Friday, April 8, 2011

The Kenyans Are Coming!
We have been very busy preparing for the visit from the Kenyan marathon runners next Thursday! Students have been researching and learning all about some of our Kenyan visitors. This week, students began researching the Kenyan runners - reading short biographies about each one and identifying 3 important/interesting facts.  They used this information to begin creating a HUGE mural!  We hope to have this mural finished early next week and plan to display it in the hallway so everyone can read/learn about the many accomplishments of these elite athletes.

Ask: Who did your child research? What is one thing s/he learned about him/her?

In addition to this mural, students also “posed” in a running position and, with the help of our fabulous parent volunteers (Mrs. McCarron and Ms. Chabot), had their silhouettes drawn and cut out. These 19 silhouettes will look really amazing running down the hallway and if you have a chance, you should come by and take a look! I bet you will be able to identify your child just by his/her silhouette (I know I can)!

Marathon Fitness Challenge
Keep an eye out for some information going home next Monday about the Marathon Fitness Challenge. Students will be “challenged” to run a total of 26.2 miles over the course of the next few weeks (in PE class as well as at home). We will be graphing our totals as the weeks go on – I hope this encourages everyone to get outside and run!

Report Cards
Report cards were distributed on Friday. Hopefully there isn't anything in there that is too surprising!  If you have any questions, please let me know - otherwise, please sign and return the ENVELOPE as soon as possible.

Our Week in Review:
This was a review week in reading, during which students reviewed some of the important skills and concepts learned over the past 5 weeks, including making inferences, drawing conclusions, comparing and contrasting, comparative and superlative adjectives, inflected verbs, compound words, contractions and more!  Students put this knowledge to the test with an assessment on Thursday!

This week, all students had the same spelling list. The list contained words with phonics rules/patterns that we have focused on in the last 5 weeks. These rules/patterns included:

“Bossy R” (r-controlled vowels)
• ar (start)
• or (porch)
• er, ir, ur (her, first, turn)

the “ugh” sound
• oo (book)
• ou (could)

the “ooooo” sound
• oo (moon)
• ui (fruit)
• ew (stew)
• oe (shoe)

the “awwww” sound
• aw (straw)
• au (pause)

As we do with every review, students' spelling test was in the form of a dictation this week, which assesses ALL of their spelling and writing skills!!  Check your child's spelling notebook next week to see how s/he did!

Over the past few weeks, we have been learning a lot about irregular past-tense verbs. (We call them “crazy verbs” in class!) Instead of following the rule and adding –ed when using these verbs in the past tense, irregular verbs change completely! This makes them tricky to remember (and spell)! As a class, we have identified and discussed a BUNCH of these verbs including:

see – saw           go – went        write – wrote
do – did             run – ran          dive - dove
give – gave        sing – sang       drink – drank

and my favorites:
catch - caught
bring – brought
(contrary to popular belief…   bringed, brang, and brung are NOT words!)

There are TONS more!! Now that students are aware of these verbs, please encourage them to use them correctly in their speech and writing!

Students have also been working more with contractions - including a BINGO game played earlier in the week! At this point, most students understand that contractions are a “short cut” way of saying two words and that the apostrophe takes the place of one or two letters. The tricky part now is remembering where to PUT that apostrophe! Help your child with contractions…practice makes perfect!

This week, we began Unit 9 – the Measurement Unit. Although seemingly straightforward, this unit can get a little tricky. I have discovered, for example, that many students automatically begin measuring objects with the very end of a ruler/measuring tape – without checking to see if that is where the “0” mark is! This can result in inaccurate measurements!
Interesting Fact:  Did you know that when the Hubble telescope was originally sent into space it didn’t work?  Astronomers soon discovered that there was a miscalculation in measurement by just 1 millimeter!  I guess it is important to be precise in our measurements!

On Tuesday, after reading a great math story titled, How Big is a Foot, we learned that it is important to have “standard units of measurement” so that information can be shared and understood by everyone to mean the same thing. To better understand this idea, we measured the length of our classroom with different children…and, as we expected, found out that the classroom was different lengths, depending on which children were used (and how tall they were).

