News Flash!!–October 17th Edition

This happened today:IMG_3707


Besides being a really great example of interactive writing, there’s a great story behind WHAT we did and WHY we wrote this News Flash.  So keep reading. 🙂

The last two Fridays, we’ve ended up with many things to do and have deemed the day a “ketchup and mustard” day.  I have given them a big ‘ole list of things to do or finish, and they work through it at their pace, moving on when they need to–making sure they complete all the things on the list.  While they were working I have been pulling kiddos individually to do assessments and other things.  And you know what’s really cool?  These kiddos are already AMAZINGLY good at managing both their time and behavior to make these periods both engaging and productive.  I’ve had 5th grade classes that have had a hard time with that!

Just so you can appreciate it, here’s the list they were working from this morning.  The stars are MUST-DOs and the others are CAN-Dos for when they had time.  The boxes on the left are full of everyone’s initials; they marked the activity when they were finished and moved on to the next thing they had to do:


I was SO IMPRESSED when we sat down before lunch to debrief on how the morning had gone.  And apparently Nate was impressed, too, because he said, “Mrs. Bearden, I think after lunch we should write a news flash about this because of how great we did!”  I agree, buddy, I agree!  Well done, Rm. 202 kiddos! 🙂



Second Steps

In first grade we have many really important lessons to learn.  Some of the most important ones are simply about how to be learners!

We’re lucky to have some well-designed lessons that are part of a program called Second Steps; these are part of the foundation for our work that continues in gr. 3-5 with the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.

Every week, Mrs. Wilson comes to our room, often accompanied by her friends Puppy and Snail.


Together they have taught us about listening with our whole bodies (including our eyes and ears and brains), how to focus (and we even have attention-scopes for this purpose!), how to use our self-talk to help us do the right thing and keep trying, and also how to be assertive (which is a GREAT BIG word for a first grader with GREAT importance).

Often there are times for students to turn-and-talk, hearing someone else’s ideas about a topic.


Makayla and Sara share ideas with each other in a turn-and-talk conversation.


While I love the time during the day when Mrs. Wilson is here, the lessons she teaches and the songs we learn to help us remember the concepts, my favorite thing is when I see and hear kids applying them outside of those times!  I often see kiddos using their attention-scopes to get refocused, hear them use their self-talk to encourage themselves to try again or solve a problem and also hear them being assertive as they “ask for help out loud” (which is a line from The Learner Song we sing).

The lessons are simple, but have staying power and build a STRONG foundation for these learners.  Yay Second Steps!

One more thing…check out who showed up in our school pictures and will be in our yearbook this year!:


Let Creativity Rule!

I am often inspired by things I see.  It goes with the kind of learner I tend to be, too, as things make more sense when I see them in addition to hearing them.  So let’s start with a picture.  It’s what inspired this post:


If you have been around here for a while, you know that I am a thinker.  Sometimes I think too much.  Like I-can’t-get-to-sleep-for-a-long-time-at-night-because-my-brain-won’t-turn-off kind of thinking.  Most often, though, I can use my overactive brain for good things.

I discovered this bracelet the other night in my jewelry box, after not having worn it for a while.  I actually forgot I had it.  It was a gift from a fabulous family I’ve had the pleasure of working with at school.  I was lucky enough to have taught two of their children–one of them twice!  As I looked down at the charm, I thought of how “Let Creativity Rule” could really be one of the phrases for my life.  It seems to come up in so many places for me.

In my classroom, I try to be the kind of teacher who is a facilitator and a designer, rather than a dictator or an information-dumper (yeah, I just made that up, I think).  I believe that knowledge is most powerful when you create it for yourself, and that connections kids make on their own mean much more than ones I make for them.  I see my role as an educator as the one who helps create opportunities for my learners to figure things out, to put things together, to wonder and then discover answers for themselves.  Don’t get me wrong–there are times when you have to lay it all out there, because yes, there are some things that kiddos would never just find out without guidance.  But for the most part, I want my students to be in charge of their learning.

Alongside the opportunities, comes the freedom to make choices about how that learning will happen.  There are very few things in my classroom that I have to have happen a certain way; labeling is one of the things I care deeply about, as well as coloring-coding certain things we use all the time, as a means of helping to keep things organized.  Oh, and fonts.  I love them.  I collect them in fact, and usually have one as my “go-to” font for the year.  And yes, I have been known to recreate forms and sheets that people share with me because I have to make them look a certain way.  Hey–everyone has something like that right? But outside of those couple of things, my children are free to make decisions about what and how they learn things, as well as how they demonstrate that learning.  I want my kiddos to have a variety of ways to show what they know; not everyone can best do this with pencil and paper as is typical in many classrooms.  It is common for my students to show their understanding of a concept by building with Legos, using big wooden blocks, drawing a picture, acting it out, recording themselves talking about it, writing a story (or some other kind of explanation) and yes, sometimes by taking a test.  The possibilities are endless, and one of the things I like the best is that sometimes kids come up with ideas that are even better than an option I could have given them.  The point is showing me–as well as their classmates–that they understand what they’re learning.

