Sunday, March 16, 2014

Nonfiction Research Project!

Wow! I'm getting two posts in this week! I'm on a role! :) Maybe, just maybe, I can keep this up! Let's hope! 

My 2nd graders JUST finished their nonfiction unit right before spring break. I combine reading nonfiction and writing nonfiction into one big unit! I love this part of the year because I feel like I end up having enough time! For once!

Differences between Fiction and Nonfiction
We start off the unit by talk about the differences between fiction and nonfiction. We make charts showing what fiction and nonfiction always and sometimes have....

Sorry that I din't get a completed picture of the chart. Basically, We read different texts and the students and I decide what to put on the chart. We use sticky notes so that we can change our minds if we need to. One of the main reasons I am obsessed with stickies! It makes the charts so much more interactive with your students! 

Nonfiction Research Project Set Up
My class researches big cats. I get all of the library books on the different kinds of big cats. For exmple, I collected all the books on cheetahs, lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars. 
As a class we will research one big cat to guide them. I chose the Leopard because there were only 2 books on that cat. I wanted them to have many more options than that for their research. 

So, as a class we would be researching leopards and as individuals they would get to choose out of the last 4 cats which they wanted to research on their own.

I let the students choose and I record who is going to research what cat. 

Then, we begin with....

Nonfiction Text Features
After that we go into using nonfiction text features. We study a text feature or two a day, depending on how well they work together. For example, we go over photograph and caption together. 

We create a class Nonfiction Text Features Chart and add to it each day.

As a group I use one of the Leopard books to show examples of the text features. Once I explain what the text feature is and we discuss how it helps us, I practice USING that text feature to model how to research about the leopard for the project.

I record the facts on my Nonfiction Research Notes Packet on the document camera to model it for them.
This is a picture of me showing how to use the text features to research and record the facts.

After we do this whole class on leopards, I let the students go into their groups to practice using the text features that we have studied in the previous days to research their big cat.

Nonfiction Independent Research
The groups are based on the big cat. I put them around the room and have them research together. This way they can share books and help each other in the process! 
At the end of each independent research period, I always group them together and let them share a fact they found or how they used the text features in the book. This was to return the focus on the text features and how they used them. This was a very important part not to forget!

As they are researching they are recording in THEIR Nonfiction Research Notes Packet. 

Here is what that looks like and includes...

My morning class is the GT cluster so I used the blank heading version with them and brainstormed ideas of what we wanted to research about the cats. In the afternoon class, they need a little bit more support, so we used the predetermined heading pages for them. 
An easy way for you to differentiate within your class.

They continue this research throughout the week. So, basically in reading we are studying how to read nonfiction texts with the features and in writing we are hitting the Research standards. 

Final Product
At the end of the process the students chose from a RAFT of how they wanted to present their research information. 

Let me just tell you now.... My GT cluster class did FABULOUSLY with this! Some SUPER SUPER cute products were created. Here is an example of one of my students who chose this from her RAFT:
Role: your animal
Audience: Hunters
Format: Video Presentation
Topic: All about your animal ...and more!

Here is her final product. So cute....

We used our school's green screen and the VeeScope Live app on my ipad to create the background! 

Of course I used a rubric to grade these wonderful projects. I graded them on the research process and product process, but not the actual content itself. 

I have done this two years in a row and of course I find little things that need changing and altering, but all in all, it is a GREAT unit and my kiddos thoroughly enjoy every moment of the process! 

You can find my packet here at my TPT store! 

Phew! Sorry for the long post, but it is a long process! :) I'm back to work tomorrow from a very relaxing week off!

As for the rest of my Sunday, I think I'll finish crafting my chalkboard countdown until summer display! 10 weeks left! 
Happy Sunday!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Student Work Display!!

I have had a big issue with displaying my students' work in the hallways of our school. The guy or gal that designed our school is a nuthead!  The lower half of our hallways is this hard plastic material. The top half is the kind of material you can staple to BUT my principals don't want us stapling that much. 

ALSO I don't want to spend time and energy hanging things on the top half of the wall where NONE of the kids will be looking. I like to hang the work at eye level where the students walking by can easily see and read the work. 
I have tried using the string and clothespins but I hate how it sags and I find it annoying. 
SO... I have rarely hung work in the hallways. SAD. 

