Sunday, January 10, 2016

Alien Pen Pal Letters

Hello, friends!  It has been a while.   Let me tell you my first semester of this year has FLOWN by!   Between teaching, professional developments (and being a priority school we have A LOT!) and grad school, I am sitting here hardly believing it's January already!

   Today I introduced our alien pen pals.  They come from the planet Etheria and they know nothing about what Earthlings learn in school but they are very curious.  They made contact with us today (after watching us since September) and asked us to write to them and tell them about what we are learning.  (This is a Whole Brain Teaching idea for more info check out their website!

Now I have been playing my alien friends up all year.  Every time my students aren't up to par, I look at the ceiling and say something like "Um nope, my alien friends just contacted me and you are so not ready for a visit yet" (and yes I look PERFECTLY NORMAL when I do this during an observation o.O) , so we have had quite the build up.  When this arrived today it wa a BIG deal!

O....M....G did my friends eat this up!  Even the ones who knew I was TOTALLY faking it were on board!  Because as one of my friends said, "who doesn't want to write to an alien?"

We have been learning about story parts, so today we told our Etherian friends all about the parts of a story.   We wrote the letter together and I had them copy it into their Etherian Pen Pal Journal (aka a boring old notebook with a new fancy name).  My lovely friends worked so hard to get this done!  My jaw dropped!  Even my struggling writers worked their butts off! And it was a serious page long letter!  We had a lot to say!

Before this, I was getting groans at 3 sentences!  Look at what they were willing to write today!     When they were finished they could work on their journal cover and design their Etherian pen pal.  Check out the engagement!

They worked like this for 2 hours!  (We still need some work on working a bit quicker)  BUT I DON'T CARE that it took them this long!  They were engaged, they were persistent to get it done and they were excited!   It was a seriously great teaching day for me and a great learning day for my little second graders!  They were so proud when they finished!

The plan with these journals is to have my students write about each new concept they learn in both Math and ELA.  I will be scaffolding these with a fill in the blank type letter at first.   But eventually, most of my students will move to writing the entire letter on their own.

I do have quite a few friends with OT needs and a few non-writers this year and it simply takes them too long to finish an entire letter.  For these friends, I am going to provide a fill in the blank letter that they can glue into their notebooks.  I do plan to have the students write more on these as well, but let's face it, I am not going to torture them by writing an entire page right away! 

If you want to try this out in your classroom,  grab this FREEBIE!  It includes the letter, journal cover, alien to design in both Etherian and just alien form.  It also provides 2 different types of writing paper if you do not want to use a notebook.  I have also included 2 generic fill in the blank forms for struggling writers.  Get it here!


Give it a try won't be disappointed!  After all, like my friend said, "who doesn't want to write to an alien?" :)   Happy Teaching!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

WBT Wednesdays Linky! Class, Class! and Hands and Eyes!

Hi All!!

Anyone else feeling a little crazed after the first few weeks of school?  I know I am!!!  Between weird schedule shifts, testing and swim lessons (more on that in another post), I feel like it's taking my super learners FOREVER to settle into a routine this year!   They have been troopers, but whew!  It's going a little slow this year!

With that said, I am linking up with Heidi over at Droppin' Knowledge for WBT Wednesdays!

This week's focus is the Attention Getter (Class, Class) and the Focuser (Hands and Eyes).   I have to say, I LOVE both of these and here's why!

The Attention Getter

This is by far one of my favorite WBT things to use!  It's a great and quick way to get my students attention and I don't feel like I'm yelling over them constantly.   I just keep repeating until they get quiet.  We have practiced this quite a bit over the last 4 weeks, but they still need reminders.  My reminders this year are simply "hands, eyes, mouths" after they say "yes."  This helps them remember hands are folded and still (something that is still VERY hard for a few of my friends), eyes are on me and mouths are off.  

My favorite thing is once they get into the practice of "hands, eyes, mouths" we  add in the fun.  Last year my two favorites were "Advengers Class!" (Assemble yes!).  My kiddos got to make what every superhero move they wanted to as long as they ended up with their hands folded at the end.  We had a lot of mighty Hulk desk slams (quietly of course) last year!  My other favorite was "Rock and Roll, Class" (Rock and Roll, Yes!).  With this one they got to do whatever band move they wanted, air guitars and drums where the most popular, as long as the ended in hands and eyes.  Fun all over the place!

