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!**

Misunderstood Principal Shark?

I love Twitter.  I love Twitter for lots of reasons, but one of them is because things like this pop up sometimes:

And then I’m in the right place at the right time and we win SHARK SWAG for our whole school!!  The WHOLE SCHOOL!?  Pretty cool, right?  And because we’ve gotten book swag from Ame Dyckman before, I knew it was going to be great. 🙂

So after a few messages where we exchanged information and numbers and such we got a super box in the mail:

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I ran right to Ms. Davis to start brainstorming how we’d get all this fabulous stuff into our Roadrunner’s hands, and to open that awesome box!  We found 600 bookmarks and stickers and the nicest note from one of the nicest authors around. 🙂

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We made a plan for something fun, and it included a shark costume, a principal and a read aloud.

In the meantime, my class got busy divvying up the bookmarks and stickers so they’d be ready for everyone on the special day.  All the while I told my first grade friends about part of the plan, but that they had to cross their hearts to NOT TELL ANYONE about the secret book swag.  I also kept the rest of the plan (the shark-principal-read aloud part) a secret and told them they’d find out later.


We had to reschedule once, but finally it worked out for today’s big event.  We sent a generic “tune into Facebook Live at 2:45–it will be worth it!” email to the school and crossed our fingers.  I corralled some of my 1st grade and kindy friends to be present for the actual read aloud and we were set. 🙂 ❤

But when we showed up for the actual read aloud, it was EVEN BETTER THAN I HAD EXPECTED!  I mean I’ve heard our fabulous principal read before, and I know she’s got some mad skills, but this was above and beyond.  I mean–the whole thing in a SHARK COSTUME!  It was just too much. 🙂 .

 

Check out how AMAZING a time it was in our library today!

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After we returned to our classroom, we did a few end-of-day things and then got busy delivering all those book goodies to our Robinson Roadrunner friends!  They were so happy get our (ok, well Ame Dyckman’s) swag and we were SO EXCITED to share it!

Thank you, so much, Ame Dyckman, for writing amazing books that we love to read and thank you, Mrs. Sisul, for being such an amazing ambassador for reading and books and fun in our school!! WE ARE SO LUCKY!!

I am Proud. And I Think That’s Ok.

Compliments are a funny thing, you know? People tell us we’ve done something well, or look nice or whatever, and we’re not really sure what to say or do (or maybe it’s just me).  “Thank you” seems like an ok response, but if you say anything beyond that, you’re headed into funny territory where you’re worried the complimenter is going to think you’re arrogant.  That you’re conceited or full of yourself or maybe just weird and don’t have any social skills.

I was reminded of this very thing the other day when I told my daughter that she looked nice.  She had chosen an outfit for a field trip to the theater the next day and was twirling around in the mirror with a big smile on her face.  I gave her my compliment and her response was “I know, right?” We had the cursory conversation about how she should probably just say thank you.  She said sorry, and told me thank you instead.  In fact, I’ve been teaching her this since she was 3YO and did the same thing when people told her she had pretty eyes.  Her 3YO response was a very honest “I know. :)”

Now I”m rethinking it and I’m not so sure that’s the right thing to do. Ok, look, I’m not saying that being appreciative of the kind words isn’t appropriate, but I’m not sure that you shouldn’t also be able to say “I know!” In my kiddo’s case, she had specifically chosen a dress that she liked, and matched the right shoes and sweater with it, and worked hard to tame her curly hair (which really just means she brushed it–LOL).  She was proud of what she had created, and her response to my kind words was honestly just appreciation, right?  She felt validated that she had done a good job.  She is happy in her skin (ok, in her maxi dress), and she wanted me to know she agreed with me.  I am so glad she has such great ideas about herself!  She has confidence in her abilities (yes, I know in this case it was in dressing herself), she feels good about herself and she has positive self-esteem.  If you ask her, she can tell you other things she does well, and I’m ok with that. I mean we want to have confident daughters, right?

The hard part is that really thin line you have to walk so that you don’t fall into arrogant territory.  Even at 8 it’s a thing, but it seems to me that it is even harder to balance in adulthood.  And especially in education. (Ok, probably in other jobs, too, but education is the one I know best. 🙂 ).

I started thinking about this the other day when we were hearing the announcement of the Teacher of the Year (YAY, Shannon! You are an inspiration to us all!).  While I didn’t win, I do know that at least one person nominated me, because I was given the words that had been written about me on the form. I love this, by the way, because it’s good to know that even if you didn’t win that someone saw something great in what you do.  It’s “an-honor-to-be-nominated” kind of thing, I guess here, huh?

