Even Recess Time is Learning Time!

We love recess in first grade.  This is the second year we’ve had an “official” first grade morning recess–on the school calendar and taken no matter what–yep, rain or shine! Kids need time to run and play and breathe fresh air!!

Recently we attended a meeting, though, that helped us see the need to use this play time as an even more important learning time for our first grade friends.

Data is showing us that many friends in our school (and our grade level) are having a hard time playing.  Sounds weird, I know, but with so many kiddos only doing structured, planned things like sports or spending more and more time on screens, they are showing us that they are struggling with playing together appropriately at recess.  And what do first grade teachers do when we see a need such as this?  Figure out a way to TEACH recess!

We decided to become more intentional with this time already carved out in our schedule.  We decided we wanted to teach our kiddos 1) the “rules” of recess (like no fighting, use good sportsmanship, speak kind words, and some others), 2) how to play some specific games, and 3) how to appropriately use the playground equipment, rather than assume they know what they are supposed to do.

We decided which places on our playground we wanted to teach first, as well as what games we should start with.  Together we chose: an area of our playground that houses the saucer swings, regular swings, monkey bars, playhouse structure, and merry-go-round; an area of our playground that is an obstacle course; duck-duck-goose; and kickball.  Once we had activities and areas, teachers choose a place to focus on; classes would rotate as a group around to each place/teacher.  We made up a schedule to allow students to spent multiple days and multiple recesses (we follow the schedule during our morning recess as well as their regular lunch recess).  The time students are in each rotation is focused on explicit teaching, as well as getting to know kiddos we may not yet have met and for all of our kiddos to spend quality time with ALL the teachers on our team.

While we haven’t yet officially sat down to talk about what we’re learning from our kiddos (that meeting is tomorrow actually!), I think it is safe to say that there are some  things that I am seeing as I lead my swings/monkey bars/merry-go-round rotation:

  1. Having a common set of expectations for recess behavior as well as “rules” for each piece of equipment/game is incredibly helpful. It seems to me that kiddos appreciate this as it takes much of the guess work out of how they should maneuver during recess.  It’s pretty black-and-white. and they’re hearing the same thing from all the adults.  This way they can even support each other with reminders and encouragement!
  2. Being able to have contact with all of our kids helps with recess, but also in many other ways.  All students see all teachers as an important member of their learning team, and they are already more likely to listen to us in future situations since they’re getting to know us in this small way now.  We can build on this as we go on–this year and NEXT!
  3. Kids are doing many GREAT things at recess already!  While we were focusing on the “tricky” parts, this experience is showing me that there are already many things that kiddos ARE doing the right way, like taking turns, encouraging their friends, and generally following the equipment rules.  I’ve just had to tweak a couple of things (oh, and reteach some third graders I saw outside today who had completely FORGOTTEN how to use the merry-go-round safely! Lucky for them I was out there today, right? 😉 ).
  4. There are indeed things we can work on. :). My class, for example, is having a very hard time with kickball this week.  There is something about this age-old recess yard game that seems to being out the very worst in kids. :(. There has been much yelling, screaming, crying (which is against the recess rules, too, unless you are hurt!), arguing about the rules and calls, and also just generally not having a good attitude about the game.  Our class is definitely not following the rule that “Recess is supposed to be fun!”  What’s so great, though, is that in this setting, where we purposely picked this game, knowing that it’s a hard part of recess for many kiddos, is that we don’t feel icky and discouraged about such problems.  We see these struggles of course as unfortunate, but also as opportunities!  Behaviors always tell much more than the obvious surface things you can see, and we’re willing to dig down and figure it out!  Rather than just saying “no kickball!”, we’re helping kiddos know how to do kickball (and just life!) better.

This is the end of the first round of rotations, and I’m excited to see what our next level of play will look like. Kids keep asking us when they get recess back (ha!), but we’ve said many times that they will show us when they’re ready.  And no, in case you’re wondering, they’re not ready yet. 🙂

What To Do With a Box

Every year when we consider what to do in our first days, there is a hope and a plan to make the first day (or two) so exciting that kiddos can’t wait to come back for more.  Rather than spend our first times together as a class sitting and talking about rules, consequences, expectations and well, more of the same, we strive to SHOW them what’s important to us, and at the same time give them opportunities to have fun and make memories form the very beginning.  This year on our first day we made ice cream butter, read lots of great books and got to build with boxes!!

Several years ago Ms. Turken and I found this book by a beloved author (Jane Yolen) and loved it right away.  Then when we realized the invitation it gave kiddos for creativity and imagination–and that we could do it on day #1–we loved it even more!

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The concept is very simple: you can do SO MANY THINGS with a box and your brain. :). After we read the story, we just looked at the box pile (sorry! I forgot to get a picture! 😦 ) and brainstormed what we thought we might do with those boxes.  Many kiddos started to list problems they could see solving with a box (which was not necessary but a really great stretch of thinking!), or just fun things they might create to play with or use for something at home or school.  We took turns choosing our boxes and then got busy!

