It Begins Again! First Day of First Grade 2017-18

Wow!  After waiting the whole summer–moving my classroom, moving my HOUSE, going on a fabulous vacation with my family and then figuring out how to set up a new classroom, it was FINALLY time to get started again.

Before I share the first day of first grade in Rm. 111, indulge me with a couple of first day pictures of my own kiddos, won’t you?

 

Somehow I am now the parent of a 5TH GRADER (Riley) and a 1ST GRADER (Allie)–how did this happen??  Oh yeah, kids grow up. 🙂  Anyhow, both were super excited to get their day started (as was I!) and we snapped an on-the-way-to-school selfie (don’t worry–I wasn’t driving yet!).

So it’s funny as I go back through my photos to see what to post here and what stories to tell.  I can tell it was a really busy day because I didn’t have time to take that many pictures!  I CAN tell you that we were able to read lots of stories together (which you will hear LOTS about this year!), work on learning names and beginning to build our community, work on something fun with our 1st grade neighbors in Ms. Turken’s class, had some quiet time and of course learned a little about how things work in first grade at Robinson and in Rm. 111.  We had some fun, made some memories and shared some laughs.  Hopefully they came home with lots of stories to tell and were exhausted from the day!  Ok, well at least my first grader was. 🙂

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Happy First Day of First Grade, from Rm. 111 kiddos!

We also took some pics of each kiddo, which are super cute and will be great to look back at throughout the year and compare our “last day” selves to!  Check them out!

We ended the day together with our next-door-neighbors and created first day crowns with pictures to help kiddos tell families about their amazing day at school.  Hopefully if you’re a Rm. 111 family your kiddo shared it with you!  If not, be sure to ask them about it now!  You will notice kiddos from both classes in our pictures, and even Ms. Turken makes an appearance!

I know this post is short, and doesn’t include many specifics and I PROMISE that there are more goodies to come!  We had two more FULL days after this one to share, as well as an EXCITING ECLIPSE DAY tomorrow to tell you about!  If you haven’t subscribed yet, be sure to do that while you’re here so you don’t miss out on the fun!  See you soon!! 🙂

 

Starting Over (Again!)

At the beginning of the year (ok, really at the end of summer), I walk into school with high hopes and lots of great ideas for putting my room back together.  Usually, this is a pretty quick(ish) job, because I start wherever I left off with my room plan from the previous year.  This past year that meant reusing the room zones that my first graders had worked out with the help of our 4th grade friends in Rm. 215 (see the room tour here).

But…this year is not just a “regular” starting over.  This time I’m starting over in a new room!  This is an exciting idea, but does come with some problems, or at least it means I will have to do some problem-solving as I figure out how to use the brand new (huge!) space in the way that makes the most sense for myself and my kiddos.  What?  You want to help me?  SURE!!  I love to hear ideas from others about spaces and would love to know how YOU would fill/arrange this space.  Lucky for you I took a video of it when I was there today.  Here’s what it looks like:

And yes, I realize it is SUPER annoying that this video is taken vertically.  Sorry.  I forgot. 😦

As you give suggestions, here are some non-negiotiables:

  • space to read
  • space to meet together (big rug space)
  • space to build (we have big blocks, lots of Legos and recyclables)
  • space to be quiet (alone or with others, but no talking)
  • space to be messy (usually I put this by the sink, but I guess that could change)
  • space for 20 kids to work, but not necessarily at a table (flexible seating is great)
  • spaces to work with a group
  • spaces to work with just a partner
  • space for our Tower Garden, an aquarium and hopefully a sand/water table

So…

Teachers:  What would you do with this space? Where would you put the necessary areas/zones within the space?  What do you have in your classroom that I didn’t mention or that you think is great for kids’ learning?  What did I forget on my list?

Parents and Students:  What would you like to see in our learning space?  What spaces would you like to add that I didn’t mention?  What would make you feel comfortable, creative and confident in your learning space?

Ok.  Here we go–it’s your turn!  Start your suggestions now.  Can’t wait to see what you have to say!! 🙂

First Grade is FINALLY here!!

