Comparing and Contrasting

The new second grade Common Core Standards states that students "Compare and contrast two or more versions of the same story (e.g., Cinderella stories) by different authors or from different cultures. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.2.9 ).  While the Venn diagram is certainly a way to help student's organize their thinking when comparing and contrasting, I get tired of it!  I wanted a more structured way to compare and contrast stories that ALSO hit more that one standard.

I have also noticed that for many students the venn diagram is a great way to record thinking but doesn't always lead to the most meaningful comparisons.

My district shared this simple chart and I LOVED it!  It also hit the standards 

  • Describe the overall structure of a story, including describing how the beginning introduces the story and the ending concludes the action (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.2.5)
  • Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.2.3 )


and lends itself well to 

  • Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.2.2).


 LOTS of bang for my buck!

I enlarged the chart and taped it up on the back white board by our whole group meeting area and our easel.  Basically, I created the chart using three large sheets of chart paper.



We read aloud the story Cinderella  by Perrault and The Golden Sandal by Rebecca Hickox.  After reading aloud each story we filled out the matching part of the chart.  It took about 3 days to read, and record all the information per story.

The catergories across the top are : title/ author, main characters/ supporting chracters, setting, problem/ events (plot), solution, how did the main character respond to major challenges  lesson/ moral / central message.

After reading and recording the information for BOTH stories, we used the chart to compare and contrast. We color coded yellow for similiarities and orange for differences.  Then students used the chart and a partner to find how the stories were alike and different.  We highlighted directly on the chart.



Here are a few close ups:




Then for a more direct comparison /contrast we then used the orange and yellow highlights to create a Venn Diagram.


I loved this activity because the conversations were so GOOD.  We really went beyond, "The Step mom was mean" (although I did hear that at first too!).





Also, don't forget about the Spring Cleaning Sale! I am joining up with several other bloggers for a Spring Cleaning Sale!


The  fantastic Krista Wallden created the adorable button!  Everything in my store will be 20% off March 30-31st! There are several other sellers participating, so make sure to check all the sales out! Enjoy!


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Spring Cleaning Sale!

I am joining up with several other bloggers for a Spring Cleaning Sale!


The  fantastic Krista Wallden created the adorable button!  Everything in my store will be 20% off March 30-31st! There are several other sellers participating, so make sure to check all the sales out! Enjoy!


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Testing Recap

I am so very, very grateful to have moved out of third grade (a testing year) back down to second grade (NOT a testing year!).  The pressure on students AND teachers in testing grades is absolutely ridiculous.


Since testing is right around the corner for many, I thought I would go back and  share a little recap of past blog posts.  Since I am not doing standardized testing this year, I have no fresh ideas  but maybe this will help take a little sting out of testing.







Good luck!  I hope our kiddos rock out their tests this year!




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A New View

I don't know about you, but I LOVE checking out other teacher's classrooms   I love looking for new arrangement and display ideas and just plain smart ways to use space.  As a result, I have photographed my classroom almost every year.  It has helped me learn certain set ups that I like.  I guess in some ways I am habitual!  However, I am always looking for a better arrangement and organization, like it is somewhere *just* over the rainbow!

Around Christmas I got the nesting bug and just "HAD" to rearrange my classroom.  It happens EVERY stinkin' year to me.  I never got around to taking pictures because a.) I was lazy and b.) I couldn't get the room to flow just right.

A few days ago I was talking to my teaching partner about wanting to rearrange, but we had a MILLION things to do.  Luckily, she was on board and it was time to rearrange- again! So, bad news is- I never got to document how the room was set up.  The good news?  I like this way MUCH better! I think this arrangement really shows off the size of the room (it is gloriously large!) and spreads out some of our students that needed more, ahem, space.

I was tired when we finished so the pictures are not the best, but hopefully it is a start.  I will try to take some more, really good photographs, in the next few weeks.
This is the view from the door.  You can see that we have downsized from 5 group tables to 4 group tables.  There are two long tables that run along the front   Since students never really learn from their seats (always the carpets) it doesn't matter if their backs are to the board.   This arrangement currently seats 23 students- but we have about 3 that are in desks that are not part of the table arrangements.

We are still using the drawers to organize our materials and I love them.   We put them back to back so that the long tables in the front would also have a place to store materials.


We have rearranged the back carpet area so it is more spacious and I LOVE it!  I can use the extra whiteboard OR easel to teach from!

We put the extra fifth table in the library area.  We didn't want to get rid of it because tables can be hard to come by this late in the school year!  I want to take the legs out so that kids can sit in the floor and use it as an extra work area.  I have pillows and everything ready to go, but keep forgetting to ask our fabulous custodian!

