Sunday, September 1, 2013

August in Review: Establishing Community

So I've just survived the first month of school with my new group of Firsties.  It's been both exhilarating and exhausting!  I'm sure that many of you will relate to that sentiment!  

I'd love to blog regularly as I love to write, so to get started I thought I'd write a series of blog entries to chronicle the first month of the new year.  Here goes.  :)

August 2013 in Review:
Establishing Community

Perhaps there is nothing more important than the atmosphere a teacher establishes in her classroom.  Because I realize that students will either thrive or fail within the four walls of our home away from home, creating a safe, fun, and challenging learning environment begins on day one.  

~I greet my students by name each morning at the door.  The benefits?  First of all, my students learn to expect me at the door and that I love their hugs!  They often tell me tidbits about their lives, which I remember to follow-up on the next day.  If a student has had a bad morning, I learn real quick by their body language and/or facial expressions.  This allows me the chance to inquire about their morning and offer any words of encouragement and support to help their day take a turn for the better!!  

~I dismiss my students at the door every afternoon.  The benefits?  Again, students leave me with hugs and tidbits of info about what they're doing.  Gives me something to talk to them about the next morning.  By greeting and dismissing this way, my students know that I love and care about them each individually.

~First Day of School Secret!  On the first day, I let my Firsties in on a secret...they are in my class for two reasons and two reasons only.  They are the {smartest} and {cutest} kids in the entire first grade!!  When I tell them my secret, I make them lean in real close so I can whisper.  Then I make them pinky promise to not tell the other teachers and/or first graders so their feelings won't be hurt.  

~Speaking and Listening is the very first focus lesson on the very first day of school!  It's more than common's about establishing respect for one another.  Eyes on the speaker and hands still (listener), voices loud and clear for all to hear (speaker)...and we build on from there.  Although my young students may not realize it, what they're learning in this initial lesson is that in our classroom, each student has something to say and it's worth hearing.

This isn't our Speaking and Listening chart, but one created to help ask questions. 

~Morning Meeting takes place every morning as soon as the tardy bell rings and the pledge has been recited.  Without fail.  We never, ever skip morning meeting!  I keep this time very simple.  First we use a greeting to say hello.  Many of my greetings are from the Morning Meeting book or have been found through google searches.  After the greeting, we begin the year with a Share time.  Each week, Firsties are required to sign up for a time to share.  They can bring something or simply tell something.  Once they give an initial statement, three classmates are called on to ask questions about the share.  The student sharing learns to respond in complete statements. Speaking and listening skills are a huge part of the share time, and this time allows us to become more familiar with one another.  By the end of September, share time will become Problem Solving time.  More on that later.  :)
Morning Meeting with my Peeps
Smartest AND doubt!!
~Story telling leads to great writing, so I infuse our days together with stories from my life.  I share funny stories about the trouble I got into as a child, stories about my children, and trials and triumphs of my life.  Sometimes instead of just telling my stories, I write them in front of the students.  Then I save my drafts to use in Writing Workshop focus lessons on editing and revision.  

~Do it because it's the right thing to do!  This becomes our classroom mantra!!  Instead of presenting a list of rules and then talking about consequences for breaking them and rewards for following them, we talk a whole, whole lot about "normal" behavior in the classroom, hallway, cafeteria, bathroom, playground, etc.  We compare normal behaviors of one environment to the normal behaviors of another.  Students practice and act out normal and not normal behaviors.  And they learn slowly but surely to do what's right simply because it's the right thing to do.  When I see them being kind and helpful I let them know how happy it makes my heart to see them taking care of one another.  

~Cookies just because!  At least every other week I pass around a treat at the lunch table.  For no reason other than I just love my Firsties!!

~Reading lots and lots of books is a natural way to bond with my students.  Some of my favorites are Lily's Purple Plastic Purse, Chrysanthemum, Edward the Emu, Edwina the Emu, Epossumondas, Charlie Anderson, That's Not My Hat, I Want My Hat Back, etc.  Actually, every book I read aloud is my favorite!!  I begin all read alouds by telling students "You won't believe what happens in this story!!" And before turning a page, something like, "Are you ready for this??"  Sharing my love of stories and getting students excited joins us all together in magical moments, strengthening our connection as a classroom family all the while creating a love of reading.

One of our first read alouds...already citing evidence from the text.  

~Students call each other by name.  I cannot say how important - in my opinion - this is to the unity of our classroom.  Especially the first three weeks of school,  when I can see the children need a break, I'll let them get up and practice greeting each other by name.  There is no finger pointing in our room: "That girl right there!"

~Just let loose!!  Dance, sing, tell jokes, laugh, be silly!  Have fun!


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