# Names, Names, Names!!

One of the most important words a first grader knows (how to read and how to write) is their name.   We have done lots of work with this, including making sure everyone knows how to write it neatly with only 1 capital letter.  Along with knowing the letters in our names, we will soon officially begin to focus on the SOUNDS in our names, as well as the chunks, blends and patterns in our names that can help us read other words! We practiced in many different ways with many different materials.  We are getting SUPER good at names now and are using beautiful handwriting in other places, too!

Check out our work from the last few weeks!

Playdoh

Just like when we use our pencils, using our “pinchers” to make the Playdoh into sticks and curves is a challenge.  Our goal was to make the Playdoh letters look just like the name on our name tags.

Inch Tiles

Who’s Name is Longer?

This one was a name practice that we used as a math investigation.  Each kiddo made their name on inch tiles and groups worked together to figure out who’s was longest, shortest, and how many letters their group had altogether.

Legos!

Boo…so I just realized that most of the pictures we have of this activity are on kiddos’ iPads. 😦  Maybe I’ll come back and add them after I get them transferred to me, but for now, trust me that this was a challenge!  I had to nudge many kids to create 3D versions (to actually connect the Legos, rather than just lay them on the floor) and that up’ed the ante on the thinking.  Plus–it was a really fun and totally engaging way to practice letters and names!  Goodness, what can you NOT use Legos for?

Good ‘Ole Fashioned Handwriting Practice

# 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:

This 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:

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.

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.  🙂

# LEGO Lessons: Leading and Following

I have been a LEGO lover for a long time…yeah, probably my whole life in some form or another.  Those forms have been many: as a kid building houses with my brother; admiring whole LEGO towns that a friend had built in his basement; watching my kids start to play and build with them (in a much more sophisticated and creative way than me, I might add.  I could only build houses.  Because those are rectangles and that’s what you dod with LEGOS is build rectangles, right?  I kid, but that’s how my brain used to work); learning how to best organize them based on how a 6 year old plays with them (it’s not by color, by the way, as many Pinterest boards will suggest); and then as a teacher learning to incorporate building, creativity and play into my classroom.  I have had opportunities over the years to try new things and learn from other LEGO-loving educators and so have been learning how to better use LEGOS as a learning tool (in addition to them just being a super fun toy during choice time and inside recess!).

So far we have used them “officially” to build our names (pics later!) as well as on Friday in a LEGO lesson on leading and following that was SUPER!  Let me tell you all about it…:)

We started our day with an easel question that looked like this:

In case you missed it on those post-its, kiddo shared FABULOUS ideas about leaders:

• the help people
• they are teachers
• they have followers
• they are the person in charge
• they are the boss

We talked about what it was like to be the leader, and times in their lives when they have the opportunity to be the leader, or to be in charge.  Some were at home and some were at school.  They also shared times when they had to be the follower, and how sometimes you don’t have a choice about what your leader asks (or tells!) you to do, and that sometimes you might not like it.  We also talked about how sometimes there are situations where you have to be BOTH a leader and a follower: a specific place this happens at school is when you are in line.

After we talked about this idea and had a pretty good idea about what it all meant, we went outside to practice.  We played follow the leader and wound ourselves all around our Robinson playground.  It was fun, but was also a little tricky, because often someone would not be paying attention and their follower would then not know were to go, or would go a different way than the rest of the line!

Once we got back inside we pulled out LEGO learning tools and tried another activity I learned from a SUPER smart colleague of mine, Mrs. Marks.  Kiddos worked with their carpet partners (a friend with whom they sit on the rug for our learning times, use when we do turn-and-talk, and someone they pair up with for a variety of learning situations) to build a LEGO structure.  One person was the leader, and had to lead their partner (the follower) to build the same structure that they built.  Man–this is harder than it seems and requires both partners to pull from a specific skill set.  It’s also a little tricky because they can only use the pile of LEGOS they are given, and so much be careful with their block choices, ensuring that there are TWO of everything so their partner can copy their work.  After a certain amount of time, partners switched and got to try the other role.

