Exploring Light and Sound!

We have been working on exploring light and sound in science right now, within the context of a story about three friends who get lost in the woods while on a hike.

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In small groups in our room,  kiddos rotated through several stations where they explored light in a variety of ways: mirrors, shadows, spectrascopes, and colored tiles.  Kiddos used flashlights in each station to see what they could discover about how light looks, how it travels,  how colors work and how to create shadows.  I love their faces in the pictures and how you can tell just what they are thinking in each picture, exactly what question they are trying to answer or what they are trying to do.  They applied this exploration to what they knew already and also what we had read in our story.   Kids worked in Rm. 112 on sound in addition to their discovery stations in Rm. 111.

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We’re excited to finish up this unit with a novel engineering challenge based on our Global Read Aloud book, as well as with an interview where kiddos can apply and  demonstrate their light and sound learning.  Can’t wait to see how it goes!

One More Time: Analogies with Mrs. Berger

We had one more Kingore lesson this past week with Mrs. Berger.  This time it was analogies.  Man, these can be hard for first graders, but like with most every time, we had some great examples before we got started.  We tried some together (with pictures to help us out!) and then she read to book Animalogies to us, which was written by some other kids and involved analogies that were all about animals!

And…just like last time, we smelled brownies!  What great opportunities we’ve had with Mrs. Berger to think in a new way, stretch our brains a bit and show how creative we are! We will definitely continue to put these skills to work in the classroom as we go forward in first grade! 🙂

Another Kingore Lesson: Pentominoes

We have visited Mrs. Berger many times recently to stretch our brains and show our ability and creativity.  Recently we went to work on pentominoes puzzles.  Basically, a pentomino is a plastic piece (labeled with a letter name because of its shape), made of 5 small squares.  They can all fit together to make a rectangle, but can also be used to create other shapes and designs.  That was our job on this day. 🙂

After the explanation and some “try-its” together, we got to work, using our grit and perseverance to figure out the puzzles on the sheets Mrs. Berger gave us.  Some of them were really hard, and you had to turn the piece around and around and over to make it fit.  We were all able to do it, though, and the smiles on faces when they got it were priceless.  I heard so many “yes!”‘s and it made me smile, too. 🙂

Perhaps the best part was when we figured out what our class grit smells like (which you can smell in the room when we’re all working hard and using it!): chocolate chip brownies right out of the oven. 🙂

Word Wall 2017

I am a teacher who works with first graders, so we do LOTS with words.  Reading words, writing words, learning about how to say words, discussing meaning of words.  Words. Words. Words.

So…in the beginning when I was putting the room together, lots of thought and consideration was given to how we’d use our word wall and where it would go in the room.  Ms. Turken and I also had many conversations about how we could use our walls in tandem (as our kids would be going back-and-forth between our rooms often and would be utilizing both versions).  Last year, I also had a rebirth of the word wall, and abandoned the whole “traditional” layout (with letters and sight words) and we put words in categories rather than by alphabetical order.  Kids in Rm. 202 used that version of the wall SO MUCH MORE because it was theirs.  They had ownership over how it was organized and therefore were much more purposeful in how it helped them.

As I said, we’ve had a “word wall” since day one.   It looked like this:

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And next to it, to the right, is another wall, that has been predominately “blank”, as well, except for names (which some kiddos just noticed last week. LOL).  This set up is almost identical in Rm. 112–on the same wall, even–just with different colors.

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Today, for many reasons, became the day to tackle the word wall discussion.  For one, kids have had some time to “live” in our room, as well as in first grade generally, and so have more of an understanding of what more they might need as far as resources.  We’ve also just officially started word work as a Daily 5 rotation, so they are more aware of how this aspect of reading and writing in first grade.  We’ve been reading for almost a whole quarter now, and have been working out words, and are far enough now for an “official” lesson about what to do with unknown words in Writer’s Workshop.  It’s to the point now that we have to address where to go when you don’t know. 🙂

We gathered in front of the blank word wall today and had a discussion about what it might be for.  Many pointed to the fact that we’ve been utilizing it to help us write our letters when we forget what they look like, or what order they go in.  Many were happy to leave that silly wall just as it is!  I pushed, however, and talked about how I’d overheard several kiddos talking about how they needed help with how to write (spell) specific words today, and suggested that maybe we could use the spaces (between the letters!) for words.  They seemed keen on this idea, and many suddenly remembered that they had a wall like that in kindergarten! (I tell, ya, those kindergarten teachers think of the BEST ideas! hee hee)  We discussed what kinds of words we should put on our wall and many threw out words they’d been trying to use today, and someone suggested we  add sight words to our wall.  The thing I loved about their thinking (unlike many years, and in comparison to the way I’ve used word walls previously) is that they agreed that we should put up words they DO NOT know how to read and spell yet, rather than ones they ALREADY know how to use correctly.  This is the part of the typical Word Wall that always had me confused anyway: I used it as a wall of “have-tos” and held kids accountable for words they already knew, rather than effectively helping them work towards ones they didn’t have control over yet.

