Building Relationships: Morning Meeting

I have started my school day in a variety of ways over the years, but have been happiest (as, I think, have my students) since I’ve begun the say with choice time.  Sometimes it’s a choice of reading or writing, often it includes an “easel question” where kiddos start with a warm-up to get them thinking, but always they have about a half-hour or so to ease into their day.  Adults don’t start work the second the enter the office, and so neither should kids!

Aside from kids being allowed to ease into the day and spend time with their friends, I am also able to spend time with them in an informal way.  We can chat about the night before, what has happened before school, what they had for breakfast, whatever.

But aside from choice time, the best thing we’ve started doing in our class every morning as the first “official” thing of our day is how we run our morning meeting circle (and yes, I know there is an “official” way to do morning meeting, and this is not exactly that.  It’s just a meeting we have in the morning. 🙂 )

Before I go any further, I need to make sure I tell you about Zones of Regulation.  There are different zones–of different colors to delineate different feelings–and kids learn what each one means and also what to do to move from one zone to another.  Everyone (even adults) moves naturally between zones, which is in itself no big deal, but really being in the GREEN ZONE is the goal.  At the start of our year, we put together this chart after much work with books and conversation and role play to help us really understand what it was all about.  This hangs in our room, and we use it every day!!

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So now to how this connects to our morning meeting circle.  After choice time clean up, we meet in a circle on our rainbow rug.  We pull over our talking piece (our phonics buddy, Rasheed), and get started.  Beginning with our “person in charge”, kiddos go around the circle and tell their classmates what zone they are currently in.  At this point that’s all we share–no reasons yet.  On the second time around the circle, students have the choice of either telling more about their own zone color, or asking someone else in the circle about their color.

The very first time we did this, it took until we got halfway around the circle for someone to ask another friend about their color (rather than tell their own story).  As we’ve gone on, it’s been great to watch how many more (and which different kiddos) have started asking their friends about how they’re doing.  Often a kiddo will ask me, and always by the end of the circle we know how everyone is feeling as we start our day.

I’ve noticed how much more fully we can support each other when we know exactly what kind of morning they’ve had before they got to school.  Things come out in our circle that help us understand how to relate to our friends, things that they probably wouldn’t have shared otherwise.  Often we hear about a rushed morning that put someone in the yellow zone, or about how a friend is sad and in the blue zone because their parent is traveling and they miss them.  With this information, it’s the job of the rest of us to help those friends find a way back to the green zone.

Another thing I’ve noticed is how kids are becoming more aware of their actual feelings and being honest about how they are truly feeling.  We’ve had kiddos on both ends of the spectrum–those who always say they’re green (even if they aren’t) and some who always claim to be yellow–or even red–but really aren’t.  It surprised me how uncomfortable some friends were with being ok; being in the green zone seemed like a place they were not used to being and so had to be convinced that it was a good thing.  Being able to talk about our feelings and start the day together in this way also just helps us share our lives; often the reason we’re “green” is because of happy things that have happened or things we’re looking forward to.  We’re a part of each others’ lives from the very beginning. 🙂

How do you start your morning? What does Morning Meeting look like in your classroom?  If you’re a parent, what has your first grader told you about our opening circle?  What is their favorite part? Please leave us a comment with your thoughts!

 

Kindness Week 2019: Valentine’s Day

Yes, I know I mentioned that we’re NOT doing Valentine’s Day and instead choosing to celebrate a whole Kindness Week.  Well, the last day of Kindness Week was Valentine’s Day, and so we did indeed focus a little more on kindness and a did a couple of extra special things.

First of all, through out the whole week we worked to write compliment cards for each kiddo in our class.  Rather than have kiddos spend time and money on Valentine’s cards from the store, we hand make them for our friends.  Starting on Monday wrote and wrote and wrote, using a checklist to spell names right and to make sure we included everyone.  Also, before we started writing, we brainstormed some words we might want to say.

Once we got to the afternoon, kiddos had some Valentine’s Choices.  Many were even things we would normally do, just with a Valentine’s Twist.

Kids could choose to decorate a bag for their compliment cards,

play a math game,

color,

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play a board game,

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and/or  build with Rig-a-ma-jigs (which I could probably write another whole blog post about!).

Even without a big ‘ole party full of candy and sugar and glitter, we had a SUPER time!

But wait–we weren’t done!  We ended the day with a sweet treat of KINDNESS CAKE!!

What is Kindness Cake you ask?  Well basically it’s chocolate cake (that kiddos voted for) with red vanilla icing (which kiddos also voted for) but also has root beer (because we have to make it egg free) and had some pretty amazing decorations–which I’ll show you in a minute.

After we had red icing (really red icing!), each kiddo added a cake topper we had made earlier in the day on which we had written a way we can show kindness at home.

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After we served the cake, kiddos were given the challenge of doing whatever act of kindness they got in their piece of cake!

We ended the day with that snack of Kindness Cake, popcorn, Capri Sun and Arthur on the big screen.  What a fun day!

Happy Valentine’s Day! Hope yours was as sweet as ours! ❤

The 112th Day of School?

