It’s 7:15 on the eve of the first full day of school, and I’m exhausted — happy, smiling, excited for tomorrow, but exhausted! 🙂 After an active first day in Grade 1, here is what I learned:
- Class size matters. With 31 students last year, and currently 12 this year, it’s amazing how much more time I have to spend one-to-one and in small groups with students.
- Talking time needs to be short. Hands-on learning needs to be long. Grade 1 students, especially on the first day of school, struggle with listening for long. I saw that today. I needed to make my words count. I needed to know when to stop talking. I needed to give students lots of opportunities to explore, converse, share, and “do” — not just listen.
- Learning takes time. When students went off to work during both our Language and Math blocks today, some students got to work right away, and some students needed some time to get started. Giving the children choices of options, worked. Talking — and listening — to the students, helped. Asking questions and/or sharing wonders made a difference. Being patient and giving time helped give everyone a chance to learn.
- Sneak in lots of opportunities for reading and writing. This is where inquiry is great! Encourage the children to document their learning. Get them to take a photograph of their work and then label their picture. Give them a “Wonder Book” and see if they can share what they did. Put out books and watch them access them for information. Get students to seek out the resources in the room that will help them out, and then sit down to look at them together. If students naturally go to draw what they see, then invite them to add some words. See what they do! I was pleasantly surprised every time.
- The afternoon is long. Be aware of this, and respond to it. Grade 1 students are tired come the afternoon. They tell you this. So that’s when I knew that I needed even less sitting time. I knew that I needed to break apart my carpet time with movement activities that would help wake people up. My students loved our Animal Game, and are eager to move around the classroom again this week acting like different animals.
- Self-regulation is critical to classroom success. I can’t believe how often I thought of self-regulation today: if it was the quiet area in the room for students to work, the dimming of the lights during class time, the quiet voice I used when interacting with students (and I used when students were getting louder), the games of Simon Says and other listening activities, or the quiet songs and finger plays I used during carpet time. An even tone matters. A calm environment matters. A deep breath matters. And self-regulation really does matter — thank you, Stuart Shanker!
- Find comfortable shoes — you never stop! This is my somewhat comical learning, but it’s true! I was always going today. Even when I was sitting and working with a group of students, I was still going: questioning, assessing, and figuring out the best next step. You are never “off” in primary. And who knows? Maybe I was never “off” in junior. Little things like walking up and down stairs (my classroom is on the second floor), finding names on the lockers, locating the bathroom, and heading down to the office with the attendance book needs modelling — maybe more than once! 🙂 So I definitely spent lots of time going up and down the stairs, walking in the hallways, and circling the classroom — but I must admit I loved every minute of it! A quiet lunch and a teacher bathroom break might come one of these days 🙂 , but in the meantime, I’ll enjoy the hustle and bustle of primary.
Whether an educator, administrator, parent, or student, what did you learn on your first day of school? I can’t wait for my second day of learning tomorrow!
TWELVE STUDENTS! I thought my jump from 29 to 22 was huge, but 31 to 12 – Wow! There is some reason (I must have read it somewhere) that I feel like 12 is a perfect class size. I look forward to seeing if you feel that way. I hope your class size stays small and you can REALLY get to know the children and their needs.
I hardly ever eat during a school day, but Tiiu encouraged me to join her for sushi today at lunch. Having a little midday break (and not sitting in my room supervising during someone else’s duty) was awesome. However, I never make time for bathroom breaks and realized that when I finally got home after 6 p.m.!
Thanks for sharing your learning from day 1. It sounds like we both had a lot of things to adjust to by moving down in grades!
Thanks for the comment, Shauna! I must admit that it was awesome to have such a small class today, but I would like the numbers to increase (just a bit). Reorganization happens at the end of September, and with a 20 cap in Grade 1, I think that 12 may be a bit too low (and possibly lead to reorganization). We’ll see what happens though. I had two students not come today and a new registration for tomorrow, so I could be up to 15. Compared with 31 students, I really noticed the difference.
