Students take on challenging words in second grade

Tuesday, October 23, 2001

CHAFFEE, Mo. -- Seth Whistler is meticulous about his handwriting and wants to make sure his assignment is perfect before turning it in.

He works diligently to copy the words of the poem "Leaves" onto a worksheet that will be colored like a pumpkin and then displayed in the hallway. At desks nearby, students finish a variety of worksheets, either assignments in math or language lessons on the "ch" sound. Others read library books.

Second grade is about lessons in independence for students. They're expected to work alone or seek help from friends instead of relying on a teacher for all the answers. Many assignments come as worksheets to be completed during class.

Teacher Lana McAlister walks through the rows of desks in her Chaffee Elementary School classroom, checking on handwriting or answering questions about how to spell difficult words: artist and illustrated.

The 26 students in her class begin the day by writing in journals, which are spiral-bound notebooks. Each student must write several sentences about what they want to be when they grow up and then illustrate their work. McAlister writes the journal topic on the chalkboard and then collects the notebooks at a table in the back of the room.

As the children are writing, she tells them about Friday's spelling test. Students who made a 100 percent on Monday's or Wednesday's practice tests don't have to take the test on Friday. The test has both spelling words and dictation sentences. This is a class of good spellers, McAlister said.

Accelerated Reader

The morning's lessons are spent in reading, language, spelling and handwriting. After lunch, students work on math, science and social studies skills. As students finish one assignment, they can begin reading books for the Accelerated Reader program. The AR program focuses on a child's reading level and lets them choose books based on that level. After reading the book, the children take a computer quiz for comprehension and then advance to higher levels.

By second grade, most students are solid readers who are able to recognize longer words and know definitions of those words.

Before the students begin reading a story in pairs or groups, McAlister writes several words on the chalkboard that the class will see in the story. "These are special words that you'll need to know," she tells them.

As McAlister pronounces a word, student helper Tyler Collins chooses a classmate to define or act out that word. He makes the selection by pulling a popsicle stick with a child's name from a plastic cup. The sticks help students stay involved in the lessons and make sure that the same children aren't answering every question, McAlister said.

The students pair off to read the story about a boy who rescues a cat from a tree and makes a new friend in his neighborhood. But the reading lesson is interrupted so the students can visit with the school counselor, Kristin Ward. Ward comes in about twice each month to talk to the class, spending 30 to 40 minutes with students. This visit is about consequences and making choices.

Focus on reading

When McAlister returns, the class picks up its reading lesson again. The class works through questions in the book and then spends time on a worksheet before moving to a language lesson about unscrambling sentences.

"We really focus on reading," McAlister said. Before the Accelerated Reading program at the school, "we couldn't get them to read a book, and now they won't put them down."

After lunch and recess, the class returns to some math lessons. McAlister asks the children to create a math problem by coloring one bar line blue and another red. In the first problem, there were five blue boxes and three red boxes. The students used those numbers to form math problems: five minus three and other variations.

They continued through several more examples as a group and then tried one on their own before McAlister passed out another math worksheet.

The remainder of the afternoon is spent in music class, where the children sing songs about Halloween. Recess follows music and then the students head to the library. After a story in the library, the children collect their jackets, backpacks and head home.

335-6611, extension 126

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