Word Wall 2017

I am a teacher who works with first graders, so we do LOTS with words.  Reading words, writing words, learning about how to say words, discussing meaning of words.  Words. Words. Words.

So…in the beginning when I was putting the room together, lots of thought and consideration was given to how we’d use our word wall and where it would go in the room.  Ms. Turken and I also had many conversations about how we could use our walls in tandem (as our kids would be going back-and-forth between our rooms often and would be utilizing both versions).  Last year, I also had a rebirth of the word wall, and abandoned the whole “traditional” layout (with letters and sight words) and we put words in categories rather than by alphabetical order.  Kids in Rm. 202 used that version of the wall SO MUCH MORE because it was theirs.  They had ownership over how it was organized and therefore were much more purposeful in how it helped them.

As I said, we’ve had a “word wall” since day one.   It looked like this:

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And next to it, to the right, is another wall, that has been predominately “blank”, as well, except for names (which some kiddos just noticed last week. LOL).  This set up is almost identical in Rm. 112–on the same wall, even–just with different colors.

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Today, for many reasons, became the day to tackle the word wall discussion.  For one, kids have had some time to “live” in our room, as well as in first grade generally, and so have more of an understanding of what more they might need as far as resources.  We’ve also just officially started word work as a Daily 5 rotation, so they are more aware of how this aspect of reading and writing in first grade.  We’ve been reading for almost a whole quarter now, and have been working out words, and are far enough now for an “official” lesson about what to do with unknown words in Writer’s Workshop.  It’s to the point now that we have to address where to go when you don’t know. 🙂

We gathered in front of the blank word wall today and had a discussion about what it might be for.  Many pointed to the fact that we’ve been utilizing it to help us write our letters when we forget what they look like, or what order they go in.  Many were happy to leave that silly wall just as it is!  I pushed, however, and talked about how I’d overheard several kiddos talking about how they needed help with how to write (spell) specific words today, and suggested that maybe we could use the spaces (between the letters!) for words.  They seemed keen on this idea, and many suddenly remembered that they had a wall like that in kindergarten! (I tell, ya, those kindergarten teachers think of the BEST ideas! hee hee)  We discussed what kinds of words we should put on our wall and many threw out words they’d been trying to use today, and someone suggested we  add sight words to our wall.  The thing I loved about their thinking (unlike many years, and in comparison to the way I’ve used word walls previously) is that they agreed that we should put up words they DO NOT know how to read and spell yet, rather than ones they ALREADY know how to use correctly.  This is the part of the typical Word Wall that always had me confused anyway: I used it as a wall of “have-tos” and held kids accountable for words they already knew, rather than effectively helping them work towards ones they didn’t have control over yet.

Additionally, many suggested that we routinely COME BACK to review the words on the word wall to siphon out words we had learned (and didn’t need anymore), adding new ones that kids needed to rely on.  BOOM!  Not rocket science, but this was the very first time I’ve ever had a learner attend to the “living” nature of the word wall.  It’s the first time I had done that, too.  WOW! so thankful that happened.

In past years, I have decided on what words we would learn and add, based on a list or suggestion from someone or somewhere…sometimes relying on my kids to lead me (I’d say I did more of this student-led work last year more than ever), but often just at random.  Waa waa.  Super teaching strategy, right?  It didn’t hurt anyone, and kids eventually learned how to read, write and use those words, but of course there was a better way of doing it than just so haphazardly.

Since Rm. 111 kids would decide which words to add, we originally had a plan for each kiddo to tackle a “letterful” of words, leaving the remaining ones for me to choose.  Campbell suggested that we determine 5 or so words for each letter that we wanted.  The time of today when we could work on this didn’t allow us much time, so I tweaked the idea a little and we worked with our learning partners.  In the end, I think this worked out better anyway, as kids had to more deeply think about and defend their choices than would have been required if they just chose on their own.  As they finished with their first letter, pairs tackled others and we got almost finished with our choices today (up to the letter R, I believe…).  When our work time was over, we had a tableful of possibilities.

