2nd Grade Learns About Forces, Loads, and Materials

When the students worked on building structures with straws last week, they learned that the best shape to support a structure is the triangle.  This week, they learned about other factors that can influence the strength of a structures, such as the loads upon them, the forces acting on them, and the materials out of which they are made.

They used the Building Big site on the laptops to learn more about how each of these can have an impact. Then they identified vocabulary words to add to Haiku Deck presentations about Forces and Loads.  After presenting what they learned, the class participated in a “Space Race” quiz using the iPads.  In partners, they answered questions.  As they answered correctly, they could watch their spaceships cross the screen in the front of the room.  They did very well!

2nd grade also learned that they will be going on a field trip on February 24th to the Insect Expo downtown.  They will get an interactive tour of the Expo, and will be able to taste bee honey and participate in the live insect petting zoo.  Parents, please be sure to sign the permission slip, which I sent home today!

2nd Grade Builds with Straws

For this semester, 2nd grade is continuing with our unit on Structures, but we are moving into learning about man-made structures.  To introduce the unit, the students used straws and paperclips to build structures of their invention as an exploration.  Then, they were given the challenge to create a structure that would hold a folder on top without falling.  Several students were able to accomplish the challenge in various ways.  One element that was common in the stronger structures, though, was the use of triangles.  The students learned that this shape can withstand a lot more force than squares.

Speaking of challenges, we read a book called Rosie Revere, Engineer.  The little girl, Rosie, gives up inventing when she is laughed at.  But her aunt teaches her that the only way to fail is to quit.  This led into a discussion about mindsets, and we talked about Fixed and Growth mindsets.  There will be more conversations about this in the future.

The students also worked at Problem-Solving centers – completing Math Analogies and other challenges.


2nd Grade Gets an Intro. on Citing Sources

I realized that I had missed a very important step when the students did their animal adaptation research – citing their sources.  Today, I showed them how to find the citation information on the World Book Encyclopedia articles they used for their superhero projects.  They will be doing more research this year, so this is a skill they need.

Then they worked on creating superhero trading cards on their iPads to accompany the cartoons they made about animal adaptations.

We also passed out and discussed their GT report cards, which should be brought home today. Parents, please discuss the folder contents and the report card with your child, cut off the signature edge from the report cards, and return with the folders and signed sheet as soon as possible. Any papers in the pockets do not need to be returned.

The students did problem-solving centers today. They seemed to enjoy the Superhero Math (some of them chose division sheets this time!) and the Tangrams so much last week that I kept those stations in.  They also worked on Math Analogies and some mixed math skills.

2nd Grade Super Thinkers!

It was so great to come back from the break to a group of super-enthusiastic 2nd graders!  They all seemed well-rested and ready to get back to work.  That is great, because we have lots to do!

We are finishing up learning about animal structures, and each student is completing a cartoon about starring him or her self as a superhero with a particular animal’s adaptation. They are also making Trading Cards about their superheroes.

I wanted to get in some more problem-solving before GT report cards go out (next week), and found a neat activity online called, “Mystery Math Superheroes.”  The students had to solve some math equations to determine how to color in a grid.  If colored in correctly, they would reveal a superhero. What I liked about this activity was that the students could choose what level of math they wanted to tackle.  Several of them chose the multiplication.  Next week, I might throw in some division for the students that found the multiplication too easy!

In addition, the students got to do some visual thinking with a Tangrams app that our class is beta testing for a company called Tangible Play.  The company sent us a free stand for the iPad, plus tangram shapes, letters, and a special mirror that goes on the iPad camera.  When you set up the iPad on the stand, you can do the tangrams in front of it on the table, and the app lets you know if you have the shapes in the right place.  The students gave great feedback that I will share with the developers for improving the app.  What’s more important is that every pair of students seemed to  enjoy the challenge, and worked through the tough parts.  Great way to show perseverance!

2nd Grade Works on Holiday Centers

After the students finished working on rough drafts of their Superhero cartoons, I gave them the rest of the morning to choose from different centers.  There were a couple of sudoku options – one was using old-fashioned pencil and paper, and one was on our interactive white board.  They could also play a logic/visual thinking game called “Factory Balls-Christmas Edition” on the laptops. Holiday tangram puzzles were popular.  Another choice was to use the iPad programming app that they learned about last week, Hopscotch, to create a holiday scene.  And, lastly, the students could look at our green anole with a huge magnifying glass and some beautiful crystals (brought in by Anna) under the microscope.  I also offered some drawing activities but, strangely, no one gravitated toward those!

My goal was for the students to choose activities that were challenging for them, and I was glad to see many of the students really showing some perseverance on the more difficult puzzles.  The candle tangram was particularly hard, but no one gave up!  As far as I could tell, everyone who tried it finally figured out the solution.  There was also a lot of synergizing to be seen in the classroom.  The students were very helpful to each other as they worked out the Winter Sudoku puzzle on the interactive white board.  And, whenever a new batch of students tried out the laptop game, there were always some “veterans” willing to show them the ropes.  It was the perfect last class for 2013!

