If you read my last post, then you know we were just on a family trip to San Francisco. Yesterday was a really long day of flying home (from San Fran to Burbank, then Burbank to Phoenix, and then Phoenix to St. Louis, because I know you were wondering 😉).
As I began each leg of the flight, I listened as the flight attendants (who are amazing group of people, I should add!) explained all of the safety protocols and what to do when and how and all of those essential things. It made me chuckle each time as they said the word “mask,” as I thought of how our understanding and use of that word has changed soooo much over the course of this last year and a half.
Yes, originally when that safety spiel was written, it referred to the yellow plastic cup with the rubber strap that I’m supposed to put on myself first and then on my child in case of a sudden drop in cabin pressure (which, thankfully I’ve never had to do!). I was further reminded during one presentation of the possible confusion when the attendant closest to me actually pulled down his fabric mask to demonstrate how you’d have an extra step now of removing one mask for the other mask to work appropriately.
Also there in my memory is how the word mask used to be relegated only to Halloween, something that I hated to wear a child because they were so hot (and you don’t really need one when you dress up as Laura Ingalls Wilder or Jem—shout out or anyone old enough to appreciate that reference 🤣), and that now I also know you’re not supposed to bring to school for the classroom parade but instead save for “real” trick-or-treating at home later that night.
Enter 2020 and COVID-19 and of course that word has a completely different definition and as well a different connotation depending on the wearer. (And no, dear reader, I am not going to spending time here on any political statements or judgments of right or wrong. I am simply going to tell stories about masks. Stories that I am sure will be highly entertaining, so I hope you stick around. 😉)
I remember the beginning of the pandemic when the whole idea of masks came up and my friend shared with me a tutorial on how to make one out of a dish towel or a t-shirt and how silly I thought that was. She was of course over-reacting, we were never going to need to know how to do that. Right?
Ha! Of course I was so very wrong. Let me stop a second here to show you how wrong I was. And when I say “wrong” I mean let me show you the first versions of masks we wore around my house, which were made of strips of fabric and ponytail holders. Please be kind as you enjoy this picture:
Instead of Halloween- or airplane-related, scarcely worn and foreign, mask is now a term that has become common place to all of us. But to me it’s also become an opportunity to express my creativity and also a bit of a fashion statement. Or at least an opportunity to match a new accessory to my clothes!
We went on like that with those strip-and-rubber-band masks for a bit.
Once we knew we were going to need more “official” masks, I had a choice to make. And since I’m definitely an “I’d-rather-make-it-than-buy-it” kind of person, I knew that meant I needed to figure out how to make some better fabric face coverings. Then I remembered the scrap fabric pile in the basement and decided we needed a little bit of an upgrade. The second iteration of the Bearden family mask stash was a little better than these, and at least has some sewn elements, thanks for a PLETHORA of YouTube videos on the subject. (I’m not kidding, check it out, I am pretty sure EVERYONE has posted a video on how to make a mask as home! When you find out how many there actually are, leave me a comment and tell me the number, will ya? 🙂 ). Eventually we had a small stash of masks that were at least presentable in public, but that were mostly adult sized. My husband was the only one leaving at this time, since we were all doing school at home and we decided it was best for the rest of use to stay in as much as we could. He and I shared these first masks, and of course washed them after each wearing. At that point no one besides him was even really needing them, so we had only a few through which we rotated.
This basically got us all the way through the summer, as we tried to steer clear of places where we’d even come in contact with people. Our kids stayed at home, and we really only went on short trips to the grocery store–as were most others, too. We even managed a beach vacation, where we stayed in our condo and played on the beach by ourselves and again only ventured out a couple of times to pack our fridge or sneak a quick ice cream treat from a stand nearby. It took me all the way to June to even find a picture in my albums of someone wearing one of those masks I sewed. Seems like by that time we at least were willing to venture out a bit, I think mostly because it was summer and we could be outside.
The big turn came when–gasp!–the decision was made to return to school in October. Now, not only did A and I need a mask for every day, we also needed ones that we were willing to be seen in. LOL.
That began my search for a better design as well as prints and fabrics that were more fun. I mean, hey, if you have to wear something you may as well enjoy it right? I think by now I’ve gotten this whole mask-making thing down to a science, and can hand-sew a mask in 25 minutes from 8″ X 8″ square to complete mask with straps and pleats–like these that I just added to the stash tonight:
As I’ve been working on this post, going back to find pictures to use, I’ve realized how FEW I actually have! Some of that, I think, is because of how little we actually left our house over the last year, hence we weren’t places where we’d both be wearing masks and taking pictures. The other thing is that when we were outside, we tried to stay away from others, therefore not wearing masks. But that makes our picture documentation of the pandemic and quarantine look a lot like others years–I wonder if that will be something I will miss in the future when I look back on 2020. Guess we’ll have to wait and see. 🙂
I mentioned earlier that the return to school meant that we all needed more masks, and so I needed to get busy. My first pile of additions were made with scrap fabric, but were inspired by some of our favorite colors, characters and prints.
Once my hubby finally went back to in-person school in January, he needed another set of new masks since he’d now need them every day of the week.
