Winter Cultural Celebration 2018

A couple of years ago we had our first Cultural Celebration (which took the place of the traditional Winter/Christmas party) before we left for our Winter Break.  It was SO MUCH FUN and based traditions that came from our class culture.  We loved it!

This year we did it again, and again it was SO MUCH FUN!  I think the thing I love the most about the way this celebration is planned, is that it all comes from the families in the class.  Every class is different and special and so therefore so is every Cultural Celebration!

As I have done in previous years, I sent out a survey to families, and received many responses. :). This told me the direction of our gathering, building on the ideas for traditions and family favorites that they had shared with me in their answers.

After the Winter Sing-A-Long (which is definitely a tradition in our school culture), we all met in our room for some fun and togetherness!

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Sing-a-Long Selfie with Avant and Mrs. Bearden 🙂

I am pretty sure that EVERY KIDDO had someone there to celebrate with them (we even had some siblings show up!), and even if they didn’t have their own family member, they had someone’s visitor, because we’re all one big happy first grade family!

In order to keep things low key, we offered several activities and had kids/families decide beforehand which one(s) they wanted to complete together.  This was totally led by the kids, which I think added to the fun and originality of our party.  Check out what we offered:

Making reindeer food: Did anyone besides me NOT know this was a thing?  I don’t spend much time on Etsy or Pinterset, so maybe that’s why, but goodness–this was a hit!  Getting ready for Rudolph and the others was high on almost everyone’s list!

Decorating sugar cookies: I mean, what says winter-party-fun more than cookies and icing?  There were many different shapes, colors and as many sprinkles as you wanted, and goodness–kids could have probably stayed at this station FOREVER!

Stringing popcorn:  Several families mentioned that they string popcorn every year for their Christmas tree.  I haven’t done t for years, but I actually did this for several years early on in my marriage.  IT was so much fun to watch families do it with their kids, although I’m not sure how much actually made it onto the string–MUCH of it just went right into bellies!!  :). This station made me want to try it again at home, this time with my own kiddos!

Holiday Read Alouds:  You know we HAD to include books in this celebration!  Families shared their holiday/winter favorites, and I pulled many from our classroom library as well.

Gingerbread Playdoh:. I knew (because it was mentioned as a special love of many families) that I wanted to have something gingerbread related, but I wanted to make sure it wasn’t too cliche or too messy, or require too many materials.  Ok, well, I may have lost on that last requirement, but Ms. Turken’s class has just made gingerbread PLAYDOH with their learning buddies the week before and that seemed like a SUPER idea for us to try, too.  This one ended up being such a hit that it might have to become a regular holiday activity in our first grade room!

Our Cultural Celebration was just what I had hoped it would be, and everyone seemed like they enjoyed it so much!  Enjoy some pictures of our winter fun!

What a great way to head into a relaxing Winter Break! 🙂

Cinderella from Around the World

During the last part of the fall/winter, we were busy in first grade.  Busy reading, learning and thinking bout Cinderella.  And culture.  Many years ago I found a unit I really like that was focused on using Cinderella as a means of getting kids to think and learn about how other people live around the world.  We learned a little about fairytales, and also compared and contrasted what the stories had in common (and of course, what was different).  That first year we enjoyed it so much that when I looped with that group to 2nd grade the next year, I wrote a similar unit based instead on Little Red Riding Hood, which was also a big hit!

This year we dug in again to the Cinderella-culture connection, and another group of super kiddos got to hear many amazing stories (most of which were new to them!).  We started with the story most everyone knew already.

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We followed, over the next few weeks, reading many other versions of the story, from places around the globe.  As we talked about each story, we also wove in geography lessons, and marked each country on a map together.

In the first version of this unit that I taught, I had kiddos choose a country that they wanted to learn more about, and then students worked in groups to learn all about the culture of that country.  This time around, Ms. Turken (my co-teacher), and I decided that it might be a bit too much for some of our friends and we had a change we decided to make: we chose two countries we would research and then students could choose which one they wanted to learn more about.  We offered Mexico and China for this part, and kiddos could work with either teacher for the study.

Once we had our groups, kiddos chose which PART of culture they were most interested in: religion, music/dancing, clothing, food, holidays, sports/games, school and art.  Students worked in pairs to research their topic, taking notes as they went.  (In my class we worked on Mexico’s culture, and Ms. Turken facilitated the study of China in Rm. 112; kiddos from both of our classes worked in both places).

After we had taken a few days using books, websites and videos to gather information, we worked to build a mural (of sorts) to share our learning with the other group.  We began with a blank chart (below) and then kiddos had to work with paper to create a 2D representation of the things they found to be most important about their topic.

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I always love to see pics of kids “in action,” and also love how they incorporate technology right along good old paper and glue. 🙂

Once we were finished, we met to have each group (Mexico and China) teach the other country’s group about what they had learned about the culture of each place.

We did a great job, but we also learned that our kiddos have LOTS to learn about how to present to an audience. :). No worries–there’s lots of time left in the year to work that out. 🙂

Also, as a side note, while our study focused on the cultural parts of the Cinderella story, we also read several versions that were just for fun!

