Rm. 202 Kids Take Over!

This will be the first of several posts that document some changes that have been taking place in Rm. 202’s neck of the woods over the last two weeks.  We’ve been dealing with some struggles and are working on working through them.  Kind of like in the beginning of the year when we were working on working together.  Remember?  And in true Rm. 202 and Robinson form, we’re problem solving as a class to figure out what to do.  LOVE THAT!  It hasn’t been easy, but with so many great brains working on the solutions, it’s coming along.

Here’s the beginning of the story…

We had had many days where our class was struggling to follow directions, listen to each other (including me!) and struggled with working well as a group.  Of course I was frustrated, and knew that it meant something had to change.  Luckily, because I know that these choices mean they’re telling me something (rather than just that they’re bad kids, or trying to make me crazy, or that there is no hope! LOL), I choose to try to figure out how to help them change those choices, by teaching or reteaching behavior, or by restructuring some other part of what we do everyday.

And because I work in the best school in the best school district anywhere, I am lucky to know about using a problem-solving model with most every classroom bump in the road.  I learned years ago about how to use the ICEL protocol for this problem-solving and it came in SO handy to us lately.  Basically it helps you problem-solve through a variety of items, starting NOT with the kids in your class, but with how you are teaching them.

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So as I worked through how to best respond to the struggles we were having, I logically started with the I in ICEL, which has to do with HOW we’re learning and HOW I’m choosing to present things.  Sometimes an easy tweak in this area can provide the response you were looking for.  And also luckily (wow–do you get how blessed I am? LOL), I have a super supportive group of coworkers who are ALWAYS willing and able to help.  We happen to have a place to post questions and ideas so I wrote this, looking for some suggestions:

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And like I said, there ended up being LOADS of friends who gave their support and ideas for how we could respond, and even better than just helping me, anyone who read the thread could benefit. #collaborationforthewin

This response was what got us to this blog post today:

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And since I cannot step away from a double dog dare, but more because I knew she had a point with her suggestion and was thinking we’d get some good results from it, I started our next day with this as our easel question:

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Apparently I haven’t asked a question like this in a while, or they are programmed to answer this “learner” question in a certain way, because on our first draft thinking, their responses were “be quiet” or “listen to the teacher” or “be a good friend.”  Of course those are all good things, but what I was asking was more like the answers on this second draft are responses I as expecting.  The notes are grouped by type and the big pile at the bottom (not surprisingly) say PLAY.  The rest say things like READ, WRITE, CODE, and DRAW.  And yes, there were at least two that said they’d enjoy doing anything.  Yes, girls, you’re my favorite students.  LOL  Just kidding!

We gathered for morning meeting and got busy building our schedule for the day.  Again, this surprised my students MUCH more than I thought it would; I think I give them choice ALL THE TIME and work to be really responsive to what they need and want.  Funny that this seemed so crazy to them.  Anyway, we decided that they could choose to do something from the list of blocks/cars, art, Legos, or iPads.  We also reviewed how, since this was normally the time when we did writing and sci/ss, they had to figure out a way to include those things in their work.  I also gave the offer to let some friends help me start a bulletin board that first grade was in charge of making–4 friends took me up on this offer.  The rest made their choice and got busy with their learning plan for the day.  They had to start in their area by talking with the others kids there about how they’d use the tools they had available to them.  As we got busy, I shared with them that we would stop to share our work after a chunk of time (I think I gave them about 40 minutes).

Once they had time to work on their creation, we gathered in each area so groups could report to us on how they spent their time.

When we returned later in the day, we got busy writing a report on how we had spent our morning.  More on that later!

Oh, and I know you want to know how it went….this was one of the most pleasant mornings we’ve had together in a while. 🙂  They had choice, they were engaged, they managed their bodies and were in charge of their learning.  And I went to lunch with a smile on my face (for whatever that’s worth. 🙂 ).

Please be sure to come back for the next chapters of the story–it’s a great one!  Rm. 202 kiddos have GREAT ideas! Can’t wait to tell you about it.