Welcome to 1st Grade, Friends!

I am so excited you’re here!

The following letter contains 2586 words that will begin to shape your child’s first grade year (I know–it’s a little long.  Sorry!).  You will want to have your family sit and read this so you can all be excited about first grade together.  You should also have dancing shoes on (you’ll learn why later!) and your phone (or other recording device) handy.

Ready? Of course you are! Because you are all about to become…

First Grade and Fabulous!

I am excited for the year ahead – how about you??

Let’s get started!

First a little bit about me. 🙂  As you read in my letter,  I am going into my 17th year of teaching and every one of them has been at Robinson!  I even did my student-teaching here long ago, so Robinson is definitely my home-away-from-home.  In my real home I have a fabulous family that I love dearly.  My husband, Grant, is a teacher, too, in Mehlville.  He has taught 3rd, 4th and 5th grade.  We have a 10YO son, Riley, who is in 5th grade at Robinson, too.  We also have a little girl named Allison–we call her Allie–who is 6 1/2.  She goes to Robinson, too, and you might even know her (if not, I’m sure you’ll meet her soon).  We LOVE (yep, love) Disney World, and travel there often.  Chicago is another one of our favorite places to travel to together.  We also just like to hang out together at home (or anywhere, really) and spend time with each other.  So that’s me.  What about you? Can’t wait to learn more about YOUR family!

Like I said, this is my 17th year as a teacher, and every year, I begin the school year as a different person. I decide on that first day and then every day thereafter, who I am as a teacher. What is important to me. What I want to accomplish. What I want my students to see when they come to school. I choose that. I don’t let other people tell me who I will be and I don’t just be who I think other people want me to be. I read, I think, I write and then I decide.

Parents, I am excited to find out who YOUR CHILD will be!  

Another wondering: What is important to you? (This is another big question and one I am really curious about so I will ask it twice.) What is important to you (and your child)?

There are lots of things that are important to me: my husband and my kids, sharing ideas, reading, writing, being able to have a conversation, making things, discovering things, sharing what I know, sleeping in, staying up late and knowing when to say sorry (and when to say nothing at all!).

As a teacher, there are a few more things that are important to me:

* YOU and YOUR CHILD!:   They’re the reason I’m there, after all right?  It is important for me to get to know your child (and your family!), and know them well.  Not just as a learner, but as a kid, too.  I want to know what they like, what they don’t like, what makes them tick.  Who they are.  That’s ok, right? 🙂

* Respect: At Robinson, it’s pretty much what we’re all about.  I expect respect to be a huge thing in our classroom.  I will respect your child, and I expect them to respect me, as well as everyone else in our community.  This counts when we agree and even when we don’t.  I have a saying that I learned from my good friend Mrs. Ford years ago, that is really important with this whole respect thing.  It’s this: You are not the sun. In other words, the world does not revolve around you, and there are lots of other people in our classroom that have needs, wants, likes, dislikes, etc., that we need to take into account.  I love your child, but I love everyone else, too!  Additionally, it is SUPER important to me that we learn to love each other as people, learn to support each other, learn to cheer when our friends do well (and know that that doesn’t mean anything negative about us), learn to encourage each other when they need it, learn to understand and appreciate how we’re different as much as how we’re the same, and learn to learn together.  We are in this together and none of us will be as successful alone as we can alongside each other.  That’s a life lesson, not just a 1st grade lesson.  🙂

*Reading: I know–you’re thinking, “well isn’t every subject important?”  And yes, to a point, that’s true.  But in my opinion, one of the single most indicators of success in life (and let’s face it, enjoyment as well!) is developing a love of reading.  I ask that you join me in the task of helping your child LOVE reading.  I am sure they’re probably already on their way, but let’s keep it up together!  Read to them as well as with them.   Share your own reading with them.  Read in front of them.  Show them the importance of words and how you can lose yourself in the right text.  HAVE FUN and help them do the same!  I hope that I will do my part to encourage all of these things as well! (In case you want to see more about how important this is, read about our #classroombookaday challenge from last year here).

