Monday, December 17, 2012

Using Popular Music to Improve Reading Fluency



students practicing reading fluency with song lyrics


I traveled to New York City a few months ago and was given a
children’s book by Billy Joel called, “New York State of Mind.” Yes,
it’s the lyrics to his famous song, illustrated with city scenes and two
cute dogs that meet in New York. I didn’t think much about it at the
time but when I got to my classroom, I decided to put the CD in and show
it to my students. They immediately fell in love with the song! Day
after day they would beg for that book.
I gave them their own copy of the lyrics, from the internet, and then
began looking for other music that might engage their minds and hearts
like that song had. Friends helped me come up with lists of songs with
the same rich sound and interesting lyrics. Before long my students each
had a 3-ring notebook filled with song lyrics; not just children’s
songs, but real songs with rich music, challenging words, and content
they could sink their teeth into!
For more on this strategy and a list of songs to start with, visit me at Top Teaching on Scholastic.com by clicking on this link! Using Music to Improve Reading Fluency

More ideas on using music can be found on my newest Scholastic post at Using Music to Improve Reading: Close Up and Fluent!  Visit me there!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Candy Campaign - Election Explorations!

We have been conducting a campaign in my classroom this month. Not as "presidential" as the one going on in the real world, but in many ways, just as "real world" as that one is. My second graders are in the process of electing a class candy and the excitement and passion for the two "candydates" is easy to see!
student presenting a campaign display for his candy candidate
The Big Presentation to Guest Educators

Simulations are so powerful in teaching concepts! When I happen upon one that truly works, I have a hard time resisting the urge to jump in with both feet. Usually, I give in and just jump because the benefits are wonderful!

I realized what I had during a class discussion just before our primary election.

Some students in the Chocolate Kingdom crowd were excited about their possible candydate and quickly gaining support of other members because of their enthusiasm. The problem was that their candydate was a chocolate bunny. They finally realized that although the chocolate bunny was their very favorite, it would be impossible for me to find chocolate bunnies for them in October if it won the general election. I was proud of them when they pulled the name from the primary election on their own.

Some students were concerned about the possibility that someone might cheat and the wrong candydate would be chosen for their candy crowd (political party) during the primary election or during the general election. That led to a discussion of voter fraud in real elections, new regulations and rules, and a promise from me that fraud would be punishable by a trip to the office. It also led to some student generated regulations such as: Names will be checked off of a list when someone voted and people supporting each candydate will be present during the counting of the votes. Wow! Real world? I think so!

Issues that have risen from this activity:
  • viability of a candidate (above)
  • a list of voter requirements - 7 or older and on the class list
  • choosing the best candidate 
  • voter fraud (above)
  • differing opinions among friends
  • outspoken vs. quiet voters (who are happy for secret ballots)
  • absentee votes and advanced votes - from a student with an appointment on "election day"
  • behaviors that attract and repel undecided voters

It has been so neat to watch the activity mirror real life and the engagement that comes from that type of experience. The Chocolate Kingdom crowd has chosen Kit Kat as their candydate and the Gummies crowd are fully behind Skittles as their candydate. Only time will tell... Election results will be announced November 1st!

The basic plan and lots more pictures are in my latest post at Scholastic.com. (click on the following link). The Candy Campaign

Any thoughts?


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A New Leg to my Journey!

I have some very exciting news to tell you today. In a few weeks I will begin blogging for Scholastic.com! It was such a surprise to be asked to do this and I feel very honored to be a part of such a great company! I don't have the link yet but I will let you know as soon as I can. You can find the general area of where I will be by going to scholastic.com and clicking on the Teacher tab. I will still post here part of the time but will be blogging every week on their site. If you are my friend on Facebook you can look for the links, as I post them, to see what's happening in my classroom!


I'm headed out to New York City for training at their offices in Soho. I've never been there before so I have some sightseeing time scheduled into my trip. It will be fun working some of my trip into my "journey" theme this fall. I've been email-visiting with the other 7 teachers who are joining me in this adventure and I can't wait to meet them. It's going to be a great year!


Along with packing, I worked in my classroom a couple of days last month. My furniture is arranged, for the most part, and, since I'm keeping the journey theme, I can begin focusing on the first 2 weeks of school. That first day is just around the corner!



Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Team that Stands (or shops) Together...


I love my diverse grade level team! There are 5 of us at 2nd grade and we are all unique. We encourage each other and celebrate the differences. We have fun talking before and after school and that alone can make a hectic day much nicer!


For the second summer in a row, we have taken a day trip together to do some "before school" shopping. Wichita doesn't have much variety when it comes to  teacher stores so we head out early on a summer morning to travel to Kansas City or Oklahoma City for the day. An hour or two spent shopping, discussing and helping each other find things to go with our themes, and we need a break. More often than not, we find ourselves at The Cheesecake Factory! After lunch and, of course, some yummy cheesecake, we find the strength to get back out there and do some more shopping!

