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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Our Garden

Yesterday was a most amazing day as Cannon's backyard was transformed into the most beautiful learning garden! Special shout-outs go to Real School Gardens, Mercedes Benz Financial Services, The City of Grapevine, GCISD Board of Trustees, GCISD staff, and our own Cannon community of staff and parents.



Yesterday's lessons were about vision, community collaboration and hard work!







Future lessons will be around stewardship of this gift, responsibility and continuing to build this garden.

The curriculum connections are limitless. Scholars will utilize the garden to learn about plants, animals, interdependence in nature, wind power, solar power, the water cycle, nutrition, weather, and environmental studies... just to name a few. The garden will serve as a space for peaceful reading, inspired writing and mathematical thinking.








Additionally, scholars will grow the lifelong skills of collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and citizenship.

I believe the garden will give scholars a space to build skills and develop habits that will last a lifetime.

It is certainly a privilege to serve in a school where vision becomes reality and where an entire community is willing to come together to create a most remarkable learning environment for kids.











Saturday, September 12, 2015

Book Talks in 1st Grade

After attending a conference with Penny Kittle, author of Book Love,  last spring, I set a goal to incorporate 'Book Talks' into our 1st grade daily schedule.
Book Talks are an opportunity to present a wide range of books from a variety of genres to students on a regular basis. Books Talks are like little commercials for books. I always begin with..."This is one of my favorite books!" (After about the 4th day, one student said..."you sure have a lot of favorite books Mrs. Boynton"... message received...I love to read and you should too!)
I show the cover and a few pictures from the book. I tell a bit about the book, sometimes reading a small excerpt. Then the book goes on the chalk rail (it's funny that I still call it a chalk rail...I haven't used chalk in 20 years!) as an invitation to think about this book and to create the desire to read it! I follow this procedure each morning as we begin our day, Monday through Thursday. By Thursday, there are 4 books in the collection. No one has read them yet but the kids are talking about them! On Friday morning, I review each of the books and students vote on which one they want to be read aloud. We use Kahoot to vote on the books. It's quick, the kids really enjoy it AND it displays a graph of the voting results so we can review drawing conclusions about graphs every Friday in a most authentic way! The remaining books go on display in the classroom library and are favorite choices when kids visit the library during Reading Workshop.
Please note that I am not doing Book Talks instead of Read Alouds but in addition to daily Read Alouds.
In just a few weeks of school, I have noticed that this practice has increased engagement and love of books! I received an email from a parent last week reporting that her daughter didn't really like to read last year and that over the summer it was difficult to get her to read. She said that in just the first few weeks of school, her daughter has made a shift and now talks about books, enjoys reading at home and does it without prompting. I'm not sure if the practice of Book Talks played a part in this shift but I'd like to think so:)




This week we had a holiday on Monday, so there were only 3 books to choose from.

And the winner is....The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes!



Monday, September 7, 2015

Learning About Our Classroom Pet

Two years ago, I decided to get a classroom pet. After some investigating, I decided on a tortoise. Tortoises are interesting creatures are relatively easy to care for. Additionally, and importantly, there is not an issue with allergies to pet fur. Tortoises do not have teeth, so they don't bite.


As you can imagine, scholars were very interested in the tortoise from the moment they saw it on Meet the Teacher night. Their interest led to many questions so last week we spent some time organizing the questions with a plan to research. The questions were organized around some essential ideas in animal science: habitat, appearance, diet, life cycle and adaptations.  We used a RAN (Reading and Analyzing Nonfiction) chart to guide our work.


After recording knowns and questions, scholars got to work doing some group research.



I wanted scholars to share the information they learned through writing. In order to organize the information in a way that early first graders would find 'friendly', we used the Popplet app and created a Tree Map. As you can see, a Tree Map makes it easy to incorporate categorical information into sentences.



Initially, the kids looked at me with worried eyes, as if to say...THAT is a lot of writing! But they dug in and in just a little while there were pride filled smiles as scholars shared their work.




I was pretty proud of these first graders as they took on this research and writing project on week 2 of first grade!!  They are a pretty sharp group and seem to believe they can do anything I tell them they can do. It's going to be a fun year:)