Saturday, March 30, 2013

Must Read Mentor Texts -- Linking Up with Collaboration Cuties!

Stacia and Amanda over at Collaboration Cuties have just posted a mentor text link up.  I can't wait to browse through all of the mentor text recommendations they will be gathering!  I am sure my pocketbook will suffer, but I can think of much worse addictions than that of buying books... :0) 

The main mentor text that I am sharing is not one that I have in my classroom library YET, but I stumbled upon it in our school library.  I had just finished a read aloud in our librarian's over-sized recliner, leaned forward to get up, and I spotted a title on the binding of a picture book that made me laugh, My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks.  I HAD to take a closer look. 

Upon closer examination, I realized the book included a series of family portraits made with objects.  How intriguing this was! Furthermore, the objects were all related to similes that a little girl used to describe her family members... "My daddy is as jumpy as a spring... He is as fun as a party favor...".

I immediately thought about the text's teaching potential in regards to similes. THEN, when I went online to purchase the text, I found out that the author, Hanoch Piven, has a website where people can post pictures of their own object art, AND there is an app called Faces iMake.

Here's the lowdown on My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks: And Other Funny Family Portraits...

Using this text is on my list of to dos upon returning from spring break.  We will strengthen our previous learning/understanding of simile when we create object portraits and writings using similes.  Look for a post sharing student creations coming SOON!

Hanoch Piven also has a follow up picture book called My Friend is as Sharp as a Pencil: And Other Funny School Portraits.

Both picture books are available at (text and Kindle versions) and Barnes & Noble (text and Nook versions). You can also view a preview of My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks on

Don't forget to stop over to Collaboration Cuties and browse their Mentor Text Link Up!

Mentor text link ups will be going on by theme each week. Don't miss this fun opportunity to expand your teaching repertoire!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Make Every Day Earth Day!

Well, it may not have looked and felt much like spring here in Illinois this past week, but spring break is here!  Yahoo! Love the kids, but I do believe we were all ready for a break... Spring break means that April is just around the corner, and Earth Day will be here before we know it. 

I have been working on some language, math, and science items that I want to share with you, and one is a FREEBIE! 

I just finished some Earth Day fact and opinion fun--a sorting worksation and board game!  Both are included in one product on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Since my kids now have a working knowledge of fact and opinion, I thought this would be a great addition to April reading/language rotations. 

Next--the FREEBIE!  Go Green Subtraction Slide is a free game that I included in a previous post in February, but I wanted to include it again in this Earth Day post.  To read more about subtraction slide, go to the previous post. Thanks again to Denise at Sunny Days in Second Grade for giving me permission to make this free version of her subtraction slide game.

Last, I have created a big bundle of language, math, and science Earth Day activities.  Stop on over to my TpT's nest to check out Make Every Day Earth Day!

Hope you find something useful... :0) Whether you are ending your spring break, just starting, or it is yet to come, ENJOY!  All the best...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Art of Tessellation

As part of our second grade ocean theme, my students created a school of fish tessellation.  This is the second year I have done this with students, and the display turns out wonderfully.  What I like best about this art project is that each fish is unique, just like my students, yet they fit together perfectly in a school, a metaphor for how we stick together throughout the school year.  Our bulletin board also educates viewers about the meaning of tessellation and the artist, M.C. Escher. This would be a great beginning of the year art project and bulletin board display as well. 

To download directions for making a fish tessellation template, visit Art Projects for Kids.  I traced the template for students to cut out.  Cutting carefully is key!  Then each student used tempera paints to create his/her tropical fish.  Finally, a giant googly eye was added. 

To create the bulletin board display, simply staple the fish together to form a tessellation.  The bubbles you see were made from the excess lamin at the end and edges of lamination jobs. Tip: Place a stack of heavy books on top of fish once dried (before hanging), as they like to curl up.

With the art of tessellation, the possibilities are many! Happy creating!

Monday, March 18, 2013

A POWERFUL, POWERFUL tool! I cannot say it enough...

A POWERFUL, POWERFUL tool! I cannot say it enough... 

In the past, many second grade teachers taught the traditional algorithm for addition and subtraction. A HUGE shift in focus has come with the Common Core Standards for Mathematics--and even without the Common Core, I believe this to be essential at this level.  The primary focus should be in helping students develop a strong sense of number and exposing them to strategies for addition and subtraction that are strongly rooted in their understanding of place value. 

With all of this known, if not the traditional algorithm for addition and subtraction, then WHAT?
My personal experience with second graders, in helping them develop a strong foundation in place value, has taught me how powerful and capable their young minds are.  From day one of second grade, students have been immersed in making sense of the WHY, not simply the HOW.  I believe one of the most POWERFUL tools in helping do this has been the introduction, instruction, and application of the open number line. 

I began to use the open number line with my students after coming across an INVALUABLE resources titled, The Number Line: Learning to Think Mathematically with the Number Line (A Resource for Teachers, A Tool for Young Children) by Jeff Frykholm, Ph.D.  This resource concisely explains the theory and rationale for using an open number line with young children and provides a series of lessons that can be followed in sequence. Differentiation options are included as well.  All I really needed was this resource to get started, that's it! It is available at Thinking Mathematically for $21 (hard copy) or $15 (download).
So our journey with the open number line began...

The concept of the open number line was introduced to students the first week of school.  They immediately began to explore its use with a "life-sized" number line constructed with Command hooks, clothesline, number cards, and clothes pins.  Students interacted with the life-sized number line as various numbers were place on the line and justifications were given for their placement.  

I also used various lessons in the text and supplemented with additional lessons modeled after those presented.  This provided practice for students and began to build their understanding of the tool.

Gradually, it was time to apply the tool when presented with "situations". 


Now, after extended use of the tool, I truly feel that it has been internalized as one of various strategies for approaching and making sense of problem situations.  I have tried to pinpoint when students became so proficient with its use (not all of them at the same time, of course), but I have not been able to do so.  I think it was magic! Ha! 

 A student created "situation" and her solution... :0)

If you haven't already, I STRONGLY suggest you introduce this tool to your students.  No frills, no catchy phrases, no cute graphics, no bells and whistles--just cheap and conceptually sound!  Put the POWER in your students' hands--furthermore, their minds!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Read Across America -- Seuss-Inspired Snack Stew

As a final celebration of Read Across America this week, we made Seuss-Inspired Snack Stew!  I adapted this recipe from (eliminating the nuts and adding a little) and put together a recipe sheet for the kids to take home. It was a perfect recipe that allowed for each kid to take part in putting it together. We also had a great lesson when figuring out how much of each ingredient was needed when we doubled the recipe.  It was a great opportunity to use fraction models to double 1/2 and 1/4.  Of course, putting all of the ingredients in the brown, paper grocery bag and shaking it all up was great fun! Download the recipe here, and enjoy this savory, nut-free snack! The kids loved it!

Hat graphic courtesy of The 3AM Teacher.  Border art by Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs.