View From the Office Window – 2nd Grade
The view this week is not from the office window, but into the office window. With the expansion of the elementary school to include a multi-aged 1st & 2nd grade class, we saw the advantages – being both the learner and teacher, showing caring and compassion, developing leadership, the older students taking a leadership role and standing up a bit taller while the younger ones have someone to look up to and fall into the routine of the classroom. We also foresaw that each class would benefit from time apart and working on their separate curricula. Here at Lakeside we found the best of both worlds. The students are together for most lessons, but are separated into a 1st and 2nd grade for certain academic blocks throughout the year. The month of October is one such block. The first graders stay in their classroom with their teacher Ms. McQuade and the second graders gather their supplies and come up stairs to my office.
The view in my window during the Main Lesson each day is the transformation of my office into a classroom. With the addition of a chalkboard, a bench that serves as a desk and yoga cushions, voila, classroom.
Poetry and Multiplication Tables
We begin our lesson with a song based on the history lesson we have been studying. We then go into a poem with a short-short-long rhythm. We stamp and clap the rhythms as we go. Then we recite our 3 times tables where on the short, short, we don’t say a number but on the long we say the next number in the three times table so – – 3 – – 6 – – 9 – – 12… 36. Then, we walk backwards and recite the three times tables backwards. We then go on a math journey such as 5 + 7 – 2 x 2. The children need to keep the numbers in their head; they are not to write them down.
Whole Language and Phonics
Then into the language arts lesson. Here at Lakeside we work with a combination of whole language (rich oral stories, poems, songs, tongue twisters) and phonics (the sound and symbolic representations that make up words). We begin with a tongue twister such as:
Theophilus Thistledown the successful thistle sifter,
thrust three thousand thistles through the thick of his thumb.
We talk about which sound dominates this tongue twister – th. Then I write the th on the board. We then recite the tongue twister together while stomping for every th sound we hear.
Today we did:
Sally sells seashells by the seashore.
The shells she sells are surely seashells
So if she sells shells on the seashore,
I’m sure she sells seashore shells.
For this tongue twister, we recited it while stomping for the s sounds and clapping for the sh sounds. Quite challenging! We then talked about the sh sound and found other words that have that sound. Next week we will move on to the multiple vowel combinations that make up the many tricky spellings in the English language.
We have also been doing riddles. This week’s riddle is:
Thirty white horses on a red hill,
First they champ,
Then they stamp,
Then they stand still.
Can you guess what it is? You’ll have to ask a second grader for the answer!
Our history or story content of this block is examples of human beings who exemplify the highest qualities of humanity – courage, compassion, humility, generosity etc. The children love these stories, which are told entirely from memory by their teacher. They often have a far away gaze in their eyes and totally relaxed bodies when these stories are being told. The day after a story is told, they will come to the front of the room and stand with their feet firmly planted in the ground and hands out of pockets to re-tell the story. Each child will have a turn to tell the beginning, middle or end of the story. I often choose a child to tell a particular part of a story which will either really entertain them or meet a challenge they are going through. This re-telling is an essential capacity for organizing ones thoughts and being able to follow a sequence.
Building Class Community
We end our lessons with a drawing and writing from the story. The writing typically has examples of the phonics work we have been doing that week so that the whole language and phonics work is integrated. When we are finished drawing and writing I have the students stand up and walk around to marvel at each other’s work. Every time I hear them saying, “I really like your jewels.” “I really like your sword.” I really like the way you drew the gown on the girl.” This development of the community of the class is also an important element of our lessons together.
Today as we were transforming the office into a classroom, I heard the children talking. “I hope we hear a story today,” said one. Another piped in, “I hope we do a drawing.” And the other students said, “I hope we do the word games.” Each element of the lesson meets the students with something they really enjoy and some aspect that really challenges them. Ideally through the course of the lesson there will be laughter, quizzical looks, sadness, challenge, joy.
Once the children go down the stairs for snack and their other classes of the day, I return to the administrative work of running a school. This time with the 2nd graders, however, puts it all in perspective and brings great joy to my day.
From the golden gardens of Lakeside,