Friday, September 28, 2012

Behavior Linky Party

We are so excited to be joining the linky party hosted by What the Teacher Wants

Each year comes a new group of kiddos and what may have worked in previous years may not work the next. We have tried various ideas in our classroom and here is what is working for us this year.

The first thing we changed was our behavior wheel. Not only can the kids move down if they are not displaying appropriate behaviors, but they can also move up if they are going above and beyond. Any of the students who make it to orange will get a 'gem' to put on their clip.

How do the students move their pins up? Dojo points! Have you ever heard of Class Dojo? If you haven't you need to head over to to check it out! In not so many words, this is a chance for you to either award points to students who are doing what they should be doing and take away points from those who are not. Each student gets an 'avatar' (we call them monsters) and it will track their points throughout the day. You can customize what they earn/lose their points for and each time that someone does earn a point a sound goes off. This sound is differnt from the one that is made when someone loses a point. Its really easy to use on your smartboard, but better yet, there is an app for smart phones. (Which means you can give/take points in the hallways, in the bathroom, at an assembly, etc.!!) 

We utilize this tool during our Daily 4 math block and Daily 5 reading block only. We just take our phones with us to the small group table and we can hand out or take away points as we look at what our students are doing. I don't want my students concerned with who is earning points and who is losing points so I do not turn on the projector at this time. All they can hear is the sound of the points being given or taken away. At the end of Daily 4 and Daily 5, I will bring up the site and everyone gets to look where they stand. If a student earns 3 points throughout the day they can move to purple and 5 points will move them to orange. There is way more to tell you about this site, but I will let you see for yourself!

Any other time of the day, I use a token reward system (I mean how fitting for a pirate theme?!) Each student has his/her own 'treasure chest'. I used library pockets and attached them to my bulletin board.

Each time that a kiddo is doing something wonderful, they earn a token for their treasure chest. 4 tokens at the end of the week earns a pick from our 'tree'

Some suckers are marked with a black dot and those lucky winners get to pick from the treasure chest.
This 'token' system can be used in many ways. For example, Val's students are given a 'lollipop' stick. They needed to earn all 4 pieces of their lollipop to earn a pick from the tree.

The combination of tokens rewards and dojo points is how we keep our little ones motivated to demonstrate good behavior throughout the week and we are lovin' the results!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Autumn Equinox/Teachable Moments

This past Saturday was the first day of fall, thus the Autumn Equinox.  I tutor at Sylvan on Saturday mornings so I was excited to experience the equinox with my kiddos in grades 1-7. What a diversity in ages/abilities huh!? It sure makes tutoring interesting and fun at the same time. Ok so getting back to the equinox… I don’t know if you have tried this but a raw egg is supposed to balance on a flat surface on this special day. Of course being the teacher that I am I bring in a whole carton of eggs to “balance” with my students. I love nothing more than to take advantage of teachable moments with real-world occurrences. My students literally dropped their jaws when I told them to try and balance an egg on our table. They looked at me as if I had just given the green light to be mischievous. 
The third grader was the first to jump to this challenge (I’m sure thinking the entire time “anything to get away from working on math!”) I was astounded and very proud that immediately he was able to balance an egg upright.  I have never seen him so excited and pleased with himself as I did in that moment. It was his time to shine and explain to everyone else how he accomplished this task.
Next, the seventh grader tried and became frustrated so walked away. After some coaxing from his younger peer he attempted again and succeeded! I was literally beaming inside when both of these boys accomplished balancing their eggs. This led them to try some more but for some reason the eggs would stay standing for a few seconds but then fall over.
My little first grader was the last to attempt this balancing act, but she was never able to get it. She was not quite patient or still enough and honestly on a Saturday morning I don’t blame her! So, we got an egg to balance together. She grinned so big that we all started giggling. It was quite an experience that I will always remember with my more “challenging” students. What this taught me was sometimes we need to take a break from all of the work to just enjoy the little things in life.   
Pretty amazing how balancing an egg can motivate three very different and challenging students!!!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Character Education

Our school has adopted the OLWEUS anti-bullying program which has noticeably made a difference in the number of bullying incidences.  Our students know what the term “bullying” means and  what it looks like.  Now that the bullying occurrences have gone down, we still want our students to exhibit other good character traits. The question is how???  We are fortunate to be in a school where our guidance counselor comes in to give a mini lesson on a monthly character trait. These lessons consist of the following traits: Citizenship, Responsibility, Respect, Compassion, Honesty, Empathy, Friendship, Cooperation, and Self-Discipline.   They key is to get the lessons to really stick and carry over into the daily routine.  It helps to get students to ask themselves "what does each character trait MEAN to me???" To aid in this understanding, we have created a unit to last teachers through the entire school year.   This pack consists of 57 pages of lessons, activities, and posters. Below you will see a sample. 

