Sunday, September 25, 2011

How to Make a Texas Flag Folder

We made this cute folder to hold all of the products from our Texas unit.

Materials needed:
12 x 18 construction paper: Blue and White
4 1/2 x 12 construction paper: red
1 white star cutout
glue and stapler

1. Glue the red piece to the RIGHT side of the white paper and fold in half on the vertical line of symmetry
2.  Fold the blue paper in half on the horizontal line of symmetry AND on the vertical line of symmetry

3.  Place the white/red paper inside the folded blue paper

4.  Fold in half like a  folder and glue star onto blue field.
5.  Staple blue edges together to make a 4 pocket flag folder! (staples not pictured)

The Daily 5 in Action!

Mrs. Morgan's Superstars have been working very hard since the first day of school learning how to be independent learners.  The Daily 5 includes:
Read to Self
Word Work
Work on Writing
Listen to Reading
Read to Someone
So far we have been working on the first 3 and how to do these things independently while Mrs. Morgan works with students one-on-one or in groups.
This student is doing a great job following along with his finger.

This student is "In the Zone"

Learning spellings words AND the QWERTY keyboard with Spell Texting! (Thanks Teacher Tipster!)

Word Work with Bendaroos!
Choosing the right spot helps make Read to Self more successful!

Texas Boys Choir Sings at The Modern

My son is a member of the Texas Boys Choir. This past weekend they sang at The Modern Museum of Art.  They are working very hard preparing for a big trip to Argentina in the spring.  Here is a rough video of rehearsing for the program:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rat Traps!

We recently learned that the state tree of Texas is the pecan tree.   We also read a story in our reader about pecans called “A Nutty State”.  Seeing the pictures of the pecans reminded me of a recipe for a yummy treat called Rat Traps.  Click HERE for the recipe.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

On Wednesday September 21, 2011 we will be celebrating The International Day of Peace by having a hallway celebration after announcements.  Students will participate in making a school-wide peace train that will stretch around the halls of our school.  Classes will discuss ways that we can be a more peaceful place by creating  posters to hang in the hall. Penny Haight, our school counselor, shared this video to show to our students to promote reflection and discussion.
Let's be the change...

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Life Cycle of a Snowman

In 2nd grade we are learning about the states of matter: solid, liquid, gas.  What better way to learn about this than to have a snowman visit our school and melt away throughout the day? The students really enjoyed watching him change but were a little sad when we "cooked" him into gas ;-)

Click HERE for instructions and recording sheet.

Fill balloons with water  - small, medium, and large - and place in  bowls with the tied  side down so  it will create a  flat surface.  Lay something on top of the  balloons to create a flat surface on top. Once frozen, remove balloon and stack balls using salt to help them adhere to each other. Cut out decorations with felt and stick to ice.

Students recorded the changes throughout the day .

We also kept a data chart with the water measurements  - as the snowman got smaller, the water got deeper!

Poor Frosty ;-(

The final stage
Frosty enters the atmosphere as a gaseous memory of a fantastic day!
**Check out this awesome sequencing activity page 
created by Lauren Lynes!

***Brooke Gravett has also created this wonderful instruction and recording product on her TpT store. Click HERE to download.

Photography:  Ginny Limer - my awesome curtain partner!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Celebrating Diversity

I would like to welcome my first guest blogger, Dan Gilbert of Primrose Schools. Please enjoy his article about celebrating diversity: 

Celebrating Diversity with Your Children

“We live in a diverse world. By teaching children to appreciate other cultures from an early age, you will help them develop compassion and seek out shared values,” said Dr. Mary Zurn, vice president of education for Primrose Schools. When considering the concept of diversity and all of the nuances and complexities that come with it, it may seem difficult to impart the lessons of tolerance and acceptance to your children. However, Primrose Schools suggests that by instead focusing on the unique cultural and historical differences between races, you can make teaching preschool children and older children about diversity a fun and loose exercise.

A child’s idea of the world is very minute and grounded, and they primarily think of normal people as those they see on a regular day-to-day basis. These people include their family, school, and those around their neighborhood. An interesting way to teach children about the wonderful diversity of the world is to explain different cultures to them through irregular means. Global music is one good example, as is sports and even the multitude of wildlife around them. This will not only foster a grounded cultural understanding, but they will be intrigued and willing to learn more about their global community.

Teaching children about cultural diversity is one of the most important lessons you can impart to them. It not only helps your children build character, but they will learn to appreciate differences in culture (including your own). In addition to this, a well-rounded education in diversity will help children grow to be a compassionate, accepting adult, who respects and values the differences in other people.

