In my combined first and second grade, physical science was one of the offerings for Choice Time – allowing participation and exploration while discussing and debating with their classmates. Children may learn as much from each other as they do from adults. Perhaps more. A center provides appropriate activities and materials to invite and nurture a child’s joy in discovery and excitement about learning.
pulleys, levers, and gears microscopes
magnets paper airplanes
There was a science kit with pulleys, levers, and gears. The children experimented with various contraptions.
There was a collection of magnets, horseshoe magnets and different size and strengths of bar magnets, used with all kinds of projects. There was much experimentation, such as discovering the poles that would attract and those that repelled, making an electromagnet, finding what substances magnetism would and would not go through, and magnetizing a needle and a nail. They observed a magnetic field using iron filings.
Electricity was a big favorite. The class learned about circuits and knowledge was extended when they learned about lights in a series, those that were parallel, and short circuits. There were small motors that they found a variety of activities for.
Science provides opportunities for increasing their cognitive development. Concepts gained during science activities not only kept their minds active but provided an extra basis for abstract thought that would be a benefit throughout all academic areas. And there’s no limit to young children’s vast enthusiasm for learning.
Read more about science and other programs in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com
In my combined first and second grade since there weren’t any estimating activities in our math text, for some days at a time estimating was presented as a puzzle to the class. There was a bottle of objects, such as kidney beans, macaroni, buttons, or paper clips to estimate, followed each day with different contents. For a while, the same-sized bottle was used, but as time went on, various sizes were used. Each morning, children would write down their estimate, and later in the morning, some children would count the contents. They would put all in piles of 10s, then combine to make piles of 100s until the exact number was announced to all. We brainstormed to see what successful methods could be used to get better estimates. Children seemed to enjoy this activity and certainly did improve in their ability.
Learn more about math and additional activities in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where described programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com
In my combined first and second grade, children really enjoyed learning about three different story plots: A progressive plot as found in “The House That Jack Built” keeps building up step by step throughout the story until the climax begins to resolve before the ending. Episodic plots are chapter books, and parallel plots such as the two plots proceeding side by side as in Blueberries for Sal. Children learned this very easily and liked to identify it in literature read to them or in stories they read themselves. And sometimes a child would use the progressive plot or the parallel plot in a story she was writing.
Learn more about the programs in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where described programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com
In my combined first and second grade, along with individual help with punctuation and editing, there were many short sessions of whole class instruction. These early mini lessons were in the afternoons on the blackboard.
Some of the afternoon mini lessons used charts and lessons on the blackboard followed by a favorite – a paragraph written on the blackboard, eliminating all punctuation, as they watched while trying to decide upon changes. Then various children volunteered to suggest the corrections and to see if others agreed with them.
mrs broadbent put a collection of rocks in our science center do you know they come from all over the world did you also know that they are all different colors some of the rocks are hard and some are soft some are large and some are small some are smooth and some are rough
periods 5 question marks 2 capitals 7
did you know that this year I have gone on six field trips in october I went to dead man’s gap a man named mr steele was our guide I also went to the civic center in october to see a play at the end of october i went to stickley furniture company our class went there on a tuesday in january I went to the eraser company in february i went to see syracuse stage
periods 8 question marks 1 capitals 33
Later in the year dictated sentences were corrected on the back of the weekly spelling tests.
Learn more about the writing program and teaching the techniques of writing in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com
In my combined first and second grade, help and guidance with punctuation took place all year long with all writing. The first exposure for punctuation began with the beginning writing of first graders. When making only first drafts, after ideas for the plot were established and noticing a good amount of motivation, during early morning conferences with pencil and occasionally an eraser, corrections with explanations were made. Initially, it would just involve capitals and periods but as time went on, depending upon the maturity of the author, corrections might include much more – exclamation marks (called excitement marks), commas in a series, quotation marks, and sentence combining – perhaps for writers who were also readers and ready for that much complexity. Part of my job was to determine how much or how little to teach at any given moment. Usually, second drafts were in process for beginners by mid-year. Once involved in second drafts, for both first and second graders, corrections were made on first drafts after school hours using a red pen followed by explanations and agreement from a child during early morning conferences. This first draft was viewed as a working copy – with all corrections expected on second drafts. And most were, but sometimes a few would slip by, usually with no comments from me. Perhaps they weren’t ready. There was always time with the next story.
