What Do You Do With a Problem?

I am sure you’ve seen this book:

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It’s not a new one, but I just recently read it for the first time to my class.  Ms. Turken, my co-teacher, and I had decided to start our year back after Winter Break with some reminders and reteaching about problem-solving.  We started with this book, as well with a structure for what to do when they encounter a problem.

I was so excited with how much my kiddos loved this book, and as usual, they had SUPER ideas about it and how they could apply the story to themselves.  The LOVED the way the problem got bigger (with the big black swirls) as he put off solving it, and they all agreed the best thing to do with a problem is just to figure out how to tackle it, not ignore it. 🙂

Once we finished the story, Nicholas had a great idea of how we should share what we had learned with others. Then, as is so commonplace (and so great!) with our class, kids kept adding their own thoughts to his original idea and they had birthed a plan where we’d have a whole display/presentation about problems they’d found (and problems they’d had) as well as possible solutions to those problems (which was part of our protocol we’d been learning about).  I told them that I would chew on the idea and talk to Ms. Turken about it over the weekend and get back to them.

As we talked about where we’d go with their grand plans, and it was a PERFECT fit with where we were going in Social Studies–don’t you love it when that happens?? 🙂  We were getting ready to start a history unit, and we decided to go with their excitement about problems/solutions and frame the thinking about how solutions to past problems can help us today.  We’d done that in a past year as we highlighted important people and it seemed like a great continuation and honoring of what kids were already interested in!  Again, love it when that happens–student voice is honored and our goals/standards are met at the same time!

So…our plan was to start with read alouds that show how people from the past (which was a word we had to spend a couple of days investigating because we couldn’t agree on the definition!) solved problems, having kiddos chew on this question as they listen and learn:

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We chose to read the same books to each of our classes, building on what one group of thinkers came up with and sharing it with the other group.   We have chosen books about smart and creative people, both men and women, some black and some white.  The focus has been the same, and kiddos are getting pretty good at finding the themes.  So far we’ve read these books:

I was tickled today, too, as our friend Addy heard someone say, “Take a picture of me!” and she said, “James VanDerZee!”, remembering one of the first books Ms. Turken read to us last week.  She reminded me of what the book was about and told me all about how it’s been one of her favorites. 🙂

Hear the rest (of this part) of the story here:

I’d love you to leave your comments below, and suggest some books you’d read in a history unit about problem solving!  We’re SO open to hearing about great new books!

#classroombookaday: Happy New Year!

Oh, you poor, neglected blog.  Been a whole month since I’ve written.  And more importantly, poor, neglected blog READERS–I’m sorry!!  For some reason, the last year it has been so hard for me to keep a regular posting routine.  I need to get back in the game!

I figured the easiest way to do that was to start with books.  I had grand plans of sharing our last pic of the year, and update you on our goal of hitting 300 before 2018.  Well…we didn’t quite make it, but we did get to 300, but we made it to 287, which is great!!  And like I say all the time, look how pretty that wall is!! 🙂

Then…we returned and I wanted to tell you all about it, but did you know that the beginning of the year is busy?  I know–all the parts of the year are busy. 🙂  So when we came back, we got to 295!

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Then….

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See that new red arrow?!  We hit 300 books!!  As of Jan 12 we were at 308!

And FINALLY the latest update, from this past Friday, January 19:

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321 🙂

I LOVE how this is still going, and how students, teachers and parents alike in our school are still commenting on it!  Hope I never leave the hallway we’re in, because it’s the PERFECT space to share our #classroombookaday story!

Speaking of story…there is lots to tell about the books we’ve added to that magnificent wall, but I’ll save those for another time and another blog post.  Thanks for hanging in there, blog friends, and I hope to be nicer to you in 2018! 🙂

#classroombookaday 2017: Weeks 17 and 18 (Oops–missed one. :) )

Somehow I took a picture of the wall last week but didn’t share it. 😦  Think this holiday season is getting in the way of my blogging. 🙂  So I’ll share two weeks in a row here today!

