Valentines’ Day Makerspace

I mentioned last time about how amazed I was by the Makerspace I saw at GCAA during EdCampSTL.  Well, as I have done in years’ past (mostly because of the timing), we took advantage of the need to create Valentines’ boxes and did so Makerspace style in Rm. 202!

First I had kiddos plan what they wanted their box (or container, since many where NOT shaped like boxes!) to look like.  Then they wrote down a list of materials they’d need (somethings came from home and many were materials we already had in our classroom).  We collected items for a couple of days, and then we were busy building!

It was fun, but BOY WAS IT MESSY!  But hey, learning is messy, right? Check it out!

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After built our creations, we spent some time on Thursday writing about some details about them.  Together we decided that our readers would need to know: 1) what is it (and what it’s called if it has a name), 2) how you thought of it, 3) how it works, 4) materials you used to make it, and 5) how you made it.  Kiddos used the Notability app on our iPads to work on their paragraphs, and uploaded a picture of their creation to add to their words.  We were able to use our chart from our punctuation study, as well as other writing pieces we’ve made together that are hanging around the room, to make sure we’d gotten our punctuation added correctly so our readers could understand our message.  Like with other things we do as first grade readers and writers, we used each other (as well as the word wall) as spelling resources, and reread our words often to make sure it sounded right.  Once kiddos were finished, they learned how to take a screen shot, then uploaded their paragraph to their blog to share with our blog readers.  Such hard, focused work happened in Rm. 202 on Thursday, friends!

We’re not all finished yet, but we’d love to have you visit our blogs to check out our final products! Leave a comment if you can. 🙂  You can find some Valentines’ Day posts here.  Thank you!

Punctuation Study–First Grade Version

If you’ve been around here for a while, you have read about the punctuation studies I have done in 4th and 5th grades.   And if you’ve read much this year on this blog, then you know that one of my goals (or hopes at least!) for this year was to bring some of the things I did in 5th grade with me and try them in a first grade version.  So far, these kiddos are ROCKING it, and really impressing me with how quickly they catch on and then run with things I show them.  The punctuation study was another protocol that I brought with me and another one that they took and ran with!  Let me tell you more. 🙂

As with other classes, we started with a conversation about how punctuation carries MEANING, and is not just a bunch of rules that you follow (as a reader or writer) because someone tells you to.  This was pretty easy for them to start thinking about because they could tell you what the meaning of a period, question mark and exclamation marks are already.  Then, as with other years, their job was to find as many other punctuation marks as they could and figure out what they mean.  So with a partner and a pile of books, kiddos went to work investigating the work of other authors.  They filled in a chart together where they recorded the mark, an example and their thoughts about what it means for a writer to use it (and a reader to read it!).

After a day or two of gathering info and doing some thinking, we started recording our findings together on a class chart:


Our chart started like this when it was empty, similar to the sheets they filled out with their partners.

Now, what happened after that was super cool.  No really–check out what the first part of our chart looked like when they started putting their smart first grade punctuation thinking on it:

I was a little surprised that they didn't start with periods.  Instead, they started to tell me about what they knew about exclamation points.

I was a little surprised that they didn’t start with periods. Instead, they started to tell me about what they knew about exclamation points.  But then look, instead of just finding one way to use an exclamation point (like 5th graders usually do), these super smart writers found 5 WAYS to use one. AMAZING!

We kept going, adding quotation marks, an ellipsis (which is always a fun one to learn the name for!) and parentheses (I mean come on–are these really first graders??).


Eventually we did get to talking about periods, but even with that one they were able to find 3 different meanings, including how sometimes people use them exaggerate how a. maz. ing. something is! 🙂  Then they blew my mind again and added a hashtag (do you sense a theme here?).  Now I don’t know if it’s just because we’d been talking about Twitter lately, or what the reason was, but my “big” kids never put a hashtag on their charts.  First graders love it when you tell them that, too, by the way. 🙂

CAM01487We had a little big of paper left (although I have a whole new blank one waiting for us to fill up!) and so we started talking about “that little mark that is a line.”  Now, what I knew (but they didn’t yet) is that they could have been either talking about a hyphen or a dash, and that those are actually not little marks at all.  So we did some more work to dig into the meaning.  We started with a hyphen (although at that point they still didn’t have a name for what the mark was).

