# #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.

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! 🙂

We are readers in Rm. 111, but we are also mathematicians!  Early in the year, we got started talking about math, as well as working and thinking like mathematicians.

One of our first experiences was a guided discovery of some math manipulatives.  Ms. Turken and I decided to start with Power Polygons and pattern blocks, because most kiddos have some experience with these tools from kindergarten.  It seems, too, that introducing math in a fun, non-threatening way (like playing and exploring) is accessible to everyone–even those who already have an “I hate math” mentality (and yes, there are some of those friends, even this early. 😦 ).

We did have a quick little conversation about what it meant to “think like a mathematician”, since that was what I was asking them to do.  We charted our ideas, and then left the poster up while we worked.  (**Sidenote–nothing on our chart had anything to do with the manipulatives we worked with, but it was great to begin to see/hear their mathematical thinking already…)

After we found them in our classroom, I gave kiddos a choice of which ones they wanted to start with, and then set them loose.  The only “rule” was that they had to think like a mathematician and figure out how we might use that tool.  Additionally, we reviewed the “right” way to work with a math tool and kiddos were to pay attention to how well it went (because we would debrief at the end).

After we finished the guided discovery, we met together to talk about how it went.  We worked through a chart to record “plusses” and “deltas”, discussing what went well and what we needed to change.

For the most part, they did really well, and it was exciting to watch them work.  Stay tuned for more stories of how we’re getting started with math in first grade! 🙂

# #FDOFG2017–Box Challenge

We read a book lately that perfectly went along with our focus on play, grit and creativity (wow, that’s quite a first grade trifecta!):

It’s favorite that I found last year (and was so good that I started the whole year with it!), and as Ms. Turken and I planned our first days, we knew it HAD to make an appearance again this year.

The preparation for this project started weeks before we started, with the collection of boxes.  Lots and lots of boxes of all shapes and sizes.

As we read the book together, we noticed what was happening in the child’s imagination and were thinking about how we’d answer the question: “What would you do with a box?” Which by the way, is NOT the title of the box, but is somehow the way I read it EVERY SINGLE time I look at the front of it.  Weird.  Maybe I just want it to be an invitation instead of a direction. 🙂

So after we read, kiddos made plans for which box they’re use and how they’d use it.  This was not a typical design challenge in the fact that they could use whatever they wanted as far as materials, and the only real constraint was time.  And wow–there was creativity all over the room!  Check it out!

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Now, as with many of the things we do in the beginning of the year are dual-purposed.  We are learning how first grade works at the same time as we’re using our creativity and having fun.  What usually happens is that we have a debrief about how each activity went, and we chart plusses (what went well) and deltas (things we should change for next time).  This helps us become (and hopefully stay!) aware of how to manage our behavior.  We had done this a couple of times, but with this project, Ms. Turken and I decided to tweak the wording just a bit.

We’ve been talking alot at Robinson this year about expected (and therefore unexpected behaviors), as a means of helping students to better understand how to “be a Roadrunner and show it all the time” as our mindset suggests they should do.

We added in specific behaviors to focus on and so these are what we analyzed during our debrief.  We were noticing that some of our friends are using the words “good” and “bad” when speaking of their choices and we wanted to help connect all of our behavior expectations together.  You’ll notice on this chart that there was some AMAZING stuff happening during this project and kids were ROCKING those expected behaviors!

I’ve been really impressed since this discussion as I’ve both seen many more expected behaviors, as well as hearing kiddos using the language with their peers and as we talk about our day and how we can be our best learning selves.  Whew!  Who knew there was so much to learn with a BOX?!

# #FDOFG2017–Choice Time!

There are many things that are important in first grade: reading, writing, listening, speaking, using grit, working hard, being a good friend….but perhaps the MOST important thing (at least in my opinion) is PLAY.  Play is a child’s work, and is how they learn.  And when things are fun, you want to keep doing them!  When you keep doing them, you usually get better at them and then you want to do them more and more.  This works so well when you want kids to be curious and hardworking.  I also think play is an important part of learning since it is through play (and problems) that kiddos begin to work things out for themselves and can take ownership for their learning.

So…there is lots of play in Rm. 111, both structured (in our “regular” subject choices and projects) and also lots of time for unstructured play during choice time.  As I put the room together this year, I was afforded lots of space for play things as well as lots of places to play.  I was able to find a kitchen, bugs, puppets and Little People figures to add to the mix, and I of course brought along my big blocks, games and Legos from Rm. 202.  We start our day with choice time, and kiddos are able to play in our room, or with a friend in our team room next door.  It’s so fun to watch what happens during this time, as well as to see who plays together and how they interact.  There is much learning going on during time time–both by the kids and the teachers!

The first days of first grade are FUN, but believe me, there is MUCH more to come and I hope you’ll hang around to read more bout how we learn through play as we go on down the road this year. 🙂

# #FDOFG2017–We’ve Got GRIT!!

Like I mentioned in our first post about our first day in first grade, we’ve been busy, as there are LOTS of new things to learn at the beginning of the year.  Any year really, but especially in first grade!  This post is about something every important around our classroom and our school–GRIT!

