Winter Cultural Celebration!

This year I was inspired to do something a little different with our winter “party,” that normally comes after our all-school sing-a-long.  Rather than have a sugar-crazed, action-packed time right before I sent them home for two weeks with their parents, I decided that we’d just use our end-of-the-day time to relax together and enjoy a movie (or a book!) together and quietly send them on their way.

That didn’t mean, though, that I didn’t want to include families, or that I didn’t want to celebrate the family that Rm. 202 has become.  As I started to think about who best to do this in a meaningful way, I remembered the stories that families told about our names at the beginning of the year, the stories I’ve heard from kiddos when we read together and the traditions we’d been talking about over the last month or so of school.  I knew that I wanted to take some time to incorporate all that makes each of our families and cultures special and share those things with each other!

I started by sending a survey to everyone, asking some basic things about how our families celebrate winter, holidays, and what some specials traditions/foods/languages/etc. from their cultures that they might like to share with our Rm. 202 community.  My hope was that I would get information that would help me better craft a fun, festive, family time together for our last day together before Winter Break.

I got lots of responses, and these helped me decide how to proceed.  And it was super great timing that our class had just redone our learning zones, because the ideas were then incorporated into each area of our room.  This gave families a great opportunity to come and see them in action!

I didn’t really want the celebration to be too formal or over-planned, so we kept it simple and fun.  Here’s what we decided to do in each zone:

Zero Zone: Mara’s mom shared the story of La Befana (from their Italian culture) and kiddos worked on a coloring sheet featuring La Befana.

Reading Zone: Josh’s and Keira’s mom shared some of their families’ favorite winter/Christmas stories (you know Rm. 202 kids LOVED this part!)

The Kitchen: This area was perfect for cookie decorating (thanks to Callahan’s mom and grandma and Robbie’s grandma, too!) as well as sharing a couple of family traditional snacks.  Ella’s mom brought fudge (yum!) and Aadish’s mom shared an Indian snack called vada, which was spicy and so good!  I shared apples and oranges, partly to add something fresh to the table, but also because oranges are a traditional addition to Christmas stockings in my family!  Needless to say, this was another popular area during our celebration! 🙂

Hands-On Zone: Many families mentioned that they have the tradition of decorating gingerbread houses together, and this was the focus of this area, too.  Kiddos had the choice of many different mediums to create a gingerbread house of their own–they could create it out of Legos, blocks, paper, or using something on their iPads (like Scratch Jr., Educreations, or other drawing app).  The point here was to have fun and be creative!

Partner Zone:  This zone celebrated another family’s culture as Aadish and his mom told a story from a Hindu epic.  It is a collection of 1000 stories (hope I’m getting this right!), and is called Mahabharatha.  They acted out the story of Arjan, the archer, and even had a bow and arrow for everyone to try (it was a NERF one, so no worries!).  The story focused on the importance of focus and concentration and was very interesting!  We were impressed by the traditional Indian clothes they wore, too!

We were in small groups and kiddos rotated through each station, enjoying spending time with their friends and family for a bit after lunch.  We had so much fun and the smiles and energy in the room were amazing!  This is definitely a new Rm. 2o2 tradition that I hope to continue with new families for years to come.  Thanks to this year’s group for making it extra special and being willing to jump in when I have a crazy idea, and thanks to all the families who were able to join us in person to celebrate!  For those who we not able to come, we missed you, but were thinking of you fondly! 🙂

What a great way to end an AMAZING first semester and head into a relaxing Winter Break! Here’s to an even more amazing 2nd half!  Happy New Year!

 

It’s the 100th Day–HOORAY!

In case you’ve missed our 100th Day journey, be sure to catch up on our previous conversations here.  And then stay tuned to read about what actually happened–spoiler alert: it was AMAZING!!

We began the day much like we normally do, with our regular routine of washing our hands and then working on the math apps we use every day: Front Row and Dreambox.  I got together some supplies, Tyrin took our pizza orders for lunch, and then we all got together to start our 100th Day of School.

We had narrowed down our choices to the ones that most closely matched our purpose for the day (reflecting upon or thinking about learning), but still we would not have been able to do all of those things in just the time we’re together on a normal school day, so I had to whittle it down even further.  Also, since we had come up with the SUPER list from our Little Red Riding Hood book as well, we actually had a new (and pretty big) job that we had added.