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It was really interesting to see what they had come up with, and made me think about how I’d chosen focus words before.  I am pretty sure I never had contractions up there so early, and the wall was full of 2-letter words for months.  As I reviewed the words they decided upon, I saw MANY MORE connections between words than I’d allowed for previously, and noticed many ways that words could be used to spell other words that I hadn’t ever considered.  First graders are so smart!!  I mean, really–so often they know what they need much better than me! 🙂

I did end up revising their lists a little, taking out words that could be figured out with longer words.  For example, I left CAN’T but took away CAN, as we could use the latter to spell the shorter one.  Same with most of those contractions, as well as the word BE, since BECAUSE and BEFORE were also there.  Also, some of their word choices were colors and numbers, which will go into category boxes (much like last year’s wall) on that black board on the right side.  We’ll discuss this and how to use it a little later.

I didn’t get quite done today, but am already really excited to see all the words that are hanging there now, and am happily anticipating how the wall will be used by my Rm. 111 (and 112!) learners.  I am excited for the newly gained confidence that I will see emerging as kids can add another layer of  independence to their literacy work.

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Oh, and by the way, when I asked them what we should call this wall of words, they suggested we put the title WORD WALL on it. 🙂  hee hee (and see–there’s even a lesson in that title: I did not leave CALL or ALL on the list because they are inside of WALL). 🙂

All I can say is I LOVE FIRST GRADERS!!  Please stay tuned for more on how we use this amazing thinking to help us with FUTURE amazing thinking. 🙂

10 Lego Math

Last week during our Bike Rodeo in PE, we did a math investigation around how many wheels were on the bikes in our bike row in the gym (yeah, I know…I should have shared that post first.  Sorry. 🙂 ).

It was our first try with math notebooks and working to communicate our mathematical thinking in words, pictures and numbers.  Kiddos are expected to be able to do that thoughtfully and clearly, based on this rubric:

Screenshot 2017-09-27 21.26.34This is an end-of-year expectation, but we learn about it early and work on it all year in different ways.

As I looked over the work kiddos had recorded in their notebooks, I noticed that kiddos mainly just wrote numbers.  Ok, really a number.  Just the answer to whatever question they were working on.  The words and pictures parts were pretty much MIA.  It’s still early, so this is neither surprising nor worrisome–we just need some work on what it means to clearly and concisely show what we did to solve a problem.

While we could have done this in a variety of ways, I took a super smart suggestion from my friend, Mrs. Marks, (who you might remember inspired this Lego Leading/Following lesson) who thought she would walk a bit backward and have her kiddos work on just representing something really small they that had counted, made, etc.  Perhaps because the first “Mrs. Marks” lesson was using Legos, or maybe because they’re the best tool ever, or we all love them or we have a TON of them….but regardless, I framed our next communication lesson around a Lego creation invitation.

With the goal being using words, pictures and numbers (as necessary) to explain their thinking and making their explanation match their creation, kiddos were given a baggie with 10 random Legos.

Then I gave them these directions:

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For the first part, kiddos only worked on steps 1 and 2.

As we moved to the next step, I did a think aloud as I drew and then wrote about my own creation.  We talked about what information would be helpful to know if they were going to build a replica of my tower (because that’s what they will be doing next!).  They gave great suggestions of words to use and we revised and added to the words, also discussing what labels might be helpful.

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Somehow I didn’t get a picture of my tower, but I promise it looks just like that drawing. 🙂

Kiddos’ next step was to work on their drawings and writing, with nudges along the way to add or revise to make sure their thinking was clear and complete.

Today we finalized our thinking, took a picture (to compare our drawings and creations) and posted our work on Seesaw.  We used the recording feature to read our writing and add any details we thought were important.  Next step is that we will build each other’s creations and discuss what information in our work was helpful, confusing, and/or missing.  We will then try again with another creation and see if improve.  Kiddos have been so excited about this work and I’m excited to see how it impacts our math work going forward.