Learning to Draw From an Expert

Remember when Pacifique was here last year and we were SO EXCITED?!  And the year before when we first met them?   Well…since then we’ve developed quite a close relationship with the NIYO Cultural Centre and are lucky to be able to learn from these amazingly talented artists often.  This time Pacifique brought some new friends–Patrick and Figy.  Last time we focused primarily on music and dance, but this time Figy has been able to share his painting talents with us.  WE WERE EXCITED!

First, he did a little bit of pre-planning and basics instruction at the easel.  Everyone really wanted him to start by drawing tigers and lions, but Figy helped us understand that we have to start with simple and THEN we can stretch out and do some harder things.  We were going to start with butterflies.  Just like the lesson Ms. Holzmueller had done with us the previous week, he showed us how butterflies are made of shapes we already know, like ovals.  Easy peasy!

Once we had sketched our butterflies, we gathered for a painting lesson.  Figy is a master with watercolors and had much to teach us.  I was so excited to learn a tip that I had never learned: before you start painting, you “paint” the paper with water!  This helps the paint then “float” around on the water.  SO BEAUTIFUL!

After this next part of the lesson, we tried out hands at adding color to our own creations.

We weren’t finished yet, though!  We would leave them to dry overnight, and then trace the details on top of our paint with permanent marker.  WOW–what a great combination!  Check out Figy’s example he made for us:

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AND THEN (as if it hadn’t already been an amazing time together!), he called kiddos to the rug as they finished painting, telling them he had a secret to tell them.  He quickly had a line forming in front of him as he whispered quietly in each kiddo’s ear.  No one except that kiddo had any idea what he was talking about!

We soon found out that was he was talking to each kiddo about was what other animal they might like him to draw and quickly a pretty impressive list started to form on the easel paper.  And then he started drawing them for us!  Right before our eyes they begin to appear on the paper, like a colorful 2D zoo!

Did you notice what started to happen as he added animals to the paper?  Kiddos were so inspired that a whole new drawing lesson ensued and everyone was trying them out, too! Love it when that happens.  You don’t even have to invite them or suggest that they do it–just showing them is all the invitation that need! So organic. 🙂

So then Friday when we came back, we took our turn with the Sharpies and finished our paintings.  Aren’t they beautiful??

We were so inspired and thankful to Figy for sharing his talents with us!  We have even started another watercolor painting project in math that we’ll finish this coming week, too.  Stay tuned for updates on how we transfer this learning to another situation! 🙂

Rm. 202 Literary Lanterns Project

A few weeks ago I started seeing tweets about Literary Lanterns and they were so interesting to me.  Basically think of a pumpkin painted like your favorite book character, and that’s what they are.  We toyed with the idea of doing this on a school level, but it didn’t happen, so Rm. 202 decided to do it for ourselves!

First I showed my friends some examples of some pumpkins other kids had created, since I figured most of them didn’t really didn’t have any idea what I was talking about. 🙂

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Then we brainstormed a list of characters kiddos would like to create, with two minor rules: NO ONE could do Piggie or Elephant and NO ONE could do the Pigeon, because well, EVERYONE would want to do those characters and that would be a very boring pumpkin display.  Once everyone was clear on those guidelines (which really meant that EVERY OTHER BOOK CHARACTER in the world was fair game), kiddos got busy creating a list of ideas.

I pulled up our book pictures on our ActivBoard, and many also studied our door display (see?  Another reason why this project has been SO GREAT!).

Originally I was going to take our ideas and make a list and then have everyone pick the one they wanted, but instead had them circle the one they most wanted to create on the list they first brainstormed.  Then I just had to cross-reference everyone’s choice (which was much easier and much less work!) and surprisingly it all worked out really nicely.  Some kiddos were paired up (if they chose the same book) and some worked alone.

These choices were made on a Friday, so that kiddos could then work at home over the weekend to secure their pumpkin and any other supplies they might need.  To my surprise and delight, this showed up on Monday:

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Once we had our pumpkins, our plans and some time, we got busy!!

