Friday, September 14, 2018

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.  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.
Using our new microscopes and classroom hand lenses, the kids illustrated the different parts of the flower they observed.  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!
     We plan to head out to the YES garden next week.  Check back for information about this next science adventure!









Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Building 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.
     Last week, 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 effort 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 he was optimistic when he tried Gaga Ball.  Another friend shared that she was optimistic when she was swimming in the "big pool" at the YMCA.  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.

Friday, September 7, 2018

A Fabulous First Week

    We've had a wonderful first week in second grade!  I am absolutely amazed with 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!
     One of our favorite class activities this week was 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 Read's favorite sport was soccer, he needed to find a classmate who also chose soccer as their favorite sport.  This classmate would then write their initials next to this question on Read'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.
     Our classroom has also been abuzz with book conversations this week, 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 two Post It notes 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 two Post It notes for each "Shelfie".  This guaranteed that each child would receive two notes from classmates.  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!
   Please enjoy the pictures below from our first week.  Have a terrific weekend!


















Monday, April 9, 2018

Half a Metric Me!


     As a culmination to our measurement unit, the kids spent some time creating their very own "Mini-Me".  They began this project by measuring a variety of body parts with a partner, recording their data, then working to find the half measurement of each actual measurement.  As a class, we discussed strategies they could use to calculate half measurements.  The kids decided they could use the doubles fact strategy.  For example, if the measurement was 6 centimeters, they could ask themselves, "What is the doubles fact for 6?". This would lead them to 3, which is the half measurement.  Another strategy the kids decided upon was to fold their tape measure in half once they determined the actual measurement.
     In keeping with Everyday Math instruction, the kids were given the option to round their measurements to the nearest centimeter.  This method was also applied when calculating the half measurements.  For example, if the actual measurement was 35 cm, the half measurement would be 17 1/2 cm.  The kids were given the option to use either 17 or 18 as the measurement.
     I was thrilled with how completely engaged the kids were in this project.  The Mini Me Second Graders look fabulous!



Monday, April 2, 2018

Arctic Animal Research Project

     We have spent the past several weeks learning about the Arctic and the animals that inhabit this part of our world.  The kids recently completed a culminating project, showcasing their learning during this unit.
     Our initial lessons were spent learning about the geography and climate of the Arctic, as well as the people and animals who live there.  Using their newly acquired background knowledge, the kids then had an opportunity to choose an Arctic animal they were most interested in researching for a special project.  I was absolutely amazed at how focused and engaged the kids were, as they used iPads, books, and articles to gather information about their chosen animal.  The kids learned how to use "dot jots" to help them record their learning as they gathered facts about the animal's physical characteristics, its' predators, its' prey, and a variety of other interesting information.  The kids used their "dot jot" research to compose a report that taught their audience about an Arctic animal.  I was absolutely amazed at how easily the kids used their notes (dot jots) to compose complete sentences in their reports!  This is quite a sophisticated skill for a second grader.  Bravo!
      After the writing was complete, the kids created an "Arctic Explorer" art piece to accompany their research.  The kids recorded their Arctic Reports on SeeSaw and then attached a QR Code to their "Arctic Explorer" for all to enjoy!  Please be on the lookout for an Arctic Explorer post in your child's SeeSaw portfolio!






Saturday, March 24, 2018

Maine Maple Sugaring

     Our classroom was brimming with excitement Friday afternoon as we were treated to a fabulous hands-on learning experience, courtesy of Odin and Alexander, 4th graders here at Yarmouth Elementary.  Odin and Alexander spent time teaching us all about maple sugar season.  They began by reading a picture book, teaching the details of maple sugaring - the process of sap collection and making maple syrup.  Once they finished the story, the boys shared the numerous tools they brought along used in maple sugaring and demonstrated how to tap a tree for sap.  Finally, we traveled outside to a maple tree Odin and Alexander had chosen to tap with our class.  With the help of Mr. Gleason, we tapped the tree and were absolutely thrilled when the sap began flowing from the tap immediately!  VERY EXCITING!!
     We plan to check our bucket, with the guidance of our 4th grade friends, early next week.  A very special thank you to Odin and Alexander for taking the time to share their expertise with our class!
     Many of the kids were excited to learn more about Maine Maple Sunday, scheduled for Sunday, March 25th.  Below, please find a link, outlining the many festivities planned across the state to celebrate this New England tradition.

About Maine Maple Sunday





Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Fabulous Afternoon with Miss Kat!

The kids had a wonderful Friday afternoon sculpting arctic animals with local artist Kat Gillies.  Be sure to ask your child all about this engaging, hands-on experience!













Thursday, March 8, 2018

Reading Workshop

     The kids were busy filling their book boxes with fiction texts this week, as we launched a new unit in reading.  In this unit, titled "Bigger Books Mean Amping Up Reading Power," instruction focuses on three important foundational skills: fluency, literary language, and tracking longer stories.
     This week the focus was on fluency.  Now that children are reading substantially longer books, practicing fluency is especially valuable, as it is key to comprehension.  The kids learned that rereading, especially out loud, is the best way to change the reading voice inside their heads.  "Reading with a clear, smooth voice inside one's head is a key to reading better, stronger, longer, and with more understanding." (Lucy Calkins)
     The kids were reminded to use all the clues the author provides to read with their best reading voice.  The kids practiced scooping words in phrases, noticing punctuation, using dialogue tags, and paying close attention to the characters and matching their voice with the appropriate tone.  I am pretty sure that our minilesson on dialogue tags was the favorite of the week!  Be sure to ask your child about this fun activity.
     Next week, my instruction will shift to providing kids with the tools they need to tackle the figurative language they are beginning to encounter in their books.
     I continue to be absolutely thrilled with the enthusiasm the children have for books and reading.  I am especially impressed with the growth in their reading stamina since September - something to be proud of for sure!  Bravo!

Friday, February 16, 2018

STEM Challenge - Take Three!

     Our classroom was brimming with excitement once again this morning, as the kids tackled their third STEM challenge of the school year.  As with the first two activities, the children worked with a partner to design, build, test and evaluate their solution to a challenge, as they became "Engineer Scientists".
     We began the lesson by reading the book, The Biggest Snowman Ever, by Steven Kroll.  This is the story of two friends, Desmond and Clayton, who work together to build the tallest snowman in the town Mouseville.
    This was a wonderful lead into "the challenge" the children would be charged with solving.   Working together with a given set of materials, the kids designed and built the tallest snowman possible.  They were given the following materials and 35 minutes to construct their snowman.
                   Materials:  4 pieces of thick paper,  5 pipe cleaners,  4 drinking straws,
                                     4 large smoothie straws, 2 feet of masking tape, and scissors                            
     We concluded this lesson by discussing why some snowmen were able to stand longer and stronger than others.  We "pushed our thinking" by looking carefully at the structure of the snowmen and discussed what was unique about the designs.  We concluded that a strong, wide base was a key to success!
    Each child posted their drawn design and model to their SeeSaw portfolio.  Be sure to ask your child about the snowman they created as they became a second grade engineer.