• Brave new world

    Posted by Erika Benson on 3/27/2020

    New home!

         Well, the hermit crabs investigated their new home a lot last night, and they're really tired this morning.  They are glad to have the saltwater pool back, and their climbing branch, and their food bowl.  I've been watching them a lot!  Today I'm going to try to leave them alone so they can feel peaceful in their lovely new crabitat.  Too much attention might make them nervous!

         Adults and kids are getting ready for Monday.  Kids will be doing school assignments with their families instead of just with their teachers.  Learning at home, without other kids around, will be a big adjustment for the students of 208, won't it?  Learning is a very social experience for people, and kids might miss having others around while they're doing schoolwork.  You'll develop new ways of working that are right for you and your family. 

         Next week will be review work, which will give you an opportunity to get used to Seesaw and find a routine for your new school life.  Students, remember that we had 119 days together in room 208, and you have already learned a lot! You are a student who knows how to learn!  We're going to have fun using the website together.  Adults will have fun doing different kinds of work with you.  Here are some things to remenmber: 

    • Ask specific questions when you don't understand something.  Remember in 208, when someone said,"I don't get this," we would read it out loud together and figure out exactly which part was confusing.  
    • When you get an assignment, think back to what you have already learned about the subject, and talk about it.  
    • If you keep getting distracted, move to a different location.  
    • Take a break if you feel frustrated, and remember that mindful breathing helps you relax.
    • Practice handwriting.
    • Be patient with yourselves and each other!  And me!

    Have a great weekend everyone!


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  • Come on, give it a try...

    Posted by Erika Benson on 3/26/2020

    from WGBH Boston...

      It was 1972 and I was 5 years old when this show first started on TV.   I loved it!  Besides having cool segments by kids about kids, the show had a really catchy theme song that I sing all the time now, because I have been spending a lot of time on Zoom!  Zoom zoom zoom-a zoom! 

         Zoom these days is also the name of a computer website that lets people have meetings online.  People in the meeting can see each other and hear each other.  It's amazing!  I have been using it to meet with teachers.  I've also been using it to see and talk to friends and family.  I wonder if you are using it?  I know kids really like to work together and see each other and talk to each other.  

         Next week, school will be starting up again.  Kids and parents will be using computers to get on an app called Seesaw, which is something most teachers have never used before.  Every week, you'll get assignments on Monday that you'll do throughout the week, when you have the time.  Next week will be review of stuff we've already learned.  You'll also spend time getting used to Seesaw and how it works.  It's been a lot of learning for me, but I'm starting to get the hang of it!  You'll get more information about this from SRS very soon.  

         You won't have to be on the computer at any particular time.  You'll be able to do the schoolwork when it fits your schedule.  By now, your family may already have come up with a new schedule.  Maybe your family has begun a new routine.  Having a structure to your day is really helpful.  In 208 at SRS, we followed the schedule that was on the board every day.  Now, you're following your family's schedule.  Start to think about when you'll do schoolwork.  Start to think about where you'll do schoolwork.  Maybe you can do it outside some days!  Maybe you can have a Zoom meeting with your friends and do it together!

         One of the things that is on my schedule today is to move the seedlings outside into the little structure I built called a cold frame.  It's like a mini-greenhouse that keeps the plants warm during the cool nights.  The seedlings have grown a lot and they're almost ready to be completely outside.  The cold frame is a transition spot for them on their way to the garden.  

         It's also moving day for the hermies!  The crabby trio will move into a real tank today!  Mrs. Cichowski is letting me borrow a tank that's bigger than the salad container but smaller than the tank in 208.  I hope they like their new home!

    New home for the hermit crabs!



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  • Everything old is new again

    Posted by Erika Benson on 3/25/2020

    Reduce, reuse, recycle!

