First Grade is FINALLY here!!

Welcome to 1st Grade, Friends!

I am so excited you’re here!

The following letter contains 2586 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.

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. 🙂  As you read in my letter,  I am going into my 17th 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 10YO son, Riley, who is in 5th grade at Robinson, too.  We also have a little girl named Allison–we call her Allie–who is 6 1/2.  She goes to Robinson, too, 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 17th 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? (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: 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 last 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. 202, 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:

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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.  We are still working out all the logistics, but just be ready to hear about how your kiddo talk about a whole other class of kiddos, and their “other” teacher, Ms. Turken.  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 be blogging, using Twitter, KidBlog and other sites (like Skype to connect with other learners around the world), using iPads, 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 (grown-ups) 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).  I am also hoping to better integrate your family stories into our classroom this year, as well, 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. 202 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?

  1. Have a great summer! Be extraordinary.
  2. Read something.  Write something.  Wonder something.  This will 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 room with love, support and smiling faces, so please bring a 3×5, 4×6 or 5X7 picture (framed or not) 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–jennifer.bearden@kirkwoodschools.org; Phone–314-213-6100 x4211 (after August 9)

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

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!**

Do You Really Want a Turtle?

By the second day of school, my new Rm. 202 friends were already asking me about why we didn’t have a class pet.  What??  Were they serious?  They had found out about Mrs. L’s turtle, Javy (because of a sibling we have in 4th grade), and many had seen Ms. Turken’s water turtle, Bradford, who lives next door to us in Rm. 203.  And so already my friends were turtle-crazy.

The problem?  It was the second day of school, I didn’t have a turtle, nor did I really know anything about them (or had we decided yet as a class if we needed one or could take care of it!).  So Ms. Turken and I devised a little plan: her class was going to learn about turtles anyway, because of Bradford and their interest in them, and they could teach us about what we might need to know about what would be the best kind of turtle to have as a pet (I had noticed that Mrs. L’s turtle–who is actually a “cousin” to Bradford–is a box turtle, as opposed to Bradford, who is a water turtle): box or water.

Well, they worked and researched and wondered and wrote and last Friday they were ready to share their information with us.  They came over after lunch on our half day to present their research.  We were SUPER impressed with how organized and professional they were with their words and how well they used the microphone, stood so we could see them, and were so quiet and listening when it wasn’t their turn.  Again a group of first graders was knocking my socks off!

Like I said, Rm. 203 friends were SUPER turtle researchers and taught us a lot.  And yes, now our turtle craze is even greater than before.  We even found this book to read together to teach us more:

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And luckily, I now also have a connection to a turtle.  Updates to follow on whether or not a turtle joins the Rm. 202 family to come….:)

 

3 Writing Celebrations in 1 Day!!

We have been working through the writing process, using seeds we’ve put in our Writers’ Notebooks.

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Once we got to the end (which took WAY longer than I remembered it would!), we were ready to CELEBRATE with our friends!  The best part about what we did was that we did it with more than one class!  Mrs. Appelbaum’s class was finished with their pieces, too, so we got together.

As with many things, the way Mrs. Appelbaum did her writing celebration was a little different from me, so she taught me something new and it was super!!  First, she shared with Rm. 202 kiddos the directions her class had come up with to share their work with a partner:

IMG_5456-minThere was also a comment sheet she had come up with, where readers would give the writer feedback based on these starters: “Something I liked about your writing was…”; “Something I learned was…” and “Something I wonder now is….”  I’ve done compliment sheets before, but they’ve always been completely open-ended.  The structure of her sheet was helpful for those that needed ideas, but was also still open-ended enough for kids to make choices on how they’d respond.

From within minutes of when we started, the room was “a-buzz” with that fabulous sound of excitement, learning, and laughing as kiddos proudly shared the work they had done to create meaningful writing pieces.

This is a short video, but here’s what it sounded like:

While you can’t really get the same experience from seeing pictures of it as if you were there, I do think you can imagine the experience.  Sometimes just seeing the pride and happiness on their faces is story enough!

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Ok, these next few will look really similar, but they’re from the 2nd go-round, where Mrs. Appelbaum’s friends came to hear our writing.  We were excited to try out her “rules” and the compliment sheet on our work!

I don’t have pictures of the last share we did, but after we had practiced with the Appelbaum team, we invited our friends from Ms. Turken’s class (they’re first graders) to listen to our writing, too.  This was the first time they had been to a writing celebration and we were hoping to teach them well about how it was supposed to work.  You’d never have known they were newbies–they were writing rockstars and worked really hard to give us meaningful comments on our work!  Hopefully we can share with them again when they’re finished their own writing pieces.

