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:

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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!

Table Talk, Friendship Soup and Pumpkin Pie!

The months between Halloween and Winter Break are my favorite to teach.  Oh wait–I think I will probably say that very soon, as I love to teach January and February, too.  Ha! Maybe I just like teaching in first grade….:)

Anyhow, one of the things I love is the fun we are able to have with out learning and our community around Thanksgiving.  This year we made Friendship Soup (which was a first for me!) as well as the pumpkin pie that has become a common tradition for my classes to make and share together.

Thanks to many generous parents who donated LOADS of things, we were able to work together with out friends in RM. 112 to make two whole crockpots full of friendship soup, which was actually PHONICS friendship soup, full of letters thanks to a recipe from our good pal, Rasheed.  In the morning of our last day before we left for our long Thanksgiving break, we put it all in the pot to let it simmer while we worked on other things.  It was fun to see what kiddos already knew about cooking, like who had heard of the spices we were using or who knew how to open a can with a can opener.  It’s one of my most favorite things about cooking with kids–connections to real life and skills they’ll use forever! 🙂 And they did a great job with following the recipe and man did it start to smell good!!

On that same day, pumpkin pie was on the menu!  Prior to this day we had read lots of books about pumpkins, carved jack-o-lanterns for Halloween, and used pumpkins for our Literary Lantern projects, too.  Well, we ended up with several leftovers, which were PERFECT for our pie project.  I had never used actual pumpkin for the recipe (usually it’s just organic pumpkin out of a can), but why not? It just made sense!

I have a great crust recipe from my husband’s granny that is just flour, salt and oil, which is perfect because our class has allergies to eggs, dairy, nuts and tree nuts.  The pie is a vegan recipe (yep, vegan!) I ran across a couple of years ago–when I was baking for my niece and nephews who are also allergic to many things. :). The recipe was perfect!  Besides the fact that most kiddos had never MADE a pumpkin pie before, there were some who had never EATEN pumpkin pie before, because it wasn’t safe for them.  This was definitely a win-win situation. :). We were even able to have allergy-friendly “whipped cream” that was made with aquafaba (which for those who don’t regular eat this way is the liquid leftover from chick peas).  It whips up just like heavy cream (ok, not just like it–my husband would DEFINITELY disagree that it’s as good–but it’s a great substitute if you can’t have the dairy kind) and is yummy with the pie!

While we don’t have a classroom kitchen (or a kitchen for us to use with our classes, which would be AWESOME!), we do have pretty a great kitchen staff who was more than willing (thanks, Rachel!!) to put our pie in the oven, and even watch it for us while it baked.  Gotta love it when all the adults in the building support kid-focused activities, no matter how crazy they are!

Toward the end of the day, it was finally time for our Friendship Feast, which we had created with our very own hands. :). I hadn’t done this in such a formal way before (most years prior we just had pie and ate it in a hurry during our regular snack time), but my teammates went all in and set a big long table, complete with table cloths and everything, so I figured I’d join in at least part-way. :). I didn’t have table cloths, but I did create a table space big enough for us all, and Avant even put a flower on it to make it fancy. 🙂

Those pics are a little sad, though, right, because they needed kids!  As they walked back in after specials, they were excited and surprised to see a table set for them and quickly sat down.

Before we were ready to eat, we reminded ourselves of some other things we had learned prior to this day.  I thought that since we were going to sit at a table together, we should use it as an opportunity to learn about table manners.  I have learned over lots of years with little ones, and by having my own kiddos at home, that you cannot assume that kids KNOW what to do in certain situations.  So instead I read a great book by Julia Cook called Table Talk.

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Just as was in the book, we waited for everyone to be seated, for everyone to be served and put our napkins in our laps.  We chewed with our mouths closed, waited our turn to talk, and also remembered to be quiet and respectful at the table, rather than playing around or being loud and crazy.  Before we ate, also, we went around the table and shared what we were thankful for.  We listened carefully and then once everyone had had a turn, we dug in. :).  And realized we had done a GREAT JOB with our Friendship Soup–it was YUMMY!! (Oh, and another thing we all did was at least take a “thank you bite,” which means you have to at least try the soup and then you are allowed to not eat the rest–as a thank you to the chef for making it for you. 🙂 ).

