Thursday, February 4, 2016

Stellar Planet Projects

This week in reading, we read a story called The Night the Moon Fell. This story is a myth that explains why we have stars. It's a fun story, but I wanted to do more with it. I decided to set the stage to engage by making the room look like outer space. However, since the classroom environment was going to be so engaging, the work they had to do needed to be difficult. I couldn't surround us with stars and then just have students pull the theme from task cards.

One of my teammates helped me with this classroom transformation. We hung up blackout curtains (since the trash bags didn't work well enough last time). We put glow in the dark stars and planets around the room. We also hung some white Christmas lights from the ceiling. I borrowed another teacher's blacklights again. (I'm planning on creating a Donor's Choose project to get some classroom flip items.) I also bought 2 little toys that shine stars on the ceiling.

The Christmas lights gave us a little bit more light to work by.

Stars on the ceiling

As you can see, the sunlight is strong out here in the desert! I also am in an Eastward facing classroom, so the sun is especially bright in the morning. I'm not really sure how I'm going to keep the light from just streaming in. I could double up on curtains or use the trash bags and the curtains to block the light-that is probably what I will try next time.

Since my teammate and I were working together this time, we had 46 students in the room. We watched some intro videos and talked about the 8 planets. Students then filled out a card with their first and second choice of planets to research. After that, we put on a 20 minute video so we could group the students in pairs. 

I decided to have the students research, write reports, and create PowerPoint presentations about their chosen planet. My class did a research project in the fall on Mexico, the United States, and Cameroon. However, they worked in groups of 7 or 8 to complete their research, reports, and a poster. I also did not have students research online last time. Instead, I printed out information for them to read through.

This time, I decided to have students use to research in pairs. I created a list of 10 questions for students to answer. The students were asked to equally share the responsibility of answering the questions.

I really liked the search results that came up on Kiddle. Many students asked for help finding information, but I think it was because they didn't know how to read the articles to look for answers to their questions. I checked student's answers as they were working, and I did find students making errors.  For example, many students said their planet had one moon or that a year lasted 1 year/365 days and that a day lasted 1 day/24 hours. So, when I saw students with the wrong answers, I told them that I didn't think they were correct, and we searched for the information together. Overall, the students did an excellent job on their first (almost) independent research project!

I created these PowerPoint backgrounds and added word/photo layouts so that students could easily add text and photos to the PowerPoint. Once students answered all of their questions, they started on their PowerPoint presentations. Students were instructed to use the answers to their questions as information in the slides. I showed the students how to download images of planets from Kiddle, and then insert them in the designated spot on their slides. I also went over the PowerPoint rubric with the students before they even began their research.

We borrowed 5th grade's laptop cart so that everyone could research their planet at the same time. It was time consuming! We had to open kiddle on each laptop (although I think my students could have navigated to the website). And we had to use a usb drive to put the PowerPoint presentation on each desktop. Then, when our laptop time was up, we had to go around and save the presentations back to the usb drive. Ugh! It would have been so much easier if we could have used Google Classroom. Unfortunately, my district hasn't figured Google Classroom out yet. (Our school website is on the District website, and we don't have an alternate one.)

It took 2 entire mornings for the students to finish their research and presentations. As students finished, they started on construction paper posters for their planets. The students still need to write a report about their planet. For now, I plan on using these mini reports from Only Passionate Curiosity. However, I did create a rubric for independent reports. Some of my higher students/fast finishers might be more interested in that.

Students completed their mini reports on Friday. Some students realized that they hadn't written down enough information under their questions. For example, for the temperature of the planet, there was a pair who wrote "warm to cold". Therefore, we had to look up the planet information again for some students.

Planet Posters

Total Engagement!

Throughout this past week, I worked with students on some speaking skills. We worked on projecting our voices so that students in all parts of the room could hear what we were saying. We practiced making eye contact and not hiding behind our papers.

