Saturday, August 30, 2008

Grade 2 Snapshot

I took a focus walk of Second Grade on Thursday. I wasn't focused on any one thing (sometimes I am), rather this snapshot was simply to see how smoothly students and teachers had settled into a new year.

My first impression was a good one. They have settled in quite well, rituals and routines were getting firmly established, and classroom instruction had begun. The unannounced snapshot gave me a glimpse across content areas with lessons in technology, Readers' Workshop, Writers' Workshop, Math Workshop, and Science Workshop.

I visited a co-teach classroom where students were watching a video clip from '>You Tube which sang all of the countries in the world. Next, the teachers displayed their classroom blog on the board, read the blog with the students, and then read the comments. They modeled for students how to add a comment to the blog. Students were soaking in their every word. These students will now have a line of interactive communication with their teachers even when they are not in the classroom.

Next, I visited the English Language Arts rooms. (We are departmentalized from 2nd-5th grade so some teachers teach ELA and some Math/Science/Social Studies.) In one room, I found students actively involved in the active involvement part of their mini-lesson. Students were practicing the habits of a good listener. The teacher was facilitating instruction by listening in on the partners. This lesson is one of our districts 12 anchor lessons that serves as a foundation for setting up a successful Readers' Workshop structure for the year.

In two other rooms, I found students in the Work Period part of the Readers' Workshop. Students were in their book nooks with their Books in a Bag reading, were selecting new books from their leveled libraries, or were diligently adding a text to their book log that they had just finished. The teachers were monitoring the classroom to be sure that students were following the rituals and routines of the Work Period. Teachers need to make sure that students are building their independence and reading stamina. This is critically important, because on my next visit, during student work period, teachers will be administering DRA 2's to the students. After that, they will be using the DRA 2 data and diagnostic data to run guided reading and strategy groups. In order for the teacher to be doing the student conferring or small group lesson, the other students in the classroom will have to be actively reading and not interrupt the teacher.

Writers' Workshop was in full swing in another classroom as students diligently created stories in their sourcebooks while the teacher conferred with students. Evident to me was the students' confidence and writing fluency. Kudos to the Kindergarten and First Grade teachers who had students writing everyday and who held high expectations for the writing product. The 2nd Grade teachers have picked up where you left off. :)

In several other rooms, Math Workshop was off to a great start. Students were working on creating Combinations of 10 books as teachers encouraged and conferred with students. It was evident that every math teacher was on the same page and students in each class were working toward the same standards. Some students were working on putting a string of three numbers together to make 10 (5+3+2) while others were working on putting five numbers together to make 10 (1+1+2+3+3). These number strings will be used to construct a complete Combinations of 10 book. I can't wait until my next visit to see the completed book and to ask students what they learned about number strings.
The last classroom stop was into a Science class. The students were learning characteristics of specific animals including the plants they ate. The students received challenging riddles that they were charged to solve by matching them with the correct animal. This activity not only focused on science but also reading. The riddles had to be read and understood before the matching could take place.
In summary, I not only noticed that things were well underway in 2nd Grade, but also that this group of teachers has bonded as a team. Outside each of their classrooms is a sign hanging with their name, their hallways are prepared for student work, the artifacts in their rooms are similar, and their instruction is well aligned.


Mrs. Nash said...

This was fun to read! I love that your little windows into our classrooms can be windows for us all because of your blog! I need to get better at checking out the videos and such online to help students with content/strategies, like Melissa and Carrie (I'm assuming) did. One piece at a time, right? There's so much out there, it's hard to keep up!

dayle timmons said...

Loved the way you recorded your snapshot for us all to see. So good to see and hear that 2nd grade is bonding so well. This may be the year when they are the Team of the Year!

Denise Evanko said...

What an awesome idea for a blog post! I am just starting off in the blogging world and I got all giddy to see myself in one. It is really so nice to see what is going on in all my other team members rooms during the day too. Thank you for taking the time to visit our room and post about our learning. Our team is so lucky to have you behind and supporting us!

Anonymous said...

Awesome work Mrs. Shall. I appreciate you taking the time to showcase 2nd grade. Even though we discuss where we are in our lessons, it's really nice to see my team in action. I am honored to work with this great group of women.

Anonymous said...

Hi Suzanne,

I'm amazed at how much your school and my district have in common in terms of appraoch, curriculum, etc. This post was fantastic to read, and I would particularly love to know more about how consensus has been built around these wonderful but challenging workshop structures, data driven decision making, etc.

Thank you!!

Suzanne said...

I would be glad to share our story with you about how the school implemented this comprehensive school design. Email me so we can have a more specific conversation at

BTW, a data post will be coming toward the end of this month, because we use data to drive all our instruction.