First Days of First Grade!–Part 1

Wow! What a week we’ve had! Is anyone else tired?  I might have been ready for bed by 7 pm on Thursday night–but no, I didn’t actually do it.  Lasted until 9.  Man–these little ones keep you on your toes!

I’ve been working really hard to figure out how best to tell our first week story, as I didn’t want to just make it a big long list ‘o things we did.  But we DID have a big long list of things I want to share!!  So, I think I’ve decided that for this first post, I’m going to organize the info around the goals we had for our first days together, and explain some of the rationale for why we did them.  Ok?  Well, then get ready–this one might be long!  Get your coffee.  Settle in.  Read on.  And thank you–I so appreciate your time and your interest. :)

During the first week of school in first grade (well in any grade, really), there are some key goals that I work towards.  This week those goals were:

  • Students will learn each others’ names (and mine, too!), as well as learn one thing that a friend likes to do outside of school.
  • Students will learn–and then practice–the expectations for how our room will run.
  • Students will be guided through discoveries of some key materials in our classroom that they will be using on a regular basis later on.
  • Students will present their work to the class (in a whole group, small group and partner setting).
  • Students will begin the year having fun and seeing our classroom as a positive, happy place to learn and grow!

All that being said, there were MANY things we did this week, and honestly I do not have pictures or videos of them all. (As a side note, I’ll add in a quick observation here: first graders do so many more things in the first week than fifth graders do!  The number of activities and directions you prepare for each hour of the day with 6YOs is SO MANY MORE than when you have big kids.  That’s probably an obvious statement, and even one I knew going in, but I was definitely reminded of it very quickly this week.  Like by lunchtime on Tuesday. :) ).

Getting to Know Each Other

As we began the week, we worked to get to know each other, and did activities together like finding friends who like certain activities (soccer, swimming, reading, etc.); being a name detective and finding friends whose names start with different letters of the alphabet; playing name bingo; and playing together.  During our first Morning Meeting, we introduced ourselves and shared our favorite colors.  And while I don’t have any pics of it (sorry!), we also started sharing our Brag Bags, which they filled at home with 5 things that tell about them.  Kind of like the 3 Things project I’ve done in 5th grade. :)

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Working on Procedures and Routines

Much of our days are spent learning about where things are, how move around the room, how we sit on the rug, how we each take a turn during conversations, how we come into the room in the morning and get started, how we walk in line–you get the idea.  These kiddos have been doing a super job of showing what they know from kindergarten and then adding in the “first grade version” of the routines.  We’ll keep working this week as we continue to add new things/places to our repertoire.

Guided Discoveries

One way I introduce kiddos to the materials in our room is through guided discoveries (which is an idea put forth in the book The First Six Weeks of School, full of SUPER ideas to start the school year).  So far, we’ve investigated Power Polygons (which will be used in a variety of ways in Math), colored pencils (which will be utilized on almost a daily basis, and are organized in a special way), scissors and glue (because you know that could be a trip to CRAZYTOWN if we didn’t learn to use those appropriately!).

With Power Polygons, kiddos were given a pile of polygons and given the task to make a creation.  They could make it on the table (and we’d take a picture) or they could trace their creation on paper and color it in with crayons.  I was AMAZED (but not surprised! ) by what they made!  Check it out:

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For our guided discovery with colored pencils, we spent a good chunk of time upfront talking about what they noticed about HOW the pencils are organized, WHY they are like that, and WHY it is a must that we keep them that way.  I was really proud that once we were finished, all the pencils were back in the right cups!  Way to go, first grade!  For the guidance on this discovery, they were asked to create a picture of their favorite place to be, using as many details as they can–so that someone else could imagine being there, too.

Friends work together to find the pencils they want.

Friends work together to find the pencils they want.

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Friends at Table 4 get started thinking about the place they will create during their discovery.

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Lots of friends at Table 3 chose Six Flags as their favorite place to be. I saw lots of roller coasters and a huge Ferris wheel, too!

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The challenge to some friends was to keep adding details when they thought they were “done.”

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See the Giant Ketchup bottle on that paper? :)

The last discovery this week was with glue (we did briefly talk about scissors, too).  We read the book Too Much Glue, and practiced the sayings “Just a dot, not a lot” and “glue raindrops” instead of glue puddles that turn into muddles.  Then they got busy creating a flower to represent the many ways they will grow this year.  We’ll go back and add their pictures to the middle later, as well as a goal for a way they want to grow.  This was an activity for fine-motor development as well as art, as they crinkled the tissue and put it just where they wanted it on the glue dots.

 

Sharing Our Work

This week we had many opportunities to share our work and start developing the skills needed to be effective speakers and listeners.  We did this in whole group, small group and partner situations.  I’m already impressed with how these kiddos can turn-and-talk to their partners (we call it EEKK, eye-to-eye-knee-to-knee) and keep their conversations going.

