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!

EVERYONE’S a Reader and Writer in Rm. 202!

I hope by now you’ve read at least part of our journey with #classroombookaday this year.  I hope you’ve heard how much it’s impacted the readers in my room to LOVE books, to LEARN authors and illustrators (so that now we can name them by their work as we see them in new texts!), to SHARE their favorites with us so we can all hear them, and how much FUN we’re having reading and reading and reading every day.

Well…one of the things that I guess I didn’t expect to come out of this is the strong connection to WRITING that has come out of this challenge.  The reading part made sense, but I love how it’s inspired so many kiddos to write the books that we read!

Of the 316 books we’ve shared 19 OF THEM have been written by Rm. 202 friends!  The best part is how the excited of one author had lead to so many more.  Of course, some of that is the “famous” factor, and getting their book on the door, but really a lot more of it is just that the writing bug is contagious!  Many of the books we’ve written have been inspired by the books we’ve read.

Check out the smiles of those writers–don’t they look proud?

I think I mentioned something the other day about how the suggestion was made to give our Rm. 2o2 authors an author box in our library for their books.  This finally happened on Thursday, and two of our authors now have a special place for friends to find their texts!

Isn’t that cool?  Ella joined the club and started writing fashion magazines she wanted to share.  The boxes are empty because the books are all being read! Perfect!

Now…aside from the WRITING that keeps coming up, there are lots of kiddos who have been asking to READ to us recently, too!  They are excited to share their reading skills with the rest of us!  And boy, are they amazing!

Ciyah was the most recent one to join the party and shared Green Eggs and Ham with us.  She was a super reader and did a great job! (Ayonna read Anna’s New Glasses to us the other day, too, but somehow I didn’t get a picture of it! What was I thinking??)

And somehow, I don’t have a video of her reading the book, but I do have a video of what happened when we all started reading it together!

I know I’ve said it over and over but I’m saying it again–the reading and writing that has been inspired by our participation in the #classroombookaday challenge BLOWS MY MIND!!  Can’t wait to see who we add to our reader/writer list next!

Don Tate is Coming!!

We have a love of diverse books in Rm. 202 (thanks to some book gifts from our district, some great blog posts I’ve read this past year and thanks to Eyeseeme and their amazing bookstore FULL of books with diverse and powerful characters), and so we were DELIGHTED to hear about how Don Tate is coming to visit our school at the end of the month!

As with most of our visiting authors, Mrs. Meihaus works hard with teachers and kids to get us familiar with the author’s (and in this case illustrator’s) work beforehand so we have something to base our new learning upon.  We can also really raise the level of excitement and anticipation as they day draws near and help kiddos think of what they might want to talk to our visitor about when they are here.

We gathered in the library classroom and Mrs. Meihaus introduced us to our new friend, Don Tate.

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She started with a short bio, and showed us some of his books.

While he has written several books, he is mainly know as an illustrator.  Our next step was to learn more about how he tackles his images.  We uses primarily paint, and we learned more about the differences in how illustrations look when he uses watercolors versus acrylic paints.  He also has some images that include pen and ink on top of those colors.  We took a look at many of his books with our partners and tried to identify how they were similar to each other.

What’s great is that this was easier work for us because we’ve been working on “getting to know” authors and illustrators all year with our #classroombookaday challenge.  I LOVE that my kiddos can see a book and name who wrote it or drew the pictures just by sight.  I love that they can name and appreciate the people who took such time and energy to create the amazing texts we read and enjoy.  They had great ideas about what they saw that was the same in different images and could name the medium he had used to create them!  Great job, Rm. 202 kiddos!

Before we left, she read one of the books I’d been wanting to share with the class anyway–Ron’s Big Mission— and we loved it.  What an inspiration to hear about a little boy who did whatever it took to get a library card, and what a tragedy that in AMERICA he was not able to get one.  I think it’s important to tell his story.  Reading took him so far in his life!

