I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag

We’re first graders, and Civics is a big part of our fall Social Studies learning.  We’ve been working on building community since day 1, which is a HUGE part of first grade Civics and learning to work together, but this week we moved into more “official” territory–starting with the flag.

Luckily, most kiddos come into first grade with at least some knowledge of US Symbols (like the flag, the eagle, money, the Liberty Bell, etc.), so we have a foundation on which to build.

We started with a great place: Annie and Moby from BrainPop Jr. :


After we watched the video and gained some new info on US Symbols, we focused in specifically on the flag, and then worked to create our own.  Partly as a challenge, partly as a fabulous art piece, ad then also as a physical piece that they can use to remember our conversation and connect with as they remember the parts of and meanings of the flag.

We talked about the features of the flag, as well as the importance of each part, like how there are 13 stripes (7 red and 6 white) that stand for valour, hardiness and purity, as well as the 13 original colonies; there are 50 stars that represent the 50 states; and the blue part of the flag is called the Chief and is blue to represent justice.

Next I gave them three pieces of paper: one red, one white and one smaller blue piece.  Then they were to make a piece that represents a flag, however they wanted to, using whatever other tools they might need (like scissors, glue, tape, etc.).

Much like many other things we do, this activity was bigger than the actual idea of making a flag.  Like other requests I make of my friends, students have an opportunity to apply the Robinson Mindset all around them.  And in this case, it came when friends got stuck.  Along with remembering to “try one more time” like in the book that Mrs. Sisul read us, we could remind each other to use a growth mindset and work hard, as well as focus our minds on our work.  The ability to apply this in almost every struggle we encounter is a blessing.  And it worked.  The smiles on the faces of these two friends when they had pushed through a hard part was priceless:

Another thing that came out of this project was how everyone tackled the assignment in such a different way.  I gave them the paper but they really didn’t have any “right” way they were supposed to use it.  As I looked at it, and thought of how the pieces would go together, I imagined that they would cut the red piece and attach it to the white–many did exactly the opposite!   I love that picture of Rachel and Taylor working exactly the mirror images of each other.


I love that the flags are all reminiscent of flags, and you can tell what they are, but they are each a little different based on the historian artist who made them.  Great work again, Rm. 202 friends!

Check out our patriotic work!

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As I see them down the hall, I am again reminded how glad I am I hung this display space right there!




If you’ve read our Robinson Mission Statement (or if you’ve listened to a Robinson kiddo or teacher talking lately), then you know it mentions GRIT:

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and our kiddos know that you gotta have GRIT, make mistakes, try again and work hard in order to learn and be successful.  And so this being true, this is a topic that it is important to start talking about (and practice using!) early in the year.

We started the other day by talking about that the word GRIT meant to my new friends.  I was SUPER impressed with what they already knew; even as kindergarteners, these kiddos were learning about and applying this big deal concept.  Check out what they said during our first conversation:


I was especially impressed by the way Mara explained GRIT as having “enough courage to do something even if it’s hard or you’re scared.”  It’s like being brave!

We used another fabulous classroom tool to practice this idea (and one that my friend and teammate, Mrs. Marks, reminded me about the other day): puzzles!  I had been collecting them all summer with the intention of bringing in new ones for this year’s class, so when I saw the AMAZING job Mrs. Mark’s first graders had done with working hard and being gritty with puzzles, I knew this was the way we’d be gritty, too!

Kiddos were able to choose a partner and a puzzle and they got busy.  We worked for a pretty big chunk of time, and while we worked pretty hard, not many of us finished–which is TOTALLY ok for our first try!

We did have one puzzle that was completed by Kaiden and Jack, though–check it out!


Now, don’t get me wrong–this doesn’t mean the rest of us weren’t being very diligent puzzle-makers and working with our partners well, but I did hear many kiddos say “This is hard!” and “I can’t do this!” or “There are too many pieces in this puzzle!”  It seems like we need to keep working on our self-talk, our problem solving about what to do when things are hard, and even with what we can say instead of those negative explanations.  Later on this week we’ll going to start talking about YET, and I am sure that this will be helpful to my first grade friends.

We also debriefed on the activity, marking what was helpful and what was hard.  This will also guide our thinking the next time we do puzzles (or encounter anything that’s hard!).


I can’t wait to share with you what happens the next time!


