Another Kingore Lesson: Patterns!

We went back to Mrs. Berger for another lesson–this time it was patterns.  We started on the circle rug by the big screen first and tried out some growing and repeating patterns together.

After we did some SUPER thinking together, we showed what we could do on our own papers.  Some of the patterns were tricky, but we were dedicated to working hard, using our grit and pushing through to the end.  We did a GREAT job!

Two more to go!  Stay tuned to see more of our super first grade thinking!

DOT DAY 2017–Another Day of Making our Mark!

We had a SUPER Dot Day this year, and a lot like last year, there was too much fun for just one day! Oh, and I realized that I forgot to mention that in addition to The Dot, we shared many other Peter Reynolds titles, and sang another Emily Arrow song, too!

OK, moving on…If you read the post from Dot Day 2016, you’ll notice a fabulous Skype opportunity we had with Ms. Hachen’s class from Kansas.  This year we were not quite ready to chat with a “stranger” class yet, so Ms. Turken and I figured out a way to have our first graders learn what to do–with each other!

We had a plan to share our dot creations with each other, as well as prep kiddos for our Skype journey for this year.  We started our Friday with a quick flip chart to introduce kiddos to what Skype actually is and how it works.  We practiced how we would have a greeter (we decided the helper for the week could easily do this); how they would come to the computer and what they would say; as well as what everyone else should do while it’s not their turn (spoiler: they should sit quietly and watch and listen!).  I even gave them a few seconds to do that crazy thing that kiddos always do when they first see themselves on the screen; allowing them to make faces and be goofy for a minute helped quell that desire for once we actually got started.

After we had practiced the procedure and were ready to receive our call, the Skype call rang.  But when we answered there was only a black screen on the other end.  Ms. Turken and I troubleshooted for probably close to 10 minutes, and Rm. 111 friends were AMAZING while they waited for us to figure out what to do.  Jeremiah even had some super ideas about how we could fix the problem (great job, kiddo!), but somehow nothing could get our friends’ faces on our screen. 😦  Eventually, since they were just in the classroom next door, we decided to do this Skype in person.  Yep, it was a first for us, too. 🙂

We headed over with our dots in hand and got all set up.

And..perhaps the best part of the whole deal was when Ms. Turken had the brilliant idea of building a computer out of blocks so kiddos would know where to do and what to do.  It was GENIUS and kiddos did a super job!  Check it out (in pictures first and then a rather long, but super cute video!):

I was so impressed with how well they did, how the mostly were quiet and listening, and how I am sure they’ll know what to do when it’s “for real.”  YAY!!

And speaking of Dot Day creations, here they are.  Can’t wait ’til they are up and displayed for us to see!  Of course, I’ll share again once that happens, but they were too good to keep to myself!

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Aren’t those amazing?  And you know, they so inspired me that I had to join in.  I didn’t do it on actual Dot Day (hope that’s ok), but I did indeed make my mark and make a dot creation with my daughter today (who is also a first grader!).

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I’m excited to see them all hanging up soon, inspiring us EVERY DAY to make our marks! 🙂

So tell, how did you celebrate Dot Day?? 🙂

 

 

DOT DAY 2017!!

Oh my goodness–one of my FAVORITE DAYS of the whole school year (maybe even the whole year) happened last week: International Dot Day 2017!

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We choose to celebrate in first grade on September 14th (Thursday) because of a crazy schedule on Friday that would cut into our time to play and create.  Every year it seems the day gets bigger and bigger (I believe this is my 3rd Dot Day), and this year was no exception.  Check out what we did! (And a little warning that this post might be a wee bit long and meaty!)

We started our day with a reading of the book by Peter H. Reynolds that sparked the whole thing in the first place, The Dot.  And who better to read it to us than Peter himself??  My favorite part of the video we watched was when he read the cover and said, “The Dot. By me. ”  HA!  Bet that’s SO COOL to read a book you wrote.  He also shared the story about how he got the idea for the book (ask your kiddo about that one–I’ll bet they remember it!) Anyhow, moving along…

After we talked about the story, and how the character Vashti used grit and encouragement with her friend, as well as what it means to make your mark, we added in another video—this time a song–that helped us further the idea.  Have you ever met Emily Arrow?  She created a genre of music called “kidtlit tunes” and first grade kiddos met her on Dot Day as they learned her song that she wrote about the book we had just read.  We’ll probably get through ALL of her books and songs by the end of the year because they are just that good.  Check her out on YouTube if you haven’t yet!  Here’s the one we sang together:

After we had sung (and danced!) a couple of times to that catchy tune, we were ready to do our first (of a series) of dot-related activities, and we made our mark with some art.  I shared a flip chart to get the creative juices flowing, if they weren’t already:

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Kids got to “shop” from the table filled with LOADS of art materials and then get busy with their creation.

Even before they were finished they made me so happy just laying out to dry:

Later, after lunch, we HAD to do math with dots. 🙂  And you know what is shaped like dots? SKITTLES!  We had been working on sorting and graphing anyway, so it just made sense.  And then–there was a Dot Day snack!

