#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!

Keira

Callahan

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

IMG_2957

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!

IMG_3076

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?  🙂

Reflecting on Data: Rm. 202 BOT Graphs

Last week I shared our story of the tightening up that has happened lately in Rm. 202.  It was based on this picture of our day last Wednesday:

IMG_0965-min

We decided (ok, well Evan and Emily really had the idea) to keep track of our behavior every day, and to use our Behavior Over Time charts to help better guide our choices.

We started by drawing a blank chart, and then over the last week have gotten in the routine of stopping briefly after each portion of our day to reflect on how it went.  Kiddos think about where they think the dot should go (based on their behavior + or – or so/so) and then I move my finger up the chart and kids raise their hands to show when they think I should stop.  Once we draw the dot, we talk about what evidence they have that supports that choice.  Instead of just saying “It’s good,” they have to provide real reasons why that makes sense.  As a class we come to a consensus about what is the right dot placement.

IMG_0966-min

Our first day’s try.  We decided after this day that we needed to define the top of the chart so we could show what the highest choice was for our dot.  We were excited that the line on this graph went up throughout the day.

IMG_0997-min

Sorry about the lighting on this one!  We added the top line, as well as the “so/so” on the side today to help us better define our choices.  We also focused on giving really specific reasons for our dots, as well as positive ones.  Instead of saying we weren’t doing this or we weren’t doing that, we tried to make sure we listed what we WERE doing that helped our behavior be at that particular level on the graph.  This one made us happy because it was straighter than yesterday’s and almost the whole day was at the top of the graph!

We left for the weekend feeling really great about the changes we’d made in our classroom, and agreed during our class meeting that we were on a much better track than we had been even just a few days before.  We had been thinking about how our choices impacted the whole class (not just ourselves!), and how if we certainly can try to influence our friends, we are ultimately only in charge of our own decisions.  When I asked kiddos to tell me what they thought the last two days had been so much better, many said it was our Xs system and their wanting to make sure they got the reward, but I think Sara really nailed it when she said that our BOT graphs help us see how we’re doing.  We are definitely a bunch of visual learners (me included!), and having things around that remind us of what to do or help us better understand what’s going on is extremely helpful.

On Monday, our graph looked like this:

IMG_1040-min

We noted that something odd much have happened during math, and the data we were keeping was helpful in our seeing how our behavior really trends during the day.

As we started Tuesday, we talked briefly about a goal that we could make for ourselves after looked at the behavior data we had collected the day before.  Many mentioned that we had to do a better job of listening, working hard and cooperating during math so our dot could move up.

Here is our Tuesday BOT graph:

IMG_1041-min

Notice anything? 

Let me show you again, side-by-side:

We founded it the oddest thing that they were almost identical!  This was puzzling to us, but obviously gave us good data that we had something specific to work on for Wednesday: math time.

As we started our day today, I had them think about goals again, but had them write them down.  This way we could be more clear on what we had decided to work on, and by announcing our intentions, it made it more likely that we would make them happen.

IMG_1051-min

Another thing that we added to our routine today was that each kiddo got their own BOT graph to mark.  Amber and Millie had started doing this independently the other day, and it seemed like a super idea to share with the whole group.  We us a LMS called eBackpack that allows me to easily push out documents to kiddos, lets them mark them up and then send them back to me.  Easy as pie I took a picture of our blank chart at the beginning of the day and each student was responsible to mark THEIR behavior throughout the day today.  This also added a level of authenticity to our class dots, as kiddos used their personal marks to inform their decision for our collective one.

They were pleased to try this for themselves, and were very motivated to give good evidence for their dot choices, as well as keep their graph up at the top.  I heard lots of kids say things like “Wow, this is a great day!” or “Look at my graph, it’s practically straight!” or “I need to make my dot move up next time.”  It was great to listen to how they were really thinking through the cause and effect of the whole thing, their motivation to do well and how we had good evidence for that description of the day as a “good one.”  We could point to specific things we had done (or not done!) that helped make our day successful.

IMG_1047-min

Here’s today’s graph:

IMG_1052-min

We were SO pleased with where our math dot ended up today!

