An Ambitious Project

Midway through the first quarter, the firsties are getting the hang of how to be first graders. Lines are formed much more quickly, workshop rotations transition more smoothly, messes are cleaned up more efficiently, and our stamina while reading and writing continues to build each day. It’s amazing, really, to see these little ones grow in their independence after only a few short weeks!

The firsties have been engrossed in several projects. The one that has most engaged them thus far sprang from their study of Noah. Although they have been learning about the patience of several Biblical figures, they seemed most interested in Noah. They wondered about his life and what it must have been like to follow God through something so incredible. They wondered what it was like to build an ark, to travel for such a long period with so many (stinky and loud) animals, and to trust God to fulfill His promise.

After reading the Biblical account of the flood, the firsties took note of each instruction given to Noah. Then they began to plan. Then they began to build.

20160913_11292220160913_11292420160913_11301020160913_11301720160913_11302020160913_11305420160913_11314620160913_11315020160913_11315320160913_11320920160913_11343120160913_13330320160913_13361620160913_133748This project continues to be ongoing as the firsties make discoveries, re-evaluate their thinking, discuss different ideas, and form new theories. They are working through math (measurement, addition/subtraction), Bible, physical science, social studies, and art concepts as they continue to pursue their ideas!

I can’t wait to see where their journey takes them next!


What is Patience?

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. – Colossians 3:12

But what is patience? The King James Version often uses the term “long-suffering.” Yikes. Who wants to suffer, especially for a long time? What kind of suffering, exactly, am I signing up for? These are some of the questions the firsties have been wrestling with these first two weeks. It sounds intense, but these ideas have emerged through almost everything we’ve been doing and learning!

Waiting is hard, but important work. It’s part of learning to collaborate with others, showing respect, taking turns, communication, perseverance, research, creative risk . . . the list goes on and on!

Here are just some of the ways the firsties have been grooming patience through their own exploration and development since the first day of school:

Flexible Seating


There are many spaces and places in which to work in the Patience Fruit Stand. What does where I sit have to do with developing patience? Ask the firstie who really wanted to use an exercise ball, but approached one after someone else was already sitting there! Making these kinds of decisions and working together to solve problems are part of learning to collaborate, make smart choices, have empathy for others, and respect one another. The firsties are also learning to be patient with themselves as they discover which areas are best to help them focus. Some firsties really need to bounce a little while they read, and others do their best writing lying on a yoga mat. Some feel their creativity flowing while standing! It takes time and practice to gain an understanding of self that will continue to develop as they grow!

Readers Workshop

20160831_09394120160831_09395620160831_09400120160831_09401520160901_094646020160902_10421920160902_10425920160902_10441620160902_10453220160907_09223820160907_09225020160907_09230120160907_09231820160907_09235420160907_093727Good readers don’t appear out of thin air. Good readers develop when children have ample opportunities to read and lots of access to varied reading material. Time spent engaging with meaningful and authentic texts is an important predictor of success, not only in reading, but also in life. Many parents tell me, “My child enjoys looking at books, but just can’t sit with them for long periods of time.” That’s where patience comes in. Reading for a long time without stopping requires stamina, and stamina takes time and patience to develop! Over these past two weeks, the firsties have spent their readers workshop practicing the routines and procedures that will enable them to engage with books for longer and longer periods of time throughout the year. They learned how to read independently – we call it “read to self” – and how to read with a partner (“read to someone”). The firsties created charts to help them remember to get started right away, work the whole time, use appropriate voice levels, and choose books that are “just right.” Children must be patient with one another when choosing a partner, coaching one another’s decoding skills, and asking and answering questions. All of these skills are crucial, and we spend a lot of time practicing at the beginning of the year to lay a muscle memory foundation for the rest of the year. We talk a lot about teaching our muscles to do things the right way (walking in the classroom instead of running, sitting “elbow-to-elbow, knee-to-knee” when reading to a partner, etc.).

Writers Workshop

20160830_09251420160830_09261420160830_09265720160830_09273520160830_09393820160830_09394520160830_09394820160831_10485820160831_10490620160831_10491820160831_10581520160831_10582620160831_105837We have been grooming patience in leaps and bounds through writers workshop. We are learning to be patient with one another while sharing our stories, and patient with ourselves as we try to think of writing topics, organize our writing, and use appropriate letter-sound correspondence and letter formation. It can sometimes be tough when we have to wait for share time instead of shouting and sharing at the moment an idea pops into our minds! We are learning to control our “volcanoes.” Just as we practiced building stamina for reading, we also practiced building stamina for writing! Sometimes it’s hard to write when we know we aren’t spelling every word just like the dictionary. It takes lots of training to allow children to trust their ears when sounding through words so that they aren’t asking for someone else to help them spell all the time. It takes patience to stop and think on our own, listening to the sounds in words and writing them down, instead of raising our hands at an unfamiliar word. The more children are writing authentically, about things they are learning or topics they find interesting, the better writers they become.


20160908_162558We learned about Creation, Adam & Eve, and Cain & Abel over the first two weeks of school. The firsties read the Bible to find out the truth of these events, then created their own books to show what they had learned. When learning about Cain and Abel, the firsties demonstrated that Cain had a heart that was bubbling over with anger and jealousy instead of patiently calm and obedient like Abel’s.

Math Workshop

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20160901_14134720160901_14135020160901_14141120160901_14142920160901_14144020160901_14144920160902_13285120160902_13290720160902_13291020160902_13291620160902_13292320160902_13293920160902_13322020160902_133446The firsties worked very hard to capture their features through self-portraits. They needed to patiently examine their faces and hair in order to truly observe their physical appearances and represent their findings using watercolors. Patience and problem-solving were needed when the paint didn’t look exactly like a flesh color, or when blue dripped next to a freckle. The final pieces are hanging next to the first grade classroom door, so check them out when you have a chance!

One of the most important musical concepts, one to which we will repeatedly return, is steady beat. We used children’s literature, folk songs, and even syllabication chants to help us find and keep a steady beat. Often, children impatiently rush the beat, or switch to clapping/tapping the rhythm. Patience is required to find the beat and see it through to the end!

Listening and following directions requires patience! In P.E., we utilized teamwork to pass balls and hoops of different sizes from teammate to teammate over, under, and around one another, then sharpened our listening skills as we followed the leader while playing “Mirror!”

Grooming patience takes time, focus, and stamina, but it lays the foundation for everything else we need to learn and do through the year.