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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Morning Meeting: What is it and how does it look in 1st grade?

After doing some reading and research over the summer, I have changed how our class begins each day. Following morning announcements each morning, we begin our day with a Morning Meeting. This meeting has 5 components, takes between 15 - 20 minutes and sets the tone for our day.
I know that I need to ease into my morning with a cup of coffee and some quiet time. I believe students need a predictable routine to help them ease into their day as well.

The 5 components to Morning Meeting are:

Greeting: A greeting is, well, a greeting. 1-2 minutes is spent saying good morning to each other. Last week, the goal of this time was to help students introduce themselves and learn each other's names. It's an active time. I might give each student a plastic bug. They then have to find a partner with a bug the matches by color or type of bug or color and type or another bug that moves int the same way... then they make eye contact and say, "Good morning, ____". I have lots of ideas for props for this greeting game: attribute blocks, playing cards, Uno cards, buttons, small toys...anything that has differing and definable attributes that can be matched.
Benefits: The kids LOVE this game and it is a great way to get the morning started in a positive way with laughs and giggles.

Sharing: Sharing takes place as the kids sit in a big circle and the activity can look different from day to day. It can be as simple as repeating a sentence stem and filling in the blank. For example, "Last night I ____" or "My favorite thing about the first day of school was _____" or "At recess, I like to _____." or "If I could change one thing about ____ I would ____." The Sharing component can also be used to share a celebration...someone has a new sibling...someone earned a badge in scouts...sort of like show and tell but reserved for really special things. The Sharing component can also be used to share something from the previous day that went unnoticed. For example, I might show a picture I took of a particularly wonderful Makerspace product or I might ask someone to read a book they wrote in Writing Workshop or I could show a Math Notebook entry that illustrates someone meeting a learning goal.
Benefits: The sentence stems give students a way to tell me how they are really feeling about things that are happening both in the classroom and out. I might learn something important. It is a time when I can make a BIG deal about individual successes and give students a special time to shine.

Group Activity: The Group activity is something fast and simple in which everyone participates. It could be a Kid President or BrainPop Jr. video, a quick survey, a review or formative assessment (Ex: everyone write a short/long o word on a Post-It and put it on the board, everyone show your age in tally marks on a Post-It and put it on the board, everyone draw your family using stick people on a Post-It and put it on the board or everyone draw a quick sketch of something you'd find in a garden on a Post-It and put it on the board). The kids love Post-its and really enjoy looking at the variety of responses.
Next week I've planned some quick iPad 101 activities. I noticed that with students coming from different classrooms and schools the level of competency with iPad basics is varied and using the Group Activity time in the morning will allow me to keep instructional time protected and free from iPad specific questions.
Benefits: There are lots of times when there are little things I want/need to check on or expose students to and they don't exactly fit squarely into our day. It is a nice opportunity for curriculum connections and formative assessments. And, these are brief activities where everyone is successful and that is a great way to start the day!

Morning News:
This is the time of day when I can share 'news' like an upcoming fire drill or a special event or a special visitor or upcoming field trip. Sometimes this is a time when I can reiterate expectations for a particular procedure that is not going so well. Really, I can use this time for anything I'd like to share with he class.
Benefits: This is a time when I can share stuff I might normally forget if I didn't have a designated time to communicate it. It also allows a scheduled time to regularly revisit classroom/school expectations.

Daily Schedule: Each day, our daily schedule is written on the board along with the 'I can' statements defining daily goals. We review it together. I have found that even though most 1st graders can't yet tell time, they are able to check the schedule to know 'what part of the day they are in'. In fact, I observe students checking the schedule as soon as they walk in the door in the morning, needing to know what their day holds. I've even overheard.... Student 1: "Is it lunchtime yet?" Student 2: "No, we have to do Reading Workshop first...see."
Benefits: No secrets, no surprises and a lot less questions like, When are we going to?.... or Are we having _____ today? Additionally, learning goals are clearly defined for students and anyone visiting our classroom.

Morning Meeting does take a little bit of planning and believe it or not, all of this is accomplished in 15-20 minutes. After implementing Morning Meeting last week I learned that it s a great way for me to take a pulse of the see who might need a little TLC or who might be in a particularly rambunctious mood and need some close monitoring or a brief pep talk to get their day started off in the right direction. One very important observation I have made is that this first 20 minutes of the day is helping everyone get to know each other and maybe, just maybe, we're starting to build empathy in our classroom. Think...big family dinner...only in the morning and without food and with a different kind of family. #buildingaclassroomcommunity.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The First Day!

We had a fast and furious first day filled with new friends and new learning. Below are some pictures to give you a glance into our day.

Engineering Simple Machines: Levers

Writing Workshop: Show What You Know

Math: Persistence and Grit, Working With A Partner to Solve a Challenging Problem

And A Little GoNoodle Brain Break...Macarena Style!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Why Pens?

Last year, as a result of some Writing Workshop training, my students began using Flair® pens to write. When students used pens to write, all of their thinking was evident, including mistakes and approximations, allowing me to actually see the progression of thinking. Revision and editing are part of the first grade curriculum and it is often difficult to know if students are revising/editing when they completely erase mistakes and approximations so that everything looks like 'first and final'. Another advantage I noticed after students began using pens was that students spent a lot less time repairing (erasing) mistakes. They simply drew a line through the mistake and moved on. I appreciated the end result and was left wondering...why didn't I think of that?!
A few weeks ago, I participated in some followup training with the same presenter. There was discussion about the pens - taboo in first grade, right? Our presenter elaborated on the thinking behind the use of pens at any grade level. She reiterated the thinking that writing with pens allows teachers to actually see the writing process and then went on to make two additional points. She said that there was research that supported the idea that it is easier for emergent and early writers to 'push' a pen across paper than to to 'push' graphite across a paper. For me, writing workshop is all about getting ideas down on paper and learning the conventions that make writing easy for the reader to read and I'm a fan of making the task easier. Our presenter went on to make another point. She talked a bit about fluency in writing. She talked about how often, emergent writers just stop writing, leaving the pencil on the paper. There are a variety of reasons why writers 'just stop'. They may be distracted, they may not know how to spell a word or form a letter or they may just be tired of writing. I knew this to be true because I witnessed this behavior many times when I worked 1:1 with struggling readers as a Reading Recovery teacher. In contrast to pencil writing, when students write with pens, if they stop, it leaves a darkened spot. This spot acts as a prompt to keep do your best, use what you know and keep going. This made so much sense!
As I pondered this information, I began to wonder...why use pens only in writing workshop? Wouldn't all of the above mentioned advantages hold true if students used pens in all subject areas throughout the day? So I asked the question. Our presenter shared that that is exactly what she has done in her kindergarten class for the past 3 years.
Armed with this information, I decided to make a change in my classroom this year. We're going to use first grade! At least we're going to start that way:) I'm not averse to admitting when I've made a mistake so if it turns out that using pens creates problems that cannot be resolved, I will regroup and reconsider. I must say though, I'm LOVING the idea of not hearing the hum of the pencil sharpener during work time and I will not miss cleaning up spilled pencil 'sharpenings'. I recognize that Flair® pens will involve some cost but I'm willing to bite that bullet if it makes the process of writing for emergent and early writers easier. We will see how it goes and I'll post soon to share our experiences:)