Eventually, we just started finding cute fabric and making more masks not because we needed them, but because they went with clothes we have, or just because they were cute.
Like I said, I’ve learned somethings that might be helpful if you’re making your own masks. There are many, many tutorials online–and heck, you could probably figure out how to do it on your own if you already know how to sew. I used several different versions. The first looked like this, with a filter pocket and long straps so that they could fit both me and my husband. We just tied slip knots in the ties if they needed to be a littler smaller.
The style I’ve landed on–both because they are easiest to make and also because they fit the best are basically like what you can find on this post by Diary of a Quilter. We use 8″ X 8″ squares a little bigger if they’re for my husband’s face or a little smaller if they’re for my daughter), scissors, needle and thread (for hand-sewing), and nylon stretchy loops like you made potholders with when you were a kid. I found this pack of 288 of them on Amazon and will have plenty for a long time to come. You cut them in half and use one for each mask. These have been our favorite straps by far because they are soooo comfy and soft on your ears. 🙂
Whew. Wow–who knew there were so many words to write about masks? I certainly didn’t. Especially last year when masks weren’t even things I even really ever wore. Now they are everywhere, and despite what you think about their health benefit, they definitely keep people from knowing if I have coffee breath in the morning or if I had onions on my salad at lunch. LOL And that, friends, is definitely a win-win in my book.
Some might say that my family and I are creatures of habit. I don’t know why….every Wednesday we order dinner from La Catrina (and most weeks the bag includes 2 chimichangas, a cheese quesadilla and an order of carnitas); every Thursday is raid-the-bakery-at-Russell’s day (although this may or may not happen now on any day that they are open, cuz it’s all so good!); Friday night is pizza-and-a-movie-or whatever-is-new-on-steaming night; and we’ve been to Disney World as a family close to 15 times. Some would say my family are creatures of habit. I think I’d just call it “searching for regular status.” Or maybe “people who wish to be regulars.” You know, like when you’ve been somewhere so many times they know what you want before get there to order it. Or like at Cheers, where everybody knows your name.
I’m sure that I’ve given some thought to the “why” of the whole thing tons of times; I am by nature a reflective person and probably ask “why” about far too many things.
One of the conclusions I’ve come to is that some of my fondness for familiar things comes from having so much change and uncertainty as a child. Without getting much into the details, we moved a lot and I went to several different schools, which made making solid friendships tricky. I often longed for the things I saw on TV (and then eventually in families around me)—big families, living in the same house you were born in, returning to the same beach for vacation with your cousins year after year. Don’t get me wrong (especially if you’re reading this, mom 😊)—I don’t have bad memories from my childhood, I just didn’t really form any memories. Or at least not the Hallmark-movie kind I had always wished for.
So as I got married, moved into adulthood and became a mom—and therefore in more control of my life—I made a decision to do some things differently.
Back to my question up there at the beginning….it seems that one of the major ways the whole “searching for regular status” manifests itself (besides that long list of dinner choices I mentioned before!) is in the way we vacation. I already mentioned our penchant for visiting Disney World; my oldest kiddo is 14 and has been there 11 times. When answering the questions of why we return over and over, it’s hard to nail down exactly one thing. I guess I could sum it up by saying it feels like home away from home (or insert the other oft-given answer of “Disney magic” 🥰). We know the way to get to all the things, we have our favorites, we know which parks to visit and when (and what restaurants to eat at when we get there)—there’s no map reading, wandering around with confused looks on our faces, no uncertainty about what to do or when or why to do it.
We do the same thing with our visits to the beach: same hotel/condo, same part of town, same ice cream shops same general daily routine. We know our favorite restaurants but are willing to branch out to new ones each time to add to the list.
Which brings us to now. As I write this, I’m standing in a longish, Sunday morning line for a yummy San Francisco breakfast spot. The restaurant is new, but the street I’m standing on is one we’ve walked over and over. It’s next to a park in which we’ve eaten dinner and dessert and smiled at all the cute dogs and babies. It’s on the way to Chinatown, to the bakery we’ve visited four times (and is on the list for today!), and is on the way to many of the other neighborhoods and hidden places we’ve been discovering for the last week. Since we’ve walked it over and over we know where many things are, which direction to head when we leave the hotel, and also what to expect up around the corner. We are by no means experts (of course 😉) after 8 days, but we’re familiar.
And so to answer my own question, I’m not sure out-of-towners can become regulars, but they can become familiar enough with a place that it feels like home, calling them back from wherever they may roam in the meantime. And that’s good enough for me.
A plan is a great thing, no? I’ve learned over the last year that a plan is often just a suggestion (COVID, am I right?). Just as soon as I think I know what I’m going to do next, something–or someone–comes along and messes it all up. Or at least changes it up. The thing you thought was your next right step becomes differently prioritized. So instead of writing about my favorite past posts, I will tell this story instead.
I met with a friend today, to catch up over coffee after not seeing each other for a couple of years. We talked about our kids and what we’re learning about being moms of teenagers and how there’s just no instructional manual for those things (or if you have one that I don’t know about, will you share it with me?!). We used to work together and so the conversation eventually came around to what we’re doing now and what’s up in the education world. She told me about some amazing things she’s been doing in her program that were recently in the newspaper and how much she’s loving what she’s doing (which I hope that I can someday soon link to right here in this blog!). I shared about what’s been going on with me over the past year, and brought up how frustrated I have become with the pace at how fast everything is changing around me. Of course, change is inevitable (there’s a quote about something about change being the only constant, right?), but it seems like change is my only constant these days.
