Responding to the Election

It was hard to face my students on Wednesday. There was a lot of big feelings that morning  from myself, my colleagues, and my students. Even though they are in first grade, they had expectations of safety and security before the results. After, they had questions and strong feelings. As a school community, we actively try to show them that they are accepted, valued, respected, and safe. We do this with our words and actions. We do this by taking care of each other.

After Orlando, we responded by making a mural to show our solidarity and support for the victims and LGBTQ community. This week, we responded to the election by asking the question “How do we take care of each other?” We wanted to create a group project to show how we collaborate and value our friends.

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We read and looked at some books about quilts. Quilts tell stories by stitching together many different pieces. In my class, we brainstormed how we can take care of each other.

 “We can help each other with the hard stuff, the grown-up stuff.”

“You can give someone soup!”

“You can hold someone’s hand when they are upset.”

“Bright colors make people feel better.”

“One time, I was in the ocean and my friend fell down. I picked them back up.”

First Grade Caring Quilt #firstgrade

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After, we each got a blank square to decorate (including the teachers). Then carefully, we began to “stitch” our quilt together with washi tape. We also included a square of our school logo because school is a place we feel taken care of.


Identifying Our Feelings

Every morning, as part of our morning routine, our students read the morning and sign in. One day last week, as part of our sign in, we asked the kids “How are you feeling?” Most of then wrote “happy” and some wrote a body based feeling like feeling like “tired.”

In kindergarten, our students do a lot of social-emotional learning focusing on feelings. We clearly needed to do a review, so we read How Are You Peeling? Foods with Moods, by Saxton Freymann. After, we created a chart of feelings mentioned in the book, but we left room in our chart so we could add feelings as we discovered them in different books throughout the week.

Launching Our Family Study

What makes a family a family? #firstgrade

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We began our semester long study of families, with a question: What makes a family a family? It is purposefully broad so that the kids generate ideas. At their tables, the kids wrote on colorful post-its and then put them on our wall. From there, we sorted them and put them on a large piece of paper. After, we generated labels for our categories.


Mini-Author Study: Amy Krause Rosenthal


We began our year with an informal author study of Amy Krause Rosenthal’s picture books. Her books typically have a social-emotional component that lends itself well to community building in the first several weeks of school. Duck! Rabbit! focuses on differing opinions, Chopsticks is about trying new things on your own, and Exclamation Mark is about embracing what makes you unique. It’s Not Fair is also a class favorite.


Music is incredibly helpful during transitions and quiet work times. We have a paid spotify account that we use to access music without commercial interruptions. In our classroom, we use an instrumental version of the Andy Griffith theme song as our Clean Up song. It’s just long enough for the children to clean up their work or play areas, but still short enough where they want to finish quickly in order to make it back to their carpet spot on time.

During Quiet Work Time, we often use Rockabye Baby. Rockabye Baby utilizes the xylophone to create instrumental, peaceful covers of modern songs. The kids love it! It is like a child version the Vitamin String Quarter.

Subway Study: Documentation

Artifacts from our subway study. #firstgrade

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We used the subway as a way of exploring the city in which we live. Each child kept an artifact journal to record information about the places and neighborhoods we visited. As we visited the city, we created a large map that encompassed an entire. The map started out blank with just the 5 boroughs shown. As we explored, we used yarn to mark the subway lines, the children’s faces to denote the neighborhoods where they lived, and other landmarks.

On the top right, are buildings that groups of children made. One day we many cardboard boxes out in the hallway and we quickly picked those up. In small groups, the children had to analyze the architecture of their building, talk about how they wanted to construct the building, and find the materials they needed.

On the bottom right is our classroom subway. In the morning, the children would wait outside our classroom, where they would “swipe” in and come into the subway. We would have virtual trips to different parts of the world that would connect to the neighborhoods we visited in our city.

Subway Study: Subway Art

One of my fondest teaching moments, is the subway study I helped to create and implement. A focus of the subway study was subway art, particular that of the artist Kristin Jones. Jones, along with Andrew Ginzel and Rinaldo Piras created Occulus, an art installation of 301 mosaic eyes in the Chambers Street subway station.

Our subway study consisted of many subway rides to collect data. For this trip, we walked around the station and each student sketched one or more eyes. Back in the classroom, students used paper squares to create paper mosaics based off of their own eyes. It was a challenge to see eyes as they are actually constructed and not just what they thought eyes looked like. It was helpful to see and discuss how Jones used many colors in her work.