For the rest of the week, we reviewed and discussed some of the different ways we measure straight lines (linear measurements). We compared different systems (U.S. vs. Metric System) as well as the different tools and units within these systems. As a refresher:

US Customary System:   inches, feet, yards, and miles

Metric System: millimeters, centimeters, decimeters, meters, and kilometers

We also determined these equivalencies:
1 yard = 3 feet = 36 inches
1 foot = 12 inches

I meter = 10 decimeters = 100 centimeters
1 decimeter = 10 centimeters
1 centimeter = 10 millimeters

We will be working with measurement for the next few weeks.  Please review these concepts at home!
We finished learning about different landforms this week and, as a cumulative project, students created "landform mobiles!"   Each of these mobiles shows off 6 different landforms - complete with definitions and beautifully illustrated pictures.  I hope to have these mobiles hung for all to see/enjoy in the classroom next week!  Feel free to take a peek! 
Our Mystery ReaderS this week were Hayes' grandparents!!  (He was VERY surprised!)  They each read a story.  The first story was read by his grandmother and it was titled, Ibis: A True Whale Story by John Himmelman.  Hayes' grandfather read the second story by Harry Allard and James Marshall, titled Miss Nelson is Missing.  The students greatly enjoyed listening to these stories - and I think Hayes' grandparents had as much fun as the children did!

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fool's!

As the kids said this morning, "It looks like Mother Nature is playing an April Fool's joke on US!"  Can you believe it's snowing?!?! 

Important Information

Golden Pond

Every year, I take a special trip with my students to the Golden Pond Assisted Living Residence in Hopkinton.  This trip ties in with our social studies curriculum in that students interview important community members and create biographies about their lives. We were originally planning to visit TODAY (Friday), but the snow has postponed our trip until Monday.   (I am still looking for another parent chaperone or two for our walk on Monday.  Let me know if you are interested!)

Author's Visit
We had a very special visitor last week - did your child tell you about it?  Kevin Markey, Julia's uncle, came to talk to students about writing.  Why was that so special?  Because Mr. Markey is a published author!!  He has written 4 children's books in the Super Slugger Series (among other things).  During his visit, Mr. Markey let students in on the 3 secrets of being a good writer.  I can't share them with you, of course, but let's just say that the children were very attentive and his visit inspired some very creative writing!!

Junior Achievement
Last week, we began Junior Achievement - a special program that, in second grade, focuses on community and government.  The Junior Achievement program is presented by volunteers...and our classroom volunteer is Ainsley's mom, Mrs. Elliott!  Mrs. Elliott has been in 3 times now and has taught the children all about communities, taxes, government workers, and unit vs. assembly line production.  Whew!!  Ask your child to tell you about this great program!

Placement for Next Year
Mrs. Silver has posted a letter regarding parental input for students’ third grade placement. If you are concerned about your child’s placement next year, please read it carefully and note that while you cannot request a specific teacher, you are welcome to submit a request for a specific type of classroom/teaching-style (ex: structured, student-centered, etc.). If you have any questions, please let me know!

Report Cards
It’s that time of year again! Report cards will be distributed next Thursday. Please remember that the report card is yours to keep but I need the envelope signed and returned! Please let me know if you have any questions.

As you know, the Kenyan marathoners are coming to visit on Thursday, April 14!  This is a very exciting and special visit – one that students will never forget!  Next week, students will be working hard to learn more about our visitors and their country... and will be creating some special work/projects to make them feel at home in Elmwood!

Marathon Fitness Challenge
Keep an eye out for some information going home next week about the Marathon Fitness Challenge. Students will be “challenged” to run a total of 26.2 miles over the course of the next few weeks (in PE class as well as at home). We will be graphing our totals as the weeks go on – I hope this encourages everyone to get outside and run!

Aside from these "big" programs/activities, we have been VERY busy in Room 13 these past few days/weeks! Keep reading for a review:

This week’s reading story was Nutik, the Wolf Pup, written by Jean Craighead George. This was a great story about a little boy who takes care of a young, sick wolf pup. Ask your child what happens at the end of the story…

Through this story, students worked hard this week to strengthen their ability to make good inferences. Inferences are ideas that good readers form from clues that the author gives us in the story (pictures, context clues, background knowledge). Making inferences is a difficult skill because the information is not directly stated anywhere in the story – readers have to “read between the lines” – and figure it out on their own. Even adults have a trouble making inferences!

Students completed 3-4 centers this week, including: 

Grammar - Students cut out and match 15 contractions with their root words. Students then recorded their matches.

Art Center - Students wrote a paragraph comparing OR contrasting him/herself to the main character in the story, Amaroq.  Students then draw/color a beautiful picture illustrating their work.

Writing Center - After reading a short story, students answered a series of inferential questions, making sure to support their ideas with clues from the story.

Buddy Reading - With a partner, students read an encyclopedia article about wolves. They then work together to answer several comprehension questions about wolves.

Our spelling words this week all had the “awwwww” sound (like in claw and cause). Most students recognized the two letter combinations that we studied this week…

        aw              au
       paw           pause
       fawn          auto
       awful         hauled

…but some were confused because there are a few other letters that make that sound too! (Example: short o - as in octopus; and a - as in fall.) We talked at great length about how there are some words that you just have to “know” and how reading can help you recognize when words are spelled correctly and/or incorrectly!

