What To Do With a Box

Every year when we consider what to do in our first days, there is a hope and a plan to make the first day (or two) so exciting that kiddos can’t wait to come back for more.  Rather than spend our first times together as a class sitting and talking about rules, consequences, expectations and well, more of the same, we strive to SHOW them what’s important to us, and at the same time give them opportunities to have fun and make memories form the very beginning.  This year on our first day we made ice cream butter, read lots of great books and got to build with boxes!!

Several years ago Ms. Turken and I found this book by a beloved author (Jane Yolen) and loved it right away.  Then when we realized the invitation it gave kiddos for creativity and imagination–and that we could do it on day #1–we loved it even more!

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The concept is very simple: you can do SO MANY THINGS with a box and your brain. :). After we read the story, we just looked at the box pile (sorry! I forgot to get a picture! 😦 ) and brainstormed what we thought we might do with those boxes.  Many kiddos started to list problems they could see solving with a box (which was not necessary but a really great stretch of thinking!), or just fun things they might create to play with or use for something at home or school.  We took turns choosing our boxes and then got busy!

We built and created for most of the morning (or maybe the day?!) and it was great to watch what happened!  Kids were busy, working, cooperating, trying things out and trying again, and using all the grit and creativity they could muster.  It was exciting to see that already this class knows how to tackle an open-ended situation where there are many possibilities.  They took on the challenge with smiles and excitement and produced some pretty great results!  AND they had a super fun 2nd day of school and were excited to come back for more!! 🙂

Guided Discoveries 2019: #1 Colored Pencils

We spend LOADS of time in the beginning of every year learning how things will work.   How to do things, when to do things, why to do things…all with the intention of getting procedures and protocols in place and foundations solid so that the rest of the year can be spent on learning.  The more we do up front and in many ways the slower we go, the faster and deeper we can go later on.

And because this group will be together for 2 years (yes, we’re looping!!), it’s even more important that I set things up well now so that they will work for us well for many days and weeks to come.

As a means to do this, we use a protocol that I found in the book The First Six Weeks of School called guided discoveries.  They are just how they sound–where students are guided through finding out what they need to know and how they can use an item, how to get it and put it away, how to share it, etc.

So…we started around our kitchen table with a well-organized (if I do say so myself 🙂 ) box of color pencils and 19 curious first graders.

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We started with just some silent thinking about what we noticed and what we wondered.  I was really impressed with their noticings.  Kiddos mentioned things like:

*They are in different cups.

*Most cups have only one color in them, except for two.

*They are mostly in rainbow order (red, orange, yellow, green…then the purple cup was next for some reason).

*Someone put them in there like that.

*They are the same colors as things in the world.

After we talked about what we saw, I guided them through a discussion about why the pencils are like that, and why we need to keep them that way–as well as WHO was responsible for doing so.  They understood that this organization makes it easy for us to find what we are looking for, and WE are responsible to put them back where they belong every time, or it will become a mess and we’ll have a harder time finding what we need–and therefore waste our learning time.

After we had laid down the foundation for how to use the pencils, we got busy practicing what we had just learned.  Kiddos could draw/color anything they wanted during our discovery, using their creativity and imaginations.  I was super impressed with how well they followed the procedures, and helped each other when they forgot, or put a pencil in the wrong place.

Once we were finished, we took time to work on another important part of first grade learning–sharing with a friend!  We got together to share a sentence about what we had decided to make.  Many friends–without my prompting–even started working on asking questions to help their partners elaborate!  What a great first guided discovery!  Super foundation for more to come! 🙂

1st Day of 1st Grade 2019!

The room is mostly put together.  The pencils are sharpened (well because they came that way!).  We’ve met each other and seen our new space.  We are all finally here.  It’s the 1st day of 1st grade and we’re ready for a great year!!

I want to take a few minutes in this first post to welcome you to my blog (if you’re new) and welcome you back (if you’ve been here before).  I want to start our year (or maybe longer!) off with a little bit of rationale for how I hope this conversation will go, as well as for the purpose of this blog.  I hope that it will help you as you navigate through our 1st grade journey to better understand why I write what I write here. 🙂 .

I could tell the long story about how I started and how this blog has changed over the last 7 years (and you know, that story is probably already posted here somewhere!), but instead I’ll just jump into the here-and-now and tell you that most of all I am here because I love teaching.  I love kids and spending time with them everyday, hearing their thinking, getting to know their hearts, watching them discover new things.  I am also here because I love to write.  I have found that writing is a very powerful and important way for me to process and reflect upon what happens in our classroom, and helps me to improve my technique and then do better for the next time.

