Looking at Ourselves, Establishing Community, and Creating Connections 

Sharyne Beza and Mallory Faldt, First Grade East Teachers
The beginning of the school year brings about so much excitement for first graders. They find their classrooms, meet their teachers, and connect with friends, new and old. The start of the school year also ushered in the first unit of study for 1 East: Friendship and Communities. This unit of study guides students to learn about the circles of community around them.
They began by exploring their own identities. They created a self-portrait to beautify our classroom space, recognizing the diversity of who we are. We played games and took surveys during math time where they shared their likes and dislikes. Then, we initiated our Star of the Week routine, where students took turns each week sharing aspects of themselves by filling out an information sheet and sharing a picture collage about themselves to the class. In return, the rest of the class wrote star notes for each child with acknowledgments and notes of appreciation. 

Our friendship unit lends itself to exploring emotions they feel and ones we recognize within our friends to grow our empathy with our Kimochis curriculum. During this time, we sent home family sharing pages so that the students could have conversations with their grown-ups at home about their identities and family identities, such as the meaning of their names, places around the world where their families come from, holidays they celebrate, heroes they admire, etc. This year, the first graders in 1 East used this knowledge to create an identity book during writing time that allowed them to explore, create, and share the various aspects of their identities more independently in the classroom. During reading time, we used read-aloud books to explore life lessons about friendship and caring for one another. 

All this helped us establish a positive and nurturing classroom community, where students are seen and heard, using the Live Oak School Expectations to help us create our very own classroom expectations. When we wrote our classroom expectations, the kids were equipped with a clear understanding of how we treat each other at school, what to do in times of conflict so that their hopes and dreams for the school year can come to fruition. During this time, we also established expectations for our work in the ChangeMaker Lab and participated in activities and projects that promote collaboration, like using materials to build the tallest tower in teams and creating art together through our Sumi Ink Club Art Project. 

We culminated this unit with a field trip to Potrero Rec with all of the first graders to play “Friendship Games” with the teachers. These included fun art and movement activities that promote cooperation, collaboration, and community building. It was all good fun, celebrated with a picnic lunch and time in the playground as a whole first grade class. Even though the Friendship and Community unit has come to the end, work and discussions about ourselves and the ways we can work together and contribute to our communities will keep going. We will continue our conversations for socio-emotional learning in morning meeting time and further think about how we can contribute to our school and world communities as changemakers.

See more about the first grade curriculum and how it helps build on SEL, art, and experiential learning from kindergarten. 


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