Watervliet Elementary School masthead
Meet the second grade team

picture of students in front of butterfly hallway display

Second grade students author butterfly adventures to mix writing and scientific research

 

Every spring, second grade students at Watervliet Elementary School learn about the stages of the butterfly life cycle, also known as metamorphosis. The life cycle includes four stages, beginning with the egg, which then hatches into a caterpillar (the larva). The third stage is called the pupa or chrysalis during which the caterpillar’s body is enclosed in a cocoon while it transforms into the final, adult stage – the butterfly.

This year, teachers integrated literacy strategies into the science curriculum by having students write stories to connect and reflect what they learned during their research of the butterfly and its life cycle. Students from each second grade class authored a story about the small winged insects that were compiled into a butterfly anthology.

“My class wrote mostly non-fiction stories about various species of butterfly that students researched,” said teacher Kim Tallmadge. Some second-graders wrote fact-based narratives, others spread their creative wings to write fiction based on facts they learned about butterflies.

The process

Whether writing fact or fiction, one takeaway second-grade teachers wanted their students to learn from the butterfly book project is that writing is similar to metamorphosis, in a way.

“Writing is a process,” said teacher Rachel Manning, whose students wrote and published a book last year about their class mascot, Cannoneer Bear. “There are different steps you need to take when writing.”

“We want to help students understand that more often than not when writing an essay, a paper or a story, you have to go back and revisit your work,” added teacher Adrienne Todd. “It's not a one and done. You write, then you read and you revise.”

The writing process follows stages. Before even putting pen or pencil to paper, student writers brainstormed topics and organized their ideas. Next, they wrote their story. Then, they read and made changes to their stories, by adding or removing information. After their revisions were made, students and teachers proofread their stories for grammar, punctuation and spelling.

The teachers agree it is important for their students to leave the second grade with certain writing skills.

“We want our students to be able to write a complete sentence, and then a series of sentences forming a paragraph about a topic,” Lori Sand said. “If they are writing opinions, we want them to be able to give solid reasons to support their opinions with evidence.”

Second-graders had practice with opinion writing that involved another insect – an ant – earlier in the year.

“After we read the book, ‘Hey Little Ant’ students wrote persuasive essays answering the question whether or not they would squish the ant,” Mrs. Tallmadge said. “Some said they would, most said they wouldn’t but all supported their decisions with information from the book.”

Teachers say for students taking ownership of their writing, setting goals for themselves and celebrating the process is important.

“We are really proud of our students because they have been working on reading and writing and we are seeing overall improvement,” said Courtney Mills. “We don't expect their writing to be perfect; more importantly, we want them to like writing and to develop their voice for writing.”

A butterfly book celebration is being planned in June for the young authors to share their stories with family and friends.

Learn more about the Second Grade team

Want to know what career second grade teachers dreamed of pursuing when they were in elementary school? To learn the answer to that and a few other questions, click on the staff member’s name to reveal a short Q&A.


picture of second grade teachers

The second grade team, from left: Adrienne Todd, Lori Sand, Rachel Manning, Courtney Mills and Kim Tallmadge.

Adrienne Todd

bullet graphicPlain or peanut M&M’s? Peanut.

bullet graphicWhat is your favorite thing about teaching second grade? I really enjoy the age because they’re still young enough to be curious and full of wonder. When they make connections and discover things they are very excited, but they are also old enough to have reached a specific level of independence, which is nice.

bullet graphicFavorite book read in with second-graders? The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. The only other chapter books we’ve read aloud have been the Humphries series books, which the students also like, but they are really engaged in that story (Tulane) right now.

bullet graphicCoffee or tea?  Tea.

bullet graphicWhen you were in kindergarten, what did you dream of being when you grew up? A teacher. I’m the oldest of all my siblings and I used to play teacher with them when we were little.

 

Lori Sand

bullet graphicPlain or peanut M&M’s? Peanut.

bullet graphicWhat is your favorite thing about teaching second grade? Our annual butterfly science unit, because every year I do it, it’s amazing to see the whole metamorphosis. It never gets old.

bullet graphicFavorite book read in with second-graders? The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo.

bullet graphicCoffee or tea?  Coffee.

bullet graphicWhen you were in kindergarten, what did you dream of being when you grew up? I wasn’t sure. I either wanted to be a medical technologist, a nurse or a teacher.

 

Rachel Manning

bullet graphicPlain or peanut M&M’s? Plain.

bullet graphicWhat is your favorite thing about teaching second grade? The age. I love their age because they still are extremely motivated to learn, but they can also be very independent.

bullet graphicFavorite book read in with second-graders? I have two: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.

bullet graphicCoffee or tea?  Coffee.

bullet graphicWhen you were in kindergarten, what did you dream of being when you grew up? A teacher.

 

Courtney Mills

bullet graphicPlain or peanut M&M’s? Neither. I don't like chocolate.

bullet graphicWhat is your favorite thing about teaching second grade? I like the age. They are becoming independent but still very excited to learn.

bullet graphicFavorite book read in with second-graders? I like reading the Magic Tree House series.

bullet graphicCoffee or tea?  Coffee.

bullet graphicWhen you were in kindergarten, what did you dream of being when you grew up? A pediatrician.

 

Kim Tallmadge

bullet graphicPlain or peanut M&M’s? Plain.

bullet graphicWhat is your favorite thing about teaching second grade?  I like the creative aspect that we have in second grade, like the hall displays and class projects. Because in 6th grade there is much more of an academic focus, which left little room for creativity.

bullet graphicFavorite book read in with second-graders?? The One and Only Ivan.

bullet graphicCoffee or tea?  Neither. I have never had a hot drink in my life, give me a Coke instead.

bullet graphicWhen you were in kindergarten, what did you dream of being when you grew up? I either wanted to work for Make-A-Wish, or be a gym teacher.