100th Day Questions

I have returned to 1st grade this year after about 10 years with 4th-5th graders.  Many things have been the same since my return, and of course there are some things I’ve had to readjust to, or that are entirely new, as is the nature of education.  One thing, though, that was definitely not a “thing” the last time I was in primary is the 100th Day of School.  No, I said that wrong–we definitely HAD the 100th day of school, we just didn’t officially celebrate the 100th day as a holiday.  This is new to me, and as I am coming up on that day (it’s next Wednesday, the 28th), I’ve been thinking A LOT about what I will do with that day in my classroom.  (Before I go on, I feel like should ask that you presume positive intent in my questions here–my focus is on really understanding the why, not judging what others may choose (or not choose) to do in their own classrooms on any given day.  I want to learn here!) :)

It seems that other people are also thinking about it, and having similar questions to me.  I found a blog post by Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca) the other day, after she posted this tweet:

I found myself nodding as I read her post, as she was asking the same thing I have been struggling with:  Why do we “celebrate” the 100th day of school?  What is the purpose and how can we use this day to continue to help our kiddos think and grow and problem solve?  Why is this day any different than every other day? I’ve read many opinions about how it’s a rite of passage and a fun day to celebrate the milestone of getting so far into the year together, and I’ve heard others say it’s about helping students understand the “bigness” and importance of the number 100.  Believe me, I’m all for having a great day, and I LOVE the idea of kids understanding numbers and being flexible in their use of them.  So the part I’m grappling with is how I can “do” the 100th day in a way that is still high quality and rigorous, while fun and enjoyable–and not just full of things that are “cute” or that we’re doing “just because” they have to do with the number 100 (and let’s be honest–this is really our goal for every day, isn’t it?).

After thinking about this for a couple of weeks, as well as reading about what others are doing, I think I’ve settled on a few things.  Most of them are incorporated into our normal routine, but are focused on the idea (that Aviva mentioned in her post) of the learning we’ve done in the last 100 days.  I plan on there being a focus on how long those 100 days have been and how much learning we’ve already done!  I hope to highlight the “grittiness” we’ve displayed and the fun we’ve had together and how much more fun we’ll have in the rest of the school year.   Here’s what I’m thinking:

1. 100 Book Reading Challenge–with my “big” kids, we have done a 40 Book Challenge the last few years, after reading about it in The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller.  I would love to give my firsties a similar, one-day challenge for our class together to read 100 books.  It averages out to 5 books a piece or so, which is TOTALLY doable, and would be a great motivation to reach a goal and work on being better readers.  That’s how it happens, right?  By reading!  I figure we’ll make a chart or list somewhere in the room so we can record the titles as we go.

2. 100 Word writing challenge–I’m not entirely sure how to frame this one, maybe around writing word wall words correctly or creating words from them (like word families), or if we’ll write stories that include 100 words or what…..somehow we’ll write.  Like we do everyday. :)

3. What Have We Learned in the Last 100 Days?–Taking inspiration from Aviva’s post, I thought it would be great to document all of the things we’ve learned and done in the last 100 days (which I am sure is WAY more than just a 100) with pictures and words.  Since I’m a regular blogger, I am also a regular picture-taker.  That means I probably have at least one picture from each of our 100 days together.  I’m thinking about having kiddos reflect on each day (probably in pairs) and writing something to go along with each picture.  These could be put into a book (either paper or digital) and we could add to it as we finish up the year.  Again, what a great way to visually see all of the many things they know now that they didn’t know on our 1st Day together!

4. Legos? Blocks? Maker Space?–We are definitely builders in Rm. 202, and incorporate this kind of representation into many things we do on a regular basis.  I have seen ideas for “what would you do with 100 Legos?” which could be interesting, as they could answer the question about what they’ve learned or what they are most proud of.  We did something similar when we returned from Winter Break where they created and then wrote about their favorite thing/event/present from Christmas.  I’d love to give them the same question and have them build something with big blocks or just “stuff” and then have them video their thinking as they explain what they made and why.  The video part would be pretty basic, as we’re just getting into documenting our learning digitally.  Those videos would be great to share on our blogs–which we’re going live with this week, too!

5. 100s game in Math–this will be an easy extension of what we’re already doing!  The unit we’re currently working on is about kids become flexible and efficient with adding numbers within 100.  We’re already playing games, solving problems and having great conversations about place value with bigger numbers.

