The Ashley Bryan School

The Ashley Bryan School
Serving Children in Grades K-8 from the Cranberry Isles

Friday, September 21, 2012

Learning Civics

What are the Roles of the Citizen in American Democracy?
  • What does it mean to be a citizen of the United States?

  • How does a person become a citizen?

  • What are important rights in the United States?

  • What are important responsibilities of Americans?

  • What dispositions or traits of character are important to the preservation and improvement of American democracy?

  • How can Americans participate in their government?

  • What is the importance of political leadership and public service?

  • How should Americans select leaders?
These are the questions our students are working towards answering during their first Social Studies unit of the year.  They are pretty big questions, so where do we start with children in grades 1-5?  With lots of discussion and children's literature, of course!

We kicked off this unit with a discussion about the meaning of several vocabulary words:  citizen, society, right, responsibility and government.  The students came up with some great definitions of the words.

 Next we read this book:
This story is about a group of children who work together to create an imaginary society complete with a mayor, stores, houses, laws--you name it!  After reading this book the students discussed these questions:

1.  What does it mean to be a citizen of Roxaboxen?

2.  How does a person become a citizen of Roxaboxen?

3.  What are important rights in Roxaboxen?

4.  What are important responsibilities of Roxaboxen?

5.  What kinds of people are needed to keep Roxaboxen going in a positive way?

6.  How can Roxaboxens participate in their government?

7.  Why is it important for Roxaboxen to have leaders?  How did they choose their leader? What are some other ways people in Roxaboxen could choose their leaders?

Why is it important for people in Roxaboxen to help out the community?

 You'll notice these questions are directly related to the questions the students will need to answer about American citizenship at the end of the unit. 

After a great discussion, we explained to the students that their next job is to create their own society and build a model of it in the classroom.  They have to cooperate and all work together to accomplish their goal, and before beginning to build they must share a plan with the teachers for approval.  They got right to work, and after some initial arguing about how to make sure everyone's voice was heard, they began taking turns sharing ideas.  Eventually, they began designing a plan. 

Now they are ready to begin building.  Again, they have to cooperate and make sure that everyone participates, which will lead us to many more discussions about leadership and cooperation over the weeks to come.  
They are having a lot of fun working on this project, but they are also working hard to work as a team, to make sure everyone is heard and to share leadership of the project.  And this is just the beginning!  When their society is built, they will work on writing a constitution, choosing a leader, writing laws, establishing rights and responsibilities...... 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Norms: Setting the Stage

Last week we began talking about our goals for the school year.  After sharing our goals, we made a fantastic list of behaviors we will need to remember to follow in order to accomplish our goals.  Here are the behaviors:

  • Believe in yourself
  • Positive thinking
  • Energy
  • Stretching
  • Playful
  • Practicing
  • Risk-taking
  • Try again, stick with it
  • Asking/giving help
  • Trust
  • Focusing
  • Patience

Next we began to develop our norms for the school year.  These norms are a list of commitments we will hold each other to in order to help us reach our goals.  Here are the norms we came up with:

  • Believe in yourself and in others. 
  • Keep trying, even if something is hard. 
  • Take responsibility for your energy level, your emotions and your body to maintain a peaceful school atmosphere. 
  • Be willing to take risks and encourage other to do so, too.   
  • Help yourself and help other to help themselves. 
  • Remember to have fun. 
  • Focus on Focusing.

Next the students made signs for the norms. 

The students believed these norms were so important they decided to make three sets of norms--one set for each classroom and a set for the hallway. 
With norms like these, I think we will have a fantastic year!

Thursday, September 6, 2012


The first week of school is flying by.  We are off to a great start with nine wonderful, bright, charming students! 
Every year many adult community members join us on the playground to ring in the new school year.  This year Donna and I decided to ask the adults to share inspiring words, phrases and sentences with the students to send them off for a great year.  We recorded the words, phrases and sentences and read them out loud to the students before they entered the school.  It turned into a pretty nice poem, huh?

We began the day with an extended morning meeting where we talked about behavior expectations for circle time. 

The students were then introduced to their new teams. 

In teams they created new team names.

We couldn't finish morning meeting without a dance, of course!
Then students were each introduced to their new sketch diaries. 
Last year these kids went through so much paper with their amazing doodles and drawings that this year we decided to give them each their own sketchbook where they can keep a record of their spontaneous art work. 
They got right to work decorating the covers of their books and working on their first sketches. 

Next it was time for our first DEAR--Drop Everything and Read!

This is a daily routine, and students love it!  Little do they know how much their reading improves with this daily practice!

Students can choose to read independently at their individual reading levels, or they can choose to partner read.  When they partner read the students take turns reading out loud to each other, practicing their oral reading skills. 

We had a very full first day of school and everyone was ready for a nap by the end of the day!