If you are still looking for tips on explaining diversity to young children, use one or all of these following suggestions. These suggestions will help you celebrate diverse cultures in the classroom or at home:

Explain and Share Your Family History

To understand others, one must first understand themselves. An interesting quote that helps drive this point home is "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfill it," by the late Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana. Explain pictures of individual members of your family to children and talk about their rich cultural heritages. Keep in mind that Children are often intrigued by stories, so share a small tidbit of information about each person so that it will stick more fervently in their budding minds.

Listen to Cultural Music

Another unique way of sharing your family's cultural history is by playing music from your culture. By either playing music from your family's country of origin, region of the United States, or music you sang yourself as a child, you impart to them the wisdom of a time long ago. This will not only bring a historical relevance to your relationship, but make a child eager to learn more. Once this exercise is finished, follow up by asking your child to point out the differences and similarities between different types of music.

Read Books

It's safe to say that reading to your child is one of the best ways to stimulate their minds and get them interested in the world around them. The rich characters and storylines can lead to very in depth discussions on culture and race as a whole. Some suggestions:

• Todd Parr:
It's Okay to Be Different
• Shane Derolf: The Crayon Box That Talked

Make Up Your Own Suggestions

Continue searching for various opportunities for your child to meet and interact with children from different ethnic backgrounds. These real life interactions will stick with your child for the rest of their lives, and will mark an important starting point for their cultural journey.

Tip: These suggestions can easily be applied to classroom exercises as well if you are a teacher. Your students can bring in pictures or tell stories they know about their family history. All of the other suggestions can be done as a class. This would be a good way for children to interact amongst a diverse group. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Heelys: Stylish, Comfy & Fun at Work or Home!

I love wearing my new Heelys to work.  I picked this cute pair because I love the "old school" look and they look great with my stylish school spirit wear.  I will admit that I like them much better without the wheels, but with the wheels in they are a lot of fun around the house and at the grocery store (while holding on to the cart).

My students gave me some great advice on using Heelys:
1) Start out by holding on to someone or something 
2) If you want to stop, just push your toes down
3) Don't bring the wheels to school because it's against the rules
4) If you wear them to the mall you can get your shopping done faster is the place to go to get your Heelys.  
Wear them to work or school, but when you get home pop in the wheels and let the fun begin!

Log on to for products, videos and how-to guides. Follow Heelys on Facebook -, Twitter - and YouTube -

Heelys, Inc. is a company founded on innovation. It designs, markets and distributes its action sports-oriented products to the youth market under the Heelys® brand. The company's primary product, Heelys wheeled footwear, is a patented dual-purpose skate shoe that incorporates a stealth removable wheel in the heel. Its new product, Heelys Hx2, uses two wheels for better balance and control, making it ideal for younger users. Heelys' third offering, Nano, ramps up the Heelys experience by giving skaters a board that links into the patented Heelys shoe bracket. This allows them to skate farther, faster and longer than ever before. Instructional videos on how to get started can be found at

*All opinions are my own. Received 1 free pair of Heelys in return for blog post/video.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Can Homework Encourage Creativity?

I recently participated in an #elemchat Twitter Chat about homework (here is the transcript). Many teachers give meaningless homework which is nothing more than busy work. My children attend a Fine Arts Academy (charter school) where the approach to learning is a little different. Although they have the usual math problems and book reports, they also have the opportunity to get creative with their homework assignments. The teachers are aware that all students learn differently and so they give options for homework and projects.  For instance, instead of just doing a report, students are given the option to make posters/books/artwork, create songs, cook, use technology, choreograph a dance, or dramatize it with live action, photography, or video. I love that the students are given choices. My son enjoys using technology and makes really good Prezis.

My youngest daughter is very "hands-on" and recently worked with a group to create this magnificent crispy rice relief map of Texas. What I like about these kinds of assignments is the time and effort my kids put in to them. My son is very "techie" but my daughter is more "artsy" so they can choose assignments that work well with their learning style.
As a teacher, I want to offer my students options as well. Instead of the usual "write your spelling words 2 times" and "do 50 math problems", I want the students to be able to use Spelling City, make rainbow words by using 2 or 3 crayons to write the words, or create "pyramids" with the words:
In math they can use sites like Cool Math, take pictures of patterns in our world, or make cootie catchers to learn math facts:

The possibilities are limitless.SO! As matter where we is our job to tune in to our students and pull the very best out of them! It's easy to get in to a rut and use the same assignments from year to year, but that's not the kind of teacher I want to be. How about you?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Self Esteem = Poker Chips?

My husband, Preston, is a behavior intervention teacher at a Title 1 high school and he deals with a lot of really hard issues with his students.  I recently shared with him my plan to Raise the Responsibility in my 2nd grade classroom. He was very impressed with Marvin Marshall's Discipline for Promoting Responsibility and Learning and is also planning on implementing this system with his students. The beauty of this system is that it can be modified to work with any age student, but in order for this system to be successful, the teacher must provide positive feedback. Sometimes we may find it hard to be positive when dealing with difficult or impulsive students.

