Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wednesday, December 21

Christmas Celebration - tomorrow, Thursday, December 22!

We will have our Christmas party from 9:00-9:45, then watch a movie from 9:45-11:00.  After that we will have recess, lunch, and a 1:00 dismiss.  Students may wear pajamas if they want to!

Student Council Donation Drive

Our student council has these links to share:

Activity Packets

I'll be sending home a packet of activities today for kids to do over Christmas Break. This is the note you'll find in the packet:

A much needed break is upon us and I know everyone is excited about time away from school.  Nearly two weeks away from their routines, though, may result in their skills sliding backwards.  They’ve each made so much progress that we don’t want them to fall behind during break, and we also want them ready for mid-year testing in January.  So this is a packet of suggested activities for them to do. The reading activities can be read more than once to promote fluency and attain complete comprehension.  Some writing paper is included for the writing suggestions.  Students who return the packet all or partially completed will get a prize!!

Dates on Deck:

Tuesday, January 3  Classes resume
Friday, January 13  1:00 dismiss (end of semester)
Monday, January 16  No School - professional development
Wednesday, January 18  1:00 dismiss - professional development
Wednesday, February 1  1:00 dismiss - professional development

Monday, December 12, 2016

Monday, December 12

Spelling (phonics) list for this week is pictured below.  A paper copy will also come home today for you to use for practice.

Christmas Party

We will have our Christmas party on Thursday, December 22.  This note went home last Friday about a gift exchange we'd like our second grader's to participate in.  I'll be sending home a note about treats if your child is on the Treat Committee for Christmas.

Gingerbread Houses

The kids have made gingerbread houses in Makerspace!  Now, the trick will be getting them home safely because they can't be put in a school bag and I'm worried about kids holding them safely on the bus.  If your child is a walker or parent pick-up, those will be fine and I'll send them home tomorrow.  If yourchild rides a bus, maybe you can make arrangements to pick up their gingerbread house sometime before Christmas break?

Dates on Deck:

Christmas Vacation is December 23-January 2
1:00 dismiss on December 22, and classes resume on Tuesday, January 3
Friday, January 13  1:00 dismiss (end of semester)
Monday,  January 16  No School (professional development)
Wednesday, January 18  1:00 dismiss (professional development)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Toy Donations

Please consider helping out the Girls Basketball program with their community service project this year.  They are collecting toys for the University of Iowa Children's Hospital.  Donations can be brought to school and given to your child's teacher.  Please watch this video that is linked below that the team has made.  We've watched it at school too!  Below are restrictions/suggestions the U of I has outlined for this toy drive due to health concerns for their patients.  Thank you in advance for your support in this project.  The girls are excited to deliver the toys on behalf of Benton Community.  Donations will be collected through December 16th!  The winning class in each elementary building will earn an ice cream party provided by the basketball team!

Toys must be in Original packaging and from a smoke, dust, and pet free environment

Unacceptable items:
Used items
Riding toys
Violent toys

Popular items:
Gift cards
Iowa apparel
CDs, DVDs, and games rated G, PG, or PG-13
Coloring books
Logo sets
Matchbox cars
Board games
Baby dolls

Kindness Calendar

Our PBIS team has put together Kindness Calendar for the month of December.  These are being sent home today and give 31 ideas for spreading kindness to others.  Some of the things we will do here at school, and some can be done at home.  Spread kindness every day in December!

Christmas Store

Kids have a chance to buy items at the PTO Christmas Store on Tuesday, December 6.  If you haven't sent a list and money, please do so by the 6th!  Thanks, PTO, for putting this together!  It's a lot of work and the kids really enjoy it!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sunday, November 27

Christmas Program

Our Keystone Christmas Program will be this Friday, December 2 at 7:00.  A note was sent from our music teacher, Mrs. Galligan, so refer to that for specifics.  I don't recall exactly what it said, but do know she doesn't want kids to wear jeans.

Parent Teacher Conferences

Thanks for taking time to come to conference about your child's progress in school.  It really makes a difference when we communicate and work together toward a common goal.  I was excited to have several parents tell me they work with their children on items missed on work that comes home.  That's exactly what I hope for, so keep it up!


