Ten Black Dots

One of the great things that happens at the beginning of first grade is a series of Kingore lessons that Mrs. Berger comes to do with all of our classes.  We gather together 6 times, doing a variety of different types of thinking over the course of the lessons.  The first one was related to the book Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews.

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In short, the lesson asks kids to think outside the box, and create a picture using 10 black dots (or in our case they were red or green circles!).

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First Mrs. Berger read the book to us.

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I had to try it out first. And man…it’s hard work thinking like that on your feet in front of a rug full of kiddos! She didn’t tell me she was going to ask me to do this, so the “thinking face” I have on is a real one!

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I started by putting my dots all in a group, and suddenly an idea came into my head.

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Mrs. Berger challenged me to add some details so that my audience could tell for sure what my picture was. I added some lines on my circle. Can you tell what it is yet?

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A few more details…

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My finished Ten Dot picture: a pizza! I know–kind of an obvious choice. This was a HARD job! Wait til you see what our kiddos came up with….:)

Kiddos were then asked to count out 10 dots from a bag, and get to work on their own Ten Dot creation.  I’m excited to share their CREATIVE thinking:

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How is that for a showcase of some AMAZING thinking?!  I’m trying not to be embarrassed that I made a pizza….:)  GREAT job, Rm. 202 kids!

Welcome to First Grade, Friends!

Welcome to First Grade!

I am so excited you’re here!

Please proceed with caution, and read carefully….

The following letter contains 2405 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 (true story) and a video camera handy (extra credit).

Ready? Of course you are! Because you are all about to become…

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 14th 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–which is in St. Peters–I have a fabulous family that I love dearly.  My husband, Grant, is a teacher, too, in Wentzville (isn’t that cool?).  He has taught 3rd, 4th and 5th grade.  We have a 7YO son, Riley, who is in 2nd grade at Robinson, too.  We also have a little girl named Allison–we call her Allie–who is 3 1/2.  She is staring preschool soon, which will be new for us all.  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 14th 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!  Will they be the kid who has brilliant ideas? The kid who loves math? The kid who looks to help other people? The kid who……? Fresh start. Clean slate. We all get one (that includes you!) and we all get to begin first grade as the person we want to be.  Every deserves to be whoever they are and whoever they want to be!  Remember the saying: Be yourself!  Everyone else is taken!

Another wondering: What is important to you? (This is another big question and one I am really curious about so I will ask it twice.) What is important to you (and 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, 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: If you’ve been around Robinson for longer than 5 minutes you know that respect is a HUGE part of our culture.  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!

*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!

* Mistakes:  I expect your child to make them.  Yep, I said it.  I want things to be hard for them.  I want them to struggle.  When they need more than one try or lots more practice with a concept, they’ll get it.  When they need to show me what they know in a different way, then we’ll figure it out.  When they need me to repeat something or explain it in another way, I’ll do it.  If your child needs a big, fat challenge–watch out, they’ll get one!  No, I’m not crazy, I just want them to try things that may be tricky at first.  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 (and because of this I am SUPER excited about our team of 5 really smart teacher this year!).  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 the other day:

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I like to say that in our room, everyone is a teacher and a learner.

* Questions: 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. 🙂

* Time is precious: So is your child. I don’t like wasting time and I especially don’t like wasting learning time. That means I try to come to school ready, fired up, and prepared to make a ruckus (I like to think that a ‘ruckus’ is the sound your brain makes when it is challenged to be creative, thoughtful, inquisitive and world-changing – it is a beautiful sound).  I hope–and expect–that your child will come into our classroom every morning ready to learn, ready to work hard, ready to put their very best foot forward.  We only have so many days together, and we need to make the most of every single one of them.  We’ve got so much to do! 🙂

* 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 be blogging, using Twitter and other sites, using iPads and laptops (yep, your child gets their very own iPad Mini VERY SOON!), working on the ActivBoard, 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 bet your child can think of ten amazing people who do amazing things right now. We need to hear those people’s stories. You (mom and dad) should be on that list. You are awesome. (Assignment one; help your child email me a List of Awesomeness about people in your family* -*family = people you love and are connected to even if they don’t happen to live in your house or share your last name).

* 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 rockstar. 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 from last year’s 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?