Whew!  By that point we had already had LOADS of Dot Day fun, but it wasn’t over yet!  After we came back from specials, we returned to the fun with Dot Day Games!  We had collected Connect 4, checkers and Twister from families and other classes.  Kiddos got to choose which they wanted to do on a chart:

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Then they got busy with more Dot Day–even I got in on the fun and played a few rounds of Connect 4 with Celia. 🙂

I have add a couple more pictures–the dots that kiddos WORE for Dot Day!!  I didn’t remember to take it until the very end and so you can’t really see many of them, but trust, me–these kiddos were decked out and READY to celebrate.   Check out Campbell’s shirt–he made it especially for the day, and Sarah who had dots on her dress AND her socks!  Wow!!

Ok…well, our Dot Day was not really over, but there was TOO MUCH FUN for one day, so I’ll share part two in another post.  Whew!  Thanks for lasting all the way to the end! 🙂

 

#FDOFG2017: Ten Black Dots

Remember when we read The Line and did drawing starts with Mrs. Berger?  It was a great experience for Rm. 111 kiddo and an opportunity to use our creativity and grit.  Well…we went back last Friday and did it again!  Not the drawing start part, but the creativity and grit part. 🙂

During our second visit to Mrs. Berger’s room, she shared Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews with us.  Many of us had heard it before, but maybe as a math book instead of an invitation to think in a new and different way.

We read and discussed the book and looked at the many ways Crews imagined what those ten dots could become.  And then, just as she had done with drawing starts, Mrs. Berger asked me to give it a try (and somehow even though she does this every year, I was totally surprised.  LOL).  So…I stared at the big white paper, trying to see something besides big black circles

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To be honest, I could have made the caterpillar I have done most every other time (boo–I know that’s not very creative!), but I figured I should try a little harder.  So I kept thinking and started moving those dots around on the blank page.

After the dots, I added some details and then stood back to see if they could figure out what my dots had become.

So…my ten black dots became:

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A fancy lady’s hair!

The funniest part to me is that most kiddos thought it was a self-portait!  Ha!

So after my beautiful example, kiddos were give a pile of dots (ours were red and yellow) from which they had to count out ten and then create something marvelous.   Kiddos went to their personal “offices” and got busy.  They were given about 20 minutes to work, and friends were challenged and then encouraged to work the whole time, adding more details if they thought they were finished before time was up.  The sound of quietly working kiddos and the creations that emerged as fabulous!

And so in the end, our ten black dots became…so many great things!  Check out our thinking:

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Again, first grade grit and greatness shined through and we ROCKED this challenge!!  Can’t wait for the next one! Wonder what it will be! 🙂

#FDOFG2017: Drawing Starts

At Robinson we are blessed with loads of gifted and talented teachers, including one who works with all kinds of gifted and talented Robinson kids, Mrs. Berger.  During the beginning weeks of first grade, every first grader goes through a series of lessons (I think there are 5) that helps us identify and highlight creativity and critical thinking of each individual kiddo.  The lessons are a variety of things that help students think and share in different ways.

The first time we visited Mrs. Berger she shared a great book with us called The Line.

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In the story, you watch as the little girl follows a line, which becomes all kinds of things, like a monster, a bear, a wave.  It reminded me of the kind of thinking that we did during our box challenge, where an ordinary item became countless other things just based on kiddos’ imaginations.

In our first invitation, kiddos were given a set of lines–drawing starts–where they had to take the squiggle or shape and create something completely new.

Before kiddos get started, however, Mrs. Berger always invites ME to do this activity.  I have to be honest that even after years of being asked to do that, it doesn’t really get easier!  I am always a little anxious, especially when I feel pressure to do it “right,” –with an audience! Each time, though, I step back and remember how much modeling the difficulty and working through it helps the learners who are watching.  They know that if I can do it, then can, too.  In many ways, because I was willing to do the same thing they were being asked to do, they were able to trust me when I told them they could do it.  They knew that I understood what it felt like to look at that squiggle or swish and not have an idea right away.  🙂 Together we use our grit and persistence to get through, and Rm. 111 learners did a great job!  Check out some of their creations!

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My favorite thing about when kiddos do drawing starts is how many of them are certain that they CAN’T do it, but then, when pushed a little (because NOT doing it is not an option) they settle in and come up with some amazing ideas.  Each child’s thinking is different, and each idea is “right.”  It’s a foundation for much of what we do later on in the year, as we focus on sticking it out, pushing through, using our positive self talk and believing in our abilities.  Way to go, Rm. 111 kiddos!  Oh, and I know you’re dying to see my drawing start, too.

(Hopefully you see a girl jump roping in that picture! LOL)

Can’t wait for our next visit!  There’s sure to be another interesting invitation to be creative and gritty!

