Thursday, October 8, 2015

Place Value Bootcamp

Place Value Bootcamp is a high-energy and challenging way to 'hook' your young mathematicians. This is my third year doing Bootcamp and every years it looks different! 
While doing calendar, I told my friends that I had a school meeting and they would have a Guest Teacher for the afternoon. As students wrapped-up calendar, I stepped outside our classroom door and put on my military accessories (green vest, aviators, camo bandana from Walmart, and a whistle). I already had on a black shirt and khaki pants, so I was ready to go! 

Barging into the classroom, I started shouting commands at my new cadets introducing myself "My name is Sgt. W and I am your guest teacher. Get on your feet! Come on cadets, stand behind your chair. Hands by your side. The answer is "Yes, Sergeant!" Part of transforming your classroom is setting-up the environment and stage for the learning. 

I told my Cadets that they would be participating in Place Value Bootcamp. For the first five minutes, we participated in Basic Training. We learned how to march, how to respond when Sgt. W asks you a question, and how to stand at attention. 
Since Place Value Bootcamp was the last day of our Place Value unit before assessment, we quickly reviewed all that we had been doing in math. Then, I taught the Cadets the Place Value Song from Teacher Tipster. (Note - I would definitely not show this video in class. Rather, learn the song and teach it to your cadets.)
After Basic Training, I called each cadet forward and they received their new name for the day. After students received their numbers, they drew the Base 10 pieces on the tag. (Note - Last year I used Plastic Dog Tags from Party City. I liked the look of the dog tags better but they were SO hard to put on and the string was too short making them chokers. This year, I opted for plastic name tags!)
Then, I would call one cadet forward to share his/her number with the class and write it on the SMART Board. I underlined one of the digits from the number. Then, I would give students 3 seconds of think time - "Is this digit in the tens place or the ones place?" Then, on the count of three, students had to stand at attention for tens or hit the ground to tell me it was in the ones place.
At this point, students needed to move and so they were ordered to give the same number of push-ups as the digit in the tens place in 54, Do the same number of jumping jacks as the digit in the ones place in 85. This was a blast and a great way to focus us after each number!

Then, I called the needed number of cadets to represent the number of talls (tens) and smalls (ones). We would sing each verse of the song "First you count up all the tens..." then count the talls/tens standing and "Then, you add the ones to the end..." then we added the ones to the number." 
At their desks, the other cadets wrote the numbers on their tables representing the numbers in at least 4 ways (numeral, tens/ones, expanded form, base ten pieces).
To cap off Place Value Boot Camp, we enjoyed a Place Value solve-the-room by Susan at Thank God it's First Grade. It was the perfect chance for students to practice counting tens/one, as well as, for me to meet with a small-group of friends who needed extra practice. Students drew the base-ten model, wrote the expanded form, as well as, the final number. You can grab the hunt from Susan here and the recording sheet I adapted here.
The afternoon was a BLAST and it was the perfect review of all of our Place Value learning. Over the next week, I saw some fabulous narratives about "Sgt. W" and "Place Value Bootcamp". This sweet little wrote one of my favorites narratives -
“Sgt. W came in yelling at us. “Get in your places!” Sgt. W made me do ten pushups. We felt tired…really, really tired. I am three times sure that it was Ms. W not Sgt. W. I am still asking my Mom why she signed me up.”
Friends, 1st grade is the best and learning should be engaging, challenging, and fun! As you are learning about Place Value, grab your bandana, sunglasses, and whistle. Your friends will thank you for it...even if the push-ups make them tired. ;)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Earth Day Recycling Demonstration: From Pumpkin to Compost

Adopting the Next Generation Science Standards, our school is moving toward a 5E Model for Science Instruction . Although I am not all-in right now, I am trying to slowly transition my thinking and teaching to this model. As a teacher, this has meant listening to my students' thinking about the world and asking a lot of 'whys' behind everyday things - why do leaves change color? and most recently, "What happens to our trash?" and "Why should I recycle?" 

Today I wanted to share a real-life demonstration that addresses the last two questions. It's a demonstration I learned about when student teaching, and it's a powerful one. Granted, it's definitely a long-term demonstration (we buried our pumpkin in October and will dig it up in April) but I don't mind if my 1st graders know that sometimes science takes a LONG time. Our students live in an 'immediate' world, and teaching them perseverance isn't a bad thing!
The day before we started our demonstration our classes had taken the time to explore pumpkins with our University Students. Our 1st graders had opened pumpkins, gutted them explored their parts, and even tasted their roasted seeds. We saved pumpkins from the prior afternoon and used them for our longer-term recycling demonstration!

