Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The 2nd Half Hour of Our School Day.

The 2nd half hour of the day I do the "Practice Book" out of the Houghton Mifflin Literature Basal series. Lots of teachers don't use it but I think it is valuable. We do it every day and read the stories in the book once a week. There is tons of comprehension practice in there, lots of language and grammar, and almost everything in your scope and sequence for Language Arts.
Houghton Mifflin Reading Practice Book: Level 2.1

If, for instance, I need to practice antonyms, there are a few practice pages in the book  and if I need to go deeper for understanding I can, but it helps remind me what else I still have not taught yet. It's good for that "checklist" of things you need to cover.  Plus my kids can easily learn to tear the pages out on their own. I don't understand why teachers feel they must tear out all the pages for kids. They can learn to do anything you teach them over and over how to do. A link to a fun ANTONYM GAME is HERE from S.W.Laurie at Crestview School.

The 3rd  half hour of the day I have the kids get out a chalkboard. I repaint these 9 x 11 boards about every other year with a $5.00 jar of green chalkboard paint. I buy lots of colorful chalk and white chalk. The bribe a good job and you can come pick some hot pink or lime green chalk to use. Then we do double digit math with regrouping or we do 4 spelling words in a word family "chunk" to practice phonics and sounds. Or some days we might do a little MATH AND PHONICS AND SPELLING!

For instance, we might be working on sh and th. I will have them do a word family like "ine". We will write down all the words we can think of with the" ine" chunk and we will go over the "teacher sound" which is SH for sh!  Then we will go over the "tongue cooler" sound which is TH.  Kids learn all the digraphs in the first 2 weeks of my class by doing it every single day for 10 to 15 minutes on chalkboards.

I have them draw a criss cross on the board (a vertical and then horizontal line so there are 4 areas to write 4 words. Then I call out words, "shine, thine, fine, brine" etc. I sound out slowly and ask kids "what is the 2nd sound you hear. That's right an R. What is the 3rd sound you hear? That's right, a short i sound.

They get better at segmenting each phoneme and then we move to 2 syllable words (clapping and snapping syllables) and then 3 and 4 as the year progresses.   I add prefixes and suffixes like "ed, ing, er, able, re, dis,  un," etc. By mid year my first graders could write words like "under-stand-able" with ease and tell me how many syllables. When you teach them to segment first each sound, and then syllables, and then prefixes and suffixes, they start to see how easy spelling can be.

Last thing we do every day in the morning is a writing mini lesson on something I've seen the kids do the previous day.  I might show a sample of great writing from the day before, or give some examples on the board of mistakes I saw.  We talk about them, set some verbal goals for the day (today I want everyone to write 3 adjectives in their reports on Owls.  Can you do it?

Then before 10:00 rolls around we have covered Language, Grammar, Spiral Review and Word Problems in math, Comprehension strategies and spelling, phonics and story vocabulary practice. We read the basal once a week and do a writing mini lesson. After recess we start writing workshop and guided reading.  It's always routine in the morning and we do some of our hardest work then.

Monday, August 22, 2011

How Do We Spend The First Half Hour of the Day?

I teach a gifted group. So they can really take some acceleration. I like to go a year ahead with grammar and  language and math workbooks.  Here are some of my favorites that I love and I believe in.

One is called ARITHMETIC DEVELOPED DAILY or ADD. It is kind of an unfortunate name for the series because parents are always raising their eyebrows when the see the acronym. But then I explain and they are okay. I love this series because it is a spiral review of all they learn and it keeps spiraling back so they never forget the concepts you've taught them.  If you want to check them out they are inexpensive and worth every penny. The link is HERE for Grow Publications ADD.
This is what it looks like....I do one of these 3 sections a day.  

The other thing I love about it is a daily word problem, although it does not show the reading part of the word problem is to the right, not pictured. So as students do the daily word problems, they  learn the "key words" for addition and subtraction.

 The last thing I love is it has 2 questions of mental math where they have nothing in front of them but lines for the answer. They have to listen, mentally figure, and write down the sum or totals. It helps with those kids who need listening practice too.

