Mystery Skype in First Grade–FINALLY!

I have talked about Mystery Skype many, many times on this blog over the years (because it’s an AMAZING learning experience and man is it fun!!), but if you’re new here you might not know much about it, or even what it is.  If that’s the case, please check out this post that I wrote a few years ago to explain how it works, then come back and read about how it’s going in first grade this year!!

While Mystery Skype encompasses a long list of skills and concepts that first graders need to know and apply, we chose to begin it now because we were going to begin a geography study and knew this would be a SPOT ON and FUN way to do what we needed to do with our kiddos.

Rather than just jumping right in, we did a little bit of work beforehand, and talked about what we already knew or what we noticed about maps.  Kiddos got a partner and a map and talked.  Like we figured, they already knew a lot about how maps work.

I didn’t get a picture of the chart, but kiddos’ post-its showed that they already knew about how blue means water; that usually the green parts mean land; that the stars, dots, etc., stand for places/cities; and that there is a place (which we will later on call the key or legend) that tells you what all those symbols mean.

Ms. Turken’s class was a day ahead of us in our geography study and so had had a chance to talk about regions and where certain states are in our country.  The next day, then, we joined forces and put our kids together to do some co-teaching and kid-teaching about what they had learned.  Rm. 112 brought their maps to share and we talked about how we could use this new learning to help us determine where someone was during a Mystery Skype.

In addition to the idea of using regions to help us, we also highlighted how the Mississippi River is another important natural feature we can use to help us narrow down locations.  We marked it on our maps, and the practiced asking yes/no questions and kiddos figured out which state I had chosen.  During this practice round, we also talked about borders and how we can ask if the state borders another country or a body of water.

After both groups had had a chance to practice (one with me and one with Ms. Turken doing the same thing), we were ready to try it for real. 🙂

Luckily, Ms. Turken has many family members who live in other places and who are game to play with us!  Since we had two Skype sessions scheduled, we decided to use them as an opportunity for more teaching and learning.  One group asked the questions and then the other were the observers, so see how it worked.  We would then switch the next day.  We talked to one brother on Thursday, and very quickly figured out he was in Colorado.  We were EXCITED that we had figured it out!

Kiddos showed that they were TOTALLY listening and learning in our practice rounds, and asked great questions about all that we had discussed.  They used regions, the Mississippi River and borders to help them!  Way to go, first grade friends!

Then on Friday, we talked to another brother, and the second group got a chance to try out their Skyping skills!

Again we were able to use what we know to determine his location! YEEHAA!!  He was able to use his phone to show us some great pictures of the water he lives and works next to, as well.  We liked that part. 🙂

So…we’ve begun a really exciting Mystery Skype journey that has taken us to Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina and Colorado already.  Wonder where we’ll go next?!  Stay tuned!

Trying Out Our New Zones: Rm. 202 Kids Take Over–Part 5

The morning after Riley, Allie and I worked our magic, kids were greeted with this question on the easel:

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To watch their eyes as they came in and saw the changes was priceless (and no, I don’t have any pictures of it. Sorry!).  I think my favorite response, though, was Mara’s.  She said, “Wow–it looks AMAZING!!”

After kiddos had a chance to check out the new layout, we went through strict directions of how each zone was meant to work–at least the general idea of them.  I walked everyone around really slowly and explicitly showed them around, looking at the supplies that were in each space, talking through why we put it where we did and explaining the way Riley had thought through the process of building the new classroom.  I’m pretty sure this took at least 40 minutes.  I meant business.

Next I had kiddos rotate through each zone, thinking through what the “rules” should be for that section of our room.  Each small group had a turn in each zone, and took time jotting their ideas on the chart paper placed in each area.

Next I let kiddos choose a place to begin and we practiced what it would be like to work in each new place in our room.  Ok, thinking about it now, we should have done this practice part FIRST so that they could better think about the “rules” part, but now I’ll know for next time.  It worked out ok the way we did it.

Kiddos chose the place they wanted to start, and then everyone spent about 10 minutes in each zone, trying it out, getting a feel for how it would function for us.  They had a choice of what to do there, but had to make sure that they followed the guidelines of the space–that they were silent in the ZERO ZONE, that they were reading in the READING ZONE, etc.  They were VERY excited about this.  As with the last part, this took close to an hour of very focused time as we learned to use our new room in an appropriate way.