The Focuser

This is what you use to REALLY get their attention.  Have a really big point to make?  Hands and eyes.  Simply want to draw them in a little more?  Hands and eyes.   My favorite thing about this, you can whisper your really big point and they will still get it!  It is an amazing tool to have and use in your classroom!  

This is just the beginning!  Check back each Wednesday for more on WBT!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

First Blog Post and Classroom Reveal!!!!

Ahhh! I can't believe I am finally blogging!!! I'm so excited to start this journey and share my classroom experiences with you!

For those of you who don't know me, my name is Erin. I am a second grade teacher in Wisconsin. I have been teaching for 7 years, this being my second year in 2nd grade. Prior to this, I was a special education teacher for 5 years and covered grades 1-5.

And now what you came here classroom reveal!  My classroom theme is superheroes.  My group last year LOVED superheroes so I decided to tap into that and it stuck.  I love it and have no plans to change it any time soon!

This is the hallway area outside of my classroom.   My niece did an AMAZING job on the bulletin board! I also found superhero letters at Hobby Lobby, so of course I had to add those!  We also have display windows next to our doors.  My niece once again did an amazing job doing arranging it. Above my hooks,  each student has a superhero with their name on it to display their student work.  I hot glued a clothespin to the bottom to make hanging up their work quicker!  Already hung up their All about Me math people and I love it!  So much quicker than dealing with staples! It will definitely be quicker to take down too! Here's a closer shot of those:

General overview of everything.....excuse the mess on the bottom ones!  I took them after our first day!

When you walk into my room you see our student supply shelf on the right, complete with glue sponges, tidy tubs and our Take Home folder bin.  On the back of the shelf is where my hall passes hang.  Heidi at Droppin' Knowledge  gave me the pass idea!  We've only been using them for 4 days, but I already love them! 

To the left is our Math Station.  I use these for Independent Work during our math centers.  The actual centers are from Hope King at Elementary Shenanigans.  I LOVE these and will probably blog about them soon!  
This is the back of our room.   I love how above the bulletin boards turned out!  Before it was a nasty white wall with StickyTack remains all over it.  Thanks to some giant fonts from KG Fonts and some cute clip art from Schoolgirl Style, it's much, much better.   The chalkboard is a student work board. I used the same tags as in the hallway and just attached magnets to the back.  

This is, however, my favorite new spot in this area of my room.  Last year, it was a boring white wall all year because I didn't really know what to do with it.  My older niece designed the words and voila! I actually don't mind looking at it from my table every day now!

This is my little corner of the room.   My "desk" doubles as my small group table.   I love not having a desk.  I use this table everyday so I forces me to keep it clean!   I also may have a small addiction to all things 31.......

This entire side of my room is dedicated to all things students!  It's where our centers, book boxes, Interactive Notebooks, Tidy Tubs and Glue Sponges live.

This year, I decided to match all of my center stuff.  Basically every little box has a letter for reading or a number for math.  It also has its own spot on our center shelf.  During center time, my students simply check what letter their at, grab the box and get to work.   Center box goes back in the labeled spot when they're done!   

The front of my room holds my Super Improver Board, Star Student board, Scoreboard and Word Wall.   I will be doing A LOT of teaching from my large rug this year so we also have crates that hold our clipboards and dry erase boards.   The gray bin holds my "learning mats" aka bath mats (a Greg Smedly idea).   Letters are from my Superheroes decor pack from Schoolgirl Style!

Final bulletin board is my Focus Wall.  I use Whole Brain Teaching, so this board is set up for PowerPix and Brainies.  It is also where my classroom library lives!   

And that's my room!   I have to give a major shout out to my nieces for helping me put it together this summer!  They did a great job and saved me a ton of time!  I also have to give a shout out to my future sister in law for making this blog so darn cute!  Thanks Leslie, you did a great job!  

Keep checking back for updates!