On Thursday at 1:00, six groups of students went to classrooms throughout the school to make presentations about their planets to the students in those classrooms. The students used their own slideshows (I did edit the shows for spelling/grammar). I printed out the slides and each student read one, while it was one person's job to run the show. I only watched one group, but I was told that they all did a great job! The principal even sat it in on one of the presentations. I am so proud of our second graders!


I love how intent the presenters and the kindergarten audience is!

Problems/What Didn't Work

Besides the technology problems of getting the laptops up and running, the biggest problem was that students accidentally deleted their slides! There were 5 slides in the presentation, and I helped probably 8 groups get back slides they had deleted. Unfortunately, I could find no way to add the slides in from the original file. If I had the background that I'd created, then I could have formatted the slides. However, I only brought the slideshow, not the backgrounds.

Some students had a harder time than others with downloading and inserting pictures. There were a couple of groups that I had to help download every picture they used in their show. Our students also do not have typing skills. Our district has a typing program that we are supposed to use. Unfortunately, we haven't found the time to use it between the math and reading computer programs students have to use each day, too. Nevertheless, I think students actually did pretty well with typing on their PowerPoints.

Another problem was having to go around with the flash drive to save every single slideshow. We have to figure out another way for students to be able to access a digital file, work on it, and turn it in! It was exhausting to go around to each pair. My school district said that I can't use Google Classroom. So I set up a class email and dropbox account for next time.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Super Spy Sequencing

We had a lot of fun being spies. My room decor for the spy theme was completely inspired by Elementary Shenanigans. Hope King gives a lot of great tips on how to decorate your room as a spy lab.  I probably needed some more black lights, as the ones I had really weren't strong enough. Hope's tip about spraying trash bags with water so they suction to the windows was perfect! Unfortunately, the black lawn trash bags I used did little to slow down the strong desert sun coming in from clear skies. I will definitely have to use drapes/sheets/blankets to cover my windows for a blackout in the future. (These first 3 photos were taken the night before the activity, that's why they're so dark.)
So, in case you choose not to check out Hope's blog (which I highly recommend you take a look at), here is what I did for my spy theme: I taped white yarn up around the room and used 2 black lights to turn the yarn into lasers. I put trash bags over the windows, but they didn't do enough to darken the room. The students had glow sticks and agent in training name tags waiting for them on their desks. My students worked in groups of 3, so each group received a 3-LED work light to help them see. Unfortunately, I forgot to turn on my spy music, so we didn't have that ambiance.
I asked one of the other second grade teachers to take my students for breakfast and explain to them that she didn't know where I was. I then asked the principal to come and introduce me to my class after announcements. Regrettably, there were lots of substitutes in our school that day, so I introduced myself to the class while the principal was making sure that each classroom was covered. I was dressed in a collared shirt, suit jacket, and dress pants. I had my hair put up in a bun, and I wore black sunglasses.
I introduced myself to the students as Special Agent Jones. I told the students that the Secret Service needed their help on some tasks. Before students were allowed to enter the spy lab, they had to pass the security clearance. I used an iPhone app called Phone Security to scan the students' fingerprints. I told them that if they failed the clearance once, then they would be sent to the back of the line, but if they failed the clearance twice, then they would not be allowed to enter the lab.

For this app, you have to tap in the silver box at the top before each fingerprint scan. It scans the student's finger for about 10 seconds and then takes another 5 seconds to analyze the fingerprint. I would definitely play with the app before using it on students! The app says to tap at the top of the page, but it took me a few tries to figure out that it works best if you tap in the box. The first 2 students I had scan their fingerprints were both denied access. I also had 1 or 2 more students "fail the security check". Fortunately, none of my students were denied a second time, so all students were allowed to enter the lab.
I think the security clearance is an absolutely necessary part of the show. The finger scans built  up so much suspense in my kids. Several students said they were nervous or scared while waiting their turn. And the kids went crazy when they walked into the secret lab and saw the lasers! Before letting anyone in, I told students, "Please do not touch the lasers, as I would hate to have to deliver anyone to the hospital for loss of a limb." :-) I instructed students to hang up their backpacks and find their seats immediately upon entering the classroom.
Once all students had passed the security clearance, I asked them to put on their name tags and told them that each student had a glow stick on his/her desk.  I explained to the students that our secret files had gotten mixed up, and the Secret Service needed their help to put the files back in order. I told the students that once they finished this task, there would be more tasks. I explained to the students that I didn't know where their teacher was, but she was supposed to meet me at the school today. I also said that their teacher had told me how good they were at Sequencing and Drawing Conclusions, so I needed their help.

