September 9, 2018
Dear Second Grade Families,
Wow! What a fantastic group of children you sent to me! We are slowly setting up classroom routines and as we do so they are learning my expectations and I am learning about them as individuals and as a group. Their kindness, curiosity and wonder are inspiring and potential shimmers just below the surface of each child. I am excited about our year ahead. It’s hard to believe that we have only had two days together. We have accomplished so much in that short time that it feels like two weeks instead.
You may have guessed (or heard) that it was too hot to garden last week. We will get back to that in the coming weeks and I will keep you informed as to when to double check for ticks. I’ve discovered that the Emerson front garden is too prickly to be touched right now, so I will clear those prickly areas as well as some of the stickier seeds before we tackle that. We also did not have time to share our favorite summer books, so we look forward to that next week. Please remind your child to bring in a book, if he/she has not done so.
We are slowly setting up our classroom routines and will be working on our community expectations over the next three weeks or so, working to create a safe and comfortable environment for learning where each of us shares equally in rights and responsibilities.
You may have heard: we have monarchs! Several years ago we planted a few varieties of milkweed, as well as some seeds, in our pollinators garden which is right outside our classroom. This year for the first time, we have caterpillars! And, as of Friday, our first butterfly has taken flight. Upon our initial observations on Thursday morning, we decided to label the milkweed portion of the garden, Monarchs at Work. That area began to grow as we discovered new chrysalises in ever-expanding locations: next to a bag of soil, along the bottom edge of the building, underneath our benches, even on the compost bucket and hidden deep in the black sage (that one is now named Abe after it’s keen-eyed discoverer.) And so, monarchs have taken over our learning and our start to the school year.
And this is how it goes in second grade. The discovery of the monarchs is an excellent example of what we mean when we talk about an emerging curriculum. We always have a plan, but sometimes it is derailed by unexpected events. One year it was a gigantic watermelon and this year it is monarchs. 😊 Our learning has shifted to thinking not only about monarchs, but how the children themselves develop as learners and how they too will undergo a metamorphosis of sorts in second grade. We started on Thursday morning with a book on the metamorphosis of the monarch and then went outside to begin honing our observation skills. Planned curriculum? Not really, but this is more exciting and authentic as we make discoveries together and think on our feet to bring in materials to extend our learning and connect to other parts of our curriculum. Where will we go from here? To Mexico, of course, where the monarchs overwinter! Planned curriculum? No. It’s an emerging curriculum which will lead us right to the Day of the Dead in October, something which we had planned to forego this year since Genevieve wasn’t with us. That’s our plan today, but… who knows? Stay tuned.
On Thursday we read The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi about an immigrant girl who initially has difficulty sharing her Korean name with her classmates. Through one particularly kind friend, her grandmother back in Korea, and the local grocer, Mr. Kim, she learns to embrace not only her name, but also her new friendships. Next, we searched for our own names in a Second-Grade Name Search. We discussed the importance of trying new things in second grade and discovered how learning takes place when one tries new things (most likely making mistakes along the way) and then practices. Leah gave us a great authentic example of this as she found it hard to find names, not understanding that the names were in order on the sheet and that she didn’t have to build the names from disconnected letters (a much harder task.) As she worked and began to understand how the Name Search worked, she became better and faster at finding her own and her friends’ names and was able to share her learning process with the class. The Name Search is a nice graphic of how we are all connected.
In Reading, we learned to look for words inside of words to help us figure out unknown words. These words inside of words will also teach us about spelling patterns and phonetic representations based on the combination and placement of letters. Don’t tell the kids all of that though; they just think it’s fun! We referred to our butterflies as we talked about developmental changes. Children change A LOT over the primary years (first and second grades.) We like to talk about growing brains, growing ears, growing fingers (fine-motor skills) and growing speech patterns as teeth fall out and grow in. The children begin to understand that the easiest way for me to see where they are along this growing path is to show me how they spell. It may not be perfect, but it’s the misspellings that help me to see where they are developmentally and what we need to work on next. This comfort in ‘misspellings’ will be an essential component in our writing workshop. On Friday, I gleaned a tremendous amount (not only about the class’ spelling, but also about who they are as learners and workers) from our initial spelling assessment. And several children have completed our first reading assessment, which we do three times a year to measure reading progress. The rest of the class will complete this assessment next week.
On Thursday, half the class went to Art and half to Science (they will reverse that order on Monday.) Our groupings for Art and Science are: Group One (Art-Mondays, Science-Thursdays): Abraham, Elody, Leah, Logan, Nolan and Peter. Group Two (Art-Thursdays, Science-Mondays): Alice, Giselle, Jada, Lucas, Luna, Olivia and Viet. All kids had music twice (on Thursday and Friday) and some had Spanish on Friday. Groupings for Music and Spanish are: Group A (Spanish on Wednesdays): Abraham, Alice, Giselle, Jada, Lucas, Olivia and Peter. Group B (Spanish on Fridays): Elody, Leah, Logan, Luna, Nolan, and Viet. These groups are intentional based on requests from the specials teachers and my plan for small group guided reading and they may change throughout the year as our readers emerge and grow and needs change. Second graders will go to Drama, Library and Gym as a one group. We were all delighted to see Jim Hayes back for Gym on Friday! Jim will be filling in when he can until a permanent replacement has been hired. Please refer to the attached schedule for a graphic guide to specials and classroom learning times. Also attached is a list of the current groupings for specials.
Are you tired yet? I am! And I’m sure your children were on Thursday and Friday. Please remember that your child will need extra emphasis on sleep this coming week as it is our first full week of school. We work hard every day and they will be tired. Children function best in school if they are well rested. Keep in mind that the recommended amount of sleep for children 7-8 years is 9-11 hours, with a few children able to get by with only 8 hours and others needing up to 12 hours to get through the day successfully.
We have a field trip in the making, I think. More information to come later as the plans unfold. For now, would you please remind me if you are a possible driver for field trips?
Last, but not least, please send in your lunch order forms so that Nicole Armstrong and her dedicated crew can get the lunch program up and running. Thank you, Nicole!
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
Monarch Butterfly (Life Cycles) by David Schwarz
Farfallina & Marcel by Holly Keller