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. 🙂

IMG_1559

 

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:

img_6202

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:

img_6203

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. 🙂

screenshot-2017-01-03-17-10-11

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!).

Screenshot 2016-04-18 20.21.37

Khalani B.–THE MIDWEST

Screenshot 2016-04-18 20.35.04

Charlie B.–THE WEST

Screenshot 2016-04-18 20.43.11

EmilyM.–GHANA

Screenshot 2016-04-18 20.57.48

Evan R.–THE WEST

Screenshot 2016-04-18 20.22.19

Ja’MiaM.–CAJUN

Screenshot 2016-04-18 20.44.20

MillieR.–GERMANY

Screenshot 2016-04-18 20.31.12

Baron E.–CHINA

Screenshot 2016-04-18 20.23.56

Nate R.–CHINA

Screenshot 2016-04-18 20.22.45

Sara R.–SPAIN

Screenshot 2016-04-18 20.37.25

EllaMarieG.–GERMANY

Screenshot 2016-04-18 20.49.27

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. 🙂

Culture Projects Come Together

Remember how I told you about how we started reading all sorts of versions of Little Red Riding Hood?  And then how we started researching the cultures from which each version came?  Oh, and how I only was able to tell you those parts of the story because of the changes I’ve made this year?  Ok, good, glad you’ve been here so far for this much of the story, cuz here’s the rest. 🙂

Kiddos spent many days researching the cultures of many countries and several regions of our own United States: Germany, Ghana, Spain, China, the Midwest, the West and the Southeast (Cajun culture).  They worked in groups of three to discover important facts about many culture and geography topics: language, flag, location, landforms, holidays, food, games, religion, school, art and music.  One group decided to add info about clothes, as well.  This part of the project took longer than I had expected, mainly just because there were so many topics to find out about, and 4-Squares to fill in.

After enough days of research work for kiddos to have something to put in their planners, we worked together to draft what we thought our topic sentences should sound like.  Each group worked on their own to add in specific details about each topic, but we all used a general common starter for our first sentences to add continuity.  We worked on some general ones, first, to get the idea of a paragraph (topic sentences, details and a conclusion) solidified in our heads, and then tried one from one of our countries together.

Once we had agreed upon our starting points, kiddos got busy crafting their own words into their organizers.  These would then become each page of their book.  We saved the introduction and conclusion for last.

Eventually we got to the point where we were ready to put all of these fabulous facts and wondrous words into a draft of a teaching book that we could later share with our classmates.  There were many options for how to do that, and students were allowed to choose whatever format made the most sense for them. Most students chose to use Keynote at the way to create their book, as adding in the text features we would need would be the easiest in that app.  One friend thought Notability would be best for her, and two friends decided to hand write their books.  Regardless of the how, though, we add worked toward the same goal together.

Students then spent the next few weeks (yeah, i know, this project was LONG!!) putting together the words first (you have to build the house before you can decorate it!) so taht they could then plan how they would add in text features to enhance their reader’s understanding of the topic.  For that lesson we talked a little about “app smashing”, where you take more than one app and “smash” it together with one or more others to create something even better than you can do with any one single app.  Kiddos made plans for their text features and showed me what they were thinking, many of them smashing together their camera and Notability or their camera and Keynote.  Some friends smashing Safari in there, too, and used images from the internet.

Ultimately we will share our final drafts on our blogs, or print them to create actual books for our classroom (or both!) or we could publish them as ebooks and share with other readers in our school…we haven’t decided on this yet.  The first step was to share with each other, though, and we did this the other day before we left for Spring Break.  Kiddos were able to project their book on the big screen (either by AirPlaying from their iPad or just by displaying it through my computer since they had turned it in to me through eBackpack).

While we were listening to kiddos share about their cultures, two other meaningful things happened, thanks to my friend and teammate Mrs. Appelbaum (remember her and her amazing Tower Garden adventures?).  One, kiddos had a big sheet where they were to collect information from their classmates’ books; they could write or draw anything they found interesting, a connection they made, something didn’t know, something they wanted to remember, etc.  It made it so much easier to pay attention through the 12 books we were able to share that day.

The other super smart thing that happened was that I was able to knock out much of the grading part of this project while the presentations were taking place.  This project was a big part of kiddos’ social studies, speaking and listening and writing grades.  I was able to sit with our rubrics on my lap and make notes about what I observed right in the moment.  this is really a big deal because I usually leave things like this until the last minute, and this was just such a smart, efficient suggestion.  Thanks, Shannon A.!

While my kiddos’ final drafts are WAY better than this one, here’s an idea about what they ended up looking like.  I’ll share theirs when we all come back in 4th quarter, but here’s mine (well partially finished one) about Australia:

 

Screenshot 2016-03-13 20.14.49Australian Culture Book

Please let us know what you think!  This project has definitely been a motivating and engaging one for us in Rm. 202.  Can’t wait to share the final drafts with you!!

 

Happy (Chinese) New Year!!

We did something this past week that has never happened in Rm. 202–or in any classroom I’ve taught in: celebrated Chinese New Year!  Our friend Baron’s mom, Mrs. Eyrick, was born in Taiwan, and offered to come share some of their Chinese culture with us.  It was perfect because we both got to see a little more about our friend and his family, and also, it fit in with our Social Studies unit right now.  Match made in heaven!

She showed up a little early and got busy decorating with some traditional Chinese New Year symbols and colors.  We learned that red and gold are important, as they stand for life and fortune.  Mrs. Eyrick brought us a dragon, lanterns (realized I didn’t get any pictures of those! :(), some fish as well as decoration for our door and a big Happy New Year sign.  So festive!

We sat down together on the rainbow rug and she told us all about the history of Chinese New Year, and how the Western Hemisphere (where we live) bases their calendar on the sun, and how the Eastern Hemisphere (where China is) bases their calendar on the moon (lunar) phases.  She explained the Chinese Zodiac, and told us how friends in China celebrate this happy time.

She even brought us a treat!  She shared traditional Chinese New Year “lucky” food–clementines–and gave each kiddo a lucky red envelope.  It had real money inside!!  We also got to enjoy some other Chinese tasty treats together.

What a great afternoon and a fabulous celebration! Thanks, Mrs. Eyrick, for coming to teach us about your culture. 🙂