After our colored pencil guided discovery, kiddos had to share with their small group at their table and tell about the place they chose and why they chose it.  Then, after an activity based on a book we read called David’s Drawings (which I’ll share another time), we shared whole group.  Kiddos also took a few minutes to share their first creation with Power Polygons.  They answered the question “What do you like best about your work?”  It’s great to see the skills that these friends are coming in with from kindergarten, and how proud they are to share what they’ve created.  Can’t wait to see them continue to grow in this area!

Having Fun!

Ok, one last video.  It’s related to that last goal of having fun and seeing our classroom as a great place to be.  While I hope that everything we do makes them feel that way, I know that when I first told them we’d have a dance party there was definitely a BUZZ in the room!  Check us out as we move and groove.  And while you can’t quite see it yet in this video, we are working on moving our bodies in responsible, controlled ways.  We have 4 rules for when we dance: 1) Keep your feet on the floor, 2) Move your body the whole time, 3) Keep your body movements to yourself, and 4) Keep your voice at a level 1 or 2 so we don’t disturb others’ learning.  I should also mention that besides just being fun, dancing allows us to release energy, work on self-control, and will also help us make sure we’re working on gross-motor movements that then lend themselves to other skills (like crossing the mid-line).  We are definitely very purposeful in all that we do in Rm. 202!

Ok….so I guess it did kinda turn into a big long list ‘o things, but I’m not sure that could be helped.  The first week is always like that–I want to make sure you know all about the great stuff happening in our room!  After this one, I’ll be better able to highlight certain things, focus in on the methodology behind it and the ways that our work influences our growth as learners.  I hope you’ll be along for the ride!

Dancing Shoes Take 1

I welcomed my new friends to first grade a couple of weeks ago.  Then the other I got my first “I’m Ready for 1st Grade” video.  It came from Mille, and man is it awesome!  Well, actually she sent me two, but I’m just posting this one.  She even got her little brother to join in on the fun.  Check it out, friends, then send me your own!  Way to go, Millie!  You are indeed ready for 1st Grade! :)

To Each His Own

I have two kids.  They are lovely.  Well most of the time they are lovely.  While I knew going into it that children are different, I don’t really think that is something you can really grasp the concept of until you have more than one child and you EXPERIENCE how different two children with the same parents can be.  And in our case I’d say it’s pretty much night and day.

Let’s start easy: one’s a boy and one’s a girl.  That’s an obvious opposite, sorry. :)  He’s an introvert, she’s an extrovert.  I mean MAJOR extrovert–one of those makes-friends-with-a whole-room-of-people-in-five-minutes kind of extrovert.  He’s tall, she’s short.  Ok, sorry, that’s another stretch and not really a far difference because he is twice her age.  But then there’s temperament:  he’s easy-going, a rule follower, can adjust to disappointment and change fairly easily and is likely to do the right thing because it’s the thing to do.  She is strong-willed. I’m learning that baby girl is pretty much a my-way-or-the-highway kind of kid.  She argues facts that are right there plain as day just because she wants to (although I guess it’s fair to say that her brother often will start or continue many of these arguments….).  Her answer to many things is “I just don’t want to,” and when you give her a choice between two things her response is usually a very spirited “no.”  Yep, no.  What the heck?

Here’s a quick example of their complete “oppositeness,” which happened at the dentist yesterday:

Yeah, see that face?  It totally says, "NO WAY!! I am not letting that lady clean my teeth!"  The other one?  Totally rocking it with some stylish sunglasses (to keep the bright dentist-light out of his eyes).

Yeah, see that face? It totally says, “NO WAY!! I am not letting that lady clean my teeth!” The other one? Totally rocking it with some stylish sunglasses (to keep the bright dentist-light out of his eyes).

And so I am learning (like I mentioned in the beginning) that my children are very different, even though they have much in common.  And with that comes learning that I cannot deal with or teach or discipline them in the same way.  What worked for one more certainly does NOT work for the other.  In many ways I feel like a new parent again.  And in many ways I am–I have never parented this second kiddo before.  She is new to me.  I am relearning how to be a “successful” parent to this little princess of mine, discovering new tips, strategies and techniques that work for both her and me (because yes, I’d like for us both to survive through the teen years!).

You know what?  That same thing applies in the classroom!  I was a teacher long before I was a parent, but I love how having littles of my own at home helps me more clearly see and understand what I maybe only partly grasped as a teacher previously.  It’s kind of a “duh” thing, I guess–I would never expect two kiddos in my class to be identical, nor would I expect exactly the same thing to work for every single kid every single year.  I am not that teacher who plans the whole year in the summer (using the same plans as last year, no less), and then presses “play” and glides through the school year doing the same ‘ole same ‘ole.  I acknowledge the fact that a new bunch of learners requires a new bag of tricks and a restocked toolbox ready and waiting to be used at the right time and place.  And the same is true with kids at home.  Weird how that works, huh?