In grammar this week, we learned about contractions. Contractions can be tricky because that apostrophe can take the place of just one letter…or two! At this point students should understand that contractions provide us with a “short cut” to say and write words and that the apostrophe “holds the place” of the letters that are “bumped out.”

Students did a lot of writing in their reading centers this week. I am really stressing the importance of answering questions in complete sentences. This includes beginning sentences with capital letters, ending with punctuation, and using the words in the question to help formulate an answer.

You may have been hearing a little about Writer's Workshop from your child at home...and that's because students have been writing their own books!  They are SO excited about it - which makes ME excited!!  Students have been extremely attentive during our mini-lessons, absorbing everything we talk about and incorporating many of the different writer's crafts and techniques (such as similes, idioms, detailed illustrations, tables of contents, page breaks, and more!) in their own writing.  I am so impressed with what they are doing - and you will be too!!

We wrapped up our Fractions unit this week!  Here are a few of the concepts students have been working on:

Fractions of a Collection
Finding a fraction of a “collection” is tricky business.  It is not the same as finding fractions of a whole.  Although we have been practicing and reviewing it daily, it is still very challenging to many students. Please practice this with your child!!

Here is a quick review:

3/4 of 8 = ?
The denominator (4) tells us how many equal GROUPS to make. So, ¼ of 8 means I have to put 8 counters into 4 equal groups. There will be 2 counters in each group.

The numerator (3) then tells me how many groups to count to get my answer. I have to count 3 groups in this problem…so my answer is 6.  Keep practicing!

Equivalent Fractions
We learned that some fractions represent the same amount, even though the numbers are different. These are called equivalent (equal) fractions.

Examples of this include:
1/2 and 3/6
2/3 and 4/6

To help students better understand this concept, they used their fraction cards to play the Equivalent Fraction game.

On Thursday, students participated in a math lab to further explore fractions. They created 6-scoop ice cream cones (which are proudly displayed in our classroom) and played Fractions Bingo with a friend!!  I think I overheard someone saying, "Fractions are Fun!"  

In Social Studies this week, we have talked a lot about different landforms. As your child now knows, landforms are special features on the Earth’s surface. And, surprisingly, not all landforms are land!

At this point, students should now be able to identify and describe the following landforms:

Ask about them! :)

This week, Mrs. Loretta DiPietro - Anthony's grandmother - was our Mystery Reader!  What a great surprise!  Mrs. DiPietro read two wonderful stories.  The first was Dr. Seuss's story On Beyond Bugs: All About Insects and the second was A Pet for Petunia, by Paul Schmid.  I think most students really enjoyed these two stories - especially the second one!  Ask your child about Petunia!!  :)

Friday, March 18, 2011

What a week!!  Between Science Fair and Fraction Burgers, Dinosaur Paragraphs and St. Patrick's Day - we have had one, busy week! I have heard that many of you had an eventful St. Patrick's Day!  I've never heard so many interesting stories about leprechauns rummaging through backpacks, leaving gold coins, and stealing homework!!  Don't be fooled by my married name - I am Bridget Donahue, a true Irish lass at heart, and I believe every one of those stories!!  :)   

Science Fair
What a huge success!! For those of you who were able to attend the Science Fair on Thursday, I am sure you agree that the students did a phenomenal job! The posters and presentations were excellent – many with great pictures and props! As I listened to students explain their experiments to other classmates, parents and friends, it was obvious that a lot was learned during this process. In case you were unable to attend, pictures will soon be made available on the website!

St. Patrick's Day Fun
As a little treat, we had two special readers come and visit us on Thursday!  Two of my students from last year - Emily and Delaney - came and read St. Patrick's Day-themed books to students in Room 13!  (I was very impressed with their reading skills - they must have had an excellent teacher...) Here are a few pictures:

Math Fact Quizzes
As mentioned last week, math fact quizzes have not been going well. The most recent quizzes have been difficult – focusing on subtracting 6, 7, 8 and 9. These facts are not automatic for students yet, and will only become so with more practice and repetition. For this reason, I have given each student a (large) packet of subtraction fact worksheets.  As stated on the cover letter, these are for students to practice at home - they are NOT for homework. If your child completes a few pages and would like to bring them in for me to see, I would be happy to reward this extra effort with stickers, etc. but they do not have to come back to me.  I really appreciate any extra time you can dedicate to math fact practice at home - and so will your child!!

Supplies Needed
You are already so generous with your time and effort that I hate to ask for anything else...but we are completely out of tissues, erasers, and extra snacks! If you have any extras around the house - we would definitely appreciate them!!