Most kids like the soup, and everyone at least tried the pie.  Some decided it was AWESOME and had more than one slice, and others just had a bite–which is totally fine, of course.  The big deal here wasn’t that we were great cooks, or that we were master bakers.  Instead it was that we could work together, take time for each other, show kindness and respect to our friends, enjoy time with classmates and also see the fruits of our labor.  Kids did things they didn’t know they could do and were so excited to see the results.  They laughed together, solved problems together and listened to what makes their friends happy.  We had table talk, friendship soup and pumpkin pie, and we did it all together.  And for that I am thankful!

 

 

Literary Lanterns: 2018 version

I found this project a few years ago, and have tried it with three first grade classes now. 🙂 Last fall must have been a busy time in my life because the 2017 version of this project did not make it to our blog. 😦 Oh well–here’s another iteration of this awesome project, which is a great combo of fall, pumpkins and books!

As with the last times we’ve done it, we started with the explanation, and this picture:

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We talked about the possibilities for books and characters we’d use and made one really important rule: you can’t do anything in this example. :).  As you might be able to tell, these are many of our favorite characters and EVERYONE would want to do them.  This challenges them to think “outside the book” so to speak, and not just copy someone else’s idea.

Kids had time to check out our book wall (another GREAT reason to display them low for all to see!), and shared their book choice (either from one we’ve read or one they’ve read or just love).

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After their books were chosen, and Ms. Turken and I had given them their assignment (with the idea of trying to make sure all our our lanterns were different), they were to draw their plan, including a list of materials they would need to complete their pumpkin.  Learners shared their plans with us (and each other) via Seesaw.  Here are some of them:

Once everyone had brought in their pumpkins (plus some extras via some very generous families!), we finally got busy with the decorating!

We were finally ready to share our creations after we’d gotten our displays together–including a picture of our book and a recording of who our character was and why we’d chosen them (can you say “thank you KSD for the fact that we are 1:1 with iPads?  WE are able to do SO MANY GREAT THINGS because of that!). Here’s what a few of those looked and sounded like:

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We set up our Literary Lanterns and our iPads so that as kiddos from the other classes came through to see our gallery they could listen and look at our thinking.  We also had a chance to go through and view our own class’ creations during the gallery walk.   What a great end to a great Friday morning around Robinson school!

Ok, one last little slide show. :). Here’s a closer look at our creations! (It seems now that I’ve missed a few, but I will add them as soon as I get back to school!)

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Halloween Fun 2018

What a GREAT day in Rm. 111!  I mean I know Halloween is supposed to be fun, but I really think the reason it was extra great this year was because Rm. 111 kiddos were so amazingly behaved and still worked like it was a learning day, not just a throw-out-all-the-rules or just-a-party day!  They even did it in their PAJAMAS because we had earned a PJ Day reward for getting 20 Catches of the Day.  Granted I also think it helped that we kept them busy and planned some really interesting things, but regardless, they stepped it up and totally rocked it. :). Let me share our day with you. 🙂

We of course spent the day (and every day!) with some books.  On both Tuesday and Wednesday, we focused on books about pumpkins and then Halloween specifically.  Check out the titles we read together:

We enjoyed all these (because who doesn’t look a good story, especially when it’s holiday-themed?!), and strangely it was the very first time I’d ever read The Little Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything.  Not sure how, after all these years of teaching (and of being alive!), but I loved it and will definitely include it in my repertoire next year.  AND we might decide to do the Breakout box I saw recently related to it.  I’ll definitely share that here if it happens!

We had been working on a lantern project in reading, and because Mrs. Heisner blessed us with some extra pumpkins we had enough leftover to carve–even exactly the right amount for each crew to do one.  Kids had a chance to plan their idea of a great jack-o-lantern as morning work, and then we planned to do a little flip-flop with Rm. 112 kiddos and Ms. Turken for the morning.  She had a super Room-on-a-Broom-themed craft to do (which of course I have no pictures of since I wasn’t in there 😦 ), and so two crews when there while two crews were with me and then we traded (this is, by the way, an oft-used structure used in our co-teaching classroom).  As each crew came to my table, we voted on the pumpkin plan we liked best in each group and then we began to turn our pumpkins into fabulous jack-o-lanterns.  We would, by the way, use this experience as the basis for our how-to in writing today, which was another reason why I wanted to do this together. 🙂

And what fun this whole thing was, from pulling the guts out, to drawing on the faces and then seeing Ms. Pachan’s amazing pumpking-carving skills and then getting to see our finished products all on display! I was also super impressed with how well everyone worked independently and quietly while I was with groups.  SUPER JOB, RM. 111 and 112 kiddos!