Since we had just gotten our iPads, instead of writing down our examples, we got to work collecting some examples simply using the camera app.  Their directions were to look JUST for that little mark and to take a picture of any examples they find.  Then we would reflect those pictures on our ActivBoard to discuss together what they are used for.   What we quickly found were many examples of how hyphens are word-connectors.  They can be used to put two usually unrelated words together to make new words that describe other things (like full-fledged, top-rate and ex-princesses) or to break up a word when you don’t have enough space to finish the word on the line you’re writing.  They also found this part being used in a dedication page, as well as when I was making a list of our hyphenated words (and I did this without even knowing it–they were definitely paying attention!).   We aren’t even done yet, but our chart is filled up and now looks like this (SUPER sorry for the hard-to-read, end-of-the-day photo):
CAM01602The best part of this study is that our minds are now always thinking about (and noticing) who writers are using punctuation.  We even found it on our friends’ clothes!!

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And just as I sat down to write this blog post, I got an email from Charlie’s mom about how he had found a hyphen in the book he was reading.


Can you spot the hyphen? Do you see the dash, too? 🙂

Apparently he stopped in his tracks, made her take a picture and said, “I’m supposed to send this to my teacher!”  I. Love. This.  I mean, what more could I ask for?   Great job, Rm. 202 kiddos!   I’m impressed. 🙂

UPDATE!!:  We added more today…they are tickled that they have so many ways to use a comma, AND that they put a caret (which is yet another thing that 5th graders haven’t mentioned before but 1st graders did!)


Where in the World (Are You)? #wewanttofillupourmap

I have posted a picture much like this for the last several years:


In the past, it’s been a much bigger map on a different wall (that wall is now our word wall so we had to use a different space), but it serves the same purpose: showing kids all of the connections they’re making on their blogs, Twitter and our class blogs.  It’s an amazing feeling to have people you don’t even know read your words and find them interesting enough to talk about.  And somehow this seems even more important and amazing for younger learners.

So I need your help!  When you read our blog, talk to us on Twitter , or comment on our Kid Blogs, could you please tell us where you’re from so we can add you to our map?  We’re excited to start seeing the connections that can be made!

#edcampstl (2015)

This past Saturday I attended my 4th EdCamp.  It was, as expected, a great day of personalized, “me-led” learning.  I’ve written about EdCamp before, and this year was a similar experience.  The highlight for me this time around was getting to see the Makerspace that is present (and very well used!) in Grand Center Arts Academy.  At past Edcamps (last year even, I think), I learned more about how a Makerspace can be a great place for kids to problem-solve, challenge themselves and work on design thinking.  I have even tried it a little bit in my own classroom.  I took lots of pictures of the way GCAA used their space, as well as of the signage they have around their room.  Boring, I know, but this is a way for me to document their learning so that I can find a way to do the same in Rm. 202 (or maybe even some other place in Robinson School!).

I wish there was a way to explain EdCamp in writing.  I am sure there probably is, but for me the best way for you to learn about it is to see for yourself.  The day is what you make of it: the sessions you present, the sessions you participate in, the people you talk to, the connections you make.  And if you’re lucky like me, you can do it all with people you love:

Smile!  This is my amazing brother, Chuck Baker, who is a math teacher extraordinaire and now helps plan EdCampSTL, and my awesome hubby, Grant, who teaches 5th grade and encourages me to do new things with kids.  EdCamp is great, but it's even better with friends!

Smile! This is my amazing brother, Chuck Baker, who is a math teacher extraordinaire and now helps plan EdCampSTL, and my awesome hubby, Grant, who teaches 5th grade and encourages me to do new things with kids. EdCamp is great, but it’s even better with friends!

Happy Valentines’ Day!

This special day brought another special reason to celebrate in Rm. 202!  Thanks to Ms. Ross (Millie’s mom) for coordinating and for the others who came to help us have so much fun!  We even got to meet Evan’s grandparents!  Check out some pictures from our party!

Looks like fun, huh?

I saved a couple more to highlight on their own….

Ms. Ross came prepared with some Valentine stories to share at the end while we were waiting for dismissal.  Amelia Bedelia is a great choice for Valentines' Day!

Ms. Ross came prepared with some Valentine stories to share at the end while we were waiting for dismissal. Amelia Bedelia is a great choice for Valentines’ Day!

Ok, technically these pics have nothing to do with Rm. 202, but they were cute and fun to share.  Plus I kinda like the kid in the Heartbreaker shirt….

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