I divided the students into their teams and gave them each a confidential file to put back in order. Each file contained eight pieces that came together to form a story. Each of the stories were true stories from my childhood/teenage years (I didn't tell the students that, though). I made sure to use sequencing words or refer to something that already happened in the story. For example, one file said "Then they loaded the balloons in the car." and the file that followed it said "Once the balloons were in the car, the boys drove to the school." That second sentence didn't start with a sequencing word, but it used part of the previous sentence to ensure students could easily determine the order.
Each page of the file was divided into 4 pieces, so the "files" were each 1/4 of a piece of cardstock. I realize that it would have been more authentic if each file was a full page, but I couldn't think of a way to do that for my 2nd graders. (Not one of my students commented on the size of the "files", so I guess that is me overthinking this.)
When students finished their files, I checked that everything was in the correct order. If the files weren't in the correct order, then I pointed out which files were wrong. When students had all of their files in sequence, I asked them to stack the files in the folder and bring it to the table.
Students then received a riddle (to use their drawing conclusions skills) and a secret message. The riddle led students to a key for the secret code. The secret code was a simple backwards alphabet code. In the photo above, the top left shows the secret code answer. The secret code said, "Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find the missing spelling and vocabulary words using your book."
After figuring out the code students were given a spy story called "Life of a Spy" that I wrote-it's the bottom left picture. The story is about a spy on his way to work in the morning. There were 7 blanks, and each was filled by a spelling or vocabulary word from our story of the week. I have to tell you, our weekly story was not about spies! It was called Life Cycle of a Pumpkin, and the vocabulary words were harvest, fruit, root, soil, smooth, bumpy, and vine. My point is that for an activity like this, your story does not have to have anything to do with the text the students are getting their words from. I put the page number for the missing word after the blank. My students definitely thought this was the hardest activity of the bunch. There were several times where I had students read me the sentence with the blank and asked them if their word made sense in that sentence.
Once students finished the story, they were given the Spy Tasks page. Students had to cut out the descriptions of each of their tasks for the day and glue them in the right order (sequencing). Once glued in order, a sentence was formed from underlined words in each task. The sentence said, "You get money to buy reward coupons." Next time I do this activity, I would keep this page, but remove the reward. The students didn't really need this type of reward for their work. Instead, maybe we could celebrate the first team to finish all the tasks.
Once students turned in their task page and received their money, they were given the Spy Comic page. They were instructed to create a comic about a spy, then cut up the comic, and have someone else put the comic back in order. Students did ask what the comic had to be about. I told the students that they could draw a comic about their activities today or they could draw a fictional comic about a spy. While students were working on their comics, I called teams up to purchase their coupons.
I had asked another second grade teacher to meet us in the computer lab so that she could watch my class while I put the classroom back in order. I returned to the room and pulled everything down and put it all in the cabinet. I then changed clothes (including my hairstyle) and went to pick up my kids. (The cleanup took me about 20 minutes, so having a special or sending students to another class is important.) The spy lab lasted about 2 hours.
Now back as their regular teacher, I told the students that I was late because of car trouble. They told me that a spy had visited them this morning. I told them to stop making stuff up, haha. They showed me their glow sticks and coupons. I told them I couldn't believe one of the other 2nd grade teachers had given them those. Why would she do that?! Of course many students told me that they knew I was the spy all along. I played dumb and never admitted to them that I was the secret agent who was in their room all morning.
My principal did come in about 20 minutes after we started our activities. She apologized for missing the introduction and sat down to watch the students work for a while. After she left, she sent any teacher she saw to visit my room. She said she told them, "Go see what Ms. Rydholm is doing!" :-) The principal later came back and did a formal walkthrough while the students were still working on their spy tasks.
Overall, this lesson was a complete success! I did offer my assistance on the activities, but the students were generally able to work everything out on their own. Because the environment was so exciting, I did have some boys who could hardly contain themselves. I think the other students were pretty good about helping their team get back on track. Maybe next time I will have each team elect a leader whose job it is to keep the group together and working the whole time. As I said earlier, I also would not offer any kind of tangible reward for completing the tasks next time.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Our first STEM project