And since I can’t leave well enough alone, I gave them one more reminder about how this wasn’t truly our “100th” day, so we did a little bit of math: 176 + 176 + 100=452, meaning we were actually celebrating the 452nd day we had been in school!  WOW!  Too bad we couldn’t have had a whole list of activities related to that number!

First, I gave them a framework for book that we had decided to write together about our 100 days of 2nd grade and how much we had learned.  There were stems on each page that kiddos were supposed to fill in, and since we were doing it on our iPads, they could use pictures from their camera roll, drawings (that would then be added by taking a picture), typing or writing on the pages.  We use a Learning Management System called eBackpack to give and receive work, so they were to work on their pages (each kiddo was given 5) and then send them back to me.

Once they got started working, I began to call small groups over to start making muffins (based on our super smart ideas from Little Red Riding Hood: A Newfangled Prairie Tale by Lisa Campbell Ernst) to share with our 2nd grade friends.  There are conveniently (if you’re connecting to the number 100) 101 kiddos in our grade, so we had a lot of baking to do; we had figured out through some HARD work the day before that we needed to make 9 batches in order to have enough.  Wow.

Well, thankfully, my friend (who typically comes to help us during Math on Thursdays anyway) was free in the morning today, because looking back now there is NO WAY we could have made 100 muffins with 21 kiddos with just me.  Thanks, Mary Beth!  She took one table and I manned another one and we measured and poured, stirred and scooped and ultimately took all of our muffin tins to the Robinson kitchen to be baked.  Again, if not for Ms. Denise in the kitchen who took charge of the ovens, we wouldn’t have had any muffins.  She was a lifesaver today.

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Although I would have love to add pictures of the many trips we took to the kitchen and back, and share a picture of Ms. Denise, as well as how beautiful our muffins were while they were baking, I was carrying muffin tins and opening doors and having to be a teacher (hee hee), so you’ll just have to imagine that part.  I also wish there was smell-o-vision so I could share how wonderful our muffins smelled while they were baking (believe me, I was told my multiple people that they could smell them all over the school!), but alas, not this time.  Just imagine the most amazing aroma ever and that’s what it was like. 🙂  Ultimately we only ended up making 8 dozen (not sure what happened there), so we had to do some quick math about our shortage (which was a great lesson in scarcity!) and figure out how we could best share with our friends as well as have some muffins for ourselves.

After we figured out how many muffins we had:

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we made some plans for how we’d get them to our friends.  We agreed (ok, well they did after I convinced them) that it was the right thing to do to give muffins to the other 2nd graders before we served ourselves and so we go together in groups and created little pitches to share with them about what we did and how we wanted to give so to them.

We had a little bit of time after both muffins and our book (but more about that in another post–we have some revising and editing to do there before we’re ready to share), so kiddos had a choice of a board game, reading, or writing.  I always love to see what they do when they are in charge:

Because our day was filled with two other special events (roller skating in PE and a farewell assembly for a beloved custodian), we only had time for one more thing, and we decided it should be puzzles.  After that conversation the other day and the question from Ja’Mia, we knew it would be fun, hard work and would definitely allow us to use all of the grit, patience and teamwork we’ve been building lately.  Look at what we were able to do!

For all the thought (perhaps OVER-thought) that I put into this day, I am pleased with what happened.  It was all that we wanted it to be (which was to focus on learning and growing) and we had fun along the way.  I think that they things we chose to participate in match up with what we are about everyday (engagement, choice, thinking, teamwork).  I enjoyed the day, and I’m pretty sure they did, too.  The last thing I heard before we left for the day was “This was the best 100th Day EVER!”  I agree, friend, I agree! 🙂

 

 

100th Day Questions (Again)

Last year I made a jump down to primary after teaching “big” kids for the previous 9 years.  When I last taught 1st graders there was no such thing as celebrating the 100th Day of School.  So when that day came near, I began to consider (like I do with everything else that fits into the “it’s-what-we-do” or “it’s-the-way-it’s-always-been-done” category) what we should (or shouldn’t) do on this day in Rm. 202.  I asked many of my own questions, as well as having conversations with others who were asking the same things.

