Five for Friday (1/29/16)


Happy Friday, y'all! What a week! I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday!

We started the week off with the new Class Dojo videos. The kids loved them!

With this, came a discussion on what we need in our classroom in order to be successful. I asked them a few questions and had them reflect on what they needed in order to be the most comfortable and successful. Then, they were instructed to draw or write out what their "dream classroom" would look like. We researched different classroom styles online and talked about how we like to sit/stand/lay down to work. Based on their answers...we set up flexible seating! I picked up a couple stability balls from Five Below and aired them up enough that they could still sit on them but not bounce them very much.

We also lowered a tabled group to the floor. I plan on adding some rugs or cushions, but for now they're pretty happy. This has been the girls favorite spot so far.

We raised six desks to standing hight and all the boys want to work here.

I was hesitant to try flexible seating with this group, but so far it's been amazing. I watched one guy move several times during the course of one lesson and utilize each and every option. Part of me wanted to tell him to pick one spot and stay there, but the whole point was so he could work in the manner that worked best for him. For this guy, he needed to keep moving. (If you watch him anywhere, he's ALWAYS moving!)

In math, we've been working on shapes. This little dude did a fantastic job manipulating shapes to make new ones. I love having the kids show their thinking and take over the pen.

And in science, we've focused on water and different sources. The kids were each secretly assigned a water type and had to illustrate their word. We then sorted them on the board. It was super simple, but it helped me easily identify who knew the water types and who didn't.

My February math centers unit is up on Teachers Pay Teachers and it's full of super heroes and sparkly jewels—lots for both boys and girls for Valentines.

Thanks for stopping by! Now swing over to Doodle Bugs Teaching for more Five for Friday fun!

The Best Conversation You Can Have With Your Class

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There's been a lot of discussion recently about flexible seating in the classroom. Many teacher bloggers have posted articles about different ways we can alter our environments to make students most comfortable and successful in the classroom. Because of this, I recently had a conversation with my class about what they feel they need in order to learn best. 

We started the conversation with a few key questions, researched different learning environments, and visualized what our "dream classroom" might look like. I made a point to note which aspects of our environment we CAN change (seating, lighting, noise) and which aspects we CAN'T (no recess or lunch all day, no playground inside the room, etc), then I had them write or draw what they feel they need. (We also reviewed the difference between a need and a want.)

There are so many different teaching styles and learning styles. I want to give my students the best experience I can each day. In order to do that, I needed to know their preference. Do they like it loud and exciting or do they prefer a more soothing environment.

As a class, this year's group is L-O-U-D. I, personally, prefer a quieter environment. After being with them for the last six months, I wondered whether I needed to come in dancing and cheering everyday or if they needed the zen feeling I've been trying to achieve.  

They overwhelmingly said they liked it quiet. Go figure. 

The whole argument for flexible seating focuses on the fact that not everyone works best sitting at a desk. We have an increasing amount students in our schools today who feel the need to move more and who crave extra sensory stimulation. A table and chair just doesn't cut it anymore.

When I posed this question to my class, they were pretty evenly split among everything EXCEPT sitting in a chair. No one wanted to do that. NONE. Keep reading to see how I addressed this issue.

Music has a powerful impact on environment. It can make you calm or energize you. It can make you feel hopeful, nostalgic, angry, depressed, happy, or any number of emotions. Classical music has even been proven to increase test performance. The background noise you hear everyday can make or break your classroom and your mood.

Being that I teach 1st graders, when I asked them about music in the background, they all said they liked fast-paced, loud music. When I reminded them that the focus is on how to help them learn and work best, all but one changed their preference to calm, quiet music. The entire class agreed that music of any kind was better than none at all. 

Some people work well with lots of movement and busyness. Others don't. I see videos from the Ron Clark Academy where teachers are standing on tables and kids and adults are singing loudly. This environment is inspiring and electric. I love every bit of it. I am no Ron Clark, but if my students need that, I'll find a way.

When I asked my class what they needed, they (almost) unanimously said calm. Good to know.


Sound and stimuli is an easy fix. The radio stays on almost all day to the sounds of nature CD I purchased almost 20 years ago. We have simple decor without a lot of clutter, and we practice using our quiet voices all the time. (Yes, practice. We have not mastered this skill yet. Have I mentioned this group is L-O-U-D?)

Seating was a little more challenging. I talked with my principal and, luckily, she was completely supportive of this endeavor. The custodian came in and adjusted my desks for me. He even swapped out four of my desks for a group table. (The room looks so BIG now!)

We lowered a table group all the way to the floor. The girls in my class love this area. I plan on adding rugs or pillows for seating soon. In the meantime, they're in heaven here.