So I guess this means I have some more learning to do.  So far I’ve learned that my sweet, sweet darling child is a spunky, spicy, chatty, curious, creative, princess-loving, always-smiling-except-when-she’s-scowling, always-dancing girl who loves her brother and family, loves to sing, loves to laugh and really just wants to figure out how things work, find the answers to her questions and eat mac and cheese for every meal.  Why would I want her to be anything else?  But with that acceptance, I have to figure out how to best teach such a learner in a way that makes sense to her, offers both of us success and preserves her dignity.  THAT, it seems so far, is easier said that done.  Any advice? I’ll gladly take it.  We’ve got a long road ahead of us (which I will gladly travel with her, by the way. :) ).  I guess for now I’ll go dig out my copy of The Strong-Willed Child…. :)

 

Home Visits!

I am sure by now you know that I am returning to first grade, where I began my teaching journey so many years ago (wow–I was just a kid then…), and am super excited about it.  I am excited to return to many things that are the same, but am also excited about some “firsts” that will happen in this move back to first.  There are several, but first up (hee, hee) it’s home visits.

When Riley was in kindergarten (which is somehow 2 YEARS ago now–how did this happen??), I was excited when we got an email from his teacher about coming for a home visit.  I hadn’t heard of our teachers doing them before, and in fact I think that was the first year they started.   I remember Ms. Dale showing up at our door (which was awesome in itself because we don’t actually live in the district and she had to drive extra far to see us) with a big smile and a game of Candyland.

Now, for me as a parent, the experience was probably different than most when initially meeting their child’s first teacher; I have worked with Ms. Dale for 14 years and so have a relationship and already knew she’d be an amazing match to my kiddo.  We were already comfortable with each other.  But for my kiddo, this visit was priceless.  HIS teacher was coming to HIS house to meet HIM!!  While he was at first really apprehensive (and actually ran away from the door to hide when she knocked!), once I left them alone and they started playing the game, he quickly warmed up to her and they had a great time.  The visit was short and sweet, but I know for sure that it set a very positive tone for the rest of their year together.  There was much less “worried” talk about school after this and more excited banter about when he’d get to see his teacher again and when he could go to kindergarten.  And we had a really cute picture of our little man with one of his new favorite people:

Ok, so that's not the actual picture we took at our home visit, but I couldn't NOT include that very special lady--Ms. Dale--in this post.  :)

Ok, so that’s not the actual picture we took at our home visit, but I couldn’t NOT include that very special lady–Ms. Dale–in this post. :)

So…as a start to kindergarten, this seemed like a fabulous way to begin to connect our family with our new family at Robinson.  For both my kiddo and myself, it took away nerves and gave us an opportunity to see his teacher as a person, not just a teacher.  But on the other side, I know that it also gave her a chance to connect with Riley on “his turf”–to see where he plays, where he eats, where he sits and reads a book on the couch with his mom.  And if we had a dog, I know she’d have met our dog so that when he wrote story after story about that dog Ms. Dale would know who he meant.  Instead, she met his little sister. :)

As we started planning for our first grade year this fall, I remembered back to this special day with my kiddo and suggested that maybe we try this with our new friends.  There is research to show that there are benefits for teachers and families in every grade level and it was exciting to try it with another grade of little ones in our school.  The team and our principal thought it was a great idea!

So here we are and I’ve just begun my home visits for this year.  I have only gone to a few, but so far I have met 5 kiddos, 3 older brothers, 1 older sister, 2 little sisters, 1 little brother, 3 dogs, countless dolls and horses; played several games of War and Go Fish, read almost 10 books and of course become acquainted with the fabulous parents that are so kindly sharing these lovely children with me this year (hopefully I didn’t forget anyone in this list!).  It’s been great to see how comfortable they all have been, and how proud they seem to be that THEIR teacher is in THEIR house sitting on THEIR couch.  I love how I’m already able to picture these little learners in my classroom, too; I know this will add another important level to the way I put our classroom together this year since it will be for kids I actually know–not just faceless names on a classlist.  And as I was telling one of those kiddos as I sat on her green couch the other day, I am excited for how this will alleviate some of my first day jitters (yes, even teachers get those!) because instead of wondering who will walk in my door, I’ll be ready to welcome old friends to our new home.  I’m pretty jazzed about that part.

So I have to say a HUGE thank you to those of you who have already welcomed me into your homes, and to those of you I haven’t met yet—I’m coming!  And I’m excited!  See you soon! :)

 

#IMWAYR….on a Thursday :)

I haven’t done it often, but at least a couple of times, I’ve written about what I read, both during the summer and the school year (and in case I missed anything, check out the reading tag on the right side of the page).   And since it’s summer, and I have TIME to read again, I thought I’d add the titles from by TBR pile that I’ve gotten through so far.  At this point it’s almost a book a day!  (Oh, and the #IMWAYR is a Twitter thing–It’s Monday, What Are You Reading–if you didn’t recognize it. :) )

So…at the beginning of the summer (I think it was probably after our first official library visit of the season), this was my pile:

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Now, it looks like this (and yes, you’ll see that I did cross a lot of those original ones off my list, but then found TONS more that were interesting):

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I’m not kidding, I could read the whole library!!  I make up for all the time I don’t read during the school year by WAY OVER DOING it once I am out for summer.   But hey, when you have time, go for it, right??