6. Read Aloud–I know that Read Aloud has been a focus around here lately, so maybe we’ll read 100 pages in our book on Wednesday, too, as a way to celebrate a great story together!

I guess we’ll see what I end up going with (as it will happen in just 3 days from now!).  I’d love to hear your thoughts on how YOU will be spending the 100th Day of School.  What questions did you consider in your planning?  Please come back later this week to see the update on what actually happened in Rm. 202, and/or follow us @jbeardensclass to enjoy the day along with us!

Have a great week! :)

Read Aloud Timeline: How-To!

I realized today that while I’ve written about our Read Aloud timeline many times, I haven’t ever really explained how we do it.  I had someone ask me about it and thought I’d write it here, in case you wanted to try it for yourself!  I am sure there are many ways to make it happen, but this is what I’ve found works for us.  Please let me know if you try it and how it works for your readers! 1. Read Ok, I probably should have started after that, but it’s the first step, so there it is. :)  In both 5th grade and 1st grade, read aloud is one of the most important (and enjoyable) times of the day! It is a sacred event that happens every day, no matter what.  It is (as I mentioned here) not about laying down and relaxing after recess time (in fact, our RA isn’t even after recess!).  it is a time for a family of learners to enjoy text together–to laugh, to talk about language, to make predictions, to ask questions, to just share a positive literacy experience.  And especially for emerging readers, it’s a time to hear what good reading sounds like and to hear texts that they may not yet be ready to read for themselves. 2. Create timeline images I’ve done this step of the process in many ways, and is probably the step most open to interpretation and variation depending on your community.  In the beginning–for any grade level–I have them choose a part of the story that they like.  For most kids, this means something that was funny or surprising.  After we’ve gone through our first 2 or 3 books, then, the focus of the image might change a little bit.  I might have them choose the most important part.  If we’re studying inferring or predicting (or some other specific comprehension strategy), I’d have them choose an image that shows where they used that strategy to make sense.  For our purposes in 1st grade, we’re still just choosing whatever image we want; our next step is to choose an important part of the story. I usually have my students draw their images on a regular 8 1/2 X 11 piece of paper (because they fit nicely on the wall and are still a good size to see the picture from far away), with colored pencils or crayons.  Bright colors are preferred, just because the contrast is easier to see across the room, and all of the white space must be filled in (well except of course in the last few books we’ve read–they were graphic novels and kids could give me a good reason for why they left the white space there: “It was like that in the book, so my image looked like that, too!”).  On the back of the picture friends have to write what the image shows, as well as why they chose it.  The mechanics of the writing have to be correct, both because it’s good writing, but also because in the next step someone else will have to be able to understand what their image is all about.  This step usually takes place right after we finish a book, and at this point we can finish our images in about 30 minutes.  If we don’t, they usually finish them at choice time, take them home, or we have them out for morning work the next week so we can vote the next day.

3. Vote In our class we have small groups of 4 that we use for the purpose of choosing read aloud images, as well as anything that I need to quickly break up the class to accomplish.  The groups stay the same all year, and get to know each other really well.  Depending on the year they have different names: when I taught 4th grade they were called “districts” to relate to our study of state government, the year we had a construction theme they were called “zones,” the year I had an animal print theme (I know–that sounds really lame now….) they were called “tribes” and this year they’re just generally called our Room Teams.  Some years the groups are numbered and some years the teams make names for themselves.  How you do this part really doesn’t matter, except that for me it’s the easiest way to narrow down our 20 pictures to a manageable 4. Depending on the grade, the groups might vote for both the image on the wall and the image on the front of our class book.  I found out VERY QUICKLY that with 1st graders it’s easier just to focus on the wall.  I also found out VERY QUICKLY that it’s much easier for them to choose their favorite image when they are not considering their own picture.  The first time we voted this year we got NOWHERE because everyone kept choosing their own picture.  Looking back now it makes perfect sense, considering where first graders are developmentally, but at the time it was just frustrating!  So as I shared my frustration with my team, my super smart friend Rochelle suggested I have them go through the process with random pictures.  It seemed like it was worth a try, and so the next time we did it I passed out the pictures so that they didn’t have their own picture in their hand or in their group at all.  They had to explain the part of the story on the sheet they were given and then choose the one that best represented the story from those choices.   I was AMAZED at how different and how EASY it was that way.  Thanks, Ro, for your great suggestion! Another thing i learned really quickly was that doing the whole raise-your-hand-for-the-one-you-want-to-vote-for process doesn’t work well with first graders either.  Even with only 4 choices (after we narrowed it down in our groups), it seemed like someone didn’t vote, someone else voted more than once, or they kept changing their minds based on what everyone else was voting for.  I couldn’t keep a clear count and had to figure out some other way. So, as both a more clear way to tell who’s voting for what, and as a way to make the process more interactive (which is good because they need to move!), we put pictures in 4 different places around the room and kids line up in front of the picture they are choosing.  It’s really fast and also allows us with great opportunities for counting, grouping and talking about efficient strategies for figuring out how many votes there are for each picture.  It’s a win-win!

