Writing Process {Drafting} Made a Little Easier

I love teaching the Writing Process and I discovered a little tip a few years ago that really helped me keep my sanity once I started implementing it.  Copying writing from their draft to their final paper was a bit tricky, especially for my lower guys and EL friends.  They didn't always know what they were suppose to copy, especially if there were many errors that we fixed when we revised and edited it together.  So here you go, a tip that according to my Instagram followers, is a life saver!!!
As we're conferencing, I highlight exactly what they need to copy.  It helps my strugglers stay focused and my short-attention span friends stay on task just a bit longer.  Plus, they love how the lines go up and down because "it looks like a roller coaster!'  

You can snag this Drafting paper freebie and use it with your little scholars.  I also put extra space in between each line so there's more room for revising and editing marks.

Dinosaurs, Easter Centers, and Getting my Life Back...Oh My!

It's Friday and I should be at a Padres vs. Giants game in San Diego, but I cancelled last minute because this week really wore me out.  So instead...I'm spending a Friday night eating Lucky Charms, watching Pretty Little Liars, and catching up on this much neglected little blog for Doodle Bugs weekly linky party.

These last few weeks are flying by and with Open House just around the corner, we are crazy busy in class!  This is my first year teaching 2nd grade so we are loving learning about fossils...and dinosaurs!!!
I swear, this resource from Kristen Smith has been a blessing!
It's insanely jam-packed with writing resources, a ton of research ideas, great centers, fun activities, and so much more!  One thing Common Core wants 2nd graders to focus on is research.  I printed out dinosaur pages from Enchanted Learning and let my students choose which dinosaur they wanted to study.  Letting them choose gives them some ownership and they were so  excited to start learning more!
I showed my kiddos how to find interesting facts using the books I purchased.  We talked about what would make an interesting fact.  I laid out all of my dino books {thank you Scholastic and Dollar Tree} and let the kiddos have at it.  I also showed them how to use the internet to research as well.  With our new Chromebooks from Donors Choose, it was easy breezy.
These little loves seriously made me feel like a proud momma bear.  They were independent, super engaged, and didn't want to stop when we had to transition to another activity.  They were eating.it.up.

Another insanely fun activity was creating fossils using flour, salt, water, and some toy dinosaurs.

This was a first for me so I have a few tips.  Don't multitask, or you'll end up burning the dough.  I'm notorious for burning almost everything I cook.  It's so bad that my Mister jokes that the fire alarm is my timer.  Well...keep an eye on the microwave so you don't end up with a charred one like the one down below!
They had the best time and it was perfect for a little mini-lesson on using adjectives to describe the dough.  Plus, their writing after this messy little activity was the best they'd ever done.  They all wrote at least 3 pages, which is normally like pulling teeth.  They were so proud of themselves!

Testing, testing, and more testing!  My kiddos rocked it though!  Testing two different grades is a bit crazy though.  It made it all worth it when one of my little strugglers thanked me for getting him ready for 3rd grade. It was the most confident he's been all year.  
We've has a ton of fun with our Spring activities this entire month.  Here's a peek at what we've been up to!
These little directed drawings and watercolors turned our darling.  On the back is their creative writing.

I've loved my busy week with my little friends this week, but the best thing was getting the go-ahead from my doctor to start "working out" again.  I hurt myself pretty bad 18 months ago from a bootcamp workout.  There were a bazillion complications, lots of physical therapy, injections, procedures, and chronic pain.  Needless to say, it's been a rough year-and-a-half.  I was incredibly active before, worked out 5 days a week, went on gorgeous hiked, and loved to surf.  I had a great social life and tons on energy before the accident.  I can't wait to get my life back and feel like a normal person again.  And even better...no surgery!!!
I'm still in pain, but was happy to be able to walk  1 1/2 miles.  It doesn't sound like a big deal, especially because I was an avid runner.  But it was a huge milestone for me.  I took in the salt air with a fully and happy heart last weekend and can't wait to do the same this weekend!

How To Organize a Combo Class

I was lucky enough to be a guest blogger for Jen while she went and got herself married!

 I've had a few requests about teaching a combo/split class.  This is the first of several posts I'll be doing on organizing, managing, and teaching such a unique class.

Bless your heart for taking on the role as a combo teacher...or big hugs to you if you were the "lucky" one chosen!  I promise that you'll get through it with some organizational tips I've learned over the last year of teaching a 1/2 combo.  Like any class, teaching a combo is a bit of trial-and-error.  The first few months, I'd try something and if I didn't love it or it wasn't working well, I'd abandon it and try something else.  You've got to be ridiculously flexible!
1st day of school photo props {glasses and grade}  I took photos of each student with their grade and used it for their first day of school photo, that's also hanging under their student work.