Here are a few of kiddo graphs from the day:

We were also able to have a great conversation about our afternoon today; it was Wednesday last week when this whole mess started anyway.  Reflecting on our behavior using hard data was so helpful!

I’m not sure how long we will keep this up.  As with most things we do it’ll be around as long as we need it, and usually it’s the kiddos who help me decide when that is.  We’ll try the personal graphs again tomorrow and Friday and maybe even find a way to incorporate them with weekly reflection sheets.  I hope to be able to send them home at some point, too, to help spur conversations around dinner tables about data collection at school!

If you have a second, please leave us a comment and tell us what you think, or better yet, what questions you have.  We LOVE to know that people are reading about our learning!

Tightening Up

I CANNOT believe that we are already in the 4th quarter of the year.  Well, really I guess it’s the 8th quarter for some of us, since it’s our second year together! LOL  This time of year brings with it warmer weather (followed by colder weather, then warmer, then maybe some snow or ice, then finally Spring for real!), excitement about being outside more, comfort and ease the comes with having a well established community, and sometimes it brings kiddos who are SO comfortable and at ease with things that they forget the rules and start to act like crazy people.  Ok, not really, but everyone teachers can sometimes get lax and kids quickly take advantage of that.  And so this time of year often also brings with it a tightening up of the procedures and routines, reminders of the rules and lots of reteaching and practicing to help ensure we end the year in the best way we can!

“Tightening up” in Rm. 202 looks a little different than it probably does in some other places, mainly because the structure in my classroom looks different from many others to begin with.  I guess what I mean is that there are a few things that I find it necessary to be totally in charge of, and there are many more others that I leave my kids to decide upon or choose for themselves.  In general, students in my room choose their table seats (they are not assigned and are usually very fluid even throughout a school day); choose their carpet spots and  learning partners (unless I deem it necessary for specific learning goals to assign them); make decisions both about how they learn and show their learning; and they are in charge of much of how our classroom runs on a given day (like lunch count, attendance, cleaning, making announcements, using each other as resources for info and answers, etc.).  Most of the time, this works seamlessly, and we all spend our day happily working and learning together, supporting our friends, challenging each other, offering kind words of encouragement and taking care of each others’ needs.  It ‘s a beautiful thing.

And then days like yesterday happen.  While I know that no kid is perfect, and that everyone has their moments and makes mistakes, our Wednesday was a kind of day which I have not seem in a very long time.  Perhaps never with this class even.  Their behavior was screaming out to me that what we are doing in our room right now is not working.  We were loud, unfriendly, unproductive, messy, disruptive, disrespectful, slow…all words that do not describe a healthy, happy learning environment.

So what was I to do?  I certainly could have gotten really annoyed, mad, frustrated, had hurt feelings, yelled, etc., but obviously none of those options made sense.  They wouldn’t have been good for me or for my friends, and they wouldn’t have solved our problems that had happened during the day.  So instead, I decided to tighten up the reins a little bit.  Since they were showing me that right now they couldn’t handle choice and freedom, I’d give them less until they could prove again that they could.  Makes sense, right?

This meant a couple of new things, then, happened on Thursday.  First of all, kiddos had new table spots (ok, when they had assigned table spots to begin with–which was new) that were chosen by me.  They also had assigned carpet spots–again chosen by me–based on who they could best work with and be quiet and respectful next to.  As we started our day together, Evan made another suggestion that would end up being very helpful to us.  Let me back up for a second–at the end of Wednesday, I drew a graph of what our behavior looked like over the course of the day.  It looked like this:

IMG_0965-min

Evan’s idea was that we draw a behavior-over-time graph like that at the end of every day so that we could see how we were doing.  Even better than that, Emily suggested that instead we should keep track of our day DURING the day.  Otherwise we would have a hard time changing the way our graph looked; knowing in the moment that we were off track would allow us to fix things.  SUPER IDEAS friends!

