News from Room 138
Check here often for updates on what we are doing and thinking in Room 138.
|Ms. Meck's First Grade 2013-14||
I love that I work in a school that values professional development. And not just professional developed that is "sponsored" by our district but professional development that is" teacher driven." So in May, I asked to attend my first BLC (Building Learning Communities) conference. http://novemberlearning.com/blc-education-conference-2014/ Not surprisingly, my principal and the PTSA agreed that this would be money that was well spent in our school. So last week, I spent four days in Boston with my colleague, Julie Colando and 900 plus other educators representing more than 75 countries around the world. I have not been able to think about anything else since. We all came to Boston because we know that schools are changing and the way we teach kids should be changing too. No longer are teachers the sole bearers of information. No longer are classrooms places where kids and teachers work in isolation. Technology has changed our profession and forced me to rethink everything I do in the classroom. I learned this last school year when my first grade team was given the chance to pilot a 1to1 program in our classrooms. In January every one of my 25 students had their own iPad. Unfortunately (or not) the devices didn't come with instructions or a curriculum or even a teachers guide. Luckily, I had Twitter. Years ago I had started using Twitter for professional development, (my first year teaching I had worked in a school that didn't have money for conferences and also didn't care what I wanted to learn about.) so I had connected with other like-minded teachers on twitter. And when I say "connected", I mean they were sharing their work on twitter and I was watching and reading what they shared and learning and growing as an educator. These teachers had become my professional learning network and it was way more powerful than any workshops that my own district offered for professional development. So when these devices arrived in my classroom, I took a deep breath and just dove in, (plugged in?) I knew immediately that my students would not be using ipads for app work, we wouldn't be clicking on math games just to practice our facts. I wanted the learning to be more powerful than that. I wanted my students to use these devices to show me what they were learning in my classroom. I wanted them to show their thinking and then be able to share that thinking with each other. I wanted them to find new ways to learn. They did all that and much more. They individualized their own learning, they collaborated and they started thinking more creatively. They taught each other and they taught me. We became learners together. So back to my summer learning.....BLC14. Here, I finally got to meet many of those teachers that I followed on twitter. Here, I heard hundreds of stories much better than mine about how classrooms are changing and how students of all ages are more empowered. Students are now learning by doing - they are engaging and connecting in new ways. They are sharing their work with a much larger audience. Everything I heard at BLC reinforced my own experience. I know that I have so much more to learn this coming year and I am hoping that many more teachers will go on this journey with me and my first grade team. BLC14 taught me that we as teachers have so much more to learn. And at the heart of learning is sharing what we know and what we don't know. We have to step out of our comfort zone. It's not enough that every child have access to technology in their classrooms instead we should be giving kids the opportunity to use technology in meaningful and relevant ways. And ways that are relevant to them not just to teachers. Classrooms, yes even first grade classrooms, should be places where kids learn how to be digital citizens of our world. And these same kids should have a voice in the powerful conversations that are going on in the classroom, school, school districts, states, even the world around them. I keep coming back to the questions were asked while I was in Boston, one of my favorites is this one posed by Dr. Alex Couros, Professor of educational technology & media at the Faculty of Education, University of Regina, when referring to how kids are learning in most of today's classrooms: "When you can choose your own adventure, Why do we have kids doing exactly the same thing?" So I guess that's why I am sitting at my computer on a summer day off wondering how I'm going to apply all I've learned in my classroom next year. I don't know. I just know that I'm going to try.
I am excited to invite you to the Bird Symposium this Wednesday night at 6:00. We are so excited to share all our learning. I decided to let Ben give you a preview. I hope you will take a look!
I"m really working on creating a community of learners this year. And I keep going back to those 21st century skills that I believe are critical to create life long learners. Right now it's collaboration. And as kids met for the first time this week in their "bird" groups , I asked them to create contracts promising what each one of them would do to make these collaborations successful. I loved hearing what they had to say.
It's here! Spring and all of the excitement that comes with it. The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming and first graders are wondering about birds. How did that happen? Ok, the first grade team might have planned a project based on birds, but I am already seeing signs that our project is going to proceed in ways that you just can't plan. I've already seen kids talking, watching and wondering about birds. We know what makes a bird a bird. (feathers) and we know we have many questions about them. We want to know how they fly and build nests and we wonder where they come from and where they go in winter. We also wonder if we can bring them to our school. This week we took our bird journals outside and looked for bird habitat on our school grounds. in the first few minutes, Asa, Silas and I saw a hummingbird in one of the beautiful trees that border the garden. What kind of hummingbird? We're not sure but ask us again in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, enjoy spring break and I hope you will take a minute or two to wonder about birds with your first grader. Go bird watching or pick up a bird feeder for your yard. Invest in a Seattle bird guide and a nature journal. And by all means keep track of the birds you see. I have a feeling this is going to be a great Spring! .
I am so proud of the Queen Anne First Graders! It was so much fun to see them share their song about Community at today's Monday Morning Meeting. I know all of you are aware of how important "community" is at our school and I am especially proud this year that we have been able to grow our community in many ways. We have our McClure Middle School buddies, we have our friends at Queen Anne Manor. We have blogged with classrooms in Texas, Massachusetts and Canada. We have connected with families and other schools via Twitter. We even have the kind of "old fashioned" pen pals that I remember from Sacajawea Elementary School in North Seattle.( We are using snail mail to connect with them. ) Still, it really doesn't matter if it is high tech or low, the kids are making connections with people ages 7 to 97 and there is so much learning in that! P.S. You'll find their most recent letters from their pen pals in their folders tonight and most every one also posted them on their blogs. We appreciate your comments. Wow!
