Saturday, February 27, 2016

We're 101 Days Smarter...101 Days More Crazy

This school year has been awesome...crazy, but awesome!!! I am incredibly proud of my sweet scholars, their hard work, all that they've learned, all of their accomplishments, and how much they've grown. I was so excited to celebrate with them!

In previous years, we'd always celebrated the 100th day of school, but this year I decided to change it up a bit. Since my scholars all celebrate the 100th day in kindergarten, I wanted to give them something new and special this year. As they are 1st graders, we decided to celebrate the 101st day of school with a 101 Dalmatians themed day!!!

It was a such an exciting day full of fun, treats, and smiles! Take a look at our 101st day of school!! When the kids walked in, this is what our classroom door looked like!

Our back table was full of treats and fun for the day!

The firsties wore 101 Dalmatians decorated shirts. All the kids made them at home and wore them over their uniforms! They loved being able to wear something special! When they arrived they each got a hat (complete with oversized ears that were floppy and fun) and a 101st Day of School Activity Book!!

They also each got a special brag tag -- the love getting new brag tags!

We kicked off our activity book fun with recalling our favorite parts of the first 101 days in school!

Then we did a series of 101 exercises (side note: if you are ever worried about your fitness abilities, just watch 1st graders try to do sit-ups...don't worry, you'll feel great about yourself! It was kind of the cutest thing!!)

We continued with some fun 101 themed writing and math activities!

Afterwards we moved onto our "Treat Trade" activity. Each student brought 101 black or white colored treats (marshmallows, chocolate chips, mini Oreos, etc.)

They then traded groups of 10 so that each student ended up with 101 assorted black and white goodies from their classmates!

Here they were with their final goodie bags with black and white treats from all their friends!

After Treat Trade, we talked about what we would be like when we were 101 years old!! I love this sweet scholar who drew herself 101 year old self with a dalmatian!!! So cute!!

At the end of the day, we finished up with some special treats!!

We had some yummy cakes (moment of truth: I had every intention of baking these adorable cupcakes I found on Pinterest...then life happened...and so I bought desserts from the store...don't tell. And let's be honest, these look better than what I could have made anyway...).

I was trying to think of what kind of drink to do and came up with a simple milk with Whoppers (malted milk balls) in them! It was easy and the kids loved them!

When the scholars left, they each got a 101 days smarter treat bag with 101 spelled out in cookies and donuts!!

Also, each of the students got to take a photo with our photo frame!!

It was a wonderful (and sugar-filled) day celebrating all that these scholars have accomplished this year!! We're 101 days crazier smarter!!! Happy 101st Day of School!


Monday, February 1, 2016

Equality Eggs-periment: The Power of Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Intelligence plus character -- 
that is the true goal of education."

I love this quote for so many reasons. Sometimes among the craziness of standards, high-stakes testing, interventions, and meetings, it's easy to get bogged down by the checklist of things that we need to teach our students. But I love when I feel like I am truly teaching STUDENTS, not just STANDARDS. While teaching reading and math is, of course, extremely valuable and necessary, there is something incredibly rewarding about training a student's character and influencing their thoughts and views of themselves and the world around them. This is is what it truly means to "shape" a child. This kind of teaching brings me joy and fulfillment that no mastered math concept could ever do.

This is one of the reasons why teaching about Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of my favorite things! It allows us to help students see and experience a kind of education that delves deep into who they are and the kind of people we want them to become.

To set the stage for our unit on MLK and really hit the point that "all men are created equal" regardless of our outward differences, we did an egg experiment in our class. I presented the students with three different colored eggs: white, tan, and brown.

We observed the eggs and students took note that on the outsides the eggs were different colors, different sizes, and that some even had spots. We then predicted what the eggs will look like on the inside. At this age, my scholars assumed that as they are different on the outside, they would also be different on the inside.

After we predicted, we cracked the eggs open.

They were shocked to discover that even though they are outwardly different, all of the eggs are the same on the inside. We even played a quick game were I switched the bowls around as they closed their eyes, and they tried to identify which yolk belonged to which egg -- however they couldn't tell. They really are all the same.

The students recorded the results of our eggs-periment.

The conversation that we had after the experiment was so powerful and eye-opening for the students. We talk about how people are just like eggs. While we may be different on the outside (our skin color, our height, our likes/dislikes, our families, etc.), we are all the same on the inside. There is no difference. We are all special, important, valued, and equal. As the students discuss this and we generalized what this means in our interactions and views of one another, it restored my faith in the future of our country and world (sorry to be so overly dramatic). But it really did. If we can help our students to develop into the kind of citizens who are  compassionate, caring, and who embrace one another, our world truly could be different.

Once the students had the context of our experiment, we began to delve into literature about Martin Luther King and other civil rights activists over the next two weeks. As January is the month we study biographies, we read not only about MLK, but also Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges (who the students really connect with because she was in 1st grade when she went to her new school), Harriet Tubman, and Jackie Robinson. Above is a photo of the books that have been featured on the outside of our library.

In our study of MLK, we learn about and watch clips from his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. We discussed his dreams as well as our own dreams for our families, our school, and our world. Students wrote out a speech to share their dreams.

We then had a special rally where the students presented their speeches to the class just like MLK did.

We did an easy hand-print project to house our speeches.

It's times like these that make the stress and challenge of teaching truly worthwhile. This is how teachers affect eternity. This is how teachers make a difference. This is why I'm so proud to be a teacher!

On a slightly tangential note, Martin Luther King has some of my favorite quotes. Here are some that have been really resonating with me recently:

"If you can't fly then run,
If you can't run then walk,
If you can't walk then crawl,
But whatever you do
You have to 
keep moving forward."

"If I cannot do great things, 
I can do small things in a great way."

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is,
What are you doing for others?"

"Almost always,
the creative dedicated minority
has made the world a better place." 

"The ultimate measure of a man
is not where he stands in moments 
of comfort and convenience,
but where he stands
at times of challenge and controversy.

"We must accept finite disappointment,
but never lose infinite hope. 

"Faith is taking the first step
Even when you don't see the whole staircase."

Hope you are as inspired and encouraged as I am!