Organizing Your Room
  • If you number your kiddos, number it like you would a straight class.  I number my kids 1-24 to make life simpler when we line up and everything else we do with numbers.  I don't separate my first and second graders.
This is our job pocket chart using our numbers
Here is our writing wall, with everyone in number order and using our first day of school photos I mentioned above.  The writing is differentiated, but that will be for another blog post!
  • Other teacher friends suggested putting my 6 firsties at one table and the rest of my 2nd graders at other tables.  This was a complete nightmare because my firsties had very strong personalities and struggled working together.  It has worked best to spread everyone out!  It also provides for an opportunity to create an environment where everyone is one unit, rather than two.
    A view of my classroom.  Love putting my kiddos in groups.
Color code everything...seriously.  All 1st grade work is green and 2nd grade work is in blue.  This goes for our daily schedule, sight words on our Word Wall, center work, and so much more!  Trust me, you will want to separate everything.  I tried to make one schedule and one plan book and that was not working...at all!
1st grade daily schedule
2nd grade daily schedule
Once I discovered that I desperately needed 2 daily schedule sets, I created some and put them up  in my TpT store.  They have helped me stay organized and on track!

This isn't the most glamorous photo but this is a snapshot of our math board.  I used the photo props from the 1st day of school to organize the board.  I used Corinna's "I Can" statements for 1st and 2nd grade.  If I could do it over, I'd color-code those as well, but I ran out of copy paper.
I have 5 center boxes that my students rotate through, throughout the week.  Since my 1st and 2nd graders sit at the same table, I have to organize each box with these file folders.  They're nothing fancy, but they've worked well all year!  The green sticker is for 1st and the blue is for 2nd.  Are you sensing a theme yet? The other sticker means that all students will work on the same activity.  I swear that this format has saved centers for me in a combo class.  It takes a lot of management in the beginning as you set your expectations and routines, but it's so worth it!

  • Have 2 plan books.  You'll thank me later, promise! I tried one plan book for about a month and just simply wasn't working.  I couldn't fit everything in and it was just too darn confusing.  I also created my own lesson plan template to help my sanity!

Color coded of course!
Here's a copy of the template I created.  I don't love using the teacher planners from the Teacher Store because I you have to input the same schedule week-after-week.  Ain't nobody got time for that!!!  This is a 1st grade schedule so where it says 1st, I put the lesson for 1st grade.  Where it says 2nd, I input what my firsties will be doing while I'm working with 2nd grade. 
This is the table at the front of my room where I keep my TEs for both grades.   You can see 1st grade is on the left and 2nd is on the right.  Holy cow, I thought keeping one set of TEs was enough work, keeping two is another level of crazy organization!
  • I'm big on making sure my class feels like a unit, but it's also important to separate some things.  My 1st and 2nd graders each have a bulletin board where our Science and Social Studies happens!

I make sure to post the Standards to differentiate between the two grades.  It also helps when admin and parents are in my class.  And let me tell you, Principals love seeing this kind of stuff.   You can grab these posters here!
You can grab a peek at my classroom transformation here to see what it looked like before my kiddos entered!  I hope sweet friends that some of these tips help you get started on setting up your classroom.
Make sure to follow my blog to discover how I manage a combo class and learn how I grade work, deal with classroom management, grade books, and more!. 

If you've taught a combo, what were your challenges?

Currently April and April Fool's Day

A new month is starting and holy moly, just 2 months left of school!  We just got back from Spring Break so I was revitalized and ready after a weekend in San Diego.
I'm linking up with Farley again for this month's Currently.
I've never really "celebrated" April Fool's Day like I did today.  Can I just say, I have some stinkers and it was so much fun to see how excited they were.  They were shocked that I could pull one over on them.  I promised them yesterday that I was going to bring in Brownies {huge annunciation on the "e" part}.  I used the dye-cut machine and cut out several "E"s.  I saved the E that was cut and the outline.  I forgot a pan so I threw them in a plastic container and covered them with a paper towel.  When the kiddos came in this morning, I made sure to let them know that the browneeeeees were waiting for them if they were acting scholarly.
I was dying with excitement awaiting the grand reveal!  The moment came and I had one of my sweeties come and smell them {while they were covered}.  The cutie patootie told everyone how good they smelled.  I had her group line up to grab their brownies.  The looks on their faces when they took off the paper towel was absolutely priceless!

I couldn't be that mean so I picked up brownies at the store and surprised them...again.  They quickly forgave me.
Next up...a free word search from Second Grade Math Maniac.  I really hyped this one up.  I only made 5 copies and put it in a "May Do" center.  I made sure to let my kiddos know that it was a challenging word search that none of my former students were ever able to complete.  I let them know that if they could complete the entire thing, they could pick 5 things from our treasure box.  Hook, line, and sinker!  I loved how excited they were to take on the challenge.

I noticed some kiddos were stuck so I had them work in a small group to complete the task.  It was great to watch them strategize and work cooperatively with each other.  I was super proud of my little ones.
My last trick of the day is courtesy of Denise at Sunny Days in Second.  We were in search of the elusive 
I loved that it included a rigorous reading passage
Running with their carrots to the sky!
Bless their sweet little voices.  When we couldn't find it, we walked back to class and saved our carrots "just in case" while I researched the bird and they read the name of the bird again...backwards.  Lirpaloof is fool april!!! Oh my word when they read that, they were cracking up and super excited!  All in all, it was a fun day with lots of learning opportunities!