But then that took me to the whole idea for this post in the first place.  The words that my friend wrote about me made me feel all kinds of things–so many things that I wanted to share them.  Partly so that other people would read them about me, but also because I think it says loads about my friend that she says such kind things.  But can I do that?  What does it say about me that I post words that someone said about me and what I do well on a public blog for all to read?  Am I a show off?  Am I trying to toot my own horn or make people notice me?

Maybe I’m just proud.  And I want for you to be proud of me, too. Maybe I just like that other people notice that I work really hard to do whatever I can to help my students be their best and learn all they can.  Maybe I appreciate that even though it’s hard, I try and try and try and sometimes things work out well (and of course, sometimes they don’t so I try again).  I try to be an effective teacher, a kind friend, a supportive teammate, a life-long learner, a voracious reader, a thoughtful writer, an encourager….and probably lots of other things I can’t even mention. I say it’s just natural to smile and say “I know,” after your “thank you.”  Maybe the appropriate response is a little tweak of that, and it’s “I agree.”  Maybe that’s the way we can balance the appreciation of the compliment and the pride you feel when you attempt to achieve a goal or do something well and someone notices.

What do you think?  How do you respond when someone gives you a compliment or a kind word?  Do you say “Thank you” but really want to say “I know?”  Maybe you have a suggestion for something else to say, instead of “I agree.”  I’d love to hear your thinking. Leave a comment below, will you?  A kind and positive one, though, please–even if you disagree. 🙂

And, since the original point of this post was to share the amazingly kind words my friends wrote about me, I’m posting them down below this.  Maybe they’re just for me to read and reread, but they’re there for you, too, if you’re so inclined. 🙂

“Jennifer is a very passionate teacher.  She makes special connections with her students and colleagues.  Her love of learning is obvious as soon as you enter her classroom and hear her talking to her students.”

“Jen is an in-house expert on how students learn.  She has spent her career and most of her life studying, reading, experiencing and tirelessly absorbing information in order to support every type of reader, writer and mathematician.  Jen is magical to watch as she marvels at literature, ponders over mathematical development and beautifully demonstrates that any type of instruction is an art and a science.  Every student in Jen’s classroom receives a teacher who cards for their whole self, she perseveres to understand what might be puzzling or challenging and expects the most out of them educationally, socially, and emotionally. Jen, not only represents Robinson, but represents the elite group of outstanding teachers.”

Mrs. Bearden exemplifies what it means to be a dedicated teacher.  She meets each student on their level and works diligently to build relationships with her students.  Her love and extensive knowledge of literature allows her to connect many topics across subjects, tying different content areas together and making great connections.  She never loses her patience and always shows her students kindness.  She gives students opportunities to be their best selves, and takes the time needed to develop social skills.  Being in her classroom has taught me a lot about the type of teacher I hope to be and what it truly means to love what you do.”

#classroombookaday UPDATE: Week of February 25, 2019

This week we got to 367!  February is a weird month–feels like almost every week we’ve had something extra or surprising with our schedule, and this week as no different–we had a surprise ice day on Thursday.  But then Friday was a 1/2 day, which includes school-wide programming, so it means less reading time for us in Rm. 111.  Anyhow, we did get 7 new titles on our wall, and enjoyed everyone of them!

Here’s our wall currently:

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This week we added these new books!

We have happened in to a Dan Santat study, as he has written and illustrated SO MANY amazing books–most of which become our new favorites!  This week were two I had never even seen before!  Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is an oldie that I had never read, and Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon was a not-so-oldie that I’ve read lots and lots of times and never gets old!  Cows Can Moo! Can You? came as a recommendation from a first grade friend, which always makes for a good read aloud.  Be Kind is a goodie that you can read over and over and over (and connects to our recent Kindness Week activities as well as the Kindness Quilt our school school is working on), and Little Dragon and the New Baby is a sweet story and loads of first graders can make connections with the way Little Dragon didn’t want to have a baby to share his things with–at first. 🙂

Another great week of read alouds in first grade!  Can’t wait to see what this upcoming week brings!

Kindness Quilt MATH

I have shared about how we started building our Kindness Quilt and then an update on how it’s growing!

Here’s another SUPER idea that grew out of it, based on a conversation we had in math a week or so ago. 🙂

Kids had been asking questions about how big the quilt might be, or how many squares we have gotten so far from other classes, and also just “What will it look like?”, so I pulled up this picture for them to reference.

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Then I asked them to think of two things (based on the protocol you might do with a 3 Act Lesson): What do you notice?  What do you wonder?

These were their answers:

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Now…the whole point of the wonderings was to give them some tasks to complete, right? So we then went back through that list of questions and tried to decide which were ones we could actually use math to figure out.  We noted connections, as well as marking off ones that were just interesting, but not “answerable.”