*Writing: Words are important.  They help us to communicate and tell our stories.  When you write those words, you can deepen thinking and learning, as well as better process things you heard or are still thinking about (I know this is one of the most important reasons I write!).  We will write, write, write in Rm. 202, just like we will read, read, read!  (And no, don’t worry about correct spelling or perfect handwriting–everyone is allowed to make mistakes, the message is the most important part!)

* Mistakes:  I expect your child to make them. 🙂   I want them (and you!) to learn to work through it when it’s hard and figure out what to do.   I want them to feel the joy and success of learning something new because they persevered!  Not everything will be easy here. And that’s ok. We’re in it together and I’ll help you all along the way. 🙂 THIS IS A PLACE WHERE WE WILL BE GRITTY!

* Collaboration: I love to share ideas and get ideas and try new things and even when those things fail, I know I am just one step closer to finding what does work. I love to work with other teachers to figure things out and find new solutions to old problems.  But just as much as working with adults, I love to collaborate with students.  I love to hear what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling about things, what they think would be the best way to learn something.  It’s OUR classroom, and often your kiddos’ ideas are WAY better than mine.  I know I’ll share lots of examples with your child (and you!) about how that’s happened to me over the years.

Aside from collaborating with me, though, they’ll be collaborating with each other!  Your child will have lots of opportunities to share with their classmates, to give ideas, ask questions, prove reasoning and challenge each other.  I expect that we will work together to help EVERYONE in our class be the best they can be.  Together we’ll achieve much more than we would if we tried to do it on our own. 🙂  Reminds me of a sign I saw in Disney World at the Animal Kingdom:

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I like to say that in our room, everyone is a teacher and a learner.

And as a new level of collaboration and learning, we will be combining with and I will be co-teaching with Ms. Turken for many things this year.  We are still working out all the logistics, but just be ready to hear about how your kiddo talk about a whole other class of kiddos, and their “other” teacher, Ms. Turken.  Can’t wait to share more as we go forward!!

* Curiosity: There is no better way to learn something than to ask a question.  It is DEFINITELY how I learn, and so please understand if you find me asking you (or your child) lots of questions as a means of figuring out how best to meet their needs or to connect with your family.  In turn, I hope you will feel comfortable to ask me any questions you may have, and the perhaps most importantly, your child will feel comfortable to ask me–and their classmates–questions when they need to.  Knowing when to ask for help is an important part of learning. 🙂  Also, WONDER is a natural part of being a kid, as well as a super important part of learning something new.  WONDER is something that I will always encourage, and hopefully many things we learn together will start as someone’s wondering about the world.

 

* Technology : I  love technology because it allows me to connect to new ideas. I like to think about what I want to do and look for tools to help me do it. I want to hear your ideas on technology and what works for you–and I ask that you be open to trying new things (that goes for BOTH you and your learner). We will be using technology in many new and exciting ways this year, so get ready!  You child be blogging, using Twitter, KidBlog and other sites (like Skype to connect with other learners around the world), using iPads, working on the ActivBoard, making videos of learning and trying out many new things that we may not even know about yet.  Whatever we do, though, the goal is always learning.  We will use technology in meaningful ways to better create new knowledge.  Excited?  I know I am!  PLEASE let me know what–if any–apprehensions you have in this area, either for you or your student.  This will be an important area for us to explore together. 🙂

* Community: Our class, our families, our school, our neighborhood, our city, our state, our country, our world. There are so many amazing people doing amazing things. I bet your child can think of ten amazing people who do amazing things right now. We need to hear those people’s stories. You (grown-ups) should be on that list. You are awesome. (Assignment one: help your child email me a List of Awesomeness about people in your family* -*family = people you love and are connected to even if they don’t happen to live in your house or share your last name).  I am also hoping to better integrate your family stories into our classroom this year, as well, taking full advantage of all of the amazing things each one of us has to offer.  That might mean I ask you (grown-ups) to come read to us, teach us something, help us make something, send in things, etc.  We want EVERYONE to be a part of the Rm. 202 family!!  One of our first units this year will be learning about our names and families so stay tuned!