I’d say (without any hard evidence except for my being there during the study) that this was a hit with everyone involved.  We loved all the stories and everyone learned something they didn’t know before we started.  🙂

 

The BEAUTIFUL Skin We Live In!

Seems like I have been waiting FOREVER to share this post with you, but I wanted to wait until the final products were hung up before I finally wrote a about it.  Man, it’s been hard!

If you have every visited my classroom, or if you have read this blog before, you hopefully know that diversity and community are two important parts of my classroom.  I have done much over the last year to incorporate more diverse texts into my classroom (and life!), have celebrated cultures of our classroom families, and stressed with my kiddos how amazing it is that we are NOT all the same!  Different is BEAUTIFUL!

I used some similar books from years past, because they are great and still worked to share that diversity, appreciation, celebration, inclusion message I wanted to send.  Kids really enjoyed them. 🙂

I have done portraits many different ways over the years, but wanted to really focus on making them LOOK like us, especially the beautiful COLORS of us.  It was a fun experiment to find just the right combination of paint to represent each kiddos’ face, and we had some great conversations about what we noticed, what we liked and what each color looked like.

The walls in this new room have afforded me the best place so far to display these masterpieces.  They are high and smiling at us and we can see them from everywhere.  I LOVE that you can see each kiddo’s personality in their portrait and even if they weren’t labeled we’d be able to tell who is who because they did such a FABULOUS job creating them.  But most of all I love that they represent how beautifully and wonderfully made  is each and every one of my Rm. 111 kiddos. 🙂

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New DIVERSE Books for the New Year!

I have to tell you about a little secret.  Hopefully it will become something everyone knows about soon, though, because it is SUCH A TREASURE!!

As an end-of-year gift, I was sent on my Winter Break with a gift card from our school’s PTO (thanks Mrs. Sisul!) to Eyeseeme, and independent bookstore near here.   They operate with the mission of helping every kid see themselves in the books they read.  This is such an important work and as far as I know, they are the only bookstore of their kind in our area.  I visited it today with my teacher friend and her kids, and WOW did we discover a treasure!  It’s only been recently (through the help of many smarter-than-me teachers and librarians on Twitter and some great teachers I work with) that I’ve become more aware of the inequality that exists in children’s literature as it pertains to characters of color–or anyone who isn’t white, really.  It is really sad when I think about how many kiddos never get to see books with characters that look like them.  I know that for too long I’ve taken that fact for granted.  And man–for a long time I didn’t even know it was a “thing.”  I know I only have that luxury because I’m white.  Anyhow, I’m hoping to continue to help this group of kiddos see themselves, as well as look for and EXPECT to see diverse books around them.

Our class has already been on a little journey of our own to read books that contain black and brown characters, and so of course, we were treated with many options for new books to enjoy together with Mrs. Blair’s collection at Eyeseeme.  Check out what I ended up coming home with today:

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I found some favorites that I’ve read in previous years but just didn’t have a copy of yet (like Those Shoes and Pretty Salma), as well as some that are from authors that Rm. 202 kiddos already know (Sand Sister, Just a Minute, Pecan Pie Baby and Another Important Book), as well as some that I know will become some of our favorites since they contain strong, powerful characters (all the rest of that pile! hee hee).  I CANNOT wait to share these with my first grade friends!

Oh, and thanks to some very kind Rm. 202 families, I was able to add some other new titles via Barnes and Noble.  Here are a few that I got the other day:

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I have all of the rest of that I AM series in the classroom and was excited to complete my set!  I found Ada’s Violin on a “Best of 2016” list and Luna & Me just looked great.  I was able to grab some Lauren Castillo books and a couple of other good ones before break, too, but they’re at school and so I don’t have pictures.  Oops.  Either way, it’s raining books in Rm. 202 right now and that’s a great way to start a new year!!  We are so blessed. 🙂

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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!

 

Culture–Final Drafts!

We worked for much of last quarter on culture, based on many versions of Little Red Riding Hood.  Here are our final drafts of the books we published about the cultures of the various regions and countries we studied (not all kiddos wanted me to share, by the way–since I know now that I should ask!).

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Khalani B.–THE MIDWEST

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Charlie B.–THE WEST

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EmilyM.–GHANA

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Evan R.–THE WEST

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Ja’MiaM.–CAJUN

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MillieR.–GERMANY

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Baron E.–CHINA

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Nate R.–CHINA

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Sara R.–SPAIN

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EllaMarieG.–GERMANY

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Makayla M.–SPAIN

Thank you for reading!  We worked so hard and would love your feedback! 🙂

I Saw Pacifique! Pacifique is HERE!

Remember last fall when we were able to host some amazing Rwandans in our school? Well, since he is now forever connected to our Robinson family (and some teachers in our school, too), he comes back now and then to visit.  When he was here at the beginning of March, we joined Mrs. Appelbaum’s class next door to learn more about his Rwandan culture (since were in a culture study of our own at that time!).

He answered our questions, and even sang and danced a little for us.  What a great visit with an old friend!  He really is a celebrity around our school now. 🙂