Things have been very busy in my room this year so far! We are trying a lot of new things- some working well, some have been learning experiences- but all have been worthwhile.
MATH— I have restructured my math time. This is how it works: On Monday, I review or introduce the skills that we are working on for that week. We do a lot of modeling and practicing routines. I show them the games and activities that they will be seeing throughout the week so I do not have to give directions or explain on the other days. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday we go through a specific routine. First, we spend about 5-10 minutes having Number Talks and then sharing the Number of the Day activity that the students complete each morning. We pull a “lucky duck” to share and rewrite their answers using the document camera for the Mimio screen so the others can see how they did. Then, we set the purpose for the day, make connections, model and demonstrate, and answer questions for whatever we are working on. This only takes another 5-10 minutes. It usually involves making sure that everyone understands how to use the manipulatives for that concept.
The students then go to their group for the day. We do not rotate during the class period. Instead, they go to a different group each day: Teacher, Computers, or Explore. Once they get into their group, the students have some kind of written quick check to complete either independently or with their group. After the written part is completed, they will have a group activity. For example, if group 2 is at the Computer station that day, they will check their directions board at the computer station to find out what game to play or what activity to complete on the computer. We have been using this station in particular for the students to work on First in Math. During the same time, the Explore group usually plays some kind of card game or creates something that is related to the skill. The group that is with the teacher (me!) is of course working with me… We continue to use the manipulatives and practice the skill together.
I also have a fourth group that doesn’t rotate from day to day, they just get a different activity each day. It’s my Enrich group. This includes any of my students who do not miss anything on the unit pre-test. They get a new activity each day that is designed to help them extend their thinking.
I am really loving math time! It usually lasts about an hour. I get to see all the students during the week and I can tell who is needing more help with a concept. No one is completing “busy” work and I don’t have a bunch of papers to go over! We usually check the written work together at the end as a summary and then I can really avoid looking at a bunch of papers!
Doing math this way, I feel like I have a better view of what my students are capable of. I only have to plan for 3 group activities each week instead of 3 new ones each day. AND the biggest positive out of this is that I have noticed that the students that I have this year are so much more engaged and able to talk about and explain math in ways that I have never heard before.
SPELLING— This week, I am also trying something new with spelling. While sitting in a meeting recently, a friend was telling me about something her son’s teacher was doing: giving a spelling pre-test on Mondays. Hmmmmmmm… At first it sounded like more work for me to keep up with. BUT I think I have figured out a way to make it work. The students are excited about it because if they do not miss any on their pre-test, then they do not have to do spelling homework for that week or retake the spelling test on Friday. (Who wouldn’t love that?!) WELLLLLLL, I made a checklist that will last for the next 10 weeks. I gave the students their pre-test on Monday during our Daily 5 time just like I normally do on Fridays. This works well because we have 4 different spelling lists. I give one group at a time the test while the other students are working on an activity for Daily 5. Then, we rotate. After each group, I eyeballed the tests as I collected them and made two stacks of “mastered” and “not yet”. After our spelling time was done, I gave each student who had “mastered” their words a certificate that lets their parents know why they don’t have to do spelling homework (along with the date and the list number so no one tries to reuse it).
It’s great though because we already practice spelling each morning- we spend about 20 minutes with the students choosing a Word Work activity (rainbow writing, pyramids, small/medium/large, typing, tracing, etc) and practicing their words and then spelling with a partner. I told the students who “mastered” their words that they could still participate in these activities because they’re fun and it’s not going to hurt them to have extra practice! So, it hasn’t gotten confusing yet during our school day… those kids are LOVING not doing spelling homework though. It will be interesting to see how it goes on Friday. I’m assuming it won’t be much different. The students who are not taking the test will never come to me, they will just keep choosing Daily 5 activities until we are done.
Another fun thing going on this week is our Reading study of Anansi stories. The kids are loving them! Using Anansi is a great way to discuss character traits, comparing similar texts, and how a character responds to a challenge. My students surprised me by applying the questioning routines we’ve practiced to discuss the two texts we’ve read so far. They also really enjoyed the character trait discussion today… second graders love learning new and interesting words! This was a great way to extend my higher reading group to complete a word study on some of these new words (like sly, clever, ambitious, etc). They are going to teach the class what they learned about the words today, including modeling how they used the dictionary and thesaurus. We also did some really cute Anansi drawings that I can’t wait to hang in the hallway to show off.
There are so many new adventures in Mrs. Burrell’s classroom! Thursday will be it’s own kind of adventure on Halloween….
What have you been working on in your class this year that’s a new idea that seems to be working well?