We built and created for most of the morning (or maybe the day?!) and it was great to watch what happened!  Kids were busy, working, cooperating, trying things out and trying again, and using all the grit and creativity they could muster.  It was exciting to see that already this class knows how to tackle an open-ended situation where there are many possibilities.  They took on the challenge with smiles and excitement and produced some pretty great results!  AND they had a super fun 2nd day of school and were excited to come back for more!! 🙂

Math Play Day

After the success of Global School Play Day, my first grade team was ALL IN on how to give our kiddos more opportunities to play.  In all the subjects.  On any given day.

And it was incredibly convenient that at the end of Global School Play Day, we had team time to discuss just that topic! #luckyus #firstgradedoubleplanforthewin

After we tossed around several ideas, we landed on trying something in math first.  And we also decided that using The Periodic Table of Play as our resource for ideas would be the best place to start.  Our district has done work with Laura Seargeant Richardson, and has committed to putting play up at the top of a list of priorities for all kids and adults in our district.  We have a deck of Play Possible Schools cards in our library, and they were the perfect place to dig in. 🙂

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While the conversation was long and detailed, the short story is that we decided to take one concept (fractions) and each choose a different way to “play” with that idea.  We chose an element of play and then figured out a way to apply that to fractions.

There are only five of us, and eleven elements, so we tried to have a variety of options.

We decided on:                Screenshot 2019-02-20 20.06.39

Before the chosen date of our Play Day, we planned what part of our element we could focus on, and got ready for our activity.  In order for kiddos to be able to choose their play place (which was another crucial part of our plan–kid choice!!), we put together a Google Slides presentation to invite them to come play with us!

No one knew which teacher they would end up with or really what they would be working on until they showed up–which added to the excitement and motivation!

Here’s what kiddos chose to do.  Check out how much fun they had!!

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This group observed a science experiment that included using different parts of an Alka-Seltzer and predicting/watching what happened.  Kiddos recorded their thinking with words and pictures.

Lucy had some words to explain her math time today:

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Friends in this group worked with Legos to represent different unit fractions in a variety of ways.  What a fun way to use a typical first grade classroom tool!

Screenshot 2019-02-20 20.04.01 Mathematicians in this group worked in a pizza restaurant!  They got to take turns being a chef (and making fraction pizzas), taking orders and also making a menu.  What an authentic and FUN way to apply fraction knowledge!

Check out Ali’s explanation of what she did!

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Screenshot 2019-02-20 20.04.10  Friends that worked in the “feeling” group used their senses of touch and smell to explore fractions.  Listen to Riley explain what she did and why she liked it! Spoiler alert: This was the BEST DAY of math, EVER!

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Screenshot 2019-02-20 20.04.17 This was my group. 🙂 . In this one, mathematicians were invited to plan, create and then play (well we didn’t get to this part, but will do it later!) a game about fractions.  Kiddos chose to work alone, in partnerships and also in groups of 3.

And check out what Hailey had to say about what she did and why she liked math today. 🙂

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So…can you tell that this first ever First Grade Math Play Day was a roaring success??  Everyone involved had fun and we even noticed that there were not any behavior issues during our play time, either. 🙂 . I mean not surprising, though, right–when everyone is having so much fun learning??

After reflecting on the day, we noticed that a large number of our kiddos chose the groups that played with Legos and made games.  And many of the ones who didn’t get to do that today said that they would choose it if they had a chance again.

And now we’re left with some questions to chew on.  When will we do this again?  Will we try math again?  Same topic or another one?  Should we try another subject?  How can we use what we learned about how our kids like to CREATE and MANIPULATE to better meet their needs at mathematicians (even on regular math days)?  We’re excited to think through the answers (and possibilities) and get another play day on the calendar!

Will you join us?  We’d love to hear your thoughts about our try at math play, and also at how you do this in your own classroom!  Leave a comment with your ideas! 🙂

#GSPD2019–Play ALL Day!–ROBINSON Edition

I shared my own story of Global School Play day here, but wanted to also share what it looked like in the rest of our school.  Check out what play looked like in other rooms around Robinson!

Kindergarten

First Grade

Second Grade

Fifth Grade

Fifth Graders love the opportunity to be creative.  To take something like legos and build something new, or practice folding paper based on a tutorial, and even sharing the love of sketch and drawing.  🙂

What a great day of fun, learning and PLAY!!  Can’t wait until next year! 🙂

#GSPD2019–Play ALL Day!

I have told the story of how I first found Global School Play Day, and so I was looking forward to it as February got closer. :).

