Thursday, October 30, 2014

Google Drive in the 2nd Grade Classroom

I was inspired by Franki's post this week about Google Drive in the 3rd Grade Classroom and thought, I could write about that.  Then Mary Lee wrote a post for yesterday about Google Drive in 5th the Grade Classroom and again I thought, I could write about that.  I had to chuckle when Franki wrote her first attempt at using Google Drive was a disaster because I had visions of that myself.  Therefore, I went slow and steady as I would have in kindergarten. Students are so intuitive but in laying the foundation for a new tool, I felt guided small steps were needed for more independence later on.  I am so proud and happy about our progress over the past three weeks.

I was in a team meeting and our librarian wanted to help us with some lessons in our computer lab.  She mentioned using word to type a document of sorts.  I sat listening and then tossed out, "why not use Google Drive?"  Each of our students have an account.  We get through it via a school district portal.  Each student has a special log in and password and Google Drive will automatically save their work.  I think everyone was a little hesitant and as the thought sat for a bit we decided to try it.

Our first proactive step was to make individual account information cards.  It had their login and password information.  We talked about being safe and not sharing their login information with anyone, which they love.  They won't even let their neighbors take a peak.  Another proactive step we took since our tech work is done in a computer lab, was to assign the same laptop to work at each visit.  (Yes, we took down a PC lab to have traveling laptops which had complications in several areas so we hard wired the laptops in to a different classroom and have just computer lab now.)

Our lovely librarian Heather launched logging in to our district portal and then navigating to Google Drive.  She has great insight and patiently gives tricks and tips to help them make keyboarding, buttons, screens, keypads, and mouses all come together for younger learners.  By the time we left that first day, each student had typed a title/heading.  With their title/heading they learned about left, center, and right alignment.  As I went back to the classroom and thought about observing Heather with my students, I realized we could turn this into an About the Author page to be used during the year when we publish books.

We returned to a second lesson with Heather and I believe we worked through logging in and typing in text about ourselves.  My students were composing on the computer as they typed.  It was easy for them, nothing written ahead of time.  I think the topic of themselves helped make this first experience was an easy idea generator.  Heather guided my students in how to type capital letters and the need for a space after each punctuation.

Heather was out for our third lesson but I wasn't scared to be on my own.  We finished up typing our About the Author pages and learned about the red squiggly line under words as an editing guide.  Heather had an idea of using Pixie to create self portraits to copy and include an our About the Author writing.  Which was exciting but I did Pixie self portraits in kindergarten with these students and realized I could share their first day photo with them in a shared document to use instead.  Using a shared document is a huge feature of Google Drive and one I might find a reason to use later in the year, so I thought why not show them now how to use it.

On Tuesday this week, I showed them their shared with me folder.  I guided them in copying the photo and placing it in their About the Author page.  I guided them in resizing the photo and placing it in the center right above their title.  I was out of time so we left for the day only to return on Wednesday to print.  However, before we could print I realized students had written books in portrait and landscape layouts to share with others.  So, we learned how to make a copy of a document and rename it.  Each student has an About the Author page portrait and About the Author page landscape.  This way all they need to do is print the one they need for future books.

When I reflect on our work over the past few weeks, it seems like a lot and I'm sure sounds overwhelming to some readers.  I was the only adult for three sessions and yes there were small glitches with students on and off so here are my tips for success.

1.  Model the steps using a projector of sorts and then leave the information they need on the screen to refer back to.

2.  Do things in very small steps and wait til everyone is ready.  For example, click on the title and get the box to rename your piece, now stop and wait.

3.  When modeling and giving steps, students turn sideways and can't touch the computers until I say something like, "now it's your turn, make it happen."

4.  Don't do it for them.  Point to the area they need to click or move a cursor to.  They can do it.

5.  Patience is required.

6.  Let them feel a smidge of frustration, that will guide them towards learning and retaining.

My students are eager now to work in Google Drive from home.  Some of them shared they tried to login from home but didn't get very far.  If you have ideas for launching something small and meaningful they could work on at school and home I'd appreciate your comment.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Slice of Life - Crosswalks and Upright Ants

It was a smooth drive.  I had plotted out just the right amount of time.  There was the threat of rain far off in the distance but right above there was a smidge of sun trying to burst through the gray clouds.  I got off the highway and my on time travel plans were changed.

