Starting Over

Here we are again. Yup. That place where I usually start with a long explanation of why I’ve neglected my blog and how I’m vowing to start over and do better and how we’ll never end up here again. HA HA HA! Like I said: here were are again.

But, since I am not insane, I will not do the same thing I’ve done in the past at this point. Instead of vowing to do better, I’m going to completely start over. Most of you who are here now are probably not even aware that I’ve been missing from the blogosphere anyway because you’re new! So…since you’re new here and I haven’t been here in a while anyway, let’s take a tour of this little blog, and take a few posts to get acquainted and start a new journey together. Maybe a fresh start is what I need to make this blogging thing “stick” again and get us back on track. Cross your fingers, hold on tight and let’s get moving!

By the way, that’s me. I’m Jen and I’m the Kooky Teacher mentioned in the blog title. I just realized that this little blog started 10 years ago, and I’ve had such a great time sharing my school stories and sometimes some family stories (when I’m feeling indulgent). Throughout the 10 years of blogging, I’ve taught 5th grade, 1st and 2nd grade, all of which have been included in these posts: those are the 20something kids. :). And as I mentioned the “fresh start” in the beginning of this post, the new journey we’re on features a new group of 20somethingkids–3rd graders! Also, this fresh start will mean I’m going to do some things differently.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

  1. Since so many of you are new here, I’m going to put up a few posts that acclimate you to who I am, what I’m about and what you can expect here.
  2. Speaking of what to expect, I think I’ve come to the place where I should finally set some guidelines and deadlines for when I will share my stories. In the past, I didn’t have a schedule for when I’d post; some weeks I’d post once and some weeks I’d post 10 or 12 new things! Needless to say, that made it hard for you, dear blog reader, to know when to check in with me, and also it made it so I often ended up with sooooo much content that I ended up not even writing it. There was time to do the things, but not time (or energy) to tell YOU about the things we did. This time around, there will be a schedule. 🙂
  3. In previous iterations of 20somethingkids, the posts have gone on and on and on and on. I have a tendency to use 25 words when you only need 3 and so often the posts I’d put up were so lengthy that I was worn out after writing them, and my readers were dead tired after reading (if they even hung around long enough to finish! LOL). This time I hope to be more concise with my storytelling and thoughtful in what I decide to share.

And so in a spirit of wanting to not overuse my words, I’m going to end this first post now, with an invitation for you to help me. If you are so inclined, would you take a little bit to leave a comment and answer these questions for me? I’d be forever grateful! 🙂

Here’s what I’m wondering…

  1. What you want when you read a blog? What are some features of your favorite blogs?
  2. What day(s) would you be most likely to read a new blog post?
  3. Since I’m new to 3rd grade, feel free to share any tips or advice you have and want to share! 🙂

THANK YOU for taking time to visit and comment, and hopefully I’ll see you around here again soon! I’d love if you went on this new journey with me!

Not-Quite-Viral Videos

It’s been almost a year. March 13, 2020. That was the last day we were at school before COVID-19 ROCKED our worlds–inside and outside of school. Eventually we did get back into school, but not until almost 250 days later in October, 2020. And over that time we were on our virtual learning journey, teachers like me worked soooo hard to figure out a way to try to make our online classroom a rigorous, engaging and welcoming place for kids to be. It was NOT the same as being at school in-person, but we did (and still are doing!!) what we could.

One way we pivoted (ha! I wondered how long it would be til I used that word!) to teaching virtually was to begin making videos of our curriculum content. It’s not rocket science by any means, but it definitely had a learning curve from how we had done them pre-COVID, partly because we started using a new tool in Screencast-o-Matic. Now that I know how to use it, I LOVE how it has impacted both my teaching and my kiddos’ learning.