Check out the pumpkin work we did! 🙂

The jack-o-lanterns we ended up with were SUPER!  Check out our amazing products!

Later on in the day we were able to participate in our annual Robinson Halloween Parade with the rest of our Roadrunner friends.   Our costumes were GREAT and we had a great walk.  It was a little chilly, but that just added to the late-fall fun!

Robinson teachers even got in on the fun!

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We decided to do a team costume to go with our current science unit–Patterns in the Sky!  Ms. Turken is the moon, I am the sun, Mrs. Kier is the earth, Ms. Dale is covered in constellations and Ms. Fry is a cloud. Such fun!

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Ms. Pachan, our first grade teaching assistant was also part of a group of crayons, put posed for a picture with me before our parade. 🙂

Once we got back, we settled in for a snack and a movie.  The day before I had asked this question as our morning work problem to get a little data:

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While this was a great question for practice with tally marks and addition, I also used it to know what to shop for for our Halloween treat!  Win/win!

It looked so pretty on the table, too, with all that natural color, don’t you agree?

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Ok, so I know Oreos and Starbursts are NOT natural….look at the front of the picture instead. LOL

We watched Room on the Broom (which we had already enjoyed as a book and a craft!) and kiddos were so quiet and calm–even on Halloween and even after a parade
AND in their costumes.  Joyous. :). Some friends who didn’t want to watch the video with us quietly made other choices like reading with a friend or writing.  Yes, even on Halloween. :).

Here’s to the beginning of a great holiday season!  Bring on November and December! 🙂

Robinson University–2018 Edition

I know you already know I work at the best school in Missouri, and perhaps the world. :). We have such an amazing community of families and teachers, and we make things happen for kids.  Last Friday was another example of that amazing community working together to provide priceless experiences for all the kids in our school.  Let me tell you about it. 🙂

I am sure at some point on this blog I’ve written about Robinson University (hereafter called RU), but the version that was unveiled on Friday was even better than ever.  Until now, first graders have not “officially” been involved, but instead we made up our own rotations for kiddos to do, alongside the “real” ones that bigger kids did.  This year it was decided that we could indeed join in with the rest of the school.  Yay for that decision!

In short, RU is a program we run on half-days at our school (which are half-days so that teachers can participate in professional development in the afternoons), which are designed to provide unique and different experiences for students–experiences that they may not normally or otherwise have an opportunity to take part in.  They are available during school hours so that EVERYONE can participate.  We’ve done some version of it for the last 5 or so years, but this was seen as the 2.0; many changes were made with structure and offerings that were an improvement on our original ideas.

Children were given the option of some 30 different classes, and all classes were taught or facilitated by parents, friends and community members of Robinson School.  In the past, students had only 2 or 3 classes, as we stretched them out over the entire semester of half-days. Now kiddos choose their 10 favorites and then are assigned 6 of those–one for each half-day, so that they are able to participate in 6 exciting and different experiences throughout the year.

Teachers were assigned as faculty liaisons to work with one of our presenters, and I got to participate in a session about DNA.  I got to work with a fabulous mom of a fabulous student I had a couple of years ago, who is a real research scientist and came with real science to teach us about what DNA is and how it works.  Cool, right?

I have loads to tell you about that (since I was present in that session), but first I want to share some pictures from the other sessions to give you a little taste of the exciting things our Roadrunners were able to do AT SCHOOL last week! :). Check it out. 🙂

Aikido

  • Aikido (a different style of martial arts) is “The way of harmonizing energy,” known as the art of peace.

Let’s Make Breakfast!

  • Come and have fun mixing and making a delicious breakfast of Dollar Pancakes, cheesy scrambled eggs and Island Smoothies. Breakfast always tastes better when you make it yourself! 

