Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Hi Everyone,

I love Thanksgiving for a myriad of reasons. Some personal and some professional. One of the reasons I love Thanksgiving professionally, is because the abbreviated week leading up to the holiday allows for me to get a little more creative than I can with regular curriculum work.

For the past 2 years, the second grade teachers in my school have been doing a mini-unit in the 3 days before Thanksgiving all about the Macy's parade. This unit was created out of both want and need. Ever since I can remember I have loved watching the parade, and it gives us a chance to teach about something having to do with Thanksgiving that doesn't go into the gray area of teaching about the holiday itself.

This unit always starts with a thinking routine to see how much the students know. We use the routine "Think, Puzzle, Learned" which is very similar to a KWL. The students will come back to this chart after each lesson to add what they have learned to it.

We use a few books about the parade that the kids really like as well. 

1. Balloons Over Broadway by, Melissa Sweet is the story of how the balloons came to be in the parade and the man who created them, Tony Sarg. The illustrations and the way the book is worded really capture the kids attention.

2. Milly and the Macy's Parade by, Shana Corey and Brett Hellquist is an historical fiction account of how the first Macy's parade came to be.  This one is definitely a personal favorite of mine.

We also use this great Nearpod presentation. Who would have thought Nearpod would have virtual field trips to the Macy's parade!? At the end of the presentation the students are tasked with designing their own parade balloon.

Here are some of the examples:

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 17, 2016

My Goals for the School Year

Let's talk about how I have tried to write this blog a million times. Every time I start I think about what a great idea it will be, then I write for a month and forget about it. I don't know if anyone actually reads this but now that the school year has calmed down a bit, I'd like to discuss my goals for blogging during the course of the year.

1. To continue posting about the books I love

2. To record some of the work my grade level team and I have been doing in math (mostly inspired by Greg Tang)

3. To write about our change over to digital science notebooks and the NGSS standards this year.

4. To post some freebies and links to some of the other work I've done.

5. To actually label my posts.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The books I love: Fractured Fairytales

Hi Everyone,

Today, instead of choosing one book, I want to talk to you about the insane amount of Fairytales and Fractured Fairytales that I have collected over the years. This is, for the most part, due to the fact that every spring we teach a unit on fairy tales and their fractures.

I am sure that most people don't need fairytale recommendations because all retellings are similar enough to get the point. I will say only that my favorite retellings are the ones illustrated by James Marshall.

If you are looking for fractured fairy tales though here is my top 10 based on my enjoyment as well as student engagement.

1. The Frog Prince Continued by, Jon Scieszka

What it's about - Neither the prince or princess are happily ever after so the prince decides to go on a journey to find someone to turn him back into a frog.

Why I like it - This story is great for discussing multiple view points as well as what happens after "happily ever after". I also find it to be very engaging for the children to find the multiple characters from other fairy tales that exist within this story.

2. The Princess and the Pizza by, Mary Jane and Herm Auch

What it's about - a princess is out of work after her father decides to give up his throne. She enters a competition to win the heart of a prince and get her job back.

Why I like it - like the previous book, this story has a variety of fairytale characters for the students to find. The story features a strong and sassy princess and an ending that doesn't need a marriage which is also a nice touch.

3. Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by, Mo Willems

What it's about - 3 hungry dinosaurs (Mamma, Pappa and some random dinosaur from Norway) try to trap themselves some dinner by luring Golidlocks into their home.

Why I like it - The kids and I both appreciate the humor in the story and it's interesting to talk about the juxtaposition of the empty house being a trap instead of just an empty house with unsuspecting inhabitants.

4. Falling for Rapunzel by, Leah Wilcox

What it's about - Rapunzel can't hear the prince and throws a variety of things out the window instead of her hair.

Why I like it - the book is completely ridiculous and every year it gets an insane amount of laughter from the kids. They love the fact that Rapunzel is completely mixed up. I also think the illustrations add immensely to the story.

5. The Cat, The Dog, Little Red, The Exploding Eggs, The Wolf and Grandma by, Diane and Christyan Fox

What it's about - a cat is trying to tell the story of Little Red Riding Hood but keeps being interrupted by the dog she is telling the story to.

Why I like it - The book is great for a discussion about how people can have multiple points of view on the same story. It's also silly which keeps the children completely engaged.

6. Snoring Beauty by, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
What it's about - The characters in this story have 2 large problems. Snoring Beauty's snore is so terrible that it's been keeping everyone awake and the prince and his mouse friend can not figure out how to wake her up.

Why I like it - In addition to the new viewpoint about the story of Sleeping Beauty, it also makes light of the romance aspect of fairytales which the children always find very funny.

7. Beware of the Bears by, Alan MacDonald

What it's about - the bears decide to seek revenge on Goldilocks but their plan doesn't quite work out the way they thought it would.

Why I like it - I think it brings home the point that revenge isn't always the best option as well as thinking all the way through a plan before it's carried out.

8. The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf by, Mark Teague

What it's about - Wolf comes to town hungry but no one will feed him. His terrible day causes him to behave terribly towards the pigs.

Why I like it - It encourages the students to think about multiple viewpoints as well as actions and the consequences that follow.

9. Goldilocks and Just One Bear by, Leigh Hodgkinson

What it's about - A grown-up little bear wanders out of the woods and gets lost in the big city.

Why I like it - Once the children make a connection to who the bear is and where he winds up they spend a lot of time thinking about other fairytale characters and what they might be like as adults.

10. Waking Beauty by Leah Wilcox

What it's about - a prince hears a terrible noise and thinks there is a dragon lurking inside. He enters the building to find a snoring sleeping beauty and then can't figure out the best way to wake her.

