Tuesday, September 2, 2014

First Week of School

My first few weeks of school this year have been awesome! They've also been a bit different than previous years. This year, I looped to second grade with my first grade class from last year. I cannot begin to explain how great it feels to pick up where we left off last year. I'm able to start the year off with an understanding of my student's needs and knowing what makes them tick. We already built that solid and trusting relationship last year which made it easier to jump into learning, collaborating and taking risks this year. My students understand our classroom procedures as well as my behavior and academic expectations. Most importantly, my students already know they are safe, loved, and that it's ok to make mistakes. 
My back to school prescription includes great read alouds, collaboration, and letting student use technology. I like to do all of this on the first day if it's possible. It sets the standard for the school year and it gives students lots to tell their parents about their first day or two of school. So, during the first week of school, my class and I read some great books, collaborated on decor for our classroom door, blogged about our favorite book character, tweeted our goals for the year, and had Genius Hour. 
We read Have You Filled A Bucket Today? which teaches students how to treat others, including people who are mean to them. We read Exclamation Mark which tells the story of an exclamation mark who didn't seem to fit in and then he suddenly found his voice. My students loved this book because it reminded them how important they are to the class and how we need to hear their voice; their thoughts and ideas. We also read Swimmy by Leo Lionni which had a similar theme, but also taught class cooperation. Other back to school read alouds included The Little Red Pen, The Worst Best Friend, and There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books.  

Students had the opportunity to collaborate on classroom decor during our first week back. I have to admit, I didn't like the idea of an unfinished door on the first day of school, but I knew they'd love putting it together and this is their classroom after all. I found a great poster online to go with the animal adventure/exploration theme for my classroom, so I put it on my door with a dye-cut, grass border and waited for my students to arrive and finish it up. We put a little spin on the back to school self portrait by taking selfies on the iPad and used them to draw our selfies on iPhone templates. We colored them, cut them out, and put them on the door. Our second grade adventure awaited us! Later, I found a similar idea called "Animal Selfies" in an article about back to school ice breakers on edutopia.com. Such a fun, simple idea to get everyone excited about the school year! 
Last year, we learned the importance of blogging as a way to communicate our thoughts and knowledge to our online learning community. On the first day of school, we discussed books we read over the summer and our favorite characters from them. Students blogged about their favorite character from any book they read or was read to them, including the ones we read at school together. It was so nice to just pass the iPads out and they knew where to go, how to login, and how to post. The perks of looping! We also tweeted during the first couple days of school. We reflected on our individual progress last year and discussed some goals we have for ourselves for second grade. My students decided to share their goals with other students on Twitter with the hope of inspiring them to set goals for themselves as well. 

Another perk of looping was having Genius Hour on the first week of school. My students were the most excited about Genius Hour and were able to jump right in. We began by watching the TMB Panyee FC Short Film about a group of children who loved soccer but lived on a floating village in Thailand. It doesn't sound like the ideal place to play a game of soccer, does it? You have to see to believe what these boys did to fulfill their dream. Even though we had Genius Hour last year, I wanted my class to take it a step further and really think about problems in the world or things they want to change or fix. This video truly inspired them to reflect on what they see in the word around them. It also challenged them to really put themselves out there and try something new or learn about something they've been thinking about for a long time. 
With new programs, new systems, and new school protocols to learn this year, it's been really comforting to have my same group of students from last year. I'm excited to continue our journey together, but I hope to throw in a few surprises too. Even though they have the same teacher and the same classmates again, I want them to have many new experiences along the way.