This is a view of my small group table area and the student computers.  You can also see the small black table that used to house the listening center. We got rid of the listening center- we were have some responsibility issues and it had to go :(, but decided to keep the table as a small work area.  The kids have loved using it for partner reading.

Right now, I am loving it!  The new arrangement allows for two whole group meeting areas as well as two small work areas for students to use as needed. I will keep it like this...for now.  Who knows when another wild hair will strike!?!!?


Also, Teresa over at  Confessions of a Teaching Junkie  is having a FANTASTIC giveaway to celebrate her blogging birthday!
There are three different bundles to win- I donated to the grade 3-5 bundle. Man, some of the stuff looks really, really great!  Make sure to hop on over and enter to win!




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Blogging: Getting Organized

Chasing after a two year old, teaching full time (in a relatively new grade level- a return after an absence!), and being pregnant have made my organizational skills not so hot.  As in in a BIG, FAT mess.

I was joking with a friend yesterday at a meeting, Britney, that we were both awesome at getting started but the whole follow through is not quite as hot!  All I can say, is we try real hard!  I really need to take a photo of my desk.  it will give some people the shivers.  And the storage closest (how lucky am I that I GET a storage closest!) might eat someone in the next few days. It is about two steps away from being condemned! THAT is what people really want to see!

I have been struggling with balancing everything, and blogging has (obviously) fell by the wayside. I have seen all these nifty planners for blogging, but I am too cheap to pay anything. I liked the idea of it to help get me on track , but it also seemed like many of the planners included pages that were just more work for me.  And really, do any of us NEED anymore paper work in our lives?!!?

Gina from Third Grade Tidbits shared this FREE planner in a group we are both a part of!  I loved this simplicity and the minimal paperwork it created. I have never even heard of the blogger Mama Jenn and I am so grateful that Gina shared her blog! Since I have never used a planner before I only printed of the pages for March though May as a trial run. I figure if I can keep it together that long, I might invest in something more permanent, fancy, or even create my own!  Who knows?!

I simply printed the pages off, hole punched the pages, and put them in a binder.  I (really quickly during nap time!) whipped up this cover and I am DONE!


Here is a sneak peek inside mine:




It might shock people that in the past I have also kept a small blogging/ TpT notebook with me.  I use it to jot down ideas for blog entries and products.  I am thinking it will turn into just TpT ideas now that I have this new, nifty binder!

My ,err, chicken scratch may give some people heart failure though!

Here is my latest product, my Guide to Guided Reading.  I jotted down ideas and scratched them off as I added them ot the product (left side). Nice, right?!?!


Speaking of my newest product, here is a sneak peek of the rough draft (yellow highlights included to show where to add more!).  I am hoping to get it out within the next week or two.  It is almost 100 pages of photos, printables, and practical ideas on how to organize guided reading in the 2nd- 4th grade classroom.



Blood, sweat and tears.  Sniff. I have been working on this since September!

PS- Anyone see the irony in the fact that my BRAND NEW, lovely planner is blank?  I guess I better start using it now!!!














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Geometric Shapes Bingo!

We are about done with the third nine weeks.  Where did the time go?! This year is FLYING by!  Geometry is one of the standards for this quarter and  I wanted to review it with my guys before the final assessment.  All the vocabulary was very difficult for many of my students.  After playing this game, my partner told me this would be PERFECT for CRCT review!  Honestly, I hadn't even thought of it but she is totally right!

I created this Geometric Shapes Bingo game and my kids LOVED it!


It was a great way to review and we had some really good conversations. It was a great formative assessment for me- to see who remembered and who did not! 


Here is a close up of the board (and one of my cuties)...

The bingo calling "clues" are a Power Point Presentation so I projected it so ALL students could see the clues. This really helped when counting sides, angles and angles or faces, edges and vertices.

When someone (or several someones!) won the game, I simply reordered the slides and started the show again! Easy!

For a detailed list of what is included in the file as well as the concepts and shapes covered, click here.  It is listed for $3.50, BUT for now until I go to bed (whenever that is!) it is marked down to $2! Enjoy!

Click here for this great pack of FREE math centers, plus get tips and updates from me!


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Fact and Opinion Freebie!

We have been learning all about opinion writing.  I felt before we could even start writing our opinions...we really needed to know what an opinion was!

So we created a t-chart defining a fact and opinion.  We brainstormed places to prove something was a fact (the encyclopedia, a nonfiction book, Pebble Go, etc) and modeled a few examples of each.

