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!