San Fran is for (Book) Lovers ❤️❤️❤️

I know, I know. That’s really a Virginia thing. But yet, I didn’t just take a vacay to Virginia. So San Fran it is. 🙂

If you’ve spent time around here–either as a long-time blog reader or a new reader who’s been getting their feet wet–you have hopefully noticed that I am a reader. Books are kind of a big deal around here: at home and in my classroom. And so, it seems, books are a big deal for me on vacation, too.

We went to lots of fun places on our tour of San Francisco. Some places I can tell you about by the name of the neighborhood, and some I can tell you by the name of the books stores I visited while I was there. 🙂

I think in the end we found three cute little independent book stores, and bought something at all of them! Cuz what’s a better souvenir than a book. Or ten? LOL

The first place we ran into was The Book Passage, in the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero. Besides being easy to get to, it had great views of the bay. We went here more than once, just because we could.

If only I’d have thought about how I’d write about this–I’d have taken a better picture! Hopefully you get the idea. 🙂

On one of our dinner adventures, Grant and I were walking around after our visit to Burma Superstar (YUM!) and came upon this little gem:

I could have spent all night here. Seriously.

Besides being lovely and cute and small and independent, they also had a sale bin. :). Found many things I was excited for some good finds, but especially for the book about the Golden Gate Bridge I had seen in other stores at full price. Here it was over 50% off! WIN!!

The last one was so good we visited it twice: Browser Books.

On our first visit we ran into one of those “blind date with a book” sale boxes and bought almost the whole thing!

Do you have guesses for what those books might be? Are you dying right now? Should I show you what we ended up with? Oh, ok. :). Here’s what was inside of those packages. Be sure to leave me a comment to let me know if you guessed right. I actually did guess one of them correctly!

Pretty great, right? What a super selection, all books I wouldn’t have picked on my own. How did you do on your guesses? I was right on the Trevor Noah one, in case you were wondering. 😉

I think I mentioned that this was our first trip to this store? On the second trip I found two more great books (not on sale, but sooo great it didn’t matter) that I’m excited to incorporate into my classroom this year.

WHEW! What a great trip with such great little bookstore finds. What a special part of traveling–the bookstores come home in my heart and the books come home in my suitcase!

Can Out-of-Towners Become Regulars?

Some might say that my family and I are creatures of habit. I don’t know why….every Wednesday we order dinner from La Catrina (and most weeks the bag includes 2 chimichangas, a cheese quesadilla and an order of carnitas); every Thursday is raid-the-bakery-at-Russell’s day (although this may or may not happen now on any day that they are open, cuz it’s all so good!); Friday night is pizza-and-a-movie-or whatever-is-new-on-steaming night; and we’ve been to Disney World as a family close to 15 times. Some would say my family are creatures of habit. I think I’d just call it “searching for regular status.” Or maybe “people who wish to be regulars.” You know, like when you’ve been somewhere so many times they know what you want before get there to order it. Or like at Cheers, where everybody knows your name.

I’m sure that I’ve given some thought to the “why” of the whole thing tons of times; I am by nature a reflective person and probably ask “why” about far too many things.

One of the conclusions I’ve come to is that some of my fondness for familiar things comes from having so much change and uncertainty as a child. Without getting much into the details, we moved a lot and I went to several different schools, which made making solid friendships tricky. I often longed for the things I saw on TV (and then eventually in families around me)—big families, living in the same house you were born in, returning to the same beach for vacation with your cousins year after year. Don’t get me wrong (especially if you’re reading this, mom 😊)—I don’t have bad memories from my childhood, I just didn’t really form any memories. Or at least not the Hallmark-movie kind I had always wished for.

So as I got married, moved into adulthood and became a mom—and therefore in more control of my life—I made a decision to do some things differently.

Back to my question up there at the beginning….it seems that one of the major ways the whole “searching for regular status” manifests itself (besides that long list of dinner choices I mentioned before!) is in the way we vacation. I already mentioned our penchant for visiting Disney World; my oldest kiddo is 14 and has been there 11 times. When answering the questions of why we return over and over, it’s hard to nail down exactly one thing. I guess I could sum it up by saying it feels like home away from home (or insert the other oft-given answer of “Disney magic” 🥰). We know the way to get to all the things, we have our favorites, we know which parks to visit and when (and what restaurants to eat at when we get there)—there’s no map reading, wandering around with confused looks on our faces, no uncertainty about what to do or when or why to do it.