Learn more about story writing and teaching the techniques of writing in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com
Wooden peg puzzles made using golf tees for the pegs:
Triangular Peg Puzzle: This involved discovering a strategy to solve it. Using a square piece of wood about 3 ½” square, holes are drilled to fit golf tees with five on the bottom row, four above that, then three, then two and finally one at the top forming a triangle. Golf tees are inserted in all the holes but one, usually the top one. The procedure is to jump a peg, remove the jumped peg and continuing to remove each jumped peg. Only one peg may be jumped at a time. The goal is to remove all pegs.
Ten Men in a Boat Puzzle: This puzzle uses logic while trying to discover a pattern. In a piece of wood, 1” x 2” x 12”, 11 evenly spaced holes are drilled in the wooden “boat” to accept golf tees representing ten men. There are five of each in two different colors. Starting on the left side, there are five of one color, an empty hole, and then five of a different color. (If a set of wooden boats cannot be made, coins or paper clips or other markers could be used on a paper boat having eleven squares arranged in a row.)
Children are told the following story and directions:
There are two teams of five men each in a narrow boat who decide they want to switch seats with the other team in the middle of a river. They agree to the following rules so the boat won’t tip over: 1) One man may only step over (jump) one other man at a time. 2) One man may move to the next empty seat. 3) A man may only jump over another man of a different color.
When students are successful using the above rules, another rule is added: 4) A man may only move forward toward the other side of the boat, never moving backwards.
When children are used to playing the game, they are asked to determine how few moves are needed to switch the teams of men. Not easy for young children. So then it could be done together to discover how many moves it takes.
Learn more about the math program, along with games and activities, in a combined first and second grade class in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com
There’s no way to overestimate the value of a combined first and second grade class. There’s excellent modeling for first graders by second graders. Besides the higher level of achievement that was constantly displayed, the second graders passed on not only their knowledge but their good rapport and attitudes about learning. For second graders, there were constant opportunities to teach which could accelerate and reinforce their own learning. Whenever learning is taught, it is apt to become permanent. Of course, modeling and teaching were not limited just to the older students, for much could also permeate between and among both the first and second graders. For the first four or five years, I wondered why each class attained a higher level of achievement than the previous one. I concluded it was because of modeling and teaching. (After about five years, the achievement level seemed to stabilize. I believe most likely because there was a ceiling for cognitive development at this age. I don’t mean they didn’t continue to improve. They did. I mean the achievement level wasn’t higher than previous classes except for a few exceptional children.)
I taught the combined class for about 15 years before retiring and it was my favorite. There was no way I ever wanted to return to a single grade class. An asset for the success may be that parents had to request the program or be willing to have their child in the combined graded class for two years. As a result, there was generally a common philosophy between home and school regarding the raising and teaching of children, and the parents were very supportive.
Learn about programs in a combined first and second grade class in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com
A study of literature allows opportunities for children to further enjoy reading on their own – hopefully a lifetime pursuit. The more a child thinks, feels, and understands his reading, the more enjoyment he attains.
For the first year in my combined first and second grade, only top second grade students were involved – which was a mistake. All children, I soon found out, could benefit. From then on the Literature Group, meeting for one semester, included all second graders and a few first graders who were reading and beyond the beginning program. Most of the second graders were very capable, but a few had varying degrees of learning disabilities.
The intent of the program was to allow children opportunities to develop an appreciation and understanding of literature through an integrated language arts curriculum, utilizing various modes of thinking. Offering a collection of literature by itself is not enough. Children’s concepts are constantly being added to, modified, or revised. In addition to being exposed to literature, children also need a variety of thinking strategies. Children were involved with questions that fused components of literature with various cognitive processes. For instance, one question might be, “Name one thing about (character) that is not real. What other characters are there in stories that are like this?” So, these questions involve understanding and analyzing the qualities of the character.