Lego Organization: From a Builder’s Perspective

For my son’s 7th birthday I promised him a “new” room.  He had grown out of his “big boy” transportation room (which was really just a more grown-up version of his nursery), and needed something that could last a few more years as he got older.  As may 7YOs, he was TOTALLY into Lego, and it seemed a likely theme that would work for now, as well as for many more years.  I knew that if I made sure the background was neutral and the “changeable” stuff was where the Lego came in, that would also ensure that he’d have longer before it was dated.

Well, lucky for us me, I had just painted my living room/kitchen in a fabulous gray color that is pretty close to the color of Lego base plates, and had almost a gallon leftover!  This was the foundation we needed!  The walls were quickly gray and then I worked to figure out bedding, curtains, arts, etc.  I was hoping to sew most of it, but who knew that Lego doesn’t have fabric?  Well maybe somewhere and it sells for hundreds of dollars a yard, but I could not find any in the traditional fabric stores around me, or anywhere I could think of online.  It ended up being a blessing in disguise, however, because we ended up finding options that were far more basic, and which allowed me to be a little crafty.

We landed on this bedding, and I found the pillows (and some other ideas we didn’t end up using) here.   It is reversible, too, so I think right now it’s even turned over the other way.

For art, we had many ideas, but only ended up using a few of the ones we started with.  One was pretty basic, and is just paper, made to look like Lego 2x2s, and the other stuff we added is not Lego-related, but is instead kid-made art from my master builder’s work at school.  Made it even more special!


We used record album frames because they’re cheap and the size shape!  Just paper, with paper glued on top. 🙂


Every year our art classes do a project through Art to Remember, and parents can buy all sorts of “stuff” with their kid’s artwork on it.  We have ornaments and magnets and other things, but decided to use the original pieces as room art.  There are two empty ones because he has 4th and 5th grade to go!  (And yes, I realized they are neither perfectly-spaced or entirely-straight, but for now it’s working pretty well!  (That’s the closet wall)

Ok, so that’s all well and good, right, but I know you’re asking “so where’s the Lego organization part?” Well, ok, I promise it’s coming, but first I must sneak in a little bit of info (that you may have already figured out), and that is the fact that my 7YO just turned 9.  (We are a little slow to finish things around here! LOL)

Part of our problem was that the Lego organization was the project that required the most work and planning in order to complete.  We had ideas for adding a window seat with cubbies, that would allow for block storage as well as a place to play.  We did LOADS of research, and finally decided upon buying pre-made shelves that we turned on their sides so they’d fit under the window.  The detail that took me FOREVER to figure out, though, was that there is a vent right in the middle of the floor under the window.  We didn’t want to cover it up, and couldn’t decide how to deal with it.  Somehow, 2 years into it, I figured out that just adding legs to the cubbies would raise them above the vent, as well as making them the right height for the window seat we wanted.  A couple of coats of black paint (to match the other furniture in the room) and voila!  Win/win.  Well except that he waited on it for 2 whole years. 🙂


Again, though, as we like to find the positive in all things, the two years he has spent collecting and building with Legos actually helped us in completing this project because of the knowledge he’d gained and the opinions he had on how he wanted his Legos organized.

Oh, and those two years also afforded him time to collect thousands and thousands of tiny bricks and so many specialty pieces I can’t even begin to tell you how many there are (most of his Legos come in sets, which contain loads of really specific blocks).  And those thousands of blocks have been living in a giant under-the-bed sweater box like this:


which meant that our first job was to pull out every. single. piece. and figure out what we were working with.  After that, we could decide what kinds of containers we needed to put them all away again.  This step honestly took two full 8-hr days to complete.  And it was mostly me working on it.  Yep, the kids were there to start us out, but they quickly had much less energy (or excitement??) for it than me.  I was bothered by this for a minute, seeing as it seemed like it was more for me than for my master builder, but I think it was just too big of a job for kids to be able to finish.  They couldn’t exactly see my vision for the end-product anyway, and so this detail-oriented part was ok for me to finish on my own.  The introvert in me kind of likes that sometimes anyway. 🙂


I spent much of last week surrounded by lots of little boxes and piles of different kinds of Lego bricks.

