Ten Black Dots 2019

On August 28, we celebrated a very important day at school–our 10th day of first grade together! It was a very special day because 10 is SUCH AN IMPORTANT number to first graders (and in general!).  We learned a new math game that day called Tenzi, which we loved, and we also read a really great book–Ten Black Dots.

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After we read it, we talked about how we might try this same thing with our own black dots.  We brainstormed some ideas and then got to work.  We followed these directions, and made sure we used our self-talk (keeping track on our fingers to help us remember) to help make sure we had done all the steps.

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First we planned out what we would make, and glued down our dots.  We added details with a pencil, per the directions. 🙂

Then we started painting our pictures, following the procedure we’d learned the first time we used watercolors to paint.

Our paintings all spent some time drying in the hall–and even before they were done they looked really good!

Our last step was to trace our details and then add a sentence that said “Ten black dots make a…”  But that’s for another blog post.  Come back soon to check that one out (after I take the pictures, LOL!)

What would you make with 10 black dots?  Leave us a comment to tell us your ideas!  We’d love to hear from you!

Directed Drawing and Watercolors: Early Lessons in Being a First Grade Artist

Last year I wrote a story about my journey to understanding how and why directed drawing would be a good thing in the classroom.  This year, I was even more dedicated to showing kiddos from the beginning how EVERYONE is an artist, as well as how important it is them know how to put their thinking into pictures.  I decided that I’d start from the earliest days with this, and so we learned how to draw a boy and a girl.

I found a series of videos where an artist works with kids and teaches them how to draw things.  In this one, he draws a boy and a girl and talks through variations you might do to make them different the next time you draw them.  Here’s the video if you wanted to check it out:

As we watched the video, I drew the figures up on the board in great big form, and first graders tried it out on their smaller paper.  They only had to do one or the other, but a couple took the challenge of drawing both the boy and the girl!

We stopped the video along the way to rewatch a step, or to answer questions.  We erased, encouraged and enabled ourselves to not be perfect the first time we attempted this feat.  We talked about how it’s true that this might be hard now, but that the next time we try it (to draw a kid or something else), it’ll be even easier since we’ve done it before.  I heard many kids say how they were impressed by their first tries and also how happy they were at what their pictures looked like.

Another important thing I wanted kids to know how to do from the early days (because it’s a huge part of learning in our classroom) is to paint with watercolors.

So the next step, after we drew our kids was to learn how to paint them.

We talked about how to get water and carefully walk with it to our table (this is much harder than it might seem! 🙂 ), how much water to use to make the colors look richer or more transparent, as well as the order in which to paint so that the colors don’t run (yellow, orange, red, green, blue, purple, brown and then black).  We also learned that when you make a painting, the whole paper has to be covered (with details and background). Then we tried it out for ourselves.

One thing I LOVE about doing whole-class learning like this, is that even though we’re all doing the same thing, we are all doing it in different ways.  And I love how often a kiddo will do or say something that we can share, as it might be helpful to everyone at some point.  This happened as I walked by and saw Finley doing this with his painting:

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We shared how he outlined the figure with the background color to help make sure it was crisp and clear.  Lots of kids tried it out, too!  And wow–what a great thing to learn today and use for the whole year.  And beyond!

After we were painted, we already had some pretty great results. 🙂

But we weren’t done yet!  Last step was to trace our pencil marks with Sharpie and sign our work!

And so after all of that HARD WORK, we had a pretty fantastic painting and some skills we can learn for the whole year and beyond.  Check them out!

WOW!!  What incredible work, first graders!  🙂

 

What To Do With a Box

Every year when we consider what to do in our first days, there is a hope and a plan to make the first day (or two) so exciting that kiddos can’t wait to come back for more.  Rather than spend our first times together as a class sitting and talking about rules, consequences, expectations and well, more of the same, we strive to SHOW them what’s important to us, and at the same time give them opportunities to have fun and make memories form the very beginning.  This year on our first day we made ice cream butter, read lots of great books and got to build with boxes!!

Several years ago Ms. Turken and I found this book by a beloved author (Jane Yolen) and loved it right away.  Then when we realized the invitation it gave kiddos for creativity and imagination–and that we could do it on day #1–we loved it even more!

