Saturday, May 5, 2012


I went to the DMV to get my name changed on my license.  I was expecting paperwork and then just a "re-issue" which would arrive in the mail.  But the lady said "step over here for a picture".  Needless to say- I was not prepared for this.  After discussing it with my mother, she told me that I looked absolutely lovely today- but that's what she's supposed to say.  I saw myself in the rear view mirror as I drove away, I will never speed again for fear of having to show that license.  Maybe I won't even rent movies.  Or shop anywhere that tries to protect you from credit fraud by having to look at your i.d.  And pretty much give up on ever purchasing a spirited beverage...but anyway- it got me thinking about do-overs.

In life, actually, there isn't much allowance for do-overs, is there?  A lot of the mistakes we make are ones we are stuck with.  But there is this crazy little bubble in teaching, where do-overs are sort of the norm.  Because, after all, if you royally screwed up that lesson today- either do it again tomorrow, or shoot- there is always next year.  If something is not working- you can restart anytime.  I can think of two or three different teaching years where I just stopped the plan and restarted mid-year.  If it's not working why continue driving off the cliff?  Get out of the trashed vehicle and get a different car.

That's pretty much what's been going on with me the past few weeks in the classroom.  I started my do-over.

And to be honest- I planned not to try any of it until "next year".  Because "next year" is when I'll be a super teacher.  It's always next year...but this time, the kids got involved.  I happened to say out loud in my frustration one day over something completely erroneous, like how we were storing our ear buds- "I don't like this.  I'm not going to do it this way next year!" And one of my little girls looked at me, sort of wide-eyed and asked "WHAT way will you do it?" And so I told her.  Which, at that point, one of my boys who had been exceptionally grumpily all day sighs super heavily and says "Then why not just do it that way NOW?"  And so I did.  And that started the ball on a million other do-overs.  So what if it's the end of the school year?  I'm practicing for my super year next year, right? Working out all the possible kinks.

So here is the journey- I figure if I write about it, I'll keep on top of it and stay motivated.  Maybe even learn a thing or two in the process.

For my first do-over share, I'll show you the Life Cycle book.

Like most of my ideas, I got this one as I was falling asleep.  Which is dangerous for me, since I have a tendency to be lazy and not make a note of it and then I forget it by morning.  But this one, thankfully stuck. Teaching life cycles in second grade isn't all that difficult- it's just that in general, you have to piece together all of the information they have to know from a million different sources, and none of it really covers EXACTLY what you need.  It's either too much or too little.  Which means, really, you've got to make do with what you have, or MAKE what you need.  So I needed to cover plant, frog, butterfly, and if that wasn't enough, GRASSHOPPER life cycles.  Seriously, grasshopper? But ok, then.

In day one of the discussion of life cycles, I was trying to find out what the kids already understood about how things grow and change, and so we started with what we knew best- US- humans.  They were able to decide very quickly of baby, child, teenager, and adult- with a quick argument over whether or not a senior citizen was a completely new category- and provide a lot of details about how each one was different from the other.  I then told them that they had to learn about the other four life cycles.  Turns out they already had plenty of schema about butterflies and frogs.  Clearly, this is a theme done to death in elementary schools.  But they had nothing for plants or grasshoppers.  And truly, I knew ZILCH about grasshoppers myself.   So at this point we pass out the twenty or so books I've collected on life cycles of these four subjects (and yes, I did buy the grasshopper books SPECIAL) and just start looking.  It's the immersion component of the lesson.  And by the end of the second window of inquiry lesson, we'd created four post-it note covered posters with facts about each life cycle.  Now it was time to DO something with it.

The basics of the book is a description page, next to a page with a rotating wheel so that all the stages can be seen. I decided to make two different size circle cut outs for the page pieces, and I'd also need brass brads.  I would make the book show the five cycles discussed in class. Starting with the human life cycle would be a good introduction to the book I thought- so I'd have to make five wheels, five pages for a written description, and then a front and back cover.  12 big circles, 5 small circles, 5 brass brads.  I used the lids from math manipulative jars to make kid-size ones, and then more or less free handed a great big set for the "teacher copy" that I would use as the demo.

ENTER DO-OVER: Yeah, I still made the free-hand copy as a demo.  But when I looked at it, I wasn't as proud of it as I was of my original idea.  So even though the kids were satisfied enough and had made their little books- I didn't want to put this sample in my library for the kids to read.  I didn't want "next year's" kids to see it either.  I didn't want to show it to anybody.  Now why would I have to?  Because, I bragged about it of course.  I loved my idea and of course told THE WORLD and THE WORLD wanted to see it finished.  And now I wanted to hide hide hide.  So I brought it home and got out my mom's plates and made a real one.  Like i should have done it the first time.
Life cycle pics on edges

I highlighted the big vocabulary words on the text page, and gave the important definitions on the wheel side.  The text pages are glued to the back of the wheel pages to hide the brad.  I haven't found a permanent solution for binding the book together yet- at the moment I'm trying a rubber band, but I don't like too much, so I'm going to see what I can do with a pipe cleaner, interesting beads, and a glue gun.

The original book made in class does not have the same text.  The demo book was written in text that the kids decided on and they put into their own books.  I added more information to these pages because I wanted to put it in my library as a resource for next year.  Even though I'm not a fan of the first one, I still put it in our animal life cycles basket- the kids pull it out and look at it even though I'm not pleased with it.  They think it's fine.  I suppose that's what should matter.

When I made the small version for the kids, their text pages had lines on them as guides.  And I made small sketches for the stages.  Next year, in my next do-over, I think I might skip doing the sketches for them and let them draw their own version of it- or spend a longer time on the project teaching them how to draw the pieces.  They quickly got the pattern of how to put the brad in and glue the pages together, so it wasn't too complicated for them.  It helped that we didn't cut anything out until it was ready to be bradded or glued.

But as far as book construction goes- I can really use this for anything.  Instead of a wheel, I can make clock hands and make a story about elapsed time and the kids can set their clocks and check their answer on the next page.  It can be used in writing as a choose your own adventure story, where the text page has a cliffhanger and the wheel gives four possible outcomes and the page number to turn to.  I can use it in reading as a response tool where the child summarizes on the text side and then draws out character,setting, problem and solution on the wheel side.  Social studies- well, gads, Each page for a different Native American group and the wheel shows their home, occupation, transportation and region.  Biographies of Famous Americans where the wheel shows early life, middle, and end of career and major accomplishment.  Loooooooooads of things.  I suppose they'd get tired of making the same sort of book all the time though.  I guess we can find out.  If it doesn't work, there's always next year! 


  1. I like the idea of using it with the Native American tribes.
    Yay! I'm your first follower!

    ❤ Karen
    Flamingo Fabulous in Second Grade

  2. Yes! Score- I'll have a cupcake when I get to ten.