  1. Recording lessons allows me to post content for kiddos so they can revisit the topic. Sometimes you just need to hear something more than once for it to “stick.” This is as true for adults as it is for kids! Especially when we were home doing virtual learning full-time, there were times when kiddos couldn’t be there for the lesson when it was “live.” Sometimes they were there, but it was hard to understand because of being on Zoom or because of distractions in the background–or for any of the countless other reasons people have a hard time listening. :). Since I had recorded the lesson ahead of time (and was then playing it during my mini-lesson time), kiddos could easily access it via our Schoology page and rewatch it. 2 or 3 times if need be! Then they can get on with whatever the follow up activity is.
  2. Recording lessons allows for my team to share the load. One of the BEST things we discovered during our virtual learning so far, is that it is A LOT for one person to do on their own. Differently than during in-person school, virtual learning has another level of difficulty–partly just because it’s new for everyone! I know we can all agree that teachers can do everything (well, almost everything LOL), but of course pandemic teaching was a whole new kind of hard. As a means to make sure we were taking care of ourselves and giving our students what they needed, our 2nd grade team divided up the work and everyone took a subject. We planned out the goals and objectives and which lessons and all of that, and then teachers focused on making “their” subject accessible to their students and the rest of the grade.
  3. Teaching through videos and sharing the load allowed kiddos access to ALL of the 2nd grade teachers. This was great because it gave our kiddos a teeny sense of “regular” school normalcy. In those long-ago, before-COVID times, our team did many things together and “shared” kids for experiences and group learning. This was especially helpful as we tried to differentiate and address specific student need. Welp, it was all gone once this stupid virus started messing everything up and it was obvious that kiddos were missing it. By using videos that other teachers had made during my mini-lessons–and then stopping along the way to explain or discuss as a class together–our 2nd graders still felt a little connection to their “other” teachers, even if they weren’t really there in person. Additionally, I think it’s a benefit for kiddos to hear how other teachers teach things. Just like how hearing something more than once often makes a topic “stickier,” hearing it from someone else’s mouth can be the thing that makes that concept finally understandable. Everyone has their own set of strengths and talents and I LOVE that we can spread the wealth and take advantage of what we all do best. :). Even though we’re in-person again, we’ve continued this because it worked so well!
  4. Videos allow me to focus on making a mini-lesson ACTUALLY mini! I know I cannot be the only one who sometimes teaches mini-lessons that go longer than they want them to. Yeah, maxi-lessons. Or I-was-on-a-roll-and-should-have-stopped-talking-15-minutes-ago lessons. It’s not just me, right? Well…since I am recording my lesson, AND since I know that other kids and other teachers are going to have to use my lesson, it somehow forces me to make sure that I am more on point. Accountability maybe? Focus on a sense of clarity? Something about making something for someone else helps me not to ramble. Ok, at least not ramble as long as usual.
  5. Recording videos helps me reflect on my own teaching. After the teaching/recording part of the lesson comes the editing part. Besides being about to take out dead air and ums and mistakes I made, it also allows me to see what I actually look and sound like to a kid when I’m presenting something. I have to admit, when I first started doing this I was surprised by how it didn’t always turn out the way I intended. Alternatively, though, sometimes it turns out even better and I’ll hear myself say something that I KNOW is going to hit kids them in a way that will really be impactful. And because it’s recorded and I have the luxury of seeing what happened, I can respond appropriately based on what comes out in my first draft. In my opinion, this is one of the best things I can do as a teacher–figure out what I do well so I can do it again, and also figure out where I struggle so I can work on making that part of my lessons better.
  6. Using videos from other teachers gives me instant PD and helps me to see how other people do things. Besides watching yourself teach, some of the best professional development comes from watching someone else doing something really well. I LOVE to see how my colleagues explain things and which parts of a topic they choose to enhance or highlight. I often hear phrases or questions that I would never have thought to say, that I can later tweak to use in my own teaching later. Sometimes it is tone of voice, sometimes it’s how different teachers use visual pieces to reinforce what they’re saying, and sometimes it’s just learning about a new book or teaching tool I haven’t used, but I ALWAYS learn something when I see what my colleagues are doing. It’s definitely a win/win!
  7. Posting videos for kids helps parents to know what’s going on, too! I have no expectation that parents are watching the videos I post (they are for the kiddos after all), but if they want to, they are definitely welcome to! I know that parents can feel a little out-of-the-loop, since their kids spend all day here at school without them, and we have experiences and learning they don’t know about. By being able to see how it sounds when I teach it also helps parents help their kiddos if there are questions.

I know we are all feeling some COVID fatigue and are super tired of all the changes this past year has brought us. After it all, though, I do think there are some positive changes that we have had to make—-and changes that we will keep even after COVID is a distant memory.

