Monday, October 27, 2014

HOPE Garden

We really HOPE we can count on you to participate and to pass on our request!

"Don't stop believin'! " - Journey

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

We Need Your Help!

In an effort to make the wrap-up of our Peter Reynolds Author study (for this years Global Read Aloud) more impact full, we are planning a project that involves considering the hopes of others and planting "seeds" of hope for ourselves and others! Please consider being a part of our project by sending in a paper flower (a flower made of paper or on paper or really any kind of man-made flower) for our garden and including a post it note with something you have hoped for or are hoping for now!
You'll be glad you did!

As part of Global Read Aloud 2014, our 2nd grade is collecting Hopes & Paper Flowers for our own version of Peter Reynold’s Rose’s Garden! Please consider contributing! All you need to do is to send a paper flower (as simple or complicated as you’d like) and a post it note or small note card stating something you currently hope for or once hoped for. If you’d like to include a story about your “hope” we would love to read it, but what we NEED is the flower and the hope! We really HOPE to have envelopes coming in from across our campus, our state, our country, maybe even the world!

Please send your contribution to our “garden” by November 5th, 2014.

Mrs Halliday’s Class – Fanny B. Memorial Hall
901 Homestead Lane
Hershey PA 17033

Saturday, October 18, 2014

September Recap Video: One Month of 2nd Grade Learning

I used to do a monthly newsletter, but in this digital age, I decided instead to compile the photos and clips I've taken all month and create this recap video instead! It is my hope to create one each month to give the families of my students a glimpse into the exciting and wondrous things happening in our corner of the world!
Imagine the growth and change that will be recorded as months progress?! We're VERY busy in 2nd grade, with all that there is to juggle and fit in, it's nice for me to have this way to look back as well at all that we've done and accomplished together in our first month of school!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Good Fit Book Lesson

A synopsis of an early-in-the-year lesson for my 2nd graders comparing book choices and shoe choices! What makes a book a "good fit" book? How can we choose books that are "just right" for our independent level!
Metaphors, Connections, Props, oh my!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Journey (Social Media Excitement in our 2nd Grade Classroom)

As part of our first ever (in 2nd grade) Wonderstruck Wednesday (see blog about WW here), I decided to bring out one of my favorite wordless picture books to share with my students and get them wondering! I could tell it was unsettling to them to have to take in the story, jot down their “wonders” and not respond to the text until it was finished, but I wanted them to really hear their own thoughts and form their own ideas and opinions about the book BEFORE we started sharing. With each page turn, I reveled in their facial expressions and I was having so much fun watching them, that I decided to snap a quick picture to share my vantage point with the world. So, as I often do, I tweeted out a quick glimpse into our classroom and carried on with my day. After we finished the story, I had the students put their “wonders” up on our wonderwall, then to rejoin the group and finally talk about the book and share interpretations.
When the students were out at recess, I came back to my room to find that the author of the book, Aaron Becker, had responded to our tweet! He was offering to answer our questions! We had hit the Social Media Jackpot! To say I was giddy would be a tragic understatement!!!
I pulled my students back together and took some of the questions that they had about the story. I tried to prepare them, that it might be days before we got a response, or we might not get one at all, but we tweeted them out to our new Author tweet-pal and hoped for the best! We continued on with our learning. The students generated definitions for the word “Journey” and illustrated their ideas “graffiti style” on our whiteboard. Several students talked about real-life places that they might like to journey to, and we located these places on our globe and talked about the different kinds of journeys each one would be. Then we moved on to our writing activity, and wrote about and illustrated the journeys we imagined for ourselves.
Meanwhile, our Author Friend was tweeting us back! He answered each and every question that we supplied and our room was buzzing with excitement and learning conversations. When they asked a question that was “research-based” I reminded them that they were asking “Think and Search” questions that we could find the answers to ourselves (and might not be quite proper to ask a stranger) We looked up bio information on Mr. Becker and were able to find out the answers to:
Are you married?
Do you have children?
Where do you live?
How many books have you written?
The questions we actually sent him, were more introspective questions about the story itself and the author’s own intentions and interpretations. These wonders, I told my students, are the ones that we often never get to have answered from the source. They were ecstatic and wonderstruck to have this experience. My one student Jahlil, was in such disbelief that viewing the tweets on the smartboard wasn’t enough, he had to come over to my computer and read the tweets with his name in them, for himself!

I am such a huge proponent for social media in the classroom as a means of allowing my students to be heard, connecting them with the outside world, exposing them to unique ideas and perspectives and sometimes, on a random Wednesday, providing them with a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience and connection that I hope they will remember for years to come!

