#weekofkindness–Tuesday Update!

This year our school has been working to “tweak” what have been considered “traditional” holiday celebrations (i.e. class parties).  You’ll remember that we had a relaxing afternoon with a snack and a movie for Halloween, and a our amazing Cultural Celebration just before Winter Break.  Well, Valentine’s Day made the trifecta complete, as we made some long-overdue (well at least in my opinion) and really great (also in my opinion!) changes to this day.  Let me tell you about how it started in Rm. 202…

I knew that I wanted to twist up Valentine’s Day the last few years, but did so just by adding to the usual “celebrations.”  We still had a party and stuffed everyone with sugar before sending them away on the bus.  The first year, however, I tried to add in a little #makerspace and we engineered our Valentine boxes out of junk.  Then, last year, I did away with the box altogether and we crafted bags during our day, covered in kind words from our friends to help us remember how much #youmatter.   But still, there was pretty much still a “regular” Valentine’s Day.

This time around, I did what I tend to do with any big change, and ask my kiddos what they want to do.  We talked about how we’d be embarking on an entire #weekofkindness, rather than doing what they were probably expecting.  Like I expected, some were fine and some were literally “booing” at me.  “But why can’t we have a party?”  “Why can’t we bring Valentines?” “We did ….. in kindergarten!”  These statements were much like what they snarled at me (lol) when I gave the same speech about the 100th Day (you’d think they’d know me better by now!), and so I talked them down the from the ledge.  I explained how if they did it in kindergarten then there’s no reason we should do it now, since we’re not in kindergarten anymore, and also that we’d been spending the WHOLE WEEK focused on kindness instead of just one day, and then also that whatever we chose would–of course–be fun!

We had been rolling ideas around in our heads for a few days and decided we should record them so we wouldn’t forget.  We even used some literature for inspiration–we had been on a Pete the Cat roll with our books for a few days and found some Valentine’s Day books that we thought might give us some ideas.  A couple of them indeed DID come from Pete.  Funny how that works out.

Our #weekofkindness officially began yesterday, and we began laying the groundwork for our kindness-spreading with some books as well as planning.  We decided to start collecting books to celebrate International Book-Giving Day (which is Feb. 14) as well as to gathering food for Feed My People and our Robinson Food Pantry.  This meant we had some lists to make, and also some inspiring to do.  So far, our food list (which we’re writing together with interactive writing) looks like this:

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We hope to add more veggie ideas, as well as a category for soup tomorrow!

Today, being actual Valentine’s Day meant kiddos came with a heightened sense of excitement.  The #weekofkindness activities for today included writing on each others’ hearts (cool, right??) as well as making Kindness Cake.  Oh, and we decided to wear red, pink and hearts.  Just because we could. 🙂

Instead of “traditional” Valentine’s cards, we told our friend #youmatter by writing kind words–right on their hearts.  We did a pretty complicated rotating routine to make sure everyone got to everyone else’s hearts and they did a GREAT job!  What a fun experience seeing the amazing things first grade friends say to each other. 🙂

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But wait–it gets even better!  We made Kindness Cake!  Remember how I told you that we read those Pete the Cat books?  Well the very last page of the Valentine’s Day book has a picture of him sharing cake with his friend Callie, and so we added this “bake a cake” idea to our list.  Remember when we did all that fantastic pumpkin pie baking in December?  Yep, we were thinking that it was time to whip up something else yummy in the Rm. 202 Kitchen!

I found a really fantastic chocolate cake recipe (after we voted for which flavor we wanted to bake) that everyone in our class could eat (which meant it had to be tree-nut free, peanut-free and vegan) and we got busy!  Robbie’s mom had a great idea of sending in a heart-shaped cake pan (thanks to the other moms who did this, too!) and so we were READY for Valentine’s Day.

To some it looked like just a regular chocolate cake with vanilla icing, and I guess in some ways it could be.