I am often amazed by the words that students write in my classroom. Yesterday during Work Work I walked over to the table where kids were using clay to make words and I found this...
Extraordinary is such a cool word. In the dictionary extraordinary is defined as very unusual or remarkable. For me, extraordinary is what happens in the classroom every day. Today extraordinary was watching 25 first graders use their ipads to create original work. On Friday extraordinary was watching these same first graders write poetry at Queen Anne Manor. Tomorrow it will be something entirely different. How extraordinary is that?
I just sat down at my computer to post a few pictures and I couldn't believe all that we accomplished last week. ( Which struck me just a little bit funny because I remember leaving on Friday and feeling like we just didn't get enough done. Why is that?) The pictures reminded me of what a week it was - Monday was the 100th day and we worked on individual projects all morning. On Tuesday, we went back to Queen Anne Manor and we had a great visit! Some of our kids played cards with the residents and most just got caught up in the conversation. I know how much the residents love our visits and every time we go I wish there was time to go more often. While I was there I was able to convince Jane (our host) that it would be great to get the residents and first graders together for writing and by days end that is now on our March calendar.
On Wednesday I finally got the nerve to begin putting kids together in book clubs. So to kick this unit off I asked some parents to read a book with me and show the kids how adults get together and "talk" about books. Thanks to Holley, Kathy and Bonnie for helping me show kids how important book clubs can be. The kids loved seeing us sit in a circle on the floor sharing our thoughts and feelings about Dav Pilky's book, The Paperboy. It was their turn on Thursday when a new book showed up in their book box. Because they had already learned that they must read and reread their books before getting their clubs together, I was amazed at how quickly they got lost in their own reading. Soon everyone was marking up their text with questions, connections and comments. I can't wait to hear them share this thinking when they meet with their clubs this week. It was also mid week when we started our new writing unit: Realistic Fiction. They were hooked the first session. Kids are now creating characters and writing about real life adventures. They've already figured out that these first stories will become the anchors for the series they will publish before years end. And then on Friday we said goodbye to our McClure buddies. The good news is that we will be getting a new group of buddies next week. But it was still sad to say "see you later" to this amazing group of young men and women who have spent every other Friday with us for several months. I'm reminded about how important real world connections are and it was fun to see 7 and 8 year olds work side by side with young teenagers. And then it was time for science.....I've published pictures and video's on our home page. And tomorrow is Monday - I know it will be another busy week but it's going to be hard to top the last one!
On Monday we will mark the 100th day of first grade. My, how time flies! But instead of looking back, I am looking forward. I really believe that the best is yet to come. At the beginning of the year we made our agreements for the year. We all agreed to be kind, to listen and to work together in our classroom. We realized that these skills would help us become self directed learners. We know now what it means to "think hard" and to "ask questions." And we are thinking about what it means to be creative. So, on Monday I will ask the kids to create something from 100. ( 100 lego's, 100 pattern blocks, 100 pennies, 100 straws, 100 words ) I hope that they will make a plan, collaborate and create something unique. I know they will document this work and share their learning with each other and our greater community of learners. It's going to be messy but I've found that the "messy" days are the ones that we seem to learn the most. The days when I see kids excited about learning and I hope that excitement builds through the 100th day and the 101st, 102nd, 103rd, 104th...
It took longer than we expected but the wait for our iPads to arrive was definitely worth it. All of the kids have worked so hard this year and I think we are really ready to connect with technology and the greater world around us. We are so excited to be "talking" with three other classrooms: Ms. Hogan's class in Dallas, Texas, Ms. Melnik's class in Arlington, Massachusetts and Morah Elyse's class in Montreal, Canada. We have been looking at their websites and asking a lot of questions. We see some similarities between our classrooms and we also are noticing many differences as well. This week our class will spend a lot of time blogging about our day so that we can share even more experiences. It's my hope that kids will not only document learning but explain their thinking as well. We already know that being a critical thinker means asking lots of questions and we are hoping that our friends around the world will share their knowledge. So thank you to Ms. Hogan's, Ms. Melnik's and Morah Elyse's classes, they have already given us some great tips to begin our journey. And if you are not already following us on Twitter please do - it's such a quick and easy way to keep you posted on what we are doing. @msMecksclass - See you there!
We are so excited to learn that our iPads will be here next week and we are already thinking about how we can share our learning. We are going to use these devices to show our work as first graders and we promise to blog daily. I'm hoping that some of you will look at your child's Weebly this weekend and take this on as homework. Add some pictures and maybe do the authors blurb. I'm writing this in front of my class and they want to tell you what they are excited about sharing...
Mason: I'm excited to share the work we did.
Julie: I'm excited to share how we think hard.
Oliver: I'm excited to share how we do ST Math. I'm excited to share with more schools.
Francesca: I'm excited to share our writing. We are learning how to write our opinion and back it up with evidence.
Leo: I'm glad to get iPads
Skyler: I'm excited to share the lego creation I made with my friends. I'm also want to teach you about football.
Jack: I'm excited to share my blog with you.
Angel: I'm excited to share my writing.
Joshua: I'm excited to share my homework.
Jenna: I'm excited to learn on our new iPads.
Itzel: I'm excited to do math.
Clementine: I'm excited to share news about my hamster.
Harper: I'm excited to share our math trays.
Madeline: I want people to know that my daddy is the librarian at QAE.
Silas: I'm excited to share news about Seahawks.
Noam: I'm excited to learn new things!
Nate: I'm excited to share our stories.
Caterina: I"m excited to share my work.
Haben: I'm excited to share teaching books.
Ben: I'm excited for this year!
Ana Rose: I'm excited to do ST Math.
So look for our individual blogs soon - we have LOTS to share! GO SEAHAWKS !