If you’ve been here for a while, you know that I have done some reflection on the appropriateness of celebrating the 100th Day of School (at least outside of kindergarten).  Last year we decided to commemorate the 111th day of school in a small way instead because that was our room number. Not the most creative reasoning, but Rm. 111 kids really stepped up and we did some awesome things around the number 111!

This year we talked about doing the same thing again (new class, same plan) after I explained to them about how we didn’t need to do the same thing they did in kindergarten–this is first grade, after all!

Well, because of two “too-cold” days off, our 111th day of school fell right after World Read Aloud Day, right after Global School Play Day, after a visit to the Black History Museum and some brownie baking and smack in the middle of Kindness Week!  Whew!  We were (and would be!) so busy–and no one had asked about it in a while–that I figured I’d let the day come and go and no one would notice.  I know–not fair, but hey, it’s what I did. 🙂

And it did come and go….at least for one day. LOL . On Wednesday, the 112th day of school, Ali noticed on our ten-frame number on the board that we had in fact missed our special day!  Oops. 🙂 . She asked me and I was honest with my answer.  She seemed fine with that explanation, but pretty much insisted that we fix it by doing something that day.  Ok, Al, you’re right. 🙂

During our Morning Meeting that day we talked about our new plan for the day (and yes, I admitted my mistake).  They had ideas similar to what some of my previous classes have done, and thankfully most of their suggestions were totally appropriate and “doable” without much planning.  Together we decided that we would read 112 books, have 12 extra minutes of math (which sounds weird but was the concession I could give them when they first asked for 112 extra minutes!), and that we’d do some reading/writing/drawing about Black History Month later on in the day.  Pretty great ideas, I’d say!

Before we got busy with our reading goal, we talked about how we would make 112 books happen.  Sam had a great idea of thinking about it like a math problem, and he helped construct a ratio table to figure out how many books each would need to read.  We ended up with 7 or 8 each, and quickly discussed how we’d keep track.  Chart paper and post-its for the win!

Remember how in the post about Twenty Yawns I talked about how great it is when the numbers work out for you?  Well, it happened again as the chart we used could fit 9 sticky notes across.  You can use multiples of 10 – 1 to figure out how many you have pretty quickly.  LOVE IT!

Anyhow, we worked pretty much all morning on this, but ended up getting to our goal (and a bit past it!) just as it was time for lunch.  PERFECT!

Oh, and I’ll share what happened in that extra 12 minutes of math in another post soon!  The afternoon when they worked on Black History Month was also great, but I didn’t get any pictures of it. 😦 . I LOVE how excited these kiddos are about learning, and how much of that includes books!

Kindness Week 2019: Ms. Dale’s Kindness Sale

As I mentioned in my post about the Kindness Quilt 2.0, Robinson has begun doing a variety of fabulous and kind things throughout a whole WEEK instead of just focusing on Valentine’s Day.

One of the REALLY fabulous things that happened during Kindness Week was a Kindness Garage Sale held by Ms. Dale’s First Graders.  They have been working on a service-learning project related to poverty, food scarcity and helping our neighbors.  We have a Little Food Pantry on our school campus (and it’s shaped like George, our Roadrunner mascot!), but they had noticed that it is often in need of filling; many people in our community benefit from what is available inside.

Ms. Dale’s class put together a garage sale to raise money to take a shopping trip to Aldi to shop for food to fill up our pantry and invited all of our school to come shopping!  Everything was 50 cents, so everyone was able to get a little something.

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We were amazed that everyone in our class seemed to find a trinket that was seemingly made just for them.  Zach found dinosaurs, Brock found a Transformer, Ariya chose a little porcelain egg with a kitten on it, Avant found bouncy balls, Riley found a dog, Hailey found a book she LOVES from our classroom and now she has her very own copy!–even I got something and found a 1000 piece puzzle! Several kiddos discovered sunglasses and were THRILLED when two days later it was finally sunny. 🙂 . Beckett and Isaac both made a point to choose something for themselves, and also for their moms. ❤ . And I’m sorry–I didn’t get a picture of everyone.  They were too quick for me!

Besides the treasures that we were able to find for ourselves, the big benefit of the sale was the almost $400 that the class raised!  They were able to take their shopping field trip on Thursday of Kindness Week and stock up the pantry!  What an incredible way to spread kindness and love to our community!  Can’t wait to see what happens as they continue to support the neighbors who live around us.  We’re also hoping that maybe the rest of Robinson can join in and do some learning with them. 🙂 Stay tuned for more chapters to this story!

There’s Math in That Book!–Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley and Lauren Castillo

I remember when we were reading Going Places and Beckett found some pretty amazing math in a picture that was in the book.  We tweeted to Peter H. Reynolds to ask him if he knew about it, and/or if he did it on purpose.

We were tickled when he replied–because when authors talk to you it’s a BIG DEAL!!

Well, we were reading another book the other day–Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley and Lauren Castillo–and something similar happened.

