Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cookie Stacking Competition!

While student teaching in fifth grade, I absolutely fell in love with the upper grades. I discovered a passion for working with the “big kids” that I didn’t expect going into the experience. I really enjoyed the content we were covering, and getting to see my kids excited about what we were learning was the best. I love the independence, creativity, and critical thinking that happens in fifth grade. One of my favorite math units we did was “data and graphs.” We learned about collecting and organizing data (line graphs, double bar graphs, etc), and then learned about different ways to analyze data (mean, median, mode, and range). At the culmination of our unit, we had a cookie stacking competition (thank you Mary from Teaching With a Mountain View for this idea!).

The idea was simple: students stacked the cookies to make a tower. They collected data on how tall their towers got and then used that data to practice data management such as mean, median, mode, and range. We also made it into a line graph! The basic rules were that they couldn’t hold it to make it stay up while they were stacking and once one cookie fell they had to start over.


I had five teams and they did three rounds of stacking each in our competition. We even had a bonus round where they were allowed to hold up their towers! After each round, the team leaders were responsible for adding their team’s data to the board. At the end of the competition, they had to analyze the data to find the mean, median, mode, and range of their data and then of the class’ data. Finally, they had to make a double line graph to show the data. They LOVED this activity!

cookie stacking competition

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Character Traits, Fact & Opinion, and Snowflake Bentley

Happy Tuesday, teacher friends! A few weeks ago we studied the life of Snowflake Bentley in second grade during our winter themed week. In reading, we learned all about William Bentley, the first man to photograph snowflakes, and in science, we studied the weather associated with winter (snow, ice, etc.). Using Snowflake Bentley was the perfect way to integrate literature and science and I used several activities from Susan Morrow’s unit throughout the week.

One of the things I’ve learned from working with students is that they LOVE finding out more about their teacher. I took this knowledge and used their curiosity to introduce the concepts of character traits and fact/opinion during our wintry week. We started out by discussing character traits. We discussed how authors use words, actions, feelings, etc. to give readers a better understanding of the characters. Character traits are the aspects of a person’s behavior and attitudes that make up that person’s personality. Everyone has character traits including characters in the books we read!

My goal for the lesson was that my students would be able to use the words and illustrations in Snowflake Bentley to identify William Bentley’s character traits. Before they worked to identify his character traits, I had them practice by identifying mine. I had four questions that they answered one at a time using post-it notes. They used their post-it notes to label me and we discussed what their answers taught us about my character traits.


They loved this activity and I enjoyed see their responses to the questions. Plus, it gave them a clearer understanding of what to do when they transitioned to identifying William Bentley’s character traits. 

Labeling Character Traits

Later in the week, I introduced the concept of fact and opinion. My goal was that they would be able to identify the difference between a fact and opinion and that they would use that knowledge to identify facts about Snowflake Bentley. After a mini-lesson, I wanted to give them the chance to practice and have a little fun identifying facts and opinions. In order to do this, they all got their dry erase boards out to play “Facts and Opinions about Ms. Shepherd!” I had prepared a series of slides including various statements about me and their job was to determine whether each one was a fact or an opinion. Before we started, I reminded them that facts are something we can PROVE while opinions are just something that we think.


As we went through each slide, I had them share reasons why they decided each statement was either
a fact or opinion. So fun to hear their conversations and reasons!





My students really enjoyed this activity and getting to learn more about me through the statements and pictures. I heard comments like, “Ms. Shepherd, is that REALLY your mom? You look just like her!” and “Does your dog actually look like that? What’s her name?” I love when they are learning and don’t even realize it!

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Weekly Recap: Regrouping, Valentine’s, and States of Matter!

Happy President’s Day, teacher friends! Last week we had such a fun week in second grade! In math, we covered double and triple digit addition with regrouping. I don’t know what it is about regrouping, but I loved teaching this math skill. We started the week using popsicle sticks, macaroni noodles, and place value mats to solve regrouping problems. The manipulatives and place value mats really helped my kids understand the concept of regrouping in such a hands-on way.

Regrouping Practice

We practiced solving several problems before I partnered my kids up for a “regrouping lightening round.” During this game, I wrote a problem on the ActivBoard and they had to “race” to see who could solve it the fastest using their manipulatives and place value mats. They loved this!


On Monday, we also learned the absolute catchiest regrouping chant that Amy Lemons from Step Into Second Grade shared on her blog a couple of weeks ago. My kids got SO into singing and doing the moves for this! If you haven’t taught addition with regrouping yet, you must snag this chant to use from Amy.

Regrouping Chant 

Throughout the week, I used several other activities from Amy Lemon’s Double Digit Addition unit. One of my favorites was the addition pocketbook where my kids had to solve a handful of problems and then sort them into two categories (“regroup” or “don’t regroup”). This was a simple formative assessment that gave me a clearer understanding of which students understood regrouping and which ones needed more instruction.

