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! 🙂

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!

 

Home Visits!

I am sure by now you know that I am returning to first grade, where I began my teaching journey so many years ago (wow–I was just a kid then…), and am super excited about it.  I am excited to return to many things that are the same, but am also excited about some “firsts” that will happen in this move back to first.  There are several, but first up (hee, hee) it’s home visits.

When Riley was in kindergarten (which is somehow 2 YEARS ago now–how did this happen??), I was excited when we got an email from his teacher about coming for a home visit.  I hadn’t heard of our teachers doing them before, and in fact I think that was the first year they started.   I remember Ms. Dale showing up at our door (which was awesome in itself because we don’t actually live in the district and she had to drive extra far to see us) with a big smile and a game of Candyland.

Now, for me as a parent, the experience was probably different than most when initially meeting their child’s first teacher; I have worked with Ms. Dale for 14 years and so have a relationship and already knew she’d be an amazing match to my kiddo.  We were already comfortable with each other.  But for my kiddo, this visit was priceless.  HIS teacher was coming to HIS house to meet HIM!!  While he was at first really apprehensive (and actually ran away from the door to hide when she knocked!), once I left them alone and they started playing the game, he quickly warmed up to her and they had a great time.  The visit was short and sweet, but I know for sure that it set a very positive tone for the rest of their year together.  There was much less “worried” talk about school after this and more excited banter about when he’d get to see his teacher again and when he could go to kindergarten.  And we had a really cute picture of our little man with one of his new favorite people:

Ok, so that's not the actual picture we took at our home visit, but I couldn't NOT include that very special lady--Ms. Dale--in this post.  :)

Ok, so that’s not the actual picture we took at our home visit, but I couldn’t NOT include that very special lady–Ms. Dale–in this post. 🙂

So…as a start to kindergarten, this seemed like a fabulous way to begin to connect our family with our new family at Robinson.  For both my kiddo and myself, it took away nerves and gave us an opportunity to see his teacher as a person, not just a teacher.  But on the other side, I know that it also gave her a chance to connect with Riley on “his turf”–to see where he plays, where he eats, where he sits and reads a book on the couch with his mom.  And if we had a dog, I know she’d have met our dog so that when he wrote story after story about that dog Ms. Dale would know who he meant.  Instead, she met his little sister. 🙂

As we started planning for our first grade year this fall, I remembered back to this special day with my kiddo and suggested that maybe we try this with our new friends.  There is research to show that there are benefits for teachers and families in every grade level and it was exciting to try it with another grade of little ones in our school.  The team and our principal thought it was a great idea!

So here we are and I’ve just begun my home visits for this year.  I have only gone to a few, but so far I have met 5 kiddos, 3 older brothers, 1 older sister, 2 little sisters, 1 little brother, 3 dogs, countless dolls and horses; played several games of War and Go Fish, read almost 10 books and of course become acquainted with the fabulous parents that are so kindly sharing these lovely children with me this year (hopefully I didn’t forget anyone in this list!).  It’s been great to see how comfortable they all have been, and how proud they seem to be that THEIR teacher is in THEIR house sitting on THEIR couch.  I love how I’m already able to picture these little learners in my classroom, too; I know this will add another important level to the way I put our classroom together this year since it will be for kids I actually know–not just faceless names on a classlist.  And as I was telling one of those kiddos as I sat on her green couch the other day, I am excited for how this will alleviate some of my first day jitters (yes, even teachers get those!) because instead of wondering who will walk in my door, I’ll be ready to welcome old friends to our new home.  I’m pretty jazzed about that part.

So I have to say a HUGE thank you to those of you who have already welcomed me into your homes, and to those of you I haven’t met yet—I’m coming!  And I’m excited!  See you soon! 🙂

 

Welcome to First Grade, Friends!

Welcome to First Grade!

I am so excited you’re here!

Please proceed with caution, and read carefully….

The following letter contains 2405 words that will begin to shape your child’s first grade year (I know–it’s a little long.  Sorry!).  You will want to have your family sit and read this so you can all be excited about first grade together.  You should also have dancing shoes on (true story) and a video camera handy (extra credit).

Ready? Of course you are! Because you are all about to become…

First Grade and Fabulous!

I am excited for the year ahead – how about you??

 

Let’s get started!

 

First a little bit about me. 🙂  I am going into my 14th year of teaching and every one of them has been at Robinson!  I even did my student-teaching here long ago, so Robinson is definitely my home-away-from-home.  In my real home–which is in St. Peters–I have a fabulous family that I love dearly.  My husband, Grant, is a teacher, too, in Wentzville (isn’t that cool?).  He has taught 3rd, 4th and 5th grade.  We have a 7YO son, Riley, who is in 2nd grade at Robinson, too.  We also have a little girl named Allison–we call her Allie–who is 3 1/2.  She is staring preschool soon, which will be new for us all.  We LOVE (yep, love) Disney World, and travel there often.  Chicago is another one of our favorite places to travel to together.  We also just like to hang out together at home (or anywhere, really) and spend time with each other.  So that’s me.  What about you? Can’t wait to learn more about YOUR family!