One more thing that was a part of our tightening up plan was a little bit of a whole-class  behavior chart system with Xs for misbehavior (based on expectations we already have in place in our classroom) and a reward for friends that fit a certain criteria.  Basically everyone starts with the reward, and it’s up to you to make sure you don’t lose it.  We put together a chart where everyone has a label, and you get an “X” for choices that do not line up with our classroom expectations and Road Rules.  IF you have a certain number (or less) by the end of the time period (which will change as we go along), you can participate in our reward (this will also change with every period).  This first go-round, the Xs is 3 and the time frame was from Thursday morning to Friday afternoon (2 days).  The next chunk starts over on Monday and will go for more days or have less Xs (haven’t decided yet).

So…we put our new things in place and went through our days Thursday and Friday and kept track of our behavior over time.  Here’s what our charts looked like:

AMAZING, right?  One thing I love about Behavior-Over-Time graphs is that you have to justify why you’re putting each dot where it is.  Kids had to really reflect on our choices and evaluate whether our behavior counted as + or -.

At the end of the day on Friday we talked about why we thought that our last two days had been so much improved over what had happened earlier in the week.  Some friends of course pointed out our new reward system, some said it was our spots, but Sara mentioned that she thought it was our system AND our BOT graphs; being able to SEE how we were doing was super helpful in keeping those choices positive.  I agree, friend. 🙂

What stories can you tell about “tightening up?”  Does 4th quarter bring new procedures and routines for you and your kiddos?  How does the end of the year look different than the beginning?  Please comment and let us know!  Here’s to another great week starting tomorrow!

Rethinking the 100th Day: Rm. 202 Weighs In

This whole 100th Day of School thing has got my head spinning.  Last year I thought I had answered the question (at least the 1st grade version of it), but then it came to rear it’s ugly head again this year as last week people starting talking about it and planning again for the “holiday” that falls on Thursday, January 28 in our school.  So I started thinking again.  And you, kind blog readers and Twitter friends, helped my thinking along by asking some really good questions.

For instance, @avivaloca, who was part of the reason I started this whole thing last year, had this simple inquiry:  

Now here’s where I got a little uncomfortable, because I realized my answer wasn’t as nearly as strong as I thought. Well actually, I didn’t even have an answer at that point, because I was asking a different question altogether!

I don’t remember my exact answer (although if you’re curious you can go back to that post and read my response to her comment), but basically it was “Uh….because everybody else is doing it?” “Because I don’t have a really good reason not to?” “Well I don’t know, but let me tell what we’re doing on that day to celebrate! They’re really good ideas…”

Um, yeah. Not my best day. ESPECIALLY as a teacher who likes to pride herself on not just doing things because everyone else is or because they always have been done that way.

So as the title suggests, I did just what I told Aviva I was going to do, and asked my class to weigh in on the whole deal. (By the way, as I was telling them this story and was about to say what our next step was, Makayla said that she knew I was going to ask them about it. Love that they know my moves!).

My first question to the to get our conversation going was “What do you know about WHY we celebrate the 100th Day of School? What’s it all about anyway?” Here’s what they said after having a chance to chat it over with a partner first): 

So what I heard them saying was that it wasn’t really about the number 100 at all, but that it was about stopping to reflect on how far we’d come together, how much we’d learned together and where we were going. My next question was “Well that could happen any time, right? Why the 100th day?”

They had some really good ideas, most of which had to do with the fact that that day is nicely right in the middle of the year; long enough in to have something to look back on and be proud of. Sara made a good point: “It couldn’t be on the 1st or 2nd day of school because we wouldn’t have learned anything yet!” I guess you’re right. ❤

We went on to talk about the origin of the 100th day celebration (which I believe is in kindergarten when kids have actually been in school for 100 days, right?), and I wasted Aviva’s question: “Why do we celebrate this day in 2nd grade? Is 100 really a big deal to us now?” They agreed that no, it’s not.  We’re working on time, money, we’re going to be adding to the 1000s, and we can count WAY higher than 100 already.  It WAS a big deal a couple of years ago, but that number is not such a landmark for us anymore.  We decided that our focus would be on looking back at our learning and reflecting on the many things we know how to do now.

With that in mind, we went back to our list to revise; we would only keep things on it that had to do with reflection, not the parts that were just about 100.  Basically the things that were related to the number 100 were crossed off, although we realized that we had a pretty good list of reflection activities already.

