Sunday, April 20, 2014

April 22nd is Earth Day!

April 22nd is Earth Day!
How are you celebrating?

We are currently in review mode for state assessment coming up in two weeks (eeekkk!!), but we are still going to be taking part in some great activities to help us understand how our Earth is important to us and why it is vital that we take care of the resources that we have been blessed to use.

There are a ton of great Earth Day activities out there. I am really bad when it comes to planning things to do for holidays and celebrations. I get so caught up in the curriculum, and I have to work hard at pulling in themed resources for holidays and honored events.

Anyways, I know that there are a plethora of great ideas and resources already floating out there, but I wanted to pull in a few  of the Earth Day activities that I use in my classroom each year to share with you in case you still needed some easy, yet meaningful ideas!

Jack Johnson-
I mean who DOESN"T love Jack. His music is usually what is playing in my car on my way to work each morning. So, I sorta freaked out  was happy when I found this gem last year and was so tickled at how the kiddos sang the song for weeks afterwards.The song gives great examples of what the three R's represent.

This video is a great way for students to get great, tangible examples of ways that they can help take care of the Earth. 

After watching the videos, the students explore the definitions of reduce, reuse, and recycle. They take the everyday examples they got from the videos as well as activate prior knowledge to list specific examples for each of the 3 R's.

This is a great graphic organize from KTP that can be used to help students organize their thoughts during their small group interactions. 

I also enjoy reading the trade book Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback.

Students watch as a man named Joseph reuses his overcoat in many ways. It is a humbling book that provides many cross curriculum learning opportunities.

This year, our grade level is going to do a school wide clean up. I am pretty excited about sharing the importance of taking care of our awesome playground and school with my kiddos. 

How do you celebrate Earth Day?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Math & Movement

This past winter, I was really lucky to attend an awesome conference session on the program Math & Movement. You can check out their website here. M&M is a math program focused around involving students with a "kinesthetic" approach to learning through movement in the form of jumping, skipping, dancing, and reaching while verbally participating in various math (and now literacy) centered activities. The target age groups for the program are grades Pre-K through 8.

The moment I saw this program in action, I knew that it needed to be brought to our school. With the help of grants and Title I funding, our school was able to purchase several of the math and literacy mats as well as receive training in how to incorporate movements into every day classroom learning for our kiddos.

There is just something about taking a learning concept, making it BIGGER and giving students a visual and movement to go with it that ignites a desire and a purpose to the learning experience in our kiddos. There is a ton of research out there that backs up this approach to learning, but I figured that sharing some pictures of our experience would hold a much more powerful purpose than throwing out research-based facts.

(Love this mat-students can skip count by 2's, 3's, 4's, 6's, 7's, etc. The mats also have multiplication components on them. For my younger kiddos, they would throw a bean bag and skip count by the pattern until they reached their bean bag. The older kids would throw their bean bag, but they had to jump on a number and say the multiplication sentence. 1 x 4 = 4, 2 x 4 = 8, etc. LOVED)

One of the main things that I love about these mats are the possibilities for learning. Last night, I came up with 5 or 6 different ways just to use ONE mat during our Family Fun Night, and the mats can be adapted to target different age groups. 

We were so excited about this new program that we wanted to share it with our school families in hopes that they could integrate some of the components at home. Our family fun night was a HUGE success. I cannot tell you how full it made my heart to watch hundreds of our school families hang out in our gym and learn together. Here are two short videos of our kiddos using the mats.

I cannot wait to fully incorporate this program into my classroom this fall. The whisper talks, chants, dances, and other fun, learning based activities are going to rock my second graders' worlds!

So...go check out Math & Movement (they did NOT ask me to write this post) and grab some mats! It is worth it-promise!! Oh, and did I mention that they have folks that will write grants for you to help you bring this program to your school!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Build a Paragraph-Freebie

The school year is almost over for me. We only have a dozen or so days left until state testing, but I refuse to focus on that. YES we are doing some test prep things, but otherwise we are still moving right along with our normal classroom routines.

One of those routines has been our Writer's Workshop. I have redone the whole process over 50 times this year, but I think we have finally got it down pat. And...just in time for the end of the year. :) I became obsessed about getting my students to be amazing writers after being impressed with how well another teammate of mine taught and incorporated writing into her curriculum. 

So, after watching my teammate(who is an AMAZING teacher) continuously guide her students towards being extremely successful writers- I knew I had to step up my game because I wanted my kiddos to be successful writers, too. 

There is a lot of research out there that shows the strong bond between reading and writing. After taking a complete 180 with my writing program this year; I just want to shout out to everyone and anyone who will listen about how much it is worth the extra time to incorporate writing into every nook and cranny you can throughout the school day. 

So, with that said- I have been "cooking up" a huge packet for my kiddos on paragraph writing. I want us to finish out the year strong. I want to spend the last 20 something days (I refuse to confirm the actual number because I will start crying) that I have left with my students making sure that they are wrapping up our year being exceptional writers.

