Welcome back! Our second year together has had an amazing start and the students and I are excited to share our learning and experiences with you. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts with us as well. Enjoy exploring!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Is it real? Is it fiction? It's Realistic Fiction!

Boy, have we've been busy in Writers' Workshop learning about realistic fiction! We're just about finished this wonderful and complex unit and the finished product will be coming home via e-mail soon.
To begin this unit we had to first learn what realistic fiction meant. Everyone could tell me in their own words what the word realistic means and what the words fiction means, but what do they mean when they get put together? We read many wonderful mentor texts to help learn more about what it means. One of the classroom favorite's was a book called "Mr. Tanen's Ties" by Maryann Cocca-Leffler. This story is about a principal who wears fun and funky ties, which they immediately made a connection to with our very own Mr. Terko. Through reading this story and many others, we quickly learned the traits of realistic fiction stories; they need to have a problem and solution, dialogue where you learn about the characters, and it needs to be about something that could actually happen.
Armed with this new information, the kiddos set out creating stories of their own. They mapped out their stories by using a graphic organizer and sharing their stories with a partner orally, before putting pencil to paper.
The kids dove into this unit with two feet and didn't look back! I was so impressed by their ability to create stories that had an interesting dilemma and multiple ways to try and solve the problem. Their characters are fun and the settings vary from a school to a science lab.
There has been quite the hype in our classroom around this writing assignment, so I'm guessing, and hoping, that they have been talking about this at home. The big and exciting news is that they are typing their books into the iPads and then they are getting published into a book and are available to be read on any iPad in iBooks!
They are very close to being finished and then they will be coming to a computer near you.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

How Things Work

Synergy scientists are learning all about how things work during our Physical Science unit. They are rotating to four different classrooms to learn about sound and vibration, force and friction, magnets, and motion. The kids are absolutely loving this unit and their energy is contagious every day that we do the workshops.

I am leading the workshop that is focusing on motion. To learn more about how things move the kids are doing two experiments using ramps made of blocks, marbles and golf balls. The first experiment focuses on changing the height of the slope on the ramp and rolling a marble to figure out which allows for the marble to travel the farthest. They begin by making a hypothesis, as all scientists do, and then getting to work with their partner to test and record their theory to see what they discover. As not all Synergy Scientists have been through this rotation, I will keep the findings to myself, but I encourage you to ask your student if they have been through this workshop yet and what they discovered.

The second experiment focuses on changing the slope again, but this time to discover if a marble or a golf ball rolls faster down the ramp and which rolls farther. Does the lighter ball gather more speed or does the heavier ball? It is very interesting hearing their justifications for their hypotheses. This experiment is a bit more tricky keeping both balls on the ramp for the whole roll, but they are learning that scientists test things over and over and over to get accurate results. At the end of this one the students are finding themselves more surprised by their discoveries. The predictions also vary a bit more making for an interesting closing discussion.

The students have been coming in every day since we have started this unit and asked, "Are we doing science workshops today?" It has been so much fun to share in their enthusiasm as we discover more about how things work!

Monday, January 16, 2012

It's the 2nd Half of 2nd Grade!

Happy New Year Families and Friends! I hope that the beginning of your year has been filled with a ton of fun already. We have been having a great time in 2012 so far and have definitely been experiencing times where it is very obvious to me that we are now approaching the second half of second grade, as crazy as that is to think about!

First things first, thank you for all of your help with the Chores for Change fundraiser. The kids were really excited about it and worked hard to earn $350.00 in all! With this total we voted on which animals to purchase and ended up buying 1 goat, 1 llama, a trio of rabbits and 1 flock of chicks for Heifer International. These animals will help multiple families and it was all thanks to the combined effort of your support and your hard working kids!

One sure sign that I have noticed that they are now "second half of second graders" is the increased excitement and willingness in the kids to accept challenges. We have begun a few new units in Reading, Writing, and Fundations, where I have seen a new desire to become masters in these different areas.

We have a new design and routine in Readers Workshop that the kids are really enjoying. This part of our day is now broken up into two times, work time and just-right reading time. Work time is now where the students are all focused on a task surrounding the unit, in this case, each student is doing a character study of their choice. At the sound of the chime the kiddos can switch to reading their just-right books or continue working on their work time activity. Our character study is all about reading a series to get to know all about a character's internal and external traits as well as how that character may be similar or different to you. This unit has been going really well and I encourage you to ask your student about which character they are learning about, they've picked some great ones!

Last week in Writers Workshop we began a unit on writing constructed response pieces and I was immediately blown away by how successful they were with this right off the bat. We began by talking about topic sentences and how to make smart topic sentences that introduces what the piece will be about without giving away all the information in the first sentence. In order to successfully do this you have to answer a question by flipping the question around and using key words from it. The question that they were answering is, "What are your Hopes and Dreams for the rest of second grade?" The new challenge also needed for this type of writing was coming up with three hopes and dreams instead of just one. Some of the wonderful topic sentences shared were:
"I have several hopes and dreams I want to accomplish for the rest of the year."
"I hope to complete all of my hopes and dreams this year."
"I have a couple of hopes and dreams I want to reach for the rest of second grade."

