Saturday, May 6, 2017

Star Wars Day

I have a little bit of a confession. I've never been a huge Star Wars fan. I went to see Rogue One with my husband when it was in the theater, but I haven't watched any of the other movies in years.  But that's about to change because I had so much fun having a Star Wars Day in my classroom!  You did know that May 4th is Star Wars Day, right?  As in, "May the Fourth be with you!"  Teehee. :-)

I think there were a few kids that had never seen a Star Wars movie and didn't know a lot about the characters. But most of them still had a ton of fun. The excitement of the other students rubbed off on them. Student engagement was at an all time high.

In science, we've been working on a unit about the Solar System. So before Star Wars Day even started, the kids had outer space on their minds.  We studied the eight planets (even though our textbook still says there are nine ha!), their characteristics, and their order.  "My very educated mother just served us noodles" became the password to get into the classroom every morning. They loved that so much and begged to do it all week.  Who would've thought??

We also studied the most common constellations and then they created their own constellation and origin story.  Then they added gold stars to black construction paper, adding more background stars with white chalk.  This was a big hit and super easy to prepare.

This guy was very enthusiastic with the chalk HA!

There were a lot of cute ideas but growing up in the 80s might mean that the Pac Man is my favorite!

We also used a Yoda directed drawing from Second Grade Rocks the week before.  The kids wondered why we were randomly drawing Yoda, but I wanted to keep my Star Wars Day plans secret for a little longer.  I had them hanging in the hallway to greet the students as they came up the stairs on the big day.

They recognized the drawings but were surprised to see them hanging on the wall.  I could just see their brains working.....Star Wars Day....huh???

They continued on to the door and were greeted by Chewbacca.  I found these decorations in the party aisle at Target.  I don't remember exactly how much it was but it was a great deal.  These decorations, plus about 4 more character posters/cutouts that I hung inside the classroom.  I think the price was about $7.00  They were very sturdy and I'm sure I'll be able to use them for years to come.

We started the day with just some fun bell work.  I love using these slide show templates from Ladybug's Teacher Files to help my students get prepared for their bell work time. I always plan to use them for the different subjects but haven't quite pulled it off yet! {Don't mind the tie fighters flying into the picture! :-)}

Their bell work was to color their Star Wars cube for later.  Then they worked on these online Star Wars puzzles on their laptops. The kids could set the level of difficulty from 4 puzzle pieces all the way to 36 pieces.  Perfect for my little second graders!

Next, we grabbed our light sabers and got ready to go on our first mission!  We read a story from my Star Wars Day packet and started a grammar scavenger hunt.  We found different kinds of grammar with our light sabers and then reported our discoveries to Chewbacca.

Later, we reread our story and worked on cause and effect. This is our current unit of study in reading and the kids are doing ok when they are given one event and have to generate a reasonable cause or effect.  But when they have to pick an example of cause and effect from a text, it somehow becomes trickier for them.  Is this the case for your kiddos? This Star Wars story was the perfect way to get them more involved in the story and working on this skill.

At this point in the morning, we stopped for a little bathroom break and snack time.  I had the students pretend they were Stormtroopers marching in the hall and boy, did they LOVE that!! Those marching feet were noisy and I felt a little bad about the other classrooms hearing it, but my kids were just having so much fun.  Then we went back and had some Star Wars gummies...I mean, rations.

After that, we were ready to finish our morning missions up with some comprehension questions!

After lunch, we picked up our next missions for math.  Our first job was putting together the cube that the kids had colored and cut out for bellwork.  They rolled the cube 25 times and tallied their results.  They used that data to create a bar graph.

Then we continued practicing our current math unit---adding and subtracting three digit numbers! I didn't grab a picture of this sheet but it is 3 digit addition and subtraction both with regrouping. The kids were trying to miss as few problems as possible so they could escape from Darth Vader and all the Stormtroopers that are at the bottom of the page!

This day was truly a lot of fun. I plan on adding some more pages to my TpT packet for next year, like some writing and another original story.  But there is plenty to keep your kiddos busy as is!  Check the packet out here! Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Compare and Contrast Skills

Our reading series teaches skills in three week bursts.  Our most recent unit covered comparing and contrasting texts. I have some mixed feelings on our reading series.  I think it does a good job of covering individual skills, but in a very isolated way.  The skills are presented in short paragraphs but doesn't offer complex texts to practice the skill in.  That's a problem because the series assessment is a very long and complex text.  It's such a jump from the practice pages.  Because of that, I feel the need to do a lot of supplementing!

One of my favorite resources has been a product from Miss Decarbo's TPT shop.  She has written reading passages that very simply describe two different items.  Each item has a paragraph written about it and the students can work individually or as partners to compare and contrast.  I liked that she used a lot of those clue words, like "however", "in contrast to", and "similarly".

