December 15 - 19

This week we measured length using different body parts, standard feet and inches.  A few students needed reminders to line up the edge of the ruler with the edge of what they were measuring.  If you have a thermometer at home, please help your child practice reading the temperature (in Farenheit) over winter break.  We will study measurement more in the beginning of January, too. 

In reading we reviewed strategies we use to figure out unknown words: sounding out each letter, and thinking about what makes sense with the picture and in the sentence/story pattern.  Next month we will practice rereading the sentence/page to find clues that will help us infer the unknown words, making connections between the story and our live or other stories, and thinking about words that look similar (spelling patterns/rhymes).  We will also study letters with two sounds (a, e, i, o, u, c, g) and look at spelling patterns that give clues about which sound the letters will make (e.g. a: cap and cape, g: rag and rage).

In continuing our study of balance and motion in science, we made zoomers: a two-holed disc on a loop of string.  We experimented how to make it continue to spin, finding that the heavier, plastic discs worked better than the lighter, cardboard versions. We discussed how a twisting force (torque) is similar but different from pushing or pulling force. Students enjoyed drawing designs on their discs and seeing how the images looked when spinning both directions.  In January we will do some experiments with balance and counterbalance, make crystals out of borax, and we will look at different properties of water (solid/liquid/gas, structure of snowflakes, and saturation point).

 This week we made mitten-shaped books about what we like to do in the snow, which will be on display in the classroom for a few weeks before they come home.  The students did a great job brainstorming ideas to write about, using their word wall lists (most recent hardcopy sent home this week), and remembering to start each sentence with a capital letter and end it with proper punctuation.  Next we will try writing for different purposes (lists, instructions, reports, poems, comics, plays, and more...) in addition to editing our writing more formally (looking for misspelled sight words and missing details, sounds, spaces, punctuation or capital/lowercase letters).

Sharing at Morning Meeting this week slipped into a more traditional "show and tell."  Please remind your child that this is a story telling time and that bringing in 1-2 small pictures or props to support the story is OK but that he/she needs to do more than merely describe the object(s).  Again, the goal is to become a better reader, writer, and listener.  I recognize this is a bit of a departure from the expectation many children have and that this will take time to develop.  You can help your child rehearse ahead of time, encouraging them to include details such as who, what, where, why, when, how and their feelings. Let me know if you need another copy of the sharing schedule (see last week's post).  Thanks for your support!

Please send in healthy snacks for the class on your child's snack day (see live calendar to right and hardcopy sent home this week).  Popular options include: clementines, crackers, carrots, apples, cheese sticks, grapes, yogurt (go-gurts), chex mix, rice cakes, fruit roll-ups, cereal bars, and muffins.  Let's branch out from Cheez-its and cookies!  Sending in napkins is really helpful, too. 
I give all students an opportunity to try the snack that is served and they can finish any leftover food from their lunch.  As a fairly picky eater myself, I really respect children's dietary choices, but I also expect them to try new things and respect their peers' preferences.  I appreciate your help with this.   Thanks.

Thursday and Friday afternoons we had a lot of fun reading multi-step directions on how to make some winter-themed crafts: gingerbread houses (out of paper/milk cartons), snowball structures (with mini marshmallows and toothpicks) and snowflake art (yarn and popsicle stick decorations).  I hope these masterpieces made it home in one piece!

Finally, I am looking for new games for choice (e.g. Connect Four, Checkers, Boggle, Uno, Ravensburger games...).  Playing board games and card games with classmates is a great way to practice taking turns and good sportsmanship.  Please think of us as you clean out your household  collection or if you go to any yard sales.  We would really appreciate any donations or loaners.

We will spend the first week in January reviewing ALL of our current sight words.
Have a fun, safe, and restful winter break. 
See you in 2009!

December 8 - 12

Last Friday we said good-bye to our student teacher, Jane Kim. She had one of her friends from Cornell bring in her adult and baby pet tarantulas. She taught us about the spider life cycle and that spiders are very sensitive to vibrations and light. We got to examine the spiders up close and even see the adult spider eat a cricket! This week in science we made spinning tops and discussed why/how they balance using the vocabulary words axis and torque (scroll down to see pictures with student comments).

This week we became better readers by practicing reading to ourselves (reading the words, or pictures, or retelling the story in books) and we learned about reading with a partner.  Specifically we worked on how to help someone who doesn't know a word by waiting, asking if they want help, and then giving hints or clues and helping decide what would make the most sense.  Sometimes neither partner will know the word and then it's OK to make your best guess and keep reading.  I was really impressed with how well the class worked together!  Along these lines, we have been role playing how to work in a small group and made 4 small signs for each table reminding us to be polite, share, ask questions, and help.

