Friday, June 2


Students have watched and monitored the life cycle of a plant from seed to seed. They recorded growth data, sketched pictures, and even developed their own version of a plant’s life cycle. Instead of telling them what would be a simple presentation, they have observed and noted changes. They have sought accuracy with sketches and graphing. Finally, they were trying to assimilate all their experience to describe the life cycle of a plant. How many stages does it have? How can you tell when a plant has moved into a stage.

Young scientists’ plant life cycle

We watched stop-motion videos showing all the stages which they have observed as the plants developed. Next, they will become more precise in naming and describing the characteristics of each stage.


As I’m sure you have heard, all the students at Pembroke donned various colored shirts and Kneeled to  expose only the back of their shirt. The artist arranged students by color to create the image of a bat. The kids were full of  anticipation to see the image and slideshow  presented today.


Last May Post


One of the writing standards in second grade involves writing an opinion and providing reasons for it. A standard for reading includes using information from illustrations to show understanding of characters, setting or plot.

Students tackled both of these standards today as they chose a new cover for one of two great books about Bullying: Bullies Never Win (or) King of the Playground.

So, students individually chose between the books. They then drew a new cover for the book. They could have chosen an illustration within the book that would make a good cover. Alternatively, any student could design an original illustration for the cover.

After the new cover sketch was complete, they  wrote a paragraph citing reasons why their chosen illustration would make a good cover. Here are a couple samples.









(These are in first-draft form. Students have not edited or revised)

Ask your child to tell you about the story, about their illustration and about the reasons they think it fits the book.


Learning in and out of the Classroom

Birmingham Historical Tour

I am thankful for the beautiful weather we had for our field trip this week. What a day of learning,  fun and exercise. It isn’t often that people speak of laughter when talking about history, but we had some as we learned in the Hunter House. We burned some calories as we walked between historical sites of Birmingham. Ask your child what the highlight of the day was. I’m sure they will be able to tell you or even show you how different life was for settlers in Birmingham. The name Baldwin Library will probably always conjure images of this remarkable woman. Your child could tell you how she made a difference in Birmingham–beyond the library.

Inside the Hunter House

Cornerstone of Baldwin High School








Super Improvers

It’s so exciting to see students improve as they have repeated practice of a task. That is one reason I love Whole Brain Teaching. We have been playing “The Writing Game,” in which students learn to write increasingly complex pieces of writing while setting and breaking records against themselves. The game we  played this week is called Topic Sentence Paragraph.

In this game, first students see the structure and examples of the paragraph modeled by the teacher. (Stimulating the visual cortex and Werneke’s area of the brain.) Next, with a partner they use the puzzle sheet on which there is a sentence frame to reinforce the structure. Starting from the first topic, Each partner practices speaking a paragraph aloud (Broca’s area) to his/her partner, using gestures (motor cortex) for upper case letters, conjunctions, end-marks  and other conventions. The paragraph begins with a sentence containing the conjunction “and”–so there are two subtopics in the first sentence. Then, it is followed by a sentence providing support for  each idea in the  topic sentence.

A student speak these paragraphs to his/her partner for 2.5 minutes and then they switch. Some students might finish one, while others will finish three in the same amount of time.  Each student has a record sheet–a personal  record of growth. They make their way through a list of over 50 topics from “favorite fruit” to “friends.” After the 5 minutes, the class writes the last spoken paragraph. At the sound of the buzzer they pick up a colored pencil and use proofreading marks to edit for upper case letters, spelling and end marks.

Once a student achieves mastery of that paragraph (Grammatically correct with complete sentences and proper punctuation), they move up on the Super Improvers Team, which they are very excited about (involving the amygdala) . Some Starters are soon to become Captains and assume more responsibility in the class while enjoying more privilege.

During the last week or so, this game was played and followed by a written paragraph. By the end of the week, a number of students qualified to start working on the Beginner Essay. By involving (at least) 5 different parts of the brain, students are engaged and learning. I’m excited to see how their writing improves during this last month is over. It’s not over ’til it’s over.




Second graders have sown seeds  and watched with anticipation as the first shoots appear. Each student planted two Brassica seeds, which are part of the mustard family. Every morning, on their way to their desk, many students stop to check on the growth of their plants.Although most seeds germinated, there were two students whose seeds did not. They each received two new seeds so they could enjoy and track the growth of  these plants.

Students are making visual observations and drawing to record what they see. This will allow them to document change over time. Also, I showed them how to carefully measure these fragile, young plants. As we measure the height periodically, we use a bar  graph to record the data.

Once the flowers bloom on these plants, there will be some seriously excited second graders. In just planting the seeds I overheard one  student say “This is the best science class ever.” I think we may have an interest in life science.  I know I  have. One of  the best things about Spring is discovering the wildflowers that go overlooked without  a hunt.

Spring Beauty

These early wildflowers in Michigan could easily go unnoticed.  As I was searching for them for the nth year in  a row, of course my daughter, Eva,  spotted these well before  I did.

This is a great time of the year to discover plants. You might take advantage of some parks in the area to investigate and discover a great variety of flora.

In the classroom, we will grow other types of plants as well as a way to compare characteristics of various kinds. One of the science standards related to plant life is for students to discover  that offspring plants have features similar to the parent plant.





We took a second quiz in this fifth unit. This quiz focused on reading picture graphs. One skill particularly tricky for many second graders is using the word “fewer.” For example, two fewer people chose fish as their favorite animal, compared to cats. Most kids have no problem  seeing and saying that there are two more cat than fish. After becoming familiar with picture graphs, they collected data, used a tally chart and created bar graphs.

It was great to see a couple students take the challenge of searching for bar graphs at home. The class was able to see those graphs from a finance magazine and a medical journal. It was nice to see the kids make an immediate connection to life outside the classroom.


Students have been learning skills and strategies to help them “keep track” of longer books. One strategy we practiced this week is to notice when words are used in special ways–as literary language. Metaphores and similes are sometimes read right through and passed over without understanding their meaning or purpose. So we slowed down, noticed and named some of those examples. Then we worked together to figure our what the author wanted us to think. One student pointed out in Owl Moon, how Jane Yolen wrote about the way a train whistle sounded like a sad, sad song. So when you’re reading with your second grader, pause now and again to ask about some of those metaphores or other kinds of playful language.

Students also practiced setting goals for themselves before they began reading. These goals ranged from “pay attention to special language” to “make your voice match the mood.”