In the time when I was doing my first round of research for how to organize our blocks, I found many examples of how moms had used IKEA products, and honestly they were all very nice looking.  And probably very expensive.  But, they also didn’t look very user friendly.  Most were organized by color…which I’m pretty sure is not how most kiddos build (or at least not mine….seems more like something a mom would do for herself, not for her kid.  Regardless of how other families did it, though, that method was not going to work for our mounds of Lego bricks). I mentioned that those 2 years gave my builder time to really understand himself and his preferences and this was great as we sorted through them all.  So I started by asking him what he thought we should do, and he agreed that color didn’t make sense, and that instead, we should do it by type or size of block.

After those 2 days of sorting, an afternoon of planning for containers and then shopping (we ended up choosing Sterilite containers that I found for a steal at Big Lots), gave us what we thought ended up looking great and being REALLY user-friendly.  I have been told by my kiddo that it is working really well, and I would agree, since every piece has it’s place now.

And the best part is that there are labels on each box, that art both specific to our Lego pieces and our names for them.  Yep, there’s a box for “slanty” Legos, and one that says “holey” and well as once that just says “special,” which he uses for particular pieces he’s pulled out for a project and isn’t ready to put back in their appropriate box yet.

Oh, wait, and the top has a dual-purpose, too: it’s both for building and for reading.  We added two base plates to the top of the middle (attached with velcro), and I made pillows to cover the whole thing for when they’re not being used from a sheet I already had, and a tutorial I found here.

We are so happy with our final product, and it’s a part of our house that gets used (and cleaned up up!) every day. 🙂


Rm. 202 Kids Take Over–Read Aloud Take 2

I am so excited with what’s happening in our room with Read Aloud lately.  The level of excitement, confidence and pride that is present because of all of these super 2nd grade readers sharing their skills is definitely impressive.  Some kiddos have even signed up more than once on the calendar!!

The only thing I have to say that makes me really sad is that there are couple of kiddos who only have pictures (rather than videos) because my devices were not cooperating on those days.  I HATE that, because everyone of them has done a SUPER job, and you’ll miss them.  Just take my word–every read aloud has been A. Maz. Ing.

Gotta share that chart that she used, too. 🙂  It needs some edits (so please look past the typos 🙂 ), but it was such a great idea that she came up with on her own.  She was very prepared for her lesson. 🙂


Please take a minute to leave a comment for our brave, super talented, 2nd grade readers! Way to go, Rm. 202 kiddos!

Rm. 202 Kids Take Over–Read Aloud!

Last week I was having a reading conference with a friend, and as we were talking about TBR piles and good book recipes, another idea came to me that would help one reader, and then in turn many others: kiddos doing read aloud.

As I continued to talk to this friend about books, I suggested that he choose a book from his new TBR pile to share with the class.  We talked about how he would have to prepare to do this, including practicing holding the book up so that everyone could see the pictures.  It was totally picture-worthy while he was working.

And maybe the best part was when he turned to me and said, “Wow, this is hard.  My arm hurts!  Is it hard for you, too?” We had a great little chat about how teachers have to have strong arms. 🙂

He continued to work and was ready to present to us.  Man was he excited!

Check out the stories he shared with us:

Well…as you can imagine, this sparked interest by many other people to be able to share with us at read aloud time.  And what a great idea, as I considered all of the many things kiddos learn on both sides of this opportunity.

We began to schedule read alouds in a couple of ways: I gave some friends the assignment based on books we were reading in our small group together, and some friends just began to request a spot.  And since then it’s become a “have-to” for everyone.  It’s just such a good idea that we (ok, probably I) decided all should participate!

Amber took the next turn, and did a super job of matching up to what my lesson would have been that day anyway–good readers use evidence from the text to support their thinking.

Then on Friday, Emily took her turn and taught us about fiction/non-fiction (as well as using some pretty great teacher moves for management!) with The Little Work Plane.

Now don’t worry if you don’t see your favorite Rm. 202 friend in this post–each will get their turn.  While I had originally never intended to take this path with readers in our room, it’s a SUPER example of how organically ideas come up for us, and how kids’ ideas are often the BEST ideas! Thanks, Rm. 202 kiddos for taking chances, learning new things and then sharing that learning with the rest of us!

Revised Pirate Code Ideas

Today we were finally able to revisit our initial list of ideas for our own Rm. 202 Pirate Code.

