Tuesday, November 3, 2015

How to help parents understand Common Core - FREEBIE!

Is it really conference time already? How is that even possible?!
And only 52 days until Christmas ... just saying! EEK!

Anyway, this year I really wanted to create a resource that would help parents get a better understanding of what reading looks like in my classroom now that we're fully invested in the Common Core standards. I think about what reading was like when I was in school and realize it is completely different! If that's what my parents are envisioning, they probably feel helpless when it comes to working with their child at home.

I decided to make 3 new resources. The first is simply explaining how 2nd grade readers have changed since we were in school. The next 2 are tips on building reading comprehension skills and writing skills at home.

 You can grab them for FREE here!
I hope you find these helpful!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Camp Read-A-Lot: A Genre Classroom Campout

Welcome to Camp Read-A-Lot!
Just imagine their excitement when you tell your class that you're going camping ... in the classroom! My planning team and I love to do this at the beginning of each year. It's a fun way to get the kids familiar with the different genres. If you decide a classroom campout is in your future, there's a freebie at the end of this post!

At the poetry station, students read a few poems and talk about how poems make them feel. Then, they read a rhyming poem about s'mores and fill in the blanks with rhyming words. Finally, it's snack time! I like to dip marshmallows in melted chocolate and crushed up graham crackers.
At the fables station, They read various fables and talk about the elements of a fable. The students use some of these fables and this flipbook as they work: Fables and Flipbooks

At the Realistic Fiction station, we read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. The students use what they've learned about realistic fiction to decide of that story fits. Finally, use a fill-in-the-blanks story to write their own realistic fiction story about a camping adventure. (Hint: Freebie!)

The final station is the Fairy Tale station. This is by far the station that gets the most laughs! First, the students learn about the genre. Then, they fill in a fairy tale adlib. It's hilarious!! My teacher partner found it, but I can't figure out where - most likely Pinterest! :)
Check out some pics from our day!


Freebie Time!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

5 Life Lessons Your Students Will Learn From Kid Kids Club

1. Empathy is not only noticing how someone is feeling, but also changing the way you act to be sensitive to their feelings.
In an elementary classroom, this is a vital lesson to teach your students. Many elementary students are still in the "me centered" world mostly because no one has ever challenged them to step out. I use a wonderful book as an introduction. It walks a little girl through learning what empathy is and shows her trying it out in real life scenarios.

2. You can make a difference in this great big world.
Kids often think they're too small to make an impact. I talk about the ripple effect that random act of kindness can have. We talk about how our small act of kindness (like helping a friend pick up their dropped lunch) can ripple and move from person to person.

3. Random Acts of Kindness, whether big or small, change the world.
Kindness is important. We learn that you can show kindness through smiling at another student as they pass in the hall or asking a friend how their day is going. You can also plan out your kindness on a larger scale such as collecting stuffed animals and books for kids in foster care. All of these acts of kindness are equally important!

4. When we work together, we can make a bigger difference.
This is shown through missions such as having a canned food drive or writing letters to a fire station thanking them for working on Thanksgiving. We talk about how one can or one letter would be nice, but 25 cans or 25 letters is even better!

5. Helping someone else helps you too!
This is the final and most important lesson!  Kind Kids Club helps my students to build a sense of community and purpose. After experiencing how wonderful it feels to help another person, I notice this becoming the norm in our classroom. The kids start noticing each other's feelings and helping one another.

Check out this post about setting up Kind Kids Club in your room!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

My New Favorite Body Break

Anyone else have a class that's obsessed with "Watch Me" - Silento? My kids want to sing it and dance the dances all the time ... and at all the wrong times. So, when I saw this new video of a gym teacher turning the song into a cardio workout, I knew it needed to be our new brain break! We've been squeezing this one in at least once a week!

Check it out!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Scientists at Work! Static Electricity!

In our Forces and Motion unit. My students are having a great time learning about pushes, pulls, gravity, and magnetism, but I think their favorite has been static electricity! Here is what our static electricity 2 day unit looked like...

1. Make static electricity! I had the BEST candidate for this one!

2. Make an empty pop can roll across the table without touching it! What?! Somehow I had no idea you could do this and it was SO cool to watch the reaction that my class had! We learned some more about static electricity and what is causing the force.

3. It was time for the students to put their scientist hats on and do some experimenting. Partners worked together using my lab report template to follow the Scientific Process.

