Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Teaching Students to Make Inferences (and a freebie!)

This is quite a difficult skill for second graders to learn. I have seen so many anchor charts on the topic that it must not just be me struggling to teach it. My biggest issue is finding stories that really make it easier to make inferences. I came across the BEST book to read aloud to my class. This book actually requires kids to make inferences!
This story is told from the point of view of two ants that have invaded a human home. The author never tells the reader exactly what is going on because he uses different vocabulary. For example, the ants are in search of crystals to take back to their home. It takes the kids a few pages (and clues from the pictures) to understand that they are looking for sugar.
I started my lesson by activating their prior knowledge about ants so we could refer to it as we made inferences. As we read the story, I stopped and had the students make inferences about different parts of the story. The kids really understood how to make inferences after this awesome read aloud. Then, I assigned my Making Inferences Flip Flap Book (freebie!) to the students so they could write about the inferences they made.

I'll admit that they struggled, at first, but eventually got the hang of it. My kiddos really enjoyed the story and how it was told from the perspective of the ants. They felt like they were detectives looking for clues in the text and illustrations and using their schema to make some great inferences.
Look how much these boys were writing!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Math Centers

Two years ago, I started doing math centers with my kiddos. After some wrestling with logistics and timing, I came to really love this time of day and so do my students. They are seriously devastated if something weird comes up and we can't do centers. I store all my centers in gallon zip top bags labeled with the name of the activity and the skill. It is really easy to find what I need and see if the contents are all there. It also makes clean up (a student responsibility) a breeze.

Here's how I set them up:
I have 5 color-coded table groups plus my table, which makes 6 rotations. This means there is always one empty station. My table is almost always intervention/enrichment or a chance to introduce a new game that will eventually be in rotation. There is an activity assigned to each table that lasts about 10-12 minutes. We go through 3 rotations each day so a set of centers lasts 2 days. I ring a bell and the students rotate to the next group.

If they haven't finished their task, they need to "pull over" with a clipboard and finish it. I try to cover fluency, word problems/test prep, the skill we're working on for that unit, and mix in some fun and games. I usually alternate games and practice pages so there is some measure of accountability and the kids are motivated to finish their "work" so they can play the "game" that is next. I took a few quick pics the other day while my station was empty.

iPad station

Promethean Board station

Game station
My kids really love Addition and Subtraction Battle, which is a game using a deck of cards (minus the face cards). Each kid flips over a card on the count of 3 and then the first person to quickly add or subtract the two numbers keeps both cards. It has really helped to improve their fluency! I also have 3 iPads for kids to play math games on. In addition, I try to have a QR code station if possible. This week we used my Snowy Addition center. They are so motivated to complete their work with accuracy when there is a QR code involved.
You can grab my Snowy Subtraction and Addition Task Cards with QR Codes at my TPT store for just $2!

Finally, all the work is turned in as they finish. I grade it and on Wednesdays we spend some time correcting their work. We call it "Fix It Wednesdays". I started doing this because some kids were rushing through their work and not caring about accuracy. Now, they are much more conscientious about making sure their work is correct so they don't have much work to do on Fix It Wednesday. The kids who finish their corrections can play math games on the computer or iPad, play some of our other games or be "helpers" to their classmates while I work with struggling students. It provides accountability during math centers, helps students learn from their mistakes, and gives me a chance to work with students who needed more instruction.
One of biggest challenges I have come across is finding activities that can be completed in about 10 minutes, don't need a ton of prep, or that don't require my assistance. I have a bucket of math books that the fast finishers can read if they have time before the next rotation. The other challenge is teaching students appropriate procedures for rotation, playing the games or completing the activities, clean up and keeping kids on task and relatively quiet. The first 4 weeks of school, I don't even have a group so that I can walk around the room and monitor the kids. After the initial training, things pretty much run like clockwork and it is well worth the extra time spent up front training the kids. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

QR codes that play audio

It has been said that I'm a technology freak. I don't deny it. I am also obsessed with QR codes. I use them all the time with my class and they love the instant feedback. After much deliberation about what to have the kids make as gifts for their parents for the holiday, I decided to skip the cheesy ornaments and do something academic and timeless. I found this awesome activity by the awe-inspiring Amy Lemons called, "The Story of...A Student Writing Booklet". It helps students organize a narrative about themselves using different verb tenses.

 First, you brainstorm verbs describing things the kids did when they were little. This can be hilarious. Some classic examples:
pooped, cried, spit up.

 Then, you brainstorm verbs that kids can do now. Mine needed a little prompting but caught on quick. This melted my heart! One kid wrote that she could read really hard chapter books!
 This is the fun part! A few of my little darlings said that they wanted to be teachers when they grow up! One said she wants to drive a pink limo. Her buddy next to her said, "That's gonna be hard to find".
Here is the title page. When I told the kids that we would be laminating these, they started to really take this project seriously. They felt like real authors!

After much editing (first with peers, then with me) and some dictionary practice, they were ready to write their final copies. I'll post pictures of the final products as soon as they're finished.

Now, here is where the QR codes come in! I recorded the kids reading their stories into my iPhone, then emailed them to myself. I saved them to Dropbox and then clicked on Share Link. After that I copied the link and pasted it into my favorite QR code generator site www.qrstuff.com and made QR codes for each kid. Now, all I have to do is print them out, glue them to the cover of their books and laminate them. I really think each parent will love to hear their child's precious voice reading the book they wrote and illustrated. I can't wait to see the finished product because they are looking awesome so far!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Snow, snow, snow and subtraction

We woke up to a dusting of snow this morning! It snowed steadily almost all day and my school district decided that parents could come and pick up their kids early if they wanted to, but we would dismiss at the regular time. Starting just before noon, the students slowly trickled out of the room as their parents came to pick them up. I had only half my class left, so instead of teaching the really important subtraction lesson I had planned, we played games on the Promethean board all afternoon! The kids got really stir crazy at one point and it seemed like they had each eaten about a dozen cupcakes. I had also planned to have them do my Snowy Subtraction QR code activity as a math center, but that also went out the window!
click here to get it

Oh well! I guess we'll do it tomorrow (or maybe next week). Some of my students have really been understanding how to do subtraction with regrouping. It really helps that they learned the little poem that helps them know when to regroup:

More on the top? No need to stop!
More on the floor? Go next door!
Number's the same? Zero's the name!
Sometimes all I have to do is tell them to ask "the question". It is so cute to see them whispering the little poem as they work through problems. Of course, I still have some kids struggling with the concept and they are using base-10 blocks or drawings to help them conceptually.
I have had such a crazy week and can't wait for the weekend to just relax a little bit. My tech team at school was chosen to do a presentation about using QR codes in the classroom at our district's Digital Learning Conference. It was quite an experience! I was so nervous because I did most of the talking, but it was really good for me to step up and show what I've been doing with my students. I was also really inspired by one presenter in particular that demonstrated some really great ways to use technology with students. I'll definitely be doing some research and playing around with some apps over winter break.  
Well, my daughters are hard at work finishing projects and studying for finals and it is time for me to go help with some Algebra (gag!). This just reminds me why I teach 2nd grade!