Saturday, March 28

March Madness, Biographies, and Plants

Oh, man. It’s tough coming back from Spring break.

The NCAA March Madness is well underway. So is my school's version of the tournament. We started voting in our March Madness book tournament this week. We're using an app/website called Socrative. Pretty easy to set up and use. Here's how our tournament is going so far. Which book do you think our champion will be? There's a good chance it will be a Pigeon book...

We’ve been working on biographies this week, though. In our reading series, that means George Washington Carver time! This week we also began a biography writing project. The kids will be interviewing each other to write a biography. There’s a twist, though, since we’re reading about inventors. They are going to pretend that they’ve invented something that has made them famous. I can already tell, it’s going to be interesting.

We planted our Spring seeds this week. Maybe we’ve started them early enough to have something to give away for Mother’s day. How fast this year is going! Wow!

As a part of our second grade Science standards, we’re doing an experiment with our plants. We have one sitting in the window. One is sitting inside a cabinet. Two are sitting under the grow light: one receives water, the other doesn't. Don't you just love the student-made labels reminding us of what each plant gets? 

We’ll start working our way through this plant informational book next week and graphing our plants as soon as they peek above the soil.

I hope you've had a great week and have a relaxing weekend! 
post signature

Friday, March 20

A Spring Break Five for Friday

Welcome back! It's been a great week! Spring is in the air. Let me share with you some of my Spring break accomplishments for this week's Five.

First, it felt so great to let my body rest as long as it needed each day. No staying up late because I have one more thing to do for school tomorrow. No shutting off an alarm clock, wishing for just a few more minutes of sleep. 

Second, I am so proud to share that I exercised every day (except Sunday). Every morning I went for a 2-4 mile walk to start my day out right. It felt great! The one rainy day, I spent it working my arm muscles on accomplishment Four (see below). Yay, me!

Third, I spent extra time with family and friends. I went to the zoo and out to eat with one of my college roomies. My husband and I celebrated my grandma's 96th birthday. (Yes, you read that correctly.) My mom came and spent a couple days with us. Love! 

Fourth, my mom and I painted our kitchen cabinets. We did one whole wall of tops and bottoms. We painted the outside white and the inside light yellow. Quite frankly, we ROCK as a painting team! Not to mention, I'm pretty stoked to have such a big job knocked out and my kitchen looking THAT much closer to finished. (The left picture is what they looked like before. I don't feel like it truly shows the awfulness of that green. The right picture is what they look like now.)

Finally, I'm proud of all the blogging I've done over the break. February and March were very busy (between the Poetry Cafe event and finishing up a quarter and parent-teacher conferences), but I've really made up for lost time this week. I'm especially proud because usually I just participate in parties hosted by other bloggers. Not so this week. Yay! 

I hope you've had a fantastic week too. This weekend I'll be be getting ready for the kids to come back on Monday. I am so thankful I had the week to rest and play. Makes me excited that summer is near!

What are your highlights from this week?

Thursday, March 19

XtraMath, A Fact Fluency Site

Earlier this week, I shared about some addition and subtraction workstations I have used in my classroom. Today, I wanted to share about a fact fluency site I use with my second graders almost every Monday. I know I've heard it floating around the teacher blog world for a little while now. It's called XtraMath.

I love that it's free. I love that it's quick. The kids can easily get through a practice session within a 15-20 minute Math rotation. I love that we can access it on an iPad or a laptop. It begins with addition. When kids master those facts, it moves on to subtraction. For intermediate students, it also has multiplication and division.

Developing fact fluency is so important. Like many other teachers, I absolutely recommend XtraMath for fluency practice in your classroom! What are some ways that you practice Math facts in your classroom?

post signature

Wednesday, March 18

Preparing for Word Study

One of our focuses through the last nine weeks of school will be homophones, antonyms and synonyms. I just happened to see this on Instagram a couple weeks ago.

I immediately shared the picture with my teammates because this would be perfect for the cover of our word books. Tori doesn't have the posters posted in her store yet, so I whipped some up last Thursday on our long conference/work day. I also created a homophone version.

The above picture is the homophone cover I created for our word books. You can download the homophone poster free in my store by clicking here. Next to it is the inside. We'll write the homophones on the top two lines. We'll draw a picture of each word inside the boxes. We'll write possible definitions or use them in sentences on the lines below the boxes.

The front half of the books will be used for recording homophones. The second half of the books will be used to record antonyms and synonyms.

Here's the antonym/synonym recording pages and the back cover of the books. You'll notice that the recording pages look very similar. You can find the antonym/synonym recording page free in my store by clicking here. On this side of the book, the antonyms would go at the top, like good and bad. On the lines below the box, we'll list synonyms for each word. I'm not 100% certain about what to do with the boxes yet. Do you have any suggestions?