#FDOFG2017–David’s Drawings

A few years ago, my friend and colleague, Mrs. Appelbaum showed me an idea for incorporating collaboration and creativity into a beginning-of-the-year activity.  We tried it that year, and the results were fabulous.   I don’t think I tried it last year (or at least if I did, I didn’t write about it!?), but I knew I needed to pull it out and try it again with this group.  We’ve been focusing on community building these last few weeks, and creativity is a big deal both in my classroom and in our school.  I love this book–the story is great and the conversations you can have around how kind and considerately the classmates treat each other are helpful during the foundation-building days early in the year.

We began by reading and talking about the book itself, and I told about how much I love that the author, Cathryn Falwell commented on our work the last time we did it.  We’ve been talking alot about authors and how we can talk to them “in real life” lately and they were super excited that a book’s author might see their hard work! (No pressure, Ms. Falwell! hee hee).

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After we read, we reviewed the way David developed his drawing in the story: he started with an idea, but then his friends were able to add in details that they thought were important, resulting in a masterpiece that involved numerous perspectives and ideas.  Aside from just a beautiful picture, however, the kids in the story also display such care and respect as they are sure to ask their friend if they can help BEFORE they start to work.  David is kind to oblige and the collaboration begins.  What results is something even better than what was originally imagined; the end would not have been a possibility without everyone’s input.

Once I was sure we understood both the story itself and the concept of what I wanted them to do, we broke up into small groups (which we call “crews” in our room) and artists got to work.

The drawings we ended up with were super creative, colorful and full of everyone’s ideas!  We did a great job and were excited to hang them up on another spot of blank wall (we have LOTS of it!!)!

Perhaps the best part was the debrief on our work when we were finished.  They had such great ideas to the question of what they did as they worked that made our creations so successful.  These kiddos have such great ideas–before, during and even after their work!!

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The hope (and encouragement) is that these behaviors will be repeated over and over in different settings to help make success and cooperation continue for many days to come!

 

#FDOFG2017–Math in First Grade

We are readers in Rm. 111, but we are also mathematicians!  Early in the year, we got started talking about math, as well as working and thinking like mathematicians.

One of our first experiences was a guided discovery of some math manipulatives.  Ms. Turken and I decided to start with Power Polygons and pattern blocks, because most kiddos have some experience with these tools from kindergarten.  It seems, too, that introducing math in a fun, non-threatening way (like playing and exploring) is accessible to everyone–even those who already have an “I hate math” mentality (and yes, there are some of those friends, even this early. 😦 ).

We did have a quick little conversation about what it meant to “think like a mathematician”, since that was what I was asking them to do.  We charted our ideas, and then left the poster up while we worked.  (**Sidenote–nothing on our chart had anything to do with the manipulatives we worked with, but it was great to begin to see/hear their mathematical thinking already…)

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After we found them in our classroom, I gave kiddos a choice of which ones they wanted to start with, and then set them loose.  The only “rule” was that they had to think like a mathematician and figure out how we might use that tool.  Additionally, we reviewed the “right” way to work with a math tool and kiddos were to pay attention to how well it went (because we would debrief at the end).

After we finished the guided discovery, we met together to talk about how it went.  We worked through a chart to record “plusses” and “deltas”, discussing what went well and what we needed to change.

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For the most part, they did really well, and it was exciting to watch them work.  Stay tuned for more stories of how we’re getting started with math in first grade! 🙂

Starting Over (Again!)

At the beginning of the year (ok, really at the end of summer), I walk into school with high hopes and lots of great ideas for putting my room back together.  Usually, this is a pretty quick(ish) job, because I start wherever I left off with my room plan from the previous year.  This past year that meant reusing the room zones that my first graders had worked out with the help of our 4th grade friends in Rm. 215 (see the room tour here).

But…this year is not just a “regular” starting over.  This time I’m starting over in a new room!  This is an exciting idea, but does come with some problems, or at least it means I will have to do some problem-solving as I figure out how to use the brand new (huge!) space in the way that makes the most sense for myself and my kiddos.  What?  You want to help me?  SURE!!  I love to hear ideas from others about spaces and would love to know how YOU would fill/arrange this space.  Lucky for you I took a video of it when I was there today.  Here’s what it looks like:

And yes, I realize it is SUPER annoying that this video is taken vertically.  Sorry.  I forgot. 😦

As you give suggestions, here are some non-negiotiables:

  • space to read
  • space to meet together (big rug space)
  • space to build (we have big blocks, lots of Legos and recyclables)
  • space to be quiet (alone or with others, but no talking)
  • space to be messy (usually I put this by the sink, but I guess that could change)
  • space for 20 kids to work, but not necessarily at a table (flexible seating is great)
  • spaces to work with a group
  • spaces to work with just a partner
  • space for our Tower Garden, an aquarium and hopefully a sand/water table

So…

Teachers:  What would you do with this space? Where would you put the necessary areas/zones within the space?  What do you have in your classroom that I didn’t mention or that you think is great for kids’ learning?  What did I forget on my list?

Parents and Students:  What would you like to see in our learning space?  What spaces would you like to add that I didn’t mention?  What would make you feel comfortable, creative and confident in your learning space?

Ok.  Here we go–it’s your turn!  Start your suggestions now.  Can’t wait to see what you have to say!! 🙂

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! 🙂