At the same time I was researching the Raise the Responsibility system, a social worker in Preston's PLN shared this compelling video on Twitter. After watching it I understood why positive feedback is so important not only for learning disabled students, but ALL students.


  When the chips are down
- Watch more Videos at Vodpod.

Today at school, as I spoke to my students as a whole group or individually, I tried to imagine that my words were the poker chips described in this video.  It really helped raised my awareness of what I was saying to the students and how I was saying it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Raise the Responsibility - Discipline for Promoting Responsibility and Learning

I was so inspired after reading "Using A Discipline System to Promote Learning", by Marvin Marshall and Kerry Weisner, that I decided to implement the system in my classroom immediately. The idea of the Raise the Responsibility system is to promote internal motivation in both academics and behavior. Rewards and consequences provide external motivation which might modify behavior, but they will not permanently motivate the student to change his/her behavior. Students who continually try to push the limits of their behavior can now assess their own level of responsibility for an action and then reflect on how they can correct it or not repeat it.

This morning I introduced my interpretation of the levels of responsibility to my 2nd graders using a wadded up piece of paper (as suggested in the article):
This is my 2nd-grade-friendly modified version of the Levels of Responsibility.  

  • First I took the paper and threw it up in the air while making a lot of noise and then threw it at a student. They were shocked! This behavior, I explained, was Level 1 behavior - inappropriate, out of control behavior that would lead to negative consequences.  
  • Next, I put the paper on the floor and kicked it around for a while. Then I told someone in a bossy tone to pick it up and throw it away. The students easily recognized  that this Level 2 behavior involving bossing, bullying, and breaking rules was also not appropriate.
  • For the the next demonstration, I put the paper back on the floor and politely asked a student to pick up the paper and throw it away. The student quickly complied and was pleased when I thanked her. 
  • Finally, I put the paper on the floor and while I was going in to more detail about Level 3, a student picked up the paper, without being asked, and handed it to me. This was the perfect segue into Level 4: Appropriate/responsible behavior and doing something just because it's the right thing to do.  
Throughout the day, I used the chart 3 times with students who were making poor behavior choices.  Each time they we able to accurately identify the level of their behavior and I could see that they felt a strong sense of responsibility for either correcting it or not repeating it.

During our Daily 5 Read to Self reflection time, we were also able to make a connection. The students demonstrated what a person would look and act like during Read to Self on each level. A student choosing Level 1 or 2 behavior would be talking, getting up and walking around, disturbing other students, or pretending to read.  A student choosing Level 3 would be following the rules, but watching to make sure the teacher saw that they were doing a good job. A student choosing to behave at Level 4 would be in "The Zone" and not aware of what was going on around them.

Most students choose to act a certain way, but there are some who know not what they do at times. These are the students who offer the biggest challenge. Impulsive behavior can be very hard for the student to control and, as the teacher, I must learn how to help the student get these impulses under control. Asking the right questions, being positive, offering choices, and encouraging reflection are strategies that will help deal with difficult students.

Obviously after just one day I am not an authority on this system, but I was amazed at how quickly and positively the students responded to it.  According to Marshall and Weisner, as a teacher I must keep the following things in mind:

  1. I must be positive in everything I say. Students do better when they feel good about themselves.
  2. Students must know that they always have the freedom to choose their responses - regardless of the situation. Realizing that they have choice, the students will become more self-controlled and responsible. They will feel empowered.
  3. I must learn to ask questions that will effectively guide students to reflect and self-evaluate.

My goal is to use this system and move away from color change charts, treasure boxes, tickets, points, and all of the other rewards systems I have tried in the past. I will keep you posted on how this system is working out.

Marvin Marshall and Kerry Weisner, "Using a Discipline System to

Promote Learning," Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 85, No. 6, March 2004, pp.

*All opinions are my own. No compensation was received for this post.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Simple song for learning continents and oceans

In 2nd grade students have a hard time understanding the difference between continents, countries, and states. This is a simple video that introduces the continents and oceans. Once we learn this, we will move on to countries and states.

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I think it's time to stock up on some fabric!

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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hancock Fabrics ONLINE!

I love to sew but I often get frustrated because it seems that there aren't any good fabric stores anymore. They are now "craft centers" with limited selections of good fabric at good prices. Hancock Fabrics used to be one of my favorite fabric stores until the one near my home closed. I was so excited to see that you can now buy from Hancock Fabrics ONLINE!  Even better, they are having a huge Labor Day sale! Now through September 7th you can save up to 50%. Check it out: 

234x60 Labor Day Sale - Ends Sept. 7th