Friday, December 19, 2014

Penguins Penguins Penguins!

I feel like I've been working on this post for FOREVER, so I'm happy to post it today, finally!!!

Today I'm sharing all the fun we do with PENGUINS! The last 2 years I've done a mini penguin unit to end the time before winter vacation. It is the perfect segway to nonfiction when we return. Almost ALL the awesome activities, worksheets & more are from Amy Lemon's AMAZING penguin unit Waddle with Me... go check it out, it's worth EVERY penny!

We start off reading Tacky the Penguin (and other fictiontional penguin stories) and retelling them on this foldable/organizer...

Next we talked about what we already know and want to learn about penguins...

Then we made the transition to nonfiction. I read the National Geographics book on Penguins. Let me just say those books are FABULOUS.

I would read a couple sections then have them do a different organizer each day. We even compared most birds to penguins.

After reading the nonfiction text, we were ready for our first research experience!!!
I found this amazing site: penguin world that they used to research their penguin. They had A LOT of fun doing this! I am lucky enough to have 6 computers in my room. I also used my personal iPad and  my teammates iPads so that each pair had a device (I only have 17 kids, so 7 pairs and 1 3 group). I've been trying to raise money on Donors Choose so we can have 2 classroom iPads... we're about halfway there!


We did a "whip around" at the end of each of our 3 research sessions. A "whip around" is super easy... you just have each kid prepare for about a minute so they know EXACTLY what they will share when it comes to them and then you "whip around" the circle having everyone share. The kiddo who is next starts sharing as soon as the person in front of them is done. It takes a few times for them to get good at it, but they like it and it's a super fast and effective closure for really any lesson!

Now the kiddos are working on typing up their information. Some of them are writing the story as if they were the actual penguin telling about itself... too cute! Can't wait for them to finish up and share with each other.

We also did a few FUN penguin activities, also from Amy Lemon's penguin unit. Here's a peek at our penguin hats!...

I've loved how engaged my kiddos have been with this mini-unit. Do you do any really engaging mini-units in your class?

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holiday Link Up

I haven't been the best with posting over the past week or so... the holiday craziness is getting to me! So, I decided to link up with Amy Lemons for her "holiday party."

My teammates and I have been traveling "around the world" with our students, learning about various holiday traditions! We got some of these awesome ideas from Rachelle Smith's Holidays Around the World Unit.

We first travel from our school to the country using google Earth.

The kids think this is BEYOND awesome! If you have a smart board or promethean or even just a computer projector and you don't have google Earth, you should download it! I plan on using it a lot more since my grade level partner thought of it for this mini-unit.

Next, we read a book or watch a video about the country (sometimes both). We also have been adding information ourselves with the help of some google searching about holiday traditions.
The kiddos then fill out the "suitcase" packet filling in the blanks about what they learned about that country.

Then finally, we make a fun craft or do an activity to go with what we learned.

Here are some of our highlights...

Stockings for England...

Gingerbread Men for Germany...

Sparkly Poinsettias for Mexico...

We also have made shoes for the Netherlands, played Dreidel for Israel, thought about what Christmas would be like in the summer, made brooms & reindeer hats... so fun!

So what do you do for the holidays? And be sure to click on the link at the top to check out what other people are doing in their classroom for the holiday!

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Friday, December 5, 2014

Five for Friday - Randomness!

I'm linking up with Doodlebugs for Five for Friday!

 My December door is up! Too cute... the family that decorated the door bought each of the kiddos an ornament to decorate. I added their pictures in the ornament and they came out great!

 Talk about engaged! The kiddos are working on typing up their personal narratives. Luckily writer's workshop is working true to its intent and we don't have a line-up of kiddos waiting to type. Some kiddos are done and onto a new writing project, others are still writing or editing or revising.

Double digit addition is happening in second grade land! Which means we also learned about regrouping too! The kiddos are doing a great job regrouping with manipulatives. Making the transition from manipulatives to on paper is tough every year!

We started our "mini" penguin unit this week. Who doesn't LOVE Tacky? We read Tacky the Penguin and compared Tacky to what we know about real penguins. As the weeks before Winter Break continue, we'll learn more about penguins and compare penguins and birds. The kiddos will also do "mini-research" projects on different types of penguins. We'll be using a lot of Amy Lemon's Penguin Unit: Waddle With Me.

This kiddo used voice to text on my iPad to create a blog post for our classroom website. He struggles to get his thoughts down on paper and his difficulty listening for sounds in words makes the process really strenuous for him. He was super excited to be able to get a blog post done for our site!

Hope you enjoyed my randomness :)

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Whole Brain Wednesday: My Story

Today I want to take you on the journey I traveled when deciding to introduce Whole Brain Teaching in my classroom. I've shared it briefly in other posts, but after meeting with a few colleagues to share some WBT strategies, I thought it was important that I share my journey for those of you who need a little push towards WBT in your classroom.

During my first year of teaching I had a very tough class. I loved them dearly and still look back fondly on that year and those students, but I spent a lot of the first half of the year questioning my job choice. It killed me to question it too because I had literally wanted to be a teacher since I could remember. I had four students who were identified or would later be identified with ADHD and all were either un-medicated or inconstantly medicated. Now please don't get me wrong... I am not a "medication" pusher. I totally get that there are SO many interventions that can happen instead of medication and I also have seen medication be super successful for some students. But these students doing "gymnastics" on the rug during every single lesson and crawling under the tables daily added to a majority of students below grade level and students with little support from home equated to a really tough situation as a first year teacher. I would lay awake literally every night either worrying about my kiddos or trying to figure out where I was going wrong as a teacher.

My students WERE making growth, but I left every afternoon feeling exhausted and frustrated and on the verge of tears. And let me be clear on one thing, although I am an emotional girl and have been known to need a "good cry"... since starting WBT I think I've left school near tears maybe twice... nearly every day compared to maybe twice. Huge change.

Anyway... there was a big New England snow storm that year right around the 100th day of school. We had probably 5 days off including the weekend. I took this as "research" time. The teacher across the hall used WBT and I thought if it could work for her class of nearly 30 students, well then maybe it could work for me!

I watched video after video. I read article after article, blog post after blog post. I was addicted to the amazing behavioral management I was seeing. I was impressed by the growth teachers shared in their testimonials I took notes, decided what I liked and what I didn't and above all I knew WBT was for me.

I walked into school on the 100th day and printed out all the WBT rule and procedure posters and told my kiddos I'd been waiting until they were "ready" to try out something new in the class. I told them that the 100th day of school was the perfect time for 2nd graders to be "ready." I mustered up as much energy and excitement as I could and I sold WBT to these little 7 and 8 year olds and they ate it up!

In a few days my classroom was completely different. It was calmer... We had more fun during lessons... I was able to get all their energy out in PRODUCTIVE ways... I could get their attention with no effort... I had students focused - completely focused - during lessons. I couldn't believe how well it was working. A week or so later, I introduced mirrors and on our next math post-test I had one of my most severely ADHD students, standing at his desk, making all the gestures he had learned for regrouping to help him on the test. It was at that moment I knew WBT would be in my classroom for a LONG LONG TIME!

The rest is history... 3 years of WBT & a National Conference behind me... I even hope to become a "trainer" once I'm done with Grad School. I've done informal PD sessions for teachers and shared relentlessly with my grad class. I now walk down the halls in my school and HEAR WBT IN ACTION! Grad class friends tell me about the ways they are using WBT every day... Talk about amazing...

That's my story! Any other whole brainers who would like to share their story? I'd love to feature you on my blog :)

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