But we kicked it up a notch with the decorations.  The decorations were hearts that we labeled with ideas for acts of kindness–things we had done, things we had seen others do, or ideas we had for things we could do.  We put them on toothpicks and covered the top of our cake with our kindness:

The way we got to the “spreading kindness” part was when we ate it.  As we cut the cake, I made sure that everyone’s piece had a heart in it.  Each kiddo got back a heart, but NOT the one they had written down.  Their challenge was to spread kindness by doing the act of kindness that was on the heart in their piece of cake at sometime in the next week.  Cool, right?  It was fun to see how many were immediately making plans for how they’d complete their challenge.

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Oh, and how it did taste?  Well this is what is left on the cake plate:

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And that is my #kindnesschallenge: “I can help someone.”  Ok, friends, challenge taken.  I’ll let you know what happens. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valentine’s Day 2016

I didn’t want to call this post just Valentine’s Day, partly because we tried to celebrate it differently (does that surprise you?), but also because it didn’t really happen on February 14.  This story is from Thursday, but in elementary school world, it was the last day of school before Valentine’s Day so alas that’s what we celebrated.  Ok.  I’ll move on.

As with the 100th Day, this day felt a little contrived to me–what 7-YO has a Valentine?  Ok, well maybe their mom, but no REAL Valentine.   Or maybe the whole class is their Valentine?  Anyhow, I began thinking a week or so ago about what we could do that made this day about something real and “normal” in our classroom.  I decided to connect to the conversations we’ve been having about caring and showing each other that they are important.  I mean Valentine’s Day is about love, right?  Caring is love. 🙂

So I formed our day around these three essential questions:

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Since these are big, “chewy” questions, we didn’t really answer them, but we did think about them as we went through the day, and referred to them at various times, as well.

Our first job of the day was to read a book together, which was about a dragon who wrote Valentines for all of the people she loved.  It was an ABC book, and while we didn’t do anything with all of the letters of the alphabet, we did take some time to tell the people we care about how we felt about them (remember our questions?).

This was one of those areas where I wanted to be really purposeful with Valentine traditions, rather than “cutesy” or just fun.  Last year we did a pretty cool Makerspace situation, and while it wasn’t a real Makerspace since I gave them their purpose, they were able to create and try and discover and explore, which was great.  This time I wanted them to be able to both give love and get some back, so we decorated our Valentine bags with words.

I gave them the big idea and even some stems that they could use:

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These were not “have-tos,” but I wanted to give them some place to start so that we didn’t end up with 20 different “I’m glad you’re my friend”s.

Next was getting them into a spot so we could start our bags.  We did this in a version of the game Scoot, where they would “scoot” around the room (in a certain order that I’d share) until they wrote on everyone’s bag.  I had them get into alphabetical order–like dragon’s Valentines had been in the book–and then gave them a spot to start.  Basically I started in one corner of the room and just snaked the line around, putting each kid in a seat/spot as we went.  They would then rotate one slot each “scoot,” following the person in front of them each time. It was honestly kind of complicated, taking the layout of our room, but they got it by about the 4th or 5th rotation and then I didn’t have to lead them anymore.  I was honestly surprised.   Surprised but really impressed and happy. 🙂

I wish I had taken a picture of each one, to document how sweet their words were to each other, but I didn’t.  I only have ones of how great they look all lined up in the hall.  That is where they were as we delivered Valentine’s cards to our friends.

I didn’t get pictures of their bags, but I did get a pic of their words to me.  Check out how caring and lovely they were to me:

Pretty great, right? 🙂

Later on in the day we had a party.  Mrs. Raeber, along with many other parents (and grandparents!) came to help us have a fun time at the end of our day.  We had a snack, played a game, read some winter/Valentine’s Day books and make a keychain.  What a perfect collection of fun, low-key things to do!  These parents are super good at giving us lovely things!

