Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Help! I don't understand how to use an APOSTROPHE!

We've been doing some great work with writing in second grade and we have shown the readiness to dig deeper into apostrophies!

Kids always ask closed-ended questions about apostrophies, so that's how I designed the last couple of lessons. We've discussed singular/plural and contractions (review lessons) as well as possession and ownership. The kids loved the chart that went along with the lesson.

The next day we continued our discussion and the class helped me come up with a fun song to remember when to use and not use apostrophies.

I look forward to hearing your feedback and to follow each other for more rich experiences for our students.
Have a fantastic day!

Friday, November 22, 2013

I'm Thankful For

This is one of my favorite fun activities of the year. We always have a list of words that are applicable to whatever occasion is upcoming.

Since we are working toward two projects expressing gratitude (one writing piece and one art piece), we spend a bit more time brainstorming things we are thankful for. 

I gather my kiddos in the classroom library and have my two special helpers of the day pass out a large white paper on each student's desk. 

I have my own white paper on the easel and draw two brown circles on my paper. I send them to their desk to do the same. When they return, I show students how to draw 5 large feathers and then send them to their seats to do the same. It's important that they make their feathers as wide as the paper will fit (so they can write clearly). Then, they write in the lower circle, "I am thankful for…" and draw on a couple little feet. 

Then, I gather everyone up again and explain that on each feather, they will write one thing they are grateful for. I ask if there are other things they would like added to the list and do so at this time.

I model for students writing on the feathers with white crayon. It's important that they write their letters clearly- as neat as possible.

Then comes the fun! Once students have written what they're grateful for on each feather, they are ready to get some watercolors and paint each feather whatever color they choose. Here are some of my favorite quotes from today, "It's like magic!" and, "It's like uncovering a mystery."

Then, we add finishing touches onto the face of our turkey. I recommend using crayons for the face because the watercolors can be so runny, but most want to use them anyway. The kids just love this project and so do I!

I look forward to hearing your feedback and to follow each other for more rich experiences for our students.
Have a fantastic day!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fall Into a Good Book

Creating a love for all things literacy is an on-going goal of mine. Students are learning as they go and developing a little more as each day passes. Here's a fun current tasks complete activity I have done with my students this fall. Enjoy!


Construction Paper (small size- prob 9x12ish)
   • blue (background)
   • green (grass) (cut lengthwise so that one piece is enough for two students)
   • brown (tree & arms)
   • red, yellow, orange, green (ripped into ~1cm pieces for leaves)

Little paper books
Paper eyes
Fall into a good book sign

I usually draw a bare tree with arms (I try to make the arms 2-3" in length) onto a piece of white copy paper. Then, copy it onto brown construction paper.

Students can make their green strip into a mound of grass and glue it to the bottom of their blue page.

Students will cut out the tree and arms and glue it onto their blue paper on top of the mound of grass. Arms should only be glued where they attach to the tree- about 1 cm- not the entire length of the arms (see sample).

The tree looking really perfect isn't necessary because it'll be cut out and covered with leaves.

I set the ripped paper leaves into separate plastic containers and have students get a few leaves of each color and glue onto the branches of the tree.

Once the students have their trees full of beautiful leaves, guide them in attaching the trees' eyes and Fall Into a Good Book sign.

Students should have about 1cm of each arm attached to the trunk of the tree. Bend the arms away from the paper and then make another bend at the hand (about 1cm). Students will then attach the book to the hands (blue hands to the back (color) side of the book (see sample).

Finally, I teach students to sign their name like an artist. The finished example (above) doesn't show he did that, but here's one that does.

I look forward to hearing your feedback and to follow each other for more rich experiences for our students.
Have a fantastic day!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

First Day Goal Setting

Wanted to start the year with a goal setting activity this year and the kids did just awesome. The product turned out cuter than expected, but the learning was just out of this world!

In the morning, I had students tune some fine-motor skills by tracing their hand and cutting out the hand with an extra long arm. This exercise gave me some good data on where I could focus my time with my English Language Learners, my students who need more practice with fine motor skills, and those who struggled to follow directions.

When we were ready to start the main activity, we put the arms away.  I began by asking the students what things they were really successful with as first graders. They had a fantastic list of things that we celebrated.

Then, I asked what they could think of that they would like to improve upon as 2nd graders. I loved their openness and willingness to be vulnerable to disclose so much. They were so expressive, which was a welcome surprise, considering it was only the first day of school. Here is a list of what they shared as goals:

Read each night
Listen to the teacher
Show respect
Do my homework every night
Be quiet when teacher is talking
Solve problems
Be nice to others
Be honest
Be a good friend
Do my work neatly

I had each student pick five goals they really wanted to focus on. The above list was typed onto a word processing document and projected onto the screen to aid in spelling. I distributed the arms they had made and asked each child to write one goal on each finger. Once that was finished, they could draw whatever they wanted on the arm. Wow… the creativity was awesome.

That evening, my amazing husband and daughters came in to help me tie up some loose ends. He covered the door in black and we arranged the title REACH FOR THE STARS on the top of the blank door.

The next morning, our entry task included some calculating with coloring (stars and moons).
Each student cut out 2 of their favorite stars they had colored. They brought their stars to me at the door and glued their star where they wanted it to be, then each child added the arm they had made.

It's so awesome that we have a beautifully decorated door that all of the students are proud of because it's their work and their goals.

Here's to a great start of the year.

