Welcome to our First Grade Family! (2018-2019 edition)

Welcome to 1st Grade, Friends!

I am so excited you’re here!

The following letter contains 2636 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. 🙂  I am going into my 18th 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 11YO son, Riley, who is in starting MIDDLE SCHOOL, y’all! (Not sure how this happened but we’re excited for a new chapter. 🙂 )  We also have a daughter named Allison–we call her Allie–who is 7 1/2.  She goes to Robinson 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!

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Like I said, this is my 18th 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.

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Today is your day!  Choose how you will use it. 🙂

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

Another wondering: What is important to you? What is important to 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, staying healthy and active, 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.  🙂

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Maybe you saw our #classroombookaday wall in the mail hallway.  We made it to 560 books last year!  Here’s to another great year of reading in first grade!

*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 a previous 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. 111, 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.  Be ready to hear your kiddo talk about a whole other class of kiddos, and their “other” teacher, Ms. Turken.  We had such an amazing year last go-round and are excited for another! 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 may be blogging, using Twitter, Schoology, Seesaw (which is an AMAZING app that allows endless ways for your child to share their learning with me, their peers AND YOU!) and other sites (like Skype to connect with other learners around the world), using iPads, 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 am hoping to integrate your family stories into our classroom this year, 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. 111 family!!  One of our first units this year will be learning about our names and families so stay tuned!

IMG_4820* 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. Talk with your family about how you would define HOME.  I really want to make our classroom a comfortable, warm place were our school family can feel safe to get down and dirty, taking chances and making mistakes and LEARNING TONS!  I want this to include pieces of each of our homes.  I will send a survey to you later, where you can give share your ideas, but I wanted to get your thinking about it now. 🙂
  6. 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 if possible–but don’t stress over this part!) 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)

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!**

…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!

Self-Portraits 2015

Remember our FABULOUS portraits from last year?  Well, we did it again.  Partly because we had free wall space, partly because we took home the ones from 1st grade, partly because we look different than we did last year at this time, and mostly because it’s a way to reconnect our old community and connect for teh rifrst time with the new friends in Rm. 202.

We found a new book this year, which spoke to the idea of how beautiful we are in our own skin, and how that skin can come in such a spectrum of colors:

IMG_5076I really wanted us to paint our portraits, but because of a planning fail, I didn’t have those supplies ready for us when it was time to work.  Instead, we used the same fabric, paper, and yarn that we used last year (plus really anything else that could be found in our room), as well as the many different colors of crayons and colored pencils we have to try to make our portraits match our beautiful selves.

Of course during the process, it was messy:

but once we were finished, and they were hanging, they were magnificent!  I love how much they look like the kiddo who made them. 🙂 (Be sure to click on the pictures to see the full-size version. 🙂 )

Getting Started with Reading: Second Grade Reading Museum

I hope that like writing, it’s no secret that I love reading and books.  And getting great books in the hands (and ears!) of kids so that they can have the feeling of losing themselves in a good book.  One way we do that in 2nd grade (ok, in all my classrooms no matter what grade they are!) is read A LOT, and talk A LOT about books.  This year, since our kiddos are older and wiser, we also added in a Reading Museum, like I’ve written about with bigger kids.

It started out much the same, with this invitation:

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 8.41.43 PMI changed the criteria for choosing books a little from when I taught 4th and 5th grade, but really the goal was the same: bring your favorite books to help us learn something about you as a reader.

When Friday finally came, we got ready by setting up our “exhibits” and discussing the etiquette for visiting museums.

As kiddos circulated through their friends’ exhibits, they were expected to be thinking about these questions:

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 9.31.49 PMWe turned on some soft music and got busy with our museum:

I was very impressed with how quietly they were focused on checking out all the books on display.  It became very clear, though, that most kids were not thinking about making connections with friends.  They were instead focusing on just the middle question:
Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 9.35.49 PMThey were reading new books and finding new favorites, and you know what?  That’s amazing!  The goal of the museum (and in general) is to get kids excited about books and reading and see that it’s for them.  When we shared at the end of our museum time, I was reassured that they actually were paying attention to whose books they were looking at, too, as they shared where they’d seen some of their new favorites.  YAY!

I should have expected that they’d go about it in a little bit different way, and but I shouldn’t have been surprised that they still accomplished the goal I had set out.  These kids are super amazing, after all.  So glad we did this!

Second Grade Math Warm-Ups: 8-18 to 8-21

When I first started using math warm-ups a couple of years ago, I had no idea how useful they would end up being in my classroom.  They are quick, easy and definitely give me a bank for the buck.  So of course I am using them again now that my mathematicians are second graders!  Here is how we got started this year:

Wednesday

I waited until the second day of second grade to start, and since we spent all last year doing this, most of my friends knew exactly what to do.  I just had to introduce my new friends (there are 4 of them) to this routine.  I started with a question everyone could answer (and if I remember correctly, it’s one of the first problems we did last year, too).