Tomorrow we will begin Unit 4 and the strategies taught are summarize/synthesize and analyze story elements.  Basically, that's all about retelling a story by naming the important parts in a short summary!  These are important comprehension skills needed to sort out all the information they read in texts.  It's a foundation that will be used as they move up through the grades and need to understand content area reading such as science and social studies.  They are beginning to "read to learn" instead of "learn to read", which was the focus in preschool, K and 1st grade!

I'm so pleased with the progress they've made with independently working during Literacy Stations!  Here are a few pictures I took last week during Read to Self time.  It's crucial that they actually accomplish things during these independent times because it would be pretty easy to just kill time and not do very much.  I'm trying to get them to understand that they are in charge of their own learning and progress!


Tomorrow we will also begin a new unit in Math called Mental Addition.  This is a beginning step for adding two and three digit numbers, so it's pretty important that they understand place value (tens and ones).  Because it's "mental" math, no algorithims will be taught (like carrying or borrowing the one).  We want them to think of answers mentally, or use a tool like a hundred chart to help find answers. The problems will be adding multiples of 10 to another 2 digit number, like 26 + 30 (only the tens place changes); or making another ten when adding, like in 37 + more ten is made when adding 7 and 4.  Here are a couple pictures of my teacher's manual, so you can see what I'm talking about:

We start with this mental math in hopes of children gaining an understanding of what it really means when they "carry the one".  In my experience, some children really struggle with doing this mentally, but when given the old fashioned algorithim of "carry the one"...they can do that!!  By the way, we don't use the phrases "carry" or "borrow" anymore!  Now it's called regrouping, so that's what you'll need to use when working with your child!

Dates on Deck

Friday, December 2  Keystone Christmas Program 7:00
Monday, December 5  Benton PTO meeting at Keystone 6:30
Tuesday, December 6  Christmas Store at Keystone
Wednesday, December 7  12:00 dismiss
Friday, December 9  Old Creamery Theater at Keystone
Thursday, December 22 1:00 dismiss for Christmas Break
Tuesday, January 3  Classes resume

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sunday, October 30

Fall Festival

We all enjoyed our Fall Festival party held last Friday.  Thanks to the treats committee kids and their parents for sending treats!  We played Pumpkin Bowling where we tried to knock over a pyramid of toilet paper rolls, and the popular Heads Up 7-Up game!  Then we put on our costumes and went to the Keystone Care Center to parade for the residents.  They gave us lots of candy, so that's why your child came home with so much loot!  I got a few pictures of them in their costumes:


Tomorrow we begin Unit 3 and the reading strategies are Identiying Sequence of Events and Determining Text Importance.  Unit 2 was about Analyzing Characters and Visualizing.  We took the post-assessment on Friday and instead of sending it home, I'll keep it to show you at conferences. I've also been individually testing each student to determine their current reading level and fluency rate, which you'll see on the report card or at conference.  

I hope you're using the "Say Something" card after reading the Take Home Books that come home in the baggie.  It will help your child with comprehension by having them give a response to what they've read.  We do a lot of that in school, so they should be getting the hang of it!


The first 3 Math topics were about addition and subtraction strategies.  In Topic 4, you may have noticed lots of repeated addition on their math pages.  It's a basic introduction to multiplication and has been a nice break from addition and subtraction strategies!  We will test on Topic 4 this week, then move on to Place Value, which will get us ready for two-digit addition and subtraction as we move into the middle of the year.  The vast majority of 2nd grade math involves the quick recall of basic facts, so those strategies we learned in Topics 1-3 will come in handy as the year progresses.  Kids who don't use them move at a considerable slower pace and make more mistakes in solving 2 and 3 digit addition and subtraction.  That's why we emphasis Sticky Math so much all year long!

In a few weeks, every elementary student at Benton will be given a math test to determine their amount of growth from the beginning of the year.  I will share those results at conferences and compare that to what I see in their classroom work.