  1. Have a great summer! Be extraordinary.
  2. Read something.  Write something.  Wonder something.  This’ll get your learning muscles warmed up. 🙂
  3. If you have any questions you can always email me. Anytime. No question to big or too small.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 window sills, bookshelves, walls–wherever there’s room–so please bring a 3×5 or 4×6 framed picture 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 about 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 (extra credit).

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!  Even better–I’m excited to come see you when I start home visits later this month!

I look forward meeting you!

Mrs. Bearden: Email–jennifer.bearden@kirkwoodschools.org; Phone–314-213-6100 x4214 (after August 15)

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MrsBeardens5thGradeClass (this will take you to my updated FIRST GRADE page!)

Twitter: @jbeardensclass

Blog: 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! 🙂

**Thanks to @terSonya and Mrs. Hong for help with writing this post! Like I said, I love to share ideas!**

Welcome to Rm. 202 (2013)!

Welcome to Rm. 202!

I am so excited you’re here!

Please proceed with caution, and read carefully….

The following letter contains 2125 words that will begin to shape your fifth grade year. Be sure you have time to read them all carefully. You may like to have your parents sit and read with you so you can all be excited about fifth grade together.You should also have dancing shoes on (true story) and a video camera handy (extra credit).

Ready? Of course you are! Because you are about to become…

Fifth Grade and Fearless!

I am excited for the year ahead – but first, I need your help in knowing what next year is going to look like.

 

Yes, your help!

What next year holds, is, in large part up to you. I have my plans, my ideas, my goals….what about you?

I know some of you may have sneaked a peek at the letter I sent your parents, or may already know me, so this next part may be a bit of a review.  Too bad.  Keep reading anyway. 🙂  I have been teaching for 13 years and every one of them has been at Robinson!  I even did my student-teaching there long ago, so Robinson is definitely my home-away-from-home.  In my real home–which is in St. Peters–I have a fabulous family that I love dearly.  My husband, Grant, is a teacher, too, in Wentzville.  He has taught 4th and 5th grade like me, too.  Fun, right?  We have a 6YO, Riley, who will be at Robinson, too (he has Mrs. Appelbaum).  I am sure you’ll get to know him really well as we got through the year together.  We also have a little girl named Allison–we call her Allie–who is 2 1/2.  We LOVE (yep, love) Disney World, and travel there often.  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, I have been teaching for 13 years, 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.

Who Will You Be? (This is a big question – take your time to think about this!) Will you be the kid who has brilliant ideas? The kid who loves math? The kid who looks to help other people? The kid who……? Fresh start. Clean slate. We all get one (that includes you!) and we all get to begin fifth grade as the person we want to be.

What is important to you? (This is another big question and one I am really curious about so I will ask it twice.) What is important to you?

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, sleeping in, staying up late and knowing when to say sorry.

As a teacher, there are a few more things that are important to me:

* YOU!:   You’re the reason I’m there, after all right?  It is important for me to get to know you, and know you well.  Not just as a learner, but as a kid, too.  I want to know what you like, what you don’t like, what makes you tick.  Who you are.  That’s ok, right? 🙂

* Respect: If you’ve been around Robinson for longer than 5 minutes you know that respect is a HUGE part of our culture.  It’s pretty much what we’re all about.  I expect respect to be a huge thing in our classroom.  I will respect you, and I expect you 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 you, but I love everyone else, too!

* Mistakes:  I expect you to make them.  Yep, I said it.  I want things to be hard for you.  I want you to struggle.  If you need more than one try or lots more practice with a concept, you’ll get it.  If you need to show me what you know in a different way, then we’ll figure it out.  If  you need me to repeat something or explain it for you in another way, I’ll do.  If you need a big, fat challenge–watch out, you’ll get one! No, I’m not crazy, I just want you to try things that may be tricky at first.  I want you to learn to work through it when it’s hard and figure out what to do.   I want you to feel the joy and success when you learn something new and it’s because you 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. 🙂

* 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 you’re thinking, how you’re feeling about things, what you think would be the best way to learn something.  Even when you don’t agree with me, or have a plan that is completely different than mine, I want you to share it!  It’s our classroom, and often your ideas are WAY better than mine.  I know I’ll share lots of examples with you about how that’s happened to me over the years.

Aside from collaborating with me, though, you’ll be collaborating with each other!  You will have lots of opportunities to share with your classmates, to give your ideas, ask questions, prove your 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. 🙂

I like to say that in our room, everyone is a teacher and a learner.

