It’s still August, we’re deep into summer and yet school started on Tuesday. Now my days are filled with first graders. I love their unfiltered questions, their earnest effort, and unbridled joy. After a few years of not teaching these young ones, it’s refreshing to be reminded that these learners are eager to make things, to say things, and to play, play, play!
Tuesday was loooooooong. That first day back after summer’s break requires stamina that has dimmed since June. And on the first day of school in first grade, teachers are busy! Just remembering my new schedule took a crazy amount of effort!
But there was also lots of room for fun (which also doubled as formative assessment for me). I braved the paint (on day one!) and students watercolored their self portraits. Collaborative tower building revealed gaps between students who already knew how to work smoothly with others and those who clearly wanted all the control of the build. For some groups, collaboration meant building separately and then looking for ways to combine the small builds into something larger.
One of my favorite activities was inspired by author and artist Debbie Ohi. She has a series of illustrations created emerging from broken crayons. As part of our morning message yesterday, I asked each student what they could imagine coming out of a broken crayon. I heard about dragons, strawberries, flamingos and more.
We studied Valerie Worth’s poem, Crayons, noticing her use of the words grubby and stubs. We talked about how crayons work even if they are broken. And each student drew an illustration to accompany the poem.
But the true magic happened when each student selected a crayon, broke it, and created an image emerging from the broken crayon. After drawing, each 6-year old carefully glued their crayon pieces to their creation and carried their art over to a counter to dry. Then it was time to write.
I led with the assumption that they could all write. I reminded them that if they weren’t sure how to spell a word, they should write the sounds they hear when they say it. And they were off. I asked for a sentence about their crayon art. Some stayed safe, writing a simple sentence like, I made a cat. Others included more elaboration and showed confidence as writers. But all successfully used their imaginations and created something wonderful.
After school ended, I typed up their sentences and created a display for parents to browse when they come to school for Back to School Night next week. I hope they enjoy their children’s early first grade work as much as I do!
First grade! Wow! That’s a big jump for you. I love your enthusiasm and that crayon activity is inspired! I’m forwarding this to a colleague and may steal it myself for my younger gifted kids.
Thanks Margaret. I’ve done this project with third graders too–works well for all ages! It is a big jump–although I’ve taught first graders in a 1,2,3 multiage class for many years. It’s fun to experience the genuine enthusiasm of these 6 year olds!