Friday, September 30, 2016

A Marvelous Morning in the Garden

    During science this week, we learned that an ecosystem is a community of both living and nonliving things that work together.  We brainstormed a variety of ecosystems that exist in the world, including forest, ocean, desert, and rainforest ecosystems.  I used this discussion as an opportunity to introduce the ecosystem that exists in our own backyard, the Y.E.S. Garden.  The kids discovered that our garden community consists of many living things, such as ants, butterflies, caterpillars, and plants, as well as many nonliving things, such as soil, water, a fence, and rocks.
     Our observations in the garden led to a wonderful discussion about symbiosis.  Symbiosis is the relationship between two different living things.  These AMAZING second grade scientists discovered that symbiosis exists in our Y.E.S. Garden...both the good and the bad!  They observed several small milkweed bugs feasting on their favorite food, milkweed seeds.   The kids determined that this was an example of a bad symbiotic relationship (parasitism).  They also were able to observe an example of a positive symbiotic relationship (mutualism), as they watched a bee pollinating a sunflower.        
     Upon returning to the classroom, the kids were eager to learn more about the milkweed bugs and how these pests may be impacting the monarch population.  After doing some additional research together, we learned that the milkweed bugs have also been known to eat caterpillars and even the chrysalides.  After much discussion, the kids hypothesized that perhaps the small milkweed bugs have a negative impact on the monarch butterfly population because the milkweed plant is essential in the monarchs survival.  I think I may just have a room full of future entomologists!  I continue to be absolutely awed by their wonder and joy of learning!
     I was truly impressed with the kids' focus and enthusiasm in our first garden observation, and am thrilled with the detailed sketches and scientific thinking they included in their Science Notebooks.

      A bee pollinating a sunflower.                            Small milkweed bugs on a milkweed plant.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Writer's Workshop

     We are hard at work during our Writer's Workshop in Room 208.  Our first writing unit focuses on improving narrative craft (small moment stories) by studying the work of master writers.  We have looked closely at the books, Owl Moon and a class favorite, The Night of the Veggie Monster.  Each of these books is a wonderful example of how writers can use details to stretch an important moment across pages.  After reading these books, our conversation led us to ponder the question, "How did these authors come up with their ideas?".  We learned that many authors get their ideas from everywhere - from things they hear and things they see, from books and songs and newspapers and paintings and conversations–and even from dreams.  The children also learned that many authors carry notepads to jot story ideas as they present themselves.  We decided that we could do the same thing with our Tiny Topic Notepads that came home today.  I was absolutely thrilled to see how quickly the kids began jotting ideas for stories in their notepads.  I am excited to see the kids stretch these ideas into small moment stories! 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Journey North

The kids also brought a hard copy of the information below home today in their school folder.

In a unique partnership, this fall our class is joining students and scientists across North America to track the monarch butterfly's migration to Mexico. As the migration progresses from September to November, students will learn about migration mysteries. They'll discover that a fragile butterfly can travel hundreds of miles to find its winter home deep in central Mexico. Students will witness how monarchs connect people across North America as they migrate across international borders.

Our Class Will Travel With The Monarchs

Our class is tracking the migration online and we invite you to join us. JOURNEY NORTH/SOUTH is an educational website that engages students in a global study of wildlife migration and seasonal changes.

Our Class Will Send an Ambassador Monarch to Mexico
Later this week, our class will make symbolic monarch butterflies to send to the children in Mexico who live beside the monarch's winter sanctuaries. The symbolic butterflies build bridges of communication between children across North America, and serve as ambassadors that represent our shared interests and common conservation goals.

Join the Journey!
Here’s how you can join our journey and support your child’s learning:
    • Tour Journey North online at
    • Watch for migrating monarchs: Be citizen scientists by observing and reporting your
       sightings of monarch butterflies.  Please feel free to let us know of any monarch sighting you
       have and we will gladly report it on the Journey North website here at school.
    • Learn More: Read booklets or view slideshows about monarch butterflies with your child on the
       Journey North website.