Ok…here’s what I’ve read so far.  Not quite sure if this will end up being reviews, summaries or just pictures, but it will be a list for sure:

IMG_2783    Almost Home by Joan Bauer

Remember last summer when I read Close to Famous and Hope was Here by Joan Bauer?  Well, for some reason, I found out that she wrote TONS more books than I had seen, and I had to check them out!  This one I bought at Barnes and Noble, and finished it that same evening!  This one had a similar vibe to the others of hers I had read: the main character was a young girl with family troubles, mainly on her own, and who is forced to learn a life lesson she didn’t really expect.  There was not, however, food involved in Almost Home, as I remember—Close to Famous was all about cupcakes, and Hope was Here was set in a diner.  That must have been a theme for Mark Twain nominees last year, because they were all about the same thing!

Peeled by Joan Bauer           IMG_2780

After I finished Almost Home, I went to the library to find some other Joan Bauer books.  I think I read Peeled first, but honestly I finished the next three titles in about a day and a half so I don’t really remember the order!  The main character of this one was again a strong female, and the setting included a high school newspaper.  I mentioned it to my husband, and he actually mentioned that he’d read it as a read-aloud, but that his class was a little bored by the details related to how to write a paper; maybe I’m biased already to Bauer as a writer, but I didn’t really notice.  Enjoyed the whole thing from beginning to end!

Stand Tall by Joan Bauer

IMG_2774This title was refreshing, as it included a male lead character (aptly named Tree), rather than a female lead, as her others had. There were themes of finding yourself, learning an important life lesson and overcoming adversity–like in the others–but I’m beginning to think that that’s probably what I like about her writing, so it’s ok with me!

                                                                  Squashed by Joan Bauer

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The premise of this book made me laugh out loud at first–it’s a girl who raises a prize pumpkin for the festival and is dealing with some villains who don’t want to see her win!  Sounds a little silly, but in a weird way, the pumpkin becomes as much a character as the girl, and you are quickly rooting them both on to win against the “bad guys.”  As with other Bauer books, I liked the way she develops characters, realistically sharing what they would go through and including believable dialogue.  Liked it even more than I thought I would!

Rules of the Road and Best Foot Forward by Joan Bauer

IMG_2784 IMG_2789Told you I was on a roll with Joan Bauer books, huh?  It’s what I talk to my kids about with “trusting an author.”  I figured (just like with Jerry Spinelli, Sharon Creech, Ralph Fletcher and the like) that if I liked one of her books, I’d like the rest of them.  So far, that rings true!  Rules of the Road and Best Foot Forward are actually related to each other–I found out as I began the second one–and have the same main character.   As with other Bauer books, the main character is a strong, independent female, and similarly there is a theme of a teenaged person trying to find themselves and figure out their place in the world.  In this case it’s Jenna, who is hired as a driver for an older woman for the summer, and who learns alot about herself and others along the journey she takes (literally and figuratively).  The setting of both books is split between Chicago and Texas, and the focus is on a major shoe company that Jenna works for (the lady she’s driving is the owner).  It seems a little silly at first (just like the pumpkin idea in Squashed), but it doesn’t take long to start to care so much for the characters and their plots, that the shoe part just makes sense.

                                                                                                             Backwater by Joan Bauer

IMG_2790I had to get one more Bauer title in, since I had found it in the library, and the timing of it was a little funny–I read it while I was on a cruise (Get it?  BackWATER?  I was on the water?  Ok, I’ll laugh by myself. :) ).   The title seemed a little confusing considering there was a cabin in the woods on the cover, but you quickly find out the connection and it makes sense.  This one had similar traits to others I’ve read, but the main character had a stronger involvement with family than in most of the others; she wasn’t as alone and on her own this time.  Instead, she helped someone else find their place in the world (and in the family) and in turn learned some valuable life lessons along the way.  Another great book!

Recipe for Adventure Series by Giada De Laurentiis 

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I have to admit that I was a wee bit skeptical to see Giada’s name on a book.  I mean, sure, she might be a fine writer, but she’s not known for that.  She’s known as an expert on food, not on words.  I must also add that I’m not entirely sure that she even wrote these (man, sorry, I guess I’m extra cynical today!).  BUT then I read them, and for the audience for which these books are written, I am sure they are lovely.  I did enjoy the melded aspect of food, family and time travel (sorry for that spoiler), and for the most part I was entertained.  I mean, I did read all three, after all.  Were they the best books I’ve ever read? No. But they were quick fun reads, and spoke to my love of food and culture, even including words from other languages as well as recipe cards that you (or your kiddo) could make at home once you’re finished.  For someone, they may be just the thing to get them into books and into reading, and for that I say–go for it!