So, as you read posts here, you will notice a couple of things about what I write.  First of all, I tend to go deep.  Rather than tell you about a whole week’s worth of learning or activities in one post, I’ll dig down and just focus on ONE THING at a time.  I like to tell the WHOLE story, usually with a backstory, and often with ideas for where I’ll go next.  I like to include pictures and videos so you can see what happened and/or highlight some super smart thing a kid did or said.  I will almost always tell you why we did what we did and explain my rationale behind it or my thinking about the purpose.  Oh, and I will probably tell you about what DIDN’T work.

Aside from my own process and reflection, I want this blog to be an open-door peek into what happens in Rm. 111 every day, especially for those of you who send your babies to me each morning and wonder what happens all day.  I want you to be able to imagine what it would be like to be a first grader at Robinson, and also to get a bigger picture of how and what your kiddos are learning.  I hope to give you enough detail that you can ask your learner questions and get a conversation going around your dinner table–so that you hear more than just “it was good” when you ask about school. 🙂  Additionally, I hope that others who read this blog (who don’t have kiddos in Rm. 111) will get a picture of what is happening in our school, in our district, in our state, and maybe using that to inform what happens in your own classroom or learning space.  I hope to be an inspiration to other educators, like so many have been to me over the years.  How lucky we are that technology is such that we can reach into places so far away and connect with them so easily!

Lastly, I want to emphasize that I want this blog to be a place of CONVERSATION!  If you have a question, please ask it!  If you have a comment, please write it!  If you see a cute picture of your kiddo and you want to say hi to them, wave away!  If you have a suggestion for how we could do something better, please leave it!  I know that the best years on 20somethingkids have been when parents, teachers, students and even strangers have been connected in conversations about learning–we all got smarter and were so much better for it! Ok, and of course, then, if I’m inviting you to connect with us, I’m also asking that you do it kindly.  🙂

So…that hopefully has gotten us off on a good foot and we are ready for a fabulous first grade year together.  But wait–I haven’t shown you anything about this year’s bunch of super smart, super funny, super creative learners in Rm. 111 yet.  So, here they are, ready to jump into this new journey.  Look how proud they are. :). This is their “first day” pic, which we will look at next to their “last day” pic in another 174 days or so and smile at how little they used to be! 🙂

Whew! Man…sometimes the first post is the hardest!  We’re off and running and here we go into a busy, busy year!  I already have like 17 blog posts I want to write–hopefully most of them will show up here. 🙂

And to get our conversation started: please leave your name and tell us from where you are reading our blog.  We’ve had readers from as far away as Australia and China in the past and it’s a BLAST to see how far our words and pictures stretch.  If you’re a family member of a Rm. 111 friend, leave a note and give them some advice for a great learning year.  And no matter who you are, thanks for being here and taking time to peek into our first grade world! 🙂

Welcome to our First Grade Family! (2019-2020 Edition)

Welcome to 1st Grade, Friends!

I am so excited you’re here!

The following letter contains 2576 words that will begin to shape your child’s first grade year (I know–it’s a little long.  Sorry!).  You will want to have your family sit and read this so you can all be excited about first grade.  We’re all in this together, right? 🙂

Ready? Of course you are! Because you are all about to become…

First Grade and Fabulous!

I am excited for the year ahead – how about you??

Let’s get started! First a little bit about me. 🙂  I am going into my 19th year of teaching and every one of them has been at Robinson!  I even did my student-teaching here long ago, so Robinson is definitely my home-away-from-home.  In my real home I have a fabulous family that I love dearly.  My husband, Grant, is a teacher, too.  He just got a new job in Maplewood and is going to be a looping teacher, too! He has taught 3rd, 4th and 5th grade and next year he’ll add 6th.  We have a 12YO son, Riley, who is in 7th grade at Nipher.  He went to Robinson before that!  We also have a daughter named Allison–we call her Allie–who is 8 1/2.  She goes to Robinson and you might even know her (if not, I’m sure you’ll meet her soon, she’s a 3rd grader and in Mrs. McVay’s class).  We LOVE (yep, love) Disney World, and travel there often.  Chicago is another one of our favorite places to travel to together.  This summer we went to Seattle, which was a part of the country we’d never been to before and we loved it, too! We also just like to hang out together at home (or anywhere, really) and spend time with each other.  So that’s me.  What about you? Can’t wait to learn more about YOUR family!

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Like I said, this is my 19th year as a teacher, and every year, I begin the school year as a different person. I decide on that first day and then every day thereafter, who I am as a teacher. What is important to me. What I want to accomplish. What I want my students to see when they come to school. I choose that. I don’t let other people tell me who I will be and I don’t just be who I think other people want me to be. I read, I think, I write and then I decide.

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Today is your day!  Choose how you will use it. 🙂

Parents, I am excited to find out who YOUR CHILD will be!  

Another wondering: What is important to you? What is important to your child?