 The other workbook I love is kind of  Daily Oral Language. It has lots of grammar, punctuation, spelling and language practice. The link for the Evan Moore Grade 2 book for Language  I've used is HERE. Above there is also a link to buy it on Amazon. I use these 2 books every morning for the first half hour of the day. The 2nd half hour of the day I'll share tomorrow.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Now I was the unfortunate soul to hear a "TIP" at school today. It was about crayons  and glue for 25cents at Shopko.   I was also the unfortunate teachers to head up there to find that there is a limit of 4. So I unwittingly got in the slow line  and the frazzled checker rang up each of those 4 glues and 4 crayon sets S-E-P-A-R-A-T-E-L-Y!  And she was an ASSISTANT MANAGER! So I have some questions for Shopko; Dear Shopko,
Not my Favorite Store....

Why Shopko wouldn't you let her ring up at least my crayons and glue at the same time?  So I would only have had 5 transactions? Hmmmm Shopko?  And another thing, do you really think the people behind me  liked being in my can just imagine their joy waiting while I had 10 transactions at .....wait for it.....$1.00 freaking dollar each! Yes, I can tell that you must LOVE teachers Shopko!
Were you worth it Elmer? I Think NOT! 

And then after the 15 minutes of transactions, watching my checker count the crayons no less than 6 times to be sure she wasn't undercharging me (by 25 cents!) that was not enough. NO! My poor husband who was standing there patiently chalking it up to one more unfortunate thing the husband of a teacher has to put up with....he points out the insult to injury.
Were YOU worth it Crayola?  I'm still deciding.....

The newer checker, (also slower) had some kind of problem  and didn't know what to do so was WAITING FOR MY SLOW POKE CHECKER TO HELP HER OUT! And everyone in her line was also WAITING for
me to check out so they could check out! Yeah, Shopko, it was a REAL FUN TIME AT YOUR STORE!

Yeah....lots of fun at Shopko! 

So basically I just brought the entire checkstanding store to a standstill. Yeah. I did that. Because of your stupid rule Shopko to only let poor teachers buy 4 crayons at a time, KNOWING we, being the cheap skates we are, will wait in that line over and over to get the deal. Yeah. We really appreciate it Shopko.

And another thing Shopko.  YOU SUCK!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Math Center Games and Math Writing Projects

Venn Diagram games are fun for kids and it takes awhile for them to "get it".

One way I found the time to do center games during the year was working on topics during the summer and making up file folder games and attribute games and Venn Diagrams and stuff I found from workshops, online and ideas from other teachers. I attended a few math academies over my career and some after school professional developments and I tried to get varieties of games on every subject I covered in math.

 I keep them in magazine box holders marked with the strands of math; Money, Time, Fractions, Measurement, Place Value, add/subtract, even/odd/greater/less, problem solving, Geometry etc.  I keep the read aloud books in that box that go with the topic (i.e. Hersheys Fraction Book goes with fractions). Art project samples are dropped in the box as well as worksheets. I didn't have a filing cabinet for math. I would keep the box at my desk or on the counter for the length of the unit. I'd have center games in baggies stuffed in the box too.  For overflow I use a Costco 6 drawer rolling cart for the extra games on 6 topics.
Great Storage for Math Games
Another way I store  Math Games by Topic or Strand of Math

 Little by little the pile grew and I added a few purchased games such as Sum Swamp, How Tall Are You, Domino Games, Math Bingo Games, and tons of games with Cards and Flashcards and dice. I have about 30 two inch foam dice we use all the time.  I also purchased things like pattern blocks, multilink cubes, colored bear and dinosaur counters, plastic money, Judy clocks, Fraction dominoes and geometrical 3D shapes. I have magnetic games of every kind. And kids love rubber stamps so I have everything from base 10 blocks to clocks to coin money stamps and magnetic numbers and operations. New teachers come borrow centers from me all the time to use for a week in their classrooms.