Like I said, this is my 14th year as a teacher, and every year, I begin the school year as a different person. I decide on that first day and then every day thereafter, who I am as a teacher. What is important to me. What I want to accomplish. What I want my students to see when they come to school. I choose that. I don’t let other people tell me who I will be and I don’t just be who I think other people want me to be. I read, I think, I write and then I decide.

Parents, I am excited to find out Who YOUR CHILD will Be!  Will they be the kid who has brilliant ideas? The kid who loves math? The kid who looks to help other people? The kid who……? Fresh start. Clean slate. We all get one (that includes you!) and we all get to begin first grade as the person we want to be.  Every deserves to be whoever they are and whoever they want to be!  Remember the saying: Be yourself!  Everyone else is taken!

Another wondering: What is important to you? (This is another big question and one I am really curious about so I will ask it twice.) What is important to you (and your child)?

There are lots of things that are important to me: my husband and my kids, sharing ideas, reading, writing, being able to have a conversation, making things, discovering things, sharing what I know, sleeping in, staying up late and knowing when to say sorry (and when to say nothing at all!).

As a teacher, there are a few more things that are important to me:

* YOU and YOUR CHILD!:   They’re the reason I’m there, after all right?  It is important for me to get to know your child (and your family!), and know them well.  Not just as a learner, but as a kid, too.  I want to know what they like, what they don’t like, what makes them tick.  Who they are.  That’s ok, right? 🙂

* Respect: If you’ve been around Robinson for longer than 5 minutes you know that respect is a HUGE part of our culture.  It’s pretty much what we’re all about.  I expect respect to be a huge thing in our classroom.  I will respect your child, and I expect them to respect me, as well as everyone else in our community.  This counts when we agree and even when we don’t.  I have a saying that I learned from my good friend Mrs. Ford years ago, that is really important with this whole respect thing.  It’s this: You are not the sun.  In other words, the world does not revolve around you, and there are lots of other people in our classroom that have needs, wants, likes, dislikes, etc., that we need to take into account.  I love your child, but I love everyone else, too!

*Reading: I know–you’re thinking, “well isn’t every subject important?”  And yes, to a point, that’s true.  But in my opinion, one of the single most indicators of success in life (and let’s face it, enjoyment as well!) is developing a love of reading.  I ask that you join me in the task of helping your child LOVE reading.  I am sure they’re probably already on their way, but let’s keep it up together!  Read to them as well as with them.   Share your own reading with them.  Read in front of them.  Show them the importance of words and how you can lose yourself in the right text.  HAVE FUN and help them do the same!  I hope that I will do my part to encourage all of these things as well!

* Mistakes:  I expect your child to make them.  Yep, I said it.  I want things to be hard for them.  I want them to struggle.  When they need more than one try or lots more practice with a concept, they’ll get it.  When they need to show me what they know in a different way, then we’ll figure it out.  When they need me to repeat something or explain it in another way, I’ll do it.  If your child needs a big, fat challenge–watch out, they’ll get one!  No, I’m not crazy, I just want them to try things that may be tricky at first.  I want them (and you!) to learn to work through it when it’s hard and figure out what to do.   I want them to feel the joy and success of learning something new because they persevered!  Not everything will be easy here. And that’s ok. We’re in it together and I’ll help you all along the way. 🙂  THIS IS A PLACE WHERE WE WILL BE GRITTY!

* Collaboration: I love to share ideas and get ideas and try new things and even when those things fail, I know I am just one step closer to finding what does work. I love to work with other teachers to figure things out and find new solutions to old problems (and because of this I am SUPER excited about our team of 5 really smart teacher this year!).  But just as much as working with adults, I love to collaborate with students.  I love to hear what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling about things, what they think would be the best way to learn something.  It’s OUR classroom, and often your kiddos’ ideas are WAY better than mine.  I know I’ll share lots of examples with your child (and you!) about how that’s happened to me over the years.

Aside from collaborating with me, though, they’ll be collaborating with each other!  Your child will have lots of opportunities to share with their classmates, to give ideas, ask questions, prove reasoning and challenge each other.  I expect that we will work together to help EVERYONE in our class be the best they can be.  Together we’ll achieve much more than we would if we tried to do it on our own. 🙂  Reminds me of a sign I saw in Disney World at the Animal Kingdom the other day:

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I like to say that in our room, everyone is a teacher and a learner.