         I wonder if you realized that Spike, Ginger and old Nick have been living in a re-purposed salad container.  I had planned to start some seeds in this container this spring, but as it turned out, the hermies needed it more than I did.  I figured it would be a good-enough vacation home until the day they got to go back to their mansion in 208.  I didn't realize then that it would be such a long time!  

         I often find two of them cuddled together, as only hermit crabs can cuddle.  The two are either dug under the cave or inside of it.  The third, usually Nick or Ginger, likes to be in the opening of the little cactus-wood log.  If you look carefully you can see the green shell of Ginger poking out.  I never found them to be so social in 208.   They seem to be eating a little more than usual too.   I think they like the springtime and their vacation house! 

         We're going to to be doing school a whole new way, starting Monday.  Today I got to go in to room 208 at SRS to get some things for teaching.  As I collected teaching manuals and other stuff, I started thinking about how different teaching is going to become for me.  I'm a little nervous, actually!  I hope all the kids like the new ways we'll be teaching and learning!  We'll all have to be patient with ourselves and each other.  

         Have a great day, everyone!

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  • Changes and Choices

    Posted by Erika Benson on 3/24/2020

         The teachers and administrators have been working to design a new way of teaching. Instead of having the class together in the classroom, kids will be doing our lessons from home.  What a big change!  Teaching and learning sure will be different...in some ways.  In other ways, teaching and learning will continue as it always has.  Are you excited about the changes?  Are you sad about the changes?  You might be feeling a little bit of both emotions.  I am!  

         I miss seeing everyone in our class, and everyone in our school.  I miss talking to the other teachers, and being with friends.  I miss playing koosh every morning, and I miss our Morning Meeting.  I miss Circle, and I miss Quiet Time, when I look out over the class and everyone is relaxed and quietly working.  I miss having all my teacher stuff  - the chalkboard, the chalk, the pointer, my pens and markers....the maps!  The globe!  The sticks for circle...and lots more.  All the stuff I've used for the past 17 years in 208.  

         Starting next week, we'll be communicating with students and giving out lessons online.  I've never done that before!  

         I'm excited to learn about the new way we'll be teaching.  I'm excited that each of my students will be writing to me every day, and that everyone can work at their own pace.  I'm excited to collaborate with other teachers in a new way, and work together to figure this out.  I'm excited to have more time to cook and exercise and talk to my friends and family.  And though I am a little worried about the world, I have seen so many good things happening that my heart has joy inside.  People are taking care of each other.  There are birds in my birdbath, taking a break from their busy nest building.  Flowers are blooming, and the days are getting longer.  

         We are all teachers, and we are all learners.  We can be sad or excited - or a little of both.  We're on an adventure together - a real adventure!  I'm so glad to be on it with you.  Onward!

    It's a new day!

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  • Habitats

    Posted by Erika Benson on 3/23/2020

    I hope everyone had a restful weekend.  We're all adjusting to a new way of living, and one of the biggest adjustments has been spending lots of time at home.  I'm thinking about habitats today. 


    New home for three hermit crabs

         This is a bird's-eye view of the temporary home for the three hermit crabs of 208: Ginger, Spike, and Nick.  You can see Ginger there in the food dish enjoying some eggshells.  Nick and Spike are under the cave.   This habitat - or "crabitat" as we like to call it in the classroom, is much smaller than the 15-gallon tank the three were living in at school.  They still have sand in which to burrow, a mossy cave where they can hide out, a branch for climbing, and of course food and water dishes.  It's different, but similar to their home in 208.  

         In 208, each person has a desk that becomes sort of like a little habitat.  Each of those small spaces is arranged in a certain way.  Some people have a very organized desk, with books on one side, folders on the other side, pencils in the pencil tray, and other tools in a case.  Some people put things in their desk without arranging them right away.  They wait until cleaning day to sort things out.  Everyone likes to be able to find what they need when they need it.  How are you arranging your  things in your home habitat?   You can have fun adapting and arranging things in a new way.  

         Ginger, Spike, and Nick have adapted to their new habitat.  They rearrange the empty shells every night!