I try to have a writing project every 3 weeks or so for the strand of math we are covering to integrate writing with math. For a few examples; when we do time we make a book called "The Times of My Life" and each page has a clock and the kids write about what time they do some of their favorite things of the day.(I wake up at 7:00 and I eat cornflakes with bananas for breakfast!) A link to lots of miniclass topics is here at the Reading Lady website.  She has lots of great ideas.

 When we do money they paint a big pink piggy bank and cut out and paste coins on it. They write about how much money they have in their bank on cute "pig" stationery and what they want to buy with it. These are always funny because kids don't know how expensive some of their ideas are going to be. (I have $1.29  and I'm taking my family on a cruise!) hehehe

Here's a cute pig from Pocket Full of Posies link HERE.
We added paper coin money under his smile and then wrote about it...I always
added a pink chenille stem curled up for the tail....just taped to the back...super cute!

When we do  geometry we do3D Geometry books (I once was a sphere but now I'm a colorful beachball on a sandy, California beach). These plane shape and 3D shape books not only help the kids memorize the vocabulary (sphere, cone, cylinder, rectangle prism etc.) but they learn to write adjectives and great descriptive words with punctuation thrown in too.

The fraction books we do are pattern block stickers made into "aliens" and they tell the fraction of colors on each page. It's a fun writing..."My alien's name is Bob. 1/8 of him is red. He is 3/8ths orange, 4/8ths black and he loves to break dance! (You can just imagine the illustration surrounding the pattern block stickers now can't you?) These are naturally differentiating because kids will be more creative in writing longer, more elaborate things when they are higher level most of the time. (not every time of course) And lower ability kids can do shorter writings, with less pages overall with simpler sentences.

Open ended math writing prompts are differentiation naturally. Add a writing prompt to your math once a month and get 5 birds with 1 stone. (math problem solving, differentiation, punctuation and creative writing practice mixed in with some cool art!) And talk about engagement.... Kids LOVE these kinds of multilevel, multisubject projects. And I have found them to be helpful because there is classroom behavior managment for me when kids are happy and engaged...and they are. MUCH more engaged than a worksheet could ever make them!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

2nd grade blogs

Fun Fall Scarecrow idea

Summer Vacation Writing and Art Project

Every year I have the kids do a writing project telling the class about what fun things they did on their summer vacation. I know, very original right?

Summer Vacation Writing and Watermelon Art Project
 I bring in a watermelon and we cut it up and eat it (after estimating the seeds in one piece and the seeds in the whole thing).

I do cut up several shades of green for the "rind" to look real.
 And we save and dry out those seeds for a watermelon art project using red and green tissue paper and watered down glue. I just cut the tissue paper into 1 inch squares. The kids draw their own watermelon piece with pencil on white paper. Then we start gluing. The last step is gluing a few seeds (8 to 10) on each watermelon art project.
A fun WATERMELON MATH printable I found at HERE at Everyday Teaching. It has estimating, weighing and measuring the size of watermelons and is a free printable. The kids love hearing what everybody else estimated for seeds. Somebody always estimates 1000 seeds.  :D I guess it could happen?

Another fun watermelon math can be done with these Free Watermelon Number Cards  from  I used them to have kids make the addends of 10 matching concentration game. Each child partnered up with a buddy and they layed their cards down face up. Then each took a turn finding a 9 and 1, or an 8 and 2, or a 7 and 3 etc. This is a great way for them to memorize the 10s math facts.