I spent some of my Christmas break working on personal professional development-especially since I was literally snowed-in for the second week of the break. I spent some time reading Ron Clark's books, working on Google Classroom training, learning about STEM, and planning for the spring semester.
So, I was excited to come back and put some of my research and planning into practice. Fridays are busy days for my class, but I knew they would be the best days for our STEM projects, also. I told my students that we would do a special activity, but I didn't give them any hints as to what that activity might be.
When the time came, I divided the students into groups of 3 and explained to them that they would be working together to make catapults. We discussed what catapults were, what their materials were, and that their goal was to see how far they could throw a "snowball" with their catapult. Students were allowed to use scissors and tape, but no other materials that hadn't been given to them. I used the materials list from Teacher's Clubhouse Stem Challenge.
The students got to work. Some groups were quicker to try out their ideas than other groups were. Since this was my second graders' first time experiencing a project like this, there were some students who weren't sure how to begin. Those students wanted exact instructions or for someone else to do it for them. I encouraged those students to try out their ideas and see what happened.

The groups had 20 minutes to build their catapults. Some groups did not need the entire time to make their catapults. I encouraged those groups to find ways to make their catapults better during the remaining minutes. I didn't give my groups any assistance on creating their catapults or fixing problems. If they couldn't get the catapult to launch, they figured out how to fix it on their own.

The class sat on the carpet while each group demonstrated their catapults for us. Some catapults launched perfectly every single time. Other catapults took several tries to get the "snowball" to launch at all. However, each group was able to get their catapult to launch at least once. The quality of the catapults was definitely not the same in each group, even though each group had the same materials to work with. I found that some students did not meet my expectations, while others surprised me. Overall, our first STEM experiment was a total success!

I had students reflect on their projects. Students wrote down what worked well, what didn't work, and what they would do differently.

I can't wait to do more STEM projects with my students!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Amazing first semester!

Well, it's only been a year and a half, so I figure it's probably time for an update.

This semester has been fantastic. I'm loving my class this year! I really needed such a good class after last year.

Let's start with summer school! Our district offers summer school for students entering kindergarten through third grade. It's not remedial school; instead, it's supposed to act like an extended school year. So, students begin working on the skills and standards for the grade they are going into. Summer school lasts 5 full weeks. This was my first year teaching summer school, and I loved it! I had 23 students on my roster, but only ever had 16 in one day. I usually averaged about 12 students.

Despite getting strep throat (for the first time in my life) on the second day of summer school, we had a great time. We did subject rotations for the 3 second grade classes that we had. One teacher taught math, and myself and another teacher team-taught reading. Some fun activities we did: Read in a full-size tent, made S'mores, played a fun sight word game that involved water, grew bean plants, made fossils, explored incline and friction with Hot Wheels and tracks, put on a play, met Smokey the Bear, had a 4th of July sing-a-long, and went to see the new Minions movie.

I managed to create some things this summer, too. I used Appilicious Teacher's Interactive Anchor Charts. There wasn't a fact and opinion one included in her first set, but I needed one. So I created my own! I had a lot of poster board in my classroom, so I glued everything on the black posters and laminated them. I love the way they turned out! And they have come in really handy this year.

When I began teaching author's purpose this year, I realized I needed a chart for that, too! So, using inspiration from Pinterest, I created my own.
I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to Anchor Charts now. Check it out here!

Now let's go on a tour of my classroom!
 Here's the door to my classroom. I love how it turned out! You probably won't be surprised to hear that my door still looks like this. (Also, the class doorman is the best thing ever! It allows students to easily come and go from the classroom, but is also easy to remove for lockdowns. I bought mine from Teacheropolis on TPT, but it seems as though she only sells them on Etsy now.)

