Happy in Our Skin!

For the last few years, I’ve started the year with creating beautiful things to hang in our room.  It’s so great to watch as our bare walls fill up with amazing creativity that spills out of our first grade minds!

This project is both fun and meaningful as it’s based on helping kiddos see that while we are all different that’s an amazing thing, and that within those differences we can celebrate ways we are also the same.

As with many things, we started our conversation with books.  We read Shades of Black by Sandra Pinkney and Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin together.

We talked about how each of us looks different, has different talents to share and brings many different things to our classroom community.  Also, we have many things that are the same because we’re all kids.  We all want to be loved, to belong, to contribute, to learn.

We wanted to create beautiful images of our unique and different selves to hang on the wall, and we did so with lots of different creative things in our room.  We also borrowed a mirror from our friends in Ms. Turken’s room so we could see some of the close-up details of our faces.

Now they hang along the top of our wall and we can see them smiling on us every day!  We are definitely learning to celebrate the beautiful skin we live in, and appreciate how different we all are!

Bike Rodeo 2016

I am pretty sure we have the best school ever, with teachers and community members who plan THE BEST things for our kiddos to do.  Case in point–last week we participated in a Bike Rodeo during our PE classes, where everybody brought their bikes to school (or shared if they didn’t have one!) and got to ride around the blacktop!  There was an obstacle course, and I heard that kids had a GREAT time going down the big hill on the driveway.  There were LOADS of kids who learned to ride without their training wheels, too!  Officer Stemmler (our School Resource Officer), Mrs. Morgan and Mrs. Moffitt were such troopers as they braved the sun and heat and helped our Roadrunner ride and ride and ride!  Thanks to all the parents to helped make it happen, too!

I wish I had pictures of the actual bike riding to share, but these will have to do.  Just imagine kids zooming around really fast (see, there’d be blurry pictures anyway) with giant smiles on their faces!

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Working on Working Together

This week we had a class meeting and identified some tricky parts our class was having.  I HATE to admit that the list was really long.  Like 4 post-it notes long.  Big post-it notes.😦

Well, because we have growth mindsets at our school (and in our room!), and because our tricky parts are things we can TOTALLY fix, we started spending some specific time on Friday working on figuring out what to do.

First we took all of our trouble spots and put them into categories.  We quickly realized we had many things that were similar and fit into four categories.  Then we saw that in some way these were all related to not following directions. (And I feel like I must say, when I first saw our list I had a bit of trouble with it because it felt a little like our classroom was always in chaos.  I promise these things happen in bits and pieces, not all at once, all the time.  And honestly, some of them are just what happens when you put lots of 6YOs together in a classroom.  But they are indeed things we need to work on, and for which we can find a solution!)

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As we continued through the day (and we will continue on Monday–well and probably beyond that, too!) with the focus on both following directions as well as thinking of others.  This second focus came because we had had a heart-to-heart about how so many of us of just thinking of ourselves, and so that’s why we’re not following directions in the first place.  For example, we are interrupting because we think our ideas are more important than our friends’, we’re leaving messes because we don’t care about our room and our friends, we are making noises during learning times because we are thinking more about ourselves (and what we want to do) than about our friends and their learning environment.  You get the idea.

We added that last bubble after we had had a chance to check out a couple of Class Dojo videos to get our minds thinking about how we might fix up our troubles.  We even tagged the day “Fix-it-Up Friday.”  Here’s one about making mistakes:

And another about having a growth mindset:

Another important part of our day was when Mrs. Cohen came back to our room to teach a lesson.  Because she and I had already chatted, we agreed that her lesson about following directions fit in PERFECTLY with what we were already working on.

First she talked with us a little bit about the work we had already done, and we explained our mistakes web to her.   She talked a little bit about why following directions is so important, and kiddos shared really smart ideas like how doing so keeps us safe and helps us learn.  Next, she gave us a challenge.  Everyone got a piece of paper and a crayon and set to listen to her directions.  They had to both HEAR and SEE in order to make this happen.  I only got part of the activity on video, but you’ll get the idea.  And what it showed us when we were finished was that we can, indeed, follow directions!  Pay attention to how well friends are listening, looking and quietly working!

Pretty great, right?  Look at al those cat pictures!

Well since they proved they could do that amazingness, she gave them another challenge.  Only this one wasn’t individual–we would all have to follow directions together to make it work!

They did it!  It wasn’t silent, and it wasn’t perfect, but they did a pretty good job, right?  We will definitely build on this learning (and progress) as we come back together on Monday.  We have work to do, but we know we can do it!

#classroombookaday UPDATE: Week 5

I feel like I should be sure to say thanks to Jillian Heise for the fabulousness that is #classroombookaday on Twitter.   And I am so truly sorry if I ever seemed like I created it–I think I just started using it in my title so I didn’t have to retype it when I tweeted out my posts.  Anyhow, what a great thing this has done (and is doing) in my classroom (and so many others!) to promote literacy, introduce readers to new books and to create so many great memories between me and my students.