Do you have some sort of word study book that you use to record your learning?

post signature

Tuesday, March 17

March Madness Book Tournament


I'm still working to make up for lost time, and find a little something to share each day. Turns out it's not so difficult when you haven't written for two months!

Spring break has been GREAT so far, in case you've been wondering.

Today, I wanted to share about something that will be happening full force when we go back to school next week. I'm sure you all are familiar with March Madness. All college basketball, all the time. Honestly, we're an NBA household, so June is our big basketball tournament month. However, I saw this show-and-share on Instagram and immediately took a screen shot to share with some of my idea people at school. Loved this idea!

Our assistant principal also loved the idea and, before I knew it, setting up our March Madness Book Tournament was underway. Teachers were able to make suggestions of their favorite books, and the asst. principal chose 32 for our tournament. Checkout our humongous bracket on the windows in our main hallway.

One of my parent-teacher conference day projects was finding a way to vote online. I wasn't excited about voting on little slips of paper, and I wanted something a little more private than a "raise your hand" vote. Since I'm not super familiar with Google Docs (as Sarah suggested on Instagram), I decided to check out other options.

The first one I looked at was Poll Everywhere. I just didn't feel like it would suit my elementary classroom purposes. It wasn't a bad option, but I think it would work better with older students. It also looked like I could only do one poll at a time without paying at least a monthly fee.

The second option I tried was Socrative. I really liked how easy this site was to use. I think it will also be very easy for my second graders to use. All they will have to do, is go to the website on an iPad or laptop, type in my room name, and choose this book or that book. I plan on having all my kids log on at the same time the first time we use it, but I really feel it is easy enough to use that my kids will be able to vote on their own as part of one of our literacy centers in the future.

I really feel that Socrative is a site that I could use in other ways in my classroom. For example, I could use it to make comprehension quizzes. Accessing results are super easy too! I would definitely recommend this site to other teachers. Take the time to check it out!

I'll be sure to share how our March Madness Book Tournament concludes. I suggested having adults fill out brackets to predict the winner. I predicted Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day will be the winner. My fingers are crossed, but you never know what will happen once you get the input of 400+ elementary kiddos.

post signature

Monday, March 16


I have known about Kidblog for some time now. I thought it would be a great way to give my second graders experience with typing on a keyboard before third grade, when the writing portion of the state assessment has to be typed.

We started using it sometime in February as a part of our Work on Writing station. The kids love it. Sometimes I have asked them to comment about something I have posted. During our poetry unit, I would ask them to write some poetry. A couple of weeks ago, we started a fairy tale unit, so right now they've been working on writing and typing their own "Once upon a time" three-little-pigs-style fairy tale.

I think one of the things that kids love the most is being able to write comments to each other. I have our blogs set so that I have to approve everything. Sometimes that can be disappointing to them because they can't see each others' comments right away, but it is what it is, and I'm not going to change that policy.

If you are considering finding an online platform for students to write and respond to each other, I would definitely recommend Kidblog. Just like the homepage advertises, it's very safe and very simple to get started.

post signature

Sunday, March 15

Addition and Subtraction Math Fact Stations

Last year, our school received an assistant principal because it was just too large for our principal alone. The assistant principal has been a great asset to our school, and while we're not surprised that he would so quickly be given his first principal position in our district, we're sad to see him go.

One of the traditions he has begun at our school is a Reading Challenge each "season." We hold one in the Fall, Winter, and Spring.

This year, the Fall challenge incentive was plasma scooter races. The students who met their goals raced around the gym. Each class had a winner that was able to race all the other classroom winners. The winner of that race was able to race the principal. Oh, how much fun!

The Winter challenge incentive was a regatta at our local YMCA. The primary students who met their goals made boats out of milk cartons. They put all their boats in front of the water slide. When someone turned the water on, the rushing water (and waves created by the high school swim team) allowed the boats to race across the pool. The intermediate students were placed into teams and built boats out of cardboard boxes that two team members could ride in. Fun was had by all!

I was one of the teachers left behind to work with the non-goal-meeters, so for my portion of the afternoon events, I had the second graders rotating through fact fluency Math stations.

In this station, the students worked on an iPad fluency app called ArithmeTick. I like it because the kids can work on both addition and subtraction and they can choose the difficulty level.

Then, the kids visited this Math game. On Pinterest, I saw a similar one, but I realized that it was a game that you could purchase through some company, so I quickly made up my own version. It's a grid with numbers randomly placed. Then, I made the tiles, addition and subtraction problems. Kids take turns drawing a problem from their color pile. They lay the tile on their problem's answer. The goal is to get 5 of your tiles in a line, kind of like BINGO. The kids really seemed to enjoy it, perhaps because you can try to block your partner from winning, so there can be strategy involved. Click here to visit my store and download it. It's free.