Marty McGuire Has Too Many Pets by Kate Messner

IMG_2772I read this one pretty soon after school was out, mainly because I have read the other two Marty McGuire books and loved them, but also because I was researching possibilities for read alouds for my littles for next year.  Since I’m moving back to primary, the list of favorites I’ve been sticking to for the last decade will no longer work!  This was as good as I thought it would be–the characters are funny, believable and often surprise me.  I did honestly laugh out loud with this one, too, when I found out what one of the pets were; I had to Tweet @KateMessner and tell her how pleased I was with that part of the story!  I knew it would be one I could read at home, too, to my own kiddos.  Well done, Ms. Messner!  Another great one.  I have Waking Up Missing in my TBR pile, now, which is a Messner book I didn’t discover until just last week.  Excited to read it!

The Lemonade War Series by Jacqueline Davies

IMG_2787IMG_2786I remember reading somewhere on Twitter last year about a whole school that reads The Lemonade War as a read aloud.  Yes, every classroom!  Kinda liked the idea, and so tried that first book in the series last summer.  Haven’t gotten around to suggesting that idea to my boss (but hey, @grrprincipal, if you’re reading this and want to try it, I’m totally game!), but still might read it to my own class.  When I asked my “tweep” about why they read it, they mentioned the family themes in the book, as well as the lessons kids can learn about being an entrepreneur–they have competing lemonade stands, after all.  In these subsequent titles, the main characters are the same, but are solving different problems: in one there are mysterious candies that show up around Valentine’s Day, as well as a missing bell on their grandmother’s property on New Year’s Eve.  I enjoyed these as much as the first, which is nice since sometimes sequels don’t fare as well as the original.

Picture Books

It’s funny that for my summer reading challenge (which is self-imposed really, and is just to read as much as I can), picture books seem like a cop out.  I know, picture books are books as much as 500 page novels, but maybe it’s that they’re so short.  Or maybe I’m just vain.  It’s probably just a personal problem, but I guess when I say, “I’ve read 25 books so far this summer,” it means more if those 25 books are novels, chapter books, rather than picture books.  Phooey.  Who cares.  They’re good, too, and they’re going to become much more important in my life again, now that I’m teaching 1st grade again.  So, that being said, I’ve read these 3 so far, and have some others laying around to try soon:

IMG_2788I have to laugh as I look at this picture again, because of the continued influence that both The Quiet Place and Rapunzel have had on my kiddos.  Allison is 3, and is in a princess phase (I think this may be genetically imprinted in little girls!), so got Rapunzel from the library, but was really disappointed that it was different than the Disney version she knows.  And ironically, my children have built their own Quiet Place just today with the boxes that our two big living chairs came in.  Inspiration is everywhere!  The other one, I Want My Hat Back, is an favorite we had to reread.  I believe it’s nominated for the ShowMe Reader in Missouri this year.  Yay!

Clementine, Friend of the Week by Sara Pennypacker

IMG_2793I have been a fan of Clementine for many years, and even in my 5th grade class, a year didn’t go by without sharing at least one of her books.  Even big kids can appreciate silliness, and laughing together is a great way to connect and also learn to love books!  I have already read Clementine’s Letter and Clementine and the Spring Trip, and was sure I had read all of her adventures.  Somehow I’d missed this one until now!  And just like all the other silly tales, I laughed out loud and enjoyed every minute of Clementine’s antics.  :)

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

IMG_2791Just when I think I am a knowledgable teacher in terms of good books, I find something I’ve never heard of, in this case My Father’s Dragon (and the series that follows).  As I was polling my friends for suggestions for 1st grade read alouds, more than one person mentioned this one.  Again, I’d never heard of it–and I’ve even taught primary grades before!  Glad that Leah and Christy suggested it, though, because it was great, and I can totally see how a class of younger readers would love it!  My kids at home did. :)

Boys Adrift by Dr. Leonard Sax

IMG_2794It was bound to happen.  I had read almost 20 books  that were works of fiction before I got to a professional book.  For me, this was a big deal.  This one is actually a choice from school, and we’re going to have book clubs on it (and some other titles also related to educating boys) this fall.  I was interested in this book both because I have a son, and because of what’s happening lately in regards to gaps between girls and boys, how boys are getting left behind.  I also chose this title from among the choices because of the “why” nature of it; many choices were related to what to do to help boy learners, but I needed to understand the nature of the problem first.  I am so interested to discuss this with the really smart people I work with, as we brainstorm how to address what these needs look like in our school population.  Using what we’ve learned, we will make changes and we will help the boys (and girls, too!) in our school succeed!

