Aug 31, 2015

Classroom Ninja Training: Trustworthy


This marked the last day of our ninja training.  After discussing bravery, perseverance, curiosity, responsibility, respect, and being strategic, we pulled it all together with the word "trustworthy."


This day looked quite a bit different than all of our other ninja training days.  There was a lot to accomplish and the students needed to be learn to put all their amazing ninja skills into practice.

Throughout the ninja training, half of my team was completing assessments and the other half was teaching the whole grade level.  As you have read in the previous posts above, we have been working on all the behavioral expectations that we will be working towards this year.  Students also got to know each other, learned some questioning techniques (I will share this in a later post), and were introduced to some of the tools they will use this year.  It was all productive, meaningful, and we made it as fun as possible.  It provided us with the perfect opportunity to complete all those necessary assessments that occur at the beginning of the year.

Since the assessments are complete and the ninja training has come to an end, the students were ready to learn how to start switching classes.  This takes quite a bit of practice because of the different procedures with clipboards, behavior, and the hallway expectations.

This is where our word "trustworthy" came into play.

As the day came to a close, our students were all taken outside.  We celebrated each student because they had completed their official first grade ninja training!  We cheered, clapped, and talked about how excited we were to work with them this year!

I know I'm ready to get started!



Aug 30, 2015

Classroom Ninja Training: Strategic


Our firsties have been learning our behavior expectations through their ninja training: bravery (taking risks), perseverance, curiosity, responsibility, and respect.  The activities that we have completed and lessons that have been taught are not that different from years past.  But after our math PD this summer, we realized that some skills needed to be added.  Taking risks (for example: sharing an answer that may be different from others) and perseverance (not giving up even when it is hard) were two important ones because they impact the participation and engagement of students.  Strategic behavior is another important skill for a productive classroom.

So our ninja training continues with strategic behavior!

When I think about the word strategic, two things come to mind.  One is strategies.  First grade is a year of many strategies.  Math strategies to solve word problems, reading strategies to attack words that are unknown, comprehension strategies to understand text, and writing strategies for all those words that are just challenging to spell for a six year old.  Our students have to be strategic about the strategies that they chose to use and that takes a lot of practice, scaffolding, and experience.
The second thing that comes to mind is everyday problems.  Students need to be strategic about how to solve their problems.  They are getting older and have to start taking on that responsibility of not always relying on an adult.  For example, when I hear "my pencil is broke" I remind them that there is a way to solve that problem that we have practiced.  But it is the responsibility of the student to solve that problem on their own.

Maria started this lesson with the book "There's an Alligator Under My Bed" by Mercer Mayer.

The illustrations make this book so much fun!  My girls have had me read over and over and over again!  The little boy on the cover knows that there is an alligator under his bed.  He has to be very strategic about how he gets into his bed so that he does not get too close to the animal.  The parents in the book do not believe that there is an alligator; therefore, it is up to the boy to solve the problem on his own.

Oh my goodness!! What a perfect book for strategic problem solving!

To follow up on this book, Maria created a problem/solution chart.  We first saw this over at "My Silly Firsties."  The idea works perfectly for this day of ninja training!  This is just the beginning of our chart.  Ummm...the paper towel issue is a real one for our school!


Then it was time to test our their strategic skills.  All the first graders headed outside to an obstacle course.

As our year continues, we will revisit this word OFTEN.  It is so important that they be strategic and think carefully about the strategies that they use.

Do you have any lessons that you love to help your students be strategic problem solvers?



Aug 29, 2015

Classroom Ninja Training: Respect


So far we have set the foundation for our ninjas to be brave (risk takers), to persevere, curious, and responsible.  As the ninja training continues, I do wonder if real life ninjas were respectful.  But we think our first grade ninjas need to be!

For this trait, our firsties participated in two of my favorite beginning of the year activities.  I started with a definition and some examples of what it means to respect people, places, and things.  But I explained that we were going to focus on how we will respect each other.  So we drew a friend on our chart paper.  Lots of firsties came up to draw the different body parts, which made "friend" look so cute!

Then I read the book "I'm the Best" by Lucy Cousins.

 In this book, Dog is friends with Ladybug, Mole, Goose, and Donkey.  Dog feels that he is best because he can beat each animal at certain activities.  But he quickly learns that they can also beat him at certain activities.  Dog finds out that they all have their strengths and weaknesses.

I like this book.

There are so many times that I hear "I can't" from a kid.  But there are those other situations where we hear a student telling another student that they are "the best" at something.  This statement automatically lets the other child know that they are not good or that they "can't".  Understanding that we all have our strengths and weaknesses is so important when creating a positive classroom environment.

