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. 🙂

Marshmallow Challenge: 2nd Grade Style

If you’ve been here for a while, then you are familiar with the Marshmallow Challenge that I’ve done a couple of times.  Both of the previous times it’s been attempted in Rm. 202, though, it’s been with 5th graders.  Well obviously I don’t have any of those anymore, so I wanted to see how my 2nd graders would rock this challenge.

Now, I must add that since most of us were here together last year, we had a little bit of an advantage, rather than doing with people who are relative strangers.  The activity, however, was new to everyone.

I gave them the same directions and supplies as have been given before:

25 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of string, one yard of masking tape and a marshmallow

25 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of string, one yard of masking tape and a marshmallow

I put everyone together in our new Room Teams, and their first job was to create a name for their team (which is new for us–last year we just went with numbers).  They were super creative, and came up with GREAT names like Cherry, The Blue Angels, The Legendary Black Dragons, The Golden Girls and the Lion Kings.  Cool, right?

Ok, so next step was to plan.  And that was fun to watch; each team had a different way of going about that:

Once I said “GO” the fun began and the teams tried to create the tallest free-standing tower they could.  I was SUPER impressed with how well each team worked together and also with how they built on each others’ ideas.

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When time was called and everyone stepped away, only one tower was still standing:

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 12.47.44 PMBut we did go ahead and give a 2nd place nod to the Legendary Black Dragons for the height of their tower before it fell.  Check it out:

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 12.47.38 PM

They admitted that they should have worked on making the bottom stronger. No worries! Next time. 🙂

Now…we could have walked away and left it there, but of course we could not.  We had a debrief on what worked and what didn’t, and talked about plusses and deltas for that activity.  Here’s our chart of what we said:

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 12.57.22 PMOur conversation after the challenge was perhaps the best part.  We could have said that most groups failed and that just the tower that stood was successful, but we were not ok with that.  We agreed that we had many points that proved that we were successful in spite of the fact that our towers fell over.  We had focused on the process and the product was not the biggest deal.  We have come back to this chart already a couple of times, too, and used some of the plusses for other activities together!

We’re excited to try again!

Getting Started in Second Grade

Wahoo!  We’re finally getting started!  I spent some time getting ready, and it was fun to stop getting ready and finally get started!  And since we’re looping, it has definitely been fun doing just that.  I was looking back at the beginning of the year from last year to see what I had written about, and MAN–our kiddos were BABIES!!  You should take a look and see how much all those munchkins have grown since last fall.

As is usual fashion for me here on 20somethingkids, I have TONS of stories to tell you!  I am making a list of it all here, partly to help me make sure I get it all in, but also just in case you want a place to land to find it all.  Once I add the post, I’ll link to it on this page and you can easily find it again.  Ok, here we go!!

Over the last few weeks, we have done so many things!:

Marshmallow Challenge: Second Grade Style
Getting Started with Reading: Reading museum
Getting Started with Writing: Tiny Notebooks

Tiny Notebooks: Sharing

Self-Portraits
Appleletters
Reflection with plusses and deltas
2nd Day of 2nd Grade Selfies
Getting Started with Math: How Much is Your Name Worth?
Weak side/Strong side
Anchors of Learning
Math Warm-ups 8-18 to 8-2

…yet

I Hope You Make Mistakes

I know there were many things crammed into those first days together, but when I see it all in a list, I’m still amazed.  Let’s get into it!

100th Day Questions

I have returned to 1st grade this year after about 10 years with 4th-5th graders.  Many things have been the same since my return, and of course there are some things I’ve had to readjust to, or that are entirely new, as is the nature of education.  One thing, though, that was definitely not a “thing” the last time I was in primary is the 100th Day of School.  No, I said that wrong–we definitely HAD the 100th day of school, we just didn’t officially celebrate the 100th day as a holiday.  This is new to me, and as I am coming up on that day (it’s next Wednesday, the 28th), I’ve been thinking A LOT about what I will do with that day in my classroom.  (Before I go on, I feel like should ask that you presume positive intent in my questions here–my focus is on really understanding the why, not judging what others may choose (or not choose) to do in their own classrooms on any given day.  I want to learn here!) 🙂

It seems that other people are also thinking about it, and having similar questions to me.  I found a blog post by Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca) the other day, after she posted this tweet:

I found myself nodding as I read her post, as she was asking the same thing I have been struggling with:  Why do we “celebrate” the 100th day of school?  What is the purpose and how can we use this day to continue to help our kiddos think and grow and problem solve?  Why is this day any different than every other day? I’ve read many opinions about how it’s a rite of passage and a fun day to celebrate the milestone of getting so far into the year together, and I’ve heard others say it’s about helping students understand the “bigness” and importance of the number 100.  Believe me, I’m all for having a great day, and I LOVE the idea of kids understanding numbers and being flexible in their use of them.  So the part I’m grappling with is how I can “do” the 100th day in a way that is still high quality and rigorous, while fun and enjoyable–and not just full of things that are “cute” or that we’re doing “just because” they have to do with the number 100 (and let’s be honest–this is really our goal for every day, isn’t it?).

