Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Another Year Down

I begin each year of second grade with the book First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg and end each year with her book Last Day Blues. These are fun books that lead to great conversation and plenty of laughs. 

After we read Last Day Blues on the last day of our year, we went around the room and, like the kids in the story, talked about one thing we would miss about second grade and two things about summer that we were looking forward to. 

While there were some themes and similarities to what was shared, I loved to hear what each kid enjoyed about our year together and what they each had planned for summer. Their personalities shown in their answers. 

I shared with the kids some of the things that I was looking forward to about summer as well, but they also wanted to know what I would miss about second grade. I laughed and reminded them that I was staying in second grade and would get to do second grade all over again...for the eighth time in a row! But that wasn't what they meant. They didn't want me to tell them that I would miss science lab, read aloud time, or math meeting. They wanted me to tell them what I would miss about them

I smiled. It was that. That was what I would miss about them. They were relational. They were loving. And they were dramatic. 

This class loved to dress up and loved to perform. I really enjoyed the time we spent working on our Speech Meet poem, the Christmas program scene, our Grandparent's Day play, and our Famous Egyptians chant. They had instincts and ideas and it was delightful to watch them figure out how to make an idea into reality. I loved their enthusiasm about dressing up for our trip to the museum and the fun they had dressing up as characters from The Wizard of Oz. We even turned our reading story into a reader's theatre a few time and laughed as we listened to the expression and voices our friends used.

This class loved to play and imagine. Recess was full of imaginary battles, the creek science trip was full of mermaids, and they often had to be reminded, "Save it for recess. Right now, you are a second grader." when I would hear conversations turn to who they "wanted to be". But it made me smile.  

We had a great year together. It wasn't a perfect year, no year ever is, but it was a good year. And this class is ready to move on. Ready to be third graders. The blessing of small school is that I get to see them. I get to see them grow in their performance skills at summer drama camp, watch them perform in the Speech Meet next winter, and in no time at all, they'll be auditioning for our middle and high school productions. 

But they'll also be playing on the Varsity sports teams, leading our praise team, competing on the math team, and serving on student council. These kids are going places and I'm so thankful for the time they spent with me this year. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Fairy Tale Characters

Today was a great day. Every other year our first and second grade classes visit a wonderful place. A local park has a fairy tale land and we can walk through the park visiting the houses of various fairy tale characters. 

We took seven of our high school actors along with us on this trip to play the characters and tell us the stories. 

We met Huck Finn who told us about his adventures with his friend Tom and the time he sailed down the Mississippi River. We met with a train engineer who read us the story of The Little Engine that Could. As we began to cross a bridge, a terrifying Troll popped out and told us about the time he was tricked by the Three Billy Goats. We met Mama Bear, Gepetto, the third little pig, the terrifying wolf dressed as Grandma and hiding in her cottage, Snow White, Alice, King Arthur, and more of our favorite characters. 

We recited nursery rhymes together and saw a few live animals too, like Little Boy Blue's Sheep and the Three Billy Goats. (We didn't tell the Troll we saw them.) We stopped to read signs along the way and tried to pull the sword from the stone in hopes of becoming the next king. 

After lunch we visited the play area where we climbed a giant net, jumped in the ball pit, and had a great time running and playing with our friends. Even our big kid friends joined in on the fun! 

We do a lot of preparing for this trip by reading fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Some are familiar and others are not, but we talk about the important impact these stories have had on our culture and how these characters have made their way into so many other books, movies, TV shows, and art. 

This day is always one of my favorites. I love to see our kids have a chance to imagine and play in a beautiful and creative setting. I love to see their joy as they walk through the Three Bear's House or play together in the Little Red Schoolhouse. But that's not my favorite thing about it. 

Every time we go on this trip, I see relationships grow between our little ones and our high school students and it's a beautiful thing. This is something that I've talked about before and you can read about it here, but it's always worth repeating. I watched our high school students zip lunch boxes, hold hands, and encourage our little ones. These students missed class for a day to join us. While fun, it also means that tonight, while our little kids are reveling in the joy of a homework-free field trip day, our high school students are making up all the work they missed in class today. They spent time preparing for this trip so that they could perform well for their little audience. It took time and effort on their part and we are so grateful for their willingness to give us that time and share their talents with us. 

We've done this trip for a number of years now and today, the parent of a fifth grader told me that her daughter is waiting for the day when she gets to come and be a big kid on this trip. I think that if you ask her, you'd find out that her attitude has a lot to do with the way that the high schoolers treated her when she was little. Even years later, she remembers that. 

After today, I am looking forward to the day when these little ones grow up to love and serve our future first and second graders. I want to see them show love, just the way love was showed to them today. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Mama Mouse

We don't have a classroom pet. For a number of years I had a White's tree frog but when she died, I didn't get another one. I find that kids who want a classroom pet really want a cat or a dog and a frog just isn't that exciting. The other problem is that school isn't year round, so I end up having a pet for breaks.

Over the years, I have had a couple of unexpected classroom guests. Read about the Unexpected Butterfly Surprise or Flying Squirrel Adventure but overall, we are a pet-less classroom. 

However, there is so much to learn from a classroom pet. So we borrowed one. I picked up a pregnant female mouse from the pet store on May 1st with plans to keep her and her babies for about a month. Within four hours of picking her up, and before even getting her delivered to school, she had her litter. I felt a little badly that the kids didn't get to see her pregnant, but I had remembered to take pictures and frankly, they were more excited that the babies were already born. 