In math this week we used our giant thermometer to practice reading temperatures, learned some new math games to review reading clocks, did "two-fisted penny addition" which reinforces basic addition facts (e.g. 0+6=6, 1+5=6, 2+3=6...), and worked on measuring height/length/width.  We will continue working on two-fisted penny addition and measurement next week.  Your child can review these skills with the Everyday Math Online Games.  

This week we started sharing in Morning Meeting and we listed these expectations: the speaker will tell a true story, using a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, and the audience will listen and respect the speaker (look at him/her and be quiet).  We are using the clown sign pictured here to help draw out all the details of our stories.

Sharing Schedule
Monday: Seneca, Mea, Camila
Tuesday: Abigail, Morgan, Willem
Wednesday: Angelo, Leila, Sophia
Thursday: Sam, Narea, Geoffrey
Friday: Bethany, Isabelle, Zoe

Finally, we are now using Voicethread to capture students' comments on pictures we have taken.  Click on any of the 3 "threads" posted below to hear and see their comments for yourself! 
[Students who haven't had a chance to comment yet will be able to do so next week.]

Next week's sight words: could, have, who, saw, want.

Enjoy the snow!

Experimenting with Spinners

Making Ginger Ale


December 1 - 5

On Monday afternoon Gabi and Jose (Camila's parents) came in to make ginger ale with the class. 
Using a very easy recipe available online we made four flavors: plain, grapefruit, lime, and jasmine tea.  On Wednesday afternoon the class voted on which one they liked the best.
Jose and Gabi also brought in a microscope and let the class look at the yeast cells under it. They talked about how the yeast are alive and eat the sugar in the ginger ale recipe, producing a gas that gives the drink bubbles and makes the plastic bottles hard to squeeze after a little time.

The class really enjoyed the experience and seemed to learn a lot.  You can read their reflections on the experience in the picture above (each students' initials are in parentheses next to their dictated sentence).

At a recent workshop I learned about many online audio reading resources, including Storyline which has members of the Screen Actor's Guild doing (somewhat dramatic) read alouds of classic children's books.  Captions along the bottom let your child read along, too.  It is a fun way to share a love of reading with your family without having to make a trip to the library!

This week in math we learned some new math games and practiced telling time to the hour (o'clock) and half hour (half-past __ o'clock) with our new life-sized clock!  Soon we will study quarter-past and quarter-til times on an analog clock.

We practiced reading to ourselves this week and talked a lot about why that is important (it makes us better readers and is fun)!  We came up with many ideas about what reading to ourselves should look, feel, and sound like, and practiced for short amounts of time.  We will slowly build up our stamina to help develop our independent reading skills.  I am sending home a hardcopy of the list of expectations we made so you can help your child practice at home, too.

Our carpet measured 201 unifix cubes long!  The carpet has been established as a special place for listening and learning.  Next week we will begin sharing in our morning meeting circle on the carpet.  This will be a time to talk about things that are going on in the students' lives and should help them develop public speaking, listening, and story-telling skills.  This is not a classic "show and tell" as the emphasis is on talking more than bringing in special items, but it is OK to bring a picture or small memento to help tell the story.  We will use a sign to chart what kinds of information people share in a story: feelings, who, what, where, why, when, and how.  Sharing will be an optional activity for the first several weeks, but eventually I want everyone to participate.  We will devise a schedule next week for what days students will be scheduled to share (if they want to) and I will send home a copy of that.

*** Next week's sight words are: know, make, old, thing, other  ***

Photos from late November

November 24 - 25

I'm sad to report that Zoe Liz will be moving away from Ithaca to live with her father over Thanksgiving break and will go to a different school.  We made her a good-bye book this week and we will write her letters in December.  We hope she enjoys her new school and that she will stay in touch with our class.  We will miss her but we will not forget her!

We celebrated Camila's birthday on Monday when her family brought in a special snack for the class.  We also started making snowflakes to replace the leaves on our classroom windows, sorted words, numbers and pictures associated with pennies, nickels and dimes, and we traced the letters to spell the words of the week: put, said, with, your, jump.

On Tuesday we read a book about spiders and made a paper spider to take home.  Please discuss with your child how spiders differ from insects (for example, spiders have two body parts and eight legs while insects have three body parts and six legs...).

This week we have been editing and illustrating thank you letters to people in our lives in preparation for Thanksgiving.  Please look for these important letters to come home on Tuesday. Pictures of each student with their letter and a recording of them reading their letter will be posted here in early December.

