Who's On Second?

Blog for second grade teachers, but all are welcome!

Enrichment for Above Grade Level Students

Huh?So, I have an awesome class.  It's really a wonderful change, but there is a little problem.  I have three extremely bright students who are working way above their second grade peers in both reading and math.  I want to make it a great year for them, but I need to provide them with more challenging activities.  They were thrilled when I let them work together on some challenging math problems.  However, I need to find more ways to challenge them in language arts and math. Any ideas out there?  They are typical second graders in maturity, so they tend to get very restless if they are not occupied for long stretches of time. Thanks!!!Wink

I Have A Great Class!!!

Big SmileI have just completed my third full day with my new students, and I am so excited to say that I have an awesome class!  There is always the apprehension about what hand will be dealt the next time around, and I am coming off an extremely tough year.  The kids from last year were sweet to me, but terrible to each other, so it was a year of trying to manage the arguing, physical fighting,  and name-calling.  Not fun for any teacher!  Already I can see the difference in this new group.  Yes, there are some challenges: a new girl from Burma who speaks no English, a severely hearing-impaired student, five students who need a lot of help academically, and a couple of boys who need to learn acceptable school behavior.  However, when they are in cooperative groups, they actually get along!  What a refreshing and welcome change from last year's group!  Even the oppositional-defiant boy has not been unmanageable.  I am full of hope for a great new year!Left Hug

Oppositional Defiant Student: HELP!

Tongue TiedI have just received my class list, and one of my students was a huge challenge in his first grade class. I've been told that he has oppositional defiance and that he can be very disrespectful, mean, and disruptive in class.  This may sound naive, but I really want to help this kid.  I just want to do the right things to get him in a positive mindset for learning.  I have taught a lot of kids with learning disabilities, anger issues, depression, ADHD, and difficult personalities, but I have no experience with the oppositional defiant child. I don't want to make his situation worse.  I've only been advised by my principal to be consistent with him.  Does anyone have any helpful suggestions about managing such a child? I'd really appreciate any feedback you can offer! Thanks!

What's More Important?

StarThere has been somewhat of a debate among a group of teachers that I know. Is it a good idea to give timed addition and subtraction facts tests to second graders? I did it for a while when my team first wanted to do it, but I found that some kids got too upset because they weren't able to work that fast and remained on the same level for a long time, and others zipped through it because it wasn't much of a challenge for them.  After two years, I decided not to give these timed tests anymore. Even though it was only for three minutes, I didn't think it was worth the time.

My feeling is that, while it is important to know math facts in order to be able to work faster, it's much more worthwhile to know how to solve problems involving math concepts.  Memorization does have its place, but it doesn't mean that kids are able to demonstrate what to do with the numbers. A case in point: four years ago I had a student whose parents kept telling me I wasn't challenging their son in math because he knew all of his multiplication tables.  They felt that this was an indication that he was ready for more difficult material.  The problem was that when given a word problem to solve, the boy had no idea where to begin. He could not apply his knowledge of the facts to solve real-world problems. 

I prefer to spend a part of my daily math class teaching the children problem-solving strategies, so I have two daily problems to solve: one is challenging and the other is on grade level.  I don't necessarily assign one to any particular child, but most know which one they are able to solve. Then we spend some time having the students demonstrate ways to solve the problem.

Does anyone have an opinion about the importance of memorizing facts as opposed to learning how to problem-solve?

Positive Thoughts Go A Long Way

Big SmileI was over at the school today doing some more work getting my classroom set up for the new batch of second graders who will be here in two weeks. My principal stopped me to talk about some changes that will occur in my grade this year.  She wanted to know my feelings about the new teacher who will join us. I told her that we would work with her and try to help out as much as possible, and if she does her part, things will work out just fine. My principal thanked me for always having a good attitude in most situations. (Apparently someone else on the grade level has been complaining to her about the change.)

