Summary and Context:
Every six weeks we have Unit Openers. Unit Openers are days in which the second grade teachers bring the second grade students together for activities that support the ideas of the theme we will be beginning. These activities allow us to create community among the second graders. To launch our theme of Courage, we bring our three second grade classes to the library.
With this theme we will read biographies about famous people. Each teacher will share the life of a historical figure: Helen Keller, Henry Ford, Michelle Obama, etc. We share their lives in first person to personalize the experience for the students. I invite you to choose your own historical figures. We have chosen figures who have overcome obstacles in making their dreams come true. We keep in mind those people who champion education as well.
Then, students return to their rooms. Back in the room, my students will have the opportunity to choose their own historical figure to read about and to pose questions for our Concept/Question Board. The reason for the Concept/Question is to make our learning public and to demonstrate how our learning grows.
After the experience of the Unit Opener, we are back in our own classroom on the rug. I share the objective with the students. Then, I share the life of Booker T. Washington, our class' focus figure. I share a picture of him as I read about his life using a first person view. This makes it fun for the students.
I model how to ask a question, and I place that question on the Concept/Question board. The concept/question board is found in the front our classroom. One side of the board has the word concept and the other question. It is here where I display much of their learning.
Afterwards, I let them know they will be choosing a book from our classroom library to take back to their seats and read. They will be reading to create questions about a historical figure of their choice.
To get them started on choosing the person they want to read about, I ask the students to sit in a circle. I place the books in the middle of the circle and call on those students who were on task to choose first. Also, when transitioning the students from sitting on the squares into a circle, I sing the following song with my students:
2, 4, 6, 8
Meet me at the Golden Gate
If you’re late, don’t wait
2, 4, 6, 8
By the time the song is over, the students need to be sitting in a circle. Another phrase I sometimes use to help them sit in a circle is: “Please find the edges of the rug."
This is is early in second grade and for my students to be able to read informational text independently, I resorted to gathering text ranging from first grade to 3rd grade. That meant pulling material from our school library and also from the first grade classroom libraries. If your school does not have books available, another option is to gather books on this topic from local public libraries.
Students read at their desks. I walk around to monitor their progress. How am I monitoring their reading? I am making sure they are tracking with their eyes and fingers if they need to. I have given my student bookmarks and have shown them how to use the bookmarks to track their reading too. In order my student be successful with the CCSS and gain the ability to read independently, they need concrete tools to help them keep track of their reading and that is why I encourage them to use their pointer fingers and the bookmarks. Not all students are ready to read with their eyes.
Also, I am having them first read and then go back and reread if needed to ask questions because at this point of the year they benefit from this. Additionally, my English Language Learners benefit from chunking.
My student benefit from much practice. They need to be able to effectively ask and answer questions. While I like routines, I also like to add variety in terms of how we ask questions.
As I walked around during their reading time, I also passed out a half piece of white paper. On the paper, I ask them to write a question about what they are reading. They will also illustrate and then post the piece of paper on the Concept/Question board.
I like to make their learning public, and the Concept/Question allows this to happen.
Additionally, the students get to see how a question becomes a concept when we answer some of the questions that have been asked.
I demonstrate how a question becomes a concept in this way:
There are a couple reasons why I do this. First, I do this to show my students that their questions do matter and are answered. This shows them that we are acquiring new knowledge. Second, my students benefit from concrete tasks to learn abstract ideas.
I gather the students on the rug. I have my students share with each other about the figure they read about and the question they asked. Then, a few share out loud. I like to debrief lessons because it helps students remember what they learned and why they are learning what they are learning.
Then, I ask them whether we met our objective. I have them look at our concept/question board again so that they can admire their work. I bring closure to the lesson.