Enigma Room: First Grade
Our classroom is filled with learning and laughter as they work and play together . We work in groups, help each other on individual assignments, read to one another, and play games. All students in our classroom are treated with respect, integrity, and cooperation and are expected to do the same with peers and adults. Along with our schoolwork, citizenship is something we practice everyday. Though there is much to accomplish throughout the year and even throughout the day, the main goals of our classroom are to treat others with respect and have fun while learning. These are goals that we work on everyday and help make school somewhere children are happy to be.
Yoga: We begin every day with a short set of yoga posses. Spread throughout the room, children do poses such as “shark”, “happy lion”, “downward facing dog”, and many more. This routine helps get our blood flowing, and our brains and body connected and ready to learn.
Calendar: After yoga we come together to learn about the day and explore the calendar. Through calendar time, we learn patterns, place value, weather, charting, and cultural celebrations.
Literacy Lab: Our literacy lab features whole group, small group, and individual instruction. We introduce reading strategies using a Cafe Menu. Cafe stands for; comprehension, accuracy, fluency, and expanding vocabulary. Most reading strategies and concepts fit into these categories and this menu structure provides a clear organization for children. As strategies are introduced, we add them to our cafe menu and refer to them throughout the year. After our whole group strategy instruction, we break into literacy groups. Each child meets with a group of peers and a teacher to read books on similar levels and further develop the strategies taught to the whole group. While groups are meeting, other children are doing literacy activities from our Daily Five chart. The daily five choices are read to self, listen to reading, read to someone, work on writing, and word work. Though the word “daily” implies that these are done every day, the children choose two a day and all five are covered multiple times throughout the week. In addition to the whole group, small group, and independent work, we meet with each child for three to five minutes for an independent conference. During this time, we listen to a child read, review goals we set for the individual child, take notes on reading growth or new struggles, and make new goals as needed. This is a very personalized approach. Recess/Snack: To break up our long afternoon, we have a short fifteen minute recess, followed by a short ten minute snack in the classrooms.
Math Lab: Following the Common Core State Standards for math allows us to learn go deep into mathematics instruction. Our weekly structure provides opportunities for both strand (measurement, for example), and basic fact instruction. On Mondays, we introduce a new concept or strategy, practice it together as a whole group or in partners, come back together to share and reflect in our journals, and end with a math minute (to be described below). Tuesdays and Thursdays are spent in smaller groups; practicing the strategy or general concept. While students are in a small group lead by the teacher, other students are working on center activities that help them over learn a previously taught strategy. This encourages retention of concepts taught as they are continuously practiced. Wednesdays are our basic fact days. Again, children meet with a teacher in small groups while other children are working on activities, but all groups and independent students are focused on basic facts. For first grade, basic facts are predominantly addition and subtraction. Not all children will be practicing the same basic facts. The entire math lab structure is based around individual student needs and successes. Thus, activities done independently are differentiated and revised often. At the end of the week on Friday, we come back together as a whole group to participate in a math talk. Math talks are teacher lead and guided. A problem is posed to the entire class, students solve the problems either individually or in pairs, and then come back together to share their problem-solving strategies. In this way, children are introduced to a variety of thinking strategies, practicing explaining their thinking and mathematical reasoning, and reinforcing previously learned math concepts and strategies through a more authentic problem-solving approach.
Math Minute: At the end of each math lab period, children come together for drill of basic facts. They solve basic facts for two minutes, count the attempted problems, graph their problems solved, and turn in math minutes to be graded. Teachers grade these and circle the number of problems correctly solved on their graph. In this way, students can compete with themselves and see how accurate they are at solving basic fact problems.
Writer's Workshop: Similar to the literacy lab period, we use a workshop approach to teaching writing. We have an opportunity to do writer's workshop four out of the five days each week. We start with a minilesson on craft, structure, or conventions, and then the majority of the time is devoted to independent student writing practice. Though we do occasionally give students a writing prompt or assignment, the majority of our writing time is spent on student lead writing projects. In this way, students can write at their own pace and about their own interest. We have found that students' writing is richer and deeper when given the opportunity to write about student selected topics. Additionally, we want students to be exposed to a variety of writing styles and genres, so two times or more in a trimester we assign projects that align with another study (either through literature or subject studies). For example, first trimester students wrote a constellation myth during our study of space. In the second trimester, students were asked to write a fairy tale to go along with our literacy study of that genre. At the end of each period, children are able to share either a work in progress or celebrate a published pieced with the rest of the class.
Subject Studies: Derived from student interest and state grade level expectations, our students study science and social studies concepts through a unified theme. Often, these themes will focus on either science or history. We research topics together, learn to take notes, and write reports once research is complete. Often, there is a culminating project at the end of each theme. The project, or end product, is also shared with the entire school at an assembly. Last trimester, first graders shared a planet that they created. They described its atmosphere, land, inhabitants, distance from the sun, and many more facts to the entire student body at assembly.
Handwriting: We use the Handwriting Without Tears program to teach manuscript handwriting. We end our day by completing our classroom jobs and then meeting together (once backpacks and mail are organized and ready to go home) to share in a read aloud story. We also often reflect on the day and share positives, or end with a song.