Two Brains (Are Better Than One)

Especially if one of the brains is mine!  I think most teachers would agree; one of the best parts of the profession is sharing ideas with colleagues, whether in person or through cyberspace. That’s how the cupcake (referenced in yesterday’s post) was baked.  In this case, too many cooks was a good thing.  

Same goes for my latest tip:


The evidence arrow.  Here’s how it came to be: 

It’s all about close reading.  Looking at text more than once, often with pen in hand and finding evidence in the text to support your answers to comprehension questions.  This is the current BIG THING in education.  Apparently, there is a heavy dose of it on the upcoming PARCC assessments.  So my coworker shared with me a quickie that she was employing in her small groups – she called it the evidence game.  Super simple – ask a question, give them the page number and have them point to the words that prove/support your answer.  Genius!  So, when I played it during my next small group, I took small post its, had them draw an arrow on each one, and had them place it directly on the evidence.  Evidence arrows were born.

But it gets better.  While deconstructing this lesson, (which amounts to bragging just how well it went with my makeshift arrows), my friend said she thought Post It made actual arrows.  Forward to that afternoon at Staples where I purchased a few sets for us both.  Forward even further to the next day when we used them.  What is is about rainbow colored stickies that turns kids into text detectives?  Don’t know, but I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.  

Here’s hoping I find more of these in my Christmas stocking this year!  Thanks, JA (initials used to protect the brilliant but shy!), for sharing this.   Collaborating…what it’s all about.



Cupcakes in School

Once upon a time, cupcakes could be seen at school.  On any given day, someone’s birthday was being celebrated, and that child would come bearing cupcakes for the class.  And, if there were any left over after passing them out to classmates, the birthday child could go to the principal, the secretary, the nurse, the custodian and offer each of them a sweet treat.

Those days have long since disappeared.  Our school has been a no-cupcakes-for-birthdays school for quite a while, and my scale thanks you.  And for the past two years, we are a food-free school as well.  Teachers are not permitted to distribute food of any kind, and all party treats must be purchased from our food service company.  And it hasn’t been bad.

But cupcakes haven’t been totally banned. They’ve just taken on a new form.  When writing our personal narratives, we refer to the basic structure of the story as the cupcake.  It must contain a beginning, middle and ending.  Without those, it just isn’t a personal narrative.  Of course, that’s the bare minimum – an unfrosted cupcake.  To make your story/cupcake better, add the icing!  The icing is the elaborations that we can sprinkle throughout our stories – engaging leads, strong endings, dialogue, feelings, suspense and more.  A big thank you to Meredith Alvaro, who shared this recipe with us.



And so to illustrate this point, we made cupcakes.   No flour or sugar, but lots of craft materials.   After our parents enjoyed our published narratives, we worked with them to create a cupcake – a representation of a fully loaded personal narrative.



Mmmm….writing CAN be delicious!

Welcome to Our World

Every November, our school district celebrates American Education Week by inviting parents into our schools.  Over the years this has taken different forms.  Sometimes it’s a drop-by-and-simply-observe invitation.  Other times it’s a “show” (Poems and Pies was my absolute favorite!!).  And still other times it’s a come-in-and-do-something-with-your-child event.  Today’s visit was of the latter variety:


Parents joined us this afternoon and were eagerly greeted by their second graders, who proceeded to follow the printed directions and take them on a tour of the classroom.  They delighted in showing off to their parents and taking the lead as they explained morning meeting, read to self and many other routines of our day.  Then, parents were treated to a reading of their child’s published personal narrative.


Finally, parent and child worked together to create a cupcake craft.  Why a cupcake?  Tune in this weekend for a full explanation and a  few more photos.  I promise you’ll be impressed.  We all were today.

Nerd Alert

I have no idea how to make the above link clickable, so clearly I’m not announcing my tech prowess. No, my shame goes deeper than that.  I like grammar.  As in pronouns, predicates and tenses.  As in, I used to love to diagram sentences.  (Catholic school graduate, thank you very much.)


And so, when a friend posted this link to Staples’ grammar quiz, I was all over it.  I spent a very enjoyable 10 minutes (or so) and am happy/embarrassed to say that I scored 100%.  This quiz covered by two pet peeves – the misuse of they’re/their/there and your/you’re.  Contractions are important.  If I have to teach them to my second graders (and I do!), I should know and follow the rules.

Do I make grammatical mistakes?  Heck yeah.  Just because I like grammar doesn’t mean I’m a robot.  So feel free to scan my blogposts…I’m sure you’ll find some errors.  It won’t change the fact that I like grammar.  Probably because I’m a child of the 70s and grew up with Schoolhouse Rock.  If you’re not familiar, find them on youtube.  I dare you to watch the one on interjections and not get the tune stuck in your head.  


Costumes and Parades and Pumpkins, Oh My!

Halloween on a Thursday.  Not my first choice, but it sure beats Monday!  And it sure was nice actually celebrating it on October 31st.  Last year it was completely cancelled at school due to Hurricane Sandy, and the year before it was postponed due to the freak fall snowstorm.

Halloween at our school always begins with an early morning costume parade.Image

It seems a shame to cover those faces with orange ovals!

The parade is immediately followed by our classroom party, which went off without a hitch.  Each and every year I do an old standby craft – decorating orange frames with Halloween foam stickers.  Never gets old!  The following day I added their photos.  Voila!


Following a school-purchased muffin snack (no outside food of any kind as per the school policy), we played Trick or Treat.  The class was divided into two teams, and each child would reach into a cauldron and pick out a slip.  Most slips allowed the child to earn a point or two for their team if they performed a Halloween-themed activity.


They read it aloud and then performed.  Examples included, “Hang upside down like a bat!” and “Pretend to stuff your face full of candy corn!” (See below!)



Under the orange, this pretty devil seems surprised by her choice!  But she was game, as was everyone else!


Of course, a few children chose a Trick slip, which caused their team to lose a point.  But some game parents helped to even out the score by game’s end!

After goody bags were passed out, parents remained to help students out of costumes, but the fun continued after lunch, when we did some pumpkin math.  (See the pumpkin patch in the background of some of the above photos).  A highlight of that lesson?  The sink or float game – which required a custodian to clean up the splashes!   All in good Halloween fun!

The following day was a school wide pajama day, and I wore mine happily – even to the parent meeting I had to attend.  Hey,  I’m teacher.  On the day after Halloween.   No judgment.

Happy Halloween 2013.  I’ve got 2014’s costume covered…and most of it purchased too.  Never leave anything to the last minute.