#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!):

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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.

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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!

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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?!

SOLD!!

I was trying to figure out how to break the almost-3-month hiatus (what??)  I’ve had on this blog, and wasn’t sure how best to do that.  There are obviously LOADS of stories I need to tell about what has happened since February when I was last here (and by the way, I had to go back and look at when I wrote my last post–whoa!!  It was way longer ago than I had remembered!).  But…I figure the best way to come back from a long absence is to explain what I’ve been doing, right?  Hence the title.  Can you figure out what it is??  Let me start with a picture. 🙂

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It has really been unbelievable to me how much time and energy it takes to get your house ready to go on the market and then to actually work to sell it!  I have figured out in the weeks since February 16 (when I last posted here) that I must only have “free” time to accomplish one thing at a time. So that thing became house projects, and not running or blogging or reading, or really anything else!!  Man.  But, even though we’re not officially across the finish line yet (don’t close for another 6 weeks or so), we’ve crossed some hurdles and are hopeful it will all work out. 🙂

As I come back and hopefully settle back into a regular routine (which is funny considering that there are also only 18 days of school left!), I will start with some stories about things I’ve learned through this getting-your-house-ready-to-sell process.  It was a lot like what happens in formal learning at school–some ups, lots of downs, hard work and many lessons learned along the way.  And even though I have had many frustrating moments, I’ve come out on the other side in one piece, relatively unscathed. And with more appreciation for the process and new knowledge about lots of different things.

The biggest project I’d say I undertook was tiling my bathrooms.  Right now we live in a 25 or so year-old ranch house, with builder-grade bathrooms (something we just had never gotten around to updating the 6 1/2 years we’ve been here).  Well, buyers these days don’t really love those, so we had to do something about it.  That required a new floor, new vanity, new mirror and paint touch ups.  As I do with most things, I was determined to figure out how to do-it-myself (rather than pay someone to do it), and began the necessary research.

While I know that there are people who do masterful things with tile in bathrooms, my job was just 12 X 12 squares in a 6 X 6 room, which was relatively (at least in my mind!) easy.  In my reading, I found out all about the cement board base (and how to cut and attach it), as well as the do’s and don’ts of how to lay out the tile, attach it, grout it, etc., and so I gathered my materials and got to work.  Ok, not really.  I probably took about 10 trips to Home Depot as I realized something I didn’t have or didn’t have enough of to finish a particular part.  Pretty sure my new friend’s name is Robert.  He waited on me at least 3 or 4 of those times. 🙂

For those of you who know about tiling, this next part will be really boring, so feel free to skim. For those of you who don’t feel free to keep reading (and learn how!) and see what my process looked like.

The size and shape of that bathroom should have been an easy job.   And if you know what you’re doing I guess it is.  Instead, it took me 5 times longer.  Mainly I’d saw I learned how important having the right tools for the job are; if I’d only driven to get the wet tile saw in the first place, and not tried to use the cheap tile-splitter thing (that didn’t work!), I would have been done at least 1 day and a half sooner!

When we were putting the bathroom back together, there was some toilet drama (did you know that’s a thing?) because the height of the floor had changed,  I found some hidden wallpaper that I had to remove (add another day), and the vanity was a little trickier to level than we’d thought it would be.  But goodness, can I tell you how grateful we both are for YouTube?  I mean there really is a video out there to teach you how to do ANYTHING!!

I finally finished and was so proud of the work I had done.  There were many times I had to dig deep and push myself to figure out a problem or redo a part that didn’t work out teh way I first wanted it to.  I had to be really gritty (and not just because of the tile grout LOL) and have a growth mindset.  I’d say that in addition to having a great bathroom at the end of the process, it was also really rewarding just the next weekend when I had ANOTHER bathroom to do and it was SO MUCH EASIER than the first.  The second one was probably 2/3 bigger but took much much less time because of the mistakes I’d made and things I’d learned from the other one.  What a great example of how to take struggles and hardships and use them for good!  And after I had TWO tile floors to tiptoe around on, I felt twice as proud!

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I think the best part of this whole house process has been how it reminds me of what it’s like to be a student.  There were times when I didn’t know what to do, and I had some choices: I could quit, I could cry, I could ask someone for help, or I could try to find out the information for myself and try to solve the problem.   I love those times that help me remember that being gritty and being a problem solver is sometimes really hard.  But being able to do that, use my positive self-talk and come out with a “win” in the end makes it all worth it!  And what a great story to share with my students!