Thank you for all you've done to make this year a success so far.  I'm so grateful that everyone made time to have a conference with me and for both listening and communicating so well.  I really appreciate how much support and time you have offered me both in and out of school.

Enjoy the break and I'll see you on December 1st!

Class Picture

Back row: Richie, Ms. Provan, Bessie. Students standing: Geoffrey, Isabelle, Angelo, Sam, Willem. Students sitting in chairs: Sophia, Mea, Bethany, Morgan, Leila, Camila. Students sitting on the floor: Abigail, Narea, Zoe Liz, Zoe G., Seneca

The individual student pictures will be sent home on Friday. Retakes are next Tuesday so if you are not satisfied please return the original picture to school on Monday and complete a retake order form (available at the front desk or I can send one home with your child on Monday).

November 17 - 21

On Friday I will be out of town and Richie will be with the class. That morning we will have a guest speaker from Cornell's Entomology Department discuss aquatic insects with our class. We will conclude our study of insects this month with some activities on spiders (and how they are different than insects). Next month we will move into a unit on motion and balance.

I forgot to mention earlier that our author study this month is Mo Willems. The class was quick to notice that his last name is almost the same as Willem's first name, and many recognized his popular Knuffle Bunny and Piggie and Elephant books! The students have enjoyed noticing details he uses in his illustrations and typography that reflect how the characters are feeling and make connections between his various books. I encourage you to check out some of his books next time you visit the library. We have also begun reading aloud My Father's Dragon each day to practice reading skills like predicting, inferring, and recalling.

We began writing thank you letters this week in preparation for Thanksgiving. In early December I plan to publish a digital picture of the letters with a recording of each student reading his/her letter aloud and describing his/her picture and motivation for writing the letter on this website through Voicethread. We will also use Voicethread to share recordings of student explanations of and reactions to some of the digital pictures I've taken of various classroom activities. I plan to record some of the music, art, PE and library classes in the coming weeks and post short videos of those on here for you, too.

This week in math we introduced dimes and practiced exchanging pennies and nickels for dimes. The class did a really nice job with this activity both when they saw pictures of the coins and when they saw symbols for the coins (P for penny, N for nickel, and D for dime). To further challenge your child, try playing "banker" and have them trade in various amounts of pennies and nickels for dimes, or vice versa. Thanks to everybody who read the homework carefully and contributed 10 dimes for use in the classroom!

Leila's Mom shared some neat online math resources with me that I wanted to share with you all, too: 1. virtual math manipulatives (especially helpful for your child to explore base 10 blocks, something not found in most households but used in 1st and 2nd grade, with you)
2. telling time on an analog clock (warning: this crashed for me in Firefox but worked well in Internet
Explorer and Safari)

Miss Lupo (the Health student teacher from SUNY Cortland) concluded her lessons with our class this week by discussing germs and the many ways HIV cannot be spread. As a follow-up I read the Magic School Bus book "Inside Ralphie, A Book About Germs" which the class really got into. This book does a nice job illustrating why it's important to protect yourself from germs, how white blood cells attack germs, and why rest and medicine help you recover faster when you do get sick. The story is also available as a video and Scholastic offers online games and resources for fans of the Magic School Bus series.

Next week I will publish on here and send home a hardcopy of the December snack calendar. Let me know if you need to switch days. Please make your best effort to provide healthy snacks for our class. Popular options include baby carrots with ranch dressing, granola bars, muffins, trail mix, string cheese, and any kind of fruit. We have a refrigerator available across the hall and you are welcome to send in snack a few days in advance if needed.

We have been using the American Sign Language alphabet to fingerspell words we are studying, which has sparked a lot of interest in sign language. I will begin incorporating more signs into our regular activities and using the ASLpro online video dictionary to answer their questions about how to sign words I don't know.

I will begin sending home (optional) word study activities once or twice a week. The one I'm sending home this week involves cutting out letters to rearrange into words or names, and then recording the words on the paper. Please keep the letters at home and simply return the list of words. You can support your child with this by encouraging him/her to make rhyming words and to look at the latest sight word list for ideas!

Next week (and continued through the first week in December)
we will study the words:

jump, put, said, with, your

P.S. Comments are enabled and welcomed on here if you click on the post title (e.g. "November 17 - 21" for this post). I am still working out the kinks in the html code to make a comment link appear in each post footer. Thanks for reading!

Pictures from mid-November

November 10-14

On Monday we read the book America is... and talked about Veteran's Day. There was some confusion over veterans and veterinarians! Many students mentioned having a puzzle of the 50 states at home. Please let me know if you'd consider sharing one with the class for a few weeks so those who don't have one at home can get more familiar with the various shapes of each state. 

