#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!  🙂

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!).

So it’s funny as I go back through my photos to see what to post here and what stories to tell.  I can tell it was a really busy day because I didn’t have time to take that many pictures!  I CAN tell you that we were able to read lots of stories together (which you will hear LOTS about this year!), work on learning names and beginning to build our community, work on something fun with our 1st grade neighbors in Ms. Turken’s class, had some quiet time and of course learned a little about how things work in first grade at Robinson and in Rm. 111.  We had some fun, made some memories and shared some laughs.  Hopefully they came home with lots of stories to tell and were exhausted from the day!  Ok, well at least my first grader was. 🙂

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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!! 🙂

 

#weekofkindness–Thursday

Oh my goodness guys—this week has been BEYOND amazing!  All week we’ve been collecting books to donate to friends who don’t have any as well as food for Feed My People and our own Robinson Cares Food Pantry.  It’s been so great to see how kind and generous kids and families are, and has been great as we’ve been able to use this meaningful topic as we work on our reading, writing and spelling with our chart:

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Our conversations all week have included ideas for how we can all show more kindness to each other, and today we added that last idea of making #weekofkindness cards for special Robinson people to show them we care.  We started the day with an easel question related to this topic:

img_6805We had loads of great suggestions (including several post-its with MY name on them, LOL), and came up with even more and we planned for our card-making.  Kiddos decided who they wanted to create for and then most paired up to share some love!

The smiles on their faces as they finished and then the excitement as they came back with stories of the joy they spread to the recipients was over-the-top.  This was definitely a GREAT addition to our #weekofkindness activities. 🙂  Spreading kindness makes you all warm inside too!

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I am SO glad we did this and wonder if #weekofkindness should happen once each MONTH instead of just once each year. 🙂

 

Do You Really Want a Turtle?

By the second day of school, my new Rm. 202 friends were already asking me about why we didn’t have a class pet.  What??  Were they serious?  They had found out about Mrs. L’s turtle, Javy (because of a sibling we have in 4th grade), and many had seen Ms. Turken’s water turtle, Bradford, who lives next door to us in Rm. 203.  And so already my friends were turtle-crazy.

The problem?  It was the second day of school, I didn’t have a turtle, nor did I really know anything about them (or had we decided yet as a class if we needed one or could take care of it!).  So Ms. Turken and I devised a little plan: her class was going to learn about turtles anyway, because of Bradford and their interest in them, and they could teach us about what we might need to know about what would be the best kind of turtle to have as a pet (I had noticed that Mrs. L’s turtle–who is actually a “cousin” to Bradford–is a box turtle, as opposed to Bradford, who is a water turtle): box or water.

Well, they worked and researched and wondered and wrote and last Friday they were ready to share their information with us.  They came over after lunch on our half day to present their research.  We were SUPER impressed with how organized and professional they were with their words and how well they used the microphone, stood so we could see them, and were so quiet and listening when it wasn’t their turn.  Again a group of first graders was knocking my socks off!

Like I said, Rm. 203 friends were SUPER turtle researchers and taught us a lot.  And yes, now our turtle craze is even greater than before.  We even found this book to read together to teach us more:

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And luckily, I now also have a connection to a turtle.  Updates to follow on whether or not a turtle joins the Rm. 202 family to come….:)

 

#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!

Who’s in YOUR Village?

I don’t even remember when I first heard that saying “It takes a village…,” but goodness knows I live it and breathe it in so many ways at this point in my life.  Whether that means my personal life at home with kids or my professional life at school with my other kids (which is what this post is about), I could definitely not do it all alone.

So when I read someone else’s post a few months ago, it got me asking and answering that question “Who’s in YOUR village?” for myself.  And this is my answer.  At least for this season of life. 🙂

And so a few words for the few that help make my school life bearable and even fun!

1.) My hubby

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Ok, so there’s about a thousand things I could say about why I love this guy and how he helps make my life possible, but two of the biggest reasons are that he gets me and he gets my job. We’ve been together (between dating and being married) for 23 years and it’s been super amazing how we’ve both grown over the years into new and different people, but have grown in the same direction.  I love that he gets my weird moods and what that “thinking face” I make means, and how he knows just when I need him to bring me a Diet Dr. Pepper (and he does this without being asked–love it!).  Also, he’s a teacher, so while there’s WAY too much shop talk at our house, he can TOTALLY relate to lesson plans, report cards, parent conferences (from both sides now!), how the school week really starts (and the weekend really ends! :() on Sunday about 5 when we have to start getting ready for school again, and that some times I just need to either 1) talk to NO ONE for a while when I get home or 2) talk to an ADULT and have a conversation with someone other than an 8YO.  Anyhow, he’s kind of a catch and I’m really lucky that he’s on my team. 🙂 Love you, Grant!

2.) My friends

It’s always to hard when you start to write a list, because two things usually happen: you leave someone/something off because you mean to, or you leave someone/something off inadvertently.  I’m not really sure which is worse, because especially when you’re listing friends (which, ok, doesn’t usually happen after high school) it seems harsh.  And now I’m going to write a list.  And hope that it doesn’t make anybody upset. Oh, and it’s in no specific order. 🙂

IMG_0143 2.JPGShannon–What can I say except God put her in my life at just the right time and the friendship that has blossomed in the last two years has been nothing short of amazing.  Besides being an amazing teacher, she’s kind, loving, understanding, funny and challenges me in a respectful way.  Shannon cares about me as a person as much as an educator and takes such interest in my life, regardless of the topic.  What’s important to me is important to her, too.  She understands that I might do things in a different way than everyone else (and she would sometimes, too!), that I have to think (often for a llloooonnnggg time) before I can answer with my opinion or ideas, and she accepts and love me for those things.  She has the most intense belief in her students as learners and works to make them better people when they leave her classroom (and I know this firsthand–she was my son’s teacher and he blossomed in her care!).  She inspires me to be a better teacher just by doing what she naturally does. It makes TOTAL sense that her last name is Appelbaum, because she truly does plant seeds and grow children.

