# Ten Black Dots 2019

On August 28, we celebrated a very important day at school–our 10th day of first grade together! It was a very special day because 10 is SUCH AN IMPORTANT number to first graders (and in general!).  We learned a new math game that day called Tenzi, which we loved, and we also read a really great book–Ten Black Dots.

After we read it, we talked about how we might try this same thing with our own black dots.  We brainstormed some ideas and then got to work.  We followed these directions, and made sure we used our self-talk (keeping track on our fingers to help us remember) to help make sure we had done all the steps.

First we planned out what we would make, and glued down our dots.  We added details with a pencil, per the directions. 🙂

Then we started painting our pictures, following the procedure we’d learned the first time we used watercolors to paint.

Our paintings all spent some time drying in the hall–and even before they were done they looked really good!

Our last step was to trace our details and then add a sentence that said “Ten black dots make a…”  But that’s for another blog post.  Come back soon to check that one out (after I take the pictures, LOL!)

What would you make with 10 black dots?  Leave us a comment to tell us your ideas!  We’d love to hear from you!

# Directed Drawing and Watercolors: Early Lessons in Being a First Grade Artist

Last year I wrote a story about my journey to understanding how and why directed drawing would be a good thing in the classroom.  This year, I was even more dedicated to showing kiddos from the beginning how EVERYONE is an artist, as well as how important it is them know how to put their thinking into pictures.  I decided that I’d start from the earliest days with this, and so we learned how to draw a boy and a girl.

I found a series of videos where an artist works with kids and teaches them how to draw things.  In this one, he draws a boy and a girl and talks through variations you might do to make them different the next time you draw them.  Here’s the video if you wanted to check it out:

As we watched the video, I drew the figures up on the board in great big form, and first graders tried it out on their smaller paper.  They only had to do one or the other, but a couple took the challenge of drawing both the boy and the girl!

We stopped the video along the way to rewatch a step, or to answer questions.  We erased, encouraged and enabled ourselves to not be perfect the first time we attempted this feat.  We talked about how it’s true that this might be hard now, but that the next time we try it (to draw a kid or something else), it’ll be even easier since we’ve done it before.  I heard many kids say how they were impressed by their first tries and also how happy they were at what their pictures looked like.

Another important thing I wanted kids to know how to do from the early days (because it’s a huge part of learning in our classroom) is to paint with watercolors.

So the next step, after we drew our kids was to learn how to paint them.

We talked about how to get water and carefully walk with it to our table (this is much harder than it might seem! 🙂 ), how much water to use to make the colors look richer or more transparent, as well as the order in which to paint so that the colors don’t run (yellow, orange, red, green, blue, purple, brown and then black).  We also learned that when you make a painting, the whole paper has to be covered (with details and background). Then we tried it out for ourselves.

One thing I LOVE about doing whole-class learning like this, is that even though we’re all doing the same thing, we are all doing it in different ways.  And I love how often a kiddo will do or say something that we can share, as it might be helpful to everyone at some point.  This happened as I walked by and saw Finley doing this with his painting:

We shared how he outlined the figure with the background color to help make sure it was crisp and clear.  Lots of kids tried it out, too!  And wow–what a great thing to learn today and use for the whole year.  And beyond!

After we were painted, we already had some pretty great results. 🙂

But we weren’t done yet!  Last step was to trace our pencil marks with Sharpie and sign our work!

And so after all of that HARD WORK, we had a pretty fantastic painting and some skills we can learn for the whole year and beyond.  Check them out!

WOW!!  What incredible work, first graders!  🙂

# 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!

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.

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! 🙂

# Following Directions Can Be Fun!

The last–or first–few days of the semester can be times when you slow down a bit, and try things that will be both fun and productive.  (I know, I think everything I do is fun, but who knows, right? see hee)

A teammate shared an idea for a snowman picture to do for “fun,” and I decided that since everyone else was probably doing it I should take a look; even though I don’t typically jump on board just because everyone else is doing it.  The big idea was that you lead kiddos in a drawing lesson to show them how to draw the snowman, and then also give directions for how they are to paint it–but they have choice in the colors they use and the patterns they add.

I agree, it was cute.  And yes, it’s winter themed, and yes, it would look great hanging in the hallway.  But I still had to ask the question about “why?”  Why wouldn’t I just let them draw their own snowman?  Why couldn’t we just paint whatever we want? Why wouldn’t I do any entirely different activity during that time? (I know, my teammates love it when I ask questions. LOL  At least they understand that’s how I process and always assume positive intent in my inquiries. 🙂 )

Because I work with amazing people, they simply answered my questions.  Well, you could let them just make their own snowman.  You could absolutely paint whatever you want.  And of course, you could do something entirely different during that time, but we’re doing it because it’s good practice in following directions (which of course my kids could benefit from, too!), and also there is lots of choice within the directions.  It is cool to see how differently kiddos can interpret the directions and how even when we do the same kind of thing, they all turn out looking completely unique!