One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

IMG_2819This was the debut novel from Lynda Hunt.  It was also the debut of my reading anything off of the Truman Award nominees list.  I’ve always read Mark Twain nominees, because these were what my 4th-5th graders read, but the Truman ones were for middle school.  Who cares, right?  I know.  Dumb reason.  Well, I found this one at the library and MAN am I glad I picked it up.  At first it reminded me of Almost Home (remember my Joan Bauer binge?), because of the girl with mom problems who has to live in foster care.  This one took a little different turn, which I really loved, and was especially touched at the end.  I cried!!  I am pretty certain this was the first time I’ve had that much emotion in a story that actual tears have come.  Sounds like a great book!  The only thing that is frustrating about it is that she doesn’t have anything else for me to read yet! :(

Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica

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This book was totally a case of read-what’s-lying-around.  Grant had checked it out–not sure why or how he found it–but it sounded interesting, so I threw it in the car for our LOOONNNGGG drive to Disney.   Now, while I found it really interesting, I was a little bit bothered by the language and some of the topics discussed (so reader beware: this is not for youngsters!).  I have never worked in the restaurant industry, and while I’m not sure how true-to-life it is, Dublanica makes it sounds CRAZY!  Some of the things that happen in the kitchens are a little surprising.  Anyhow, the book is actually based on a blog that he used to write (of the same name), and that was cool.  Plus he’s a great writer, so it was definitely a page-turner.  Thanks for leaving this lying around, Grant.  Found a good read really easily. :)

French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano

IMG_2821Last year I was given a BIG pile of books (mainly about fashion) from my sweet friend Lisa. One of them was Lessons From Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer Scott.  I devoured it in pretty much a day (and this was DURING the school year, which was weird.  Must have been the weekend…).  I have never visited Europe, but I would have to say that France is a place I’d love to go someday.  I don’t know what it was about the book, but it made me so enamored by French culture.   I loved the “secrets” she shared, which really just seemed like sensible ways to live your life and be a lady.  So…when I saw the cookbook version of this book, I was reminded of the original and had to find it to read it.  This one–French Women Don’t Get Fat–was just as great!  This one was written by an actual French woman (Jennifer Scott had just spent time with a French family), and who better to explain how I can be French and fabulous?  LOVED this one.  Again I am inspired to change some things based on the Parisian way.  And to find more books like this to read. :)

Knucklehead by Jon Scieszka

IMG_2822If you know me, it’s no secret that Ralph Fletcher is one of my favorite authors (and hey, I even mentioned him somewhere in this post, I think), and I am always on the look out for a good book written by him.  I ordered Guy-Write earlier this year, but hadn’t had a chance to pick it up til the other day (I think I’m about a 1/4 of the way through so far).  I mention it because I actually found this text in that Fletcher book.  I was inspired to read both of them, actually, because of the Boys Adrift book by Dr. Sax.  For years I have been interested in helping boy writers find their voices, but now more than ever I am hoping to sharpen my skills and add to my knowledge.   In Guy-Write, Fletcher does an interview with Jon Scieszka (of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and The Stinky Cheese Man fame), and it was hilarious!!  This book was there, and it sounded so interesting and it did not disappoint.  So funny and real and written in a way that made it a really quick read.  Grant even said he might try it as a read aloud with his class this year, which I thought was a great idea, too.  Plus, I thought it was doubly cool that Scieszka was named the First National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, which is an amazing honor (I think I’d kinda want to be one)!  He has a goal to help boy readers and writers, too, and with such a great platform on which to do his work, I know he’ll help make changes for boys everywhere!

So there it is.  My list so far.  I’m pretty proud of it and am reminded of how great it is to get lost in a good book.  The places you go, the people you meet and the things you learn are amazing.  I can’t wait to continue to add to my list!  After all, summer’s only about halfway over, right?   :)

 

Welcome to First Grade, Friends!

Welcome to First Grade!

I am so excited you’re here!

Please proceed with caution, and read carefully….

The following letter contains 2405 words that will begin to shape your child’s first grade year (I know–it’s a little long.  Sorry!).  You will want to have your family sit and read this so you can all be excited about first grade together.  You should also have dancing shoes on (true story) and a video camera handy (extra credit).

Ready? Of course you are! Because you are all about to become…

First Grade and Fabulous!

I am excited for the year ahead – how about you??

 

Let’s get started!

 

First a little bit about me. :)  I am going into my 14th year of teaching and every one of them has been at Robinson!  I even did my student-teaching here long ago, so Robinson is definitely my home-away-from-home.  In my real home–which is in St. Peters–I have a fabulous family that I love dearly.  My husband, Grant, is a teacher, too, in Wentzville (isn’t that cool?).  He has taught 3rd, 4th and 5th grade.  We have a 7YO son, Riley, who is in 2nd grade at Robinson, too.  We also have a little girl named Allison–we call her Allie–who is 3 1/2.  She is staring preschool soon, which will be new for us all.  We LOVE (yep, love) Disney World, and travel there often.  Chicago is another one of our favorite places to travel to together.  We also just like to hang out together at home (or anywhere, really) and spend time with each other.  So that’s me.  What about you? Can’t wait to learn more about YOUR family!

