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!

#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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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.

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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.

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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!

Pancake Day!

Every morning when we start our day, we make a rectangle (because our carpet doesn’t really allow us to make a circle–LOL), and talk about how we’re feeling.  We talk about the zone of regulation we’re in (usually we’re green and blue!), and often there is a question that we all answer.  Very early on, I used a question I stole from my 7th grader (thanks, Riley!)–what is your favorite breakfast food?

Not surprisingly, many kiddos around the circle mentioned pancakes.  And very specifically, Luke said chocolate chip pancakes. :). It seemed like for the next few days, everything we read and everywhere we looked, we were seeing references of pancakes.  This includes our cafeteria, where the “B” choice every Wednesday is pancakes for lunch. :). So….we decided that it would only make sense to have our very own pancake party!

The date was set, and as we awaited the day, we found as many pancake-inspired books to read to get us ready (and make us hungry!!).  Check out what we found!

Then, on Friday, we were ready for our special pancake breakfast together! :). And I’d say, it was even better than we’ve even hoped!

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Luke, with his chocolate chip pancakes.  Thanks for the idea, buddy!  YUM!!

This made our third snack-related day already (we’ve been together for 22 days), and we’re already planning our next!  There really is something to be said about how special it is to share a meal together (stay tuned to see what it will be!). I have heard from many first graders that this was our best day yet! :).

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:

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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!  🙂

 

We made…butter?!

I think I mentioned in an earlier post about how our goal for the first days of school is to make kids excited about school and get a feel for what the rest of our year will bring.  Another way we decided to do this was to make ice cream for our first-day snack.  I mean, come on–who wouldn’t want to come back after ICE CREAM on the first day of school?  And if THAT doesn’t give a clue that this year will be fun-filled, I don’t know what would!

So, when, in the midst of spinning the cream as the first step to our ice-creamy goodness, I saw this in the mixer, I was less than impressed. 😦

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Yes, friends, instead of ice cream….we had made….butter!!

I really just had to laugh as I explained to the kiddos what I saw in the mixer and then showed it to them on our big screen.  I was glad that not a single kiddo was mad at me; somehow they seemed to understand that mistakes happen.

Mistakes happen….that’s the part of this story we honed in on.  It was almost like I had done it on purpose (did I? hee hee) as a means of highlighting how messing up is how we learn new things.  And now, we know that when you whip butter too long you get butter instead of whipped cream!

And don’t worry–I promised them that since we had messed up on our first try that I would try again and bring them some ice cream for their day 2 snack.  And BOY was it yummy!

Oh, and we didn’t let that butter go to waste, either.  The next day we had bread and butter, with some honey courtesy of our friend Jacob’s bees!  Best of all worlds! 🙂

Here’s to a fun- and mistake-filled year in first grade!