Team Ramsey Highlights and Playbook

August 29, 2016

As readers/writers,

As readers, we are slowly but surely learning that WE are in charge of our reading lives! We get to choose WHAT and HOW to read a text. We are learning that mindful readers take a "sneak peek" at their text by doing a good bit of work BEFORE they begin reading cover to cover. Good readers, read the "blurb" on the back cover or inside cover of the text, study the table of contents if present, read a little of the first page, and even use a picture walk to think more deeply about their text BEFORE reading the entire book. All of this "set-up" work helps them synthesize the text with greater comprehension as they purposely begin questioning the text regarding what the main character(s) may want, what people/events/circumstances may get in the way of the character's "want", and how the text will progress from introducing the problem (found in all fiction texts!) and move through events that lead to the solution of the problem. As we work this diligently to set ourselves up for reading, we are learning to use the elements of our "sneak peek" to determine HOW to read the text in order to bring forth the feelings in the text. This "grown up" approach to setting ourselves up for reading will assist us GREATLY as we begin to apply strategies for reviewing and retelling our text.

We are easing into the components of Reading Workshop. One of the MAIN conditions within this sacred part of the day is that students keep our room silent during independent and guided reading...because READING IS THINKING! I am VERY STRICT about this because We do our best thinking about the text when we aren't disturbed with others moving around the classroom unnecessarily, whispering to others, playing in desks, etc. I understand that they must develop reading stamina in order to stay focused on their task at hand during our workshop time so we will graph how long we all stayed on task (as a class) and set daily goals for increasing this time. I will be conducting guided reading groups in the near future, but this week I will focus on individual conferences with students as they read to me...noting their strengths and areas to "grow". Researchers have shared that second grade is THE year when students can "grow" their reading abilities by LEAPS AND BOUNDS IF they are diligent in their reading efforts and consistent with "on-task" behaviors during our reading block.

We will begin using a reading log THIS WEEK. Your child will read in class and at home...being sure to document his/her reading. These reading logs will be used as a component of grading in English/Language Arts. As long as he/she is actively reading in class/home AND recording his/her reading neatly and accurately, everything will be SPLENDID! The reading log is on blue paper and will be placed in the green folder. It should remain on the "Bring Right Back" side at all times.

As writers, we completed a beginning of year writing to reflect where we are as writers as the new year begins. I will use these to help inform instruction and compare them to your child's end of year writing to reflect upon their growth as writers. We are learning that writers just take the "ordinary" small moments in our lives that hold special meaning to "grow" our writing. The mentor texts we use in class also help reinforce this idea as this week we will share a text in which a young girl goes "owling" with her father one snowy night and another text in which a young boy wakes up on "moving day" and prepares to leave his neighborhood. We will analyze these texts for author's craft and how authors move their stories along without veering off topic. We know the BEST writing comes from our the students have a special assignment. You will receive information regarding an assignment with our writer's notebooks- a growing anthology of moments we hold near and dear to our hearts! Don't stress! IT WILL BE FUN! We plan to personalize them as they will use them to better connect their personal lives to the purpose of their notebook. Stay tuned....

As mathematicians...

Some of us have really been pushing our thinking with "Number of the Day" we use to to kick off our work as mathematicians for the day. Some students are learning to work with a variety of operations to arrive at the number of the day. For example, However, a few students are opting to "play it safe" by creating number sentences that are not challenging, such as 7 + 0 if the number of the day is 7. We have been creating these together during our introduction to math each morning, but we will soon move to a section in our math notebooks so you can observe your child's thinking vs. favorite examples he/she copied from our chart that were offered by teammates. I know children develop mathematical skills/competencies at different paces, and our classroom is filled with beautiful children with varying strengths across all academic areas. I just expect them to listen and learn alongside their teammates...they are often one another's best teachers!

Today's math revolves around mental math and how teaching students to have a solid foundation of number sense is critical to their success with mental math and accurate computation. As mathematicians, a KEY standard for second graders is to become fluent with addition/subtraction facts through 20. We will explore a variety of strategies to promote this fluency so please review your child's math notebook and textbook nightly to discuss what we're learning. My goal as the classroom teacher is to not rule the room as the "sage on the stage". Rather, I serve as a "guide on the side"...scaffolding children's thinking to help them DISCOVER AND APPLY new learning. This is a timely process-but so empowering and rewarding for the students. We will focus this week on counting on with Touch Points and number lines, using doubles and "near doubles", and applying the "make a ten" strategy to promote our fluency with addition. We will also practice speaking the language of mathematicians as we work with some of the vocabulary words at the front of your child's math notebook. The words he/she needs to study are add, addend, count on, doubles, near doubles, and sum. The remaining flashcards will be used in the week or two ahead.

As social/scientists...

