Ten Black Dots 2019

On August 28, we celebrated a very important day at school–our 10th day of first grade together! It was a very special day because 10 is SUCH AN IMPORTANT number to first graders (and in general!).  We learned a new math game that day called Tenzi, which we loved, and we also read a really great book–Ten Black Dots.

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After we read it, we talked about how we might try this same thing with our own black dots.  We brainstormed some ideas and then got to work.  We followed these directions, and made sure we used our self-talk (keeping track on our fingers to help us remember) to help make sure we had done all the steps.

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First we planned out what we would make, and glued down our dots.  We added details with a pencil, per the directions. 🙂

Then we started painting our pictures, following the procedure we’d learned the first time we used watercolors to paint.

Our paintings all spent some time drying in the hall–and even before they were done they looked really good!

Our last step was to trace our details and then add a sentence that said “Ten black dots make a…”  But that’s for another blog post.  Come back soon to check that one out (after I take the pictures, LOL!)

What would you make with 10 black dots?  Leave us a comment to tell us your ideas!  We’d love to hear from you!

Pancake Day!

Every morning when we start our day, we make a rectangle (because our carpet doesn’t really allow us to make a circle–LOL), and talk about how we’re feeling.  We talk about the zone of regulation we’re in (usually we’re green and blue!), and often there is a question that we all answer.  Very early on, I used a question I stole from my 7th grader (thanks, Riley!)–what is your favorite breakfast food?

Not surprisingly, many kiddos around the circle mentioned pancakes.  And very specifically, Luke said chocolate chip pancakes. :). It seemed like for the next few days, everything we read and everywhere we looked, we were seeing references of pancakes.  This includes our cafeteria, where the “B” choice every Wednesday is pancakes for lunch. :). So….we decided that it would only make sense to have our very own pancake party!

The date was set, and as we awaited the day, we found as many pancake-inspired books to read to get us ready (and make us hungry!!).  Check out what we found!

Then, on Friday, we were ready for our special pancake breakfast together! :). And I’d say, it was even better than we’ve even hoped!

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Luke, with his chocolate chip pancakes.  Thanks for the idea, buddy!  YUM!!

This made our third snack-related day already (we’ve been together for 22 days), and we’re already planning our next!  There really is something to be said about how special it is to share a meal together (stay tuned to see what it will be!). I have heard from many first graders that this was our best day yet! :).

Directed Drawing and Watercolors: Early Lessons in Being a First Grade Artist

Last year I wrote a story about my journey to understanding how and why directed drawing would be a good thing in the classroom.  This year, I was even more dedicated to showing kiddos from the beginning how EVERYONE is an artist, as well as how important it is them know how to put their thinking into pictures.  I decided that I’d start from the earliest days with this, and so we learned how to draw a boy and a girl.

I found a series of videos where an artist works with kids and teaches them how to draw things.  In this one, he draws a boy and a girl and talks through variations you might do to make them different the next time you draw them.  Here’s the video if you wanted to check it out:

As we watched the video, I drew the figures up on the board in great big form, and first graders tried it out on their smaller paper.  They only had to do one or the other, but a couple took the challenge of drawing both the boy and the girl!

We stopped the video along the way to rewatch a step, or to answer questions.  We erased, encouraged and enabled ourselves to not be perfect the first time we attempted this feat.  We talked about how it’s true that this might be hard now, but that the next time we try it (to draw a kid or something else), it’ll be even easier since we’ve done it before.  I heard many kids say how they were impressed by their first tries and also how happy they were at what their pictures looked like.

Another important thing I wanted kids to know how to do from the early days (because it’s a huge part of learning in our classroom) is to paint with watercolors.

So the next step, after we drew our kids was to learn how to paint them.

We talked about how to get water and carefully walk with it to our table (this is much harder than it might seem! 🙂 ), how much water to use to make the colors look richer or more transparent, as well as the order in which to paint so that the colors don’t run (yellow, orange, red, green, blue, purple, brown and then black).  We also learned that when you make a painting, the whole paper has to be covered (with details and background). Then we tried it out for ourselves.

One thing I LOVE about doing whole-class learning like this, is that even though we’re all doing the same thing, we are all doing it in different ways.  And I love how often a kiddo will do or say something that we can share, as it might be helpful to everyone at some point.  This happened as I walked by and saw Finley doing this with his painting:

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We shared how he outlined the figure with the background color to help make sure it was crisp and clear.  Lots of kids tried it out, too!  And wow–what a great thing to learn today and use for the whole year.  And beyond!

