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!!

I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag

We’re first graders, and Civics is a big part of our fall Social Studies learning.  We’ve been working on building community since day 1, which is a HUGE part of first grade Civics and learning to work together, but this week we moved into more “official” territory–starting with the flag.

Luckily, most kiddos come into first grade with at least some knowledge of US Symbols (like the flag, the eagle, money, the Liberty Bell, etc.), so we have a foundation on which to build.

We started with a great place: Annie and Moby from BrainPop Jr. :

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After we watched the video and gained some new info on US Symbols, we focused in specifically on the flag, and then worked to create our own.  Partly as a challenge, partly as a fabulous art piece, ad then also as a physical piece that they can use to remember our conversation and connect with as they remember the parts of and meanings of the flag.

We talked about the features of the flag, as well as the importance of each part, like how there are 13 stripes (7 red and 6 white) that stand for valour, hardiness and purity, as well as the 13 original colonies; there are 50 stars that represent the 50 states; and the blue part of the flag is called the Chief and is blue to represent justice.

Next I gave them three pieces of paper: one red, one white and one smaller blue piece.  Then they were to make a piece that represents a flag, however they wanted to, using whatever other tools they might need (like scissors, glue, tape, etc.).

Much like many other things we do, this activity was bigger than the actual idea of making a flag.  Like other requests I make of my friends, students have an opportunity to apply the Robinson Mindset all around them.  And in this case, it came when friends got stuck.  Along with remembering to “try one more time” like in the book that Mrs. Sisul read us, we could remind each other to use a growth mindset and work hard, as well as focus our minds on our work.  The ability to apply this in almost every struggle we encounter is a blessing.  And it worked.  The smiles on the faces of these two friends when they had pushed through a hard part was priceless:

Another thing that came out of this project was how everyone tackled the assignment in such a different way.  I gave them the paper but they really didn’t have any “right” way they were supposed to use it.  As I looked at it, and thought of how the pieces would go together, I imagined that they would cut the red piece and attach it to the white–many did exactly the opposite!   I love that picture of Rachel and Taylor working exactly the mirror images of each other.

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I love that the flags are all reminiscent of flags, and you can tell what they are, but they are each a little different based on the historian artist who made them.  Great work again, Rm. 202 friends!

Check out our patriotic work!

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As I see them down the hall, I am again reminded how glad I am I hung this display space right there!

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Culture–Final Drafts!

We worked for much of last quarter on culture, based on many versions of Little Red Riding Hood.  Here are our final drafts of the books we published about the cultures of the various regions and countries we studied (not all kiddos wanted me to share, by the way–since I know now that I should ask!).

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Khalani B.–THE MIDWEST

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Charlie B.–THE WEST

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EmilyM.–GHANA

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Evan R.–THE WEST

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Ja’MiaM.–CAJUN

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MillieR.–GERMANY

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Baron E.–CHINA

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Nate R.–CHINA

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Sara R.–SPAIN

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EllaMarieG.–GERMANY

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Makayla M.–SPAIN

Thank you for reading!  We worked so hard and would love your feedback! 🙂

Mystery Skype–April 13 (#2)

Remember our Mystery Skype last week?  Well after that AMAZING experience, the first things that came out of my kiddos’ mouths were “When are we doing this again?”  That meant that I had to get busy because I needed to schedule another one for them! I tweeted out a request and quickly I got many requests.  One of them was today.  Here’s the story. 🙂

We are all about learning in Rm. 2o2 and so the first thing we did was reflect on the experience from last week and talk about what had happened.  I showed them the blog post I had written and asked them to think about what they saw.  We analyzed the photos and talked about what we would do the same and what we would change.  Some noticed that there were not pictures of everyone, and we agreed that the next photographers would make sure to get images of each job that we had on our list.

Next I showed them the video from our first try.  We did the same analysis and noticed somethings we could change.  Many of the “issues” just came from the fact that this was the first try at something like this for our videographer.  We talked about some technical things like shooting at people’s faces (and not their legs and feet), not moving the camera too fast (because it makes the watcher d-i-z-z-y!), not talking over the recording  and making sure–just like the photographer–to get the WHOLE room in the video.  We made sure everyone knew that we were only working on how to make our next try even better, not saying that anybody did anything wrong.

