Friday, March 27, 2015

Five for Friday! {March 27, 2015}

I'm happy to finally link up again with Doodle Bugs Teaching and Five for Friday! It has been a very busy week as we approach Spring Break, and we're all feeling the pressure to do as much as we can before the end of the year. Here is a peek at my week.

I really look forward to breakfasts like these overnight oats. They're such a treat in the morning! And the possibilities for flavors are practically endless... oats with fruit, brown sugar & cinnamon, coconut milk vs. regular milk, etc. What do you do for breakfast? Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person who HAS TO eat breakfast.

Since we're fully immersed in nonfiction reading and writing, I thought this great book of poetry would be a nice change of pace from the typical informational text. I absolutely love it. (And the kids love it too!) It has a winter theme, and although we haven't really experienced winter here in California this year, I thought my students could still get into the wintry mood with this book. It's a beautiful blend of science, vocabulary, and stunning illustrations.

Have you seen the Weird But True series from National Geographic Kids? These colorful books are packed with interesting tidbits that your students will be talking about for days. To be honest, I'm having a hard time maintaining our usual quiet reading time because all of the students want to read to friends and share EVERYthing they're learning. I admit, it's a good problem to have. :) The pic on the right is a selection of biographies that the school just ordered for us. There are some great ones about famous people (Gandhi, Noah Webster, Jacques Cousteau) in a very kid-friendly (and beautifully illustrated) format.


We've been spending a lot of time reading informational texts and discussing our thinking with partners. These pics show students looking for opinion words the author used. 

Our favorite part of the week was definitely the experiments. As part of our informational writing unit, we're learning how to write lab reports to demonstrate our thinking and learning through the scientific process. Our first few experiments have been related to force and motion, i.e., how different surfaces affect the speed of items rolling down ramps of varying heights and inclines. Every student was on task and recording their observations and results. It was amazing. 

Happy weekend!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

5 Tips for Parent/Teacher Conferences

For the first time ever, I'm teaching at a school this year that has parent/teacher conferences in the Fall AND in the Spring. We just finished our second round of conferences, and I thought it might be helpful to share some of the ideas I've learned along the way.

This seems so simple, but I'm continually surprised by what I learn from asking this simple question at the beginning of each conference. It provides valuable insight into the child's home life and how s/he feels about school. Usually, we know our students very well, but I've been surprised by what parents have said on a number of occasions. By asking the question at the beginning, it helps establish the tone for the conference.

That's right, just as we teach students to set their own goals, we need to do the same for conferences. This is part of the planning stage of the parent-teacher conference. If I'm going to tell Jane's parents that she's having difficulty with self correction during reading, I need to have a suggestion for how the parents can help and explain how this relates to what I'm doing in the classroom.

Much of the work we do in the classroom never goes home, so it's helpful to show parents what kind of work their child is doing, and how they're demonstrating their learning. You can provide a few pieces of writing, reading response, or even notebooks that show a typical day's work/learning. These pieces of work make great conversation pieces!

One of the resources I created this year has come in very handy during conferences with parents and during report writing time. These are especially helpful if you're using workshop models for reading and writing instruction. I like to be able to tell parents what our goals are according to the strengths of each particular child. Identifying specific reading behaviors help parents understand the progression of learning and how they can support this at home. 

Leave your door open. Metaphorically, of course. Let parents know the best way they can reach out to you: email, notes from home, etc., and ask how to reach them if necessary.

Those are the five guidelines I try to follow for each conference. What about you? How do you handle parent/teacher conferences?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Currently... March!

March is here, and it's time for another linky with Farley from Oh Boy 4th Grade!
Listening: House of Cards is back! It feels like years since the last season ended. I was scanning Netflix yesterday and discovered Season 3! I just love to hate Frank Underwood, don't you?

Loving: One of my favorite things about the weekend is indulging in brunch. This weekend I enjoyed strawberry french toast, veggie quiche, blueberry pancakes... yum!

Thinking & Wanting: I leave tomorrow morning with the entire second grade to go on a five-day ski trip! I'm feeling quite a mix of emotions about this, ranging from excitement to anxiety. It's my first time on the trip, so that certainly doesn't help my nerves. And I've never done such an extended field trip... Fingers crossed for all to go as planned! It should be a great time!

Needing: I'm definitely feeling the need to travel, but it looks like I'll be staying in California until the summer.  

Spring Break Plans: I think I'll spend time in San Francisco, doing some of the things I rarely do unless someone comes to visit... museums, Golden Gate Park, maybe even a ballet?

Hope you have a great week!

Hop on over to Farley's to see more Currently!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day!