Because I am the only part of the equation I can control, I have had to think through the things that I might be able to do to get me back to my version of normal. Or at least to try to head towards that place where I am fulfilled and inspired enough that maybe the changes around me bother me a little less.
One thing that has disappeared from my routine of the last few years in this blog. Starting Over is evidence of that, right? Beyond the fact that I haven’t blogged for a bit, I haven’t been writing in any form at all. For me, writing (whether it’s in my notebook for me online for you), it’s how I process my world. It’s not that I haven’t stopped to think or reflect on anything since 2019, but I can definitely see how NOT working out my thoughts and feelings in writing has changed how I move through the world. I am less aware, less thoughtful, less likely to look for a new or innovative way to problem solve. Somehow for me the absence of that ritual has meant missing out on slowing down, stopping to really notice what’s going on around me and think about my place in it.
Another thing that’s been missing for me are my connections on Twitter. If you’re new around here, then you might not have heard the story of how I use Twitter to improve my practice, make connections and share my thoughts with other educators. Because I haven’t been doing that, I have missed so much of what has been happening in the world and seeing what others are doing. This one is a little trickier than the blog, though, because if you’ve spent any time on Twitter you know it can be a pretty vile place, depending on which threads you wonder into or who you read and follow. While I know that there was much YUCK that surely lived on Twitter in 2020, I also have no doubt I missed out on some really smart insight from a fellow educator that would have benefited me as I worked through that last year.
So what am I to do with this? I am in a weird place as a teacher right now, wishing for some things of the past and trying to look positively at the future through “change-colored” glasses. The pandemic has laid bare some of the things I hold dear as an educator, one being connecting with others and also feeling like my ideas are being validated. I cannot control what happens to me, but I can certainly have some influence on what happens with and in me. I can decide that I am going to write more often (remember the schedule I planned?), I can make time for Twitter and also connect with people in my real life (thank God for vaccines!). I can share my worries and frustrations with those in-person friends and let them help me work through them. I can listen when my kind, smart, AMAZING friend, Kerry, tells me how it feels when she comes in my classroom: how it feels safe, comfortable and alive, and how I make learning fun but how it’s still rigorous and full of language. I can listen when she tells me of how she’s doing such innovative and exciting things with her high schoolers, and cheer her on as she changes lives and inspires the next generation. And most of all, I can remember that all that I do in my classroom day after day (and all the hours and hours I spend at night and on weekends) is for the 20somethingkids. And for them, I will always be willing to change my plans.
Here we are again. Yup. That place where I usually start with a long explanation of why I’ve neglected my blog and how I’m vowing to start over and do better and how we’ll never end up here again. HA HA HA! Like I said: here were are again.
But, since I am not insane, I will not do the same thing I’ve done in the past at this point. Instead of vowing to do better, I’m going to completely start over. Most of you who are here now are probably not even aware that I’ve been missing from the blogosphere anyway because you’re new! So…since you’re new here and I haven’t been here in a while anyway, let’s take a tour of this little blog, and take a few posts to get acquainted and start a new journey together. Maybe a fresh start is what I need to make this blogging thing “stick” again and get us back on track. Cross your fingers, hold on tight and let’s get moving!
By the way, that’s me. I’m Jen and I’m the Kooky Teacher mentioned in the blog title. I just realized that this little blog started 10 years ago, and I’ve had such a great time sharing my school stories and sometimes some family stories (when I’m feeling indulgent). Throughout the 10 years of blogging, I’ve taught 5th grade, 1st and 2nd grade, all of which have been included in these posts: those are the 20something kids. :). And as I mentioned the “fresh start” in the beginning of this post, the new journey we’re on features a new group of 20somethingkids–3rd graders! Also, this fresh start will mean I’m going to do some things differently.
Here’s what I’m thinking:
- Since so many of you are new here, I’m going to put up a few posts that acclimate you to who I am, what I’m about and what you can expect here.
- Speaking of what to expect, I think I’ve come to the place where I should finally set some guidelines and deadlines for when I will share my stories. In the past, I didn’t have a schedule for when I’d post; some weeks I’d post once and some weeks I’d post 10 or 12 new things! Needless to say, that made it hard for you, dear blog reader, to know when to check in with me, and also it made it so I often ended up with sooooo much content that I ended up not even writing it. There was time to do the things, but not time (or energy) to tell YOU about the things we did. This time around, there will be a schedule. 🙂
- In previous iterations of 20somethingkids, the posts have gone on and on and on and on. I have a tendency to use 25 words when you only need 3 and so often the posts I’d put up were so lengthy that I was worn out after writing them, and my readers were dead tired after reading (if they even hung around long enough to finish! LOL). This time I hope to be more concise with my storytelling and thoughtful in what I decide to share.