Diving into Spelling in Room 208!

     I introduced our Spelling Menu and Spelling Buckets today as a way for the kids to practice their second grade high frequency spelling words.  Each item on the menu provides children with a hands-on opportunity to practice their words.  The manipulatives needed for each menu item are located in our Spelling Buckets.  The menu items included the following:  1.  Paint in a bag - I poured paint into a large plastic bag and secured the top with (LOTS) of tape.  The kids used a Q-Tip to "write" their words on the outside of the bag.  2.  Letter Stamps - the kids used ink pads and letter stamps to spell their words on paper.  3.  Grid Paper - the kids used special grid paper to write their words in the boxes, and then outline them with a marker.  4.  Rainbow Roll and Write - the children rolled dice to determine what color to write their word on the spelling page.  5.  Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check - the kids studied their word carefully, whispered it to themselves, covered the word, spelled it out on the page, then checked their work.  They continued this routine with each of their words.  6. Make, Say, Check, Mix - children used letter cards to spell their word, then pointed to each letter (and whispered the letter name to themselves), then they checked their spelling to assure the word was correct, and finally mixed the letter cards and repeated building the word two more times. 
     The kids were extremely excited about using these materials!  Definitely a great afternoon!  Be sure to ask your child about their favorite Spelling Menu activity.

Paint in a bag                                            Grid Paper

                                                                   Letter Stamps

        Rainbow Roll and Write                                         Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check     


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Sensational Scientists!

     We have officially immersed ourselves in the first theme unit of our year and the kids enthusiasm for all things science just might be contagious!  We will spend lots of time exploring the Y.E.S. Garden throughout this first unit, as we learn about biodiversity and species relationships, right in our own backyard!
     We began this unit with a discussion around the two questions, "What is Science?" and "What is a Scientist?".  After reading the book, What is Science?, by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, we concluded that science can be the study of plants, animals, the weather, and chemistry, among many others things, but most of all, science is about being curious and learning from our curiosities. 
     We then began to focus on all the different types of scientists there are in the world.  I shared a PowerPoint with the kids to highlight the numerous opportunities that exist within this field.  The kids chose the scientist that interested them most (zoologist, doctor, botanist, marine biologist, etc.) to illustrate and write about in their first Science Notebook entry.  Wow!  Do we have a classroom full of curious scientists!  I was especially thrilled to see the kids seeking out books to learn more about their favorite type of scientist. 
     The children have also spent time becoming budding botanists, as they observed sunflowers from our garden.  I used this as an opportunity to discuss what it means to be an "Artist-Scientist".  We discussed that "Artist-Scientists" slow down their eyes to be sure to include all the important details in their sketch.  I was thrilled to see the incredible details the kids included in their Science Notebooks, and especially excited to see them "push their thinking" by adding labels and sentences to describe what they observed.  The kids should be extremely proud of their wonderful work!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Shelfie Success!

     Our classroom has been abuzz with book conversations, as kids have been highly engaged in sharing their "Shelfie" with peers.  I couldn't help but smile, as the kids excitedly made connections with one another around books...definitely a teacher's dream!
     During each of our "Shelfie" days, the kids displayed their books on their desks, similar to a book fair, and students browsed through one another's choices.  On the first day, I encouraged the kids to make connections verbally with their peers, using language such as, "I noticed that ___________ likes _____________.  This makes me think_______", "I made a connection with _______________.  She/He likes __________________ and so do I!", and "I learned that ______________.  I wonder _______________.". 
     On our second day the kids were each given a Post It note to leave on a classmate's "Shelfie", jotting what they noticed using the sentence frames/language from the previous day.  They circulated, Post It note in hand, with one stipulation.  There could only be one Post It note for each "Shelfie".  This guaranteed that each child would receive a note from a classmate.
      I want to thank you all for helping your child select books that were meaningful to them for our classroom "Shelfie" project.  This project would not have been a success without your help.  Thank you! Thank you!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Our Hopes and Dreams for Second Grade