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The concept is very simple: you can do SO MANY THINGS with a box and your brain. :). After we read the story, we just looked at the box pile (sorry! I forgot to get a picture! 😦 ) and brainstormed what we thought we might do with those boxes.  Many kiddos started to list problems they could see solving with a box (which was not necessary but a really great stretch of thinking!), or just fun things they might create to play with or use for something at home or school.  We took turns choosing our boxes and then got busy!

We built and created for most of the morning (or maybe the day?!) and it was great to watch what happened!  Kids were busy, working, cooperating, trying things out and trying again, and using all the grit and creativity they could muster.  It was exciting to see that already this class knows how to tackle an open-ended situation where there are many possibilities.  They took on the challenge with smiles and excitement and produced some pretty great results!  AND they had a super fun 2nd day of school and were excited to come back for more!! 🙂

The 112th Day of School?

If you’ve been here for a while, you know that I have done some reflection on the appropriateness of celebrating the 100th Day of School (at least outside of kindergarten).  Last year we decided to commemorate the 111th day of school in a small way instead because that was our room number. Not the most creative reasoning, but Rm. 111 kids really stepped up and we did some awesome things around the number 111!

This year we talked about doing the same thing again (new class, same plan) after I explained to them about how we didn’t need to do the same thing they did in kindergarten–this is first grade, after all!

Well, because of two “too-cold” days off, our 111th day of school fell right after World Read Aloud Day, right after Global School Play Day, after a visit to the Black History Museum and some brownie baking and smack in the middle of Kindness Week!  Whew!  We were (and would be!) so busy–and no one had asked about it in a while–that I figured I’d let the day come and go and no one would notice.  I know–not fair, but hey, it’s what I did. 🙂

And it did come and go….at least for one day. LOL . On Wednesday, the 112th day of school, Ali noticed on our ten-frame number on the board that we had in fact missed our special day!  Oops. 🙂 . She asked me and I was honest with my answer.  She seemed fine with that explanation, but pretty much insisted that we fix it by doing something that day.  Ok, Al, you’re right. 🙂

During our Morning Meeting that day we talked about our new plan for the day (and yes, I admitted my mistake).  They had ideas similar to what some of my previous classes have done, and thankfully most of their suggestions were totally appropriate and “doable” without much planning.  Together we decided that we would read 112 books, have 12 extra minutes of math (which sounds weird but was the concession I could give them when they first asked for 112 extra minutes!), and that we’d do some reading/writing/drawing about Black History Month later on in the day.  Pretty great ideas, I’d say!

Before we got busy with our reading goal, we talked about how we would make 112 books happen.  Sam had a great idea of thinking about it like a math problem, and he helped construct a ratio table to figure out how many books each would need to read.  We ended up with 7 or 8 each, and quickly discussed how we’d keep track.  Chart paper and post-its for the win!

Remember how in the post about Twenty Yawns I talked about how great it is when the numbers work out for you?  Well, it happened again as the chart we used could fit 9 sticky notes across.  You can use multiples of 10 – 1 to figure out how many you have pretty quickly.  LOVE IT!

Anyhow, we worked pretty much all morning on this, but ended up getting to our goal (and a bit past it!) just as it was time for lunch.  PERFECT!

Oh, and I’ll share what happened in that extra 12 minutes of math in another post soon!  The afternoon when they worked on Black History Month was also great, but I didn’t get any pictures of it. 😦 . I LOVE how excited these kiddos are about learning, and how much of that includes books!

Kindness Quilt 2.0

Over the last few years, our school has begun to look differently at Valentine’s Day, choosing to celebrate an entire week (or even month!) of kindness, rather than just one day of candy and treats.  We even had a team of teachers to brainstorm and share ideas that kids might do to show kindness, a calendar with suggestions and videos and displays around our school.

Another such idea that our whole school took on was the Kindness Quilt.  It was actually a project that my class started last year, but something that never made it to the blog!?  It was a project sparked by a book–as many of our best ideas are!–which we started with ourselves and then shared with others, eventually inviting our whole school to participate. 🙂

This year many kiddos and teachers knew it was coming, since they had made the quilt last year.  We all started again, though, with the same inspiration: the book The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace.

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The story is about a little bunny who is also celebrating kindness in her school, looking for kind acts around her life as she goes through the week.  Instead of finding just ONE kind thing she did, she finds SO MANY she decides to make a quilt out of her random acts of kindness.  The quilt started with just herself and her classmates, then grew from the small bulletin board to the big one, and then eventually spread to other grades in her school.  OF COURSE we wanted our kindness quilt to do the same thing!