After children had read a selection, they discussed the answers to questions with a partner. Answers were then shared with the whole group, including my thoughts. Answers were written to some of the questions by making a first and second draft plus occasionally engaging in a non-verbal activity such as art. Each child kept her writing in a booklet. All children contributed to discussions. During the reading and writing phase, many children worked independently, some with help in reading while a few would dictate their ideas for writing and receive help in writing their second drafts. But all would create answers to questions with their own ideas. While children were reading, discussing, writing, or artistically involved, they were sharing and creating experiences at their own comprehension level.
Learn more about the literature program and how to design your own program combining components of literature with cognitive processes in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com
In my combined first and second grade, activities during Choice Time provided children with opportunities to make discoveries and achieve mathematical understanding through play. In the Math Center, while constructing, playing games, and pondering puzzles they were problem solving, using logic, and gaining various concepts of number. The Art Center also provided opportunities for expanding math concepts through creating constructions, collages which involve sorting and classifying, and carrying out ideas for patterning. And throughout the year, there were studies and emphases on symmetry and patterning. These concepts are assets for good achievement, enabling children to fully understand their math. Plus, new math concepts in the district-required math books always involved concrete experiences and manipulatives. Lots of them in various forms. Yes, it’s possible for children to manage correct answers in their books without understanding, but that guarantees from about third grade on – huge difficulties. I always hoped that they would know how and why they arrived at their answers and see the purpose of learning math in their daily lives. Then good abstract math would follow.
The children also understood that there may not be only one right answer in all circumstances. They should think about it. You know, a three-year-old once taught me that 1 + 1 = 1. It was a beautiful day outside when he was concentrating upon pouring a heavy pail of water into his pail of sand. When he finished and looked down at his pail of sand he was shocked and asked, “Hey, what happened to my pail of water?” He found out that one pail of sand, plus one pail of water, equals one pail of wet sand. So, questioning results in class was encouraged, so that math could be fun and creative and encourage problem solving.
Learn more about the math program and Choice Time in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com
In my combined first and second grade, it was made clear right from the beginning that conflicts must be solved. If not, the anger would bubble and boil inside and not go away. So, refusing to get involved and take sides, the two children were sent to sit beside each other and solve their problem. It worked more often than not. But occasionally, they would turn away from each other with scowls, solving nothing. Then they were told to walk to the gym and back. It was the farthest away from our room, and I never knew what happened, but the two would return to the room in smiles and often with arms around each other, best friends again.
Sometimes with the child’s permission, if she was having a cold prickly day, she would stand beside me in front of the class while I said, “Anna is having a very difficult day, a cold prickly one. Have you ever felt like that? And if so, can you offer her some suggestions to help her feel warm fuzzies again?” I did wonder at times if this would backfire, and I suppose it might but it never did. Children can be so thoughtful and understanding of others. Hands were raised and helpful suggestions made. I’m sure the class realized I was asking for their help, not their criticism. After that, Anna and others felt so relieved.
I often said the class was sweet for a year and a half. Then there was a change with second graders, girls becoming cliquey and the boys aggressive. Much of this happened at recess. For instance, the girls would form clubs, and it would soon become apparent that the purpose was to exclude others. So we would have a big discussion, and hopefully they would come to a good decision after each would realize how it felt to be excluded. If they didn’t reach a good decision, I would make the rule: no one in our class was to be excluded. All must feel wanted and welcome. This solved the problem. In one class, however, this led to a humorous (to me) development. After our lengthy discussion and acceptance of our new rule, for three days everyone returned from recess content. Then on the fourth day, girls came in completely agitated. When asked, “Well, what happened today?” They said, “Abigail would not join our club!!!” So, of course, another discussion followed focusing upon each person being allowed to make their own decisions. That doesn’t hurt. It’s being excluded that is so painful. The boys’ aggressiveness was also addressed with class discussions, hopefully leading to resolutions. Class discussions to resolve conflicts were very common during the second semester after recess
So, healthy growth and development must include a feeling of worth and success within oneself, an atmosphere that values character development equally with academic success.
Learn more about programs, including personal development and social interaction, in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com
Teaching Young Children © Peggy Broadbent 2011 - All Rights Reserved