Oh my goodness they looked great!

Then we had a super idea about how we’d share them with our Robinson friends.  I asked Mrs. Meihaus if she would let us make a display of them in the library so we could show up our hard work and creativity, and she so kindly said YES!  Most teachers at Robinson know about our #classroombookaday challenge and how this went along with our crazy reading love, so were interested in what we were doing anyway.

Then we had another great idea: we would use this project as the basis of our learning on elections and voting.  Our display was set up, we created a sign to hang above our pumpkins and then everyone of them was numbered.  I created a Google form for Robinson friends, family and teachers (anyone who views the display, really) to cast their votes and now we’re off!  We are so proud and very excited to see what happens with this project now that it’s in place in the library. 🙂

And without further ado, here are our final products:

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We’d love to include you in our voting, too!  If you’d like to vote for YOUR favorite pumpkin, scan the QR code or click on the link below and cast your vote!  We’d LOVE to see how far this project can spread outside of our walls in Missouri, so please also share where you live!  THANK YOU in advance!!

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goo.gl/PXrKZb

Dot Day UPDATE: We Made Our Mark!

I hope that you have already enjoyed the story of our Dot Day 2016 celebration, but if not, you might want to check that out first, and then you will have an even better idea of how we got here.  This is an update–one thing I forgot to share (what??) and our amazing paintings that weren’t ready to share yet.  Believe me, these MARKS are amazing!

First our favorite parts of Dot Day (not surprisingly, it was the DOTS for most kiddos!)

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Now the BEST part.  🙂  We made dots and watched them splatter…and we wrote about them, too!

 

 

 

Ten Black Dots Makes a…

…really great book to challenge first graders with their creativity!  Last week I shared how Mrs. Berger is doing some lessons with first grade and this week was #2.  First she shared the book Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews, which was a great connection to our current math work as well as a great stretch for our creative brains.

Then she asked me to do something that I guess I knew was coming but had forgotten about since last time we did this (2014): use 10 black dots to create something.  I usually appreciate doing things that my students are asked to do, as I know that understanding the struggles that may come up helps me support students through them, but I had forgotten how hard that task is!  I came up with something, but let me just want you it was a little less than stellar. 🙂 Ok, sorry, I know that is a very fixed-mindset thing to say…I take it back.  I just believe if I worked at it I could create a much more imaginative picture with my dots.  (Thanks to Chase for being the photographer while I was working on this!)

After my demonstration, kiddos were given an office and a paper, chose 10 red dots and got busy on their creation.  They worked for about 10 minutes on their 10 red dots, including writing at the bottom to tell about what they made.

And just like with the drawing starts, kiddos did a great job of seeing those dots as so much more than they were!

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Another great example of stretching your brains, Rm. 202 friends!

 

Not a Box!

One of my favorite beginning-of-the-year things that happens at our school in first grade is a series of lessons that Mrs. Berger, our teacher of the Gifted and Talented, does with kiddos.  The first one is based on the book Not a Box, and is a series of drawing starts.

We showed up in her room last Friday and she first read to us:

The bunny in the story has a box…that is not a box, but is loads of other interesting things in his imagination.  After the book, kiddos were given the same invitation to take something and make it “not that thing” by adding details and thinking, well, outside the box.  hee hee

Creativity is such an important part of learning, and seeing things in more than one way is a skill that I hope to be always encouraging and fostering in my kiddos.  Check out what we did so far!

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Great start, Rm. 202 kiddos!  Excited to see what you do next time with Ten Black Dots!

Dot Day 2016: Too Much Fun For Just One Day!

If you follow Dot Day or you have been to the official website, then you know the date for Dot Day is advertised as “Sept 15th-ish.”  Now being a fan of the Reynolds brothers, I figure there’s probably a joke in there because of their amazing book Ish, but I also love that it probably just means teachers can have some freedom in when they celebrate.  I mean, we all know that things like that can rarely fit so nicely right into our schedules.

