep motivated at the end of the year, so it's nice to do something different. 

They are required to read from this book daily, with their only task being to take some notes as they read. They can record their reactions or questions or anything they think they'd like to talk about when their book club meets. 

I made them baggies filled with their book, a post it stack, and a brand spanking new mechanical pencil. 

At the end, each book club will meet with me during lunch to eat and discuss. I may bring in some dessert for us to enjoy during this time as well.  Their "ticket" to this book club is to fill out a Book Report poster I found here when they are finished reading their entire book. 

11 x 17 book resport page

It's so tempting to print out reflections for them to do daily, questions for them to answer on each chapter, and the like. However, I know that my most favorite reading at that age was uninterrupted: allowing me a time to imagine, get lost, and enjoy the book world I was in at that moment. 

There will be time for testing review, close reads, and tiered assignments. But for today, we will just be readers. And we will get lost. And we will know that there's nothing else we'd rather be doing. 

April 8, 2016

Beyond the Classroom Discussion: Hand Signals

Yesterday, I wrote this post about Participation Tracking. This is a great tool to help keep up with which of your students are participating and encourage those who are not likely to participate to reflect on their participation and try to improve it.

My sister and I were talking about this tool right after I blogged about it. She's a speech-language pathologist, and the implications it has for collecting social data really excited her. Anyways, I digress. But in our conversation, we both realized that throughout most of our schooling, we were the ones who didn't participate. The smart and shy kids who never had to speak up, and who got to keep being shy and quiet because no one required us to speak up. She said "I feel like that really did a disservice to me, you know?" And I totally agree.

But, we all know there is more to education and student participation than the traditional "class discussion" where one person speaks and others listen and hopefully respond. While I will stick by this method for higher-order discussions, Socratic-style lessons, and constructive lessons, I know that there is plenty of opportunity in the elementary classroom for "All Students Respond" types of participation.

Today, I want to share some of the ways I use hand signaling (or other body signals) to ensure that all students think and respond in a quick and easy way. Keep reading!

Yes or No?

This is an easy one. Are you asking a Yes or No question? Asking the class if they agree with the statement made by either you or a peer? Tell them to show you by using the sign language signal for yes and no.

Count to Show

Ask students to show you "how any ways you can think of" or "how many things you can tell me about" by thinking and putting a finger up for every way. For example, during a Science lesson, you might instruct kids to think of as many examples of how solar energy is used and put a finger up for each way as they think it.

ABC or 123

Playing a multiple choice game or quiz? Teach students how to show the letter choices for AB and C using the American Sign Language Alphabet. Or T and F. Or just have them show 1, 2, or 3 instead! It's an easy way for everyone to get involved!

New Signals for Old Routines

Have you got something that you do weekly or daily that you and the class could come up with signals to show? I use Wilson Fundations for phonics and spelling. In this program, we code all sorts of syllable types! Closed, open, v-e, r-controlled, double vowel.... Anyways, if we are ever spelling and marking words with the classroom letter tiles, I will ask them quickly "Which syllable type?" and they will use one of our symbols to show me. They ended up being a mix of ASL and some other ideas for us! This one has the potential to be a lot of fun because you can get a little silly: signals like sticking your tongue out, making a llama, etc. can breathe a little more fun into simple activities!

A note about ASL:

The Deaf Community is a rich, vibrant, and proud Culture, so we must be very careful when using their language in our classrooms. Cultural appropriation and/versus appreciation can be a hot topic, and so it is important to be knowledgeable about these issues.
Deaf Culture
American Sign Language Article on Wikipedia

April 7, 2016

Participation Tracking

Recently, I have begun using a small group tool that might sound a little crazy while at the same time completely uninteresting. I've dubbed it my "Participation Tracker" Read on for my story and for my reasons why I think you should try this, too. 

Why did I start tracking participation?

So the first thing I have to say, is this: This Participation Tracker thing wasn't really my idea at all. I began piloting a program called "Jacob's Ladder" with my highest readers (those falling in the 90th percentile with their Reading MAP scores). One thing our principal wanted us to do was to keep track of how each student was participating in the higher order discussion work she envisioned happening around this group. She thought maybe we could make little checks by students' names or something so we could compare their participation to their score growth. Initially, I thought, "That is crazy. And silly. Nope. I do not have time for that. I am not going to do it.I'm just going to focus on what this program says to do. Again, No."

So what made me start it?

I decided to change my mind about that when it began to dawn on me that some of my highest performers were also the least likely to take part in the discussion and sharing. Getting them to add their ideas to our discussion or respond to others who were talking was like pulling teeth. And I began to realize that this was happening frequently. And by frequently I mean almost every day. I thought. I didn't actually know since I was simply relying on my memory for it. And why weren't they participating? We were having deep and challenging discussions! Furthermore, they had good things to say (according to their written work)! So, I decided to put a quick little table together to see if there actually was a problem like I thought.