If you’ve used this book or others with your class, please let us know how! We plan to explore the whole trilogy and connect these beautifully imagined stories back to our learning through out the course of this school year!
Thank YOU for being a part of our JOURNEY today!


I’ve got a thing for alliterations, and Wonderstruck happens to be one of my all-time favorite words (both for its meaning and the way it rolls off my tongue) and so #WonderstruckWednesdays were born several years ago! This year, I was excited to roll it out TODAY with my 2nd grade students! The main goals of Wonderstruck Wednesday throughout the year are to:

-Help students develop questioning strategies and techniques to relate to texts.

-Encourage students to develop high-level thinking and questioning habits.

-Compel students to open their eyes and consider a new idea or perspective.

-Teach students to read, annotate, understand and collect information from nonfiction texts (Close reading)

-Inspire students to walk through the world and allow themselves to become WONDERSTRUCK by the magic in every moment.

Here is a brief and very adaptable synopsis of how I roll out Wonderstruck Wednesdays! Click on the links for resources & inspirations!

First: I had the students stop and wonder. I modeled this by wondering some things out loud (Why do my hiccups go away when someone scares me? How long would it take me to walk from my house in Pennsylvania to my Grandmother’s house in New York? Why does the moon look close enough to touch some nights, but other night’s it is so far away? Why don’t I like broccoli, when my husband loves it?) Amidst their giggles, they were starting to get the idea, but still having some trouble wondering on the spot. So we played a little game called “WONDER around the room”. We talked briefly about the difference between wandering around and wondering around. Wondering around the room is purposeful and intentional. The students go to a spot in the room (armed with their questioning word prompts: Who, What, When, Where, How, Why, Does, Do, Will..) and allow inspiration to strike, and write down that wonder. Perhaps a picture of an animal in the room will get them wondering about that animal etc. I tell the students to move quickly to their first chosen location and jot a wonder.

After that, the wonders came easy and the students start bustling around the room and moving their pencils across the paper almost as fast. After a few minutes we regrouped at our seats. Next, I had the students share some of their wonders and I compiled them into one big list of questions. We discuss how sometimes we are wondering something and someone else knows the answer. Other times we can look up the answer in a book, a website, or by asking an expert, and still other times, our wonders are just “brain-candy” (nom nom nom) that we can enjoy, hypothesize and theorize about (in 2nd grade language: guess, predict & infer) but we may never really know the answers.

Next, I introduce the “Wonderwall” which serves as a place in our classroom to wonder about books we have read or content we are studying, and then try to find the answers to these wonders through research or conversation. Whenever the students hear the song “Wonderwall” by Oasis (my throwback to my own “wonder years” and the music of my youth) they can jot down a wonder relating to what we are currently talking about, and post it to the wall. If ever a student feels that they know or can find the answer to a posted “Wonder” they let the class know! (this part comes later and is very exciting!!)

To demonstrate this, I shared the story “Journey” with my students. I modeled a few wonders but mostly left the story up to the students to interpret and consider. They posted their wonders on the WonderWall at the end of the story, and spent a few minutes reading each others wonders as well (For more on the exciting turn this took, when the author responded to our tweets, check out my blog on Journeys).

Later, with the stage set for questioning, exploring and wondering, I introduced my students to our main tool in Wonderstruck Wednesdays: Wonderopolis is a tremendous resource of kid-friendly non-fiction texts having to do with just about every topic anyone has ever wondered about. As an introduction, I chose a Wonder of the Day to display on the smartboard. We watch the intro video (included on most “Wonders”) and made a list of things we already know about this topic on our trifold. Next, we read the text together. I had the students read along as I read it aloud. In the spirit of Close Reading, the students read this text several times. They read it a second time with a partner and highlight important facts. A third time they choral read it and circle unfamiliar words. We discuss the new words as a whole group and create definitions and pictures to help with comprehension & retention. Then we identified the main idea of the text, and filled in some supporting details from the facts that they had underlined earlier. Through the course of the school year, our Wonderopolis time will evolve. Sometimes we will look specifically for Facts Vs. Opinions, Cause/Effect, Sequencing, Author’s Purpose, and any other Reading skill we happen to be studying. Also, although I will lead the students through this WonderTime in a whole group setting for now, we will eventually work towards the students searching the site independently and interacting with the text on their own with differentiated expectations/graphic organizers to complete.

How do you encourage a sense of WONDER in YOUR students?

