Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Happenings

Can I just say PHEW? I think this afternoon teachers everywhere let out a big sigh of relief after the school day was over. I loved today, we had so much fun but PHEW I was tired!

After doing Daily 5 as usual we got to work on our haunted house writing. I am loving this project! Today they added their detail sentences, being sure to have at least one adjective in each sentence. They were so creative. "You will love my pointy spiked furniture." "At night you can sleep in a spooky coffin". I even played some spooky music in the background while they wrote.
Then, my assistant and I decked the room with orange and black. The kids had NO idea what we were doing. It was cute to listen to them try to come up with what we were going to do.

I brought in a pumpkin and we estimated and then counted the number of seeds in it. It was funny watching them put their hands inside the pumpkin - they thought it was so gross. There were many sound effects added. :)

I split the pumpkin seeds up into groups and each group made piles of 10 to see how many seeds they had. They did a quick folded paper activity to show their number in different ways - number, number word, ten sticks and ones, and expanded form.

Then we used base ten blocks to practice regrouping and added up the totals from all of the groups. We are just starting to learn 2 digit addition so this was perfect! Our pumpkin had 457 seeds!

For a fun treat, we made spider cookies using oreo cakesters, twizzlers, frosting, and m and m's.

If the kids weren't excited enough I let them play pin the nose on the pumpkin. This was a dollar store find and it was fun!
When they came back from specials each kiddo had some goodies on their desk. The bag of candy was from a sweet assistant who works with one of my students. She was so kind to make them each a little goody bag! I also made a bag with a Halloween joke book (from the Teacher Wife), vampire teeth (the parents will love me), erasers, and some rings.

I wish I had a picture of what the classroom looked like at the end of the day - it was such a mess! I spent a good 30 minutes simply sweeping, vacuuming, and cleaning up all of our activities. Days like today are exhausting and messy, but well worth it!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Teachable Moment + A Freebie!

Today I had an opportunity to go with the teachable moment. We are hard at work on our Haunted House for Sale writing project. Today we talked about the topic sentence and how important it is. I told the kids that if their topic sentence wasn't interesting and exciting, a potential buyer probably would not take the time to read the rest of their ad. We brainstormed some great topic sentence ideas such as "Are you in the market for a new spooky haunt?" or "Enter my hideous haunted house if you dare!". Then I set the kids free to write their own topic sentence based on their haunted house. In the middle of their writing I had a fantastic idea!
I grabbed my "witch" and "zombie" fingers that we have been using as pointers in reading groups and put them on all of my fingers. Then I told the kids that once they finished their topic sentence they needed to bring their paper and sit on the carpet. I took the role of "monster/zombie/witch/ghostly ghoul" and each student had to come up one at a time and read their topic sentence to me. I, the scary creature, then would tell the writer if I was interested in their house our not. If I was interested that meant their topic sentence was great and had lots of details. If I wasn't interested they had to go back and rewrite it or add details until I was interested. They LOVED it. We were all giggling. I made sure to use my best scary voice and say things like "Come here my pretty!" or "Silence Urchins!". We had so much fun and their Topic Sentences were awesome! They really are starting to become dashingly delightful descriptive writers!

In more teachery related news, I have a freebie for you. I made a fun Halloween Family Project for the kiddos to take home next week. I figured with all of the candy they are collecting it would be great to incorporate some graphing and math! I added a few Halloween writing pages I found on TPT but you could also just add some fun Halloween stationery with a simple prompt such as "What did you dress up as on Halloween?". Hope you enjoy! Click here to download your copy. I'm making mine completely optional but it could also be great homework for next week!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Classroom This and That

Today I've got a variety of tid-bits from my classroom. I wanted to take some pictures but of course I left my camera at home. So I apologize for the poor cell phone quality pictures.

The awesome writing process tracker pencil chart that has been floating around Pinterest. I knew I had to make one! I can't wait to start using it!

I bought this awesome Haunted House Descriptive Writing Project on TPT and I love it! So far we have brainstormed who would buy a haunted house and what kinds of things they might look for in a house. They had some super creative ideas! Today they made their haunted houses out of construction paper and tomorrow we will start writing our ads.

This is my teacher bulletin board that is right next to my desk. I'm a big fan of the polka dot border. The beach/hammock picture is great to stare at and pretend that I'm there in the middle of a stressful day. :)

Don't you just love our cute fact and opinion owls? We have learned all about facts and opinions and one of our activities was these cuties. The kiddos simply cut the strips and sorted them by fact and opinion before gluing them onto the owls.

