Following Directions Can Be Fun!

The last–or first–few days of the semester can be times when you slow down a bit, and try things that will be both fun and productive.  (I know, I think everything I do is fun, but who knows, right? see hee)

A teammate shared an idea for a snowman picture to do for “fun,” and I decided that since everyone else was probably doing it I should take a look; even though I don’t typically jump on board just because everyone else is doing it.  The big idea was that you lead kiddos in a drawing lesson to show them how to draw the snowman, and then also give directions for how they are to paint it–but they have choice in the colors they use and the patterns they add.

I agree, it was cute.  And yes, it’s winter themed, and yes, it would look great hanging in the hallway.  But I still had to ask the question about “why?”  Why wouldn’t I just let them draw their own snowman?  Why couldn’t we just paint whatever we want? Why wouldn’t I do any entirely different activity during that time? (I know, my teammates love it when I ask questions. LOL  At least they understand that’s how I process and always assume positive intent in my inquiries. 🙂 )

Because I work with amazing people, they simply answered my questions.  Well, you could let them just make their own snowman.  You could absolutely paint whatever you want.  And of course, you could do something entirely different during that time, but we’re doing it because it’s good practice in following directions (which of course my kids could benefit from, too!), and also there is lots of choice within the directions.  It is cool to see how differently kiddos can interpret the directions and how even when we do the same kind of thing, they all turn out looking completely unique!

Ok, that was what I needed. We were in. 🙂

And just as I thought, kiddos did a SUPER job of following the directions, even though some of them were tricky, and kiddos had to try again or erase some lines as they drew.  I didn’t have anyone who quit, or cry or tear up their paper (yeah, sometimes in first grade that still happens…), but instead everyone worked really hard to do their best and were ok when things went differently than they’d hoped. 🙂

And yes–it was fun!

As I drew my snowman on my big paper up on the board, kiddos followed along with their paper and their pencils.

 

The “plain” version ended up looking something like this:

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And then, artists were invited to paint their snowmen, using whatever colors and patterns they wanted.  Really the only guidelines here were that the snowman should be left white, and the background had to be painted with a bright color.  Otherwise, it was up to them.

And you know what?  All of our snowmen we drew with the same directions looked so completely unique and different and BEAUTIFUL!  Kids were so proud and I’m so glad we did it. 🙂

Check out our final snow-people! 🙂

And of course I need to say thanks to Proud to Be Primary for the idea, and also for the post (that I still need to read) that gives reasons why I should do more of these directed drawings.  I’m excited to read!

Working on Working Together

This week we had a class meeting and identified some tricky parts our class was having.  I HATE to admit that the list was really long.  Like 4 post-it notes long.  Big post-it notes. 😦

Well, because we have growth mindsets at our school (and in our room!), and because our tricky parts are things we can TOTALLY fix, we started spending some specific time on Friday working on figuring out what to do.

First we took all of our trouble spots and put them into categories.  We quickly realized we had many things that were similar and fit into four categories.  Then we saw that in some way these were all related to not following directions. (And I feel like I must say, when I first saw our list I had a bit of trouble with it because it felt a little like our classroom was always in chaos.  I promise these things happen in bits and pieces, not all at once, all the time.  And honestly, some of them are just what happens when you put lots of 6YOs together in a classroom.  But they are indeed things we need to work on, and for which we can find a solution!)

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As we continued through the day (and we will continue on Monday–well and probably beyond that, too!) with the focus on both following directions as well as thinking of others.  This second focus came because we had had a heart-to-heart about how so many of us of just thinking of ourselves, and so that’s why we’re not following directions in the first place.  For example, we are interrupting because we think our ideas are more important than our friends’, we’re leaving messes because we don’t care about our room and our friends, we are making noises during learning times because we are thinking more about ourselves (and what we want to do) than about our friends and their learning environment.  You get the idea.