Luckily, one day, I was down in the kinder hallway for buddy reading and saw a kinder teacher friend of mine, Amanda Maxey, had these mini boards hanging down over the hard plastic material. Her student work was attached to it simply with a pushpin. She told me she had seen it on Pinterest. I knew this was the solution to my problem! 
I had to make my own!!

Basically you purchase the foam boards from the dollar store and cover them with fabric and hang! So So simple!

I purchased 4 boards but decided to stick with only making 3 at the moment. 

Here are my boards. 

  I used purple tulle to create the bows.

 All you need are thumbtacks/pushpins to hang up the students' work! It is SOOOO much simpler than stapling or using the string and clothespins! 

I WISH I knew who the first person to post this idea was so that I could give them credit, but I don't :(.

I am in love and can't wait to hang this up! I will definitely post a picture once I get some work posted up in the hallway!!

Have a FABULOUS weekend y'all!!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Clubs! Yay!

Hi friends!!

Just a very quick post today! I'm attaching my first video ever! Hope this goes well!

Today I wanted to share about my 2nd grade book clubs. Almost ALL of my students have made their way into a book club. Some are more guided by me than others, just depending on their ability to share independently with one another. Modeling and practice makes perfect!  But I LOVE it when students can have their own meaningful discussions about a book on their own without me! 

It makes me smile. :)

This particular group in the video is reading a biography about Louis Braille and his creation of a way for the blind to be able to read. You can tell which kids are comfortable talking (stealing the show) and sharing and which have a harder time with it. Once I turned on the camera, those that are reluctant tried to tap into the conversation, but would only say, "I agree". I try to make sure my students add a reason onto that. They are encouraged to say, why do you agree? What from the book makes you agree with the other person? I tried to stay out of the conversation as much as possible, so I addressed the issue of the nonparticipants at the end. 

Towards the end you hear me talk about the Edmodo group question. I will discuss that further in an another post if y'all want to hear more!

If you like what you see and are curious for more, let me know in the comments below!! I will write up a full lengthy post all about my book clubs if I know people want to hear more! :)

Let me know! Enjoy!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

I HEART Glogster!

Happy Saturday y'all!!

I just wanted to do a quick and simple post to say how much I LOVE EDUGlogster

 {imagine my arms opened as wide as possible}

I have used it in a couple of different ways. 

1. As my class website to keep in communication with my parents.

2. As a creative outlet for my students to share their learning!

It is SUPER easy and my kiddos have ADORED it!

So I started using Glogster three years ago. I had each one of my first graders signed up with their own glog. They ran with it! It was so easy to get them started and it was very simple for them to navigate it!

Here is an example of two of my students' glogs from 2 years ago. Remember these were FIRST graders!

Here is an example of my class website glog that I am using this year. Click on it to check it out.

If you clicked on student glogs link, you'll notice that none of my students this year have started on their glog. Unfortunately my school/district hasn't answered my request to get student accounts for this class. BUT I think I've figured something out and will hopefully have the students creating on their glogs this week! I'll let y'all know how it works out!

There are countless ways that students can use this website. 
reports, book clubs, etc.....The ideas are endless

To keep it short and sweet, this is a FANTASTIC and SUPER EASY way to upgrade your class webpage.

Make sure you go to the EDU version at There is a site but it is not education based! 

Let me know what you think!! 

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

MLK Jr, Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges

I'm so proud of myself for posting so soon! :) 

We are literally just finishing up our Civil Rights unit this week.  Over the last 3 weeks, we have been studying three important historical figures from that time. MLK Jr., Rosa Parks, and Ruby Bridges.  I always love teaching this unit, especially Ruby Bridges! The kids love learning, relating, and connecting with Ruby Bridges.

The first book I read to introduce the unit was White Water by Michael Bandy. This story is about a boy who doesn't understand why he has to drink from a separate water fountain than the white boys. He has this strong desire to taste the "white water". He is determined to figure out if it tastes better or if it is colder that the "colored water". This is just a quick introduction to how things were different back then and to show what segregation was like. 

Our first week, we studied MLK Jr. and we created a Was, Had, Wanted chart using stickies. I have to use stickies because I have two classes and I can't make two of everything! SO, I usually use two different colored stickies for the two different classes. It works out wonderfully!

I also put a few sections of his I Have A Dream speech on chart paper. We went over these two sections and discussed some of the vocabulary and what the sections meant.

