Veterans’ Day 2014

If there’s one thing we do well at Robinson, it’s make memories!  (Wait, who am I kidding–we do so many things well!)  From the Halloween parade to the Holiday Sing-Along and the end-of-year staff vs. 5th grade kickball game–fun is part of our culture!   Besides fun, though, we know how to make meaningful memories, too.

Today was one such day.  :)

It’s Veterans’ Day, and as we have for the last few years, we had a fabulous assembly planned—well Mrs. Kesler and her very talented cohort had a fabulous assembly planned–and our kiddos were a big part of it.  They have been working since August and this year it did not disappoint!

The day began in the gym, and once we were all settled, some 5th graders led in a procession of our guests of honor: veterans from every branch of the armed services.  I’d love to say I had a video of this, but I just couldn’t take one–partly because of logistics, partly because of respect, but mainly because I wouldn’t have been able to see the buttons on my iPad through the tears in my eyes.  Our kids gave a standing ovation while they came in, and sang a medley of all of the branches’ songs.  Very powerful.

Then, in turn, each grade level shared a special patriotic song they’d been preparing with Mrs. Kesler in music.  I know I’m a little biased, but first grade may have been the best (don’t tell my 2nd grader!).  Here’s their performance (get ready–it’s pretty great!):

The rest of the program was very special and included many other songs, as well as videos with words of wisdom from some of our visiting veterans.   :)

We had some conversations in our classroom as well, and wrote letters to some important veterans in our lives.   Mr. Raeber, Nate’s dad, and Mr. Wehrle, Amelia’s grandpa, were both in attendance for our special day and so we wanted to make sure we said our thank yous in a special way.  Check out our kiddos’ kind words:

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I didn’t get to catch Amelia and Mr. Wehrle because they were at the reception following the ceremony, but I did get to snap a sweet picture of Nate and his dad outside our classroom.  Mr. Raeber was in the Navy for 24 years!  Thank you for your service, sir!  We appreciate you!

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A couple of other sweet things happened during our day that I just had to capture and share, too. :)  Kylie came in this morning telling me about a special locket she had that held pictures of her grandfather who was a veteran, but who had passed away recently.  Her mom had pinned that locket to her sleeve, and so he was here with us, today, too.  Wow.

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Later on, after our assembly during Writer’s Workshop, kiddos were brainstorming how they could include Veterans’ Day topics in their work.  Millie was inspired to write a song. :)  Darn it–I should have gotten her to sing it.  Instead, I just have the lyrics–written on a flag!

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What a great day of celebration and remembrance!  :)

How did you celebrate Veterans’ Day?

First Grade to the Zoo!

This is the first year I’ve taken kids to the zoo in the fall.  And you know, I wonder why we’ve never done it before!?  Who needs to be there in May when it’s hot and ALL of the other teachers around town also have the idea of going to the zoo during their animal unit?  We had the idea to go now, when we thought we’d have a chance for good weather as well as a chance to front-load our kiddos with information for when we do study animals later this year.  We tried it last year in 5th grade for our study on the Cahokians (went to Cahokia Mounds BEFORE the unit instead of after!) and it was great!  Once we got into the unit, there were so many times where we could tie our conversations to specific experiences we knew that all of our learners had been a part of.  This made the connections they created even more powerful!

That being said, we knew it this would be a great idea, and THANKFULLY we got one of those sunny, crisp and cool kind of all days instead of one of those St. Louis fall days that are cold, rainy and dreary!  Our kids were excited, we had loads of helpful parents and we were on our way!

Our kiddos went with a job–to take the temperature of certain places in the zoo and record the time as well as the temperature.  This would tie to the work in our Matter & Energy unit where they are expected to know how to do just this thing.  They decided on the places we’d record, as well, which made this an even more meaningful task.

Thanks to Mrs. Ross, Ms. Branco and Mrs. Buesching (plus a few of my own!) I have LOADS of pictures to share with you.  While I should probably caption every last one of them, I am just going to show them all to you here in a fabulous slide show.  It’s really hard not to smile when you see how stinking cute all the kids–and the animals–are!

