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. 🙂

#FDOFG: First Grade Menagerie

As I look over the pictures I’ve taken the last 8 days, as well as think about what we’ve been doing during our first days, I’ve found some things that don’t really fit into their own blog post, but are all connected because they’re all about the friends in Rm. 202.  Hope you’ll stay to check out the first grade menagerie I have to share. 🙂

First Grade Victory Dances!

If you’ve been here since the beginning of our first grade journey, you’ll remembering reading the welcome post I put up for my new friends.  Well, I got two fabulous videos from two very brave first graders that I keep forgetting to share.  So forget now I no more!

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Who’s That Smiley 1st Grader?

I had a picture posted on our welcome screen for a couple of days, with a question of who they thought the smiling face might be.  Strangely (at least I thought!), not many figured out that it was me.  None of them thought it looked like me.  Well, I guess when you add 30 years and change the hair it messes people up. LOL

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My favorite part of this picture? It was the year I decided I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up!  My first grade teacher Mrs. LeGrand was pretty much the most amazing lady I had ever met and I wanted to become her some day.  I am not sure I did that–but I think (hope) I have become my own version of a great teacher! 🙂

Day 2 Plusses/Deltas Reflection

We don’t have the opportunity to sit down to “officially” reflect (although we almost always talk about how things went), but this was a fun one to talk about.  After we worked super hard on our 2nd day together, we sat down to practice more with “plusses and deltas” and we were SO EXCITED to see the things we were able to write down.  We also talked about how easily we could work the next day to solve the struggles we had on Day 2. To be able to see brand new first graders doing such fabulous things so early in the year together was so commendable.  Way to go, Rm. 202 friends!

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Grit and Growth Mindset  AT RECESS!!

The other day at recess, Cal came running to me to show me something he can do now that he couldn’t do before.  He told me he’s been working for a really long time and now he can do it!  Way to keep trying, friend!

Ok…there are other things I could add, but really–what could follow that awesome video?  🙂

First Grade Math Warm-Ups: Week of March 30-April 3, 2015–WALKER’S CLUB EDITION

Our math warm-ups are almost always related to what we’re working on in math.  Sometimes it’s the beginning of the unit, and so kiddos don’t have much schema yet and aren’t really sure what to do.  Later then, the warm-ups become practice of the strategies they’ve learned and are working on perfecting (or at least using more efficiently).  This week, they were even the same topic: Walker’s Club.

Let me explain…

In a nutshell, this year we started a program to help our Robinson kids stay healthy and active, as well as have productive fun at recess.  We call it Walker’s Club, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, everyone walks laps around our playground at recess.  Every kiddo (and now even teachers!) has a card to keep track of laps that is punched each time they come around.  Parents, principals, teachers and even a group of kids volunteers to be punchers, and there’s always a big buzz about how many laps kiddos have at any given time.  There are prizes called Toe Tokens that kiddos earn at certain increments along the way.  So fun!

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This picture seems like it’s from so long ago! Don’t know how I didn’t share it earlier–they seem so little, don’t they?? 🙂

Well, to make it even better, and to celebrate National Walkers’ Day (which happened on April 1), Mrs. Wilson decided to make a competition for the month of April to see who can walk the most laps.  Each grade level will have a winner, and that class will earn an extra 20 minute recess + POPSICLES!!  Needless to say, it. was. on.

Math this week, then, naturally began to revolve around Walker’s Club laps: setting goals (first it was a conversation on how to set goals) how many laps other classes were walking, how many we could walk in a day, and how many we actually walked in one day.  Oh, and strategies for how to add up long strings of numbers so we could answer each of those previous questions.

Check out what we’ve been working on this week!

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As we started out our goal-setting, we decided (ok, so I suggested) that we should figure out how many we laps we usually walk on a Walker’s Club day. We could use this number (along with some other data we collected) to set a goal for how much each kiddo would walk/run every WC day.

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After we knew how many laps was our usual, we decided to ask our first grade friends the same question. Since they were the ones we’d be competing against, we also needed to know their usual number so we could adjust ours and make a goal that would matter.  This one’s from Ms. Turken’s class.  We got some data back from other classes, too, but haven’t yet analyzed it.

I need to insert a little note here: the first time we sat down together to add up that big string of numbers, we didn’t really know what to do.

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See this?  These are all of the answers we got when we went to work with our partners to add up the data.  WOW!  All the way from 10 to 122!  We needed some practice with an efficient and ACCURATE way to put lots of numbers together.  This gave me some ideas for future work in warm-ups.

So next came the idea of finding 10s as a quick (and organized) way to put lots of numbers together.   We then added (and readded) all of our data together from our chart and Ms. Turken’s chart.  We also tried it with other random lists throughout the week (so that when we came up on Walker’s Club data again, we’d be better at using that 10s strategy):

This one was a practice problem from the morning, but we didn't quite get time to review it later in the day.

This one was a practice problem from the morning, but we didn’t quite get time to review it later in the day.

This one was actually the warm-up from Friday (when I was out of the classroom), and I showed the sub how to record the combinations of 10s.

This one was actually the warm-up from Friday (when I was out of the classroom), and I showed the sub how to record the combinations of 10s.