* Questions: I found a quote I love by a guy named Tony who loves learning. “No one cares what you know. What the world cares about is what you do with what you know.” Think about that. Chew it over. We can all Google and find stuff out – but then what? After we know stuff, what we do with it = inquiry. And that is what the world cares about. Me too. You?

* Time is precious: So are you. I don’t like wasting time and I especially don’t like wasting your time. That means I try to come to school ready, fired up, and prepared to make a ruckus (I like to think that a ‘ruckus’ is the sound your brain makes when it is challenged to be creative, thoughtful, inquisitive and world-changing – it is a beautiful sound).  I hope–and expect–that you will come into our classroom every morning ready to learn, ready to work hard, ready to put your very best foot forward.  We only have so many days together, and we need to make the most of every single one of them.  We’ve got so much to do! 🙂

* 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. We will be using technology in many new and exciting ways this year, so get ready!  You’ll be blogging, using iPads and laptops (yep, you get your very own iPad Mini VERY SOON!), working on the ActivBoard, making videos of your 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!

* 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 bet you can think of ten amazing people who do amazing things right now. We need to hear those people’s stories. Your mom and dad should be on that list. They are awesome. (Assignment one; email me List of Awesomeness about people in your family* -*family = people you love and are connected to even if they don’t happen to live in your house or share your last name).

* 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?

HANG IN THERE….THE END IS NEAR!

OK…if you made it this far and are still with me, congratulations, you are a rockstar. 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 from last year’s class?  They didn’t believe that I’d do it, either. 🙂 )

So….what now? How can you best prepare for the extreme awesomeness of fifth grade?

  1. Have a great summer! Be extraordinary.
  2. Read something.  Write something.  Wonder something.  This’ll get your learning muscles warmed up. 🙂
  3. If you have any questions you can always email me. Anytime. No question to big or too small.
  4. Think about what I said about being who you want 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.
  5. 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 window sills, bookshelves, walls–wherever there’s room–so please bring a 3×5 or 4×6 framed picture 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 about two thousand words, there are no words to describe how excited I am about working with you next year!

Here’s To Being Fifth Grade and Fearless!

♥ 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 (extra credit).

When you have had a chance to relax, digest this letter (maybe talk about it with your family or friends) and get your fifth grade brain tuned up, I would love for you to write to me to introduce yourself, ask questions, maybe respond to something you read in this letter that made you think.

I look forward to hearing from you before the end of the summer!

Mrs. Bearden: Email–jennifer.bearden@kirkwoodschools.org; Phone–314-213-6100 x4214 (after August 15)

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MrsBeardens5thGradeClass

Twitter: @jbeardensclass

Blog: 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! 🙂

**Thanks to @terSonya and Mrs. Hong for help with writing this post! Like I said, I love to share ideas!**

I am Loved (or Happy Birthday, Mrs. Bearden!)

I love how kids celebrate things, especially birthdays. 🙂  Remember the ice cream party from last year?

My birthday was last week, and this is what welcomed me that Thursday morning:

 

Wait–it gets better!  I also got a new hat and some handmade jewelry:

 

Fiona wore some FABULOUS glasses with a sweet message:

 

And my parents even sent me flowers.  Nice, right?

I somehow didn’t get pictures of the cookie treats I brought, nor did I get recordings of the compliments my 5th grade friends shared with me during my “party,” but let me assure you those were great, too!  Thank you friends, for making me feel so special!

Welcome to Rm. 202!

Welcome to Rm. 202!

I am so excited you’re here!

Please proceed with caution, and read carefully….

The following letter contains 2049 words that will begin to shape your fifth grade year. Be sure you have time to read them all carefully. You may like to have your parents sit and read with you so you can all be excited about fifth grade together.You should also have dancing shoes on (true story) and a video camera handy (extra credit).

Ready? Of course you are! Because you are about to become…

Fifth Grade and Fearless!

I am excited for the year ahead – but first, I need your help in knowing what next year is going to look like.

 

Yes, your help!

What next year holds, is, in large part up to you. I have my plans, my ideas, my goals….what about you?