My classroom job chart. I use clothespins for EVERYTHING. I have a long list of jobs and each kid gets their own job. We keep the same jobs for 2 weeks. I "pay" the kids Eagle Bucks (part of our school behavior incentive program) on "payday". They know that I pay more for a job well done! Then the kids who get paid the most get to pick their next job first. I told the kids that I want them to do their job well so they get to choose instead of me assigning. It works GREAT! They love the responsibility and it helps me out so much to not worry about some of the little things in the classroom.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Math Games, Part 2

Here are the rest of my math games. Be sure to check out my original post to see how I store my materials.

Game #5: Writing Story Problems - I think that writing story problems is one of those skills that 2nd graders seem to struggle with, so after seeing an idea on pinterest, I created a math game to go with it.
Two students take one story problem book, one flash card, and one object card (index cards with animals, etc on them) to write a story problem. They have to show the math mountain that would go with their flash card. After they write their problem, they turn the page over and solve it TWO ways before writing their answer and label.

Game #6 - How Big and How Low. This is one that another teacher passed onto me. Each pair has a deck of cards. When it's a player's turn they pull 3 cards, placing one card on each place value label. I remove jokers, jacks, queens, and kings for this one. Then the other player does the same with 3 cards on their mat. If the students are playing How Big the player with the largest number wins and takes both player's cards. If the students are playing How Low the player with the smallest number wins and takes both player's cards. The game ends when one player has the entire deck of cards.

Game # 7 - Time's Up - Another fun game from Christina Bainbridge. Though I haven't officially taught telling time, we do it as a part of our daily math routine and the kids love it. This game is great to get them practicing!

Game #8 - Flash Cards - Such an easy and simple game! Just take any flash cards you have laying around and put them in a bucket. I was afraid this wouldn't be a popular choice but it is! I think my kiddos are mostly enjoying the Cars flash cards and the money flash cards.

I have a few more games that aren't pictured that are from our math curriculum, Math Expressions. They are addition/subtraction practice games that I simply put into plastic sleeves so they could be used over and over again.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Today I made a risky choice. I went into Barnes and Noble. Might not be a risky choice for most people, but as elementary teachers we know that the children's section can be a very dangerous place! I had some time to kill before meeting a friend so I let myself have some book browsing time.

It never amazes me how MUCH I love reading new children's books. I had an awesome Children's Lit professor (hey Beth Frye) who really made me love children's books more than I already did. She always challenged us as teachers to expose our students to high quality books and be readers ourselves! I find myself giggling when I read brand new children's books at a bookstore.

I found a few titles that I had to share. I only let myself buy the following 2:
Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet by Diane DeGroat - I love Diane's books. Gilbert is such a lovable character that I think all children can relate to. He always learns a valuable lesson in each book. I didn't have this one yet, so I decided to add it to the collection.
Thank You, Sarah by Laurie Halse Anderson - This is a completely new one to me. The book tells how one woman helped make Thanksgiving a National Holiday after years of trying. There is so much history weaved into this book it would even be great for much older children (and adults) to read as well.

This last book I did not buy but I REALLY want.
Lucy the lovable and very excited bear is back in another fun story by Peter Brown. I originally wrote about one of his books Children Make Terrible Pets in this post. You Will Be My Friend was just as much fun! The illustrations are vivid and fun and Lucy is hilarious! I'm hoping the school library gets this one so that I can read it to my kiddos!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Math Games!

This year I have started doing math games 3 times a week while I work with small groups. I have been wanting to start something like this for a while but couldn't seem to figure out how to make it work. I can't do math rotations for my entire time but my math time backs up to my team time/intervention time so I have my kiddos do math games while I work with a group of students.

I needed a good way to organize all of the materials. I used extra book baskets and made labels for them. I store the bins on a rolling cart that can be taken apart. I've had it for college and used it for storing things at school and home. The great part is that it rolls! I can't really have things in permanent places since I have to pack up my classroom every 9 weeks.

When it's time for math rotations I simply roll the cart to the carpet so that the kids can simply grab the basket they need.

Game #1 - Pumpkin Poke Addition - A great FREE Teachers Pay Teachers find. The kids "poke" the correct pumpkin using a pencil and check the answer on the back. The correct answer has a green circle around the punched hole.