4. Make a class book As I mentioned recently, the rest of the images go into a class book–1 for each book that we finish.  These live in our class library for kids to read and enjoy all year (well they do once the teacher takes time to bind them into books!).  So far we’re up to 14, and I figure we’ll have at least 20 at this rate (hopefully even more!!). 5. Repeat steps 1-4 This is the process we’ve gone through 14 times now.  It’s the process I’ve gone through with other classes close to 50 other times over the past 5 years as well.  And if you’ve seen the pictures I’ve posted, ALL of those images are hanging in my room right now!  There is something really special about being surrounded by all of those pictures, celebrating great books, great discussions and fun times with friends.  It’s fun to watch the timeline grow, and for classes to ask about old pictures.  I also love when past students come back to visit and we can connect again as we talk about those timeline images, too!


This is an idea of what the timeline looks like wrapped around the walls of Rm. 202. I actually had to take it down and move it further over to make more room at the beginning of this year. And I am not sure what I will do next year–I will have officially wrapped all the way around and run out of room! What a great problem to have! The timeline started in August 2009 and is still going in January of 2015. I am not sure I envisioned that when I started doing this back then!

This shows a more current version of this year's section.  I think there are still 3 or 4 missing from this picture.  We're reading so fast I can't keep up!

This shows a more current version of this year’s section. I think there are still 3 or 4 missing from this picture. We’re reading so fast I can’t keep up!

6. End-of-the-year Book After you are finished with your last read aloud (which for me runs right up to the last day of school–yep, sometimes we’re finishing our images, voting and laminating in the last hours of our time together!), something special happens.  All of the books that your class has been enjoying all year will become a special end-of-the-year memory for each kiddo.  The last thing I do is take all the books apart, and reorganize the pictures by kiddo (which is pretty easy because every image has both the child’s name and their class number on it so they can be easily put in orderly piles), and create a NEW book for each and every one.  I include a cover that lists all of the titles, authors and time frames for when we read each one.  Sometimes I include a note about how much I’ve enjoyed the reading journey, or maybe a quote from one of our favorites.  I haven’t ever had kids vote on their very favorite from the year, but if I did, this might be the cover of this individual book (who knows, maybe I’ll try it this year!). Whew!  Wow–that is really a more involved process than I thought when I sat down to write this.  But it’s TOTALLY worth every minute we spend on it!  I am not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but this is not an original idea of mine (I saw the timeline created in a classroom in Columbia, MO when I was there for a training many years ago), but the process for how I do it has been tweaked to fit my purposes over the years.  It’s definitely one of those things that someone way smarter than me thought of, but that I have made my own through trials and errors to fit what works for me and my kiddos.  I’d love to hear what works for you and YOUR students! Happy reading!! :)

First Grade Read Aloud Timeline: CLASS BOOKS!

One of the foundational elements of my classroom is the read aloud timeline that was started many years ago (2009 is the first year that hangs on the wall!).  When I moved to first grade, I knew I wanted to at least try to keep the tradition going, but I wasn’t quite sure how that would happen.  Luckily, the class I have took very quickly to the idea of how it worked, and now this year’s addition to the timeline is already 12 books long!