Dates on Deck

Monday, October 31  Crazy Sock Day (to celebrate our goal of over 1000 socks for Socktober)!
Wednesday, November 2  12:00 dismiss for end of elementary trimester/report card data
Friday, November 4  Breakfast Buddies 7:30 am
Friday, November 11  Report Cards sent home
Wednesday, November 16  1:00 dismiss for conferences 2:00-7:30
Monday, November 21  1:00 dismiss for conferences 2:00-7:30
November 23-27 Thanksgiving Break

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Thursday, October 20

Device Day

We met our goal of receiving 5 Golden Ticket for awesome classroom behavior and the class voted to have Device Day be our reward. So, tomorrow, Friday, October 21, students may bring a hand held game device to school and I'll allow kids to play theirs for 15 minutes.  If you don't have a device or don't want to send one, I'll let them use the school computers or ipads in the classroom.


If you haven't already, you still have time to send some new socks to school that we will donate to the homeless in Cedar Rapids.  Thank you if you already have!  We hope to get 1000 pairs of socks by the end of October!  Right now, we are over 600.  Ask your family and friends to help out too...especially those from out of we are trying to get socks from all 50 states.

Fall Festival Party

We will have our Fall Festival Party next Friday, October 28.  It's a 1:00 dismiss that day, so we will party all morning!   Well, we will do some academics from 8:10-10:00!  At 10:30 we will walk to the Keystone Care Center to parade our costumes for the residents.  So children can bring a costume (don't wear it) to school that day and we will change into it for the parade, then have a party with treats and games in our classroom.  Please don't send any weapon-type items to school with a costume!

Red Ribbon Week

Below is a link to the purple sheet that came home about Red Ribbon week, which is next week.  We won't be doing PJ Day on Friday, due to it being our Fall Festival and we're bringing costumes to wear instead.

Parent Teacher Conferences

Fall conferences will be coming up on November 16 and 21.  Benton is trying something new this year by having online scheduling.  Parents may schedule one time slot per child.   Info about how to schedule online will be coming home soon.

Dates on Deck

Friday, October 28  1:00 Dismiss and Fall Festival Party
Wednesday, November 2, 12:00 Dismiss
Friday, November 4  Breakfast Buddies  7:30 am
Wednesday, November 16  1:00 Dismiss for Parent Teacher Conferences
Monday, November 21  1:00 Dismiss for Parent Teacher Conferences
November 23-27  No School - Thanksgiving Break

Monday, October 10, 2016

Monday, October 10

Student Data Graph

Below is a graph of student data containing results of the beginning of the year FAST test, which is the state mandated reading test that measures fluency.  Each student in my class is identified by a number at the bottom of the graph.  If you'd like to know which bar is your child's, send me an email asking for the number.  Then you will be able to compare your child to the other 22 in our class.  Also on the graph are parallel lines showing the score desired (Benchmark) for fall, winter, and spring.  By looking at this you can tell what growth is expected throughout the year.

For those in the red, we are doing many small group interventions to target their specific fluency needs.   Unfortunately, that alone may not be enough to bring their scores up...students need consistent help at home, too.  I'll be sending home some ideas that you can work on to help out.

Email me if you'd like to know your child's number on the graph!  I'll send home a paper copy of this too, in case the numbers are hard to see on your computer.

Free Antler Pizza!

Last Friday I sent home a calendar to keep track of minutes read at home to get a free personal pizza at the Crooked Antler in Van Horne.  Let me know if you have any questions about that.  We'll be doing this (in place of Pizza  Hut Book It) each month throughout the year.


We finished Unit 1 last week, which focused on the comprehension strategy of Main Idea and Details and the metacognative str.ategy Ask Questions.  I'm taught and modeled how to stop and think about their reading and ask questions in their head as they read. Main Idea is the one thing that the passage is about, and Details are the things that tell more about the main idea.  We did many activities regarding these strategies over a period of 3 weeks.   The assessment taken last Friday will come home tomorrow.  It will show the number correct out of ten questions, and an M, P, or AC for Meets Expectation, Progressing Toward Expectation, or Area of Concern.