Check out some pictures.   They are pretty sweet. 🙂

There’s more to share–but that’s for another post.  Hope you have a great weekend, and that you feel loved and cared for this Valentine’s Day! 🙂

Jumbled Thoughts

One of the things that happens to over-thinkers thinkers like me is that there are often loads and loads of jumbled thoughts all up there in my head at the same time.  I find it a very rare occurrence that I am only thinking about or planning thing at a time (is this called multi-tasking or just crazy?!).  Today is one of those days when there are many things filling the space between my ears, and so as a means to think some of it through, I’m writing about it.

This weekend means that yes, I’m “off” because it’s not a school day, but when you’re a teacher you’re never really not not thinking about school or how to make your classroom a better place for the learners you spend every day with. Today this thinking was magnified as I was attending #edcampStl (Ed Camp St. Louis), learning and growing with other fabulous educators.

As with every EdCamp experience, I left with my head spinning because of all of the inspiring conversations.  Along with the general planning I’m thinking about for next week and the coming month, I’ve got some other things on my mind after today:

  1. Teaching Artistic Behaviors–100% Choice Learning:  Today I went to a really great EdCamp session with Kelly Lee (@yogagirly).  I wasn’t really sure what I was in for (but thought maybe it was how to add more art/design into regular subjects), and then I found out it was by an art teacher and I was really more unsure (I have a good record of picking badly by the title of the session…).  It ended up being something really inspirational, and now I’m trying ot figure out how to use her ideas in my own classroom with 2nd grade.  The basic premise is that in her art class, Ms. Lee has her room broken into “studios” based on mediums (collage, drawing, fiber, digital and painting).  Each day, artists listen to SHORT lesson or inspiration (based on a concept, artist, etc.) and then choose which studio in which to work for the day.  In their plan book, students make a goal and plan for the class time, and then spend time in that studio working to achieve their personal goal.  At the end of the class time, 5 minutes is provided for reflection on the day’s work.  As I sat and listened, I tried to imagine how I could tweak this idea to include all the subjects I teach, perhaps with just 5 studios (or decks since we’re working on being pirates!) that would work for everything we do.  Right now I’m trying to decide if something based around the multiple intelligences would work….
  2. Biography as Narrative Non-Fiction:  I am not sure if I’ve mentioned here before that my team does a really cool thing with planning, and each person (there are 5 of us) is responsible for creating the plan for everyone for one subject.  I’m in charge of writing, and so I’ve had the opportunity to share some exciting things with my teammates (and therefore their students!) this year, like blogging, a new way to think about Writer’s Notebooks, and a punctuation study.  Right now we’re about to start a new unit–biography per the curriculum calendar–and I’m having a hard time getting started.  I remember teaching that unit with 4th and 5th graders and it was BRUTAL!  I’m really not so excited about 1) trying to write that genre with little kids, and 2) planning a non-fiction unit right after we did one (we’re all working on creating picture books about the cultures we’re researching in Social Studies).  So…I’ve been on the search for some fresh ideas of how to teach biography to young writers and help them be able to successfully write about inspirational characters–most of whom are probably from long ago and hard to understand.  I know that I want to include lessons on important vs. interesting information, as well as investigations into the elements of a biography as well as the definition of a paragraph, but beyond that I am dreading the whole thing! I ran across a unit online the other day, though, that explains how to write biography as a form of narrative non-fiction, rather than expository or descriptive non-fiction (which is what we’ve been doing anyway).  I like the idea of trying something new, as well as thinking about how this could be a good transition between NF writing and the narrative fiction that we’re doing next.  This could be the bridge.  Most of the texts we share with students are written in this genre anyway, so it might not be as hard as maybe I first thought…..
  3. Valentine’s Day Questions (yep, I question a lot of things….): ‘Tis the season to celebrate.  Two weeks ago it was the 100th Day of School–which I think we ended up with a great plan for–and now this week has Valentines’ Day (ok, well, V Day is not until Sunday, but we will celebrate it on Thursday).  Again, I feel pulled to do a litany of “cute” things that kids will enjoy, full of glitter and glue and hearts and fun (here’s how we decided to spend the day last year).  I’m not at all opposed to having fun (we’ve talked before about how we have fun every day in Rm. 202!), but to put aside our learning to….wow–even as I just typed that I had an epiphany….(weird, right?)…