We do the same thing with our visits to the beach: same hotel/condo, same part of town, same ice cream shops same general daily routine. We know our favorite restaurants but are willing to branch out to new ones each time to add to the list.

Which brings us to now. As I write this, I’m standing in a longish, Sunday morning line for a yummy San Francisco breakfast spot. The restaurant is new, but the street I’m standing on is one we’ve walked over and over. It’s next to a park in which we’ve eaten dinner and dessert and smiled at all the cute dogs and babies. It’s on the way to Chinatown, to the bakery we’ve visited four times (and is on the list for today!), and is on the way to many of the other neighborhoods and hidden places we’ve been discovering for the last week. Since we’ve walked it over and over we know where many things are, which direction to head when we leave the hotel, and also what to expect up around the corner. We are by no means experts (of course 😉) after 8 days, but we’re familiar.

And so to answer my own question, I’m not sure out-of-towners can become regulars, but they can become familiar enough with a place that it feels like home, calling them back from wherever they may roam in the meantime. And that’s good enough for me.

Starting Over

Here we are again. Yup. That place where I usually start with a long explanation of why I’ve neglected my blog and how I’m vowing to start over and do better and how we’ll never end up here again. HA HA HA! Like I said: here were are again.

But, since I am not insane, I will not do the same thing I’ve done in the past at this point. Instead of vowing to do better, I’m going to completely start over. Most of you who are here now are probably not even aware that I’ve been missing from the blogosphere anyway because you’re new! So…since you’re new here and I haven’t been here in a while anyway, let’s take a tour of this little blog, and take a few posts to get acquainted and start a new journey together. Maybe a fresh start is what I need to make this blogging thing “stick” again and get us back on track. Cross your fingers, hold on tight and let’s get moving!

By the way, that’s me. I’m Jen and I’m the Kooky Teacher mentioned in the blog title. I just realized that this little blog started 10 years ago, and I’ve had such a great time sharing my school stories and sometimes some family stories (when I’m feeling indulgent). Throughout the 10 years of blogging, I’ve taught 5th grade, 1st and 2nd grade, all of which have been included in these posts: those are the 20something kids. :). And as I mentioned the “fresh start” in the beginning of this post, the new journey we’re on features a new group of 20somethingkids–3rd graders! Also, this fresh start will mean I’m going to do some things differently.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

  1. Since so many of you are new here, I’m going to put up a few posts that acclimate you to who I am, what I’m about and what you can expect here.
  2. Speaking of what to expect, I think I’ve come to the place where I should finally set some guidelines and deadlines for when I will share my stories. In the past, I didn’t have a schedule for when I’d post; some weeks I’d post once and some weeks I’d post 10 or 12 new things! Needless to say, that made it hard for you, dear blog reader, to know when to check in with me, and also it made it so I often ended up with sooooo much content that I ended up not even writing it. There was time to do the things, but not time (or energy) to tell YOU about the things we did. This time around, there will be a schedule. 🙂
  3. In previous iterations of 20somethingkids, the posts have gone on and on and on and on. I have a tendency to use 25 words when you only need 3 and so often the posts I’d put up were so lengthy that I was worn out after writing them, and my readers were dead tired after reading (if they even hung around long enough to finish! LOL). This time I hope to be more concise with my storytelling and thoughtful in what I decide to share.

And so in a spirit of wanting to not overuse my words, I’m going to end this first post now, with an invitation for you to help me. If you are so inclined, would you take a little bit to leave a comment and answer these questions for me? I’d be forever grateful! 🙂

Here’s what I’m wondering…

  1. What you want when you read a blog? What are some features of your favorite blogs?
  2. What day(s) would you be most likely to read a new blog post?
  3. Since I’m new to 3rd grade, feel free to share any tips or advice you have and want to share! 🙂

THANK YOU for taking time to visit and comment, and hopefully I’ll see you around here again soon! I’d love if you went on this new journey with me!

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!