They were everywhere!  Crosswalks.  Crosswalks filled like a swarm of bees.  No, they weren't bees because they weren't buzzing or moving very fast.  Crosswalks filled with upright ants.  Yes, tall upright ants were filling the crosswalks.  I felt like I was in the middle of an ant farm or an ant colony that was relocating.  I would drive my van a small distance only to come to another crosswalk.  I began envisioning these upright ants carrying mounds of crumbs and scraps on their backs.  Then I realized I was falling a little bit behind in my journey and started to get frustrated.  These ants then became pillars in a pinball arcade game but that didn't really matter to them.  A few times I got lucky and made them wait for me.  It was at this point I heard that little arcade bell go off in my head.  Yea, Mandy - one for you! and more cheers for traffic lights.  The upright ants actually pay attention to traffic light signals, I could finally breathe for a moment.  I found my destination and was grateful I was off the road and could rest for a bit.  Then my college freshman daughter got in the van and I realized we had to leave campus.  Lucky for me, I knew a different path out of campus and realized there were less crosswalks which meant less upright ants to dodge and driving was a bit easier.  I've already plotted a better road path into campus and learned a few things today about navigating campus during the week.  There are lessons to learn everywhere we go.  

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for hosting and supporting our writing community.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Math Monday - Understanding Mathematical Practice #1

Welcome and thanks for stopping by for Math Monday!  I'm so glad I didn't get a post up last night or this morning before I went in to school because today's math learning is far better than my other ideas.

In taking a step back and rethinking my math workshop and instruction, I realized I had my students engaged in problem solving but they didn't have ownership or understand the 8 Mathematical Practices.  The 8 Mathematical Practices are truly the things mathematicians do to live a mathematical life.  Readers read books.  Scientist observe.  Writers write. Mathematicians work with numbers and problems.  

Using the book Putting the Practices into Action reviewed in an earlier Math Monday post, I launched some work today to understand the first mathematical practice; Make Sense of Problems and Persevere in Solving Them.  Susan O'Connell and John San Giovanni give great ideas for explaining and showing children how to understand each mathematical practice.  What I really like about their primary suggestion for this mathematical practice is to work with the same data/information each day with a different problem to solve.  We did a lot of thinking and I asked a bunch of guiding questions thanks to Susan and John which led my class to discover we are doing a lot of thinking before we can even answer the problem.  

To summarize our learning, we created an anchor chart with our ideas.  I hope this might help you.  The actual chart building is based on the work from Marjorie and Kristi @chartchums on twitter and their blog is Chartchums.

Leave your link within a comment and 
don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are thinking mathematically!

To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
it would be nice for you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Math Monday post, don't forget to use #MathMon!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Landform Books

I sometimes wonder if I change grade levels just to explore new books.  It's a simple equation!  New grade level + new content standards = reasons to find new books.  I decided I needed to save money and get back to borrowing books from the library.  I did that, only to discover these books were worth owning and paperback copies were ordered.

We just finished working with maps and learning about different landforms.  Capstone Press has a great series with pieces I could use for providing focused and concise information about three landforms or bodies of water; rivers, mountains, and islands.  Each book has information on the left page of a two page spread with a full page photograph on the right side of the spread.  The text on each page is about four to six lines.  Each book informs the reader how the landform is formed, famous land formations, and how people interact or use the landform.  Each book has nonfiction features to help early readers navigate; a table of contents, a glossary, other book suggestions for the topic and internet resources.  One feature I really enjoy about the the books by Capstone Press under the Pebble Plus subtitle is the amount of white space on between the lines of text.  It really helps early readers navigate reading much easier.

