Monday, December 31, 2012

Wondering about Worms

We have been infested by small thin worms that have been making their way up our door that leads out to the Kindergarten playground. It has been a great way to work science into wondering, writing and of course speaking and listening to one another. Above this poster where many kids posted their thoughts, I placed this book about worms...(love this book) Yucky Worms by Vivian French.
A few kids picked it up and learned about the little creatures trying to live outside our door.  Ruby even wrote a book about worms during writing workshop.  Knowing we will dig a little deeper into non-fiction reading and writing after break, I like to come back to topics, reading and writing we have a  little background for as we start a new unit in workshop. This title, Ruby's non-fiction piece and the wonder post-its stuck to the poster will help me model how we read, ask and answer questions and write using non-fiction text.  Right now I'm wondering what the door looks like as well as what the kids will say about the worms after all the snow this break!!
Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Yoga Breaks with You Are a Lion!

I think you can tie a book into everything we do in first grade! This year I found a book of yoga poses, You Are a Lion by Taeeun Yoo, that we have been using for movement breaks and transitions. The kids love it! They beg to do yoga in between workshops and it allows them to move, stretch and breathe! It is filled with simple poses and pictures the kids can try like fluttering like a butterfly and stretching like a cat. I was reminded of this book as I saw an overdue reminder from the library. It is one that I need to buy because someone always has it in his/her book bin.  Hoping you are getting lots of time to breathe over holiday break.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Books that Inspire Drawing

We have a basket of books about drawing.  In the Drawing Books Basket I have added how to draw books, characters who draw like Dog and books that inspire creating like Beautiful Oops.  My kids have been loving the messages these stories send as well as the stories about some of the characters who create. Just this week I picked up Andrew Drew and Drew from the bookstore.  Immediately my kids were thinking about Beautiful Oops! and Jeremy Draws a Monster.
In Andrew Drew and Drew, Andrew helped us realize that drawing is a process. Sometimes you begin and your picture takes you to another idea. Andrew draws what he knows and what he imagines. One boy who loves to draw even shouted out, "that is like me!" I think this book will be great for the beginning of the year when kids are just beginning to bravely get their pictures and ideas on the page.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Asking and Answering Questions

Last week I shared a few books in the Freckleface Strawberry series that invited conversation understanding towards friendship in the primary grades.  These stories also fit nicely into a unit we are working on about thinking as we read.  I am using my favorite picture book characters (and the series they are often part of) to help my kids begin to see that readers are thinkers.  I often begin with questions that primary kids students think  about when they read about characters they love:
Why did you choose to read about the character?
Who is the character?
Where is the character?
What are you thinking about the character?
What have you learned about the character?

I invite them to think about these as we read and reread characters like:

We practice this work and then kids begin to choose one character they want to learn more deeply about.  Partners chat about these questions, students share their thoughts and kids begin to have many new characters they want to read about next.

Now we are to a place where kids have strengthened their thinking in read aloud. They are ready to dig deeper into specific comprehension strategies.  Questioning has happened quite naturally so we are digging deeper into thinking about questions we have before we read. Just last week, Freckleface Strawberry Best Friends Forever and three questions were asked before we started. I jotted them on post its and then came back to answer them the next day. With this work, kids are beginning to ask, write and answer their own simple questions in the books they read.

Our next step is to sort out which questions are helping us understand the characters and story more deeply.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ten on the Sled by Kim Norman

What better way to celebrate the season than a new song book!! My kids loved listening and thinking about Ten on a Sled by Kim Norman as it reminded us all of Roll Over by Merle Peek.

As we read the winter version, the kids were noticing new animals: caribou, walruses, hare, seal and new words that alliterated with how the animals exited the sled: hare hopped off, bear bailed, and seal slipped off. It was fun and gave kids lots of opportunities to think about what was happening along with decisions the writer made using punctuation to create such a lively read.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

Today and Tomorrow

 Today I am still struggling to understand
 I can't imagine
  if and what my first grader's will be thinking, today
 I have played out in my mind what they will ask, what they will know, what they will fear.
 I am praying for words that will simply help wrap arms around them
 as Newtown has embraced its community.
 So that we can begin to feel closer to tomorrow
 where we can begin to focus on the simple wonders of 6 year olds.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Kids Planning Play

On the flight to NCTE, I sat with Mandy from Enjoy and Embrace Learning.  She happened to have a new book in the Calkins Help Desk Series: A Quick Guide to Boosting English Acquisition Choice Time K-2. She shares her thoughts here.  My thoughts are that it is a book helpful for all learners. Many of the ideas tie right into the common core standards for speaking and listening.  I was flipped through it thinking some of the ideas might help my kids during play.  I am not big on centers and having kids place a card on an activity they want to work through because I feel like I control so much of their day already. But, I did like thinking about how the teachers tied much of their learning like...picture books, science ideas and purposeful building into play.  I liked the notion of having a plan for play and I have been asking my own students to begin thinking about what they will be doing or creating.
So with many ideas racing in my mind, I asked my kids what their favorite activities were during play.  They came up with this list:
After talking with them about how reading could be play with character and books, I had a small group of girls act out :