Now, I know that the change for the new teacher is going to be tough. This particular teacher was in charge of computer lab for the past four years, and due to budget concerns in the district, her position was taken out, so she was re-assigned to our grade to replace a retiring teacher. She worked with us a few years back, and had a very rough time in the classroom.  She was very needy, unable to plan effectively,  and disorganized.  It was rumored that was the reason for her reassignment to the lab-no grades, no homeroom, no tests, no planning.

Knowing what I know about the difficulty of the situation for everyone involved, I could have easily  expressed doubts and led the principal to think that we can't handle it.  Instead, I took the  positive approach and assured her that we'll all do our part to help the new one as much as we can.  Sometimes it's just what you have to do to make the situation bearable.

Does this mean I don't gripe like everybody else?  NO!  I'm not a saint!  I know that nothing is perfect 100% of the time, and I do get frustrated over some of the pressures put on us and the students to perform.  But, I have seen so often those who are constantly complaining bring out the worst in their colleagues.  With that said, my goal this year is to avoid those who bring me down with all of the whining and associate with people who can find the good in things most of the time.

So, who's with me on this?Wink

Unsigned Agenda Books

IndifferentAt the beginning of the school year, my students receive an agenda book in which they write their daily assignments.  I write a letter to parents that explains why their chilren have the agenda and I tell parents that they need to initial the book each night.  This is to ensure that they have seen their child's assignments. Another important reason I want them to check the agendas is because I often write notes to parents in that book, and I want to make sure the parents see the notes. (The notes give a short synopsis of their child's activities in school that week, and they are mostly positive.)

Throughout the year, I remind parents to initial the agenda books during face-to-face conversations, on my class website, and telephone calls.  It never fails, though, that there are parents who seemingly never look at the book. Since I teach second graders, I don't want to penalize the children for something their parents are responsible for doing.  Other teachers I've talked to keep the kids in at recess or give some other type of punishment. I just think this is wrong.

With the approach of the new school year, I will again ask that parents check the daily assignment book and initial it each day. Does anyone have any ideas about what I can do to get the parents to honor this one simple request from me?  I don't know how the rest of you out there feel, but I don't have enough time to call every parent weekly, mainly because most parents will keep me on the phone way longer than I'd like.  I want the parents to know that they can keep up with what their children are doing in my class if they'd just check the book.  Any ideas?

Speaking of class pets...

Big SmileSince I'm on the subject of class pets, I'm reminded of a group of kids I had 7 years ago.  Although all of the kids were sweet,  there were some definite behavior issues, primarily with the boys.  They were a group of extremely immature boys who spent a lot of time off task.  However, I had a very mature group of girls who were really serious about school and learning. You can probably imagine the climate of that class!

That particular year we had two cockatiels as pets, but I never let them out of the cage because I didn't want to hype up some of the little guys. One afternoon, all of the boys were called to an assembly for Cub Scouts recruitment.  While they were gone, the girls begged me to let the birds fly around the room a little.  I got them all in a large circle on the floor and opened the cage.  Those birds flew all over that room, and I even got them to perch on some of the girls' outstretched arms, much to the girls' delight!  After a few minutes, I caught the birds and put them back in the cage.  I didn't want the boys to know that they had missed out, so we all agreed not to tell them about letting the birds out. (Remember, these were mature girls, and they kept that secret!)

During the year, once in a while the girls would remind me (in private conversations, of course) how much fun it was the day the boys left the room for those few minutes.  Several of the girls continued to visit me as they moved on to the upper grades, and they still talked about it,  "Remember the time the boys left and it was just us girls and you let the birds out?"

It's funny the things that our students recall about their time in our classrooms!  You never know which events will stand out in their minds as being important!Whisper

Where Did Ketchup Go?

ConfusedA few years ago, I bought my class two hermit crabs as our class pets.  The kids named them Grandpa, because he was big, and Ketchup, because he had claws the color of ketchup. The kids really loved those crabs, and took turns caring for them.

