Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Animal Research Projects!

I was first introduced to the idea of creating Animal Dioramas when my son (who was a first grader at the time), brought home a shoebox and a basic instruction sheet from his teacher to create a diorama of any animal and its natural habitat.  Being a mom, I was so excited about the opportunity to help my son create something he was so excited about!  Being a teacher, I knew that I had to do a project like this with my own students, but I had no idea where to start.

I shared the idea with my second grade colleagues, and they all loved it!  We worked together to create a basic letter to send home to parents, but struggled to find just the right way to show students exactly what the project is and how to do it.  (I don't know about your class, but I have to break everything into very small steps for most of my kiddos!)  So, I decided to create a unit that would have everything you could ever need for doing a project like this.  Trust me, if you want to do this project with your class - this unit will save you SO much time and make your life so much easier!  

To start off, our science focus for the entire month is ANIMALS!  We spent time reading about animals and life cycles in our science books, and this week we are learning all about animal habitats. I found some really amazing videos on habitats on our district portal, but you can also find some really cute and informative videos here (around 3-5 minutes each):

Earlier this week, I sent home a letter to parents to let them know that we will be starting our dioramas soon! I also asked parents to send shoe boxes to school with their child, if possible.  You may want to send home your parent letter 1-2 weeks before you intend to send home the assignment. I like to send everything home with the student on a Friday, so they have the weekend to start gathering supplies and begin working on their project.  I usually give students 3-4 weeks to complete the project at home.  My student dioramas are due on May 6th, which gives me plenty of time to have them present their projects and have them on display for our Open House the following week!  After that, I'll be happy to send them home with the students.  

This is what I sent home with the students to kick off our Animal Diorama and Research Report Project! (Of course I stapled them together so the pages didn't go flying all over the place when they went outside, but for the purpose of this photo - I laid them out so you can see them!)



That's it!  Easy-peasy!  Just send the directions for the project, the animal research report poster, the student grading rubric, and the presentation outline home and have your students work on their projects on their own time.  My second grade team and I decided to have one day where we all will keep our classrooms open or an hour or so after school so students can come in and work on their projects, use classroom supplies, get help with research, etc.

We will be doing the majority of the research in the classroom, and will be writing the research reports as well.  I just prefer to do that part with the students, so I can guide them through the writing process.  The majority of our research will be done on the internet during our computer lab time.  I've found these websites to be VERY helpful and easy for kids to find the information they need for their reports!
While we are in the computer lab, I had the students record their research information on this sheet:


Once the students had recorded all of their information, we spent the next day taking their key ideas and putting them into complete sentences about their animals.


I also have a simpler version if that works better for your class!



From there, the students would write their final draft on a separate sheet of paper (also included in the unit).  You can find all of these pages, grading rubrics, parent letters, as well as a how-to instructional presentation to show your students how to do the project HERE!  Now, the only question is... what will your students create?  


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Back in business!

Well, hello everyone!   
 
It's been WAY too long since I've posted anything on this little blog, (like, since September of 2014! YIKES!!!)  but now that I've had a little "facelift" and blog makeover, I'm hoping to change that!  I've got some great ideas for upcoming posts, so be sure to check back soon!  I'm currently recovering from a post-Christmas cold (cough-cough, sniff-sniff), so I'll be back as soon as I'm feeling perky again!
 
In the meantime, here's a super cute pic of my kiddos on Christmas Eve!  Love my babies so much... they make the holidays so much more magical!  We had an amazing Christmas together.
 
 

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday! 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Getting Started with Math Stations (The Easy Way)

We just wrapped up our first complete rotation of math stations, and I have to say... they were a HIT!  I'll admit, I was hesitant to get started because I have sooooo many students (32!!!) and I couldn't imagine how I could possibly have all of them working on stations around the room at the same time...but I did (and it worked!)  Woo-hoo!

My math block runs from 12:15-1:20, so I like to do our Math Stations for the last 20-25 minutes, after I've taught the lesson for the day and the students have had time to work and practice in pairs or independently.  