* Taking risks: I like to take risks.  I hope you do too. It is scary sometimes and it fails sometimes but sometimes, more often, it is just A-MAZ-ING! Usually when you do something scary you do things you never thought you could.  You surprise yourself.  And then you want to do more! Someone smart once said “Fear and Excitement are shades of the same color”. Cool, huh?  (Parents, this is true for you as much as it is for your kiddo!! 🙂

HANG IN THERE….You’re almost done!

OK…if you made it this far and are still with me, congratulations, you (and your kiddo) are a rock star. Stop reading right now and do some kind of victory dance.  No really, go ahead.  Dance.  I’ll wait.  Better yet, have someone video tape your dance and send it to me!  I’ll even post it on our blog! (Did you see the posts where I did that with my last class?  They didn’t believe that I’d do it, either. 🙂 )

So….what now? How can you best prepare for the extreme awesomeness of first grade?

  1. Have a great summer! Be extraordinary.
  2. Read something.  Write something.  Wonder something.  This will get your learning muscles warmed up. 🙂
  3. If you have any questions you can always email me. Anytime. No question to big or too small.
  4. Think about what I said about who you want your child to be. Most importantly, remember that everyone else in our class is thinking about that too. Be gracious to those who are brave enough to set lofty goals and make the effort to become an even better version of themselves.
  5. THIS ONE IS FOR THE KIDDOS!: Look around your house (or your computer, maybe) for a picture of your family.  I’d love to be able to decorate our room with us–pictures of all the people who help make us who we are and who encourage us to do our best.  I want to be able to fill our room with love, support and smiling faces, so please bring a 3×5, 4×6 or 5X7 picture (framed or not) with you to Open House or on the first day of school.  And if you don’t have one, don’t worry!  We’ll take your picture!

Despite having now used more than two thousand words, there are no words to describe how excited I am about working with you next year!

Here’s To Being First Grade and Fabulous!

♥ Mrs. Bearden

PS. If you didn’t get up and dance before and are now wishing you did, there is still time to do it. Anytime. Send me that video with your best moves (we’ll check these out together once we’re all in school together.  Fun, right?).

When you have had a chance to relax, digest this letter (maybe talk about it with your family or friends) and get your first grade brain tuned up, I would love for your child to write to me to introduce yourself, ask questions, maybe respond to something you read in this letter that made you think.  An email, postcard or a good ‘ole letter via snail mail is great!  Don’t worry–there’s still loads of time before school starts!  You can send your letter to Robinson, c/o of Mrs. Bearden at 803 S. Couch Ave., Kirkwood, MO 63122.

I look forward meeting you!

Mrs. Bearden: Email–jennifer.bearden@kirkwoodschools.org; Phone–314-213-6100 x4211 (after August 9)

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MrsBeardensClass

Twitter: @jbeardensclass (This is our class feed, and we will tweet here together with my supervision and instruction.  It’s a great way to stay on top of what’s going on in our classroom since you don’t get to be there every day!  Follow us!)

Blog: http://www.20somethingkidsand1kookyteacher.com Feel free to leave me a comment here to let me know what you thought, what you wonder, how your summer has been, etc….this is always a great place to talk to me! 🙂  Also–if you have a minute while you’re here, go ahead and subscribe to the blog feed.  That way you’ll never miss anything that happens here.  I add things often and you’ll want to read it all!!  Just click on the button on the right side of the page and add your email address. 🙂

**Thanks to @terSonya for help with writing this post! Like I said, I love to share ideas!**

What’s in a Name? (One More Time!)

Picture books, Notability with pictures, inch tiles, Legos, games and paint??  Who knew there were so many ways to practice writing, reading and CELEBRATING our names?  Well, Rm. 202 kiddos knew, because they’ve been doing loads of things with names lately!