We are continuing to work with our inquiry into honeybees. We hope to apply some of what we learn about them to our own lives and classroom community. We struggled to generate questions regarding what we wanted to learn about honeybees. The majority of our questions revolved around stingers and honey/nectar. I must admit I was a little disheartened so I grabbed a text and began teaching them to really THINK about their reading in order to generate deeper-level questions to explore. For example, after reading only ONE page that explained how honeybees fly from flower to flower to collect nectar, I stopped and began modeling deeper level questions. I emphasized how the photograph included a honeybee visiting a bright pink an effort to collect the nectar. I then shared aloud..."Do honeybees see in color?" "Are they attracted to certain flowers because of their color?" I then moved on to modeling/wondering aloud "Does all nectar taste the same?" They slowly began to grasp what I was looking for. The next page took us to a photograph and related text of how the honeybee collects the nectar with its "tongue". They commented that its tongue was used very similarly to a straw. Using the "tongue" as a springboard, I wondered aloud, "Do honeybees have taste buds?" "Can they taste different types of things (like we can such as sweet, salty, bitter, and sour as these are sections of taste buds on our tongues)? The text also discussed how the honeybee stores the nectar it collects in a special "stomach" until it returns to the hive. Thus, I asked aloud..."What does the honeybee do with the nectar when it returns to the hive?" "How does it share with others if it is being held in its special "stomach"? I was especially proud of several of my peeps-even before trying to provide them with more assistance and examples. Gabby Jackson couldn't contain herself with questions...she wanted to know loads and loads! She shared a deep question that indicated she was really thinking about the life of honeybees. She knew worker bees helped the queen bee. She wanted to know if the first batch of honeybees born to the queen have any other honeybees helping them in the hive. After all, if they are "babies" and they are the first "batch", what honeybees are there to teach them their jobs as they mature? Deep, huh? Emily Burrell also impressed me with her question: "Does the first "girl" honeybee born in the hive get to be the new queen when the old queen is gone or when they move to a new hive? I can't wait to explore these questions and many others we developed together as our week progresses. We will move deeper into our inquiry into honeybees as we enter the classroom each morning. This is a special time in which students will take part in academic explorations throughout the next several weeks-across several academic areas. Learning how to enter the classroom and engage in structured learning activities independently and/or with a few classmates is crucial as they will eventually move to free choice of academic explorations. We just have to ensure the self-discipline and clear purpose are students don't develop the mindset that it is "free time".

Also, we have a beekeeper visiting us on Friday. Hopefully, we will have learned so much that we can discuss honeybees with her with a wealth of background knowledge and new learning!

In addition to this "on the side" inquiry, we will begin exploring the world of matter. You will receive a parent note today regarding your child's science homework assignment on Monday night.

Word Study/Handwriting

We have been completing diagnostic testing to determine which high-frequency words and/or sight words we need to learn to spell. This will be different for every student! I am continuing to call lists of words and checking a master sheet for each child to be placed in his/her word study folder very soon. We are also moving ahead and working on "chunks" that will help us apply them to other words we may be unsure how to spell. Last week, we worked with the "-ack-" chunk, and the students did a great job on their Friday test. Some took their test on Spelling City, but it is a timely process with only two computers in the classroom (can't use iPads for these because they have to print their results) and the computer lab being used for MAP testing. I will allow several of the students who didn't get to test using Spelling City complete a practice test during the week so hopefully by Friday, they will all know the process for taking and printing the test independently. This week's words will reflect the power of the silent e! Students will learn how adding e to the end of SOME words creates a shift in the vowel sound.

This week's words are: bite, tape, made, hope, note, slide, hide, tube, ripe, and huge.

Handwriting is a challenge for MANY of us in the classroom. I understand that kindergarten is a year in which they BEGIN to learn to write their letters. Some even master writing them before the end of their kindergarten year. First grade is a year in which they should be reinforcing correct strokes and beginning to apply proportion. There are several things I would like to work on and need your help. Please encourage your child NOT to write capital letters in the middle of words. A and P are the main culprits. Handwriting IS a second grade standard- both print and cursive- that we will work on throughout the year. However, I would appreciate your assistance at home as it is much easier to monitor one child vs. twenty-two within a limited amount of time. PLEASE insist on neatness with homework--and correct letter formation. Several students are writing lowercase a--but the "stick" is not touching the circle so it ends up looking like two different letters---an o and an i without the dot above it. Also, some students are writing lowercase l the same size as lowercase i. I know this is a work in progress, and I KNOW they will grow by leaps and bounds in this area. We will practice with handwriting paper, but since students use the composition books with the blue lines (and expected to write on loose-leaf paper accurately next year), we will be learning how to take what we know about forming these letters and applying them between the two blue lines in our composition books. I will be PATIENT! :) I just need to see PROGRESS as we move ahead.


Finally, a word about our wonderful team. Several years ago...actually close to ten years ago by now, I had a FANTASTIC third grade class at the previous Merrywood. We decided to order TEAM RAMSEY T-shirts to show our classroom community/team spirit. Over the years, I have extended this offer to other classes I've taught. I happened to have the one my daughter wore in K4 (she was a mascot!) in the classroom the first week of school, and the children LOVED it! They are black with short sleeves. The writing is white letters---all capitals- similar to the "SWAT" team...hee hee. We always wear them on Fridays, and during the winter months, we just put them over a long sleeve shirt/turtleneck. The last time I ordered them from Emerald Ink & Stitches (about 3 years ago?), they cost approximately $6.50 each. I told my peeps that I would not share this with you until you had a chance to recover from so much spending at the beginning of the school year! If your child is interested in ordering a T-shirt, we can take care of that. There is certainly NO OBLIGATION OR EXPECTATION. Of course, the current price will depend upon how many students order a shirt. I will send home additional information in the near future.


I apologize for such lengthy newsletters...there is just so much to share with you. They should become a little briefer as we move ahead in the year...maybe! There is more information headed your way such as directions for the Writer's Notebook, T-shirt order form, a volunteer request form, our class rules we created- and the consequences, a rubric we use to evaluate each student's progress/adherence to classroom expectations during reading workshop, and study guide handouts regarding upcoming tests, e-mail address for your child that is school protected through our district's e-mail system, etc. This e-mail will be used for students to access some work with our iPads, specifically using Google Docs at this time. I will send your child's e-mail address and password shortly. PLEASE DO NOT CHANGE THE PASSWORD AS I NEED IT IN CASE THEY FORGET IT AT SCHOOL! Thank you!

Thank you so much for your continued support as we work together to make this our best school year EVER!

Warmest regards,

Mrs. Ramsey