Sunday, January 29, 2012


Okay, so I told myself I'd do it this summer, but well, gosh, I couldn't wait! I finally "opened" my TpT store and the writing rubric I mentioned below? It's now available for FREE at my store! Please click on the link to the side to find it!

Gosh, accomplished a lot today...too bad none of it's on my "to do" list :( Oh well! On to jazz up my Famous Americans unit!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Writing Rubric

Has anyone else ever been frustrated because there are no examples of age-appropriate writing for your grade level? Four years ago, when I moved from fourth to second, I remember being bewildered by what a second-grade story should look like! The county went whole hog on 4-Square (which I do like!), then switched gears to "Teach Me Writing" (which also has its good benefits! I love using Unit 1 to start the first nine weeks!). Right now, we are using both as resources in our teaching, which gives us a lot of flexibility.

While working on report cards today, I had to stop and think when it came to my writing grades. I split our writing time into two sections: grammar and writing. The grammar grade is a piece of cake - average in the activities and sheets students have completed. However, I have a wide gambit of writing abilities in my room. How do I grade these using the same type of scale? We have a grade level "prompt" every other month, but what about everyday writing? I have to average the two grades together, because there is only a "Writing" area on the report card!

A friend of mine directed me to her Pinterest page (yes, I do seem to mention Pinterest in every post!) and I saw a GREAT Kindergarten rubric! So, I adapted it to the goals I feel a second grader should be meeting, along with our state standards, and voila! I even managed to put it in Google Docs! Feel free to check it out here. Maybe I'm the only one feeling this lost at times, but I hope it helps those of you who have been feeling the same way!

I plan on using it to help my parents understand why their child is receiving the grade they are for writing and including it in both interims and report cards. (It is geared towards S, N, U grades, since that's what we use in our county for K-2, but feel free to adapt and make it your own!). I know as a parent, I'd appreciate the "why" as well as the areas my child needs to work on in an easy-to-read format!

Past, Present and Future?

We culminated our unit on past and present this week with some special visitors! Parents brought in some really cool items from the past (and yes, I feel old when I can remember when there were no remotes to the TV!), as well as students bringing in things such as 45 records and a french fry maker! My brain was not quite with it during the first part of the week (we had PALS this week!), but I managed to get pictures for the later part of the week.

Another focus this week was friendly letters. We started with the basal story from our Harcourt Trophies,
Dear Mr. Blueberry. Before we read, we measured out 30 meters from the window in our classroom and on down the hall to see exactly how big a blue whale is! It's quite a ways! In the story, Emily writes letters back and forth to her teacher (Mr. Blueberry) because she thinks there's a blue whale in her backyard pond! The kids loved predicting whether it was really one, as well as learning about blue whales. (There was quite a debate in my room if this story was fiction or not....some said it had too many facts in it to be fiction, so it brought on a great discussion of what "informational fiction" is!). I have a wiki page for each of the Harcourt Trophies stories we've done so far with literacy center ideas, as well as activities to do while reading (we use this series for our Monday read alouds). I'd love for you to go and visit!

I love using this story to introduce friendly letters. With the inspiration of Pinterest (there's a great "body" poster on there to use!), as well as a song I've used for years (sung to the tune of Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes), we explored the different parts of a letter. We then wrote letters to our parents about what we had learned about blue whales and if we could have one in our backyard. :)

The rest of the week for read-aloud, we read the "Ike LaRue" books to explore more letters. If you're not familiar with this picture book series, please go to the library and pick it up! Ike is a dog (his owner is Mrs. LaRue) and the books are hysterical! He writes to Mrs. LaRue in one because she put him in obedience school. In another story, he is on the hunt for missing cats and clearing his name, and in a third, he travels across the country (great way to explore the difference between postcards and letters).

Friday, January 20, 2012

Communities: Past and Present Part 2

So I was really excited about teaching population this week - more so than I ever thought I would be!

After doing a brief oral explanation of what population is (number of people in one place), we talked about the population of our classroom, the school, our county, and even our state! (I had looked up the information beforehand). This tied in so well with our study of graphs and "keys" for our picture graphs! Check out our posters below (I LOVE our school's poster maker!) that were made in Publisher:

I also found a way to display our trioramas from last week (I had been scratching my head, but finally decided our New Year's wish balloons had been up there long enough).