This practice did help us, and when we added together our first OFFICIAL Walker’s Club list of laps, we knew what to do.  The problem (which was a good one to have) was that our list included lots of numbers that we couldn’t put together to make 10s.  That’s totally cool, though, because Evan had just been working on how to put numbers together to make 20s and 30s (and other multiples of 10) on Dreambox, so he helped us figure out what to do with all of those 8s:

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When I wrote my lap number up there, I felt a little bit funny since it was so much less than my Rm. 202 friends. I was SUPER glad to know it helped us out, though, as we could use it to go with some other numbers to make a combination of 20. Whew!

Check that out: on our first day we walked (and ran) 114 laps!!  This made us feel like we were off to a tremendous start (especially since we knew Ms. Turken’s class had only done 75 on their first day) and helped us set at least a preliminary goal for ourselves: we need to walk/run at least the number we did today to stay ahead of our friends.  We’ll talk more about how many that will be in all when we come back next week, and we’ll adjust that goal as we go forward and begin to hear what the other 3 classes are doing.  And hey, no matter who wins this April competition, we ALL WIN because we’ve got new strategies in our toolbox! Plus we will all have had lots of fun and lots of fresh air and exercise!  How can anyone complain about that!?

We’ll keep you updated on our progress as we go through the month! 🙂

5th Grade Class Meeting

So we did it.  Remember last week when I explained our most recent class meeting?  Well, the class meeting that we wanted to have with the rest of our grade happened this afternoon.

Even with 80 people in the room, we tried to follow the same class meeting protocol that we normally use.  We used a general flipchart list, since each 5th grade does things a little differently, but still put dots for things they liked and things they learned the most from during the week.  After those two rounds, our chart looked like this:

I loved how all those dots around “Weather Unit” ended up looking a little bit like a cloud.  Most of us started a big storm project in science this week (which I’ll write about soon!), and our kids are really jazzed about it.

Normally round three would be based on the question “What do you want to talk about?,” but in this case, we had gathered to discuss recess, so we didn’t need that one.  We started into the problem solving phase of our meeting, after laying a few ground rules:

As they shared their concerns about what was going wrong, we made a list of what was mentioned.  After our 5 minutes was up, our list had some pretty yucky stuff on it like people being left out, some kids being rejected when they ask to play, arguing, poor sportsmanship, pushing and shoving, interrupting games just to be funny, and worrying about who’s popular and who’s not.

We spent some time trying to problem solve around this topic, which proved to be pretty difficult with such a large group.  Kiddos explained what they meant about how some thought they were more popular than others and wouldn’t let them play or tried to show off and always be the best at every game they played.  We all agreed that our behavior did not match up with what we know to be true about Robinson’s 5th grade–that we are leaders, and that we support each other and rally around causes to help make everyone better.  We agreed that this was not ok.

The teachers did a little more in this meeting that we normally would–again because of logistics–but also because we wanted to make it very clear to our friends that this would not be tolerated.  At Robinson, you are expected to be respectful to others no matter where you are–the playground in addition to your classroom or anywhere else you are at school.  We left the meeting with a call to have each kiddo think about how they fit into this yucky puzzle of disrespect that has been happening outside.  Everyone has something they can do differently on Monday.

After we got back to our classroom, I had my kids do their regular Friday Note that always follows class meetings.  As always, they could tell me whatever they wanted to, but I also had them add their goal for what they would do to make recess better on Monday afternoon.  They understood that they each play at part in making our grade the best it can be, and I know that they will take the charge to change something tomorrow.   Can’t wait to see what it is!

Class Pet Petitions

I don’t know how long you’ve been reading, or how far back you’ve gone through the post archives, so I’m wondering if I’ve told you about class meetings yet?  I wrote about the big idea behind them here, and the story was pretty great.  This class is doing an amazing job with class meetings, too.  Each week, though, when we sit down together to reflect upon the week and talk over things we want to improve upon, there aren’t really any problems to solve.  Oh, come on.  No way, right?  No really–we had to change the last question on our meeting protocol to “What do you want to talk about?” rather than “What do we need to improve upon?” because of how well these kids work together, learn together and just generally follow the rules and procedures of our school.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re not perfect.  We do work things out together.  This week was an example of two kinds of issues to discuss.

 
Like class pet petitions, for instance.  Here is what the flipchart from this week’s class meeting:

So, see all those dots after “class pets petition?”  It meant that several people wanted to talk about that topic.  But again, it wasn’t because it was a problem.  They just wanted to talk about it.  They needed to decide whether or not it was a good idea for Ames to make us an origami class pet, and if so, what type of animal we’d want to have.  We decided that Ames (as the origami master of our class) would narrow the list down to four of his best creatures, and we’d vote on the one we liked best out of those four.  Then we’ll chat about it again next week.

Ok, so there did end up being a concern they did want to try to work out, and it was related to recess.  A question was posed about what to do when you try to play with people and they tell you you can’t.  We had a great conversation about strategies to try, words we could use and how it felt when someone told you you couldn’t be a part of the group.  The idea of “popular” kids was brought up, and the concern was raised that there are some people in our grade who won’t play with certain kids because they’re friends with certain other people who are considered weird or different.  It hurt my heart as I heard them talk about what was going on outside on the playground, and we decided that it might mean we needed a grander conversation.  We agreed that we would do what we could to support each other outside–like paying attention to when people are alone and inviting them to play, or standing up for our classmates if we see or hear something mean being done to them–but we agreed that this might be a topic that would be better discussed with our whole grade level.  So I have “homework” to coordinate a 5th grade recess conversation in the next few days.  This was definitely a problem worth tackling, and one that we want to see solved.