What Was I Thinking?

This morning started out nicely.  I woke up early to go to my 5:00 A.M. workout.  I noticed it had rained a little the night before.  I was happy about that because we are in desperate need of water where I live in Southern California.

Friday’s are fun at the place where I exercise.  It’s yoga day.  We start out with some mild cardio activity, like circuit training or something like that.  Then, we do yoga.  I am not very flexible, so the stretching feels good to me.  It’s a pretty good workout.  At the end of the class, the instructor announces, “Now we will all go down into our right splits.”  The women in my class all looked at her and laughed.  We thought she was joking.  But, she wasn’t.  She told us to start slowly and only go as far as you can.  So, I started out slowly and realized I did not have very far to go to get all the way down into the splits.  I just went for it.  That was a big mistake!  I ended up with a very bad muscle strain.  My friend, Nicole, was impressed that I could get myself down there.  When I told her I hurt myself, I got no sympathy from her.  She said, “Well, that’s what you get for trying to show off.”  I am pretty sure that I am not going to be able to walk tomorrow.  Usually, when these things happen, the 2nd and 3rd days after the injury are the worst.  That’ll teach me to try to attempt the splits again.

I don’t know what I was thinking.  It’s not like I am 15 and in gymnastics class again.  In my mind I actually thought I could do the splits.  And, I did do the splits.  But, I shouldn’t have done the splits.  That was  a dumb move.  🙂  I quickly made a note to my 48 year old self, “No splits for you!”


Writing Leads

For the past few weeks my 2nd grade students have been working on the text type of opinion writing.  In an effort to break away from the monotony of formulaic writing, I introduced my students to different types of leads using mentor texts.  I used the book, Nonfiction Mentor Texts, by Lynne R. Dorfman and Rose Cappelli to help me.

NF Mentor Text

My students were familiar with the “Setting the Scene” lead because we had used it when we were working on narratives.  So, I had my students write a potential setting the scene lead to go with the article we just read about Mopane Worms.  From there, I introduced my students to the “Share a Secret” lead.  I shared examples from mentor texts and had the students try it out for themselves, again to go with our article.  Finally, I showed my students an example of a “What If” lead.  I had the students try one on themselves.  The great thing is my students can use these different kinds of leads when we look at the text type of informative writing.

It was kind of amazing what they came up with.  My student teacher, who was observing, commented after the lesson.  She was amazed at how the students were able to come up with their own creative leads in the style of the different mentor texts I shared.  All the students were engaged and excited.  I figure I have given them a few more tools to add to their writing toolbox.  Next week, the students will write their rough draft convincing their friend to eat the Mopane Worm.  They are even going to get a chance to write a counterargument in this paragraph.  Although, the counterargument is not a 2nd grade standard, I talked to my kids about it anyway.  I am fairly certain that I will not get 27 papers that sound exactly the same.  Thank goodness!

Dropped the Ball

I dropped the ball yesterday.  I didn’t get a chance to post to my blog.  The day got away from me somehow.  I left work late, yet again.  When I got home, I was busy being a mom to three girls.  Clarinet tutoring, dinner, and various homework questions had to be dealt with.  Before I knew it, it was past my bedtime.  I was so tired, I just decided to go to bed and call it a night.  This morning I woke up tired.  It could have something to do with the fact that I woke up early to go to my 5:00 A.M. workout.  For some reason, when I know I am going to have to get up early the next morning, I cannot get right to sleep.  It seemed I was awake for a long bit of time before I actually dozed off.  In any case, I was tired the whole day.

School went well.  This is a picture of what greeted me first thing in the morning when the school bell rang.


A little editing is needed, but the sentiment is beautiful.  I am forever telling my students that I am not interested in excuses.  I am only interested in solutions, or silotions, as one of my students wrote!  I love how this particular student took the time to make this creative sign.  It was obviously something that resonated with her.  Oddly enough, she is one of the students who has had trouble turning in her homework on a consistent basis.  After we had this “no excuses” talk, I found she was making a sincere effort to get her assignments turned in.  Maybe this saying meant something to her.