The next day we thought through how the zones had worked for us.  I asked them to tell us what they liked and what they would change:

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So far I think I can say that this has been one of the most positive things that has happened in our community this year.  I know it is so because of work we’ve done along the way, but the instant changes that happened in the volume of our voices, the number of incidences of disengagement and the increased student engagement have been obvious.  The kiddos seem more at ease, more motivated and happier.  Who would have thought that could happen with just a little bit of a furniture switch-around? Ok, well I, at least, hoped it would have. 🙂

 

Riley Helps Out: Rm. 202 Kids Take Over–Part 4

The subtitle of this should add: “And Allie does a little bit, too!”

After kiddos left on Monday and we had our chart of what they wanted in our new room layout, Riley and Allie and I got busy.  And in case you’re new here and aren’t sure who I mean, let me show you my cutie-pie kiddos.  Riley is in 4th grade this year and Allie is a new kindergartner at our school.  It has been fun to have them join me at school, and is also great how often they help me in my teaching.  They have such great ideas and different takes on things than me–I like to throw things at them and see what they think I should do.  They are often the ones that help me come down off the ledge and keep me from doing things that are TOO crazy in Rm. 202.  Thanks, kiddos. 🙂

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And…this year Riley has become the superstar room planner of my dreams. 🙂  Because he has been in such a responsive and collaborative classroom this year, he’s learned a lot about how to really think through how your space works and how to fix things when they don’t work the way you wanted them to work.

So after reviewing the chart my class had made and thinking about how we could best use the furniture and room space available to us, we let the ideas fly.  I love that I could hear what the conversations had been like in his room as he said things like “Let’s just try it and see what we think” or “What about this?”  He had some great ideas for where each zone should go and gave conclusive support as to why they made sense.  My favorite part was when he used our cubbies to create the hands-on zone on one side of the room, explaining that the height of the cubbies would create a nice sound barrier as kids worked there.  It’s a place my cubbies have NEVER been and I had NEVER thought of putting them there.  The block box fits PERFECTLY into the corner of it and there’s plenty of floor space and table spaces for kids to work creatively and collaboratively without bothering each other.  Genius!

He suggested the corner be where we put the reading zone (again–a place I have NEVER put the library in the 5 years I’ve been in this room), because it allowed us to have a white board to put charts, share ideas, and it created a cozy space.  He wanted the shelves to face outward so we could put the soft pillows against them to provide a nice place to sit.  AND we found a way to use 3 cubbies to stack tall enough for a lamp to light the area.  It’s one of the only places in my room with an outlet, so again–genius move, Riley. 🙂

The rug is next to our ActivBoard now and is a nice, open space for our class to meet together, or for partners to work or even for kiddos to work alone with lots of space.  I have lots of favorite parts, but the back corner near the sink is now officially called The Kitchen, and has our big ‘ole kitchen table to work at.  I’ve always wanted a space like that in my classroom, to  help bring home to school, and I think it’s going to be just what I’d hoped for.

While I wanted to have a tour and some pictures in this post, I think those make more sense in later parts of the story.  In fact, my kiddos will be working on how to present how our room works as we begin this next week together.  I want them to tell how it’s changed our lives and explain the best parts of the new layout.  Stay tuned for that!

Also in the plans for next week is an invitation to Mrs. LeSeure’s class to come check out our space.  Without them and their expertise, I don’t think our space would have been so well-imagined.  You guys rock!

 

How Many Fingers Did We Cross?

Last night I send these tweets to an author friend of Rm. 202’s:

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After the conversation ended, I knew I had the plan for what we’d be doing in math this morning. 🙂 #reallifeproblemsolving #wehadtofigureouthowmanyfingerswerecrossed

So…I started by sharing the Twitter thread and telling them all about the conversation I’d had with Ame Dyckman–the one that started with shrimp and chili dogs and ended with unicorns and crossed fingers. LOL  I told them all about how I’d really been wondering how many fingers we would have crossed and that I knew they could help me with that solution.  First we practiced crossing our fingers (and our toes–this was really hard for some kiddos! ha!), and then I reminded them of the problem I needed their help with:

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We agreed that we were figuring out the total for 23 people (22 kiddos plus me!) and that our explanations needed the have the criteria on the right side of our chart.  Kiddos worked with their learning partners, and could choose any (or all!) of the parts of the problem the wanted to work on.

Kiddos had time to work, choosing all different parts of the chart to solve.  I’m pretty sure this work went on for about 35 or 40 minutes, with partnerships working pretty steadily and cooperatively together to solve our problem.  As I worked through the room and conferred with each pair, we tweaked some things, I asked questions to help them dig deeper and many groups worked to make sure their posters could be understood without them standing by to explain what the numbers/pictures meant.

