Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Today was the kookie, crazy, slightly too talkative day of Halloween. I learned a long time ago that trying to do typical instruction on Halloween is futile, so today was just a fun project day.

My students have been working on writing scary stories throughout the month of October. We started by reading examples of spooky stories. Then my students went through the writing process of brainstorming, story mapping, first, second, and final drafts. Today was our "publishing party." I turned off all the lights, and students read their stories to the class while illuminating their faces with a flashlight. Actually, the flashlight on my phone, but hey, this is Silicon Valley. 

A student reading her story aloud

The class listening to the stories read aloud
After we shared our stories, students took out their Pumpkin Book Reports. I asked students to decorate a pumpkin to look like the main character of the story. I've seen this project done where students decorate the pumpkins in class, but I wanted my students to do this project at home for two reasons. The first, I wanted students to have the opportunity to have a fun, hands-on activity to do with their parents. Get away from the T.V. for a change! Second, I wanted students to use their own creativity and to avoid copying their friends. The results were great! The kids created some incredible pumpkins. Some children chose the same book and their creations were completely different! 

To show off our pumpkins, I split the class into two. One group stayed by their desks with the pumpkins, the other group walked around and looked at the pumpkins. I gave the class a sheet with the names of the students in the class and I asked the students to write the names of the characters to check off which pumpkin they had seen. When everyone had finished, they switched. I used the checklist to make sure that students saw all the pumpkins, not just the pumpkins of their friends.

The kids had a great day and I am officially exhausted. I must admit I'm glad I don't have my own little one to take trick-or-treating tonight. Happy Halloween!!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Read Alouds: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

One wonderful thing about moving up to second grade is that I can read chapter books to my students. I love the journey a class goes through together as they read a book over a long period of time. The students bond together for their love (or hatred of a character), they have truly meaningful discussions, and they collectively experience emotional reactions to the text.

Finding appropriate books, however, has been a far bigger challenge for me than I expected. Some books the students have loved, some were just mediocre, and others were a huge flop. I'm learning a lot about what is appropriate pacing, language, and plot structure to keep my students engaged. I'm still looking for books that are meaningful, but accessible. Here have been my findings so far.

The Good

Anything Junie B Jones. The writing is quick, funny, and clever. My students love being wiser than the main character and being able to predict the upcoming conflicts that arise from Junie B's kindergarten immaturity. But let's face it, Junie B Jones is not great literature. It is the elementary school version of the beach read. While I don't want to discount mind candy reading, I want to expose my students to more complex literature with a little more depth, which is what brought me to....

The Bad

I am not saying Charlotte's Web is a bad book. Far from it! When I decided to read Charlotte's Web, I was not prepared for the complex and often dated language used by E.B. White. All I was thinking about was the melancholy story about cute farm animals. What I had not remembered was E. B. White's stance about using adult language in children's stories. I think it is a noble, wonderful cause, but it did NOT work with my students, many of whom struggle with basic English vocabulary, let alone the advanced language in Charlotte's Web. They tried desperately to be invested in the story, but it was no use. I have never seen my class more wiggly on the carpet. We made it through, and I decided to try a book that had easier language. With that attempt, I made an even poorer choice.

The Ugly

Disclaimer: I LOVE Harry Potter. LOVE. I have entered and won trivia contests. When I watched the Harry Potter series with my boyfriend (who has never read the books) I was constantly pausing to explain the background stories or elaborate on confusing portions of the movies. My obsession may have lead me to make a bad choice about reading the first Harry Potter to my class. I should say attempting to read aloud. I think we made it a chapter in. The language in Harry Potter is at their level, but a book that is almost 600 pages is far too slow of a Fall second grader. There is too much backstory, not enough action. Despite how much more I can do with my second graders than my kinder students, we haven't yet made the jump to Harry Potter. Maybe the 4th grade teacher will let me come read to his class...

Anyone out there with some good suggestions? 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Second Grade Freebies: Halloween Homophones

Last week I was asked to blog about my free items at Second Grade Freebies. I have now written my first post about my Halloween Homophones Center!  Check out my post as well as all the second grade freebies by clicking the button below. There is some really great stuff on there!

Click here to see all the amazing freebies:

Second Grade Math Maniac

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Math Meeting Updated

As I've written before, I've been working to make my math routine more interesting. I was reading one of my favorite 2nd grade blogs, Second Grade Shenanigans, and I came across her morning math meeting called Mission Possible Math.

Her math routine is so much fun! Unfortunately some of the technology she has available to her that I would LOVE to have (cough cough SMARTBOARD) I do not have access to. I do, however, have a computer and a projector. So I tweaked her fun idea to make it work for me.

Math goes as follows:

1. Calendar Time
- We talk about how to write the date, both long form and with numbers, discuss upcoming dates, and sing a few songs, including "Days of the Week" to the tune of the Adams Family.
Days of the Week *snap snap*
Days of the Week *snap snap*
Days of the Week, Days of the Week, Days of the Week
There's Sunday, and there's Monday
There's Tuesday, and there's Wednesday
There's Thursday, and there's Friday
And then there's Saturday
Days of the Week *snap snap*
Days of the Week *snap snap*
Days of the Week, Days of the Week, Days of the Week
2. Daily Weather
- Students make predictions about the current temperature. We then look at the class thermometer to see which prediction is the closest, record the finding on our temperature graph, and then make observations about the trends we see on the graph.