I know some of you may have sneaked a peek at the letter I sent your parents, or may already know me, so this next part may be a bit of a review.  Too bad.  Keep reading anyway. 🙂  I have been teaching for 12 years and every one of them has been at Robinson!  I even did my student-teaching there long ago, so Robinson is definitely my home-away-from-home.  In my real home–which is in St. Peters–I have a fabulous family that I love dearly.  My husband, Grant, is a teacher, too, in Wentzville.  He is starting in 3rd grade this year, but has taught 4th and 5th grade like me, too.  Fun, right?  We have a 5YO, Riley, who will be at Robinson, too.  I am sure you’ll get to know him really well as we got through the year together.  We also have a little girl named Allison–we call her Allie–who is 19-mo-old.  We LOVE (yep, love) Disney World, and travel there often.  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, I have been teaching for 12 years, 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.

Who Will You Be? (This is a big question – take your time to think about this!) Will you be the kid who has brilliant ideas? The kid who loves math? The kid who looks to help other people? The kid who……? Fresh start. Clean slate. We all get one (that includes you!) and we all get to begin fifth grade as the person we want to be.

What is important to you? (This is another big question and one I am really curious about so I will ask it twice.) What is important to you?

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, sleeping in, staying up late and knowing when to say sorry.

As a teacher, there are a few more things that are important to me:

* YOU!:   You’re the reason I’m there, after all right?  It is important for me to get to know you, and know you well.  Not just as a learner, but as a kid, too.  I want to know what you like, what you don’t like, what makes you tick.  Who you are.  That’s ok, right? 🙂

* Respect: If you’ve been around Robinson for longer than 5 minutes you know that respect is a HUGE part of our culture.  It’s pretty much what we’re all about.  I expect respect to be a huge thing in our classroom.  I will respect you, and I expect you 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 you, but I love everyone else, too!

* Mistakes:  I expect you to make them.  Yep, I said it.  I want things to be hard for you.  I want you to struggle.  If you need more than one try or lots more practice with a concept, you’ll get it.  If you need to show me what you know in a different way, then we’ll figure it out.  If  you need me to repeat something or explain it for you in another way, I’ll do.  If you need a big, fat challenge–watch out, you’ll get one! No, I’m not crazy, I just want you to try things that may be tricky at first.  I want you to learn to work through it when it’s hard and figure out what to do.   I want you to feel the joy and success when you learn something new and it’s because you 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. 🙂

* 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 you’re thinking, how you’re feeling about things, what you think would be the best way to learn something.  Even when you don’t agree with me, or have a plan that is completely different than mine, I want you to share it!  It’s our classroom, and often your ideas are WAY better than mine.  I know I’ll share lots of examples with you about how that’s happened to me over the years.

Aside from collaborating with me, though, you’ll be collaborating with each other!  You will have lots of opportunities to share with your classmates, to give your ideas, ask questions, prove your 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. 🙂

* Questions: I found a quote I love by a guy named Tony who loves learning. “No one cares what you know. What the world cares about is what you do with what you know.” Think about that. Chew it over. We can all google and find stuff out – but then what? After we know stuff, what we do with it = inquiry. And that is what the world cares about. Me too. You?

* Time is precious: So are you. I don’t like wasting time and I especially don’t like wasting your time. That means I try to come to school ready, fired up, and prepared to make a ruckus (I like to think that a ‘ruckus’ is the sound your brain makes when it is challenged to be creative, thoughtful, inquisitive and world-changing – it is a beautiful sound).  I hope–and expect–that you will come into our classroom every morning ready to learn, ready to work hard, ready to put your very best foot forward.  We only have so many days together, and we need to make the most of every single one of them.  We’ve got so much to do! 🙂

* 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. We will be using technology in many new and exciting ways this year, so get ready!  You’ll be blogging, using iPads and laptops, working on the ActivBoard, making videos of your 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!

* 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 bet you can think of ten amazing people who do amazing things right now. We need to hear those people’s stories. Your mom and dad should be on that list. They are awesome. (Assignment one; email me List of Awesomeness about people in your family* -*family = people you love and are connected to even if they don’t happen to live in your house or share your last name).

* 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?

HANG IN THERE….THE END IS NEAR!

OK…if you made it this far and are still with me, congratulations, you are a rockstar. 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!

So….what now? How can you best prepare for the extreme awesomeness of fifth grade?

  1. Have a great summer! Be extraordinary.
  2. Read something.  Write something.  Wonder something.  This’ll get your learning muscles warmed up. 🙂
  3. If you have any questions you can always email me. Anytime. No question to big or too small.
  4. Think about what I said about being who you want 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.
  5. 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.  If you want to email it to me, that’s great (I’ll add my contact info to the end of this post), or you can print it and bring it to school on the first day.  And if you don’t have one, don’t worry!  We’ll take your picture!