This week we will begin Unit 2, with the comprehension strategy of Analyze Characters and the Metacognative strategy called Visualize.

Dates on Deck

Wednesday, October 19 1:00 Dismiss for teacher professional development
Friday, October 28  1:00 dismiss - end of middle/high school quarter - elem prof. dev.
                                 Fall Festival parties and parade to Keystone Care Center
Friday, November 4  Breakfast Buddies

Monday, October 3, 2016

Monday, October 3

Notice:  In last week's blog post, under Dates on Deck, I wrote this Wednesday's early dismissal as 1:00, but it's a 12:00 dismiss instead.  Teacher's are traveling to Grant Wood AEA for professional development (Wednesday, October 5).

Here are a few pictures from last Thursday at Bloomsbury Farm.  We had a fun day and the weather was awesome.  Thank you PTO for paying our admission!


Here's a link to a neat video the kids love about Making Ten.  It's a math strategy that we've been working on at school and a necessity to solve math problems quickly!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Field Trip to Bloomsbury Farm tomorrow!  Kids each need a sack lunch!

Pictures from Governor Branstad's Visit Today:

Monday, September 26, 2016

Field Trip Thursday!
Don't forget about our field trip to Bloomsbury Farm this Thursday.  Kids will need to bring their own lunch.  We will leave Keystone at 11:15, eat lunch when we arrive there, and return to Keystone by 3:15.  The weather has cooled off a bit, so a jacket may be needed.

Governor Branstad Visit
We are extremely honored and excited to welcome Gov. Branstad to Keystone Elementary this Wednesday, September 28th.  He is visiting 3 different schools across the state to learn from and applaud these districts that were able to significantly increase 3rd grade Reading Proficiency last year.  This will be a great time for us to showcase all of the great things going on in Benton Community!

I'm sure you've noticed papers coming home that show we've been practicing our Double Facts; and some kids have mastered those and have moved on to Near Doubles (double plus 1).  These are two vital skills for your child to understand, so any help you can give at home would surely benefit them at school!  Let me know if you want ideas for how to help them.

Our first unit in our reading curriculum is about Identifying Main Idea and Details when reading.  We teach that the main idea is the one thing that the whole passage is about, and is stated in a sentence somewhere in the passage.  The details tell more about the main idea, or give more information. Another strategy we want them to use when reading is called Ask Question.  It's something they must think about when reading...stopping periodically to ask themselves if they are comprehending or not.  If not, go back to reread so comprehension doesn't break down.    When reading with your child at home, see if they can name the main idea/details and stop to ask  questions too!

You may recall your child being involved in Socktober when they were a first grader.  We've decided to have all grades, K-3, participate in this awesome program.  It will happen during the month of October.  Look for more info to come home soon!
Dates on Deck
Thursday, September 29  Bloomsbury 11:15-3:15
Monday, October 3 Picture Retakes
Wednesday, October 4  1:00 Dismiss for teacher professional development
Monday, October 10  No School - teacher professional development
Wednesday, October 19 1:00 Dismiss for teacher professional development
Friday, October 28  1:00 dismiss - end of middle/high school quarter - elem prof. dev.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Phonics Homework
We started our Phonics units this week and students are bringing home a packet that we've been working on.  The pattern of words have closed syllables which means there is a consonant at the end and the vowel is short.  Eventually we will start having a Friday test, or Quick Check to see if they are retaining the concepts we're learning about.  But for now, I'd like to get them started in a habit of completing a "homework" sheet over the weekend.  On the last page (the back side) of their phonics packet there is a sheet to be done at home.  I've told them that if they are responsible for doing it and bringing it back on Monday or Tuesday next week, they may have a ticket.  Tickets are given when we see kids being responsible, respectful, caring and safe at school.  They can be spent in our PBIS store at a later date.

Speaking of PBIS Store - all kids got to spend tickets if they chose to ask your child what they decided on!

Homecoming is next week!  If kids don't want to participate in the dress up days, they don't have to. On Friday, we will go to the parade and pep rally in Van Horne.  Kids that live in Van Horne may walk home from there, but please send me a note ahead of time so that I know who will be staying.   If you will be there and plan to pick your child up from the Pep Rally, let me know ahead of time, please.  