It was time to pick jobs and so we sat down to decide what each person would do.  After our debrief from last time, we had decided to add in Tweeters (check out the AMAZING job Mrs. Sisul, Ja’Mia and Makayla did today!) and Closers, so that made just two people doing each job.  Rather than the chart we made the first time around, I thought I’d try to start digitizing some things, so I made our job list in a Google Doc like Mr. Solarz’s example.   I just made a doc that we can add pages to for each MS (at least that’s my plan for now) so we can keep track of who’s done what during each session.

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I hope to start using a Google Doc for questions next time, too.  For today we hand wrote them and I entered it into the table:

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We had to go to PE right after this, but before we left, we agreed we should get everything set up, since we only had 10 minutes from when we got back until we got started.  I was SUPER pleased that this was what I saw them do:

The Data Enterers had their area ready, the maps for the Researchers were laid out, the chairs for the Questioners, Greeters and Closers were in place and the Photographers and Videographers had their iPads raring to go!  Isn’t it amazing what 7-8YOs can do when they are motivated and have a purpose? LOVE!

Here are the photos we collected from our session today:

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And the video.  Don’t worry–this one’s a bit shorter than the one from last time.  And you should get sick and dizzy either.  At least I hope not. 🙂

Then, when we were finished we sat down to debrief.  We said many of the same positive comments as last time, but I noticed many kiddos were a little unhappy about their jobs this time around.  Well, some of them were.  When we went through the assigning of jobs, obviously some kiddos got the one they wanted, and the others didn’t.  We talked about what to do about it, and we were divided about how to fix the problem.  We suggested that we could stay with our original jobs, since we felt that we had done a great job of finding the right person for each one (which we had agreed upon after we finished the first time around).  Not surprisingly, not everyone liked this idea.  We also considered just staying with the new ones we made today, since we didn’t really have time to reassign before our next scheduled Skype tomorrow morning.  Again, not everyone agreed this was the best.  Then, someone quietly suggested that we could trade.  He said, “What if I want a new job and so does someone else. Can we trade jobs?  That might work.”  BINGO!  Everyone loved this idea and so we quickly had the “traders” meet on the rug and most got a satisfying trade out of the deal and walked away happy.  Unfortunately, since there was an odd number, one person did have to stay with a job they don’t really like, but I’m sure it will all work out and next time she’ll be able to try something new.  Oh, and I had forgotten until now, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that one of the reasons someone gave for trying new jobs every time was “I like to make mistakes so I can learn something.  That happens when you try new things.”  HA!  Pretty amazing, right?

And you know, as fun as this is, and as much as it reinforces geography and inquiry and does loads for engagement and motivation, I just love watching what happens when you get out of the way, let kids do their thing and they run the show in ways that are far beyond what you’d think the realm of 2nd graders would be.  But then again, I continue to see it over and over, so I should stop being so surprised, right? 🙂

Culture Projects Come Together

Remember how I told you about how we started reading all sorts of versions of Little Red Riding Hood?  And then how we started researching the cultures from which each version came?  Oh, and how I only was able to tell you those parts of the story because of the changes I’ve made this year?  Ok, good, glad you’ve been here so far for this much of the story, cuz here’s the rest. 🙂

Kiddos spent many days researching the cultures of many countries and several regions of our own United States: Germany, Ghana, Spain, China, the Midwest, the West and the Southeast (Cajun culture).  They worked in groups of three to discover important facts about many culture and geography topics: language, flag, location, landforms, holidays, food, games, religion, school, art and music.  One group decided to add info about clothes, as well.  This part of the project took longer than I had expected, mainly just because there were so many topics to find out about, and 4-Squares to fill in.

After enough days of research work for kiddos to have something to put in their planners, we worked together to draft what we thought our topic sentences should sound like.  Each group worked on their own to add in specific details about each topic, but we all used a general common starter for our first sentences to add continuity.  We worked on some general ones, first, to get the idea of a paragraph (topic sentences, details and a conclusion) solidified in our heads, and then tried one from one of our countries together.

Once we had agreed upon our starting points, kiddos got busy crafting their own words into their organizers.  These would then become each page of their book.  We saved the introduction and conclusion for last.

Eventually we got to the point where we were ready to put all of these fabulous facts and wondrous words into a draft of a teaching book that we could later share with our classmates.  There were many options for how to do that, and students were allowed to choose whatever format made the most sense for them. Most students chose to use Keynote at the way to create their book, as adding in the text features we would need would be the easiest in that app.  One friend thought Notability would be best for her, and two friends decided to hand write their books.  Regardless of the how, though, we add worked toward the same goal together.