Addition Pocket Book

Addition Pocket Book 2

On Friday, we moved on to triple digit addition with regrouping. We applied our knowledge of regrouping in the ones place and practiced regrouping in the tens place. They blew me away with how well they made the transition! After modeling for them, practicing as a group, and solving problems independently I had them complete a “scavenger hunt” around the classroom (I got the scavenger hunt from Sun, Sand, and Second Grade). There were task cards taped in different areas around the room that they had to solve. I love having them rotate around the room to complete purposeful activities like this one! They’re up and out of their seats moving while learning…that’s a win-win for me!

regoruping task cards

In reading/writing, we focused on the theme of Valentine’s Day all week long. On Monday, our goal was to learn about making inferences. At the beginning of the lesson, I used Abby Mullin’s Mystery Box Activity to introduce the concept of making inferences. I placed a mystery item in a white gable box and gave my kids turns to shake the box and guess what it could be. After they shared their guesses, I gave them four clues and had them rethink their guesses based on the new information. Most of them made an inference that there was a valentine in the mystery box and they were correct!

Mystery Box

After the mystery box activity, we read Arthur’s Valentine by Marc Brown. In the book, Arthur received notes from a secret admirer and had to make an inference as to who it was. We talked about how Arthur had to use the clues he was given to try and figure out who his secret admirer was. I had them write “secret admirer” notes to me in which they had to give me clues as to who they were (thank you Miss DeCarbo from Second Grade Sugar and Spice for this idea!). They loved this activity AND I loved that they were practicing the skill of inferring!

Secret Admirer

On Wednesday, we built on the theme of Valentine’s Day by creating heart maps. We talked about how heart maps can be super helpful for the times we feel like we have nothing to write about. We put things on our heart map that we love and could write several stories about. We can refer to our heart maps for inspiration whenever we get writer’s block.

Heart Map

After they completed their own heart maps, they chose one of the topics and used it to write a narrative story. I loved seeing what they put on their heart maps and getting another small glimpse into the things that they value. 

Heart Maps 2

In language, we focused on simple and compound sentences. One of my favorite activities they did was a silly sentence scramble. After learning about the difference between simple and compound sentences, they had the chance to create their own. I divided the class into four groups and each group was given a big plate with yellow sentence strips and a small plate of red conjunction strips. First, they had to pull a simple sentence (the yellow strips) to form the first part of the compound sentence. Second, they had to pull a conjunction (the red strips). Finally, they had to pull a second simple sentence to finish forming a silly compound sentence. They had so much fun building their own compound sentences in this activity!



In science, we learned about the phases of matter and did several experiments to solidify our understanding of solids, liquids, and gases. I used many of the activities and experiments from Miss DeCarbo’s States of Matter for Kids unit throughout the week. After introducing the difference between solids, liquids, and gases on Monday, we moved on to talking about how the states of matter can change. We made Jell-O to see how liquids can change into solids when the temperature decreases. They thoroughly enjoyed this edible science experiment!

Making Jello 2 

Making Jello

On Thursday, we did a cornstarch and water experiment and goodness gracious…this experiment was SO fun, but SO messy. The mixture of cornstarch and water is both a solid and a liquid. It is actually called a suspension because the solid bits of cornstarch do not dissolve in the water. The grains of cornstarch spread out and float in the water. My kids learned that when you squeeze the water out of the mixture in your hands it feels like a solid, but when you mix the cornstarch and water together it feels like a liquid. They had a blast with this experiment!

Cornstarch and Water

Hope you have a sweet week of teaching!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Weekly Recap: Measurement, Shades of Meaning, and More!

Happy Saturday, teacher friends! We had a very fun and full week in second grade. We finished our unit on measurement, celebrated Groundhog’s Day, learned about shades of meaning, laughed while reading The Day the Crayons Quit, danced to brain breaks, and so much more.

In math, we continued learning about measurement and transitioned from using non-standard units like crayons and unifix cubes to using standard units like inches and centimeters. I used several of the activities from Primary Junction’s Measurement Unit again this week and I can’t recommend it enough! They completed the “worksheet” below which I used as a simple formative assessment to see how well my kids understood using a ruler to measure with inches.

Measurement Formative Assessment
After introducing centimeters on Wednesday, I had them practice measuring their heads, necks, legs, etc. using centimeters and inches. I pulled this resource from Amy Lemon’s I Can Measure unit and they LOVED it . They were so engaged and worked so hard with their partners to get the correct measurements.
Measure Your Body
On Friday, I introduced finding the length difference between two objects. After talking about strategies they could use to figure out the difference, we “transformed” our classroom into a zoo (this idea also came from Primary Junction’s Measurement Unit). They each received a zookeeper “ID badge” and rotated through 10 animal research stations. Each station had a pair of animals and they had to figure out the height difference between the two. They requested to listen to The Lion King’s
soundtrack so that’s exactly what we did to set the mood of the atmosphere. :)

Measurement Zoo
In language, we dove into learning about shades of meaning in verbs and adjectives. We started by talking about how there are some words that are nearly the same (like synonyms!), but when you look closely you will see how they are different.

