Building Community, Routines, & Expectations

Building Community:

This week KB had a lot of exploration time. During this time we got to learn each other’s interests, each other’s  languages, and even pushed each other’s limits! Not only did we build relationships during exploration, but we also got to show off the language, social, and mathematical skills we already have. 
Literacy Expectations

On top of learning about each other, the KB family also learned that we are READERS!
We searched our classroom, our building, and the school for writing! During this search the KB family was reading signs in English AND Chinese and even reading building numbers!

We also learned that good readers read EVERYDAY! Somestimes they read by themselves and sometimes they read with friends. We practice where and how to read by ourselves first. Then we discussed and practiced how to be a great reading partner.
We even learned a little rhyme to help us remember how to read with a partner. “Elbow to Elbow, Knee to Knee, I Read to you and you read to me!” Sometimes though we choose to lay down and in that case, we just make sure we’re close enough to both see the book! 

Problem Solving: 

During Math times the KB family found that sometimes we have problems, but since we are mathematicians- we can solve them! On top of exploring all of our math materials we found that math can be anywhere in the world!

As a challenge, we had to save a baby bear by getting her across the water to her mommy.  KB started by trying to understand the baby bears feelings and then making a plan to get it to it’s mother! This took a lot of collaboration and communication.  We also noticed that there were a lot of different ideas when approaching this problem and that’s okay!

The First 2 Days in KB!

Lots of Read-A-louds happened the first days in KB as we all met each other and settle into our new space.  Below are the three main books we read together as a class.

The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle was familiar and made us feel right at home. The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig provided a fun twist on a story we already knew. It also brought up fun and interesting vocabulary worlds like dynamite, padlock, and barbed wire. During Pete the Cat we practice counting to 4 not only in English, but also in Chinese & in French- just a few of languages represented in our class. We also had fun with new vocabulary like pop and roll.

After our read-a-louds we got to explore our classroom library by finding books we liked and read by ourselves, with friends, and with teachers!



















During Exploration times the KB family collaborated and connected with others in our class through block play, dramatic play, and drawing.

   KB also had their first introduction to the different sitting spaces in our room. Ranging from the carpet, a bench, a stump, log, and low chairs, the KB Family is now thinking about spaces that are right for their needs.


Below is KB waiting for their first PE lesson with Mr. Elliot.

Research, Process, Product

Here is the long process we took to get to the end of our Endangered Animal Project. Short commentary first, then pictures!


KC used Non-Fiction animal books,, and Google Images to find information about their animals.  During research students applied their knowledge of non-fiction reading to use tables of contents, headers, captions, and labels.  They also learned how to log into their PebbleGo accounts independently and create high yielding searches on Kiddle with help from their 2nd grade buddies.


KC had small group lessons and discussions around living things & what they need to survive. Coming to the conclusion that they need: air, water, energy (food), and a place to live.  We then started reading books about endangered animals and identifying which of the 4 mentioned necessities was in danger.  Students then questioned: Can humans go extinct? With much thought they realized, YES WE CAN! I think this was the tipping point for most KC students to really start looking into how to save animals and humans.

Students chose an endangered animal then began research into the 4 essentials of living things specific to their animal. They then drew pictures of WHY their animal was endangered and HOW humans could help.

With help from our grade 2 buddies, KC and 2C brainstormed answers to the question: How can we Share Information? From this students chose how they would like to publish the information they found. See Below photos of the process along with finished products.


In the end KC ended up with: 1 twitter post, 2 youtube videos, 1 original song, 1 T-shirt design, 2 posters, and 13 different sticker designs.

Progression of a poster that was published and put up around school.

Some KC students chose to watch 5th graders debate on issues regarding animal rights!

Progression of hummingbird research turned into a sticker!

Progression of research on aye-ayes that was chosen by the class to be turned into a t-shirt!

Progression of research on Okapis that was turned into a poster and hung around the school

One of the longest process. Writing lyrics, creating a visual, making the instrumental, and recording vocals for a song about hummingbirds! Click below to play the song! 

