Mystery Skype: 2019 Edition!

We have been Mystery Skyping at Robinson for a while now.  It’s such a great opportunity for kids to learn more about their world, themselves, geography topics, asking good questions, and just have a lot of fun with something new.

In the past, the introduction and explanation was always done in person and honestly, I probably did too much talking.  Probably kids were confused and maybe unsure about what they were getting into. They were excited, of course, but since it was a completely new thing, they probably had a hard time envisioning exactly what I wanted them to do. First graders have always done a great job–eventually–once we got the hang of it, but there was usually a pretty big learning curve.

Then, this year, as Ms. Turken and I were beginning to put together our first Mystery Skype plans, she had a SUPER idea of introducing kiddos to maps and Mystery Skyping in a completely different way.

Rather than talk, talk, talk (which I seem to do too often!?), she started with a screencast explaining what we wanted kiddos to notice and note about maps in general.  The video was available to kiddos as a morning work job, and then we had some explicit teaching in small groups later on in the day, and they were able to watch the video again.  This time they also had a job related to it, and some guidance from Ms. Turken or I with an actual map in front of them.  Check out the first screencast she made here:

It was so great to watch how quickly kiddos seemed to pick this up (partly because of the video, but also because we had done some work previously with directions and maps in science).  Just having the visual that they could visit and revisit if necessary was an important support that we haven’t had in past experiences.

The second day of our Skype preparation involved the next steps of the process, focused on what to ask our new friends to help us narrow down where they are in the world. Again, there was a screencast that we shared with kiddos, allowing them to watch and review as necessary.

We did small groups again, with a mock mystery Skype that we practiced as kiddos tried to guess the state that the teacher had chosen.  Even after just these two days of practice, kiddos seemed ready to do the real thing.

The next day was our “real” Skype, and we did a SUPER job of finding out that our new friends lived in a very tricky northeastern state–Vermont.  Because of our focused and intentional work, they got it right in just 4 questions!  Thanks, Mrs. LaRose’s 2nd grade for playing with us!!

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Kiddos were SO EXCITED!!  Such a proud day in first grade and we’re looking forward to our next opportunity! Do YOU want to Mystery Skype with us??  Leave a comment and we’ll contact you, or contact me on Twitter (@jenbearden) and we can set it up!

Even Recess Time is Learning Time!

We love recess in first grade.  This is the second year we’ve had an “official” first grade morning recess–on the school calendar and taken no matter what–yep, rain or shine! Kids need time to run and play and breathe fresh air!!

Recently we attended a meeting, though, that helped us see the need to use this play time as an even more important learning time for our first grade friends.

Data is showing us that many friends in our school (and our grade level) are having a hard time playing.  Sounds weird, I know, but with so many kiddos only doing structured, planned things like sports or spending more and more time on screens, they are showing us that they are struggling with playing together appropriately at recess.  And what do first grade teachers do when we see a need such as this?  Figure out a way to TEACH recess!

We decided to become more intentional with this time already carved out in our schedule.  We decided we wanted to teach our kiddos 1) the “rules” of recess (like no fighting, use good sportsmanship, speak kind words, and some others), 2) how to play some specific games, and 3) how to appropriately use the playground equipment, rather than assume they know what they are supposed to do.

We decided which places on our playground we wanted to teach first, as well as what games we should start with.  Together we chose: an area of our playground that houses the saucer swings, regular swings, monkey bars, playhouse structure, and merry-go-round; an area of our playground that is an obstacle course; duck-duck-goose; and kickball.  Once we had activities and areas, teachers choose a place to focus on; classes would rotate as a group around to each place/teacher.  We made up a schedule to allow students to spent multiple days and multiple recesses (we follow the schedule during our morning recess as well as their regular lunch recess).  The time students are in each rotation is focused on explicit teaching, as well as getting to know kiddos we may not yet have met and for all of our kiddos to spend quality time with ALL the teachers on our team.

While we haven’t yet officially sat down to talk about what we’re learning from our kiddos (that meeting is tomorrow actually!), I think it is safe to say that there are some  things that I am seeing as I lead my swings/monkey bars/merry-go-round rotation:

  1. Having a common set of expectations for recess behavior as well as “rules” for each piece of equipment/game is incredibly helpful. It seems to me that kiddos appreciate this as it takes much of the guess work out of how they should maneuver during recess.  It’s pretty black-and-white. and they’re hearing the same thing from all the adults.  This way they can even support each other with reminders and encouragement!
  2. Being able to have contact with all of our kids helps with recess, but also in many other ways.  All students see all teachers as an important member of their learning team, and they are already more likely to listen to us in future situations since they’re getting to know us in this small way now.  We can build on this as we go on–this year and NEXT!
  3. Kids are doing many GREAT things at recess already!  While we were focusing on the “tricky” parts, this experience is showing me that there are already many things that kiddos ARE doing the right way, like taking turns, encouraging their friends, and generally following the equipment rules.  I’ve just had to tweak a couple of things (oh, and reteach some third graders I saw outside today who had completely FORGOTTEN how to use the merry-go-round safely! Lucky for them I was out there today, right? 😉 ).
  4. There are indeed things we can work on. :). My class, for example, is having a very hard time with kickball this week.  There is something about this age-old recess yard game that seems to being out the very worst in kids. :(. There has been much yelling, screaming, crying (which is against the recess rules, too, unless you are hurt!), arguing about the rules and calls, and also just generally not having a good attitude about the game.  Our class is definitely not following the rule that “Recess is supposed to be fun!”  What’s so great, though, is that in this setting, where we purposely picked this game, knowing that it’s a hard part of recess for many kiddos, is that we don’t feel icky and discouraged about such problems.  We see these struggles of course as unfortunate, but also as opportunities!  Behaviors always tell much more than the obvious surface things you can see, and we’re willing to dig down and figure it out!  Rather than just saying “no kickball!”, we’re helping kiddos know how to do kickball (and just life!) better.