Taking a break for lunch is important. I’m glad Tiiu encouraged you to do so. Even just a couple of minutes of quiet time is great! I think it gives us our own opportunity for self-regulation. Tomorrow I don’t have duty, so I’m hoping to spend part of a nutrition break in the staffroom. We’ll see how that goes. As for a bathroom break, I’m starting to wonder if teachers and camels have some things in common. Hmmm … an inquiry question of sorts. 🙂
Hope you had a fantastic first day of school! I’m hoping you blog about it too. 🙂
I’ve followed you quietly for a while, always quite in awe of what you accomplish with your students and the fun you have. Thanks for sharing your insights and excitement at their learning and your own. I’m teaching grade 1 for the first time this year, having spent the last four years with grade 3’s and prior to that different classes ranging from Kindergarten to grade 12. I’m terrified, but also anticipating a wonderful year of exploration together with my 18 grade 1 students. I love the idea of providing them with a wonder book. Would you mind if I piggybacked on this idea? So many parts of this world to wonder and ponder on…all the best for your year ahead.
Thanks for the comment, Ruth, and the kind words. I hope that you have a wonderful year in Grade 1: it’s an awesome grade to teach. Yes, please feel free to use this Wonder Journal idea. It actually came out of a book that I read called, A PLACE FOR WONDER. It’s one of many great reads on inquiry. If you’re on Twitter, there’s a group of Grade 1 Reggio-inspired teachers that you may wish to connect with. Just tweet me if you want some names.
I’ve ordered A Place for Wonder, and am looking forward to reading it. It’s been on my must read list for a while. Thanks for the recommendation. Not on Twitter – yet.
The book is fantastic and definitely worth reading. If you join Twitter, let me know. There are some great educators to learn with/from there. I’ve definitely learned a lot.
Have a great year!
Hi Aviva, Grade 1 is awesome! Always something interesting happening. And the conversations and comments are priceless… Like in response to I wonder how we are all unique…we all have different Chinese calendar animals! Always enjoy your posts. & look forward to hearing how your inquiry goes. I’m interested in the twitter Reggio inspired Gr 1 group. Thanks & have a great day tomorrow!
Thanks Lois! Grade 1 is awesome & their genuine wonders are great. As for the Reggio-inspired Grade 1 group, I think you already tweet with & follow these teachers. Would you like some names though?
Have a great day!
Do you hear angels singing? I did when I read twelve students! Enjoy every minute of it as we all know reorganization will change the dynamics of your classroom if you happen to have more students added to it. I was following you during the day yesterday via twitter and I loved seeing all the little updates to go along the way.
Comfortable shoes I would think would change your life as a teacher. When I started my career I always wore heals. Can you believe the insanity? Even healed boots out on yard duty! I just shake my head at younger me and wonder how did I ever do that for so long. I don’t even teach primary so can just imagine how much more important shoes would be!
Thanks for sharing your honest reflections. I look forward to hearing how day two went. Oh and congrats on the parking job!
Thanks for the comment, Maria! The smaller numbers are definitely great. I am up to around 15 today, but those numbers are still great! I also think that any opportunity to avoid reorganization is wonderful.
And yes, comfortable shoes are the best! I could never do heals — regardless of grade.
As for Grade 2, I have another blog post percolating in my mind. I’m at a meeting tonight, so it may take me a day or two to publish it, but I definitely will! 🙂
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Great post, Aviva. I really appreciated how you were constantly reflecting on how things were going and adjusting the learning events to meet the developmental needs of your students. I also noticed how much observation went on during the first day of school. Amazing! I think we sometimes forget to stop and take a look around the classroom to see what’s going on. I bet we’d learn a lot about our students if we did and we’d be able to better adjust our teaching to the particular learners in our classroom.
Thanks Elisa! I think that this assessment for learning is so important, and observation really helps with this. I try to observe my students as much as possible, and make changes to my teaching accordingly. What do you think might help with observing more in the classroom?