Dress Up Day Themes are:
Monday - Crazy Hair Day
Tuesday -Safari Day (wear camo, animal print, etc)
Wednesday - Dress Your Best (dress up clothes)
Thursday - Backwards Day (wear clothes backwards)
Friday - Blue and Gold Day

School Delays/Cancellations
Below is a link to Mr. Junge's blog regarding KCRG's text alerts for school delays and cancellations. You can set the app to automatically alert you when decisions are made about school at Benton.

Bloomsbury Farm Field Trip
We are going to Bloomsbury Farm on Thursday, September 29.  Students will need to bring their own lunch. 

Dates on Deck
Wednesday, September 21  1:00 Dismiss for teacher professional development
Friday, September 23  Alzheimer's Walk - Keystone Care Center 10:45-11:20
                                 Homecoming (Parade & Pep Rally in Van Horne @ 1:30)
Saturday, September 24  Bobcat DASH in Van Horne 10:00 am
Thursday, September 29  Bloomsbury Farm Field Trip 11:15-3:15

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Reminder:  No School tomorrow!  Teachers have Professional Development meetings all day!

The days are flying by and we're starting to settle into our routines.  Soon we will start our reading curriculum and we're ready to start topic 2 in Math on Tuesday.  The assessment for topic 1 will come home on Tuesday.  Attached to the test will be a form showing an item analysis that describes the different types of questions.  You will be able to see what the exact areas of concern are, if there are any.  Let me know if you have questions or comments about this form.  Would you please sign and return it so that I know you're aware of how your child did on the test?  If it's easier, you could just shoot me an email saying you've seen the test instead of signing and sending it back.  

We've been "testing" your child in reading, writing, and math and the results will soon be shared with students and parents.  We do this to find out where they are at the beginning of the year; and to determine what their academic needs are.  I like this graphic because I think we all need to be reminded to not focus solely on academics, but also give our attention to showing kids how to be good people who are willing to help others.  Being kind is just as important as being smart, maybe more important!

Dot Day is this Thursday!
A note went home last week about Dot Day.  It is a global celebration of creativity, courage and collaboration. It began when teacher Terry Shay introduced his classroom to Peter H. Reynolds’ book The Dot on September 15, 2009.The Dot is the story of a caring teacher who dares a doubting student to trust in her own abilities by being brave enough to “make her mark”. What begins with a small dot on a piece of paper becomes a breakthrough in confidence and courage, igniting a journey of self-discovery and sharing, which has gone on to inspire countless children and adults around the globe.  Below is a link to the read aloud of the story.  We will watch this at school and do a few activities to give kids ideas of how they can "make their mark"!

Homecoming Dress Up Days
Monday, Sept. 19 - "Hair"Day...crazy hair
Tuesday, Sept. 20 - Safari Day...animal print, dress like an animal, camouflage or explorer
Wednesday, Sept. 21 - Dress your Best
Thursday, Sept. 22 - Class Distinction each class/grade will decide 
Friday, Sept. 23 - Bobcat Spirit Day - wear blue and gold

Dates on Deck
Thursday, September 15  Dot Day (kids can wear dots if they want to)
Friday, September 23  Alzheimer's Walk with Keystone Care Center Residents 10:45-11:20
                                 Homecoming (Parade & Pep Rally in Van Horne @ 1:00)
Saturday, September 24  Bobcat DASH in Van Horne 10:00 am

Friday, September 2, 2016

Book Orders
A book order will be coming home today.   Orders must be paid by check or placed online at  I cannot accept cash.  The  Class Activation code for online orders is:  GRFNP  Scholastic book orders are a great way to buy inexpensive books as rewards and incentives for your child, and your order earns bonus points for our class to be used on books or supplies!  September 9 is the due date for this month. 

Saving Sam!
Last Wednesday we did an activity called Saving Sam.  Students worked in groups of three to complete a challenge of getting Sam, the worm, into his lifejacket, and then back into his boat.  The "catch" was that they couldn't touch Sam with their hands!  They had to use paper clips and their own creative thinking.  It was a fun activity that required cooperation in a group and problem solving!