So anyhow, I figured I should explain where I’ve been and say thanks for being here for my return!!  Can’t wait to tell you more stories about what’s been happening lately in the world of Rm. 202!  Please stay tuned! Talk to you again soon!

Robinson University–1st Grade Style!

Our school has begun a really great program that we run on 1/2 days called Robinson University.  Somehow I participated in it all last year and never wrote about it, though.  Ugh.  Basically the big idea is that all the adults at our school offer a variety of classes to the 2nd-5th graders, giving them the opportunity to try out things that they may not have the chance to participate in during their regular school day or even in after school activities.  Last year I taught a sewing class with Mrs. Uhles, and there were many other exciting things available otherwise.  The ones I can remember (and surely I will forget some good ones, so I apologize in advance!) were things like coding, cooking, gardening, art, outdoor adventures, dodgeball, chess, yoga, card games, board games, The Olympics, Rig-a-Ma-Jig, crab soccer, LEGOS (lots of LEGOS!), 3D animation, and even a musical!  This year there are many amazing offerings again and we’ve added geocaching, jewelry making and loads more–all based on kid recommendation and adult expertise!

Needless to say, these days are super motivating and pretty much EVERYONE comes to school to participate with HUGE smiles on their faces. 🙂  Ok, that’s like most days at our school, but it’s especially true on 1/2 days. 🙂

Well…on RU days, though, kindergarten and first grade do their own version of exciting adventures, but geared more towards a early elementary lens, and without so much ado (the big kids go to all different classes with different teachers and different kiddos and rotate to more than one class!).  We have had great opportunities to plan amazing experiences for our kiddos so far, too, and have used our 1/2 days to extend the learning that is going on in our classrooms at the time.  For our first 1/2 day in September, we spent time exploring with scientific tools in the Robinson woods, learning and applying knowledge about light and sound.  For our second go-round (which was just before Veterans’ Day), each teacher worked with their small group to teach about a branch of the military.

For this last one of the semester, we decided to give our kiddos a sneak peek of what the big kids are doing, and even get them ready for when they’ll be making their big choices in 2nd grade.  After the team talked it over, we agreed that we’d still do rotations so that kiddos could get a variety of options, and that we each wanted to do something that was our passion.  We each offered something so different and it was so much fun!

Kiddos had short rotations of an engineering challenge with Mrs. Mafigiri, play and improv with Mrs. Marks (she had costumes and toys and puppets!), an introduction to coding with Ms. Turken and I offered a couple of great read alouds.  I know, you’re surprised by that, right?  Ms. Mimlitz, our more than amazing TA was also in the loop, and took kiddos out for some fresh air and play time.  Luckily it was a beautiful day!

I know that the kiddos had a SUPER time in all the other stations, but since I was really on in my session, it’s the only one I can share details about.  Sorry. 😦  Promise I’ll make them good. 🙂

Since the other teachers had a theme in their stations, I wanted to make sure that my read alouds and our activity was around a central idea, too.  We had found a great list of picture books that promote a growth mindset from weareteachers.com and knew it would be a great place to use as a resource!  Since growth mindset is a BIG DEAL in our Robinson community (and is even in our Robinson Mindset we recite every morning) so it’s the direction I went with our stories.

I ended up choosing two great stories that I knew would allow for great conversations and would fit into my time frame.

Before we read, we reviewed what we knew about having a growth mindset and I shared with them some words that one might use if they were using a growth mindset–things that they might hear in their heads when they were using their self-talk.  I had these sayings on speech bubbles stuck on popsicle sticks and we made the characters “say” them at various points in the story (I didn’t get a good picture of them individually, but you’ll see them in our final product later on in this post!).

Once we had read and discussed, we worked to create some visuals to help teach the REST OF ROBINSON about using a growth mindset.  We had gotten the OK from Mrs. Sisul to use an empty bulletin board in a downstairs hall where everyone walks, so we were excited to fill it up with first grade faces.  I had each first grader (and then lots of Robinson adults!) choose either a saying that they used a lot to remind them to use a growth mindset OR one that they struggled with using and wanted to try to use more often.  Either way kiddos posed in front of my book-covered classroom door with their speech bubble and CHEESED!!  Let me show you. 🙂

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Pretty great, right?  Yeah…and the first time we walked by, of course we had to stop so everyone could say “that’s me!” or “there I am!” 🙂

Here are the sayings, up close:

And now, since I know you want to see all of those cutie-pie faces a little closer (so you can say, “Hey, that’s my kid!” or “Hey, I know her!”), here’s a quick slide show of all of the pics on that board.