The books I found and just had to order were - 

Islands by Kimberly M Hutmacher

Mountains by Kimberly M Hutmacher

Rivers by Alyse Sweeney

Thank you Alyson for hosting Nonfiction Wednesday, it's nice to visit again.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Slice of Life - Help Needed

On Tuesday afternoon (of last week) at dismissal, a little boy was telling me he was confused with a part he was reading in his book.  I mentioned we could meet tomorrow and talk about it.  We could have a reading meeting.  I had been wanting to conference with this little boy about his book selection for about a week but was torn because his reading behaviors had improved with this book.  He had stamina, focus, and was leading a readerly life by taking the book back and forth from home and school for reading.  He told me his dad had forgotten about him and he just kept on reading because he was in the reading zone not just one night but two nights in a row.  Wednesday came and at the end of the day he reminded me about the reading meeting and I apologized for forgetting and we could do it tomorrow.  Thursday came and I had to fit in a bunch of content so our reading time turned into a small research project and our reading meeting was postponed again.  We didn't have school on Friday.

Monday came and the conversation was a faint memory in my mind until at the end of reading workshop this cute little boy came over and said, "Mrs. Robek you forgot about my reading meeting."  I gushed with apologies and promised tomorrow.  He replied, "I will write you a note."  I soon received a little yellow post it note and in black sharpie which we use to make this brighter and stronger it said - Meeting with Nathan.  I placed it right by my rocking chair in hopes it would help me uphold my end of the teacher - student bargain.  It did!  As I was doing status of the class, when it was Nathan's turn to share what he was reading and where he was, I waved the little post it note to him and he just beamed that I had remembered.  

I am grateful Nathan saw I needed help.  I'm not proud I forgot for a few days or let the schedule of school prevent me from stopping the first time he asked to chat about his book.  However, he persevered and with persistence made a plan to help me remember.  We had a delightful conversation about capital letters within dialogue and how to keep track of who is talking.  I am thinking more about ways readers can request a conference based on their needs, when they feel the need for a conference.  Reader's have needs to be addressed when they arise, not when I have time in my schedule.  It looks like I have more to balance.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for fostering a writing community each Tuesday.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Math Monday - Making Changes

Welcome and thanks for stopping by for Math Monday!

I've been grounding my math thinking and teaching of mathematics this week by reading Second Grade Math, A Month to Month Guide by Nancy Litton.  This book is from the Math Solutions/Marilyn Burns group, which never steers me wrong.  I've read and used the kindergarten and third grade books in this series and have found both filled with useful ideas to implement and make part of my current teaching assignment.

My class has been starting each morning with a good questions/rich math problem and one of the changes that lays ahead for us is to bring problem solving to the forefront of our daily work via the mini lesson and independent work time.  Therefore, I wanted to change our beginning work for the day as students stagger in and begin thinking for the day.

When I read about Today's Number: A Daily Routine I knew this had potential for us to grow and think more about mathematics.  This is an idea I've used randomly in the past and not as a daily routine.  The target number for the day is either the number for how many days you've been in school or the calendar date.  The students use a journal/notebook to make "A Book of Equations".  The target number for the day guides equations the students will generate and record.  Students will work independently.  They will share ideas at the end of morning meeting and transition into math workshop by learning from the equations friends are sharing.  

These are some key questions I read that I will be using with this new routine that will help us apply and be engaged with the eight mathematical practices.
      Does this equation work?
      Can you convince yourself that it does?
      I see a problem with that equation.  See if you can figure out what I mean.
      Can you prove your equation is true?
      What make you think that?
      Did someone else think about it in a different way?

One new idea for me with a routine like this is to help expand a student's thinking by sometimes offering guidelines to reinforce concepts taught in class.  Each month the reader will find suggestions to expand the students' thinking about equations.  Some ideas shared from the September chapter are - "use only addition, use combinations of ten, use doubles, use only subtraction, and use both addition and subtraction."  

I've tried this a few times this year within our good questions/rich problems and found my students needed encouragement to tell me several ideas about a number.  I found many students would find equations by using an easy pattern, for example - minus one.  I found my students didn't vary the operation used or use more than two parts to make the target number.  I found this a bit disappointing.      I want to see varying operations, a range of numbers, and a range of strategies.  I think working with equations each day can help with this.  I also think and know by conferring with students during this time, I can differentiate to help student's work with numbers that will extend their own thinking.