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Mrs. Meihaus shared many titles with us, and while I’d LOVE to read them all, there are LOADS of other books in our to-be-read pile that we want to get to, as well.  Here’s the plan for the ones we’ll share this week and next in preparation for his visit (and just because they’re GREAT BOOKS!):

We are excited to meet our new illustrator friend in person and talk with him about how he does his great work!  Stay tuned for more of the story after he visits us on January 31st. 🙂

#OneWord2017

Yes, I’m jumping on that bandwagon. 🙂 (It’s only taken me a couple of weeks to finally get on! LOL)

If you’ve been on Twitter lately, you’ve seen many posts and tweets related to people’s #OneWord2017 (it’s likely the reason you clicked on this post in the first place! 🙂 ).  As a practice I try to really think through things before I try them out, but then again, I guess I am also “that person” who tries things because I want to see how they’ll work out–especially when it’s related to a blogging/Twitter challenge.

So…here we are with me explaining my #OneWord for 2017.  And from the get-go, it seems like my #OneWord is different from the many I’ve seen online so far.  I have seen many tweets with words like BELIEVE, AWAKE, JOY, INTENTIONAL, etc., and I totally see great connections between those words and things I would also like to make happen this year.  I’m taking an little bit different direction, though, and choosing this as my #OneWord2017:

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It’s different, no?  Well, that’s kind of just like me, right?  Let me explain what I was thinking when I picked this word.  I purposefully chose a word (and picture) that sent me in loads of different directions with its connections and impact and am hoping it can apply to all parts of my life (not just my professional one).

So…I’m hoping that OUTSIDE will encourage…

  1. …me and my students to get literally outside.  I have always thought that being part of nature and playing is important to creativity, health, etc., but haven’t yet fully embraced it and gotten my kids (at home and at school) outside as much as I’d like.  Two years ago I made a commitment to extra recess every morning because of that reason, but then for a variety of reasons went backwards on that decision.  Here’s to picking it up again.  Anyone wanna come play in the woods with us tomorrow?
  2. …me and my students to think outside the box.  I know it’s a bit cliché, and many even subscribe to the idea of “Don’t think outside the box, think like there is no box!”, but for me this goal can apply to many things.  It can be applied to so many different scenarios from reading books we hadn’t ever thought of, trying a new strategy for presenting information, sharing our thinking or even how we structure our day.  Because it’s so open-ended, I think it will be easy to find ways to take on the challenge and change my thinking.  Who’s up for jumping out of that box with me?
  3. …both my students and me to venture outside our bubbles.  While this goal sounds a lot like the previous one, my intention is that this applies to the people with which we’ll interact over the next year.  I want both myself and my Rm. 202 friends (my colleagues and family members and friends as well) to be challenged to reach out to new people, to seek out different perspectives, to strive to understand others’ cultures and ways of life.  I am becoming aware that now, perhaps more than ever, surrounding yourselves with people who look just like you, think just like you and act just like you can be very dangerous.  When we are only privy to what we already know and already think, we can quickly begin to see the rest of the world as “other” and then quickly begin to shelter ourselves even more.  Unfortunately, we also miss out of great things that the rest of the world has to share with us.  We miss out.  Diversity makes us all better.
  4. …me to get outside the walls of my classroom.  Just like when you stay in your “bubble” as a person, being in the “bubble” of your classroom and never venturing out means you’re missing out on the greatness that is blooming in other people and places in your school.  Other teachers are doing things in new ways, with new ideas and finding new avenues to inspire students and you (I) owe it to my own students to do whatever I can to plug into it!  Maybe it takes away some of my planning time, maybe I’m uncomfortable because I’m introverted, maybe I’m fine with how I’ve always done things (which, by the way, is not my own thinking, but I can see how others function that way), maybe I just don’t want to…but it is my duty to push past all of those “maybes” and try stretch outside myself (and the comfort of my four walls).  And who knows?  Maybe there’s a new friend, new strategy or new experience waiting for me that I don’t even know about yet.  Who wouldn’t want that?

Ok…for now that’s where I am.  Ready to reach OUTSIDE and see what’s there for me this year.  I’m excited by the prospects and looking forward to where I’ll end up.  I hope you will go along for this journey with me.  And while we’re at it–how would YOU interpret OUTSIDE? How would you write about it if it was your #oneword2017?  I’d love to hear your thinking and add your thoughts to my list! 🙂

#classroombookaday UPDATE: 300 books!!

