This week has been packed full of so many wonderful activities. We began our week with a great lesson in growth mindset from our amazing second graders. They stood up confidently in front of the student body and explained their design and engineering process for their egg vessels and then dropped them from over 30 feet! Some eggs broke into smithereens, others merely cracked, while a few survived unscathed. What the important lesson to our students was that not one of the second graders displayed a poor attitude or felt defeated from their cracked egg. It was an opportunity for them to think about what they could improve upon and how they could make changes in the future to be more successful. I overheard many of our first graders talking about how they were excited to do this project next year in 2nd grade and how they would design their egg vessels! I always love opportunities where the community rallies around each other and shares knowledge and experiences
Students were also exposed to coding and robotics this week in our very cool tech den. Since we have been studying biomimicry this past month, we talked about how we can design robots to mimic animals and/or plants in nature. Students designed a human code using game pieces adhered to the floor and then used this knowledge to code their Lego creations from Lego We Do kits. These young children grasped the concept so quickly and were designing code to make their robots sing, flash different colors, and beep - among many other commands! This is a meaningful hands-on experience that makes technology really fun for young learners!
This week, we delved in even deeper into good reading habits and how to improve our bad reading habits. Ask your first grader what it means to do "the freeze" when it comes to reading! We also introduced new first grade snap words to our word wall, emphasizing the chunks, blends, and vowel pairs we have been learning in class. Students are getting faster and faster recognizing these parts of words, which is a key component in reading fluency. I can tell that these next few weeks are going reveal a big burst of reading growth in your young readers! And what is a day of school without a solid math lesson? This is an integral part of our morning routine and we wrapped up our week learning about standard vs non-standard measurement, estimating length, and using popsicle sticks to measure the room - and each other. I spent quite a bit of time lying on the floor with lots of popsicle sticks lined up to measure the teacher! Students also had a fun time using measuring tape to observe and measure elements within our play ground space.
Our busy week came to its close with a wonderful performance of Mary Poppins at the Sydney Lawrence Theater in downtown Anchorage. One of our awesome 4th graders was in the show and it was incredibly fun for our student body to see him perform! For many of our young students, this was one of their first experiences seeing a live performance in a theater venue. Our students represented PNA with wonderful manners, positivity, and respect. I even had a few students show a sincere interest in performing on stage in the future after this experience!
We introduced coins this week. Nickels and pennies to be exact. Our number corner is a gathering place each morning to predict patterns, read the calendar, and learn how to group numbers and objects. We have used to nickels to group our pennies, as well as add the coins to represent the date. We even engaged in a nickel and penny hunt around the room and students worked together to add their amounts and order their totals from least to greatest. Who knew 39 cents could be so fun?! In addition to learning how to sort and recognize nickels and pennies, we celebrated our 2nd decade day on Friday because it was the 20th of the month! We learned that deca means 10, that a decagon has 10 sides, and that we call it the 2nd decade day because, well, 10 + 10 = 20! Little lightbulbs went off as students started asking about triple decade day and fourth decade day and so on. I asked them how many decade days we would have this month and they were able to figure out that there will be 3 all on their own.
We explored how animals protect themselves (following our biomimicry study) and how they can escape from predators. Each student was tasked with their own project that required only two things: their bug must 1) be able to fly away from predators and 2) be able to protect itself. We utilized our awesome Makerspace materials and students created some amazing bugs with very unique defenses. Their creative sides were engaged as well as their problem solving skills as they had to figure out how to join their materials, explain their designs, and use trial and error to make their bugs better. I was, of course, the testing subject for the bug's defense mechanisms and I don't think I have ever been "stung" by so many bugs in one day!
We have further developed our mission of teamwork and collaboration through our weekly build-a-tower challenge, as well introducing centers that require students to work together. Children, as well as adults, need to consistently practice in order to improve their speaking and leadership skills. I have noticed that there are particular students who always take the lead and it has been interesting assigning the team lead position to students whose voice is not always heard. It is empowering for the students to have to practice leading and listening to each other. Classcraft's article on how to teach leadership resonated with me, especially the part stating "Good, effective leadership is a skill that can be learned, practiced, and improved upon. And while we tend to notice the more obvious charismatic leaders with the loud and bold personalities, the fact is that anybody, even the quiet kid in the back who hardly speaks a word in class, can be a leader." Classcraft has a great article here if you are interested in reading more about how leadership can be taught in the classroom.
Lastly, PNA's annual field day was a great success! Our students did an awesome job trekking through the forest on the path build by PNA's prior middle school students. It was so important to recognize this achievement and for our younger students to see the value in applying what we learn to the real world. First graders and fourth graders partnered up while walking to the park and it was so neat to see the community and relationships being cultivated between students of different age groups. For some students, this was their first opportunity to go on a hike or be exposed to the forest, and for new PNA students, this was a great opportunity to experience the mission of PNA in action: courage to try something new, the vision to create something authentic and useful, and the integrity of following through with a plan with the help of fellow classmates.