One day when the class went to Music, I was looking in the cage and Ketchup was gone.  I dug around in the rocks and sand, looked under the little house, and looked inside the tube they often climbed in.  He was not in there.

When the kids came back in , we had a class meeting to talk about where Ketchup might be.  Nobody could explain it. I told them that maybe somehow Ketchup had gotten out of the cage. Everybody talked about how we could keep our eyes open just in case he happened to crawl out of his presumed hiding place. We didn't find him that day.

The next morning Ketchup was still missing. We went along with our daily routine, and during recess, I happened to have study hall in my classroom.  We used study hall as a time for kids who needed to make up assignments could come for a few minutes during  recess.  On this particular day, there were five or six students from other second grade classes in my room working.  While they worked, I went back to the cage and poked around to see if I could have possibly missed Ketchup.  Grandpa was in there, but that was it.

As I poked around in the cage, a little girl asked me what I was doing.  I told her that I was trying to find our hermit crab.  She asked me if it had red claws and I told her it did.  She then told me that Chelsie in my class had a hermit crab with red claws at the bus stop the afternoon before.

That afternoon I took Chelsie aside and asked her about the hermit crab, and she denied ever having one.  I called her mom later that afternoon, and she said that Chelsie had found a crab at the bus stop the previous day, put it in her backpack,  and they put it in a bowl with some water when she got home. She really believed that she found a hermit crab at the bus stop!  I explained that I was pretty sure that it was our class pet and asked that she return it the next day.

Ketchup came back to school the next day with Chelsie. The kids were so happy to have him back, but some of them could not understand how she could take it in the first place.  They were really mad at her. We ended having a class meeting to get it all out in the open, and I guess she realized that she was wrong, and Chelsie apologized. Everything went back to normal after that.

Grandpa and Ketchup went on to be our class pet for another couple of years. After that, I got a rabbit.  I don't think he'll be as easy to sneak into a back pack!

It's About That Time Again!

TimeI got antsy today and went over to my school to take a look at my classroom.  Yep, it was still there!  I set my goal for the day: untangle all of the computer wires and cords that were not supposed to be unplugged.  Well, they did get unplugged and were a mess to straighten out.  It felt good to get it out of the way, though. 

I've decided to set a goal each day until school starts so that it won't be so overwhelming once school officially starts back in 3 weeks.  I don't know what goes on at other schools, but our district gives us just 1 1/2 days to get our rooms together.  The rest of the week is spent in inservice.  It's really hard to pay attention when we all need to be doing other things to get ready for the kids.

Anyway, other goals for the next few days:  clean shelves and put books on them, unpack supplies that I ordered and organize my supply closet, set up furniture differently from last year, arrange centers, organize my desk, declutter, take care of bulletin boards, and get my rugs cleaned.  That about does it until I can get my hands on a class list.  When I do there will be other details to take care of.

Oh yeah, lesson plans.  Once the room is done, I can finally settle down to work on those.

I wonder if others outside the profession realize how much needs to be done in order to be ready for a new batch of kids every year?

Do It YOUR Way!

Left HugIn the past several years I've had the opportunity to work with many student teachers.  It's always a lot of fun watching them grow during their short time with me, and I get a lot of personal satisfaction in knowing that I may have helped them achieve their goals.

One reason I work with these students is because of my own wretched student teaching experience!  My supervising teacher gave me her plan book and told me that under no circumstances would I be allowed to do anything other than what she had put in her plan book.  She said she wanted the class to be exactly where she wanted them to be after I left, and that there was no time for me to add my own ideas. Although I loved the kids and made my A, I left at the end of the term feeling very unprepared and incompetent.  I lost all confidence in my abilities. I didn't teach for 8 years, and it wasn't until I had my own kids that I realized that I could teach and do a good job at that!