Like I said, this is my 14th year as a teacher, and every year, I begin the school year as a different person. I decide on that first day and then every day thereafter, who I am as a teacher. What is important to me. What I want to accomplish. What I want my students to see when they come to school. I choose that. I don’t let other people tell me who I will be and I don’t just be who I think other people want me to be. I read, I think, I write and then I decide.

Parents, I am excited to find out Who YOUR CHILD will Be!  Will they be the kid who has brilliant ideas? The kid who loves math? The kid who looks to help other people? The kid who……? Fresh start. Clean slate. We all get one (that includes you!) and we all get to begin first grade as the person we want to be.  Every deserves to be whoever they are and whoever they want to be!  Remember the saying: Be yourself!  Everyone else is taken!

Another wondering: What is important to you? (This is another big question and one I am really curious about so I will ask it twice.) What is important to you (and your child)?

There are lots of things that are important to me: my husband and my kids, sharing ideas, reading, writing, being able to have a conversation, making things, discovering things, sharing what I know, sleeping in, staying up late and knowing when to say sorry (and when to say nothing at all!).

As a teacher, there are a few more things that are important to me:

* YOU and YOUR CHILD!:   They’re the reason I’m there, after all right?  It is important for me to get to know your child (and your family!), and know them well.  Not just as a learner, but as a kid, too.  I want to know what they like, what they don’t like, what makes them tick.  Who they are.  That’s ok, right? :)

* Respect: If you’ve been around Robinson for longer than 5 minutes you know that respect is a HUGE part of our culture.  It’s pretty much what we’re all about.  I expect respect to be a huge thing in our classroom.  I will respect your child, and I expect them to respect me, as well as everyone else in our community.  This counts when we agree and even when we don’t.  I have a saying that I learned from my good friend Mrs. Ford years ago, that is really important with this whole respect thing.  It’s this: You are not the sun.  In other words, the world does not revolve around you, and there are lots of other people in our classroom that have needs, wants, likes, dislikes, etc., that we need to take into account.  I love your child, but I love everyone else, too!

*Reading: I know–you’re thinking, “well isn’t every subject important?”  And yes, to a point, that’s true.  But in my opinion, one of the single most indicators of success in life (and let’s face it, enjoyment as well!) is developing a love of reading.  I ask that you join me in the task of helping your child LOVE reading.  I am sure they’re probably already on their way, but let’s keep it up together!  Read to them as well as with them.   Share your own reading with them.  Read in front of them.  Show them the importance of words and how you can lose yourself in the right text.  HAVE FUN and help them do the same!  I hope that I will do my part to encourage all of these things as well!

* Mistakes:  I expect your child to make them.  Yep, I said it.  I want things to be hard for them.  I want them to struggle.  When they need more than one try or lots more practice with a concept, they’ll get it.  When they need to show me what they know in a different way, then we’ll figure it out.  When they need me to repeat something or explain it in another way, I’ll do it.  If your child needs a big, fat challenge–watch out, they’ll get one!  No, I’m not crazy, I just want them to try things that may be tricky at first.  I want them (and you!) to learn to work through it when it’s hard and figure out what to do.   I want them to feel the joy and success of learning something new because they persevered!  Not everything will be easy here. And that’s ok. We’re in it together and I’ll help you all along the way. :)  THIS IS A PLACE WHERE WE WILL BE GRITTY!

* Collaboration: I love to share ideas and get ideas and try new things and even when those things fail, I know I am just one step closer to finding what does work. I love to work with other teachers to figure things out and find new solutions to old problems (and because of this I am SUPER excited about our team of 5 really smart teacher this year!).  But just as much as working with adults, I love to collaborate with students.  I love to hear what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling about things, what they think would be the best way to learn something.  It’s OUR classroom, and often your kiddos’ ideas are WAY better than mine.  I know I’ll share lots of examples with your child (and you!) about how that’s happened to me over the years.

Aside from collaborating with me, though, they’ll be collaborating with each other!  Your child will have lots of opportunities to share with their classmates, to give ideas, ask questions, prove reasoning and challenge each other.  I expect that we will work together to help EVERYONE in our class be the best they can be.  Together we’ll achieve much more than we would if we tried to do it on our own. :)  Reminds me of a sign I saw in Disney World at the Animal Kingdom the other day:

IMG_0990

I like to say that in our room, everyone is a teacher and a learner.