As I read and each time Dog said "I'm the best," a student was asked to crumple up our friend.  The crumbling symbolized that awful feeling you get when someone says unkind words. By the end of book, our friend was looking pretty bad.  Dog does apologize to all of his friends, so we smoothed out our friend, as well.


We did have the conversation about the wrinkles still being present even though an apology took place.  This just shows that we need to respect others and think before we say something that could be hurtful.  I am not convinced that this message was quite received by this point in our lesson.  Our little ninjas are a pretty antsy bunch this year...but it can always be revisited!

By this point, we were ready for a change.  So Maria and our new teammate, Kathy, asked the students to draw a picture in a small group.  Each group got a piece of paper and one box of crayons.  All that was asked was for them to draw the most colorful, beautiful picture that they could.

Then the groans, questioning noises, and louder voices began.  When they opened their boxes, all they found was one color.  A whole box of orange or a whole box of just green.  But they were encouraged to just draw their picture anyways.  And what they discovered was that the picture was not colorful, not as interesting.

Then Kathy read "The Crayon Box That Talked."  This is one of my favorites!!  It is all about the importance of each and every one of us.  In order for us to have this colorful world, we need to be different.  I always tell the students how bored I would be if they all came to school knowing the same things, dressing exactly the same, doing their hair the same way, talking the same way.


To complete the lesson, the small groups got to create a colorful picture with a regular box of crayons!  They also created a unique puzzle piece with as many colors as they wanted!  We placed this whole grade level puzzle in the hall to remember that we need each of us to complete the puzzle!

Our ninja training on respect ended with some reading buddies...but let's save this for another day!  Go Ninjas and respect each other!



Aug 28, 2015

Classroom Ninja Training: Responsibility


We are ninjas this year but we are all about the positive qualities that a ninja can possess.  So far we have talked about: bravery, perseverance, and curiosity.  Next up...responsibility

Our goal was to help the students understand that as responsible students they need to take care of their own things, pick up after themselves, and take ownership.   What better way to teach them this than by letting them create a total pigsty.  Right?  Paper ball wads flying everywhere....


As soon as the activity started (with paper balls flying past me and into me), I was pretty sure that Jess and I had made a mistake.  It was not a good idea.  And I am still trying to think about how we can improve upon this lesson.  That will come to me....at some point.

Once the paper balls were picked up, they were calmer, quieter.  We moved on to the "meat" of our lesson.  Making the connection between the pigsty they created, the book "Pigsty," and the word responsibility.


I love this book because the mom in the story tells her son that it is his responsibility to clean his room and he chooses not to.  So what happens?  Pigs begin living in his room, of course.  It is not until his toys and books start to get ruined that he decides a clean room is a better room.  He goes to his mom but receives no help from her (thank goodness)!  After the pigs help him to clean and move on their way, the little boy learns that his room is his responsibility.

I loved that the mom in this story did not cave in and clean his room with or for him.  It allowed me to spring board into the importance of students being responsible for their own things (such as their daily folder or books that are sent home).  These school things are not the responsibility of the their parents.

Once our book, connections to the pigsty, and word responsibility were made, Jess introduced a graph.  We asked them whether they kept their own room clean or as a pigsty. 


Most of our students do not have rooms.  So we quickly inserted the words "where you sleep" or "a space in your home."  After a "turn and talk,"  each student placed a small sticky note in the correct column.  The results were a little stunning.


My own children must be some kind of oddity because their room is an absolute pigsty...ALL.THE.TIME.  But I will not jump on that topic right now!

As our training continued, our ninjas learned about how to be responsible users of iPads.  These types of lessons will continue to occur throughout the next few weeks.  But the word responsibility has its foundation laid and we are ready to build upon it!

Go Ninjas and be responsible!


Aug 25, 2015

Classroom Ninja Training: Curiosity


Our training continues this week as first grade ninjas.  Our firsties have learned all about what it means to have bravery (as a kid) and perseverance.  Today we introduced curiosity and its importance to students.


Our lesson on curiosity was not new this year.  We have been doing this same lesson for the past few years because it helps the kids to form questions.
Karen and I begin by showing students the "Mystery Box."  The students will determine the contents by asking us questions.  We model the difference between a question and statement.  The students can begin asking us questions but we can only answer "yes" or "no."