Despite having now used about two thousand words, there are no words to describe how excited I am about working with you next year!

Here’s To Being Fifth Grade and Fearless!

♥ 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 (extra credit).

When you have had a chance to relax, digest this letter (maybe talk about it with your family or friends) and get your fifth grade brain tuned up, I would love for you to write to me to introduce yourself, ask questions, maybe respond to something you read in this letter that made you think.

I look forward to hearing from you before the end of the summer!

Mrs. Bearden: Email–jennifer.bearden@kirkwoodschools.org; Phone–314-213-6100 x4214 (after August 15); Twitter: @jbeardensclass

**Thanks to @terSonya and Mrs. Hong for help with writing this post! Like I said, I love to share ideas!**

The Windy City

Or “Spring Break–part 2.”

So hopefully you caught the first part of the Chicago adventure story here.

After we got back from the museum day, we rested in our hotel (or at least we wanted to–but we have two small, active kiddos, so not really sure how much resting happened…) and then headed out to Big Bowl for dinner.  We love Asian food, and this was especially yummy.  If you’ve been to Pei Wei or Stir Crazy in St. Louis, it was kind of like that.  While the meal was great and the time was enjoyable, the best part for me was when we got up to leave and we heard “Are you Mr. Bearden?” from a table as we walked past.  Turns out that there was a family from my husband’s school eating there, too, and they had been having a whole conversation over dinner about whether or not it was indeed Mr. Bearden.  They were right, and we were able to chat for a few minutes with them.  They were on pretty much the same trip as we were: they had taken the train, were staying downtown, were eating Big Bowl for dinner and had visited the museum that day.  Love it when things like that happen.  Small world, I tell ya.  Small world.  🙂

The next morning we had planned on visiting the other museum in town, but honestly the price scared us away and we opted for more free entertainment around town instead.  We enjoyed breakfast at Xoco that morning, which is one of Rick Bayless‘ restaurants.  Do you know who he is?  Pretty famous chef who makes pretty great food in my opinion.  I highly recommend the churros and the empanadas there.  And my boys would say that you should dip your churros in the hot chocolate they have.  Double yummy.

After breakfast we walked.  And walked.  And walked.  That’s one thing we love to do:  not head to anywhere in particular, just walk and see where we end up.  This day we walked all around Clark St. and saw what there was to be seen.  We found a grocery store at one point whose sign said something about it being the “most European market in the city.”  That was our kind of place, so we wandered in.  It was really just a supermarket, but fun nonetheless.  We’re weird like that and can have fun looking at food.

Eventually we ended up back on Michigan Ave., and found another mall to visit.  What’s next is what happened when Riley asked for the camera.  Here’s what he wanted to remember from there.  Pretty funny how the mind of a 4YO works:

  

  

  

  

Later that night we ended up back on Clark Street again, and at Xoco again.  I told you it was good, right?  This time we had tortas (like Mexican sandwiches), and they were amazing.  Can’t you tell by how happy we look?

  

I know many people would say it’s a little strange to go to the same restaurant twice in the same day.  But I say it’s just how we roll.  We know what we like, and we stick with it.  It’s kind of the same thinking behind why we vacation at Disney World every year.  It’s just kind of like home. 🙂

Here are two more bits of cuteness and then I’ll finish the story:

            

That night we enjoyed a Cable Car sundae at Ghiradelli (another family favorite, both in Chicago and at Disney World.  We went here twice, too!) and then headed to bed since it was our last night.  We had to get up early (although not quite 3 o’clock this time) to catch our train home.

The train ride home was much easier because of an amazingly nice woman who let us have her first-row seat, which meant extra leg room and baby-can-crawl-around-here space.  Plus it was right next to the door to the snack car, which made for quick escapes if we needed a break.  Also the fact that it was daytime and we’d done it before made this ride a tad more relaxing than on the way up.  At least for me. 🙂  Riley didn’t notice and enjoyed it all.  Just look at that smiling face! (Although I’m not sure if it’s the train or the iPad game that made him smile like that….)

Overall, we had a great time and definitely enjoyed ourselves.  Perhaps my favorite part of the trip, though, can be summed up in this picture (which hopefully is clear enough to see):

It’s the last few moments before we arrived home again in StL–see the Arch out the window?  And it’s also right when Allie decided to finally…fall…asleep.  Pretty funny. 🙂

Chicago is For Learners

Or “Spring Break–part 1.”

