Learning how to research

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

This year, the C2 lead learners chose a "Fairy Tales" theme for the year. As daunting as it seems to choose one theme for an entire school year, I haven't regretted it yet! After really focusing on the literary aspect of fairy tales, we celebrated with a "Fairy Tale Festival" the Friday before Halloween. Starting November 2, it was time to decide what direction we'd go in next.

First, we webbed everything we knew about Fairy Tales:

Then, we did a secret vote to choose which area we would study first:
1) Fairies/Mermaids
2) Pirates
3) Magical Lands
4) Royalty
5) Castles and Knights

Castles and Knights won the vote! I immediately began gathering resources to launch this unit properly. 

While I gathered resources, we create fact books for our fairy tales unit. This is basically just a piece of posterboard that we've folded in half. The students created a cover to reflect all they knew about Fairy Tales. As we learn and create during our studies, we can create pages to add to our fact books.

As a class, we created a KWL about Castles - what we know, what we wonder, and what we have learned (we left this one blank). 

From our wonder charts, I found a trend of things the kids wanted to know...
1) Parts of the castle and castle design/materials
2) Life in and around the castle
3) Defending the castle - knights, weaponry, war & seiges
4) Medieval times - coat of arms, lords and ladies, serfs/peasants
5) Castle locations
6) Dungeons, drawbridges, and moats

Students each picked 1 group that they were most interested in. I met with each group and I worked with them to develop a list of questions they had about their particular topic. I used these questions to create a research guide. It can be purchased from my TpT store here -

Then - we built background knowledge! 
The next 12 weeks will be dedicated to learning about these 6 topics as a class. Every week, we create a new page to add to our growing fact book about Fairy Tales, each fact page dealing with one of the 6 topics.

Page 1 - Fairy Tales web
Page 2 - KWL about Castles
Page 3 - Castles web
Page 4 - Castles drawing (done with art teacher)
Page 5 - Types of Castles
Page 6 - Labeling parts of the castle
Page 7 - Castle lapbook to contain smaller pieces of research

Here are some photos of the research and documentation process on the types of castles.

The opportunity for independent research has already started! Students have been busy creating iMovies about castles, designing Castles in minecraft, and using the legos and blocks during afternoon explorations to build castles!

Students have even changed the outside of our classroom to look like the entrance to a castle!

Keep checking for updates on our research process and our further understanding and exploration of castles!


Monday, November 30, 2015

Even though Thanksgiving was last week, I am still celebrating all the things I am SO thankful for. This school year has been both busy and challenging, but its been full of learning and joy. I am thankful for my students, their parents, and my colleagues. I am thankful for our supportive administration and for my wonderful husband who supports me through it all!

Just to sum up some of the awesome things that have been happening over in Room 137 this Fall:

October 12-16
This week was all about Native Americans. We had a special field trip planned to go to the Pioneer Museum of Alabama in Troy. They had a special Native Americans song, dance, and legends module set up for us.
In class, we focused in on Native American Legends.
We read:
The Legend of the Bluebonnet by Tomie DePaola, The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tomie DePaola, Arrow to the Sun by Gerald McDermott, and The First Strawberries by Joseph Bruchac.
The students especially loved The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush. They were curious about the buckskin paintings and how the boy in the story used these paintings to tell a story. We studied a few different Native American symbols and then used crumpled paper bags as our "buckskins" and painted our own Native American Legends. While they dried, students "interpreted" their paintings by writing out the story to glue onto the back of their paintings once they dried.
Our field trip to Pioneer Museum was a great way to cap off the week - the students learned a lot and got to experience what life was like long ago.

October 19-23
We spent one last week studying a folktale in depth, and comparing the different versions from different cultures and countries. We chose to read "Stone Soup."
We read 5 different versions:
Stone Soup by Marcia Brown, Stone Soup by Ann McGovern, Cactus Soup by Eric Kimmel, Fandango Stew by David Davis, and Stone Soup by Marilyn Sapienza.
I even created a QR Code book guide for the students to work on independently throughout the week. They had to scan the code, listen/read the story, and then fill in the story elements chart on the packet. Students were engaged and were easily able to identify the characters, setting, beginning, middle, and end.

About two days into our study, the kids were adamant that we must make our own soup. As a class, we created a list of ingredients that Stone Soup needed. We created a large grocery list and asked the parents to send in an item. We also created a paper version of the stone soup pot with all its ingredients. We practiced sequence of events as we put it all together.

Students also requested to make their own version of the Stone Soup story. Some retold a version they'd already heard, and others created their own story with new characters and new ingredients. They wrote and illustrated, then created a video recording of themselves reading it and posted it to Fresh Grade (our assessment system). They turned out to be phenomenal!
(note - I forgot to take photos of our actual booklets, so here is a similar version)

At the end of the week, we had our Stone Soup feast. We prepared the soup first thing in the morning and read a poem and sang a song to go with it (found the song on iTunes). We also made our own butter to observe the changes in matter. There was one last important ingredient we forgot about...the stone! We took a hike outside and found a lot of worthy stones. We chose 1 stone for each pot and scrubbed it to add to the soup. By lunchtime, it smelled delicious.

The kids loved it! Many came back asking for seconds. 