One of the added features of the timeline images (which is decided by a class vote after everyone creates their favorite picture from the story) is a class book that includes all of the rest of the images.  Pretty great, right?  Everyone is involved!  Well, yes, it’s great….as long as the teacher remembers to take all of the pictures out of the turn-in drawer and make them into a book.  Which hadn’t happened yet this year until just the other day (nothing like the pressure of conferences coming up and wanting to have something ready to share with parents, huh?).  And in true first grade form, their excitement over the new bucket of books that THEY HAD CREATED was amazing.  And yes, as a blogging teacher, I had to take pictures of it!

FINALLY have all of our class books put together.  And of course, as soon as I get caught up with something, things change and I'm behind again--we have finished two books since I made these and we're ready to add in two more to our collection! We are READING MACHINES in Rm. 202!

FINALLY have all of our class books put together. And of course, as soon as I get caught up with something, things change and I’m behind again–we have finished two books since I made these and we’re ready to add in two more to our collection! We are READING MACHINES in Rm. 202!

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So like I said, the INSTANT I put the pile of new books out, they were all taken and kiddos were digging in!  It was a great combination of enjoying old favorites we’d read together, and of kids reflecting on how their work has changed since we finished our first book in August.  There’s a lot of growth that happens in almost 6 months of first grade!

What does read aloud look like for you?  Have you ever tried a timeline to document your reading journey?  We’d love to hear from you!

Into the Woods

We have the most AMAZING woods behind our school, and it’s such an adventure when we get to go out and play (and learn, of course!) out there!  We have gone several times this year, and just the other day we got to explore with our 5th grade learning buddies.  They had a job (which was given by Mrs. Sisul, our principal, and unknown to me!), but I think it has to do with reasons why the woods are such a great place to learn.  We’re working on vamping up our outdoor spaces, and this is a great example of how important they are to the kids of Robinson School.  The “big” kids used their iPads to take pictures and then create a Keynote of slides that capture the essence of what happened on their adventure in just one image.  Check out what they did!  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE what goes on with our students! They truly never cease to amazing me with their creativity. :)

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First Grade Math Warm-Ups: Week of January 20-23, 2015

Another short week of warm-ups because of MLK, Jr. Day on Monday, but the ones we had this week are goodies!  Read on and happy calculating!  Please let me know how/if you use these in your classroom!  Feel free to add your own warm-ups in the comments, too! :)


CAM01397The unit we’re in right now is math is focusing on adding numbers within 100, and on using place value to do so in an efficient manner. My focus then, this week has been on how to create opportunities to think about tens in a meaningful way determine which strategies and models make sense in each situation.  This one was just a great place to start our conversation for the week because it has so many answers.



We’ve been doing many problems around scenarios, and I wanted to see what they could do with straight numbers–especially related to place value.  This was a great one to see what they know both about tens/ones, and what they know how to do with them.  You can see that there are already many known strategies and models floating around that we can build from as we go forward.  YAY!


CAM01395We’ve been playing the 100s Game this week as we practice counting to 100 by different numbers.  We’ve had lots of practice with counting to 100 by 5s and then 10s (really fast!), but then we practiced counting by 10s and NOT starting at 0.  We used a deck of cards to decide what was our first number, then we went around and stopped at the number that was closest to 100 (for example, if we started with 6, then we’d say 6, 16, 26, 36, 46, 56, 66, 76, 86, 96).  This warm up was similar to the game we’d been playing, only I wanted to see if they knew what to do when they went over 100, so asked them to go as high as they could.  HA!  Man…were those numbers high!  One friend went all the way to 867 (and I think he only stopped because he ran out of time!), and many went to the 600s or so.  As we discussed the problem and did it together, I quickly found out that they did indeed know the pattern of how it works when you get into the 100s.  This will be so handy as we keep going, and many will modify their counting on strategy from numbers within 20 to counting on by 10s with numbers within 100.


CAM01393This one was a true story about how I spent my evening last night!  While it is really a problem to see what they can do with tens, it’s also the beginning of multiplicative thinking, as it’s also 8 X 20 or 20 X 8; either way, i want them to recognize that it’s 8 groups of 20, not 8 PLUS 20.  Most did a SUPER job of this and had great thinking about how to figure it out.  Several connected the 20 to counting by 2s, and some saw the 2 10s inside 20 and counted by 10s to get to 160.  The best part was that NO ONE sat and did nothing.  Everyone tried a strategy, and were willing even if they weren’t quite sure about the answer.  I LOVE how gritty these kiddos are!