I look forward to hearing your feedback and to follow each other for more rich experiences for our students.
Have a fantastic day!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Read it! Draw it! Solve it!

My team has been looking for ways to make homework work for students and their learning. Although we do have differing views on homework, the majority of our teachers want to assign nightly homework, so the be unified, all of us do nightly homework… I could go on, but perhaps in another post.

Anyway, one of the things we've used is the USA+J approach to problem solving. This is a great strategy, but for some reason, our second graders have struggled with it. We have a book called Read it! Draw it! Solve it! That some of us have used for entry task work or to specifically work through story problems. We decided to use this approach as we teach problem solving this year. Some of us will use the actual Read it! Draw it! Solve it! book, but the idea is that we apply this strategy to any story problem that we come across.

Here's the mistake I made: I sent home a homework page with a blank Read it, Draw it, Solve it on the back side (where students were supposed to solve the problem). This was not successful because it came with no direction. I basically used a template someone else had created and copied my homework off quickly. I didn't THINK IT THROUGH enough. After that experience, I created a document that will help students and their parents understand the expectations and be successful with using this process for solving story problems. Even though I don't always get it right the first time, I do always say, "When in doubt, make the expectations more clear." I hope this sheet is helpful for you.

I look forward to hearing your feedback and to follow each other for more rich experiences for our students.
Have a fantastic day!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Get REAL About Writing

I saw a blog post recently on real reading vs. fake reading. Ugh! NO kidding!

This blog post got me thinking about other ways my students can be FAKERS!!! Daily 5 Work on Writing came to mind immediately. I have a few students who are highly proficient in working through the writing process and set mini personal goals to get to
where we need to be to publish their writing.

Today, I was thrilled at my students' astuteness in talking about what it means to be a fake writer (which was what we started with) as opposed to being a real writer. I framed it like this: "There are times when everyone is supposed to write, but kind of fakes it, right?" They thought this was funny, but I love that the relationship piece of my teaching is strong and students feel safe to share answers to tough questions like this with honesty. The kids were EAGER to share all of the ways they have been fake writers or ways they have seen classmates engage in FAKE WRITING behavior. This was fun and helpful. We learned that understanding how it looks to be a fake writer will help us be better at being a real writer. They also see that Mrs. Schmidt is not to be fooled! CACKLECACKLE!!

I look forward to hearing your feedback and to follow each other for more rich experiences for our students.
Have a fantastic day!

The Blind Can Read

One message I drive home hard with my students (no matter the age level I have taught) has been to understand what READING is. I begin by asking my students which body part they believe most essential to be able to read. Never fail… kids say, "Eyes!" Very good. We explore a little and I ask if they know whether or not blind people can read. Some students have a little bit of prior knowledge about braille (not typically the vocabulary), so we learn a little about that! They love it!

So if blind people can read, then what it the most important body part for being able to read. I lead them to … dut dada DAAAAAA! 

THE BRAIN! It doesn't take long before kids know that their brain is the most essential body part to being a reader; however, if you've worked with readers for any length of time… 20 years, 20 minutes, or anything in between, you know that applying that knowledge is a whole new beast. Perhaps you feel like this…
So… I was thrilled to incorporate into my teaching (sometime around 2001) what we dubbed: Active Reading Strategies.
BTW- this was 6th grade, where we developed these strategies.  Within the year, we decided that naming these strategies Active READING Strategies might be counter-productive to what we want. We changed it to Active Thinking Strategies, made some revisions, and caught the attention of our Learning and Teaching department to adopt and implement (in various forms) K-12 in our district.  It has been maintained over the years. 

Even when I moved from 6th to 2nd grade, I used most of this language to help students understand how to interact with text. I modified them a bit, though, and make it more accessible to my students.

While using Monitor Meaning as the basis for good reading, I focus heavily on Question/Connect/Predict in September and October. 

These are revisited throughout the year on a cyclical basis as well as in response to formative assessment results.

You may be familiar with  Decoding and Comprehension strategies that are aligned with Beanie Babies. Oh how I just LOVE these!

Beanie Babies are a great thrift store find-- but beware… if you're looking for specific ones, best of luck to you (I must've visited 5 thrift stores and all of the regular and grocery stores too). I never did find the right spider, but the bug I did find, works just fine.

I organized the babies into decoding and comprehension strategies and that worked fairly well for a year, but I started noticing that my students were more enjoying reading with a BB friend rather than using the strategy represented by that baby. SOOOOOO, I made some necklaces. On the front, I put a picture and the name of the BB and on the back, I put the description of how to use the strategy. 

As a former frustrated reader, I had to figure out how to enjoy reading. Monitor Meaning was the absolute KEY to this! My problem was that I could rarely remember what it was that I read… just horrible comprehension. I figured out (in my 30s) that the problem was my lack of engagement with the text. ATS was the key to this and most specifically so-- MONITOR MEANING!

 I love passing this life lesson of my own to my students. I teach my students to stop reading frequently to review in their mind what they've read as well as use one of our main three ATS: question, connect, and/or predict. We ask questions about the text and look for answers in our reading. We connect to our lives, to what we've heard of or seen (including text to text, text to self, and text to world), and we look for answers in the text to questions and predictions.
Praises because my students see that this is one way to make reading FUN! I love when they say things like, "We're already done? NOOOOOO! That was too fast!" These are the days that I just love love love luhhhh--uvvvvvv my job!

I look forward to hearing your feedback and to follow each other for more rich experiences for our students.
Have a fantastic day!