How do you use Legos to learn?  We’d love to hear your ideas.  🙂

#weekofkindness–Thursday

Oh my goodness guys—this week has been BEYOND amazing!  All week we’ve been collecting books to donate to friends who don’t have any as well as food for Feed My People and our own Robinson Cares Food Pantry.  It’s been so great to see how kind and generous kids and families are, and has been great as we’ve been able to use this meaningful topic as we work on our reading, writing and spelling with our chart:

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Our conversations all week have included ideas for how we can all show more kindness to each other, and today we added that last idea of making #weekofkindness cards for special Robinson people to show them we care.  We started the day with an easel question related to this topic:

img_6805We had loads of great suggestions (including several post-its with MY name on them, LOL), and came up with even more and we planned for our card-making.  Kiddos decided who they wanted to create for and then most paired up to share some love!

The smiles on their faces as they finished and then the excitement as they came back with stories of the joy they spread to the recipients was over-the-top.  This was definitely a GREAT addition to our #weekofkindness activities. 🙂  Spreading kindness makes you all warm inside too!

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I am SO glad we did this and wonder if #weekofkindness should happen once each MONTH instead of just once each year. 🙂

 

#weekofkindness–Tuesday Update!

This year our school has been working to “tweak” what have been considered “traditional” holiday celebrations (i.e. class parties).  You’ll remember that we had a relaxing afternoon with a snack and a movie for Halloween, and a our amazing Cultural Celebration just before Winter Break.  Well, Valentine’s Day made the trifecta complete, as we made some long-overdue (well at least in my opinion) and really great (also in my opinion!) changes to this day.  Let me tell you about how it started in Rm. 202…

I knew that I wanted to twist up Valentine’s Day the last few years, but did so just by adding to the usual “celebrations.”  We still had a party and stuffed everyone with sugar before sending them away on the bus.  The first year, however, I tried to add in a little #makerspace and we engineered our Valentine boxes out of junk.  Then, last year, I did away with the box altogether and we crafted bags during our day, covered in kind words from our friends to help us remember how much #youmatter.   But still, there was pretty much still a “regular” Valentine’s Day.

This time around, I did what I tend to do with any big change, and ask my kiddos what they want to do.  We talked about how we’d be embarking on an entire #weekofkindness, rather than doing what they were probably expecting.  Like I expected, some were fine and some were literally “booing” at me.  “But why can’t we have a party?”  “Why can’t we bring Valentines?” “We did ….. in kindergarten!”  These statements were much like what they snarled at me (lol) when I gave the same speech about the 100th Day (you’d think they’d know me better by now!), and so I talked them down the from the ledge.  I explained how if they did it in kindergarten then there’s no reason we should do it now, since we’re not in kindergarten anymore, and also that we’d been spending the WHOLE WEEK focused on kindness instead of just one day, and then also that whatever we chose would–of course–be fun!

We had been rolling ideas around in our heads for a few days and decided we should record them so we wouldn’t forget.  We even used some literature for inspiration–we had been on a Pete the Cat roll with our books for a few days and found some Valentine’s Day books that we thought might give us some ideas.  A couple of them indeed DID come from Pete.  Funny how that works out.

Our #weekofkindness officially began yesterday, and we began laying the groundwork for our kindness-spreading with some books as well as planning.  We decided to start collecting books to celebrate International Book-Giving Day (which is Feb. 14) as well as to gathering food for Feed My People and our Robinson Food Pantry.  This meant we had some lists to make, and also some inspiring to do.  So far, our food list (which we’re writing together with interactive writing) looks like this:

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We hope to add more veggie ideas, as well as a category for soup tomorrow!

Today, being actual Valentine’s Day meant kiddos came with a heightened sense of excitement.  The #weekofkindness activities for today included writing on each others’ hearts (cool, right??) as well as making Kindness Cake.  Oh, and we decided to wear red, pink and hearts.  Just because we could. 🙂

Instead of “traditional” Valentine’s cards, we told our friend #youmatter by writing kind words–right on their hearts.  We did a pretty complicated rotating routine to make sure everyone got to everyone else’s hearts and they did a GREAT job!  What a fun experience seeing the amazing things first grade friends say to each other. 🙂

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But wait–it gets even better!  We made Kindness Cake!  Remember how I told you that we read those Pete the Cat books?  Well the very last page of the Valentine’s Day book has a picture of him sharing cake with his friend Callie, and so we added this “bake a cake” idea to our list.  Remember when we did all that fantastic pumpkin pie baking in December?  Yep, we were thinking that it was time to whip up something else yummy in the Rm. 202 Kitchen!

