Friday, March 13, 2015

March Madness

I have to be honest that I don't really follow college basketball. I was intrigued, however, when I read about using the basketball bracket system as an excuse to share even more great books with students! I originally heard about it here at The Nerdy Book Club. Their ten reason to participate was enough to sell me on giving participation a shot! I was able to access the picture book brackets here at The Road to Bookville. Because it took the other teachers and me a little time to collect the books, we did miss a round of voting on the website, but have been diligently reading the books in class and voting within our own classrooms. We will be merging our votes as a grade level as well in order to determine a grade level winner of our version of March Madness!  And I have to say, the kids are loving it!  We have been having great conversations about the books and it is the most fun when the pairing of books makes the choice even more difficult.  It is also fun comparing our results with other classes.  Sometimes the same book wins and other times, the votes lead to opposing results. 
At this point, the front runners for round one in our class are: 
Three Bears in a Boat by by David Soman
Sparky by Jenny Offill and  Chris Appelhans
Ivan: Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate
Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt
Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems

Can't wait to see who our winner is!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Genius Hour

Over the past couple of years I have been hearing more and more about a new practice being brought into classrooms called "Genius Hour", sometimes called "Passion Projects".  Each time I read about it, my interest was piqued.  According to the official Genius Hour website, one place it originated is through the search-engine giant, Google, which allows it’s engineers to spend 20% of their time to work on any pet project that they want.  The idea is if you allow people to work on something that interests them, and productivity will go up.  Google’s policy has worked so well that it has been said that 50% of Google’s projects have been created during this creative time period.  Ever heard of Gmail or Google News?  These projects are creations by passionate developers that blossomed from their their 20-time projects. 
Pretty cool.  Who isn't motivated by doing something they love?  But...can I do this with second graders?  They certainly have the curiosity and passion.  This could be a great means to tie together science, technology, reading, engineering, art, math (S.T.R.E.A.M.), geography, social studies, and so much more.  What better way to implement 21st century skills? But, again....can I do this with second graders? 
Well, folks...I've decided it is time to try!  I've allotted 1 hour every Wednesday afternoon (as long as I am not at a meeting) as our Genius Hour.  Last week I began by explaining to the kids what I wanted to do.  The kids enthusiasm probably could have rated on the richter scale.  I could practically SEE the gears turning in their minds.  Next, I shared this great video by Kid President.  (He has lots of good ones, btw!) This led to a discussion about why it's so important that they care about their learning and how they are the problem solvers of the future.  Not only that, but they need to be able to work together to solve problems.  This little Pep Talk was a great start. 

Now, I know there is a LOT of junk on You Tube.  ("No, Emily, you may NOT watch the Anaconda video.  I don't care if ----- said it's funny-NOT happening!") But, there's some pretty good stuff, too. The same goes for the Internet as a whole. Because of this concern, I will be asking parents to come in at some point to help with our Passion Projects.  We're not ready yet, but I will be inviting anyone in who wants to catch the genius bug! More on that at a later time. 

Our final step this past week was to start brainstorming.  I gave the kids a journal with the Thomas Edison quote, "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."  We talked about how this is going to be fun, but it is also going to be work!  We also talked about how Thomas Edison is credited with inventing the lightbulb, but his invention really was based on and built upon the work of a number of other people.  

Next, they got an almost blank paper that asked, "If you could learn about anything you wanted, what would it be?"  Their job was to write down anything and everything that interests them. ANYTHING!  Minecraft!  American Ninja Warrior!  E=MC2! American Girl Dolls! Dogs! Some kids filled their sheets, others wrote down a few carefully selected topics.  We inserted this into our journals.  They know that if they think of anything else, they need to take out that journal and write it down! 

This week, we will spend some time talking about the 5Cs and narrowing down our topics.  We're on the road to awesome! :) 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Open House

Open House is such a fun night!  It tends to go by in blur, but it is always fun to go back and check out the pictures from our photo booth!  Thanks to Charlotte and Kate for helping out as my photographers!

Monday, September 29, 2014


XtraMath is one program we are using to help students develop and practice math fact fluency.  

XtraMath is a free online program that focuses strictly on math fact fluency.  XtraMath helps students transition from counting or calculating the basic math facts to recalling them. Recalling math facts instead of calculating them frees up mental resources for higher-level operations. 

Students each complete one round daily in the classroom on one of four iPads we are rotating through. The rounds are quick (less than 10 minutes). It is recommended that they complete only one round each day, but feel free ato have your children complete a round on the weekend so you can see how the program works. 

