Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

     We had a WONDERFUL time harvesting parsnips in the Y.E.S. garden yesterday.  We learned that parsnips are a root vegetable, closely related to the carrot.  Parsnips are best harvested later in the season, as the vegetable becomes sweeter in flavor after the first few frosts. 
     Today, we roasted some of the parsnips in maple syrup...yummy!!  I have a feeling that many children will be requesting maple parsnips in the near future, which I hope is music to your ears!  Please follow this link to the recipe we used today:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/nigella-lawson/maple-roast-parsnips-recipe.html#.  We delivered the remaining parsnips to the school kitchen, where they will be used in our lunch program in the near future.
     The kids also created "Gratitude Trees" today, under the guidance of Lucas' mom.  The kids wrote things they were thankful for on each of their leaves, and then added their leaves to the tree.  A special thank you to Mrs. D'Alessandro for all her help in making this project possible!
     Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving break!

Monday, November 21, 2016

STEM Challenge: Take-two!

     Our classroom was brimming with excitement once again this morning, as the kids tackled their second STEM challenge of the school year.  As with the first challenge, the children worked with a partner to design, build, test and evaluate their solution to a problem as they became "Engineer Scientists".
     We began the lesson by reading the book, Pilgrims of Plymouth, by Susan B. Goodman.  This led to a fabulous discussion about Thanksgiving, Pilgrims, Native Americans, and the Mayflower.  We discussed the types of provisions the Pilgrims may have brought along on the Mayflower.  The kids suggested items such as tools for cooking (iron pot, pans, utensils), tools for gardening and building (saw, axe, hammer, shovel), clothing and food and water.
    This was a wonderful lead into "the problem" the children would be charged with solving.  I told the kids they were going to become boat builders, working to build The Mayflower III (they learned that the Mayflower II already exists at Plimoth Plantation in MA).  They would need to work with a partner using the provided materials to build a strong, sturdy boat that could hold lots of cargo (provisions).  Once construction was complete, each partnership would test their boat's strength by floating it in a tub of water and loading cargo bit by bit (pennies).
     The kids were given the following materials and 30 minutes to construct their Mayflower III.
                   Materials:  10 Wikki Stix, 10 Popsicle Sticks, 5 Post It Notes, 5 Toothpicks, 5 Beads,
                                     1 Piece of Tin Foil
     We concluded this lesson by discussing why some boats held more pennies than others.  We "pushed our thinking" by looking carefully at the structure of the boats that were able to hold many pennies and discussed what was unique about these designs.  
     Be sure to ask your child about the Mayflower they created as they became a second grade engineer.

                                           Step One: Imagining, Discussing, and Planning

                                                     Step Two: Sketching the Design

                                                   Step 3: Building, Building, Building!


                                                         Step 4: Testing the Design

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Writer's Workshop

    We are nearing the end of our personal narrative writing unit here in the classroom.  The kids have each chosen one small moment story in their writing folder to "fix and fancy up", using an edit checklist as their guide.  I am currently introducing this edit checklist to the kids, modeling how to use this tool bit by bit to both reflect on our writing and to revise our work.  They have been working hard to include the skills on the edit checklist into their writing each day.  
    We are looking forward to showcasing our small moment stories with you soon.  Please stay tuned for coming details.

Edit Checklist

A Special Guest

     This morning we visited Mrs. Page-Redmann's classroom for a presentation on Native Americans.  Be sure to ask your child about this wonderful experience! 
         We will begin our study of Native American tribes in the United States after Thanksgiving break.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Introducing...The Literacy Suitcase!

     Amid much excitement, I introduced the kids to our Literacy Suitcase this afternoon.  The Literacy Suitcase is a small suitcase filled with a variety of word games intended to help build a strong phonics foundation.  These games will help the kids develop skills they can draw upon in both their reading and writing.
     Each day one child will be chosen to take the Literacy Suitcase home for the night.  On the evening your child brings home the suitcase, they will not have any other homework.  I encourage you to share in this learning experience with your child.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Pajama Day!