What experience do you have with videos in your teaching? How have videos helped you grow? What struggles or hiccups have you run into? I’d love to hear more about others’ experiences with virtual learning and/or videos in teaching.

Weather Wonder Day!

It’s been so fun being back on the blog. I still can’t believe I took such a long hiatus. Oh well, here’s to getting a good roll going!

Remember how a couple of weeks ago we had a super busy, fun week with Global School Play Day and World Read Aloud Day?? Well that day of being together as a whole grade level was so much fun and energizing that we decided to do it again—every Friday!

So that meant that this past Friday we gathered again (on Zoom, of course!) to have a fun-filled 2nd grade learning day. Our topic was WEATHER WONDER and each teacher again took a small chunk of the day and shared something new. Check out what we did!

We started our weather-filled wondering day with Mrs. Stephens, learning about clouds! She read us a book, showed us some pictures and we discovered that there were some very complicated names for all of those puffy shapes. Cirrus, cumulus, stratus, nimbus, plus all the ways you can put those words together!

Then she gave us a job to do.

This was so much fun! We had sent kids home with a bag prepared with the materials they would need, and kiddos got to quick work showing what they had learned about clouds. Check out the amazing creations that materialized!

After clouds, we did some movement (thank you, GoNoodle!) and then moved on to the next logical topic–rain! Mrs. Nguyen showed us a video that used some great science words like evaporation, condensation and precipitation. Then we read a book that Mrs. Davis (our librarian) told us about last week that is a contender for March Madness. It’s about rain and it’s so great–Soaked! by Abi Cushman.

After this story, Mrs. Nguyen had a great conversation starter: Would you rather play outside in the rain or play outside in the snow? We had a great time chatting about this in breakout rooms with our friends! And in case you’re wondering, my answer is neither. HA!! Just kidding. I think I would have to say rain, but with some very specific parameters. I would rather play outside in the rain IF it was summer and the rain was warm. AND it was in Disney World where I’ve been caught in many a rainstorm but didn’t mind because I was in the Happiest Place on Earth. No thanks on the snow. :). I’ll enjoy that through the window with a warm cup of coffee in my hand and blanket on my lap.

After clouds and rain came TORNADOES and HURRICANES!! I found a great video from Mystery Science asking kiddos to consider which is worse? The video even included a 2nd grader who asked Mystery Doug the question, which was very cool!

Of course after we learned about these powerful storms and learned some more about what makes them unique, kiddos had a job to share THEIR opinion about which storm is worse.

After the stress of massive storms, we needed some yoga, so Ms. Dale found some on YouTube for us and we followed along and stretched out our bodies.

Ok…so far: clouds, rain, tornadoes and hurricanes. Up next, SNOW!!

Mrs. Dale found a super interesting video about snowflakes that taught us all about how they start with a seed crystal, how they are made of hexagons, and how there are many different kinds that form (based on how warm or cold the air is). We learned (or were reminded?) that snowflakes have 6 arms. She led us in some drawing and taught us a funny story about a Zoid to remember that a trapezoid makes a hexagon ( if you have a second grader who was there for that story, have them tell you about it!!)

Whew! What a busy and learning-filled morning!! After that we needed lunch and recess, which was a welcomed break. We came back after lunch to regroup and reflect on our new knowledge.

Mrs. Kier began by reminding us of what we’d talked about–and man was it a lot!!

And then came probably the BEST PART of the day (in the minds of our 2nd graders at least)–kiddos were invited to share their learning using SCRATCH JR.!

We ended our day with a conversation about what other topics kiddos would like to have on our themed Fridays and not surprisingly they had a TON! I think dinosaurs is leading the pack right now, but the list was long and will last us the rest of the year. I can’t wait to see what happens next!?

Have you ever done a themed day of online learning with your class? With your grade level? What topics would you be interested in learning more about? We’d love to hear from you!!

World Read Aloud Day 2021: COVID Edition

YAY!! It’s the beginning of February, which means that it is time for Global School Play Day and World Read Aloud Day! It’s not a celebration that I’m new to, but it is definitely never something I’ve celebrated in cyberspace. :). Because it’s still COVID times, our WRAD observation was planned to take place on a Friday, were we were online. We figured this was the best way to collaborate as a grade level, since at school we’re only allowed to be with our individual cohorts.

