I have unshakable faith in children. They always show me the way. ♥

Friday, January 22, 2010

love will keep us together...

In our classroom we listen to a lot of 60's & 70's music. (I know I've mentioned this before.) I play it during indoor recess, as the children come in in the morning, and sometimes during a work period when we need an extra little kick.

Well, today during a work period, children were working through their Task Sheet (a list of science/social studies work they are required to finish for the week), they asked for music, so I put it on.

As the kids were working, some of them were singing and the work was just humming along. Then, Love Will Keep Us Together by Captain & Tenille came on. This song has become a bit of an anthem for our class this year. We sang it at Morning Meeting one day in November, and they've since become really interested in learning some of the sign language to go along with the words. They love it.

As the song played, some kids sang quietly, but as soon as the chorus came on:

Stop! 'cause I really love you.
Stop! I've been thinking of you.
Look in my heart and let love keep us together... forever.

Every kid started singing.

They were all still working, some weren't even looking up. A bunch of them looked up and caught each others' eye or my eye and smiled. It was just this organic moment when music permeates something and makes it even better.

Okay, now I must confess that I have this fantasy...

Ten years in the future. My darlings are in High School. They're taller, gorgeous, and even more brilliant than they are now. They're at a dance and hanging out with their best friends in groups, chatting, dancing, watching others. They haven't talked about first grade in years. Most of them have totally new groups of friends. But then... Love Will Keep Us Together comes on (I know, I know, I'm not sure why some high school deejay is going to play this song at a High School dance ten years in the future, but just go with me on this!)...

Then... light dawns! A bunch of them click right back in. They remember the words! Some of them might even start singing (probably not), but they'll catch each others' eyes across all of the different cliques and grin with memories in their eyes: Don't you remember this song from first grade? Oh my god, I haven't heard this song in years!

And it'll be this lovely little moment where they realize how powerful music is. Well, and how awesome first grade was.

But that goes without saying.

Monday, January 11, 2010

writing epiphanies...

Sometimes a new tool or routine in the classroom works so well that I'm both overjoyed and embarrassed that I didn't connect the dots and figure it out earlier.

So, writing workshop. I love it. They love it. It's a regular festival of love and writing. Of course, there are issues. Issue number one: the stapler. Ahh, the stapler. The stapler is awesome. You put papers in, press it down really hard (showing your muscles) and then voila! Your book is stuck together. My students would probably list the stapler as one of their favorite tools.

Some of them love it so much they want to use it a lot. Every day. Multiple times per day, if possible. One of my little darlings even wrote four books one day (four books!), just so he could staple each one together. Of course these books consisted of a cover and a single sheet of writing paper stapled together. Fun, yes. Numerous, yes. But quality writing... not so much.

In December, I told the children that we were going to take a break from the staplers. Not because they weren't being safe with them, but because I wanted to spend some time really working on the content of their writing: making it better, more interesting, more compelling to other readers, and then after we spent some time doing that we would bring the staplers back.

Simultaneously, I was also trying to devise a way to get the children to talk to each other more often about their writing. They were talking, yes, but it was along the lines of: how do I write this word? Or: can you help me make a bicycle in my picture? Now both of those are valid and important questions, and I don't want to stifle that. I just want to promote more consistent interaction about writing. I had grand plans of this great and gigantic checklist; I had thoughts of a huge poster detailing how to conference and talk about writing.

Then, last week, as I was getting the staplers full and ready to be returned to our writing station, I had an epiphany:

Incorporate both of them together: before the children can staple their book, they have to reread the book and share it with three other people for feedback.

So. Guess how it worked out?

If you said beautifully, you win! Because it was. It was like... take the two things you want to see happening and squish them together and hope for the best. It was the best. I saw children offering real suggestions to other students about their writing. I heard them asking each other questions about punctuation and word choices. I heard laughter and funny voices being used for dialogue.

It was like winning the teacher lottery.

Granted, it won't automatically stay this beautiful. We will still spend time talking about ways to conference and discuss writing with others. We will need to model and practice and refine that. But as for a way to get the kids to focus on content and interact more? This was perfect.

I'm rather embarrassed that I didn't put the two together much earlier.

running like Phoebe...

How many of you used to watch Friends? Admittedly, I was a huge fan. My brother had videotaped the first and second seasons from the television and given them to me for my birthday one year. Friends was such a happy place for me for a long time. I still find moments in my life will remind me of something from a Friends episode, and I often continue to share quotes with my brother.

I was reminded of it again this morning, by the first graders. Did you ever see the episode where Phoebe wanted to go running in Central Park with Rachel? Where Phoebe ran all out, arms flailing and screeching when necessary? Here's a little clip as an example:

When my students get to the gym, our (amazing) P.E. teacher always has a poster up, greeting the children and telling them what to do for their warm up. Often they are directed to jog around the gym as they were this morning.

Well, Phoebe had it right on, let me tell you. That is exactly how my students run: all out, arms flailing, screeching and laughing, stopping and panting to catch their breath, and then starting all over again.

It's awesome. I think I may go join them the next day we have P.E.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

what do the earrings say?

I love my students.

I also know this is not news to anyone reading this.

This week I have been just reveling in their six-ness: delighted by the way they look at and interpret the world. I have several different examples, so I'll try to write them up over the next couple of days and post them.

Story the first:

Today my students were lined up at the Morning Message, reading together and waiting their turn to answer the question of the day. I was talking to a few at a time, marveling at their sheer level of awesome and chatting about various things.

Then Warner said, "Where are you going today, Miz F?"

"What do you mean?"

"You're wearing those," he said, pointing at my earrings. "Where are you going?"

"Ahhh," I said, understanding. "Here." I gestured around our classroom. "This is where I'm going. I thought I'd dress up for the amazing first graders. What do you think?"

"It's good." he said. Then he grinned. Enormously.


What a wonderful interpretation of why I was wearing earrings. I'm sure he's seen people in his family getting ready to go out somewhere special, wearing earrings or other fancy things. He saw my earrings and assumed I was doing the same.

And, for those of you that don't know me in person: I am not one of those put together, well accessorized human beings. I get by and all; I'm not hideous to look at. But I am not winning any best dressed contests. A sweater, trousers, ponytail, and danskos or keens (depending on whether my sweater goes with the red danskos or not)... that's about it for me. Well, and every third Wednesday or so I wear eyeliner. So, his interpretation was a pretty good one.

I just love that the special occasion for which I was decking myself out in earrings? Was a Wednesday with my brilliant first graders. ♥