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Just one more thing…I asked everyone what their favorite thing about the trip was and here’s what they said.  Priceless answers :) :

Charlie: “Being in Landen’s group!”

Landen: “The picture I took with the bear!”

Amelia: “When I saw the giraffes…”

Makayla: “The elephants.”

Sara: “Seeing the zebras and being with my friends.”

JKB: “Penguins.”

Lauren: “We joined up with another group and spent time with our friends and took pictures together!”

Ava: “Elephant poop.”

Kylie: “The seal tunnel.”

C.J.: “Seeing the tigers, lions, giraffes, and zebras.”

Emily: “The reptile house.”

Millie: “We saw the seal show before lunch!”

Ella Marie: “The log with snake eggs and the zebras.”

Nate: “When we saw an eagle.”

Jacob: “I ate a second lunch.”

Peyton: “I got to stand by an eagle.”

Thomas: “Lions!”

Diego: “Lions!”

We had a great time and learned a ton!  I’m excited to see how this learning connects with our animal study that comes this Spring. :)  THANK YOU to the parents who helped make this happen!  What a fun day at one of the best zoos in the country! :)

News Flash!!–October 17th Edition

This happened today:IMG_3707

 

Besides being a really great example of interactive writing, there’s a great story behind WHAT we did and WHY we wrote this News Flash.  So keep reading. :)

The last two Fridays, we’ve ended up with many things to do and have deemed the day a “ketchup and mustard” day.  I have given them a big ‘ole list of things to do or finish, and they work through it at their pace, moving on when they need to–making sure they complete all the things on the list.  While they were working I have been pulling kiddos individually to do assessments and other things.  And you know what’s really cool?  These kiddos are already AMAZINGLY good at managing both their time and behavior to make these periods both engaging and productive.  I’ve had 5th grade classes that have had a hard time with that!

Just so you can appreciate it, here’s the list they were working from this morning.  The stars are MUST-DOs and the others are CAN-Dos for when they had time.  The boxes on the left are full of everyone’s initials; they marked the activity when they were finished and moved on to the next thing they had to do:

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I was SO IMPRESSED when we sat down before lunch to debrief on how the morning had gone.  And apparently Nate was impressed, too, because he said, “Mrs. Bearden, I think after lunch we should write a news flash about this because of how great we did!”  I agree, buddy, I agree!  Well done, Rm. 202 kiddos! :)

 

 

Second Steps

In first grade we have many really important lessons to learn.  Some of the most important ones are simply about how to be learners!

We’re lucky to have some well-designed lessons that are part of a program called Second Steps; these are part of the foundation for our work that continues in gr. 3-5 with the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.

Every week, Mrs. Wilson comes to our room, often accompanied by her friends Puppy and Snail.

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Together they have taught us about listening with our whole bodies (including our eyes and ears and brains), how to focus (and we even have attention-scopes for this purpose!), how to use our self-talk to help us do the right thing and keep trying, and also how to be assertive (which is a GREAT BIG word for a first grader with GREAT importance).

Often there are times for students to turn-and-talk, hearing someone else’s ideas about a topic.

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Makayla and Sara share ideas with each other in a turn-and-talk conversation.

 

While I love the time during the day when Mrs. Wilson is here, the lessons she teaches and the songs we learn to help us remember the concepts, my favorite thing is when I see and hear kids applying them outside of those times!  I often see kiddos using their attention-scopes to get refocused, hear them use their self-talk to encourage themselves to try again or solve a problem and also hear them being assertive as they “ask for help out loud” (which is a line from The Learner Song we sing).

The lessons are simple, but have staying power and build a STRONG foundation for these learners.  Yay Second Steps!

One more thing…check out who showed up in our school pictures and will be in our yearbook this year!:

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Let Creativity Rule!

I am often inspired by things I see.  It goes with the kind of learner I tend to be, too, as things make more sense when I see them in addition to hearing them.  So let’s start with a picture.  It’s what inspired this post:

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If you have been around here for a while, you know that I am a thinker.  Sometimes I think too much.  Like I-can’t-get-to-sleep-for-a-long-time-at-night-because-my-brain-won’t-turn-off kind of thinking.  Most often, though, I can use my overactive brain for good things.