I have to let you in on a little secret.  Promise you won’t tell anyone, but teachers look forward to Spring Break as much (or maybe even more!) than students.  Yep, we love the time off to play and recharge and do all the things we might not have time for when we’re busy with school work.

So this year, like most others, we started planning what our Spring Break would look like.  My husband, who is also a teacher, had the same week off as me (which thankfully happens most years), so we looked at going somewhere together as a family.  This time around it was Chicago.

The idea for this trip really started back in November.  Grant and I were lucky enough to take a weekend-getaway there right before Thanksgiving, to celebrate my birthday and just enjoy the city.  We’d been the once before, but it had been quite a while and it was time to go back.  The kids stayed with their Mimi and Pop, but all the while we kept thinking that many of the things we did would be a big hit with our son, Riley, who is 4 1/2.  He LOVES to travel (and has since he was a baby) and so he was a little sad when we got to go away without him.  Needless to say, he was as excited for this Chicago trip as we were.

When we went to Chicago in the fall, we drove to a train station near O’Hare Airport and then took the El into the city.  Then, during our stay, we either rode the train or walked where we wanted to go.  This time rather than driving, we decide to take Amtrak, because of both its ease and cost-effectiveness, but also because we have a 4YO son.  I mean what 4YO boy wouldn’t LOVE to take a trip on a train.  He had been studying transportation at school, and so this fit in perfectly with that, too.

I was excited about the train ride, but I have to be honest that I wasn’t excited about this:

What’s that, you ask?  That’s what time I had to get up to get to the train on time.  And yes, that’s AM.  Our train left at 4:35 in the morning!!  (Sorry about the quality of that photo.  Guess my camera was a little groggy at that time of day, too!)

Here’s my seatmate for our ride:

See how tired she looks?  That’s because she woke up at 3:20, too, and never…went…back…to…sleep.  Bummer.  That made for a hard ride for her, but luckily Amtrak was spacious enough that we could walk around if we wanted, and it had a snack car that we could escape to if baby needed a change of scenery or something to eat.  That made the trip a little more manageable with a 15MO.  🙂

We got into town around 10, and headed across town to our hotel (we found a great place just off Michigan Ave.), hoping to leave our luggage and head out for lunch, but luckily our room was already ready for us!  What a nice surprise.  The rest of Sunday we spent walking around the Magnificent Mile and checking out the sites.  Riley really liked the mall at Water Tower Place that was right next to where we were staying.  For dinner we headed to Gino’s East for deep dish pizza.  Legendary place, really, and lots of fun.

The next day we headed to the Field Museum.  It’s the Museum of Natural History, and we were most excited about seeing Sue, the big T-Rex in the first part, but we also experienced many other fun and informative things.

I love this picture.  It pretty much encompasses our trip.  Family fun in the city. 🙂

          

Eventually we had to stop and look at the map, because other than “south,” we didn’t really know where we were going.  That’s another thing Riley loves–looking at maps and trying to figure out where we’re going.  I don’t think he really understands how they work just yet, but some day he will totally be our navigator.

     

Thanks to my friend, Johanna, and the Beco baby carrier she lent us, this was how Allie and I spent the walk to the museum.  This was so amazing, because we didn’t have to worry about a stroller around town, and baby girl got in a little rest–this made all the difference in her mood during the second part of our journey. 🙂  Ignore my angry face–it’s just what happens when I try to take pictures of myself.  Somehow I figure it’d look silly if I smiled at myself and said “cheese.”  I really was having a great time. 🙂

      

I love how tiny my littles look in these pictures.  That really is a big place!  The last one is especially funny to me, too, because Allie was so determined.  She was going to crawl all the way up those steps to get her Bubba.  Well if I let her.  Which I didn’t, in case you were wondering.

Ok, so this picture is totally staged.  But after all that walking (it took us at least an hour to walk from our hotel to the museum), we needed a break.  This was Riley showing me how tired he was.  After this we sat for a while and had a snack before heading out into the museum.

    

That first picture up there is from the 3D movie all about how they found the T-Rex, Sue.  But we’re not watching it.  Baby lasted about 1 minute, and after the first dinosaur roar she started screaming.  So we just played in the lobby with the glasses instead.  The second one is a picture of Riley inside a giant cicada shell in the Underground exhibit.  You go through a shrinking machine and get to experience what it would be like to live in the world of dirt.  The last one is a little snapshot of Daddy taking his turn with Allie in the Beco.  After carrying that little girl all the way there, my shoulders and back needed a break.  For being so little, she sure is heavy.  Pretty cute, right? She seems to be loving it. 🙂

There’s the family with Sue.   Riley really was excited about the dinosaur, just not the picture.

