I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag

We’re first graders, and Civics is a big part of our fall Social Studies learning.  We’ve been working on building community since day 1, which is a HUGE part of first grade Civics and learning to work together, but this week we moved into more “official” territory–starting with the flag.

Luckily, most kiddos come into first grade with at least some knowledge of US Symbols (like the flag, the eagle, money, the Liberty Bell, etc.), so we have a foundation on which to build.

We started with a great place: Annie and Moby from BrainPop Jr. :

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After we watched the video and gained some new info on US Symbols, we focused in specifically on the flag, and then worked to create our own.  Partly as a challenge, partly as a fabulous art piece, ad then also as a physical piece that they can use to remember our conversation and connect with as they remember the parts of and meanings of the flag.

We talked about the features of the flag, as well as the importance of each part, like how there are 13 stripes (7 red and 6 white) that stand for valour, hardiness and purity, as well as the 13 original colonies; there are 50 stars that represent the 50 states; and the blue part of the flag is called the Chief and is blue to represent justice.

Next I gave them three pieces of paper: one red, one white and one smaller blue piece.  Then they were to make a piece that represents a flag, however they wanted to, using whatever other tools they might need (like scissors, glue, tape, etc.).

Much like many other things we do, this activity was bigger than the actual idea of making a flag.  Like other requests I make of my friends, students have an opportunity to apply the Robinson Mindset all around them.  And in this case, it came when friends got stuck.  Along with remembering to “try one more time” like in the book that Mrs. Sisul read us, we could remind each other to use a growth mindset and work hard, as well as focus our minds on our work.  The ability to apply this in almost every struggle we encounter is a blessing.  And it worked.  The smiles on the faces of these two friends when they had pushed through a hard part was priceless:

Another thing that came out of this project was how everyone tackled the assignment in such a different way.  I gave them the paper but they really didn’t have any “right” way they were supposed to use it.  As I looked at it, and thought of how the pieces would go together, I imagined that they would cut the red piece and attach it to the white–many did exactly the opposite!   I love that picture of Rachel and Taylor working exactly the mirror images of each other.

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I love that the flags are all reminiscent of flags, and you can tell what they are, but they are each a little different based on the historian artist who made them.  Great work again, Rm. 202 friends!

Check out our patriotic work!

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As I see them down the hall, I am again reminded how glad I am I hung this display space right there!

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Monday, Monday…

Remember the other day when I told you that learning is messy?  Well yesterday was another day when that happened in our classroom.  But the reason I’m writing about it again is because besides being messy, it was again really successful.  Only this time, it was in Social Studies.

Mondays are very unusual days in our classroom.  At some points during reading you can look around and only see 5 or 6 kiddos, because of the schedule of pull-outs and other things.  And for whatever reason, Social Studies on these days always seems to be really hard for our class.

But this was not one of those days!  We’re studying Ancient West Africa, which is hard for many of us to wrap our heads around, since it was so long ago and so far away.  We’ve tried at least 3 or 4 different structures and plans to make this unit work for us, but it still seemed like we’d get to the end of the Social Studies time and feel like we weren’t any farther than the day before! Well, today we tried something else.

We’re working on creating class charts–think murals or collages–that highlight all of the things we need to remember for the kingdoms of Ghana, Mali and Songhai.  The thinking is focused around the 5 disciplines of Social Studies: history, economics, civics, culture and geography.  Here’s some that were made for the Cahokia unit:

 

Well, this time around the idea was the same, but I changed some of the specifics.  Instead of working in groups completely on their own to read, take notes and then create their representation, we met in small groups during Reader’s Workshop to do the reading and research part.  I went through the text with each group (each was responsible for a single discipline, all related to Mali), and we read and discussed what we thought was important.  A recorder took notes for the group, then before they left the table, we made a plan for what their group was going to make.  We decided right then who would do what, and then their group left to get to work.  Instead of squeezing this project into just one Social Studies time (I know–crazy, right?  I’ve had several good friends tell me how stupid I was to expect it all to get done in 45 minutes!), we used part of our reading block and added on our Social Studies time, too.  Altogether, they were able to work for about an hour or more one day, then finish this part today (Tuesday).

I’m not really sure exactly what part worked out the best, but I know for sure it worked.  Every group was busy and quiet and focused for the entire time.  And when we were finished and I said my usual, “May I have your attention please?”, they knew what I was going to say.  This Monday, unlike many others, we were all going home in a good mood, having learned a lot.  They knew it was a good time; it just felt different. Our buckets were full and so were our heads–with concepts about Ancient West Africa as well as how to work together towards a common goal.  And they came back today determined to figure out how to make it happen again.