Monday, May 26, 2008

Thursday, January 24, 2008

We've Been Partyin'!

Cool Website for Spelling Studying Help!!

So I've just learned of this great new website: This site will be an incredible tool for helping your child study his/her spelling words. Students can add their own words, or the teacher can enter them and allow the students to access them. I have created an account and have even entered this week's words on the long U patterns -ue and -ew (even though our test is tomorrow).

The following are some of the supports the site offers:
- reads the words to the child
- reads a sentence with the word to the child
- tests the child (calls out the words and the child types them)
- offers 3 different games using the words
- will print the lists for the child

What an awesome site and it's all free! So get your child on the web and get them studying their words in a unique and fun way!!

(By the way to access my lists, just chose "FInd Your List" and then type in my name: Beth Young.)

Just for Fun- Miss Young Loves Her Cats!

Just wanted to share this funny video of my cat, Luna, actually playing fetch with me! ;) It is so silly! (Remember I actually have three cats: Dusty Cat, Luna Girl, and Rock Star (Rocky)!) Luna is the only cat that does this. She can also catch balls of paper. (That is why there is all the paper on the floor.)I will try to get video of that too. Dusty doesn't really have a trick, but Rocky hilariously chases his own tail in a circle! I'll definitely have to tape that for you too!!

Enjoy and be marveled by the Amazing Luna Girl!!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

More Math Strategy Work

Today we played a game called Parts and Wholes. With a partner, students took turns hiding a random number of their 18 cubes under a sheet. (The total number of cubes was increased as they became more proficient.) Each student then attempted to use mental math skills to figure out how many cubes were covered, based on how many remained uncovered.
I find this game to be quite interesting and hope that we have more opportunities to play; because this game requires the children to start taking the written strategies we have been using for subtraction and to use them mentally. Having the capacity for efficent mental math is key to being a stellar math matician. And just like any other muscle, your mental math muscle must be strengthed regularly. The wonderful thing is that this activity is a quick and easy 'trick' to stimulate that mental math. I would encourage parents to take advantage of five minutes here and there to ask students similar problems.
I racked my brain and thought of some times your family might sneak in a mental math questions:(For each find the total and then hide or take some away and the child figures out how much you took. (Maybe if they get it right, they can have what was taken as a treat! :))
- eating a snack like M&Ms or pretzles
- playing with legos
- picking up a box of crayons or colored pencils
- looking at change in mom's wallet (just the practice of counting change is VERY helpful)
- collecting mail from the mail box
- reading papers in the homework folder
- reading pages in a book
- playing with a collection of toys
- playing with board game pieces (like checkers)
- minutes on the clock or left till dinner

The key is be creative and share with your child what you think about when you get the answer for yourself.
The following are just two short videos of children sharing their strategy for the game. I hope that soon we will find time to film more and therefore post more for you to see!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Math: Open Number Line Strategy

Check out Miss Russell review that fabulous Open Number Line strategy to solve a subtraction problem!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

New Book to Love!!

Well, we just finished reading the book STONE FOX, by John Reynolds Gardiner! It was amazing! The children loved it and we all felt compelled to read on and on. We finished it in only 2 days, all 9 chapters!!! The book is a very easy read, suspensful, and even a tear-jerker! (Well, at least I was boo-hooing at the end!)

I don't want to say too much so you can check out this great story about a 10 year-old boy who needs to save his sick grandfather and the family farm all by himself.

Parents, why not read it again with your child! I'm sure they'd love to share it with you!

Spelling Pyramid Strategy

This is just an example of the strategy we are practicing this week for studying our spelling words:




Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Voice Thread Stories

Ok, so my principal showed off some fancy stuff this morning at our faculty meeting. It is This is an awesome tool to capture pictures and then "comment" or add voice over each one. My principal used this strategy to share/read our book of the month with us.
Well, immediatley I knew I wanted my students to use this more than myself. Luckily I had my camera, so I got right to work recruiting my "guinea pigs." Luke and Johnna were quick and excited to get on top of their "projects" and so was I!
What we did:
1- Each of them took one of their published narratives and created detailed illustrations, as if they were going to turn it into a picture book.
2- They made sure to star within their stories where each picture/page began.
3- They also created a cover.(You'll notice Johnna had to be extra "demanding" :) and get my photo on the cover- since I am the "star!")
4- I took pictures of each illustration and of each child.
5- I then followed the directions allowing the children to do the narration and BEHOLD...............................