We ended up deciding on taking on a pretty big challenge in our classroom to write 100 blog posts, and secondly to try to read 100 books.  It was a great day of fun, learning, stretching our brains, working together, solving problems and really figuring out just how big 100 is!  It took us all day, but we made our goal of all of those blog posts and boy, were we proud!

So…as we near the 100th day again (next Thursday!), I’m asking 100th Day questions again.  If I have certain thoughts and feelings about it in regards to 1st graders, how do those apply when I’m now teaching those friends as 2nd graders?  Unlike last year, I decided to take that question to my kiddos.

I explained my thinking, and we talked about what we should do; probably our challenge should be bigger than the one we took as 1st graders, right?  We decided to brainstorm all of our smart ideas (thanks Landen for volunteering to be our recorder!) and then whittle them down from there.

Here’s our list:

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While it’s true that there are no “bad” ideas when you’re brainstorming, we did agree to only add things that we thought would truly be challenges for us, and not just things that were “fun” or “cute.”  I’d say that they did a pretty good job of coming up with some fun and meaningful choices.  But how would we decide which of those were the ones we end up doing?

We are currently in an opinion writing unit and I took this as a great opportunity to continue to hone our skills of sharing our thoughts, giving strong reasons and relevant evidence.  So, kiddos were asked to write me a letter (which we’ve also been practicing) to tell me their top 3 choices, along with 3 good reasons why they want to do those things on our 100th day.  What a meaningful and engaging way to put all of our new skills to work!

We haven’t made any final decisions for our big day, but the front runners right now seem to be puzzles, the 100 dot design challenge (building), playing the 100 game (which is something we do regularly in math), and playing board games.  Can’t wait to see what we end up choosing, and then documenting what actually happens–stay tuned!

I’d love to hear about your 100th day questions and thoughts!  Leave me a comment and let’s chat about it!

A Writing Celebration!

I figure that most people teach the Writing Cycle as a means to publish a piece of writing, right?  Well, I do, and it’s kind of a big deal in our room.  I start at the very beginning of the year (after I’ve set up our Writer’s Workshop routines and introduced Writer’s Notebooks, that is 🙂 ), teaching my writers about the writing cycle–what it is, why writers do it and how it will help them as we go through the year together.
In the back of our Writer’s Notebooks we have a a place where we keep notes related to mini-lessons I’ve taught.  One of the first things that goes in there is this:

We spend the first writing cycle, then, learning about how to do each part, and end up with a fabulous piece of writing that we’ve worked really hard on!  And so what does that mean next?  We celebrate!

There are many things that our class does to celebrate our writing and “send it out into the world,” but this time, we decided to have a Writing Museum (structured much like our Reading Museum from the beginning of the year) so that we could sample each others’ writing and leave compliments.

So when the “exhibits” were set up and the music started playing, Rm. 202 writers spent the next bit (well actually it was more like 30 minutes or more!) reading the work of others and leaving kind words for our friends.  If only you could have heard how amazingly quiet it was the room during this time!  Writing is important business in our class, and we took this (as we do most things!) very seriously. 🙂

Each person set out their writing piece, along with a compliment sheet for others to write on. 🙂

I love how they’re all sitting with their heads in their hands.  Something about that seems like they’re deep in thought, doing some serious business!

How do you celebrate writing? 🙂

100! Can You Believe It?!

In honor of the 100th post on our blog (yahoo!), I’m going to ask you to celebrate some amazing work my 5th grade friends have been doing. Check our blogs to see what we’ve written lately! Today we posted about proud moments, math, Spring Break, getting braces and much, much more. Don’t forget to comment to let my friends know you visited. They usually ask really good questions, so answer a few! 🙂

Also, I feel like it’s an ok time to remind you of our class connections project. If you haven’t yet commented, or commented and didn’t tell us where you are from, please do so! We haven’t added a new pin in a while, and would love to see our map connections grow!

Thanks, readers, for all the time you spend here.  We appreciate you!!

We’re off to Spring Break after one more school day tomorrow.  Do you have any exciting Spring Break plans to share?