I found a really fantastic chocolate cake recipe (after we voted for which flavor we wanted to bake) that everyone in our class could eat (which meant it had to be tree-nut free, peanut-free and vegan) and we got busy!  Robbie’s mom had a great idea of sending in a heart-shaped cake pan (thanks to the other moms who did this, too!) and so we were READY for Valentine’s Day.

To some it looked like just a regular chocolate cake with vanilla icing, and I guess in some ways it could be.

But we kicked it up a notch with the decorations.  The decorations were hearts that we labeled with ideas for acts of kindness–things we had done, things we had seen others do, or ideas we had for things we could do.  We put them on toothpicks and covered the top of our cake with our kindness:

The way we got to the “spreading kindness” part was when we ate it.  As we cut the cake, I made sure that everyone’s piece had a heart in it.  Each kiddo got back a heart, but NOT the one they had written down.  Their challenge was to spread kindness by doing the act of kindness that was on the heart in their piece of cake at sometime in the next week.  Cool, right?  It was fun to see how many were immediately making plans for how they’d complete their challenge.

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Oh, and how it did taste?  Well this is what is left on the cake plate:

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And that is my #kindnesschallenge: “I can help someone.”  Ok, friends, challenge taken.  I’ll let you know what happens. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Judge Fairly

We are learning many things in first grade lately (that’s good, right?) and many of them are about how to argue!

Yes, I know, you shouldn’t argue with your friends (or your enemies, either), but it is a good thing to know how to make a good argument.

Our newest writing unit is about writing reviews, making judgments and arguing about why something is the best–with reasons to support that opinion.  We started by bringing in collections from home and judging which we thought was the best.  We were supposed to write our thinking, giving reasons that would convince our fellow writers.  It was great how quickly they dug in to this work, and how seriously they considered the choice.

We shared our initial judgments and shared our choices with our writing partners.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been working on how to strengthen our arguments, by adding reasons, using strong words and phrases like “You might think…but I think…”, adding in quotes from others, and giving details.  We also learned how to strengthen our reasons by considering the opinions of others.  This was a fun day when we got to judge our friends’ collections and write about whether we agreed or disagreed (respectfully!) with their decision of “best in show.”

Our most recent argument was made as a part of our plans for #weekofkindness: we gathered a SUPER chart of ideas and kiddos had to convince me (and their friends) about which ones were the best.  What motivating writing topics!

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We will continue our work over the next few weeks, eventually moving our arguments and reasoning into ways we can make change in our community (which ties in with our study of history and change-makers in Social Studies right now!).  Fun times ahead!  Stay tuned!

Don Tate Comes to Robinson!

I LOVE when I get to use that title.  It’s usually the same one I use for every author visit. Ok, I should be more inventive, but hey, that’s what happened, right?

Anyhow, Robinson (and especially Rm. 202) LOVES their authors, but this one seemed extra special.  Most of the authors we’ve hosted have been amazing, but most of them have also been women (yes, I’m talking about you Mary Casanova, Deborah Hopkinson, Kate Klise, Betty Birney and Lisa Campbell Ernst!). Oh, ok–we have had a male visit us before, and although not an author, Mr. Schu was equally amazing.  But this time our new author friend was an African-American male!

We’ve been learning so much about diverse literature this year and have made many new friends (both in text and real life).

I already told you a little about how we were introduced to Don Tate when we visited the library.  We also spent several weeks reading (and loving) his books and admiring his illustrations.  The other day we even tried our own hands at art like Bill Traylor in It Jes’ Happened (which we learned today was his FIRST BOOK!  Man–what a great way to start your career!  This book won awards!!).

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After we read the book, we collected the information we’d learned about Bill from the story:

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Then we decided to do the same thing!