After their work time was up, I called everyone back to the rug to explain the next step.  While kiddos are familiar with the term “gallery walk” from math in kindergarten, I hate to admit we have not done as many of them as I’d like to this year.  Because of this, I needed to make sure that they had a very specific goal and job as they went around; the scaffold of a specific question to look for was helpful for many and the “roaming” was kept to a minimum.  So, during our gallery walk, their job was to hunt for the answers to our chart questions with their partners.  They could take notes if they wanted to (Aadish thought it was like being a spy), and the suggestion was made to take post-its with them.  They could only talk about math: questions they had about the posters, answers they saw, wonderings they had.  After a few minutes, we’d meet again on the rug to see what we’d found out.

Here’s a bit of what that gallery walk looked (and sounded) like:

Once we gathered on the rug, we got to dig into some solutions kiddos had found.

We started with the first one, “How many fingers would we cross if everyone crossed 2 fingers?”  Several teams tossed out their answers and we had everything from 46 and 44 to 24 and 30.  What?? Rather than have every group explain their thinking (and perhaps confuse everyone or make it harder to get to our solution), I went with the two answers closest together–44 and 46.

We started with having Allie and Ayonna share their poster and telling about their thinking:

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If you can tell from their poster, A and A decided to organize their thinking by writing everyone’s name so they remembered to include everyone.  Then, as we talked about how to count all the 2s, we decided that we could make groups of 2s to make 10.  10s would make it really easy for us to then count the total number of fingers.  We made an equation at the bottom to show the total of 46.

After A and A shared their thinking, we talked about the 44.  Ella and Chase were sure they had gotten the right answer, and said they weren’t convinced 46 was right.  This was a great addition to the conversation, and while I somehow didn’t get a picture of their work, we studied their poster, where they had also counted pairs of fingers, but with drawings (they traced their fingers).  Rather than list them in rows and columns like on the poster above, the fingers were randomly placed on the page, and readers had to follow arrows around the paper to follow the thinking and see the way they counted.  We talked as a class about the two examples, and Lucas suggested that even without counting, he was convinced that 46 was right because A and A had made their work organized and also included an equation.  After looking at the pairs of 2s on E and C’s poster, we realized they had only drawn 22, and therefore were a couple short.  They worked to add in their last fingers and agreed with us that 46 fingers was the right solution.

Callahan and Jesse showed us how they figured out 1o crossed fingers here:

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They wrote lots of 10s, and then made sure to label each 10 so they knew they had enough (23).  We talked together to clarify which line of numbers was which (fingers or people), and added labels to make that more clear for readers.  They counted the total number of fingers by making 2 groups of 100 with tens, and then finding 30 leftovers.  Their equation ended up being 100 x 2= 200, then 200 + 30= 230 fingers.  At the bottom they started work to figure out how many it would be if we did the 20 fingers and toes.

Lastly, Jamie and Kaiden showed us how they knew that if we crossed ALL OUR FINGERS AND TOES it would be 460 fingers and toes!! (We were amazed by this number and figured Ame Dyckman would be impressed, too!).

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Their thinking looks a little like Callahan and Jesse, with groups of 200 (made of 20s), though, rather than 100 with 10s.

After this one, we realized some connections between our numbers–like that we could have used the 10s numbers to help us with the 20s (because 20 is a double of 10)–and so figured that we could use that same thinking to figure out “how many fingers if we cross 4?”

Johnny helped us think this through and figured that if we counted 46 twice that would the same as doubling.  We drew this to help us figure that out:

fullsizeoutput_facThrough our discussion and brainstorming we figured we could count by 10s to figure out most of it (and Callahan even found another 10 by using that 4 inside of the bottom 6! This made it SUPER EASY!!).

So…after our work we had decided we’d crossed A LOT of fingers hoping for a new book. 🙂

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We ended by noticing (and we’ll come back to this much later) that the 4 is a double of 2, the 20 is a double of 10, and also that the answers doubled as the numbers doubled.  Kaiden added some arrows to show our connections. 🙂

Wow….I’m tired writing about that, but I am pretty sure my kiddos were equally tired working on it!  It’s the kind of math that reminds me that real life problems are the best and that when kiddos have a real reason to figure it out, the motivation is through the roof!  Everyone works hard and stays engaged because they have to know the answer!  Thanks for the inspiration, Ame Dyckman!!