Without giving away all of their writing, I will just say again, wow, I have been so impressed with what they are coming up with and am looking forward to seeing what comes next in their pieces!

In Fundations last week we just began a new unit on multi-syllabic words and learning the different rules on how to divide the words into their syllables. The students welcomed the new challenge of the multiple rules involved and it was the most successful Fundations unit kick-off we have had yet! It's been just a couple of days with this, but I encourage you to look on our wiki and have the kids share their new knowledge with you.

I hope that you are having a restful long weekend!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

We've Been Busy!

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

How Full is Your Bucket?

This week we introduced a new way to recognize our feelings and the feelings of others based on the wonderful book, "How Full is Your Bucket?" by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer. The book introduces the idea that we all have imaginary buckets over our heads that reflect how we are feeling at any given moment. The idea is that when you are happy your bucket is full and when you are sad, it is empty. The story also introduces different ideas for how you can fill someone's bucket by being kind, helpful, and supportive. It also made it clear that when your bucket is empty, you can sometimes want others to have an empty bucket too, but the act of doing something mean or hurtful to someone else does not help fill your bucket back up, but actually empties it more. With this visual reference, the kids had an easier time grasping the bigger concept of empathy and evaluating their own feelings at different times when things happen and it made it a lot of fun!
After coming up with a classroom list about "bucket filling behaviors" and "bucket emptying behaviors", we put our new knowledge and language to the test as we went outside with Mrs. Eaton's class to play on the playground. To reinforce and practice the idea throughout their time outside, each student had some stickers that they could give to a friend any time they filled their bucket. It was great to look around the field and see one student helping another balance, someone tying someone's shoe, and another asking if their peer was OK after they had tripped while running. There was a lot of bucket filling going on!
The next day the kiddos wrote on a raindrop one act that they could do for someone that would fill their bucket. There were a lot of great ideas; introducing yourself to someone new, comforting somebody when they are sad, and even helping someone with laundry. I was then further impressed by the time and effort they put into illustrating their raindrop, they really did a great job!
We will continue to talk about bucket filling and bucket emptying behaviors as well as using this language throughout the day. I encourage you to ask your kiddo to explain the concept to you and use this language at home as well if you would like. We are also lucky to have this book in the library, so your kiddo can check it out if they are interested in sharing it with you! The students loved brainstorming ideas and it really is a helpful way for them to speak to one another if a tricky situation takes place. Lastly, you can always ask yourself, "Have I filled someone's bucket today?"

Sunday, October 30, 2011

It's About Time!

We spend a few mornings each week working on telling time and this week the discussions were rich with questions and observations about the clock. I shared with the students my struggle of learning to tell time and that I still remember my "lightbulb moment" when it all of the sudden made sense. They found this to be very entertaining and encouraging, that minute hand can sometimes be very tricky! I have added a new link on the right of our blog with an online game that you can play with your student to continue these rich discussions and practice with an analog clock.

Also in math this week, we began a new unit about ants. Through the study of these insects the students will be reviewing and building upon their knowledge of addition and subtraction, as well as building the concept of multiplication and division. Questions such as, "There were 6 ants collecting food, how many legs in all?" will be helping fuel these concepts and strategies and then be woven into the creation of their own story problems. The students were excited to be discussing ants and quickly made the connection to the story problems we did about crabs and sea stars last year. After recognizing the connection a student shared with the class that he thinks the story problems will be better this year since they are in second grade now. This comment got the students excited to make their problems more challenging than last year. This upcoming week we will get to see what they come up with!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fifty Nifty United States!

We're learning about mapping and are focusing on the 50 states of our very own country! To conquer this we have divided the students into groups of 5, mixed with all Synergy classes, to study the 5 different areas of the United States; the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, and West. At the different workshops the students are learning which states are in each section and what are some fun facts from that part of the country.

I am in charge of the Midwest. When I was learning the 50 states, I always struggled with this part of the country because it has the "M's" (Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota)and the "I's" (Iowa, Illinois, Indiana)and I always used to get them confused. I have been so impressed at how the students have been able to recognize, locate and label the different states. They have really been loving the unit and doing a great job with it! The landmark that they are finding most fascinating about these states is Mount Rushmore. "How can they carve faces that big into the rock?" is the question I have been hearing a lot.

While looking at the location of the different states, the students have been learning about the Compass Rose and it's 8 directions. To help with the key four, North, East, South, and West, we have been using the saying, "Never Eat Soggy Waffles". The kids think that this is just the neatest trick and seem to really grasp the idea and can then understand the four other directions such as, Southeast. I encourage you to add these words to your discussions, "Which crayon is to the north of the blue crayon?" Be sure to keep it fun!

I have added some links on the right of the blog to some on-line games about the states' locations and fun facts, as well as the Compass Rose. There is also a link to the song that we are learning called the "Fifty Nifty United States". Have fun exploring these sites with your kiddos!