Sunday, October 18, 2015


Who would have thought that something as simple as Solo cups would be a game changer for a class of second graders? This week we decided to get the kids on the computers, and we knew this would be a difficult task for our beginning readers. While there are 2-3 adults willing to assist the kids, we anticipated many questions and frustrated students who couldn't read the text on the database. How could we make this less stressful, fun, and be able to individualize the learning for each student: Solo cups!

At the beginning of GH, we handed each student a blue and a red Solo cup. We explained that blue cup in front of you covering the red cup meant, "Super-duper fine," and no assistance was needed. If a red cup was put on top of the blue it meant, "RED ALERT," I need help!! We had the kids practice flipping the cups with the understanding that red alert meant silence not hand-raising or yelling to one of us. The kids were so excited to try it. We were amazed at the amount of work that this allowed. It gave us, the adults, the freedom to converse intently with each student when s/he needed our undivided attention. Students waited patiently and quietly continuing to work until one of us saw the red alert and was free to respond. Everyone felt supported and successful. Some students were overwhelmed with the fact they could not read but when we explained that drawing a picture of what s/he was seeing (types of ice skates, soccer field layout, etc), marker caps flew off and grins appeared.

I am always amazed at what the students are capable of accomplishing and that the smallest tool or explanation can be a game changer. Cheers to Solo cups that help our motivated kids learn!

Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Monday, October 12, 2015


Fostering excitement and creativity with second grade is a snap. Teaching them how to research individually can be a bit tricky. While we have various resources: databases, books, magazines, etc., trying to find something at each child's level can be tough. The research aspect is imperative during GH and it is a wonderful segway to begin forming good habits and life-long skills. So how do we achieve this with students who may not have the reading/writing skills in place for the longevity of their project? It is about focus and goals.

Introducing GH to the students was easy. They were extremely eager and excited and THAT is something we want to keep at the forefront so we can refer back to it during tough times. We are trying to build perseverance, grit, and determination among other things. Telling kids to try and read the text in the materials they have, look at the pictures and gather information from what they see, use prior knowledge, hear what they are listening to, and take notes is all part of the process. Students need to learn to access information using different tools and senses and begin to become aware, comfortable, and confident with that methodology. That is a large part of the goal. Meeting with each student to go over notes and perhaps model writing and spelling, so that it is legible to an adult, demonstrates the importance of these skills without them taking over. So part of the data gathering process for us, will be to go back to the student notebooks throughout the year and look for improvements in all these skills. They will also serve as a baseline on where each student's strengths and weaknesses occur and we can target those areas for success and further assistance. While all this sounds good, the implementation is work for both the educators and the students. The big goal? To have students figure out that learning is a life-long process and how to effectively navigate that process to meet individual needs while fostering a passion for learning.

Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Let the Research Begin!

During Genius Hour today, the 2nd graders used their dots and ice cream graphic organizer to help fill out a project plan with more information about their ideas, questions, materials, and resources.  When they finished, kids were able to dive into books about their topics and begin their research.  On their own, students decided to jot down notes in their GH notebooks about facts they were reading.  

When we gathered back in our classroom, students eagerly shared some of the things they learned about their topic from the books.  We found out that female bears begin having cubs of their own when they are 4 years old, cruise ships store emergency life boats on the sides of ships, and specific details about planets in Star Wars, among other things.  The excitement continues to grow as our projects begin to blossom!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Brainstorming Our Questions

This week the 2nd graders spent our Genius Hour time warming up with a little dancing (because why not?) After we got a little rhythm out, the students got to see Mr. Jill and I role play thinking aloud about questions we could research on a given topic.  The kids were eager to get the ice cream cone graphic organizer, find a comfy spot, and get their brains working.  They used their original decorated dots and super awesome GH notebooks for inspiration and the ideas generated were fantastic! In the true nature of Genius Hour, some kids changed their ideas/topics as they were brainstorming.  When our time was up for the day, we gathered around the large conference table to talk and collect materials.  Pencils were burning through paper as they moved so quickly, even after time was up, because brains were on fire!  What an exciting sight to see!