#FDOFG2017–Box Challenge

We read a book lately that perfectly went along with our focus on play, grit and creativity (wow, that’s quite a first grade trifecta!):

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It’s favorite that I found last year (and was so good that I started the whole year with it!), and as Ms. Turken and I planned our first days, we knew it HAD to make an appearance again this year.

The preparation for this project started weeks before we started, with the collection of boxes.  Lots and lots of boxes of all shapes and sizes.

As we read the book together, we noticed what was happening in the child’s imagination and were thinking about how we’d answer the question: “What would you do with a box?” Which by the way, is NOT the title of the box, but is somehow the way I read it EVERY SINGLE time I look at the front of it.  Weird.  Maybe I just want it to be an invitation instead of a direction. 🙂

So after we read, kiddos made plans for which box they’re use and how they’d use it.  This was not a typical design challenge in the fact that they could use whatever they wanted as far as materials, and the only real constraint was time.  And wow–there was creativity all over the room!  Check it out!

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Now, as with many of the things we do in the beginning of the year are dual-purposed.  We are learning how first grade works at the same time as we’re using our creativity and having fun.  What usually happens is that we have a debrief about how each activity went, and we chart plusses (what went well) and deltas (things we should change for next time).  This helps us become (and hopefully stay!) aware of how to manage our behavior.  We had done this a couple of times, but with this project, Ms. Turken and I decided to tweak the wording just a bit.

We’ve been talking alot at Robinson this year about expected (and therefore unexpected behaviors), as a means of helping students to better understand how to “be a Roadrunner and show it all the time” as our mindset suggests they should do.

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We added in specific behaviors to focus on and so these are what we analyzed during our debrief.  We were noticing that some of our friends are using the words “good” and “bad” when speaking of their choices and we wanted to help connect all of our behavior expectations together.  You’ll notice on this chart that there was some AMAZING stuff happening during this project and kids were ROCKING those expected behaviors!

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I’ve been really impressed since this discussion as I’ve both seen many more expected behaviors, as well as hearing kiddos using the language with their peers and as we talk about our day and how we can be our best learning selves.  Whew!  Who knew there was so much to learn with a BOX?!

Robinson University–1st Grade Style!

Our school has begun a really great program that we run on 1/2 days called Robinson University.  Somehow I participated in it all last year and never wrote about it, though.  Ugh.  Basically the big idea is that all the adults at our school offer a variety of classes to the 2nd-5th graders, giving them the opportunity to try out things that they may not have the chance to participate in during their regular school day or even in after school activities.  Last year I taught a sewing class with Mrs. Uhles, and there were many other exciting things available otherwise.  The ones I can remember (and surely I will forget some good ones, so I apologize in advance!) were things like coding, cooking, gardening, art, outdoor adventures, dodgeball, chess, yoga, card games, board games, The Olympics, Rig-a-Ma-Jig, crab soccer, LEGOS (lots of LEGOS!), 3D animation, and even a musical!  This year there are many amazing offerings again and we’ve added geocaching, jewelry making and loads more–all based on kid recommendation and adult expertise!

Needless to say, these days are super motivating and pretty much EVERYONE comes to school to participate with HUGE smiles on their faces. 🙂  Ok, that’s like most days at our school, but it’s especially true on 1/2 days. 🙂

Well…on RU days, though, kindergarten and first grade do their own version of exciting adventures, but geared more towards a early elementary lens, and without so much ado (the big kids go to all different classes with different teachers and different kiddos and rotate to more than one class!).  We have had great opportunities to plan amazing experiences for our kiddos so far, too, and have used our 1/2 days to extend the learning that is going on in our classrooms at the time.  For our first 1/2 day in September, we spent time exploring with scientific tools in the Robinson woods, learning and applying knowledge about light and sound.  For our second go-round (which was just before Veterans’ Day), each teacher worked with their small group to teach about a branch of the military.

For this last one of the semester, we decided to give our kiddos a sneak peek of what the big kids are doing, and even get them ready for when they’ll be making their big choices in 2nd grade.  After the team talked it over, we agreed that we’d still do rotations so that kiddos could get a variety of options, and that we each wanted to do something that was our passion.  We each offered something so different and it was so much fun!

Kiddos had short rotations of an engineering challenge with Mrs. Mafigiri, play and improv with Mrs. Marks (she had costumes and toys and puppets!), an introduction to coding with Ms. Turken and I offered a couple of great read alouds.  I know, you’re surprised by that, right?  Ms. Mimlitz, our more than amazing TA was also in the loop, and took kiddos out for some fresh air and play time.  Luckily it was a beautiful day!

I know that the kiddos had a SUPER time in all the other stations, but since I was really on in my session, it’s the only one I can share details about.  Sorry. 😦  Promise I’ll make them good. 🙂

Since the other teachers had a theme in their stations, I wanted to make sure that my read alouds and our activity was around a central idea, too.  We had found a great list of picture books that promote a growth mindset from weareteachers.com and knew it would be a great place to use as a resource!  Since growth mindset is a BIG DEAL in our Robinson community (and is even in our Robinson Mindset we recite every morning) so it’s the direction I went with our stories.