Additionally, many suggested that we routinely COME BACK to review the words on the word wall to siphon out words we had learned (and didn’t need anymore), adding new ones that kids needed to rely on.  BOOM!  Not rocket science, but this was the very first time I’ve ever had a learner attend to the “living” nature of the word wall.  It’s the first time I had done that, too.  WOW! so thankful that happened.

In past years, I have decided on what words we would learn and add, based on a list or suggestion from someone or somewhere…sometimes relying on my kids to lead me (I’d say I did more of this student-led work last year more than ever), but often just at random.  Waa waa.  Super teaching strategy, right?  It didn’t hurt anyone, and kids eventually learned how to read, write and use those words, but of course there was a better way of doing it than just so haphazardly.

Since Rm. 111 kids would decide which words to add, we originally had a plan for each kiddo to tackle a “letterful” of words, leaving the remaining ones for me to choose.  Campbell suggested that we determine 5 or so words for each letter that we wanted.  The time of today when we could work on this didn’t allow us much time, so I tweaked the idea a little and we worked with our learning partners.  In the end, I think this worked out better anyway, as kids had to more deeply think about and defend their choices than would have been required if they just chose on their own.  As they finished with their first letter, pairs tackled others and we got almost finished with our choices today (up to the letter R, I believe…).  When our work time was over, we had a tableful of possibilities.

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It was really interesting to see what they had come up with, and made me think about how I’d chosen focus words before.  I am pretty sure I never had contractions up there so early, and the wall was full of 2-letter words for months.  As I reviewed the words they decided upon, I saw MANY MORE connections between words than I’d allowed for previously, and noticed many ways that words could be used to spell other words that I hadn’t ever considered.  First graders are so smart!!  I mean, really–so often they know what they need much better than me! 🙂

I did end up revising their lists a little, taking out words that could be figured out with longer words.  For example, I left CAN’T but took away CAN, as we could use the latter to spell the shorter one.  Same with most of those contractions, as well as the word BE, since BECAUSE and BEFORE were also there.  Also, some of their word choices were colors and numbers, which will go into category boxes (much like last year’s wall) on that black board on the right side.  We’ll discuss this and how to use it a little later.

I didn’t get quite done today, but am already really excited to see all the words that are hanging there now, and am happily anticipating how the wall will be used by my Rm. 111 (and 112!) learners.  I am excited for the newly gained confidence that I will see emerging as kids can add another layer of  independence to their literacy work.

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Oh, and by the way, when I asked them what we should call this wall of words, they suggested we put the title WORD WALL on it. 🙂  hee hee (and see–there’s even a lesson in that title: I did not leave CALL or ALL on the list because they are inside of WALL). 🙂

All I can say is I LOVE FIRST GRADERS!!  Please stay tuned for more on how we use this amazing thinking to help us with FUTURE amazing thinking. 🙂

10 Lego Math

Last week during our Bike Rodeo in PE, we did a math investigation around how many wheels were on the bikes in our bike row in the gym (yeah, I know…I should have shared that post first.  Sorry. 🙂 ).

It was our first try with math notebooks and working to communicate our mathematical thinking in words, pictures and numbers.  Kiddos are expected to be able to do that thoughtfully and clearly, based on this rubric:

Screenshot 2017-09-27 21.26.34This is an end-of-year expectation, but we learn about it early and work on it all year in different ways.

As I looked over the work kiddos had recorded in their notebooks, I noticed that kiddos mainly just wrote numbers.  Ok, really a number.  Just the answer to whatever question they were working on.  The words and pictures parts were pretty much MIA.  It’s still early, so this is neither surprising nor worrisome–we just need some work on what it means to clearly and concisely show what we did to solve a problem.

While we could have done this in a variety of ways, I took a super smart suggestion from my friend, Mrs. Marks, (who you might remember inspired this Lego Leading/Following lesson) who thought she would walk a bit backward and have her kiddos work on just representing something really small they that had counted, made, etc.  Perhaps because the first “Mrs. Marks” lesson was using Legos, or maybe because they’re the best tool ever, or we all love them or we have a TON of them….but regardless, I framed our next communication lesson around a Lego creation invitation.

With the goal being using words, pictures and numbers (as necessary) to explain their thinking and making their explanation match their creation, kiddos were given a baggie with 10 random Legos.

Then I gave them these directions:

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For the first part, kiddos only worked on steps 1 and 2.

As we moved to the next step, I did a think aloud as I drew and then wrote about my own creation.  We talked about what information would be helpful to know if they were going to build a replica of my tower (because that’s what they will be doing next!).  They gave great suggestions of words to use and we revised and added to the words, also discussing what labels might be helpful.

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Somehow I didn’t get a picture of my tower, but I promise it looks just like that drawing. 🙂

Kiddos’ next step was to work on their drawings and writing, with nudges along the way to add or revise to make sure their thinking was clear and complete.