We used a protocol called Walk, Stop, Turn and Talk (which I saw on Twitter this weekend but sadly can’t remember who to credit for the idea) to talk about our thoughts on the first try.  Kiddos walked around until I called “stop,” in which case they turned to the closest friend and talked about which options on the list they thought should be kept.  They were supposed to give reasons based on how that addition would help us learn like pirates (based on our answers to that question which we had recorded the other day).  It looked and sounded like this:

Here’s our revisions, and then a “prettier” copy of the changes:

Pretty good, huh?  Oh, and that red part is that we decided that Learn or Walk the Plank! should be our Class Motto.  Verdict’s still out on that one. 🙂



Rm. 202 Pirate Update

I wrote the other day about how we’re undergone a little bit of a mutiny in Rm. 202.  Don’t worry–it’s all good. 🙂

I realized on Friday that I have a couple of additions I need to share!

I mentioned the first conversation we had about their initial answers to the question “What does it mean to learn like a pirate?” and since then, as we finished our read aloud (Pirates Past Noon), we put some other things on our list that I thought were exceptionally “pirate-like”:


I was impressed by those last two additions, as they are really two of the things that are really at the heart of what I was hoping for when I brought forth this whole Learn Like a Pirate idea in the first place.  The fact that they also identify that working together is a big deal was a big deal to me.  The explanation that went along with that suggestion was that if we don’t work as a crew, then our ship will sink and that will not be a good thing (we even talked about maybe naming our room like you would a boat–guess we’ll see!).  The last one–share our treasure–was both a good idea and a poetic addition as it could mean os many things; “treasure” has so many definitions, both tangible and abstract.  We could apply it in so many ways. ❤

I don’t remember if I mentioned it in my first post, but what came next was a natural progression (but again something I was hoping would come up!).  Baron and Khalani were reading a pirate book and found a place where it talked about a Pirate Code that should be followed.  They came to be, flabbergasted, as they read things on the list like: Never be kind to mermaids.  Never be kind to anyone. Always carry a cutlass. Always look fierce. Then at the bottom the motto was listed: Rob or rot!  My friends were concerned because they knew that these were definitely NOT things that go along with what we’re about at Robinson.  They shared the code with the class, and a great discussion ensued.

Then, just as if I’d paid them to say it, someone suggested that we write our own pirate code to follow that had the positive aspects (like the ones we had put on our learning like a pirate list).  What? Our own pirate code?  That’s a fabulous idea, 2nd grade! What?  You think that it would be like the Road Rules? Another great idea, Rm. 202 friends! 🙂

We got as far as making an initial list and will work over the next few days to whittle it down to the final points we think are most important.  We’ve got a pretty great list to start with, I’d say:


Can’t wait to share the final draft someday soon!  Come back and read it, will you? 🙂




Arrrgh! The Pirates of Rm. 202

Arrgh!  How rrrrrr you?  Well…in Rm. 202 we rrrrrr great, but we have been taken over by pirates!  No worries, though, it’s a good thing. Let me tell you about it. 🙂

A couple of weeks ago, about the same time that we started our Little Red study, I also brought in a big pile of books about pirates and just left them laying around.  Kids noticed them and started reading them but didn’t really say anything.  Then, as my next pick for read aloud, I chose Pirates Past Noon (a Magic Tree House book) and the questions started flying. “Is this that pirate thing you were talking about?”  “Are we going to start talking like pirates?”  “Arrghh?” “What are all these pirate books about, Mrs. Bearden?”

Gotcha.  That’s exactly what I wanted. 🙂

It goes back to a little after Thanksgiving when I finally got my hands on the book Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess.

The book has been around for a few years now, and wasn’t new to me (I mean, come on, I am on Twitter after all LOL), I just hadn’t had a chance to read it yet. I liked the whole premise of the book, and much of it resounded with me. I also was exited because I felt like I do much of it already (and no, I don’t mean I have it all figured out–that will NEVER happen!).

Around the same time I learned about this pirate book, I saw that there was also a student version, likely named Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz.