I also began to create a list of important vocabulary words that we heard as we read. As a class we decided upon these five important words;
Civil Rights

We discussed the words as we read. Then I assigned each table a vocabulary word. I had them write it, come up with a definition, and draw a picture to represent the word. Then I hung them on the board so that they were in plain sight for the rest of the unit. This is the first year that I did this and I REALLY think that it helped immensely! They have really grasped the meaning of these words.

The second week we moved on to Rosa Parks. I didn't get a picture of my Rosa Parks anchor chart, but we created a bubble map for Rosa Parks using stickies {of course}. Then the students used the Active Inspire  program{the Smart Board program is just as good!} to show what they learned throughout the week. I had them apply their knowledge by coming up with 3 character traits to describe Rosa Parks and to tell me how she portrayed those traits. Here are a couple examples of what they came up with. 

Now we are in the middle of the third week. My favorite week! We are studying Ruby Bridges and her contribution to the Civil Rights Movement. Once again, we have been reading stories and watching videos to learn about her. Here is an example of the anchor chart for this week. 

This is a link to a GREAT PBS video which includes an interview and actual footage of Ruby Bridges walking into the school while being bombarded by the angry mob of people and the white families taking their children out of the school. Such a great video, I highly recommend it!

SO, to sum up the whole unit, we will be doing a triple bubble map {as my district calls it} to compare and contrast all three of these famous people.

This basically sums it all up!

Hope you enjoyed the post! We are up next to study nonfiction text features, structures, researching and writing nonfiction! Here is a sneak peak into my next post!

Stay tuned for some nonfiction research fun!!

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Hi Y'all!!!!

I am so glad to finally be getting a chance to blog again! Life has been super busy and I basically just needed a blog break...again.... BUT today I have a few things to share! So, I'm just going to jump right in! 


This week we studied summary. I find that this is the first step in writing about their reading. The kiddos need to know and be able to share what happened in the story before they can go and share deeper thinking and feeling about it. SO.... This week we read Something Beautiful and used a SWBST {Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then} flipbook to write their summary. This seriously makes is SOOOO much easier for the students to grasp the idea of and write a summary. 

First, we completed a summary together on our read aloud. Then they took their flipbook to their seats to use it with one of their independent reading books. 

Here are a few pics of our summary activity!

I created my own SWBST flipbook so that I could add the questions on the inside of the flaps. This helped guide the students as they went along. It went GREAT! They liked it so much, some students asked if I had extra copies so that they could write another summary for another one of their books. :) 

Want a free copy of my SWBST flipbook? Go on over to my Facebook page! You can find it under my freebies tab! :) Enjoy! 

Now, my favorite!
Reading Journals
As a 2nd grade ELA teacher, I love....LOVE our reading journals! It is one of my favorite parts of teaching ELA. I love the flexibility, choice, and sharing of deep thinking that can be accomplished with reading journals. 

I have been using them since day 1 in my classroom. After slowly progressing, the students are just now building up to creating and sharing fabulous and creative thinking! 

Currently my students have moved away from workstations/centers. We are now independently reading and responding for an hour, total, while I am pulling small groups and conferring. My students are expected to read and respond to a book in their reading journals at least once a week. They then turn in their journal to me on their assigned day and I respond back to them. 

As a class, we created a list of ways that they could write about a story. Here is the list my class came up with. I keep it posted in plain sight so that they have easy access to it. 

I also have a menu that I put in the front of their journals to help get them started if they aren't sure how to respond. Once they are finished with the menu, they come get the next one. I created 7 half-sheet menus with different response starters. You can find it here at my TPT store. :)

The reading journal is broken up into two sections. Notes and Responses.

This is an example of activities we did as a class in their Notes section.

Here are some examples of my students' independent responses in their Response section! 

I love the sticky note at the top... so cute.

I ADORE it when they start to get creative! This girl used sticky notes and folded them to make flips!

My students also love to do their response on the computer! They love to print it out and glue it in!  Here you can also see my response back to her. 
{don't mind my messy handwriting....I have to respond to 10 of these a day, so that tends to encourage messiness!}

As you can see, I basically let them choose how they want to respond. That choice lets them be more creative and keeps them more engaged and excited about the work. 

Phew... I feel like that was a lot! It feels so good to be back to posting... I'm excited to share my MLK activities with you tomorrow! 

Have a FABULOUS night! :)