A CUTE song we sing along with all our watermelon activities is Down By the Bay with YOLY! A funny MAD LIB FOR SUMMER VACATIONS is HERE at Classroom Jr. com. My students LOVE mad libs and they can easily learn nouns from verbs and adjectives doing them. They love to hear each other's crazy creations.
Using Mad Libs for Writing and Schema or Background Knowledge
                                           How I Spent My Summer Vacation by: Mark Teague is one  I read to the kids to get them excited about writing about their own summer vacations! This gets us in the writing mood by doing a mad lib for a warm up writing activity. It helps them with ideas too.  I list VACATIONS, PARTIES, SWIMMING, HIKES, BBQ, FRIENDS, GAMES, SPORTS on the board. That helps with brainstorming more ideas. I also spell some of the fun places around town everybody goes to like Boondocks, Chuck E. Cheese and Disneyland.
Fun Places to Go With Kids....
                                    Then we write a sloppy copy. I edit it for them, and then they write a final copy to publish and share. It is written on watermelon shaped paper. They always turn out really looking great on a bulletin board. Here is ours. The paper I just used some clip art to make and cut and pasted it together with a boy and girl and typed "What I did on My Summer Vacation" across the top.
Our finished bulletin board.....Summer Vacation Writing and Watermelon Art
You can see the brainstorm we did underneath the watermelon art and writing. It was all the fun places we went during the summer. It was also great for kids to use it as a mini word wall and come up to copy the spelling of places they went as they were writing. I highly recommend using mini word banks during writing. Hope you all had a fun summer vacation! Now it's BACK TO SCHOOL!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fish and Aquarium Activities

I loved these aquarium fish activities they had at Oriental Trading. I got them for my class a few years ago and the kids loved making them. They turned out so cute on a bulletin board too. The link for the Make Your Own Aquarium Sticker set is HERE. Another craft idea they had on making an aquarium out of craft sticks is HERE for a cute aquarium idea.
                                                       Make-A-Fish-Aquarium Stickers

 In the past when I've run out of funds I have used some pieces of blue craft foam I was given by a parent and I just cut out the shape of a goldfish bowl, 1 for each student. Then I bought foam fish in assorted colors for kids to put in their aquariums as they wished. It wasn't super pretty, but it was fun and we used up some old foam that way. You could also do bookmarks. I've cut out 7 x 2 1/2 inch rectangles and had kids peel and stick the foam fish on those. Then I punched a hole in one end with a hold puncher and kids added 3 colors of blue yarn and braided it and added a bead to the bottom. It turned out okay too. 

This idea is from Oriental Trading... I cut my own aquariums one year out of blue foam and had the kids attach peel and stick ocean animals  foam fish at Oriental Trading.

But my favorite aquariums were ones we made last year.  We painted paper plates blue and when they dried we added xeroxed copies of fish and coral or seaweed to the circles.  Next time I would add some colorful tiny aquarium rocks from the fish store along the bottom and maybe even some brightly colored glitter stickers of tinier fish around the main colored fish. A link for some cool peel and stick peel and stick cute foam fish are HERE. That would add a lot.

 The link to Our Classroom Aquariums is HERE. And here are some pictures. This was such a fun project.
Other activities could include;

We used thin cuts of crepe paper to make our seaweed looking strips...

By the the the beautiful sea....

It is at this LINK HERE. 

I found a cute website that had some downloadable "fish" for you to make your "fishing" game.  You could then get a dowel and a magnet and some string and make a fishing pole for your students for answering questions.  She has other free printable animals too. It's a fun site.

Meet the Dubiens blogger Jill Dubien made up this fishing pole with real twigs.
 Her Blog tutorial for a cool magnet Fishing Pole is HERE.

Fishing Pole and Fish 


Oh, what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green?
Do you fish in the stream, or lazily dream on the banks as the clouds go by?Is that what you do? So do I! Oh, what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green?Do you swim in a pool, to keep yourself cool, or swing in a tree up high? Is that what you do? So do I! Oh, what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green? Do you march in parades, or drink lemonades, or count all the stars in the sky? Is that what you do? So do I!

This is a really fun song to do in the summer because all the kids are busy doing all of these very same things. 

Fishing Pole and Fishing for Answering Questions about Ocean Animals

The kids love to come up and use the dowel with string and a round magnet tied onto the end. Then the laminated fish of every kind have large paper clips on them. The kids "GO FISHING " to try to get the magnet to attach on to the metal paper clips and they have "caught" a fish. They love watching each other try to fish. You can use these fish during Music Time and have different songs taped on the back.

Here I am demonstrating my dowel and how to use the FISHING POLE FOR the  Children's Choir at church. Everybody always wants a turn!

Fishing for Songs or for questions...
Have fun fishing this summer! We'll be up at Bear Lake "fishing in the streams" and riding our jet skis there!

Grandpa with little Megan

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