Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is fast approaching!  I am getting ready to send out my February homework assignments for my second graders to complete for the month of February!  They are fun and encourage the children to be creative and challenge them to use their creativity all the while learning or practicing skills that they have learned in school.

The first activity is Be My Valentine.  This is a writing activity where they write a letter to me, convincing me that they should be my chosen Valentine.  This is my FAVORITE holiday activity!  I have done this in my 4th grade classes each year and it fell right into place for persuasive writing.  They had to write a great "grabber" sentence in the introduction, three persuasive body paragraphs, and a "hook" paragraph to wrap things up!  For my second graders it falls right in with my writing lessons for writing a friendly letter, except they need to persuade me to pick them.  The winner of my contest gets lunch with Mrs. Pluta- they get to pick 4 friends to join them.  I provide the dessert and a movie to watch while we eat lunch!  To help pick the winner; I take home all the pieces of writing, and I read them to my family and they pick which piece of writing is the most convincing to Be My Valentine.  This way there is no chance of favoritism! 
My second Valentine activity is for each student to create a Valentine Mailbox out of recycled material.  They need to create a container that will hold all of their Valentine's that they receive on Valentine's Day.  There must be an opening that the children can reach into to get their Valentine's - so that the creation is not destroyed.  Each year, their ideas get better and better!  I have attached a slide show that shows some of the ideas that my students have created in the past, which is wonderful for showing the kids to help them get their creative minds working. 
One year- I had a young man create a puppet-- he held the puppet in his hands and people put their Valentine's Day cards inside the mouth--  you may ask yourself "where did they go from there?"-- Well, he had a bag that was attached to the mouth-- just like a stomach!  Very creative!  I have had creations made from Lego's, one that looked like a car engine, a piggy bank, gingerbread house, robot, crazy heart shaped box, giant container mailbox..... the list goes on!  They love this activity and so do I--  it really shows a piece of the child that is sometimes missing in our lessons-- the creative side!  Also-- it is a great way to learn more about the child, just by looking at how they decorated their box, container or their creation! 

Click here to download a copy of my letters to my parents and students:

Happy Valentine's Day Mailbox

Be My Valentine

Mailbox Ideas to help you get started!

Enjoy!  And Happy Valentine's Day to you and your students!  Blog your ideas on how you and your student's are celebrating Valentine's Day!

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

"No More I'm Done" Writer's Workshop

Writer's Workshop~ the key to independent writing.  But, getting there is another subject.  I love the idea of writer's workshop and when I taught 4th grade it was so easy.  The foundations of writing were already set into place, they knew how to capitalize, punctuate, what are nouns, verbs....etc.  They could read an encyclopedia, use a computer, and follow a rubric......  Writer's workshop ran so smoothly! 

But,  it is another topic in 2nd grade.  I have struggled with the mini workshop ideas and getting the kids to write more than 5 sentences on the same topic. I struggle with teaching the basics to writing.   It is really hard to pin down what is supposed to be taught and when. 

AND THEN...................................
And then I read the wonderful, the amazing book "No More I'm Done" by Jennifer Jacobson.  This book is wonderful-- I cannot say it enough.  Her book is easy to read.  Jennifer gives examples of what good writing looks like, sounds like and feels like.  Which is what we all need to read in order to teach good writing.  This book also provides mini lessons to incorporate into our classrooms!  A whole year of mini lessons!  A WHOLE YEAR!!!  Yeah! 

So if you cannot wait to run to the book store or shop Amazon--  you can check it out for FREE!  Online the WHOLE book!!!

Just click the link below and you can check out the whole book for FREE!

So click the below link to check out the book online- provided by Stenhouse Publisher.

Check out the book and write and tell me what you think and how you are going to incorporate her ideas into your classroom.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Future 2nd Grade Engineers!!!

It is Thursday morning and I am on my way to Giant Foods to pick up my math supplies--- Yep, you read correct at the grocery store!  I need about 200 marshmallows and about 600 toothpicks! 

I am one of three second grade classrooms in our PA school.  My grade level partners and I pretest each unit of math.  We separate our kids into three levels, above grade level, on grade level, and below grade level.  I teach the below grade level group.  I average about 18- 20 kids in my class for each unit.  Not only are my kids below grade level for the math skills that I teach, but I also have a lot of behavioral challenges that accompany most of my kids.  I love teaching this group!  Everyday is a challenge and everyday a new light bulb goes on! 

