5 Ways to Get in Grammar

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Math, reading, writing, phonics, skills groups, enrichment, social studies, science...it seems impossible to fit it all in. Grammar seems to be one of those subjects that just gets pushed to the side and often forgotten. Yet, it still deserves a place in your students' day in some way.  Here are some ideas for getting it in!

Do you use interactive notebooks in your classroom? In the past, I have used mine mostly for math.  However, this year we used it for everything including grammar.

Now they do take a bit of time to set up and get used to.  But if you are already using for another subject, once students are familiar with how interactive notebooks work, they are great independent activities to review previously taught skills.  Sometimes we get started as a whole group and they finish on their own (usually during our guided reading block when they aren't at "teacher time").  This gives me the chance to see if they are picking up on what I taught and can cut down on time spent on a whole group grammar lesson.

Still on the fence? Try it out! Check out this freebie by Education to the Core.

If you aren't ready to commit to an entire notebook, students could also complete this on a loose leaf sheet of paper.  But, the notebook is meaningful because they can reference past lessons all year!
Interactive Grammar Notebook FREEBIE for types of sentences! Interactive notebooks are a great way to implement grammar and language arts standards for primary students!

I try to teach 1-2 grammar lessons per week depending on the difficulty of the skill and my students' readiness. After we have had a mini-lesson, students will continue to practice during centers. 
Here's a few examples as to what that looks like:

 Each of my centers requires some kind of sorting or matching. There is also a recording sheet but I have to be honest, depending on the center, I don't always require the recording sheet.

In this Roll-A-Contraction center, students roll a dice and read the word above the number they rolled. Then they must find the two words that make up the contraction and record it. Anything using a dice is all sorts of popular in my classroom!

If you'd like to check out these centers, you can find them individually here or the bundle here (over 20 centers!)

I know there is debate about whether or not morning work is the best use of our instructional time. A lot of teachers are moving to more hands-on AM activities. However, morning work WORKS for me and my students so I am sticking to it.  #ifitain'tbroke I like the routine it creates.  It provides a great review of skills.   By the end of the year, my students become so independent, they take turns leading going over the answers and it is just one of the many areas in which I see so much growth!
Smiling and Shining in Second Grade: Daily Practice for Second Grade
I just love love love all morning work by Shelly Sitz at Smiling and Shining in Second Grade. She has math morning work, grammar and a combo of both. You can try some of her morning work pages for free here. The constant spiral of grammar skills is crucial for mastery!

In addition to lack of time, sometimes grammar gets pushed to the side because it's just not all that exciting.  Good news! You can make review for ANY grammar skill into a game.   One of my favorites is this digital version of Connect 4.  Project the Connect 4 document onto your whiteboard or SmartBoard. Split your class in two teams. Have a student from one team answer a grammar question.  If they get it right, they make a move for their team.  If they get it wrong, the other team has a chance to answer. First team to get 4 in a row, wins!  This will turn any "boring" grammar skill into fun--I promise!

Don't want to come up with the questions?
Simply pair it with a copy of grammar task or scoot cards like these:

Read more about my ideas for engaging with games here.

I have to be honest.  Apps are not my strong suit.  I promised myself last year I would sit down with all my iPads and update them with the most fun, exciting apps.  That didn't happen.  #nextyeargoal  Luckily, others are experts and have compiled a great list of grammar apps!

eLearning Industry shares 11 apps for teaching grammar.  The best part? They are all FREE!

I love this one called Grammar Fun that allows students (or you) to specify example which skills students are working on.

I hope you gained at least one new idea for getting grammar into your day. What other ways do you teach grammar? I'd love to hear about them!

Happy teaching!

How I Handle Homework

Tuesday, June 20, 2017
I am popping in today to chat about the "H" word. No, not that one....Homework. Sometimes I wish parents and students knew that most teachers share the same sentiments about it. I wish I didn't have to give it.  But, alas, I do.  While I don't think there is anything wrong with the responsibility homework brings, I severely dislike a few things about it.

1. Hearing when students spend WAY too much time on it at home.  Mostly because they are burnt out and give their parents a hard time.  Whenever I hear "It takes Johnny at least an hour every night" to do what I assume should take 15 minutes, my teacher heart cries a little.

2. Keeping track of it, correcting it, handing it back. 

But I have to because we do give a "grade" for homework (1, 2, or 3 for completion). I have tried to scale it back to a simple operation to avoid any headaches. Here's how my homework system works.

On any given night, students have a spelling assignment (they choose from a list of options to practice their words), 1/4 of a page of math facts (on their level) and a math review page.  This is THE MOST I ever give. Spelling and math facts are handed in on Fridays.  The math review page comes back the next day. Homework is turned into this basket every morning.

In the beginning of the year, I check the homework for completeness, star it and mark it on my checklist. Then it gets handed back at the end of the day. But once class jobs kick in (usually after 1st marking period), I have two students fill the positions of "homework checker" thus taking over this responsibility.  I keep the checklist on a clipboard directly next to the basket.