2nd Grade Participates in Hour of Code

For Computer Science Education Week, which begins today, schools all over the world are participating in an “Hour of Code.”  Students are getting exposure to programming skills at many different levels – helping them to get an idea of what coding is, and the basics of how it works.

As you know, our 2nd grade GT class has a bit of experience with coding.  They have already experimented with it by using “Daisy the Dinosaur” and “Kodable.”  Today, the 2nd graders used a free app called “Hopscotch” on the iPads to do some more complex programming.  “Hopscotch” is a bit like Scratch, which is a free web-based programming language from MIT.  They both use colored blocks to represent the different commands.  Students can create programs by dragging certain blocks over to the script.

The students learned how to make their objects (which would be called “sprites” in Scratch) move, rotate, and draw lines.  They wrote code to make their objects draw squares. By the end of class, about half of the students were proficient enough to write a code that makes text disappear and an object get larger as you clap.

The students will have more programming opportunities throughout the year, as I think that it not only de-mystifies this area of study, but also helps them to work on problem solving and creative thinking.

2nd Grade Discusses Adaptations

As part of our Structures unit, the 2nd graders talked more about animal adaptations today – specifically physical and behavioral.  I think there is still some confusion among some of them about what “behavioral adaptations” are, so you may want to talk about how some animals do things to protect themselves, find food, or attract other animals (an example would be birds that migrate for the winter).  We watched a short BrainPop video called, “Camouflage.”

They researched animals that they chose, took notes on their adaptations, and shared their information with the rest of the class.  One of the unique examples was the Puffer Fish!

After we read Imogene’s Antlers, they also used two of their Thinking Hats – Benefits and Judgement – to come up with the pros and cons of being a human who wakes up with those adaptations.  Next week, they will begin writing stories that build on that brainstorming.

In addition, the students did some problem solving with multiplication and division about a “Silly Zoo.”

2nd Grade Uses Thinking Hats to Choose Our Next Visitor

Scully, the ball python, will be leaving us this Wednesday. The students lucked out today because they got to see him in the process of shedding. His cage was an extreme mess when I arrived this morning, and there are pieces of skin all over the floor, as well as several still peeling off his body. Definitely a learning experience!

I decided that the 2nd graders would choose our next 2 week visitor. I gave them the options of live animals that we can borrow from Region 20. Each pair of students had a different animal to research. They used their Thinking Hats to: Find information, think about the positives and negatives, find what was interesting, and write their feelings about that animal. Then they presented their results to the rest of the class. The choices were: Hissing Cockroach, Green Tree Frog, Green Anole, Land Turtle, Water Turtle.

It was close, but the Green Anole was the winner once all presentations were made and the class voted. So, that will be our next visitor!

We also worked on some creative thinking by doing a S.C.A.M.P.E.R. activity. We used “C” for “Combine”, and the students combined hay wagons with whatever they imagined. I put a couple of examples in the photo gallery. One shows a hay wagon with wings, and another shows a wagon being carried into the air by an H.E.B. plane!

Lastly, we worked on some math problem solving by playing a game called, “Where is the X Tile?” The students used clues to figure out “x”.

Thank You to Our Veterans!

made by Cooper K. with the “Dinner, Not Art” app

Our 2nd grade GT time was cut a bit short this morning, but it was for a very good reason.  Hidden Forest honored our veterans with a beautiful ceremony.  Some of our GT students participated in speaking about the wonderful people who have sacrificed so much for our country.  The kids did an excellent job!

When we did get a chance to start class, we worked on a top secret project that will hopefully be revealed next week. Oh, and of course, the students got a chance to meet Scully, the python visiting our class for 2 weeks.

We also worked on reviewing the Thinking Hats, and applying them to some real life situations – like choose after-school activities.  The students practiced on the Activboard, and then showed how much they have learned by applying the Thinking Hats to a Thanksgiving scenario.

As usual, we got a lot done in very little time!


2nd Grade Superheroes!

2nd grade started learning about the 6 “Thinking Hats” today, and used the Activboard to start applying them.  A couple of the students already knew how important it is to “think about your thinking” (metacognition), which is the blue hat.  The other 5 Thinking Hats are a way of visualizing the different types of thinking needed for various situations – Judgment, Benefits, Creativity, Feelings, and Information.  We will be working more on this in the upcoming weeks.

The students polished up their superhero stories, where they each imagined waking up with spider powers like our tarantula visitor, Jeffrey. They used the iPads to make themselves into comic book superheroes as an illustration for their story. (Don’t forget that you can click on each thumbnail below to see a larger version of the photo.)

They finished out the day working some more on coding on the Kodable app.  Several of them learned about the “repeat” command”, which allows them to use less commands.

Next week, the class will have a new, surprise visitor, as Jeffrey returns to Region 20.  I wonder who it will be…