Whew! What an exciting day of celebrating our hard work, our meaningful writing ideas and our using grit and perseverance to share great stories!  Way to go, Rm. 202 kids!

Pictures of the Day–April 17, 2015

WHAT A BEAUTIFUL DAY!! I wish I could share my amazing Spring weather with you (although obviously some of you are enjoying the same warm temps and sunshine as me….but for those of you that aren’t, here’s what I see outside my end of the school:1428698639931And then there are the other pictures I chose for today.  They all include big ‘ole smiles that show how happy a place Robinson is. Happy Friday!

This smile come from a SUPER example of how Peyton used one of Marla Frazee’s craft moves in his own writing: just like the pictures in Roller Coaster, he added a detail to his picture of Fredbird from his Cardinal story. It says, “The Cardinals won and Fredbird goes CRAZY” and his feathers are falling out because he’s so excited.  LOVE that he’s using the examples of authors we’re learning about–exactly what we’ve been talking about!

We were working on another text in interactive writing today, and I wasn’t going to include another picture of our MANY words we’ve been writing, but there was something about this cute face that changed my mind. Great work, Landen!

There’s not a lot I need to say about this picture except look at that great crown and that AMAZING first grade smile! Say cheese, Sara!

Remember how I said that Robinson is a happy place to be? Here are three more reasons why–my other two teammates Rachael and Rochelle, and the fact that people just show up and give you ice cream and say Happy Friday! What a treat on a beautiful day. 🙂 I LOVE MY JOB!!

 

Mystery Skype–Ecuador Style!

This week we were busy with a whole LOAD of fabulous things, but maybe our favorite was when we did a Mystery Skype with Ms. Turken on Thursday!  She is a beloved teacher who used to work at our school, but who has taken a year away to teach English in Ecuador.  That’s pretty amazing, right?

Well, when we had an opportunity to chat with her, we were beyond excited!  The best part, though, in my mind, was that most kiddos in my class didn’t know that she was where she was, so we decided to do a Mystery Skype with her.

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It started in much the same way as the ones we’ve done previously this year–with us asking questions, using the computer and our big world map to figure out clues related to the answers, and then narrowing in on the location of our Mystery Skyper.

Sammy uses Google to help us figure out Ms. Turken's location.

Sammy uses Google to help us figure out Ms. Turken’s location.  I think at this point we’re even trying to zoom in as far as her town–Riobamba.

This map has been a very busy place in our classroom lately!

This map has been a very busy place in our classroom lately!

This was a special Mystery Skype, though, for a couple of reasons.  First of all, Mr. Kieschnick’s class came to sit in with us, so that they could learn how to do Mystery Skype, too.  That meant that we had 40 heads to help us figure out the clues instead of just our 20!  We kept talking, too, once we knew Ms. Turken’s location, since, of course, the real reason we called was to visit with our old friend.  She told us all about her life in Ecuador, including the food, her classroom where she teaches English, and she even gave us a little tour of the house where she’s living.  We learned many things about her (which I think I will leave for my students to tell you in the comments!), and had a great conversation.

So many kids in the room for this one!  That's Mr. Kieschnick in the corner of this picture.

So many kids in the room for this one! That’s Mr. Kieschnick in the corner of this picture.

And then, something very cool–and unexpected–happened.  Since Ms. Turken teaches English, but has to know how to both speak and understand Spanish to do that, someone asked that she speak to us in Spanish so we could hear what they sounds like.  Well, that’s a little bit weird unless you have a reason to be saying something, or someone to speak to in Spanish.  Remember how I told you that Mr. K’s class was there?  Well, a friend of his, Andres, piped up and offered to have a quick conversation with Ms. Turken in Spanish while we all watched and listened.  Perfect!

Ms. Turken began by asking him about school (escuela).  They went back and forth, and I know enough Spanish that I could figure out they were talking about math (mathematicas) and books (libras).  So while I couldn’t join in on the conversation, I could at least follow along.  Sophia, whose dad is from Peru, was also helpful in translating much of it to those sitting by her.  It was so cool to see the looks on everyone’s faces while Ms. Turken and Andres rattled away in another language–I know I heard “How do they do that?” several times and definitely saw big smiles and wide eyes on the faces of many.

Thank you, Ms. Turken, for a great morning, getting to know more about you and the adventures you are having in Ecuador!  We’re excited to learn more (she sent us questions to research) and to speak to you again soon!

Adios!