Then, I taped the fact header pencil on one side of the room and the opinion header pencil on the other side of the room.




  We were **supposed** to pass out the fact and opinion cards and have students walk to the side of the room that the sentence on their pencil fit.
It did not go quite like I expected!  There were LOTS of crickets and blank stares.  So, we ended up sharing and talking whole group which header card the pencil would fit under.



Then I had about 6 sets of my Fact and Opinion Center cut up


and divided students into small groups and had them sort the cards (but not record the answers) as a summary activity.  This was a little better (we had some light bulbs, but not as many as we needed) so we let it sit for a day and the next day played this adorable game on our Promethean board.


Binky has a simple fact and opinion game and my kids loved playing it (and learning why responses were correct and incorrect).  Even better, the game is free! This really helped cement it for our kiddos so we were reading to start out opinion writing!

If you want a copy of the fact and opinion March themed freebie, click here! 




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Reorganizing Math Workshop: Part 345

I feel like I have organized, restructured, and tried about 1,000 new systems. It is just one of those years!

We decided to reorganize our math block (again) to better meet the needs of our kiddos.  Since I co-teach in an inclusion classroom there are two teachers my classroom: myself and another teacher.  It is a fantastic arrangement.  We are lucky that we see eye to eye on instruction and kids in general and she has quickly become one of my closest friends!  One thing we noticed is that our students needs are quickly changing   Some kids are ready to move on to more complex topics, while others need to take it slow and easy.  At the beginning of the year, there wasn't as much of a divide.

To remedy this we have decided to break the class into two groups (give or take) and parallel teach.   This lowers the student- teacher ratio and makes it easier to "touch" all the kids.

Here is a glimpse at my "big picture" and schedule:

11:45-12:15- whole group lesson with my small group of 13 kids
12:15-12:45 independent practice/ centers with my small group of 13 kids
12:45-1:00 whole class (all students) closure
1:00 Recess


This means I will have about 13 kids in my group.  I am thinking that I will do a whole group lesson with all 13 kids, then the kids will complete a worksheet (oh, the horrors!  A worksheet!) that I will use as a formative daily assessment.

I was really good at making these for awhile and fell off the wagon!  I got back on and  I must admit I really like how each day is a snapshot at student's learning.

After students finish the worksheet then they will be assigned a center.  I just made a set of 11 March Math Centers.

Each center is completed independently.  I hate that my students aren't playing the partner math games, but we have had some concerns with students only hearing the "game" part and not the MATH game part.  Soooo...this is my next step.  I know in my whole group there will be a LOT of discussion and group work so this makes me feel a bit better.

To store the centers I used the Sterilite drawers that used to hold all the math centers and the same shelf.

I emptied the drawers and tore off the labels.  Then I typed up simple numbers and taped them to the drawers with packing tape.

Inside the drawers are all the materials needed for the center.  That crooked 3 and 5 are killing me, but I am trying to breathe it out slowly.:)


All the center materials are kept in a gallon zip lock bag, with the directions printed on color copier paper (no color to save ink and money) that I laminated and any center pieces are cut out and stored in smaller, sandwich sized baggies. I labeled BOTH baggies with the game titles, in case they get separated   I like baggies :).


The recording sheets are kept OUT of the bag and sit in the bottom of the drawer.  When students are assigned this center, then they simply need to grab the gallon size bag and ONE copy of the recording sheet and go.

This is a copy of this center from the pack:

Because  I am so picky, each recording sheet is assigned a number- the same corresponding number to the drawer and is also on all the baggies.


When students are done with the center, they are going to practice math addition flash cards.  We 
need a bit of practice.

About 3 of the drawers with numbers are empty.  That is because when students have this number, they will play a math fact mastery program my school purchased called Fast Math. 

 On the very top of the shelf are the red, green, blue, and yellow boxes with folders.  Each color box represents a math group.  Inside the box is a folder that is the same color with the student's name on it.  They need pretty labels, but I haven't gotten that far!

Students store their daily work in the folder and then turn it in on Friday.  Students will turn in their center sheets daily.  To make this easy on me I will simply call the center number (1, 2,3,etc) to and students in this center will bring me their sheets and then line up for recess.  That way I can easily spot check the work for completion and effort.  Sneaky, huh?  

We will have to see if this system works   I have tried to mentally work out all the kinks, but I will have to see how it all goes with my kiddos this week! Fingers crossed I have it figured out and it will go smoothly!

Click here for this great pack of FREE math centers, plus get tips and updates from me!



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