When the kids arrived at school the next morning, there was one mama mouse and eleven little pink pups in the cage. They tried very hard (though rather unsuccessfully) to be quiet around them so that Mama would get comfortable and feel safe with us. For the first few days, we just watched. We learned that our mice were albino and that female mice are called does and baby mice are called pups. Our pups were blind and deaf with no fur. Their skin was a bit see through and we could look and see when their little bellies were full of milk. We knew that Mama was taking good care of them. 

We took notes in our journals about what to expect at each age and stage as our mice grew. 

0-5          blind, deaf, hairless, milk spot, red

5-7          ears perk up, fur starts

10-14      eyes open, mobile and active, teeth begin

15-24      popcorn stage: mice will be wild and wiggly

21-28      mice will begin to wean

28-35      eat regular food, adults, can mate

After a few days, we began to hold our pups. They were tiny and mostly just slept in our warm hands. We gave Mama Mouse a treat when we took the babies away so that she wouldn't worry and we found that her favorite treat is Fruit Loops, although Goldfish crackers are a close second. She soon came to trust us and now happily climbs on my hand when I put it in the tank. 

Our mouse family has listened to many stories, run through block mazes, played in block playpens, and been loved and cuddled daily. They can be a distraction, but they are an educational distraction so we take a break to look at, pet, or play with the mice when we need to. 

This is our last week with our baby mice before they head back to the pet store. They are beginning to explore the food bowl and nibble on bits of mouse food. By the end of the week, they will be entering into the adult stage. We have so enjoyed having them and learning from them in these last few weeks of second grade!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Egyptian Studies and Events

As our year is coming to a close, we are nearing the end of our Egyptian studies and we have been up to some really exciting things. At the conclusion of our lessons on King Tut, we played a four day classroom simulation game. Our class was split into two teams and the two teams pretended to be Egyptologists exploring King Tut's tomb. The game was run like a chose your own adventure with each team having decisions to make as they searched for treasure and became famous. We had a great time while learning a ton about the treasures Howard Carter found in King Tut's tomb and the impact it had on culture. 

As a review of many of the major players in Ancient Egyptian history, we learned a fun song/chant. Everyone was assigned a person from Pharaoh Menes to Joseph to Jean Francois Champollion. It was a call and response chant that included a short phrases to summarize what made each person famous. We performed it for our elementary school friends at memory time on a Friday morning at assembly. We had so much fun working on the chant, adding motions, and of course, wearing costumes!

We had our Egyptian feast last week! It was a wonderful afternoon of learning about what they ate in Ancient Egypt, as well as eating fun Egypt themed food like mummy hot dogs and a pyramid cake. 

We ended our feast with a silly game of turn the teacher into a mummy. They had fun wrapping me up and giggled the entire time. A fun way to end a fun afternoon! 

We have a few more people to learn about and a few more major events to study before our year is ended. We also have our field trip to the museum coming up soon. We'll be going dressed as Ancient Egyptians and will have the opportunity to see tons of artifacts from Ancient Egypt. I love this trip and love seeing the history become so real in their eyes. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Beatrix Potter Day

We had a special visit from our friend from the Beatrix Potter Society on Friday. It was a long week of standardized testing and Friday was a welcome break and great end to our week. We learned about the life of Beatrix Potter, her works, and her influence on literature and society. Beatrix Potter was so much more than just an author. She was a scientist, an artist, a conservationist, and a farmer.

Mrs. T had so many things to share with us - wool from Herdwick sheep, replicas of the first Peter Rabbit doll, stories about visiting the Lake District, stamps and coins with Peter Rabbit on them, and so much more. We saw pictures of Beatrix Potter's homes, read a biography of her life, and looked at Peter Rabbit translated in about twenty different languages- including hieroglyphs!

After our lesson, we enjoyed a visit with Peter Rabbit and celebrated with delicious cupcakes! Although our special day is over, we are still planning to read more of Beatrix Potter's books in the coming days. 

Friday, April 6, 2018

Grant Wood

We studied the life and works of Grant Wood in the month of March. Grant Wood lived a relatable life and painted pictures the kids enjoyed. Wood's most famous work is American Gothic, so we planned our activities around this painting. The kids were amused and delighted by the parodies of this work that I hung on the bulletin board and for our project, we made our own parodies! By including two characters and a house with the famous widow, we could change many other parts of the picture and it was still recognizable as based on American Gothic. We had a ton of fun character replacements. Elephant and Piggy were among the most popular but we had Ninja Turtles, Princes and Princesses, Alice and the White Rabbit, Pigeon and Duckling, Dog and Cat, and so many others. 

For the other part of our activities, we became part of the painting. I painted a recreation of the background of American Gothic and the kids all picked a friend to be in the picture with them. We dressed them up and took photos of them as the farmer and his daughter. (Or really, Wood's sister and dentist!) Some kids had trouble making a serious face because it was so silly. They all looked great and loved to be able to take their picture home to show their families. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

National Oreo Day

So March 6 is National Oreo Day. It's not a holiday I've celebrated before...but there's always room for more celebrations, especially when they can double as a science lesson. Today we used Oreos to learn about the phases of the moon. We opened our Oreos and carved the icing into the moon during it's different phases. We labeled our moons and the of course, we ate them. Science can be pretty tasty! 

 Happy National Oreo Day!