I remember when I told my friends that it was coming and how I already knew before they said it what their response would be: “All day?”  Yes, friends, you get to play ALL DAY LONG!  And you’re in charge!

Kids were invited to bring something from home to enhance their day (as long as they followed the no electronics rule), and they came in with some pretty great things to share with their friends in Rm. 111.  We usually start our day with choice time anyway, so in many ways this Wednesday was the same as every other Wednesday.  The easel question for the morning asked them to make a plan, get their things and PLAY!

Once we had lunch count, attendance, morning announcements and the Pledge taken care of, I pulled them together for a quick meeting.  We had to set the ground rules for the day.

Together we talked through these guidelines:

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Really I think many kids didn’t believe me about this whole “play day” thing, but after our meeting I sent them back on their way to get to work play.

Even from the beginning it was fun to watch how varied their choices were in activities.  We had blocks, Legos, cars, toys from home, stuffed animals, trains, board games and even arts and crafts.

Now I’ve worked with kids for many years (and have two of my own), so I’ve seen kids play before.  But, as with every new group of kiddos, there are some unexpected surprises that show up even when you think you’ve seen it all.  Let me share some that happened with this group.

1.) Kiddos incorporated a variety of mediums into one “game.” Wyatt and his friends played with Legos, wooden blocks, cars, recyclables, a stuffed elephant  and army men all together.  At one point they even had a book out as they followed along to build something “official” together with Legos.

Lucy, Riley and Ariya did the same with blocks, a pillow, Legos, LOL Surprise dolls and a wooden dog marionette. 🙂

2.) Kids could sustain long amounts of attention at the same activity.  The “game” that Lucy, Riley and Ariya were playing went on from about 9:00 until 12:30 or 1:00 (except for the time we were away for lunch and recess).  They changed the story, added in details (and new toys) and even had other friends move in and out throughout the whole thing.  They negotiated, took turns, shared ideas, laughed together, pretended–did all those things kids do when they have time and choice to play nicely without the interference of adults.  There was no arguing, fussing, misbehaving….and they probably could have gone on like that for much more of the day if they’d been able to.  They just seemed like they were having so. much. fun. :).

3.) There were many things that were in our play day that were from our “regular” day.  I don’t know if I should take credit for this, or if it’s just the activity itself is fun, but I’d like to say that maybe the way we do things has added enjoyment in Rm. 111?  Anyhow, there were many times I looked and students were choosing to do things they regularly do at school.  🙂

I think my favorite example of this came when I looked over at the easel by the rug and saw this:

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For those of you who are readers or this blog, or fans of phonemic awareness, or maybe teach a primary grade, you recognize that big spiral bound book as the Heggerty teacher’s manual.  Yep, on a play day where he was his choice of activity Brock. is. doing. Heggerty. I CANNOT tell you how big this made me smile and also how really it didn’t surprise me as much as I let on.  Kids love the motions and the pace of our phonemic awareness work and I think they appreciate how much it helps then in so many aspects of their literacy lives. 🙂

He added in some friends and “students.”

The best was when he got out the “choppers.” 🙂

Additionally, someone found a small pad of Catch of the Day tickets and kiddos started passing them out to each other for positive things they saw their friends doing. :). Again, this made my teacher and mama heart happy.  And if you are for some reason NOT familiar with Heggerty and the work it addresses in phonemic awareness, check out where I wrote about it here.

So…we had a SUPER GREAT Global School Play day and yes, we played ALL DAY.  I have one more video to share, and I want to see if you notice the same thing I did when I recorded it.

Listen.  Do you hear it?  I know, right?  There’s that buzz of kids who are engaged, busy, cooperating–LEARNING!  Again, I’m not sure I was surprised (ok, maybe I was), but the whole day went off without behavior problems.  Kiddos didn’t argue, fight, bother each other, mess around..they negotiated, solved problems, made choices and enjoyed their time at school with each other.  Man…that’s what we strive for every day, right?

So that being said, I had to reflect on what I would take away from another Global School Play Day.  First of all, it’s a nice reminder that kids. need. to. play.  I feel like we do a pretty good job of this in Rm. 111, but I can always step up my play game.  Letting kids have more ownership of their play, leaving them alone to do what they choose is one way I could improve.

Additionally, I was reminded of how long it takes to settle into a groove.  You, know, to achieve “flow?”  Where you are so busy doing and enjoying what you’re doing that you don’t even notice time passing?  That happens so little in a classroom where our day is broken into small, segmented subjects and we transition from one thing to another so frequently.  Granted, we do this for a reason, but it’s probably good to ask whether its best for teachers and their schedules or kids and what they need.  Just watching the girls and the length of time they were “into” the world they were building made me wonder how (or if) we could accomplish the same thing in an academic situation by allowing kids more freedom, choice and TIME to settle into what they are doing?

