November 27, 2013

Back to work...and Native Americans!

Hello all. It's been the first few weeks since I've been back to work and I was a bit unsure if I was ready to return. However, I was so happy that I did because my kids have been so supportive. Some got me flowers, chocolates, and homemade cards. While others just made sure to check in on me throughout the day and give me plenty of hugs. Although at times I feel like bursting into tears, knowing I have my kids there showing me their compassion tells me that there is plenty of good in this world. I may never understand why my sister was taken from my family so soon, but I know that the healing power of love and support help me get through these difficult days. In that same breath I want all of you to know how much your comments have meant to me. All the prayers and thoughts have definitely helped me, and my family, through this.
My nephew and I after my sister's service. I love him more than anything <3

Back to work....
A few weeks ago, my kids had a special visitor from the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation. It was a pretty exciting experience for them as they got to participate in their learning through demonstrations and handling replicas from the Jamestown Museum. This fit perfectly with our unit on Native Americans, especially the Powhatan tribe. I recommend this presentation to anyone living in the Northern Virginia area, both for the second grade curriculum, but it's fantastic for any Virginia studies concept. Here are a few pictures of my kids- needless to say they had a blast!


Our Native Americans unit is always a lot of fun to teach because the kids are fascinated by the different cultures and, of course, learning more about the foundations of American history. In connection with our unit, we also take a peek into the genre of folktales in Reader's Workshop. Students learn about what a folktale is and how the Native American's used folktales to tell stories and explain the world around them.

Our class read three different folktales throughout the week and we looked at each one and discussed what part of nature what explained and the role it played with a specific region.
1. The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush
By: Tomie de Paola
This story tells about a young native boy who didn't have the skills to become a warrior like many of the other boys in his tribe. However, he had a vision that he would be able to capture the brilliant colors of the sunset with his paints. I used this story to explain how the native peoples were able to create wonderful designs using their environment for paint such as berries, plants, mud, and flowers.

One activity I had them do was to use their "paints" (aka crayons) and try and capture the sunset and become painters like the young boy in the story. I put up a photograph of a western sunset on the proboard for the kids to copy and used my iHome to play native sound effects from that Sleep Sounds app (it created a fun environment for the kids to really get into the activity). The drawings they came up with turned out really great!



2. The Gift of the Sacred Dog
By: Paul Goble
This is one of my favorite stories to read to the kids because they all have their own ideas as to what the 'sacred dog' was. It was kind of funny to hear all of their predictions. This tells the story of a Plains tribe that is being affected by hunger. A young man prays to their Great Spirit and after a vision is given a gift of sacred dogs...being horses. This lent itself to a good discussion with the kids about the importance of horses to the Plains people and why they treated them less like pets and more like family members (this idea of what sacred means). I also explained that horses are not native to North America and that many of them came from the Spanish and other Europeans when they began settling the New World. 

3. The Legend of the Bluebonnet
By: Tomie de Paola
This story takes place in Texas and a young girl has lost all of her family members to starvation from a drought. The only thing she has is her doll, which is extremely important to her since it reminds her of her family. The elders of her tribe explain that the Great Spirit is upset that the people are being selfish and keep taking from the land and giving nothing in return. The droughts would end when they sacrifice a precious item of theirs. When no one can part with their things, the little girl decides to sacrifice her doll for her people. It is said that when she sacrificed her doll, the sprits brought the rains, which saved her people. Bluebonnets grew where the ashes fell in Texas- thus explaining where the bluebonnets came from.

I enjoy this unit so much and I'm glad that it's been fun for the kids as well. I will be posting the Native Americans Packet soon! My kids used these for note keeping throughout our unit and use them as study guides.

November 8, 2013

It is with great sadness that I tell you all that I was notified this morning by my mom that my sister had passed away unexpectedly last night. As I work through the grief and support my family, I wanted to also share this with my blogger/teacher friends. I will be taking some time off of work and therefore will be away from my blog for a bit. In times like these, I am grateful for my life and the family and friends that I have. It forces me to take a step back and realize that life is so precious and sometimes unfortunate things happen. I trust that God has taken my sister to a better place where she no longer hurts and feels the pain of our physical world. I am so appreciative of the love and support I've received. I look forward to moving past this difficult time. Many blessings-

November 2, 2013

Time Warp

Oh, my goodness where did these past few weeks go?!? I swear there's a little black hole that you apparently slip into once you get engaged and then your whole live kinda revolves around planning and registry shopping. Nevermind the fact that is just added to the workload I already have from work! Ugh...I need to pop a few Advil just thinking about it all!

Anywho...I finally have a moment to catch up on my little bloggy and see what everyone else has been up to this October. I do have to mention that although fall and October is one of my FAVORITE times of the year...in that same breath I also DREAD this time of year just from how busy it is. This month was just hectic from conferencing with every parent, collecting assessments and 'data points' for this new evaluation system, grading-grading-grading!, our Halloween party, and of course my favorite: report cards.

Here's a peek into my readers workshop!

Reading Workshop:
These past few weeks we've been doing a lot of thinking and learning about visualizing in our reading. Starting with conversations about how when we visualize, we better comprehend the stories we read. Here are a few of the books we've read to help visualize:

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: 
Everybody knows and loves this story and it really lends itself to a lot of reading strategies that you can model and use with your class. The silly story engages kids and this past week I'll read a few chapters to my kids and I'll stop and have them visualize the different things that happen to the 'naughty' kids in the different factory rooms. For example, when Dahl describes how Veruca Salt changes into a blueberry was both very entertaining but allowed the kids to listen for the descriptive language, which helps them create those mental pictures. I definitely recommend this book to any teacher!

The Great Kapok Tree:
This tells the story of a man who, after trying to chop down this huge tree, stops to rest. As he sleeps, various animals visit him and tell him all the reasons he shouldn't chop down the tree. This is another story that could lend itself to many strategies including inferring or author's message. However, when I read it to my class I didn't show them the pictures. I only read the words when each animal visited him and they were able to share the images in their minds.

Just a Dream:
I've always been a fan of Chris Van Allsburg's books because the stories and pictures are always so creative. This is another great read aloud book to model visualization. This tells the story of Walter, a little boy whose chore is to take out the trash but he doesn't care about separating the trash from the recycling. But, one night he dreams of a dark and polluted future and he is transported to different scenarios of what the future looked like. So, again as I read I don't show the pictures of what he sees next in his dream- I allowed students to create these mental images based on the descriptive words in the text. They seemed to really enjoy the story and they were eager to see how close their images were to the real illustration in the book.

Share what read alouds you love to use to help kids visualize in the comments :)