After thinking about this for a couple of weeks, as well as reading about what others are doing, I think I’ve settled on a few things.  Most of them are incorporated into our normal routine, but are focused on the idea (that Aviva mentioned in her post) of the learning we’ve done in the last 100 days.  I plan on there being a focus on how long those 100 days have been and how much learning we’ve already done!  I hope to highlight the “grittiness” we’ve displayed and the fun we’ve had together and how much more fun we’ll have in the rest of the school year.   Here’s what I’m thinking:

1. 100 Book Reading Challenge–with my “big” kids, we have done a 40 Book Challenge the last few years, after reading about it in The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller.  I would love to give my firsties a similar, one-day challenge for our class together to read 100 books.  It averages out to 5 books a piece or so, which is TOTALLY doable, and would be a great motivation to reach a goal and work on being better readers.  That’s how it happens, right?  By reading!  I figure we’ll make a chart or list somewhere in the room so we can record the titles as we go.

2. 100 Word writing challenge–I’m not entirely sure how to frame this one, maybe around writing word wall words correctly or creating words from them (like word families), or if we’ll write stories that include 100 words or what…..somehow we’ll write.  Like we do everyday. 🙂

3. What Have We Learned in the Last 100 Days?–Taking inspiration from Aviva’s post, I thought it would be great to document all of the things we’ve learned and done in the last 100 days (which I am sure is WAY more than just a 100) with pictures and words.  Since I’m a regular blogger, I am also a regular picture-taker.  That means I probably have at least one picture from each of our 100 days together.  I’m thinking about having kiddos reflect on each day (probably in pairs) and writing something to go along with each picture.  These could be put into a book (either paper or digital) and we could add to it as we finish up the year.  Again, what a great way to visually see all of the many things they know now that they didn’t know on our 1st Day together!

4. Legos? Blocks? Maker Space?–We are definitely builders in Rm. 202, and incorporate this kind of representation into many things we do on a regular basis.  I have seen ideas for “what would you do with 100 Legos?” which could be interesting, as they could answer the question about what they’ve learned or what they are most proud of.  We did something similar when we returned from Winter Break where they created and then wrote about their favorite thing/event/present from Christmas.  I’d love to give them the same question and have them build something with big blocks or just “stuff” and then have them video their thinking as they explain what they made and why.  The video part would be pretty basic, as we’re just getting into documenting our learning digitally.  Those videos would be great to share on our blogs–which we’re going live with this week, too!

5. 100s game in Math–this will be an easy extension of what we’re already doing!  The unit we’re currently working on is about kids become flexible and efficient with adding numbers within 100.  We’re already playing games, solving problems and having great conversations about place value with bigger numbers.

6. Read Aloud–I know that Read Aloud has been a focus around here lately, so maybe we’ll read 100 pages in our book on Wednesday, too, as a way to celebrate a great story together!

I guess we’ll see what I end up going with (as it will happen in just 3 days from now!).  I’d love to hear your thoughts on how YOU will be spending the 100th Day of School.  What questions did you consider in your planning?  Please come back later this week to see the update on what actually happened in Rm. 202, and/or follow us @jbeardensclass to enjoy the day along with us!

Have a great week! 🙂

Cup Stacking Challenge

You may have seen a post floating around Facebook and Pinterest about a STEM Cup Stacking Challenge:

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 8.45.16 PM(photo courtesy of corkboardconnections.blogspot.com)

It’s similar to the Marshmallow Challenge that I’ve done several years with my 5th graders: build something really tall with your supplies and your team, using cooperation and problem-solving.  Great idea for any group of kiddos, but I especially love it for littler ones who are just beginning to learn about what it takes to work together, try something and have it fail, then rework the plan to try again.  This activity fits the focus we have on being gritty, as well as having a growth mindset and trying even when things are hard.  And yes, the first time we did it, it was hard. 🙂

Cup Challenge Take 1:

The first time we did this challenge, kiddos had 30 cups, their small group and 12 minutes.  Most thought they were done in about 2 minutes, and most used the same strategy.  Do you see how all the towers look the same?  One thing that also happened during this is talking.  Loud talking.  And much arguing about what to do next.  So when we were finished with this first try, we sat together to talk about it.  We talked about plusses (things that went well) and deltas (things we could change next time):

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 8.57.06 PM

They noticed that our list of things to change was REALLY LONG and go busy thinking of ways to do things differently when we tried it again. (When I mentioned that we could do it again, by the way, there were many cheers from the rug!) Working on the floor instead of tables was suggested, as well as not being able to leave your own team’s spot.  We also agreed that they would get one warning about their voices and then any teams that were still loud would have to work the rest of the time in silence.  Oh, and one more change was more time–they got 18 minutes instead of 12 (which was really the original plan anyway, we just ran out of time).

Cup Challenge Take 2:

Check out our chart the second time around.  They were SO EXCITED about how the columns had changed!

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 9.06.54 PM

What a change that happened when kiddos reflected on what worked–and what didn’t–and then planned how to redo the challenge in a different way.  I’m excited to see all of the many things they learned here, and how those lessons touched so many subjects at one time! Way to go, Rm. 202 kids! 🙂