Exploring Light and Sound!

We have been working on exploring light and sound in science right now, within the context of a story about three friends who get lost in the woods while on a hike.


In small groups in our room,  kiddos rotated through several stations where they explored light in a variety of ways: mirrors, shadows, spectrascopes, and colored tiles.  Kiddos used flashlights in each station to see what they could discover about how light looks, how it travels,  how colors work and how to create shadows.  I love their faces in the pictures and how you can tell just what they are thinking in each picture, exactly what question they are trying to answer or what they are trying to do.  They applied this exploration to what they knew already and also what we had read in our story.   Kids worked in Rm. 112 on sound in addition to their discovery stations in Rm. 111.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We’re excited to finish up this unit with a novel engineering challenge based on our Global Read Aloud book, as well as with an interview where kiddos can apply and  demonstrate their light and sound learning.  Can’t wait to see how it goes!

The E in ICEL: Rm. 202 Kids Take Over–Part 3

Our class has been doing some super work lately with trying to figure out how to be our best learning selves and problem-solving about how to do that.  I’ve been helping them by thinking through the ICEL protocol:


An unexpected transition to the E in ICEL (which is the ENVIRONMENT in which your students are learning, the WHERE of learning) came when we were in Ms. Turken’s room on Friday morning.  As we were working on writing after visiting with Mrs. Marks’ friends, I noticed how differently focused, engaged and quiet my kiddos were.  I noticed the different ways they spaced themselves out,  as well as the people they were working with (along with the fact that many of them found quiet places to work alone).  I noticed that they were all writing, they were all productive and they were all using supplies kindly, efficiently and in the correct way.

We took a second before we left their room to have a chat about what they noticed.  I wondered if they felt the difference.  They mentioned things like the corner of the room where there were two low beach chairs and a low table where kiddos could read.  Callahan thought it was like the Zero Zone in our library. He and Kaiden found that to be a great place to work quietly next to each other.

We all noticed that there were many different kinds of spaces to use for work: places for singles, partners or small groups; places with chairs, and places to sit low and kneel on a rug.  Keira found a bench where she could lay down to do her writing.  Rachel was tucked away on a little bean-shaped table around a corner working alone, and Peter found a hexagon table on the other side of the room where he could work alone as well.  Ms. Turken’s room has a kidney table (or some kiddos call it the rainbow table) where there were 5 or 6 kids all writing and chatting together; Penny chose the rolley chair.  Even with that many kids all in the same place, they were focused on their work.  A low rectangle table looked similar to that on the other side of the room.

Even their rug was a mystery.  It’s the same rug that we have in our room, in generally the same part of the room, and has books on three sides of it just like ours.  But no one seemed distracted by the books, kiddos didn’t sit WAY at the back and everyone seemed to be focused on the teacher chair and the easel.

We agreed that there were some things that we could take back to our space and try to emulate in our room so that we could try to get the same results.  Maybe there were some things we didn’t know we needed until we saw them somewhere else.  Our next step was to have kiddos draw pictures/maps with their ideas for what our new layout could look like, but this was a little bit problematic because we hadn’t done much map work like that before.  I was able to see in their illustrations, though, what was important to them.  We all agreed the Zero Zone was a must, and that we could try different tables/spaces; all of our tables are round ones.

Since I knew the whole “zone” idea was a big one to them, I suggested another place they could visit that had zones.  I hoped this would give them another vision for what they might want/need.  I called on my friend Mrs. LeSeure, who is both a master at space planning and who I knew had already gone through many designs in her own room this year.  My son, Riley, is in her class, and with 27 students and an interesting room shape (it’s a small octagon I think), they have had to be very creative with how they put the people and the furniture in there for the best results.  Just like Mrs. Marks, she agreed to let us come over and learn from her kiddos.

The next school day, which was Monday, she sent some of her friends to take my first graders to explore their space.  The 4th graders were each in a different zone of their room, and groups rotated to each place, learning about how that space is used and how they decided it was an important place for them.  Half of my class went as a time, and then we came back together to share out what we had seen.

We talked and put together a chart of our thoughts.


As students shared their reasoning behind what they liked about each zone and why they thought it would work for us, we decided if it was something that was possible for us to actually do.  We agreed that probably all of this chart was, except for the pet.  Mrs. LeSeure has a turtle named Javy, and kiddos thought he would help some of us be calm and focused while we work.  It’s a bit of a jump right now, so I assured them that when we get the worms from Mrs. Berger after the holidays and can work with them with their composting, it will work in the same way.  Crossing my fingers that that will happen. LOL

By that point, it was the end of the school day and we had to go home.  But I knew that my work wasn’t done.  I asked Rm. 202 kids if they trusted me (as well as Riley and my kindergartner, Allie) to do some work after school.  Then they could try it the next day and we could see what happened.  They agreed and left VERY EXCITED to come back the next morning.  And now I know YOU’RE very excited to come back and read about it in my next post, right?  I’m excited to tell you the next chapter. 🙂

Outdoor Adventures!: Light and Sound

Today was a half-day at our school (because of teacher professional development in the afternoon), and so first grade took advantage of an awkward schedule to have an outdoor adventure!  We have been outside with Rm. 202 friends before, but today were had ALL OF FIRST GRADE outside in the Robinson Naturescape learning and exploring together!