And so in a spirit of wanting to not overuse my words, I’m going to end this first post now, with an invitation for you to help me. If you are so inclined, would you take a little bit to leave a comment and answer these questions for me? I’d be forever grateful! 🙂
Here’s what I’m wondering…
- What you want when you read a blog? What are some features of your favorite blogs?
- What day(s) would you be most likely to read a new blog post?
- Since I’m new to 3rd grade, feel free to share any tips or advice you have and want to share! 🙂
THANK YOU for taking time to visit and comment, and hopefully I’ll see you around here again soon! I’d love if you went on this new journey with me!
It’s been so fun being back on the blog. I still can’t believe I took such a long hiatus. Oh well, here’s to getting a good roll going!
Remember how a couple of weeks ago we had a super busy, fun week with Global School Play Day and World Read Aloud Day?? Well that day of being together as a whole grade level was so much fun and energizing that we decided to do it again—every Friday!
So that meant that this past Friday we gathered again (on Zoom, of course!) to have a fun-filled 2nd grade learning day. Our topic was WEATHER WONDER and each teacher again took a small chunk of the day and shared something new. Check out what we did!
We started our weather-filled wondering day with Mrs. Stephens, learning about clouds! She read us a book, showed us some pictures and we discovered that there were some very complicated names for all of those puffy shapes. Cirrus, cumulus, stratus, nimbus, plus all the ways you can put those words together!
Then she gave us a job to do.
This was so much fun! We had sent kids home with a bag prepared with the materials they would need, and kiddos got to quick work showing what they had learned about clouds. Check out the amazing creations that materialized!
After clouds, we did some movement (thank you, GoNoodle!) and then moved on to the next logical topic–rain! Mrs. Nguyen showed us a video that used some great science words like evaporation, condensation and precipitation. Then we read a book that Mrs. Davis (our librarian) told us about last week that is a contender for March Madness. It’s about rain and it’s so great–Soaked! by Abi Cushman.
After this story, Mrs. Nguyen had a great conversation starter: Would you rather play outside in the rain or play outside in the snow? We had a great time chatting about this in breakout rooms with our friends! And in case you’re wondering, my answer is neither. HA!! Just kidding. I think I would have to say rain, but with some very specific parameters. I would rather play outside in the rain IF it was summer and the rain was warm. AND it was in Disney World where I’ve been caught in many a rainstorm but didn’t mind because I was in the Happiest Place on Earth. No thanks on the snow. :). I’ll enjoy that through the window with a warm cup of coffee in my hand and blanket on my lap.
After clouds and rain came TORNADOES and HURRICANES!! I found a great video from Mystery Science asking kiddos to consider which is worse? The video even included a 2nd grader who asked Mystery Doug the question, which was very cool!
Of course after we learned about these powerful storms and learned some more about what makes them unique, kiddos had a job to share THEIR opinion about which storm is worse.
After the stress of massive storms, we needed some yoga, so Ms. Dale found some on YouTube for us and we followed along and stretched out our bodies.
Ok…so far: clouds, rain, tornadoes and hurricanes. Up next, SNOW!!
Mrs. Dale found a super interesting video about snowflakes that taught us all about how they start with a seed crystal, how they are made of hexagons, and how there are many different kinds that form (based on how warm or cold the air is). We learned (or were reminded?) that snowflakes have 6 arms. She led us in some drawing and taught us a funny story about a Zoid to remember that a trapezoid makes a hexagon ( if you have a second grader who was there for that story, have them tell you about it!!)
Whew! What a busy and learning-filled morning!! After that we needed lunch and recess, which was a welcomed break. We came back after lunch to regroup and reflect on our new knowledge.
Mrs. Kier began by reminding us of what we’d talked about–and man was it a lot!!
And then came probably the BEST PART of the day (in the minds of our 2nd graders at least)–kiddos were invited to share their learning using SCRATCH JR.!
We ended our day with a conversation about what other topics kiddos would like to have on our themed Fridays and not surprisingly they had a TON! I think dinosaurs is leading the pack right now, but the list was long and will last us the rest of the year. I can’t wait to see what happens next!?
Have you ever done a themed day of online learning with your class? With your grade level? What topics would you be interested in learning more about? We’d love to hear from you!!
YAY!! It’s the beginning of February, which means that it is time for Global School Play Day and World Read Aloud Day! It’s not a celebration that I’m new to, but it is definitely never something I’ve celebrated in cyberspace. :). Because it’s still COVID times, our WRAD observation was planned to take place on a Friday, were we were online. We figured this was the best way to collaborate as a grade level, since at school we’re only allowed to be with our individual cohorts.
So we sat down as a team before the day, finding times for all of our 2nd grade teachers, plus Mrs. Scanlon–our fabulous reading teacher–and Dr. OH–our fabulous principal–to read to our kiddos. Like a normal virtual day, we also tried to make sure we added in movement breaks and times for kids to interact and talk to each other. Our plan looked like this:
As we went into the day, we were SO EXCITED to be able to get all of our second grade friends and all of our team in the same room (even if it was a ZOOM room!) so we could celebrate books together! We could hardly wait for the morning!
We began the day in our own Zoom Room, with Mrs. Nguyen and me and all of our Rm. 111 friends. We talked about our Zone colors and talked about our day, getting excited for what was to come. After our morning Meeting, we all went to Mrs. Stephens’ Zoom room since she was going to host the morning festivities.