So we sat down as a team before the day, finding times for all of our 2nd grade teachers, plus Mrs. Scanlon–our fabulous reading teacher–and Dr. OH–our fabulous principal–to read to our kiddos. Like a normal virtual day, we also tried to make sure we added in movement breaks and times for kids to interact and talk to each other. Our plan looked like this:

As we went into the day, we were SO EXCITED to be able to get all of our second grade friends and all of our team in the same room (even if it was a ZOOM room!) so we could celebrate books together! We could hardly wait for the morning!

We began the day in our own Zoom Room, with Mrs. Nguyen and me and all of our Rm. 111 friends. We talked about our Zone colors and talked about our day, getting excited for what was to come. After our morning Meeting, we all went to Mrs. Stephens’ Zoom room since she was going to host the morning festivities.

Our first reader was Mrs. Scanlon, who shared one of her favorite books with us:

Somehow in all my years of both reading kids’ books and teaching kids to read, I’ve never read this book! It was so great and the kids loved it!

After this, we moved the whole group into breakout rooms to chat about the story. I was in a room with 3 super great girls who had lots to say! We even had time to start reading to each other! Such a fun time. 🙂

Next up–Dr. OH! This was our first opportunity to have our principal read to us this year, but it’s definitely not the first time we’ve had our fearless leader read to our grade level. Remember when Mrs. Sisul used to come read to us all the time??

Dr. OH shared a great story about a strong girl with us: I Will Be Fierce!

After a quick GoNoodle to give our bodies a minute to move, we got to hear a super funny story from my student teacher, Mrs. Nguyen. My class gets the chance to listen to her read all the time, so I was glad she got to share her stories with the whole grade level for this special day!!

She shared the story Potato Pants with us. 🙂

Mrs. Kier was up next, and she shared an oldie-but-goodie from Epic–The Bad Seed.

After that many super read alouds, we were ready to use our brains in another way. Mrs. Stephens shared a fun activity with us, that started in the main room and then we did in small group breakout rooms. We did a Spot the Difference game she had found on YouTube. There are two pictures and we had to –you guessed it!–find the differences between the two pictures. What fun! This activity was definitely a hit and one we’ll do again when we have a chance!

After a break for lunch and some rest or play time on their own, we came back together, this time in our Zoom room! It was my turn and then Mrs. Dale shared a story, too.

I had a big pile of things that I would have loved to share, but since I only had one, I picked a book that was from a beloved author (Peter H. Reynolds) and that connected with some of our themes in SEL lately.

After the story, kiddos took turns responding to the invitation to “say something. It was fun to hear all of the different things they thought of sharing with their friends!

Mrs. Dale found a great story on Epic, too, one that none of us had heard of before: Nico Draws a Feeling. After we finished the story, she invited kiddos to grab some crayons and a piece of paper and try out what Nico had done. The challenge was to draw the FEELINGS related to an event or episode, rather than the event itself. This was hard work! What a great opportunity, though, to express ourselves in a new and exciting way!

We ended our day with choice time, closing meeting in our homerooms and then our specials class. What an AMAZING day of books and fun and FRIENDS!! It was definitely different than any other World Read Aloud Day I’ve experienced, but isn’t that just how this school year is going?? It will be a memorable one for sure!!

How did you spend World Read Aloud Day 2021? Leave us a comment and tell us about it!

Global School Play Day 2021: COVID Version

Many years ago, I saw a tweet about Global School Play Day.  Being one who truly believes in play as an important learning tool for kids (and adults!), and being one who likes to jump in with both feet when I see something that looks like fun (like I did with World Read Aloud Day, for instance), I knew that this was something I wanted to try.  And honestly, we have choice time and recess every day anyway, so it wasn’t that far out of our norm.

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And so even in the midst of this new COVID world at school, I knew this was a day we wanted to continue to observe and celebrate. We had all done GSPD last year as first graders, and so as I was announcing that it was coming up, all I had to do was start the beginning of the word GLOBAL and kids filled in the rest. They were NUTS! Besides the fact that play is always important in the life of a child (and lets be honest, adults, too!), it feels especially important now. Besides the fact that it is a child’s most important work, it helps to add a level of normalcy to their lives right now and helps add to the fun of school.