You might already know about how we have a Robinson Mindset that we have learned and use, and that we start everyday with together.  One really important part of it is: I have grit! In fact, it’s so important it’s the first line!

So…knowing how important this idea is, we have to make mighty sure that kiddos know what it means and how they use it and get it.  Most of them have at least some knowledge from kindergarten (and their super smart parents who may have already taught them about it!), and so we started there.  We charted what we remembered:

Aside from just being able to talk about GREAT though we have to be able to use it, right?  Pull it up from deep down inside even when things are super tricky and really hard.  So next we did an activity that gave them the chance to do that–PUZZLES!!

First I talked about how I do a jigsaw puzzle everyday!  I have an app on my iPad that lets you build puzzles, and has a new “puzzle of the day” each morning.  It’s one of my favorite things to do, and helps keep my brain awake and active.  I LOVE how it feels when you’re working a really hard puzzle and then you finally figure it out!  I want kiddos to feel that same feeling, as well as realize that some things are even hard for grown-ups!

We picked partners, and also the puzzle we’d do–there were some that were 24 pieces, some that were 60, and some that were 100 pieces!  After some quick directions about where to go and how you HAD TO KEEP WORKING, we got busy.  As a side note, I was watching for what would happen with GRIT during this activity, but I was also collecting data on partnerships that worked well.

Some teams were able to finish their puzzle, and 1 team even got to start (and mostly finish) another one.  We worked for about 20-30 minutes and then gathered to debrief.  We talked about what we had learned about what helped us and what was tricky.  Some of their smart strategies are the ones that I use as an adult to do my puzzles, too!

As with many things, we decided (well, actually they asked!) if we could do this whole puzzle thing again.  Some said if they’d have had more time they could have finished, and some wanted to tackle the same puzzle after our conversation and try some of the new strategies they’d heard from their friends.  We (Ms. Turken, who we work with ALOT now, and I) decided that this was a GREAT idea.

We planned a read aloud first, which highlighted the idea of trying new and different ideas, not giving up and working to complete your task even when it’s tricky.  We read the book Stuck by Oliver Jeffers together as two first grade classes.  This protocol is always fun and helpful as there are SO MANY FIRST GRADE BRAINS to learn from and different perspectives to consider.

After this book and some super creative thinking about how the boy in the story (Floyd) used his GRIT to get his kite (and then everything else he threw in the tree) unstuck, we checked out the posters our classes had made separately and noticed the similarities and differences.  Many strategies were similar, but there were ideas that were specific to each one and it was great to be able to share these new ideas with everyone before they got to work again.

We had planned to use the SAME partners and do the SAME puzzle, but we did do one thing DIFFERENT: we traded teachers!  This time Ms. Turken worked with Rm. 111 kiddos and I stayed to learn from/with Rm. 112 kiddos.  It was an opportunity for us to get to know each other better, as well as for me to see her kids in action, perhaps seeing different things than Ms. Turken did.  Being able to share new insights on our students is one of the things we’re already loving about working so closely together!  Lots more friends finished puzzles this time than they did on our first go-round.

These are some Rm. 111 friends I worked with that day–look how engaged they are!

After our work time, we gathered one more time to discuss how it went, and shared things that had we had changed, things we had learned or things we had noticed.

Ms. Turken led the conversation as we shared our smart thinking! (And yes, I promise I will include more pictures of me–seems funny to see someone else’s face all over my blog! lol).

What a great day of learning, and one that we will keep coming back to for a VERY LONG TIME!!

# It Begins Again! First Day of First Grade 2017-18

Wow!  After waiting the whole summer–moving my classroom, moving my HOUSE, going on a fabulous vacation with my family and then figuring out how to set up a new classroom, it was FINALLY time to get started again.

Before I share the first day of first grade in Rm. 111, indulge me with a couple of first day pictures of my own kiddos, won’t you?

Somehow I am now the parent of a 5TH GRADER (Riley) and a 1ST GRADER (Allie)–how did this happen??  Oh yeah, kids grow up. 🙂  Anyhow, both were super excited to get their day started (as was I!) and we snapped an on-the-way-to-school selfie (don’t worry–I wasn’t driving yet!).

Happy First Day of First Grade, from Rm. 111 kiddos!

We also took some pics of each kiddo, which are super cute and will be great to look back at throughout the year and compare our “last day” selves to!  Check them out!

We ended the day together with our next-door-neighbors and created first day crowns with pictures to help kiddos tell families about their amazing day at school.  Hopefully if you’re a Rm. 111 family your kiddo shared it with you!  If not, be sure to ask them about it now!  You will notice kiddos from both classes in our pictures, and even Ms. Turken makes an appearance!

I know this post is short, and doesn’t include many specifics and I PROMISE that there are more goodies to come!  We had two more FULL days after this one to share, as well as an EXCITING ECLIPSE DAY tomorrow to tell you about!  If you haven’t subscribed yet, be sure to do that while you’re here so you don’t miss out on the fun!  See you soon!! 🙂

# #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:

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!!

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:

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:

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!

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!).

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!!

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. 🙂 ).

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.

…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…

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!

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!