I love teaching 2nd grade.  Students at this age are still willing to please their teacher.  They internalize everything you say.  You never know what kind of impact your words can have on students.  I can only hope I am making their 2nd grade experience a memorable one.  Last month I blogged about how my former students, who are now 4th graders, still come back to visit me.  Today three of them came to see me just to check in and see how my day went.  I love this time.  They ask me how I am doing.  I ask them how they are doing.  Yesterday, they came in and told me about the field trip they went on.  Today, the thing that tickled me most is that before they entered my classroom they touched my “Learn Like a Champion Today” sign.  This is a ritual my students do every morning.  They touch my sign to remind them how they are supposed to act when they enter the room.


My former students don’t have to touch that sign anymore, but I suppose they still feel the importance of that ritual. I thought that was pretty special.

Opinion Writing

This month I have been exploring the opinion/argument text type with my 2nd graders.  For the most part, my students know the difference between fact and opinion.  We have written several different types of opinion pieces.  I started out with writing a product review.  I brought several board games into my classroom for the students to play.  After they played with a particular game, they had to write a review of the game.  We used several reviews I copied off the Internet as mentor texts.

Now, we are concentrating on writing book reviews.  We have written a book review all together, but now I want to see if the students can attempt to write one on their own.  I took a break from book reviews because I was absent for two days the week before last.  And, instead of having the substitute attempt book reviews, I had the students work on something else for writing.  I had the substitute read The Perfect Pet, Margie Palatini.  It is a cute story about a girl who is trying to convince her parents that she needs a pet.  Instead, the parents get her a plant.  She finally ends up getting a pet, but it is pretty unusual.

I had my students write an opinion about the kind of pet they would like to have.  They had to come up with at least three or more reasons as to why their pet would be the perfect pet.  My second graders know the frame for writing an opinion piece.  They know they need an opening statement that includes their opinion.  Following this, they know they have to write their reasons.  And finally, they know they are required to have a closing statement that is related to their first sentence.  All my students understand this, but man, are their pieces boring.  And, they all sound the same.

I received some wonderful ideas from my SDAWP friends last Saturday.  So, I am ready to try something new tomorrow.  I went to TweenTribune for grade appropriate articles and I found one entitled, Would You Eat a Giant Worm?  I am pretty sure the majority of my students would say they would not eat a giant worm.  First, I will show them the picture at the beginning of the article, and then brainstorm ideas why they would NOT want to eat the worm.  I figure these ideas could be used for counterarguments.  Then, I would have students read the short article and highlight all the reasons why someone should eat the worm.  Finally, I will have them write an opinion piece based on the evidence from the text to support their reasons.  I don’t know if any of this will work, but my hope is that the students can see there are other ways to write an opinion piece.  I will let you know how it goes.

The Child-Driven Education

Yesterday, after my SDAWP follow-up, I was talking to my friend Linda about Genius Hour.  Linda is an amazing K-1 teacher who has done a lot of work in her classroom on student-centered learning.  She suggested I watch a TedTalk video by Sugata Mitra called The Child-Driven Education.

Wow!  The video was inspiring.  However, it made me realize that, in the future, my job as a teacher may become obsolete.  Perhaps I can be a “granny in the cloud” and just be there to support.  It would be amazing if I could get my students to be problem-solvers, thinkers, creators, and innovators instead of just receptacles of information.  This is what I hope will be an outcome of Genius Hour in my classroom.  I don’t know what will happen.  This could fail miserably, or this experience will be so wonderful that I will have to do it again!  I hope it is the latter.

The Cowardly Lion

I was thinking about this character from the Wizard of Oz today.  He wanted to see the Wizard to ask him for some courage.  I don’t need courage as much as I need confidence.  This is because I have known for a few weeks that I would be presenting at this year’s San Diego Area Writing Project Spring Conference.  At first I was honored and excited that I was selected.  Then, I felt nervous and anxious about the whole thing.  However, it didn’t really hit home until this morning.