Another picture with a dinosaur.  Hopefully you can see it–we couldn’t really get any closer to it than this, but he really wanted a “long-neck” picture to show his friends. 🙂

                                   

After the museum, baby took a ride on my back, and then we took a ride on the train.   Obviously he loved it.

Ok, so I realize this is becoming a really lengthy post.  I’ll finish in another one next, to give you a break from all this Spring Break goodness.  Don’t forget to come back and read it, though!

Call Me That Name Again

No, it’s not a challenge.  It’s a request: call me that name again. What name you ask?  I’ll tell you that part in a second.

First I have to apologize for the times I veer off the this-is-a-classroom-blog road and head down let-me-tell-you-a-story-about-myself lane for a bit.  I think it’s probably telling me that I need to start another blog.  But there’s time for that later.  Now back to that name…

I’ve been called many things in my life, starting with Jennifer–which makes sense since that’s my name.   For a long time when I was littler I was Jenny (sometimes spelled with an “i” and sometimes with a “y”), and some people (mainly family) still call me that today.  During junior high I apparently had an identity crisis, because I had a new name every week: Jen (with one “n”), Jenn (with two “n’s”), those two versions of Jenny, and then for a couple of days I had people calling me Jenna.  I know.  Weird.

Somewhere in college I started with Jen primarily, and now even introduce myself that way.  Only a few people call me Jennifer.

There are other things that they call me though, too.  Mrs. Bearden.  Wife.  Mom.  Sister.  Daughter.  Teacher.  Tweeter.  Reader.  Writer.  Crafter.  Blogger.  Then last summer I earned a new name–Runner–when I finally started my goal of losing weight and getting more active.  I was on a roll and loving every minute of my journey towards being able to run 5K without stopping.  This was a huge feat for someone who has never really exercised before, but I did it!  And then you know what I did?  I made that goal, along with my weight-loss goal, and then I stopped. Ugh!  November came and it was a little bit chilly outside, so I didn’t run one night.  And then I didn’t go out the next night.  And then by that time it was really cold outside and I wasnotmotivated to go outside and run.

So fast forward to today.  It was 80 and BEAUTIFUL today, and I went running again!  No, unfortunately, I couldn’t go out and instantly run my almost-4-miles I was up to a few months ago, but I was out there, getting back into it.  Walked a mile and ran one, too.  And I have a goal to run a 5k with my family in May.  So I’m out there again, and you can call me that name again: Runner.  And since I said it out loud to all the world to hear it, I will have all of you to hold me accountable, right?  🙂

What names do you call yourself?  What would you like to be called?  Maybe there’s a goal in there somewhere you can work towards…:)

The Cat’s Away

So I’m home with a sick baby again today.  I HATE to be gone, but sometimes I just have to be a mom, you know?

So today’s absence reminded me of an idea I learned about recently.  I was out a couple of weeks ago, and I used a great idea from a couple of teachers I met when I attended an EdCamp St. Louis conference earlier this month.  They both teach middle school, and are out of the classroom periodically for activities with their school, and so need to leave plans for a substitute.  Rather than just leaving written ones, they record videos to leave for their classes, often teaching the lesson from their couch and giving directions for what they want their students to do.

Last time I was out, I knew ahead of time, since her fever popped up in teh evening.  So with my MacBook, my plans and my couch, I set to work putting together what I hoped would be a great day of learning for my kiddos, even in my absence.  Here’s what I left as a welcome to the day, along with our normal morning routine screen on the ActivBoard:

After they went off to specials, it was time for Writer’s Workshop in our room:

That big blue button sent them here to this video:

Next in our day was Math Workshop.  This video was a little different, but hopefully just as helpful.