Last week we were super-focused on small groups and didn’t use read alouds so much in mini-lessons so it seems we read less, but at as of last Friday (the 8th), we had a wall that looked like this:

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That total is 254!  Amazing!!

Then…somehow this week we read and read and read and added 19 MORE!!  Not sure how we did it but goodness that number made me happy!  We’re up to 273 now, and we’re more than half full on the wall we’re using.

We were reading many topical books this week but also just some that we love!  An added bonus is that the pictures are low enough down on the wall that kids can more easily see them and help me hang them up!  Think we’ll be able to get to 300 before Winter Break?  I know, it’s only 4 days away, but my fingers are crossed.  Stay tuned!!

 

Our First Mystery Number Skype!

I shared our first Mystery Skype experiences with Ms. Turken’s brothers last week and how great the were.  After those two great starts, I hit up my Twitter friends to find our next Skype opportunity.  Instead of a location Skype, though, I had an offer for a Mystery Number Skype.  

We got our day started by answering a easel question that asked: “If you wanted to figure out my mystery number, what questions would you ask?”  We practiced with how to ask things that would put the numbers into groups, or to narrow down the whole 100s chart into smaller pieces, rather than just ask “Is it 47?” or “Is your number 82?”

We had a few practice rounds, using 2-digit numbers less than 50 (because we had agreed upon this with our Skyping friends), and then we were ready to go!

Armed with 100s charts and super math questioning skills, we called our new friends, who were in Kansas.

One of the things I love about doing Mystery Skypes (numbers and locations) is watching how kids step to the plate, so to speak, and try things they are unsure about.  In this situation, kiddos seem to be more willing to take risks and try things that they aren’t sure is totally correct, to throw out ideas that may not work.  Kiddos who may not be first to speak up in class volunteer to ask questions and talk to the other class, and we meet new friends in new places that we can solve problems with–why would you NOT do Mystery Skypes all the time??

I was excited to hear kiddos use the vocabulary we had used on our practice runs, like LESS THAN, GREATER THAN, EVEN, ODD, as well as TENS and ONES.  They worked hard to then mark their 100s chart to match the information they were receiving from their friends, and in the end we figured out their number was 20!!

And, you can see in the picture, that our number was 39, which they guessed correctly, too!! 🙂

Who wants to do a Mystery Number Skype with us?  We’re keen to try again, and soon we’ll be ready for a 3-digit number!!

#classroombookaday 2017 UPDATE: Week 16

Wow–what a great week we had in first grade!  I’m excited about both the number of books we were able to read as well as the titles that we were able to experience and learn from together. 🙂

Here’s our wall as of December 1, 2017:

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We’ve read 242 books!!

The books we shared this week were on a variety of topics, as we are studying many things and also adding in some extra topics of interest.  So this week, we added these 18 books:

Can you tell what we were learning about?  I love how when you see the covers all together, you can really tell the intentionality with which they were chosen.  The topics and stories were used to help kiddos make connections to what they are learning (and doing), as well as to get them thinking about older topics in new ways.

I haven’t measured, so this is just a guess, but I’d say we’re halfway down that big wall!  What amazing work, first grade!  Wonder how many we’ll end up with, and even bigger, I wonder how many words we’ve read together in all of those books!?