As we continued our study, I shared another great book from the unit Mrs. Wessel shared with me:

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This is a great story for many reasons.  It’s a story about a refugee family, where the little boy is struggling with fitting in, and many keep mispronouncing his name.  He feels like he’s “lost his name in America.”  He comes up with a great idea for how to help his classmates (and teacher!) learn his name, and it includes pictures.  I also love this book because it features main characters of color.  We’ve been talking about (and reading!) books in our room lately with African-American characters and authors (as well as some that are of other backgrounds), and how important it is that kiddos see themselves in the books they read!

Well, along with reading this gem of a book, we send kiddos home with a little job to do.  It’s a suggestion from the What’s in a Name unitWhat’s in a Name unit that was shared with me, and was too good not to try.

The sheet asked families to share their stories about the origins of student names, any family connections, info about meaning and nicknames, as well as what the kiddos thought were interesting about their names.  What fun it was to go around the circle and share personal stories about kiddos’ names, and watch their faces light up as we talked about THEM and THEIR special details.  We heard about things we never would have learned without this activity, and I think in many ways the special thoughts (and giggles) we shared here will continue to help weave us together as the beautiful quilt we will become.  All different and unique, from different places and made of different cloths, but tightly stitched together with respect, experience and love. 🙂

After we shared the book and some stories, kiddos got busy creating art like Sangoel did (his name is pronounced Sun-goal, by the way).  I gave each kiddo a slip of paper with their name written on it and they were to use a variety of mediums to create a colorful representation of themselves.  Many chose to use what they had learned about the meanings of their names (Aadish means “sun,” Allie means “nobility” and Ayonna means “beautiful flower,” for instance), and others just added their favorite colors and patterns or images of things they like.  Regardless of their choices, we will add this to the collection of beautiful things in our room that remind us of who we are and how special each one of us is. 🙂  Plus they look pretty great hanging in the hall right now.  I LOVE our bulletin board out there!

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What’s in a Name?

We already have done many interesting and fun things as we’ve started this new year together.  And as we get into more “real” learning (yes, I know all learning is important and in many ways the “soft” skills might be more important, but I digress….had to call it something!), I am looking for ways to continue to stress the themes we’ve started with: everyone is valuable, we are different and we are the same, we support each other, we are all starting in different places and that’s ok–we’re all growing and learning together!

So when I saw this unit shared by our friend and AMAZING coach (and I don’t use the word AMAZING lightly) Amy Wessel, I knew I needed to find a way to use it–it matched up with all of those goals I already had in place.  Plus it was interesting and fun and we LOVE those things!

Ok, so I didn’t follow the unit completely as written, but I did utilize the book list as well as the ideas for “homework” to use with families.

Let me tell you the story…

As you’ve already seen from our #classroombookaday tweets and posts, we are a class the LOVES to read and often bases lessons/discussions on a good book.  So of course as we started to talk about our names, I went to the book list shared by Ms. Wessel, as well as some others I had found on my own at my library (which is another AMAZING thing!).

Together we read Hello, My Name is Octicorn (which isn’t so much about names as it is about accepting those who are different than us and making new friends but has NAME in the name LOL) and Thunder Boy, Jr. (which was surprisingly about a boy who has the same name as his dad and wanted his OWN name that told about him).

Then, since I wanted them to get into those iPads that had shown up in our room, we went on a little letter hunt around our room.  They were supposed to find all the letters of their name, take pictures of them, then crop the images and upload them into Notability to build their name (which is similar to the directions from our Outdoor Adventure Writing Outdoor Adventure Writing from the other day, too).  THEN they were to take a screenshot of that image and later send it to me in eBackpack so I could see it (and share it here!).  Oh, and they were supposed to take a selfie to use as their lock screen (which is how we tell everyone’s iPads apart when they’re laying around).  See?  Told you they know how to do LOADS of things already!!

They’re a little messy, but I did write/draw the directions for them, since it really was a long list of things to remember and do:

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They did a great job of following the directions, talking to each other when they needed help (I had to encourage this with some friends, as they are still learning that I am not the only one with the answers!), and sharing things they found out with the rest of the class.   These images will become the Home screen on their iPads for now.   Check out some of our creations!