We added that last bubble after we had had a chance to check out a couple of Class Dojo videos to get our minds thinking about how we might fix up our troubles.  We even tagged the day “Fix-it-Up Friday.”  Here’s one about making mistakes:

And another about having a growth mindset:

Another important part of our day was when Mrs. Cohen came back to our room to teach a lesson.  Because she and I had already chatted, we agreed that her lesson about following directions fit in PERFECTLY with what we were already working on.

First she talked with us a little bit about the work we had already done, and we explained our mistakes web to her.   She talked a little bit about why following directions is so important, and kiddos shared really smart ideas like how doing so keeps us safe and helps us learn.  Next, she gave us a challenge.  Everyone got a piece of paper and a crayon and set to listen to her directions.  They had to both HEAR and SEE in order to make this happen.  I only got part of the activity on video, but you’ll get the idea.  And what it showed us when we were finished was that we can, indeed, follow directions!  Pay attention to how well friends are listening, looking and quietly working!

Pretty great, right?  Look at al those cat pictures!

Well since they proved they could do that amazingness, she gave them another challenge.  Only this one wasn’t individual–we would all have to follow directions together to make it work!

They did it!  It wasn’t silent, and it wasn’t perfect, but they did a pretty good job, right?  We will definitely build on this learning (and progress) as we come back together on Monday.  We have work to do, but we know we can do it!

#FDOFG: …and 123s

We worked on letters letters this week, and also got some math into the mix, too!

One way was with one of our first morning math warm-ups (which I will start to share about later).  I asked a short, simple question with infinite answers, allowing every kiddo to share their initial thinking about what math would be this year.

IMG_3517 The variety of answers was great, with no one having to use the prompt I taught them of “I don’t know yet, but here’s what I’m thinking now…”  I love that someone’s answer was “math is fun!”  Many kiddos said “numbers” and many others gave examples of kinds of math like adding/subtracting or wrote equations.  I was impressed that they were not scared by this question, even though we were only on day 9 of 1st grade!

After we discussed this warm-up, I gave everyone an activity that would allow them to show me (and the class) a little bit about themselves as people and themselves as mathematicians.  Now…it is a very infrequent thing for me to ask everyone to do the very same thing at the very same time in the very same way.  But since it is early in the year, and we 1) don’t have our iPads yet (which is how we often differentiate opportunities), and 2) it’s still early in the year and we don’t have all of our routines established yet, this seemed like a time and place to ask the whole class to try something together.

The general idea was based on a math poster that was shared in our school’s Sharetank on Facebook by Mrs. Hill ((a 5th grade teacher):

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Ms. Turken made the template we used in 1st grade, and it was most of the same questions as this 5th grade version, but you’ll see that our equations were a little different. 🙂

After kiddos were finished with their Math About Me posters, I put them in pairs for them to have their first go at a math game.  We had not had a chance to prep for this, but since it didn’t include a die or an iPad, I was pretty sure they could handle it without much instruction.  Once I explained how to play Turn Over Ten, they got busy and did a pretty great job of quietly playing while the rest of us finished.

Now for whatlearned…

*The idea of using numbers to tell about yourself is a GREAT idea, but I should have done it in a different way.  This was a bit formulaic for 1st graders, had a lot of directions, and they needed a lot more help than I had first anticipated.

*Most kiddos had the same answers for the number, and made the equations in a similar way, too, although they did vary a little in the order their labels and cards went on the paper.

*This was DEFINITELY more of a lesson in following directions than a community building or math task.  We didn’t even have a chance to share our answers when we were finished.

*I did not clearly explain why we were doing this, which made it much less meaningful to my students, and therefore probably was not the best use of our time.

*My class works really well when they are busy with an individual, partner or small group task, and can do a lot of things independently already, even at this point of the year.

*Most kiddos are willing and able to talk to each other to clarify directions, ask for help and encourage each other when they don’t know what to do.

*They were able to transition very easily from a project to a game.  They followed the directions, worked quietly and were focused on doing the right thing with their partner!

*We have a pretty strong foundation on which to build the rest of our mathematical thinking this year, and kiddos are excited to get started on “real” stuff!

And just like them, I am also excited to get into the “real stuff,” too!  Let’s go Rm. 202 mathematicians!