What’s a Catch of the Day?

At Robinson, respect is a big deal, and so is being safe, kind and showing that you are a learner.  And one way that we can highlight and encourage friends who do this repeatedly is with a Catch of the Day.  They can be earned by a whole class (our class has 2 so far!) or by an individual kid.  Any adult in our building can give them, and you can earn many in a single day.

I love the way a kid’s face lights up when you tell them you noticed them doing something super and how happy they are to show off their golden ticket!  We have all gotten one so far, and many of us have earned more than that already–and we’ve only been in school for 8 days!  Here’s to continued expected behaviors and more and more Catches of the Day for Rm. 111 friends!  Celebrate with these friends! 🙂

 

1st Day of 1st Grade 2018!

The room is mostly put together.  The pencils are sharpened (well because they came that way!).  We’ve met each other and seen our new space.  We are all finally here.  It’s the 1st day of 1st grade and we’re ready for a great year!!

I want to take a few minutes in this first post to welcome you to my blog (if you’re new) and welcome you back (if you’ve been here before).  I want to start our year (or maybe longer!) off with a little bit of rationale for how I hope this conversation will go, as well as for the purpose of this blog.  I hope that it will help you as you navigate through our 1st grade journey to better understand why I write what I write here. 🙂 .

I could tell the long story about how I started and how this blog has changed over the last 7 years (and you know, that story is probably already posted here somewhere!), but instead I’ll just jump into the here-and-now and tell you that most of all I am here because I love teaching.  I love kids and spending time with them everyday, hearing their thinking, getting to know their hearts, watching them discover new things.  I am also here because I love to write.  I have found that writing is a very powerful and important way for me to process and reflect upon what happens in our classroom, and helps me to improve my technique and then do better for the next time.

So, as you read posts here, you will notice a couple of things about what I write.  First of all, I tend to go deep.  Rather than tell you about a whole week’s worth of learning or activities in one post, I’ll dig down and just focus on ONE THING at a time.  I like to tell the WHOLE story, usually with a backstory, and often with ideas for where I’ll go next.  I like to include pictures and videos so you can see what happened and/or highlight some super smart thing a kid did or said.  I will almost always tell you why we did what we did and explain my rationale behind it or my thinking about the purpose.  Oh, and I will probably tell you about what DIDN’T work.

Aside from my own process and reflection, I want this blog to be an open-door peek into what happens in Rm. 111 every day, especially for those of you who send your babies to me each morning and wonder what happens all day.  I want you to be able to imagine what it would be like to be a first grader at Robinson, and also to get a bigger picture of how and what your kiddos are learning.  I hope to give you enough detail that you can ask your learner questions and get a conversation going around your dinner table–so that you hear more than just “it was good” when you ask about school. 🙂  Additionally, I hope that others who read this blog (who don’t have kiddos in Rm. 111) will get a picture of what is happening in our school, in our district, in our state, and maybe using that to inform what happens in your own classroom or learning space.  I hope to be an inspiration to other educators, like so many have been to me over the years.  How lucky we are that technology is such that we can reach into places so far away and connect with them so easily!

Lastly, I want to emphasize that I want this blog to be a place of CONVERSATION!  If you have a question, please ask it!  If you have a comment, please write it!  If you see a cute picture of your kiddo and you want to say hi to them, wave away!  If you have a suggestion for how we could do something better, please leave it!  I know that the best years on 20somethingkids have been when parents, teachers, students and even strangers have been connected in conversations about learning–we all got smarter and were so much better for it! Ok, and of course, then, if I’m inviting you to connect with us, I’m also asking that you do it kindly.  🙂

So…that hopefully has gotten us off on a good foot and we are ready for a fabulous first grade year together.  But wait–I haven’t shown you anything about this year’s bunch of super smart, super funny, super creative learners in Rm. 111 yet.  So, here they are, ready to jump into this new journey.  Look how proud they are. 🙂

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Hi, Rm. 111 friends! (We are missing one friend in this picture–Will–and will post another version of this soon with ALL of our friends.  SORRY!!)

Ok, and then another thing I’ve started doing every year is making sure to get a first day and last day pic to show how amazingly kiddos have grown in just one short year.  They always come as babies and leave as such big kids!!  Here’s our first day pics from August 15, 2018. 🙂 (And…just as I’m collecting them all I realize there was a different friend who was not here!  I’ll add him when I can get back to my book wall tomorrow! My apologies–first graders don’t stay put for very long!! lol)

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Whew! Man…sometimes the first post is the hardest!  We’re off and running and here we go into a busy, busy year!  I already have like 17 blog posts I want to write–hopefully most of them will show up here. 🙂

And to get our conversation started: please leave your name and tell us from where you are reading our blog.  We’ve had readers from as far away as Australia and China in the past and it’s a BLAST to see how far our words and pictures stretch.  If you’re a family member of a Rm. 111 friend, leave a note and give them some advice for a great learning year.  And no matter who you are, thanks for being here and taking time to peek into our first grade world! 🙂

#FDOFG2017: Marshmallow Challenge 2017

I learned about the Marshmallow Challenge about 5 years ago and I’ve been doing it with classes ever since!  It’s always fun to see what a new class with do with the challenge–how they tackle it, how tall their towers are, what strategies they use to work as a team, etc.  Like with most years, we did it twice, with a debrief in the middle to help us think about what worked and what we could change.

Take 1:

We had an ok start, and kids took pretty quickly to what they were supposed to do.  Teams (which I chose ahead of time and are groups we will use periodically all year) worked well and learned to negotiate who did what/when/how, etc.  After our first round–where all of the towers fell over–we talked together on the carpet:

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The black words are from our first conversation; the green arrows denote the things we changed that made our second went much better.  So yeah–spoiler alert!–we tried again and this time teams were much more successful.  Successful, we thought, meant that our towers stood up and everyone participated and helped the activity work.

Check out our 2nd go-round:

Our final towers were pretty impressive and our teams were pretty proud!

Great job, Rm. 111 friends!  🙂

#FDOFG2017: Ten Black Dots

Remember when we read The Line and did drawing starts with Mrs. Berger?  It was a great experience for Rm. 111 kiddo and an opportunity to use our creativity and grit.  Well…we went back last Friday and did it again!  Not the drawing start part, but the creativity and grit part. 🙂

During our second visit to Mrs. Berger’s room, she shared Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews with us.  Many of us had heard it before, but maybe as a math book instead of an invitation to think in a new and different way.

We read and discussed the book and looked at the many ways Crews imagined what those ten dots could become.  And then, just as she had done with drawing starts, Mrs. Berger asked me to give it a try (and somehow even though she does this every year, I was totally surprised.  LOL).  So…I stared at the big white paper, trying to see something besides big black circles

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To be honest, I could have made the caterpillar I have done most every other time (boo–I know that’s not very creative!), but I figured I should try a little harder.  So I kept thinking and started moving those dots around on the blank page.

After the dots, I added some details and then stood back to see if they could figure out what my dots had become.

So…my ten black dots became:

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A fancy lady’s hair!

The funniest part to me is that most kiddos thought it was a self-portait!  Ha!

So after my beautiful example, kiddos were give a pile of dots (ours were red and yellow) from which they had to count out ten and then create something marvelous.   Kiddos went to their personal “offices” and got busy.  They were given about 20 minutes to work, and friends were challenged and then encouraged to work the whole time, adding more details if they thought they were finished before time was up.  The sound of quietly working kiddos and the creations that emerged as fabulous!

And so in the end, our ten black dots became…so many great things!  Check out our thinking:

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Again, first grade grit and greatness shined through and we ROCKED this challenge!!  Can’t wait for the next one! Wonder what it will be! 🙂

#FDOFG2017: Drawing Starts

At Robinson we are blessed with loads of gifted and talented teachers, including one who works with all kinds of gifted and talented Robinson kids, Mrs. Berger.  During the beginning weeks of first grade, every first grader goes through a series of lessons (I think there are 5) that helps us identify and highlight creativity and critical thinking of each individual kiddo.  The lessons are a variety of things that help students think and share in different ways.