Ok…this marks Week 5 since we started tracking our reading, and something very special happened–we hit 100 books!!  I haven’t done it yet, but I feel like I should mark that book with a star or something (it was the Light and Sound book just for the record!), and also begin more seriously planning what in the world we’ll do when we fill up our door.  The way the math is working, that will happen in about 6 weeks!  That’s not even the halfway point of the year yet!

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Picture Day Perfect!

I wish I would have taken a picture of everyone together (yep, it was in my plan but the day got away from me😦 ) because we were all so beautiful and handsome in our Picture Day best.  Alas, I did not, but I was able to capture some cute pictures of some sets of twins and triplets we found in Rm. 202 today:

img_4146img_4147img_4149img_4150How do you not smile with all that cuteness?  Hope your Friday was great–our was Picture Day perfect!!

Ten Black Dots Makes a…

…really great book to challenge first graders with their creativity!  Last week I shared how Mrs. Berger is doing some lessons with first grade and this week was #2.  First she shared the book Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews, which was a great connection to our current math work as well as a great stretch for our creative brains.

Then she asked me to do something that I guess I knew was coming but had forgotten about since last time we did this (2014): use 10 black dots to create something.  I usually appreciate doing things that my students are asked to do, as I know that understanding the struggles that may come up helps me support students through them, but I had forgotten how hard that task is!  I came up with something, but let me just want you it was a little less than stellar.🙂 Ok, sorry, I know that is a very fixed-mindset thing to say…I take it back.  I just believe if I worked at it I could create a much more imaginative picture with my dots.  (Thanks to Chase for being the photographer while I was working on this!)

After my demonstration, kiddos were given an office and a paper, chose 10 red dots and got busy on their creation.  They worked for about 10 minutes on their 10 red dots, including writing at the bottom to tell about what they made.

And just like with the drawing starts, kiddos did a great job of seeing those dots as so much more than they were!

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Another great example of stretching your brains, Rm. 202 friends!

 

Book Shopping 101 in Rm. 202: Author Love

I’ve shared a couple of versions of the Recipe for a Good Book lesson I’ve taught in the past.  As far as I can remember, I hadn’t yet taught this whole deal with first graders.  I’m thinking it’s because the focus for so long has been on the definition of “just-right” books being focused on the level of the book (and less on the reader, I’d say).  I do agree that being in a book that you can read is important, but I would propose that being in a book at all–and a book that you LOVE–sets the stage as importantly as kiddos start their reading journey.

So this year, I’ve decided that the first lesson I taught would NOT be on “just-right” books in terms of knowing the words and understanding the story (but again, don’t hear me saying those things aren’t important, just not first), but would instead be on understanding and identifying what we like as readers.  And since we’re 105 books into #classroombookaday and have shared so many great texts together, I thought it would be a great place to start to zoom in on authors.

I started our conversation telling my kiddos about my past recipe lessons (and about recipes in general so they had a context), and then about my librarian pal Ms. Cobb who even dressed up as a chef to teach it to her 4th and 5th graders!  They were impressed, and I think a little sad that I didn’t have a costume. LOL

Then I asked a question: Why is it important to know an author’s name?  They had some great ideas and already came with a lot of knowledge of writers from kindergarten.  They were able to name some great ones (from this year’s books, from books previous teachers had read, and also some from their at-home reading) like Jeff Kinney, Dav Pilkey, our favorite right now Mo Willems, and Ame Dyckman (another new favorite!).  I added in another important reason, too, related to just respecting the writer for the hard work it is to write a book!

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After our initial talk, I got kids thinking about the kinds of books they like to read and told them an unbelievable story about someone I know who went to the library and didn’t have any idea what they were looking for, and about someone else who didn’t know the author’s name and asked the library for “a green book with a dog on the front that’s about this big.”  Crazy, right?  Well, yes, of course, some first graders (and much older students, too!) book shop like that, and I think it my duty to help change that (both for their “now” reading lives and their future selves).

Next step was to create a visual that they could use to remind themselves once they were in a shopping situation (in our classroom library, our school library, and heck, even Barnes and Noble!) of what they were looking for, rather than just roam around aimlessly or worse yet, get themselves into trouble because they didn’t know what to do.

I used the format of the Recipe for a Good Book as I had with previous classes, but instead of making it into a bookmark (which works best for kiddos that are primarily shopping for and reading chapter books), we made ours with pictures and words on full sheets of paper.

Kiddos could write or draw anything they knew they liked about books, including authors, titles, genres (if they knew this info) and even topics.  And since we had already read over 100 great titles together, kiddos were able to use our display to help them with their visuals.  I’m amazed every day about what a great idea that door display of our reading continues to be.  We keep finding different ways to use it!

Kids were very engaged, excited about what they put on their lists and spent the whole time talking about books!  We’re excited to take our new recipes to the library with us to help us with our choices tomorrow.  I am sure we’ll be glad we have them there!🙂