The next rotation was an Math game called Math Match. On this game the kids have choices again. They can choose addition or subtraction. They can choose to play Memory or Matching. They can also choose the difficulty level.

The final rotation was this other game I found on Pinterest. The students each start with the number 99. They take turns rolling the dice, adding the numbers on the dice, and subtracting that number. For example, maybe Sally rolled a 6, so 99-6=93. Then, on Sally's next turn she rolls a 10. 93-10=83. The kids keep playing until one of them reaches 0. That kid is the winner! If you were really wanting them to work on addition, you could do the opposite and start at 0, trying to reach 100.

Even though these kiddos didn't get to go to the YMCA and watch the boats or play in the water, I don't think they spent their afternoon in a pity party because they seemed to be engaged during the time I had them for these Math rotations.

I hope you saw something that could be useful to you. I know fact fluency is a big deal in our school.

post signature

Saturday, March 14

Poetry Cafe

I know April is Poetry Month, so I thought you might be interested in hearing about how our Poetry Cafe went in February. You might remember my iWOW show-and-share in January. If not, you can click here to read about this interesting new (annual) inservice day that our Super has begun. 

part of our table top decorations (left)     --     my Poetry Cafe bulletin board announcement (right)

Our school has held an annual Poetry Cafe for as long as I've been in this school district, so I don't know how the tradition began. It's always been held around Read Across America week, though. My second grade team took on the project this year. We decided to change the format and make it an even bigger event than before.

the classroom sign-up sheet I created (left)     --     the invitation I created for the Central Office staff and Board of Education (right)

In the weeks before the Poetry Cafe, we taught our second graders poetry and figurative language vocabulary. (If you're a second grade teacher, you know about that lovely RL.2.4 standard.) We read several poems each day to illustrate this new vocabulary. We even wrote poetry together and independently.

Each of the students chose a poem to share at the Poetry Cafe. We practiced reading our poems to our 5th grade friends. They recorded us on their iPads so we could watch and listen for ways to improve the way we read our poems.  

My team and I wanted the room set up like a cafe. (This is a big change from other years.) We had desks for tables and draped a dark, plastic tablecloth over each one. We set 2-3 chairs around each table, and we put our tabletop centerpieces on top. (The glow on the tabletops comes from a little battery-operated tea light.) We placed some lamps around the room for the lighting. We had a coffee scent in the warmer. We even borrowed a PA system from a family at my church. 

Finally, the day came. It was SO neat to see our vision come to life. We had lots of positive feedback from teachers and parents.  

We asked our SLP teachers to be judges and choose 2 kids from each class to go to a local, downtown cafe to share their poems. Those kids got to leave school for about an hour to spend time at the cafe on Read Across America day. They loved it, and so did the cafe. What a great way to involve our community!

If you have an opportunity to hold a Poetry Cafe at your school, I definitely recommend it. You can make it as simple or complex as is appropriate for your school and your kids.

post signature

Friday, March 13

Spring Break, Woot! Woot!

Hello! Happy Friday!

I know it's been a while since I took the time to write on this poor blog, but I will find myself with a little more time over the next week and have the goal to write something (even if it's a little something) each day. It's been so long since I last wrote that I should be able to find something to talk about each day!

Today begins Spring break (for the teachers) in my district. We had conferences on Tuesday night and all day Thursday. The kids had a 3-day week. Their break started Thursday.

Tuesday night went great for me. I had back-to-back conferences and 100% attendance, which I prefer because it makes the night go very quickly and I can have more work time on Thursday. I'm finding that the longer I teach, the less nervous I get about Parent-Teacher Conferences. I remember being completely uncertain about saying the right things and giving enough or parent-appropriate information at the beginning of my teaching career. Now, I expect that the first conference will sort of be an experiment of the amount of information I give, and after that first conference, I'll get into a groove.

Thursday was not as great. I had 4 no-shows and one not-so-great hour-and-a-half conference. Other than the extra work time and great conversation with a teammate and our assistant principal (who will be leaving us to lead his own school within our district, humungous sad face), I would have preferred having my kids with me all day on Thursday.

Oh, well. I'm completely thankful for the support of our school's counselor. I'm completely proud of the way I handled that one conference that's still on my mind.

My big project for the Thursday work time was preparing for the upcoming March Madness Book Tournament at our school. I pulled the selected books for the tournament and set up an online voting method. You may be dying to hear about this, but I will save this for another post.

Anyway, thanks for sticking with me, for not giving up on this neglected blog. I hope you've had a great week!

post signature