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!

Cup Stacking Challenge

You may have seen a post floating around Facebook and Pinterest about a STEM Cup Stacking Challenge:

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It’s similar to the Marshmallow Challenge that I’ve done several years with my 5th graders: build something really tall with your supplies and your team, using cooperation and problem-solving.  Great idea for any group of kiddos, but I especially love it for littler ones who are just beginning to learn about what it takes to work together, try something and have it fail, then rework the plan to try again.  This activity fits the focus we have on being gritty, as well as having a growth mindset and trying even when things are hard.  And yes, the first time we did it, it was hard. 🙂

Cup Challenge Take 1:

The first time we did this challenge, kiddos had 30 cups, their small group and 12 minutes.  Most thought they were done in about 2 minutes, and most used the same strategy.  Do you see how all the towers look the same?  One thing that also happened during this is talking.  Loud talking.  And much arguing about what to do next.  So when we were finished with this first try, we sat together to talk about it.  We talked about plusses (things that went well) and deltas (things we could change next time):

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They noticed that our list of things to change was REALLY LONG and go busy thinking of ways to do things differently when we tried it again. (When I mentioned that we could do it again, by the way, there were many cheers from the rug!) Working on the floor instead of tables was suggested, as well as not being able to leave your own team’s spot.  We also agreed that they would get one warning about their voices and then any teams that were still loud would have to work the rest of the time in silence.  Oh, and one more change was more time–they got 18 minutes instead of 12 (which was really the original plan anyway, we just ran out of time).

Cup Challenge Take 2:

Check out our chart the second time around.  They were SO EXCITED about how the columns had changed!

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What a change that happened when kiddos reflected on what worked–and what didn’t–and then planned how to redo the challenge in a different way.  I’m excited to see all of the many things they learned here, and how those lessons touched so many subjects at one time! Way to go, Rm. 202 kids! 🙂

Marshall the Miracle Dog

Wow–at Robinson we cram lots of fabulous things into short periods of time.  I already told you about how our first 1/2 day was Read With Your Roadruner, and our Olweus Kick-Off Day.  Well…it started with a great visit from Marshall the Miracle Dog!

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Cindy, Marshall’s mom, came to read the book she wrote about his story:

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We learned about how Marshall’s story included people (and dogs) who mistreated him–he even lost a leg because of how neglected he was–but he overcame and learned to love again because of special people like Cindy in his life who showed him love.   We talked about how we can do the same thing!  Cindy took questions from the audience, and then everybody got to give Marshall a quick pet on the way out.  They were moving so fast, though, that it was hard to catch….

I think one of the best parts of Marshall’s story is how far it has spread.  They even made a movie about his life!  To learn more about Marshall, check out his website here.

What an inspiring story that none of us will soon forget!


It Just Takes One!

We have a very special community of learners in our school–both children and adults. 🙂  Last year I highlighted the fun and learning we experienced on our Olweus Bully Prevention Program Kick-Off Day (wow…that’s a mouthful for sure!).  Olweus is the program that we use with grades 3-5 to help prevent kiddos from developing bully-like behavior.  The focus is on turning bystanders into defenders.

In grades k-2, we start with a series of lessons from a program called Second Steps.  It is teaching kiddos about learning behaviors, as well as how to be assertive, ask for help and also help others.  That, in tandem with our work around our Robinson Road Rules, will set a strong foundation for the work that they will then do in 3rd grade and beyond (Olweus is also a priority in our middle schools!).

So, this year on our first half-day (when we also had our first Read with Your Roadrunner), we again had our Olweus Kick-Off Day.  It was a little different doing this with first graders, but no less magical as we had great conversations and talked about what it mean to stand up for ourselves and help our friends, too.

We focused the morning around this great book by Kathryn Otoshi:


In the story, Blue is a great color, but he is pushed around by Red, and all of the others colors are too scared to stand up to Red and help Blue.  And then 1 moves into town.  1 is different, and decides to stand up to Red, saying NO! when he is pushed around and then encouraging all the others to do the same.  Eventually, 1 helps his friends become stronger, but also finds a way to be kind to Red and include him, too.  And yes–there is a happy ending!

We read the story and had a super conversation about what it feels like to be Blue, as well as Red, and how one of the reasons Red probably acts that way is because he is lonely.  We shared times when we’d felt like each of the characters and focused on the importance of being strong and standing up like 1 did in the story.

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After that, we illustrated our own version of the story:

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We also decorated 1’s that will become part of a poster to remind us how IT JUST TAKES ONE to make a difference!  What’s been the most exciting about this day is listening to them use the language from the story in our everyday lives.  I’m hearing them talk about being 1 and standing up when they hear their friends being treated in a way that isn’t ok.  And when they don’t remember to be 1, we are having great conversations about what to do next time.  This is the important work of first grade right here, as we mold friends, citizens and leaders for today and tomorrow!