Here are some more thoughts grounding me with this new routine.   

"...look for opportunities to help students see new ways to decompose numbers, notice number relationships, and use mathematical operations meaningfully."  

Also, students will be recording lots of thinking within their equations and they are bound to record mistakes.  "...remind yourself that such mistakes are OK and that you don't have have time to correct each child's book every day."

"...this routine is a playful way for the children to develop number understandings."

Leave your link within a comment and 

don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are thinking mathematically!

To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
it would be nice for you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Math Monday post, don't forget to use #MathMon!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Celebrate This Week - Understanding

Today I am celebrating, taking the time to understand. 

Last weekend, I confirmed the resource I was using for my math instruction was falling short.  My Slice of Life this week shared when I confirmed what my gut was starting to feel.  I left that post indicating I needed to shop around but before you shop around you really should understand what you need and what you have.  I've had nine weeks to get to know my students, I know what I have.    I know I have a plethora of resources that promote problem solving, application of math knowledge, and promote mathematical practices.  What I didn't understand completely was/is the Common Core Mathematical Standards.  Today I had a 3.5 hour lunch with a wise friend who is retired, consulting and understands mathematics.  She not only understands mathematics, she understands how the teaching of mathematics to achieve rigor and center mathematics in the mathematical practices with it being student centered.  Taking the time to understand requires time and hard thinking.  Taking the time to understand is going to change my instruction, my students daily work and create mathematicians.  I'm so excited about taking the time to understand, I can't wait for Monday!

Thank you Ruth, for supporting us in finding the positive in our busy lives.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Slice of Life - It Doesn't Fit!

Stretching and pulling, this doesn't feel right.  It doesn't seem to be fitting but let me try again with another fluff.  It still doesn't fit and I check the tag on my brand new flannel sheets, it's a queen size and I asked for king size set.  I reflected on my first shopping trip to the new Target store around the corner and realized I asked the kind Target worker if they had a set in a king size but never confirmed the size when they got a package for me from the back.  I had already washed the sheet set.  I had already thrown away the packaging but these were not going to fit my needs.  I tried to pack up the sheets the best I could with the receipt and the wrapper.  I needed to return what wasn't working and get what I needed.  That's why they make different size sheets, one size doesn't fit all bed sizes.

I've been wrestling with my math instruction lately and I realized it's like that first set of sheets.  It's falling short.  It doesn't fit my students needs all the time.  I've been using a resource my district purchased because I've changed grade levels and needed help getting my feet wet in second grade.  I needed to see my queen size set of sheets falling short and not fitting my bed to confirm what I've always known about prepackaged teaching resources.  They fall short and one has to shop around to find the right size.  I think flannel sheet shopping was easier, the king set was right on the shelf the next day when I made my return.  Easy isn't always best and I'm ready to shop around for what's a good fit mathematically. 

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for hosting and fostering a writing community.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Math Monday - Numbers Inform

Welcome and thanks for stopping by for Math Monday!

I've had this idea for quite some time to discuss and share math more within my own blog and within our blogging community.  I shared my idea with the post - Launching Math Monday!  It was summer-ish still and everyone has lots of energy when it's summer-ish.  I enjoyed launching and sharing several Math Monday posts.  There was a little excitement on twitter over the idea.  Two friends have joined and posted along with me on Mondays.  I enjoy sharing math thinking but school life is busy for everyone, myself included.  I wasn't sure if this was a great idea or worth the time and energy right now.

I was with friends this past weekend and I over heard someone tell their blog partner, "we've never blogged to gain followers or readers."  I've been thinking about this comment.  Another blogging friend shared a comment she received or heard during a presentation she was doing, "blogging is for bragging."  Teaching is a hard profession.  Teaching can be a lonely profession.  Blogging for many is about sharing ideas.  Blogging for many is making connections with like minded people and for meeting people who stretch your thinking.  Blogging is risky for the writer.  We all have different comfort levels and things we are willing to blog about.  Blogging can be a platform to live a writerly life, as we guide our students in doing.  