Off to lunch and recess they went, and then back into the room for Read Aloud and then Reader’s Workshop.  Again, a flipchart welcomed them with directions:

Ok, well at least it had a place to send them for directions.  Those were here:

And here:

Social Studies followed Reader’s Workshop, as it normally does, and the lesson that they worked on that day was about the Natural Features of Europe:

Unfortunately this was the last day of the week, since we had a Professional Development Day the following day on Friday. We were also going to be out on Monday, too, since it was President’s Day! That meant I wouldn’t see them for what seemed like FOREVER, so I sent them off to their long weekend with this Goodbye and Good Weekend video:

Ok, so if you’re a frequent visitor to our blog, you know that I can’t write anything without ending with my thoughts and reflections.  And of course the topic of this post means that those thoughts and reflections are definitely doosies! (Is that how you spell that?  There was no choice for it in the dictionary. 🙂 )

(Now would be a great time to take a break and grab a snack if you want one!  I know I didn’t warn you that last part would take so long.  Sorry.  It’s ok, I’ll wait for you.)

Thoughts and reflections from using video sub plans:

Ease: The only reason I tried this whole thing originally is because I knew at around 6:00 the night before that I would be gone.  Since that was the case, I had lots of prep time to get it all ready.  This would not have been possible had I woken up and been surprised with an absence (like today, for example!).  Also, this was for an absence for a sick kid, not a sick teacher.  Had I been the one that was ill, this would have been almost an impossibility.  I hope, though, that since I’ve done it once now, and figured out all the logistics, the next time it won’t take me quite so long to put it all together.  And no, I don’t really want to admit how long it took me.  Ask your kiddo if you want.  I told them. 🙂  The other idea I had just now, though, is to prepare a generic “sub plan video” that could be used at any time if I had to suddenly be out.  It could then be added to my normal sub folder or uploaded to the portal that we use online to secure our subs.  Who knows, maybe I’ll start working on that one.

Logistics: I know this is partly related to the “ease” subject I just mentioned, but what I mean with this one is that there are a lot of logistical things on the school end that have to happen in order for my video plans to work like I had hoped they would.  The substitute has to know how to use the ActivBoard flipcharts I made, they have to know how to log on to my YouTube channel so the videos all play, and they have to be willing to follow the directions I gave in my videos.   So, in a perfect world, this would have been a great way for me to be at school with my students even though I wasn’t able to be there in person.

Impact: While the original reason I decided to try it was because it sounded like a great idea, incorporated technology and was something I hadn’t done before (which is often very motivating for me), I decided as I went through my planning, that maybe just seeing my face would be a subconscious reminder to follow the rules.  You know, unfortunately some kiddos tend to move into a different state of mind when they see a substitute at the front of the room instead of their normal teacher. I was also hoping that having me “teach” the normal lesson they were going to have for that day would help as they tried to keep the learning day as predictable and productive as possible.  I wanted to get the most bang for my buck.  I know that the day is never the same without me as when I’m there, but this was my way of trying to do what I could to help make it as normal as possible.

What experience do you have with using video sub plans?  What suggestions do you have for me? If you’re a parent, what do you think?  If you’re a substitute, have you used video sub plans in a classroom you’ve been in?  I’d love to know your thoughts!  Leave a comment for me. 🙂

An Environment of Numeracy

I just started a book study, led by Mrs. Bell and Mrs. LeSeure, on the book Guided Math by Laney Sammons.  I have only read the first few chapters so far, but am really loving it already.  The book is based on the idea of using the strategies that kiddos already know as readers (visualizing, connecting, questioning, rereading, summarizing, etc) in relation to math; the same things that we do to understand what we read can help us understand math (or any other subject, for that matter!).

So, like I said, we’re just at the beginning, but have learned the overview of the big ideas in Guided Math.  Then we were supposed to choose one that we were going to commit to change or add to our math class as we work through the book together.  My goal was to add to the environment of numeracy in my classroom: to find new and innovative ways to add math to parts of our day outside of “math time.”  The goal is to get kids thinking like mathematicians in all parts of their life at school.

One way to do this, even from the minute they walk into the room in the morning is with warm-ups.  These are quick, math-focused questions that kids answer on a chart for everyone to learn from together.  This was our warm-up from this morning:

It wasn’t a ground-breaking question, nor is it the most deeply I’ll ever ask my kids to think, but it got us focused on math right from the beginning.  I loved it when someone said they had no idea what to write and with just one question from a friend, were able to add “I used math when I had to figure out how long I had until I had to leave to go to my dad’s house” to the chart.  That’s what it’s all about really, supporting each other in our learning.

So what math did you use this weekend?  How do you involve your kids in mathematical thinking outside of “math time?”  What suggestions do you have for math questions we can use for a warm-up?  We’ve love to hear your thinking and add to ours!