Friday, June 23, 2017

A New Day, A New Grade

After teaching a combo third and 4th grade class for seven years, I am so happy to report that I will be moving into a single second grade classroom for next school year. I love third and fourth, but I also love second. It's been a while since I've had second grade and already ideas are swirling on how to make this a fabulous year! 

I think as a teacher, it is great to shake things up a bit from time to time and try something new or return to something you have done before. It stretches you and helps you look at things through a new set of eyes. There's a new curriculum and so of course new ideas are a must. And so the journey begins. Out with the old, in with the new!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Life Cycles and Animal Surprises

We have just started studying life cycles in science, our final theme for the year. I decided to splurge a bit and get some animals into the classroom so we can see the life cycles. I ordered ladybugs, a praying mantis egg case, caterpillars, and chicken eggs. This week, our ladybugs moved from the pupa stage to the adult stage. Today, three of our butterflies crawled out of their cocoons. 

It was so amazing to watch the butterflies emerge. They are so beautiful.

We got three different types of chicken eggs. They won't hatch for another 20 days or so. We're also awaiting the baby praying mantises. Can't wait to see them. 

Today we were all out on the playground when someone looked up and saw not one, not two, but three large opossums in the trees above us. We were all fascinated by them. We watched for probably a half hour or so. One of the big opossums actually had at least one baby in it's pouch. As we watched, we could see little pink feet sticking out of the pouch, then the tail, then nothing, and eventually, the little guy crawled out completely. It was amazing. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

How-to Writing in the Kitchen

We've had such fun with our how-to writing, especially since we've been in the kitchen throughout the unit. The students have really enjoyed this twist. We started out learning about decorating cupcakes. Once we learned the techniques,  we were able to try our hand at decorating these delicious desserts

Then we wrote about the process in a cute folder flip activity. 

As a final project after learning more about how-to writing, we hosted a class cooking show. Each student picked a simple recipe that did not actually involve cooking with a stove or microwave. They prepared a project board that displayed the ingredients and the steps in their recipe. I assigned a few students to present their project each day. Students set up their cooking show segment in the front of the classroom and presented their recipe. Then we all got to sample everyone's tasty food. 

We had a lot of fun with this unit. There are many more lesson activities in the unit as well, including a secret recipe chef craftivity, a cookie folder flip, a cookie exchange activity, and a recipe book that can be created from the cooking show presentation recipes.  

This unit has been a long time coming. It's been over a year in the making and I'm super proud to show it off. You can check out the details over here. Scroll down to see the contents of the unit. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Underground Railroad Simulation

This was the second time I've used this simulation. It's one I picked up from Interact Simulations and I love it. Even though it is geared toward 5th grade and up, I was able to easily do this with my third and fourth graders without changing anything.

Students were divided up into groups to become experts. They then had to learn about a certain topic and prepare a presentation to teach the rest of the class what they had learned. The topics we covered were: Secrets and Dangers of the Underground Railroad, Stories of Escape, Routes of the Underground Railroad, and one about Friends and Agents on the Underground Railroad. 

After presentations were over, I assigned roles for our simulation. Some students were slaves, some were conductors, some were bounty hunters, and some were patrol officers. We had safe houses throughout the school. Students had just a few rules. The most important were that they could not talk, unless they were the conductors, who could whisper, and students could not run until they were ready to run across the field and go to the fence at the back of our property which simulated reaching Canada. 

The salves had to follow the conductor, who had a map of the school. Their job was to collect 3 different colored tickets from 3 safe houses. Once they did that, they could run for Canada. 

The conductors used maps of the school to lead a group of slaves from safe house to safe house and finally to Canada.

The Bounty hunters tried to stop the slaves who were running for Canada. They had to stay in the field area. If a "slave" was caught, they did not reach freedom.

The Patrol officers were scouring the school looking for safe houses. When they found one, they were able to shut it down. 

Students really took to this simulation and were super serious. So serious that one student asked me if they got caught, would they really die? WOW! What a great reminder to take nothing for granted when explaining things to the students. 

Once our simulation was over, we debriefed together under the trees. The students were super respectful of each other and also had a lot to share about their thoughts and experiences. It was so great to see how they connected with this final lesson in our unit. Afterwards, we went inside where they wrote a response paper sharing their thoughts, feelings, and experiences on the Underground Railroad. 

What the students were saying: 
"I saw from just doing this, that slaves had a hard time. I'm glad I'm not a slave and that Harriet Beecher wrote a book and sold a million copies and it made people think, 'Let's get rid of slavery.' "

"I was so happy when we made it to 'Canada' but my sister was in another group so I was scared for her, but she made it. I went to go hug my sister when she made it and we were all happy."

"I was a conductor. I thought they were going to shut down all the stations (safe houses). I was really scared they would catch me and my slaves."

"I was a slave on the Underground Railroad. I felt like I was going to get caught but I did not get caught."

"I felt so, so, so, so, scared because I thought I was going to get caught. I almost fainted because I didn't know (what was going to happen). When I got to 'Canada' I felt like a slave that had reached their goal to be free."

