Robinson University–2018 Edition

I know you already know I work at the best school in Missouri, and perhaps the world. :). We have such an amazing community of families and teachers, and we make things happen for kids.  Last Friday was another example of that amazing community working together to provide priceless experiences for all the kids in our school.  Let me tell you about it. 🙂

I am sure at some point on this blog I’ve written about Robinson University (hereafter called RU), but the version that was unveiled on Friday was even better than ever.  Until now, first graders have not “officially” been involved, but instead we made up our own rotations for kiddos to do, alongside the “real” ones that bigger kids did.  This year it was decided that we could indeed join in with the rest of the school.  Yay for that decision!

In short, RU is a program we run on half-days at our school (which are half-days so that teachers can participate in professional development in the afternoons), which are designed to provide unique and different experiences for students–experiences that they may not normally or otherwise have an opportunity to take part in.  They are available during school hours so that EVERYONE can participate.  We’ve done some version of it for the last 5 or so years, but this was seen as the 2.0; many changes were made with structure and offerings that were an improvement on our original ideas.

Children were given the option of some 30 different classes, and all classes were taught or facilitated by parents, friends and community members of Robinson School.  In the past, students had only 2 or 3 classes, as we stretched them out over the entire semester of half-days. Now kiddos choose their 10 favorites and then are assigned 6 of those–one for each half-day, so that they are able to participate in 6 exciting and different experiences throughout the year.

Teachers were assigned as faculty liaisons to work with one of our presenters, and I got to participate in a session about DNA.  I got to work with a fabulous mom of a fabulous student I had a couple of years ago, who is a real research scientist and came with real science to teach us about what DNA is and how it works.  Cool, right?

I have loads to tell you about that (since I was present in that session), but first I want to share some pictures from the other sessions to give you a little taste of the exciting things our Roadrunners were able to do AT SCHOOL last week! :). Check it out. 🙂

Aikido

  • Aikido (a different style of martial arts) is “The way of harmonizing energy,” known as the art of peace.

Let’s Make Breakfast!

  • Come and have fun mixing and making a delicious breakfast of Dollar Pancakes, cheesy scrambled eggs and Island Smoothies. Breakfast always tastes better when you make it yourself! 

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Creative Writing

  • Have you ever dreamed of writing and illustrating your very own picture book?  If so, this course will teach you all about the creative writing process from a published children’s book author.

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Food Science

  • Let’s make gummy worms! Come explore the Science of food!

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Happy, Healthy Kids

  • You will learn lots about healthy living and how healthy living makes you feel happier and stronger. We’ll also make fruit ice cream (no sugar/no dairy!) and it is YUMMY!

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Microbiology–Learning about GERMS!

  • Let’s test the 5 second rule in this session that investigates microbiology and our germ-filled world! We will explore what germs are, why they matter, where they are and how experiments and can help us learn more about them. 

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Stop Motion Videos

  • Come and make your very own stop motion video!

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What Does a Veterinarian Do?

  • We will discuss the skills and tools used in veterinary medicine. We will discuss some fun and interesting cases and work together to learn to think like a veterinarian.

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(This one was taught by a very special Rm. 111 parent!  Thanks for helping out, Mrs. Hendrickson!!)

Yoga

  • Explore how yoga, movement and breath can be both fun and relaxing. 

I would have LOVED to have had pictures from all the sessions (there were also sessions that including geocaching, swimming, Keynote, School of Rock, World Bird Sanctuary, Jedi training [fencing], cake decorating and so many more I can’t even list them all!!), and unfortunately I didn’t get every smiling Rm. 111 faces on this post, but hopefully by the end of the year of RU I will be able to do so. :). Stay tuned.  The next session is on November 2!

Ok…so here’s the details on the session I was in–it was all about What is DNA?  It was led by my friend Dr. Ariel, who is a research scientist.  She came to teach us about what it is, why it’s important, and we even EXTRACTED some DNA from a strawberry!  Emily, a 5th grader who attended the session (and who can be found on this blog from several years ago when she was a first and second grader!) named him Jeff.  Unfortunately, Jeff gave his life for science and we were amazed when the little cotton-like strands actually came out of the test tube right before our very eyes!  Check it out…

(P.S. I have a GREAT video of the whole DNA extraction process but it it turned the wrong way and I can’t get it to rotate!! Ugh.  If you know to do that and want to give me guidance I’ll do it and post it here later!)

 

What Do You Do All Day Anyway?: Phonics

So far in this series, I’ve shared our journey from our first Heggerty lesson through to our 3rd try with getting it right, after doing some reflection and thinking about videos of our lessons.

Kids have been asking about what part of our day we will record next, and that has yet to be determined (there are so many options!), but in the meantime I thought I’d share another part of our day that has been going pretty well.  It’s kind of a big deal in first grade to understand how phonemic awareness and phonics work together to help them understand words and apply that knowledge to reading and writing.

We started a new program this year and I’m excited for how it’s going so far, as well with how it has affected kiddos’ thinking already.  Let me share a little about what we do with phonics every day in Rm. 111.  Oh, and since you may be wondering (because I know for a long time I was unsure, too) about the difference between phonemic awareness and phonics, here is a chart from Heggerty’s website to explain how they are different but related:

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First of all, I feel like I should introduce you to a very good friend of all of us in Rm. 111–Rasheed the Lion!

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Isn’t he fabulous?  He has a SUPER name with lots of interesting features, like a capital letter, a digraph, a long e sound (made with double letters!) and a consonant at the end.  It has 2 syllables, 7 letters, and is a pattern of tall letter, 2 small letters, tall letter, 2 small letters and another tall letter.  We’ve been learning LOTS of things just like that about our own names, too, and have put them all on our word wall.

One important thing we did at the beginning of our study was learn how to correctly write our names AND how to spell and write the names of our friends!  They are important words in our lives and we need to know how to use them quickly and accurately. In our Rug Clubs (which are small groups we work in while we study phonics), we practiced with white boards and markers (which every first grader LOVES) and a “marked-up” version of our name that showed us exactly how to form each letter.

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Each student got their own name written in this form so they could practice how to write it quickly and correctly.  At this point, many first graders were still working on using lower case letters in their names.

See Rasheed’s pencil?  It’s because he knows how to use Professor Words when he studies names, and we do, too!  We looked at our own names and were super-smart professors as we shared our thinking with the rest of the class.  We pointed out vowels (short and long), as well as blends and digraphs, as well as number of syllables and anything else that was interesting.

After we had studied everyone’s names (including names of our friends in Rm. 112), we started to study other words in the same way.  We call these words SNAP words, because we should be able to say them in a “snap.”  Most of them are words that we learned in kindergarten, and we are reviewing them before we begin to learn new first grade words.

Most recently, we’ve been working on sorting words by a variety of features.  Students have worked with their carpet partners to identify vowels (short or long, how many, which ones, etc.), number of letters, number of syllables, etc., and then shared their sorts with the class.

Here’s a fun phonics game for you to play:  can you name the way these words are sorted?  Leave us a comment to tell us what you notice about how we chose to sort each group!  We’d love to hear how smart you are about phonics, too!

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How were these words sorted?  What do you notice?

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Here’s another one.  Look carefully–it’s different than the last one!

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This one looks easier than it is!  How did Rm. 111 friends sort these SNAP words?  Tell us in the comments!

One last thing…check out our word wall as of last week.  We were AMAZED that we added 37 SNAP words to the wall!  Can’t wait to watch it fill up with more words that we can read in a “snap!”  Stay tuned!

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#classroombookaday UPDATE: Week of September 24, 2018

This week seemed to be extra busy with reading! We were able to add 17 books to our display, and we’re SO CLOSE to 100!!  Hoping to hit it this upcoming week and share the good news with you on the blog next time.

