Thursday, April 28, 2016

Six Ways to Survive the Last Six Weeks of School

Well if today was any indication, my class has definitely hit end of the year fever. I’m sure my class isn’t the only one that’s starting to feel the fever, so today I’ve put together a list of six ways to survive those crazy last six weeks of school.

Six survival tips for teachers during the last weeks of school - Suggestions from Raki's Rad Resources

1.) Keep your routinesIf your school's like mine, there’s a lot of special things going on and it’s easy for kids to start seeing school as “over”. This affects their behavior and makes it very hard for you to get their attention for the things you still need to get done. A good way to stop school from being over is to keep up the routines you’ve built all year long. My students do a full school day every day that I can swing it. We are still working on spelling and vocabulary packets, novel studies, calendar books and math facts. I emphasize every day that we’re still here, so we’re still learning.

 2.) Reteach and Preteach – This is the time of year that students think they know everything. Remind them that they haven’t yet mastered all there is to know by reviewing concepts that you have already covered. They’ll be amazed at how much they have already forgotten. If they truly have mastered all of the concepts you have covered this year, preteach a few things from next year’s standards. Second graders love learning about multiplication because they know that’s a “third grade thing”. Kids love feeling like they’re learning something they’re not supposed to know, so give them a sneak peek. The kids will be thrilled and next year’s teachers will be happy they have background to connect to.

3.) Connect the dots with projects – Thanks to standardized testing, we often have to cover all of our standards well before the end of the school year. So what do we do with the last six weeks of school? Well just because we’ve covered topics doesn’t mean they’ve mastered them. And with literacy topics like doing research, there’s always room for kids to grow. So take time in those last six weeks to give students projects. These projects can cover multiple topics and help students connect all of the separate dots they’ve learned about all year. Some of my favorite projects to use at the end of the year are: Real Life Math Projects, Biography Projects, The Great Plant Experiment and Creating Your Own Cookies.

4.) Start something new – My students are bugging to learn cursive and keyboarding skills and this seems like a great time to teach them this. They’re starting to be sick of the same old stuff, so give them a bit of something new and different that they can sink their teeth into. Since you’ve probably taught all of your standards, this is a great time to learn about something that is interesting to your students. Let them pick a topic and run with it for a bit. You’ll be amazed at how they’ll come back into the learning realm with a bit of new information.

5.) Play games – Games can be used to reinforce many skills.  We’ve pulled back into the word family games we’ve been playing bit by bit all year. Now that they’ve mastered all of the word families, they can play little tournaments. Regular old board games are also great for this time of the year. In our world of video games, many students don’t know how to play classic board games like Yahtzee or Monopoly. Take time to teach students the rules of these games, or check out some of my old Board Games in the Classroom Posts and take the games to another level.

 6.) Reflect on the year – Look back over the year and all of the things you have learned. Compare current writing samples with ones from the beginning of the year. Graph the end of the year data. Build online portfolios using the projects you have completed all year long. Have students write letters to their parents about everything they have learned. There are so many ways to reflect on learning, and these reflections help students build metacognition as well as being a great way to wrap up a year.

 So those are my six survival tips. How do you get through the last six weeks of school?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Life Sized Number Lines

During our last few weeks of school, we are working on reviewing math concepts and building up an understanding of numbers using number lines. We started out practicing skip counting in various ways, including ways that are not skip counting starting at 0, giving students a chance to look at counting by 5's and 10's in different ways. Next we started putting these skip counting patterns onto a number line as increments. Now we are using number lines to explore operations. We have reviewed addition and subtraction on a number line and now we will make the connection to an introduction to multiplication.

Creating life sized number lines with index cards - math ideas from Raki's Rad Resources

One of my students' favorite projects was putting together life sized number lines. For this project I had every student come up with their own number and write these numbers on white index cards. We lined up the numbers in order from least to greatest. Then, split the students in half. Each group used their numbers to create their own number line with increments. 