For the most part, things went swimmingly and pairs figured out how to work successfully in the role they were given.  Learners knew they had succeeded if at the end they had two identical structures.  Their smiles are proof of their pride. 🙂

As is routine in our class, we had a debrief when we were finished (because the process of an activity is as important–if not more-than the product!).  Kiddos shared what they had to do to be successful in each role, and compared how these were often different depending on which one they were in.

As with many most of the lessons we do early on in first grade, we will come back to this experience time and time again.  There are so many nuggets of wisdom in that chart that will help us be successful in the future, the first grade future and beyond!

# What’s in a Name?–Continued

We started talking about names last week and are continuing the conversation as we build our community together.

We’ve continued reading great books together,

and discussing the importance of our names and how they tell something about us as people.  They are the first words we learn, they are letters we know, and they connect us to people in our families and our pasts.  They are OURS!!

We worked on name building challenges as well, with inch tiles and with Legos (thanks for that idea, Ms. Lewis!), and we were able to document our work with our iPads (thanks Kirkwood School District!).  We are learning more about how to show what we know, use GRIT when things are hard, share our ideas and questions with our friends, ask someone else before the teacher, and how to send that documentation (pictures, notes, etc.) to Mrs. Bearden in eBackpack.  Seems simple, but it’s hard work in Rm. 202!

Inch Tiles Name Challenge

Kiddos were to build their name with inch tiles.  They were challenged to try their last name if they got their first name quickly.  It was fun and interesting to watch how each kiddo came at this challenge differently, which tiles they used and if they used capital or lowercase letters.  They took pictures of their work when they were finished.

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Lego Name Building Challenge

This time learners were challenged to build their name with Legos (one, two or all three–or four–of their names!).  Then they were to have a friend take their picture with their creation.  We’re still learning to take photos, so some of them are a little blurry. 🙂  The most interesting thing to me about this challenge was how many kiddos build their names in 2D, just putting the Legos flat on the table or floor, rather than 3D, putting them together and building their names UP instead of out (but yes, you will see in the pictures that a few friends tried it that way!).  There were no specifications related to this, but I will probably add that parameter for everyone next time. 🙂

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I have to take a minute and highlight a strategy that we discovered during our Lego building.  I went over to Kaiden at one point and saw this:

If you can tell, he had only built the LAST four letters of his name.  I asked him to tell me about his thinking and he told me:

We had to stop the rest of the class and have him share his thinking–this was a great example of what to do when you’re stuck, when you want to quit or you don’t know where to start: do the part you DO know how to do and keep thinking about the part you DON’T YET know how to do.  Often you’ll figure it out while you’re working.  GREAT JOB OF USING GRIT, KAIDEN!!

# 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. 🙂

# Design Challenge: Bodies of Water

We have been studying Earth and how it changes.  We’ve talked about slow changes like weathering and erosion; fast changes like earthquakes, volcanoes and floods; landforms  like plateaus, mountains, plains, barrier islands (which I have to admit I didn’t really know about!); and about bodies of water.  Because we needed to breathe a little bit of life into our work after having been discussing and watching videos for a few days, and because I know my kiddos are builders and creators at heart, I tried to figure out a design challenge of sorts that we could try.  There were many options I could have employed (and still might), but I thought that bodies of water would be a nice place to start.

So kiddos chose groups (in 4s) and then I explained their job: Create a representation of the body of water they get (I passed out cards to each group) so that everyone else can guess what it is.  They had options for research before they got started if they needed clarification on the characteristics of their body of water, and they could use whatever supplies in our room that they wanted.  There was a 30 minute time limit.

So do you think you can guess what each one is?  Try it out.  Here is body of water #1, a picture and a video (oh, and the video might have a spoiler, so guess before you watch it!):

Ok, here’s #2:

Try it with group #3:

Group #4 made this:

Check out #5, made with Legos:

Ok, and now that you’re done, check your answers.  Promise that you’ve tried it?