This lesson is then repeated once each day during the entire week of school.  They get into the routine of asking questions and learn how to form effective ones.  Here is what we have found about this lesson:

*Students learn to form questions (versus statements or just saying one word).
*Students learn to ask questions that will give them the most information.  ("Is it a hat?" versus "Is it something I can wear?")
*Students learn how to use what they know already to form more questions.  (For example, after they learn that they object is made of paper, they will not ask "is it fruit snacks?"  This question would not make sense because fruit snacks are not made out of paper.)

These are great lessons to start off the year with because it sets them up to be more successful in asking questions and looking for clues throughout the the year.


Aug 24, 2015

Classroom Ninja Training: Perseverance


This year we are first grade ninjas!  Our hope is that our students will embody the following qualities this year: bravery, perseverance, trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, strategic behavior, and curiosity.  Our first day of training revolved around bravery.  Day two of our Ninja Training was all about perseverance.


I am pretty sure that I've been most excited about the activities for this day!  After my summer math PD, I realized just how important this skill is for our little first graders.  And how hard it can be for some (such as my own six year old).

Our lesson began with a definition:


After some whole brain "mirroring" and "teach...okay," they were ready for their first ninja challenge of the day.  With a partner, our firsties had to get a beach ball from one side of the playground to the other side without using hands and arms.


It was hard for them but we cheered them on and used the word perseverance over and over and over again!  After everyone crossed the finish line, it was time for challenge two!


Each of the balls above are comprised of two fruit snack bags and TONS of plastic wrap.  With a partner, students were asked to unwrap these balls.  This required an extreme amount of perseverance for them!!


The smiles just spread across their faces when they finally got the center and found two bags of fruit snacks.  One for them and one for their partner to take home.  It was obvious that there was a sense of accomplishment in the air.
To complete the lesson, all the first graders headed back inside to review the meaning of perseverance and connect it to the story "Fox Makes Friends."


Fox is bored and his mom tells him to go out to make some friends.  Fox misunderstands this statement.  He physically builds friends out of different materials.  But some other animals comes to help.  After persevering through the construction of several different "friends," Fox realizes that he did make two new friends: Rabbit and Squirrel. 

Once the afternoon rolled around, our firsties seemed to have a pretty good understanding of what persevering meant. But we had one more ninja challenge.  Blowing bubbles with gum!


After reading "Whistle for Willie," we asked our firsties to try blowing a bubble.  Our goal with this challenge was for them to understand that sometimes we have to persevere over time.  It may take days, weeks, or months to learn how to do something.


We really wanted our firsties to remember all of their ninja challenges for the day.  Each student received a blank notecard and one glass bead.


They were asked to draw a self portrait and then they added a glass bead to their mouth to look like a bubble.  So cute!! And now they have a "souvenir" from our day of perseverance!


As we continue on our path to be first grade ninjas, I will share our lessons with you!  Check back this week!

Aug 23, 2015

Classroom Ninja Training: Bravery


As I mentioned earlier, we are ninjas this year and will work on the following qualities with our students: bravery, perseverance, trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, being strategic, and curiosity.  We wanted to start our year off by focusing on one word a day and really helping the students to understand that trait.  Day one of our "ninja training": Bravery!


The very first thing that we wanted to do was help them to understand that bravery does not mean fight.  It does not mean that they have to put themselves  into a dangerous situation.  We explained that bravery means something completely different for a first grader.  So we read:


Molly Lou Melon is brave because she stands up for who she is and is not afraid of that.  Throughout the book we emphasized the importance of being you and feeling proud of what you can do.  Then we connected this to math.  We explained that many times we may come to solutions in different ways.  It is may feel risky to share that different way or to share an answer that may or may not be correct.  But taking this risk is being brave.

We totally understand that this is a hard concept.  But with continued support, emphasis, and practice our hope is that our firsties will start to embody this bravery and take these types of risks.

And because this concept is hard to understand, we tried to make it real for them.  Here's what we did...


 Jess put out any and all supplies that she could think of: markers, pencils, crayon boxes, pattern blocks, wood blocks, dominoes, tissue boxes, round chips, Popsicle sticks, dice, glue sticks, and the list goes on.

The students were asked to work in teams of four to build a house using the materials provided.  They were to take only what they needed.

This is taste of what we got:

It was complete chaos in the best way possible.  All 60 students were engaged, happy, and working together.  When we stopped them and asked them to look around, they realized that not one house looked the same.  Each house was different and unique, but still a house.  Jess and I emphasized that taking a risk means completing a problem the way it works for you.

We wanted to follow up on this concept of bravery and taking risks in the afternoon with the book Swimmy.  But you know how plans go....sometimes they just don't work out!

The Ninja Training continues with...perseverance!