At this point in the school year, it's all about rules, routines, and procedures.  Therefore, I tried to keep all of my stations simple enough so that students could work with their groups and feel successful without needing a lot of teacher help.  Also - let's face it... I don't have hours and hours to prepare elaborate activities, so I try to keep everything simple with minimal prep time.

Since I have 32 students, I decided that it would be easier to have them in smaller groups of  4 (most of the math activities I have will work for groups of up to 4 students at a time).  Then, I came up with a list of stations that would require the least amount of prep, yet would still keep students engaged and give them much-needed practice on basic math skills for second grade.  

Here's what I came up with:


#1:  iPad Station:  I recently received 5 iPads to use in the classroom.  I'm a total newbie to iPads, so rather than go crazy with apps, I started with JUST ONE.  Sushi Monster. I want the students to master one app first and then I will add a new one with our next rotation so they can choose from two.  Once that rotation ends, I will add another, etc... until we have a good-sized selection of apps for students to choose from during their iPad station time.  

Description (from iTunes)

Meet Sushi Monster! Scholastic’s new game to practice, reinforce, and extend math fact fluency is completely engaging and appropriately challenging.

Strengthen reasoning strategies for whole number addition and multiplication by helping monsters make a target sum or product. Earn points with each correct answer… but watch out for distractions! To be successful, plan ahead and strategically select numbers from the sushi counter. 
Before I let the students play this app, I showed them how to use it by using my document camera and projector.  I hooked the iPad up to my speakers and did many examples with them together so they could see exactly what to do.  This made it much easier when it was time to finally let them use the iPads all by themselves!  

More math apps on my list to add:  Splash Math, Math Bingo (abcya.com), Mathmateer

#2. Computer Station:  I can't say enough wonderful things about abcya.com.  This website has so many fabulous resources for students of all levels!  For our computer math station, I let the students play their choice of 3 games:  Marble Math, Subtraction Pop, or Base Ten Bingo!  Like the iPads, I decided to start with just a few games, but I plan to add one or two every few weeks.  

#3:  Math Shelf:  Nothing fancy on this shelf, but the kids love it! At this station, I have several manipulatives / games for students to play with, including building with Legos, Coinstruction, Pattern Blocks, Count Down, and a place value game. 
#4:  Making 10:  This game is SUPER easy to prep, and easy for kids to play.  It's basically just like "Go Fish", except the students have to make "matches of 10" - for example:  7 and 3, 8 and 2, 9 and 1 (Ace), etc...  The prep for this station consisted of me buying two new packs of playing cards and taking out the face cards.  Easy-peasy!  



Students having a blast with Making 10!  

#5:  Countdown:  I have several versions of this game, but the 4-Way Countdown is my favorite.  It's an instant center activity for 4 students!  The students take turns rolling the dice, adding the total, and flipping over the number that matches.  Things get interesting when they have all but a few numbers flipped over. They can also decide to subtract in order to get the correct number.  The winner is the player who flips over all their numbers first!  Super easy and fun.  Kids love it!  I got a great deal on mine on Amazon.  Only $13.95!  4-Way Countdown  (You might notice that I placed my dice in a see-through small plastic container.  It's a great way to keep the students from throwing the dice too far (or at each other), and it keeps them all in once place.  No more searching for dice!)
#6:  Math Activity - Puzzle Station:  I chose a simple, yet challenging 100 piece puzzle that would require the students to work together as a group to put the puzzle pieces together.  This is not only great for critical thinking, it's fantastic for English Language Learners as well!  To keep the puzzle pieces in once place, I brought in a large cookie sheet so that the students can leave the pieces together for the next group.  After Math Station time, I slide the cookie sheet under my math shelf and voila!  No more puzzle mess!  
#7:  Math Activity - Number Order:  I found this great freebie from one of my faves - Amy Lemons! You can grab this activity from her blog here!  I made an easier version of this for my struggling students with number cards 1-30 for them to sort out in order.  You could do this in pairs, but I had all four students work together to put the numbers in order from least to greatest.  After they put the cards in order, they can write the numbers on the answer recording sheet (as seen below).  


