What Do You Do With a Problem?

I am sure you’ve seen this book:


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:

Screenshot 2018-01-22 21.53.48

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!




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:


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:


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!!


#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:


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. 🙂


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! 🙂

#classroombookaday 2017 UPDATE: Week 13–WE HIT 200 BOOKS!!

What an exciting week in first grade reading!!  We hit 200 books!!  We’re in that super fun time of year, too, where the topics we’re reading about are so much fun and we’re in a smooth routine that allows us to read even more than usual.  Win-win!!

Check out our wall! Our updated total is 203! (yeah…I just noticed I put on book up there twice.  Ignore that part. 🙂 ).


I was talking to my friend the other day about our wall and how happy we are that it’s in a place where EVERYONE in our school walks every day.   We did so much with this challenge last year and no one got to see it or share it with us because our room was tucked up in a quiet corner where no one but us ever walked.  This way all the readers in our school (adult and student alike!) get to check out what we’re doing.  And besides showing all of our hard work, it’s just so PRETTY!!  Sometimes I really do just stand there and look at it.  Books can inspire you in so many ways!

This week we read lots of great ones by many authors and used them in many ways.

We came back to a few old favorite authors–and illustrators–this week (talking to you, Ryan T. Higgins, Marla Frazee, Mo Willems, Todd Parr, Steve Antony and Mem Fox!).  We have worked through SO MANY of those friends’ titles, but still had some floating around that we had to finish up.  Mem Fox has SO MANY and we were still working through hers from the Global Read Aloud (which, by the way, I am remembering I have forgotten to tell you about.  More on that later, I hope!).  We used many of them to help with some word work we have been doing, and some I picked to help revisit a friend/kindness theme (it’s that time of year when you need to remind kiddos that the things we talked about at the beginning of the year are still a thing!).  Little i  came in SUPER handy as we were working on the editing phase in our writing unit, and Pumpkin Jack is always a nice ending to our Literary Lanterns project and the “pumpkin” focus we had around Halloween.

Kiddos were our readers this week, too, as Celia shared Thank You, Mr. Panda and Campbell read The Thank You Book to us. 🙂

Funny kid reference from the week comes when I was sharing that we were going to read Knuffle Bunny Too and Knuffle Bunny Free.  I was happily sharing how we’d read these and Louie says, “Oh, like Knuffle Bunny 2 and 3!”  We all had a laugh and I TOTALLY didn’t even hear the titles like that.  Good detail, Mo Willems, and good listening, Louie!!

#classroombookaday 2017 UPDATE: Week 12

We’re still rolling along, adding books and book and books to our display in the first grade hallway.  Check out the latest and greatest:


I know you can tell that we’re almost ready to add another arrow (for 200!), and as of this last week we have logged 186 books!  This week was busy and the schedule was a little wonky because of Halloween, a 1/2 day and other events around school, so we only added 10, but they were all good ones!

We had lots of Halloween-themed books, as well as another Lola Schaefer and another book illustrated by our friend Peter H. Reynolds because–why not??  One of the texts was a kid-written story, and then the last one of the week was from my rotation on our 1/2 day, where I taught about the Navy (each teacher shared about a different branch of the military).

What did you read this week?  PLEASE recommend something that YOU love to us and we’ll read it, too! 🙂  Until next week–happy reading!