It’s been a while since I posted an update on our reading.  The last few weeks of the year were busy and I didn’t get a chance to read as much I would have liked, and also I felt like the way the door looked wasn’t really changing much so posting a picture was  kind of unnecessary.

Anyhow, we’re in a new year, have added many more books and today we reached another AMAZING MILESTONE in our journey!

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And while my phone didn’t get the whole thing (stupid memory!), it was a pretty great start to our day!

Just a few more…

She already has some mad upside-down-reading skills.  A teacher in training, perhaps??  And man was she super proud to be reading to us.  This was actually the second time she shared with us this week.  Go Penny!

See those white books on the top row? One of the best things is the number of kid-authored books we’ve been reading lately.  Gotta give a shout-out to Mara and her prolific publishing.  She has written 4 books this week, and we LOVE THEM!  They are rhyming and SO FUNNY!  Aadish suggested today that we get Mara her own author box in our library.  Great idea! And well, I think EVERYONE should have their own author box.  Hmm….

I still say this is one of the most amazing things that has happened in my classroom!  Bring on the books!  Can’t wait to share the next great thing. 🙂

New DIVERSE Books for the New Year!

I have to tell you about a little secret.  Hopefully it will become something everyone knows about soon, though, because it is SUCH A TREASURE!!

As an end-of-year gift, I was sent on my Winter Break with a gift card from our school’s PTO (thanks Mrs. Sisul!) to Eyeseeme, and independent bookstore near here.   They operate with the mission of helping every kid see themselves in the books they read.  This is such an important work and as far as I know, they are the only bookstore of their kind in our area.  I visited it today with my teacher friend and her kids, and WOW did we discover a treasure!  It’s only been recently (through the help of many smarter-than-me teachers and librarians on Twitter and some great teachers I work with) that I’ve become more aware of the inequality that exists in children’s literature as it pertains to characters of color–or anyone who isn’t white, really.  It is really sad when I think about how many kiddos never get to see books with characters that look like them.  I know that for too long I’ve taken that fact for granted.  And man–for a long time I didn’t even know it was a “thing.”  I know I only have that luxury because I’m white.  Anyhow, I’m hoping to continue to help this group of kiddos see themselves, as well as look for and EXPECT to see diverse books around them.

Our class has already been on a little journey of our own to read books that contain black and brown characters, and so of course, we were treated with many options for new books to enjoy together with Mrs. Blair’s collection at Eyeseeme.  Check out what I ended up coming home with today:

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I found some favorites that I’ve read in previous years but just didn’t have a copy of yet (like Those Shoes and Pretty Salma), as well as some that are from authors that Rm. 202 kiddos already know (Sand Sister, Just a Minute, Pecan Pie Baby and Another Important Book), as well as some that I know will become some of our favorites since they contain strong, powerful characters (all the rest of that pile! hee hee).  I CANNOT wait to share these with my first grade friends!

Oh, and thanks to some very kind Rm. 202 families, I was able to add some other new titles via Barnes and Noble.  Here are a few that I got the other day:

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I have all of the rest of that I AM series in the classroom and was excited to complete my set!  I found Ada’s Violin on a “Best of 2016” list and Luna & Me just looked great.  I was able to grab some Lauren Castillo books and a couple of other good ones before break, too, but they’re at school and so I don’t have pictures.  Oops.  Either way, it’s raining books in Rm. 202 right now and that’s a great way to start a new year!!  We are so blessed. 🙂

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Robinson University–1st Grade Style!