     The kids recently earned their second "special day" and chose to celebrate with pajamas and board games.  They spent time this morning playing games with their classmates, all while lounging in their coziest PJs!  It was wonderful to watch as the kids played respectfully and cooperatively with one another, making this time an absolute success!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Reader's Workshop in Room 208

     We are currently wrapping up our first reading unit in second grade, and boy, our reading muscles are getting stronger!!  I am absolutely thrilled to see SO MANY kids "lost in their book" during Reader's Workshop.  Absolutely heartwarming!  My primary focus throughout this first unit was to empower the children to "take charge" of their reading.
     In the first half of the unit, the children learned that strong readers make lots of decisions as they read; they decide how their reading will sound, how much they will read, and how to make sure their reading makes sense.  The kids have become especially savvy in giving a book a "sneak peek", as they study the cover, read the back blurb, look at the table of contents, and read a bit of the first page.  This kind of careful previewing has enabled the kids to predict what the character might want, what might get in the way, and how the problem might be solved...all before beginning to read the book!  I have especially enjoyed watching the kid's engagement as they work to determine how a book might want to be read.  They have learned that some books (or parts of books) want to be read in a sweet, calm voice, such as, "Once upon a time in a small village there lived a kind little mouse", while other books (or pages) are meant to be read in a loud, scary voice, such as, "I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down!"  We have had so much fun practicing this skill, that the kids recently suggested that we read our Morning Message in a newscaster voice, since the message brings us news about our day!
     In the second half of this unit, the kids learned that when second grade readers come to a tricky word, they don't say, "HELP!"  They roll up their sleeves and get to work!  It has been amazing to watch them become independent word solvers, absolutely determined to figure out words all by themselves!  The kids should be so very proud of themselves!
     I also embedded the importance of "checking your understanding" throughout this first unit, modeling frequently for the kids how to stop every few pages and do a quick retell across fingers. We also have begun to use these stops as a place to "push ourselves to have a thought" about what is happening in the book.  The kids used Post It notes to jot a few words to help them remember their idea to discuss later with a buddy.
     Below, you will find two anchor chart from our classroom bulletin board.  These highlight the teaching points throughout our first reading unit.  The children use these charts as a resource and I will refer to these skills frequently throughout the year.
    The kids will spend the next couple of weeks participating in shared reading activities and interactive read alouds during our Reader's Workshop minilessons.  Shared reading is a time for kids to work on stretching themselves in word solving skills, comprehension, and fluency.  Interactive read alouds give children opportunities to participate in discussions about a text.  Books chosen for such read alouds typically contain rich language, which allows for exposure to new vocabulary.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

STEM Challenge

     Our classroom was brimming with excitement yesterday as the kids tackled their first STEM challenge of the school year.  Working with a partner, the children designed, created, tested and evaluated their solution to a problem as they became "Engineer Scientists".
     We began by reading the book, Too Many Pumpkins, by Linda White.  In this story, a giant pumpkin falls off the back of an overloaded truck into Rebecca Estelle's yard, scattering seeds everywhere.  To her surprise, the following autumn Rebecca's yard is filled with beautiful big orange pumpkins.  Initially she overwhelmed with this bumper crop, unsure of what to do with this surplus of pumpkins.  She eventually decides to bake...and bake...and bake, making pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cookies and pumpkin pies, in addition to carving many jack-o-lanterns to share with her entire community in a special party at her house on the edge of the village.
     After we finished reading the story the kids were introduced to "the problem".  I explained to the children that Rebecca Estelle's celebration was such a success that the people of the village had requested that it become an annual event.  The problem was the bridge that connected Rebecca Estelle house to the village needed to be replaced in order to support all the pumpkins needed for the celebration.
     Working with a partner, the kids were given 30 popsicle sticks and 3 feet of tape.  Using only these materials, they needed to design a bridge that would span across two desks that were pulled 1 foot apart.  We discussed how engineer scientists begin solving a problem by discussing their ideas with others (a partner), then plan their design (sketching the plan on paper).  Next, the kids were given time to create/built their design.  The kids quickly learned that being flexible in their thinking was  key in tackling this challenge.  I was thrilled to see the kids working together, completely engaged in the task at hand.  
     Once construction was complete, we tested our designs by loading each bridge with mini pumpkins.  We concluded this lesson by discussing why some bridges held more pumpkins than others.  We "pushed our thinking" by looking carefully at the structure of the bridges that were able to hold many pumpkins and discussed what was unique about these designs.  
     Be sure to ask your child about the bridge they created as they became a second grade engineer.



Math Monsters in Room 208

     As an extension to several Everyday Math lessons that have focused on skip counting, doubles facts and touched on the relationship between multiplication and (repeated) addition, the kids have been hard at work creating Math Monsters.  To create their monsters, the kids flipped a card and recorded groups of four based on the number they flipped.  For example, if a child flipped the number 3, they recorded the fact, 3x4, and then recorded 3 groups of four.  They solved the fact by using repeated addition, 4+4+4=12.  Finally, the kids looked on the class Math Monster poster to determine what body part to add to their very own monster.  It was so exciting to see how completely engaged the kids were in this spooky activity!  Be sure to check out these wonderful creations both in the pictures below and displayed in our classroom.