Shades of Meaning ActivBoard
We practiced sorting words in lots of ways. They used the ActivBoard. They rotated through shades of meaning stations. They used the children’s dictionaries to help them come up with their own words to sort. Etc.

Shades of Meaning Sort
Shades of Meaning
In reading, we used The Day the Crayons Quit and A Bad Case of Stripes as our main books for the week. We started off with The Day the Crayons Quit and they go bananas for this book. We created an anchor chart to describe the character traits of six of the crayons in the book. They used it to complete a venn diagram to compare and contrast the red and blue crayons.

Crayons Anchor Chart
On Wednesday, we read it again, but this time we used it to talk about writing opinion pieces. They wrote about whether or not they believed the crayons had valid reasons to quit. My kids who finished early got to pretend they were Duncan and write a letter back to one of the crayons. These were the cutest!

Crayons Opinion
On Thursday and Friday, we switched gears to reading A Bad Case of Stripes and used it to learn about cause and effect and theme. We watched a BrainPop Jr. video and talked about identifying cause and effect in everyday life before we started reading. They had to apply their new skills to look for examples of cause and effect in the book once we started reading. I also snagged a cause and effect freebie from Primarily Speaking (get it here!) that worked perfectly with my kids.

Cause and Effect
I love, love, love reading out loud with my kids! It doesn't hurt that one of my girls said, “Ms. Shepherd, I love how you read with a lot of expression!” either. Love it!

Enjoy your weekend!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Weekly Recap: Fractions and The Mitten!

Hello again! I had one of those weeks where I stopped several times and just thought, “Gosh, I love teaching. I just love being here.”  I’m really starting to get into a groove with my second graders and we hit the ground running even though we only had a four day week. I taught reading and math and planned lots of activities to fill our four days together. In math, we continued learning about fractions and my kids really started to understand them mid-week. Yay! We started the week by reviewing key vocabulary (fraction, numerator, denominator) and how to write fractions. To practice our skills, we played fraction bingo (thank you Aimee from Primarily Speaking!) and my kids LOVED it. They had to make their own bingo boards before we could play and I love that they were getting lots of practice with recognizing fractions quickly. 

Fraction Bingo

On Wednesday, I introduced fraction word problems and I was a little nervous that they just wouldn’t “click” with my kids, BUT I was proven wrong over and over again. We began by going over several word problems together at the rug. We underlined key words/phrases and discusses strategies for solving them. After they had worked several on their white boards with me at the rug, I had them rotate around the room to solve 16 fractions task cards. I created these and used their names in the problems which they thought was awesome!

Fraction Task Cards 2  Fraction Task Cards

On Thursday, I introduced the concept of fractions on a number line. This was definitely a tricky concept to teach AND for my second graders to understand, but we did the best we could. I borrowed the idea to use graham crackers from TeachMama and this helped tremendously! We started out by looking at number lines and reviewing how we use them to help us count. Then we zoomed in on the 0 to 1 and talked about how fractions are smaller than 1.  At first, we used the graham crackers to demonstrate how we can make fourths. I wanted to slowly ease them into using the graham crackers on a number line.

Graham Crackers

After we used our first graham cracker to demonstrate that four graham cracker pieces equals a whole, we moved along to fractions on a number line. I showed them how to draw a number line on their paper and divide it into fourths before laying the graham crackers side by side. Using the graham crackers certainly helped them be able visualize this concept!

Number line

Graham Crackers 2

On Friday, we used food again to celebrate finishing our unit on fractions. This time we did fruit loop fractions! I created a recording sheet for them to identify and write the fraction for each color of fruit loop. They had to show me their fractions and tell me about the numerator and denominator before they could eat their fruit loops. Again, they loved this activity and I loved seeing them learning while having fun.

Fruit Loop Fractions

In reading, we did a week long study on Jan Brett’s The Mitten. I used several activities from Christine Stratzel’s unit on The Mitten. On Tuesday, I introduced the story and we talked about the beginning, middle, and end. We discussed how the beginning always introduces the characters and gives us more information about the setting. The middle introduces the problem and the end covers the solution.

The Mitten

On Thursday, I had my first formal observation from my university supervisor and taught a sequencing lesson using The Mitten. I LOVED teaching this lesson! So. Much. Fun. First, I introduced sequencing and talked about how it’s a skill we use everyday. Since our theme for the week was winter, I played “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” and then had them help me sequence a set of pictures of how to build a snowman. They love getting the opportunity to come up the ActivBoard and drag pictures into place. After I knew they understood was sequencing was, I read The Mitten and had them pay special attention the order in which the animals crawled into the mitten. We used the ActivBoard again to have them drag the animals into the correct sequence before they had to sequence the events of the story.