#8:  Teacher Group (Race to 100):  Eventually, this last group will be a teacher-led group to reteach concepts that have been taught in class.  However, for the first few rotations, I recommend NOT taking a group, so that you can be available to go from station to station to help students as needed as they get used to the new activities.  I won't feel comfortable taking a teacher-led group until I feel like my students are able to work at their stations independently.

For this first rotation, I used a game called "Race to 100".  For this game, all you will need are:  Base 10 Blocks (10's and 1's), place value mats, and a pair of dice.  

To play:  Students take turns rolling the dice and counting the total.  Then, they count out the same number of base tens or ones from the bag and place them on their mat.  When they have enough ones to "trade", they trade them for a 10.  The first student to reach a total of 100 is the winner! 
That's it!  Super easy, no-fuss math stations.  Can't wait to start another rotation next week!  



Sunday, September 7, 2014

My Latest Project: A Daily 5 Friendly Classroom Library!

I've been wanting to reorganize my classroom library for a few years now, but I just didn't know how to do it.  Should I sort them by level, Lexile, subject, author, or just put them in ABC order?  The idea was overwhelming, so I procrastinated.  I put this project on the back burner until I could figure out a really efficient way to finally get my books organized and easily accessible to my students.

Over the summer, I had some time to research classroom libraries online, and that's when I found this awesome video from the Daily 5 website. Organizing the Classroom Library.  It totally inspired me, so before the school year started (when I had several days with my classroom all to myself), I rolled up my sleeves and got to work!

Here's how the process basically went:

Step 1:  Lay ALL of your books out and sort them by genre / theme.  This took MUCH longer than I originally thought.  (I mean, like several days longer.)  I guess I had a lot more books to sort than I thought, and it takes quite a while to sort them by genre.  To make it easier, each time I thought of a new genre, I attached a post-it in front of each pile with the genre/theme title.  WARNING:  This step of the process is a little bit messy!  (See my classroom below after it looks like it was hit by a tornado of books!)



Step 2:  Make a list of all of the themes/genres and place them in baskets or bins.  My list ended up with almost 20 different themes/genres, but to give you an idea - here's a shortened version:
  • Buddy Books (2 or more copies of each book for partner reading)
  • Animal Books - Fiction
  • Animal Books - Nonfiction
  • Dinosaur Books
  • Froggy Books
  • Berenstain Bears
  • Silly Stories (a mix of silly, funny stories like Mo Willems and David Shannon, etc.)
  • Bug Books
  • Fiction (This is where I put all the fictional books that didn't fit in any other category. LOL)  
  • Chapter Books
  • Easy Chapter Books
  • Henry and Mudge (I had more than 10 books from this collection so I made a new basket for them.)
  • Family Books
  • Folktales
  • Biographies 
  • Clifford Books

Step 3:  Type up your list of genres in Word or Excel and "sort" them in ABC order.  

Animal Books – Fiction

Animal Books – Nonfiction

Berenstain Bears

Biographies

Buddy Books

Bug Books

Clifford Books

Dinosaur Books

Fiction

Froggy Books

Henry & Mudge Books

Silly Stories

Step 4:  Place the bins / baskets on the shelves of your library area in order of the most highly used to the least.  For example, I started with "Buddy Books" because it's one of the most popular baskets in my library. It's followed by Berenstain Bears and Clifford Books.  That way, students will be able to find the most popular books easily.  

Step 5:  Once all the baskets are in order the way you want, place numbers on the basket in order. (1,2,3...)

Step 6:  Place the numbers next to the corresponding genre basket/bin title on the list.  This way, students can easily find the book they want in ABC order, and then look at the number next to easily find where it's located.  