Trifold Resource: Created by UpperGradesAreAwesome

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Cause & Effect: Avoiding Comparisons & Embracing Teachable Moments

For the past six years as a 4th grade teacher, I have been intentional about learning everything there is to know about 9 & 10 year olds. In that time, I only really scratched the surface, but along the way I became a very confident and learned teacher of 4th grade students, standards and curriculum. Now, in my first year as a 2nd grade teacher, that confidence (that comes with years of trying and falling short and trying again until you finally get it right #Grit) falters and my learning curve shows as I start afresh on the quest to learn all there is to know about 6 & 7 year olds: How they tick, how they learn, what they need to know (and I daily hear this song in my head: “Started from the bottom now we’re here”) Some days it’s exciting, some days it’s humbling. Everyday (because of where I work and the students I am proud to serve) is a privilege, and so it goes.

There are aspects of switching from teaching an Intermediate grade to a Primary grade that are completely new. I rarely taught phonemes, letter formation, and consonant blends to 4th graders. That’s all new, and finding my way through new material (that I haven’t really considered since college) is interesting and exciting- like visiting a foreign country and finding your way through streets, towns, coasts, and villages that you’ve only studied in maps and seen in pictures (read: adventure..for better or worse) The part of my change that has been (at times) the most unnerving, is how much of what I’m expected to teach in 2nd grade is reminiscent of what I taught in 4th. The first couple of times that I saw a familiar concept, I got excited- Example: Main Idea & Supporting Details: I thought “YESSS finally something I know inside and out, something I have resources for and tried and true methods of teaching! Hooray for spiraling curriculum! Hooray for familiar territory!” The trouble is, that when I attempted to teach a concept to 2nd graders in the same way that I had taught it to 4th graders, I found that my confidence quickly deflated as my once stellar lesson now fell flat in the criss-crossed-applesauce laps of students I was determined to be MORE for (more than the version of me who is still figuring it all out). Ugh.

Through this, I’m gaining a deeper understanding for the concept of “fundamentals”. I’m also learning that in all adventures (life, love, career, etc) it really is true what Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” If you look at something through the lens of what WAS, instead of through the lens of what IS, well then you’re not REALLY seeing what you’re looking at- and so you will miss the joy of what is while looking back at what was (Pardon me, as I wax philosophical). So this week, when I saw the recognizable concept of Cause & Effect in my curriculum, I went through the typical cycle in my head. First, a happy flutter at the familiarity in this unfamiliar territory. Then a quick spinning through the mental rolladex of successful methods I know from my experience- I pause at an old favorite, a video clip from Benjamin Button that I’ve loved and used with my fourth graders that illustrates Cause & Effect Beautifully (and by beautifully, I’m not referring to Brad Pitt, promise.) I decide quickly, that it won’t work for this grade level (as it was a stretch even for late 4th graders). I find some 2nd grade Cause/Effect resources on TPT that go with the series "If You Give A Pig A Pancake" and I saddle up for some trial and error once again.

About halfway through first period Math class, we all jump as some posters that were stored above my cabinets, come dislodged and fall to the ground. Along with them comes a life-sized cutout of the Little Old Lady who swallowed the fly, and as she hangs there dangling from my cabinet happens...educator LIGHTNING strikes! As my students complete their daily math “quick check” I scrap the plan I had and embrace the new one forming. I rush to my classroom library, on a new mission- In the 5 minutes it takes them to finish their work, I locate the books I’m looking for, find a video clip to go with it, and sneakily fill my mini super soaker up with water and hide it out of sight.

We start with the @BrainPopJr Interactive video that was part of my originally planned lesson. Then we have a discussion about Cause & Effect. I’m not deepening knowledge here, but introducing the words AND concepts to my students for the first time, and so, the pressure is on to make it memorable. We read through the books I found: giggling, reenacting and interacting with our “little old lady”. I can see the concept is starting to take root. The vocabulary (differentiating between “cause” and “effect”) is still coming along, but I can see the seed has been planted (and into very smiley soil) and this makes my teacher-heart happy!

At the end of the lesson, I pull out my little super soaker for another real-life, meaningful, connection to cause and effect, and because, well, if your job affords you the opportunity to pull out a super-soaker with purpose, you should totally do it! Throughout the rest of the day we related every single thing back to cause and effect and I could see synapses firing and dendrites growing. At the very end of the day I explained to the students that I really had another Cause/Effect lesson planned, but BECAUSE the little old lady fell from the ceiling, the EFFECT was that I got this idea to take us in a totally different direction..and sometimes magic happens that way.