A few days after school was out, we went to Emporia State University to hear Harry Wong speak. It was nice to see that there were so many teachers who were willing to travel from all over Kansas during their summer break to hear him speak. Of course, we took a few minutes to stop and get a picture of us in front of the home (now museum) of our school's namesake, William Allen White who was a well known journalist in Emporia, Kansas.


We have also become a 21st century team. As of last month, we all have iPhones! I don't know of another team that has as many group message sessions as we have. Sometimes the topic is a question about school or a sale on school supplies that one of us has just spotted. Other times, it's just friendly joking or personal news.


A strong team is a wonderful thing! Our jobs can be stressful and difficult at times. It's nice to have people next door or across the hall that understand and know how to take the pressure off. I'm thankful for my team.





Friday, June 29, 2012

Thanks, Uncle Reuben! A Teacher's Reflection

Studying the life and journeys of Uncle Reuben was such a deep and rich experience. The material gave my students opportunities to review, practice and apply multiple skills that they have learned over the year.

Skills they used and practiced:
  • Working in a group
  • Cooperating and taking turns
  • Measuring miles on a map
  • Map reading
  • Adding large numbers (over 1000)
  • Calculator use - adding lists of large numbers and checking their answer by comparing it to others
  • Measuring distance
  • Non-standard measurement


Learning:
  • Location of states in US
  • Transportation of the early 1900's
  • History of flight - Wright Brothers, World Flight - 1924
  • Concept of time past (100 years)
  • The computer as a tool
  • Some uses for Word and Excel
  • The size of the United States
  • Putting events in order according to time


Benefits:
  • Confidence
  • Knowledge of the United States
  • Confidence using technology
  • Motivation
  • Engagement
  • Ownership of learning



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Uncle Reuben's Journeys Part 7 - The Camp Out

Once you've finished the hard work of an inquiry project, it’s fun to show someone what you’ve been learning.

We got the chance to do that in early May. The “invitation” group went to work writing notes and inviting other classes to visit us so we could show them what we learned. The afternoon was a success as evidenced by the discussions I could hear around the room as students shared their new learning with excitement.
Language arts activity

Reading with friends in the tent.


One of our favorite pictures of Uncle Reuben is him sitting by a campfire next to a small canvas tent.
I had come across some camping themed math and language arts activities online that would be perfect for a courtyard camp out during the last week of school. We pitched our tent, grabbed something to sit on and headed for the school courtyard for the morning. There were 12 activities to keep the class busy and s’mores for a reward partway through the tasks. It was a nice way to end both our unit and a wonderful 2nd grade year!
Cooler serves as table for story problem work.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Uncle Reuben's Journeys Part 6 - The Biplane


The chain reached out into the hallway.Keeping the students busy wasn’t too difficult. A group of boys made a chain of colored links the length of the wingspan on the biplane Uncle Reuben learned to fly in 1924. I thought for sure our room would be big enough but once we looked up the size on the internet and the boys got out the measuring wheel, they (and their teacher) realized it wasn’t going to be that easy. Before long, the door was open and the chain was reaching diagonally across the room, out the door and halfway across the hall.

A student is working with the measuring wheel.

They measured, added or subtracted links, and measured again until they were certain the chain was exactly 43 feet and 7 inches.

One concept they learned by doing this is that the chain measured the same if it was straight or curled around the desks.

 A second chain was constructed and measured for the length of the plane (27 feet).


We weren't going to be able to experience the size of the plane in our room so we carried the chains to the courtyard and put them in place.
 The kids and one of their favorite co-op students took their places on the chains and posed for a picture.
Students forming shape of biplane in courtyard.

Note: If you try this yourself, remember that the chain tangles easily and needs to be carried stretched out instead of bunched up. We learned the hard way!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Uncle Reuben's Journeys Part 5 - The Time-line




Uncle Reuben lived to be 100 years old; “and 1 month,” a student would usually remind me. What a great number for 2nd graders! Time-lines were being introduced in the math chapter we were working on so we decided to make a timeline display of Reuben’s life. We would be able to develop skills for working with time-lines as well as number lines. I had a few pictures to contribute to the board and stapled a strip of white paper, marked off in 5 year segments, and the pictures to the board for them. A second strip was placed below to represent the 10 years of travel that he did starting in 1924. I then began handing the project over to a group of students.


