Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Spectacular Secret Santa

During a normal holiday season I have so much to get excited about... Decorating the tree, Christmas light drives, baking cookies, sing alongs, Santa train rides with the kids, and that amazing Balsam Fir scented candle.  This year I had one added thing to get excited about. I participated in the Spectacular Secret Santa!  

I got home one night and found that this had come in the mail. 

I was soooooo excited about this beautifully wrapped package and my daughters (5 and 3 years old) could not understand why this colorful gift wasn't for them.  Sorry kids, it's time for mom to be the surprise(ee) and not the surprise(er).

My Secret Santa (who I never met before) had given me the most perfect gift.  

Yup!! There was Candy Cane ground coffee in there!!!! As well as,  Mr. Sketch scented markers!!!  (Only a teacher can understand how exciting a gift that is).  Also, there was a Vera Bradley cosmetic bag. It's perfect!! 

This Spectacular Secret Santa was a ton of fun and I am happy to have made a new friend who added a bit more excitement to this already exciting time of the year.  Thank you Nicole from All Things Apple in 2nd for my special gift.

Merry Christmas to all the Spectacular Secret Santas!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Deck The Halls and Classroom Walls

I just got back from my school's second grade Holiday Concert.  My kids have been practicing so hard and they got all dressed up tonight to perform for their friends and families.  Listening to "Jingle Bell Rock" and "Super Santa"  is exactly what I needed to get me into the holiday spirit.

We've been busy in the classroom "Decking our Halls" with all kinds of holiday fun. I am linking up with Amy at Step Into Second Grade with Mrs. Lemons to showcase some of the exciting things we've been up to these past few weeks.

In Math we are doing all kinds of fraction practice so I changed up an old favorite of mine, "Fractionpillar" and made it into a strand of Fraction Holiday Lights. The kids got to choose any 8 colored lights and filled out the fraction for each color. 

I needed a second hallway craft for the area that is just at the foot of the stairs going up to my room.  For this we did a very simple triangle reindeer.  A couple of traces and cuts and this reindeer is good to go.  

From my TpT Shop: Two Simple Holiday Crafts

To go with these cute reindeer we read the classic "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer" and "The Wild Christmas Reindeer" by Jan Brett.  

When we finished reading both books we did a little Compare and Contrast activity to finish it all up.  These compare and contrast pages are from Detectives Only Book Club by Tiffany Gannon.   

Every year we make something in the classroom that the students can give to their family.  In the past I've done an ornament of some kind but this year we are doing something a little different.  Instead of an ornament we are making calendars.  

The kids illustrated the four seasons in each of the boxes, I laminated them, and attached a 12 month calendar which was a free download one of my coworkers found online.  Voila! I let the kids pick their color background and I had one little guy choose the color "beige, because that's the color of my kitchen where my mom will hang it up." I asked him what the accent color was in his kitchen to liven up the background and he had NO IDEA what I was talking about. Ha :)

Less than 2 weeks until Christmas!!!  

I don't know about you but my little ones at home and at school are starting to be taken over by the excitement.  I found this sign at HomeGoods which for the next two weeks I want to tattoo onto my forehead.  I think it would send a friendly reminder both at school and at home :)
By Santa, I mean this little guy. (His sisters got a kick out of this outfit.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

TPT takes NYC

NYC may be one of the closest cities to where I live ( a painless hour and change away) and for some reason I only make it there 2 maybe 3 times a year!!   Well, just last month I had the pleasure of spending my Sunday in the city with some of the most talented and driven people I know.  Bloggers and TpT(ers)  from all parts of the country met for a fabulous weekend in New York City.  I was only able to make it for the Sunday events but I am so excited to have spent the day getting to know this wonderful group.  

With not enough time to grab a cup of coffee my day began with a train ride into the city with Cristin of Elementary Chatter and Maria of Everyone DeServes to Learn.  We had a lot of good laughs as we found our way to the office of BrainPop. 

We chatted over a delicious breakfast (I finally snuck in that cup of coffee).  Then, we were enlightened about all of the wonderful features BrainPop has to offer for our classroom.  I am so excited to start integrating BrainPop into my lessons.  In my classroom, it is perfect for those 5 or 10 minutes of down time when the kids are having their snack. I can reinforce a lesson in a fun way where they don't even realize they are learning.  

Plus, all the kids LOVE this guy...MOBY!

Here are all the wonderful people I met at the BrainPop Brunch.  Chatting with everyone truly was the highlight of my day!

The rest of the day was jam packed with all kinds of fun times.  I think I walked about the distance of  a half marathon the entire day.  This included lunch at Bryant Park.  Look how happy Cristin and I were after discovering the most delicious "Flat Bread" from a street vendor in the park. I know this flat bread had a fancy name and I wish I remember what it was called.  

Then we strolled up to Central Park, making a few sightseeing stops along the way.  