I appreciate creativity in my life outside of school, as well.  Part of what balances me in my work life is taking the time to “play” and do things that bring out my crafty side.  I like to sew, to design, and to build things.  While I would not say I am particularly gifted in any of those areas, it’s another way to use my brain, and I enjoy seeing the products of my handiwork (and just in case you’re interested, I think I even wrote about it a few years ago on this blog…)

The other thing I was thinking as I was looking at my hand (that sounds really funny, doesn’t it?) is how important my family is to me.  My wedding rings remind me of my fabulous hubby and our amazing kids, and how lucky I am to have them.  I don’t think I would be the teacher I am, actually, without them.  I take so much of them to school with me, and they often help me think through struggles I’m having and help me solve problems (my son is really helping me this year since he was in 1st grade last year, I run a lot of ideas by him before I try them with my Rm. 202 kiddos!).  My husband is a teacher, as well, and I know that while there is a LOT of shop talk at our house, I am so grateful to have a spouse who “gets” what I do.  We have even taught the same grade levels at times, which makes for another layer of fun as we brainstorm classroom ideas together.  I have been thinking lately how much being a mom helps me as a teacher, too.  Don’t get me wrong, you can be a GREAT teacher without being a parent, but for me, there has been another level of understanding since I’ve had kids of my own.  Oh, and now that my kids are in school, I have a much better understanding of what it means to give your baby over to the care of someone else.  I am so blessed that the families I work with let me do that every day.  Believe me–I do my best to do them proud and take good care of their little ones, as I would hope would happen for mine!

It’s funny how just seeing something can spark so many things in your brain.  What image or picture have you been inspired by lately?  What phrase would you say defines your life?  How do you let your creativity rule?  I’d love to hear from you!  Feel free to leave a comment and tell me all about it! 🙂

Stay Low, Just Go!

Today was an exciting day at Robinson–ok, well every day is exciting, but today was a more-than-exciting-day because the firemen came!  It is Fire Prevention Week, so we got a visit from some fantastic Kirkwood Firefighters.  They came with a message for us to STAY LOW AND JUST GO if we hear the smoke detector.  We watched a video and were able to have some questions answered, as well as being reminded to STOP, DROP and ROLL!

Check it out!

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At the end of the presentation, they showed us what the smoke detector sounded like so that we would know if we heard the sound at home (I must add here that it was funny as the friend next to me said, “I know what that thing sounds like–it always goes off when we’re cooking!”  Ha ha ha ha!!). We even practiced getting in to the “stay low” position so we could crawl out.

I thought it was great that Nate wore just the right shirt for the day, without even knowing what today was!  Do we see a future firefighter here?


After this, we did a little bit of writing, drawing and wondering about the presentation.  I will share these once everyone is finished!  For now, here’s how you can help your first grader process through our learning today:

1) Make sure you have smoke detectors, and that they work!

2) Talk with your family about your fire safety plan.  Do you know what to do in case of a fire?  Does everyone know how to get out?  Do you have a “safe spot” outside where your family will gather?

3) Many kiddos were concerned about their “second exit.”  We learned about how to feel the door with the back of our hands, and if it’s hot, to go out the second exit of the room.  I had many worried faces with wonderings about what they should do since they are on the 2nd or 3rd floors of the house.  Help calm these fears with reassurance that they CAN get out and that they WILL be safe!

4) My son saw this very same video last year and was suddenly very worried about fires in our house.  He had never been afraid before, but obviously talking about prevention and safety can bring up some fears in little ones.  This is normal, and your (ours really–I’ll help, too!) job is to reassure them that just like all the drills we have at school, it’s important to know what to do in case of an emergency.  Remind them that it’s VERY UNLIKELY that it would ever happen, that they ARE SAFE, but how lucky they are that they would know exactly what to do if they were ever in that situation!  Knowledge is power.

Oh the joys of childhood! 🙂

Ten Black Dots

One of the great things that happens at the beginning of first grade is a series of Kingore lessons that Mrs. Berger comes to do with all of our classes.  We gather together 6 times, doing a variety of different types of thinking over the course of the lessons.  The first one was related to the book Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews.

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In short, the lesson asks kids to think outside the box, and create a picture using 10 black dots (or in our case they were red or green circles!).


First Mrs. Berger read the book to us.


I had to try it out first. And man…it’s hard work thinking like that on your feet in front of a rug full of kiddos! She didn’t tell me she was going to ask me to do this, so the “thinking face” I have on is a real one!


I started by putting my dots all in a group, and suddenly an idea came into my head.


Mrs. Berger challenged me to add some details so that my audience could tell for sure what my picture was. I added some lines on my circle. Can you tell what it is yet?


A few more details…


My finished Ten Dot picture: a pizza! I know–kind of an obvious choice. This was a HARD job! Wait til you see what our kiddos came up with….:)

Kiddos were then asked to count out 10 dots from a bag, and get to work on their own Ten Dot creation.  I’m excited to share their CREATIVE thinking:

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How is that for a showcase of some AMAZING thinking?!  I’m trying not to be embarrassed that I made a pizza….:)  GREAT job, Rm. 202 kids!