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!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Being Assertive

This week we started to talk more about the social skills program C.A.R.E.S, Cooperation, Assertion, Responsibility, Empathy, and Self-Control. Last year we had really focused on what it means to cooperate with someone and spent a lot of time practicing and playing games about cooperation. This year we have started off with talking about being assertive and what that actually means. Ms. Kini read the book Goggles, by Ezra Jack Keats to introduce the idea and then had the students try and define what it means. I was very surprised when, before modeling what it is or talking about it, they shared these ideas for their definition;
-Getting what you want--(after some discussion this week we have changed this to: getting your needs met when they need to be)
-Standing up for yourself
-Being brave
-Doing something that you really have to do

After this description, Ms. Kini and I put on our acting hats and did a skit to show them a time when someone was not assertive and then the kids made suggestions as to what my character could have said instead. We discussed that saying something mean back to someone is not being assertive, but unkind, and does not fit with our classroom definition. Then they worked with a partner and got the opportunity to act out both characters, the child who said something unkind and the one who was appropriately assertive. It was clear that they loved acting for both roles and when they shared what they had said to be assertive, it was also clear that they understand what it means. Lastly, they drew pictures of examples when they have been assertive or when they could have been assertive so that we can hang them on the wall to remind us when we can use this new skill.
Over the next few weeks, I will be looking for instances of when they are assertive and after each student has used this strategy three times we will have a celebration! Feel free to have them act out a skit with you and share times that they are assertive outside of school as well!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Animals of Africa!

We have started our first science unit on the animals and habitats of Africa. We are lucky enough to have a teacher on our team that took a trip to Southern Africa this summer! The wonderful Ms. Kate lead the "Theme Kick-Off" by showing a beautiful slideshow of many different animals she saw first hand. The students thought it was so neat that she had seen them all and anxiously were asking her questions. There were many "oh's and ah's" heard around the room as pictures of giraffes, hippos, and a newborn elephant appeared on the screen.

To teach the four habitats that we have chosen, we have mixed the classes into four groups that will rotate through each classroom throughout the next month to learn about Africa from each Synergy teacher. We are all teaching a different habitat that we have chosen to focus on and the animals that live there, while we will be focusing more broadly on Africa within our own classrooms as well. I am teaching about the animals that live in the trees and sky, Ms. Kate, about the animals living in the bush, Mrs. Eaton, about the animals in the water, and Ms. Rogers, about termites and underground animals. At each station the kids are getting the opportunity to see videos and pictures of the animals as well as create their own drawings of the habitat. We have been talking quite a bit about predator and prey , as well as camouflage and if the different animals of a certain habitat use that as a defensive strategy or not. To open the discussion of camouflage we showed this video in the link below. It is not of an African animal, but it is such an amazing example, that it couldn't be passed up! The kids loved it and I am sure would love to show you and quiz you to see if you can find it. Wow, is nature spectacular! Camouflage Link

The students have been very intrigued by this unit so far and it has been a blast sharing with them the many animals of the trees and sky. While these are sometimes thought of as not some of the most exciting, because they are not the lions, cheetahs, and elephants that grace Africa's savannah, the kids are enjoying hearing about the Chimpanzees, Gorillas, monkeys and birds that do live in either the savannah or the jungle. It is fun to hear their reasoning about why certain animals can not live in the jungle, but instead in the savannah, and vice versa. My first group shared with me that gorillas would not do well living in the savannah, because it is too dry and they do not have anywhere to hide. I thought to myself, "this is a smart crew, we're going to get a lot done"! Another animal that has made quite a hit is the secretary bird. Ms. Kate got an awesome picture of this bird and shared with us that while she was in Africa the guide told them that the bird got this unique name from the feathers on its head resembling a quill. The students loved this little fact and quickly wanted to know more, always a wonderful thing!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mini Week Number 2!

Wow! For only just finishing our seventh day of school on Friday, we have already done so much! It has been a very smooth transition back with the benefit of spending all last year together. From the first day, it was very apparent to me that the students had missed one another and were glad to be back together. Without my prompting, they went up to each other and began chatting about their time apart and the fun things they had done. It was great to see how comfortable they still were with each other, despite the separation of a couple of months. With no need for name games, we have jumped right into playing games and activities to help us practice cooperation, explore with the new and improved classroom space, and share about our summer adventures.

On top of their comfort level with one another, it is also apparent to me in other ways that this is our second year together and that this is a class of second graders, the new leaders of our school. During Readers' Choice time, the students have been asking deeper and more meaningful questions while I read a book aloud to them as well as when they are reading independently. When I look around the room during this time, I see students deeply engaged in their books, laughing to themselves and eager to share that story with a friend during partner reading. I have also been hearing many phrases such as, "May I use that marker when you are done with it?" followed by the response, "Sure!". It's very exciting to see these things happening regularly as we have just started out!

Another new and exciting aspect of this year is we have a fun twist to our three main school rules, 1. Be Safe 2. Be Kind and 3. Be Responsible, that were introduced last year. Now every time a student gets caught exhibiting one of these school expectations, they receive a "Warm Buzzy" or even a "Golden Buzzy" if the behavior was seen on the playground. They then add their buzzies into our classroom Honey Jar and when ours is full we have a classroom celebration and add our collection to the big Bee Hive in the front office. When that Bee Hive is full, we have a school wide celebration! The students have been very busy earning both Warm Buzzies and Golden Buzzies and we have already emptied our Honey Jar quite a few times into the Bee Hive in the office. Each time we walk by the students look in to see how many more we need until it is full--we are getting VERY close!

With the new routines of the classroom continuing to be introduced, this upcoming week we will be busy diving back into Bridges, Fundations and beginning our first theme on African Animals!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Welcome Back!

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