Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Project-Based Learning - Soil

I've been working on how to EFFICIENTLY create PBL units that my 2nd graders will enjoy doing -- while learning at the same time.  The Garden Challenge is a work in progress that I started today. I'm sure it will grow and change over the next few weeks when I implement it in the classroom. I think it's ready to go, so feel free to use/modify if you'd like. Let me know if you find typos or have suggested changes. :) Thanks! Be sure to check back to see how this turns out.

 Link to PBL Garden Challenge: has some excellent articles that can easily be added into ELA instruction. These are the ones I assigned to my class:

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Morning Message - Compare and Contrast Conventions

Writing a letter to your students is a wonderful way to build relationships with them! You can also use this time to review important skills. Tomorrow morning, my 2nd graders will review motions for the parts of a friendly letter. They'll also practice reading it with a partner. Each time they find punctuation, they'll pause. We'll talk about how the punctuation helps us know when to breathe.

Then, they'll read the same letter with a partner, but this time it'll be missing capital letters and punctuation. The goal is for the students to see how important it is to add punctuation. Punctuation reminds us to breathe. :) If you use this strategy with your students, remember to start with the strong example. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

How Do You Fit It All In? Scheduling ...

The schedule below allows me to meet with every group every day in English/Language Arts. In math, I pull groups based on data. Sometimes I'm reteaching skills and sometimes I'm teaching the students in the advanced-readiness group 3rd grade skills. Integrating content in ELA is crucial to make sure that all content is taught.

Open-Ended vs. Closed Research Questions

If you live in Texas, 2nd and 3rd graders are expected to generate open-ended research questions. In 2nd grade, they do this with assistance, but by 3rd grade, they're expected to write their own. Closed questions typically have one answer and open-ended questions have multiple answers. Open-ended questions should encourage students to use critical-thinking skills. Well, I don't live in Texas, but research indicates that we have to get students asking questions.

How do you teach a child to generate these types of questions? Typically, how and why words are a good place to start.

You'll want to model how to create open-ended questions. One of my favorite teaching quotes is by Dr. Rich Allen. He said,  "If you're not modeling, you're teaching something else." That's so true! 

In my 25 years of teaching, I've used the QAR (Question, Answer, Relationship) strategy and Thick and Thin Questions. Typically, these lend themselves well to fictional stories. A quick Google search should yield you a plethora of ideas that are ready to use. I didn't have much luck finding information on open-ended vs. closed research questions, so I wrote this blog post to help you (and me) get started.

The last four questions are content related. I'm planning to present this idea to my 2nd graders and let them generate their own questions for our next science or social studies unit. Then, I'll take some of their questions to create a question sort for them.  Whoever is doing the most work is doing the most learning. This question sort will make a wonderful center idea! 

Closed vs. Open Question Examples:

Closed:  Who is the author of ______?
Open:  Why do you think the author wrote _________? Use details from your research to support your answer.

Closed:  What is Project-Based Learning?
Open:  How can Project-Based Learning benefit students?

Closed:  How many snow days are built into a school calendar?
Open:  Why is it important to have snow days built into the school calendar?

Closed:  Who is ________?
Open:  What kind of person is ______? What evidence do you have that leads you to this conclusion?

Closed:  Do predators help the ecosystem?

Open:  How do predators help the ecosystem?

Closed:  What is a magnet?
Open:  How are magnets used?

Closed:  What is soil?
Open:  Why is it important to have humus or topsoil in a garden?

Closed:  Where do alligators live?
Open:  Why do alligators live in warmer climates?

Free Math Center Idea -- Multiple Sort

This center covers so many standards. Students can sequence number from least to greatest. Once their multiples are up, they can work together to remove a number from the multiple list for a friend to figure out. Yesterday, my principal even suggested letting kids create their own patterns. 

An anchor chart provides support for students with early-readiness skills.

As I'm adding more math center ideas into my classroom, I decided a multiple sort is just what my students need to become fluent in multiplication. They WANT to learn multiplication, but I tell them that they CAN'T until they master addition and subtraction fluency. 
Then, I do a whole-class mini-lesson showing them how multiples and multiplication are related.  I love watching their excitement as they learn something new. Now, I won't let them PRACTICE multiplication/division number bonds as a center choice until they demonstrate fluency in addition/subtraction. However, they CAN CHOOSE them if they have free-choice time. It's amazing what students will learn when they don't "have" to learn it. 

I plan to print each set of multiple cards on a different color of paper. For example, 3s will be on green, 4s will be on pink, 5s will be on blue, and so on. I also plan to make a prettier anchor chart to hang up in the room -- the one above is the one I made with the students. Some day I am going to master efficiently making anchor charts in class that actually look nice enough to display. Since I'm 25 years into teaching, the likelihood of this actually happening is slim. :) That's okay -- it's still a goal of mine. 

You could do the multiple sort on a clothesline. Laureen Reynolds, author of Creating Classroom Centers, gave a clothesline idea that can be used for many types of sorting activities. Once cards are made, students use clothespins to hang the cards in correct multiple order. Then, they can check them against the anchor chart to make sure they're correct. This is a simple, engaging center idea that is self-checking. 

Link to online class, Creating Classroom Centers:

*Photos used with permission from Nixa Public Schools.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Turn Your Classroom into a Brain-Friendly Zone

As years pass, your students may not remember what you taught them, but they will remember how you made them feel. As teachers, our jobs are to ignite a passion for learning so students will learn for the rest of their lives. Students are empowered to learn in a brain-friendly zone. Setting up a brain-friendly classroom isn't hard. Some guiding principles are:

  1. Build Relationships
  2. Safety Matters
  3. Learn from Your Mistakes
  4. Get Students Moving
  5. Allow Choice
  6. Provide Real-Life Learning
  7. Give Descriptive Feedback
  8. Use Patterns
  9. Reduce Clutter
  10. Take Time to Celebrate
  11. Encourage Healthy Eating
  12. Play Some Music

What's Missing? Identifying Foundational Skills Gaps in Reading & Writing

Link to Foundational Skills Rubrics:

Easy-to-Prepare, Easy-to-Implement Content-Area Interventions

I will uploading information from the session here. If you need information sooner, please email: Thanks!

City Government Cheers:

Spectacular Hands-On Science!

Science Picture Books:

Project-Based Learning for TODAY'S Students

Engineering PBL Draft:


PBL Links: