#FDOFG: …yet

I have written before about how important the word YET is in the lives of my students.  Well in my life, too, actually.  Even though it’s only the third week of school, I’ve already found many opportunities to help kids change their words from totally negative grumblings of “I can’t do that” to “I am not great at that….yet!”

And so like I’ve done with previous classes (this is one of those beginning-of-the-year activities I left pretty much the same because it works for almost everyone!), we talked about caterpillars and butterflies in relation to the idea of “yet.”  And then we got busy being creative!

After our butterflies were dry, we worked on adding a goal to them using this stem:

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It was interesting to see what kinds of things kiddos wrote; some were related to things in school (like reading, writing or art) and some were about other things like bike riding, cooking, and some were applicable to all parts of life, like waiting or listening.  I’m excited to watch as these caterpillars develop into beautiful butterflies and  they see their “not yet” become NOW!!

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Later these will hang in our classroom so we can be inspired by them each day, but for now they are on view in our hallway.  So great and SO PRETTY!!

**On a side note…the pictures from our work time were taken by Ms. Mimlitz (a FABULOUS teacher who works with us in 1st grade!), and may seem different than the ones I usually post.  I asked her to take care of documenting this activity because I was busy helping out as they worked and it was so interesting to see how someone else “sees” what kids do.  The process was so much more beautiful through her eyes; I realized my pictures never have kids faces, just them working.  I had chosen to do that purposefully in order to highlight the thinking, working, creating, PROCESS, etc., instead of interrupting kiddos to cheese at the camera….but as I see that the photos she took are so much more interesting to me, and I can see the JOY of the learners as they are working (I appreciate this as a teacher, but also with the parent hat on–I know I love to see the faces of my own kiddos smiling back at me on the screen!).  Now that I am reflecting on it, it makes me wonder how I’ve never connected the fact that the absence of students’ faces has meant that a HUGE part has been missing!  Seems so simple but such a big deal…I am there for those precious kiddos, and I WANT to see that they are both busy and enjoying themselves!  As I go forward, I will be looking both at what they are doing as well as HOW they are doing it.  Thanks, Ms. Mimlitz for helping to open my eyes to seeing my students and how I share our stories on our blog in a different way! 🙂

What do you see when you watch your kiddos working?  Did you notice the difference in pictures?  How important is it to involve students’ faces/expressions in the storytelling? How do you involve students in the documenting and recording?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

#FDOFG–Got GRIT?

If you’ve read our Robinson Mission Statement (or if you’ve listened to a Robinson kiddo or teacher talking lately), then you know it mentions GRIT:

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and our kiddos know that you gotta have GRIT, make mistakes, try again and work hard in order to learn and be successful.  And so this being true, this is a topic that it is important to start talking about (and practice using!) early in the year.

We started the other day by talking about that the word GRIT meant to my new friends.  I was SUPER impressed with what they already knew; even as kindergarteners, these kiddos were learning about and applying this big deal concept.  Check out what they said during our first conversation:

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I was especially impressed by the way Mara explained GRIT as having “enough courage to do something even if it’s hard or you’re scared.”  It’s like being brave!

We used another fabulous classroom tool to practice this idea (and one that my friend and teammate, Mrs. Marks, reminded me about the other day): puzzles!  I had been collecting them all summer with the intention of bringing in new ones for this year’s class, so when I saw the AMAZING job Mrs. Mark’s first graders had done with working hard and being gritty with puzzles, I knew this was the way we’d be gritty, too!

Kiddos were able to choose a partner and a puzzle and they got busy.  We worked for a pretty big chunk of time, and while we worked pretty hard, not many of us finished–which is TOTALLY ok for our first try!

We did have one puzzle that was completed by Kaiden and Jack, though–check it out!

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Now, don’t get me wrong–this doesn’t mean the rest of us weren’t being very diligent puzzle-makers and working with our partners well, but I did hear many kiddos say “This is hard!” and “I can’t do this!” or “There are too many pieces in this puzzle!”  It seems like we need to keep working on our self-talk, our problem solving about what to do when things are hard, and even with what we can say instead of those negative explanations.  Later on this week we’ll going to start talking about YET, and I am sure that this will be helpful to my first grade friends.

We also debriefed on the activity, marking what was helpful and what was hard.  This will also guide our thinking the next time we do puzzles (or encounter anything that’s hard!).

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I can’t wait to share with you what happens the next time!

 

#FDOFG–Guided Discovery: Play-Doh

On Open House night, I had up a wish list that families could grab from and donate items to our class if they liked.  One thing on the list was play-doh.  I hadn’t ever asked for it before, but got the idea from another teacher, and thought I’d give it a try. Play-Doh is one of those things (kind of like Legos and blocks) that can be used in so many ways.  Thanks to the Ella and her family, we got a huge box of Play-Doh a couple of days before school started!  THANK YOU, KOHRINGS!!

On Thursday is was time to whip it out and discover what we could do with it!  Part of a guided discovery is for kiddos to just play and have fun, to figure out what they can and want to do with a certain item/manipulative.  So after we went over some basic guidelines (only use the color from your can, keep it on the table, be sure to clean up all the bits and pieces when you’re finished, etc.) Rm. 202 kids got the first 5 or so minutes to do whatever they wanted.  Then we spent some time using the Play-Doh to share some of our thinking.

Kiddos were asked do create something that represented the following things: 1) their FAVORITE thing to do when they aren’t at school (by the way, lots of Rm. 202 kiddos made TVs), and 2) their FAVORITE thing to do at school.

Then I had kiddos make their names.  Not a hard thing, really, but some kiddos needed encouragement with figuring out how to use the amount of Play-Doh they had to make the letters they needed or to shape the “curvy” letters so we knew what they said.  Some kiddos had time to make both their first and last names, and we even had a couple of Rm. 202 friends share tips for how to make their dough super flat (Allie used her forearm, and Peter used his fist and pushed real hard!).

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I was excited for how they were excited, as well as for the things we learned about each other during this seemingly “easy” activity.  It’s a first time I’ve done an intro survey this way, and am glad that I did.  After we had had a chance to investigate and play, then Play-Doh then became a choice during afternoon choice time. I’m excited to see the other ways we’ll use it to represent our learning as we go further into the year, too!

Students: What did you make with your Play-Doh to show what you like to do outside of school?   What did you find that was easy about this?  What was tricky for you?

Parents: What did your kiddos tell you about our Play-Doh investigation?  Were you surprised with what they made? 

Teachers:  What ways have you used Play-Doh in your classroom with your learners?

We’d love to hear from you!!

#FDOFG–First Grade Friends

It’s the first days of first grade, and like in any grade (or any place where there are new groups of people who don’t know each other well yet), there have to be lessons on how to be a good friend.  We did this with a book (or two…or three), and then we charted what we noticed.   We then spent the rest of the day purposefully doing things WITh our friends, then noticing which of those “good friend” things we were doing.

We started with the book Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend, because our friends in Rm. 203 came and shared it with us.  Yes–their WHOLE CLASS came over and shared the book with us because they thought we’d like reading it. (Which, by the way, is another message Ms. Turken and I had discussed wanting to sent to our classes: Readers share books they like with their friends!  So, ok, we had coordinated this beforehand, but then we did the same and shared our Box book with them when we were finished with it. 🙂 ).

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We also read an Elephant and Piggie book (don’t you love those??) called My New Friend is So Fun! and talked about what we know about how good friends treat each other.

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We made our chart…

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…and Jamie had a super idea that we keep going back to the list to check ourselves throughout the day.  Then Kaiden suggested that we make a note because I mentioned that I might forget.  See his post-it up there!?  What great 1st grade thinking already!!

Our next chance to practice our “good friend moves” came next when we went outside for recess.  We talked before we left about goals we had to do the things on the chart, and then we got busy having fun and being friendly!

We read a couple of more books…

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Our friend, Rachel, shared this one because she enjoyed reading it with her mom at home, and she thought we’d enjoy it, too.  We sure did!

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Kaiden thought this would be a good one and he was right!!  

…and talked about examples of “good friend moves” we found in the books.  We learned a lot from Louise, Peanut Butter and Jelly (yep, she’s in that book at the end–sorry, spoiler alert!).

After Day 2 (when this work started), we continued to come back to our work over and over.  We did things with our Room Crews (which I’ll show you in another post), and focused on things we had in common.   Each group made a web of things that everyone in their group had that was the same.  We practiced using kind words, asking good questions and working together.  Taking turns was important, and so was using quiet learning voices so everyone could concentrate.  Wow–who knew that being a friend was such hard work?!

After we shared in our small groups, we connected with the whole class and we figured out that a lot of us had things that were in common.  The next step was to do the same procedure, but with things that the whole group DIDN’T like.  They thought that was a fun twist, and they did a great job.

Obviously this is the first but not the only time we’ll talk about being friends.  I have been so impressed, though, with how kids have stepped up and are demonstrating the behaviors on our chart.  I know we’ll only continue to add to the tally marks and the “moves” as we go forward.  I can’t wait to share our progress.  Here’s to being great first grade friends!

#FDOFG–What Do You Do With a Box?

I wrote about my goals for the first days of 1st grade last time I did this, mainly because I needed to refocus after having first days with 5th grade for so many years.  Yeah, obviously with 6YOs I was going to need to do something different.  What’s interesting to me, too, is that my first day this time was even different from just two years ago.

I had some pretty honest goals from my first time around, and this time it is still important to me that we learn each others’ names and learn the routines/procedures of the classroom, understand our school’s universals and know where things are…these are all big deals.  But this time around, I have some other ideas first. (Wow…this post has a lot of the word first in it…sorry!)

As I went into this year, I had been reading a lot about making sure that the first days of school are exciting and engaging for your students; showing them what is important to you as a teacher and how your classroom will be this year is the focus rather than just the “rules.”  So that got me thinking about what those first messages might be to my new friends, and those messages helped me plan our beginning moves together.

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I decided I wanted to try something a little crazy.  It was based on this book:

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I had read it over the summer with my own kids, and it gave me all sorts of great ideas of what might happen if I asked my kiddos the question “What do you do with a box?”  (As a side note, I actually kept reading the title as a question instead of what it actually was.  I didn’t realize until just the other day that it wasn’t right. I must have REALLY wanted to ask that question!).  I knew when I read it that this was going to be our first big activity together.  BEFORE we learned about the supplies, BEFORE we practiced how to use our classroom library, BEFORE we learned the Robinson Mindset, BEFORE we did just about anything else.  I wanted to send a strong message, and I also planned that problems would arise that we could use to teach many of those earlier things–like for example, how much tape to use, where the scissors are, how you have to put your things away before you move on, what to do when the time is up and you’re not finished, etc.

So…we read the book and go to work.  I told them the basic idea: they would pick a box, decide what they wanted to make with it and draw a design and materials list, then build it.  Unlike a typical design challenge, we weren’t really solving a problem and we weren’t planning a redesign/rebuild, but it gave them the feel for doing something BIG early in the year.  It matched up to many of the messages I wanted to send my new friends.

Before lunch, kiddos chose their box (I wish I had taken a picture–there were loads of different sizes) and then got busy with their designs.  As a side note, I also didn’t stress that they had to have a drawing, had to have a materials list, had to have a solid plan…but most kiddos did.  Those AMAZING kindergarten teachers did a super job of leading kiddos down this design road and they knew just what to do.

We talked as a team about what we would/could use, and set the time limit of 25 minutes.  We set the timer and we got busy!!  Check out what it looked like as we worked:

It was SO FUN to see what kiddos did with their boxes.  Some kids planned and made something that you could put things into, and some made it into something else besides a container.  Yes, there were some kids who said “This is HARD!”, but were able to work through their struggles and move on.  Kids helped kids, I asked questions and made suggestions, and was able to get to know kiddos a little bit as we worked and talked, as well as by what they decided to make from their box.  I didn’t get to the part where we could explain and share with our class about what we made, and I don’t have pictures of each one separately, but I do have a pic of them all piled on the rug.  It looked pretty cool and kids were pretty proud:

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One thing we did have time for was to debrief on what they thought about how it went.  I had planned to introduce the protocol of Plusses and Deltas, and they did a great job.  Check out what they noticed:

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I was SO IMPRESSED with how well they worked, and I was happily surprised and pleased by what they were able to put on the “plusses” side.  And look–the deltas will be SUPER EASY to fix.  The “not helping” part really was when a friend asked someone for help and they were busy working on their own creation and didn’t want to be interrupted.  We worked through what words they could use instead of just saying “no, I can’t help you.”  The chairs and cleaning up was simply because of the directions I gave at the end of our work time, not that they didn’t know how or that they should do it.  Impressive, Rm. 202 friends.

Looking back, I am so glad I took the leap to do something crazy, not knowing what would actually happen with first graders on the first day after we’d been together for just a few hours.  They did great, I sent some positive messages and we started our year off with a BANG!!

Students: What did you like about our box challenge?  What did you learn?  What would you do differently next time?  Did you have fun??

Parents: What did your kiddo tell you about their box creation?  What did they tell you about the book, or what they thought of the activity?

Teachers: What are your goals for a new year?  First days?  What is your usual “first” activity?

 

First Days of First Grade–2016

This is the second time in the last few years I’ve started the first day of first grade (after having been with “BIG” kids for the last decade before that, and then after looping to 2nd grade last year), and it was so fun!  Different from the last time, of course, since it’s a new year with new friends and new things to try, but some things always remain the same when you start a new school year.  I have so many things to share about our first four days, and rather than write a SUPER LONG post with LOADS of pictures, I figured I’d try what I did last year and link our first important posts to this page.  That way, you’ll just have to come back to this page if you want to find all the many things I share from our first few days (and really the next week or so, too).  I’m excited, and let me warn you in advance that there will be LOTS to read, so you might want to get your cup of coffee ready, or your snack, or just know you might have to come back and visit in little spurts.  But I promise, every minute you spend will be worth it–these kids are already doing awesome things you’ll want to know about!

Alrighty…hold on, cuz here we go!!

#FDOFG–What Do You Do With a Box?

#FDOFG–First Grade Friends

Updated Kids page

#FDOFG–Guided Discovery: Play-Doh

#FDOFG–Got GRIT?

#FDOFG–Library Learning Commons

#FDOFG–Guided Discovery: Pattern Blocks

#FDOFG–First Grade Menagerie#FDOFG–First Grade Menagerie

Fall Book Fair Preview

#FDOFG: ABCs…

#FDOFG: …and 123s

#FDOFG: Guided Discovery–Math Manipulatives

First Days of First Grade!–Part 1

Wow! What a week we’ve had! Is anyone else tired?  I might have been ready for bed by 7 pm on Thursday night–but no, I didn’t actually do it.  Lasted until 9.  Man–these little ones keep you on your toes!

I’ve been working really hard to figure out how best to tell our first week story, as I didn’t want to just make it a big long list ‘o things we did.  But we DID have a big long list of things I want to share!!  So, I think I’ve decided that for this first post, I’m going to organize the info around the goals we had for our first days together, and explain some of the rationale for why we did them.  Ok?  Well, then get ready–this one might be long!  Get your coffee.  Settle in.  Read on.  And thank you–I so appreciate your time and your interest. 🙂

During the first week of school in first grade (well in any grade, really), there are some key goals that I work towards.  This week those goals were:

  • Students will learn each others’ names (and mine, too!), as well as learn one thing that a friend likes to do outside of school.
  • Students will learn–and then practice–the expectations for how our room will run.
  • Students will be guided through discoveries of some key materials in our classroom that they will be using on a regular basis later on.
  • Students will present their work to the class (in a whole group, small group and partner setting).
  • Students will begin the year having fun and seeing our classroom as a positive, happy place to learn and grow!

All that being said, there were MANY things we did this week, and honestly I do not have pictures or videos of them all. (As a side note, I’ll add in a quick observation here: first graders do so many more things in the first week than fifth graders do!  The number of activities and directions you prepare for each hour of the day with 6YOs is SO MANY MORE than when you have big kids.  That’s probably an obvious statement, and even one I knew going in, but I was definitely reminded of it very quickly this week.  Like by lunchtime on Tuesday. 🙂 ).

Getting to Know Each Other

As we began the week, we worked to get to know each other, and did activities together like finding friends who like certain activities (soccer, swimming, reading, etc.); being a name detective and finding friends whose names start with different letters of the alphabet; playing name bingo; and playing together.  During our first Morning Meeting, we introduced ourselves and shared our favorite colors.  And while I don’t have any pics of it (sorry!), we also started sharing our Brag Bags, which they filled at home with 5 things that tell about them.  Kind of like the 3 Things project I’ve done in 5th grade. 🙂

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Working on Procedures and Routines

Much of our days are spent learning about where things are, how move around the room, how we sit on the rug, how we each take a turn during conversations, how we come into the room in the morning and get started, how we walk in line–you get the idea.  These kiddos have been doing a super job of showing what they know from kindergarten and then adding in the “first grade version” of the routines.  We’ll keep working this week as we continue to add new things/places to our repertoire.