Want a Full Screen Version? Click Here

Want a Full Screen Version? Click Here

The amazing part of this project was:
1- excited students because it is loads of fun
2- having kids working on reading with voice
3- learning that sometimes authors have to "revise" even with voice
4- watching them realize corrections/improvements to the writing that should be made for the reader (or in this case the listener)

I think we are all thrilled to see their already amazing work come to life!

By the way, parents can easily help their child set up an account with voice thread and get them making their own stories at home as well! What fun!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New Study Strategy?

Last week I did a sort of 'experiment' with a student who has been constantly struggling with her spelling. She and her mom tell me how much they are studying, but the child can't seem to make over a C. This is frustrating on all sides as you can imagine, so I needed to find a 'new' strategy for us to try. That is when I was reminded about using visual cues! I decided to try it out right away. I sat with the little girl and we wrote out all her words on flashcards. Then we decorated each one and even for some of them came up with catchy phrases. By the time we were done with the cards, she could already spell them all for me! Having only two days to study with our new strategy before the Friday test, she still managed to get a grade of B!!! Wow! So we are trying it again to see if it really will help, because we can't base everything on this one sucess. But, I decided to try it with the whole class this time. What I'm most excited about is not kids learning more spelling words, I'm really excited at the possiblity that I may be teaching them a powerful new studying strategy. This strategy can be used in all areas- math, science, social studies, language... So next time you or your child have to memorize something, try writing it out creatively, adding color, pictures, and also coming up with some catchy phrases or tunes! It just might make it stick to that brain of yours!

Here is a link to an article I read that matched up with my reasoning-

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Testing Strategy

Well, every week now we have been taking a "cold" reading assessment. "Cold" means it is a test on a passage or story the students have not read or worked with before. The following are some tips/strategies that we have discussed in class to help us perform better on these tests:

1- Just know that the writer is out to trick you! He or she wants to know if you are a serious reader. (We already know you are smart!) That is why we read every single answer choice, to make sure we choose the BEST choice.

2- Read EVERYTHING!!! Including the directions, questions, captions, side-bars...

3- Go back into the text for EVERY question. 99% of the time there is direct evidence in the text to support a correct answer. At this grade level, there are many that come straight-forward from the text.

4- When we read a question, decide on what the key words are or event is then go and find those words/event in the text.

5- Once you find the section the question is refering to, READ AROUND REAL CAREFUL- that means, a little before and a little bit after to make sure we don't miss anything.

6- Pay attention to words in a CAPITALS and that are bolded.

7- If we need to figure out what a word means or what word means the same as one in the text, we should use the "Plug it in, Plug it in" strategy. That means that we should "plug in" all the possible answer choices into the text to see which makes the most sense.

8- Always do your BEST, and don't "poop" out! Work just as strong on the end as you did in on the beginning. (It is a common pattern for students to miss more questions at the end of a test, because they got tired reading the end of the passage and/or of answering the questions.)

Remember- Friday is test day! Believe in yourself!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

I'm Back!

So, about a week ago I returned from the best experience of my life- visiting a small country in Africa called Swaziland. I traveled there on a missions trip with other members of my church, Celebration Church. The country of Swaziland is very different from America, as you can imagine. What, of course, was most evident was how blessed we are in states to have such modern conviences. Many people in Swaziland still live in mud huts with no electricity and still travel long distances to the nearby crocodile infested river to collect water!
In Swaziland we worked with an amazing organization call Children's Cup. (If you ever consider donating to a "worthy" cause, I can testify that it should be them. They are doing amazing things in Swaziland. They are the "real" deal!) Children's cup has 14 carepoints in Swaziland, 2 in Mozambique, and 2 in Zimbabwe. These carepoints are safe places the children in the nearby community can come to play, get educated, seek minor medical care, and most importantly, get fed a good meal!
On the trip, I was blessed to lead my team in training teachers from the carepoints we visited. We taught them how to use the centers model of teaching and had "make and take" projects for them to work on. What was also fun was that I brought a number of "prizes" for them. They all enjoyed winning something and it was all fun, colorful, yet educationally valuable tools for teaching! Another big project we worked on was painting the play equipment and building at a carepoint. The rest of our time, every moment we could, we just played with the children and loved on them! We loved introducing them to scratch and sniff stickers, which we passed out everywhere we went! Check out these pictures:

Friday, August 31, 2007

Test a Book

Well, this week we began our talks about picking appropriate books. As I've stated before, it is my hope that with teacher and parent support, my students will be able to wisely choose books that challenge them slightly but not frustrate them. The only way a child really gets stronger as a reader is to read. Reading texts that are way to simple or challenging only keeps them at a stalemate or deters them from reading all together.

Two ways to pick a book we have discussed: by genre, or if it is "Just Right."
(If Goldilocks was picking a book, she would say something like "This book is too hard... This book is too easy... BUT this book is JUST RIGHT!!")

I am sharing 3 strategies with the students for how to identify a "Just Right" text for themselves- remembering each person reads differently.

First- Give it the 5 FINGER RULE Test
1.) Read a page of the book.
2.) As you read, keep track of how many words you find difficult.
3.) 0-1 word per page too hard = a book that is TOO EASY
2,3,4 words on a page that are too hard= a "Just Right" book
5 or more words on a page that are too hard= a book that is TOO HARD

Next- Give it a Driving Test
*While you are reading decide if you are reading at least fairly smooth and straight- maybe only a bump here and there and if you have a "Reader's Voice". OR maybe you are reading and you are stopping and going and chopping around (bumipity, bump, bump, bump) and you have a bit of a robot's voice.
"Sports Car Books" are good choices because you can read them smooth and straight. Plus, you are pretty fast.
"Jungle Jeep Books" are not good choices, because just like driving a jeep in the jungle you are bouncing and jumping around everywhere! Which make you go very slowly! This is maybe due to a lot of new words, new puncuation, or maybe you can say all the words but they are just not flowing together nicely...

Finally- A Review Test (Coming Next Week)
In this test a reader will periodically Stop and Ask themselves "What did I just read?" If we can't tell ourselves in our minds or someone else who asks us what we just read, we will have to think if maybe the book is too hard to understand. (It is possible, though, that maybe we just were not concentrating, which admitting to might take some honesty on the part of the reader.)
"What is the point of reading something we don't understand?"
"Haven't we just wasted our time if we say a bunch of words, but at the end we have no clue what they meant?"

I encourage parents to continually have their child test the books they are reading carefully and honestly. (Just because we WANT to read it, doesn't always mean we should!)

Spelling Update

It has been brought to my attention that some of the students may be a bit overwhelmed with the spelling. Please be aware that I will be evaluating this week's progress in an effort to see what improvements can be made.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Yesterday, we began our first spelling "unit." Each week the students are given a sheet with words (and sometimes pictures). They cut these out and begin to sort them based on whatever pattern(s) we are studing for the week. (This is why there are so many words, since we know the more examples students encounter, the greater the understanding of the pattern/rule(s).) As a class we sort together, and then they will be asked to resort the words at home. During the week we will continue to resort the given words and add even more words, all in an effort to understand the pattern(s). This year in spelling we will be more concerned with mastering patterns and rules of spelling, versus just memorizing a set list of words. The more the students sort the words, restate the rules, and find new words that match, the stronger the spellers they will become. So, parents are encouraged to have their child do these tasks as much as possible during the week.
We will also have blind sorts in the class. This is where the students are given the patterns on paper, but are given the words orally. Like a traditional spelling test, the students will be expected to write the words down AND also sort them at the same time. (Parents are welcome to use this as a study strategy as well.)
Spelling test formats will vary based on the type of rule or pattern. But students can expect 3 things- 1) they must know the week's pattern/rule(s), 2) they will be expected to spell some of the many words given, 3) they will be expected to apply their knowledge of the pattern/rule(s)- like spelling "new" words not on the original list.
Although this is a different format than most parents are used to, it should prove to be a very powerful one!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fluency Lesson