We were able to take advantage of a great Skype invitation from Ms. Hachen’s 2nd Grade Ms. Hachen’s 2nd Grade class to take place on Sept. 15th, and so in order to have something to talk to our new friends about on that morning at 9 am, we did our “official” Dot Day work the day before.  If you have visited 20somethingkids before, then you know Skyping is not a new thing to my kiddos, BUT this was to be the first one this particular class had made.  I was excited and I’m pretty sure that until it happened, many of them didn’t know what we were doing. LOL

Ms. Hachen and I had planned to have our kiddos share their dot art, and tell the rest of the class what they decided to do to “make their mark.”  We gathered on the floor in front of our screen and computer, and oh my goodness I wish I would have taken a video of what happened next.  You can imagine I’m sure…I turned on Facetime just to give them an idea of what it would look like  once we got started and everyone started making faces at themselves in the camera, putting bunny ears on their friends, waving their hands…you get the idea?  I mean I guess I couldn’t really blame them–if you have never seen yourself on screen before like that and you are a 6YO, you’re probably going to do something goofy, right? So I asked them to get all those sillies out and then we waited patiently for our friends to call.  They did, and we listened to our new friends from Kansas (hey, they’re our neighbors!) tell us about their Dot Day creations.

It looked and sounded a little like this:

You know, I love it when I watch videos of things that happen in our classroom, because I often notice or see new things that I didn’t notice in the moment.  Honestly, I remembered that many kiddos were NUTS and had a hard time being patient as we watched and listened, and I remembered having to give many reminders for them to be respectful audience members.  I’m so glad to see that most of them did a GREAT job of waiting, and am not surprised to see that there are still some who REALLY wanted to show off their art work.  I’m going to take that as a sign that they were really proud–and that we need more practice with Skype. LOL  No worries, we will get lots of that as we go through this year. 🙂

When we were finished with our Skype, we had some other things to do (like regular 1st grade curriculum stuff!), but we came back to another art challenge later in the afternoon.  I had seen a blog post about creating a circle painting with your class and wanted to try it.  After all the paint fun we’d had the day before (did I mention that we had to throw three kiddos’ clothes in the washer?), I needed to figure another way to make it work.

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We didn’t exactly follow the directions, as we didn’t use paint, and I didn’t have them only paint circles, but we did indeed work together to make our marks on a class art piece together.  That was really my big idea anyway, regardless of the medium.

So, we started with a big yellow piece of paper, 8 kiddos and a box of markers.

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They were given 30 seconds to work at the part of the paper that was in front of them, and then we rotated around the table.  They were supposed to add something new to the picture that they moved to next.

Not only did we create a BEAUTIFUL art piece together, but not a single person fussed during this time, nor did anyone argue, fight over a spot, or not follow directions.  It was quiet, ran smoothly and kiddos seemed like there were really enjoying themselves!  They took this “making our mark together” business really seriously. 🙂

And then when we were finished (we went through three rounds of 8 kiddos each), we had to do the most important part–sign it!

I have not had a chance to frame it yet, nor have I decided where to hang it (we should decide on that together, I think!), but I am surely impressed with what we were able to do.  My favorite part?  When I heard Johnny say to me as he rotated to the next spot, “I think this is supposed to be a carnival, so I’m going to add part to the roller coaster!”  What a great example of paying attention to others’ intentions.  Saw that happening all over the place after he said it.  Way to go Johnny and Rm. 202 friends!

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Just for fun, a few closer looks:

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Ok, and just one more.  It was a good thing we had Double Dot Day, because on actual Dot Day I wore stripes to school.  I know, wah wah. 😦  But I remembered the next time and was excited to sport the RIGHT outfit!

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Oh, and look–they’re even DOUBLE DOTS!!  Like it was meant to be. 🙂

What a great couple of days focusing on reading and creativity, helping and working together!  Thanks for reading and ’til next year, keep on make, make, making your mark!!