Before lunch, Kara and I (I partnered with another 1st grade classroom) asked our classes to save a few pieces of trash. As we picked-up our classes, we collected the trash in a ziploc bag and kept it there until later in the day. Once our classes joined together, we decided together what to put in our pumpkin. In our pumpkin we put a plastic drinking straw, an aluminum can, a PB&J wrapped, plastic wrap, a granola bar wrapped, vegetables (cherry tomatoes and cucumbers), and an ice-cream wrapper. We wanted a variety of materials (metal, paper, plastic, organic) to ensure that our demonstration works!

After filling our pumpkin with our lunch trash, our classes went out to one of the fields near our school. Kara and I had dug a hole the evening before (which I would highly advise because digging a hole with 50 sets of eyes watching sounds like a disaster...also we made digging a hole more difficult than it needed to be - ha!). We walked out to the hole and then, we placed the pumpkin in the hole and we took turns filling in the hole. If the area were not a muddy mess and if it had not been raining, I would definitely have had the students help fill the hole! 

We placed a small flag in the ground, so we know where to dig in April. We also took lots of pictures, so if the flag is moved down or blown away, we will still know where to dig. 
Returning to the classroom, we made predictions about what we would find when we dig the pumpkin up in April (on Earth Day). I gave students the sentence stem "When we dig up our pumpkin, I think..." and I expected them to finish the sentence and add a detail. Then, students added an illustration to match.
While I considered making a graphic organizer/handout for the activity, I did not want the responsibilities of keeping up with 23 sheets of paper until our writing journals were the perfect sport for recording our ideas! (If you're brave and want to keep a piece of paper for 6 months, you can snag these recording sheets.)
Before digging-up our pumpkin in April, we will revisit our predictions beforehand and then, write write/diagram our observations afterward. By April, we will be confidently writing paragraphs, so we will turn our learning into paragraphs. Students will have the choice of writing argumentative paragraphs about the importance of reducing waste and working to convince others to care for our Earth and/or inform/explain paragraphs about what happens to our trash.
Right now, I know the lesson was fairly "random"...and it is! We have not talked about protecting the Earth yet, so it seemed like a "just-because" lesson. As we learn more about caring for the Earth and as Earth Day approaches, this demonstration will come to life. From experience, when we dig up the pumpkin in April, the pumpkin will be 'gone' as will the vegetables inside the pumpkin, while the Diet Coke can, the drinking straw, and all the other inorganic materials will still be there!

It is the perfect opportunity to give students a real lesson on why reducing and recycling waste actually matters and what really happens to the trash we throw out! Our classes cannot wait for Earth Day (only 6 months away) to arrive so we can see the fruits of our labor. Until then, happy digging friends!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Leaf Chromatography: Why do leaves change color?

Our school is adopting the Next Generation Science Standards for the first year, and it is definitely keeping me on my toes. I have been learning all kinds of fabulous science right along with my 1st grade friends. One of our first standards for the year is exploring patterns in seasons and sunlight. With the start of Fall last Wednesday, it was the perfect time to talk about the shorter days and longer nights of fall, as well as, answer one of our most-pressing 1st grade questions - "Why do leaves change colors?" We began our Fall and Leaf study by collecting leaves from our own homes and sharing them with our friends.
The afternoon before I commissioned my Leaf Hunters, we enjoyed We're Going on a Leaf Hunt together. Put to the familiar tune of "We're Going on a Bear Hunt", "Leaf Hunt" it was a simple and fun way to introduce many different types of trees and leaves, as well as, put our learning in context. 
The next afternoon, we spent our theme time exploring and investigating the leaves my friends brought to school. I placed 5-6 leaves on each of our tables and students carouselled around the room observing the leaves and touching them (with only 1 finger, so we didn't crush someone else's leaf). We then measured the leaves with cubes (non-standard measurement is a 1st grade standard) and we did some casual experiments with leaves and water (do they float? do they sink?).
After we observed the leaves, we brainstormed adjectives to describe the leaves. We are learning how to use our 5 senses to write narratives, so using adjectives to describe our leaves was a perfect science-writing connection. Rather than illustrating our leaves (which would definitely test our artistic abilities), we did leaf rubbings. WARNING - Children born in 2010 have never done leaf rubbings before!!!!!! My little KC asked me - "Can you do this on the iPad?" #facepalm If you decide to do rubbing be completely prepared with ample amounts of patience and a step-by-step plan for how to do a rubbing. 
The next day, we reflected on our leaf exploration and spent time comparing the leaves we brought in. Many of the leaves were green, but some were starting to change we had green leaves, yellow leaves, brown leaves, and a few leaves with faint hints of red. Looking at our leaves, we asked - "Why are the leaves different colors? Why does the color of a leaf change in the Fall?"