One way that I keep my kids challenged and moving is to provide them with plenty of hands on activities.  So today-- I told them that they were going to create plane and 3D shapes.  I started off the lesson by showing the kids a plane rectangle piece of paper and a rectangular prism.  We then brainstormed using a Venn Diagram the similarities and differences between the two shapes.  I love to use the "Think Pair Share"-- together they summarized the differences and similarities between the two shapes.  After we reviewed the rules of the toothpicks and reminders of NOT eating the marshmallows-- they are tools and tools are used carefully and with respect.  Then I challenged them by placing the word ENGINEER on the board.  Without telling them what the word was or how to pronounce it-- I had them once again "Think Pair Share".  I told them they were going to be builders -- "Engineers" and they were going to create and build 3D shapes. 

They were SO excited about this new challenge.  They scrambled to get to the paper and begin designing their 3D shapes.  Once they had drawn their shapes,  they had to count the number of edges and corners that they would need to construct their shape creation.  It was great!  When they came to me to get their supplies they had to use their math vocabulary-- corners (marshmallows) and edges (toothpicks)! 

They did a great job!!  I was so proud-- and most of all SO DID THEY!!!

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ready, Set, Teach............................

I love going to my kids sporting events and cheering on my little men and all their teammates.  All across the United States cheer leaders are becoming more and more popular in all sporting events-- there is someone in every bleacher who is cheering someone on!  Cheering can be very uplifting and reinforcing!  I remember as a young girl playing softball-- I was running from 3rd base and ready to steal home-- and everyone was yelling-- but one voice was heard above them all and it was from my dad-- who was cheering me on like no other!  I heard his voice yelling for me to go the whole time I was sliding under the catchers legs-- with her glove coming right at my face!  Before I could even realize I was safe-- I again heard my Dad's voice yelling-- "That's my girl"!   It still gives me chills thinking about that moment! 

So, why not bring cheering and more positive reinforcement into the classroom and make it a highly engaged classroom?  I am always looking for ways to positively engage all the kids in my class (even when they are not making good choices) hopefully if they keep hearing me ring in their heads they will automatically start doing the right choice!  LOL!!!  I was introduced this past summer to whole brain teaching and I fell in love with the WHOLE idea!  I loved the cheering and all the chants!  I saw in the videos all the students in the classroom actively engaged!

I never actually sat down and wrote all the chants and cheers that I use on a daily basis with my classroom, until last night.  I was making flash cards to place in my sub folder-- and I decided to type them up-- WOW!  I did not realize how many I actually used!  So today-- I am at home with sick kids-- and I am taking advantage of having some down time-- and here they are!

Toad-a-ly Cool Chants!

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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Healthy Snacks

Teaching children healthy snacks-- is becoming harder and harder-- we are becoming a society in which we are so busy, rushing here and there-- we have our children in so many activities and we feel we need to do everything.  In the rush of everything- we are also teaching our children and students how to rush when we eat and grab whatever is at hand.  Coming into 2nd grade this year-- I wanted to start to make a change in how I handle snack with the students and my everyday lessons. 
What a better way to get kids writing and learning, than to include snacks into writing.  Not just any kind of snacks, but healthy snacks!  Each month my second grade class prepares a healthy snack during our writing workshop.  I discuss the snack and then each child copies the snack off the SmartBoard in their BEST handwriting and we file the recipes until the end of the year to form a recipe book.  Each student will create their own snack following the recipe.  After each snack is created and eaten, the students will be assessed on their recipe writing, perfomance, and participation.  They use a rubric to score how well they wrote their recipe in their best handwriting, followed directions, used healthy habits while creating their snacks, and cleaned up after themselves.  The students will grade themselves and I will also have the oppertunity to grade each student's performance.
To extend our lesson of importance of healthy habits and creating an environment to keep us healthy, my students created and maintain a healthy ecosystem within the classroom with our very own fish aquarium.  My students will learn the importance of taking care of the ecosystem and giving the fish a healthy servinf of food each day!

Click HERE for the recipes and rubric! Happy snacking!!!

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