Every child in the class illustrated some part of Uncle Reuben’s journeys. The group began organizing the pictures. I noticed some girls working with the illustration cards on the carpet one day. Our carpet has a large map of the United States on it. They were placing the illustrations on that giant map and telling the story of his journeys to each other. It was interesting to see what they remembered and whether or not they could find the places on a different type of map. (They could!)

Two students, and several helpers, typed captions for each picture and illustration and those were printed off, cut apart and taped in place. Here is a picture of the finished timeline.

The timeline became a very useful tool and was referred to often when a date would show up in something we were reading. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Uncle Reuben's Journeys Part 4 - The Model T


The pictures I’ve posted so far show about half of the class so some of you are probably asking, “What were the other students doing while this was going on?”  They were busy!  I had just shown the class how to make a video with pictures, text and music using PhotoStory3 but I hadn’t let them work with it on their own yet. 

Not long before, I had run across a Model T Coup like the one Uncle Reuben had ridden in, all the way up into Canada, following the harvest. It was sitting right next to me, in the showroom, while I was waiting on my car to be serviced one Saturday. Ignoring the looks I was most likely getting from other “waiters”, I pulled out my phone and started taking pictures of it from every angle. I wanted the kids to get an idea of how small it was; especially to hold three twenty-something young men for more than 1000 miles along bumpy, dirt roads. We had already watched some videos I had found online of a Model T going down the road so they were familiar with the car and the way it looked and sounded.

We loaded the Model T pictures onto a computer and I let some students work together to move the pictures around, edit them and add text and music while standing around the SmartBoard. It worked great and they got to practice their PhotoStory3 skills before they started on their individual video projects at the end of the year. They got skills and I got future trainers to help everyone else learn! What fast learners! We didn't get a finished product but they learned the basics.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Uncle Reuben's Journeys Part 3 - Counting the Miles


Lucky for us, Uncle Reuben kept a journal during his traveling years. We divided his journeys into 30 parts and started mapping them out with colored yarn. We used brown for train travel, red for motorcycle, green for car and blue yarn for steamship and canoe. The questions kept coming! 

Teamwork!
Lots of discussion!
The next step was to figure out how many miles he traveled. That was a big job but my students dug in and, enthusiastically, got to work! They each made a “map measurer” using a gift ribbon and a marker. They marked 100 miles 10 times according to the legend on the map giving them 1000 mile measuring ribbons.The first group began measuring using their estimating skills. One person stood at the board and wrote the miles for each leg of the journey. Another group measured the next day and either agreed with the measurements or wrote their miles next to the first miles. A third group settled 2 measurements by measuring again. The discussion I heard as I passed these groups was wonderful! I was so happy to see evidence of their growth as learners and inquirers!
Measuring and Recording Data

Another group determined the type of transportation for each trip and coded it with a letter; c for car, ca for canoe, m for motorcycle, etc., on the board.
Transportation Team

By this time I was ready to have my board back so I decided to set up three laptops facing the board and assigned students to type the information we had compiled into Excel. Each typist had a partner to check, point and help make sure they weren't skipping data. Some traded places after awhile.

Working in Excel and adding up the miles.
When they were finished, I combined the three files into one. The class was excited when we put the data up on our Smartboard and I showed them how Excel lets us sort and filter. They used their calculators to add the miles of each mode of transportation. When we were finished, they had figured Uncle Reuben traveled about 19,200 miles between 1924 and 1934. Now they could display the miles according to transportation!

[As a side note: I was curious to find out how close they got to the actual miles with their little ribbons. I took the data file and compared it to actual miles using http://www.freemaptools.com/how-far-is-it-between.htm . I just about fainted when I finished adding them up for myself. They had gotten within 200 miles of the actual mileage! I don't think the kids actually understood how cool that was but I'm sure they recognized the look of pride on their teacher's face!]

Monday, June 4, 2012

Uncle Reuben's Journeys Part 2 - The Journeys



Reuben with his sisters
     Uncle Reuben was born near McPherson, Kansas in 1903. He loved to read and must have had an adventurous spirit because at 20 years old he began 10 years of traveling the country.  He started his journeys in 1924 when he went to Chicago to attend flight school. A year and a half (and one plane crash) later he returned to Kansas to help his brothers with the farm. Before too long, he borrowed his brother’s Indian motorcycle and took off on a thousand mile trip south to help his parents with their new farm in Alamo, Texas. His continued to travel this way, crossing the United States in all directions until 1934, when he finally settled back in Chicago for awhile.

