I wrote about my goals for the first days of 1st grade last time I did this, mainly because I needed to refocus after having first days with 5th grade for so many years. Yeah, obviously with 6YOs I was going to need to do something different. What’s interesting to me, too, is that my first day this time was even different from just two years ago.
I had some pretty honest goals from my first time around, and this time it is still important to me that we learn each others’ names and learn the routines/procedures of the classroom, understand our school’s universals and know where things are…these are all big deals. But this time around, I have some other ideas first. (Wow…this post has a lot of the word first in it…sorry!)
As I went into this year, I had been reading a lot about making sure that the first days of school are exciting and engaging for your students; showing them what is important to you as a teacher and how your classroom will be this year is the focus rather than just the “rules.” So that got me thinking about what those first messages might be to my new friends, and those messages helped me plan our beginning moves together.
I decided I wanted to try something a little crazy. It was based on this book:
I had read it over the summer with my own kids, and it gave me all sorts of great ideas of what might happen if I asked my kiddos the question “What do you do with a box?” (As a side note, I actually kept reading the title as a question instead of what it actually was. I didn’t realize until just the other day that it wasn’t right. I must have REALLY wanted to ask that question!). I knew when I read it that this was going to be our first big activity together. BEFORE we learned about the supplies, BEFORE we practiced how to use our classroom library, BEFORE we learned the Robinson Mindset, BEFORE we did just about anything else. I wanted to send a strong message, and I also planned that problems would arise that we could use to teach many of those earlier things–like for example, how much tape to use, where the scissors are, how you have to put your things away before you move on, what to do when the time is up and you’re not finished, etc.
So…we read the book and go to work. I told them the basic idea: they would pick a box, decide what they wanted to make with it and draw a design and materials list, then build it. Unlike a typical design challenge, we weren’t really solving a problem and we weren’t planning a redesign/rebuild, but it gave them the feel for doing something BIG early in the year. It matched up to many of the messages I wanted to send my new friends.
Before lunch, kiddos chose their box (I wish I had taken a picture–there were loads of different sizes) and then got busy with their designs. As a side note, I also didn’t stress that they had to have a drawing, had to have a materials list, had to have a solid plan…but most kiddos did. Those AMAZING kindergarten teachers did a super job of leading kiddos down this design road and they knew just what to do.
We talked as a team about what we would/could use, and set the time limit of 25 minutes. We set the timer and we got busy!! Check out what it looked like as we worked:
It was SO FUN to see what kiddos did with their boxes. Some kids planned and made something that you could put things into, and some made it into something else besides a container. Yes, there were some kids who said “This is HARD!”, but were able to work through their struggles and move on. Kids helped kids, I asked questions and made suggestions, and was able to get to know kiddos a little bit as we worked and talked, as well as by what they decided to make from their box. I didn’t get to the part where we could explain and share with our class about what we made, and I don’t have pictures of each one separately, but I do have a pic of them all piled on the rug. It looked pretty cool and kids were pretty proud:
One thing we did have time for was to debrief on what they thought about how it went. I had planned to introduce the protocol of Plusses and Deltas, and they did a great job. Check out what they noticed:
I was SO IMPRESSED with how well they worked, and I was happily surprised and pleased by what they were able to put on the “plusses” side. And look–the deltas will be SUPER EASY to fix. The “not helping” part really was when a friend asked someone for help and they were busy working on their own creation and didn’t want to be interrupted. We worked through what words they could use instead of just saying “no, I can’t help you.” The chairs and cleaning up was simply because of the directions I gave at the end of our work time, not that they didn’t know how or that they should do it. Impressive, Rm. 202 friends.
Looking back, I am so glad I took the leap to do something crazy, not knowing what would actually happen with first graders on the first day after we’d been together for just a few hours. They did great, I sent some positive messages and we started our year off with a BANG!!
Students: What did you like about our box challenge? What did you learn? What would you do differently next time? Did you have fun??
Parents: What did your kiddo tell you about their box creation? What did they tell you about the book, or what they thought of the activity?
Teachers: What are your goals for a new year? First days? What is your usual “first” activity?