 

 

#classroombookaday 2017 UPDATE: Week 15

I think we’re on Week 15.  This time of year it seems I lose count.  Something about how school weeks with only 2 days gets me all messed up.  I’m sure you can relate. 🙂

So…whether it’s week 15 (or some other number), we’re up to 224 books! The wall is filling up so fast and perhaps the best part is that the pictures are about kid-eye-level so it’s even more interactive from here on out! Check it out. 🙂

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We’ve been busy reading lots of different kinds of things over the last few weeks, including getting into some non-fiction texts.  We’re having some great conversations about whether a book we read are fiction or not (sometimes kids are tricked when there are illustrations instead of or alongside photographs).  This happened in a book we read about St. Louis architecture (which WAS non-fiction), as well as one written by local Kirkwood author Dan Killeen (who is visiting us soon!!) that also had real places in St. Louis in it but was about talking dinosaurs, and so therefore was not a teaching book. 🙂

We read an interesting book about Betsy Ross this past week, too, that had us really digging and studying to figure out who the book was about and why they wrote a book about her.  Eventually we saw that she had made the first American flag, and there was an interesting detail about how she didn’t like Washington’s suggestion of 6-pointed stars and instead used 5-pointed stars that she could cut out of a square of fabric with just one little snip.  And since there was a how-to in the back of the book, we had to try it out!

New additions to the wall are also the context for our newest math investigation–all about a double-decker bus–as well as a book we read for Thanksgiving and some that we just read because they’re good. LOL

I just had another library visit today (and this branch had the most AMAZING automated return system!) and am excited about the new books I got for this upcoming week!  Please come back next week to see what our wall looks like then! 🙂

Mystery Skype in First Grade–FINALLY!

I have talked about Mystery Skype many, many times on this blog over the years (because it’s an AMAZING learning experience and man is it fun!!), but if you’re new here you might not know much about it, or even what it is.  If that’s the case, please check out this post that I wrote a few years ago to explain how it works, then come back and read about how it’s going in first grade this year!!

While Mystery Skype encompasses a long list of skills and concepts that first graders need to know and apply, we chose to begin it now because we were going to begin a geography study and knew this would be a SPOT ON and FUN way to do what we needed to do with our kiddos.

Rather than just jumping right in, we did a little bit of work beforehand, and talked about what we already knew or what we noticed about maps.  Kiddos got a partner and a map and talked.  Like we figured, they already knew a lot about how maps work.

I didn’t get a picture of the chart, but kiddos’ post-its showed that they already knew about how blue means water; that usually the green parts mean land; that the stars, dots, etc., stand for places/cities; and that there is a place (which we will later on call the key or legend) that tells you what all those symbols mean.

Ms. Turken’s class was a day ahead of us in our geography study and so had had a chance to talk about regions and where certain states are in our country.  The next day, then, we joined forces and put our kids together to do some co-teaching and kid-teaching about what they had learned.  Rm. 112 brought their maps to share and we talked about how we could use this new learning to help us determine where someone was during a Mystery Skype.

In addition to the idea of using regions to help us, we also highlighted how the Mississippi River is another important natural feature we can use to help us narrow down locations.  We marked it on our maps, and the practiced asking yes/no questions and kiddos figured out which state I had chosen.  During this practice round, we also talked about borders and how we can ask if the state borders another country or a body of water.

After both groups had had a chance to practice (one with me and one with Ms. Turken doing the same thing), we were ready to try it for real. 🙂

Luckily, Ms. Turken has many family members who live in other places and who are game to play with us!  Since we had two Skype sessions scheduled, we decided to use them as an opportunity for more teaching and learning.  One group asked the questions and then the other were the observers, so see how it worked.  We would then switch the next day.  We talked to one brother on Thursday, and very quickly figured out he was in Colorado.  We were EXCITED that we had figured it out!

Kiddos showed that they were TOTALLY listening and learning in our practice rounds, and asked great questions about all that we had discussed.  They used regions, the Mississippi River and borders to help them!  Way to go, first grade friends!

Then on Friday, we talked to another brother, and the second group got a chance to try out their Skyping skills!

Again we were able to use what we know to determine his location! YEEHAA!!  He was able to use his phone to show us some great pictures of the water he lives and works next to, as well.  We liked that part. 🙂

So…we’ve begun a really exciting Mystery Skype journey that has taken us to Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina and Colorado already.  Wonder where we’ll go next?!  Stay tuned!