Boston Marathon/Kenyan Visitors
As you all know, the Boston Marathon is just around the corner (both literally and figuratively)! We are extremely fortunate here at Elmwood, in that the Kenyan marathon runners come and visit us the week before the marathon!! In preparation for their visit, we will be learning about and studying Kenya (location, culture, etc.) and also doing different projects/activities that reinforce this knowledge. Keep your eyes and ears open during the next few weeks for more information!!

Our Week in Review:

This week, our theme in reading was Saving Planet Earth. We talked A LOT about all the ways that people - and kids, especially - can help keep Earth clean and healthy! The story in our reading anthology this week was a nonfiction Time for Kids article titled, "A Way to Help Planet Earth."

Over the past few months, we have been discussing and identifying some of the characteristics found in nonfiction writing.  This week provided the perfect opportunity to review some of these text features!  Your child should know that nonfiction writing usually:
             * provides true/factual information
             * has real pictures (photographs)
             * has captions
             * has titles and/or headings within the text
             * has additional features such as charts, graphs, tables, inserts, maps, and sidebars

As seasoned readers, we may take our understanding of this kind of writing for granted, but this is something that needs to be pointed out to students.  Encourage students to identify and acknowledge these text features when they read nonfiction writing! 
(PS - Questions about nonfiction text features are often found on the MCAS!)

Our schedule was a little "out of whack" this week with the Science Fair and all of the other exciting things going on, so students were only asked to complete two reading centers.  There were more "choices" for them to work on if these finished these centers, however, and many were able to start and/or complete additional centers.

The must-do centers included:

Writing Center:  Each student was given the name of a classmate and asked to write several statements describing this person without using his/her name.  These descriptions will be posted in the classroom for other children to read and guess!  (Potraits drawn by the students will be placed underneath so guesses can be confirmed!) 

Comprehension Questions:  After reading in a small group, students should complete the accompanying comprehension questions - answering in complete sentences, of course!

Additional centers included:
Games Center: With a partner, students played the "Good Luck?" game by correctly identifying past tense verbs.

Listening Center:  After listening to this week's story with a partner, students then write a paragraph telling how they can help the Earth.

Phonics Center:  Students use magnetic letters to make and break new words, all following this week's spelling pattern.  They then "stamp" each of their spelling words. 

This week's spelling words all contained the sound "ugh."  95% of words with this sound are spelled using "oo" - but, as we discussed, there are always a few exceptions! 

Some words that DO follow this rule are:
     foot, shook, cookies, looking

A few important words that do NOT follow this rule are:
      could, should, would

This idea will get a little trickier next week when students discover that both OO and OU make OTHER sounds as well!!

Students worked REALLY hard this week to complete their fabulous dinosaur research paragraphs - and I am SO incredibly impressed with how these turned out!! The children worked really hard to incorporate many of the sophisticated writing techniques/tools that I have been talking about over the past few weeks, including an interesting hook/lead sentence, figurative language (similes and metaphors), descriptive language (interesting adjectives), and creative closings!  These paragraphs, along with their pasta dinosaurs and beautiful illustrations, are posted in the hallway for everyone to enjoy.  I hope you have a chance to take a look!!

We started our fractions unit this week! Fractions can be a tricky concept, but once students understand the concept of ONE WHOLE - the idea that fractions are simply PARTS or PIECES of a whole, makes more sense!

To make fractions more concrete, students used foam “Fraction Burgers” to create burgers this week! They quickly realized that each part of the burger was represented by different fractions. For example, the bun was 1 whole. The burger was divided into 2 pieces (halves). In addition, the onions were in thirds, the cheese in fourths, the relish in fifths, the tomato in sixths, the lettuce in eighths, the mustard in tenths, and the special sauce in twelfths. The children had a great time playing with these fractions and recording their observations.

At this point, students should really understand the basic, underlying concept of fractions. Specifically, they should know that:

         * a WHOLE is equal to 1 (one entire thing)

         * a fraction is a piece or part of a whole thing
                therefore, a fraction of something is more than 0 (nothing) but less than 1
                (it’s not a “whole” thing)

          * a “whole” thing needs to be divided into EQUAL parts
                 fractions are all equal parts

          * a written fraction has two parts:

                 numerator     --    the number of parts that you are talking about/shaded parts
                denominator    --   the total number of parts

Can your child explain all of this to you??

I encourage you to acknowledge and identify fractions whenever possible in your daily life. Real-world applications will help your child solidify these concepts!  You will be amazed at all the places that you will find fractions!!

