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!! 🙂

 

 

 

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!  🙂

 

We made…butter?!

I think I mentioned in an earlier post about how our goal for the first days of school is to make kids excited about school and get a feel for what the rest of our year will bring.  Another way we decided to do this was to make ice cream for our first-day snack.  I mean, come on–who wouldn’t want to come back after ICE CREAM on the first day of school?  And if THAT doesn’t give a clue that this year will be fun-filled, I don’t know what would!

So, when, in the midst of spinning the cream as the first step to our ice-creamy goodness, I saw this in the mixer, I was less than impressed. 😦

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Yes, friends, instead of ice cream….we had made….butter!!

I really just had to laugh as I explained to the kiddos what I saw in the mixer and then showed it to them on our big screen.  I was glad that not a single kiddo was mad at me; somehow they seemed to understand that mistakes happen.

Mistakes happen….that’s the part of this story we honed in on.  It was almost like I had done it on purpose (did I? hee hee) as a means of highlighting how messing up is how we learn new things.  And now, we know that when you whip butter too long you get butter instead of whipped cream!

And don’t worry–I promised them that since we had messed up on our first try that I would try again and bring them some ice cream for their day 2 snack.  And BOY was it yummy!

Oh, and we didn’t let that butter go to waste, either.  The next day we had bread and butter, with some honey courtesy of our friend Jacob’s bees!  Best of all worlds! 🙂

Here’s to a fun- and mistake-filled year in first grade!

#classroombookaday UPDATE: Week of February 11, 2019

I gave a little sneak peek of the newest books last time I updated but here are the titles up close.  We’re up to 349 and are as excited as the first day–maybe more since we’re getting closer to the top of the wall every day! 🙂

IMG_7037(Btw, yes, I know there’s a book missing.  I hung the wrong one there last week.  Oops. 🙂 )

So this week we added these new books to our display:

Ok, so there are some of our newest favorites on this list, books that are new to us this year.  Everywhere Wonder was a great reminder that if you look at the world in the right way, there is wonder–and a story–everywhere! I loved this one as a writer, and will use it next year as we launch Writer’s Workshop.  Crankenstein was super funny, and we already knew we loved the illustrations from Dan Santat (um, hello, Rodzilla?  Genius!).  Grammy Lamby might just be the sweetest story ever about a secret handshake, and Whistle for Willie is a just plain classic. 🙂 . We continued our reading about important people (as well as enjoying another book illustrated by an author we know, Don Tate!) with She Loved Baseball, and read about another important person we recognized with Mae Among the Stars.  This one was written about Mae Jemison as a child, which is a take on her story that I’ve never seen before. The pictures were beautiful and the story was so real.  Kids could absolutely understand how THEY could become an astronaut when they grow up.  Oh, and see that Toy Story book?  That’s the one we got from the library when we won BINGO on World Read Aloud Day–Makhi and Hailey picked a favorite for us to keep in our classroom. 🙂

As I always ask, what did you read this week?  What should WE read next week?  Share your title suggestions in a comment down below! 🙂

#GSPD2019–Play ALL Day!–ROBINSON Edition

I shared my own story of Global School Play day here, but wanted to also share what it looked like in the rest of our school.  Check out what play looked like in other rooms around Robinson!

Kindergarten

First Grade

Second Grade

Fifth Grade

Fifth Graders love the opportunity to be creative.  To take something like legos and build something new, or practice folding paper based on a tutorial, and even sharing the love of sketch and drawing.  🙂

What a great day of fun, learning and PLAY!!  Can’t wait until next year! 🙂

#GSPD2019–Play ALL Day!

I have told the story of how I first found Global School Play Day, and so I was looking forward to it as February got closer. :).

I remember when I told my friends that it was coming and how I already knew before they said it what their response would be: “All day?”  Yes, friends, you get to play ALL DAY LONG!  And you’re in charge!

Kids were invited to bring something from home to enhance their day (as long as they followed the no electronics rule), and they came in with some pretty great things to share with their friends in Rm. 111.  We usually start our day with choice time anyway, so in many ways this Wednesday was the same as every other Wednesday.  The easel question for the morning asked them to make a plan, get their things and PLAY!

Once we had lunch count, attendance, morning announcements and the Pledge taken care of, I pulled them together for a quick meeting.  We had to set the ground rules for the day.

