The 100th Day of School

Groundhog Day, St. Patrick’s Day, wiggly teeth … Whether it’s a stat holiday or not, we find a way to celebrate everything, here in grade one.  So when the 100th day of school rolled around earlier this week, we certainly lived it up.

We counted, played, ate, spelled and cut & pasted our way to 100 of everything.

Looking for a way to tucker out a group of squirrely first graders and get them focused for your next brilliant lesson?  Have them do 100 exercises.

Worked like a charm!

The Platypus Series

I’m a firm believer (and I’ve said it before) that great writing begins with any idea that is “in your heart or on your mind”.  This open-ended approach makes the daunting task of marking a blank piece of paper a little easier. Plus, once you give students choice in what they write about, they inevitably are more motivated to try.  ”Free Writing” as I call it, also gives me great insight into what makes my students tick.

Here’s what’s been on the mind of one of my little guys:

Perry the Platypus doesn’t like the cold.

Perry went on a bus ride.  The windows were all full.  Perry sat on the roof so he could see better.

My platypus will get hurt by the TNT!!

Me and Perry, we’re in Halloween.

As you can tell, he finally gains enough confidence to try his hand at writing independently – and with punctuation! (P.S. Kids know about TNT?)

Had I simply asked him to write about his weekend, these little gems would probably never have been revealed.  Nor would all the other stories about a baby cousin’s first bath, or cheetahs, or climbing to the top of the monkey bars and almost touching the sun.

Enabling my students to “look inside” and put into words what they think about, or love, is a real treat.  Not just because they get to witness how their ideas come alive, but because we all get to share in it and get to know each other just a little bit better in the process.

Perry the Platypus, who knew?


(images: Avihai Shurin for Monkey Business, via Design Milk)

The Write Start

I certainly don’t profess to be a professional writer or blogger but whatever it is that I do, I enjoy it.  I enjoy the act of noticing stories around me, I enjoy searching for the perfect word, and I enjoy the fact that I never know the direction I’m going to go until my fingers start tickety-tacking on my keyboard.

I get it, though: not everyone likes to write. That was my sobering realization when I came back to my classroom a couple of weeks ago.

When it was Writing Time, surely my students would skip to their desks, gleefully open their books, and start writing fearlessly, giving life to every golden idea…

That didn’t happen.

As it turns out,  I have a group of reluctant writers on my hands.  They have yet to see the value in writing and they don’t want to try because many are obsessed with doing it the “right” way.  Since emergent writing is the lay of the land in grade one, getting it all “right” is next to impossible; as a result, many are not motivated to try and are unwilling to take the risk.

With the help of a fabulous presentation at our last Non-Instructional Day by the lovely and talented, Adrienne Gear, I was reminded of the key missing piece in this puzzle:

The why.

Why write? What’s the purpose? Why should you care?  People write for a variety of reasons:  to share, to communicate, to think, to entertain… I needed to go back and get at the core of the reasons behind writing.  When I asked my class the question of why we’re learning to write, it was met with a sea of blank stares.  One little guy actually said, “because you said so”.

Clearly I have some work to do.

After some initial conversations and constant assurances of “it may not look right but it’s right for grade one”,  and celebrating successes – I’m pleased to say that the tide is slowly changing.

We’re a long way from the skipping and the glee, but at least they’re willing to pick up their pencils and give it a try.  We’re getting there.


It’s Cold Outside

… even for a penguin.

Stay warm!

(Thanks, Pinterest.)

Lessons from Hercules

With one full week of being back in the classroom under my belt, things are beginning to fall into place.  It’s funny, I was gone for a term after teaching for twelve years and suddenly I found myself feeling rusty.  I got over that pretty quickly.  Being swallowed up in the tidal surge of a grade one classroom will do that to you.

Walking through my classroom doors partway through the school year this time, however, has thrown a big ol’ wrench in my groove.  Unable to chart my course from the start line of September, I now find myself wanting to play a whole lot of catch-up.  To prevent myself from trying to cram ten months of learning into six, I remind myself of the lessons learned from dear Hercules.

Who knew the gift of a hummingbird feeder would result in endless entertainment provided by this little guy?

I spend a lot of time watching him.  Like, A LOT.

I know the green of his back and the flash of red on his chin (surely birds have chins).  I know his favourite branch in the hydrangea bush on the side of our house, half a foot from our window.  I know the sound of his morse code-like chirping and I know he often likes to sit still between slurps and just take it all in.

Birdwatching, I know. Sounds riveting. Truly though, Hercules the Hummingbird has armed me with some helpful lessons, timed perfectly with my foray back into the classroom.  Here are just a few of them:

1.  There’s comfort in familiarity.

2.  Learning is trusting.  Trust others, trust yourself.

3.  Sometimes it’s fun to sing at the top of your lungs.

4.  Sloowww down.  If you’re too busy checking things off your list then you’ll miss all the fun stuff.

5.  Sugar makes everything better.

Lastly, in the juggling act of teaching, and in life, balance is everything. Sometimes it’s good to listen, to be quiet and watch the magic unfold all on its own.

Thanks, Herc.  If you need any help learning how to read, I’m your gal.

(images: Follett Design Co.)