It’s back to Social Studies in Room 13. Now that we have wrapped up Fossils, we are revisiting Maps and Globes (Part 2). In this unit we will be learning more about the world in which we live. Specifically, students will learn to identify their street, town, state, country, continent, and planet - and understand the relationship between them all. Students will also learn about the 7 continents (and their important landforms) and the 4 major oceans.

This week, the unit was simply introduced, along with the concept of a boundary. Ask your child what a boundary is. They should tell you that it is a real or imaginary line that separates two places. Can s/he give examples?

This week, our Mystery Reader was Cassie's grandmother, Mrs. Hurley!  Mrs. Hurley read students two fabulous stories:  You Are What You Eat and Other Mealtime Hazards, by Serge Block and How Full is Your Bucket? for Kids by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer.  The children greatly enjoyed both of these stories - and had much to comment on! :)  Luckily for us, Mrs. Hurley donated both of these books, along with 2 others (Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Abe's Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln by Doreen Rappaport) to our classroom library, so students can read and enjoy them all year!  Thank you so much, Mrs. Hurley!!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Happy Friday!  The children didn't have school today, but teachers did!  We spent the day learning about a new reading assessment that will (hopefully) help us better assess students' reading and identify areas of strengths/weaknesses. This will aide us in planning more specialized and specific reading instruction. 

Coins for Cures Update
The children at Elmwood School have really been doing a great job collecting coins for Children’s Hospital!! We are well on our way to reaching our school goal of $5000! As a class, students have been doing an excellent job!  Our classroom goal is to collect $100 by the end of 8 weeks. In just the first week, we collected $32.42 and in the second week, we collected $15.25!! We are well on our way! We have had a lot of fun counting the coins together as a class and adding up our totals – I hope our enthusiasm remains high throughout the next few weeks! Thank you again for ALL of your help and support!

Science Fair
Please encourage your child to work on his/her science fair project over the next few days! (Reinforce good time-management!) It is sometimes difficult to find time during the week, so it might be helpful to set aside some time to work on it this weekend!! Good luck and have fun!

Our Week in Review:

This week, we read Goose’s Story, by Cari Best. This story falls under the genre of realistic fiction (it’s not real, but it could be) and tells about a goose who overcomes a physical disability to lead a normal goose life.

Through this story, we revisited/reinforced several reading skills and strategies this week. Specifically, students worked on asking questions to clarify/monitor comprehension and identifying cause/effect.

Since it was a short week, students didn't follow the normal "center routine" - but they did work to complete center-like activities including:

Grammar Work: Students completed a series of activities addressing some of the grammatical skills we have been working on, including the correct use of helping/linking verbs, the correct use of quotation marks, and the utilization of comparative (-er) and superlative (-est) adjectives (example:  tall, taller, tallest).

Art Center: Students chose 2 words from a list and wrote the comparative and superlative form of each word. They then illustrated each word and wrote two complete sentences using 2 of their words.

Phonics: Students completed 2 activities with r-controlled vowels.  The first used magnetic letters to make words, substitute letters, and make new words.  The second challenged them to create real words using -er, -ir, and -ur.  They then used their dictionary skills to check their work.

This week’s spelling rule focused on the other “Bossy R” vowels. These r-controlled vowels (-er, -ir, -ur) all make the same sound - rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr (as in herd, shirt, and curl). Since they all make the same sound, it made this week’s spelling list hard to work with. With repeated exposure and practice with these words however, they will become easier to recognize and remember!

Over the past few weeks, we have been taking an in-depth look at linking verbs and helping verbs. These verbs are tricky because they aren’t obvious, like ACTION verbs!

This week, we focused more on helping verbs.  Helping verbs are verbs that “help out” action verbs.

               For example:     We have met before.

Have is “helping out” the action verb, met. Have is just one of the many verbs that can act as helping verbs.

Encourage your child to keep an eye out for linking verbs and helping verbs. If possible, ask him/her to identify them in various sentences as they read. Good luck – they can be tricky!

Over the last 2 weeks, we have been taking a closer look at the structure of a paragraph.  Students should now understand that a "Second Grade Paragraph" consists of (at least) 5 sentences:
        1.  Topic Sentence - tells what the WHOLE paragraph is going to be about.
        2.  Detail #1 - supports the main idea.
        3.  Detail #2 - supports the main idea.
        4.  Detail #3 - supports the main idea.
        5.  Conclusion Sentence - wraps up the WHOLE paragraph; restates the topic sentence (does not include any new information or details!!)

In second grade, students' paragraph writing can be very formulaic.  Topic sentences and conclusion sentences tend to be ...  boring! 
       For example:
This paragraph is going to be about my birthday.  (topic sentence)
Now you know about my birthday. (conclusion sentence)

In order to avoid this kind of writing, we spent a lot of time this week talking about great "HOOK" sentences.  "Hook" sentences are interesting, lead sentences that GRAB the reader's attention and make them want to keep reading. We analyzed different authors' writing and a few students have been mimicking some of what they read/saw in their own writing!!  (It's quite good!)

