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posted: Fri, Feb 20th, 2015

A return engagement at Warren Haven

Second-graders are prepping songs for their Kindness Tour, a daylong community outreach in April that teaches students the importance of helping others and participating in acts of kindness. First stop on the tour: Warren Haven Nursing Home in Oxford, where the students will sing kindness related songs such as "Rainbow Connection." 

This will be the second visit to Warren Haven for many of the students this school year. More than 40 second-graders visited in late November to present the fun musical "How Does Your Garden Groove?" In the 20-minute show, the students portrayed a talented group of singing and dancing vegetables that grow in the garden of Freddy and Franny Farmer.

The production, directed by music teacher Lisa King, was also performed at CMS for the entire school and for parents. These two performances were epic in scale and featured not only the entire second grade but the entire first grade as well. With costumes, scenery, and props – many done in collaboration with Denise Palmisano, CMS art teacher – the show featured five different vegetable songs including “Lettuce Entertain You” and “Please Don’t Put Us In The Can-Can.”

“Music is a performing art and the only way to truly appreciate it is by performing it,” said Mrs. King. “The play really brought together all the elements in the second grade music curriculum, plus helped students understand how to express themselves through words, movement, music, and rhythm.”

In addition to music and art, the cross-curricular production also included elements of science, health, and fitness. 

The Kindness Tour will be held on April 24.

Going back in time

Until time travel is invented, educators are going to have to keep finding creative ways to bring the past to life for students.

Kathy Fiebel's fifth-graders recently learned about several ancient civilizations and their people, including the Mayans, Aztecs, Incas, Anasazi, and Inuit. Almost the entire class participated in a voluntary culminating activity to research an object used by one of the groups and develop a presentation about it. Many students embraced their creative sides and made replicas of the artifacts.

The students created their replicas at home and clearly put a great deal of imagination and effort into their work. There were Mayan pyramids, pottery, weapons, a jade mask, and an Inuit kayak, among others. The reports and artifacts were displayed in the hall outside the main office.

The social studies unit focused on having students gain a better understanding of why animals and people migrate to other places, how and why people living in different regions need to develop different ways of life, and how different people need to develop certain skills and work together in order to survive.

Nicholas Elko works on his animal report on a laptop

Using technology in the second grade

If it’s Thursday then it’s Technology Day in Lauri Stokley’s class.

The last two hours of every Thursday afternoon are reserved for educational computer programs that reinforce learning. Student use laptops to access websites such as Compass Learning, Think Central, MindPlay, and EduTyping. It’s a way to individualize instruction and expose the second-graders to instructional technology.

Ms. Stokley also uses this time to show small groups of kids other computer resources such as Google Apps for Education and Google Classroom.

Google Apps for Education and Google Classroom are programs designed exclusively for education and work seamlessly with each other. Google Apps for Education includes applications for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. Google Classroom allows students to organize and complete their work, turn it in, and communicate directly with their teachers and classmates, among other features. 

A little more than half the students in Ms. Stokley’s class recently volunteered (with the permission of their parents) to learn Google Classroom and Google Apps and complete some assignments at home using those applications. 

Recently the entire class did a project in which each student selected a wild animal to describe in detail. The Google users wrote their introductions in Google Docs, a word processing program, and found photos of their chosen animals on the Internet to include in their assignments.

“Being on the computer is more fun than writing [by hand],” said second-grader Nicholas Elko. “You can do more and your hand won’t hurt. If you erase something in real life it still shows, but here you just have to press backspace so it’s easier.”

For Ms. Stokley, the technology benefits students in several ways. The educational sites meant to teach and assess students obviously serve to reinforce and enrich what she has taught in the classroom. The exposure to computers at this early grade level also teaches skills that are important for students to know in later grades. The Common Core State Standards and the district’s own curriculum stress that students be able to be use technology in ways that support learning – everything from writing essays to creating multimedia presentations and comprehensive research projects.

“My goal is to expose them to technology and let them have fun while learning,” said Ms. Stokley. “They’ve been exposed to Compass Learning and EduTyping for a while in school, plus they’ve used computers and tablets and smartphones at home. Using a computer makes them excited to learn more about whatever subject we’re covering. It stimulates their curiosity.”

Charles Atkinson writes in Google Docs
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Chester M. Stephens Elementary School
99 Sunset Drive Budd Lake, NJ 07828
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