A few weeks ago you received a letter with a brief explanation and a code to link your email with the account. You should be receiving weekly reports with your child's progress. When you look at the report, it is helpful to know what the dots mean: Green means the student got less than 10% wrong. Yellow means between 10% and 25% wrong. Red means over 25% wrong. Blue dots indicate an incomplete XtraMath session. Students that regularly get red dots should be encouraged not to guess at answers. If they cannot confidently remember the answer they should do their best to calculate or count the answer.

I also receive a weekly report which gives me a nice, quick insight as to the progression of students fact fluency.  If students are consistently getting a red dot. I will remind them to slow down and focus on getting the facts correct first and that speed will come as they become more proficient.  I may also change their program to give them more time.  (The regular provides students 3 seconds per fact, and the extended program allows them 6 seconds.)  

Once students finish the regular program they have some choices. Students can move onto the advanced programs in which they need to complete addition and subtraction facts in 2 or 1.5 seconds. This is the program I typically recommend.  As stated above, the quicker the recall, the easier it will be for them to complete higher-level operations.  This is especially important this year as we move into multiple digit addition and subtraction with regrouping.The other option is to move onto multiplication and division.   Students develop the basic concept of how these operations works in the early grades, but mastery of the facts is not expected until they begin grade 3. 

The "Help" section on the XtraMath site is great! Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions regarding this program.   

Monday, September 15, 2014

International Dot Day 2014

Update!  Here's our video:

It's International Dot Day!  What does that mean?!  Let me try to explain. 

If you haven't read The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds, I strongly recommend it! (You can also watch it here: The Dot).  It is one of those children's picture books that is simple, yet inspiring, and delivers a strong message to both children and adults!  That is why there are now over 1,744,529 people worldwide celebrating The Dot with us! Last year, it was even celebrated on the International Space Station! To learn more about this (and Emily and my very cool experience meeting Colonel Hadfield), go to my older blog post here: The Dot in Space.
To learn more about the origins of IDD, go here:  The Dot Club.

You can also check out all the famous authors, illustrators, and celebrities who have participated by checking out their dots at Celebri-dots!

Today we will start by watching The Dot on Fablevision's Big Screen Books, narrated by the one and only Peter H. Reynolds.We will also watch an author visit with Peter in which he will explain his inspiration for The Dot and how he was encouraged and inspired as a student.   

After that, students will be given an opportunity to paint or draw dots (or whatever else they choose) using water colors, or crayons and markers while they have their snacks. 

We will also be reading the other two books from Peter's "Create-trilogy",  Ish and Sky Color, both of which deliver messages just as inspiring and special as The Dot. I only have video trailers, but they are definitely worth checking out!  

Another fun activity we will do today uses a cool app for mobile devices:

To do this, you use this app:

Click on the picture to see a video about other coloring fun you can have with the app! *Some are paid and some are free

Here's the dot that I colored:

And HERE it is in 3D!

How cool is that?! I can't wait for the kids to see their work in 3D! 

Later in the day, I will show them a cool video from Steve Spangler science that you can watch here: Sharpie Tie-dye video. Then the kids will get to work on their very special dot tee-shirts!  I'll be sure to post photos! 

We will also be making a collaborative dot to display and students will write about how they hope to make their mark on the world.  

Today is about so much more than drawing dots.  I hope by now you see that it is about inspiring students to not be fearful when trying something new, about encouraging them when they think they can't or when something doesn't come out exactly as they envisioned.  It's about focusing not on what they CAN'T do, but rather on what they CAN. It's about combining language arts, science, technology, math, and art.  Here's a Peter poster that I love that helps sum it up...

One last note for the moment-if you and your child would like to meet Peter, he is often at his family store, The Blue Bunny, in Dedham, MA. This Saturday, he and his twin brother, Paul, will be having a signing for a book on which they collaborated called Sydney and Simon: Full Steam Ahead.  Here are the event details: book signing. I hope to see some of you there!  

Oh, I almost forgot! Enjoy the new song! :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

First Day of School!

The first day of school is always so exciting!  Hopefully, you all have happy children excited to learn coming home today!  Here are a couple of fun pics we took this afternoon. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Class Facebook Page

Are you on Facebook?  Most people are, though I know not everyone is.  Because it is so well used, however, I do maintain a class Facebook Page that you can find here: 
The Facebook page is not as in depth as the blog, but it is great for quick communications and updates.  If you are on Facebook, please be sure to follow the page.  It is a quick and easy way to communicate happenings at school. Also, if you have not, be certain to subscribe to this blog (look over to the right of the screen and complete Follow the Email).  That way, when I update, you will receive an email notification that there is something new here.  It's a good way to share in the fun we have here at school!