Ok, that was what I needed. We were in. 🙂

And just as I thought, kiddos did a SUPER job of following the directions, even though some of them were tricky, and kiddos had to try again or erase some lines as they drew.  I didn’t have anyone who quit, or cry or tear up their paper (yeah, sometimes in first grade that still happens…), but instead everyone worked really hard to do their best and were ok when things went differently than they’d hoped. 🙂

And yes–it was fun!

As I drew my snowman on my big paper up on the board, kiddos followed along with their paper and their pencils.

The “plain” version ended up looking something like this:

And then, artists were invited to paint their snowmen, using whatever colors and patterns they wanted.  Really the only guidelines here were that the snowman should be left white, and the background had to be painted with a bright color.  Otherwise, it was up to them.

And you know what?  All of our snowmen we drew with the same directions looked so completely unique and different and BEAUTIFUL!  Kids were so proud and I’m so glad we did it. 🙂

Check out our final snow-people! 🙂

And of course I need to say thanks to Proud to Be Primary for the idea, and also for the post (that I still need to read) that gives reasons why I should do more of these directed drawings.  I’m excited to read!

# Sharing our Shape Art

During 2nd quarter of first grade one of our units (which I think is one of the most fun to teach and learn about!) is geometry.  A few years ago, it was also a time when we were visited by a fabulous artist who taught us about watercolors and a new geometry/art project was born.  The topic has been different every year (for example last year kiddos had to make their house), but the focus every time has been on using what they know about 2D shapes to create a picture, then paint it.

We used shapes we had already learned about and used in math (pattern blocks that were squares, trapezoids, rhombuses, hexagons and triangles) and traced them to create a design.  It was pretty tricky for some of us, as we’re still working on fine-motor skills and the tracing part can be hard!  No worries, though, because in Rm. 111 we have a boatload of grit and we just kept trying!

After we had a pencil drawing that covered the whole page (which is an expectation we have whenever we do a painting or drawing project on big paper), we were ready to paint it.  Kiddos were asked to paint it to match the colors of the actual blocks.

As with most watercolor projects we do, the last step is to trace our pencil marks with Sharpie.  This makes the shapes crisp and clear.

Our last step is to analyze the creation, showing what we know about the shapes we’ve been working on.  Kiddos completed a sheet called Shape Talk, that went along with their mathematical design.

Often, depending on the time year this unit happens, mathematicians may be asked to write equations to show how many of two shapes they have altogether, for example: triangles + hexagons =

Once these were finished, they hung on our hallway bulletin board for a while and they were BEAUTIFUL to look at every day!  Check out our hard work!

# What a Great-ISH Day We Had!

We are big fans of Peter H. Reynolds. 🙂  We celebrated Dot Day a couple of weeks ago including singing the Dot Song by Emily Arrow, and we loved every minute of it!  Today we had another great-ISH day as we read Ish and were then inspired to great some ISH art of our own!

This story is about a kid named Ramon, who LOVES to draw!  He draws anything, everything, all the time and everywhere–including the bathroom.  Until…his brother laughs at something he draws and Ramon decides he. Is. Done.  Done painting.  Done with trying and done with taking risks with his art.  But then, Ramon’s sister, Marisol, shows him her wall in her room…covered by all of his paintings!  They are wrinkly and crumbled but she thinks they are BEAUTIFUL! She convinces Ramon that he should keep trying and that making something that looks kind of like the thing you want (so fish-ish, vase-ish, house-ish, etc.) is perfect!  He tries again and decides that he will indeed try again, take some risks and paint his feelings. :).

What a great message, right?  I mean, who wants to feel pressure to be perfect, never making a mistake, ensuring that your work and your performance is always just right??  I sure don’t!  And this book works so well into conversations we are always having about how making mistakes is a GOOD thing and how it’s OK if things aren’t perfect–you can always try again, making it better next time, Or the next time. 🙂

We decided it would be a great thing to create our own ISH paintings, and so kiddos chose something (anything!) and then followed these directions:

1.) Think and plan

2.) Draw with pencil first

3.) Color with watercolors, colored pencils or crayons

4.) Write on a notecard what your creation is, adding ‘ish’ to the end

Rm. 111 created such beautiful paintings! Most decided to paint (watercolors are a much-loved medium in our class!), but a few chose crayons, and a couple even used more than one of them. :). Everyone had to follow the directions that they were not finished until the WHOLE PAPER was filled up, and they traced their pencil lines with Sharpie to make their picture crisp.

This was the first project that I’ve gotten hung out in the hall (but it’s definitely not the first–I’ve got a huge pile I need to get to–and blog about, too!), and it has definitely made our hallway look so much more beautiful-ISH!! Enjoy!