Our first reader was Mrs. Scanlon, who shared one of her favorite books with us:
Somehow in all my years of both reading kids’ books and teaching kids to read, I’ve never read this book! It was so great and the kids loved it!
After this, we moved the whole group into breakout rooms to chat about the story. I was in a room with 3 super great girls who had lots to say! We even had time to start reading to each other! Such a fun time. 🙂
Next up–Dr. OH! This was our first opportunity to have our principal read to us this year, but it’s definitely not the first time we’ve had our fearless leader read to our grade level. Remember when Mrs. Sisul used to come read to us all the time??
Dr. OH shared a great story about a strong girl with us: I Will Be Fierce!
After a quick GoNoodle to give our bodies a minute to move, we got to hear a super funny story from my student teacher, Mrs. Nguyen. My class gets the chance to listen to her read all the time, so I was glad she got to share her stories with the whole grade level for this special day!!
She shared the story Potato Pants with us. 🙂
Mrs. Kier was up next, and she shared an oldie-but-goodie from Epic–The Bad Seed.
After that many super read alouds, we were ready to use our brains in another way. Mrs. Stephens shared a fun activity with us, that started in the main room and then we did in small group breakout rooms. We did a Spot the Difference game she had found on YouTube. There are two pictures and we had to –you guessed it!–find the differences between the two pictures. What fun! This activity was definitely a hit and one we’ll do again when we have a chance!
After a break for lunch and some rest or play time on their own, we came back together, this time in our Zoom room! It was my turn and then Mrs. Dale shared a story, too.
I had a big pile of things that I would have loved to share, but since I only had one, I picked a book that was from a beloved author (Peter H. Reynolds) and that connected with some of our themes in SEL lately.
After the story, kiddos took turns responding to the invitation to “say something. It was fun to hear all of the different things they thought of sharing with their friends!
Mrs. Dale found a great story on Epic, too, one that none of us had heard of before: Nico Draws a Feeling. After we finished the story, she invited kiddos to grab some crayons and a piece of paper and try out what Nico had done. The challenge was to draw the FEELINGS related to an event or episode, rather than the event itself. This was hard work! What a great opportunity, though, to express ourselves in a new and exciting way!
We ended our day with choice time, closing meeting in our homerooms and then our specials class. What an AMAZING day of books and fun and FRIENDS!! It was definitely different than any other World Read Aloud Day I’ve experienced, but isn’t that just how this school year is going?? It will be a memorable one for sure!!
How did you spend World Read Aloud Day 2021? Leave us a comment and tell us about it!
Many years ago, I saw a tweet about Global School Play Day. Being one who truly believes in play as an important learning tool for kids (and adults!), and being one who likes to jump in with both feet when I see something that looks like fun (like I did with World Read Aloud Day, for instance), I knew that this was something I wanted to try. And honestly, we have choice time and recess every day anyway, so it wasn’t that far out of our norm.
And so even in the midst of this new COVID world at school, I knew this was a day we wanted to continue to observe and celebrate. We had all done GSPD last year as first graders, and so as I was announcing that it was coming up, all I had to do was start the beginning of the word GLOBAL and kids filled in the rest. They were NUTS! Besides the fact that play is always important in the life of a child (and lets be honest, adults, too!), it feels especially important now. Besides the fact that it is a child’s most important work, it helps to add a level of normalcy to their lives right now and helps add to the fun of school.
As we did last year, we started with the ground rules, and also the conversation around why GSPD is a big deal. They came up with this:
What great thinking, huh? I am sure that some of it was because we have had conversations like this before (including GSPD last year), but also, I think they are just really in tune and super smart kiddos! All of their ideas were right, and I had some additional ideas of my own:
1. Negotiation: By participating in free play, children get to learn how and practice what it is like to initiate play with someone else, as well as negotiate with that playmate about what to do, where to do it and how to do it. They get to learn give-and-take, as well as how to work with others in a positive way (because unfortunately, if you choose NOT to do it positively, your friend may not want to play with you anymore!).
2. Problem Solving: Much like negotiation with friends, kiddos learn and practice problem solving in many ways when they play. From what to do when the Legos don’t go together they way you want or you don’t have enough big blocks to build your castle, or even where to put the pieces of the puzzle you’re working on, problem solving is a crucial part of play. Even choosing what to play at any given moment is a kind of problem solving in itself. Letting kids figure these things out for themselves helps build and encourage grit and perseverance.
3. Winning (and losing!) Graciously: Child-directed play (including playing games) allows kiddos to learn how to win–and also to lose–graciously. We all know an adult who didn’t get the chance to learn this when they were younger, and now has such a hard time knowing what to do when things don’t go their way. That same adult might have a really hard time not being overly proud or boastful when things do. Allowing (or even planning for) situations where students DON’T win are crucial! Life is not fair, things don’t always go as planned and sometimes someone else does better than you. How great that kiddos have a chance to learn to deal with these disappointments when the stakes are low, so that when they are higher, they’ll know the appropriate choices to make. And yes, winning is a good thing that can happen occasionally, too (and how great that kids can learn how to deal with their happiness without sacrificing the feelings of others).