Here is the data we had to work with for the map.
Uncle Reuben's Journeys:
McPherson, Kansas
Chicago, Illinois
Train
Chicago, Illinois
McPherson, Kansas
Train
McPherson, Kansas
Alamo, Texas
Indian Motorcycle
Alamo, Texas
McPherson, Kansas
Indian Motorcycle
McPherson, Kansas
Canada
Model T Ford Coupe
Canada
Yellowstone National Park
Train
Yellowstone National Park
Salt Lake City, Utah
Train
Salt Lake City, Utah
Phoenix, Arizona
Train
Phoenix, Arizona
San Diego, California
Train
San Diego, California
Los Angeles, California
Train
Los Angeles, California
Chicago, Illinois
Car
Chicago, Illinois
Detroit, Michigan
Bus
Detroit, Michigan
Buffalo, New York
Steamer across Lake Erie
Buffalo, New York
Portland, Maine
Train
Portland, Maine
New York City, New York
Train
New York City, New York
Chicago, Illinois
Train
Chicago, Illinois
Illinois River
Car
Illinois River
Mississippi River
Canoe
Mississippi River
New Orleans, Louisiana
Canoe
New Orleans, Louisiana

bicycle shop
New Orleans, Louisiana
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Canoe
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana
Canoe
New Orleans, Louisiana
Chicago, Illinois
Harley Motorcycle
Chicago, Illinois
Minnesota
Harley Motorcycle
Minnesota
North Dakota
Harley Motorcycle
North Dakota
Tucson, Arizona
Harley Motorcycle
Los Angeles, California
San Francisco, California
Harley Motorcycle
San Francisco, California
New Orleans, Louisiana
Cars and Boxcars
New Orleans, Louisiana
Chicago, Illinois
motorcycle

This is what our map looked like when we were finished mapping it out.
Uncle Reuben's Journeys all mapped out! The colors of yarn stand for the mode of transportation.
So many questions and deep thinking came out of this task. Is Texas bigger or smaller than California? Why did he decide to go to flight school? How many states did he go through? How many miles did he travel by motorcycle? Why did he sell his motorcycle in California? How many countries did he visit? Do you think he ever went to Mexico? How long did it take him to get from Chicago to New Orleans by river?
Some questions could be answered and others not, but all of it was interesting!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thanks, Uncle Reuben! Part 1


     This spring I was looking for something to give my students and myself a boost at the end of the year with high engagement for everyone. This was my first year back in the classroom after 11 years as an Instructional Coach. I wanted to end this great school year in an exciting way. Because of my love for genealogy and my desire to bring history and geography to life for my students, I decided to unite the two into an integrated unit that would provide opportunities to apply all of their freshly acquired skills. 

     Reuben Sigfred Johnson was my grandpa’s youngest brother. He had a very interesting story of travel and adventure in the 1920’s and 30’s and I have always wanted to write about it or display it in some way but could never find the right medium.  A lesson plan for 22 second graders was the last thing I thought I would decide on but it has really been the best way I’ve found to work within Reuben’s life story.

     I introduced Uncle Reuben to my second graders by telling them some stories about him and showing them some pictures from my genealogy files. The fact that he lived to be 100 and I knew him personally intrigued them and by the time I started telling about the different modes of transportation he used, I had them hooked. The next question for me was how to use the power behind this story to create excitement that would last until the last day of school.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Call it Magic!




So cute! We were working with /oo/ words such as "shook" and "good" a while back. I wondered out loud if they could close their eyes and pick up a word with that sound in it. I demonstrated the skill and they were pretty impressed with how good I was at it! (90% of the words on their desks fell into the right category.)
They all tried it a few times before a discussion started about why it worked for them, too. Well, they all got to practice reading the words and it felt like a magic trick!



Monday, February 6, 2012

I Heart Hearts!!

This afternoon, I pulled out the little heart boxes that I found in the Target $ bins a few weeks ago. I want to use them in an activity to practice multiplication by forming "groups of." It took me awhile to get it the way I want it and I'm happy with it now. I guess I'll let you know later how it worked.
I'm hoping that the mixture of valentines, candy, partner work and lots of back and forth during the game to keep up the interest will make it an engaging activity. Maybe I'll post a few pictures of the kids trying it out tomorrow.
If you were lucky enough to get some of those cute little heart boxes for yourself, you can try the activity by clicking here! Hearts in Hearts! activity sheet Cups, small boxes or even Valentine cupcake papers will work great, also!




So far, this game has been a hit and it was so easy to put together!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cootie Catcher or Attention Grabber?


Kansas Cootie Catcher

"Can we review our facts for Social Studies time?" Yes... those words are coming from my classroom! My students love to make cootie catchers (or what they call fortune tellers). I could ban them from the room but I believe in using whatever is handy to teach my lessons! I created this pattern in Word and they did the rest! This morning, I watched as they folded their papers, helped their friends with their cootie catchers, and walked around the room quizzing each other with smiles on their faces. They had so much fun and got some other valuable things from the experience, along the way! 
If you would like to try one for yourself, click here for the file.