 I can't believe it, but my desks are still in groups of 4 and 5! I've never kept the same setup for this long before. I've moved the students' desks around, but kept the same configuration.
 This was in in-progress picture; it only says "our" above the students' work displays.
 On top of my bookshelf are the students' masks from the play they did in summer school. I saved them for when we did the story again during the school year.

These adorable objectives are from Inspired Owl's Corner on TPT. I looked high and low for the perfect objectives, and these were it! Two of my three grade-level team bought additional licenses so that they could use these cute objectives posters in their classrooms, too! (I created the labels for the objectives myself.) And the book boxes are from Really Good Stuff! They were an investment, but I love them.
I took a photo of every student in front of this on the first day of school. I'm going to cross out "first" and the date and take pictures of them at the end of the year, too. Then I'll send home a cute project with these.

My coworker had a chart that she used with her students that showed the letter grades next to a boat. As, Bs, and Cs were "floating grades", while Ds and Fs were sinking grades. I took that concept and made it my own. I have this poster in my classroom, and I created student data tracking pages to reflect their understanding of this concept. I have to say, that I think the poster really helps my second graders understand their grades.

In their data folders (for reading and math tests), students record the date, their numerical grade, whether the grade was a pass or fail, and how they feel about their grade (happy, neutral, or sad faces).
You can also see on the student's desk a sign I created that students use when they are working independently. The sign says "I'm Working", "I'm Done", and "I Need Help!". The help side stands straight up so that it is easy to see which students need help. The idea was to cut down on student wait time. Students don't raise their hands and wait for help. They turn their sign, skip the question, and keep working. We aren't using them as much these days because the students are doing great working independently. However, they really would have helped me out last year!

 I created labels like this for everything! (I collect the students' school supplies...not all of them-the crayons and scissors labels are for extras. And I pass them out as needed.) This is also what the labels on the objectives board look like.
I made this flip book to give to parents at the beginning of the year. I printed them on bright paper. It is 3 pages. Each page is double sided and folds at a different point. I love how they turned out!

We had a lot of fun learning about arrays this year. We started off finding arrays in the classroom. Then we went around the school taking photos of arrays we noticed around the school. I think the students' favorite activity was creating the city arrays.

Students completed their first research project in November. The students worked in groups to complete a research paper frame and create a poster for their country. We chose the US and Mexico because students have lots of family here/there. We chose Cameroon because we have a new student at our school from there!

Students also disguised turkeys this year! They completed their turkeys at home and brought them to school to write about. I think they all turned out so cute! We used graphic organizers to plan out our 3 paragraph stories about our turkeys. I am so proud of how far the kids have come in their writing this year!

I created my first Donor's Choose project, and it was fully-funded after Thanksgiving! Our items arrived very quickly. We got some furniture for students to use as alternative seating. Right now, the furniture is staying at the kidney table as the students get used to the idea of moving in their seats and working at the same time. After Christmas break, I will begin to let the students request to use the furniture to help them while they are working.

(Please excuse my very messy kidney table! Also, the dry erase dots I put on the table are already peeling up. :-( And my students don't pick at them.) The most popular seats are the exercise balls and the black and chrome stools. While the wobble stool and balance cushion are recommended as alternative seating options, I'm glad I followed my teacher's intuition and requested the spinning stools, too.

Finally, we studied the gingerbread man stories. Students created gingerbread man traps and then presented them to the class.

 One of my students latched onto the saying I posted on the wall and began telling all of the students that they were spicy. The other students' responses to him were just  as funny as listening to him tell everyone "You're spicy!" He even visited another second grade classroom to tell those students that they were spicy, too. Haha

And this is how I feel today!

Lastly, I've decided to become a TPT seller. (Hence the new blog name and icon: Astonishing Seconds. I'm branding myself. ) I don't anticipate a lot of sales, but I'm excited to share my creations with the world.