Together we talked through these guidelines:

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Really I think many kids didn’t believe me about this whole “play day” thing, but after our meeting I sent them back on their way to get to work play.

Even from the beginning it was fun to watch how varied their choices were in activities.  We had blocks, Legos, cars, toys from home, stuffed animals, trains, board games and even arts and crafts.

Now I’ve worked with kids for many years (and have two of my own), so I’ve seen kids play before.  But, as with every new group of kiddos, there are some unexpected surprises that show up even when you think you’ve seen it all.  Let me share some that happened with this group.

1.) Kiddos incorporated a variety of mediums into one “game.” Wyatt and his friends played with Legos, wooden blocks, cars, recyclables, a stuffed elephant  and army men all together.  At one point they even had a book out as they followed along to build something “official” together with Legos.

Lucy, Riley and Ariya did the same with blocks, a pillow, Legos, LOL Surprise dolls and a wooden dog marionette. 🙂

2.) Kids could sustain long amounts of attention at the same activity.  The “game” that Lucy, Riley and Ariya were playing went on from about 9:00 until 12:30 or 1:00 (except for the time we were away for lunch and recess).  They changed the story, added in details (and new toys) and even had other friends move in and out throughout the whole thing.  They negotiated, took turns, shared ideas, laughed together, pretended–did all those things kids do when they have time and choice to play nicely without the interference of adults.  There was no arguing, fussing, misbehaving….and they probably could have gone on like that for much more of the day if they’d been able to.  They just seemed like they were having so. much. fun. :).

3.) There were many things that were in our play day that were from our “regular” day.  I don’t know if I should take credit for this, or if it’s just the activity itself is fun, but I’d like to say that maybe the way we do things has added enjoyment in Rm. 111?  Anyhow, there were many times I looked and students were choosing to do things they regularly do at school.  🙂

I think my favorite example of this came when I looked over at the easel by the rug and saw this:

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For those of you who are readers or this blog, or fans of phonemic awareness, or maybe teach a primary grade, you recognize that big spiral bound book as the Heggerty teacher’s manual.  Yep, on a play day where he was his choice of activity Brock. is. doing. Heggerty. I CANNOT tell you how big this made me smile and also how really it didn’t surprise me as much as I let on.  Kids love the motions and the pace of our phonemic awareness work and I think they appreciate how much it helps then in so many aspects of their literacy lives. 🙂

He added in some friends and “students.”

The best was when he got out the “choppers.” 🙂

Additionally, someone found a small pad of Catch of the Day tickets and kiddos started passing them out to each other for positive things they saw their friends doing. :). Again, this made my teacher and mama heart happy.  And if you are for some reason NOT familiar with Heggerty and the work it addresses in phonemic awareness, check out where I wrote about it here.

So…we had a SUPER GREAT Global School Play day and yes, we played ALL DAY.  I have one more video to share, and I want to see if you notice the same thing I did when I recorded it.

Listen.  Do you hear it?  I know, right?  There’s that buzz of kids who are engaged, busy, cooperating–LEARNING!  Again, I’m not sure I was surprised (ok, maybe I was), but the whole day went off without behavior problems.  Kiddos didn’t argue, fight, bother each other, mess around..they negotiated, solved problems, made choices and enjoyed their time at school with each other.  Man…that’s what we strive for every day, right?

So that being said, I had to reflect on what I would take away from another Global School Play Day.  First of all, it’s a nice reminder that kids. need. to. play.  I feel like we do a pretty good job of this in Rm. 111, but I can always step up my play game.  Letting kids have more ownership of their play, leaving them alone to do what they choose is one way I could improve.

Additionally, I was reminded of how long it takes to settle into a groove.  You, know, to achieve “flow?”  Where you are so busy doing and enjoying what you’re doing that you don’t even notice time passing?  That happens so little in a classroom where our day is broken into small, segmented subjects and we transition from one thing to another so frequently.  Granted, we do this for a reason, but it’s probably good to ask whether its best for teachers and their schedules or kids and what they need.  Just watching the girls and the length of time they were “into” the world they were building made me wonder how (or if) we could accomplish the same thing in an academic situation by allowing kids more freedom, choice and TIME to settle into what they are doing?

I love that I work with a team of teachers who also think this way and who are willing to chew on this idea with me.  We have taken on the idea together and are really working diligently to figure it out.  For ourselves but mainly for our kids.  Because they deserve it. 🙂