Students then spent the next few weeks (yeah, i know, this project was LONG!!) putting together the words first (you have to build the house before you can decorate it!) so taht they could then plan how they would add in text features to enhance their reader’s understanding of the topic.  For that lesson we talked a little about “app smashing”, where you take more than one app and “smash” it together with one or more others to create something even better than you can do with any one single app.  Kiddos made plans for their text features and showed me what they were thinking, many of them smashing together their camera and Notability or their camera and Keynote.  Some friends smashing Safari in there, too, and used images from the internet.

Ultimately we will share our final drafts on our blogs, or print them to create actual books for our classroom (or both!) or we could publish them as ebooks and share with other readers in our school…we haven’t decided on this yet.  The first step was to share with each other, though, and we did this the other day before we left for Spring Break.  Kiddos were able to project their book on the big screen (either by AirPlaying from their iPad or just by displaying it through my computer since they had turned it in to me through eBackpack).

While we were listening to kiddos share about their cultures, two other meaningful things happened, thanks to my friend and teammate Mrs. Appelbaum (remember her and her amazing Tower Garden adventures?).  One, kiddos had a big sheet where they were to collect information from their classmates’ books; they could write or draw anything they found interesting, a connection they made, something didn’t know, something they wanted to remember, etc.  It made it so much easier to pay attention through the 12 books we were able to share that day.

The other super smart thing that happened was that I was able to knock out much of the grading part of this project while the presentations were taking place.  This project was a big part of kiddos’ social studies, speaking and listening and writing grades.  I was able to sit with our rubrics on my lap and make notes about what I observed right in the moment.  this is really a big deal because I usually leave things like this until the last minute, and this was just such a smart, efficient suggestion.  Thanks, Shannon A.!

While my kiddos’ final drafts are WAY better than this one, here’s an idea about what they ended up looking like.  I’ll share theirs when we all come back in 4th quarter, but here’s mine (well partially finished one) about Australia:

 

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Please let us know what you think!  This project has definitely been a motivating and engaging one for us in Rm. 202.  Can’t wait to share the final drafts with you!!

 

28 Days That Changed the World

Last year I found the most amazing book.  Books, really.  I am almost certain it as a Twitter find–since that’s where most of my teaching gems come from–but regardless, I ran out to get it and it became the basis for the conversations in our classroom during our history unit.

Here’s the main one, written by Charles R. Smith, Jr. :

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It goes through all the days of February and gives a little story about an important figure in African-American history, working forward from the 1700s to today.  The synopses are short, interesting and my favorite part is that they are not just the “big” ones taht you are used to reading about.  There are women and men, as well as children, and often the moment that changed history wasn’t even a person, but a court case or event.  We read through this book last year during our history unit–where our focus was on people who change the world–and loved it, as well as learned a lot we didn’t know.  OH, and I didn’t tell you anything about it.  Since  I have this thing–well used to–where I wait until the end of a unit/project/story to tell about it.  And then don’t actually do it.  So here’s to telling you this time around. 🙂

Oh, just a quick mention of some other FABULOUS books I found at this same time: the I Am series by Brad Meltzer.  They are along the same vein as the 28 Days book, and are little biographies about important people (not just African-Americans, though).  The illustrations are SUPER cool, and make it a really interesting narrative non-fiction text to share together.  The voice of the famous person comes through and kids are hooked from the first page.  We’ve read almost all of them (I just got Lucille Ball and haven’t had a chance to share that one yet!):

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Somehow I only took a picture of a few of them. 😦  We also have Amelia Earhart, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Helen Keller and Lucille Ball.  They are pretty great!

This year as we got ready to start February, I knew I wanted to incorporate this book again, but obviously in a different way than we had done it previously.  I was really glad that my kids were as excited as me to reread the stories again, and it’s been great to see how they anticipate who will be highlighted each day.  We really enjoy this time of our day, and I can really tell that they are learning about the people/events and their impact on our world, as they make connections between them and other things we talk about in the course of our day.  This book is more than just a book for the friends in Rm. 202.

One thing I wanted to be able to do to deepen our understanding (or at least solidify our memory) was to do some writing about each day’s text.  We had been doing some work with non-fiction, as well as main idea/details, so I figured it would make sense to write a summary paragraph to tell others about what we were learning (we had decided we’d hang them on our bulletin board outside our room).

