One More Time: Analogies with Mrs. Berger

We had one more Kingore lesson this past week with Mrs. Berger.  This time it was analogies.  Man, these can be hard for first graders, but like with most every time, we had some great examples before we got started.  We tried some together (with pictures to help us out!) and then she read to book Animalogies to us, which was written by some other kids and involved analogies that were all about animals!

And…just like last time, we smelled brownies!  What great opportunities we’ve had with Mrs. Berger to think in a new way, stretch our brains a bit and show how creative we are! We will definitely continue to put these skills to work in the classroom as we go forward in first grade! 🙂

Another Kingore Lesson: Pentominoes

We have visited Mrs. Berger many times recently to stretch our brains and show our ability and creativity.  Recently we went to work on pentominoes puzzles.  Basically, a pentomino is a plastic piece (labeled with a letter name because of its shape), made of 5 small squares.  They can all fit together to make a rectangle, but can also be used to create other shapes and designs.  That was our job on this day. 🙂

After the explanation and some “try-its” together, we got to work, using our grit and perseverance to figure out the puzzles on the sheets Mrs. Berger gave us.  Some of them were really hard, and you had to turn the piece around and around and over to make it fit.  We were all able to do it, though, and the smiles on faces when they got it were priceless.  I heard so many “yes!”‘s and it made me smile, too. 🙂

Perhaps the best part was when we figured out what our class grit smells like (which you can smell in the room when we’re all working hard and using it!): chocolate chip brownies right out of the oven. 🙂

Word Wall 2017

I am a teacher who works with first graders, so we do LOTS with words.  Reading words, writing words, learning about how to say words, discussing meaning of words.  Words. Words. Words.

So…in the beginning when I was putting the room together, lots of thought and consideration was given to how we’d use our word wall and where it would go in the room.  Ms. Turken and I also had many conversations about how we could use our walls in tandem (as our kids would be going back-and-forth between our rooms often and would be utilizing both versions).  Last year, I also had a rebirth of the word wall, and abandoned the whole “traditional” layout (with letters and sight words) and we put words in categories rather than by alphabetical order.  Kids in Rm. 202 used that version of the wall SO MUCH MORE because it was theirs.  They had ownership over how it was organized and therefore were much more purposeful in how it helped them.

As I said, we’ve had a “word wall” since day one.   It looked like this:

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And next to it, to the right, is another wall, that has been predominately “blank”, as well, except for names (which some kiddos just noticed last week. LOL).  This set up is almost identical in Rm. 112–on the same wall, even–just with different colors.

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Today, for many reasons, became the day to tackle the word wall discussion.  For one, kids have had some time to “live” in our room, as well as in first grade generally, and so have more of an understanding of what more they might need as far as resources.  We’ve also just officially started word work as a Daily 5 rotation, so they are more aware of how this aspect of reading and writing in first grade.  We’ve been reading for almost a whole quarter now, and have been working out words, and are far enough now for an “official” lesson about what to do with unknown words in Writer’s Workshop.  It’s to the point now that we have to address where to go when you don’t know. 🙂

We gathered in front of the blank word wall today and had a discussion about what it might be for.  Many pointed to the fact that we’ve been utilizing it to help us write our letters when we forget what they look like, or what order they go in.  Many were happy to leave that silly wall just as it is!  I pushed, however, and talked about how I’d overheard several kiddos talking about how they needed help with how to write (spell) specific words today, and suggested that maybe we could use the spaces (between the letters!) for words.  They seemed keen on this idea, and many suddenly remembered that they had a wall like that in kindergarten! (I tell, ya, those kindergarten teachers think of the BEST ideas! hee hee)  We discussed what kinds of words we should put on our wall and many threw out words they’d been trying to use today, and someone suggested we  add sight words to our wall.  The thing I loved about their thinking (unlike many years, and in comparison to the way I’ve used word walls previously) is that they agreed that we should put up words they DO NOT know how to read and spell yet, rather than ones they ALREADY know how to use correctly.  This is the part of the typical Word Wall that always had me confused anyway: I used it as a wall of “have-tos” and held kids accountable for words they already knew, rather than effectively helping them work towards ones they didn’t have control over yet.

Additionally, many suggested that we routinely COME BACK to review the words on the word wall to siphon out words we had learned (and didn’t need anymore), adding new ones that kids needed to rely on.  BOOM!  Not rocket science, but this was the very first time I’ve ever had a learner attend to the “living” nature of the word wall.  It’s the first time I had done that, too.  WOW! so thankful that happened.

In past years, I have decided on what words we would learn and add, based on a list or suggestion from someone or somewhere…sometimes relying on my kids to lead me (I’d say I did more of this student-led work last year more than ever), but often just at random.  Waa waa.  Super teaching strategy, right?  It didn’t hurt anyone, and kids eventually learned how to read, write and use those words, but of course there was a better way of doing it than just so haphazardly.

