Learning Between the Lines in First Grade
Jenga, reading, meditation, Morning Meeting: first graders know the routines and expectations that will help them settle in and get ready to learn.
Three children discreetly work on making beautiful birthday cards for two of their classmates. Another child sits in his seat, his eyes and imagination deep within the pages of a Harry Potter book. On the floor, a group of five excitedly open the new Jenga game, set it up, and one at a time attempt to remove pieces without disturbing the structure. They remind each other to be patient and careful, and they hold their breath for each other with each turn. At the same time, four children are building airplanes out of unifix cubes, each working independently but still together, talking about their structures and borrowing ideas from each other. Another boy races towards me, eager to share that he is reading Flat Stanley, all by himself! He is, as he should be, filled with pride for this notable achievement. All of this is taking place before 8:30 in the morning. The learning that is happening before the day “officially” begins is palpable. And, they are only six years old! The kids know the routines and expectations, and they love this time in the morning to settle in with each other. Being in this space, at this particular time, is simply joyful.
Next comes Morning Meeting. Teacher Jamie gives a quick direction, and just like that, the first grade class knows what to do, each student cleaning their space and materials and taking their spots for this important community building routine. FFS At Home friends join the scene on Zoom, almost as if they are right there in the classroom. There is a moment of silence, and in that moment, Teacher Jamie asks her students to think about an expectation they have for themselves. One student reports that he is going to focus on tracking the speaker today, so that he can be sure to stay focused. Another student says that she is wearing new earrings, and she is setting an expectation for herself to not think about them all day long because she wants to make sure she is paying attention.
The schedule for the day is reviewed and questions are answered. During Nest time today, they will look for objects to make musical instruments. They will have their much anticipated “spelling show-off” during Writing Workshop. Teacher Jamie asks, “Who is prepared for our spelling show-off?” A wave of excited hands fly into the air… they are clearly excited to show off their new skills! Two boys (twins) are asked to come up front, and surprise! It’s their birthday! They are presented with the secret birthday cards that were so lovingly made for them and the class sings Happy Birthday. The boys are delighted!
Going over the calendar, a daily aspect in all first grade Morning Meetings, incorporates math in such a creative way. Today, the students mark the date by continuing a pattern, but not any typical pattern. They are using measurement tools, figuring out if the next part in the pattern should be marked with something that measures time, weight, temperature, or length.
And finally, a quick activity that might seem like a simple drawing task, but in fact, Teacher Jamie
is honing in on one of the key components of comprehension, visualization. The current class read aloud chapter book is The BFG, an all time favorite, by Roald Dahl. Teacher Jamie reads a particularly descriptive passage aloud several times while students draw their visualization of the scene. Teacher Jamie tells them, “We are working on something very important here, called comprehension. Close your eyes and listen to the passage. Then turn your imaginations on and start drawing!” The intentness of the work happening is astounding. There is no doubt about it, this is going to be a great day!