This is the end of the first round of rotations, and I’m excited to see what our next level of play will look like. Kids keep asking us when they get recess back (ha!), but we’ve said many times that they will show us when they’re ready.  And no, in case you’re wondering, they’re not ready yet. 🙂

#classroombookaday 2019–Finally Telling the Story!

Oh my goodness, friends–how have I not written about this yet? (Wow, those words sound soooo familiar. Please don’t go back to last year’s blog to see if I wrote this very thing last year at this time….LOL).  I know, it’s so silly since it’s SO EXCITING!  Let me start  with a picture, because it’s SO BEAUTIFUL! (Sorry, I overuse capitals when I’m excited.  Exclamation points, too.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 🙂 )

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Am I right?  So bright and colorful, and represents SO MANY words, stories and ideas that our first grade friends have already heard.  The other great thing about it?  While it’s got SO MANY books already, look at how much wall is left!  That means we have that much room to read that many more books together this year!

Ok, let me back up.  I know that some of you are new to this blog, or new to this whole #classroombookaday thing, so let me explain…

Many years ago, the great Jillian Heise (@heisereads) started a super thing: read a picture book a day and tell someone about it.  I am sure that there is a better, more thought out explanation to why she did it than that, but really in some ways it’s that easy.  Be committed to reading to kids every day.  Find good books.  Talk about those books and share them with others.  Amazing.  She started a hash tag to share her ideas and it’s gone CRAZY places since then.

Fast forward to 2016 and enter me. 🙂 I joined the fun and began my own #classroombookaday journey, posting all of the books my class read on our door.  We expanded the next year, and the next, and that brings us to where we are now–all of the first grade teachers in this together. 🙂 The display continues to grow and change, but the intent of the project remains the same: read good books to kids, talk about them and enjoy the reading experience!

This year’s display is a little extra special, though, as we are looping with this group.  In past years we’ve had a goal of something over 500 (depending on the previous year’s final numbers!), and we will do so again.  But this time, rather than taking down the display to start over–we’re going to keep going!  I’m not exactly sure how we’ll do that (don’t worry fire Marshall, we’ll figure out a safe way to make it happen!), but how exciting to see it grow and grow and grow like never before!

I’m not entirely sure that this year’s first graders are entirely clear on what we’re doing here yet, but they are at least familiar with that big book wall in the hall, as they walked by it over and over again as kindergartners last year.  Now it’s theirs, and we’ll watch it fill up together!  I hope you’ll come along the journey with us this year (and next!).  PLEASE suggest books to us that you think we might enjoy!  WE LOVE BOOKS!! 🙂

 

 

 

Happy Fall Y’all

I have been bad.  I have neglected my duties.  My baby has been left all alone for weeks and weeks and she is not doing well. 😦 And so today I stand up and declare that I will do better.  And hopefully you will approve. 🙂

And yes, of course, I don’t mean an actual baby.  I mean my blog baby, with whom I used to spend hours and hours spinning exciting tales of first grade (and second grade and fifth grade, too!) life and sharing stories of all kinds.  I posted pictures, I told of what kids did, what they thought of it, and why I had planned such activities. I tweeted out links, tagged authors and friends in my tweets and posts, and checked my stats many times hourly daily.  And then for some reason I didn’t. 😦

Last night I spent a really long email to my classroom families (hopefully some of you who are reading this now!) telling them of how I felt badly that I wasn’t blogging anymore.  And then I thought about my blog baby all night long and missed her so much I sat down here at my computer this while NPR streams on my phone, toast is eaten by my son and hopefully my daughter gets dressed on time to leave for school (which is in 8 minutes and counting…). And while I totally realize this post is really about nothing (Seinfeld, anyone?), it’s enough to start to get back in a groove. To make baby steps back to where I need to be, and really where I feel most like myself–when I’m doing super cool things with kids during the day and then telling you about it at night (or on the weekend maybe :)).

So…let’s make this the best fall yet, telling and reading stories together about the journey of a super awesome group of first graders in Missouri who will become a super awesome group of SECOND GRADERS next year when we’re together again.  Can’t wait to see you here again soon and often! 🙂

Oh, and here’s my family picture from the other day, which happened on the sidewalk in front of my house when I neighbor knocked and said “Hey, do you want a family picture taken?”  Five minutes later this happened and I couldn’t be more happy about it! Might plan to do it that way every year from now on.  I mean not plan it….:)

Happy Fall Y’all!

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