October 26-30
This week, we focused in on the nonfiction part of Halloween.
Students got to choose between bats, spiders, pumpkins, mummies, or owls for an in-depth independent or group research project.
Reading A to Z was an awesome resource - it had an on-level book for each of these topics. As a class, it seemed like there was a lot of interest in the pumpkins so I did a pumpkin read aloud each day - The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons, How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin by Margaret McNamara, The Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Steven Kroll, and the Pumpkin Circle by George Levenson. The students wanted to investigate a pumpkin, so I asked them to bring in a small miniature pumpkin. We measured, weighed, compared, and tested our pumpkins all day. We did a few estimations and the kids wanted to know whose pumpkin would have the greatest number of seeds. We carved them and separated the pulp from the seeds and began the loooong counting process! In the end, we discovered that they more lines on the outside of a pumpkin, the more likely it is that the pumpkin will have a higher number of seeds. We cleaned the seeds and then roasted them in the toaster oven for a tasty treat at the end of the day. Yum!

Students wanted to cap off our literature study on Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Tall Tales, Fables, and Legends by planning their own "Fairy Tale Festival." The students divided themselves into committees: Decor, Menu Planning, Organizing, and Entertainment. They planned what we were going to eat -
Apple Juice (from Johnny Appleseed)
Pig Cupcakes (from 3 Little Pigs)
Cookies (from Little Red Riding Hood)
Pigs in a Blanket (From 3 Little Pigs)
Twizzlers (from Rapunzel)

We also had streamers and colorful plastic tablecloths. Students dressed up in their Fairy tale costumes and we paraded into a few Kindergarten classrooms and showed introduced ourselves and what story we were from. After students decorated the room and enjoyed their treats, we went on a Fairy Tale Scavenger Hunt and then two of my students from the entertainment committee taught the class how to do the Waltz! We turned on classical music and had a ball.

We also did Halloween Rotations on Friday, October 30. Each lead learner had a Halloween-related activity prepared for the students. We rotated each family through 3 activities. In my room, students were given the "Candy Carrying Container" challenge. They were offered a variety of materials - pipe cleaners, construction paper, straws, paper clips, copy paper, paper plates, aluminum foil, and coffee filters. The container had to be designed ahead of time, then students were given 10 minutes to build. The container had to be strong enough to hold a ziploc baggie with 10 pieces of candy inside. The students came up with some really creative ideas!

Quarter 2

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Wow! Is it possible that we are already 25% of the way through our school year? The time has flown! This group of learners and their parents have been such a joy to work with and we are smoothly transitioning into a great 2nd grade year.

Let's catch up!
We learned about geography and habitats and took a walking field trip to a nearby neighborhood, The Waters.

We started a unit on Fables, Fairy Tales, Folktales, Tall Tales, and Legends. We read many different versions of Cinderella, included "The Korean Cinderella." Our Korean students took a day to share with us the many aspects of their culture - their food, their crafts, their clothing, their language, and their flag. We learned so much!

We celebrated Johnny Appleseed Day on September 25 while learning about Tall Tales and Legends.

We said goodbye to one of our 2nd grade friends, Jace. We were sad to see him go!

We also spent two days learning about Paul Bunyan. We even made our own flapjacks!

On Friday, October 9, we said a sad goodbye to our intern Miss Beck. She will be doing her 2nd placement in 5th grade and will then graduate in December. We wish her the best of luck!

Class donations helped purchase this chair for her (she'll be getting married in April) and Amazon gift cards for her future classroom wishlist!

After all that, Community 2 teachers did a little rearranging. We moved Miss Waldrop and Mrs. Franklin into our large project room and put Miss Alexander and Mrs. Housley in their former rooms. We're splitting up our C2 library and setting up a puppet stage and a lego wall where the library was. We're moving and grooving here at Pike Road School!
Coming Soon:
2nd graders will perform in an assembly on Thursday, October 15
We will go to the Pioneer Museum in Troy on Friday, October 16 to learn about Native American Legends, Songs, and Dances
2nd grade is leading a school-wide donation for "Socktober." We're in charge of bringing in non-perishable snack items
This week is our Book Fair! Shop Mrs. Davis' wish list here 

We are in the process of planning a way to finish off our Fairy Tales, Folktales, Tall Tales unit with a celebration on October 30 - more to come soon!

Whew! What a fun month we have ahead of us. We love learning in the Pike Road Way!

Let's Read!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The past few weeks, we have been learning what makes good readers and good writers. We are practicing building up our stamina so that we can read and write for extended periods of time.

Read to Self - we started at 3 minutes and have already built up to reading 13 minutes without stopping. All 24 students are able to sit and read a book (or books) of their choice quietly while Mrs. Davis and Miss Beck meet and confer one-on-one with students about their reading.

Read to Someone - we started at three minutes and are up to 7 minutes of being able to read with a partner. We've learned how to choose a partner, how to read with someone (I read - you read, read together, Let's make a deal) and how to coach if our partner needs assistance.

Work on Writing - we started at three minutes and are up to 10 minutes of writing by ourselves. Each day, we get a mini-lesson on an aspect of writing - what to do when I don't know how to spell a word, what words get capitalized, how to use correct punctuation, identifying common and proper nouns, and what makes a complete sentence. After writing, we volunteer for "Author's Chair" to read what we've written so far to the class. Any completed writing is edited by Mrs. Davis or Miss Beck and the student is invited to take it to the next level and share their writing with a friend or another lead learner in the school building.

Next up - we'll be introducing word work. Students have been assessed on their phonics progression and will be given individualized word lists to practice on a weekly basis. Check your child's Patriot binder in the coming week for words they are working on!

Support our classroom by purchasing books through Scholastic - such great deals and so many books that your child knows and loves!