Monday, June 11, 2012

A student, a stuffed animal and a camera...

We tried a new project in writing this year.  I had heard about using students favorite stuffed animal for a photo shoot of sorts.  Working with all boys can be challenging.  But having them bring in their favorite stuffed animal and equipping them with cameras lends incredible possibility.  It was intended to be a 3 part project, first in the fall, then in the winter and finally in the spring.

Our school happens to have an outdoor classroom area.  That was the perfect backdrop for the first set of pictures.  In fact, I was unaware that this class had actually planted some pumpkin seeds at the end of last year.  They were in full bloom and provided great fun.  Here are some of the pictures they took.  Don't you just love it! 

The students sent out in pairs and were to take 2 pictures of just their animal and one with them together.  I printed out their pictures and then the creative writing began.  Working with graphic organizers, they had to choose an order for the pictures and then write a simple story.  I did very little instruction but did provide an editing sheet encouraging proof-reading, check for capitalization and punctuation, and to read it out loud to themselves. 

Next I had hoped for lots of snow, and a repeat performance with the animals for a "snowy" story.  Sadly, there was very little snow this winter and we did not have the chance!  Hopefully, next year we can do that!

So we ended with the planned "adventure on the playground."  The boys were very excited to pose their animals in various places on the playground equipment...  It was a great way to end the year and to celebrate their writing skills.  The students were encouraged to use words like first, next, then, and last...  We had spent a lot of time on writing paragraphs and as a result the final products were quite good.

 This is definitely a project we will do again! 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Bathroom pass

I really try to keep things simple. You know, smarter not harder. My original plan in teaching was to teach the hearing impaired. Never actually did that, but I learned sign language and teach it every year. In Kindergarten it was a way to help them get the sound-letter connection. In 2nd grade, we spell our spelling words with it...

I also use for classroom signals. The first signs they learn are "bathroom" and "water".

The students may use these signs only when we are in the middle of a lesson and it is very important...  I respond with sign language "Yes" or "No."  Works well.

When we are in the classroom working independently, the students use a 2 pass system.  Each student gets a number at the beginning of the year.  I laminate 2 sentence strips and put one of the fram on either side of the door.  It coordinates with my class theme, bees, frogs, dogs...  At the top lives the "bee in the hive" or the "frog on the lily pad." and you simply put the bee on your number and move it back when you return.  I can always tell who is out... and the students always know if they are free to go or not.  Love it.

I made the bees using perle beads.  The possibilities are endless.

Conversation Journals

For 5 years now I have been keeping "Conversation Journals" with my class.  They absolutely love it!  I begin in September.  As a teacher of 2nd grade, and having a class of all boys, it is important to get them to enjoy writing.  Having a conversation journal is a safe way to encourage your class to enjoy writing for just the sake of it.  It is just between the 2 of us.  Correct spelling is not important.  As long as I can read it, it is fine!  The important part is keeping up the conversation.  I begin with an entry like this.  I use a spiral bound notebook 5 1/2" by 4 1/2".


I am so excited to start this conversation journal with you.  We are going to have a great year. 
I see that you like to read the Magic Tree House books.  Which one do you like best?

Mrs. B."

That goes on the left side of the book. (For lefty students I write on the right side and they write on the left.  Tough to write over the hump in the middle.) You see that we are teaching them letter writing, modeling and more.  The student is then expected to write on the right side (we limit each entry to one page.) and respond in the same format.

"Dear Mrs. B,

Yes, I do like those books.  I like the one about volcanoes.

Do you like them?


As with any activity, some are into it more than others.  Getting them to ask me questions can be tough.  The easy way is to ask me the same questions....

Should they fail to ask me a question, I will keep it going.  Especially if they gave me long detail in their response...  But I only do that for so long. 

After a while, I just respond with,
"Dear Alex,


Mrs. B."

Trust me when I say they come running to my desk very quickly. "What is that?"

Oh, I don't know!  I guess I forgot to ask you a question.  Hmmm,  wait, let me look back...
It seems you did not ask me question for a while.  Sometimes they get quite upset,  I just quickly ask them a question and then they usually never do it again.

Some students have a tough time and it is not meant to be a gruesome task.  I offer (in writing) to write a story.  "If you start it, I will follow.." That is great fun.  At the end of the story, we share it with the class...  Some years it inspires others to ask me... and so it goes.

Be sure to use, P.S and P.P.S.  They LOVE that!

At the end of the year, I wrap the book with a ribbon and write a final special note to them.  We really get to know each other.  I know they are a treasure they will always have.  It is a big commitment on my part.  But there is great reward.

Random Compliments

It seems as the year is coming to a close, many bloggers out there are sharing tips from their classrooms.  I have to say that one of the many things I like about teaching is the ability to start fresh each year.  No other job really has that.  There is nothing like that frest start on the first day of school.

So I would like to share some of my favorites.

First, "Random Compliments."  I love to catch my class doing the right thing.  Even better when someone catches them.  We begin with a conversation about what a compliment is...  This leads to include what it is not, and that a true compliment is not aske for!  "How do you like my shoes today?" That is a great question, but the answer was elicited and therefore not a geniune compliment.

Based on my theme, I set up a board, or lately, it has just been a laminated sentence strip.  Seven (7) is one of my favorite numbers.  I use that as the goal.  Should we get a total of 7 compliments, the next day we will have a class party (listen to a book on tape, share a snack and maybe get a little extra recess!!)

This year my theme was "bees" so I had 7 beehives with the number and the word and below that I have the number in tally marks.  Then I have a bee with a speech bubble, "Hopping to 7!"  And I have a big flower at the end that reads "Random Compliments - 7 = Class party!"

And so we "look out" for those random compliments such as, a teacher who passes us in the hallway and says "What a great and quiet line!", or when I go to pick up my class from a special and the art teacher says, "Oh my, your class was amazing today!"  The class picks up on it very quickly.  The cheer and say "That is number 3" or whatever.  Trust me when I say, they know.  I can always count on someone to remind me when we return to the classroom to move the bee, or the frog...

If I ask the teacher how my class was doing... and they say terrific!  That is not a random compliment as I asked for it...

Sometimes, if they are working incredibly hard, I might just give a random compliment myself.  They LOVE when that happens!

So try it!  Hope you like it!