Production & Distribution 

Tweet brainstormed by, typed, and sent by KC student!










Cutting stickers!

Film making in progress with help from and photo by Mark McElroy

Choosing where to edit their videos! Videos to be shared next week!

Stickers galore!

Shape Talk!

Talkin’ ’bout Shapes!

Our last Math Unit is about Shapes!  One standard hit during this unit says that students can practice  using “informal language” to analyze and compare shapes.
So here’s what we’ve been up to:
Day 1:
Part 1:
We watched a series of videos called, “Best Square”, “Best triangle”, and “Best Circle”. [Click the link and you can do it as a family too!]
For each video we asked the questions: “Which one is the best?” And of course, “Why?”
Students gave answers such as: 
“The white is the best because it’s small”
“I like this one because it’s going up, not down”
“This one is good because it’s straight”
“That is the best circle because it’s round”
Through our initial conversation I listed the attributes students were naming and placed them into categories such as size, direction, real life objects, etc. This was our initial guide for words we use to talk about shapes- the “informal” language, if you will.
Part 2: In teams of 5 tried to make shapes with our bodies.  Students had a role within their team and the “director” was in charge of naming the part of the shape each student would be and giving direction as to where to “lay down”, “ball up”, “become a rock”, or “get straight!”.
This task required A LOT of collaboration and communication. The last shape students were asked to make was a Hexagon.  This shape brought about a lot of questions like, “As long as it has 6 points it’s a hexagon, right?” or “Why doesn’t it look right?”
I documented 2 hexagons for further discussion the next day.
Day 2:
Part 1: We compared our body Hexagons.  We went through the same process of asking and answering “Which Hexagon is the best? Why?”
Answers included:
“This one, because it looks like a hexagon”
“This one because it has 6 points”
We learned that talking about Hexagons is hard! So we went back to talk about other shapes to gain a better understanding of analyzing shapes with less points before chatting about hexagons again.
Part 2: In need of some more opportunity talk about shapes and discuss our opinion with others the next task was to get a partner, each has a minute to draw a square, then switch papers and choose your partners “best” square and explain WHY you think it is the best.
Answers given were things like:
“This is my favorite because it’s cute”
“I like this one because it’s beautiful”
“This is the best because it’s my favorite”
We gathered together and discovered that these answers weren’t quite mathematician answers.  So we framed some statements to guide our mathematical conversations.  We came up with these frames:
“I think this is the best _________ because…”
“I believe that this is the best _________ because…”
“In my opinion this is the best ______ because…..” 
Then we tried the task again for circles.  Here is a great example of how this small mid workshop mini lesson changed the math chat happening during partner talk:

This is Play Part 2- Uninterrupted Play

In Part 1 I painted a very structured, neatly laid out version of what play looks like in KC. In this part I hope to shed light on the fact that those small moments of structure take place within the messy, loud, and chaotic hours of uninterrupted play and emerged from student interest. With their interest I was able to intervene and extend their play.

I used the term interest groups in part one to describe groups of students who joined in on play around certain interest, the first of which was Music and Lyrics.  This group is not a set group and within a month, week, and even day those involved in this group changes constantly.  There are a few students who have stuck with this interest for a month or so and those are the students who are taking part in the more structured mini lessons (5 minutes max) while others are welcome to join as well.

As much as I love extending and question asking, sometimes, most of the time, when KC plays I let it go uninterrupted and participate as an observer and documenter.  This is where students develop their social language, conflict resolution skills, and fine/gross motor skills that send them on their way to being ESLR kids!

The play that happens in and out of these more guided moments looks a little like this:

This is Play Part 1


After reading different articles on  play vs. interested lead learning vs. exploration vs. any other form of the word you can think of , hearing stories of educators not being able to even use the word “play”, and progression in my journey in giving my 5-6 year olds  time and space to PLAY, here is a look into what the word play means in KC and how as one of the adults in the room I question, learn along side, and extend interests that develop during play time.