#1–ocean    #2–creek    #3–lake     #4–river       #5–bay

The best part?  We had fun, we learned alot and the only thing I’ve heard since we finished is “When are we going to do this again??” 🙂

# Lego Challenges With Mrs. Sisul

We had an amazing 1st-day-back-from-Spring-Break today!  Our principal, Mrs. Sisul, has been learning about engineering and STEM with Legos, and volunteered to come set us up with some Lego challenges if we were interested.  Well, yes, of course, Rm. 202 friends were interested!  Luckily she was free this afternoon and came on up with her big ‘ole box of Legos!  Check out what happened! 🙂

She started with a quick reminder of what STEM means (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), and then introduced what we would be doing: every kid would get a card with a challenge and they would work to do that challenge with Legos.  Pretty straightforward, right?  Well, they she led us through a great line of thinking about how we work best, and how kiddos would have the choice of how they tackled the challenge: alone, with a partner, a group of 3, a group of 4–whatever worked for each kiddo.  She shared her example that she knows that as a learner she likes to be able to bounce ideas off of another learner, and so she’d focus on finding another person to work with.  She asked me to share my strategy, and I talked about how I knew that that plan would DEFINITELY not work for me.  I am the kind of learner who needs to process and plan by myself first, and then I might want to work with someone else to blend ideas, get a critique or ask a question.  I know that if I went with a partner right off the bat, I wouldn’t have anything to share with them–so if I was Mrs. Sisul’s partner, I wouldn’t be a very helpful partner!  Right off the top I could tell that Rm. 202 kiddos were thinking about what would work for them, and they knew what would be best.  We had all sorts of groups–singles, partners and groups of 3.  Some kiddos worked alone, but right next to another friend so they could get feedback that way.

Ok, once teams were developed, Mrs. Sisul gave the guidelines for how kiddos would get their Legos.  She walked them through a planning session where they were to really think through what kinds of Legos they’d need.  She would call names of kiddos 3-4 at a time, and they’d have 30 seconds to “block shop” and then get started.  Once everyone had an initial visit to the pile, they were free to come back for more.  And since it would be virtually impossible for me to explain the amazingness with which these kiddos followed this protocol, I had to record it.  Check out what it was like when Mrs. Sisul dumped the Legos:

Once we got started, I roamed around and got some footage of them working. I know, kiddos wanted me to do the challenges, too–but I couldn’t document it to share with you if I did that!  Maybe next time. 🙂

Here are some videos that share more of their thinking while they got started:

This one has some great thinking about what happens when things are hard (which this was for some of us!):

There’s one more, and it’s really the one I’m the most tickled about.  It’s an example of what happened in our room when we put 20 kids and 2000 Legos together.  I want you to think about what you see first, but then I’ll tell you why I liked it:

As I watched this video, I noticed these things:

• quiet voices
• pleases and thank yous
• kiddos finding pieces for others
• sharing
• everyone just taking what they needed
• no one grabbing, hogging or arguing
• kiddos respectfully letting others into the circle
• focus
• engagement
• motivation
• laughter
• encouragement
• respect for self, learning, others and the environment

What did you see? (Please leave us a comment and let us know–Rm. 202 kiddos would LOVE to hear what you thought and would LOVE to know you watched their super hard working!)

Ok, I know you’re wondering what some of those challenges looked like, and how they tackled them.  Here are some examples.  And yes, they told me I could. 🙂

This was definitely one of those touchstone moments in our classroom that we will return to for many days and weeks to come (darn, I only wish we’d done it earlier in the year!).  I know that we walked away with many things (and I hope to share what those were in THEIR WORDS soon), but one of them definitely was that there is not one way to solve a problem.  We could each access each of these challenges in our own way, and use whatever skills, ideas–and Legos!–that we wanted to in order to achieve our goal.  One friend even decided to do the same challenge twice to make it even harder for himself!  We are builders and thinkers and problem-solvers in Rm. 202 and this was definitely right up our alley!  Come back any time, Mrs. Sisul!

# Wanna See Something Cool? Some Blog Lovin’….

Really, do you wanna see something really cool?

Check this out (scan it or click it):

There are some pretty amazing things happening with our other-side next-door-neighbors, too, in Mrs. Hong’s class.  Thought you should see it!  I think I just might work in the most creative place ever!