We first brainstormed these number lines on scrap paper and then once I conferenced with each group, the students wrote out their increments on colored index cards. These colored index cards were glued onto butcher paper to create life sized number lines. Once the number lines were made, the students placed their number cards onto the number lines. When their number lines were complete, I gave each group a few extra number cards and asked them to add these numbers to their number line as well. 

Creating life sized number lines with index cards - math ideas from Raki's Rad Resources

The students loved working on these group projects and the lifesized number lines have been a great teaching tool. We have used these life sized number lines to compare numbers and to work on operations. From my observations on this project, I was able to create three differentiated groups for my Prove it, Solve it, Fix it Tiered Activities for Number Lines.

What math activities are you working on during these final months of the year?

Monday, April 11, 2016

2nd Grade Lesson Plans - Week of April 11th

When I was teaching in a multiage classroom overseas in Morocco, I often posted my lesson plans here on my blog. Now that I am back in the classroom, I have had some requests from readers for the sneak peek into my classroom that sharing my lesson plans allowed others. So here is what my class is up to this week:

2nd Grade Lesson plans for reading, phonics, writing and math - from Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

In the morning, we start out with Phonics/Writing Centers. This week we are focusing on the Long E spelling patterns. My students work independently on their Long E Spelling and Vocabulary Packet

Also during our morning block we work on writing. One of the great weaknesses for my class as a whole is writing conventions (capitals, punctuation and application of the spelling patterns we have learned), so every week we work on writing to a writing prompt. This week, my students will work on my Freddy Fish Writing Prompt (which you can download for free from my old blog post - 10 Free Writing Prompts). This writing prompt is graded strictly on conventions and gives me a great piece to conference with each child on using good conventions in their writing. 
After I have conferenced with each child on the conventions from last week's writing prompt, I will pull small groups and we will work on our persuasive writing. Right now we are working on the first prompt from my Opinion Writing Journal, which asks the students to write about the best book they have ever read. Most of my groups have finished brainstorming and are well into drafting. This week we will finish drafting and begin the process of editing and revising.

2nd Grade Lesson plans for reading, phonics, writing and math - from Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Our second block of the day is reading. We start out the reading section working on reading fluency. First we review our weekly nursery rhyme. The students are working on their Nursery Rhyme Response Sheets for homework, but we review the rhyme each day in class to help build fluency. Students also do one minute partner fluency checks using their weekly passages, which I have pulled from Read Works. (You can find the link for Read Works and other places to pull reading passages at this old blog post: Preparing for Reading Comprehension Standardized Tests.) 

Once we have finished our fluency checks, we will work on building a chart with the characteristics of different types of poetry. We have already read quite a few Shel Silverstein poems and classic nursery rhymes, but this week we will read a bunch of traditional rhyming poems and them to our chart.
Finally, we will move into guided reading. While I pull guided reading groups, my students work on a variety of reading comprehension activities using their weekly passage. After they have finished that day's comprehension activity, they have time to read independently. 
This class has many new readers who have never built up the stamina for silent reading. So I am promoting reading books from cover to cover by tracking the number of on level books each student reads. My students are also completing Book Review Bookmarks on some of the books they read, which we are displaying in our class library in order to encourage other students to read books their classmates have enjoyed.

2nd Grade Lesson plans for reading, phonics, writing and math - from Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

After lunch, we move into Math. First we start with our daily routine of Calendar Books and Fast Facts Quizzes, which my kiddos call number sprints. The Calendar Books allow us to review multiple number concepts every day, including adding and subtraction 1, 5 and 10 and creating a number using base ten blocks and coins. The Fast Fact Quizzes help us to build number fluency. We are currently working on Subtraction Fast Facts, but by the end of the week I am sure that at least a few of my students will move onto the Addition/Subtraction Mixed Facts.