Dates on Deck:
Monday, September 5  No School - Labor Day
Tuesday, September 6  Benton PTO meeting in Keystone 6:30 pm
Wednesday, September 7  1:00 Dismiss - Teacher Professional Development
                                           6:30 pm Parent Partnership Night
Friday, September 23  Homecoming (Parade & Pep Rally in Van Horne @ 1:00)
Saturday, September 24  Bobcat DASH in Van Horne 10:00 am

Monday, August 29, 2016

Welcome to my Blog

Welcome to my blog!

I hope to send out a blog entry each week that will keep you informed about the things we've been doing in the past week, as well as upcoming events in the life of your second grader.  Over the summer, I took a class about using the Ipad in the classroom, and found an app called Seesaw that I also plan to use as a form of communication between the three of, your child, and you!  I haven't had time to get it up and running yet, so stay tuned for more information on how Seesaw works!

We've had a great first week of school.  It's all about procedures and routines during this time of year.  I'm anxious to get going on our second grade curriculum, but my years of experience have told me that I have to invest time in getting rules and expectations established before any real learning can occur.  I hope you ask your child lots of questions about school and what they've learned about me and my expectations.  Many students are struggling with talking more than listening, which is pretty common for this time of year.  Ask your child if he/she is a talker or a listener, and what are the problems we experience when this happens!  I hope they can settle in soon so we don't have so many interruptions.  You can also ask about our one and only rule...

                                                            "Do the right thing!"  

I encourage them to using this phrase in all situations as a way to think through their choices, and become aware of how their actions affect others.

We've completed a beginning of the year skills assessment and are learning about expectations for independent work times when students are to Read to Self, or do Work on Writing.  Eventually we will add Word Work, Listen to Reading, and Read to Someone to complete the 5 independent reading stations that kids will be expected to do while I'm leading small group reading lessons.  We're also working our way through five review lessons in our phonics program.

I hope you saw the 5 minute addition and subtraction timing results that came home last week, on Friday.  Don't be too alarmed if your child didn't get very many done or correct, as that's pretty typical for the beginning of the year.  Any fact practice you can provide at home will surely benefit them on future tests.  We do a quick 1 minute timing 3 times a week; and the 5 minute timing is once a moonth.  Basic facts are a huge component of our math curriculum and quick recall of them will really help in all aspects of math.

Parent Partnership Night:
A note will come home tomorrow about Keystone's Parent Partnership night that teachers are hosting on Wednesday, September 7 at 6:30 pm.  We will share teaching strategies that we use, as well as ideas of what you can work on at home in the areas of reading and math.  Below is a link to the note that will be sent home tomorrow.

Dates on Deck:
Monday, September 5  Labor Day - No School
Wednesday, September 7  1:00 Dismiss for Teacher's Professional Development
                                           6:30 pm Parent Partnership Night

Monday, May 16, 2016

May 16

Benton's 50th Birthday!
Our class interviewed four retired teachers from Benton Community today.  They are all good friends of mine who were here when I arrived in 1987, so I taught with them for years.  We learned a lot, and had lots of fun with Mr. Ron Donald, Mrs. Jan Logan, Mrs. Jo Morgan, and Mrs. Diane Eckenrod! The video is long...about 30 I'm having it edited.  It will then be combined with other interviews students have been doing at Keystone.  We will share it when it's ready!  Our class is also interviewing teacher, coach, and administrator, Mr. Kal Goodchild later this week.

Here is our LAST spelling/phonics list for the year!  A bit difficult, these are words that come from Greek roots, so I gave the meanings for you to discuss with your child!

Dates on Deck:
Wednesday, May 18  1:00 Dismiss
Friday, May 20  Move Up Day (kids will visit 3rd grade classrooms for awhile)
Tuesday, May 24  2nd Grade Field Trip to Brucemore/Barnes & Noble
Thursday, May 26  K-2 Field Trip to Roger's Park
Friday, May 27  Last Day of School  1:00 Dismiss