We raised six desks as high as they could go. My high-energy boys love this space. They have been more focused this week than they have been all year here.

Five Below had stability balls for $5 each. I picked up two to try it out. I'll be getting more this weekend. For my movers and shakers, this has been a dream come true. They are still able to focus and get their wiggles out at the same time.

How do I manage it? We made an anchor chart of Smart Choices and Sad Choices. We talked about choosing seats that work for our needs, not our wants. We talked about how to safely use each of the table heights (not hanging on the high tables or crawling/sitting on the low ones), and how to safely use the ball chairs. I made it VERY CLEAR that the balls are tools and seating, not toys and basketballs.

We included on the anchor chart consequences for both Smart Choices and Sad Choices. If they make a smart choice, they get to pick their seat. If they make a sad choice, the teacher chooses their seat. Period. This is your warning. No monkey business. I moved several people the first time they picked their spots. I haven't had to move those students since.

We're three days into flexible seating and it's been a total game changer. I hope I never have to go back. I love the stability balls and I love all the options my students have. There are a lot of big personalities in this class and a one-size-fits-all approach was just not working. With the new arrangement, my kids can choose what works best for them.

If you have this conversation with your class, please tell us about it in the comments below. And let us know if you've taken the leap to flexible seating in your class and how it's going. I love to hear what's working for everyone and what's not working.

Five for Friday (1/15/16)

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Happy Friday, y'all! Is anyone else excited for the 3 day weekend?!

We went out of town last weekend and it was so good to get away. We flew to Reno and visited family in Carson City. It was the first time the kids had ever really seen real snow. Here in the south, we only get an occasional dusting before it melts so the kids had a blast going sledding and learning how to ski. This was our first ever snowman.

We've been learning about rocks this week, so naturally, I brought some in. Texas sells these little kits that has native rocks all organized and labeled for you for only 50 cents. My dad bought me 20 sets. We'll have rocks for years.

I bought this little set from First Grade Blue Skies and we made these awesome rock people.

This one has a mini-me. 

The set also includes demos of how rocks are made. We made a PBJ for sedimentary, melted stuff for igneous, and squished play dough for metamorphic. I forgot to get pictures of the others before cleaning up.

I've been working on February Math Centers for 1st grade. It's almost done and will hopefully be posted by the end of the weekend. Follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers so you'll know when it's ready!

Thanks for stopping by! Now swing by Doodle Bugs Teaching for more Five for Friday fun!

Five for Friday (1/8/16)

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Oh boy! What a week! For only having four days with the littles, it sure was busy!

This week was penguin week. We've loved reading about Tacky the Penguin and having a little penguiny fun.

We made these penguin glyphs from Herding Cats in Kindergarten, did the penguin directed drawing from First Grade Blue Skies, and dressing like Tacky on Friday.

One of my littles likes to add some flair to his directed drawings. They pretty much all turn gangster. 

We also started learning about natural resources. The science workbook our district provides had this little section about what products come from different animals and this whole conversation got way outta hand!

When talking about how cotton is a plant and cotton makes our clothes: "YOU MEAN WE'RE WEARING PLANTS?!?!"

When talking about how sheep's wool makes sweaters: "What if the sheep doesn't want a haircut? What if she thinks she's already fabulous?!" "Let's give the sheep a mohawk!"

And don't even get me started on the part where we talked about which animals produce milk and, therefore, cheese. "Do we eat fish cheese?"

All from this picture:

I had to put my head down and regain my composure before we could continue. #mouthofbabes

We started making resolutions on Tuesday. I used this freebie from the Moffatt Girls to get them started writing. 

One of my littles wrote, "My goals are to teach people how to read and solve math problems." Then she added, "So they can be smart like me!" <3 these kids!

The desk fairy stopped by at the beginning of the week to drop a note and treat off to those friends who've been keeping their desks clean. These tiny woodland animals were a big hit! Thank you Target Dollar Spot!

With a new year, came a new calendar for shout-outs. Each day, a student is chosen for the day's shout-out. It could be for awesome behavior, academic achievement, showing kindness or leadership, or some other personal achievement. The day's student gets their name a description of their accomplishment on a calendar page along with a small trinket (right now it's stick on mustaches—adorable!).

Well, my little desk calendar from Lakeshore was out with 2015…and then I got this for white elephant:

Talk about being a hit! There were "ooohhhs" and "aaaahhhhs" from the whole room. Novelty is everything. So is Star Wars.

Well, that's our week. How was yours? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for stopping by! Now swing over to Doodle Bugs Teaching for more Five for Friday Fun. 

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