Monday, November 11, 2013

Thankful for Apps

I have downloaded numerous educational apps, free and paid. Some are awesome, while some get deleted right away. Here are the three apps I am most thankful for this November.

 Word Wizard App

1) The Word Wizard Talking Alphabet App is $2.99, but it's worth every penny! It makes "Making Words" lessons a breeze. Put your magnetic letters and cards in the closet because these app has a talking alphabet that makes working with words so much easier! 

2) Next up is a FREE app that I use for educational and personal purposes . It's called Zite, and I use it every single day. Zite is an personalized, intelligent magazine that brings you daily articles on topics that interest YOU. You click on the topics you enjoy reading about (for example: DIY, Education, World News, Celebrities, Beauty). Zite analyzes articles from top blogs, magazines, newspapers, videos, and more. This is a MUST have for any reader! 

3) Subtext is another FREE app that seems too good to be true. Subtext supports Common Core, close reading, citing evidence, and guided reading lessons. It allows you to take any text from internet articles, PDF, and eBooks and upload it into the app. You can then annotate, cite, highlight, comment, and share the text. I tried it out with an article from TweenTribune Jr. Subtext took the article and transferred it into a very kid friendly text. Subtext makes modeling close reads & analyzing text smooth, clear, and effortless.  I can't wait to dive into it with my reading groups! 

Example of text I uploaded from Tween Tribune Jr

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Analyzing Illustrations

Since mid-September I've had two nights of Parent-Teacher Conferences, Fall Festival, STEM Family Night, STEM Day, two field trips, and two family birthday parties. Plus throw in my everyday grading, planning, collaborating, etc. And my beloved dog, Lucy, passed away during all this commotion. Fall break is finally here, and all I can say is "Whew . . . . now I can breathe!" Thank goodness for these breaks, or I wouldn't survive!

I'm still trying to develop strategies and create lesson plans that really teach the new Common Core Standards. Sometimes I read a standard and think, "What else can I do to teach this???" or "What in the world does that mean???" One of these standards is:  

 RL.2.7 Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot.

After deconstructing this standard, I decided to focus on the first part- Use information gained from illustrations to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot. At first I thought that this was something I teach with every picture book. However, I researched the standard a bit more from the "Common Core Lesson Book K-5" from Heinemann. 

This is a very useful resource for teaching ELA Common Core. There's also a Common Core Writing Lesson Book available. The author gives strategies that deepen understanding of illustrations. It goes beyond the usual questions teachers may ask about illustrations. I created an "Analyzing Illustrations Set" which includes two anchor charts, questions for a Book Cover Study, a quick independent activity, and a suggested book list. Click HERE to grab this FREEBIE.

Lastly, I'd like to post this picture of my beautiful baby pup, Lucy. She was a one-of-a-kind dog. I'll always love her!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Word About Word Walls

Every year I set up a Word Wall with the best intentions. However, I have always struggled with making it actually usable. I think I finally have it down! So here's what I'm doing to "Make it Work!" (as Tim Gunn says).

  • I use a chalk board or dry erase board so I can easily add & remove words
  • I use colored chalk or markers to color code my words- one color is for high frequency words, another is for enrichment vocabulary words. I bought Bistro board style chalk markers from Hobby Lobby (see pic below). They are perfect!
  • When the wall is full, I'll take a picture of it, print it, and have it available in the room for kids to refer back to during writing.
  • Pictures- I'm going to try adding pictures next to the enrichment vocab words as visual cues.
  • Get your enrichment vocabulary words from read alouds. Thank you Junie B. for the word suspicious!
  • Use SOME of the vocabulary words from your basal story. Be selective!
  • Sparkle Words- Reward students who actually use the enrichment vocabulary words in their writing. A skittle goes as long way!
  • Feature words by putting a magnet, pom-pom, etc. next to a word. If a student uses it, they get props (or a skittle)!
Yellow is for high frequency words and pink is for enrichment vocabulary words.

They are bright and beautiful!

Sparkle word & reward students who use it in their writing

Side Note: There's a "I'm Invisible" light button on my board. I turn it on when I'm testing or in small group. For some reason, 7 year olds don't understand "Do not interrupt me." But they understand a light! Thanks to my grade level team mate for sharing this idea!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

BYE-BYE Name Tags!

One of my pet peeves is when name tags start to curl, peel, and  look like they just came out of the trash can. This all usually happens by October.
Introducing: "Sharpie Paint Pens"!

I got this pack at Hobby Lobby with a 40% off coupon. Don't forget the coupon! Then they only cost $12. Did you know that if you don't have a coupon, you can just bring it up on your smart phone at the register? 

I first saw this fab idea at the blog "Timeouts and Tootsie Rolls". My friend, Madalyn, and I decided to try this out this year. Then Madalyn had the great idea of color coding names so that we could create groups by color. So now we can say, "Purple People" pick up your group's papers.", or "Orange people will work together."


All you need is a Magic Eraser or nail polish remover to wipe off the names when you're ready to switch around seats. I've discovered that nail polish remover works best!

BYE-BYE name tags!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Freshen Up With New Fabric!