I got a lot of my inspiration from these cheap hamburger coasters that I grabbed from the Target Dollar Spot last fall. I saw hamburger references made for paragraph and main idea writing floating around the internet and knew that I could apply that same idea to the coasters. 

The whole Hamburger Helpers project has been a long process, and I am not anywhere close to it being ready to post it to TPT yet. But, I have been teasing with pictures on the blog and my IG account, so I wanted to at least give you a freebie and explain to you what we are working on right now.

Two weeks ago, we wrote paragraphs about what we did over Spring Break. That was our focus for the our Writer's Workshop all week long, and the kiddos did a fabulous job. We really broke down main idea, opening and closing sentences, and key details. This week, I gave the students a peer's rough draft of our Spring Break writing and asked them to re-write it. I had a couple goals with this- 1) We reviewed pronouns and points of view this week so the students would need to apply these two skills when rewriting the work samples. 2) The students would be exposed to multiple ways to compose opening and closing sentences. 3) They would get in some practice of writing a paragraph and picking out the main idea and key details.

I really liked how the students were "breaking down" someone's writing. SO often, we ask the students to create things from the ground up instead of asking them to break down what information is already sitting right there in front of them. I liked this short activity because it helped me see where my students were and where I could push them. 

Click here or on the picture to grab this graphic organizer. I promise that there are a lot of different ways to use it!

I am headed out to enjoy this beautiful Spring day here in East Tennessee. 
If you have suggestions on things that you would like to see in this writing packet then feel free to email me with requests. So far, I have nonfiction and fiction paragraph sorts, how to writing, simple sentence building, main idea/details, rubrics, multiple paragraph writing, sequencing, etc. I can't wait to share the entire packet with you. 

Have a fabulous weekend. Stay strong! The school year is wrapping up quick! 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wordless Wednesday-Hamburger Learning

I am using a Target Dollar Spot find (from last summer!) to help my students put paragraphs in order as well as find the main idea and key details. 
How would YOU use these hamburger coasters in our classroom? 

(Blog post and a freebie on this tomorrow!)

Leave a comment and share your ideas. I LOVE hearing from you! 

Head on over to Sugar and Spice to read about other Wordless Wednesday ideas. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Something Borrowed- Classroom Calendar

 One of my blogging besties, Jen from Sparkling in Second, is embarking on her new journey as a Mrs. That's right! Our Ms. Cullen is getting married! BIG congrats to you girlie! While Jen is away enjoying marriage bliss, some of her blogger peeps are taking over her blog for a special event!

My "something borrowed" is Classroom Calendar Math. I "borrowed" this idea and adapted it to meet the needs of my kiddos in my classroom. Hopefully, after this post, you will want to "borrow" it, too!

I am a classroom calendar junkie. Yup..even in good ole' second grade. In fact, I think it is safe to say that I would still do calendar if I was an upper elementary or middle school teacher. Do you have/ use a classroom calendar? If you do..I am smiling at you. 

If not...hop on over to Jen's blog here to read all about how and why I use classroom calendar in my guest post!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

QR Help with Vowel Sounds

At this point in the school year, most of us are in 1 of 3 stages- 1)Test Prep/Review 2)Assessment Craze or 3) Relief. My kiddos and I are currently in stage 1. We test in just 20 days. I am really nervous excited about our assessments because my kiddos have worked so hard this year, and I know they are going to own it! 
As we begin reviewing all of our skills, my goal is to create different centers and activities that are going to engage the students in new and exciting ways. My go-to tool for this week is the handy QR code. I wanted to provide the students with the ability to check their own work while they are working in centers. 

One of our centers this week covers reviewing long and short vowel sounds. The students are given a group of words and asked to sort them by their vowel sound. After all the words are sorted into their designated buckets, the students can scan the QR code(attached to the front of the bucket) with one of our classroom iPads. After they scan the code, a list pops up that lets them know all of the words that belong in that bucket. They must record the words on their graphic organizer.

I like the self checking option because it requires the students to be held accountable for their work while they are in their centers. They have to do more than just "throw a word in a bucket". And-let's be honest-some kiddos will do that! 

There are a ton of great teacher blog tutorials floating around the internet that explain how to create your own QR codes. My friend Catherine at A Brown Bag Teacher just wrote a great post HERE on how to attach audio files to QR codes. I highly recommend that you check it out if you have some free time! 

In case you are just looking to create a QR code that links to plain text(like in the picture above), here are 3 easy steps.

 1) Go to and select "plain text" as your data type. 

2. Type the text that you want your students to be able to see in the text box.

3. Hit download QR code.

After I download my code, it is ready for me to copy and paste on my document! 

I'll be back later this week to talk about how I add QR codes to small group reading comprehension practice!