After we were painted, we already had some pretty great results. 🙂

But we weren’t done yet!  Last step was to trace our pencil marks with Sharpie and sign our work!

And so after all of that HARD WORK, we had a pretty fantastic painting and some skills we can learn for the whole year and beyond.  Check them out!

WOW!!  What incredible work, first graders!  🙂

 

We made…butter?!

I think I mentioned in an earlier post about how our goal for the first days of school is to make kids excited about school and get a feel for what the rest of our year will bring.  Another way we decided to do this was to make ice cream for our first-day snack.  I mean, come on–who wouldn’t want to come back after ICE CREAM on the first day of school?  And if THAT doesn’t give a clue that this year will be fun-filled, I don’t know what would!

So, when, in the midst of spinning the cream as the first step to our ice-creamy goodness, I saw this in the mixer, I was less than impressed. 😦

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Yes, friends, instead of ice cream….we had made….butter!!

I really just had to laugh as I explained to the kiddos what I saw in the mixer and then showed it to them on our big screen.  I was glad that not a single kiddo was mad at me; somehow they seemed to understand that mistakes happen.

Mistakes happen….that’s the part of this story we honed in on.  It was almost like I had done it on purpose (did I? hee hee) as a means of highlighting how messing up is how we learn new things.  And now, we know that when you whip butter too long you get butter instead of whipped cream!

And don’t worry–I promised them that since we had messed up on our first try that I would try again and bring them some ice cream for their day 2 snack.  And BOY was it yummy!

Oh, and we didn’t let that butter go to waste, either.  The next day we had bread and butter, with some honey courtesy of our friend Jacob’s bees!  Best of all worlds! 🙂

Here’s to a fun- and mistake-filled year in first grade!

What To Do With a Box

Every year when we consider what to do in our first days, there is a hope and a plan to make the first day (or two) so exciting that kiddos can’t wait to come back for more.  Rather than spend our first times together as a class sitting and talking about rules, consequences, expectations and well, more of the same, we strive to SHOW them what’s important to us, and at the same time give them opportunities to have fun and make memories form the very beginning.  This year on our first day we made ice cream butter, read lots of great books and got to build with boxes!!

Several years ago Ms. Turken and I found this book by a beloved author (Jane Yolen) and loved it right away.  Then when we realized the invitation it gave kiddos for creativity and imagination–and that we could do it on day #1–we loved it even more!

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The concept is very simple: you can do SO MANY THINGS with a box and your brain. :). After we read the story, we just looked at the box pile (sorry! I forgot to get a picture! 😦 ) and brainstormed what we thought we might do with those boxes.  Many kiddos started to list problems they could see solving with a box (which was not necessary but a really great stretch of thinking!), or just fun things they might create to play with or use for something at home or school.  We took turns choosing our boxes and then got busy!

We built and created for most of the morning (or maybe the day?!) and it was great to watch what happened!  Kids were busy, working, cooperating, trying things out and trying again, and using all the grit and creativity they could muster.  It was exciting to see that already this class knows how to tackle an open-ended situation where there are many possibilities.  They took on the challenge with smiles and excitement and produced some pretty great results!  AND they had a super fun 2nd day of school and were excited to come back for more!! 🙂

Guided Discoveries 2019: #1 Colored Pencils

We spend LOADS of time in the beginning of every year learning how things will work.   How to do things, when to do things, why to do things…all with the intention of getting procedures and protocols in place and foundations solid so that the rest of the year can be spent on learning.  The more we do up front and in many ways the slower we go, the faster and deeper we can go later on.

And because this group will be together for 2 years (yes, we’re looping!!), it’s even more important that I set things up well now so that they will work for us well for many days and weeks to come.

As a means to do this, we use a protocol that I found in the book The First Six Weeks of School called guided discoveries.  They are just how they sound–where students are guided through finding out what they need to know and how they can use an item, how to get it and put it away, how to share it, etc.

So…we started around our kitchen table with a well-organized (if I do say so myself 🙂 ) box of color pencils and 19 curious first graders.

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We started with just some silent thinking about what we noticed and what we wondered.  I was really impressed with their noticings.  Kiddos mentioned things like:

*They are in different cups.

*Most cups have only one color in them, except for two.

*They are mostly in rainbow order (red, orange, yellow, green…then the purple cup was next for some reason).

*Someone put them in there like that.

*They are the same colors as things in the world.

After we talked about what we saw, I guided them through a discussion about why the pencils are like that, and why we need to keep them that way–as well as WHO was responsible for doing so.  They understood that this organization makes it easy for us to find what we are looking for, and WE are responsible to put them back where they belong every time, or it will become a mess and we’ll have a harder time finding what we need–and therefore waste our learning time.