Game #2 - Power Towers - From Teacher Tipster. This is such a popular choice right now. After someone chooses Power Towers there is a big sigh of disappointment from everyone else. I need to make a subtraction one soon! I have my kiddos do this one on the carpet so it's quiet.

Game #3 - Hundreds Board - I found this cute activity from Christina Bainbridge. I have the kids roll a die onto the hundreds board and then write the number the die lands on in the middle square and then figure out what 10 less, 10 more, 1 less, and 1 more are and write them in.

Game #4 - Race to 100 - Great for practicing regrouping 10 ones for a 10 stick. I found this cute safari one on TPT from Primary Graffiti.

When I first introduced math game time to the kids I MODELED each and every game in front of them. Some of them they had played before, others were new. I chose students to model for the class how to play the games, clean them up, and put the bins back on the cart.

We also had a big talk about using a "whisper voice" during math game time just like during Read to Someone in Daily 5. I limit the number of students I allow to Read to Someone to 6 during Daily 5 but during math games every child is working with a partner so the volume can quickly increase. The first day we did math games it was NOT quiet. I was very frustrated as I tried to work with my small group.

The following day we reviewed using a whisper voice again and practiced touching our hands to our throats to feel vibrations. If you can't feel the vibrations of your vocal chords when you speak then you are whispering. My Aunt (a 5th grade teacher) taught me this one and I love it! They did SO much better that day. I also told them that my assistant would be looking for the quietest pair to give them 10 eagle bucks. I am so not above bribery.

Stay tuned to see the rest of my math games!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Community Project

We just wrapped up our Social Studies unit on Communities. We focused mainly on how communities today are different from the past. It's one of my favorite social studies units. The kids love learning about how people lived in the past. We also learn about the types of communities today. Our 3 main buzzwords are rural, urban, and suburban.

After reading in our textbooks about these communities and reading some non-fiction texts the students began a project to make their own community examples. I assigned each team a type of community. First they had to brainstorm what their community would include. They were very creative. I heard all sorts of ideas from a farmer's market in a rural community to Dunkin Donuts in the suburbs, though that one may be because their teacher has a thing for iced decaf mochas ;).

After I approved their plans - I was the Community Manager (like a City Planner) I set the groups loose to make their community models. Each group got a large piece of butcher block paper and a variety of construction paper.

It took us 3 days to actually make the models. During Social Studies it looked like construction paper exploded in the classroom - it was a MESS!! I told myself to let my neat tendencies go for just a little bit and let them create! Definitely one of those moments when I remember that I was taught that "knowledge is socially constructed" in college.

Here are the finished products. They did such a great job and turned out really well!

Rural - Complete with a barn, farmer, and farm animals. Very cute!

Suburban - The large yellow part is an arena for sporting events and concerts. They also included a monster truck stadium. :)

Urban - Complete with an airport, city park with a pond, and my personal favorite - Old Navy! :)


After the projects were made I had the kids spend one day reflecting on their community. They filled out a community snapshot sheet where each group member wrote 2 sentences about their community and drew their favorite part. The following day they presented them to the class.

Teaching Text Features

As we dive into 2nd quarter my reading instruction is now full of non-fiction. Most of our reading objectives for the quarter deal with non-fiction. While my second graders usually know what non-fiction is and how it is different from fiction, they often don't understand most of the conventions, text features, and how to retell. So we spend a LOT of time in our minilessons learning all we can about non-fiction.

I've started out by introducing text features. I had an old poster that had a list of non-fiction text features on them in marker lettering. It wasn't fancy but it worked for the time being. As I started out this year's unit I couldn't seem to find that poster. I searched high and low in my carts but couldn't find it. So this morning during arrival I decided to make another one. Somehow this is what I ended up with:
I think it turned out pretty good! It's much more colorful and interactive than the old one and I included actual examples of some of the features from magazines. I enjoyed adding the colors and making it fun. I see anchor charts all over blogs and Pinterest that are so fun and to be honest I usually don't have the time or skill to make mine look that good. But this may be a stepping stone to livening up my anchor charts!

I made sure to include "why" author's use text features. Some older grades teachers have told us that their students may be able to identify text features but do not know why they are put in a book or text.

Of course, there's a major emphasis on USING text features to help students understand what they are reading. It's a strategy after all!

While I'm on the subject of non-fiction I have to give a shout out to Beth Newingham and her post on teaching non-fiction. I love her text feature books that the kids make with magazines. I made them with last year's class and will be pulling them out again soon! I also printed all of the posters to post near our carpet area.