Tuesday, September 27, 2016

What Have We Learned...So Far?

Well now that's a question, isn't it? Ms. Muck and I often joke that we should both buy and wear Go-Cameras every day, all day. We figure it is the only way to truly capture all the learning that takes place in our room!

The beginning of the year is chock-full of important learning. Some of the biggest learning steps revolve around 'how-to' in our classroom. For example, we are learning how to be readers, writers, and mathematicians. This learning includes how-to sustain our attention for longer periods of time and how-to solve problems as they pop up. We sustain our attention and solve our problems as readers, writers, and mathematicians would. It's all about saying, "Hmmm," and, "I wonder...," and, "Maybe if I tried..." That's the cool of school: not knowing and trying to find out.

We are also learning how to be a positive, productive member of the classroom community. We are realizing that there are so many times during the day for each of us to be leaders by helping out, showing others what to do, and by taking care of our second grade jobs. Leading and learning all around. Knowing how-to helps turn learning into one of our super powers. Zip. Zap. Zoom. We have it.

This week we are learning how-to use soft voices and make quick transitions during the day. We ask each other if we moved quickly, quietly, completed our jobs, and stayed ready. These how-to's help us use our time in effective ways. So here's to how-to; here's to learning; and here's to Seconds!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Six and Counting

What could the last six days of school possibly hold? A lot really.

As we count down the days, we are building up to publishing our learning about weather. Like all authors always, we are thinking about the message we have to share and the best form in which to share it. Right now we are producing poems, posters, booklets, and maps depicting what we know. The cool part is that the more we write, the more we read, the more we learn. There's a pattern or cycle in there somewhere...just like the weather! No doubt we will mix in a science exploration or two before we are all through.

The remaining days are also chock full of special events. This week we will enjoy the Second Grade Bike Rodeo. Yee-ha. Helmets off to Ms. Allen for organizing this event that instills confidence and safety in all the cyclists in second grade.

While the days are quickly decreasing, the learning and growing are increasing. Until we cross the finish line, here's to the weather; here's to the rodeo; and here's to Seconds.

Monday, May 9, 2016

On the Run

"How many laps did you run?" That was the question last Thursday as the Woodland community concluded our spring fundraiser with the Apex Fun Run. Round and round we went. With each step, each lap we earned some fast cash for Woodland. For some of us, the two-plus miles was a sprint. For others of us it was all about the pacing. And for the rest of us?? To finish was to win. Here's to the winners!

Meanwhile back inside Room 223, we are keeping a weather-eye out. Yup. Our attention has turned skyward as we explore the science of weather. And let me tell you, it's a downpour of information and interest. Why there's the water cycle, the clouds, storms, the temperature, sun, wind, and precipitation of all kinds. With so much to think about, the meteorologists in our room will be working overtime.

While we research we remain readers and writers. Our ongoing goals in writing are to communicate a clear message and to use correct capitalization, punctuation, and spelling in all of our written work. The first steps for many of us are being aware and paying attention. When we pause and think, many of us can include most of these writing conventions in our pieces. It's a matter of going slow enough to show what we know.

In reading, the big focus is to increase our ability to infer what a writer does not directly put in print. We are working on understanding the concept of character traits and how authors give hints about them. It's all about picking up clues when we read, adding our own thoughts that relate, and ending up with an interpretation that makes sense given what we are reading. We are also paying more attention to reading multi-syllable words now that our books are getting longer and longer.

Through it all, we continue to grow as students and good humans. Each day we talk, read, and sing together. As a group of second graders, we rock. In fact, that's our song for the week, We Will Rock You. And we will. And we do.

So here's to running; here's to finishing; here's to rocking, and here's to Seconds.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Carnival of Stories

Excitement pulses through every hallway and classroom today as visions of the Woodland Carnival delight children and adults alike. This year's event will not disappoint. There will be armfuls of fun, food, and friendship all evening long. I look forward to seeing many happy faces this evening.

There's excitement to be had in Room 223 as well. We are digging into our study of Cynthia Rylant's work in big ways. Every student has chosen some of her books to research and explore. As a class we are examining the writing and illustrating in her books with careful eyes. We are noticing the finer details about how this author and these illustrators crafted the books. We are wondering about how the stories were constructed, the decisions Cynthia made, the decisions the illustrators made, the order in which the books were published, the lessons we might learn from the characters, and more. Each group is recording what they notice and will decide how to publish their findings and share out their learning with the rest of the class.