Here are a few different ways authors/students may "lead off" their writing:
    * with a QUESTION (Have you ever ever felt happy and sad at the same time?  I have...)
    * with a RIDDLE  (What is blue and green and smells salty?  The beach in Aruba!) 
    * with an OPINION (Second grade is the best!... )
    * with an ANNOUNCEMENT  (Calling all soccer players!)
    * with a NOISE or SOUND (Crash!  When I heard that sound, I knew I was in trouble...)
    * with a SIMILE (I am as fast as lightning on my new bike...)

Students have been working hard to implement some of these "tools" in their own writing here at school - encourage them to try at home, too!! 
Earlier in the week, students used some of the data they gathered last week (their arm span information) to solidify their understanding of range, median, and mode.  They used this data to create a frequency chart, a line plot, and a bar graph.  (Fun!)  Students then had the opportunity to put this knowledge to use when taking the Unit 7 Assessment.  (Look for the corrected tests on Monday.  Please sign and return ASAP!)

We wrapped up our Fossils unit with our assessment on Tuesday.  Overall, students did very well and I was quite impressed with all they learned!!  Keep an eye out for their end-of-unit projects... more info to come next week! :)

Whew!!  We had a busy week, considering it was only 4 days!!  I hope you get lots of rest this weekend - we are back at it on Monday! :)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Welcome Back!

Welcome Back!
I hope you all had a wonderful vacation!  From what I've heard from the children, some of you had some exciting experiences - from skiing the slopes of Colorado mountains, to sun-bathing in the Carribbean, to shaking hands with President Obama! Whether you were off traveling the world, or spent the week relaxing at home (like me!), I hope you enjoyed the time with your families!! 

Dr. Seuss Day
Wednesday, March 2, was Dr. Seuss’s birthday! At Elmwood, we celebrated by reading one of my favorite books:  Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!  If you've never read this book, ask your child to tell you a SUMMARY.  Then ask him/her why it's a book for kids AND for adults (especially teachers)! 

Students also had the opportunity to do a few Seuss-inspired activities and games (mazes, wordsearches, etc.)..and they were even given a pattern for a Seussical Doorknob Hanger and a Dr. Seuss bookmark!  I hope they had as much fun on Wednesday as I did! 

Coins for Cures
As many of you already know (through discussions with your child and/or the letter posted on the listserv), Elmwood School is working to raise money for Boston Children’s Hospital. From what I have heard, many of you have visited the hospital yourselves and you know what wonderful care this facility provides to children.

With your permission, students are encouraged to clean the car/couch cushions, do little chores around the house, keep an eye out for loose change at the soccer field…and maybe donate some of that money to help other children. This fundraiser will go on for 8 weeks and each classroom has been asked to set a goal for the total that they think they can collect. The children in Room 13 think that they can collect $100!  I told them I thought that was a little "steep" but they are convinced they can do it!  What do you think?  

Book Orders
I hope you noticed that another "packet" of Scholastic Book Order catalogs went home with children on Tuesday.  I encourage you to look through these catalogs with your child and pick out a book or two - as a special treat!  If you choose to place your order on-line, the code is G2CLN.  Also, if you order on-line, you will noticed that there are a few more catalogs available to choose from! So, if you don't find something you like in the catalog, feel free to browse on-line! :)  The last day for ordering is next Thursday, March 10.  Happy Reading!

Science Fair
Please encourage your child to work on his/her science fair project over the next few weeks. (Reinforce good time-management!) It is sometimes difficult to find time during the week, so it might be helpful to set aside some time to work on it during the weekends. Good luck and have fun!

Our Week in Review:
In reading this week, we began Unit 4 with April Pulley Sayre’s story Splish! Splash! Animal Baths. This is a wonderful story that clearly illustrates and explains how different animals get clean! Students have been thinking and working hard to compare and contrast these animals and their behaviors. Comparing (describing how things are alike) and contrasting (describing how things are different) can be tricky – but doing so helps students focus on important information and helps them make great connections.

A great way to organize ideas/information when comparing and contrasting is to use a Venn Diagram. Students have been utilizing this graphic organizer all week – and they are getting pretty good at it!

Encourage your child to compare and contrast things as they come up in your daily life! (Examples: How are basketball and baseball alike/different? How is tonight’s dinner the same/different from last night’s?)

This week, our spelling pattern focused on… “BOSSY R!” Students learned that the letter R is very bossy when it pairs up with vowels. This week, we looked specifically at the vowels A and O.