I feel like I should explain that this started as our back-to-school bulletin board and is only half changed.  It used to say Welcome to Our Family! Not sure what that word is now. 🙂

# How Will You Make Your MARK Today?

Remember Dot Day?  And then our Dot Day Mystery Skype? Well, I know it’s been a month since that fabulous day, and so you probably weren’t expecting another Dot Day blog post, but SURPRISE–here’s another one!!

We’ve been looking for a place in our hallway to hang our amazing dot creations, and it seems that it took us a LONG TIME to make that happen.  Yesterday we finally decided to put them in a doorway where they could hang indefinitely, with an invitation to the rest of Robinson to make their own mark on the world EVERY DAY.  Here’s what we came up with:

See how it’s double-sided??  Originally our paintings were big and on whole pieces of paper, but we made them into dots to make them fit better in that space and to highlight the designs.  The best part?  Someone (our art teacher even!!) already noticed and pointed out how much she loves it!  YAY!!  Great work, first grade. 🙂

# The BEAUTIFUL Skin We Live In!

Seems like I have been waiting FOREVER to share this post with you, but I wanted to wait until the final products were hung up before I finally wrote a about it.  Man, it’s been hard!

If you have every visited my classroom, or if you have read this blog before, you hopefully know that diversity and community are two important parts of my classroom.  I have done much over the last year to incorporate more diverse texts into my classroom (and life!), have celebrated cultures of our classroom families, and stressed with my kiddos how amazing it is that we are NOT all the same!  Different is BEAUTIFUL!

I used some similar books from years past, because they are great and still worked to share that diversity, appreciation, celebration, inclusion message I wanted to send.  Kids really enjoyed them. 🙂

I have done portraits many different ways over the years, but wanted to really focus on making them LOOK like us, especially the beautiful COLORS of us.  It was a fun experiment to find just the right combination of paint to represent each kiddos’ face, and we had some great conversations about what we noticed, what we liked and what each color looked like.

The walls in this new room have afforded me the best place so far to display these masterpieces.  They are high and smiling at us and we can see them from everywhere.  I LOVE that you can see each kiddo’s personality in their portrait and even if they weren’t labeled we’d be able to tell who is who because they did such a FABULOUS job creating them.  But most of all I love that they represent how beautifully and wonderfully made  is each and every one of my Rm. 111 kiddos. 🙂

# DOT DAY 2017–Another Day of Making our Mark!

We had a SUPER Dot Day this year, and a lot like last year, there was too much fun for just one day! Oh, and I realized that I forgot to mention that in addition to The Dot, we shared many other Peter Reynolds titles, and sang another Emily Arrow song, too!

OK, moving on…If you read the post from Dot Day 2016, you’ll notice a fabulous Skype opportunity we had with Ms. Hachen’s class from Kansas.  This year we were not quite ready to chat with a “stranger” class yet, so Ms. Turken and I figured out a way to have our first graders learn what to do–with each other!

We had a plan to share our dot creations with each other, as well as prep kiddos for our Skype journey for this year.  We started our Friday with a quick flip chart to introduce kiddos to what Skype actually is and how it works.  We practiced how we would have a greeter (we decided the helper for the week could easily do this); how they would come to the computer and what they would say; as well as what everyone else should do while it’s not their turn (spoiler: they should sit quietly and watch and listen!).  I even gave them a few seconds to do that crazy thing that kiddos always do when they first see themselves on the screen; allowing them to make faces and be goofy for a minute helped quell that desire for once we actually got started.

After we had practiced the procedure and were ready to receive our call, the Skype call rang.  But when we answered there was only a black screen on the other end.  Ms. Turken and I troubleshooted for probably close to 10 minutes, and Rm. 111 friends were AMAZING while they waited for us to figure out what to do.  Jeremiah even had some super ideas about how we could fix the problem (great job, kiddo!), but somehow nothing could get our friends’ faces on our screen. 😦  Eventually, since they were just in the classroom next door, we decided to do this Skype in person.  Yep, it was a first for us, too. 🙂

We headed over with our dots in hand and got all set up.

And..perhaps the best part of the whole deal was when Ms. Turken had the brilliant idea of building a computer out of blocks so kiddos would know where to do and what to do.  It was GENIUS and kiddos did a super job!  Check it out (in pictures first and then a rather long, but super cute video!):

I was so impressed with how well they did, how the mostly were quiet and listening, and how I am sure they’ll know what to do when it’s “for real.”  YAY!!

And speaking of Dot Day creations, here they are.  Can’t wait ’til they are up and displayed for us to see!  Of course, I’ll share again once that happens, but they were too good to keep to myself!

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Aren’t those amazing?  And you know, they so inspired me that I had to join in.  I didn’t do it on actual Dot Day (hope that’s ok), but I did indeed make my mark and make a dot creation with my daughter today (who is also a first grader!).

I’m excited to see them all hanging up soon, inspiring us EVERY DAY to make our marks! 🙂

So tell, how did you celebrate Dot Day?? 🙂