Guided Discoveries

One way I introduce kiddos to the materials in our room is through guided discoveries (which is an idea put forth in the book The First Six Weeks of School, full of SUPER ideas to start the school year).  So far, we’ve investigated Power Polygons (which will be used in a variety of ways in Math), colored pencils (which will be utilized on almost a daily basis, and are organized in a special way), scissors and glue (because you know that could be a trip to CRAZYTOWN if we didn’t learn to use those appropriately!).

With Power Polygons, kiddos were given a pile of polygons and given the task to make a creation.  They could make it on the table (and we’d take a picture) or they could trace their creation on paper and color it in with crayons.  I was AMAZED (but not surprised! ) by what they made!  Check it out:

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For our guided discovery with colored pencils, we spent a good chunk of time upfront talking about what they noticed about HOW the pencils are organized, WHY they are like that, and WHY it is a must that we keep them that way.  I was really proud that once we were finished, all the pencils were back in the right cups!  Way to go, first grade!  For the guidance on this discovery, they were asked to create a picture of their favorite place to be, using as many details as they can–so that someone else could imagine being there, too.

Friends work together to find the pencils they want.

Friends work together to find the pencils they want.

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Friends at Table 4 get started thinking about the place they will create during their discovery.

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Lots of friends at Table 3 chose Six Flags as their favorite place to be. I saw lots of roller coasters and a huge Ferris wheel, too!

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The challenge to some friends was to keep adding details when they thought they were “done.”

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See the Giant Ketchup bottle on that paper? 🙂

The last discovery this week was with glue (we did briefly talk about scissors, too).  We read the book Too Much Glue, and practiced the sayings “Just a dot, not a lot” and “glue raindrops” instead of glue puddles that turn into muddles.  Then they got busy creating a flower to represent the many ways they will grow this year.  We’ll go back and add their pictures to the middle later, as well as a goal for a way they want to grow.  This was an activity for fine-motor development as well as art, as they crinkled the tissue and put it just where they wanted it on the glue dots.

 

Sharing Our Work

This week we had many opportunities to share our work and start developing the skills needed to be effective speakers and listeners.  We did this in whole group, small group and partner situations.  I’m already impressed with how these kiddos can turn-and-talk to their partners (we call it EEKK, eye-to-eye-knee-to-knee) and keep their conversations going.

After our colored pencil guided discovery, kiddos had to share with their small group at their table and tell about the place they chose and why they chose it.  Then, after an activity based on a book we read called David’s Drawings, we shared whole group.  Kiddos also took a few minutes to share their first creation with Power Polygons.  They answered the question “What do you like best about your work?”  It’s great to see the skills that these friends are coming in with from kindergarten, and how proud they are to share what they’ve created.  Can’t wait to see them continue to grow in this area!

Having Fun!

Ok, one last video.  It’s related to that last goal of having fun and seeing our classroom as a great place to be.  While I hope that everything we do makes them feel that way, I know that when I first told them we’d have a dance party there was definitely a BUZZ in the room!  Check us out as we move and groove.  And while you can’t quite see it yet in this video, we are working on moving our bodies in responsible, controlled ways.  We have 4 rules for when we dance: 1) Keep your feet on the floor, 2) Move your body the whole time, 3) Keep your body movements to yourself, and 4) Keep your voice at a level 1 or 2 so we don’t disturb others’ learning.  I should also mention that besides just being fun, dancing allows us to release energy, work on self-control, and will also help us make sure we’re working on gross-motor movements that then lend themselves to other skills (like crossing the mid-line).  We are definitely very purposeful in all that we do in Rm. 202!

Ok….so I guess it did kinda turn into a big long list ‘o things, but I’m not sure that could be helped.  The first week is always like that–I want to make sure you know all about the great stuff happening in our room!  After this one, I’ll be better able to highlight certain things, focus in on the methodology behind it and the ways that our work influences our growth as learners.  I hope you’ll be along for the ride!