Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Planting with Preschool--Animoto Style!

We've been studying plants as our last science unit in second grade. Goals for this unit include identifying plant parts, understanding the four basic needs of plants, understanding the plant life cycle, and making observations about plants. We recently planted marigolds with Mrs. Wescott's preschool class as a community building science activity! Second graders were paired with a preschooler and taught their younger partner about plant parts and plant needs for survival. We're now taking care of the marigolds and our classes will meet again in June to plant the flowers near the WPS front entrance! To share our work and experience technology meaningfully, I taught our second graders how to create an Animoto. 

If you aren't familiar with Animoto, it is a very user-friendly site where you can choose awesome templates to share photos and create short videos using the templates. You can also add music and/or text to your video. I was SO impressed with our students' savvy abilities and quick learning on making these videos. The students were super excited about their products and also navigating the process independently. First, I taught them how to create an Animoto by modeling the process on the SMARTBoard in our classroom. Students took their own notes on each step of the process. Then, they brought their notes to the computer lab and went to it on their own! It made my heart happy to watch students eagerly signaling to each other to watch the video they made and begging me to share them all on the SMARTBoard back in class. We will share them with our preschool partners, and now I want to share them with you. Please view these with your student and feel free to ask them questions about the process!


*On a mac, if you hover your mouse over the student names, a little box underneath should appear that you can click on and it will take you to the video. Not sure what this looks like on a PC but these links should work!

Monday, April 28, 2014

You're original, cannot be replaced

You might have caught word that I was out of the classroom on Friday. I was chosen by the State Department of Education to serve on the Connecticut Dream Team, a statewide collaboration amongst 97 teachers in partnership with LearnZillion and the State Department of Education to support teachers in implementing the Common Core State Standards. I am working on the K-2 Math team to create a quality, student-evidence based lesson plan and supporting activities to meet each second grade mathematician where they are in developing a conceptual foundation of addition within 1,000.

Anyway, as part of the opening remarks, the LearnZillion staff showed us the following video. It spoke to me deeply about why I do what I do each day. Why I wanted to be a teacher in the first place. Why your student is so immensely special. 

So this morning, I shared the video with our students. I showed it once and asked them to consider why it might be an important video to show. One student said "so you, as a teacher, will believe in yourself." I thought that was ironic because I was showing it to them as a student so they believe in in THEMSELVES. I appreciated that comment so deeply, though, because I often am my own worst critic-hoping and working tirelessly to make sure I am impactful, intentional, and purposeful in my teaching.

Then we read the lyrics together (actually, everyone joined in and more sang the lyrics) and I asked them to tell a partner what they think the song means. One student said "it's about taking control of life for yourself" and another said "about being kind so you can let others shine" and a third said "standing up for yourself and having the assertiveness to do that."

Just wow.

We ended this moment with just my most sincere wish beyond wishes that if they leave my classroom on the last day of school believing in themselves, I will have done a pretty good job at my job. I told them the line that spoke loudest to me in the song was "you're original, cannot be replaced" and that that's the part I need them to know. 

I wonder what the "sparks" that ignite their lives will be as their bright futures unfold. Fun to daydream about.



Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?

Do you ever feel already buried deep six feet under?
Screams but no one seems to hear a thing
Do you know that there's still a chance for you
'Cause there's a spark in you?

You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July

'Cause, baby, you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go, "Aah, aah, aah"
As you shoot across the sky-y-y

Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colours burst
Make 'em go, "Aah, aah, aah"
You're gonna leave 'em all in awe, awe, awe

You don't have to feel like a wasted space
You're original, cannot be replaced
If you only knew what the future holds
After a hurricane comes a rainbow

Maybe a reason why all the doors are closed
So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road
Like a lightning bolt, your heart will glow
And when it's time you'll know

You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July

'Cause, baby, you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go, "Aah, aah, aah"
As you shoot across the sky-y-y

Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colours burst
Make 'em go, "Aah, aah, aah"
You're gonna leave 'em all in awe, awe, awe

Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
It's always been inside of you, you, you
And now it's time to let it through-ough-ough

'Cause, baby, you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go, "Aah, aah, aah"
As you shoot across the sky-y-y

Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colours burst
Make 'em go, "Aah, aah, aah"
You're gonna leave 'em all in awe, awe, awe

Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon

Saturday, February 1, 2014

He keeps saying "I have a dream" over and over...