 Like what you see!? Head on over to our TPT store to check it out!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Word Wall #3

This is our final post about word walls. We would like to share with you some ways in which we use(d) the sight word side of our word wall.

Here are a few games we play to introduce and review these words on a weekly basis.

During the same lesson in which we introduce our sight words for the week, we play a game called Going, Going, Gone. Each student will need their own dry erase board and dry erase marker. (Don't have a class set? They could easily play in partners or small groups) Using the Smartboard write the sight word in disappearing letters. (On your toolbar, it is the icon that has a pen with purple stars around it) The kids have to write the word as many times as they can with correct spelling before the word completely disappears. Once all of the letters have disappeared from the smart board, time is up. Then they get to count how many times they wrote the word- it adds for some excitement.

To review these words, there are two games we play.
The first game is called BANG! You will need to make a card for each of your sight words. For every 10 or so sight words, you will need to add a BANG card.

Have your kids sit in a circle and place all of the cards face down(You will only use the sight words/ that you have currently taught your kids. As the year progressess more cards will be added to the game) Taking turns, each child will pick up a card. If they can read the sight word they get to keep the card. If they miss the word, they get one chance to call on a buddy for help. If the two of them can't correctly read the word, it goes back into the pile. If a student draws a BANG all cards go back into the center. The object of the game is to get back to start without drawing a BANG!

Another game that we play actually incorporates use of the word wall. First, you will need to break your kiddos into two teams. Line them up in front of the word wall (I put small amounts of tape on the floor). The first person in each team will have a flyswatter. You will call out a sight word and they race each other to be the first person to 'swat' the word on the word wall. Remember in post one where we said we alphabetize the words, which means that those words are constantly moving places? This is one of those instances where they need to use those alphabetizing skills in order to find the word they need. Once a team finds the word, the kids pass the flyswatters on to the next two players and they move to the back of the line. Then a new word is given to the two new kiddos at the front of the line. The kids always enjoy keeping score, but that's up to you!

This game can also be played with two different colored flashlights. This time the kids will stay on the line, but they have to be the first to shine their flashlight on the word. (It is very hard to play without colored flashlights, because it is hard to determine which team got to the word first)

Well, we're finally finished with our posts about word walls. We hope that you have enjoyed them and have taken away even just one small idea to use in your classroom. Check back at the end of this week for a sneak peek at our newest TpT unit!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Word Wall # 2

Gone are the days when kids “memorize” words for Friday spelling tests holding the words in short term memory, only to dump them after the test. Rather, students must develop strategies to transfer their spelling rules. The idea is not to overwhelm our kiddos but to get them to identify patterns in words to help them spell similar words. During our second year of teaching we had the privilege of observing an outstanding second grade teacher at a nearby school who was working on creating a spelling unit during her master’s program. We immediately loved the idea of scrapping the traditional spelling tests and adopted these new tests.  Although we don’t use them currently due to our new phonics program Fundations, we still thought we’d share these great assessments with you which completely changed our outlook on spelling.  Each test consisted of three sections: 1) Dictation, 2) Editing, and 3) Identifying.  Below you will find an example.


We were still able to use words similar to our weekly basal rules, we just varied the format. Dictation is exactly what it sounds like (the teacher states 4 words). 
Editing is where students must identify misspelled words in sentences and rewrite them correctly. This helps kiddos during writer’s workshop as well! It really helps them recognize misspellings immediately.
Identifying is where students have to choose the correct word from 3 different choices that look similar. The idea is not to trick kids but to help them to use their decoding strategies.
In addition to the regular test, we created a challenge word section where students are to use the rule for the week to spell more difficult words. This is where the word wall really comes in to play. During this time, students can ask us questions about each word in relation to the word wall words such as “Does it have the ing suffix like the word clapping?” or “Does it have the same prefix as the word predict?” They can ask us any questions as well as long as it relates to a word wall word. We never considered this “cheating” like our students claimed.  Instead we referred to this part of the test as using their resources!

Monday, September 10, 2012

My Favorite Freebie Linky Party

Ok, well the plan was to do 3 consecutive posts on word walls, however I stumbled upon this linky party and knew we just had to link up!

Our favorite freebie that we have created so far is our math fact practice. If you have read previous posts, you know how adamant we are about our kiddos becoming fluent with their addition/subtraction facts this year. This game allows them to get daily practice. The best part is it can be used individually, with a partner or even in a small group!

Head on over to our TpT store to download this product for free!

The Second Grade Pad is hosting this fabulous linky party so be sure to head over and check it out!

We will be back later this week to continue our discussion on word walls, have a great week!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Word Wall #1

This post is going to be the beginning of three posts specifically on word walls. We know you all have them and we have seen them made and used in many different ways. After attending a conference a few years ago, we changed how we used our word wall and have never looked back! Here is the detailed version of how we use our word walls in our classrooms.