Mitten Sequencing

On a completely different topic, I’ve been using classroom timers frequently and my kids get so excited for these. There are different ones to choose from so I switch it up every time and they love waiting to see which one I pick.

Classroom Timer

I also started using GoNoodle for brain breaks and these are THE best. I love seeing them let loose and dance…I even love dancing and being silly with them. Teaching can be so much fun!

Go Noodle

Friday, January 23, 2015

What’s Your Why?

Happy Friday, teacher friends! At the beginning of the week, Sarah from A Rocky Top Teacher shared about her passion for teaching and the reasons behind why she is an educator. Her enthusiasm sparked something in me and caused me to keep coming back to the question “why do I teach?” all week long. Although I am only a student teacher right now, I grew up in my mom’s classroom and have been surrounded by education for as long as I can remember. I saw my mom pour her heart into her classroom and students every school year. I saw the tremendous amount of time and energy that my mom invested in being an effective teacher every school year. Now, I’m starting to experience what my mom did on a much smaller scale as a student teacher and I’m asking myself “why do I teach?” and “what is it about teaching that fires me up?”

As I thought about those questions this week, I kept coming back to a simple reason. I love being in the classroom. I sat down this afternoon after getting comfy and cozy and built on that reason. I love how Sarah described it by saying “there is a reason that you wake up every morning and walk into your classroom ready to tackle a day full of learning with your students.” So, here are a few of my reasons!

I know that I’ll always be adding more reasons for why I do what I do as I grow as an educator and step into my classroom, but this is a glimpse into my heart right now. I’ve definitely chosen a career where I’ll always be learning and growing right there alongside my students. I’m so thankful for that!

Be sure to link up with Sarah to share your heart and answer your own “why?” :)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Fractions, Fractions, Fractions!

Hello teacher friends! I feel like I need to take a minute and reintroduce myself. I’m Samantha, the face behind “Field Trips and Paper Clips,” and I have done a terrible job of keeping up with this small blog of mine. But, I’m back and ready to share glimpses of what’s happening and what we’re learning in my classroom. Since my last (and only!) post, I have officially started student teaching in second grade and I LOVE this age so much!

I’m slowing beginning to take over teaching different subjects and I started with math this past week. We dove head first into learning about fractions and I was intentional about taking lots of pictures to document our learning. I utilized several activities from other fabulous and creative teachers so I’m sure you’ll recognize many of these activities from their blogs.

We started out by talking about some of their favorite treats (pizza and pie!) and how we usually divide those into equal parts to share with our friends and family. I built on the idea that we use fractions in every day life and introduced basic vocabulary associated with fractions such as equal, unequal, whole, halves, thirds, and fourths. We read Jump, Kangaroo, Jump! and did a flipchart activity on the ActivBoard to practice using the vocabulary. They loved this! The book introduces the concept of halves, thirds, and fourths by having a group of 12 animals participate in a camp field day. First, they have to divide into two equal teams for a game, then three equal teams, and finally four equal teams. It provides a visual for a tricky concept!


After reading, Jump, Kangaroo, Jump! we created “My Book of Fractions” from Cara Carroll’s Fraction Action unit. I had the the fraction pieces pre-cut and placed in sandwich baggies prior to the lesson. That extra preparation made it so much easier to immediately transition into the activity! I loved creating these booklets because it helped reinforce the vocabulary for my students in a hands-on and visual way.

Fraction book

Fraction Book Cover

On Tuesday, we focused on learning how to label and write fractions. I introduced what the numerator and denominator are and we practiced, practiced, practiced. I used resources from The Teacher Wife’s Fraction Fun unit and my kids loved being able to manipulate the arrows and vocabulary terms to label the fractions.


Labeling Fractions

On Thursday, I introduced fractional parts of set which my students really enjoyed because they could clearly see how we use fractions daily. In order to practice identifying fractional parts of a set I used Cara Carroll’s fabulous idea of doing pizza slice fractions. This activity was too fun! I made four pizzas each with a different number of slices and they had to write the fraction for how many had pepperonis, olives, mushrooms, and black olives. I set the timer for four minutes at each pizza station as they rotated in table groups. I loved seeing them engaged in identifying the fractions. Plus, I was able to use this as a formative assessment to see which students understood and which students needed more practice with fractions.

Pizza Slice Fractions 



We had a very full week in second grade! When we start back on Tuesday, we will spend another week on fractions really practicing and applying our skills. In reading, we will be using Jan Brett’s The Mitten as we jumpstart our winter themed week. There is SO much you can do with The Mitten and I will be back to share all of it with you next weekend!