After yesterday's reading lesson, I was literally giddy. I dropped the students off at recess and rushed into our third grade classroom to gush over my students to Mr. Tenholder. Let me explain.

We're doing a genre study of biographies and this week, we've been closely reading about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. All week, we worked through one biography in our reading minilessons about Dr. MLK, Jr. We read the text. We decided what made it a biography. We carefully digested the text by creating a graphic organizer chronicling his life. We asked ourselves "what is this author trying to help me understand?" and wrote sticky notes justifying our thinking. Then, it was Friday. 

Two weeks ago I went to a workshop on Close Reading. It was like being back in school for me, and it was energizing and refreshing. I learned some new strategies and I couldn't wait to try them out. So yesterday, to close out our week of focusing on Dr. MLK, Jr.'s biography, I launched our work for the day with a 2 minute clip of the "I Have a Dream" speech. Watch here, from about minute 12:00 to minute 14:00. Before viewing, I frontloaded a question: what jumps out at you? What WORDS jump out at you? WHY?

We discussed for a moment what jumped out at students. I told students to turn and talk to the person next to them about this. I heard amazing tidbits of conversation going down. I heard things like:
"He keeps repeating the phrase "I Have a Dream" over and over again..."
"He's talking to so many people and this speech is not just for him, it's for everyone..."
"There are white people standing behind him supporting him"
"His voice jumps out at me"
"He's talking about white and black boys and girls joining hands because some places, they couldn't."
The energy in our room was electric right then. When I asked students to turn back to me, they begged to watch it again! I said we'd end our reading block that day by watching it again and discussing it a bit more. But for now, I had something just as special in store.

I've been really working with students on close reading...purposefully rereading texts with specific focuses in mind to dig deeper and develop a fuller understanding. One strategy I learned at the workshop I attended was using multiple, varied sources for close reading, like video and photographs.

So, here was my next move. I displayed this image on the SMARTBoard: 
I modeled what I was going to have students do carefully. I gave a good 10 seconds of think time to view the photo and then I said. Okay...I notice MLK Jr. is linking arms with two white men and they are smiling. This makes me think they are proud to be standing up for what they believe is right at heart. Then a student couldn't help but pipe in. She said "but I notice the woman in the background is looking off to the side frowning..." and I said "oh, I hadn't noticed that. It makes me wonder if she is worried that she's taking a risk by protesting?" Then I moved on to a bit more inferential thinking and I said "here's what I think this photo is really about: Dr. MLK Jr. is marching because he is making a point--a point that he is longing for equal rights, and people all around him, black, white, whatever--are too." We wrote all of this on the SMARTBoard together.

Finally, after much hype, I gave students their own photo to analyze and write about. And when I gave them this photo...a shocked, deeply engaged calm kind of swept through the room and it was awesome. Here's the photo I gave to students:

And here's what some of them wrote about it:
"I notice MLK Jr.'s face looks calm..."
"I notice two white policemen are arresting him. They're young. They think what he's doing is wrong. But they're wrong."
"I notice Dr. MLK Jr. is wearing fancy clothes and a looks weird to be arresting him when he's dressed so nicely..."
"I notice his hand is waving, like maybe reassuring his family or his people."

All of these noticings made for rich discussions...because your students were getting to the meat of what this photo really means. We talked about this photo really meant that it was not fair for him to be arrested for standing up for equal rights and more.

We watched the video one last time. This time, students picked out MANY key words in Dr. MLK Jr.'s speech. Many more than after the initial viewing. This is what close reading is all about. It's like when you watch a movie for a second time and notice something you didn't notice the first. So this time, students said the words that jumped out at them were:
"I have a dream..."
"The places he was mentioning were all in the south...Mississippi, Tennessee..."

And to end our time together, one student piped up: "Guys, we are doing all of this for a big reason. So we keep our country's mistakes in mind for our future." 

Yes, this is why I am doing this with your students, summed up perfectly from one of our own seven-year-olds. This is why I teach your students, for moments like these.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Parent Visitation Day: SUCH Fun!

I've been sorting through the photos on our class camera and reliving awesome moments. Here's a fabulous one to share with you. We had such an amazing afternoon when so many parents were able to visit and explore the properties of solids in the context of constructing towers. Students developed scientific knowledge in this authentic context with your help, parents. And it was so fun!!