FullSizeRender 15-min As we revisited our ideas, we crossed off ones that were “number based,” as well as the blog posts and reading 100 books because those were things we did last year.  We decided 100 math problems was something we always do anyway, and that 100 facts about places was just what we were doing in Social Studies and so we’d wait on that, too.  The writing and notebook entries were also typical to our daily schedule.  The 100 post cards was crossed off because we’ve been working on letters in Writers’ Workshop and that would make more sense that post cards.  Pretty valid support, I’d say.

We did have a question come up related to puzzles.  Ja’Mia wanted to take that off the list, because at first it seemed to be just about the number.  She asked the class “What do puzzles have to do with learning?” (I was glad she was brave enough to bring this up to everyone, and was eager to hear their answers!)

Here’s the (long) list of what kiddos said about how they fit into our theme:

  • You have to work together.
  • You have to use problem-solving to figure it out.
  • You have to be patient.
  • You have to have self-control and keep it together if you get frustrated.
  • You have to use grit.
  • It’s a challenge (especially if there’s a lot of pieces!).
  • It takes a long time so you have to be willing to work hard.

After hearing what others had to say, she was ok with it.  “Well, if you’re working in a group to do it, I guess it makes sense.”  Good girl.  🙂 (By the way, we applied the same logic to board games, including Millie’s point that games like that help us learn how to win and lose graciously.)

So armed with our new list and some renewed excitement and understanding about the reasons behind this day, we’re getting geared up to have a great day of learning, reflection and fun on Thursday.  Can’t wait to share it with you!

 

Do Parents Make Better Teachers? (Part 2)

Wow–I didn’t initially intend for this to be a two-parter, but I got to the end of #3 and figured it made more sense than continuing towards that 15-year-to-read post I mentioned.  Ok, here we go again.  And here’s Part 1 if you missed it.

4. In 2012, our family made another step in the stages of growth when my first baby went to kindergarten.  Um…in case you didn’t know, the first day of kindergarten (i.e. real school) is VERY different than the first days of preschool.  At least for me.  Oh, the tears!  Plus there was an added level of fun stress responsibility because I was sending him to my same school.  That meant I had to quickly dry the tears and get back to my big kids for our first day of school.  Needless to say, being a parent of a school-aged child was a learning experience.  I think I’d say the hardest (and more surprising) part was parent-teacher conferences.  As a mama of a kindergartener I learned that parent-teacher conferences are nerve-wracking from the other side of the table.  No matter what.  And wow–that was a big deal for me.  After over a decade of going through that routine as a teacher, I finally “got it” as a parent.  I knew that from then on I would do everything in my power to ease any nerves that came in with parents to my own conferences.  And even though I’ve now done 5 of my own conferences, I still cry.  I’ve learned to let Mr. Bearden be in charge in this realm. 🙂

5. As I mentioned before, I went back to primary last year, after 9 years with “big” kids.  At first I was super scared.  Ok, I was nervously excited.  I knew it would all come back, but here’s perhaps the biggest way in which I know I am a better teacher a parent.  I was not a mom the last time I taught 1st and 2nd grade, but now I have an 8 1/2 and a 5 YO.  That definitely has added to my arsenal of strategies and tricks that I can use in countless situations.  Remember how I mentioned that classroom management that first year was so hard to learn and how I thought I might die? Ok, I didn’t say that, but it’s funny to see the difference with managing things in a primary grade the second time around.  Yes, part of the ease is that I have now been teaching for so many more years; this has been an education in itself.  But being a mom has also given me another set of eyes in the back of my head.  I know better what to anticipate (and then hopefully prevent) with 7-8 YOs, because I have one at home.  I can speak to little ones in a better and more meaningful way since I’ve had so much more practice since the last time around.  I can better predict what will be the right words to motivate, the right words to encourage, or stop or which words might send a little one into tears (and yes, I try to avoid those!).  The extra treat that I didn’t anticipate was being able to understand the “culture” of this age; I totally understand their games, books, TV shows, etc., because they’re the same as what I have at home!!

Ok, so back to the initial question.  Do parents make better teachers?  For me, that’s definitely true. However, there are many ways to define “better,” and there are of course AMAZING teachers who are not parents.  I have, however, learned many lessons and can better understand many of the ins-and-outs since I am on both sides of the equation.  That education has been such a gift.

