Learning Buddies 2014

We do this fabulous thing at our school that we call Learning Buddies.  The basic idea is that a primary class pairs up with an intermediate class, and plans activities together.  It sounds basic and simple, but the power that comes from having a buddy–both for the 5th grader and the 1st grader.  There will be more about that as things get cooking this year, but so far let me just show you how we were introduced to each other this week. 🙂

We are lucky to have Dr. Grayon’s class matched up with us, a connection I was excited to make last Spring. They came on Wednesday, with a plan to help us make an acrostic poem about friends.  While they wrote, kiddos chatted and got to know each other a little bit.   The smiles on their faces and the happy sounds in the room were glimpses of greater things to come as we learn and grow together.  I’m so excited about this year!!


Buddies getting started on their poems.


Love the way it feels in the room with so many kids working together and loving it!


See the thinking face on that friend there? Priceless. 🙂


Conversations galore. 🙂


Sara and her buddy work to decorate their FRIEND poem once they are finished. Fun AND pretty!

We added our FRIENDS poems to our Learn. Create. Collaborate. bulletin board in the hall.  Now we get to see them every day and they are inspiring! :)

We added our FRIENDS poems to our Learn. Create. Collaborate. bulletin board in the hall. Now we get to see them every day and they are inspiring! 🙂

Check out a slide show of our buddy pairs.  We noticed how many partnerships look like twins!  Funny how that happens. 🙂

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Read Aloud Timeline: First Grade Version

If you’ve been here a while, then you know about how big of a deal read aloud is in my room, and you have probably read the rationale of the read aloud timeline, too.

Well…then you can understand how dismayed I was related to this topic when I first heard of my move back to primary.  I had spent 10 years collecting some of my favorite upper-grade chapter books, reading some of them over and over, year after year because of their impact and enjoyment.

Don’t get me wrong, there are read alouds in first grade, too.  TONS of them.  I mean sometimes we read 4-5 picture books in one day.  But I was sad that I’d be missing my chapter book time, kids all gathered around my feet hanging on every word, yelling “don’t stop” when I closed the book because the chapter was over and the story was just too good to not keep going.  What I found out is that that scene can happen in first grade, too–it’s just with different books and different kids.

I have been a collector of books for a while, and spend much of my summer reading piles and piles of them.  Now the piles I get when I come home from the library are just as tall, but there are more books in them.  So actually all of the things I love about the read aloud timeline are still happening, just in a little bit of a different way.

I chose the first book we’d read this year, after recommendations from two fabulous first grade teachers I know, Leah and Christy.  When I asked my colleagues to share favorite primary chapter books, they separately suggested the My Father’s Dragon series by Ruth Stiles Gannett.  I was kind of shocked that in all the years I’ve been both reading and teaching, I’d never heard of them.  I tried the first book out with my own kids at home this summer and it was a hit, so I figured I’d follow their advice and try it out.


When we got to the end of this book, and it was time to draw the images for our timeline, I was a little unsure if they could actually do it.  I know, that’s probably not fair, but again–I had established the whole idea with older readers and was only partly sure that beginning readers (or listeners in this case) would be able to process the story in a way that would allow them to create a detailed visual.

But what I got instead was a great collection of detailed, colorful pictures of my students’ favorite images from the book.  After two tries of voting for our favorite image (I did learn that it’s REALLY hard to vote on the best picture unless that picture is yours….), we were able to pic one that reminds us of the main idea of the story.  Since then we’ve voted to read Clementine, the first in the Babymouse series and now The Lemonade War.  I am SO excited with how this is going, and my kiddos love it, too!  They love read aloud, and it’s helping them learn to love books–which I hope will stay with them for a long time to come!

Check out what this year’s portion of the timeline looks like:


Bummer…I just hung up the latest one today, but didn’t get a picture of it. See how great those look up there? The best part is that we’re already on book 4 and we’ve only been in school for 6 weeks! We’re on track to fill up the whole wall with timeline images!


Another view. Oh, and there’s the title I finally got up to go with our self-portraits. Things have been busy in Rm. 202!

Tooth #3!

The longer I am in first grade, the more I am learning the power (and the necessity) of slowing down and enjoying the moment.  Like this moment from yesterday:

IMG_3586Yep, Ella Marie lost our 3rd at-school tooth!  And while there are always a thousand things to do, and many, many things to learn (because there’s always a ton to do!), I am remembering every day that it is a BIG deal to lose a tooth, and especially to lose a tooth at school–I mean come on, you get the tooth necklace that way!  I am reminded that living in the moment is really important, and is often when some of the most meaningful learning experiences happen.  I have been with “big” kids for so long that I have forgotten some of the simple joys of life with 6 YOs, and am so glad to be reminded of them on a daily basis.  Happy lost tooth, Ella Marie! I’m glad I got to experience one of these firsts with you, kiddo! 🙂