I love that I work with a team of teachers who also think this way and who are willing to chew on this idea with me.  We have taken on the idea together and are really working diligently to figure it out.  For ourselves but mainly for our kids.  Because they deserve it. 🙂

 

We are WORD COLLECTORS!

Whew!  This week was crazy!  Besides it being World Read Aloud Day on Friday, we had TWO “it’s-too-cold-to-go-outside-today” days off of school!  It was a nice refreshing mid-week break, but definitely made for a week where NO ONE knew what day it was. LOL

So…remember how last week I mentioned a super project that was sparked from another Peter H. Reynolds book we read?  Well, I finally have enough of it up and photographed that I can share it!

Last week as one of our read aloud we enjoyed hearing The Word Collector.   Basically, in the story, Jerome collects words that he hears and likes–short words, long words, funny words, nice words, you get the idea.  Eventually he ends up have a GINORMOUS bag of words on little slips of paper that he drops and they get all spread around, then being shared with the rest of the world!

We decided that as super readers and word-lovers ourselves, we could also collect words!  It really only took a quick mention of the idea for first grade readers and writers to be IN and start finding great words all over the place!  We “officially” worked on it for one reading/writing time, but I know they literally could have done it all. day. long.  I love how Sam and Jaxon, who were working together, said they collected pages and pages of words for 20 or 30 minutes but said, “I think we could do this for 20 or 30 more HOURS!”

Now, when something like this happens, I can’t ever decide if the best part is what happens in our room, or what happens when someone decides we should share the idea with other kids.  In this case, it may have been both.

I went ahead and covered the door in blue paper, which was supposed to look like the cover of the book. See?

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Then as a class (well our class and Ms. Turken’s kiddos, too), we decided what we might do to share our work with our school on our doors.  We agreed that we should have a picture of Jerome, telling our Robinson friends about our inspiration and the word collecting we began to do.

We decided rock-paper-scissors would be the best way to decide who would create Jerome, and so after many, many games, Makhi, Wyatt and Isaac became our illustrators.     They made a most-handsome version of Jerome, and also a word bubble that we added words to together.

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Beckett helped add some words to our speech bubble, using interactive writing and his best first grade letters!

One of the best things that happened as we talked about what our speech bubble should say, was when Hailey suggested we invite other Robinson friends to collect words WITH US!?  I usually have an idea of what I think the words could say, but it’s generally up to kiddos to decide what they will say. Hailey had the great idea that we should invite the rest of Robinson to collect words WITH US, which I had not even considered.

On Friday we finally had time to get our lists and lists of collected words onto our slips and finish our Jerome and words.  We still have to add the pocket that will house the slips, tape, and sharpie for other people to use, but it’s up and it’s FABULOUS!  Don’t you agree?  I LOVE LOVE LOVE that these kiddos are already learning to pay attention to how words sound and think about the power they have!

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What words would you add to our display?  Please leave your suggestions in the comments and we’ll put them up for you!  Can’t wait to hear what you say and from how far away our words will come!  So in addition to your words, please tell us where you live!

Literary Lanterns: 2018 version

I found this project a few years ago, and have tried it with three first grade classes now. 🙂 Last fall must have been a busy time in my life because the 2017 version of this project did not make it to our blog. 😦 Oh well–here’s another iteration of this awesome project, which is a great combo of fall, pumpkins and books!

As with the last times we’ve done it, we started with the explanation, and this picture:

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We talked about the possibilities for books and characters we’d use and made one really important rule: you can’t do anything in this example. :).  As you might be able to tell, these are many of our favorite characters and EVERYONE would want to do them.  This challenges them to think “outside the book” so to speak, and not just copy someone else’s idea.

Kids had time to check out our book wall (another GREAT reason to display them low for all to see!), and shared their book choice (either from one we’ve read or one they’ve read or just love).

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After their books were chosen, and Ms. Turken and I had given them their assignment (with the idea of trying to make sure all our our lanterns were different), they were to draw their plan, including a list of materials they would need to complete their pumpkin.  Learners shared their plans with us (and each other) via Seesaw.  Here are some of them:

Once everyone had brought in their pumpkins (plus some extras via some very generous families!), we finally got busy with the decorating!

We were finally ready to share our creations after we’d gotten our displays together–including a picture of our book and a recording of who our character was and why we’d chosen them (can you say “thank you KSD for the fact that we are 1:1 with iPads?  WE are able to do SO MANY GREAT THINGS because of that!). Here’s what a few of those looked and sounded like:

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We set up our Literary Lanterns and our iPads so that as kiddos from the other classes came through to see our gallery they could listen and look at our thinking.  We also had a chance to go through and view our own class’ creations during the gallery walk.   What a great end to a great Friday morning around Robinson school!

Ok, one last little slide show. :). Here’s a closer look at our creations! (It seems now that I’ve missed a few, but I will add them as soon as I get back to school!)

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