As we did last year, we started with the ground rules, and also the conversation around why GSPD is a big deal. They came up with this:

What great thinking, huh? I am sure that some of it was because we have had conversations like this before (including GSPD last year), but also, I think they are just really in tune and super smart kiddos! All of their ideas were right, and I had some additional ideas of my own:

1. Negotiation: By participating in free play, children get to learn how and practice what it is like to initiate play with someone else, as well as negotiate with that playmate about what to do, where to do it and how to do it.  They get to learn give-and-take, as well as how to work with others in a positive way (because unfortunately, if you choose NOT to do it positively, your friend may not want to play with you anymore!).

2. Problem Solving: Much like negotiation with friends, kiddos learn and practice problem solving in many ways when they play.  From what to do when the Legos don’t go together they way you want or you don’t have enough big blocks to build your castle, or even where to put the pieces of the puzzle you’re working on, problem solving is a crucial part of play.  Even choosing what to play at any given moment is a kind of problem solving in itself.  Letting kids figure these things out for themselves helps build and encourage grit and perseverance.

3. Winning (and losing!) Graciously: Child-directed play (including playing games) allows kiddos to learn how to win–and also to lose–graciously.  We all know an adult who didn’t get the chance to learn this when they were younger, and now has such a hard time knowing what to do when things don’t go their way.  That same adult might have a really hard time not being overly proud or boastful when things do.  Allowing (or even planning for) situations where students DON’T win are crucial!  Life is not fair, things don’t always go as planned and sometimes someone else does better than you.  How great that kiddos have a chance to learn to deal with these disappointments when the stakes are low, so that when they are higher, they’ll know the appropriate choices to make.  And yes, winning is a good thing that can happen occasionally, too (and how great that kids can learn how to deal with their happiness without sacrificing the feelings of others).

4. Creativity: A big pile of paper, blocks, Legos, cars or any other open-ended toys allows for such a great development of creativity in kids!  Being able to figure out what that pile of “stuff” can become is a great practice in trial-and-error, trying new things or even working with a friend to put two great ideas together to make an even better one.  This practice of creativity in free play can easily be transferred to learning, then, when a kiddo is given open-ended opportunities for both gaining information and showing what they’ve learned.  When they’ve had a chance to try out new things and take risks in a safe, play environment, many students will be more willing to take the same creative risks with their learning.

5. Beating Boredom: I guess this one is another idea that’s related to some others on this list, but being given free time to play is a great way to figure out how to entertain yourself (either alone or with a friend) and keep a kiddo from being “bored.”  Knowing what to do when there’s [seemingly] nothing to do is a life skill, really.

6. Respect, kindness and including others: Play is a great opportunity for kiddos to practice skills they’re learning about showing others respect, using kind words and helping make sure everyone is included.  Helping kids pay attention to who doesn’t have a playmate is a lesson in empathy and is definitely a bucket-filler for a friend who longs to be involved but is perhaps unable to initiate themselves.  Knowing how to speak to others kindly is a skill that can never be mastered and can always be improved upon.

7. Fun!: Um, how have I not mentioned that playing is TOTALLY FUN!?  Yep.  Should have mentioned that one first. 🙂

Ok, so enough of my rambling…I know what you really came to see were the pictures of Rm. 202 kiddos PLAYING!!  Here you go!!

One of the things kiddos were especially looking forward to was our class puzzle. We did one last year, too, and what a fun time we all had putting the pieces together to create something wonderful! Check out our hard work!

Another interesting thing to watch during GSPD is which kiddos play with whom, what they play with and for how long. Some kiddos stay super engaged for a llllooooonnnngggg time and some flit and float from thing to thing.

We started the day with kiddos talking about what THEY could learn, but Mrs. Nguyen (my student teacher) and I also had a great conversation about what WE could learn about our kiddos from this day. Besides what I already mentioned about how we can watch how kids interact and also what they choose to play with, we can learn some important things that can inform what we do in the classroom on “regular” days, too. It is obvious that in our class this year, that most of the time our community splits between girls/boys for play time. In general, the girls do artsy and/or more quiet things, and the boys (again, in general) like to participate in more lively, active type activities. Both groups, though, like to spend time building and creating things. It would make sense then, that we as the teachers prove opportunities for these types of activities in our “normal” school days to allow for fun, creativity and a variety of ways for kiddos to learn and show their learning.