Since Rm. 111 kids would decide which words to add, we originally had a plan for each kiddo to tackle a “letterful” of words, leaving the remaining ones for me to choose.  Campbell suggested that we determine 5 or so words for each letter that we wanted.  The time of today when we could work on this didn’t allow us much time, so I tweaked the idea a little and we worked with our learning partners.  In the end, I think this worked out better anyway, as kids had to more deeply think about and defend their choices than would have been required if they just chose on their own.  As they finished with their first letter, pairs tackled others and we got almost finished with our choices today (up to the letter R, I believe…).  When our work time was over, we had a tableful of possibilities.

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It was really interesting to see what they had come up with, and made me think about how I’d chosen focus words before.  I am pretty sure I never had contractions up there so early, and the wall was full of 2-letter words for months.  As I reviewed the words they decided upon, I saw MANY MORE connections between words than I’d allowed for previously, and noticed many ways that words could be used to spell other words that I hadn’t ever considered.  First graders are so smart!!  I mean, really–so often they know what they need much better than me! 🙂

I did end up revising their lists a little, taking out words that could be figured out with longer words.  For example, I left CAN’T but took away CAN, as we could use the latter to spell the shorter one.  Same with most of those contractions, as well as the word BE, since BECAUSE and BEFORE were also there.  Also, some of their word choices were colors and numbers, which will go into category boxes (much like last year’s wall) on that black board on the right side.  We’ll discuss this and how to use it a little later.

I didn’t get quite done today, but am already really excited to see all the words that are hanging there now, and am happily anticipating how the wall will be used by my Rm. 111 (and 112!) learners.  I am excited for the newly gained confidence that I will see emerging as kids can add another layer of  independence to their literacy work.

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Oh, and by the way, when I asked them what we should call this wall of words, they suggested we put the title WORD WALL on it. 🙂  hee hee (and see–there’s even a lesson in that title: I did not leave CALL or ALL on the list because they are inside of WALL). 🙂

All I can say is I LOVE FIRST GRADERS!!  Please stay tuned for more on how we use this amazing thinking to help us with FUTURE amazing thinking. 🙂

Another Kingore Lesson: Patterns!

We went back to Mrs. Berger for another lesson–this time it was patterns.  We started on the circle rug by the big screen first and tried out some growing and repeating patterns together.

After we did some SUPER thinking together, we showed what we could do on our own papers.  Some of the patterns were tricky, but we were dedicated to working hard, using our grit and pushing through to the end.  We did a GREAT job!

Two more to go!  Stay tuned to see more of our super first grade thinking!

#FDOFG2017: Ten Black Dots

Remember when we read The Line and did drawing starts with Mrs. Berger?  It was a great experience for Rm. 111 kiddo and an opportunity to use our creativity and grit.  Well…we went back last Friday and did it again!  Not the drawing start part, but the creativity and grit part. 🙂

During our second visit to Mrs. Berger’s room, she shared Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews with us.  Many of us had heard it before, but maybe as a math book instead of an invitation to think in a new and different way.

We read and discussed the book and looked at the many ways Crews imagined what those ten dots could become.  And then, just as she had done with drawing starts, Mrs. Berger asked me to give it a try (and somehow even though she does this every year, I was totally surprised.  LOL).  So…I stared at the big white paper, trying to see something besides big black circles

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To be honest, I could have made the caterpillar I have done most every other time (boo–I know that’s not very creative!), but I figured I should try a little harder.  So I kept thinking and started moving those dots around on the blank page.

After the dots, I added some details and then stood back to see if they could figure out what my dots had become.

So…my ten black dots became:

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A fancy lady’s hair!

The funniest part to me is that most kiddos thought it was a self-portait!  Ha!

So after my beautiful example, kiddos were give a pile of dots (ours were red and yellow) from which they had to count out ten and then create something marvelous.   Kiddos went to their personal “offices” and got busy.  They were given about 20 minutes to work, and friends were challenged and then encouraged to work the whole time, adding more details if they thought they were finished before time was up.  The sound of quietly working kiddos and the creations that emerged as fabulous!

And so in the end, our ten black dots became…so many great things!  Check out our thinking:

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Again, first grade grit and greatness shined through and we ROCKED this challenge!!  Can’t wait for the next one! Wonder what it will be! 🙂

The E in ICEL: Rm. 202 Kids Take Over–Part 3

Our class has been doing some super work lately with trying to figure out how to be our best learning selves and problem-solving about how to do that.  I’ve been helping them by thinking through the ICEL protocol:

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An unexpected transition to the E in ICEL (which is the ENVIRONMENT in which your students are learning, the WHERE of learning) came when we were in Ms. Turken’s room on Friday morning.  As we were working on writing after visiting with Mrs. Marks’ friends, I noticed how differently focused, engaged and quiet my kiddos were.  I noticed the different ways they spaced themselves out,  as well as the people they were working with (along with the fact that many of them found quiet places to work alone).  I noticed that they were all writing, they were all productive and they were all using supplies kindly, efficiently and in the correct way.