What happens when kids don't do their homework?

Let's be honest. We have 10,000 things to do each day.  Chasing down kids for not doing their homework is simply, in my opinion, not the best use of my time.  So, instead of running to make copies before lunch then having students complete it during recess, I *gasp* let it go. I realize this may not align with teaching responsibility. But those kiddos who habitually forget their homework or just plain don't do it need recess the most.

(I don't just start counting at 2, #1 moved this year which is why that number is no longer)

Instead of a "punishment" for not doing homework, I reward students for doing it. I don't LOVE rewarding kids for something they should be doing anyway.  But it's monthly and the prize costs nothing so it all works.

Everyone starts the beginning of the month in the homework club. Don't do your homework? You are out! Try again next month! (Sometimes I let one missed hw slide depending on the situation.) This adorable freebie is from The Magic of Teaching and you can find it here.

Students who stay in the homework club all month get a FREE homework pass! I say free because hw passes are also for sale in my weekly reward store (20 Stahl Stars).  This motivator combined with having their number up on the homework club chart seems to work well. You can find a copy of these passes here for free : )

Well, that's it! Not too complicated.  How do you handle homework in your classroom?

4 Earth Day Books (and Earth-Friendly Activities!)

Sunday, April 9, 2017
I am going to be real for a second.  I love a cute craft as much as the next teacher.  However, I feel very strongly that Earth Day is not the time for that (unless you are using recycled items, of course!). So instead of having my kiddos cut some fresh paper and open new glue sticks this Earth day, I will be looking for ways to save some trees and show my students how we can learn without waste.
Here are some great books along with extension activity ideas for doing the same!

This book provides excellent information about bottles that are recycled and their journey to becoming reusable plastic.  However, it does not show the "dark side" aka bottles that are not recycled so that might be a good discussion point after reading.

{Photo credit and idea by Jackie Currie}

Collect water bottles throughout the week or have each student bring in a plastic bottle from home to make these beautiful wind spirals! Students can take them home to hang up or maybe you could ask your principal if it would be okay to decorate the school.  Check out the directions here.

This "Little Monster" book is all about...you guessed it, a monster! He doesn't like to go outside and has zero appreciation for nature.  Then one day the lights go out and he is forced to check out the outside world which he grows to love. Bonus to this book: It is made from recycled materials! #winwin

Keep it simple: Go on a nature walk.  Smell the roses. Take the time to check out things around your school you might not normally notice. If you can't do this during your school day, assign it for homework! Pick a day where the weather is nice and encourage your students to head out into their yards and neighborhoods.  Have them record their observations on a piece of recycled paper and share the next day!

This book encourages students to think outside the box about how they can reuse items to reduce waste! It includes actionable suggestions for students to implement right away! The message that new is not always necessary (or better) is loud and clear in this colorful book!

Recycle and Reuse Exchange: Have students bring in an object from home they no longer use.  And/or find objects in your classroom (think: deep in that closet you haven't opened all year). If students bring something from home, have them swap with someone else and think of ideas for repurposing the object.  Provide some additional materials like scissors and glue.  Partner students up if needed.  At the end, have students share the new use for their object!

Class Yard Sale Swap: Instead of coming up with a new use, simply have students shop and swap their items. Then have them share how they will use in their home.
This simple yet well-written book provides a no-nonsense answer to this powerful question. It highlights the impact that all individuals (even little ones!) have on the earth!
Do you have a recycling bin in your classroom? (We do but I question whether everything is truly being recycled.) If you don't ask around for an extra classroom and make one for your room.  After you read the book, make a list of things that should and should not be recycled. At the end of the day or week, work in groups to sort the items into groups (plastic, paper, non-recyclables ect).  Ask for help from the custodian staff or parents to get the items to where they belong in the community!

What are your favorite Earth Day activities and books?!

Happy Teaching!

Happy April! No Jokes, Just Goodies!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

While I LOVE March, I am actually ready for it to be over. April feels so full of possibilities. I am looking forward to a lot this month--TpT conference with my #tribe in Rochester, NY, three 4 day work weeks in a row, Spring Break (even though it is only a 4 day weekend, I will take what I can get!) and my husband's & mom's birthdays at end the month. 
With all of these fun things coming this month, a calendar is necessary to keep it all straight.  Here is a simple and free one I made to print out for our fridge. You can download it here.

I've also decided to set a few of my April/Spring resources on sale for 50% off this weekend! 

First up is an April Fool's Day close reading.  It includes a close reading passage, vocabulary,
nonfiction text features, comprehension and more! Click here or on the picture below to pick it up for just $1.50!

Next is a HUGE Science Pack all about Air and Weather! It includes everything you need for a full unit! Over 100 pages of resources for only $6!!



Finally, my 2nd grade Spring Math Centers. These centers are perfect for independent work, review and small group activities! There are five activities covering estimating, measurement, arrays and more! They come in color and black and white. Find them here for only $3! 