I'm celebrating with a beautiful orchid this year instead of roses. I love how delicate these flowers are, even though I can never keep them alive for more than a few months. I love coming home and seeing them first thing when I walk in the door. They really brighten up the entire room. What are your favorite flowers? 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Five for Friday {February 13, 2015}

I don't know about your week, but mine was a tough one. I am happy happy happy that it's Friday. Especially since we have next week off! I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching to share five random things from my week.

We've just finished our Opinion Writing unit, and I'm so happy with how much the students learned and grew as writers. It was nice to break from the narrative writing we've been doing. They really developed ways to share ideas about books in such a thoughtful way! This unit definitely challenged even my strongest writers, and I'm glad I kept it short and sweet. Normally I teach a 20-lesson unit, but I'm glad I decided to change things up! Plus, my students were begging to give their letters to the people they'd written to. :) I didn't think it would be fair to make them wait any longer!

With Valentine's Day tomorrow, I thought it would be nice to incorporate some role play with these kindness scenario cards. As you probably know, second graders can be VERY dramatic, and this gives them the opportunity to build language around friendship and emotions. And who couldn't use more of that?

Have you ever seen anyone ride a unicycle? Let me tell you, it's entertaining! My boyfriend happens to have a unicycle, and it's been collecting dust in our apartment for quite a while. When a friend came over last weekend, they discovered their shared love for unicycle riding, and did several laps around the neighborhood. Who knew??

Maybe you've heard about Nibblr? It's a snack subscription service perfect for snackers like me! They put together a box of 4 small packaged snacks, meant to be savored, not inhaled (although most of the snacks are so delicious that I could easily eat several in one sitting). You can even rate the snacks they send you, ensuring you get more of the ones you love, and never get the ones you don't like a second time. This is my most recent box. Initially, the idea was to take them to school, but usually I end up eating one each day after I get home instead.

Finally, in celebration of friendship and Valentine's Day, we made compliment booklets for all of our friends. Since students have been learning about character traits during our reading workshop, it worked perfectly to teach new (positive, compliment-worthy) character traits with this resource from Blair Turner. The kids had a blast doing this... Especially at the end when they were able to read all of the compliments their classmates had written about them!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Waste of Time and Money?

I don't consider myself a germophobe, but I don't like to touch door handles or spend too much time in public restrooms, and I insist on washing my hands before eating. But I've never bought into the hand sanitizer craze.

We have hand sanitizer dispensers posted all around our school. The kids either ignore them, or press their grimy hands into the dispenser to get a giant glop of it, and then happily smear it all over their hands and arms. Personally, I never use the stuff. It creeps me out. I love the feel of soap and water, and so I cringe at the idea of massaging this slimy gel into my skin.

Anyway, I started wondering about the actual health benefits of using hand sanitizing products, especially in school environments. I did a bit of research (the peer reviewed kind), and discovered that--guess what?--there's very little to no evidence that hand sanitizers prevent illness in school settings. Why is this? Here are several likely reasons: 
- The alcohol content of the hand sanitizer is less than 60% 
- Students don't regularly use the hand sanitizer, so germs still spread 
- Students don't use enough of the sanitizer, or wipe it off before it dries
- Hand sanitizer doesn't remove certain types of germs

So why do we keep buying the stuff and forcing it on our kids? Maybe because we feel proactive by using it? Or because it's more convenient when we don't have access to a sink? I always ask students to wash their hands before lunch, after using the bathroom, or after they sneeze into their hands. And all those other times? Well, I just try not to think about it.

What do you do in your home or classroom?


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Currently... February!

I'm so glad that February is here! More sunshine, a few holiday weekends, my birthday month, and overall a much better month than January. ;)

Listening: I recently discovered the On the Media podcast, and I really like it. One episode is long enough for my commute to and from work, so that's always a bonus. Plus, the stories are long enough to have some depth, but short enough to stay interesting. 

Loving: I don't want to rub it in, because I know there are a lot of people dealing with terribly cold weather right now, but winter on the west coast has been sunny and mild. I keep wondering when winter will start... and then put on a light jacket. I love all this sunshine, but part of me is really jealous about those snow days I keep hearing about! 

Thinking: In school related news, we're finishing up our Opinion writing unit, and will embark upon an integrated Informational reading and writing unit next. This will be the first time I've taught this unit to 75 second graders, so I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by the amount of preparation and work it's going to be. But I know the kids will LOVE it!

Wanting: Now that I'm back in the U.S., travel is much more time-consuming and expensive than it was in Europe. I miss weekend travel, and it's definitely time to make some plans. We have a break coming up in February, but I think I'm going to save for a bigger trip in the Spring. Maybe Hawaii?

Needing: Ha! See above. Even though I won't be traveling, I definitely need to catch up on some R&R.

Pageant Title: Well, if you scroll through my blog, you will notice how frequently I post about sweet treats. :)

Be sure to check out Farley's linky by clicking on the button below!