We took a second before we left their room to have a chat about what they noticed.  I wondered if they felt the difference.  They mentioned things like the corner of the room where there were two low beach chairs and a low table where kiddos could read.  Callahan thought it was like the Zero Zone in our library. He and Kaiden found that to be a great place to work quietly next to each other.

We all noticed that there were many different kinds of spaces to use for work: places for singles, partners or small groups; places with chairs, and places to sit low and kneel on a rug.  Keira found a bench where she could lay down to do her writing.  Rachel was tucked away on a little bean-shaped table around a corner working alone, and Peter found a hexagon table on the other side of the room where he could work alone as well.  Ms. Turken’s room has a kidney table (or some kiddos call it the rainbow table) where there were 5 or 6 kids all writing and chatting together; Penny chose the rolley chair.  Even with that many kids all in the same place, they were focused on their work.  A low rectangle table looked similar to that on the other side of the room.

Even their rug was a mystery.  It’s the same rug that we have in our room, in generally the same part of the room, and has books on three sides of it just like ours.  But no one seemed distracted by the books, kiddos didn’t sit WAY at the back and everyone seemed to be focused on the teacher chair and the easel.

We agreed that there were some things that we could take back to our space and try to emulate in our room so that we could try to get the same results.  Maybe there were some things we didn’t know we needed until we saw them somewhere else.  Our next step was to have kiddos draw pictures/maps with their ideas for what our new layout could look like, but this was a little bit problematic because we hadn’t done much map work like that before.  I was able to see in their illustrations, though, what was important to them.  We all agreed the Zero Zone was a must, and that we could try different tables/spaces; all of our tables are round ones.

Since I knew the whole “zone” idea was a big one to them, I suggested another place they could visit that had zones.  I hoped this would give them another vision for what they might want/need.  I called on my friend Mrs. LeSeure, who is both a master at space planning and who I knew had already gone through many designs in her own room this year.  My son, Riley, is in her class, and with 27 students and an interesting room shape (it’s a small octagon I think), they have had to be very creative with how they put the people and the furniture in there for the best results.  Just like Mrs. Marks, she agreed to let us come over and learn from her kiddos.

The next school day, which was Monday, she sent some of her friends to take my first graders to explore their space.  The 4th graders were each in a different zone of their room, and groups rotated to each place, learning about how that space is used and how they decided it was an important place for them.  Half of my class went as a time, and then we came back together to share out what we had seen.

We talked and put together a chart of our thoughts.

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As students shared their reasoning behind what they liked about each zone and why they thought it would work for us, we decided if it was something that was possible for us to actually do.  We agreed that probably all of this chart was, except for the pet.  Mrs. LeSeure has a turtle named Javy, and kiddos thought he would help some of us be calm and focused while we work.  It’s a bit of a jump right now, so I assured them that when we get the worms from Mrs. Berger after the holidays and can work with them with their composting, it will work in the same way.  Crossing my fingers that that will happen. LOL

By that point, it was the end of the school day and we had to go home.  But I knew that my work wasn’t done.  I asked Rm. 202 kids if they trusted me (as well as Riley and my kindergartner, Allie) to do some work after school.  Then they could try it the next day and we could see what happened.  They agreed and left VERY EXCITED to come back the next morning.  And now I know YOU’RE very excited to come back and read about it in my next post, right?  I’m excited to tell you the next chapter. 🙂

Global Read Aloud Week 3: The Reader

This week was the half-way point of the Global Read Aloud.  We have so enjoyed the texts we’ve read so far, and this week’s book was no different.  Lauren Castillo has become a new friend to all of Rm. 202 kiddos and we enjoyed interacting with another of her great books: The Reader.

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As we read this beautiful story of a boy, his dog, a cold, snowy day and a good book, we discussed many parts and made many predictions.  We talked about who we thought “the reader” was, where we thought they were going, and we even connected a part of the story with the punctuation investigation we started the other day (which OF COURSE I’ll tell you more about later on!).

We got to this page of the book, when the boy heads toward home, and thought that maybe something was missing (sorry, Lauren Castillo!).

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So…we added it. 🙂  And the best part was that Rm. 202 kiddos knew that it needed exclamation points to make it sound exciting, and they also suggested that it be written in all capital letters because that also tells the reader how it should sound. 🙂

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Great, right?  And of course, no disrespect to the way it was actually written.  Reading lots Elephant and Piggie books makes us see speech bubbles EVERYWHERE!!

After we read and talked, we decided to get artistic and kiddos were invited to paint in response to the story.  They were asked to answer one of these two questions: Where is YOUR favorite place to read? or What is YOUR favorite thing to do in the winter?   Once their paintings were complete, they chose a paper to matte their piece, and wrote a card to explain their creation.  We brainstormed words we might want to use and created a chart to use a resource in our writing.  I CANNOT wait to see what these look like altogether on the bulletin board at school, but I had to go ahead and share them individually with you here from home.  They sure are pretty!!

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And I know I have said this every week of the GRA so far, but maybe this is the week that we finally join the slow chat about the books we’re reading.  Maybe. LOL 🙂