Because of that time, I love working with student teachers. I know what NOT to do, thanks to my own supervising teacher!   I always go over the subject matter that needs to be covered, but I let them know that I regard them as professionals and that I trust that they will succeed.  I encourage them to do things the way they are most comfortable.  I serve as a mentor and guide, offering advice when needed, and praising all the good things that happen. They all tell me that they appreciate being treated more as  co-teachers than students, and all have gone on to establish their own classrooms. 

I hear of other supervising teachers who treat their student teachers as badly as mine treated me, and all I can say is, what a waste of good talent!  With a growing teacher shortage, we should be doing our best to help these students develop skills that will enable them to be successful and happy as teachers.

Summer Dreams

Sunday, July 22, 2007

9:08:11 PM

ConfusedIs it just me, or do other teachers start having dreams about school around this time of the summer?  I love teaching, and I love working with kids, so it's not as if I dread going back.  Every year I have dreams (nightmares) of the upcoming class, and it's mostly the same scenario: The kids come in, they start running around, and no matter what I say or do they won't stop being wild and crazy! It's always way more kids than can fit in my classroom, so there's never enough space to sit. Sometimes we're on the playground and they start running off the school grounds, and I spend the whole dream trying to bring them back! This whole thing is just so different from the way things really are!  Anybody else out there having these dreams?Sleep

Who Is THAT?

SurpriseSome of the younger kids (second graders)that I teach have the strangest reactions when they see me outside of the school setting. You 'd never think that I spend 7 1/2 hours a day with them by their behavior when we accidentally bump into one another!  Lots of times they are hardly able to get out a weak "Hi", then they hide behind their parent!

Recently I was at Target and one of my boys came whizzing around the corner on the shopping cart, took one look at me, and stopped dead in his tracks. He looked at me as if I might turn him in for reckless driving! I asked him how he was doing and he said, "Oh, Mrs. S., uh, I'm okay. I'm just shopping with my grandma." After a short talk, I told him I'd see him at school. Then he moved the cart very slowly back to wherever he was going, looking over at me the whole time until he was out of sight! It was weird, since he'd never been in any kind of trouble with me all year.

Another time, I ran into a boy and his mom at the grocery store.  This little guy had been in trouble with me at school that day for annoying others in his learning club.  He saw me before his mom did, and his eyes had this look of dread that said, "Oh, crap! Not who I wanted to run into right now!" He apparently thought I 'd spill the beans to his mom right there in the store. Of course I didn't, since that wasn't the proper time or place.  As I exchanged pleasantries with his mom,  he stood silently, waiting for the big reveal!  His mom finally told him to tell me "hi". He was so obviously stunned and relieved when I didn't say anything to his mom, that I had to chuckle to myself as I walked away!Tongue Tied

Back to School Ideas Anyone?

Big SmileWell, it's a little more than a month and the first day of school will be here.  Even after 21 years of teaching, I still want to give my kids the best "first day" I can.  I am on the lookout for some cool activities that would make that day fun. It seems that I've done it so many times that I should already have a repertoire of things ready to use. I would just like to see what others out there are doing!  I would love to get some ideas flowing so I can start on my plan for the big day! So....what's your best tried-and -true idea?Cool

What Goes On in Your Staff Meetings?

Tongue TiedOne thing I don't look forward to when school starts is our weekly staff meeting.  It is always the same, with all of the emphasis being devoted to one initiative that our principal favors.  Maybe once in a while it's okay to stick with the one topic, but not every single meeting!   On a positive note, our principal works hard to keep the meetings to one hour after school, so that's much better than some of my friends at other schools. I like the initiative that our school is adopting, but it feels like there must be other subjects to discuss once in a while! I'm wondering how others in "blog land" feel about their staff meetings.

Awesome Music Website!!

IdeaThis has absolutely  nothing to do with teaching, but I just got turned on to a great music website called www.slacker.com.  It's a free site where you can go to handpick your favorite music and create your own playlist.  It's easy to do and the choices are endless!  Check it out!Star
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