Can 2nd Graders really follow the scientific process on their own with minimal guidance from their teacher? (This was the question I asked myself over and over!) The answer is YES and they did a great job! I will say that we had already written a lab report together as guided practice - a very important step to them gaining their independence. Here are some pictures of the students testing their hypotheses ...

What great little scientists! If you're interested in my lab report template, you can find it at my TPT store. Here's a peek at the front cover!

This report covers each section of the scientific process:
1. Question
2. Hypothesis
3. Materials
4. Procedures
5. Data
6. Results
7. Conclusion


Monday, August 31, 2015

Kind Kids Club - Teaching Kids Empthy

Every 2nd grade teachers says it daily: "How do you think that made ______ feel?" Usually, this is followed by a long face and a shrug ... occasionally even a smirk (grrr) ... or if I'm having  a lucky day, I might get the answer "bad". This leads me to wonder if they know WHY that person is feeling "bad" or if they just know it's the right thing to say.

So I'm left with the same question every year:
How do you teach 7 and 8-year-olds empathy?

This year I noticed a particularly high need. Kids were knocking each over without apologies or "are you okay?"s, they were saying hurtful comments, and they were really struggling with working cooperatively in groups because they all wanted to be in charge. As I searched the internet for inspiration, I stumbled across one class that had a Kind Kids Club. They would give Random Acts of Kindness together as a class. That's when I realized, the only way to know how good it feels to help others, is to actually go through the act of helping others. Most 2nd graders haven't really ever experienced that feeling of knowing you helped make another person's day better!  It was on! Here's the Kind Kids Club unit I created! I began with this sheet to introduce the idea to my class.

We kicked off the unit with this AMAZING book about empathy! I highly recommend it!
 After that,  I introduced the "ripple effect". This was a tough concept to explain, so I used them as props to act it out in a line of the carpet. We talked about how one student was having a tough day, but when I greeted her, hugged her, and noticed her feelings, it made her feel better. Then we acted out scenarios to go down the line. One example was that a child dropped his lunch in the cafeteria. It could have ruined his entire day, but the student that I cheered up decided to help him pick up his lunch. In this way, they were able to see the "ripple" going down the line!

The kids loved the idea that no matter how small they are they could still make a difference in this big world!
Once they realized this, they were pumped to join the club! I was so proud of  their applications!! It showed growth already! The pictures aren't super clear, but if you click on them, you can read what they wrote. It's totally worth the time to see their precious answers!

Of course they were accepted!
Next on our agenda: Deciding our first mission!
You can find all of the printables above and also lesson plans in the unit HERE!

Kind Kids Club - Mission: Snuggle Up & Read

My Kind Kids have been busy! Our latest mission was called "Snuggle Up & Read". We talked about how great it can feel for them to snuggle up with their favorite stuffed animal while reading a book. Some children don't get to do that because they don't have their own stuffed animal or books. This is especially true for children in foster care.

We decided to collect stuffed animals and books to donate to Warm Welcomes. This is a great organization that gives children going into a new foster home their own book bag with comfort and necessity items. Many times these children enter the new home with nothing at all - not even a tooth brush! In their book bag, they'll find items like a blanket, stuffed animal, book, craft, and a toothbrush. What a great charity! Here' a picture of our loot:
Check out this lesson and more at my TPT store! This product includes the lesson, mission cards, reflection sheet, and completion certificate for this mission - Kind Kids Club - Mission Snuggle Up and Read!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Measurement Garden

Before I even begin telling about this lesson, I have to tell you how it ended! After picking up the final piece of construction paper and placing it in the scrap bin, I said, "I think that might have been the most fun I've had with math all year!" The response was perfect. The entire class said in unison: "That was MATH?!" Oh geez! Thank you Mrs. Bunch for being your creative self and coming up with this lesson. It was obviously a hit!

We started by reading the book Sunflowers Measure Up. It was the perfect introduction to the lesson.

After reviewing measurement for a bit, it was time to get crafty! We divided up the garden elements that we would make. The other classes made sunflowers. My class was in charge of making the butterflies, clouds, and the sun.

Partners were given a post-it with what they would make and the width it needed to be. I was VERY tough and required the measurements to be perfect. This isn't my typical style, but I really liked to see the problem solving when they came up short or a little over! They were so proud when their creations were finally perfect!
Here is our final product!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Aesop's Fables - Going Beyond Just Reading the Stories

I can't believe I've FINALLY finished this unit!

