Monday, January 30, 2012

Tales of a 2nd Grade Field Trip

Oh man, I did it.
I thought about blogging today and I'm doing it! *sigh* Let's see how long the proud feeling lasts.

A couple of weeks ago, the whole grade level took an art focused field trip to a nearby art studio. Fantastic artists, wonderful presentations, great learning opportunities, etc....well, of course we know that these fun activities inevitably culminate in a writing assignment....which is what I am excited to be posting about today.

Our school has begun a writing program that begins in the early grades and maintains the same expectations all the way up through the intermediate grades (point being: now all of the teachers use the same editing marks, etc. through every grade level). Literally just was passed to all of us, so we got to use our new "green light, red light" system for this field trip writing.

The kiddos start with that good ole orange square to help them indent and then follow it up by circling/highlighting the capital letter at the beginning of each sentence in green. Ending punctuation is noted with a red circle/highlight, and the new sentence can't begin (green = go) without the red light having been in place.

That said, my final drafts came in much more complete on the first try than they usually do. Often, I'm sending them back for another look. In any case, the bulk of these were done early last week, but a few of my final ones were rolling in Friday and today....the one I got today was worth waiting for. This gem came from one of my sweetest kiddos that is also a part of our reading intervention club after school three days a week. She is a child after my own heart with her methodical work habits...and it totally is always amazing to see/read what she had to say.

I am off to attempt pull ups and live in the pride that I actually blogged two days in a row!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rain bad.

There should be one rule for certain when it comes to weather: No rain on a Monday. Seriously.

The worst way to start off a school week is with rain. A sleepy, should-have-been-easy review Monday turned into the beginning of the most awful week in a long time. Multiple times I had to go back to the beginning of the school year procedure discussions and it just did not work at all.

We went through days of this. One day of rain, one day of recovery from the rain, then the wind kicked in. There is electricity in the air when the Santa Anas kick in...and the kids are the best conductors of that electricity.

In short, it was nearly impossible to do much teaching last week....even before the projectile vomiting started.

However, I did do some nifty things when I set up for next week on Friday evening. Traditionally, I have been totally unable to keep myself organized throughout the week, so I stay late on Friday nights trying to find my desk and counters as well as setting up my Monday necessities (spelling and vocabulary boards, morning work, copies, etc....). After all of that was done, I sat down and began cutting out circles (since I like cutting things out so much).

2nd grade is beginning the unit on telling time, and after my pre-assessment this week, I decided that I needed a little something extra to help the kiddos remember that when the hand is pointing at the 6, the time is not an ":06".
Having spent a lot of time perusing Ladybug's Teacher Files, I developed a love for circular labels. This love will have to be explored more during the summertime, but for now, I took that thought and made an extra visual aid for my clock.

Since the final portfolio I have to do for BTSA revolves around my ELLs, I thought that it couldn't hurt to include every little visual aid that I possibly could in this unit. I cut out all of the circles and just used painter's tape to attach them to the outer edge of the clock. It looks nice and pretty from that angle, but once I get to the stage where I laminate them, I will have to find another way to attach the pieces so that I don't drive myself crazy looking at blue tape all around the clock.
(In an effort to not drive 20 minutes to laminate, I got lazy and just put together the clock....lamination to come later).

I also borrowed an idea from one of my fellow 2nd grade team members in order to eliminate some of those over-used words from the kids' writing. Many upper elementary teachers "kill" words and the kids create tombstones with synonyms and what not on them; but when I heard Co-worker talking about how her class sends words to Florida to retire, I loved it! Genius idea! So I made a little sign to get our retirement home started.

On Monday, when we write to this week's Star Student, we will brainstorm other words to replace those in our letters. They had a great time with dictionary scavenger hunts last week, so the thesaurus should be equally (if not more) exciting. I'm going to evolve this side bar to my white board into a bulletin board, but for now, this should work just fine.

Finally, I realize that I talked excessively about my focus wall, but did not put up a finished-product picture. (You wouldn't believe how many times I think about blogging but then choose to enjoy some couch time instead) I still have not organized the large ziplock bag of pieces, so the weekly work takes a bit of time in order to get everything set up, but eventually everything will be organized. I also realized that I would like to include the spelling skill for the week too (in order to incorporate the kids into their daily word study), but, again, that is something for the summertime.

It's bright and sunny's to hoping tomorrow is bright, sunny, and not windy!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Focus Wall (or Why I Need to Teach 2nd Grade Next Year

It was a dark and stormy night....or perhaps it was cold and in Bakersfield. Same thing....

Months ago, I began the thought process behind setting up a whole new addition to my language arts program. All of this based on the idea that as the week went on, my students were not always quite sure what it was that we learned that week. All things considered, I sat down and began writing out all of the pieces necessary for my kids to be aware of for each story in the entire curriculum.
Fun times.
We're talking theme, story title, author, illustrator, genre, phonics skill, writing skill, grammar skill....I neglected spelling skill and I think I will add that some other time when I have ample hours to kill on a project.

In any case, I sat down on the day after Christmas and began typing out everything that was on my list. When the printer began a long and arduous journey through 30 some-odd pages, I didn't realize the work that was to be done.

Still didn't really realize it four hours (and many episodes of Next Great Baker) later when I had a couple nice piles that looked like this:

I got to know my paper cutter really well.

Having spent my last night at home with family cutting out tiny sheets of white paper, I thought that it would be nice to spend my New Year's Eve with friends cutting out tiny pieces of orange paper. This thought process allowed me a good amount of days in which I could procrastinate and continue to enjoy the fact that I was on break (i.e. do nothing). Fortunately, I was rather successful in spending my evening cutting orange paper. It had been a good warm up to cut the white paper first, as the orange paper only took a few episodes of Grey's Anatomy and one hilarious viewing of Mega Pirahana to complete the process.

Now there were all sorts of piles of things.
Time for another day of procrastination, forced by the fact that I couldn't get to Lakeshore to laminate.....but hey, why put off till tomorrow all of your putting off for today? Who wants to laminate anyway? Oh yes, me. And my lovely friend that I forced into the best party of her life (laminating hundreds of pieces AND having a date with BTSA).

We spent a good amount of time at the laminators that day. She kindly tried to keep the footage down in order to keep the price down, but I wasn't so good at that.

I knew this project was a lot of work: cutting, gluing, cutting, laminating, magnets...but the part that slipped my mind was that there was still one more round of cutting. This was how I cared to spend the last day of my winter break. Cutting lamination and taking breaks to work on my BTSA portfolio. Woo hoo! The result was nice though. Many, many shiny pieces of laminated paper just sitting in a pile ready to help my students focus.

The magnet part, being the last part, was also the best part. I had assumed that I would be using copious amounts of magnet tape and time in order to complete the final leg of this project....but I found the best thing in the entire world: Peel and Stick Magnetic Dots. These things are amazing! As of yet, nothing has fallen down or apart since I put everything up on my board, and it took the shortest amount of time possible for a giant project. All I had to do was pull the paper off of each dot and stick it down on the paper. I have a whole bunch left over and have already used them on a couple of things I'd been using tape to adhere to the board.

Giant project, hand turned into a claw from too long with the scissors, owe friend big time, but I found the best magnet idea ever! Win!