February #NoOfficeDay – 2nd Grade

I could not think of a better way to cap off a week spent at #TCEA15 than coming back to Sigler Elementary and spending the day with the students and teachers in 2nd grade for my February #NoOfficeDay. Being a “connected” educator is a must in today’s world and I love how connected I feel in the midst of a #NoOfficeDay. This week was National School Counselor Week and the 2nd grade teachers and students had saved a surprise for our Counselor, Mrs. Blanton, @rblanto for Friday morning. The students loved surprising her and I loved being a part of it.

As the excitement of surprising Mrs. Blanton subsided, I started my day with Mrs. Stokes, @robinstokes24 and her students. Mrs. Stokes understands the importance of reading aloud to her students and has seen the positive impact it has made on her students and how it has increased their interest in reading. It was an honor for me to be able to lead the read aloud on Friday morning and read, “Goal” by, Mina Javaherbin, @minajuna. It was a great read aloud that the students could relate to and also had a great message about the importance of teamwork. If you have not read it, I would highly recommend it.

Principal Read Aloud – Goal by, Mina Javaherbin

After the read aloud the students were able to work together as an entire class and practice the vowel pattern they had been working on for the week. On a typical Friday, may you see students “practicing” by taking a spelling test, but not in this classroom. Students were given one of their spelling words and had to find a partner with the exact same vowel pattern and then find a partner who had the same sound, made with

Non-Fiction Text Features

a different vowel pattern. If for some reason, you did not find a partner in time, you had a seat and become the classroom judge to ensure students were partnering correctly. You would think I would be able to find a partner, because you know I was playing, but sure enough…I became a judge after round 2. An hour in each classroom goes so fast, but I had time to work with students during their review of non-fiction text features which they had been learning about through the Comprehension Toolkit! Students worked together to identify and determine the purpose of three text features they could locate in a resource given to them by their teacher. As an AVID campus, our students in 4th-5th grade work on taking 2 and 3 column notes, so I was thrilled to see our 2nd graders break out their 2 column notes to serve as a resource to help them identify and determine the purpose of text features. Students were able to identify captions, photographs and diagrams…just to name a few. It is awesome seeing the toolkit in action!

My next stop in 2nd grade led me into the classroom of Mrs. Valentin, @valentin_luz. Again, the focus was non-fiction text features (can you tell what the grade level has been focusing on with students?), but this time we were specifically focusing on labels…a specific text feature. In order to determine if students could use labels appropriately we used a butterfly, which they had been reading about in their National Geographic Magazine and students had to label the appropriate parts of the butterfly. You can see the before, during and after pictures below. 

The students were able to rotate through stations which allowed their understanding of non-fiction text features to be on display through varied opportunities. It also allowed me to be able to work in a small group with each student in the classroom!

After creating my butterfly finger puppet, I transitioned into Mrs. Porter’s, @MagdaJPorter, room where students were wrapping up their collaborative work on…you got it! Non-fiction text features! Students worked in partners to finish up their text feature work and then met at the front of the room to wrap up their learning. It was great seeing the students get back together as a whole group before transitioning to the next activity. Often times we forget how important it is to end a lesson as a whole group to restate the objective and allow students to share what they learned. 
After students had an opportunity to share the text features, they identified and their purpose, we transitioned into Integrated Curriculum or IC to complete a Mind Missions activity where students had been given 10

 stickers and 15 pieces of paper to design an archway that could be used to welcome Kindergarten students to school the following school year. Students had previously studied arches of various shapes and sizes so I was looking forward to seeing them work together, problem solve and hopefully create an arch that would stand freely without their help. The students had been separated into teams and had 5 minutes to come up with a plan before building could begin. The two groups had completely different approaches to their design and ultimately were both successful.
 I do not measure their success on whether or not their arch was free standing or how big it was. I measure their success on the process they had to work through, after seeing their ideas not work. They had to reflect, respond and try again, which is a great analogy for life and building “grit” within our students! 

The students were able to design an arch that stood freely with only paper and stickers. The real learning took place after the build was complete and the teacher led them through some dialogue about what was and was not successful and why. I bet if students had to do a similar Mind Missions again, they would have a completely different experience. 

Mind Mission Success – The Arch Way

My next stop during my #NoOfficeDay in 2nd grade led me to the end of the hallway with Ms. Zwall, @wendyzwall. Her students had been working hard developing some math problems that they were going to teach each other how to solve. If you have ever read the book, “Never Work Harder than Your Students”, this is a perfect example.

The teacher was able to walk the room, listening to student dialogue, watching them teach and learn from their peers and guide their thinking as needed. I was able to rotate from station to station and attempt to answer problems that had been created by the students. If I had a problem with finding the correct answer, it was the students job to act as the teacher and help me better understand what I was doing wrong, so I could find the correct answer. The engagement in the room was off the charts and the students felt empowered to showcase their understanding of math to their peers. They all did a tremendous job! 

Teaching Math to the Principal

The next part of my day is one of the students’ favorite parts as it is recess time! It was a beautiful day so we were able to go outside and play a little basketball before heading back inside for lunch. Let’s just say we ALL worked up an appetite.