The teachers planned a STEM day focused on our current PLTW unit on Light and Sound, adding in the component of the AMAZING outdoor spaces we have in the back of our school.  We took out a tub with a variety of tools, like binoculars, magnifying glasses, color tiles, flashlights, mirrors and spectroscopes.  Kiddos had the job of exploring outside and discovering something new about light.  Eventually we will have to represent that learning (using iPads, drawing or building tools), but for now we were just out and about and having fun with wondering!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As you watch the slideshow with your kiddo (if you’re a parent!), ask them these things:

  1. What was your favorite part of being outside today?
  2. What was your favorite tool to use as a scientist?  How did you use it?
  3. What did you find outside while you were exploring?
  4. What did you learn about light?
  5. What do you still wonder?

We came in and as a quick way to debrief, I had kiddos share what they were thinking about after their adventure.  While you can tell that they were thinking of many things other than light (like dead animals–we found a DEAD RACCOON back there today!!), it was obvious that kiddos were thinking and having fun, and that they  LOVE BEING OUTSIDE!  I think at least half of my kiddos asked me when we’re going out again. 🙂  I’m excited to see how we can use this chart of great ideas in other parts of our learning soon, like for reading and writing ideas, topics for math and even further thingsto study for STEM or Genius Hour (which we’ll get to later on this year!).

fullsizerender-minWhat a great day we had! 🙂

Spelling Investigations

I have been doing spelling differently than others for while.  Even when I used to do spelling tests every week, the way the words were chosen was a little different than what is typical (personalized to each kiddo, often from their writing or frequently misspelled words that mattered to them).  We even used an actual week–not a school week–and kiddos studied from Wednesday to Tuesday.  I never quite felt, though, that what we did was effective; either kids were great spellers and they stayed that way, or they had struggles and those remained as well.  Even when they did well on tests, they didn’t do such a great job of bringing that expertise into their work.  Eventually, the last year I taught 5th grade, I abandoned spelling tests altogether.  No one seemed to notice…

When I moved to 1st grade last year, it was an easy decision to tackle spelling inside of all of the other things we were doing with reading and writing, especially during interactive writing and word work during guided reading groups. My kiddos took to this kind of thinking quickly, and used their new skills interchangeably between subjects, which is a true sign of transfer of knowledge.

So, fast forward to thoughts about 2nd grade.  This one was a little bit tricky; all of the other classes in our grade do spelling in a traditional sense of the word–lists of words each week that follow a pattern, with a test on Friday.  I was pretty sure that I was going to opt out of that choice (but for a long time wasn’t sure how to explain why without sounding like I was right and others were wrong.   I’m actually working on how to do that in many areas; my objective is NEVER to judge or sound like a know-it-all–unfortunately my passion often super cedes and that happens–but instead my goal is to share info I have, offer concerns or questions that arise, or bring up other considerations on the topic that might not have been mentioned.  Believe me, I am FAR from knowing it all!).

I found my “out” when I thought more about interactive writing this summer with my previous 1st grade team and Mrs. Ford, our Director of Professional Learning (and my longtime friend!).  As the rest of the table planned how they’d begin the structure with their 1st graders in the fall, I considered how I might build on the foundation we’d set last year and continue the same kind of thinking, pushed to a new level.  When my friend, Katie, suggested the idea of spelling investigations, I knew they were a good fit with my learners.

Much like we are already in the habit of doing with math, investigations would be centered around conjectures that students brought up about words/letters/sounds/patterns that they notice.  Kiddos were already familiar with this idea as mathematicians, and so it seemed like a natural connection.  We had worked through our first one last year as 1st graders, anyway, and it is a permanent (and well-utilized–we even used it today during a reading group!) fixture on our word wall:


So far in 2nd grade (before we started this study), we’ve added a could of other ideas to our investigations.  They are still in an informal form, as we add to them frequently:

Sometimes small groups investigate them specifically, sometimes we talk about them as a whole group when we’re reading together, and sometimes kiddos just notice things about them as they are reading in their own independent work.

So why am I writing about this now, you ask?  Well, last Friday I was at a staff in-service with the rest of my district 2nd grade cohort.  We broke into smaller groups to discuss a topic we’d been working on throughout the year, and my teammate and I realized we were the only ones there!  So much for a district cohort. LOL  It worked out really great, though, because despite the fact that we work together on a regular basis, we don’t often have time to sit for a long period of time discussing one specific topic.  This day, of course,  it was spelling. ❤

As we talked about what we were doing in spelling (which is completely different for her than it is for me), questions came up about how, why and what results we were looking for, how we knew if what we were doing was working.  We agreed transfer was the goal.

I shared details about the way we had tackled spelling through our word study and investigations, and she began to wonder about how she could try something like that with her learners.  She came up with the idea of doing an investigation with students’ names.  She had experience with a similar procedure from 1st grade, but had yet to get her kiddos thinking about words/names/sounds/ that way as 2nd graders.

She put together a plan for how to start–with kiddos looking for patterns/sounds that they’ve studied (during their traditional spelling work and tests) that occur in their names.  They’d move on to making more words with those patterns/chunks, try to figure out how/why those sounds work that way, and also try to brainstorm other ways their names could be spelled using what they know about sounds.  For me, the best part of the conversation wasn’t even the plan or the ideas we shared, it was how excited she was about trying it!  There was a new energy in her related to spelling, which would of course be spread to her students when they started their own investigations.

Well, as I was also inspired by both her energy and the noticings I had made about our own classroom names, I resolved to do the same studies in my classroom as she would be doing.  We agreed to check in along the way to see what each group of students was doing; my class had already had experienced with this kind of thinking, so we hypothesized that there would be differences in what we noticed and discovered.

More on the details of Rm. 202 spelling investigations soon! (Yep, this post has gotten way too long to keep going! hee hee).  Please check back and see what we’re doing with spelling and words and what we’re discovering about sounds that can help us be better readers and writers. 🙂