During these last six weeks of the school year, we are reviewing key concepts that students are still struggling with. Before Spring Break, the students took an assessment covering all of the standards covered this year. Last week we worked on skip counting with my Tiered Skip Counting Math Activity. This week we are working on number lines using my Tiered Number Lines Math Activity
I have split my students into three groups, using their data from this end of the year assessment. The prove it group will work with me to prove that the answers of three comparing numbers problems are correct by labeling and using number lines. The solve it grup will answer three comparing numbers problems, using number lines. The fix it group will "fix" number lines that have been mislabeled by common student mistakes. 
Once students finish their tiered activity, we move into math centers. Most of the students will be working on Moby Max and finishing up the creation of their fraction books. But my "fix it group" from last week's skip counting tiered activity will also spend time finishing the videos that they planned last week using my Video Planning Sheets. Their videos will teach others about skip counting and I am very impressed a their ideas. One group is trying to replicate an Odd Squad type of episode. Another group is teaching skip counting by subtracting life points when playing Yu-Gi-Oh. All of the groups are definitely extending their understanding by creating these videos.

So that's what my class is doing this week. What's your class doing?

Monday, April 4, 2016

Common Culture Stories vs. Multicultural Stories

Which is more important to teach? Common culture stories or multicultural stories? There are many sides to this discussion. Stop by my teaching blog - Raki's Rad Resources and join in the discussion.

Old Mother Hubbard went to the cubboard to get her poor dog a bone. I'm willing to bet that 99% of you reading this can finish that rhyme. However, many of our students can't, especially if they don't come from upper SES, mainstream culture American or British backgrounds. Many of our students come to us not knowing nursery rhymes, folktales, fables and other common culture stories. However, when they get to those standardized tests, it is assumed that they grew up with these stories and rhymes. That's why every test I've ever administered had at least one or two nursery rhymes or folktales on it. Test makers figure everyone's heard of these so they're great to use for vocabulary questions or compare and contrast questions or even just straight comprehension questions. Plus most are licence free, so they're cost free to use! 

The problem of course is that not all of our kids have heard of them, which sets low SES students and students who come from non mainstream cultures at a disadvantage. This is why I make it a point to teach nursery rhymes and common folktales to every class I work with. In fact my students just started using my Nursery Rhyme Comprehension Sheets (free download at my Teachers Pay Teachers store) to disect one nursery rhyme a week. Students need to know these stories and rhymes not only for standardized tests, but because they are referenced in other stories, in movies, in songs and just in general "common culture" discussions.

Which is more important to teach? Common culture stories or multicultural stories? There are many sides to this discussion. Stop by my teaching blog - Raki's Rad Resources and join in the discussion.Recently, I had a discussion with some other teachers about how these rhymes and tales have historically been used as "educational colonialism". Because we think that students NEED to know these stories, we teach them. But often teaching these "common culture rhymes and stories" means that many other great stories, often with a more multicultural cast of characters, which would connect better with these students, don't get taught. John Henry, for example, didn't make a big impact on my current population of students (85% hispanic), but they loved Dona Flor because it had huge floating tortillas like they ones their moms and grandmas make.

And I can see the point of colonialism argument. Why for example to do we teach students in New Mexico the rhyme about how "April showers bring May flowers" when the majority of rain here occurs in the winter? Ummmmm..... because the majority of our common culture rhymes and stories come from England or the Northeastern United States. 

So what's the answer? How do we find balance? I'm not sure I have a tried and true answer. But in my classroom I try to:

1.) Be aware of the bias - Sometimes just knowing can do so much to change our behavior. We as teachers need to know that our kids need both "common culture" and "multiculture" so that we can always be on the look out for ways to include both in our classroom.

2.) Use as wide a mixture of both "common culture" and "multiculture" as I can find - Because I know this is an important topic, especially with my population of students, I try to expose my kids to both, constantly. We definitely do story, rhyme and book overload in my classroom because I am trying to make sure my students are exposed to EVERYTHING I can put in front of them. 

3.) Explain the concept to the kids - Kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. I often explain to my students the concept of common culture. I want them to be aware that there are things that are generally accepted as important for them to know. I also want them to know that there are lots of other cultures out there which are equally important, especially their own! This also makes it easier to explain to kids why things like "April flowers bring May flowers" make sense to some people, even if it doesn't to them.

So what's your take? How do you balance common culture stories with multicultural literature? Does your approach change depending on the make up of your classroom? Let's have a discussion!