Last week we wrapped up our unit on Long Ago and Yesterday with a test. The questions on the test were fairly basic ones that included the important vocabulary words I have referenced in the blog and have sent home in the weekly fluency passages. As you review the results with your child, please keep in mind the following:
The weekly fluency passages are almost always themed to go with our current unit. They contain most of the important vocabulary that the students must know. You should keep the fluency passages and review important ideas and details with your child throughout the unit. Also, I send home full color text "newsletters" with that same important information. Please, please help your children understand and learn these basic concepts. Believe me, we have spent a lot of class time reading, discussing, and writing about these items. I even leave the cognitive content dictionary (see below) up in the room for students to refer to during tests!
Cognitive Content Dictionary
As we move through a unit, we keep a progressive document up in the classroom called a cognitive content dictionary. We use it to show/learn/teach the important vocabulary words from the current unit. We show the word, break it into syllables, show prefixes and suffixes, and parts of speech. We predict what we think the word means. We write a definition of the word and use it in sentences. We learn the sign language motions for the word and its definition. We use that word repeatedly throughout class as a "transition" word. That is, when I say the word, the students repeat the word, say the definition, and do the movements for the word before they move to their next task. By the time we are done, students should be able to easily recall the word and use it in a sentence.
Our Current Unit: Heroes
Our current unit is a short one, only four weeks long, with the theme of Heroes.
A Note About Common Core
In meeting the common core state standards, the emphasis is less on picking a right answer from a list, and more about being able to explain concepts. It's about reasoning skills and applying higher level thinking skills such as application and analysis. It's not just being able to memorize and give back facts. Therefore, we are moving away from multiple choice questions and adding more short answer questions.
Second grade students midway through the school year should be able to read and understand a question, then write a complete sentence (or sentences) to answer the question, using the concepts and vocabulary we have been learning about.
If you look at the diagram below, you can see that the easiest learning level is Remembering. Most of our students can memorize and give back a few facts. As we move up the diagram, deeper thinking is required. This is what we are asking students, even our seven- and eight-year old second graders to do. It's not easy, but thinking skills can be learned and strengthened with practice, just as physical skills like jump-roping or playing soccer get better with practice.
When reading books together (you ARE reading books together with your student, right?), ask questions and discuss more than just the events. Try to get students to say why a character does something, or how the character is feeling, or what might happen next, or make up a new ending for the story.