Rachael–IMG_3020Yeah, I know that’s a picture of a dog.  It’s Rosie, actually, but it’s the only picture Rae would let me post of her.  Aside from that silliness, Rachael is a pretty fabulous person. 🙂  She also came into my life at a perfect time; after being an acquaintance for a very long time, our paths finally crossed on a teaching team.  We quickly found out we have much in common (and much that we don’t because she’s so much nicer, calmer, and more considerate than me, LOL), and that we get along really well.  One of my favorite things about her is how she loves on my kids; Allie and Riley love her bunches and love to spend time with her as much as I do.  She asks thoughtful questions, encourages at just the right time in the right way, and has probably the biggest heart of anyone I know.  She has a way of seeing such good and potential in people (little people, too!) and inspires me to be a better version of me.  It’s true when she says she’s for students.

3.) My team

1443305819373I still laugh about the story behind this picture.  It literally happened because as we were starting the day one morning someone said, “Hey, this is the first time we’ve all been in the same place together in a long time!” (Guess it had been a busy week!).  I said, “Well then grab a camera!” and of course, a selfie followed.  No, it’s not the best picture of any of us, but it speaks to a moment in time and for sure shows the joy that’s on our faces each day when we’re at school. No, every day is not perfect, but for sure we work through those rocky parts together.  This is my first year on this team, and it was well established before I came into it.  In many ways this scared me, as I am probably not what you’d call an “established” person; I tend to fly by the seat of my pants, make plans and change them, respond to the moment and see what happens–well at least at school I do. LOL  Instead of being scary, though, the organization, structure and flow of the way our team works has added so much to the way I teach and learn.  We each bring something different to the table (including unit plans for each subject that each one of us is responsible for creating and then sharing with everyone else), and there is always laughter when we’re together.  We’re different in many ways and that works so well.  I love Team Tuesday lunches, even though it took me until January to remember to have lunch there that day so I could join in; I love that someone else sends copies for me to the copy center because I don’t usually think that far ahead; I love that these ladies think so fondly of everyone at our school and send holiday cards to ALL of the support staff (I never knew 2nd grade did this!); I love that they understand and respect how I might not always be the first to follow the crowd.  I will get there eventually–usually–but might also put my own twist or spin on something and that is ok.  We care about each other, talk about many things other than school, and have each others’ backs.  That’s good for the soul. 🙂

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 4.) My kiddos (and their families!)

These are the friends I’m here for, after all, right?  These kiddos are perhaps some of the best little people I’ve met in a long time!  This is my first (well, and second since we’ve been together for 2 years) class of primary students for almost 10 years and they’ve been a breath of fresh air.  I had forgotten how eager young minds can be to learn new things, how they come into pretty much everything with zest and anticipation and I love how these learners are willing to try each new and kooky thing I suggest we do.  Even better than that, they have some super ideas of their own that I think they know and trust that I will in turn be willing to let them try.  We are truly a big, happy family (who sometimes bicker like siblings LOL), and we’re in this together.  And I can’t mention these amazing students without of course mentioning their families.  The support and love I get from them is unmatchable, and the way they help and support their kiddos is inspiring.  I am lucky.

5.) Robinson

As much as I have these few close people on my team to hold me up, I can truly do what I do because of WHERE I do it.  My school (because of our principal and the rest of the staff) is truly a magical place to work and play everyday.  It’s been my home for the last 16 years, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.  While the teachers have changed over the time I’ve been teaching there, the culture and “feel” of our school remains the same because our mission remains constant: we’re here for our kids and we are willing to do whatever it takes to help each and every one learn.  We care about kids–all of them and the whole child–and it shows.  There is always mention of how welcoming and warm our building is, and it’s definitely not because of the 1930s era heating system (I kid).  You can feel the warmth and love that resonates from all the people who work and learn inside the walls of 803 S. Couch.

So…who’s in YOUR village?

Weak side/Strong side

Much of the first days of school is spent learning routines and procedures for how to make the classroom run smoothly, and learning how to be a good learner is part of that.  In second grade, we use the idea of weak side/strong side to illustrate how kids can (and should) make good choices that benefit both themselves and their classmates.

As with many lessons, we began with a book.  We read Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon.

IMG_5074I explained the idea of weak side/strong side by talking about how everyone has two voices in their head.  You know, that one that encourages you to do your best, think happy thoughts, follow the rules–the shoulder angel.  There’s also that other one that whispers and tells you how great of an idea it is to pinch your sister or blow bubbles in your milk or slide down the banister on the stairs–the shoulder devil.

In order to make the concept a little more concrete, and move visual, we created a class chart (which I will later make a little neater and hang on our anchor chart wall) with our ideas of things we could do or say that would fit under each side.  Students started with partner thinking–where many of them recorded thoughts using a t-chart–then we put our ideas together.  As of today, our chart looks like this (but it is ever-changing–I think we’ve added to it every day!):

IMG_5057It’s definitely sinking in, too, because I am hearing kids use the language of their chart when they speak to each other.  🙂  We’re by no means working perfectly all the time, but we’re on our way!