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As we finished the book (which is a super sweet story about a girl who is trying to go to sleep and not surprisingly does lots of yawning), I asked why the author would have named the book Twenty Yawns.  I thought someone would say “because there are 20 yawns in the story,” but surprisingly that was not what they suggested.  Somehow we got into a little tat about how there were 21 yawns in the book.  What??  I’m still not entirely sure if the friends who were so convinced about the 21 yawns were for real, or if they wanted to cause a ruckus, but regardless, Ali saved the day by saying we should count them and figure it out.

So…we went back through the story and paid attention to how many yawns were on each page, creating an equation that looked like this:

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Next we talked about the different ways kiddos could PROVE that there were or were not 21 (or 20!) yawns in the book.  Our list looked like this:Screenshot 2019-02-18 13.26.11

It was actually really lucky, too, how the problem worked out because we have been working on combinations of 10 and I was hoping that kiddos would find the 10s in there first, and then quickly come to the answer of 20.  Not all did, which is fine–we’ll keep working–but many did. 🙂 .

Check out some of our thinking (which we are still working on, by the way!).

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I LOVE it when we can take a story and turn it into a math problem!  What an authentic context and motivating activity. 🙂 . And while anytime we stretch our math brains it’s a good thing, I especially love it when the numbers in the book match the numbers we’re working on.  Way to go, Smiley and Castillo!  Did you do that on purpose for us? 🙂

What books have you read that have math in them?  Tell us about it so we can try it, too! 🙂

 

A Fabulous First Grade Friday in February! :)

Sometimes we have whole days where great things happen!  Last Friday was just one of those days.  🙂

It started in the morning when we got to visit the 5th Grade Black History Museum.  For the past few years, 5th grade has done a project to research famous black Americans and then share their findings with the rest of us.  This year it was extra special for our class because we have LOTS of 5th grade siblings.

It started with an introduction by a few 5th grade greeters and a giant sign:

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Then we were able to walk quietly through the museum and learn about the exhibits from the 5th grade historians.

When we returned, we recorded some of our learning in Seesaw to share with each other and our families.  We were excited to notice that some of the people we heard about in the museum were not new to us, as we’ve been doing lots of reading of our own, including a great book I’ll share more about later, called 28 Days.

Later on in the afternoon, we got to show off our baking skills (which we first honed making pumpkin pie, remember?) as we made brownies to share with families in the Robinson Food Pantry which was open that evening.  All of the first grades baked a treat, which was accompanied by a sweet note.

See?  A fabulous first grade Friday! 🙂

Kindness Quilt 2.0

Over the last few years, our school has begun to look differently at Valentine’s Day, choosing to celebrate an entire week (or even month!) of kindness, rather than just one day of candy and treats.  We even had a team of teachers to brainstorm and share ideas that kids might do to show kindness, a calendar with suggestions and videos and displays around our school.

Another such idea that our whole school took on was the Kindness Quilt.  It was actually a project that my class started last year, but something that never made it to the blog!?  It was a project sparked by a book–as many of our best ideas are!–which we started with ourselves and then shared with others, eventually inviting our whole school to participate. 🙂

This year many kiddos and teachers knew it was coming, since they had made the quilt last year.  We all started again, though, with the same inspiration: the book The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace.

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The story is about a little bunny who is also celebrating kindness in her school, looking for kind acts around her life as she goes through the week.  Instead of finding just ONE kind thing she did, she finds SO MANY she decides to make a quilt out of her random acts of kindness.  The quilt started with just herself and her classmates, then grew from the small bulletin board to the big one, and then eventually spread to other grades in her school.  OF COURSE we wanted our kindness quilt to do the same thing!

I invited (and reminded) the rest of Robinson to join in our quilt endeavor again, and asked for teachers to let me know who wanted to participate.  Very quickly classrooms started to tell us they needed supplies, so we got busy putting together supply bags for them to use.  What great counting practice!

Once we had shared quilt squares with so many classes, we also had to make sure we had made quilt squares of our own!  The directions were to 1) show your act of kindness on the white square using a torn-paper picture, 2)  use the words “Kindness is…” and tell about your picture, 3) matte your picture on a bigger colored square, 4) decorate the edges of your colored square.

(A quick aside on why they have to use torn-paper: first graders can always benefit from activities and movements that increase their fine-motor skills.  Using pinchers to tear small bits of paper helps strengthen their fingers, which helps in handwriting and other small movements.  Also, there is a different level of planning and thinking involved with making a picture out of tiny shards of paper than just drawing it with a pencil, and I want them to be challenged to think in a different way. 🙂 We have done this before, so they were not surprised by the request, but yes, there are still some who fuss about not being able to use scissors!!).

Once we had enough squares done to start mounting them, I pulled out the butcher paper and got to work.  Ms. Pachan and Makayla (a SUPER 5th grade helper who works in our room–and Makhi’s big sister!) helped out with this job, too.

Check out some of our AWESOME squares!

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And just so you can get a sneak peek of how our quilt will look (although at the end it will be MUCH MUCH bigger, here’s all the quilt squares as of Thursday afternoon):

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I can’t wait to share updates as it grows and grows and we continue to celebrate kindness, long after Kindness Week is over!