    Have a happy Monday, everyone!


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  • Circle

    Posted by Erika Benson on 3/20/2020

    Today is someone's birthday...

    Someone who loves to play ooshies

    Someone who is a good friend to everyone in 208. 

    Have a happy birthday today!

    Pencil sharpening is a skill!

         As we wrap up the week, I'm thinking about how we wrap up our day in 208.  

         Most days, after kids get their backpacks, collect the papers out of their mailboxes,  load up their folders,  pack everything up, and put up their chairs, they sit on the carpet in a circle to wait for everybody else.  When everyone is ready, we begin Circle.  

         If someone has something to share for Circle, it needs to be on the floor in back of them.  No one is to have anything in their hands or in their laps.  But Circle isn't just for sharing things that can be held.  Kids can share stories, jokes, skits, songs, puppet shows, and more.  Not everyone has something to share, but everyone gets called upon - eventually - just in case they do have something.  

         Once everyone is ready, we begin circle the way we have since the first day of school - with deep, mindful breaths.  I lead the class in this mindful breathing by signaling its beginning with a small chime.  The tone lasts about 15 seconds before it fades.  In that time, we breathe in through the nose and fill our lungs, wait a beat, then slowly exhale through the nose, breathing in again when the body is ready to do another cleansing breath.  People close their eyes if they want to, and remain quiet until I begin talking.  For some, this is easy - for others, it's not!  

         Once everyone is relatively focussed and relaxed, I begin by announcing things they'll need to know for the next day, while recapping our day a little too.  Then I pick the first person to share.   Usually, we have time for three or four people to share during Circle.  How does someone get picked?

         Each person has their name on one end of a popsicle stick.  The other end is red.  The sticks are placed name-side down in a special jar just for Circle.  If that person has something to share, they may walk it around the circle to show others up close if they like.  They tell us about the object, and when they're done, they can call on three classmates for questions or comments.  Once a person shares, or gets called but has nothing they wish to share that day, their stick gets flipped over.  They'll get another chance to be "on red" once everyone gets called.  

         Kids are encouraged to ask questions and give comments that will lead to more information about what was shared,  which is a skill they develop throughout the year.  Besides mindful breathing, kids practice talking to an audience about something special, they practice manners and active listening and attention skills, and we all get to know each other better.  It's a favorite time of day for many!  

         If you had Circle today, what would you share?  

         Have a great weekend, everybody.  

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  • For reading out loud!

    Posted by Erika Benson on 3/19/2020

         I had been reading The BFG by Roald Dahl to the class.  I had not read this book for years.  The first time I heard The BFG read aloud, it was being read by the teacher who occupied room 208 before I got there, way back in the early 2000s.  She did the best voice for reading the part of the BFG, and I remember it every time I pick up that book.  When my kids were small, one of my favorites to read aloud was Are You My Mother?  by PD Eastman.  I loved doing different voices for all the animals.  

         Kids read out loud just about every day in 208.  We read the schedule, the math anchor chart, Scholastic News, picture books, the weekly story from the Reading Street book, and writing the kids have done.  They practice reading with flow, using tone and expression, noticing punctuation, and reading at a speed and volume easy for listeners to understand.  All of that together is fluency.

         One of the class's favorite things to do together is Reader's Theater.  These are stories written or adapted as scripts.  There's no movement and there are no props involved.  Roles are assigned, and kids act with their voices.  It's great fun.  Back in the fall, kids worked in groups to write their own scripts to go along with puppet shows they created for their hand turkey stick puppets.  We had just begun to talk about doing skits during circle time, and writing scripts for that.  

         I hope you're all reading out loud to each other!  I miss hearing the strong young voices of 208.  

         Enjoy the day!


    Nick going for more popcorn.  They ate almost the whole piece! It's growing!  It's not a hat...

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  • Math 'n' stuff

    Posted by Erika Benson on 3/18/2020

         What a sunshiny day! 