* Questions: There is no better way to learn something than to ask a question.  It is DEFINITELY how I learn, and so please understand if you find me asking you (or your child) lots of questions as a means of figuring out how best to meet their needs or to connect with your family.  In turn, I hope you will feel comfortable to ask me any questions you may have, and the perhaps most importantly, your child will feel comfortable to ask me–and their classmates–questions when they need to.  Knowing when to ask for help is an important part of learning. 🙂

* Time is precious: So is your child. I don’t like wasting time and I especially don’t like wasting learning time. That means I try to come to school ready, fired up, and prepared to make a ruckus (I like to think that a ‘ruckus’ is the sound your brain makes when it is challenged to be creative, thoughtful, inquisitive and world-changing – it is a beautiful sound).  I hope–and expect–that your child will come into our classroom every morning ready to learn, ready to work hard, ready to put their very best foot forward.  We only have so many days together, and we need to make the most of every single one of them.  We’ve got so much to do! 🙂

* Technology : I  love technology because it allows me to connect to new ideas. I like to think about what I want to do and look for tools to help me do it. I want to hear your ideas on technology and what works for you–and I ask that you be open to trying new things (that goes for BOTH you and your learner). We will be using technology in many new and exciting ways this year, so get ready!  You child be blogging, using Twitter and other sites, using iPads and laptops (yep, your child gets their very own iPad Mini VERY SOON!), working on the ActivBoard, making videos of learning and trying out many new things that we may not even know about yet.  Whatever we do, though, the goal is always learning.  We will use technology in meaningful ways to better create new knowledge.  Excited?  I know I am!  PLEASE let me know what–if any apprehensions you have in this area, either for you or your student.  This will be an important area for us to explore together. 🙂

* Community: Our class, our families, our school, our neighborhood, our city, our state, our country, our world. There are so many amazing people doing amazing things. I bet your child can think of ten amazing people who do amazing things right now. We need to hear those people’s stories. You (mom and dad) should be on that list. You are awesome. (Assignment one; help your child email me a List of Awesomeness about people in your family* -*family = people you love and are connected to even if they don’t happen to live in your house or share your last name).

* Taking risks: I like to take risks.  I hope you do too. It is scary sometimes and it fails sometimes but sometimes, more often, it is just A-MAZ-ING! Usually when you do something scary you do things you never thought you could.  You surprise yourself.  And then you want to do more! Someone smart once said “Fear and Excitement are shades of the same color”. Cool, huh?  (Parents, this is true for you as much as it is for your kiddo!! 🙂 )

HANG IN THERE….You’re almost done!

OK…if you made it this far and are still with me, congratulations, you (and your kiddo) are a rockstar. Stop reading right now and do some kind of victory dance.  No really, go ahead.  Dance.  I’ll wait.  Better yet, have someone video tape your dance and send it to me!  I’ll even post it on our blog! (Did you see the posts where I did that from last year’s class?  They didn’t believe that I’d do it, either. 🙂 )

So….what now? How can you best prepare for the extreme awesomeness of first grade?

  1. Have a great summer! Be extraordinary.
  2. Read something.  Write something.  Wonder something.  This’ll get your learning muscles warmed up. 🙂
  3. If you have any questions you can always email me. Anytime. No question to big or too small.
  4. Think about what I said about who you want your child to be. Most importantly, remember that everyone else in our class is thinking about that too. Be gracious to those who are brave enough to set lofty goals and make the effort to become an even better version of themselves.
  5. THIS ONE IS FOR THE KIDDOS!: Look around your house (or your computer, maybe) for a picture of your family.  I’d love to be able to decorate our room with us–pictures of all the people who help make us who we are and who encourage us to do our best.  I want to be able to fill our window sills, bookshelves, walls–wherever there’s room–so please bring a 3×5 or 4×6 framed picture with you to Open House or on the first day of school.  And if you don’t have one, don’t worry!  We’ll take your picture!

Despite having now used about two thousand words, there are no words to describe how excited I am about working with you next year!

Here’s To Being First Grade and Fabulous!

♥ Mrs. Bearden

PS. If you didn’t get up and dance before and are now wishing you did, there is still time to do it. Anytime. Send me that video with your best moves (extra credit).

When you have had a chance to relax, digest this letter (maybe talk about it with your family or friends) and get your first grade brain tuned up, I would love for your child to write to me to introduce yourself, ask questions, maybe respond to something you read in this letter that made you think.  An email, postcard or a good ‘ole letter via snail mail is great!  Even better–I’m excited to come see you when I start home visits later this month!

I look forward meeting you!

Mrs. Bearden: Email–jennifer.bearden@kirkwoodschools.org; Phone–314-213-6100 x4214 (after August 15)

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MrsBeardens5thGradeClass (this will take you to my updated FIRST GRADE page!)

Twitter: @jbeardensclass

Blog: feel free to leave me a comment here to let me know what you thought, what you wonder, how your summer has been, etc….this is always a great place to talk to me! 🙂

**Thanks to @terSonya and Mrs. Hong for help with writing this post! Like I said, I love to share ideas!**