Friday, September 25, 2015

Five for Friday: One bad decision (but only one)

Whew!  Busy week!

The privacy shields are to reduce noise - we don't all have headphones yet . . .

We started XtraMath this week.  I had used it for a couple of weeks at the very end of the year last year, but I didn't really get a feel for it.  So far this year, we've done it three days, and the kids and I are hooked!

They started with a placement test (three of them in a row on the first day, actually) which determined what they knew about addition and which facts to practice.  Each day, they do a practice session and a test session and play "Race the Teacher."

Engaged?  Yup.

When I log in, I can see how we're doing as a class.  Frankly, I'm a little worried, because on day 3, two of my kids were moved to subtraction.  That means they've mastered addition.  That means they're going to be finished with XtraMath very soon . . . and I'm going to need suggestions for challenging math sites where they can play while their classmates continue with XtraMath!  Help?! :)

Here's what I get to see:

If I click on the green/yellow/red shapes (which mean exactly what you'd think they mean: super/meh/yikes), I can see every math problem and how the child responded.  Pretty neat.

Seriously, though, if anyone has ideas for challenge/enrichment math for second graders (problem solving, logic, games, etc. using addition/subtraction), please comment below! :)

We learned how to do a blind sort in spelling yesterday.  That's when one partner, the "teacher," reads the word aloud but doesn't let the "student" see it.  The student points to where the word should go, and the teacher places it in the column.  Then the student gets to look at it and see if it's right, or if it needs to move.  

The kids loved it!  And I loved the collaboration going on. :)

Who loves assemblies?  We do!  Especially when the kids are totally engaged and the teachers are in hysterics.  (It was kind of like a Pixar film - humor for the kids, plus humor for the adults that went right over the kids' heads.)  

Thank you, Hal Trapkin, for the Percussion Discussion!

I introduced greater than/less than late on a Friday afternoon in the style of great teachers everywhere:  Here, play this game, figure it out.  

Hey, sometimes tired works.

Today it worked.

The children paired up and played "Recycle It" and those who didn't know about the greater than/less than signs taught their partners.  Nothing like a little one-on-one expert instruction, I always say.  Just like I planned it. ;)

Three well-mixed decks of cards later, I'd say it was a hit. :)

"Want to see a picture of a bad decision?" I asked my daughter.  She looked understandably wary. 

Yes, the poor bee is INSIDE the hummingbird feeder (which was just about out of nectar).  I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time, but then he got up inside and couldn't get a grip on the glass and kept sliding down into the nectar.  And no, I didn't open it to let him out, because I knew how it would end - and I didn't want to be the second one to make a bad decision that morning!

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Coffee, anyone?

Apparently there's overwhelming evidence out there that soda is bad for you.  Like, really bad.  In a number of different, scary ways.  Baaaad.

But I like Pepsi.

I like Pepsi a LOT.

The nectar of the gods, I've always said.

Plus, caffeine!

But it's bad.  Bad bad bad.  So I'm trying to find alternatives.

For a while last year, I just thought I'd drink my water at lunchtime.  Problem solved.  Until the afternoon headache, when I wasn't just a tired teacher, but a tired and unhappy and b****y teacher.  So that only lasted about, um, one day.  

Back to the Pepsi at lunchtime!

And back to the guilt, because of the sugar and what it does to the brain and everything else.  So this summer I decided I had to find an alternative.

Enter iced coffee.  (Which I cannot drink black - it needs sugar and creamer.) (Lots.)

I tried making it in coffee mugs and pouring it into the thermos.  Messy, messy, messy.

I tried making it in the carafes.  Very hard to stir.

So I make it in the coffee pot.

And I mix the sugar and creamer in with a serving spoon, which I find hilarious.  (SERIOUS COFFEE MAKING GOING ON HERE, PEOPLE.)

Then I pour it into the carafes and eventually, when it's cooled a bit, it goes into the fridge.

On school mornings, I put some ice in my awesome Thermos, fill it up with cold coffee, and head off to school.  Five hours later at lunchtime, it's absolutely perfect.  

And wow, am I peppy in the afternoons.

Come on, kids, keep up!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Five for Friday: Back to School Night!

Yesterday was Back to School Night.  Whew!  I must say, it does get easier as the years go by, but I still feel far too many butterflies while I wait for the parents to walk down the hall. :)

This year, BTSN seemed early to me - or maybe I'm just taking my sweet time getting things going in the classroom?! - and I realized at the beginning of the week that there were still a LOT of things I wanted to introduce to the kids before telling their parents about them Thursday night.  So we squeezed in a few things that might have otherwise waited another week or so . . .

On Tuesday, I introduced the yoga balls.  I had already introduced the bouncy chairs during the first week of school, but I knew the parents would see the yoga balls "hiding" behind my desk on BTSN and ask about them.  So I brought them out on Tuesday, explained the rules, and drew two names.