Our record of how to use 2s to figure out the answer.  We made sure to highlight how those 2s can mean 2 10s and so 16 10s is 160.  Then, just for fun, we figured out how many hours those minutes would be equal to: 2 hours and 40 minutes!

Our record of how to use 2s to figure out the answer. We made sure to highlight how those 2s can mean 2 10s and so 16 10s is 160. Then, just for fun, we figured out how many hours those minutes would be equal to: 2 hours and 40 minutes!

First Grade Math Warm-Ups: Week of January 12-15, 2015

This week we only ended up with 2 warm-ups because it’s all we had time to talk about!  Enjoy! I’d love to hear how you’re using them in your classroom, or with your kiddos at home!


Please ignore the fact that my green markers are never juicy and always make our charts look old. :)  Thanks to the fact that my Master’s program is now over, I have at least a little bit of free time, and for me that means baking!  Here’s a grouping problem with 10s that’s about some cinnamon honey wheat crackers I made for my kiddos!


Again, all the best math scenarios come from real life, right?  This problem is a less-than-true story about my CRAZY drive home on Tuesday evening!  The actual time in the car (because of SIX ACCIDENTS on the highway between school and my house, as well as forgetting a pile of papers I needed on my table at school and having to drive all. the. way. back. to. school. again.) was MUCH longer.  My littles just weren’t ready for numbers that big yet.  Maybe next quarter. :)

CAM01338-1Happy calculating!  Hope you’re having a great week!  Stay tuned for this week’s warm-ups soon! :)

At Robinson, Inspiration is EVERYWHERE!

I love our school for so many reasons.  It’s the place I started my career 15 years ago as a student teacher.  I had my first classroom here (even though the actual classroom is now the principal’s office!).  I have had the opportunity to work with countless mentors and really smart people who make me a better teacher because of what they have shared with me.  I’m now getting to share the same amazing school experience with my own son, which is great, and I teach with two of his former teachers!  It truly is a fabulous place to spend my days.  When I speak of it, I always talk about going to “school,” not going to “work.” :) Another reason I love Robinson is how much there is to inspire you.  And this year that inspiration is VISUAL in the form of many murals that have been added over the last months.  I took pictures of as many of the great additions as I could today, in order to share more of my happy place with you!  I’d love to hear more about your happy place, and the way it inspires you each day! But back to mine. LOL  Check out some pictures:

I had to start with this one, as its one of the biggest inspirations I see every day!  I think it's so great that we work on important skills like grit and persistence, helping our kiddos to know how to deal with challenges they face.  :)

I had to start with this one, as its one of the biggest inspirations I see every day! I think it’s so great that we work on important skills like grit and persistence, helping our kiddos to know how to deal with challenges they face. :)

CAM01335 CAM01326

Even t-shirts are inspiring at our school! These are quilts made of SpiritWear thru the ages!  Great idea!


The Road Rules the foundation of all of what we do at our school, and help our students remember to show respect for themselves, others, learning and the environment (both inside and out!). Many banners like this one “decorate” our hallways. :)

Another thing that makes our hallways inspiring is the inclusion of the faces of our kiddos!  The smiles are contagious, and the faces are beautiful! These frame collections can be found in many different hallways.

Another REALLY important thing we are about at our school is NO BULLYING!  We have these rules posted in many places so no one forgets!  We are an Olweus school, and it's important that we protect and encourage each other to "be a buddy, not a bully!"

Another REALLY important thing we are about at our school is NO BULLYING! We have these rules posted in many places so no one forgets! We are an Olweus school, and it’s important that we protect and encourage each other to “be a buddy, not a bully!”

Ok, one more.  This is both an inspirational thought, and an inspirational kid. :)  Gotta love how he wanted to "photobomb" this one!  Great job, Riley Bearden! Love you, buddy! (And hope this doesn't embarrass you!)

Ok, one more. This is both an inspirational thought, and an inspirational kid. :) Gotta love how he wanted to “photobomb” this one! Great job, Riley Bearden! Love you, buddy! (And hope this doesn’t embarrass you!)

Friends–I’ll ask again: what does your “happy place” look like?  What inspires you on a daily basis?  We’d love to see/hear what your school, home, job, backyard–wherever!–looks like and how it makes you want to do your best.  Comment, will you? :)