To be honest, I haven't done a Math Monday post in a few weeks.  I think math is hard for many to share, think, and write about.  With just a few friends joining I wondered if it was a valid idea to continue to pursue.  I struggled with this the past few weeks and realized I needed to look at my data.  Readers may not be joining, quite yet or leaving comments but they are stopping by.  My data shows the Math Monday posts have had 86, 65, 79, 119, 180, and 185 visits.  I never expected the numbers to be this high!  Maybe these posts are helpful to others.  It makes me think of the movie, A Field of Dreams.  "If you build it, they will come."

Math Monday will be back in it's original format next week. Please consider joining and sharing anything related to mathematics.

Leave your link within a comment and 

don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are thinking mathematically!

To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
it would be nice for you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Math Monday post, don't forget to use #MathMon!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Classroom Lens - Writing Workshop

Classroom lens posts will capture the weekly realities in my classroom.  Teaching is hard, messy, and beautiful.  Be prepared to see any of these each week and know each of these are worth experiencing.


Adding comparisons in personal narratives to help the reader feel like they are right there.


Conferencing with writing partners.


Questioning how to make the pronunciation of a word, stretched out.


Skin tone drawing tools are in their own special containers for intentional illustrations.

                                                   Writing partners support each other.

Mapping out ideas before writing and using a timer to increase stamina.

Trying out spelling ideas.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Switching on the Moon {Poetry Friday}

Switching on the Moon  A Very First Book of Bedtime Poems collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters is new to me and one I think every home should have.  When the girls were younger we found poetry to be a quick fun read on those nights were bedtime started a bit late or when they were exhausted.  In the classroom, we have been using Owl Moon as a mentor text to write narrative stories and one of my students came bouncing in one morning filled with excitement to share with me she had a poetry book at home by Jane Yolen.  We've had the book on loan for a week now and my students are asking daily for a poem to be read aloud.

The book is organized into three sections; Going to Bed, Sweet Dreams, and In the Night.  In very small print in the back I found the authors gathered poems from various English speaking countries and on purpose they kept spellings and word usage in their original format.  This will open doors for vocabulary/language discussions.  The topic of the poems selected are often topics students will have background knowledge for; snuggles, teddy bears, nighttime, stars, moon, night lights, and bats.  The illustrations are beautiful!  G. Brian Karas creates warm, inviting, and caring illustrations using gouache, acrylic, and pencil.  I wish this was around when my own girls were smaller, I know we would of loved it.

Poetry Friday is being held at Jama's Alphabet Soup.  Thanks Jama!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Picture Book Partiality - Chalk and Cheese

Picture Book Partiality Post will highlight picture books I am using and/or discovering.  I am still very fond of picture books and consider them a favorite format to use in the classroom.  

Chalk and Cheese by Tim Warnes was recommended to me by one of my students.  It was a gift from his grandmother and we both agree his grandmother can pick great books.  Chalk and Cheese are best friends who are very different from each other.  Cheese, a mouse from the country is visiting Chalk a dog who lives in New York City.  Cheese is excited about many things and also nervous about some of the different sites he visits.  Throughout the story, comparisons are given between the two friends.  Often followed with, "Chalk and Cheese are quite different.  But they are friends just the same."  I think it's important as children create friendships and we build communities to share the message that friends like and do different things.  Their day together in the city is filled with exciting adventures, some icky, some pure fun, and one getting lost which was a big scary.

When looking at the layout of this book I knew immediately why my student recommended this book.  He loves humor.  The book is filled with speech bubbles, large font and punctuation to help communicate each character's voice.    The layout can be a fill page spread or a combination of sections or boxes.  It has a bit of a graphic novel feel and a bit of Piggie and Elephant.

Chalk and Cheese have their own website with Tim Warnes with a comic strip series.  The series is currently on hold for other projects but the previous posts would be something worth looking at with students for mentor text and pieces to read.