     This afternoon we completed our "Hopes and Dreams for Second Grade" project.  Yesterday we began a discussion around the question, "Why do we come to school?".  The kids came up with a variety of ideas, including: "to learn how to make new friends", "to learn our math facts", "to learn how to build our writing muscles", "to read lots of books", and "to learn how to be a scientist", among many others.  This conversation evolved into a discussion about our goals, Our Hopes and Dreams, as second graders.  The children recorded their Hopes and Dreams on a speech bubble, using the sentence frame, "I hope to...".  Today, the kids created a paper face using paint, yarn, and markers to display with their speech bubble.  Be sure to ask your child about their own personal hopes and dreams for second grade. 
         I thank each of you for sharing your child with me this year.  I am honored to be their second grade teacher.  My hope for our year together is that your child will continue to grow their passion for learning in an environment where they feel both safe and valued.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Building our Classroom Community with a Growth Mindset

     Throughout our school year, I plan to introduce the kids to a variety of habits, or traits, that support a growth mindset.  These traits will become a central theme as we navigate second grade together.  Mindset is an idea credited to Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck after many years of researching achievement and success.  By definition, if you have a growth mindset, you believe that your skills, habits, and abilities are growing and changing and can improve with effort.  In contrast, a fixed mindset is defined as having the belief that your abilities are already set, or fixed.
     Today, I introduced optimism, the first of the five traits or habits that we will focus on throughout the year in cultivating a growth mindset.  I began by reading the book, Elephants Cannot Dance, by Mo Willems.  In this book, Piggie invites Gerald to dance.  Gerald, who is convinced that he cannot, decides to give it a go nonetheless.  In the end, Gerald realizes that he actually can dance, he just needed to give it a try.  I used this as a springboard to share our (second grade) definition of optimism, "When you do something new, you think, 'I can try', and give it your best shot because that's how you grow."  I was thrilled to hear the children immediately connecting with this new word, sharing ways that just like Gerald, they have been optimistic too.  One classmate shared that she was optimistic this past summer when her swimming instructor asked her to try and do the backstroke.  Another friend shared that he was optimistic when he went skiing for the first time.  Needless to say, this was music to my ears!  I concluded this lesson by sharing with the kids that we are going to keep our eyes open this year for when we see or feel optimism both in our classroom and in the whole world.
    In the coming weeks I plan to introduce flexibility and empathy, two additional traits that help support a growth mindset.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Fantastic First Day!

    We had a wonderful first day in second grade!  I am absolutely amazed at how quickly the children have fallen back into the routine of school.  I am having such a wonderful time learning about my new second grade friends!
     A class favorite today was an activity called,  “Getting to Know You”.  In this activity, the kids began by answering and recording a variety of questions about themselves, such as their favorite color, favorite food, how many letters in their first name, as well as many others.  Once we gathered our information, the game began.  The kids were challenged with finding classmates that matched their own choices.  For example, if Gracie's favorite color was purple, she needed to find a classmate who also chose blue as their favorite color.  This classmate would then write their initials next to this question on Gracie's paper.  A classmate could only initial a paper once.  This turned out to be an extremely engaging activity for the kids, as we learned many new things about one another.
     The children should be very proud of themselves, as they worked hard throughout the day and consistently made great choices.  Bravo!  I look forward to seeing you all tomorrow!

Please enjoy a few pictures from our first day together...

Monday, September 5, 2016

Welcome Back!

     I hope you are all enjoying our last day of summer vacation.  I am REALLY looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow morning! 
     As many of you are likely already aware, school begins at 8:40 and ends at 3:30 this year.  Children may be dropped off at school after 8:15 and should head out to the playground upon arrival.  If you plan to pick your child up after school, please come inside to the office and sign them out at dismissal.  It would also be extremely helpful if you could send a note along with your child in the morning if your after school plans change from the typical daily routine.  Thank you!
     I will be out on the playground tomorrow morning.  Once the bell rings, the kids should come find me and we will line up and walk into the building together.  
     I look forward to seeing you all soon!