# #FDOFG: …and 123s

We worked on letters letters this week, and also got some math into the mix, too!

One way was with one of our first morning math warm-ups (which I will start to share about later).  I asked a short, simple question with infinite answers, allowing every kiddo to share their initial thinking about what math would be this year.

The variety of answers was great, with no one having to use the prompt I taught them of “I don’t know yet, but here’s what I’m thinking now…”  I love that someone’s answer was “math is fun!”  Many kiddos said “numbers” and many others gave examples of kinds of math like adding/subtracting or wrote equations.  I was impressed that they were not scared by this question, even though we were only on day 9 of 1st grade!

After we discussed this warm-up, I gave everyone an activity that would allow them to show me (and the class) a little bit about themselves as people and themselves as mathematicians.  Now…it is a very infrequent thing for me to ask everyone to do the very same thing at the very same time in the very same way.  But since it is early in the year, and we 1) don’t have our iPads yet (which is how we often differentiate opportunities), and 2) it’s still early in the year and we don’t have all of our routines established yet, this seemed like a time and place to ask the whole class to try something together.

The general idea was based on a math poster that was shared in our school’s Sharetank on Facebook by Mrs. Hill ((a 5th grade teacher):

Ms. Turken made the template we used in 1st grade, and it was most of the same questions as this 5th grade version, but you’ll see that our equations were a little different. 🙂

After kiddos were finished with their Math About Me posters, I put them in pairs for them to have their first go at a math game.  We had not had a chance to prep for this, but since it didn’t include a die or an iPad, I was pretty sure they could handle it without much instruction.  Once I explained how to play Turn Over Ten, they got busy and did a pretty great job of quietly playing while the rest of us finished.

Now for whatlearned…

*The idea of using numbers to tell about yourself is a GREAT idea, but I should have done it in a different way.  This was a bit formulaic for 1st graders, had a lot of directions, and they needed a lot more help than I had first anticipated.

*Most kiddos had the same answers for the number, and made the equations in a similar way, too, although they did vary a little in the order their labels and cards went on the paper.

*This was DEFINITELY more of a lesson in following directions than a community building or math task.  We didn’t even have a chance to share our answers when we were finished.

*I did not clearly explain why we were doing this, which made it much less meaningful to my students, and therefore probably was not the best use of our time.

*My class works really well when they are busy with an individual, partner or small group task, and can do a lot of things independently already, even at this point of the year.

*Most kiddos are willing and able to talk to each other to clarify directions, ask for help and encourage each other when they don’t know what to do.

*They were able to transition very easily from a project to a game.  They followed the directions, worked quietly and were focused on doing the right thing with their partner!

*We have a pretty strong foundation on which to build the rest of our mathematical thinking this year, and kiddos are excited to get started on “real” stuff!

And just like them, I am also excited to get into the “real stuff,” too!  Let’s go Rm. 202 mathematicians!

# #FDOFG: ABCs…

The alphabet is a important feature in any first grade class.  And with every primary class I’ve taught, I’ve had some version of the alphabet hanging in our room, ranging from kid-created with paper, kid-created with markers on card stock, and even back to my first year when I proudly hung the brand spanking new one I bought from Bradburns.  There is also usually a smaller alphabet chart for use at tables when kids are writing on their own; this is usually also just a preprinted sheet that I got years ago from our reading teacher or that I found online.

As this year has started, though, it seems that I’ve been rethinking many of the things I’m choosing to do as I return to 1st grade again (after a year in 2nd with my looping class last year!).  I am trying to be very mindful of the ways this class is different than my first graders even two years ago, tweaking things to work best for them as learners (instead of doing the same things in the same way as previous years).  The alphabet is included in those things.

I know that there has been a connection to ABC books, or to how writers use letters/sounds or come conversations about the word wall (which also has letters on it), but for some reason I’ve never written about that part of our community building, nor do I remember specifically how I’ve presented it.  Weird, right?  Guess it wasn’t very meaningful or exciting to my kiddos, either.  LOL

Well, luckily, since I was thinking about it differently (and perhaps more deeply), I remember what we did this year (ok, and it helps that we just did this the other day. HA!).

We started with a conversation around our Word Wall, which at this point just has our names on it as the only words.  We met on the blue rug in front of the WW, and discussed the letters, the words they noticed, how they might use the word wall to help them with reading/writing, and then enjoyed some ABC books together:

Both of these texts are poems, and are funny and fun to read.  Doreen Cronin is a favorite author of most kiddos, and Lisa Campbell Ernst is a favorite of mine. 🙂  Our classroom library has author boxes featuring both of these writers, as well, so the choices were meant to lead them to other books they might enjoy, too.

After we read, I explained that our work next would include them getting a letter, and then drawing any corresponding picture that starts with that letter on the bottom.  Differently than usually, I allowed kiddos to check out the books we had read or any other ABC books in our room, as well, if they need inspiration.  I’m not sure whey I’ve never provided that scaffold before; guess something about it seemed like I was stealing a struggle or giving them the answers.  Actually, I think it allowed everyone an entry point into the activity, even those with a less developed knowledge of letters and sounds.

With all of the other changes/tweaks I’ve made this year, it made sense to me that our alphabet ended up being a little bit different than in previous years.  Some of our letters had “traditional” sound/symbol match ups (like apple for A and ball for B), but some of them are completely unique to our Rm. 202 2016 alphabet, and that is super cool.

Did you check out the Q and Z?  These are Star Wars related letters, because of a special ABC book we have in our box:

so Q and Z may not be something you’ve heard of before.  Let me show you their inspiration pages:

Those made me laugh at first, and I even considered having them rethink them, because of how obscure the references were, but then I realized that this would be a great opportunity to embrace something that could be truly “ours.”  Betcha there isn’t another first grade class around that has Queen Amidala and Zam on their alphabet!!

Then, this time I decided to take this whole “the-alphabet-is-special-to-us” idea one step further–I created our own table-top alphabet chart based on our wall version!  It just made sense that the sound/symbol matches could be consistent and (at least in the beginning) take away confusion some kiddos might have as they try to use the system.  I’m really excited at how it turned out!

Alphabet_chart

I don’t know yet how this will work with kiddos (I just finished making it!), but I’m excited to see how it goes, and to compare the usefulness of this tool with versions we’ve had in the past.  Crossing my fingers that it works as well for Rm. 202 friends as I hope it will!