Debriefing on Going Places

I mentioned in my last post about Going Places that there was an awesome “learning buzz” that happened as we worked hard and focused in on our building projects.  Most of the kiddos were on task, planning, collaborating and creating for almost 3 hours!  This was the first time this had happened (which now I realize might be because I haven’t offered many opportunities like this…but that’s for another time), and students noticed it.

After we were mostly done, we gathered on the rug to talk about how things had gone–what worked well and what we would change for next time.

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As is usually true, the sides look pretty equal (as far the number of things that were mentioned).  But what I know, because I was there, is that most students are represented by the items on the “plus” side of the chart.  While it doesn’t mean the “deltas” aren’t important, it does give me even further hope that we can quickly fix these problems; they are only happening with one partnership here and there, and others are ignoring the unexpected behaviors.  That’s another thing that kiddos are getting so much better at by this point in the year–focusing on their own work and not joining in on the silly things their friends choose to do instead of what they’re supposed to do.  Don’t get me wrong, they might notice–and even invite their friends back to work or remind them of what to do instead–but then they get back to their own thing and carry on.

I’m excited to see what this group can do again soon (and actually I guess I did, since Mrs. Sisul’s Snowman Challenge happened after this one and went equally well), particularly with allowing them to lead the direction on what they want to learn and how they want to show their new knowledge to the world.  Stay tuned for that, will you?? 🙂

Mrs. Sisul Brought Us a Snowman Challenge!

Remember when I wrote about Catch of the Days?  I should have updated you LONG ago, but our class is ROCKING AND ROLLING with these and already have almost 50!  Along the way, there have been rewards (for example, at 10 is an extra recess, 20 was pajama day and 30 was game board day) and we’ve enjoyed every one of them.  Once we hit 40 it was an even BIGGER deal because the prize was “admin’s choice!”

We emailed Mrs. Sisul and Dr. Wilson and asked them to come visit us.  Today was the day, and Mrs. Sisul came with two of our favorite things: a book and a design challenge!

We read lots of snow/snowflake books on Friday (which was early dismissal day for weather!), but she picked one we hadn’t read yet (and yes, that is a feat in itself–GREAT job, Mrs. Sisul!).

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She read the book to us (which we enjoyed!) and then she gave us our challenge: just like the mice the story, build the TALLEST snowman you can….with one piece of paper. 🙂

We went back and forth on how much info we’d give them about how to do this challenge, but eventually decided we would give them idea that they could make paper chains (which reminds me of the comment Kate left the other day about how creativity abounds within parameters–thanks for that reminder, friend!).  Otherwise, they may have spent all of their time just figuring out what to do and not actually building anything.

As we set off to work, I could tell kiddos were thinking about our last challenge (when we read the book Going Places last week), and they quickly began to find groups to work with, both so they could share their resources and so they could share ideas.

At the 10 minute mark, we had kiddos stop and do a gallery walk to look for ideas being done by other engineers that might help them in their own work.

Kiddos got back to work and we noticed that instead of several groups of 3, we now only had 3 groups altogether!  I decided to see what they were all up to…

Interesting, right?  This was the part that really reminded me of the work that happened with our other challenge–kiddos making decisions that they thought would help them, even though they weren’t explicitly stated in the directions.  “They didn’t say we couldn’t….” was their rationale. 🙂

We finished our work (about another 5 minutes or so, and then work time was up.  We laid our snowmen out on the rug to see who had made the tallest snowman.

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Now…of course when you do a design challenge, the process is as important as the final product, so Mrs. Sisul then led us in a reflection conversation.

I loved watching their faces as they thought about what had happened and worked to decide what they would take away for next time.

I also really liked their answers to the questions and also how honest they were when they thought things weren’t fair or didn’t make sense.  We just might try this same challenge again soon and see what happens differently!

And lastly, just for the record, Elena wins for cutest snowman. 🙂  She’s very proud!

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THANKS FOR COMING, MRS. SISUL!!  We love how much you love books, learning and coming to work with us!  🙂

Do you have any stories about design challenges you’d like to share?  We’d love to hear them!

#WDYDAA: Phonemic Awareness Revisited

I started a series a couple of weeks ago to help families (and any other blog readers!) know what happens in Rm. 111 all day.  We started by sharing Phonemic Awareness, for which we use Heggerty’s program.

Since my last post, we have done some really important work in regards to what our phonemic awareness time is supposed to look like and sound like.  We have watched our videos and reflected on what we are seeing that are “pluses” and “deltas.”  After we had recorded and reviewed three different sessions, I gave Rm. 111 friends a challenge to see if they could have a “perfect” session of our Heggerty lesson.

Take 1 and Take 2 of our Heggerty Reflections

As you can see, these two sessions don’t look that much different.  I have to admit that part of the problem here was my fault–we recorded with my iPad in selfie mode, so many friends were super distracted by seeing themselves on the screen and could not focus on our learning.  Oops.  One super easy way we decided to fix it for our third take was to simply turn the iPad around.  Sometimes it’s so simple it’s funny. 🙂

Before our next lesson, we reviewed what the expectations were for them as learners (we reviewed both our listening rules as well as both sides of our charts), and got ready to show how amazing we were.  Additionally, a friend suggested that we invite Mrs. Wessel to come back to see us in action since we’d worked on our learning behaviors, since she had been there for our first session.  It was a great idea, and thankfully she was free!  It was also great that she could come, because she also served as our videographer again (which was much less distracting than my iPad on the table LOL).

So…I’m writing this post to show you what our Heggerty lessons look like now–to both highlight our learning but also how smart we are and how we have such growth mindsets!  We were determined to get it right, to show what we know, to help everyone learn and to follow all of our listening rules (which are to have eyes watching, ears listening, voice quiet and a still body).

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Listening rules (and our Zones of Regulation chart, which I will share about later!)

I’m really proud of my Rm. 111 learners and how they’ve grown!  Celebrate this chart and this video with us, please. 🙂

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Our third Heggerty reflection chart.  Beckett asked to make this chart for us, and made the plus and delta that way because he knew that we’d have LOADS of good things and a small amount of deltas.  LOVE IT!

We’d love to hear what you think! Kids LOVE when they know people see their smart work and want to give them a shout out for it!  What questions do you have about our phonemic awareness lessons? I KNOW my friends would love to tell you about what we do everyday–and WHY we do it! 🙂

 

#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?  🙂

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:

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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Here’s today’s graph:

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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:

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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!