    It's somebody's birthday today....

    Somebody special from room 208

    Somebody who is really good at making very cute drawings! 

    What a beautiful day to turn eight.  


         This morning I started a new knitting project, and counting stitches got me thinking about math.  During Morning Meeting we announce what day of school it is....the last day we were all together it was the 119th day of school!  Math is part of our everyday lives and we practiced every day of second grade.  

         In September, we began by talking about numbers and math vocabulary like greater than, less than, equal to, addition, and subtraction; and we reviewed how to use tools like the number grid and the number line.  We practiced counting on and counting back, and skip counting by 2, 5, and 10.  One day we skip counted up to one million!  But we counted by 100,000s.  That was fun!

         Then came the chapters on addition and subtraction with regrouping.  The hardest part of that was subtraction with regrouping across zeroes.  

         And then - EVERYONE'S favorite - bar models!  

         Multiplication and division came next, and we did lots of practice with equal groups, drawing arrays, and using fingers to count by 2, 5, or 10 to figure out multiplication problems.  That was my favorite chapter for making the anchor chart!  I drew lots of tiny hands and arrays.  

         Metric linear measurement was next.  Then mental math, where we practiced taking numbers apart to make it easier to add them mentally.  We learned how to round numbers to the nearest 10 and how to make an estimate for addition and subtraction problems.  

         Chapter 11 was about money$$$.  Then, fractions!  Then, linear measurement with the US Customary system.   

         We had just enough time to finish up with the chapter on time. 

         Math is so much fun, and the kids in room 208 are very good at it! I wonder how you're using math today?

         I hope everyone has a great day!

    What will it be?  Can you guess? Ginger, Spike, and Nick all out at once!  Can you believe it?!




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  • Routines

    Posted by Erika Benson on 3/17/2020

         When kids walk into room 208 every morning, the first thing they look at is the day's schedule, written on the old, original chalkboard, just inside the door to the right.  Everyone is curious about what the day holds.  People like to know what to expect, and we sure don't know what to expect right now, do we?  Today I'm going to go over what a typical day looks like in 208.  

         Before any students arrive, I take care of a lot of things in the classroom.  I check out  the hermit crabs, and see how Spike, Nick, and  Ginger are doing.  I'm always wondering if I will see one of them but I very rarely do.  After that, I make a cup of tea and start getting things together for the day, having a meeting, or working on the computer doing emails and lots of other stuff.  I put up the schedule and the homework assignment, and then it's time for school!

         Kids copy homework when they come in, and begin the morning work.  Then we have  the Pledge of Allegiance and Morning Meeting, which starts with the greeting.  I wonder whose turn it would have been today?  We read the schedule and go over questions, then everyone has a chance to give a quick announcement.  And then, Koosh! 

         After that, we'll start Language Arts Workshop, except for Tuesdays and Thursdays when we have Science.  At 11:00, it's lunchtime.  When kids come back, we'll have quiet time when kids can read, write, or draw.  Then we begin Math.  After that is Writing Workshop, Maps, or Learning about Oceans.  Right before PE, Library, Art, or Music, there's time for a snack.  

         After special, we'll have read aloud or another short lesson, then kids pack up and we have Circle.  On some Tuesdays, we have a guest reader.  Today, Chloe's mom would have come in to read.  

         As you can see, we do a lot every day!  

         I hope everyone is relaxed and peaceful on this rainy Tuesday.  

     Seedlings                        Ginger says hello!

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  • Hello!

    Posted by Erika Benson on 3/16/2020

    Hi students and families of 208!  I hope everyone is well.  It feels strange that school is closed, but keeping school closed is a way to help us all stay healthy.  You can use the time at home to practice things we've done in school, play the math games we've learned in class or make up new ones, and read together at home.  Consider keeping a daily journal -  it's a great way to encourage writing and drawing practice.  

    Stay well and stay tuned!

    Ms. Benson



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