I love my classroom theme. After 14 years of teaching, I can finally say that and mean it. The Wizard of Oz is my favorite movie, so I found ways to decorate with it, but without over doing it. I also use these colors:  light blue (Dorothy's dress), red (ruby slippers), yellow (yellow brick road), and green (emerald city). These colors are easy to find when shopping for school accessories. I thought about changing the color scheme to a more trendy turquoise, yellow, and white. However, I thought I might grow tired of it after one year.

While I love my overall theme, I still have the desire for something new and fresh. Enter new bulletin board fabric. My other half, Madalyn, and I took a quick trip to Hobby Lobby (Is it ever really quick?). Check out the fabric I bought!

I chose colors that stick to my Wizard of Oz theme, but with a pop of trendy design. The red ribbon is going to be the border for the blue chevron bulletin board. I wish I could remember where I saw that idea online. For the yellow polka dot fabric, I'm going to try wrapping it over the edges past the silver metal part,  go without a border, and add a corner accent. This idea came from two cousins at The Newly Wife Blog

Click here to visit blog

Don't you love the studded border? It's made of pushpins! These two bulletin boards, a new floor plan, and getting rid of my teacher desk (yes! I took the plunge!) will give me that much desired newness for a new and exciting school year. Decorating your classroom for the new school year is like getting a new dress for the first day of school. It just puts you in a renewed state of mind. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

First Day of School Activities

Picture this: It's the first day of school and your students are arriving with their parents. The kids are lugging in bags of supplies, you're chatting with parents, and you're trying to get everyone settled and busy. Every year I struggle with the constant flow of parents coming in to meet me and ask questions. So I decided to come up with an activity that would keep students busy, engaged, but  not overwhelmed. I also kept in mind some ELA Common Core training that I recently received. One of my areas to grow is the opportunities I give students for speaking and listening. My plan is to have the following "This is Me!" graphic organizer on students' desks as they arrive. Then students will have the opportunity to share them with the class (hit those Speaking & Listening standards!). I'm also going to give out play-dough for students to create their favorite animal and to tell their groups WHY it's their favorite. Click on the picture & link below to download my "Back to School Activities" pack.

  Click here to download FREEBIE

For the first piece of writing, students may use the graphic organizer to write a paragraph about themselves. I like to collect  a first day writing sample from my students so I can determine where each student is with writing. Plus, who doesn't like writing about his/her self?

The next handout is a short back to school math task. This will help keep those early finishers busy!

Lastly, on the first day, I enjoy reading the book Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox. This is a must-read! After the read aloud, I share a Memory Bag with three things that tell about my memories (this is my modeling how to share). We discuss that a memory is something you remember and how memories can be happy, sad, funny, etc. I send home a brown paper bag with each student and staple a note to the front explaining their homework- Collect 3 objects that represent your memories. The following day, students share their Memory Bags. I take this opportunity to explain what makes a good listener (there's a good anchor chart I found on Pinterest about good listeners). This share time will provide another opportunity to hit those Speaking & Listening Common Core standards. Yay!!!

I hope you enjoy this free pack of activities and ideas. They are great way for getting to know your students and building those relationships!

Speaking of memories, here's a picture of one of my Yorkie babies, Elphie. She brings me joy every day!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Getting Organized with a Teacher Binder

How do you keep all those important papers organized throughout the year? When you go to a meeting, do you have to scour your desk and files for just the right paper work? I hate losing things and not being prepared. So after browsing Pinterest, I found the Teacher Binder idea. A Teacher Binder  is a binder (with divided sections) to keep your most used & important papers. This past school year was the first time I used a Teacher Binder, and let me tell you, I will never do without one! Here's a photo of my heavily used, but sturdy, binder:


Click here to download this freebie

With the new school year quickly approaching, I got the itch to create some new Teacher Binder designs. You can download these for free at my TPT store. There are three different designs- Multi Chevron,  Chevron, and Apple Dots. I've included 12 different divider pages- Teacher Binder, Student information, Student Data, Common Core Standards, Lesson Ideas, Groups, Classroom Management, Meeting Notes, Resources, Parent Communication, Calendars, and a blank page. After you print the dividers, put them in page protectors, and you're all set! I added small tabs to label the sections on the sides. When you walk into your first team meeting with your new Teacher Binder, everyone will be impressed with your organization! I promise. :)

Click here to download this Teacher Binder freebie

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome all to my Project Second Grade blog! This is my first entry, so here's a little about myself. I teach second grade, and I'm in my 15th glorious year of teaching (half way to retirement!). I have experience with grades first through fifth as a Reading Specialist, 4th grade, and the best grade of all- 2nd grade. I will be sharing photos, ideas, freebies, inspiration, common core activities, management ideas, and much more! Even though my heart belongs to second grade, many ideas can be used in ANY grade. I encourage you to take any ideas and make them work for you and your classroom.

Speaking of making it work, this leads me into why I've titled my blog "Project Second Grade". Well, I am a TV junkie, and I love me some Project Runway. I love how the designers are given a variety of challenges and asked to make something beautiful. Isn't that what we do in teaching? We take all sorts of challenges and transform our students into beautiful life long learners. Sometimes you're given a lot, some times not so much. But whatever you have, you gotta make it work! Tim Gunn serves as the designers' mentor and provides constant feedback throughout the challenges. His best known quote is "Make it work!", no matter what.

So here's to "Making it Work" in all that we do! Please check back often for updates and ideas. Thank you for visiting "Project Second Grade"!