4. Creativity: A big pile of paper, blocks, Legos, cars or any other open-ended toys allows for such a great development of creativity in kids! Being able to figure out what that pile of “stuff” can become is a great practice in trial-and-error, trying new things or even working with a friend to put two great ideas together to make an even better one. This practice of creativity in free play can easily be transferred to learning, then, when a kiddo is given open-ended opportunities for both gaining information and showing what they’ve learned. When they’ve had a chance to try out new things and take risks in a safe, play environment, many students will be more willing to take the same creative risks with their learning.
5. Beating Boredom: I guess this one is another idea that’s related to some others on this list, but being given free time to play is a great way to figure out how to entertain yourself (either alone or with a friend) and keep a kiddo from being “bored.” Knowing what to do when there’s [seemingly] nothing to do is a life skill, really.
6. Respect, kindness and including others: Play is a great opportunity for kiddos to practice skills they’re learning about showing others respect, using kind words and helping make sure everyone is included. Helping kids pay attention to who doesn’t have a playmate is a lesson in empathy and is definitely a bucket-filler for a friend who longs to be involved but is perhaps unable to initiate themselves. Knowing how to speak to others kindly is a skill that can never be mastered and can always be improved upon.
7. Fun!: Um, how have I not mentioned that playing is TOTALLY FUN!? Yep. Should have mentioned that one first. 🙂
Ok, so enough of my rambling…I know what you really came to see were the pictures of Rm. 202 kiddos PLAYING!! Here you go!!
One of the things kiddos were especially looking forward to was our class puzzle. We did one last year, too, and what a fun time we all had putting the pieces together to create something wonderful! Check out our hard work!
Another interesting thing to watch during GSPD is which kiddos play with whom, what they play with and for how long. Some kiddos stay super engaged for a llllooooonnnngggg time and some flit and float from thing to thing.
We started the day with kiddos talking about what THEY could learn, but Mrs. Nguyen (my student teacher) and I also had a great conversation about what WE could learn about our kiddos from this day. Besides what I already mentioned about how we can watch how kids interact and also what they choose to play with, we can learn some important things that can inform what we do in the classroom on “regular” days, too. It is obvious that in our class this year, that most of the time our community splits between girls/boys for play time. In general, the girls do artsy and/or more quiet things, and the boys (again, in general) like to participate in more lively, active type activities. Both groups, though, like to spend time building and creating things. It would make sense then, that we as the teachers prove opportunities for these types of activities in our “normal” school days to allow for fun, creativity and a variety of ways for kiddos to learn and show their learning.
I LOVE the reminders that this day provides for us that EVERYONE likes to and needs to play EVERY DAY!!
Today was one of those days that I unexpectedly had to be out with a sick kiddo. 😦 It’s always tricky trying to figure out what leave for a guest teacher to do with your class; many lessons just need you to be there to do the teaching.
It being the last week of the quarter, I had a harder time not doing the lessons I already had planned, so I figured I’d do the next best thing to being there: record myself teaching the lesson and leave the video for the guest teacher to play. I know, it’s not rocket science, but sometimes I forget (or don’t have time to make it happen before my absence). And honestly, I ambitiously recorded a WHOLE DAY’S worth of learning one year (which literally took me the length of a whole school day at home to make!) only to have not a single second of it watched by the class. Wah, wah….
Fast forward six years (I know, I guess it affected me and took a long time for me to recover LOL) and I tried it again. Like I mentioned before, some things are just not possible to leave with a guest teacher, often because of craft or style that I add to the lesson, or just because of background knowledge that isn’t there. Writing is especially tricky, so that’s the lesson I decided to record and leave for my class and the sub (plus, it was a fun lesson I didn’t want to miss teaching!).
The best part? I heard from my teammate that they WATCHED the video, that it went well and that my writers did a SUPER job with the writing work time that followed. Whew! That’s so great to hear. :). Also, it featured my own second grade learner, which made the whole thing extra fun. 🙂
And since I know you’re dying to see what it looks like in our room during writing (or at least in our classroom after school when I’m getting ready for a guest teacher!), here’s the video I left for Rm. 111 and 112 writers today. :). Would love to hear what you think!
Welcome to 1st Grade, Friends!
I am so excited you’re here!
The following letter contains 2636 words that will begin to shape your child’s first grade year (I know–it’s a little long. Sorry!). You will want to have your family sit and read this so you can all be excited about first grade together. You should also have dancing shoes on (you’ll learn why later!) and your phone (or other recording device) handy.
First Grade and Fabulous!
I am excited for the year ahead – how about you??
Let’s get started! First a little bit about me. 🙂 I am going into my 18th year of teaching and every one of them has been at Robinson! I even did my student-teaching here long ago, so Robinson is definitely my home-away-from-home. In my real home I have a fabulous family that I love dearly. My husband, Grant, is a teacher, too, in Mehlville. He has taught 3rd, 4th and 5th grade. We have a 11YO son, Riley, who is in starting MIDDLE SCHOOL, y’all! (Not sure how this happened but we’re excited for a new chapter. 🙂 ) We also have a daughter named Allison–we call her Allie–who is 7 1/2. She goes to Robinson and you might even know her (if not, I’m sure you’ll meet her soon). We LOVE (yep, love) Disney World, and travel there often. Chicago is another one of our favorite places to travel to together. We also just like to hang out together at home (or anywhere, really) and spend time with each other. So that’s me. What about you? Can’t wait to learn more about YOUR family!