I observed as they planned for a couple days who would be who, using rock paper scissors to work through the tough decisions. When two girls wanted to be the Good Fairy, they decided to compromise and both play the role. One student read aloud and made the props while 5 others rehearsed. Two days later they asked to perform for the class. I took a movie with my camera and then uploaded it to our web page where they can watch it anytime. We have already viewed it twice because they love to see themselves.  Some students are now writing about the play during workshop and others (including the boys) are planning on a new performance. Their ideas are never ending and they are figuring it out on their own.
As I think about what next,  I will be helping them dig deeper into other areas on their list. And, I'll post again about what they think of next.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Finding Answers in Interactive Read Aloud

My heart is filled with the faces of the 6 and 7 year old that live and learn in room 108.  They are learning what it means to share, figure out problems they may have with learning or often with each other and they are learning what it means to accept each other for who they are.

Today as I read aloud, I savored the time we had thinking about these same lessons (and doing lots of the thinking work of asking questions) while reading a picture book. Reading aloud is my favorite time of day and because of that, I try to do it as often as I can.  If you are believer in the interactive read aloud (where the kids thinking drives the community's understanding) as I am, you know how much they can learn when they have time to talk throughout the story.

I chose this book today because I have a student who really needs practice letting go of things (little things).

As I read, students shared their thoughts aloud: "She is not afraid anymore" and "Freckleface Strawberry and Windy Pants Patrick are friends now!" I know bullying is an important issue but I think we can sometimes isolate kids when we just define it and over emphasize who is bullying; we need to help kids help each other. I like this book because it embraces how we are more the same than different,  a concept (even young ones) can begin figuring out. So later we read: 
As I read aloud it one little girl said, "I am friends with lots of kids. Not ones that look just like me. I am friends with everyone in here and they don't all have the same kind of hair that I have." Then later someone said:
"Windy Pants Patrick and Freckleface Strawberry listened to their hearts."
These stories have supported the work we are doing as readers who ask and answer questions about text but most importantly they are helping us answer questions about ourselves.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What's First Grade?

A few months ago I was chatting with the most amazing first grade teacher in our district.  I was listening to her talk about how she and her students were creating for a hallway display communicating what first grade meant to them.  I LOVED the idea, asked her if I could use it and tried it on my own.
I started by reading one of my favorite pattern books: 
 Then we had lots of talk about how to answer the question: What's First Grade? Students who were able to narrow in and think about an image or idea shared. They came up with lots of ideas and I challenged them to be purposeful in their illustrations as we had been studying them in writing workshop. I posted it in our hallway for family night.
 Their ideas range from jump rope and running to....
 writing workshop, stories and checking out books.
 Oh and lots and lots of tether ball!!
I think I might have them re-illustrate after break to see if their ideas have changed. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Finding Learning in Little Things

Just recently my student teacher gave our class a little cactus she brought back from a trip to Arizona.  I was excited to receive a plant for our classroom and began brainstorming all the learning we could tie into this small gift that brought such excitement.  Starting with the care directions, my students began to review what living things need and we had lots of discussion around new science words including :  temperature and measurement.  We read about our cactus, interpreted what we learned and then wrote a guide to remind each other about how to care for it.  Using interactive writing, we all dug into word work and practiced stretching through sounds in words, practicing high frequency words, digraphs, noticing short vowel patterns, compound words and the list goes on. One student added illustrations to the steps we composed during play. And, a few students have written about the cactus on the blog, sharing their thoughts about the new plant on our windowsill.  I love it when something so small can conjure up so much learning.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Collaborative Writing

In a quick conversation with two readers who LOVE to read Life Size Zoo and Sharks, a realization occured: we can teach our classmates about what we are learning on the blog!! Let the posting begin (with some more talk about taking what we learn from reading and then forming a thought out loud in our own words).
After reading some comments from some blogmates, one student declared: "I taught something to a second grader!!"

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Photo Posting

It has been way too long since I felt like I have had time to blog.  Life happened, kids activities increased, we moved, the list goes on until I stop and think that I really have not been setting aside time to get to it. And, I miss it.  I miss connecting, sharing ideas and discovering new ideas in the interconnected world of blogging and twitter.  Ruth reminded me at a writing retreat this summer that 10 mins of writing a day can make a difference.  So with her advice in mind as well as my obsession with Ree Drummond (of who I am infatuated with because of her ability to post quick ideas and stories using pictures), I have decided to challenge myself to begin photo posting with a few words to help describe the purpose, process or ideas that accompany the pictures of learning in my classroom. My goal is to post each weekday.  I am beginning tomorrow and look forward to the challenge!

For tonight, I leave you with a happy pic of these page turner bookmarks that my student teacher made for each of my students!! They would make a great holiday gift if you have time on your hands. Here is the link she used to make them.