This morning I attended a follow-up meeting with my summer cohort.  We did some writing work in the morning.  Each of us participated in an activity where we shared resources, ideas, and experiences with everyone in the room.  We did this by writing on a piece of chart paper that was divided into 4 quadrants.  Every person in the room had a page that we passed around the room.  In the first quadrant was the issue we wanted help with.  Mine was on how to get my students to write opinion pieces with more substance.  As the pages were passed around, each person wrote something down in one or more of the sections.  We kept passing until we eventually got our chart paper back.  I really enjoyed that activity.  I believe it is something I could do with my 2nd graders.  When it was all over, I received some wonderful ideas on my chart that I could try in my classroom next week.

Next, I met with the four other teachers who will also be presenting on March 1st.  We received coaching from Christine Kane, co-director of SDAWP.  I looked around at everyone in my group and marveled at their confidence.  Why am I so nervous?  Why can’t I just be cool and relaxed like the other four?  Maybe my brain is not wired for that.  Perhaps I am missing some chemical in my brain that can help relieve my anxiety.  I suppose I am nervous because I don’t want to let anybody down.  My cohort believed I could do this, and I don’t want to disappoint anyone.  Public speaking is not my forte.  I was not expecting to be selected as a presenter.  I am more of the set up the chairs and tables kind of person.  I like working behind the scenes, but I also know this experience will be good for me.  It is something I have always wanted to do.  I have attended many workshops and presentations and wondered if I could do that.  Now, I have a chance to find out if I can.  I think it’s just like with everything I attempt for the first time.  I become more comfortable after I get the first one under my belt.  This is the same feeling I get when I am participating in a triathlon.  The swim portion always makes me nervous even though I have done it many times before.

I know I can do it.  I just need to remember to breathe.  There is no wizard to give me the courage/confidence for this.  I will need to find it in myself, just like the lion had all along.  Maybe I will have to take a shot of liquid courage (Tequila?) before the presentation to help me through.  No, that would not be good.  I guess I will just wait until after my presentation is over to take that shot.  🙂

A Fantastic Beginning

Genius Hour has officially been launched in my classroom.  All week I captured the students’ attention by telling them something exciting was about to happen.  I kept telling them not to be absent on Friday.  And, guess what??  No one was!

The first thing I did was ask the students if they knew what it meant to be a genius.  They had several good ideas.  From there I told them that everyone in the room was a genius.  Some of them did not believe me.  I told them we were going to spend the next few weeks discovering that inner genius in all of us.  That is when I explained to the students we were all going to be participating in Genius Hour.  They all looked at me like “Huh?”  I showed them this quick video from www.geniushour.com.

Our next activity was a protocol called Chalk Talk.  I hung four posters on the cabinets and had the students write down their ideas on the chart paper.

chart 1

chart 2

The students were really excited and they came up with some great ideas.  Hopefully, they will be able to choose an appropriate topic for their own research.  Here are just a few examples from today.  One student wrote they wanted to create a board game.  I don’t know what it will be about, but that’s okay.  One student said they wanted to create a double decker couch.  I don’t know if that will happen, but it is a neat concept.  Another student said they would like to learn to surf.  Another wanted to learn to play the guitar.  A student said they would like to learn how to make the world a better place.  That was my favorite.

Next week I am going to spend some time discussing the idea of questions.  I saw a great video in which the teacher was guiding the students to understand that good students ask lots of questions.  It was very powerful.  You can find the video on a site by Angela Maiers called 12 Most Genius Questions in the World.  I think this will be the next step in my Genius Hour journey.

All I know is that I am extremely excited about what is to come.  I believe my 2nd graders will come up with some amazing things during our genius hour.  I will be sure to post about our journey together.