What a great start!  Can’t wait to share more! 🙂

…yet

Last fall, when I was doing my final project for grad school, I came across the idea of “the power of yet,” which goes nicely with all of the work of growth mindset we’ve been introduced to by Carol Dweck.  We began using that word all the time, and I helped my friends learn to add it to the end of many sentences they spoke to me and to each other: “I can’t do this yet...”; “I don’t know yet, but what I think right now is…”; “I’m not sure yet, but I’m going to keep trying!”  At first it was just me, but slowly and surely, I started to hear kids saying it to each other when they’d hear their friends discouraged about something that was challenging them.

I knew it was something that I would incorporate again (and continue, really, since most of us remember it from our 1st grade together), but wasn’t quite sure how I’d bring it up again.  And then I found this book:

IMG_5072I was first intrigued by the use of the ellipsis, since I knew it was something I thought I kids would remember learning about last year.  Ok, and I have to stop and give a shoutout to JK right here for TOTALLY remembering what we talked about.  Before we started reading, we were discussing the title and cover and trying to figure out what we could learn about the story–as well as why the author would choose to use that particular punctuation mark like that.  Well, JK totally whipped out–all casual-like, “Well, that’s an ellipsis, and an ellipsis means that you’re waiting for something, and the mice are always waiting for Nick.  So …and Nick means there’s suspense and you’re trying to figure out what happens next.”  I was TOTALLY impressed, and TOTALLY proud.  And yes, other kids knew it, too.  YAY for first grade punctuation studies!!

Well, while the part about the ellipsis was exciting, it wasn’t all I had up my sleeve with this activity.

My team had copied these blank butterflies for me, with the idea of using tissue paper to decorate them and then make a goal for 2nd grade, and I found them to be a great place to apply this “yet” idea for us this year.  Instead of tissue paper, though, I decided to get out the watercolors.  (On a side note–can you believe we’ve never painted together before?  NEVER.  We got all the way through 1st grade paint-free.  And now we’re going to change that.  Big time.  So paint it was for our butterflies!).

Ok, back to the paint for a second: the thing I noticed when I put a paintbrush in some of my friends’ hands is that I saw work I’d NEVER seen before.  The creativity, the focus and the engagement was beautiful.  Don’t get me wrong–I’ve seen it in other ways, but this was eye-opening for me in many ways.

So after they painted their masterpieces, they were to think of something they don’t know how to do. Yet.  And then they wrote that as a sentence: “I don’t know how to __________yet.”  This was put on a label, and stuck to the front of their butterflies.  These are now flying high on our walls where we are 1) reminded of …yet by the title, 2) encouraged by how if we work hard we’ll be able to do those things, and 3) given something beautiful and colorful to look at.  Fly beautiful butterflies, fly!

And then today, I found a video, that I will incorporate to our yet conversation.  It’s a song and it’s catchy, so I’m sure we’ll be singing it for many days to come!

Weak side/Strong side

Much of the first days of school is spent learning routines and procedures for how to make the classroom run smoothly, and learning how to be a good learner is part of that.  In second grade, we use the idea of weak side/strong side to illustrate how kids can (and should) make good choices that benefit both themselves and their classmates.

As with many lessons, we began with a book.  We read Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon.

IMG_5074I explained the idea of weak side/strong side by talking about how everyone has two voices in their head.  You know, that one that encourages you to do your best, think happy thoughts, follow the rules–the shoulder angel.  There’s also that other one that whispers and tells you how great of an idea it is to pinch your sister or blow bubbles in your milk or slide down the banister on the stairs–the shoulder devil.

In order to make the concept a little more concrete, and move visual, we created a class chart (which I will later make a little neater and hang on our anchor chart wall) with our ideas of things we could do or say that would fit under each side.  Students started with partner thinking–where many of them recorded thoughts using a t-chart–then we put our ideas together.  As of today, our chart looks like this (but it is ever-changing–I think we’ve added to it every day!):

IMG_5057It’s definitely sinking in, too, because I am hearing kids use the language of their chart when they speak to each other.  🙂  We’re by no means working perfectly all the time, but we’re on our way!