We noticed that when R follows A, it makes A say “argh” – like a pirate!
       Examples: star, part, market       (We don’t hear the A at all!!)

When R follows O, it makes the O say weird things too…OR!
       Examples: for, thorn, sort

We better watch out for that R!! He doesn’t sound like someone we would want to be friends with!

This week, we took a good look at linking verbs. These verbs are tricky because they aren’t obvious, like ACTION verbs! Linking verbs are verbs that link the subject of a sentence to the predicate.

           For example:  Marsha is cold.

In this sentence, is is the verb. It doesn’t show action, but it links the two parts of the sentence. Is is a form of the verb “to be.”

Other forms of the verb include:
         was (past tense)
         were (past tense)

Although children typically use the correct verb/conjugation when speaking and writing, most don't realize that it is actually a VERB!  We will keep working to reinforce this concept!

We worked hard to collect real data this week and learned how to use this information to create informative graphs! Earlier in the week, students worked in groups to measure their standing jumps and their arm spans. We then used this data to determine the class “median.” In case you have forgotten, the median is the “middle value” in a set of data. In order to find it, you must first sequence the data (smallest to largest) and then find the number in the middle by eliminating the ends. We used this real data to create line plots, tally charts, bar graphs and pie charts! Fun!

Here are a few pictures of students creating and collecting data: (pictures to come!)
  I am still unable to post pictures! :( 

We also had a Math Lab on Thursday this week!  During this time, students had a opportunity to estimate different weights using dictionaries and a bath scale (with Mrs. Chambers),  solve equal-sharing/division problems (with Mrs. Glazier), and practice their double-digit addition skills playing Addition Spin (with me).  Pictures to come!

Earlier this week, we discussed the difference between fact and theory. After this differentiation was made clear, we talked about the different theories that scientists have explaining why the dinosaurs might have become extinct. The three most popular theories are:

a) Asteroid Theory:
This theory states that a large asteroid or comet crashed into Earth and caused a huge amount of dust/dirt to rise into the atmosphere, blocking the sun’s rays. The lack of sun prevented plants from growing, resulting in the eventual deaths of the dinosaurs (from lack of food and clean water).

b) Climate Change Theory:
This theory states that over time, the climate of earth grew colder and colder.  Eventually, the majority of the land and water froze and it was just too cold for dinosaurs and many other animals to survive. 

c) Dinosaur Disease Theory:
This theory claims that dinosaurs died from various diseases that they spread to each other.  Since there were many more land bridges between continents back in the dino days, these theorists think that dinosaurs were able to travel more and come into contact with many different dinosaurs - spreading and contracting diseases easily. 

Later in the week, we talked about dinosaur names and how they came to be! Did you know that most dinosaur names come from Greek and/or Latin words? Students learned that the word “dinosaur” means “terrible lizard” and we then talked about several popular dinosaur names and how/why they might have been chosen. I then read students Bernard Most’s story, A Dinosaur Named After Me. After that, students were inspired to create and name their OWN dinosaur! What did YOUR child come up with?

SCIENCE & (paragraph) WRITING
Did your child tell you that s/he is becoming an expert on one particular dinosaur?  On Thursday, each student chose one dinosaur to research...and we have been working hard to find resources, identify important information, and record facts about these dinosaurs.  In the end, each student will create a wonderful, fact-filled paragraph about his/her dinosaur.  I'm sure they will be a ROARING success!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Happy Vacation!

V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N! Woo-Hoo! I hope you all have something fun and exciting planned for vacation next week! You deserve it! As for me, I plan on getting lots of rest and relaxation so I am ready for the upcoming 6-week stretch through March! I can’t wait to hear all about your wonderful adventures next week! Stay healthy!

Science Fair
The Science Fair is an exciting event in which all second grade students at Elmwood participate. The fair is scheduled for March 16-18 in the Elmwood Cafeteria. Our presentation date is Thursday, March 17 from 8:30-9:30am.  Please refer to the Science Fair Packet to help your child structure and carry out his/her project, as well as plan/create the presentation board. Next week might be a great time to get started!Please let me know if you have any questions!

Persuasive Letters
If you haven’t had a chance to listen to students’ persuasive letters yet, PLEASE visit over vacation! They are WONDERFUL!! Feel free to send the link to friends and family as well!  We will be taking a look at the site in Computer Lab after vacation and I know students would love to see comments from their loved ones!!  Here is the link again: 

If you check the results of the poll, it seems that the children are quite persuasive!!  92% of parents have been convinced!! (Nice job, boys and girls!)  If you haven't completed the poll yet, parents, please do!! 

