Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Basics and "Outer Space"

It is time to get back to the basics. We have been very proud of all of our extra and extended learning this year and have loved showing it off on our blog. However, that is not the true focus of our day. 

Our morning reading block plays a major (if not the most major) role in our 1st grade lives. 

Here is a rundown of our reading block:

8:40-9:15 Students enter the class, unpack and go straight into their reading zone. 

While the reading zone is in progress, students meet with me at the teacher table to do a bit of guided reading. Guided reading is a 20 minute block in which 3-6 students work with me at the teacher table on a range of skills and concepts.

A few students working on their expert decoding strategies.
9:15-10:20ish - These groups continue into our W.O.R.L.D's time. 

This stands for:
Being a Writer
Being an Observer
Being a Reader
Being a Listener
Being a Word Detective

While I am working with students at my teacher table, the rest of the class is responsible for their own learning during the W.O.R.L.D.s in what I like to call... "Outer Space".  Outer Space is the everything else except the teacher area.

We usually have 3 reading groups a day and this creates a significant amount of time in which the kiddos in Room 222 are independent teachers, creators, presenters and thinkers. 

This system is based on a mutual trust. The kids trust that I have prepared them correctly for this responsibility, prepared their materials correctly for easy use and set systems in place that lead to success and comfort. I trust that the students are using what we spent weeks preparing for and make the learning choices that I have asked them to make. 

Here is a glimpse of the student-choice learning that happens in "Outer Space":

SF participate in "Being a Reader":
She can read for hours. 

Many students write independently and collaboratively*  in "Being a Writer":
Some students have been planning and producing chapter books together while collaborating. 

Students reading and collaborating* in "Being a Reader":
Notice the identical books.

GF researching* using BrainPop Jr. during "Being an Observer":
This research can be used for future informational writing. 

CR researching* using PebbleGo in "Being an Observer" and PD listening using Storylineonline.net in "Being a Listener":
PebbleGo is an amazing resource for animal research.

A group of girls, reading, sharing and discussing books* in "Being a Reader":
These ladies frequently read aloud to each other, conduct book talks, talk about characters and share book experiences.

Not only has this class consistently followed our independent guidelines but they surprise me everyday with a new form of self-directed learning. 

Go back through and review these particular pictures. Anything with an * is completely created and proposed by this particular class of students. 

Quite an impressive group of students. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Week in Review

This was a very exciting week in Room 222. We were looking forward to our very 1st Skype session. Before meeting Dr. Burkholder, we made sure we were ready to talk to an expert. We started collaboratively brainstorming some questions using our favorite collaborative site, Todaysmeet.com. We then spent a bit of time discussing which questions were appropriate for our experts and which ones might not be right for this particular session. See the full blog post on our experience here.

Speaking of questions... We are talking about questions EVERYWHERE! We are discussing them in reading, writing, math and science. So we spent sometime deciding what makes a deep question and what surface questions sound like. 

We even got to become PD's audience and ask him questions about his current book he is working on.

It was another week of odd and cold weather so we had several days of indoor recess. This is not music to a 1st grade teacher's ears. These kids need to run, play and release energy to help with a productive afternoon. The days in which we have indoor recess are a bit trickier in the afternoon.

Some of our kiddos are trying to get their bodies move by using a yoga app. In this picture, ARH and NS, are demonstrating the "dead bug" pose. You can see the example on their iPad.

We ended our week with some energetic fun at Jump Rope for Heart. It was a great experience for all! As the preliminary numbers come in, it looks like McDole could set a personal best for fundraising and possibly set a new record for the district! Way to go!

Stay tuned for more about this week. Sometimes 4 day weeks are packed with the most learning.

Upcoming Posts:
The Basics
Genius Hour Update

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Chatting with an Expert - Our First Skype Session!

Today, Room 222 had the opportunity to travel to Shark Bay in Australia via Skype in the classroom.

We were lucky enough to spend some time with Dr. Derek Burkholder from Sharks 4 Kids. 

We spend almost 45 minutes with Dr. Burkholder. This was pretty amazing because it was 3 am in Australia! He spend yesterday catching and tagging 8 sharks and then got up in the middle of the night to tell us all about it. We are so lucky.

He answered our questions and showed us a presentation and videos.

We were able to track a few of the sharks that he had tagged. You can track them too by clicking here.

He even let us take a few photos of him at the end.

After we said "goodbye" to Dr. Burkholder, we spent a few minutes quietly reflecting and then we got to work! We couldn't let all of this amazing new knowledge just sit in our brains. We had to act on it!

Some kids went straight to the ipads and started drawing their new learning.

A few kids grabbed shark books and began reading together. 