Our school has begun a really great program that we run on 1/2 days called Robinson University.  Somehow I participated in it all last year and never wrote about it, though.  Ugh.  Basically the big idea is that all the adults at our school offer a variety of classes to the 2nd-5th graders, giving them the opportunity to try out things that they may not have the chance to participate in during their regular school day or even in after school activities.  Last year I taught a sewing class with Mrs. Uhles, and there were many other exciting things available otherwise.  The ones I can remember (and surely I will forget some good ones, so I apologize in advance!) were things like coding, cooking, gardening, art, outdoor adventures, dodgeball, chess, yoga, card games, board games, The Olympics, Rig-a-Ma-Jig, crab soccer, LEGOS (lots of LEGOS!), 3D animation, and even a musical!  This year there are many amazing offerings again and we’ve added geocaching, jewelry making and loads more–all based on kid recommendation and adult expertise!

Needless to say, these days are super motivating and pretty much EVERYONE comes to school to participate with HUGE smiles on their faces. 🙂  Ok, that’s like most days at our school, but it’s especially true on 1/2 days. 🙂

Well…on RU days, though, kindergarten and first grade do their own version of exciting adventures, but geared more towards a early elementary lens, and without so much ado (the big kids go to all different classes with different teachers and different kiddos and rotate to more than one class!).  We have had great opportunities to plan amazing experiences for our kiddos so far, too, and have used our 1/2 days to extend the learning that is going on in our classrooms at the time.  For our first 1/2 day in September, we spent time exploring with scientific tools in the Robinson woods, learning and applying knowledge about light and sound.  For our second go-round (which was just before Veterans’ Day), each teacher worked with their small group to teach about a branch of the military.

For this last one of the semester, we decided to give our kiddos a sneak peek of what the big kids are doing, and even get them ready for when they’ll be making their big choices in 2nd grade.  After the team talked it over, we agreed that we’d still do rotations so that kiddos could get a variety of options, and that we each wanted to do something that was our passion.  We each offered something so different and it was so much fun!

Kiddos had short rotations of an engineering challenge with Mrs. Mafigiri, play and improv with Mrs. Marks (she had costumes and toys and puppets!), an introduction to coding with Ms. Turken and I offered a couple of great read alouds.  I know, you’re surprised by that, right?  Ms. Mimlitz, our more than amazing TA was also in the loop, and took kiddos out for some fresh air and play time.  Luckily it was a beautiful day!

I know that the kiddos had a SUPER time in all the other stations, but since I was really on in my session, it’s the only one I can share details about.  Sorry. 😦  Promise I’ll make them good. 🙂

Since the other teachers had a theme in their stations, I wanted to make sure that my read alouds and our activity was around a central idea, too.  We had found a great list of picture books that promote a growth mindset from weareteachers.com and knew it would be a great place to use as a resource!  Since growth mindset is a BIG DEAL in our Robinson community (and is even in our Robinson Mindset we recite every morning) so it’s the direction I went with our stories.

I ended up choosing two great stories that I knew would allow for great conversations and would fit into my time frame.

Before we read, we reviewed what we knew about having a growth mindset and I shared with them some words that one might use if they were using a growth mindset–things that they might hear in their heads when they were using their self-talk.  I had these sayings on speech bubbles stuck on popsicle sticks and we made the characters “say” them at various points in the story (I didn’t get a good picture of them individually, but you’ll see them in our final product later on in this post!).

Once we had read and discussed, we worked to create some visuals to help teach the REST OF ROBINSON about using a growth mindset.  We had gotten the OK from Mrs. Sisul to use an empty bulletin board in a downstairs hall where everyone walks, so we were excited to fill it up with first grade faces.  I had each first grader (and then lots of Robinson adults!) choose either a saying that they used a lot to remind them to use a growth mindset OR one that they struggled with using and wanted to try to use more often.  Either way kiddos posed in front of my book-covered classroom door with their speech bubble and CHEESED!!  Let me show you. 🙂

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Pretty great, right?  Yeah…and the first time we walked by, of course we had to stop so everyone could say “that’s me!” or “there I am!” 🙂

Here are the sayings, up close:

And now, since I know you want to see all of those cutie-pie faces a little closer (so you can say, “Hey, that’s my kid!” or “Hey, I know her!”), here’s a quick slide show of all of the pics on that board.

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Thanks for reading about Robinson University!  We’re excited for our next 1/2 day when kiddos will get a chance to choose two of their favorite activities from this first try to spend more time exploring!  What a great day that will be. 🙂