Thank You
I have to take a moment to thank Mrs. Chabot, Isabelle's grandmother, for creating 24 beautiful covers for our individual white boards - complete with velcro closures.  When Isabelle's mom let it slip that her mother had made similar covers for another second grade classroom last year, I used MY persuasive language to try and convince her to do the same for us!  We are all SO thankful that she was able and willing to make them!!  So, if you are reading this Mrs. Chabot - thank you, thank you, THANK YOU from all of us in Room 13!!

Our Week in Review:
This week was a review week for us in reading. We did not have a new story in our reading anthology, but we did review all of the reading skills and strategies that we have been working on the past 5 weeks. On Wednesday, students applied their knowledge and understanding of these important concepts as they completed the Unit 3 Reading Assessment.

In reviewing these assessments, I discovered that many children still demonstrate difficulty identifying causes and effects within stories. Many children also still have trouble creating summaries. Please continue working with your child to do both of these things! I know that they are difficult skills, and I don’t expect them to be mastered in second grade, but they are important for reading comprehension - and the more practice students can get, the better! If you have any questions about this, please let me know. I would be happy to give suggestions/ideas!

Although the words were new, our spelling list this week was a review of the phonics and spelling rules/patterns we have been studying since the beginning of January. These patterns include:

Long e:
e (she), ea (cheat), ee (seed), y (pretty)

Long u:
u_e (mule), ui (bruise)

ch (chat), sh (shy), th (throw), wh (what)

Other Digraphs:
ph (telephone), tch (watch)

Triple Consonant Clusters:
str (strap), spr (spray), scr (scrap), spl (split)

As always, the review spelling test was a dictation in which students are expected to write an entire dictated sentence – complete with appropriate capital letters and punctuation. How did your child do?

Students continued exploring and learning about different mathematical patterns this week.  On Friday, we combined reading and math with the story about the “Wubbles” – funny little creatures that double every night!  We had fun determining how many Wubbles we would have at the end of 2 days, 3 days, and 1 whole week!  We then learned that Wubbles will “halve” when you give them half a blink (a wink) and students worked to figure out how many winks we would need to get back to one Wubble!  J 

On Tuesday, students participated in an activity in which they pretended to be paleontologists.  Working in teams of 3-4, students listened to a little story/script and gradually “discovered” fossils of an unknown animal.  They worked with their fellow colleagues to try and piece together the bones and determine what kind of animal it could be.  They conferred with other teams and eventually consulted a reference manual.  It was interesting to see what their final conclusions were! 

Later in the week, students played the fossil game, A Twist in Time (which can be played at home, too!).  This game gives students an idea of how difficult it is for animal or plant parts to actually become fossilized!

On Friday, the children learned more about why fossils are important. 
   1. They learned that fossils give us clues about the plants and animals that lived long ago.  People were not around WAY back then, so we do not have any written records describing how things were!  Fossils give us clues - and we use these clues to create theories (predictions)! 
   2. Fossils also give us information about what the Earth was like long ago.  As a class, we talked about Pangea - the "super-continent."  After watching a short video clip and creating a small flip-book, I think students understand the idea/theory that the continents used to all be one giant continent!  Similar rocks and fossils found on opposite sides of the world help to validate this theory!

On Wednesday, students dove into another biography - that of Florence Nightingale.  As students now know, Florence Nightingale was an amazing woman who helped better hospitals and healthcare world wide!  Known as "the lady with the lamp," Nightingale was tireless in her efforts to heal/help injured soldiers and poor people at a time when it was not "proper" or "ladylike" to do so!  Florence Nightingale helped establish the first training school for nurses and because of her, nursing is now a very well-respected profession!

Here are a few links for those children that want to learn/do more:

Our last Mystery Reader before vacation was Mr. McCarron!  Gavin was so excited to have his father here as a reader - I think he was quite surprised!  Mr. McCarron read two of his "favorite books" - One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss and I Spy Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold.  The children thoroughly enjoyed listening to these two funny stories and we all appreciated opportunity to just listen and relax before the end of a long week!  Thank you so much for coming in, Mr. McCarron - you are welcome any time! :)

** Pictures to come!  Apparently, I've run out of space because I've posted so many pictures of the kids!!  I am working on a solution - I appreciate your patience!! :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Persuasive Letters

Persuasive writing is an important, and sophisticated, genre of writing - and students have been working hard to create persuasive letters to you!  By now, you have probably received and read your child's persuasive letters! :)  Were you convinced? 

To further weaken your resolve, I have videotaped students reading these letters - and you can see them if you visit:  There is also an option to leave a comment for your child and/or other students in our classroom.  I hope you do!! Before leaving this site, please complete the parent poll at the top right!

I hope you enjoy these videos/letters!!