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, 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!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Frogs and Firefighters

Wow! We had a really busy and exciting week filled with learning about the life cycle of a frog, exploring with the iPads and then got to end the week with a visit from a couple of local firefighters. We were very lucky!

To extend our animals unit a little bit farther and learn about the stages of an animal's life cycle and since there are some pretty incredible frogs in Africa, we learned all about the different stages in a frog's life. As scientists we learned that the number of stages in a frog's life cycle depend on the resource you are looking at. Some books say that there are 4 main stages, while others say that there are 6 or 7. While we kept this fact in mind, we looked closely at 5 different stages of a frog's life. The kiddos are very versed with all 5 stages and what occurs in each, but to give a quick review, we discussed these following phases:
1. Egg
2. Tadpole (nicknamed Polliwog)
3. Tadpole with legs
4. Froglet
5. Adult
We played a variety of games and activities connected to this cycle and were able to learn what makes each stage unique. The major difference that the kids really understood was that of the changes between the tadpole with legs and the froglet. In the tadpole with legs phase, the animal is still breathing through gills, but developing lungs and the rear legs appear in this stage. A froglet breaths with lungs, grows front legs, and its tail begins to shrink. Each day the kids were excited to learn more about the life cycle as well as some interesting facts, such as an African Bullfrog can stay in the mud for up to 2 years! Ask one of our frog experts to share more unique and impressive frog facts with you.

Also this week we got to explore with the new iPads! The students did a great job sharing with everyone what it looks like to take care of such a special school material and really treated them carefully. The students had some time to free explore with the different applications. Many took pictures and video, doodled, and began making a couple quick cartoons with Toontastic. Then, as a class we investigated with a math application called MultiTouchMath. This application asks them to solve number sentences and use multiple fingers by pressing either a 1,2,5, or 10. For example, 19-0=? They need to use a combination of those numbers to make 19. They could put one finger on 10, one on 5 and then either 2 fingers on 2 or 4 fingers on one. This is a great way for them to break apart numbers using many different combinations. This will make a fun work place for them during math time!

Lastly, since last week was Fire Prevention Week, we were lucky to have two local firefighters come in and show us their gear and explain to us what to do just in case there is a fire in our home. One of the firefighters put on all of the gear and even turned on his air mask so that we could hear the different sounds it makes to know not to be scared if we ever hear that sound in our house. The kids were fascinated with the many different tools and their uses and asked many really great questions. They also talked about having fire escape plans with your family and to practice what to do, just as we have fire drills here at school. I shared with the kids that if their family did not have a fire escape plan and meeting place, part of their homework was to start that conversation and begin to make a plan. Unfortunately it began to rain and not all of the classes were able to see the fire truck in the parking lot, but the kids were really understanding and just said, "we'll get to next time".

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Wonderful Writers

Introducing the exciting, new Writers Workshop poster! Ta-Da! The kids are loving this tool to keep track of where they are in the writing process. Each student has a name on a square with a piece of velcro on the back and they move their name down the paper as they progress through their writing piece. We have been talking a lot about taking our time while writing to make sure that the story makes sense and is full of detail. When a story has these two things it will be interesting for the reader, whether that be a teacher, someone at home, or a peer here at school. They are always on the look out for these qualities as they are writing their stories.

The kiddos will be able to tell you about the different steps in the process, but to initiate conversation or jog their memories, here is a brief breakdown.

Writing: Working on their writing! They could be working on new piece or going back to an old piece that they feel needs some additional attention.

Conference #1: When they move their names to this section, this means that they have already looked over their own piece for things such as punctuation, capitals, and their best spelling. When they meet with an adult to conference, we look more closely at spelling, (especially the rules of spelling that we have learned or are learning in Fundations) the flow of their story, and where they could add more detail or "spice" up their words. Since I am meeting with one student at a time, while they are waiting to conference with me or another adult in the room, they are working on another piece they have in their writing folders.

Fix Writing: They go back to their writing spots to fix the things that they just went over with an adult.

Conference #2: They come back up to work with me or another adult to make sure they corrected all that they needed to. This is especially important when they are publishing a piece or it is going to be hung on the wall. As we get farther along in the year, this will be a time for them to conference with a peer.

Read to a Friend: Celebrate that you have completed a detailed, well illustrated, and interesting writing piece by reading it to someone in the class or even another class!

Today was the first day that we used this tool and again, it was a huge hit. The students were chatting as they were getting ready to go home about how much they loved writing and how excited they were to do it again tomorrow!