Why am I still using it?

Ok, I have a few big reasons:
  1. It helps me be more fair with my attention. With a brief glance at my checklist, I can see who I've given attention to (whether they have asked for it or not), and who still needs to be invited to participate. Then, I can work to purposefully invite them into the discussion. 
  2. It has been super motivating for many kids. They know I'm giving them a check or a tally, and they know how to get it. (But don't forget to get some "baseline" data when they DON'T know you are using it as well.)
  3. It gives me real data to start a conversation with students who struggle to participate. You can't argue with the data! And yes, at this point, I am showing them the whole class spreadsheet. I feel like it is effective for the struggling student to "see" himself in the context of the whole class and the whole learning conversation. 
  4. It also has given me real data to start a conversation with one student in particular who thrives off of attention and participation, but on the other hand falls apart when I don't call on him every time he has something to say. I'm able to show him how he has been called on more than others and that he needs to let others speak. Again, he can "see" himself in the context of the whole class.

Does it have potential for other areas? 

Of course! One week, I printed off the whole class roster and challenged each kid to participate in whole group Math discussions at least twice during the week. I planned the goal  number based on the opportunities I knew students would get that week to be one voice of many during whole group instruction.

I would encourage teachers at any level to try some form of Participation Tracking out-even if it's just for the day. Challenge yourself! Challenge your kids!

Here is a link to the tracker shown above. It's available to you to edit and use as you need:

Click For the Free File!

April 5, 2016

Fraction Fun

I love teaching Math, and teaching fractions is one of my favorite parts of teaching Math! I tried two new things this year and I want to share them with you. Despite the fact that I am in my eighth year of teaching 2nd grade, I am constantly trying to find new things, as I know many of you do as well!

Fraction Play Dough

First, I bought everyone their own can of Play Dough from the Dollar Tree. They come in packs of 4, and they had all kinds of colors. The kids enjoyed "claiming" their own can and picking out their own color to work with. 

I opened our study on fractions by telling my students to divide their dough into two pieces. They all tried to find different ways to do this, because they are very into coming up with ideas that others may not have this year! See the list below for ideas that came up as we explored fractions with play dough. I honestly didn't plan all of these ahead of time, but it really evolved!

-Guide students to show different divisions of the play dough. As you guide students through this, create an anchor chart showing drawings of the play dough balls: unequal parts, equal parts, halves, thirds, fourths.
-Discuss wholes: When students show halves, thirds, or fourths, connect back to the idea that 2/2 = One whole, 3/3 = One whole, and so on.
-Keep going with the above idea, and introduce some addition sentences 1/3 + 1/3 + 1/3 = 3/3 = One Whole
-Discuss how students' parts are the same or different. Some of my kids flattened their play dough before dividing, some kept it in a ball. The shapes were different, but the fractions remained the same.

Pattern Shapes App

In my small group, we used our new iPads for the first time! This app is called Pattern Shapes. Clarity Innovations has some great apps for Math tools! I am really loving them. But back to the point. Here are the two things we did to connect our work with pattern blocks to fractions:

-I guided students to "cover" a yellow "cupcake" with different colors of icing. Then, we named the parts and paid special attention to how many parts it took to cover the cupcake.
-After doing this, I assigned students to use these equivalent fractions to create a picture that was "Half Yellow". I found this idea in my new favorite blog, E is for Explore. Some students stuck to just maintaining equality with the basic equivalent fractions. So, every time they added a blue rhombus, they pulled out three blue rhombi and one yellow hexagon. More advanced students explored the idea that doing something like using 1 red trapezoid, 1 rhombus, and 1 triangle would also balance out a yellow hexagon.

Have fun teaching fractions!

April 3, 2016

April Pinterest Linky

Click to go to the Link UP!

Click on the pic for the link! 

I just found this on Pinterest last night and I love it! I really hope to get this together as an End of the Year gift for my students. What an uplifting keepsake it would make for them. Just beautiful!

E is for Explore!: Array City:
Click on the photo to link to the pin.

So first of all, this blog is one of my new favorites to explore. It has such a nice collection of activities and ideas for Math and Science. So even if you don't need to teach arrays, you should go explore this blog! I am excited to use this Multiplication City idea when I introduce arrays to my 2nd graders. I am even contemplating adding a possible 3D component to the city building. Living with an architect and city planner has rubbed off on this 2nd grade teacher! 

DIY Dryer Balls | POPSUGAR Smart Living:
Click on the photo to link to the pin.

I have been working on being frugal and more chemical free by replacing some every day cleaning product with simpler and natural options. These dryer balls are on my Spring Break project list. 

See below to follow me or my board on Pinterest!

Follow Stephanie's board Elementary School on Pinterest.