I ended up choosing two great stories that I knew would allow for great conversations and would fit into my time frame.

Before we read, we reviewed what we knew about having a growth mindset and I shared with them some words that one might use if they were using a growth mindset–things that they might hear in their heads when they were using their self-talk.  I had these sayings on speech bubbles stuck on popsicle sticks and we made the characters “say” them at various points in the story (I didn’t get a good picture of them individually, but you’ll see them in our final product later on in this post!).

Once we had read and discussed, we worked to create some visuals to help teach the REST OF ROBINSON about using a growth mindset.  We had gotten the OK from Mrs. Sisul to use an empty bulletin board in a downstairs hall where everyone walks, so we were excited to fill it up with first grade faces.  I had each first grader (and then lots of Robinson adults!) choose either a saying that they used a lot to remind them to use a growth mindset OR one that they struggled with using and wanted to try to use more often.  Either way kiddos posed in front of my book-covered classroom door with their speech bubble and CHEESED!!  Let me show you. 🙂

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Pretty great, right?  Yeah…and the first time we walked by, of course we had to stop so everyone could say “that’s me!” or “there I am!” 🙂

Here are the sayings, up close:

And now, since I know you want to see all of those cutie-pie faces a little closer (so you can say, “Hey, that’s my kid!” or “Hey, I know her!”), here’s a quick slide show of all of the pics on that board.

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Thanks for reading about Robinson University!  We’re excited for our next 1/2 day when kiddos will get a chance to choose two of their favorite activities from this first try to spend more time exploring!  What a great day that will be. 🙂

Day 33: Ahhhhh!!

I feel like I owe you an update.  I am pretty sure I haven’t share the amazing things happening in our class since Fix-It-Up Friday when we first got serious about our norms and expectations.

Remember this web of mistakes?

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Well we did some work and started creating some “We will…” statements that we are committed to living by.  The rough drafts started like this:

Over the last few weeks we’ve tried them out and been using them in our conversations.  I believe we’ve gotten to our final draft and the norms ended up looking like this:

img_4605Don’t they kind of look like super hero words?  Like POW! BANG! SPLAT!  I’m trying to decide if we should have kiddos illustrate them before we hang them…what do you think?  Just not sure if will help or just hinder the message.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE the yellow parts as they highlight the important parts of each statement.

Ok, and so what does the title of this post mean–Day 33:  Ahhh!??   Well every day we keep track of how many days of school we’ve had, connecting to place value and counting.  We add a sticker to a ten-frame that goes on a place value chart and we also write the number of the day.

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Ok, so I know–not rocket science and not super exciting, but it was here–on Day 33 (which was last Friday)–that I felt like we’d turned a corner.  It was the first day pretty much all year that I felt like we could finally breathe and just say “ahh!!!”  Things seem like they are settling down, we are settling in and are becoming a family.  We’re working together and we’re finally looking (and more importantly sounding) like a community.  It’s pretty great.

BUT I must say it hasn’t come without LOTS of work.  We have put in probably at least an hour or more each day teaching, reteaching and practicing what first grade learners look like and sound like.  We’ve been learning and using the Robinson Mindset, as well as helping solidify the ideas of our class norms.

One of the most helpful things for us right now has been very concrete, visual versions of the expectations we’ve created together.  They hang along the top of our windows, and remind us of what each part of our day LOOKS LIKE and SOUNDS LIKE.  We often stop during the middle of a subject or activity and do a reflection on whether this is truly what someone (including us!) would see in the room at that moment.  If not, no big deal, the invitation is to FIX IT!  Find a way to make things look and sound the right way!  We’re right in the middle of our SCIENCE/SOCIAL STUDIES chart, and even have plans for one that demonstrates the line/hallway as well as other places around school.

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One more way I know we’re “there?”  Kiddos have started using the words we’re practicing!  The other day when a friend was interrupting on the rug, Xenia turned to her and kindly said, “We will take turns.”  When a friend was not quite with us in a conversation, Ciyah reminded them that “We will listen and follow directions.”  What??  This is happening on a regular basis now, as well as friends kindly reminding their friends of what they should be doing instead of whatever undesirable behavior they are engaged in (because “We will remind our friends.”).  I am loving how calm things feel and how much more we’re laughing and enjoying each other.  The last few days we’ve noted how tired we are at the end of the day–but it’s that good “we’re-pooped-because-we’ve-done-so-many-amazing-learning-things” kind of tried, not the “man-we’re-tired-and-cranky-because-no-one-listened-all-day” kind of tired.  Jack suggested that our days have flown by, too, because we’ve been so busy!  I don’t know about you but this make my HEART HAPPY!!

Cannot wait to see what the remaining 140something days have in store for us as we have set such a strong foundation for our year!  The sky’s the limit in Rm. 202!!  Please be sure to come along for the journey.  It’s bound to be exciting!!