Learning about predictions in reading, we shared our ideas about why leaves might change colors. The friends below were fairly confident of their thinking and shared their ideas with the class. FRIENDS - 1st GRADERS ARE UNINTENTIONALLY HILARIOUS. 
Hoping to answer our question, we set-up a lead chromatography experiment...1st grade style! I collected 3 plastic cups and 3 sets of leaves (4-5 leaves from the same tree in each set). Then, I snagged pencils and coffee filters to act as our chromatography paper, plastic spoons for mashing, and rubbing alcohol for chemical in charge or extracting pigment from the leaves.
We split into 3 groups, each group responsible for tearing their leaves into tiny pieces and putting the pieces in their cup.
Why 3 cups?? Well, I was not sure if this would actually I figured if I tried 3 different sets of leaves *hopefully* one set would offer a result. (Note - I piecemealed this experiment from 3-4 different website and cut out all the bells and whistles. I did not have access to ceramic bowls, hot water, plastic wrap, etc. I did not want to run to Walmart and used what I had in my school closet.)
To each cup, I added just enough rubbing alcohol to cover all the leaves. I did do this part of the experiment myself because I did not have goggles or gloves for my 1st grade friends. Although rubbing alcohol isn't likely to kill one of my 1st graders, I would much rather err on the side of caution. 

After the rubbing alcohol was added, I mashed the leaves in each cup with a plastic spoon. While I was mashing each cup, we sang some of our favorite songs (Learning Station Days of the Week, Twin Sisters Learning our Short Vowels, Ron Brown Nouns and Verbs)...which means I mashed each cup for approximately 2 minutes. By the end of the mashing, the rubbing alcohol should be a light green. This is the most important step because it releases the pigments so they can travel through the coffee filter! 
We cut a long strip from the middle of a coffee filter and taped/wrapped it around a pencil. We then put the paper strips into our leaf/alcohol mixture! 
After 5 hours of hanging, these were our final chromatography strips! Amazingly, all three of our strips actually worked - woohoo! (Note - of course this only happened because I did 3 samples. Had I done 1 sample, the experiment would have most definitely failed.)

For a better visual, we laid them flat on a white piece of paper and put it under the Document Camera. Then, students picked one of the strips to illustrate and describe in their journals.
Observing our chromatography strips, we realized that different colors had been in the leaves after all! We were able to see green, yellow, and brown in our leaves (even though the leaves only looked green at the beginning of the experiment). But now, we needed an explanation. How can a leaf have all of those colors inside but still look green? To explore this question, we read Why Do Leaves Change Colors by Betsy Mastero. This is a book perfect for primary learners - lots of science and explanations but not enough to overwhelm or confuse!
After reading the book together and making the connection to our chromatography strips, students went back to their writing journals and wrote their own explanations for our guiding question - "Why do leaves change colors?" Then, we came back to the carpet and wrote a class definition.
We learned that during the summer months, the leaves are making food which makes the leaves look green. This green color hides the other colors in the leaves. During the fall, the leaves get less light so they are not making as much food, and the leaves loose their green color. As the green color becomes less, the other colors in the leaves start to show. This is pattern that continues each season!

This was a simple way to make a huge impact. Plus, it made our world a little more magical - who doesn't love knowing that leaf colors are 'hiding' until the onset of Fall, when our world becomes considerably more colorful!
What are your go-to science lessons for demystifying fall? I'd love to hear your ideas! 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

1st Grade Classroom Reveal: 2015 - 2016

This is the first year where I have stayed in the same room in the same grade. As I approached my room, I really wanted to make it more functional in terms of wall space. The physical space is almost identical to last year because honestly, it worked. With only minor tweaks being made to my room over the summer, I've had a hard time finding the motivation to share. I really do like our learning space but the lack of novelty was initially a struggle for me. So, 7 weeks in, here is our 1st grade learning space!