Why I like it - the children are always engaged by books that rhyme. They also love the fact that this bumbling prince can't listen to directions completely and does really ridiculous things to wake up the princess.

Feel free to comment if you have any that aren't on the list and should be.

Friday, April 1, 2016


Hi Everyone,

According to my research, this April, is the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month. In the spirit of that today's post will be all about the poetry unit I use in reading in my classroom. This unit runs about 3 weeks and I usually begin it right around the start of April.

Immersion: I begin the unit by spending a few days just reading poetry with the children and discussing what they notice. I try to vary the style of poetry although, to be honest, the are always more engaged with Perlutsky or Silverstein than anything else.

Unit: During the unit I spend each day discussing a different type of poetic device that the children might find. Each child has been given a poetry anthology full of poems that were collected based on whichever devices I am teaching. Their independent reading time is spent looking through these poems for whatever device we are studying. We also discuss using poems to help our fluency. After we have gone through the devices we work on some higher level thinking skills including using poems to visualize and infer.

Here are some examples of anchor charts we use:

Celebration: At the end of the unit each child chooses 2 poems from the anthology that he or she loved. Using Educreations the child draws what he or she visualizes when reading the poem and then reads the poem aloud to demonstrate fluency.

Here are some examples of the celebration projects:

If you are interested in using the materials or the lists of poems matching poetic devices that I have created feel free to visit my TeacherPayTeacher store. There is a first grade unit and a second grade unit as well.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Books I Love

Hi Everyone,

This week's book recently made a pretty big splash in the literature world. It won both the Newbery and Caldecott awards for 2016!

This week's book is:

By, Matt de la Pena

About the book:
The book is the story of a little boy named CJ who takes a bus ride every Sunday after church to serve in a soup kitchen with his grandmother. Throughout the book Grandma helps to emphasize the themes of beauty and kindness and encourages CJ to find these themes all around him.

Why I like it:
This book encourages the students to think about a variety of elements that make up a kind, and emotionally well rounded person. They are encouraged to think about beauty and how it is found in the most unusual places as well as how an act of kindness can not only help others but can allow them to help themselves.

How I use it:
This book was actually just used as our school wide book club book. We did multiple readings of the book and completed projects about beauty and kindness. This included participating in a fundraiser for a local children's charity.

Here are some Educreations the children made on kindness

The students also worked with 4th grade buddies to create videos on what they think is beautiful.

Lastly the children created their own video on what they think beauty is using iMovie and their iPad cameras.

Hope everyone got some cool ideas!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Tech Talk - Research Ideas

Hi Everyone,

Here in 2nd grade we just finished a research unit in which the students had to choose a research topic, research the topic, and then create books about their topic of interest. The project is an extended one which encompasses everything from how to read a variety of non-fiction texts to creating their own.

Today I want to focus on the research element of the project.

In the past, this unit has been a complete thorn in my side. I always had issues finding enough information for the kids' wacky topics and the hardest children to find information for were those who were struggling readers. I also had to print pages of information off the internet for those children who I could not find books for. This year things were different.

I started, of course, with the library and pulled out books ranging in topics from Labrador Retrievers to Bo Jackson.

After that I was able to use the technology that I now have access to thanks to our 1-1 status. The first thing I did was have all of the children turn on the text to speech option on their iPads. In case you aren't sure where this is located I took a screen shot.

The students all turned on the speak screen which allows them to swipe down with 2 fingers and have whatever is on their iPad screen read to them. This was a significant help with websites that do not read aloud to the students.

The next thing I did was set up a research folder in my class Schoology account. Each topic was then broken into a subfolder. I did this to eliminate the students randomly searching google for information. Each of them would be able to log in to Schoology and click on specific links without adult ads that had been checked to make sure the information was accurate.

Once I finished setting this up, I moved on to finding websites that worked well for the students.

Here are some of my favorites:

1. Pebble Go - This is a subscription based site that is wonderful for lower elementary. The students have the option to listen or read the text and the text is simple and straight forward.
2. World Book Online Kids - This site has more text and descriptive information than the previous one. If you are working on a computer they have a text-to-speech option. On an iPad the students will have to use the assistive technology.
3. DK Find Out - The topics on this website are not as diverse as others but the information they do have is spectacular. My students especially liked the interactive maps and diagrams.

Hope this helped some of you with research projects!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Books I Love

Hi Everyone,

This week's book is actually one that my students and I read this morning. I didn't realize until now that I am going to be writing about two wordless books in a row but this one is definitely worth the purchase.

This week's book is:

By, Aaron Becker

About the Book
Journey is the story of a lonely and bored little girl who uses a red crayon to draw a magic door in her bedroom wall. What follows is a new world full of wonder, adventure, excitement and even danger. In the end the biggest journey of all turns out to be the one of friendship.

Why I like it:
I love the intricate and realistic looking illustrations in this book. These illustrations show not only the author's imagination, but also encourage that of the reader. I also love the way wordless pictures books, this on especially, capture children's attention in their innate detail and ability to make the readers think deeply about everything that is occurring within the pictures.


How I use it:
I use this book mostly in small group instruction. I find that the illustrations are so delicate that the children need to be up close to fully appreciate them. My favorite use for this book is in my small group reading lessons about having book talks. I use it to teach the students how to have a conversation about a book and how to interact with each other as well as a story at the same time. In fact, just this morning, the group I was working with had a 15 minute conversation about just the first 2 pages.

Hope everyone enjoys!