Today we finalized our thinking, took a picture (to compare our drawings and creations) and posted our work on Seesaw.  We used the recording feature to read our writing and add any details we thought were important.  Next step is that we will build each other’s creations and discuss what information in our work was helpful, confusing, and/or missing.  We will then try again with another creation and see if improve.  Kiddos have been so excited about this work and I’m excited to see how it impacts our math work going forward.

How do you use Legos to learn?  We’d love to hear your ideas.  🙂

DOT DAY 2017!!

Oh my goodness–one of my FAVORITE DAYS of the whole school year (maybe even the whole year) happened last week: International Dot Day 2017!

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We choose to celebrate in first grade on September 14th (Thursday) because of a crazy schedule on Friday that would cut into our time to play and create.  Every year it seems the day gets bigger and bigger (I believe this is my 3rd Dot Day), and this year was no exception.  Check out what we did! (And a little warning that this post might be a wee bit long and meaty!)

We started our day with a reading of the book by Peter H. Reynolds that sparked the whole thing in the first place, The Dot.  And who better to read it to us than Peter himself??  My favorite part of the video we watched was when he read the cover and said, “The Dot. By me. ”  HA!  Bet that’s SO COOL to read a book you wrote.  He also shared the story about how he got the idea for the book (ask your kiddo about that one–I’ll bet they remember it!) Anyhow, moving along…

After we talked about the story, and how the character Vashti used grit and encouragement with her friend, as well as what it means to make your mark, we added in another video—this time a song–that helped us further the idea.  Have you ever met Emily Arrow?  She created a genre of music called “kidtlit tunes” and first grade kiddos met her on Dot Day as they learned her song that she wrote about the book we had just read.  We’ll probably get through ALL of her books and songs by the end of the year because they are just that good.  Check her out on YouTube if you haven’t yet!  Here’s the one we sang together:

After we had sung (and danced!) a couple of times to that catchy tune, we were ready to do our first (of a series) of dot-related activities, and we made our mark with some art.  I shared a flip chart to get the creative juices flowing, if they weren’t already:

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Kids got to “shop” from the table filled with LOADS of art materials and then get busy with their creation.

Even before they were finished they made me so happy just laying out to dry:

Later, after lunch, we HAD to do math with dots. 🙂  And you know what is shaped like dots? SKITTLES!  We had been working on sorting and graphing anyway, so it just made sense.  And then–there was a Dot Day snack!

Whew!  By that point we had already had LOADS of Dot Day fun, but it wasn’t over yet!  After we came back from specials, we returned to the fun with Dot Day Games!  We had collected Connect 4, checkers and Twister from families and other classes.  Kiddos got to choose which they wanted to do on a chart:

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Then they got busy with more Dot Day–even I got in on the fun and played a few rounds of Connect 4 with Celia. 🙂

I have add a couple more pictures–the dots that kiddos WORE for Dot Day!!  I didn’t remember to take it until the very end and so you can’t really see many of them, but trust, me–these kiddos were decked out and READY to celebrate.   Check out Campbell’s shirt–he made it especially for the day, and Sarah who had dots on her dress AND her socks!  Wow!!

Ok…well, our Dot Day was not really over, but there was TOO MUCH FUN for one day, so I’ll share part two in another post.  Whew!  Thanks for lasting all the way to the end! 🙂

 

First Grade ABCs

Not surprisingly, the alphabet is an IMPORTANT part of the first days of first grade.  Some kiddos are still learning the letters, some are still connecting the sounds, as well as learning how to correctly form the letters so that we can become efficient and fluent writers (more on that later).

We’re read lots of ABC books:

Every year I like to do some sort of class-made alphabet.  Last time around we drew the pictures, and then I used our creations to make the letter charts for our tables (that kiddos can utilize while they write and read).

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This year, instead of just drawing, we decided to use torn paper.  Our focus has been on fine motor work at the same time as letters, sounds and names and so it just made sense.  Kiddos made their image on an index card and then we attached it to the letter.

And even before they were finished they looked AMAZING.  Doesn’t this picture make you happy?

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Ok, well then here they are hanging up.  Decided to put them over our cubbies because they are easily seen, as well as because kiddos can reach them if need be.

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I love that every year the same activity can be new and different and this year it was because of the vowels.  In the past, there has only been one picture for each one.  This was always confusing when we were actually using the chart or wall letters because somehow the kids always needed the other sound.  So this time we made two. 🙂  Or…in the case of A, we actually made 3 (including the way that a can sound like a u at the beginning–or end–of some words).  I’m super excited about how much more useful (and used!) these letters will be.

Also, because we’re working so hard on forming our letters correctly, we added the directions for how to make them (the red numbers and arrows).  Again, hopefully this will make them ever more helpful!

Here are the rest:

I’m not sure I’ve been so excited about the alphabet before!  GREAT job, Rm. 111 friends!