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!