 She even has suggestions for color coding it, but honestly, I just have the students use highlighters.  I used these both in small groups and as individual work.  After doing a couple of them, my students got the hang of the procedure and it really allowed them to focus on the skill.

One of the big issues I had with comparing and contrasting things at the beginning of the unit was the lack of detail in student work.  The students were making the most basic of comparisons and contrasts, and often only using one word to do so.  We had to have a talk about thinking deep vs. thinking shallow.  (I have to warn charts are not like the beautiful ones that you see all over the internet ha! :-)  I am more of a basic, in the moment chart maker!)

I used the analogy of going swimming.  You can have fun in the shallow end of the pool.  You're getting a little wet, you can kick water at someone, it's still a fun place to be.  But when you go to the deep end, you can swim around, splash, play games...there's just so much more you can do! I wanted them to look deeper than those surface comparisons and contrasts.  Yes, both apples and oranges are round.  But could they think of something not so easily seen?  I didn't want them relying so much on what they SEE when comparing and contrasting two things.  It's a strategy but not really one you can use when comparing two stories.  You have to dig deeper to find those connections in two different texts.  

After doing a lot of comparing and contrasting in texts, we wrote our own compare/contrast paragraphs.  As a class, we used a Venn diagram to compare/contrast winter and spring.  Then we wrote a two paragraph essay about what we came up with.  This was our first attempt at writing a comparison essay, so we did it together.  After we were done writing, the students went back and highlighted any compare/contrast clue words that were used. 

 Then, just to make it a little more fun, we did an art project to go with our essay! I made a landscape sheet and drew a line right down the middle and labeled the sides (winter/spring) before copying. Then I had the students color the page for bell work one morning. They were in seventh heaven...coloring for bell work??  YES!! :-)   

I decided to make some puffy paint for snow on the winter side.  I was a little nervous about making it because I had never done it and the directions I found were not too specific.  I ended up loosely following this tutorial.

We painted it on with q-tips. (I forgot my box of q-tips that morning and my team mate just happened to have a box of them in her room.  We say she is like having a store in our building...I swear she has literally everything stashed away in there! Love it! Do you have a teacher in your building like that??) The kids had never used puffy paint before so they were totally into it.

Later that week, we wrote another compare/contrast essay, but this time the students worked individually.  I gave them several choices of items they could compare. The choices were Elsa/Belle, Blaze/Crusher, Poppy/Branch (trolls---which was the popular choice!), and basketball/football.  

The students worked to compare and contrast these items on a Venn diagram and then write their essay.  It was still a struggle for some to get that DEEP thinking going.  Using the picture tended to allow them to fall back on comparing and contrasting what they SEE.  It was good practice for using the compare/contrast clue words and organizing their writing. Plus, the kids loved writing about these topics.  But I will probably revise this lesson next year to be stories about these items that the students will have to read and compare/contrast to encourage deeper thinking and allow practice for comparing texts. Always improving on what we do, right?? ;-) 

So there you have it---just a couple of things that we worked on during this unit.  My students really enjoyed the activities and we will keep working on using that DEEP thinking! :-)  What activities do you use for teaching compare and contrast skills?  Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Happy Easter!

Spring is finally here and I know that we are all so ready for it! It's been the weirdest winter around here.  Sixty degree days mixed in with temperatures in the teens. We never know what Mother Nature has in store for us lately!

I saw these adorable bunnies made by Jen Hart Design and knew that I wanted to make some fun Easter treat bags with them.  Jen was so nice to offer them as a freebie, so make sure you go grab them for yourself! Leave her some great feedback because these little bunnies are so cute!

I grabbed some Peeps to use as treats, but you could also grab Annie's Bunny Grahams if you're wanting something with a little less sugar. I see Annie's Bunny Grahams at Target all the time.  Sometimes I even see them in little snack bags so you could just staple the tag to the bags for an even easier idea.

I used a foldable sandwich bag, cutting the folded part so that both sides are even. Then I just punched a quick hole and tied the bag with ribbon.  Easy!

There are four different tags in the download and each is approximately 4 x 2 inches.  I hope your kiddos love them!  If you download them, I would love some feedback. Thanks!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Here We Go!

Welcome to my little spot on the internet! 

Teaching. There's not a job like it, is there? The excited rush at the start of a new year. The cramming of all the information into young brains. The stress of testing time! The joy at seeing a student master a skill you've been trying to teach them. 

It's an up and down roller coaster on a daily basis. We're all trying to do the best we can for our students. I'm excited to share exactly how I do that in my classroom!