While we are thinking about Ms. Rylant's stories, we are also working to publish our own pieces of writing. Publishing demands a lot from us as writers. We continue to create, but we also polish. The polishing requires us to think about our readers. What might they enjoy and be interested in? What might we have to add to our writing so they understand? How do we handle spelling and punctuation out of respect for the reader? As one student observed, if Cynthia Rylant didn't think about these things, no one would like her books. Well said. If it's good enough for Cynthia, it's good enough for us.

These creating and editing tasks are not as easy as they sound. Sometimes it's pretty simple to get a word right on a weekly Word Study check but way harder to spell it correctly in our daily work. Day to day, it's the daily spelling work that really matters. Also, we find that those tricky punctuation marks are, well, kind of tricky. And what about capital letters? WOW! Yeah, it's a lot, but it's the work that we, as authors, do.

So here's to the Carnival; here's to the authors and illustrators, and here's to Seconds!

Friday, April 8, 2016

All of Our Classroom is a Stage

While we did not have lights, curtains, costumes, or make-up, we did produce a little theatrical magic in our room this week. Sliding back into our routines after spring break, we split into small groups for a little work on readers' theater scripts. Readers' theater experiences are built around familiar stories turned into scripts. Instead of cast members memorizing their lines, they learn to read them with fluency and expression and share the readings with others.

To embed readers' theater in our classroom, we read a number of fun folktales, became familiar with the story and characters, chose parts, practiced reading those parts to each other, and then took turns reading the play versions aloud. Throughout the days last week, we learned more about characterization, story plots and problems, and reading with increased fluency to better capture the authors' meaning.

 This week we turned the page and began a new author/illustrator study. We are taking a closer look at the works of Cynthia Rylant. So far we have started to wonder about what Ms. Rylant does as an author to capture our interest. We will also look at how the many different contributing illustrators add artwork to her books to enhance the meaning and mood of Ms. Rylant's stories.

Like many authors, Ms. Rylant draws on her own experiences for ideas. Already we have noticed she includes mountains and pets in her books. Shhh. That's because she grew up in the mountains of West Virginia and loves animals. In the coming weeks, we hope to learn more about the themes in her books and how Ms. Rylant and her illustrators help us understand the big ideas and big messages in the stories.

By the way, our furry friends learned a thing or two today as well. Bringing a favorite stuffed animal to school was the perfect way to end the week and the perfect way to celebrate the good work being done in our classroom. What a treat! There's lots to think about and lots to enjoy. So here's to animal friends; here's to interesting stories, and here's to Seconds!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Rolling Into Spring

There have been forces at work in our classroom. As we roll into spring break, we wrap up our study of balance and motion. Today we took a final look at objects that spin, roll, and are pushed or pulled. Along the way we came across numerous concepts and terms related to motion. In fact, there were so many words we decided to collect them and put them in a classroom glossary. Each scientist in our room selected a word, wrote a definition, added the necessary illustrations, diagrams, and labels so other readers could better understand the concepts. Who are these other readers you ask? They are first graders! We are going to send a copy of our glossary to Ms. Lankas' class along with a letter we wrote. We wanted to get these first graders thinking about the big thoughts they might be thinking in second grade. We thought this was a good plan. What do you think?

As we made the shift from researchers to writers, we had to pay attention to our ideas, our spelling, spacing, and punctuation. Writers use all these elements to communicate ideas to readers. We always want our readers to pay attention to and understand our ideas without having to work too hard. If our writing is a mess, our readers will probably be confused. Not a good thing at all.

After break, we will begin exploring different stories, different authors and illustrators, and more new ideas. Wow. It's nonstop learning in second grade. Until then...here's to sharing ideas; here's to spring break, and here's to Seconds.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Our Turn to Learn

This week our explorations with balance and motion have taken quite an interesting turn. We have moved on from balancing static objects to observing how motion and balance affect a spinning top. We noticed some common characteristics in our investigations:

  • stable objects
  • unstable objects
  • balancing points
  • axis
  • axle
  • gravity
To this list we have also added the forces of torque and friction. It's interesting to us how all these forces are working together and against each other to set an object in motion or to slow it down. It's a giant game of battling tops! Today, we also used tops with marker tips at the balance point. While we watched the tops spin, we could see evidence of and the differences between fast-moving and slow-moving tops and tops that completely stopped.

