First Days!–Part 3: Quiet Time

You’ve seen First Days Part 1 and Part 2, right?  If you haven’t, go ahead and check them out.  I’ll wait. :)

Ok, so now let’s talk about something that is so super duper important in first grade–quiet.  No–not all the time.  Actually a lot of first grade is anything but quiet.  BUT when we are doing the important work of readers, quiet is imperative.

So early on in first grade we started practicing what we call “quiet time.”  During that short time (well, at least in the beginning it’s short, but we will build up as we go further into the year), kiddos are expected to work INDEPENDENTLY on reading or writing activities.  They laughed I told them the only reason they should need me is in the case of an emergency–and an emergency meant they were BLEEDING or BARFING! (And yes, at least one kiddo asked me what “barfing” meant. :) )

Everyone got a book box on the first day, and by day 2 or 3 I had filled it with 3 or 4 just-right books (I used data I got from end-of-year kindergarten assessments for this purpose) to get them started.  When it was time for quiet time, I gave everyone a 3C spot–which means somewhere  that they can be Confident, can Concentrate and are Comfortable–and we got to work.  I was really impressed (wow–I think that’s a theme around here) with how great of a job they did!

Check it out!


Peyton and Emily are hard at work. (See the start of our carpet rules chart? I’ll share that soon–once I get a final picture of it!)


Lauren and Charlie are busy in their book boxes!


Makayla and Evan both had 3C spots on the floor. They decided to do some writing about the book they were reading.


C.J. and JKB both read, read, read in their independent quiet time spots.


Some kids at tables, some on the floor: Diego, Ella Marie, Nate, and Kylie are hard at work. :)


Ava and Amelia both reading and writing in their spots.


Jacob read about bears in his 3C spot.


Love how we can read in all sorts of ways and places! This rug was placed in our library for just this purpose! Landen choose to read and write in his 3C spot.

After our first try at it, we sat down to have a quick reflection time (reflect is a word we’d started talking about on Day 1 and will use it all throughout this year!) about how it went.  Here were our thoughts:

IMG_3016On our most recent days of quiet time, we actually put a “school” name to what we were doing and began talking about Read-To-Self.  They were experts on this subject–“because we learned about it in kindergarten!”–and we started charted our smart ideas about what it looks like and sounds like.  In this conversation I was impressed (again!) when C.J. knew the name for being able to read for a long time was called stamina.  Way to go, C.J.!  They could also tell me that the reason that we need to practice Read-To-Self is to become better readers.  :)  We got as far as the “student” side of our chart on Friday and will start working on the “teacher” side once I get rotations up and running next week!


Like I’ve said before, keep up the good work Rm. 202!

First Days!–Part 2: David’s Drawings

Our first days together were so great and so busy!  Busy enough, in fact, that all the fun wouldn’t fit into just one blog post (or rather it would, but you’d have been sitting for hours and probably wouldn’t have wanted to finish!).  So here’s Part 2 of the fun of the First Days of First Grade.

Mrs. Appelbaum, one of my fabulous teaching partners this year, was kind enough to share a great book that she uses during her first days to help encourage collaboration and cooperation, David’s Drawings by Cathryn Falwell.

Screen Shot 2014-08-31 at 4.57.37 PM(photo courtesy of

We read the story together one morning and loved it! The big idea of the story is that David, the main character, is drawing a picture, which starts with just plain trees.  As times goes on, his friends come and ask to add different details to his drawings that can help tell a story.  The important part is that his friends don’t just ADD their details, they ask him first, as well as explain their thinking to him as they draw.  The end product is a picture that everyone has made together, which started from one friend’s great idea.

We had to try it!

After specials, kiddos came back to find 4 very plain white pieces of paper with just the outline of a tree in the center.  Once we got into table groups, we got to work.  They were invited to, although no one did, to draw on as many pictures as they wanted.  The important part–as with David’s Drawings–was that they talked about their additions as they drew them and made sure their partners knew what they were putting in the picture.  As with most everything else we do, I was so impressed with how beautifully they cooperated for this activity!

We were finished, each group picked one person to be the spokesperson and tell us the story of their group picture–again allowing us to work on becoming good speakers and listeners!

What a great job, Rm. 202 kiddos!  Now our creations hang where we can see (and admire!) them, with a reminder that “David’s class worked together to create a drawing, and so did we!”  What a great example of how more heads make for a more creative picture!  Goes with our theme for the year: LEARN. CREATE. COLLABORATE.  Love it. :)


Keep up the great work, Rm. 202!

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. :)

IMG_2926 IMG_2927 IMG_2928 IMG_2929 IMG_2930

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.


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


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!


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


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, 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! :)