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After we had discussed the ones that we could actually tackle, mathematicians were invited to choose one with which they could get started.  Everyone declared their favorite and went to get started.  There were no “rules” except that they had to find a way to record their thinking so they could show us their answer.  (As a sidenote, as we got started, we had to have a conversation about what “recording” might mean–we use Seesaw so frequently that it only meant “using your voice to tell about your work.”  Oops. Guess we should talk about that more often. )

As kids got started, it was fun to watch the different strategies that they employed, including iPads, number lines, and fingers.

And aside from the different tools they chose to use, it was great to watch how EVERYONE had a place to enter this investigation!  No one felt like they couldn’t do it, like it was too hard or like it was no fun.  This was a highly motivating topic (they had all made the quilt!), with interesting questions (that they had come up with!), and they got to choose which question they wanted to answer (based on any criteria–which was easiest, which was most interesting, which was most challenging, etc.).  EVERYONE was engaged, for the whole time!  Kiddos worked alone and in partners–again, their choice–to answer as many of our wonderings as they could.

Check out what they discovered!

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What questions would you ask about our quilt?  We’d love to hear them–and maybe even try to answer them! 🙂

 

Building Relationships: Lunch Bunch

Last week I posted about how our Morning Meeting Feeling Circle helps build relationships in our classroom.  That same day something else happened that I was reminded of that also does this same thing: Lunch Bunch. 🙂

Several years ago in my classroom I had a routine of inviting kiddos to eat lunch with me–either I would choose a day to come to the cafeteria or they would be invited to come to our room to eat lunch there.  For some reason (I forgot?) I haven’t done this for the last few years on a regular basis.

This year, however, I have several kiddos who regularly ask me if they can eat with me.  This occasional situation turned into something official earlier this year when I had enough different kiddos ask that it just made sense to make it a “thing.”  So, now, on most Tuesdays, anyone from our class is invited to join me in our room after recess for Lunch Bunch.

I remember the first few times we did it, only about 8 or so kiddos came.  That’s still pretty good odds, though, I’d say–about half of our class.  As time has gone one, though, EVERYONE has started to join us!  Now we even look around and figure out who’s not there with us.  Isaac is usually the one who volunteers to go to the cafeteria to get whoever is left.  🙂

I think we had several kiddos missing on this day, so it’s not everyone, but it’s most of us. 🙂  Oh, and Isaac didn’t make it into this selfie, so he wanted one of his own. 🙂

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And then so did a few other friends.  (And I think if we’d have had enough time for me to work my way around the room, everyone would have wanted a selfie with Mrs. Bearden. 🙂

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Lucy and me 

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Makhi and Mrs. Bearden (and a photobomb from Beckett!) 🙂

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Me and Avant 🙂

It’s funny how just a change of place, or a change of thing can impact how you interact with kiddos (and how kiddos interact with each other).  Ok, I guess it’s not really a surprise, though, since food is such a universal thing and breaking bread together helps people of all ages and cultures to get to know each other better–this is true even of first graders!

I love how our conversations run the gamut and how much they are willing to share about themselves, often without even having to ask them anything!  There are usually quick connections made over foods we have that are the same, or a really funny conversation started by someone asking about something I have in my lunch that no one else in the room would eat!

Lunch Bunch has become a staple of life in Rm. 111 and I don’t think I could (or would!) change that.  A couple of times our Tuesday routine has had to adjust because of a meeting or inside recess and kiddos are SO UPSET!  They are always so quick to ask if it can be moved to the next day or the next day.  And you know, if I’d let them, I think most kids would come to eat with me every day!  I know it makes them feel special and a part of something, and you know–I feel that way, too!  Getting to know my students as PEOPLE helps me in so many ways as I help them as learners!  What a super special time we have together. 🙂 . Can’t wait to see what happens this week!

 

#classroombookaday UPDATE: Week of February 19-22, 2019

Hi and welcome back to the blog!  I’m so glad you keep coming back to check up on what’s going on–because we’re excited to share it with you!

The wall display is up to 360 and looks so amazing!

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Every day that goes by brings more and more interested onlookers to our display!  I think they might be wondering how long will we fill up the wall!  Or maybe where will it go when that happens.  We do have some ideas for where it will go (spoiler–look up!).

This week we added these new titles to the wall:

You’ll see some of our sweet stories from Kindness Week last week, and also a Mo Willems favorite we hadn’t read yet.  My favorites were the two that included diverse characters–Big Hair, Don’t Care and Whoosh! And the best part, those two were probably the kiddos’ favorites, too!

What should we read this week? 🙂