This one was more up my alley. It’s the piece I have wanted to tackle but hadn’t yet figured out to do. Reading it was so fun and really got my juices flowing about how to take the structures and ideas he used in his class (which was 5th grade) and adapt them for our community of 2nd grade learners. The suggestions he gives in his book are centered around the acronym PIRATE like this:

He told amazing stories about how self-sufficient his class is with the day-to-day running of the room.  His students are in charge of EVERYTHING, including transitions, lunch count, attendance, signing up and bringing down the laptop cart, even teaching mini-lessons!  They work towards a Silent Day in the Spring when Mr. Solarz isn’t allowed to speak for the entire day.  What a testament to the way the class works together that that is possible!  Obviously, this scenario is not exactly replicable in our room (for many reasons), but we are surely capable of implementing many of the big ideas to help encourage and engage us as a learning community.

As with many other things, we based our conversations around books, have discussions along with our read aloud.

We started with our schema about pirates.  Not surprisingly, kiddos had many ideas to share about what they already knew:

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It was a pretty good list, I’d say.  We agreed, though, that many of the things on the list could be seen as negative traits/descriptors and perhaps not things we wanted to model ourselves after (which was something I had explained at this point we were going to do–be like pirates!).

I asked them another question:  If the things we know about pirates are mostly negative, then what might it mean to LEARN LIKE A PIRATE?  They talked with their partners first (which is typical in our class), and then shared out their first thoughts.  We agreed that this “chewy” question was one that we’d come back to again and again, as we learned and discovered more:

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It was really great to hear the explanations behind how they had spun the bad into some good, something admirable that we would want to emulate.  I’m excited to share this list once it’s finally finished (whatever “finished” means!?).

As I reflected on the book and considered our first steps, I quickly knew what we’d try first: an attention-getting protocol Mr. Solarz’s class calls “Give Me 5.”  In 5th grade, students have learned (by trial and error, as well as encouragement and modeling) how to stop the class, get their attention by saying, “Give Me 5!” and then asking or telling what they need.  We already have a universal attention signal at Robinson that our kiddos know (“May I have your attention, please?”), so it made sense to use this one instead of creating something new.

I introduced the idea slowly, more individually than corporately.  When a situation came up where a kiddo was asking a question that perhaps would be answered more quickly or more easily if it was asked to everyone rather than one person at a time, I’d encourage that friend to use our classroom mike to ask it out loud.  Sometimes kiddos figure things out while we’re working (on our iPads, a writing piece, in a game, etc.) and it seems like something that could benefit everyone–I encourage them to share their new discovery with the classroom by getting everyone’s attention.  It’s been really great to watch how kiddos have stepped up and started to use this new structure to solve problems, figure things out and help each other.  I haven’t really had to do much coaching past the initial suggestions, as they’ve figured out how to use this protocol for really meaningful reasons.  My favorite thing, I’d say, is that they’ve started using the attention signal to request that the class work more quietly when our voices get too loud during partner or group work.  It’s amazing how much more meaningful and effective this is when it comes from a classmate instead of me!  I think the kiddos have truly internalized many of our expectations and rules, too, as they can better monitor their following of them on their own, without input from me.  This is a life skill.  Started here in 2nd grade.

Even small things have been “taken over” by kiddos recently, too.  For instance, I don’t have to change the calendar anymore.  When we came back in January, our calendar (which has Velcro numbers that we add the new day to each morning) still said December.  Very early on, someone pointed it out to me and said, “We need to change the calendar.  It’s still last year!”  Instead of giving that friend the job, or doing it myself, I simply asked, “What do you think we should do about that?”  I think I remember this friend just shrugging and going on with his morning, not really addressing the issue at that moment.  But eventually, when 3 or 4 days had passed and I had asked the same question, or on very much like it, I noticed that that same kiddo was changing the calendar!  I guess he figured out it was a task that he could take care of, and that it wasn’t my job to do it.  Since then (which I think has been at least 2 1/2 weeks) our calendar has been correct–with no input from me. 🙂  Lunch count happened that way, too.  I think I did originally ask a friend if he could take care of it for me, but then he automatically came in the next day and recorded everyone’s orders again.  Voila! It’s no longer up to me to do it.  Beautiful.   It’s funny how much time that frees up for me in the morning to spend with students instead!

Ok, loyal blog readers, I know you know how hard it is for me to step away from this story and leave it unfinished, but I look forward to updating you on another pirate celebration soon.  Thanks for continuing to embrace the messy with me!

By the way, if you read this and you’ve tried to Learn Like a Pirate with your kiddos, could you leave me a note and tell me how it’s going for you?  What had you tried?  How have your kiddos amazed you?  What suggestions do you have for us on our own journey of learning? 🙂