In addition to our experiments with motion, we have been busy writing a letter to Ms. Lankas' class about our discoveries. We figured it was a good idea to start prepping first graders for the big thinking they would do in second grade. In our letter we are making sure to use capital letters, correct punctuation and spelling, but we are also working hard on writing a message that makes sense. After each sentence we ask the writers' questions, "What should we write next? How will our next sentence connect to our last sentence?" By asking these questions, we make sure that we are developing and organizing our ideas so it's easy for the first graders to understand. We are also starting to use some important, nonfiction text features like using bold print for really important words.

Rest assured, we will pack up all this learning and take it with us on our Friday-field-trip to the Science Museum. So here's to spinning. Here's to tops. And here's to Seconds!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Balance and Motion

Wow, things are really rolling along in Room 223...We just began a science unit on how objects move and balance. We are observing and experimenting with forces like pushing and pulling, gravity, balancing points, and counterweights.

We began our investigations by using some simple tools: a cardboard ramp, a plastic axle, and two different sized wheels. During our experiments we noted what happened when big and little wheels were pulled along by gravity. Ok, some groups added pushing forces as well. Zoom, zoom, zoom.

The last couple days we have been exploring balance and balancing points. Who among us would have predicted we could balance a crayfish on its nose? Sound fishy? You're right. We used a tagboard cutout of a crayfish instead of the genuine article. While the crayfish was fairly stable, we discovered it became more stable when we added counterweights. You probably know the counterweights better as clothespins.

Each day we explore a little, question a little, talk a little, and read and write a little about balance and motion. In these processes, literacy helps us complete our work as scientists, engineers, problem solvers. As always, the learning never seems to stop. So, here's to balance. Here's to motion. And here's to Seconds!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

No Bones About It

Question for you all: Why are there old dinosaur bones in the Science Museum? Because they can't afford new ones!

If there's a dinosaur joke, there must be dinosaurs and there was. Today, all second graders at Woodland attended a presentation by the Science Museum of Minnesota to begin preparing us for our upcoming field trip to the Museum. The presentation and field trip are generously funded by Flint Hills Resources. Hooray and thank you!!

During the presentation, we were scientists. As paleontologists, we observed, discussed, and learned about life as it was long ago. Matthew, our guide from the Science Museum, explained how dinosaurs became buried under layers of rock and soil, what paleontologists do, and how paleontologists work to piece together the bones they find. Luckily, we had a room filled with scientists who worked together to assemble a model of Deinonychus' skeleton.


We also learned that Deinonychus was a meat eater whose name means "terrible claw." One look at Deinonychus and we quickly saw it was accurately named. Yikes! Time for a manicure??

Now, why did Deinonychus eat raw meat? Because it couldn't cook, of course. Mathew shared a ton of great information on dinosaurs. Don't be surprised if dinnertime turns into dino-time!  So here's to dinosaurs, here's to the Science Museum, here's to Flint Hills, and Here's to Seconds!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Keeping Cool and Staying Warm

Our favorite letters these past couple weeks have been "b" and "r" as in brrrrr. Even though it's been cold outside, our reading and writing work are heating up.

Right before winter break we launched into a study of Kevin Henkes' work as author and illustrator. We are continuing that work and are now taking closer looks at his writing and artistic craft. Maybe you saw your child's drawing of Lilly? Thanks to Emily, my daughter, for coming in and sharing her art with us and helping us see the big shapes Mr. Henkes used to create a great character!

As we analyze what Mr. Henkes does as an author, we are trying to write in similar ways. Around here, we are reading like writers and writing like readers. Here's a few of the writing moves Mr. Henkes often includes in his books:
  • Mice are main characters.
  • Words and phrases are often repeated.
  • Storylines grow out of real-life occurrences from at home or school.
  • Humor adds enjoyment.
  • Characters change throughout the story.
We also noticed that Mr. Henkes does not just write about what happened. He adds more to his stories. To make his books really interesting, Mr. Henkes uses the following:
  • dialogue
  • description
  • thoughts
  • feelings
  • sounds
All this good writing work must be the reason Mr. Henkes just won a Caldecott Honor for his latest book Waiting. Wow, what an honor for him. And what an honor for us to be studying this author from Madison, WI! So here's to Kevin Henkes and here's to Seconds!!