I LOVE the reminders that this day provides for us that EVERYONE likes to and needs to play EVERY DAY!!

Mystery Skype: 2019 Edition!

We have been Mystery Skyping at Robinson for a while now.  It’s such a great opportunity for kids to learn more about their world, themselves, geography topics, asking good questions, and just have a lot of fun with something new.

In the past, the introduction and explanation was always done in person and honestly, I probably did too much talking.  Probably kids were confused and maybe unsure about what they were getting into. They were excited, of course, but since it was a completely new thing, they probably had a hard time envisioning exactly what I wanted them to do. First graders have always done a great job–eventually–once we got the hang of it, but there was usually a pretty big learning curve.

Then, this year, as Ms. Turken and I were beginning to put together our first Mystery Skype plans, she had a SUPER idea of introducing kiddos to maps and Mystery Skyping in a completely different way.

Rather than talk, talk, talk (which I seem to do too often!?), she started with a screencast explaining what we wanted kiddos to notice and note about maps in general.  The video was available to kiddos as a morning work job, and then we had some explicit teaching in small groups later on in the day, and they were able to watch the video again.  This time they also had a job related to it, and some guidance from Ms. Turken or I with an actual map in front of them.  Check out the first screencast she made here:

It was so great to watch how quickly kiddos seemed to pick this up (partly because of the video, but also because we had done some work previously with directions and maps in science).  Just having the visual that they could visit and revisit if necessary was an important support that we haven’t had in past experiences.

The second day of our Skype preparation involved the next steps of the process, focused on what to ask our new friends to help us narrow down where they are in the world. Again, there was a screencast that we shared with kiddos, allowing them to watch and review as necessary.

We did small groups again, with a mock mystery Skype that we practiced as kiddos tried to guess the state that the teacher had chosen.  Even after just these two days of practice, kiddos seemed ready to do the real thing.

The next day was our “real” Skype, and we did a SUPER job of finding out that our new friends lived in a very tricky northeastern state–Vermont.  Because of our focused and intentional work, they got it right in just 4 questions!  Thanks, Mrs. LaRose’s 2nd grade for playing with us!!

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Kiddos were SO EXCITED!!  Such a proud day in first grade and we’re looking forward to our next opportunity! Do YOU want to Mystery Skype with us??  Leave a comment and we’ll contact you, or contact me on Twitter (@jenbearden) and we can set it up!

Even Recess Time is Learning Time!

We love recess in first grade.  This is the second year we’ve had an “official” first grade morning recess–on the school calendar and taken no matter what–yep, rain or shine! Kids need time to run and play and breathe fresh air!!

Recently we attended a meeting, though, that helped us see the need to use this play time as an even more important learning time for our first grade friends.

Data is showing us that many friends in our school (and our grade level) are having a hard time playing.  Sounds weird, I know, but with so many kiddos only doing structured, planned things like sports or spending more and more time on screens, they are showing us that they are struggling with playing together appropriately at recess.  And what do first grade teachers do when we see a need such as this?  Figure out a way to TEACH recess!

We decided to become more intentional with this time already carved out in our schedule.  We decided we wanted to teach our kiddos 1) the “rules” of recess (like no fighting, use good sportsmanship, speak kind words, and some others), 2) how to play some specific games, and 3) how to appropriately use the playground equipment, rather than assume they know what they are supposed to do.

We decided which places on our playground we wanted to teach first, as well as what games we should start with.  Together we chose: an area of our playground that houses the saucer swings, regular swings, monkey bars, playhouse structure, and merry-go-round; an area of our playground that is an obstacle course; duck-duck-goose; and kickball.  Once we had activities and areas, teachers choose a place to focus on; classes would rotate as a group around to each place/teacher.  We made up a schedule to allow students to spent multiple days and multiple recesses (we follow the schedule during our morning recess as well as their regular lunch recess).  The time students are in each rotation is focused on explicit teaching, as well as getting to know kiddos we may not yet have met and for all of our kiddos to spend quality time with ALL the teachers on our team.