The first time we visited Mrs. Berger she shared a great book with us called The Line.

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In the story, you watch as the little girl follows a line, which becomes all kinds of things, like a monster, a bear, a wave.  It reminded me of the kind of thinking that we did during our box challenge, where an ordinary item became countless other things just based on kiddos’ imaginations.

In our first invitation, kiddos were given a set of lines–drawing starts–where they had to take the squiggle or shape and create something completely new.

Before kiddos get started, however, Mrs. Berger always invites ME to do this activity.  I have to be honest that even after years of being asked to do that, it doesn’t really get easier!  I am always a little anxious, especially when I feel pressure to do it “right,” –with an audience! Each time, though, I step back and remember how much modeling the difficulty and working through it helps the learners who are watching.  They know that if I can do it, then can, too.  In many ways, because I was willing to do the same thing they were being asked to do, they were able to trust me when I told them they could do it.  They knew that I understood what it felt like to look at that squiggle or swish and not have an idea right away.  🙂 Together we use our grit and persistence to get through, and Rm. 111 learners did a great job!  Check out some of their creations!

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My favorite thing about when kiddos do drawing starts is how many of them are certain that they CAN’T do it, but then, when pushed a little (because NOT doing it is not an option) they settle in and come up with some amazing ideas.  Each child’s thinking is different, and each idea is “right.”  It’s a foundation for much of what we do later on in the year, as we focus on sticking it out, pushing through, using our positive self talk and believing in our abilities.  Way to go, Rm. 111 kiddos!  Oh, and I know you’re dying to see my drawing start, too.

(Hopefully you see a girl jump roping in that picture! LOL)

Can’t wait for our next visit!  There’s sure to be another interesting invitation to be creative and gritty!

#FDOFG2017–Nature Hunt!

During our first days together, we do many things that allow us to work together, get to know each other, learn and practice routines and procedures, and also just have fun.  One thing we did that was a big hit was a nature scavenger hunt!  We are lucky to have an amazing naturescape in our backyard (which was recently made over to allow us even more natural places to play and learn!), and so it was the perfect place to go!

Kiddos were put in small groups of 4, and then we gave them a job to do and a bag in which to collect their finds.

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We were blessed to have 4 adults with us during this time, and so we had lots of eyes on each group as we explored.  It was pretty much up to each team where they went and they could fulfill the categories of the hunt in whatever way they chose.  It was fun to see how many different leaves they found, how many “circles” there were in the woods and also what teams considered “treasures!”

Perhaps the  best part of the hunt, though, was when we found something we weren’t even looking for:

IMG_0675-minCan you see it?  There’s a friend in there….

Here, look again.  With some help from some first grade fingers:

Yes!  We found a turtle!  He was walking right there across the path, and thanks to the eagle eyes of Jeremiah we got to see him!  It was really hard not to touch and prod and want to pick him up (we didn’t–we left him in his home there), but we did the right thing and just watched as he walked and enjoyed the surprise visit! 🙂

What a fantastic morning outside!

#FDOFG2017–Math in First Grade: Take 2

We started in first grade math with an investigation into how mathematicians use tools and what kind of thinking they do.  Next, we worked through a guided discovery of two more tools: unifix cubes and multilink cubes.  On the surface these look very similar (basically they are just plastic squares in all different colors), but if you dig a little deeper you can find many different ways to use them.  And that was the job first graders were given, by asking the questions “What can you do with these math tools?  What can they help you better understand?”

Kiddos were given some time to explore with each kind of cube, in two small groups. Most kiddos made long sticks or tall towers, comparing how tall they were in relation to other towers or to kiddos.  The ones playing with the multilink cubes, which have circles on all sides of the cubes and can therefore connect in a variety of ways.

After each kiddo had a chance to spend time with each manipulative, we debriefed on what we had discovered.  We figured out that the cubes could be used for many of the same purposes: measuring, counting and making patterns.  BUT–the multi-link cubes could also be used to build 3D things or models.

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For now, these are just for fun, but very soon mathematicians will be using these tools for very important work!  Stay tuned to see more about it! 🙂