What I’ve known–and truly believed–all along though, is that regardless of their career, the job that parents do as their child’s first teachers is priceless.  It is therefore not my job to replace them as the teacher, but to work together on a new team of teachers and parents to help mold our students into the best versions of themselves they can be.  The work that mamas and daddies do before I even get their kiddos is so important to the work that I will then do with each student once they enter my classroom.  What fun to join the family of learners to work together towards a common goal!

So I Have This Thing…

So I have this thing where I can’t write about something on the blog until after it’s finished.  Like the whole thing.  Even if it’s a Writing unit, a Social Studies project that takes 6 weeks or a Math investigation that is 10 days long.  I guess part of the reason is I want to make sure I have all of the parts to tell the full story–the beginning, middle and end–as well as to make sure that I’ve figured out the angle, the focus or the Big Idea I want to make sure to highlight.  I want to have identified the problem and then share the solution.  I want to have taken all the right pictures (which I have now learned the hard way have to be compressed before I upload them!) and figured out just the right words to write so that the most people want to read–and then comment on!–the post.  You get it the idea.  I want it to be perfect.

But unfortunately what happens when I work like that is that often time gets away from me.  I wait too long and a whole list of things occur: a teachable moment goes uncelebrated and the story goes untold, I forget the best parts of the story because too much time passes, I lose momentum, or even worse I end up with SO MUCH to write that then I can’t do it.  And then my blog sits untouched since mid-December, with many amazing learning experiences not shared.  And the funny thing is it’s taken me what seems like FOREVER to figure out that maybe that’s not working.  Yeah, I guess I’m kind of a slow learner.

So I’m not sure where that leaves me then.  I could go back and (with the help of the pictures I’ve taken) catch up on the 1,000 things that have happened since a month ago (ouch!); I could just shared the “finished” things that have occurred this week and celebrate the amazing things my students are learning–as well as what they are teaching; or I could just start writing about things in a new way and not worry so much about making sure that every post, every “story” is complete before I tell it.  Often, it’s the middle, the messy parts, the while-it’s-happening stuff that is the most interesting anyway.  It’s the things I learn when I’m not expecting them that are the most enlightening.  It’s the lessons that don’t go the way their supposed to that often have the most impact, and it’s when I stretch myself out of my comfort zone and try things a new way that often I find I wonder why I didn’t do that a long time before.

I guess I just made the decision then.  I am resolving to try something new this year (but I still say I don’t make New Years’ Resolutions), and tell stories at whatever stage of completion that they are in.  I pledge to share the ugly parts of learning as well as the well-planned, perfectly-executed, went-just-the-way-I-wanted-them-to parts (yeah…there’s much more of the previous than the latter anyway, so it’ll give me lots more to write about!).  I guess I already try to share the whole story anyway, but I’ll try to make sure I am ok with just little bits at a time instead of just the final product.  It’s the process not the product anyway, right?

Thanks for listening to my rambling, especially if this is the first time you’ve been back to our blog in a while and were expecting something different (which makes me wonder–what do you expect when you come here?  I’d love to know! Leave me a comment. 🙂 ).  I hope to make this a time to turn over a little bit of a new leaf and start the year with a fresh commitment to share the amazingness that happens in Rm. 202 every day.  I hope you stay around to join us for the ride.  It will definitely be fun, and probably pretty messy.  Great combination, I’d say! 🙂

Tiny Notebooks: Sharing

That last post got a little long (and probably all my entries get a little too long!), so I figured I’d share the last part in another story.

On Day 3, after we had gotten back into our notebooks, I found a way to easily share our writing with a random partner.  When I made our tiny notebooks (by cutting regular spiral notebooks in half), I was looking at the halves and thinking about how they could be put back together…

So kiddos found their sharing partner by finding the writer who had the other half of their notebook.  So quick and so cool!

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 9.56.59 AMThey shared their entry with their halfsies partner and had some great conversations!

Next time they are supposed to find their other halfsies partner (because there are 2 notebooks of each color), and we could match up in a couple of other ways.  SO glad this happy accident happened.  So simple but very useful. 🙂