While we haven’t yet officially sat down to talk about what we’re learning from our kiddos (that meeting is tomorrow actually!), I think it is safe to say that there are some  things that I am seeing as I lead my swings/monkey bars/merry-go-round rotation:

  1. Having a common set of expectations for recess behavior as well as “rules” for each piece of equipment/game is incredibly helpful. It seems to me that kiddos appreciate this as it takes much of the guess work out of how they should maneuver during recess.  It’s pretty black-and-white. and they’re hearing the same thing from all the adults.  This way they can even support each other with reminders and encouragement!
  2. Being able to have contact with all of our kids helps with recess, but also in many other ways.  All students see all teachers as an important member of their learning team, and they are already more likely to listen to us in future situations since they’re getting to know us in this small way now.  We can build on this as we go on–this year and NEXT!
  3. Kids are doing many GREAT things at recess already!  While we were focusing on the “tricky” parts, this experience is showing me that there are already many things that kiddos ARE doing the right way, like taking turns, encouraging their friends, and generally following the equipment rules.  I’ve just had to tweak a couple of things (oh, and reteach some third graders I saw outside today who had completely FORGOTTEN how to use the merry-go-round safely! Lucky for them I was out there today, right? 😉 ).
  4. There are indeed things we can work on. :). My class, for example, is having a very hard time with kickball this week.  There is something about this age-old recess yard game that seems to being out the very worst in kids. :(. There has been much yelling, screaming, crying (which is against the recess rules, too, unless you are hurt!), arguing about the rules and calls, and also just generally not having a good attitude about the game.  Our class is definitely not following the rule that “Recess is supposed to be fun!”  What’s so great, though, is that in this setting, where we purposely picked this game, knowing that it’s a hard part of recess for many kiddos, is that we don’t feel icky and discouraged about such problems.  We see these struggles of course as unfortunate, but also as opportunities!  Behaviors always tell much more than the obvious surface things you can see, and we’re willing to dig down and figure it out!  Rather than just saying “no kickball!”, we’re helping kiddos know how to do kickball (and just life!) better.

This is the end of the first round of rotations, and I’m excited to see what our next level of play will look like. Kids keep asking us when they get recess back (ha!), but we’ve said many times that they will show us when they’re ready.  And no, in case you’re wondering, they’re not ready yet. 🙂

#classroombookaday 2019–Finally Telling the Story!

Oh my goodness, friends–how have I not written about this yet? (Wow, those words sound soooo familiar. Please don’t go back to last year’s blog to see if I wrote this very thing last year at this time….LOL).  I know, it’s so silly since it’s SO EXCITING!  Let me start  with a picture, because it’s SO BEAUTIFUL! (Sorry, I overuse capitals when I’m excited.  Exclamation points, too.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 🙂 )

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Am I right?  So bright and colorful, and represents SO MANY words, stories and ideas that our first grade friends have already heard.  The other great thing about it?  While it’s got SO MANY books already, look at how much wall is left!  That means we have that much room to read that many more books together this year!

Ok, let me back up.  I know that some of you are new to this blog, or new to this whole #classroombookaday thing, so let me explain…

Many years ago, the great Jillian Heise (@heisereads) started a super thing: read a picture book a day and tell someone about it.  I am sure that there is a better, more thought out explanation to why she did it than that, but really in some ways it’s that easy.  Be committed to reading to kids every day.  Find good books.  Talk about those books and share them with others.  Amazing.  She started a hash tag to share her ideas and it’s gone CRAZY places since then.

Fast forward to 2016 and enter me. 🙂 I joined the fun and began my own #classroombookaday journey, posting all of the books my class read on our door.  We expanded the next year, and the next, and that brings us to where we are now–all of the first grade teachers in this together. 🙂 The display continues to grow and change, but the intent of the project remains the same: read good books to kids, talk about them and enjoy the reading experience!

This year’s display is a little extra special, though, as we are looping with this group.  In past years we’ve had a goal of something over 500 (depending on the previous year’s final numbers!), and we will do so again.  But this time, rather than taking down the display to start over–we’re going to keep going!  I’m not exactly sure how we’ll do that (don’t worry fire Marshall, we’ll figure out a safe way to make it happen!), but how exciting to see it grow and grow and grow like never before!