You'll noticed there is no theme. Rather, clean lines, organized materials, and blue/green hints throughout our room. With lots of natural light and fantastic color-blocking provided by the district, I really don't want to overwhelm the room with too much color or stuff.
Most of the rooms at our school are inset, so they have learning nooks outside. Our learning nook was blessed with a carpet and bean bags as a gift from my first 1st grade class! It makes the perfect space for parent volunteers and peer mentors to read with my 1st graders. Plus, our Astrobrigh's student work display and bulletin boards are also in this space. I really do love this corner and wish I could teach in the nook. It's so comfy! 
Standing at my door, you'll have this view. Our school is fairly new (we are in Year 4) and when it was built, we received high ceilings and lots of windows. Every classroom has two windows on the back wall and then, one long/thin window near the ceiling (i.e. the blur of light in the back of the photo). This means during the fall and spring, we spend most of our days sans lights - it's wonderful!

Last year, I picked up the paper ceiling fans from Oriental Trading. During each season of the year, I like to change them out to keep our classroom fresh (fall = leaves, winter = snowflakes, spring = rainbows). Since our ceilings are exceptionally high (~16-18 feet I use a painter's pole with a hanging attachment to hang the hanging decoration. It typically takes about a half-hour with my Mom helping!)
I am going to take you around the room in a counter-clockwise fashion. As you enter the room, on your right you see my teacher desk pushed against the wall and converted into our Writing Center. Students love having a separate space for Work on Writing, and feel very important writing at a teacher desk. The 4-star writing chart and the heart writing ideas chart are all things we created together in the first few weeks of school. To begin the school year, this wall was empty.
For easy-access, I keep four clear trays for different writing papers and graphic organizers. Right now, I only keep general writing paper in the trays. As we learn different modes of writing, I will add different types of papers/organizers for independent practice. I also keep black pencils (so they can't wander off), highlighters (for highlighting the word because), and crayons. Keeping all of our needed materials on the desk minimizes transitions for students. 
On the side of the desk, you see mini-dictionaries with theme-specific words with picture clues. Then, there is our bucket of clipboards. Our class journals become collaborative writing projects and our mailbox will be introduced after Fall Break (in two weeks) as we learn to write letters. Pigeon (Mo Willems' creation) takes the mail from our mailbox and delivers it around the school!
Above our Work on Writing center, is our classroom alphabet and number line. To the right of the center, you see our class word wall. Last year, our word wall was much higher (above the cubbies) and I was never able to maintain it. This year, I'm hoping to use it more by keeping it reachable...we shall see!
Continuing to the corner, you see my Teacher Table. This is where my corner of the class is and where all of our small-group instruction happens. I have my white-board easel and chart paper, as well as, my 10-drawer rolling cart of organizing materials by day. I keep my guided math materials and my weekly-read aloud books on the top of the larger cabinet. In the larger cabinet, I store our math and reading games/manipulatives, indoor recess games, and other miscellaneous supplies.
Below the table, I have two 3-drawer Sterilite containers. The containers on the right are my personal drawers (snacks, data, basic supplies, notecards) and the drawers on the right are for guided-reading materials.  The triad of silver containers were a gift from a student and I LOVE them. One container holds dry-erase markers, one holds highlighters and markers, and the third container holds pencils and pens. These are all materials I need for guided reading everyday and it makes them easy to access!
Looking from my teacher table, you have my SMART Board on the right-side of this picture and then, you can see my classroom library, pocket chart center, and our listening center.
This is one of our most-used and favorite corners of our room. Here you'll find our Learning Wall, library display shelf, our book bins, our leveled books, and some of our reading spots.
Our library holds our new dry-erase focus wall. The best part of this focus wall is that I'M ACTUALLY USING IT THIS YEAR!!! Every Monday, I take a picture and text it to families via Remind texting. Each subject I-can has it's own color (yellow = math, pink = grammar/writing, orange = theme, green = reading), the small blue sentence strips are for vocabulary words, and the Target pocket charts hold our must-know words. The blank spaces under the learning targets are where we add pictures/awesome work/examples. The 'Our Learning' header is MTF Jumpin' Jack font that I printed on white cardstock and cut out...easy peasy.
Elephant and Piggie are our favorite book characters. Within the first few weeks of school, we had read all of Mo Willems' books together and we fell in love. They are hilarious, silly, and just-right for beginning 1st graders. I used colored bulletin board paper to make the characters and hope to add a quote about reading on the opposite wall sometime soon... again, we shall see! ;)

Every student has their own book bin. I use navy book bins from Really Good Stuff and love them. Last year, I only had 2 bins break and RGS actually replaced them for me! Students keep just-right books in the bins and use them for Read to Self/Read to Someone.