What are you most looking forward to this month? What is your favorite April resource?

Happy Teaching!

Fun with Fables

Saturday, March 25, 2017
In reading and writing this week in 2nd grade, we were ALL about fables! They are kind of a big deal considering an entire Common Core Standard is dedicated to them.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.2 Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson or moral.

Well, actually, I started last week when I was being observed.  My lesson required students to identify a major event in the story where a character learned an important lesson.  I taught this in small reading groups and the kids loved it so much, it spilled into this week.  Here's a breakdown of what we did each day.

Day 1: I hadn't thought ahead too much (I do that sometimes) so I didn't have any fable books...yet. So I went with my go-to plan B and looked up fables on UnitedStreaming.com or Discovery Education--whichever you prefer.  Does your school have a subscription? Not sure what I would do without it.

Discovery Ed. has a whole bunch of Magic School Bus Episodes which is kinda our thing on most Friday afternoons.  My kids have a tendency to assume we are watching Magic School Bus anytime I start typing unitedstreaming.com into my browser.  But no sir, it was not Magic School Bus today! Today I was going to do the teaching instead of Miss Frizzle.

Back to our fable lesson.  We talked about the elements of a fable.  I used a poster from Lessons in Literacy Fable Writing pack.

Fable Writing {RL.2.2}

Then we watched 2 short fable videos and identified the elements focusing mostly on the lesson.  And even though the stories came out and told us the lesson, we still needed to interpret into kid terms.

Next, we took a look at the fable writing planning page also from Lessons in Literacy. We chose some animal characters and identified which one would be the 'hero' and which one the 'villian'.  Although, I like to just say "the one who makes good choices and the one who makes not-so-good choices" because I am not a huge fan of strong labels.

After we chose the characters and setting, I sent them off to work in partners on the fables.  I decided to let them develop their own lesson or moral and the next day we would share them and try to guess what it is.
Day 2: Honestly, this day wasn't too magical because I had a meeting to go to during our reading/writing block.  So the kids just finished up their fables and shared them with the class. I hope they tried to guess the morals but I really have no idea since my substitute was gone when I came back. (Don't worry, another 2nd grade teacher had my class.) When I returned to the room, half the fables were missing and the kids were all over the place so I kind of just gave up on reading those. #teachertruth
Day 3: This day we were back in action.  I even went to the library before school to pick out some fable books. However, I have a reputation of not looking through books before I read them (I know, it is a horrible habit) and one of the books I picked out had a swear word in it--GASP! Like the word for donkey.  I just skipped over those fables.

We referred to our anchor chart everyday to identify the elements of a fable.  I read some fables and we discussed all the parts. A few were repeats from ones we had read in reading groups but they were slightly different so it was fun to discuss how they were the same and how they were not.

Finally, after we got a lot of ideas from reading fables,  I sent them off to plan for writing their OWN fable this time.  And I let them pick their characters from the character cards which, you guessed it, are found in Lessons in Literacy's Fable Writing pack (I am not getting paid for this, I just really liked this pack).  Here's what they looked like:
Choosing their characters from the picture cards (in color!!) was just so much more special than drawing their own picture.  It's the little things!

Day 4: Students wrote their fables using their planning page.  As much as I tried to encourage them to write SHORT stories, I still had a few asking for more paper.  You hate to discourage writing at this age so I just let it go.  Even though we talked everyday about fables being short. #ohwell

Despite our mini-lesson on how fable titles usually just list the main characters, my darling below used that space for her name. #ohwellx2
Day 5: Whew! Here we are at day 5.  I am exhausted just recapping the week despite sleeping 12 hours last night. But this was my favorite day. And not just because it was Friday.  I decided to let my kids use our classroom laptops to listen to fables and record the fable elements on this graphic organizer which is free in my TpT store. (Fun fact: this was my first ever freeie on TpT)


At first, we used the website Speakaboos.com.  I found it that morning and quickly signed up for a free 30 day trial.  I was super excited about using the website since it looked kid-friendly. We listened to a fable and filled out the graphic organizer together first.  Then I proudly sent them off in partners to finish the rest on their own using Speakaboos.com.

Oh, it was SO perfect.  Collaboration and technology.  I thought to myself "Why couldn't I be getting observed RIGHT NOW?!" Then all of a sudden, kids started yelling out my name.  Many with a frantic tone in their voice. "The website isn't working, Mrs. Stahl!"

Little did I know, there is a limit to how many students can be logged onto Speakaboos.com.  And we quickly hit that limit within 5 minutes.  I threw my hands up in the air and said "Forget this!"

No, no, I didn't do that. Instead, I modeled what a good problem solver does.  With the speed of lightening, I hopped on my computer and found some fables on YouTube.com.  But, of course, I don't want my kids to see the ads and all that jazz on YouTube so I had to put them into SafeShare.tv and add them to our website we use called Symbaloo.com (You can read how I use that here).

Crises diverted.

Moral of the story: Look before you leap into using a new website.

Happy Teaching!

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