I’m not entirely sure that this year’s first graders are entirely clear on what we’re doing here yet, but they are at least familiar with that big book wall in the hall, as they walked by it over and over again as kindergartners last year.  Now it’s theirs, and we’ll watch it fill up together!  I hope you’ll come along the journey with us this year (and next!).  PLEASE suggest books to us that you think we might enjoy!  WE LOVE BOOKS!! 🙂

 

 

 

Pancake Day!

Every morning when we start our day, we make a rectangle (because our carpet doesn’t really allow us to make a circle–LOL), and talk about how we’re feeling.  We talk about the zone of regulation we’re in (usually we’re green and blue!), and often there is a question that we all answer.  Very early on, I used a question I stole from my 7th grader (thanks, Riley!)–what is your favorite breakfast food?

Not surprisingly, many kiddos around the circle mentioned pancakes.  And very specifically, Luke said chocolate chip pancakes. :). It seemed like for the next few days, everything we read and everywhere we looked, we were seeing references of pancakes.  This includes our cafeteria, where the “B” choice every Wednesday is pancakes for lunch. :). So….we decided that it would only make sense to have our very own pancake party!

The date was set, and as we awaited the day, we found as many pancake-inspired books to read to get us ready (and make us hungry!!).  Check out what we found!

Then, on Friday, we were ready for our special pancake breakfast together! :). And I’d say, it was even better than we’ve even hoped!

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Luke, with his chocolate chip pancakes.  Thanks for the idea, buddy!  YUM!!

This made our third snack-related day already (we’ve been together for 22 days), and we’re already planning our next!  There really is something to be said about how special it is to share a meal together (stay tuned to see what it will be!). I have heard from many first graders that this was our best day yet! :).

Directed Drawing and Watercolors: Early Lessons in Being a First Grade Artist

Last year I wrote a story about my journey to understanding how and why directed drawing would be a good thing in the classroom.  This year, I was even more dedicated to showing kiddos from the beginning how EVERYONE is an artist, as well as how important it is them know how to put their thinking into pictures.  I decided that I’d start from the earliest days with this, and so we learned how to draw a boy and a girl.

I found a series of videos where an artist works with kids and teaches them how to draw things.  In this one, he draws a boy and a girl and talks through variations you might do to make them different the next time you draw them.  Here’s the video if you wanted to check it out:

As we watched the video, I drew the figures up on the board in great big form, and first graders tried it out on their smaller paper.  They only had to do one or the other, but a couple took the challenge of drawing both the boy and the girl!

We stopped the video along the way to rewatch a step, or to answer questions.  We erased, encouraged and enabled ourselves to not be perfect the first time we attempted this feat.  We talked about how it’s true that this might be hard now, but that the next time we try it (to draw a kid or something else), it’ll be even easier since we’ve done it before.  I heard many kids say how they were impressed by their first tries and also how happy they were at what their pictures looked like.

Another important thing I wanted kids to know how to do from the early days (because it’s a huge part of learning in our classroom) is to paint with watercolors.

So the next step, after we drew our kids was to learn how to paint them.

We talked about how to get water and carefully walk with it to our table (this is much harder than it might seem! 🙂 ), how much water to use to make the colors look richer or more transparent, as well as the order in which to paint so that the colors don’t run (yellow, orange, red, green, blue, purple, brown and then black).  We also learned that when you make a painting, the whole paper has to be covered (with details and background). Then we tried it out for ourselves.

One thing I LOVE about doing whole-class learning like this, is that even though we’re all doing the same thing, we are all doing it in different ways.  And I love how often a kiddo will do or say something that we can share, as it might be helpful to everyone at some point.  This happened as I walked by and saw Finley doing this with his painting:

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We shared how he outlined the figure with the background color to help make sure it was crisp and clear.  Lots of kids tried it out, too!  And wow–what a great thing to learn today and use for the whole year.  And beyond!

After we were painted, we already had some pretty great results. 🙂

But we weren’t done yet!  Last step was to trace our pencil marks with Sharpie and sign our work!

And so after all of that HARD WORK, we had a pretty fantastic painting and some skills we can learn for the whole year and beyond.  Check them out!

WOW!!  What incredible work, first graders!  🙂