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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!