On the top shelves are seasonal books that go on our library display shelf. They are organized by theme. You can see more pictures of how I organized our themed books in this blog post. On the two bottom shelves, we have our leveled books. Right now, I have Levels A-L out. Hopefully by November, I'll be able to take our the A and B book bins and trade them out for themed book bins!
Turning to the right you see my least favorite corner of my classroom. There is nothing technically wrong with it, but it just doesn't do anything for me. Here I backed two large cabinets back-to-back and covered it in black bulletin board paper. This surface is magnetic, so I hang pocket charts here. Many times it is for word sorts. Right now, it holds our 120s pocket chart... a perfect beginning-of-the-year math center. We also have our listening center, our clip chart (our school is a PBIS school) and we all use clip charts. Teaching 1st grade, I LOVE the clip chart.), and our classroom sink.
Inside of the back-to-back cabinets are our curriculum materials, listening center materials, and overnight technology storage area. One entire cabinet is filled with Reading Street materials (there are a TON of them). Half of the second cabinet containers are Go Math Materials. (See more pictures of how I organize materials here.)
Our Listening Center has been streamlined this year and I am trying to keep it simple. The three folders on top of listening center are differentiated graphic organizers. After students listen to a book, they complete a graphic organizer based on our comprehension skill for the week. In the first cubby, I keep our headphone splitters which allow up to 5 friends to share an iPad (although I limit it to 3). In the second cubby, I keep 5-8 books students may choose to listen to and in the third cubby, our iPod Touches (I received these devices through Donors Choose) which store our books. (You can read more about how we run Listen to Reading in this blog post.)
Moving to the right 3 feet, we're met by my Wall-o-Cubbies. I have 30 cubbies in my 1st grade classroom and use the last 6 cubbies for storage. I store things that I want my students to have access to in these cubbies because they are 1st grade sized. On top of the cubbies are supplies I don't want students to have immediate access to (extra crayon packs, Sharpie markers, sheet protectors, dry erase pockets, etc.)

Above our cubbies is a new Focus Wall for hanging and displaying our anchor charts. Last year, this space was our word wall, but it was too high for me to actually maintain. 7 weeks into the school year, and this space really works for anchor charts. I attached the paper to the wall using painters tape and then clipped on clothes pins. 
Even if completely stacked, students can reach the top bins. I clearly label every bin so my friends know exactly what to grab and where to put materials back. This helps keep things organized and allows students to be in charge. My friends know that anything with a label can be touched by a 1st grader. If a bin doesn't have a label, they need to ask me before touching! (The bins on the left are size small and the ones on the right are size medium.) On the bottom left, you see a thin, unlabeled bin. My friends know they must ask first to open this container (because it's unlabeled). It holds all the dice I use for math games and differentiating math centers. I picked up a bead container from Michaels (with a coupon and my teacher discount) and it's the perfect way to store dice!

Then, we have our Math Center tubs and our Word Work tubs on the right. I use the Large Sterelite Clip Top Tubs for centers and absolutely love them. I know they are definitely an investment...BUT take it slow and collect them one unit at a time. (A unit included 6 containers). My first year of teaching I purchased 2 units (12 bins) and they are still in perfect condition. They are big enough to hold a sheet of paper without folding/bending it, as well as, the bins don't open when dropped..a key detail in 1st grade! ;)

As my students make their reading and math choices, they grab the correct tub and during Word Work they also grab a word ring (as seen hanging from a Command Hook in the picture on the right). You can read more about our Math Centers here and more about Word Work here. If there are extra 'pieces' to a center that don't fit in a container (i.e. a 100s board as seen on the left or magnetic letters as seen on the right) I keep them on the bottom of the containers. Students will look at the visual directions (math and word work) on the top of each bin and know they are missing something!
So, there you go friends! As you can see, I just made a few tweaks this summer to make things run a little more smoothly and keep our learning a little more intentional.
Thank you so much for stopping by! I hope your school year is off to an amazing start. Until next time, happy teaching!