I love teaching fables! There are so many teaching possibilities with fables. Plus it's the best and easiest way to introduce lesson and theme to elementary students in a way that they can actually connect to. That's why I really took my time on this unit until it was perfect.
Here's a little preview!

I hope you like it as much as I do! If you'd like to try it out in your own classroom, visit my page at Let's Study Fables - Genre Study

Monday, August 17, 2015

Summer Reading: ADHD & Me

Hi teacher friends! I'm sure your summer has been somewhat like mine ... a lot of relaxing and playing mixed with a little reading, working, and creating. My husband just can't understand why I choose to work on my "time off". How do you explain that there are still things that need to be prepared and completed for the next school year? #teacherproblems

Anyway, I wanted introduce you to a book that I recently read that was SO needed! It's called ADHD & me - What I learned from lighting fires at the dinner table, by Blake e. s. Taylor. Here's the cover along with a photo of Blake and his mother:

Blake wrote this book his last 2 years of high school. Each chapter is a different characteristic that is common in children with ADHD, such as distracted, impulsive, disorganized, hyperactive, etc. Within each chapter, Blake tells a story from some point in his life but explains it from the perspective of the child with ADHD. He tells stories from when he was in elementary school all the way through 10th grade.

As a 2nd grade teacher (and a mother of a child with ADHD), I found this to be an amazing resource! It's often difficult for a young child to explain his or her thinking after doing something impulsive or even who s/he is feeling after making a poor choice. Blake's stories really give insight into the brains of these young children.

If you're looking for a quick and easy read by the pool, I highly recommend this book ... maybe while sipping a margarita?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Take Home Reading Bags - The Good and The Bad

I'm going to be completely honest here. I avoided take home reading bags for the first 7 years of my career. If I didn't know better, I would STILL be avoiding them. Unfortunately (for me) and fortunately (for my students) I now use them beginning week 2 each year. Here's a peek at my huge pile of 52 reading bags and my cute labels!


Over the years, I've learned just how valuable take home reading bags really are to my students (sigh). I'm going to outline what I've learned below and MAYBE I'll convince you to take the plunge and give it a try too!

The Good:
1. Students are always reading at the appropriate level! In my classroom, students choose 4 "just right" free choice books and 4 leveled books. We use these both in the classroom and at home, so students have a chance to read and reread books that are at their appropriate level.
2. Each week, students get to choose fresh, new reading materials! In our room, each student has a day to go book "shopping". It's like going to the library, but right in our classroom. It's a very exciting day!
3. The teacher has a hand in choosing the books! I love this because I can help students choose books that fit the topic we're studying or their interests.
4. All children have books to read at home! Let's face it, sadly some kids don't have access to books at home. With reading bags, it's equal access for all students. Plus, there is no excuse for missing reading minutes on homework!
5. Reading bags make things easier for parents! There's no searching for books that are appropriate for their child.

The Bad:
1. More books get wrecked. The honest truth: have the tape and staples ready. Our book hospital is typically overflowing. I try to contain this the best I can by spending a lot of time going over the procedures of taking care of our reading bags from the first day I pass them out.

2. The teacher has to take the time to watch over student while they are "book shopping". The honest truth: this takes up a lot of time at the beginning of the year. That being said, I typically stop overseeing their shopping after week 2 or 3. I also tell parents to let me know if they ever notice their child is choosing books that aren't a "good fit". There is always that struggling reader who is dying to move onto chapter books!

To sum things up, I highly recommend using take home reading bags. Although it can be a bit more work, I find that it pays off double in student reading growth!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Time to try interactive notebooks ... EEK!

During my blog-hopping, I've been admiring all of the beautiful interactive notebooks out there! This is a project that I've been drawn to for a while, but I just couldn't making myself take the leap last year. At the end of each school year, my teaching partner and I talk about what went well and what needs tweaking for next year. We both agreed that we needed to find a more engaging way to teach grammar. As I gave this more and more thought, I always went back to those interactive notebooks. It's time to take that leap!

And so my summer project was born: Create an interactive notebook that covers all of the Language standards, but  is simple enough for little second grade hands.
I do have to admit that this project took WAY longer than I thought it would, but it was so worth the time and effort!

I even tried many of the pages out with my summer tutoring kiddos and they love it. They can't wait to take their notebooks home! You can see the concepts covered below or  check out the whole product here!