How Many, How Long, How Far, is 1,000?!

We have been investigating the concept of 1,000. Students worked collaboratively as a whole group and in partnerships to investigate multiples of 10 and multiples of 100 as they created paper clip chains of 10s, 100s, and then finally, one long chain of 1,000. The chain was made with bi-colored paperclips grouped into sets of ten. Students decided it was "easier to see tens" if they alternated red and white clips in their chains. 

After making a set of ten, students estimated that maybe 100 paper clips would be taller than a second grader. They estimated that maybe 1,000 paperclips would be as long as our classroom. Students were delighted and surprised to realize midway into linking each partnership's chain of 100 that we actually had to leave our classroom and relocate to the upstairs hallway because 1,000 was just simply too many, too long, too far for our room!

Students skip counted by 10s and 100s to 1,000 as well as applied mental addition and subtraction strategies from given points in our building process. In order to be successful with this fun math experience, students needed to work productively and cooperatively with peers and as a classroom community, attend to precision, and apply numerical operations as well as their understanding of our base ten system. 

What's next? Measuring with paper clip chains and then transferring this manipulative model to the concept of a number line to solve problems involving three-digit numbers.

Stay tuned for this post to debut in the district newsletter, Region in Review, this Friday 12/13!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Nothing like compassion from a room full of 7-year-olds (or so)...

Morning Meeting has always been my secret favorite part of the day. Since the start of school, we have held a handful of Morning Meetings that I wish desperately I could have captured on film. Whether to share with you via this blog, or just to keep tucked away in my files so I could watch and reflect or watch and smile at later dates. Today was one of those.

Students were introduced to the art of commenting as first graders, I am sure, and I re-introduced them to the art of commenting on someone's share or someone's work this year as second graders. The criteria for Morning Meeting comments are to stay focused on the sharer and to show empathy with the purpose of fostering positive interactions amongst students and scaffolding student independence in offering thoughtful words to one another and acknowledging those words in hopes that students will do this in their own interactions.

Today's share that was beautiful and brilliant and just kind of jaw-dropping, heart-stopping was actually  a sad one. A student shared about an extended family member who is struggling with illness. The student offered a few sentences about the family member, and why it was of concern and weighing heavy on this student's mind. The student followed with a quiet "I'm ready for comments and questions."

This was the first beautiful part of this Morning Meeting--that this student felt safe enough in our classroom and with our group to take this kind of risk.

The second beautiful part of this Morning Meeting were the 3 comments that were offered by our classmates. Comments of true sincerity and tenderness, of true empathy and care. Comments that acknowledged they understood this student's worries, and offerings of hope and consolation.

I was fighting back the tears. Yay for you, second grade families. You have amazing children. Let's notice and celebrate their developing glimmers of deep understandings of humanity and empathy each time they present themselves. They're the best kind, you know, the 7-year-old kind.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Unconditional love is loving somebody no matter what

During our study of fiction and "how stories work," we enjoyed Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. I prefaced this read aloud by spilling my own memory bank of childhood bedtimes with my parents and my brother, piled up in my parents' bed, reading and rereading and rereading this book. We all knew how it went, but we all got teared up during it just the same. My brother, Matt, and I knew there was something special about the tree and the boy even though we were just little. And besides, Mom and sometimes even Dad would get choked up while they were reading it to us.

When I pulled out The Giving Tree for our second graders, their faces lit up and lots of "I love that book" whispers resonated around our circle. We read it just for the pure enjoyment of its' metaphorical beauty, not stopping to chat about books and details like we usually do. Even our most eager participators had eyes quietly glued to the book, bodies calm and still, sitting thoughtfully. When I closed the book, many, many hands shot up. They knew we were studying author's message/theme. They knew I had picked this book for just this reason. So I didn't even get to utter the question: "so what do you think the author's message is for us to apply to our lives?" because each hand raised already had their idea ready. The book is just that good.

Here's what our deep-thinking bunch came up with. Seriously, from the mouths of babes couldn't be more true for the way this conversation went down:
-I think the message is to love somebody, no matter what.
-I think the message is that you can love someone for your whole life
-I think the message is to be generous
-I think the message is to be giving, to give and give and give yourself

Oh, how awesome is this group?

Here's some pics of our students representing the central message of The Giving Tree in sketches and in words.