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First we made our way to the recycling station to find some discarded things on which to paint.

We found our canvases, got our paint (only blue, red, yellow and brown!) and got busy sharing things we had kept deep inside (which was a line from the story).

We ended up with some quite fantastic masterpieces!

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If you want to see what some of us said about this experience, check out our blogs here.

Ok, so the day finally came and this was us:

We headed down to the library to FINALLY meet our new friend and learn some amazing things about being an author and illustrator.  He talked to us about being gritty and not quitting, about how everyone has their own special talent, about how to make masterpieces out of your mistakes and also how it TAKES A YEAR TO MAKE A BOOK! You better believe I’ll mention that the next time a first grader tells me that they’re done after 10 minutes! LOL  I went live several times during the visit and the easiest way to share that is through this link to our Periscope channel.  It’s totally worth a few minutes to click on that link!

He talked, he listened, he answered our questions, and he DREW FOR US!!

We listened, we laughed, we learned and then…

Thanks for your time, your books, and your inspiration Don Tate!

 

Blogging in 1st Grade? Yes, please!

The time is finally here in Rm. 2o2 for writers to become bloggers and start their journey into safe and productive digital citizenship!  YAY!!  Are you excited to hear about it?  Let me tell you the beginning of the story (it’s kind of a long, developing one so I figured I’d at least get us started…).

Now, there are many things I like to do year after year, but because the kiddos are different, I don’t do them in the same exact way.  As we began to talk about blogging, I did begin similarly to my last first grade class, but of course with this class we had to include some literature, too, right? (more on that when I get to the part about comments!).

After we were clear about what a blog actually was and had some ideas about what we might want to write about, we got started with the writing part.  On paper.  I do have to admit for these kiddos this was less than ideal.  I have never heard so much grumbling in my life!!  They didn’t quite understand why they couldn’t jump right to the online part, but it wasn’t an option yet, so they took the paper instead of nothing. LOL

I was happy with how quickly most of them got into their topics, as well as how they were also thinking about how the aesthetics of a blog are also important–the title and pictures should correspond to the theme they are writing about.

On our 3rd day (it took us a couple of days to finish our first drafts of our blogs), we started talking about comments.  We discussed about how blogs are like conversations and how there are some general “rules” for how those should go.  We role played what it would be like for someone to talk to us and then just walk away when we were finished (Thanks Ella for your help with this part!).  We agreed this was not so kind and considerate to the speaker, and this was connected to what it would be like to read someone’s blog and then move on.  It’s about the conversation, after all.

Before we practiced this next step, though, we watched the BrainPopJr. video about internet safety, which highlights things that are ok and not ok to say online, as well as what to do if you think something is not right.  Next we read a book to continue the idea of being honest and kind.

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On a complete side note to this whole blog thing, we were excited to hear the story of Patricia McKissack and how she once attended our school! She was one of the first African-American students to attend our school after it was integrated in the 50s.  She’s a hero and is so brave, and is a local author who lives in our town!  Very cool!  Oh, and I remembered how I had had her sign my copy of this book when I had met her about 10 years ago.

The discussion around this book was an interesting one.  Like the little girl in the story, we thought that telling the truth was always the best thing.  This is still indeed true, but we learned from the events of the story that thinking about when, where and how to tell things is important to do.   Sometimes things are better to be saved for a private conversation with just one person, rather than being stated publicly (especially on a blog or other online space like Twitter).

After our honesty and kindness lesson, we got busy responding to our friend’s words.  This was exciting and I was impressed with how focused and quiet kiddos were while they did this work.

After this first round, we gathered together to share some of the notes we had gotten from other bloggers.  Some had questions, and we will deal with those in the second round–when we respond to the comments.  So far we are doing so great at this!

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Check out what our blogs look like!

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So..since it’s all about the conversation–we’d love you to join in!  What comments do you have for us? What questions do you have?  Maybe a suggestion?  We’d love to practice commenting with you!  Thanks for reading about the beginning of our blogging journey!!

Can’t wait to share the next step with you soon!