We also had a student teacher from Cortland teach a health lesson about strangers to the class. We discussed having a "code word" in your family and role played what to do if offered a ride home by a stranger who didn't know the right code word (get away and tell a "helper adult" like a relative, teacher, police officer, etc.). Everyone also seemed to understand how to call 9-1-1 to get help in an emergency. I encourage you to help your child learn your home phone number and address if they don't already know it, and to keep that information posted both by your household phone and in your child's backpack.

The class has had many opportunities to explore the calculators on their own. This week we introduced using calculators to skip count by 2s by pressing [+] [2] [=/R] and then repeatedly pressing the [=/R] button. To clear we pressed [ON/C]. We also skip counted by 5s, 10s, and 3s in this way. Some of the students spent their choice time experimenting and recording the large numbers they calculated on scrap paper.

We started studying the "ing" spelling pattern and made a class book with many examples of words that use "ing" like playing, rowing, etc. Please encourage your child to use this spelling pattern in his/her writing.

While we are still using invented spelling, I expect students to use the word wall words and to include the beginning, middle, and ending sounds in words, or at least one sound per syllable in multi-syllabic words. Short vowel sounds (as in alligator, elephant, inchworm, octopus, and umbrella) in the middle of words are typically the hardest for first graders to hear and write accurately.

I hope the cumulative word wall list uploaded to this blog and enclosed with your weekly blog print-out will be helpful as you support your child's developing writing skills.

Since this is such a short week,

next week we will continue to study:

again, out, rain, up, when.

Report cards went home on Thursday. Let me know if you did not receive your child's or if you need another copy. Please sign and return the empty report card envelope; the enclosed copies of the report card are yours to keep. I do not go over these with the students at school and I leave it to the disgression of each family how much to review it with your child at home. I can address any of your questions or concerns about the report card at your child's conference and I'd be happy to meet with you any other time if need be.    I look forward to seeing you at your child's conference!

Pictures from early November

November 3 - 7

This week we introduced the term "half past" when telling time to the half hour (e.g. 4:30 = half past four).  We noted that on an analog clock the hour hand is halfway between numbers at that time (e.g. it is halfway between 4 and 5 at 4:30).  This is a concept we will revisit throughout the year as we learn more about telling time.

After all of our research on insects we made realistic ladybugs, noted whether they had an odd or even number of spots, and explained why that number was odd or even (if it could be divided into two equal groups).  They are currently on display in our room but will be coming home soon.

At the Make a Book or Card choice I added 3 stamps that have generated a lot of interest: Happy Birthday, Get Well Soon, and Thank You.  You may have seen some of the thoughtful creations these have generated coming home.  You can thank the $1 bargain bin at Michael's!

Finally, we introduced the format of Frames and Arrows that will appear often in the Everyday Math curriculum.  It is basically a way of showing/creating number patterns.  We talked about how the "frames" were the shape where the numbers went, and the "arrow" shows that the rule is being applied to make a pattern.  
Typically both the rule and the first number in the sequence will be given and the students will be expected to apply the rule to continue the pattern.  You can challenge your child by having him/her determine the rule based on the numbers provided.  

This is not mental math - we use number lines (0-25) and 100 grids (0-120) to solve these problems at school. Please let me know if you find another strategy that works well for your child.  I encourage you to play similar number pattern games at home with numbers ranging from 0 - 120! 

This Saturday is the Family Reading Partnership's Annual Kid's Book Fest from 10:00am - 4:00pm at Boynton Middle School.  Each child in our class received a free copy of the book My Father's Dragon, which we will begin reading in class next week.  The local author, Ruth Stiles Gannett, will be available to sign books and celebrate the 60th anniversary of the book.  Hope to see you all there!

Next week a SUNY Cortland graduate student will begin teaching the first grade health curriculum to our class.  Topics include germs and how they are caught, the immune system and the body's other natural defenses against diseases, and AIDS: that HIV virus doesn't live in the air like other viruses, and how you cannot catch HIV.

For more information about car seat safety, please visit Tiffany's (Leila's Mom) website!

Report cards will go home early next week.   I will be able to address any questions or concerns you may have at your child's conference.  Typically children do not attend conferences at this grade level but if you need to bring your child that is fine.  They will be able to participate in part of the conversation and then entertain themselves in another part of the room if we need to have an adult-adult conversation.

***    Next week's sight words    ***
again    out    rain    up    when

Enjoy this performance of A Ghostly Tale that some readers in our class did on Monday!  (I will set-up the lighting better for the next recording)

Pictures from October 2008 (2 of 2)

Pictures from October 2008 (1 of 2)

Pictures from September 2008