Lo and behold, they make ominous grinding noises on a tile floor.  Several children, not knowing what was making the noises, were truly alarmed.


Not going to be at all distracting . . . nope.

Didn't even notice the zebra stripe thing going on
 in this row until I downloaded the picture . . . :)

I was so impressed with the two cherubs who got first dibs - they were so responsible and careful with the balls (and themselves!) and even tucked them neatly under their desks when we left the room. :)  So far, so good!

We love the bouncy chairs.  I won't be adding any more of these simply because they take up a lot of space, but we love them.  Every day I draw two names and those lucky children get to sit in a bouncy chair any time we come to the rug as a class (which is often).  Other classmates may sit in them during work times, Read to Self, etc. - but the "bouncy kids" have first dibs.

I asked the parents at Back to School Night: "So, who's heard about the bouncy chairs?" Every hand went up. :)

I started spelling (Words Their Way) Tuesday, too.  Four groups, all new to the concept of sorting words, all new to the procedure in second grade, and - honestly - it went much better than I dared hope.  Lots of room for improvement, of course, but everyone met with me and discussed and sorted their words together; everyone cut out their own words and sorted them; everyone got their words into their spelling baggie and their spelling baggie into its pocket; and only three words were found on the floor five hours later as we cleaned up for dismissal. :)  Success!!

We keep our spelling words in a sandwich-size baggie with a slider tab (second graders tend to open regular ziploc bags so assertively that they rip open both sides as well).  Each baggie is labeled with the student's name and goes into a pocket also labeled with his/her name.  Ah, organization. ;)

I picked the last (read: second) pepper today.  It's redder than I'd like, but I kept hoping it would get bigger.  Maybe next year I'll have more luck with them!

Don't you just love fall?

Ah, those colors. :)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Five for Friday: Time flies when you're having fun!

Well, it's Sunday now, but I wanted to participate in my first Five for Friday.  So here we go, a couple of days late!

My homework this weekend: Scholastic Reading Club, Highlights, and Puzzlemania orders.  Yes, on Friday of the first week of school, I sent them all home!

I send home book order forms the first week of every month.  They're due the second Friday, I place the order online that weekend, and we usually get the books the third or fourth week of the month.  Reading is IMPORTANT, and I want my kiddos to have books they want to read at school and at home; Scholastic helps me provide both.  Win!

I also send home (and make "due") the Highlights and Puzzlemania order forms as soon as I have them both.  Highlights gives awesome class prizes for signed forms - whether they're orders or "No" responses - but it takes them a while to start the children's subscriptions.  I send them home as early as possible so the kids start getting their magazines as early as possible.
I carefully clip the forms so the parents can see both titles.
On the back, I have the pink "Please sign and return!" stickers and my signature.
My pink note on the front helps ensure the forms come back!

Spelling (Words Their Way) starts next week.  After giving the spelling inventory, I determined that I'd have four spelling groups, which would be way too many if I didn't have a paraeducator in my room for 30 minutes four days a week.  She'll be working with one of my spelling groups, so I think I can manage four this year.  Fingers crossed!

In class, we will do lots of word sorting and pattern hunts.  We'll also use these spelling packets from Kayla Meikle.  She has made them for most (all?) of the Words Their Way sorts at each level, so all of my groups can do similar practice work in class even though their lists are different.  

I'll start next week by leading them through one activity in their packet each day (we do a 2-week spelling cycle).  After the first packet, they will be allowed to complete their word work each cycle independently.  (Yes, these spelling packets fit perfectly into the Word Work time of Daily 5!)

My kids have LOVED Amy Lemons' Spin On! Math stations this week.  No pictures to show, but we'll definitely be doing more of those next week - so maybe I'll remember to take some pictures then! :)

Okay, so the next two aren't school.  That's okay, right?

I grew tomatoes on the deck this summer for the first time EVER.  The cherry tomatoes came first:

And they were delicious.

I ate a dozen or more for lunch at school every day for quite a while.

But now they're done. :(

The green pepper plant produced ONE decent-sized pepper:

I swear it was bigger than it looks here.
It was easily the BEST pepper I've ever had.

But now the "garden" is done, and I'm wishing I had more of those veggies for lunches!

Okay, this one just seems silly, but I promise, it's awesome.  See, our master bathroom has mirrors covering two entire walls (THAT took some getting used to!) and so the only place to hang a clock in there is on the wall opposite one of the mirrors.  So, of course, it's usually backwards, because we're usually looking at it in the mirror.

Enter the red-framed novelty clock from Five Below: 

See, the white-framed friend is the normal clock whose hands run clockwise.  The backwards clock runs backwards - counter-clockwise (which is kind of weird to watch) - and keeps perfect time.  So now when we look in the mirror, we see the correct time without having to think about it:

It would be absolutely perfect if the numerals were backwards too, but I can live with it. :)