After we had laid down the foundation for how to use the pencils, we got busy practicing what we had just learned.  Kiddos could draw/color anything they wanted during our discovery, using their creativity and imaginations.  I was super impressed with how well they followed the procedures, and helped each other when they forgot, or put a pencil in the wrong place.

Once we were finished, we took time to work on another important part of first grade learning–sharing with a friend!  We got together to share a sentence about what we had decided to make.  Many friends–without my prompting–even started working on asking questions to help their partners elaborate!  What a great first guided discovery!  Super foundation for more to come! 🙂

1st Day of 1st Grade 2019!

The room is mostly put together.  The pencils are sharpened (well because they came that way!).  We’ve met each other and seen our new space.  We are all finally here.  It’s the 1st day of 1st grade and we’re ready for a great year!!

I want to take a few minutes in this first post to welcome you to my blog (if you’re new) and welcome you back (if you’ve been here before).  I want to start our year (or maybe longer!) off with a little bit of rationale for how I hope this conversation will go, as well as for the purpose of this blog.  I hope that it will help you as you navigate through our 1st grade journey to better understand why I write what I write here. 🙂 .

I could tell the long story about how I started and how this blog has changed over the last 7 years (and you know, that story is probably already posted here somewhere!), but instead I’ll just jump into the here-and-now and tell you that most of all I am here because I love teaching.  I love kids and spending time with them everyday, hearing their thinking, getting to know their hearts, watching them discover new things.  I am also here because I love to write.  I have found that writing is a very powerful and important way for me to process and reflect upon what happens in our classroom, and helps me to improve my technique and then do better for the next time.

So, as you read posts here, you will notice a couple of things about what I write.  First of all, I tend to go deep.  Rather than tell you about a whole week’s worth of learning or activities in one post, I’ll dig down and just focus on ONE THING at a time.  I like to tell the WHOLE story, usually with a backstory, and often with ideas for where I’ll go next.  I like to include pictures and videos so you can see what happened and/or highlight some super smart thing a kid did or said.  I will almost always tell you why we did what we did and explain my rationale behind it or my thinking about the purpose.  Oh, and I will probably tell you about what DIDN’T work.

Aside from my own process and reflection, I want this blog to be an open-door peek into what happens in Rm. 111 every day, especially for those of you who send your babies to me each morning and wonder what happens all day.  I want you to be able to imagine what it would be like to be a first grader at Robinson, and also to get a bigger picture of how and what your kiddos are learning.  I hope to give you enough detail that you can ask your learner questions and get a conversation going around your dinner table–so that you hear more than just “it was good” when you ask about school. 🙂  Additionally, I hope that others who read this blog (who don’t have kiddos in Rm. 111) will get a picture of what is happening in our school, in our district, in our state, and maybe using that to inform what happens in your own classroom or learning space.  I hope to be an inspiration to other educators, like so many have been to me over the years.  How lucky we are that technology is such that we can reach into places so far away and connect with them so easily!

Lastly, I want to emphasize that I want this blog to be a place of CONVERSATION!  If you have a question, please ask it!  If you have a comment, please write it!  If you see a cute picture of your kiddo and you want to say hi to them, wave away!  If you have a suggestion for how we could do something better, please leave it!  I know that the best years on 20somethingkids have been when parents, teachers, students and even strangers have been connected in conversations about learning–we all got smarter and were so much better for it! Ok, and of course, then, if I’m inviting you to connect with us, I’m also asking that you do it kindly.  🙂

So…that hopefully has gotten us off on a good foot and we are ready for a fabulous first grade year together.  But wait–I haven’t shown you anything about this year’s bunch of super smart, super funny, super creative learners in Rm. 111 yet.  So, here they are, ready to jump into this new journey.  Look how proud they are. :). This is their “first day” pic, which we will look at next to their “last day” pic in another 174 days or so and smile at how little they used to be! 🙂

Whew! Man…sometimes the first post is the hardest!  We’re off and running and here we go into a busy, busy year!  I already have like 17 blog posts I want to write–hopefully most of them will show up here. 🙂

And to get our conversation started: please leave your name and tell us from where you are reading our blog.  We’ve had readers from as far away as Australia and China in the past and it’s a BLAST to see how far our words and pictures stretch.  If you’re a family member of a Rm. 111 friend, leave a note and give them some advice for a great learning year.  And no matter who you are, thanks for being here and taking time to peek into our first grade world! 🙂