Reflection as an introduction:

As an introduction to how our mornings have transformed I have to start with the truth that in the beginning of the year I didn’t give my students enough time or space to play.  The students were restless, I was bored, and I didn’t feel that any of the learning taking place was authentic. To combat those feelings I moved our play time from a random time frame in the afternoon to first thing in the morning. My reasoning and the question I asked myself: We know kids work best in the morning and we know they learn through play, so why can’t they play in the morning?

That question and my solution has given way to some of the most meaningful learning of the year.  It has also allowed me to grow as an educator in the area of questioning and using observation and collected informal assessment to guide future instruction.

Below is an example of one interest group that emerged during play time, the questions they were asked by me,  how I’m extending their interest, reaching out to professionals in the field, making cross curricular connections, and of course the standards they are hitting all during PLAY.

Music & Lyrics

The first interest group to emerge during morning play time was a group that LOVES music and is interested in lyrics.  This group began just dancing around to music, but as they were belting the words to songs I knew they didn’t understand the meaning of, I decided it was time to take it to the next level! The beginning of this journey can be found if you click the post below:

Fight Song!

After analyzing the lyrics to the song Fight Song as a whole class students were asking for lyrics left and right & not only during literacy time, but during PLAY time too! They were finding snap words, finding words which they didn’t understand and using online dictionaries to find the meaning, and finding what we call “best friend” sounds or two letters that make one sound- all during PLAY time.

After a student analyzes a set of lyrics and has talked to me about them we use the Amazon Prime Music App to listen to the song, because this app provides the lyrics with a built in tracking system that allows the students to follow the lyrics in time with the music.

Music and Lyrics in KC has since evolved from being something students read and danced to, to something students are creating and performing.

Lyrics to the song “Love if for Aliens Too” by a KC Student

As more KC Unicorns began showing an interest in writing lyrics I decided to do a mini lesson during play time with the question being, “What do people write songs about?”.  The most frequent answer being, of course, Love!

All answers provided by KC Unicorns

This mini lesson gave a starting point to those who were interested in lyrics, but weren’t sure how to begin creating them.  It also showed me that some Unicorns need more exposure to different kinds of songs and time to study songs that are already created. This also showed through when some Unicorns wrote the lyrics to songs they knew in their head, instead of writing their own lyrics.  A testimony to the idea that students have different entry points to given or selected tasks.

To further the interest of those writing lyrics I downloaded an app called Toc and Roll. This app provides looped instrumental pieces that students can layer to create music for their lyrics as well as record themselves singing on the top of it.

The instrumental and recorded audio for True Love is for Aliens too. (unfinished) By a KC Unicorn

As some students get further into the process and have more technical questions about music and lyrics I’ve realized I need to reach out to someone who is more involved in this process in real life.  I decided to reach out to band member Elbeethrie from the Brooklyn band PHONY PPL. I’ve seen this band multiple times and have communicated with lyricist and musical engineer Elbeethrie previously, so I wrote him and hoped he would agree to collaborate and demonstrate the editing process of music and lyrics for our KC Unicorns – he agreed!

Elbeethrie’s response

The next step for the KC Unicorns who are interested in music and lyrics will be to think of questions to ask Elbeethrie with the ,hopefully, 3 short video calls we will have together. We will use our first video call to ask simple personal questions to Elbeethrie in order to build a friendship, then we will ask him our questions about the lyrical process and the musical process. KC already learned a new term from Elbee and they’re all hoping for a “shoutout” now!

The KC Unicorns have already found a friend and an authentic audience in Elbeethrie.  They ask me to send their lyrics to him in hopes for his feedback and are using him as the topic for stories they write.

A letter written to Elbeethrie asking about his travels in response to the message he sent us.

A story written about a KC student and Elbeethrie playing in a band together.

Standards being met by music and lyrics during play time:

I began to list all of the standards being hit by the students who choose to listen to, read, write, create, and perform music and lyrics, but there are just too many! So here are a few that stand out from about 30 that I could list!