3. Counting
- I posted about this earlier, so if you want more details about this process, click here.
4. Mission Possible Math
- Students take out their Mission Possible Math binders for a daily independent practice of several skills.  I got the materials from Second Grade Shenanigans for free (which is amazing).

The outside of the binder looks like this

The inside looks like this 

The students have four practice problems in the top squares. Recently I've been giving them two word problems, one pattern problem, and one square I use for math facts review. Then they practice time. I give them a digital time, then they write the time on an analogue clock, as well as 1 hour later and 1 hour earlier. The last task they do is practicing number sense. I give them a random number and they write if it is odd or even, put it in extended form, and identify the "number neighbors" (which numbers come before and after). 

Hope King uses a Smart Board for this, but I've been using Powerpoint and my projector to do pretty much the same thing.
Powerpoint slide for the Mission Possible Math
The projection on my board

I give students about 8-10 minutes to complete the work. When they've finished I ask them to take out a colored pencil and we go over the answers. Since I project onto the dry erase board, I write directly on the board as we correct. 

To wrap things up, I project a Flocabulary video and the students sing along. 

Once we finish the math raps, the students come to the carpet and I begin the daily lesson. So far it's been working pretty well for me, but I'm sure I'm be changing things for a while until I think its perfect (if that's even possible).

Friday, October 19, 2012

Spooky Paintings

Since we had a half day last week, my students did their first Halloween art project of the month! I found this great idea for Spooky art on Crafts for All Seasons and I could not WAIT to try it. The project has to be split up into two days. The first day the students paint the sunset background, which dries overnight.

Day One: Sunsets
The next day students paint a spooky foreground using black paint. The results are pretty fantastic.

My only mistake was using far too thin paper. With all that paint, the paper started to curl. Mental note for next year, use heavy painting paper!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Halloween Literacy Center Giveaway

I'm back with another Halloween Literacy Center! I've been having so much fun creating these activities, I think I'm looking forward to Halloween more than my students! Check it out:

You can find this center here at TeachersPayTeachers.

Since I've been enjoying making these so much, I've decided to throw a giveaway of my Halloween Literacy Centers! 

To enter you can
1. Follow my blog
2. Follow me on TeachersPayTeachers

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I will email the winner with details! Good luck!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Counting in Second Grade

As I mentioned before in my post about Flocabulary, I have been working on creating a more effective math meeting as part of our Saxon Math curriculum. My first step was adding music with the math raps from Flocabulary. My second, was making the counting portion more engaging.

Saxon Math has a daily counting activity as part of the morning routine, but my students were not only bored, they were slightly insulted that they were being asked to count while looking at a numbers chart. The last thing seven year olds want to do is feel like they're still in preschool. That being said, I think counting and working with numbers is extremely beneficial for number sense. So I decided to make things a bit more interesting.

I started using a counting technique I learned in graduate school. First, I never start on the same number each day. I range from 1-300. We count by 1s, 2s, 5s, or 10s, depending on the day. We can count backwards or forwards. And instead of looking at a pre-made numbers chart, I write the numbers as we count. When we finish, I ask students to look at the numbers chart we've made and have them look for patterns.

For example, in this picture a student noticed that in the 5th column, the numbers in the ones place have an ABAB pattern (1,6,1,6). Another student noticed that starting in the first column doing diagonally,  the numbers are going up by 6. When that was mentioned, a different student saw that the numbers at the top of the 5th column going diagonally are adding 4 as they go down. I ask them to use mathematical language to describe what they see, so each student is expected to use this terminology as I record them on the board. They are able to practice ordinal numbers, place value, addition, subtraction, and patterns simultaneously. As each day goes by students find more sophisticated and interesting patterns and they truly enjoy this activity.

This takes twice as long as a simple "counting with a hundreds chart" activity, but I have found this to be very beneficial for my students and absolutely worth the time.

Happy counting!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Halloween Activity Freebie!

We have been reviewing the parts of speech since the beginning of the year and have finally made it to the most fun part of speech: ADJECTIVES! One of the activities I've created is a halloween madlibs-style worksheet. Students fill in adjectives to make the Halloween sentences more interesting. I'm using this activity in the Jump Into Writing Center. Later students are going to modify sentences by adding both adverbs and adjectives, but for now we're concentrating just on adjectives.

Here is what the activity looks like:

Click here  for the FREE download from TeachersPayTeachers!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Halloween Literacy Centers

October is finally here which means, it's time for HALLOWEEN!!!!

I know that Halloween is at the end of the month, but I am a huge fan of holidays and costumes, so Halloween is right up my alley. Therefore the entire month of October is a Halloween celebration in my classroom. Most of my math activities and literacy centers are based on Halloween and I've made a few of my own Halloween centers.

The first is a pronoun activity. I created this as a review before we dive into reflexive pronouns. Student replace nouns in spooky sentences with subject/object pronouns. The activity I made students can either cut and paste the pronouns, or write them in, depending on how long the activity should take.

Click here for the download!

The next center I made was based on a Fountas and Pinnel phonics activity. (I use Fountas and Pinnel to supplement the basal reading program at my school). Students sort words that end in Y based on the sound the ending Y makes (either long E, A, or I). 

Click here for the words that end with Y word sort!

The most recent center I've made is similar to my Fall Long O word sort, but it focuses on Long E and is Halloween themed. Students sort long E words according to their "long E rule." The words are written on black cats and the rules are written on witches hats.

Click here for the download!

Man I LOVE Halloween!! Check back for many more Halloween activities! Lord knows there will be some more. 

Check out what other teachers have been making at 4th Grade Frolics' Linky Party

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