There are lots of things that are important to me: my husband and my kids, sharing ideas, reading, writing, being able to have a conversation, making things, discovering things, sharing what I know, staying healthy and active, sleeping in, staying up late and knowing when to say sorry (and when to say nothing at all!).

As a teacher, there are a few more things that are important to me:

* YOU and YOUR CHILD!:   They’re the reason I’m there, after all right?  It is important for me to get to know your child (and your family!), and know them well.  Not just as a learner, but as a kid, too.  I want to know what they like, what they don’t like, what makes them tick.  Who they are.  That’s ok, right? 🙂

* Respect: At Robinson, it’s pretty much what we’re all about.  I expect respect to be a huge thing in our classroom.  I will respect your child, and I expect them to respect me, as well as everyone else in our community.  This counts when we agree and even when we don’t.  I have a saying that I learned from my good friend Mrs. Ford years ago, that is really important with this whole respect thing.  It’s this: You are not the sun. In other words, the world does not revolve around you, and there are lots of other people in our classroom that have needs, wants, likes, dislikes, etc., that we need to take into account.  I love your child, but I love everyone else, too!  Additionally, it is SUPER important to me that we learn to love each other as people, learn to support each other, learn to cheer when our friends do well (and know that that doesn’t mean anything negative about us), learn to encourage each other when they need it, learn to understand and appreciate how we’re different as much as how we’re the same, and learn to learn together.  We are in this together and none of us will be as successful alone as we can alongside each other.  That’s a life lesson, not just a 1st grade lesson.  🙂

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Maybe you saw our #classroombookaday wall in the mail hallway.  We made it to 507 books last year!  Here’s to another great year of reading in first grade!

*Reading: I know–you’re thinking, “well isn’t every subject important?”  And yes, to a point, that’s true.  But in my opinion, one of the single most indicators of success in life (and let’s face it, enjoyment as well!) is developing a love of reading.  I ask that you join me in the task of helping your child LOVE reading.  I am sure they’re probably already on their way, but let’s keep it up together!  Read to them as well as with them.   Share your own reading with them.  Read in front of them.  Show them the importance of words and how you can lose yourself in the right text.  HAVE FUN and help them do the same!  I hope that I will do my part to encourage all of these things as well! (In case you want to see more about how important this is, read about our #classroombookaday challenge from a previous year here).

*Writing: Words are important.  They help us to communicate and tell our stories.  When you write those words, you can deepen thinking and learning, as well as better process things you heard or are still thinking about (I know this is one of the most important reasons I write!).  We will write, write, write in Rm. 111, just like we will read, read, read!  (And no, don’t worry about correct spelling or perfect handwriting–everyone is allowed to make mistakes, the message is the most important part!)

* Mistakes:  I expect your child to make them. 🙂   I want them (and you!) to learn to work through it when it’s hard and figure out what to do.   I want them to feel the joy and success of learning something new because they persevered!  Not everything will be easy here. And that’s ok. We’re in it together and I’ll help you all along the way. 🙂 THIS IS A PLACE WHERE WE WILL BE GRITTY!

* Collaboration: I love to share ideas and get ideas and try new things and even when those things fail, I know I am just one step closer to finding what does work. I love to work with other teachers to figure things out and find new solutions to old problems.  But just as much as working with adults, I love to collaborate with students.  I love to hear what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling about things, what they think would be the best way to learn something.  It’s OUR classroom, and often your kiddos’ ideas are WAY better than mine.  I know I’ll share lots of examples with your child (and you!) about how that’s happened to me over the years.

Aside from collaborating with me, though, they’ll be collaborating with each other!  Your child will have lots of opportunities to share with their classmates, to give ideas, ask questions, prove reasoning and challenge each other.  I expect that we will work together to help EVERYONE in our class be the best they can be.  Together we’ll achieve much more than we would if we tried to do it on our own. 🙂  Reminds me of a sign I saw in Disney World at the Animal Kingdom:

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I like to say that in our room, everyone is a teacher and a learner.

And as a new level of collaboration and learning, we will be combining with and I will be co-teaching with Ms. Turken for many things this year.  Be ready to hear your kiddo talk about a whole other class of kiddos, and their “other” teacher, Ms. Turken.  We had such an amazing year last go-round and are excited for another! Can’t wait to share more as we go forward!!

* Curiosity: There is no better way to learn something than to ask a question.  It is DEFINITELY how I learn, and so please understand if you find me asking you (or your child) lots of questions as a means of figuring out how best to meet their needs or to connect with your family.  In turn, I hope you will feel comfortable to ask me any questions you may have, and the perhaps most importantly, your child will feel comfortable to ask me–and their classmates–questions when they need to.  Knowing when to ask for help is an important part of learning. 🙂  Also, WONDER is a natural part of being a kid, as well as a super important part of learning something new.  WONDER is something that I will always encourage, and hopefully many things we learn together will start as someone’s wondering about the world.