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Thanks for reading about Robinson University!  We’re excited for our next 1/2 day when kiddos will get a chance to choose two of their favorite activities from this first try to spend more time exploring!  What a great day that will be. 🙂

Bike Rodeo 2016

I am pretty sure we have the best school ever, with teachers and community members who plan THE BEST things for our kiddos to do.  Case in point–last week we participated in a Bike Rodeo during our PE classes, where everybody brought their bikes to school (or shared if they didn’t have one!) and got to ride around the blacktop!  There was an obstacle course, and I heard that kids had a GREAT time going down the big hill on the driveway.  There were LOADS of kids who learned to ride without their training wheels, too!  Officer Stemmler (our School Resource Officer), Mrs. Morgan and Mrs. Moffitt were such troopers as they braved the sun and heat and helped our Roadrunner ride and ride and ride!  Thanks to all the parents to helped make it happen, too!

I wish I had pictures of the actual bike riding to share, but these will have to do.  Just imagine kids zooming around really fast (see, there’d be blurry pictures anyway) with giant smiles on their faces!

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#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:

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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!!

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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!

Dot Day 2015

A  little while ago we celebrated a special day along with many thousands of other kids and teachers around the world: Dot Day. The idea is simple: read and enjoy the book The Dot with your class and then explore the story creatively–in any way you want.  Easy peasey, right?  Sign us up!!

Screenshot 2015-10-11 20.25.47So we read the story, and talked about what it meant to “make your mark.”  And since we’re Roadrunners, kiddos brought up the ideas of grit, growth mindset and making mistakes.  Who knew there was so much to learn in a story about a girl and a painting?  Ok, so I knew it was all in there. Hee hee.  I’m just super impressed that my students came up with it before I even told them.  Way to go, Rm. 202 friends!

After we were done reading and talking, I set them loose to work their magic.  With paint.  Or markers.  Or colored pencils, or crayons–whatever they wanted to use to show their creativity was fine by me.  And show us they did!

Check it out:

We weren’t done there, though.  Nope.  Had to do some writing about it, of course!  So kiddos were given a sheet to help them think through how they would explain their work.  Basically I wanted to give kiddos the support with sentence starters (if they needed it), as well as the structure of understanding what they could actually explain about the process (sometimes 2nd graders just want to tell you one sentence and be done).

Kiddos were instructed to complete a rough draft (which was made of four parts: When I read The Dot, it made me think of….; So I decided to make…; I used…; and I want to make my mark by…).  On the second day of work we had to have a conversation about what it meant to be “done,” because like I mentioned before, some kiddos thought just saying “I used paint” would be a thorough explanation of what they did.  I showed them my sheet–all filled out–and we discussed the thinking I did in order to decide what to say, as well as how to use the organizer correctly.  The lesson here was simple: if you are given 4 lines to write your ideas upon, then you should write 4 lines of words.  Well, it seemed simple at least, but was not so obvious as you might think.  Once they finally had a rough draft, they were then to work by themselves or with their elbow partner to revise and edit their work before creating their final draft on special “Dot” paper.  This was perfectly tied into the writing cycle we were working through and was a nice picture of how writing doesn’t just happen during one set time of day.

It took us a week to all finish our writing, and then we were ready to share.  I was happy to see how well it all fit in our hallway, using the windows and the one vertical part of the wall.  Perfect space-wise, and perfect because we (and everyone who walks through our hallway) get to be inspired by our dots every day!

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I Hope You Make Mistakes

I start almost every day in Rm. 202 by saying something to my students that still had some of them very confused:

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 5.19.11 PMI remember the first time I said it.  No kidding, some of their eyes were as big as saucers and they thought I was kidding.  “You mean you want me to mess up?”  “You want me to fail?”  Well….yes, actually I do.  Not because I want you to feel badly, or because I want anything negative for you, but because I want you to learn something.  When we make mistakes, we learn what NOT to do, or we learn how to do things differently, which helps us next time.  If we’re always comfortable, and everything is easy, then we’re coasting and not learning.  And THAT is not ok with me.

We have been talking a lot about our brains and how they work, and a couple of these videos have helped some of my friends look at me a little less crazily when I mention mistakes:

All of this fits in perfectly with our YET talk, and helps us all get on the same page as we learn and grow together.  Not everyone is there yet, but I know that as we continue to understand how being perfect is not the goal, but learning new things is, more will get on board.  Their new successes will help spur them to WANT to make mistakes, for that is when they LEARN something new. 🙂