Basketball at Recess

After recess and lunch I had just a couple more math problems to work my may through before it was time to go to specials. This #NoOfficeDay was dedicated to music and spending time with Mrs. Caldwell, @caldwellkiera. I do not pretend to be a vocal sensation, but I did participate to the fullest. I played the games that reinforced students’ understanding of rhythm and tempo and sang the songs that did the same.

Recovering after singing Old Brass Wagon

At the end of the music lesson, students were able to integrate their understanding of tempo and rhythm into a game which students faced off to see which student could make it into the middle of the circle the fastest. Funny how things work out, but the final duo that had to square off ended up being me vs. Mrs. Caldwell. Guess who won? (with an assist from a student I might add)

Mrs. Caldwell Wins! 

My day ended back in the 2nd grade hallway, spending my final hour with Ms. Smith’s math class. 2nd grade does a great job of sharing students so there was a smaller number of students in math class, allowing me to work at the teacher table for two rotations and getting to see each of the students. Ms. Smith was kind enough to prepare a learning game for us that reinforced students’ understanding of fractions. It was a good ol’ fashioned game of “Go Fish” using fraction cards. It is amazing how competitive students will be with the principal is playing with them, but of course, the principal always wins.

Pretty sure that is the equivalent of a full house

Yet another successful #NoOfhttps://twitter.com/CaldwellKieraficeDay is in the books! As more and more educators become connected and stumbled across this blog, I hope they will share with the other teachers they know and the teachers will share with their administrators. Relationships matter and the best way to cultivate those relationships with the teachers and students is to show them just how much you care! We are all busy, but we always find the time for things we value most. It just so happens, I value spending time with our students and teachers!

The Power of a PLN – My Personal Experience

Courtesy of @URBAN_TEACHER

It was June, 2010 and the students had just been released for summer vacation. As an assistant principal, still learning the ropes, I had just finished up my first year as the AP at Mendenhall Elementary, a Title I, Bilingual Campus, and the district was offering free Spanish Classes for interested employees. Seeing how I could not speak Spanish (still cannot) and was working at a Bilingual Campus, I signed up to attend. At the end of one of the classes, I happened to peek over at a colleagues phone (@skimbriel) and noticed she was using some strange looking app to keep up to date with folks she was “following”. Of course, this led to a conversation about what she was using and voila, I was introduced to Twitter. I am not have learned Spanish that summer, but little did I know my life would be forever changed.

My life in the Twitterverse started like many of yours, I would assume, following celebrities, local sports teams and friends that stumbled upon Twitter before I did. Slowly but surely, other educators I knew within my little bubble started to join Twitter and we began following one another. Little did I know, I was starting to build what we now refer to as a Professional Learning Network (PLN).

Years have past since I joined Twitter and I cannot imagine how I grew as a professional without it. I would consider myself to be a “connected educator” and agree 100% with the image above shared by @URBAN_TEACHER. For the sake of this post, I would like to focus on “Connect w/ Other Educators on Twitter”.

My PLN has grown over the years as I have increased my digital footprint through blogging, participating in “edchats” and attending both conferences and “un”conferences or Edcamps. Yet, I still did not completely understand the power of a PLN until I attended the Texas Computer Education Association Conference or TCEA in Austin this past week.

In the weeks leading up to TCEA, I had been exchanging tweets with members of my PLN to see just who would be attending and who I may be able to meet. See, I attended TCEA solo and was relying on my PLN to occupy my time in between sessions and keep my company during the down times throughout the week. They did not let me down!

Right away, I was able to connect with folks I had been following for years, but had not had the pleasure of meeting face to face. I cannot describe the powerful conversations that I was able to have with fellow educators with whom I had only known by their “twitter handle” prior to TCEA. In addition to shaking hands with several members of my PLN, with whom I was just meeting, I was able to re-establish friendships with folks I had not seen in years, that I had met at EdcampPlano and was able to meet and follow new friends and educators that I know I will continue conversations with on Twitter and look forward to seeing again face to face the next time we get together.

While with a group of administrators at EdcampRockwall someone shared the line, “Twitter turns celebrities into regular folks and regular folks into celebrities.” After my experience at TCEA, this could not be more true. Educators who I would refer to as revolutionaries, who I have been following on Twitter, who are celebrities in their own right, were accessible to me! I could approach them or they could approach me and the conversation would start with, “Don’t we follow each other on Twitter?”

The highlight of my week…well there are to many to list, but I will mention two. The first is making connections with other educators who are creating Makerspaces within their schools and want to join together to create a cross district friendly competition to challenge the “makers” within our schools. @Tom_Kilgore and @gravescolleen, our @SiglerStars will be ready! The second is being able to sit down with @gcorous, who had been in Plano ISD just the previous day talking with administrators and getting to discuss education, the power of being a connected educator and why we must want the same for our students and teachers!

So, why do I share all of this? It is a testimony for all teachers who have yet to discover the power of Twitter and the power of a PLN. Maybe you are on Twitter, but not very active or maybe you are just getting started. The reality is, it does not matter where you are at in your journey. What matters is that you are on it!

Keep growing your PLN and share your testimony of how it is positively impacting you!