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 2.49.46 PMFriday

As I think about how we’re getting started in Math this year, our focus will be on making sure we have a firm foundation of basic skills and facts before we move on to other things.  That means we’re going to review combinations that make 10, doubles, doubles +/- 1 and basic addition/subtraction facts.  Hence the next question:

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 2.50.00 PMNote that I had to revise my question, since kiddos wrote 1 combination and thought they were finished.  I drew the visual of the 10s “rainbow” as we discussed the problem, and it was good to hear a couple of friends say, “Oh, now I get it!”  Like me (who is a visual learner), seeing how those numbers connect is important to their understanding.  This is definitely become an anchor chart in our classroom!

Getting Started with Writing: Tiny Notebooks

Ok…do I need to start by explaining my love for the teaching of writing?  Or just my love of writing itself?  Probably not.  You’ve read those stories before, right? 🙂

We got started with writing in 2nd grade on our second day.  I started by reading two books:

I chose them partly to be funny (The Incredible teacher one was because their notebooks used to be full-sized and are now only half-sized notebooks like I used here.  By the way, they didn’t think this was funny. LOL), and also to give us an idea for somewhere to get started (an entry about something they had done over the summer).  Before they left we had a quick reminder of how to label each entry, as well as a reteach of how to use the date stamp (yes, there is a lesson for this!).

Ignore that big blue scribble...it was from another conversation we were having about how authors sometimes sign their books....

Ignore that big blue scribble…it was from another conversation we were having about how authors sometimes sign their books….

After our lesson, most kiddos got to their spots and got started quickly.  Some took a little extra long with the date stamp, and some did a lot of thinking.  I’d say most of us got something on the paper, but I did hear some of those dreaded words: “I don’t have anything to write about!” Ugh.  But then I remembered they were second graders AND it was the second day of school, so they may have been a little rusty.  I worked with one friend to put an ideas list in the back of his notebook (like we had done last year but he had probably forgotten), and had multiple conversations with friends about how to find an idea (like talking to another friend about their writing, thinking about their day, showing them an example in my Writer’s Notebooks or using a book for inspiration).  We had a quick share at the end of our writing time and got ready to move on.   I LOVED it when the next question was, “Can I take this journal home and finish my writing for homework?”  Well, of course, dear friend, you can do that! 🙂  I LOVE this not because I wanted my little friends to have homework, but because it shows me that they are already getting the idea that writing can happen anywhere, and that their stories are important enough to them that they want to finish sharing them.  And yes, those notebooks came back the next day. 🙂

This whole “I don’t know what to write about” thing had me thinking about what to do the next day.  I needed to get them thinking again about how ANYTHING could be an idea for writing, not just great big events or monumental occurrences.  Ideas come from watching the world in a new way and expecting to see stories.  Those can happen on the way to school, while you’re eating breakfast or at recess.  And probably when you’re least expecting them.

This made me think about how to connect this idea to something they could understand.  I thought about we could explore the idea of a scrapbook and how your Writer’s Notebook is a place to collect things you don’t want to forget.  I pulled out my very first notebook (which I started in the summer of 2005, 10 years ago), and read a couple of entries (I wish now I’d brought that notebook home so I could show you those entries–boo. :().  I talked about how the moments I wrote about were not “BIG” deals, and I wouldn’t remember them now if I hadn’t written them down.  We connected this to how in Inside Out the memories turn gray in long-term memory and are sucked away forever (good thing I’m up on pop culture, huh? Never know where a connection will come from!).  We don’t want this to happen to our memories, and it doesn’t have to if we collect them!  For them, 10 years from now is when they go to college–how cool for them to be able to think about things they want to remember at that point in their lives.  Totally didn’t mean for that connection to happen, but was SUPER glad it did!

Then we read a book (as another way to help them visualize the possibilities) and made a chart of the small stories in there that we could write about:

This got many kids thinking and they shared new sparks they had: one friend said he could put in the necklace he wore this summer on the airplane when he flew by himself, and another friend wanted to bring pictures of his dogs–because they will probably be dead in 10 years and he doesn’t want to forget them.  Cute, right?  That same friend wanted a picture of me so he could remember me in college, too.  He wrote this entry with that picture:

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 9.36.11 AMWhile of course I love this entry because it’s about me (ha!), but also because it is the definition of how I want them to be thinking about their notebooks as a way to collect and curate their thoughts.  Plus I think it’s just cool how deep and wide 2nd graders can think when we give them an invitation and opportunity to do so. 🙂