Like I said, this is my 18th year as a teacher, and every year, I begin the school year as a different person. I decide on that first day and then every day thereafter, who I am as a teacher. What is important to me. What I want to accomplish. What I want my students to see when they come to school. I choose that. I don’t let other people tell me who I will be and I don’t just be who I think other people want me to be. I read, I think, I write and then I decide.
Parents, I am excited to find out who YOUR CHILD will be!
Another wondering: What is important to you? What is important to your child?
There are lots of things that are important to me: my husband and my kids, sharing ideas, reading, writing, being able to have a conversation, making things, discovering things, sharing what I know, staying healthy and active, sleeping in, staying up late and knowing when to say sorry (and when to say nothing at all!).
As a teacher, there are a few more things that are important to me:
* YOU and YOUR CHILD!: They’re the reason I’m there, after all right? It is important for me to get to know your child (and your family!), and know them well. Not just as a learner, but as a kid, too. I want to know what they like, what they don’t like, what makes them tick. Who they are. That’s ok, right? 🙂
* Respect: At Robinson, it’s pretty much what we’re all about. I expect respect to be a huge thing in our classroom. I will respect your child, and I expect them to respect me, as well as everyone else in our community. This counts when we agree and even when we don’t. I have a saying that I learned from my good friend Mrs. Ford years ago, that is really important with this whole respect thing. It’s this: You are not the sun. In other words, the world does not revolve around you, and there are lots of other people in our classroom that have needs, wants, likes, dislikes, etc., that we need to take into account. I love your child, but I love everyone else, too! Additionally, it is SUPER important to me that we learn to love each other as people, learn to support each other, learn to cheer when our friends do well (and know that that doesn’t mean anything negative about us), learn to encourage each other when they need it, learn to understand and appreciate how we’re different as much as how we’re the same, and learn to learn together. We are in this together and none of us will be as successful alone as we can alongside each other. That’s a life lesson, not just a 1st grade lesson. 🙂
*Reading: I know–you’re thinking, “well isn’t every subject important?” And yes, to a point, that’s true. But in my opinion, one of the single most indicators of success in life (and let’s face it, enjoyment as well!) is developing a love of reading. I ask that you join me in the task of helping your child LOVE reading. I am sure they’re probably already on their way, but let’s keep it up together! Read to them as well as with them. Share your own reading with them. Read in front of them. Show them the importance of words and how you can lose yourself in the right text. HAVE FUN and help them do the same! I hope that I will do my part to encourage all of these things as well! (In case you want to see more about how important this is, read about our #classroombookaday challenge from a previous year here).
*Writing: Words are important. They help us to communicate and tell our stories. When you write those words, you can deepen thinking and learning, as well as better process things you heard or are still thinking about (I know this is one of the most important reasons I write!). We will write, write, write in Rm. 111, just like we will read, read, read! (And no, don’t worry about correct spelling or perfect handwriting–everyone is allowed to make mistakes, the message is the most important part!)
* Mistakes: I expect your child to make them. 🙂 I want them (and you!) to learn to work through it when it’s hard and figure out what to do. I want them to feel the joy and success of learning something new because they persevered! Not everything will be easy here. And that’s ok. We’re in it together and I’ll help you all along the way. 🙂 THIS IS A PLACE WHERE WE WILL BE GRITTY!
* Collaboration: I love to share ideas and get ideas and try new things and even when those things fail, I know I am just one step closer to finding what does work. I love to work with other teachers to figure things out and find new solutions to old problems. But just as much as working with adults, I love to collaborate with students. I love to hear what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling about things, what they think would be the best way to learn something. It’s OUR classroom, and often your kiddos’ ideas are WAY better than mine. I know I’ll share lots of examples with your child (and you!) about how that’s happened to me over the years.
Aside from collaborating with me, though, they’ll be collaborating with each other! Your child will have lots of opportunities to share with their classmates, to give ideas, ask questions, prove reasoning and challenge each other. I expect that we will work together to help EVERYONE in our class be the best they can be. Together we’ll achieve much more than we would if we tried to do it on our own. 🙂 Reminds me of a sign I saw in Disney World at the Animal Kingdom:
I like to say that in our room, everyone is a teacher and a learner.
And as a new level of collaboration and learning, we will be combining with and I will be co-teaching with Ms. Turken for many things this year. Be ready to hear your kiddo talk about a whole other class of kiddos, and their “other” teacher, Ms. Turken. We had such an amazing year last go-round and are excited for another! Can’t wait to share more as we go forward!!
* Curiosity: There is no better way to learn something than to ask a question. It is DEFINITELY how I learn, and so please understand if you find me asking you (or your child) lots of questions as a means of figuring out how best to meet their needs or to connect with your family. In turn, I hope you will feel comfortable to ask me any questions you may have, and the perhaps most importantly, your child will feel comfortable to ask me–and their classmates–questions when they need to. Knowing when to ask for help is an important part of learning. 🙂 Also, WONDER is a natural part of being a kid, as well as a super important part of learning something new. WONDER is something that I will always encourage, and hopefully many things we learn together will start as someone’s wondering about the world.