But for now, here’s what our wall looks like:

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We added lots of different titles:

I think my favorite story from the week actually comes from a first grader, not a book.  It’s a story of perspective, and taught me something about how adults see things differently than 6-7yos.  Let me explain…

On Wednesday, I was excitedly adding a big load of pics to the wall, and telling the students around me about how we were almost at 100.  Jonah, a friend from Rm. 112, commented on how he didn’t realize we had read that many books, and that he didn’t know how many pictures were actually up there.  Incredulously I asked him, “Don’t you ever look at our display?  How have you not seen all those books out there??”  He looked at me very matter-of-factly and said, “Well I do, but I look at the WALL, not the PICTURES!”  At first it seemed a little funny, but then I realized that, yes, indeed, the thing at eye-level for first graders is a big. blank. wall.  I know I should look up there at all those pretty book covers, and kiddos do too–if I tell them to, but yep, most kids who look at our display probably just see a wall.

It really made me start thinking about who that display is for, and how I can make it more kid-friendly.  While there are LOADS of ways that we interact with it on a daily and weekly basis, and I can point out how the space is filling up and how we’re close to 100, there is probably a better way to do it.  Starting with putting the pictures at the BOTTOM of the wall instead of the top.  That’s where kiddos are anyway, right?  It would probably makes more sense to them that the wall is FILLING up anyway, if they could see it reach up to the top and ACTUALLY FILLING up, rather than coming down the wall.

I know it’s a small tweak, and obviously one I hadn’t thought of, but I was SO GLAD we had had that little conversation, because it got me thinking about how many other things I do that maybe I think are kid-centered, kid-led or kid-friendly, but that are instead geared toward me.

So I’m fixing the wall. I’m flipping it all upside-down and we will indeed watch the wall FILL UP as we go through this year.  Can’t wait to share the changes with you next week!!

In the meantime, have you ever had a kiddo tell you something that flipped your thinking upside-down? I’d love to hear about it! 🙂

#WDYDAA: Phonemic Awareness Revisited

I started a series a couple of weeks ago to help families (and any other blog readers!) know what happens in Rm. 111 all day.  We started by sharing Phonemic Awareness, for which we use Heggerty’s program.

Since my last post, we have done some really important work in regards to what our phonemic awareness time is supposed to look like and sound like.  We have watched our videos and reflected on what we are seeing that are “pluses” and “deltas.”  After we had recorded and reviewed three different sessions, I gave Rm. 111 friends a challenge to see if they could have a “perfect” session of our Heggerty lesson.

Take 1 and Take 2 of our Heggerty Reflections

As you can see, these two sessions don’t look that much different.  I have to admit that part of the problem here was my fault–we recorded with my iPad in selfie mode, so many friends were super distracted by seeing themselves on the screen and could not focus on our learning.  Oops.  One super easy way we decided to fix it for our third take was to simply turn the iPad around.  Sometimes it’s so simple it’s funny. 🙂

Before our next lesson, we reviewed what the expectations were for them as learners (we reviewed both our listening rules as well as both sides of our charts), and got ready to show how amazing we were.  Additionally, a friend suggested that we invite Mrs. Wessel to come back to see us in action since we’d worked on our learning behaviors, since she had been there for our first session.  It was a great idea, and thankfully she was free!  It was also great that she could come, because she also served as our videographer again (which was much less distracting than my iPad on the table LOL).

So…I’m writing this post to show you what our Heggerty lessons look like now–to both highlight our learning but also how smart we are and how we have such growth mindsets!  We were determined to get it right, to show what we know, to help everyone learn and to follow all of our listening rules (which are to have eyes watching, ears listening, voice quiet and a still body).

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Listening rules (and our Zones of Regulation chart, which I will share about later!)

I’m really proud of my Rm. 111 learners and how they’ve grown!  Celebrate this chart and this video with us, please. 🙂

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Our third Heggerty reflection chart.  Beckett asked to make this chart for us, and made the plus and delta that way because he knew that we’d have LOADS of good things and a small amount of deltas.  LOVE IT!

We’d love to hear what you think! Kids LOVE when they know people see their smart work and want to give them a shout out for it!  What questions do you have about our phonemic awareness lessons? I KNOW my friends would love to tell you about what we do everyday–and WHY we do it! 🙂

 

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! 🙂