We have been using the 4-Square organizer to make sure we have all of our thoughts (in read aloud, during Social Studies, in Writers’ Workshop as we write opinions about things), and so we decided they would make sense for this, as well.  And ultimately, I want kiddos to learn how to use the organizer to meet their needs, not just to use it when I say to, or to see it as being just for one time or place.  We wrote the first few together, discussing our topic sentence and then adding in details to explain the text for the day, like this:

IMG_0616-min After we got our thinking down on the planner, someone would “publish” it and we’d hang it outside on our board.

Last week, we had a short week with a weird schedule, which made for a little bit of a problem.  We didn’t get to finish our text for Feb. 11, then we weren’t in school for February 12-15 (that’s 4 days) and so when we returned on February 16, we had 7 pages to work on!!  There was NO WAY that we would have been able to sit and do all that work together as a whole group (can you say behavior problems?!), so we needed a new plan.

Well…it worked out SUPER well that we just happened to have 7 groups already in place for our culture study.  Each group was in charge of planning and then writing one of the  paragraphs after we all read them together.  Great plan, huh?? We thought so. 🙂

Kiddos knew what to do, since we’d been using the planner already, and I was really  impressed with how well they have been able to add appropriate, relevant details to the topic sentences (which I had given them already in their planner).

While I have a REALLY WONKY panoramic picture of it (the end of our bulletin board is inconveniently up a flight of stairs 😦 ), I’m really excited about how it all looks out there, and I love that there are things for us to share with our Robinson neighbors!

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We still have another week or so before we’re finished with the book again, but I’ve got other plans for continuing our study far beyond the end of February.  I have been doing some behind-the-scenes work with our librarian and some other teachers to find even more recent stories of Robinson personalities, or other Kirkwood figures that these friends might know.  I think it is essential to teach kiddos that change-makers are not just old people, in black-and-white pictures who have been dead forever.  Important figures in their lives are not just from long ago and far away, nor are they just “famous” people they read about in books.  I want them to see versions of themselves in the smart, successful people I teach them about; I want them to see the possibilities for their own futures.  I’m excited to finish the plan I have for this next step.  And yes, I’ll be sure to share!

**UPDATE:  GREAT story that happened today as we were reading about Thurgood Marshall for Day 22….I was talking about how he was a Supreme Court Justice and how often that means that a judge has been an important lawyer. I explained how the Justices are appointed by the President, which is a BIG DEAL, and how Thurgood Marshall had been part of a big deal court case that we knew about.  “Do you mean Plessy vs. Ferguson?”  WHAA??  Love that they could throw that one out there.  “Nope, not that one.”  “Are you talking about the 14th Amendment?” “No, not that one, either.” “Oh, I know!!  Brown vs. the Board of Education!”  Um, yeah–that one. 🙂  Isn’t it pretty great that 2nd graders can whip out those names like that?  I think so.  Way to go, Rm. 202 friends!  Love that you’re soaking it in, and making connections, and more importantly I think you’ll make CHANGES with that knowledge someday.**

Happy (Chinese) New Year!!

We did something this past week that has never happened in Rm. 202–or in any classroom I’ve taught in: celebrated Chinese New Year!  Our friend Baron’s mom, Mrs. Eyrick, was born in Taiwan, and offered to come share some of their Chinese culture with us.  It was perfect because we both got to see a little more about our friend and his family, and also, it fit in with our Social Studies unit right now.  Match made in heaven!

She showed up a little early and got busy decorating with some traditional Chinese New Year symbols and colors.  We learned that red and gold are important, as they stand for life and fortune.  Mrs. Eyrick brought us a dragon, lanterns (realized I didn’t get any pictures of those! :(), some fish as well as decoration for our door and a big Happy New Year sign.  So festive!

We sat down together on the rainbow rug and she told us all about the history of Chinese New Year, and how the Western Hemisphere (where we live) bases their calendar on the sun, and how the Eastern Hemisphere (where China is) bases their calendar on the moon (lunar) phases.  She explained the Chinese Zodiac, and told us how friends in China celebrate this happy time.

She even brought us a treat!  She shared traditional Chinese New Year “lucky” food–clementines–and gave each kiddo a lucky red envelope.  It had real money inside!!  We also got to enjoy some other Chinese tasty treats together.

What a great afternoon and a fabulous celebration! Thanks, Mrs. Eyrick, for coming to teach us about your culture. 🙂