* Technology : I love technology because it allows me to connect to new ideas. I like to think about what I want to do and look for tools to help me do it. I want to hear your ideas on technology and what works for you–and I ask that you be open to trying new things (that goes for BOTH you and your learner). We will be using technology in many new and exciting ways this year, so get ready! You child may be blogging, using Twitter, Schoology, Seesaw (which is an AMAZING app that allows endless ways for your child to share their learning with me, their peers AND YOU!) and other sites (like Skype to connect with other learners around the world), using iPads, making videos of learning and trying out many new things that we may not even know about yet. Whatever we do, though, the goal is always learning. We will use technology in meaningful ways to better create new knowledge. Excited? I know I am! PLEASE let me know what–if any–apprehensions you have in this area, either for you or your student. This will be an important area for us to explore together. 🙂
* Community: Our class, our families, our school, our neighborhood, our city, our state, our country, our world. There are so many amazing people doing amazing things. I am hoping to integrate your family stories into our classroom this year, taking full advantage of all of the amazing things each one of us has to offer. That might mean I ask you (grown-ups) to come read to us, teach us something, help us make something, send in things, etc. We want EVERYONE to be a part of the Rm. 111 family!! One of our first units this year will be learning about our names and families so stay tuned!
* Taking risks: I like to take risks. I hope you do too. It is scary sometimes and it fails sometimes but sometimes, more often, it is just A-MAZ-ING! Usually when you do something scary you do things you never thought you could. You surprise yourself. And then you want to do more! Someone smart once said “Fear and Excitement are shades of the same color”. Cool, huh? (Parents, this is true for you as much as it is for your kiddo!! 🙂
HANG IN THERE….You’re almost done!
OK…if you made it this far and are still with me, congratulations, you (and your kiddo) are a rock star. Stop reading right now and do some kind of victory dance. No really, go ahead. Dance. I’ll wait. Better yet, have someone video tape your dance and send it to me! I’ll even post it on our blog! (Did you see the posts where I did that with my last class? They didn’t believe that I’d do it, either. 🙂 )
So….what now? How can you best prepare for the extreme awesomeness of first grade?
- Have a great summer! Be extraordinary.
- Read something. Write something. Wonder something. This will get your learning muscles warmed up. 🙂
- If you have any questions you can always email me. Anytime. No question to big or too small.
- Think about what I said about who you want your child to be. Most importantly, remember that everyone else in our class is thinking about that too. Be gracious to those who are brave enough to set lofty goals and make the effort to become an even better version of themselves.
- Talk with your family about how you would define HOME. I really want to make our classroom a comfortable, warm place were our school family can feel safe to get down and dirty, taking chances and making mistakes and LEARNING TONS! I want this to include pieces of each of our homes. I will send a survey to you later, where you can give share your ideas, but I wanted to get your thinking about it now. 🙂
- THIS ONE IS FOR THE KIDDOS!: Look around your house (or your computer, maybe) for a picture of your family. I’d love to be able to decorate our room with us–pictures of all the people who help make us who we are and who encourage us to do our best. I want to be able to fill our room with love, support and smiling faces, so please bring a 3×5, 4×6 or 5X7 picture (framed if possible–but don’t stress over this part!) with you to Open House or on the first day of school. And if you don’t have one, don’t worry! We’ll take your picture!
Despite having now used more than two thousand words, there are no words to describe how excited I am about working with you next year!
Here’s To Being First Grade and Fabulous!
♥ Mrs. Bearden
PS. If you didn’t get up and dance before and are now wishing you did, there is still time to do it. Anytime. Send me that video with your best moves (we’ll check these out together once we’re all in school together. Fun, right?).
When you have had a chance to relax, digest this letter (maybe talk about it with your family or friends) and get your first grade brain tuned up, I would love for your child to write to me to introduce yourself, ask questions, maybe respond to something you read in this letter that made you think. An email, postcard or a good ‘ole letter via snail mail is great! Don’t worry–there’s still loads of time before school starts! You can send your letter to Robinson, c/o of Mrs. Bearden at 803 S. Couch Ave., Kirkwood, MO 63122.
I look forward meeting you!
Mrs. Bearden: Email–email@example.com; Phone–314-213-6100 x4211 (after August 9)
Twitter: @jbeardensclass (This is our class feed, and we will tweet here together with my supervision and instruction. It’s a great way to stay on top of what’s going on in our classroom since you don’t get to be there every day! Follow us!)
Blog: http://www.20somethingkidsand1kookyteacher.com Feel free to leave me a comment here to let me know what you thought, what you wonder, how your summer has been, etc….this is always a great place to talk to me! 🙂 Also–if you have a minute while you’re here, go ahead and subscribe to the blog feed. That way you’ll never miss anything that happens here. I add things often and you’ll want to read it all!! Just click on the button on the right side of the page and add your email address. 🙂
**Thanks to @terSonya for help with writing this post! Like I said, I love to share ideas!**