The caterpillars you see are from our "contractions," another pinterest-inspired activity! I'll share more about my "Grammar Tree" in another post! :)

Since it was only a four day week, we spent Tuesday on population (which my students have now expanded to talking about any group of objects in one the population of magnetic coins that don't seem to want to leave my white board!). Wednesday was a cute booklet that had us drawing what things looked like now and then (closely related to a big book we have called
Things Have Changed!). It's one of those great things I inherited years ago, but can't remember from where or who, or I'd share (one of these days, I'd like to get a document scanner and put things in Adobe!).

Thursday we discovered past items and jobs that have since been eliminated using the website What Is It? from Harcourt School, and created "coins" of colonial jobs. I adapted a worksheet from the book below I had picked up in my travels. It's from one of the pages that the students were supposed to "match," but thought making coins would be more fun!

The kids really enjoyed the activity and of course, my boys loved the fact that there was a gunsmith as one of the coins!

Friday was a day where we shared our homework this week: interviewing someone "older" about their childhood, comparing it to today. I thought it was funny because one of the questions was asking which invention had changed their life since childhood. I laughed at one that said "Atari," bringing back memories of my old TI99/4A we had (MUNCHMAN!), but most said cell phone, Internet, or computers. My kids were stunned when I told them that I never had computers in my classroom until middle school!

"Gosh, Mrs. Youel, how old ARE you?"

Some days, I ask myself the same question! :)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Literacy Center/Adventure at Dollar Tree!

I LOVE the Dollar Tree! I loved them even before they created their teacher section, but now that they have, it's my guilty indulgence! I am trying to be more creative in my literacy centers, so I went looking for inspiration yesterday. This is what I came up with!

Since I have multiple levels in my classroom (from Primer to 4th!), I need to make differentiated centers. We have been working on plural nouns, so that is the focus when I introduce it this week.

I used the blue blocks for alphabet letters, red for blends and digraphs at the beginnings of words, green for vowel combinations, and orange for endings. In hindsight, I'm wondering if I should have taken the "Boggle" approach and put different letters on each block instead of the same on all 6 sides. Oh well! That could be another project for another day! :) I've stored the extras in a pencil pouch I also picked up at the Dollar Tree, so the total cost of the project was:
blocks (2 pouches) $1.00 each
egg container $1.00
pencil pouch $1.00

Not too bad for $4.00!!!!

Students will write on dry erase boards the words they have created and show to me by the end of centers OR take a picture with the digital camera (depending on how crazy it gets in our room!). I thought about doing a cute template, but realize that's a lot of paper, and in our class, we're trying to conserve (we recycle all paper and plastic bottles, which I take every couple of weeks to our local transfer station!).

I'll post more as I create them! Got to love Pinterest - it's taken me beyond the traditional centers (and granted, some of them are great and I'm still using them!) and has helped me "spread my wings."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Communities: Past and Present

Do you ever have those units that are, quite frankly, a little boring? While I think it's kind of cool to look back on where we've been to where we are now....well, 7 and 8 year olds don't always feel the same! I decided to give my unit a little "kick" now that I've been inspired by Pinterest to be more creative! (What an addicting site! If you haven't been there before, it's FABULOUS!)

Our standards ask us to cover how the community, transportation, population, and jobs have changed from the past to the present.

We started with transportation - something my boys really enjoyed! I created a Powerpoint for the students to help them visualize that we truly went from two feet (walking) to what we have today! After a couple of days of discussion and comparing what we use now to what was used long ago, the students created a "tall ship" sort, where they put the past "vehicles" on top of the sail, the present replacement underneath.

Ship Template
Clip Art

We then focused on the different types of communities and, after a great video from Discovery Streaming and a Powerpoint my students help create using Google Images, they then created a triorama about the 3 types.

This is my sample. (If you've never done a triorama, you cut a piece of 8x11 paper into a square, then fold corner to corner to make the triangle, making sure to cut one side to the middle - that's the "x". Then, you fold it over and glue to make the triorama!).

This is one of my student's. They did a great job! Not quite sure how I'm going to display them. (I'd love to suspend them from the ceiling but there's always that fire marshall thing!)

Next week, we're focusing on population and jobs. I have a few ideas playing around in my head. Hope this helps those of you who have to do a similar unit!