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