I discovered this bracelet the other night in my jewelry box, after not having worn it for a while.  I actually forgot I had it.  It was a gift from a fabulous family I’ve had the pleasure of working with at school.  I was lucky enough to have taught two of their children–one of them twice!  As I looked down at the charm, I thought of how “Let Creativity Rule” could really be one of the phrases for my life.  It seems to come up in so many places for me.

In my classroom, I try to be the kind of teacher who is a facilitator and a designer, rather than a dictator or an information-dumper (yeah, I just made that up, I think).  I believe that knowledge is most powerful when you create it for yourself, and that connections kids make on their own mean much more than ones I make for them.  I see my role as an educator as the one who helps create opportunities for my learners to figure things out, to put things together, to wonder and then discover answers for themselves.  Don’t get me wrong–there are times when you have to lay it all out there, because yes, there are some things that kiddos would never just find out without guidance.  But for the most part, I want my students to be in charge of their learning.

Alongside the opportunities, comes the freedom to make choices about how that learning will happen.  There are very few things in my classroom that I have to have happen a certain way; labeling is one of the things I care deeply about, as well as coloring-coding certain things we use all the time, as a means of helping to keep things organized.  Oh, and fonts.  I love them.  I collect them in fact, and usually have one as my “go-to” font for the year.  And yes, I have been known to recreate forms and sheets that people share with me because I have to make them look a certain way.  Hey–everyone has something like that right? But outside of those couple of things, my children are free to make decisions about what and how they learn things, as well as how they demonstrate that learning.  I want my kiddos to have a variety of ways to show what they know; not everyone can best do this with pencil and paper as is typical in many classrooms.  It is common for my students to show their understanding of a concept by building with Legos, using big wooden blocks, drawing a picture, acting it out, recording themselves talking about it, writing a story (or some other kind of explanation) and yes, sometimes by taking a test.  The possibilities are endless, and one of the things I like the best is that sometimes kids come up with ideas that are even better than an option I could have given them.  The point is showing me–as well as their classmates–that they understand what they’re learning.

I appreciate creativity in my life outside of school, as well.  Part of what balances me in my work life is taking the time to “play” and do things that bring out my crafty side.  I like to sew, to design, and to build things.  While I would not say I am particularly gifted in any of those areas, it’s another way to use my brain, and I enjoy seeing the products of my handiwork (and just in case you’re interested, I think I even wrote about it a few years ago on this blog…)

The other thing I was thinking as I was looking at my hand (that sounds really funny, doesn’t it?) is how important my family is to me.  My wedding rings remind me of my fabulous hubby and our amazing kids, and how lucky I am to have them.  I don’t think I would be the teacher I am, actually, without them.  I take so much of them to school with me, and they often help me think through struggles I’m having and help me solve problems (my son is really helping me this year since he was in 1st grade last year, I run a lot of ideas by him before I try them with my Rm. 202 kiddos!).  My husband is a teacher, as well, and I know that while there is a LOT of shop talk at our house, I am so grateful to have a spouse who “gets” what I do.  We have even taught the same grade levels at times, which makes for another layer of fun as we brainstorm classroom ideas together.  I have been thinking lately how much being a mom helps me as a teacher, too.  Don’t get me wrong, you can be a GREAT teacher without being a parent, but for me, there has been another level of understanding since I’ve had kids of my own.  Oh, and now that my kids are in school, I have a much better understanding of what it means to give your baby over to the care of someone else.  I am so blessed that the families I work with let me do that every day.  Believe me–I do my best to do them proud and take good care of their little ones, as I would hope would happen for mine!

It’s funny how just seeing something can spark so many things in your brain.  What image or picture have you been inspired by lately?  What phrase would you say defines your life?  How do you let your creativity rule?  I’d love to hear from you!  Feel free to leave a comment and tell me all about it! :)