DIY T-Shirt Book Bags!

Over the summer, at a ELA/STEM learning institute we attended for our district, Ms. Turken and I were talking about what we could do to better encourage at-home reading this year in 1st grade.  While we do not necessarily require homework, being a better reader (and becoming a reader at all!) happens by reading.  Lots of reading.  We brainstormed how we could do more to get loads and loads of books in kids hands so they could practice each night with their families.  We remembered a connection we had to books at school, but we needed a way to get them home…

So I sent out a call to my friends on Twitter and Facebook (because that’s what teachers do when they have a question, right?), and very quickly I had lots of suggestions.  Mrs. Horn, a friend and teacher at another school in our district, suggested this DIY t-shirt book bag from Mommypotamus.  It’s a no-sew project, so we figured it would be easy, and since we planned on having kids make their bags, we knew they’d be really excited to use them every day!

Ms. Turken’s class was able to make their bags ahead of us, and came to show off/model them as they were finished.  Boy was I excited when a friend of mine asked, “Hey–do we get to make those, too?” and when I said yes, she smiled so big and did a little cheer.

Friday was finally our day. 🙂

And so of course I left ALL OF THE T-SHIRTS WE WERE GOING TO USE FOR THE PROJECT at school on Thursday night.  Nice, right?  Luckily, though, I was able to find just the right number of unused shirts to upcyle into beautiful book bags.  Double nice, right?  Whew–saved by the big pile of junk in my closet. 🙂

FullSizeRender 20-min

Before we could make our bags (which required lots of knot-tying), I had to do a little bit of prep work:

In order to better facilitate such an involved project (it was simple, but still required some supervision to make sure the knots ended up in the right place), Ms. Mimlitz and I (remember her from our Outside Adventures?  She is the totally amazing TA who works with all of our first grade friends!) pulled small groups while everyone else was working on must-dos and can-dos for the morning.

And I MUST give a shout-out to my small friend Keira, because she took to this project so quickly and ably that I gave her her very own group to lead!  She was truly a gift that morning and helped so many friends get their bags finished.  WAY TO GO, kiddo!

The plan once we are all finished (there were a few kiddos not there on Friday) is to fill our book bags every week with lots of great titles and read, read, read!  Until then, check out how PROUD and EXCITED these first grade makers are with their creations!

I am SO GLAD we decided to take on this project, and once again–first graders rock!!

Do You Really Want a Turtle?

By the second day of school, my new Rm. 202 friends were already asking me about why we didn’t have a class pet.  What??  Were they serious?  They had found out about Mrs. L’s turtle, Javy (because of a sibling we have in 4th grade), and many had seen Ms. Turken’s water turtle, Bradford, who lives next door to us in Rm. 203.  And so already my friends were turtle-crazy.

The problem?  It was the second day of school, I didn’t have a turtle, nor did I really know anything about them (or had we decided yet as a class if we needed one or could take care of it!).  So Ms. Turken and I devised a little plan: her class was going to learn about turtles anyway, because of Bradford and their interest in them, and they could teach us about what we might need to know about what would be the best kind of turtle to have as a pet (I had noticed that Mrs. L’s turtle–who is actually a “cousin” to Bradford–is a box turtle, as opposed to Bradford, who is a water turtle): box or water.

Well, they worked and researched and wondered and wrote and last Friday they were ready to share their information with us.  They came over after lunch on our half day to present their research.  We were SUPER impressed with how organized and professional they were with their words and how well they used the microphone, stood so we could see them, and were so quiet and listening when it wasn’t their turn.  Again a group of first graders was knocking my socks off!

Like I said, Rm. 203 friends were SUPER turtle researchers and taught us a lot.  And yes, now our turtle craze is even greater than before.  We even found this book to read together to teach us more:

Screenshot 2016-09-02 17.17.06

And luckily, I now also have a connection to a turtle.  Updates to follow on whether or not a turtle joins the Rm. 202 family to come….:)


Outside Adventures!

On Tuesday we spent the morning outside.  Shortly after our morning announcements, the pledge, Morning Meeting, and a quick Pinkalicious story shared by Rachel and read by Ms. Mimlitz , we headed across the street with our iPads in hand with some important work to do.

Once we get settled under a grove of really big, shady trees, we read a couple of books together (which is part of our regular routine, especially now that we’re keeping track of our books with #classroombookaday), and played a rousing game of Simon Says.

Next, I gave some directions for collecting some important information.  Kids had been a bit distracted by all the nature around them anyway, so their next job was to “collect” the most interesting things as pictures on their iPads.  After walking a big circle around the area to show kids their limits, I set them loose.  They were given about 15 minutes to check out all they could find and WOW was there a lot to look at!  There were even some kind horticulturalists working nearby that pointed out some things for us to see!

During this time we had an emergency drill (which was handy since we were in our emergency drill spot anyway), and since it was probably already 90 degrees and we were HOT, we headed back inside shortly thereafter.

But we weren’t finished!  The next step was for kiddos to crop their pictures, zooming in on the MOST INTERESTING part of the photo.  I wanted them to really think about why they had taken the picture, as well as what the story was about that image.

These were the next directions.  And let me tell you (and I’ll elaborate about this later on, too) that it is a little UNBELIEVABLE that kiddos know how to do this already at this point in first grade!

Screenshot 2016-09-03 09.55.36

Kiddos did some great work, and we will build on this as we work together this year.

Check out our Outside Adventure WRITING!!  Like I said (and I’m sure I’ll continue saying it!), what these kiddos can do with their devices already is nothing short of amazing!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Thanks for reading!  Please leave us a comment and join the conversation!