And then the students did something almost unheard of....the asked to do it all again. When students beg to do the same lesson again, you know something went right! Days like this are the absolute best. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Slavery and the Underground Railroad

We have been working hard to answer the driving question of our PBL unit (project based learning), "Why would someone risk their life to help others?"We are finishing up our research by creating a museum of our learning with six fabulous projects that will be put on display...1. Biography Bottle People: Students are featuring some historical figures that were either slaves or abolitionists. Some of the people they chose are: Harriet Tubman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Levi Coffman.
2. Underground Railroad Quilts: Students have discovered the significance behind the quilts used as maps to the underground railroads and also used by abolitionists to signify that their house was a safe house. Students are featuring different quilt squares and the symbolism behind each one.

3. Maps and Important Papers: Students are creating maps of the slave and free states, maps of routes to freedom used by the slaves, and authentic wanted slave posters.
4. Plantation Diorama: Students are creating a diorama of a slave plantation.
5. Model of a Slave Ship: Students are learning about how slaves got here in the first place and what the ships they sailed on were like.6. Safe House: Students are creating a large model of a safe house to show where slaves stayed along the underground railroad.
Bottle People
Quilt Square
Quilt Square

Monday, April 3, 2017

Classroom Surgery

I recently purchased a fun activity on TPT. Last week I pulled out that activity and transformed our classroom into a room for surgery.  We performed surgery on our spelling words. They were contractions. We had to use the two words that each contraction was formed from and then we cut out the extra letter(s) that needed to come out to make the contraction. We then put a Band-aid (apostrophe) where the missing parts had come out.  When I can find a way to add a spark of fun to the curriculum, I always say yes.
 Surgery prep done....waiting for the surgeons to arrive.
 Getting started.
 Stitching things up.
 So much concentration.

Contractions are serious work.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Half Day Equals Science Day

Today was a half day. It was also parent teacher's conferences. So....what do you do on a day that several students skip? How about host a science day? We've been going through a unit on the states of matter (by Hope King). Today we explored the three states in several different experiments.
 Creating models of the states of matter (liquid, gas, and solid). We were able to use this demonstration to explore the properties of each and have a discussion about them. 
 We created models of the three states of matter using Cheerios. 
 Finding out that while gas cannot always be seen, there is evidence of it all around. They loved working through this experiment using the scientific process. 
No study of gas would be complete without the much-loved Diet Coke and Mentos experiment. 

We ended out day by taking a look at a treat that features all three states of matter: root beer floats. Yum!

On a side note, my St. Patrick's Day items on TPT will only be free until Friday. Download and save now.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Lucky to Have You

Help your students count their blessings by giving them this little writing paper envelope to help them think about who they feel lucky to have in their lives. They can simply write a letter to the person explaining why they feel so fortunate that they know them. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Last Minute St. Patty's Day Activities

I was hoping to put together some themed items for St. Patrick's Day. I was hoping for more, but time got away from me....maybe next year. Anyway, here is a fun little game that reinforces equivalent fractions. It could also be used as a math notebook activity. You can pick it up over here for free. Enjoy! And happy St. Patty's Day.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Fun with the States of Matter

It was all smiles and fun during our discovery learning on the states of matter. I purchased a unit by one of my favorite TPT sellers, Hope King. The rest was super easy. Students were give three different balloons. One with air, one with water, one filled with ice. They had to make observations and keep a log of what they noticed. Then they took their pencils and poked each balloon and made more observations. This was just the intro lesson, but the little scientists were sold. Their smiles say it all. Using balloons and water for science? What's not to love. Can't wait for the next lesson. When students leave with a smile, something great is happening.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Black History Month: Slavery Project Based Learning Part 1

We are well underway into our PBL (project based learning) unit on Slavery and Heroes. The big question we are researching is: Why would someone risk their life to save others? We started out collecting some schema that showed what we already knew about various related topics to our study. 

Students were given post-its and were asked to write down something they knew about slavery. I was surprised that some of my scholars had no idea what slavery was, but that was just fine, because we are going deep into the topic and they will learn a lot. Next, I asked them to write down one question they had about slavery. Students also wrote anything they knew about the underground railroad.

Later, we got into groups and created posters all about freedom. Students basically wrote down anything they could think of or knew about the topic. 

Next, students wrote what they would do for freedom and we made a giant anchor chart. 

Since many students didn't have any idea what slavery was, we watched this video on Youtube that showed how Africans were taken from their homes and shipped to other places to be sold. We also had a discussion about what slavery was like. I also told the students that whenever there is something awful happening, look for the helpers. There will always be helpers. Instead of focusing on negatives, focus on the good, pointing them to our essential question, Why would someone risk their life to save others?

The next day, I introduced a slave, named Henry, with the book, Henry's Freedom Box. If you don't know the story, rush out and get a copy of this amazing book! 

Henry endured incredible anguish during his time as a slave, being separated from his family, later marrying and having his children and own wife sold to another owner. He decided to leave his life of slavery behind. A free black man helped to mail him to freedom. My students were enthralled and had lots of comments and questions about this story. In fact, they were so into the book, they asked to get back to the book instead of having recess. 

After reading the book, we tried to see what it would be like to be mailed in a box. Students were excited to squeeze into the box and see for themselves what it must have been like when Henry hid in a box for 27 hours. 

We also just started literacy groups based on several different books. I have five groups and each group is reading/discussing a different book related to the underground railroad and slavery theme.

Students read the first section and created a graffiti wall of their learning. 

These are the books we are reading: