Book Shopping 101 in Rm. 202: Author Love

I’ve shared a couple of versions of the Recipe for a Good Book lesson I’ve taught in the past.  As far as I can remember, I hadn’t yet taught this whole deal with first graders.  I’m thinking it’s because the focus for so long has been on the definition of “just-right” books being focused on the level of the book (and less on the reader, I’d say).  I do agree that being in a book that you can read is important, but I would propose that being in a book at all–and a book that you LOVE–sets the stage as importantly as kiddos start their reading journey.

So this year, I’ve decided that the first lesson I taught would NOT be on “just-right” books in terms of knowing the words and understanding the story (but again, don’t hear me saying those things aren’t important, just not first), but would instead be on understanding and identifying what we like as readers.  And since we’re 105 books into #classroombookaday and have shared so many great texts together, I thought it would be a great place to start to zoom in on authors.

I started our conversation telling my kiddos about my past recipe lessons (and about recipes in general so they had a context), and then about my librarian pal Ms. Cobb who even dressed up as a chef to teach it to her 4th and 5th graders!  They were impressed, and I think a little sad that I didn’t have a costume. LOL

Then I asked a question: Why is it important to know an author’s name?  They had some great ideas and already came with a lot of knowledge of writers from kindergarten.  They were able to name some great ones (from this year’s books, from books previous teachers had read, and also some from their at-home reading) like Jeff Kinney, Dav Pilkey, our favorite right now Mo Willems, and Ame Dyckman (another new favorite!).  I added in another important reason, too, related to just respecting the writer for the hard work it is to write a book!


After our initial talk, I got kids thinking about the kinds of books they like to read and told them an unbelievable story about someone I know who went to the library and didn’t have any idea what they were looking for, and about someone else who didn’t know the author’s name and asked the library for “a green book with a dog on the front that’s about this big.”  Crazy, right?  Well, yes, of course, some first graders (and much older students, too!) book shop like that, and I think it my duty to help change that (both for their “now” reading lives and their future selves).

Next step was to create a visual that they could use to remind themselves once they were in a shopping situation (in our classroom library, our school library, and heck, even Barnes and Noble!) of what they were looking for, rather than just roam around aimlessly or worse yet, get themselves into trouble because they didn’t know what to do.

I used the format of the Recipe for a Good Book as I had with previous classes, but instead of making it into a bookmark (which works best for kiddos that are primarily shopping for and reading chapter books), we made ours with pictures and words on full sheets of paper.

Kiddos could write or draw anything they knew they liked about books, including authors, titles, genres (if they knew this info) and even topics.  And since we had already read over 100 great titles together, kiddos were able to use our display to help them with their visuals.  I’m amazed every day about what a great idea that door display of our reading continues to be.  We keep finding different ways to use it!

Kids were very engaged, excited about what they put on their lists and spent the whole time talking about books!  We’re excited to take our new recipes to the library with us to help us with our choices tomorrow.  I am sure we’ll be glad we have them there! 🙂

Not a Box!

One of my favorite beginning-of-the-year things that happens at our school in first grade is a series of lessons that Mrs. Berger, our teacher of the Gifted and Talented, does with kiddos.  The first one is based on the book Not a Box, and is a series of drawing starts.

We showed up in her room last Friday and she first read to us:

The bunny in the story has a box…that is not a box, but is loads of other interesting things in his imagination.  After the book, kiddos were given the same invitation to take something and make it “not that thing” by adding details and thinking, well, outside the box.  hee hee

Creativity is such an important part of learning, and seeing things in more than one way is a skill that I hope to be always encouraging and fostering in my kiddos.  Check out what we did so far!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Great start, Rm. 202 kiddos!  Excited to see what you do next time with Ten Black Dots!

Dot Day 2016: Too Much Fun For Just One Day!

If you follow Dot Day or you have been to the official website, then you know the date for Dot Day is advertised as “Sept 15th-ish.”  Now being a fan of the Reynolds brothers, I figure there’s probably a joke in there because of their amazing book Ish, but I also love that it probably just means teachers can have some freedom in when they celebrate.  I mean, we all know that things like that can rarely fit so nicely right into our schedules.

We were able to take advantage of a great Skype invitation from Ms. Hachen’s 2nd Grade Ms. Hachen’s 2nd Grade class to take place on Sept. 15th, and so in order to have something to talk to our new friends about on that morning at 9 am, we did our “official” Dot Day work the day before.  If you have visited 20somethingkids before, then you know Skyping is not a new thing to my kiddos, BUT this was to be the first one this particular class had made.  I was excited and I’m pretty sure that until it happened, many of them didn’t know what we were doing. LOL

Ms. Hachen and I had planned to have our kiddos share their dot art, and tell the rest of the class what they decided to do to “make their mark.”  We gathered on the floor in front of our screen and computer, and oh my goodness I wish I would have taken a video of what happened next.  You can imagine I’m sure…I turned on Facetime just to give them an idea of what it would look like  once we got started and everyone started making faces at themselves in the camera, putting bunny ears on their friends, waving their hands…you get the idea?  I mean I guess I couldn’t really blame them–if you have never seen yourself on screen before like that and you are a 6YO, you’re probably going to do something goofy, right? So I asked them to get all those sillies out and then we waited patiently for our friends to call.  They did, and we listened to our new friends from Kansas (hey, they’re our neighbors!) tell us about their Dot Day creations.

It looked and sounded a little like this:

You know, I love it when I watch videos of things that happen in our classroom, because I often notice or see new things that I didn’t notice in the moment.  Honestly, I remembered that many kiddos were NUTS and had a hard time being patient as we watched and listened, and I remembered having to give many reminders for them to be respectful audience members.  I’m so glad to see that most of them did a GREAT job of waiting, and am not surprised to see that there are still some who REALLY wanted to show off their art work.  I’m going to take that as a sign that they were really proud–and that we need more practice with Skype. LOL  No worries, we will get lots of that as we go through this year. 🙂

When we were finished with our Skype, we had some other things to do (like regular 1st grade curriculum stuff!), but we came back to another art challenge later in the afternoon.  I had seen a blog post about creating a circle painting with your class and wanted to try it.  After all the paint fun we’d had the day before (did I mention that we had to throw three kiddos’ clothes in the washer?), I needed to figure another way to make it work.


We didn’t exactly follow the directions, as we didn’t use paint, and I didn’t have them only paint circles, but we did indeed work together to make our marks on a class art piece together.  That was really my big idea anyway, regardless of the medium.

So, we started with a big yellow piece of paper, 8 kiddos and a box of markers.


They were given 30 seconds to work at the part of the paper that was in front of them, and then we rotated around the table.  They were supposed to add something new to the picture that they moved to next.

Not only did we create a BEAUTIFUL art piece together, but not a single person fussed during this time, nor did anyone argue, fight over a spot, or not follow directions.  It was quiet, ran smoothly and kiddos seemed like there were really enjoying themselves!  They took this “making our mark together” business really seriously. 🙂

And then when we were finished (we went through three rounds of 8 kiddos each), we had to do the most important part–sign it!

I have not had a chance to frame it yet, nor have I decided where to hang it (we should decide on that together, I think!), but I am surely impressed with what we were able to do.  My favorite part?  When I heard Johnny say to me as he rotated to the next spot, “I think this is supposed to be a carnival, so I’m going to add part to the roller coaster!”  What a great example of paying attention to others’ intentions.  Saw that happening all over the place after he said it.  Way to go Johnny and Rm. 202 friends!


Just for fun, a few closer looks:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ok, and just one more.  It was a good thing we had Double Dot Day, because on actual Dot Day I wore stripes to school.  I know, wah wah. 😦  But I remembered the next time and was excited to sport the RIGHT outfit!


Oh, and look–they’re even DOUBLE DOTS!!  Like it was meant to be. 🙂

What a great couple of days focusing on reading and creativity, helping and working together!  Thanks for reading and ’til next year, keep on make, make, making your mark!!

Painting, Twister and a Song, Oh My!: Dot Day 2016

I have been a fan of Dot Day for a few years, and tried with my last couple of classes.  Last year was the first year I seemed to get it on the blog, though, sharing our dot paintings and writing pieces that graced our hallway all year.  They really were amazing.  But as I went into this year’s Dot Day, I wanted to see what else there was out there to connect to the day and to the book it’s created from: The Dot by Peter Reynolds.


Because of my participation in most things Twitter, I found out about some great resources to use for Dot Day activities, and even had a place to share our Dot Day fun!  I was geared up for an even better Dot Day than last year, and when the day came, kiddos were as excited as me!

We started the day by reviewing our plans and then, of course, reading the story!  And who better to share the story of The Dot than the author himself?  Yep! We had Peter Reynolds read to us from this video on YouTube:

After that, I actually reread to Rm. 202 kiddos again, to make sure they “got” the story and so we could discuss what was actually happening and also how this story perfectly connects to our Robinson Mindset:


We used some discussion questions that had been shared with me from my Twitter friend Ms. Hachen, and these really helped us understand Vashti’s problem, how she solved it and then how she made her mark on someone else in the same situation.

Then we enjoyed a song.  Two or three times because it was so great. 🙂

And then after we got the point of the day and our minds were focused on dots and making our mark, we got busy actually DOING it!

I had put together a flipchart to give kiddos a visual of their art options:

screenshot-2016-09-17-21-42-36 and basically anything that was round, or could make a dot was fair game.  And once they got busy creating, we were AMAZED at what we could do!  We made dots and watched them splatter. 🙂  And thanks again to the AMAZING Ms. Mimlitz who was our photographer and took some great action shots of our work!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The final products are not quite ready to share (since I want to wait until they’re all hanging up and our writing is finished!) but you’ll get the idea as you check out our creative process. 🙂

Later on, it was time to have some more active Dot Day fun…


This was both Dot Day-related, as well as a great opportunity for us to continue to practice managing our bodies and using self-control as we work together!

After we had made our physical marks, thought about how we were like Vashti and could make a mark on the world, we did some reflecting through writing using this sheet:


We have done first drafts on these sheets, and will revisit and revise them next week so they can hang along with our paintings.  I can’t wait to share them!

We had had a day full of DOT fun, and we had to end it with one more run through of the Dot Day Song.  Just because it was so great!  And we’ve all been singing it since then. 🙂

And to be honest, this wasn’t the end of the fun.  Come back for the second half of our Dot Day extravaganza soon!  There’s  Skype and another art project to share!

Digital Recording: Counting Strategies

I shared the story of how we have been counting EVERYTHING in our room this week, but there’s a quick story that actually come just before that, as we started our initial journey into practicing counting and recording our strategies.

Kiddos were given a partner and a “mystery bag,” which was full of between 10-35 of something (bags were differentiated for different counters), and asked to figure out how many things were in it.  They were to use an efficient strategy and somehow capture an image to demonstrate how they counted their item(s).  Partners worked together to determine the most efficient way to count their items, took pictures together, talked about their work and added explanations to their pictures via the Notability app on their iPads.

Through the information I received from seeing their images, as well as through observations and conversations conducted during their work time, I was able to more effectively create pairings for later in the investigation.  Partnerships were formed to best challenge and support mathematicians in their continued learning.

Mathematical strategies and digital tools for the win!


Read With Your Roadrunner!

At Robinson we have a great tradition called Read With Your Roadrunner, where kiddos get to start their day reading with special people in their lives.  Today was the first RWYR for this year. 🙂

We had lots of fun with our visitors today and we’re SO GLAD they came to start the day with us!

#classroombookaday UPDATE: Week 4

I cannot believe how much fun we’re having with #classroombookaday, nor how many books we’ve already read!  For all I know, we usually read this many books in 1st grade together (I’ve never officially kept track), but regardless it’s SO GREAT to watch the pictures get added and begin to fill up the door!

This week I think we added almost 20 books and I’m not sure we can pick a favorite!


I do have to give a huge shoutout to Keira’s mom (loyal blog reader!) who left us some GREAT suggestions when she was at school for Read With Your Roadrunner today that she thought we would love.  And BOY was she right! I had never seen Red: A Crayon’s Story or Clancy the Courageous Cow before today but they will definitely be added to my classroom collection!  Both fit in perfectly (like she said they would!) with our conversations about valuing everyone for their uniqueness and celebrating how everyone can do something really well (even if that thing ends up being a surprise!).  Thanks for the suggestions!  Feel free to share your books with us anytime you want!  (That request goes for anyone, by the way!) 🙂