* Questions: There is no better way to learn something than to ask a question.  It is DEFINITELY how I learn, and so please understand if you find me asking you (or your child) lots of questions as a means of figuring out how best to meet their needs or to connect with your family.  In turn, I hope you will feel comfortable to ask me any questions you may have, and the perhaps most importantly, your child will feel comfortable to ask me–and their classmates–questions when they need to.  Knowing when to ask for help is an important part of learning. :)

* Time is precious: So is your child. I don’t like wasting time and I especially don’t like wasting learning time. That means I try to come to school ready, fired up, and prepared to make a ruckus (I like to think that a ‘ruckus’ is the sound your brain makes when it is challenged to be creative, thoughtful, inquisitive and world-changing – it is a beautiful sound).  I hope–and expect–that your child will come into our classroom every morning ready to learn, ready to work hard, ready to put their very best foot forward.  We only have so many days together, and we need to make the most of every single one of them.  We’ve got so much to do! :)

* Technology : I  love technology because it allows me to connect to new ideas. I like to think about what I want to do and look for tools to help me do it. I want to hear your ideas on technology and what works for you–and I ask that you be open to trying new things (that goes for BOTH you and your learner). We will be using technology in many new and exciting ways this year, so get ready!  You child be blogging, using Twitter and other sites, using iPads and laptops (yep, your child gets their very own iPad Mini VERY SOON!), working on the ActivBoard, making videos of learning and trying out many new things that we may not even know about yet.  Whatever we do, though, the goal is always learning.  We will use technology in meaningful ways to better create new knowledge.  Excited?  I know I am!  PLEASE let me know what–if any apprehensions you have in this area, either for you or your student.  This will be an important area for us to explore together. :)

* Community: Our class, our families, our school, our neighborhood, our city, our state, our country, our world. There are so many amazing people doing amazing things. I bet your child can think of ten amazing people who do amazing things right now. We need to hear those people’s stories. You (mom and dad) should be on that list. You are awesome. (Assignment one; help your child email me a List of Awesomeness about people in your family* -*family = people you love and are connected to even if they don’t happen to live in your house or share your last name).

* Taking risks: I like to take risks.  I hope you do too. It is scary sometimes and it fails sometimes but sometimes, more often, it is just A-MAZ-ING! Usually when you do something scary you do things you never thought you could.  You surprise yourself.  And then you want to do more! Someone smart once said “Fear and Excitement are shades of the same color”. Cool, huh?  (Parents, this is true for you as much as it is for your kiddo!! :) )

HANG IN THERE….You’re almost done!

OK…if you made it this far and are still with me, congratulations, you (and your kiddo) are a rockstar. Stop reading right now and do some kind of victory dance.  No really, go ahead.  Dance.  I’ll wait.  Better yet, have someone video tape your dance and send it to me!  I’ll even post it on our blog! (Did you see the posts where I did that from last year’s class?  They didn’t believe that I’d do it, either. :) )

So….what now? How can you best prepare for the extreme awesomeness of first grade?

  1. Have a great summer! Be extraordinary.
  2. Read something.  Write something.  Wonder something.  This’ll get your learning muscles warmed up. :)
  3. If you have any questions you can always email me. Anytime. No question to big or too small.
  4. Think about what I said about who you want your child to be. Most importantly, remember that everyone else in our class is thinking about that too. Be gracious to those who are brave enough to set lofty goals and make the effort to become an even better version of themselves.
  5. THIS ONE IS FOR THE KIDDOS!: Look around your house (or your computer, maybe) for a picture of your family.  I’d love to be able to decorate our room with us–pictures of all the people who help make us who we are and who encourage us to do our best.  I want to be able to fill our window sills, bookshelves, walls–wherever there’s room–so please bring a 3×5 or 4×6 framed picture with you to Open House or on the first day of school.  And if you don’t have one, don’t worry!  We’ll take your picture!

Despite having now used about two thousand words, there are no words to describe how excited I am about working with you next year!

Here’s To Being First Grade and Fabulous!

♥ Mrs. Bearden

PS. If you didn’t get up and dance before and are now wishing you did, there is still time to do it. Anytime. Send me that video with your best moves (extra credit).

When you have had a chance to relax, digest this letter (maybe talk about it with your family or friends) and get your first grade brain tuned up, I would love for your child to write to me to introduce yourself, ask questions, maybe respond to something you read in this letter that made you think.  An email, postcard or a good ‘ole letter via snail mail is great!  Even better–I’m excited to come see you when I start home visits later this month!

I look forward meeting you!

Mrs. Bearden: Email–jennifer.bearden@kirkwoodschools.org; Phone–314-213-6100 x4214 (after August 15)

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MrsBeardens5thGradeClass (this will take you to my updated FIRST GRADE page!)

Twitter: @jbeardensclass

Blog: feel free to leave me a comment here to let me know what you thought, what you wonder, how your summer has been, etc….this is always a great place to talk to me! :)

**Thanks to @terSonya and Mrs. Hong for help with writing this post! Like I said, I love to share ideas!**