 6
Animal Books – Fiction
 7
Animal Books – Nonfiction
 2
Berenstain Bears
 12
Biographies
 1
Buddy Books
 10
Bug Books
 3
Clifford Books
 8
Dinosaur Books
 11
Fiction
 4
Froggy Books
 9
Henry & Mudge Books
 5
Silly Stories

Step 7:  Using small labels (you can use your paper cutter to cut regular labels into small sizes) start with the first book bin and give each book a corresponding number sticker in the upper corner so it's easily seen. This part is the most tedious, but will make it much easier for your students to know where the books go after they are done reading.  Book #5 goes into the #5 basket.  Book #2 goes in the #2 basket, and so on.... :)

A closer look at the organizing / labeling process.  Took quite a while, but it was worth it!  

The finished product!  My beautifully organized classroom library!  
My students started using our classroom library last week.  It's been fabulous so far!  They are loving how easy and fun it is to find their own "good fit" books.  My next project:  Implementing the rest of my Daily 5 rotation.  So far we've only made it to "Read to Self" and "Read to Someone".  More to come!  
  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Getting ready for the first day of school!

After a wonderfully relaxing, fun summer... I'm gearing myself up for yet another school year!  This will be my 12th year at my school site, and my 14th year in the district.  I can't believe how fast time flies!

My first official day back at work was yesterday, so I tried REALLY HARD to prioritize everything that needed to be done so I can make sure I'm ready to go by Tuesday.  I was so happy to walk into my classroom to find that the HUGE Office Depot order I submitted before going on summer break had been delivered!  *YAY*
It feels like Christmas!  I could just marvel at these goodies all day.  I heart school supplies!
After sorting through my "goodie boxes", I decided to tackle my desks.  They were arranged in rows, but I always like to have them in groups of 4, so I got to work arranging them the way I like.  From there, I tackled the clutter and the piles and after a few hours, my room was presentable again!

Check out my progress here:

After I got my room ready, I decided to sit down and get some planning done.  I got all my first week plans typed up, Back to School Powerpoint and parent hand-outs made, and first week copies all printed and waiting in my copy basket.

I always like to have my first day plans printed out in detail, so I can make sure I don't forget anything!  You can take a peek at my own first week plans here:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Christmas in JULY! I'm having a SALE!


It may be smack-dab in the middle of July, but I'm feeling like Santa for the next few days!  No, it's not because of the extra pounds I've gained from enjoying my summer break a little *too much (haha), it's because I've got a whole BUNCH of products I'm putting on sale over the next few days and you get a chance to grab them for a great price before the new school year starts!



I'm linking up with the lovely ladies over at BLOG HOPPIN for this amazing sale.  Since I'm joining the party a little late, I'm offering 20% off my entire store today through Saturday, the 26th!  Be sure to stock up!  There are lots of other great products out there from some of my favorite sellers.  It's time to stock up!



Monday, July 21, 2014

Vegas Recap!

I've been back from Vegas a little over a week now... and let me tell you - it was everything I imagined it would be an SO much more!  It was so amazing to be a part of the FIRST ever TpT Conference.  I learned so much that I can't wait to put into practice.  Along with that, I met so many great people and had a fabulous time exploring the city with my wonderful husband, Matt.

I thought I'd share a few of my favorite moments.  

Such a peaceful view on our short 50 minute, morning flight to Vegas! 
My first day in a nutshell!  Palazzo (FAB-U-LOUS!), TpT Swag,
happy hubby in our fancy suite, and me with my official looking conference badge!  

My new friend!  We met at breakfast and hung out all day together!  She is one cool chick!
Miss you bunches, Rena from Denver (aka The Special Ed Thread!)  

The fabulous HAPPY HOUR after the conference!  Cocktails, appetizers, tons of TpT'ers,
and lots of fun little surprises (like a photo booth that we never got around to!)  

My view for the morning Kick-off Keynote Speaker!  So exciting.  Got to
hear fromPaul, the founder!  What a humble, generous, lovable guy!  

My first session with TpT Superstar and TOP SELLING member, Deanna Jump!
So neat to learn from the best.  She's so adorable and has the cutest southern accent to boot.  Love her!

















Taking a break from dancing all night with my hubby.  We may be in our 30's (and 40's), but
we still like to get down!  LOL!  Especially in VEGAS!  So much fun.