By this point our group had gotten a little smaller. Do we look like we have just walked for 3 hours???  Nah, not at all!! Everyone is smiling :)  

Our final destination was dinner where we loaded up on some well earned Italian Food.   

It was the perfect end to a great day.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How do we teach a child to be a lifelong passionate reader?

We let them read...
Plain and simple, just read!!  As teachers we spend a lot of time teaching young readers all of the reading strategies and skills they will need to be independent readers but sometimes we overlook the most obvious thing, reading should be enjoyed.  Imagine you are in the depths of your favorite page turning novel and you hear, "When you get to page 10 stop and write down a prediction.  Summarize in one paragraph what you've read so far. Don't forget to go back and confirm your prediction. Oh and don't forget to use text evidence to support your answers."  Although I can see that this takes all of the passion out of reading and turns it into a chore,  I am one hundred percent guilty of doing this in my classroom.  It's my job to teach the students these metacognitive skills and by the end of the year they will know them (fingers crossed). So how do I do that while keeping them passionate about reading?

I let them read.  Uninterrupted, anywhere they want, next to whomever they would like (or alone) for some time of every day.

Our Classroom Library...I need to point out that this took endless hours of organization madness-     Worth all the time it took!!

My library is organized by genre, category, guided reading level, and some of my bins are by author.  We are on a Dan Gutman, "My Weird School" craze right now :) I have over a thousand books but the students can easily find what they are looking for by the labeled bins.

I have a complete set of polka dot themed book bin labels in my TpT store.  

Using the library: 

Part of the fun in reading is choosing your own books, however as teachers we know this can present a larger problem.  Reading is only fun if you are understanding what you read and choosing the right books for you.  At the start of the school year I do several lessons about how to choose a "Just Right" book.  Here is one of my little ones doing the "Five Finger Test."  

Another problem that I had is the students wanted to spend a good portion of their Independent Reading time browsing through the library. They would choose a book, sit with it for 2 minutes and be back in the library browsing again.  Having a set time in the morning for choosing books seems to have solved that problem.  

The students keep two books at all times in their book bins.  I love that I can easily check through and see what they are reading. I encourage them to read a variety of genres. 
Also in their book bins is their reading folder.  This is the folder they also bring to Guided Reading Group but it's a place for them to keep all "reading things" together in one place. 

I do ask the kids to keep a log of the books they have read each month.  It's simple and painless and the kids don't seem to mind doing it at all.  

I have to say that letting kids read (just read) makes me feel like I am doing my part in teaching my students to be lifelong passionate readers. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Math Workshop- On your mark, get set, go...

Tonight I am celebrating because my Math Workshop is off and running like a well oiled machine.

Let me break it down for you...

 I have 80 uninterrupted minutes to teach math and it is first thing in the morning when the kids are bright eyed and bushy tailed.  My 19 students fall into 4 leveled groups. I really thought 3 groups would be best (time wise) but it's not realistic for me to have 6 or more students in a group.

We start our morning with a Math Journal entry.  This is where the kids practice writing about math and "explaining" their answers.  It takes about ten minutes.  I found that it really cuts back on time to have the students glue the question right into their math journal so they don't waste any time copying from the board. Some days (the ones I am less organized) I just post it and they respond with the answer only.

Next the students gather on the rug where I teach my 15 minute whole group lesson.  We practice daily review skills as a class and partner share with our fellow "mathematicians." 

Next, Math Workshop begins!!! This is truly my favorite part of teaching math. The kids love it because they are moving around, and I feel like this is where I can truly assess their math skills.  

I have this posted on my anchor chart wall where it will probably stay for a good part of the year.  

Here is our map of who goes where.  You can find these Center Cards for Math or Reading Workshop in my TpT store. I use the same chart for Literacy Centers (I just switch out the group cards on the left from Math Groups to Guided Reading Groups.)  
Keep it simple...

The numbers just tell the kids where to go and everything they need for their math station is in the numbered bin. (In another area of the room I have their Reading Workshop bins labeled)

I meet with each group for 10 minutes.  We focus in on the skill of that day on the level they can be challenged at.   

This was our at Math Station 1 this week.  We are working on Numbers and Base Ten.  This is a freebie that you can get from "Teaching First." 


Math Station 2 is Base Ten Block Memory. It is one of my freebies that you can download from my TpT Store.

Math Station 3 is iPads.  So far, I have introduced the kids to "Splash Math" and "Operation Math."  Those are two really great Apps for focusing on second grade math skills.  Operation Math is perfect for the fact drills and Splash Math really covers it all. I'm always looking for more apps, so if you have any must haves please share them with me. 

We close up Math Workshop with a 5 minute Leveled Problem Solving which the students solve quickly on white boards at their desk.  This is a quick wrap up or Exit Ticket to tie all the wonderful math we learned into a bow.