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Creative Writing

  • Have you ever dreamed of writing and illustrating your very own picture book?  If so, this course will teach you all about the creative writing process from a published children’s book author.

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Food Science

  • Let’s make gummy worms! Come explore the Science of food!

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Happy, Healthy Kids

  • You will learn lots about healthy living and how healthy living makes you feel happier and stronger. We’ll also make fruit ice cream (no sugar/no dairy!) and it is YUMMY!

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Microbiology–Learning about GERMS!

  • Let’s test the 5 second rule in this session that investigates microbiology and our germ-filled world! We will explore what germs are, why they matter, where they are and how experiments and can help us learn more about them. 

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Stop Motion Videos

  • Come and make your very own stop motion video!

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What Does a Veterinarian Do?

  • We will discuss the skills and tools used in veterinary medicine. We will discuss some fun and interesting cases and work together to learn to think like a veterinarian.

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(This one was taught by a very special Rm. 111 parent!  Thanks for helping out, Mrs. Hendrickson!!)

Yoga

  • Explore how yoga, movement and breath can be both fun and relaxing. 

I would have LOVED to have had pictures from all the sessions (there were also sessions that including geocaching, swimming, Keynote, School of Rock, World Bird Sanctuary, Jedi training [fencing], cake decorating and so many more I can’t even list them all!!), and unfortunately I didn’t get every smiling Rm. 111 faces on this post, but hopefully by the end of the year of RU I will be able to do so. :). Stay tuned.  The next session is on November 2!

Ok…so here’s the details on the session I was in–it was all about What is DNA?  It was led by my friend Dr. Ariel, who is a research scientist.  She came to teach us about what it is, why it’s important, and we even EXTRACTED some DNA from a strawberry!  Emily, a 5th grader who attended the session (and who can be found on this blog from several years ago when she was a first and second grader!) named him Jeff.  Unfortunately, Jeff gave his life for science and we were amazed when the little cotton-like strands actually came out of the test tube right before our very eyes!  Check it out…

(P.S. I have a GREAT video of the whole DNA extraction process but it it turned the wrong way and I can’t get it to rotate!! Ugh.  If you know to do that and want to give me guidance I’ll do it and post it here later!)

 

Names, Names, Names!!

One of the most important words a first grader knows (how to read and how to write) is their name.   We have done lots of work with this, including making sure everyone knows how to write it neatly with only 1 capital letter.  Along with knowing the letters in our names, we will soon officially begin to focus on the SOUNDS in our names, as well as the chunks, blends and patterns in our names that can help us read other words! We practiced in many different ways with many different materials.  We are getting SUPER good at names now and are using beautiful handwriting in other places, too!

Check out our work from the last few weeks!

Playdoh

Just like when we use our pencils, using our “pinchers” to make the Playdoh into sticks and curves is a challenge.  Our goal was to make the Playdoh letters look just like the name on our name tags.

Inch Tiles

Who’s Name is Longer?

This one was a name practice that we used as a math investigation.  Each kiddo made their name on inch tiles and groups worked together to figure out who’s was longest, shortest, and how many letters their group had altogether.

 

Legos!

Boo…so I just realized that most of the pictures we have of this activity are on kiddos’ iPads. 😦  Maybe I’ll come back and add them after I get them transferred to me, but for now, trust me that this was a challenge!  I had to nudge many kids to create 3D versions (to actually connect the Legos, rather than just lay them on the floor) and that up’ed the ante on the thinking.  Plus–it was a really fun and totally engaging way to practice letters and names!  Goodness, what can you NOT use Legos for?

Good ‘Ole Fashioned Handwriting Practice

 

One More Time: Analogies with Mrs. Berger

We had one more Kingore lesson this past week with Mrs. Berger.  This time it was analogies.  Man, these can be hard for first graders, but like with most every time, we had some great examples before we got started.  We tried some together (with pictures to help us out!) and then she read to book Animalogies to us, which was written by some other kids and involved analogies that were all about animals!

And…just like last time, we smelled brownies!  What great opportunities we’ve had with Mrs. Berger to think in a new way, stretch our brains a bit and show how creative we are! We will definitely continue to put these skills to work in the classroom as we go forward in first grade! 🙂