This week was a fun week in first grade! Students were introduced to the idea of Rasheed - the lion who is on his way to visit us but whose flight got delayed due to a snow storm in the mountains. Now, of course, a real-life lion is not on it's way to PNA but students loved the idea of it anyway! Rasheed is, however, the mascot for our reading workshop. We use Rasheed to demonstrate the use of chunks (sh!), short vowel (a) and twin vowels (ee). Rasheed not only helps students break apart and study words but he also introduces students to new names. The real Rasheed, stuffed animal of course, will be arriving next week in our classroom. Our first graders came ready this year with a solid foundation of letter sound knowledge and we are delving in even deeper as we explore words together and encourage the strategies that 'good readers use' during our silent and partner reading. We also have been focusing on these strategies as we gather at the small group table for reading group, as well as during group board work. Students are quite proud of themselves when they discover a hidden chunk, blend, or short vowel and are quick to write their findings down on their white boards! Also in the world of reading this week, we introduced individual book bins! Students were so excited to get their book bin and go "shopping" in the class library. They gathered books that were fun and interesting to them, and will be adding books that are targeted right at or just slightly above their reading level.
Students also continued the theme of biomimicry this week by creating their own secret boxes. We studied what plants and animals use to protect themselves and then modeled their boxes after their favorite! We read the Caldecott honors book, "What Do You Do With a Tail Like That?" and learned all about animals such as how horned lizards shoot blood out of its eyes and that the giant ears of a hare are used to shade and cool it during hot days!
One morning we decided to extend our morning meeting to the gym and do a team building activity. Students worked towards a common goal of delivering a ball, suspended above the ground by an O-ring and ropes, to the other side of the gym. One student was chosen as team lead and helped guide the class towards success. First grade was awesome and achieved their goal multiple times! It was amazing to see them collaborating, communicating, and having fun. And as their teacher, I stood back and let them work independently and encouraged the team lead to be clear with his or her directions. All in all, we had a great week! Despite the sniffling noses that autumn brings, first grade has been an exciting and fun place to be this week!
No man, woman, or child is an island, especially not in a classroom. Tuesday morning was the start of our week after a restful day off for Labor Day. We began our day by exchanging compliments to one another and practicing receiving them with gratitude. By doing so, we are taking time to recognize the good in each one of us and by offering gratitude in return, we create relationships that are kind and considerate. It is especially important for young learners to practice compliments and gratitude as they learn to work together and exchange ideas. We practiced our teamwork by working on building towers out of paper cups. No idea was dismissed and students were encouraged to offer compliments, suggestions, and take on leadership in their teams. I stood back, offering only slight suggestions as they experienced trial and error, and eventually, success. They felt pride, not only in themselves, but in their team. I was proud, too. We have continued to work in teams this week in our workstations and also during partner reading. To see them collaborating, learning, and listening to one another is truly awesome!
This week we also introduced first grade Snap words to the class and identifying chunks in words, which we incorporated into many activities from whiteboard work to finding them in the books we are reading. Silent and partner reading seems to be an absolute favorite among students in this class! Another favorite in our class is quiet choice. Quiet choice is beneficial to your child in many ways. Not only is it a time for quiet communication with a partner or silent focus but 6-7 years old are still developing their motor skills! Legos, dominoes, polygons, cubes, etc all help develop muscles in the hands, improve hand/eye coordination, and help strengthen their ability to focus. Unstructured play helps a child develop social skills which are important for school success like taking turns and using eye contact, body language and gestures. While often dismissed as ‘just fun’, play is the vital activity that children use to learn about and interact with their world, and gain the mental, physical and social skills necessary to succeed in their adult lives.” (NAEYC) The 2 sessions of 15-20 minutes that they are engaged in this activity has enormous benefits!
Your children have also been exploring biomimicry. Now, some people may assume that this is a big word for little ones. However, your first graders are loving the idea that we can create useful items that are inspired by nature! Although they are young, children have this amazing ability to take big ideas and turn them into very creative and even cooler ideas! Our PBL unit is centered around this concept and we are learning how to think about animals and plants as inspiration. They are developing observational skills, looking for characteristics in animals and plants, and beginning to think about how we can solve problems by looking at the world around us. It is rather cool to see their minds at work and the discussions happening centered around these big ideas that are really just the perfect size for our children's mind. They are the future who will be solving our world's problems and we need to trust their ability to think outside the box.
And now on to tallies. Tallies everyday! We used tally marks to count the day of the month, to add, to group, to see numbers as bundles. And your students have got this! I have watched them this week work so hard and are already mastering building their bundles of 5's with popsicle sticks, whiteboards, and other math manipulatives. It has been a fun and rewarding week that we will continue to build upon as we grow our bundles of numbers higher and higher. I cannot wait to see what your student can do in just another week!
Ms. Tuomi has over five years experience in ASD, where she taught first and fifth grade classrooms. An avid skier, Ms. Tuomi is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Alaska Pacific University’s Bachelor of Arts in K-8 Education.