Let me show you a picture to explain the thought I just had:

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This wrapper was funny to me because it came from a friend the day after my coach and friend, Amy, had reminded me of this question when we were talking about 100th Day Questions.  Just now as I was in the middle of saying how I didn’t think it was the right thing to do to just abandon our work and PLAY, I was reminded of what I say I’m about; play and fun and laughter are important parts of the learning we do together.  So….see why the thoughts are all jumbled?  Who knew teaching 2nd grade would be so hard!?  It’s the parties and fun parts that make me crazy, not the curriculum!  (Maybe it’s me who’s the crazy one…).

Have any suggestions?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of my jumbled thinking. 🙂  Remember, it takes a village!

 

 

Valentines’ Day Makerspace

I mentioned last time about how amazed I was by the Makerspace I saw at GCAA during EdCampSTL.  Well, as I have done in years’ past (mostly because of the timing), we took advantage of the need to create Valentines’ boxes and did so Makerspace style in Rm. 202!

First I had kiddos plan what they wanted their box (or container, since many where NOT shaped like boxes!) to look like.  Then they wrote down a list of materials they’d need (somethings came from home and many were materials we already had in our classroom).  We collected items for a couple of days, and then we were busy building!

It was fun, but BOY WAS IT MESSY!  But hey, learning is messy, right? Check it out!

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After built our creations, we spent some time on Thursday writing about some details about them.  Together we decided that our readers would need to know: 1) what is it (and what it’s called if it has a name), 2) how you thought of it, 3) how it works, 4) materials you used to make it, and 5) how you made it.  Kiddos used the Notability app on our iPads to work on their paragraphs, and uploaded a picture of their creation to add to their words.  We were able to use our chart from our punctuation study, as well as other writing pieces we’ve made together that are hanging around the room, to make sure we’d gotten our punctuation added correctly so our readers could understand our message.  Like with other things we do as first grade readers and writers, we used each other (as well as the word wall) as spelling resources, and reread our words often to make sure it sounded right.  Once kiddos were finished, they learned how to take a screen shot, then uploaded their paragraph to their blog to share with our blog readers.  Such hard, focused work happened in Rm. 202 on Thursday, friends!

We’re not all finished yet, but we’d love to have you visit our blogs to check out our final products! Leave a comment if you can. 🙂  You can find some Valentines’ Day posts here.  Thank you!

Happy Valentines’ Day!

This special day brought another special reason to celebrate in Rm. 202!  Thanks to Ms. Ross (Millie’s mom) for coordinating and for the others who came to help us have so much fun!  We even got to meet Evan’s grandparents!  Check out some pictures from our party!

Looks like fun, huh?

I saved a couple more to highlight on their own….

Ms. Ross came prepared with some Valentine stories to share at the end while we were waiting for dismissal.  Amelia Bedelia is a great choice for Valentines' Day!

Ms. Ross came prepared with some Valentine stories to share at the end while we were waiting for dismissal. Amelia Bedelia is a great choice for Valentines’ Day!

Ok, technically these pics have nothing to do with Rm. 202, but they were cute and fun to share.  Plus I kinda like the kid in the Heartbreaker shirt….

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Valentine’s Day

What fun we had at our Valentine’s Day party on Tuesday!  The parents in charge of this party did such an amazing job putting together many great choices for us.  Each classroom had a different activity, and kiddos were allowed to participate in whichever they wanted.  The food was amazing, with the theme of “I’m So FONDUE of You.”  Cute, right?  Here are a few pics of the fun!

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