We used to do one huge word wall. However, this Pinterest inspired word wall gave us the idea to create two separate ones. Check this out:

Pinned Image

We love how easy this makes it for the little ones to use. Here is how we took this idea and made it ours:

Word Wall 1: sight words/trick words

Word Wall 2: spelling patterns & rules

Now that you have an idea of what they look like, let me explain how they are used. One word wall is for sight words. A few years ago our district decided that we were all going to use Frye's sight words. We broke sight words into three groupings: letters a-h, i-p, q-z. Each grouping of letters gets a different color (see below) and the words are always alphabetized. This makes the kiddos use their alphabetizing skills to find the word they are looking for. At first it takes some getting used to because the words always seem to keep moving around on the wall. However, after they get the hang of how to search, they have no problem finding the words they need to use. Also, when we hold writing conferences, we expect that all sight words will be spelled correctly. If we find one that isn't spelled correctly, it is easy to highlight the misspelled word with the color that matches the group of letters on the word wall. 

For example: If one of my students spelled the word 'use'.... 'uze'.... I would highlight the word in green since 'use' would be green on our word wall (see below) They would then use the word wall to correct it themselves. All I had to do was highlight!

This word wall is from the end of last year. The picture is better so you can see the color-coding as well. 

Last year however, we started implementing a new phonics/spelling program called Foundations. With this program they are given 'trick words'. Trick words are similar to sight words in the sense that they not only need to be able to read them, but spell them correctly. So we switched gears and put our trick words up instead of sight words.
The question we get a lot: "Do you cover up your trick words when it is time to take a spelling test?"
NO!! Believe it or not, but I personally am not a perfect speller ;) I am always using spell check or a dictionary. If I need to use my resources so often why shouldn't my students be able to use their resources as well? I mean, after all, isn't that what we want them to do every other time they get stuck on a word? Now be prepared, during the first few tests I always had someone announce "Hey! The word is right there!" But then they realized I wanted them to look at the word wall to help them spell it correctly. It became less and less amusing with each test we took and eventually they became pretty proficient at using our sight word side of the word wall without making an announcement each time! 

The second word wall is used for spelling patterns and rules. The first year we used the pattern word wall, we used the spelling patterns that accompanied our basal series. Last year we adopted the Foundations program and for each unit our students learn different rules for spelling certain types of rules. We now use these rules on our patterned word wall. (See the picture below)

With the Foundations program, the students also learn to 'mark' the patterns/rules they are learning about. The students can use the word wall to see how to correctly mark their words too.

We have found that the students use this word wall just as much as they do the sight word, word wall. They use this to help them identify word patterns in rules. For example, in second grade we spend a good amount of time discussing different syllable types. If they were struggling spelling the word 'brush', we could tell them it is a closed syllable that has a digraph at the end. They can find the digraph pattern and the closed syllable pattern on our word wall and use it to help them spell the unknown word. In one of our next subsequent posts, we will explain in detail the use of this word wall in relation to a basal spelling program.

It may seem as if this is a lot for those little ones to keep up with. At first, it does take some getting used to. But, we spend time at the beginning of each school year teaching the kiddos how to use each word wall. You would be surprised at how quickly they catch on to each word wall and how efficiently they use it.

Head back at the beginning of the week for another post on our word walls!   

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Non- Fiction Text Features

As many of us know, kids tend to struggle more with reading and comprehending non-fiction texts as opposed to fiction text. Because of this, we drill and drill and drill non-fiction text-features in second grade. We are finally at that point in the year where it is time to start discussing various text features little by little. I was racking my brain this week with some innovative ways to introduce our first handful of text features. Here is what I came up with:

First, I used these fabulous posters to quickly intro our text features for this week (table of contents, photographs and captions).

(If this is yours please let me know so I can give you credit. I'm not sure where we found these!)

Then we all pulled out our reading books and started looking for these features throughout our story.

Once we found some examples, I broke my kids intro groups of three. Using a post-it note, they had to write the text feature they were given, draw an example of it, and tell how that specific text feature helps us as readers. See our anchor chart below:

In the past I have found that my kids have been really good at identifying each text feature but have a hard time identifying its 'job' (as I call it). This year I'm really pushing for them to be able to understand how to use the text feature. 

Finally, after we have completed the anchor chart together, they will get to fill the corresponding page to their Non-Fiction Features Notebook. This will be kept in their Daily 5 folder to be used as a reference all year.

(If this is yours please let me know so I can give you credit. I'm not sure where we found this either!)

Have you seen or heard of this?

This is The Comprehension Toolkit
They have a separate book for various comprehension strategies that is complied with various lessons on that topic. There are even a few lessons on non-fiction text features. Our kids really look forward to these lessons. I think most of it is due to the fact that they freqently get to use post-its but -hey- who doesn't get excited about post-its?!

We would love to hear how you teach non-fiction text features in your classroom!