I invited (and reminded) the rest of Robinson to join in our quilt endeavor again, and asked for teachers to let me know who wanted to participate.  Very quickly classrooms started to tell us they needed supplies, so we got busy putting together supply bags for them to use.  What great counting practice!

Once we had shared quilt squares with so many classes, we also had to make sure we had made quilt squares of our own!  The directions were to 1) show your act of kindness on the white square using a torn-paper picture, 2)  use the words “Kindness is…” and tell about your picture, 3) matte your picture on a bigger colored square, 4) decorate the edges of your colored square.

(A quick aside on why they have to use torn-paper: first graders can always benefit from activities and movements that increase their fine-motor skills.  Using pinchers to tear small bits of paper helps strengthen their fingers, which helps in handwriting and other small movements.  Also, there is a different level of planning and thinking involved with making a picture out of tiny shards of paper than just drawing it with a pencil, and I want them to be challenged to think in a different way. 🙂 We have done this before, so they were not surprised by the request, but yes, there are still some who fuss about not being able to use scissors!!).

Once we had enough squares done to start mounting them, I pulled out the butcher paper and got to work.  Ms. Pachan and Makayla (a SUPER 5th grade helper who works in our room–and Makhi’s big sister!) helped out with this job, too.

Check out some of our AWESOME squares!

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And just so you can get a sneak peek of how our quilt will look (although at the end it will be MUCH MUCH bigger, here’s all the quilt squares as of Thursday afternoon):

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I can’t wait to share updates as it grows and grows and we continue to celebrate kindness, long after Kindness Week is over!

I Wanna New Room!

I mentioned in a #classroombookaday update recently that we’d read a couple of persuasive texts that we loved.

We will later use the iguana book as a mentor text in our persuasive writing unit, and we found a great back-to-school-after-the-holidays activity to do with the other one. 🙂

My teammate found a version of this activity that involved actually “building” a house with tongue depressors, clothespins and notecards, and while it seemed great, I decided to do a less complicated version of the project.

After we read I Wanna New Room, we went back to the blueprint page of the story where Alex planned what he could include in the space if his dad gave him his very own room.  We talked about what WE could included in our very own special space and then kiddos were give notecards to “make” the rooms in their house/treehouse/clubhouse/lair. They were to draw each part and label it, then describe it to us. :).

It was so fun to watch kiddos as they worked SUPER hard and for quite a long, focused amount of time creating their special spaces.  I was also tickled with how each kiddo’s place was perfectly them–they included spaces that spoke to their personality, their hobbies, their loves.

Check out what we would have in our very own rooms (and how some of us would have LOTS of rooms instead of just one!). 🙂

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If YOU were going to design YOUR very own space, what would you put in it?  Leave us a comment and tell us about it! 🙂

 

 

Sharing our Shape Art

During 2nd quarter of first grade one of our units (which I think is one of the most fun to teach and learn about!) is geometry.  A few years ago, it was also a time when we were visited by a fabulous artist who taught us about watercolors and a new geometry/art project was born.  The topic has been different every year (for example last year kiddos had to make their house), but the focus every time has been on using what they know about 2D shapes to create a picture, then paint it.

We used shapes we had already learned about and used in math (pattern blocks that were squares, trapezoids, rhombuses, hexagons and triangles) and traced them to create a design.  It was pretty tricky for some of us, as we’re still working on fine-motor skills and the tracing part can be hard!  No worries, though, because in Rm. 111 we have a boatload of grit and we just kept trying!

After we had a pencil drawing that covered the whole page (which is an expectation we have whenever we do a painting or drawing project on big paper), we were ready to paint it.  Kiddos were asked to paint it to match the colors of the actual blocks.

As with most watercolor projects we do, the last step is to trace our pencil marks with Sharpie.  This makes the shapes crisp and clear.

Our last step is to analyze the creation, showing what we know about the shapes we’ve been working on.  Kiddos completed a sheet called Shape Talk, that went along with their mathematical design.

 

 

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Often, depending on the time year this unit happens, mathematicians may be asked to write equations to show how many of two shapes they have altogether, for example: triangles + hexagons =

Once these were finished, they hung on our hallway bulletin board for a while and they were BEAUTIFUL to look at every day!  Check out our hard work!