Today my students each put together two small booklets about school. They highlighted all of the end punctuation (. ! ?) and the commas. We later had a lesson on reading with fluency, which means reading "smooth and straight" with no "bumps and lumps."
One very important thing a reader does to accomplish reading a text fluently is to pay attention to the end punctuation and the commas. The author puts them there for the reader. I modeled reading part of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle, without any attention to punctuation. The students quickly noticed that without any punctuation the reader couldn't breathe correctly, it was very fast, and hard to understand. I then modeled reading with too much punctuation at incorrect points. They noticed the choppiness of the text and, again, the increased difficulty in understanding.
To emphasize the end punctuation and commas I set up a "snapping beat" system. Any end punctuation gets two snaps/beats and a comma gets only one snap/beat.
Following the pattern of modeling and then group practicing, we read half of Carle's book and also the two little booklets they created inputting the snapping beats as the text required.
Students are expected to learn to read the two little books fluently, with attention to punctuation, by Friday. This means that they should be doing repeated readings of these short texts at home. Students can also use this strategy while reading their regular books.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The First Day!!

Today was a fantastic day in Second Grade! We saw a magic show, jumped in the bounce house, read some of Miss Young's favorite books, ate a wonderful treat made by Katelynn and her mom, got to know more about our classmates, made a second grade wish and even did some math with Miss Russell!
Miss Russell and I have already decided that this group of students is probably the BEST class we have ever had! We are so pleased with all our new friends!
Math diagnostics will begin tomorrow and Miss Young will do a short lesson on reading with fluency by paying attention to punctuation. We also plan to set up our folders for each of our subjects, including homework. Small homework assignments will be sent home the rest of this week. More "regular" assignments will begin next week.
Please help your studnet, even on this first night, to begin reading the planner carefully with you and completing the tasks inside it. Today the children each picked 5 books and put them in a big bag. Their homework tonight is to read those books. If they finish them, then they should read them again! and again! and again!!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Tomorrow's the BIG Day!!

Well, Friday's orientation was fabulous. I was so excited to meet all our new students and their parents. I can already tell we have the most excellent group ever! (Oh, and they are sooooo much smaller than the 3rd and 4th graders we are used to! :) )I can't wait to see what BIG things we will achieve together.
So, school starts tomorrow and although I will miss the summer break, we are ready for our students to return. Tomorrow there will be two surprises for the students from Fairygodmother Phillips. We are sure to have a blast!
Parents make sure that beginning tomorrow you start checking/signing the planner nightly and teach your child to use the planner responibly as a checklist and communication tool. Please do not forget to use the website as a valuable tool and this blog as well. The Tuesday Take-Home Folder will be sent home tomorrow with papers to read inside. You should expect to see this important communication tool every week as well.
Remember this is the year to start stepping away from the plate and begin taking on more of a coaching role in your child's school life. Miss Russell and I expect each child to "put his/her best foot forward" at all times. We WON'T settle for ANYthing less than his/her best!
Dream Big to Achieve Big!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Getting Ready!!

Tomorrow morning is our orientation bright and early at 8am. Miss Russell and I have been working non-stop in our classroom to get it ready. I think our favorite part is the starry sky scene above our cabinets. We even put lights up there so it looks extra cool with the lights off! We hope our students feel invited into our room and think it the kind of place they will enjoy coming everyday to learn.
My biggest project these last few days has been getting my library organized. I am excited that I have so very many books! I hope my students are excited for all the choices too! Most of the library is sorted into genres, or types of writings, like sports, friends, history, mystery, and so on... In kindergarten and first grade I know most of the books they read were on a letter level, but I want them to learn to choose their books differently. When I go the library or bookstore, there are not any "levels" on a book. I choose books that I am interested in. I bet you even have a section you are drawn to when surrounded by books. I want my students to learn what interests them and try new genres of text, all the while learning to tell for themselves if the book is written too easy, too hard, or just right for them.
Well, I'm off to bed early because tomorrow will be a magical day! I can't wait to meet all our new students!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007