Many kids grabbed a computer and logged on to Pebble Go to do a bit more research.

Several kids began writing immediately!

The shark is frustrated. 
Several of us blogged.

Check out these blog posts about today:

Finally, a few of us took a moment and stepped into the reflection area to record our thoughts on the moment.
(passworded because these are Room 222's personal thoughts)

We just can't wait for our next Skype session!

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Earth... and App-Smashing

Definition: App-Smashing - The process of using multiple apps in conjunction with one another to complete a final task or project.

Friday, the students in Room 222 decided to demonstrate their knowledge on the Earth by creating and producing an Earth presentation. The kiddos used their new knowledge on App-Smashing to produce these amazing presentations instead of taking a paper and pencil test.

The students were asked to share their knowledge on the following topics:
1. Orbit
2. Rotation
3. Water vs. Land

Check out what they did:
(Videos with passwords are due to the face that names were used. See the original email for our password)

Gs Mc from LBright on Vimeo.
JA -GF from LBright on Vimeo.
JR AZ from LBright on Vimeo.

The students used Drawing Pad, Pic Collage, iMovie, Screenchomp and Sonicpics for these presentations.
*All presentations were planned, created, edited and produced by the students in Room 222.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Week in Review - February 3rd-7th

I can't believe it is already February!
Here is a glimpse at what we worked on this week:

Special Guest Reader: MC came across some amazing informational books and really wanted to share them with the class. It was great!

The students worked on their 2nd Quarter Reflection Videos. Parents should be receiving an email this week with a password to access these amazing videos. This quarter, they were completely kid planned, directed, recorded, edited and shared. 

One of our groups practiced and performed a fun Reader's Theater titled, Blackout!

A few of our groups also practiced a "draw through the text" activity. This is where we take one small section or paragraph from a text and draw something to represent each sentence. This helps students learn the fine art of summarizing in their own words.

We started with a next about elephant trunks.

While I am meeting with groups, most of Room 222 is learning in "Outer Space". 
Here is a group of ladies working on sharing books, reading aloud, talking about texts and discussing characters.

In this photo you can see students working on the computer, collaboratively writing together, writing independently, listening to stories, reading independently and participating in our observation station.

Room 222 participated in a Non-Fiction Read Around. A read around is almost like "hot potato" with books. The only difference is that when the music stops, you pass your book to the next person. They have anywhere from 15 seconds to 1 minute with each book.  This is a great way to expose the students to multiple books and features in a very short amount of time.

This was a big week for us in writing! We moved onto our next Lucy Culkins writing book. We are moving on from being Story Tellers (writing personal narratives) to becoming Teachers (writing informational texts).

So this week we started writing about what we know. 

Some students began by sketching through their story.

A few students are playing with the idea of different types of beginnings. 

Jovani used motion lines to make his informational illustration more useful to the reader.

Many students practiced using "fun facts" as a way to add more interesting information to their pages.

Several students researched their topics before beginning or when they had writer's block by using the computer, ipads or mentor texts. 

This coming week will sure prove busy with the 100th day of school and Valentine's Day. There is never a dull moment in Room 222. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Genius Hour: Round 1: Hours 2 and 3

Wondering about Genius Hour?
This might help...

The self-directed learning is now well underway.

Room 222 has really taken to the idea of Genius Hour and began to spread their learning wings. 

Here is a diagram of our route through our Genius Hour:

Hour 1:  Pre-idea stage. We started gathering our wonders. (see post here)

Hour 2: Identifying our main topic and begin narrowing it down to an essential question. 

We discussed the difference between a Google Question and a Genius Question.

A Google question is one that can be answered with a quick Google search. 

A Genius question is one that takes a "genius" to answer it.

So... Room 222 went out on a search for their official topic and essential question.

The students then used Pic-Collage to send me an inspiration picture.

Here are some of our topics and questions:

Movie Making: How do I make a fun movie for my friends? - AM

Flowers: What is the best way to grow daisies? - PB

Tie-dye: How can I make cool patterns? - AH

Law Enforcement: What is a day in the life of a FBI Agent and Police Officer like? - DC, JDH, CR

Hour 3: Draw your preliminary thoughts about your topic.

This is our "pre-genius" step where we are gauging how much we know. 


Colors of Butterflies and Baby Sea Turtles

It was fun to see them take this so seriously. There was so much detail in their first illustration.

We will continue this coming week with the "write all you know" phase.

Teacher side note: From everything I have read, Genius Hours in upper elementary classrooms have been running 6-8 weeks. I was worried that my kiddos would have a hard time focusing on a topic for that period of time. However, I was so pleased at their focus this week and their knowledge of exactly where we are on our route to Genius. I think we will be just fine!