Cinderella from Around the World

During the last part of the fall/winter, we were busy in first grade.  Busy reading, learning and thinking bout Cinderella.  And culture.  Many years ago I found a unit I really like that was focused on using Cinderella as a means of getting kids to think and learn about how other people live around the world.  We learned a little about fairytales, and also compared and contrasted what the stories had in common (and of course, what was different).  That first year we enjoyed it so much that when I looped with that group to 2nd grade the next year, I wrote a similar unit based instead on Little Red Riding Hood, which was also a big hit!

This year we dug in again to the Cinderella-culture connection, and another group of super kiddos got to hear many amazing stories (most of which were new to them!).  We started with the story most everyone knew already.

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We followed, over the next few weeks, reading many other versions of the story, from places around the globe.  As we talked about each story, we also wove in geography lessons, and marked each country on a map together.

In the first version of this unit that I taught, I had kiddos choose a country that they wanted to learn more about, and then students worked in groups to learn all about the culture of that country.  This time around, Ms. Turken (my co-teacher), and I decided that it might be a bit too much for some of our friends and we had a change we decided to make: we chose two countries we would research and then students could choose which one they wanted to learn more about.  We offered Mexico and China for this part, and kiddos could work with either teacher for the study.

Once we had our groups, kiddos chose which PART of culture they were most interested in: religion, music/dancing, clothing, food, holidays, sports/games, school and art.  Students worked in pairs to research their topic, taking notes as they went.  (In my class we worked on Mexico’s culture, and Ms. Turken facilitated the study of China in Rm. 112; kiddos from both of our classes worked in both places).

After we had taken a few days using books, websites and videos to gather information, we worked to build a mural (of sorts) to share our learning with the other group.  We began with a blank chart (below) and then kiddos had to work with paper to create a 2D representation of the things they found to be most important about their topic.

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I always love to see pics of kids “in action,” and also love how they incorporate technology right along good old paper and glue. 🙂

Once we were finished, we met to have each group (Mexico and China) teach the other country’s group about what they had learned about the culture of each place.

We did a great job, but we also learned that our kiddos have LOTS to learn about how to present to an audience. :). No worries–there’s lots of time left in the year to work that out. 🙂

Also, as a side note, while our study focused on the cultural parts of the Cinderella story, we also read several versions that were just for fun!

I’d say (without any hard evidence except for my being there during the study) that this was a hit with everyone involved.  We loved all the stories and everyone learned something they didn’t know before we started.  🙂

 

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!

 

 

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!

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!

Veterans’ Day 2016

Our school knows how to do things right. 🙂   And Veterans’ Day is one of those things that we do that has quickly become a day we look forward to celebrating together with our friends, family and honored guests.

Let me share our day with you. 🙂

First of all, here’s the first grade portion of the program.

Aren’t we a handsome bunch of kiddos?

We’re talented, too. 🙂  Here’s our Veterans’ Day song:

Before we sang, there were some tributes to our honored first grade guests.  It was pretty special. 🙂

Lastly in the program, some Robinson friends (including our RM. 202 friend Kaiden!) read the official Veterans’ Day proclamation:

Now…in case you wanted to see the entire program, it was live-streamed on Periscope and can be viewed in its entirety at these links: Part 1 and Part 2.  Also, Mrs. Sisul has updated Robinson’s Facebook page with pics from the day.  Check it out here.

Another amazing and thoughtful day spent celebrating some really important people and appreciating the freedoms and opportunities we have in America!  Great job, Rm. 202!

Stop! Drop! Cover! Roll!

On Monday we were lucky to be visited by the Kirkwood Fire Department, as they taught us how to be safe around fire, and what to do to prevent problems if we encounter one in our house.

First, we watched a video with some friends we know and love:

…and then our beloved firefighters taught us about what to do when we hear the smoke detector.  They even reminded us what it sounds like!

We talked about Stop, Drop, Cover your Face and Roll as well as how to find a safe spot where our family will meet if we have to leave our house (ours is down the street by the speed limit sign!), as well as how every bedroom should have two exits in case one is blocked.  Perhaps the best part was when he put on his gear so we could see what a fireman would look like if we ever encountered one in a rescue!  He sounded like Darth Vader with his mask on!

We knew a lot, learned a lot and feel super safe about fire safety!  Thank you firefighters!! We appreciate you!!  Happy Fire Prevention Week!

 

Are You Registered to Vote??

We are!!

Our school is participating in Kids Vote MO this year and we will all be doing some learning about voting and how we can all make our voices heard.   The first step for us was to have some super smart 5th graders come to teach us about what it means to vote for the President, what the President does, and some general info about how to register to vote.  They brought a really interesting Keynote that they shared with us on our ActivBoard (they reflected it, which is cool and something we know how to do, too!).

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After we had the basic idea of what voting is all about (well, ok, we actually already know what ti means in our classroom, but our 5th grade friends added a USA layer to it…), we got busy REGISTERING to vote in the election next month.  We got actual voting cards, that we worked to fill out with our information.

Check out our cards!  We are super excited!

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Now to figure out what we will vote for…I’ve kind of decided that as 6-7y0s we’re a little too young and innocent to learn about what the “big” kids are learning about the actual President, so we are planning on voting on the best book, or for a character for President using books we will enjoy together.  You know, like Elephant or Piggie, or Pigeon or even Duck!  Yep, we are big fans of Mo Willems so that would make sense.  As we get further into the process over the next few weeks, I’ll share more details.  Until then, we’re registered to vote–are you??