Speak audibly and express thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly.

Ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text.

Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.

With guidance and support from adults, explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.

Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.



Block Task Days 3 & 4!

In the last post we walked through Days 1 & 2 of our first digital provocation & High Challenge Task. This post will detail how we used the same tasks for a 3rd and 4th day!  The idea of using the same task over multiple days excitedly reminded me of Dan Meyers’ idea of “patient mathematics” by allowing the students to explore, construct their own problem, use real life objects to solve it, and eventually come to an answer- without the answer being the main focus.

Provocation Day 3-

On the third day using the same provocation I gave students a little hint! I added a picture of a rocket ship.  This eliminated the possibility of “they are all people” being the connection between all photos.  After a few minutes of turning and thinking things through with a partner one KC student yelled it out- “They’re all doing math!”

Block Task Day 3- 

On this day students were given the same task and question with nudging to understand that the question is asking “how many” of something.  Students kept exploring and began using paper and markers to document their answers or create new meaning to the task- again.

Students organized their creations to save for the next day. The collaboration is noted in their name/display tags!

In honest reflection day 3 of the task seemed to lull and I wasn’t quite sure what guiding questions to ask to spark more understanding. Looking back at pictures from Day 3 I think the perceived “lull” may have been that students were busy working hard on the task and not asking as many questions.  Which brings us to Day 4 of the SAME provocation and task!

Provocation Day 4-

Since KC had already found that mathematics connected all 4 photos we used their new meaning of math and mathematicians to make a list of what mathematicians do and who can be mathematicians! Every answer recorded was straight from them!

Teacher: So, if these are the things that mathematicians do who can be a mathematician?

Student: ME! Oh, no *shyly*

Teacher: YES! You are a mathematician!

Student2: Doctors are mathematicians because they listen to our heart with the thingy and count the bump bump!

Teacher: Yes, doctors are mathematicians! Who else can be a mathematician?

All Students: US!

I thought we’d make a more extensive list, but they were so stoked off finding the mathematician in themselves that we had to get started with the task!

Block Task Day 4-

Focus Questions: How can you show me? How can you organize your materials? How can you record your answer?

Day 4 of the task picked up speed and students were collaborating, documenting, and having fun! Although the last day focused more on an answer, it was great to see how this open ended task moved the focus away from one right answer to creating meaning behind the problem and questions and everyone having an answer that matched their problem.

KC students have had a lot of learning documentation practice and were excited to use the Ipads as documentation tools. Others love pen and paper documentation and begin to draw the things they made and label them with numbers.

Documentation Mini Lesson: KC Unicorns LOVE taking videos of their work.  During one students recording of his task he used his video to say , “This is a boat and I love my boat and this is for my mom and dad”.  I brought the class together and we used this video to decide if his documentation (1) showed his learning and (2) showed his understanding of the task.  The unanymous answer was: No! As a group we decided what kind of documentation would be best for this task. The students decided that a picture of each figure created would allow us to scroll and count which would help us answer the “how many” part of our task.  Some students said we could take videos of a friend counting their different towers/things. Then off they went- again!

A KC student cropping his photo so that it “looks right” on his blog.

Below are examples of students who self-documented through pictures to count how many and show/share their learning to the class and on their blogs.

A student who chose to show /share his learning and answer to the task question on paper.

This student was challenged to recreate the task using 4 different color blocks.



This student found 18 different ways to arrange the 3 colored blocks.

Coincidentally this student also found 18 different ways to arrange his colored blocks.

Day 4 was the last [structured] day of this task.  I have printed the task question and picture and will leave it up for any students that want to continue this task upon returning from break.

ESLRS hit during 4 days of the same task:


-COMPLEX THINKING just to understand the task as well as executing the task

-INDEPENDENT LEARNING by choosing own materials, creating their own meaning of the question, using background knowledge etc.

-Global Citizenship in understanding different perspectives of the task

-Communication/Digital communication in understanding what makes a good picture, video for a blog post or to show learning to a group/answer a question