 

* Technology : I  love technology because it allows me to connect to new ideas. I like to think about what I want to do and look for tools to help me do it. I want to hear your ideas on technology and what works for you–and I ask that you be open to trying new things (that goes for BOTH you and your learner). We will be using technology in many new and exciting ways this year, so get ready!  You child may be blogging, using Twitter, Schoology, Seesaw (which is an AMAZING app that allows endless ways for your child to share their learning with me, their peers AND YOU!) and other sites (like Skype to connect with other learners around the world), using iPads, making videos of learning and trying out many new things that we may not even know about yet.  Whatever we do, though, the goal is always learning.  We will use technology in meaningful ways to better create new knowledge.  Excited?  I know I am!  PLEASE let me know what–if any–apprehensions you have in this area, either for you or your student.  This will be an important area for us to explore together. 🙂

* Community: Our class, our families, our school, our neighborhood, our city, our state, our country, our world. There are so many amazing people doing amazing things.  I am hoping to integrate your family stories into our classroom this year, taking full advantage of all of the amazing things each one of us has to offer.  That might mean I ask you (grown-ups) to come read to us, teach us something, help us make something, send in things, etc.  We want EVERYONE to be a part of the Rm. 111 family!!  One of our first units this year will be learning about our names and families so stay tuned!

IMG_4820* Taking risks: I like to take risks.  I hope you do too. It is scary sometimes and it fails sometimes but sometimes, more often, it is just A-MAZ-ING! Usually when you do something scary you do things you never thought you could.  You surprise yourself.  And then you want to do more! Someone smart once said “Fear and Excitement are shades of the same color”. Cool, huh?  (Parents, this is true for you as much as it is for your kiddo!! 🙂

HANG IN THERE….You’re almost done!

OK…if you made it this far and are still with me, congratulations, you (and your kiddo) are a rock star. Stop reading right now and do some kind of victory dance.  No really, go ahead.  Dance.  I’ll wait.  Better yet, have someone video tape your dance and send it to me!  I’ll even post it on our blog! (Did you see the posts where I did that with my last class?  They didn’t believe that I’d do it, either. 🙂 )

So….what now? How can you best be ready for the extreme awesomeness of first grade?

  1. Read something.  Write something.  Wonder something.  This will get your learning muscles warmed up. 🙂
  2. If you have any questions you can always email me. Anytime. No question to big or too small.
  3. Think about what I said about who you want your child to be. Most importantly, remember that everyone else in our class is thinking about that too. Be gracious to those who are brave enough to set lofty goals and make the effort to become an even better version of themselves.
  4. Talk with your family about how you would define HOME.  I really want to make our classroom a comfortable, warm place were our school family can feel safe to get down and dirty, taking chances and making mistakes and LEARNING TONS!  I want this to include pieces of each of our homes.  I will send a survey to you later, where you can give share your ideas, but I wanted to get your thinking about it now. 🙂
  5. THIS ONE IS FOR THE KIDDOS!: Look around your house (or your computer, maybe) for a picture of your family or someone/something else that inspires you.  I’d love to be able to decorate our room with us–pictures of all the people who help make us who we are and who encourage us to do our best.  I want to be able to fill our room with love, support and smiling faces, so please bring a 3×5, 4×6 or 5X7 picture (framed if possible–but don’t stress over this part!) with you to school soon.  And if you don’t have one, don’t worry!  We’ll take your picture!

Despite having now used more than two thousand words, there are no words to describe how excited I am about working with you this year AND next year!

Here’s To Being First Grade and Fabulous!

♥ Mrs. Bearden

How to contact me:

Seesaw: Once you’re connected to your child’s Seesaw journal, you can leave comments on posts there.  I will also probably start using the messaging feature, which will allow you to send me text-like notes there, too!

 

Mrs. Bearden: Email–jennifer.bearden@kirkwoodschools.org; Phone–314-213-6100 x4211 (after August 9)

Twitter: @jbeardensclass (This is our class feed, and we will tweet here together with my supervision and instruction.  It’s a great way to stay on top of what’s going on in our classroom since you don’t get to be there every day!  Follow us!)

Blog: http://www.20somethingkidsand1kookyteacher.com Feel free to leave me a comment here to let me know what you thought, what you wonder, how your summer has been, etc….this is always a great place to talk to me! 🙂  Also–if you have a minute while you’re here, go ahead and subscribe to the blog feed.  That way you’ll never miss anything that happens here.  I add things often and you’ll want to read it all!!  Just click on the button on the right side of the page and add your email address. 🙂

**Thanks to @terSonya for help with writing this post! Like I said, I love to share ideas!**