December 14 - 18

This week we reviewed looking for chunks (groups of letters we knew the sound of, like "sh" and "ing" or small words, like "an" and "it") in our guided reading books. We also reviewed making a text-to-self connection (finding something in a book that reminds you of something in your own life). We are defining "text" as any kinds of words you read, not just in a book but on a sign, in a letter, on a computer, etc. We then learned how to make text-to-text connections (finding something in a book that reminds you of a part in another book). Students caught on to both of these concepts very quickly and enjoyed sharing their examples with the class. Here are some videos of students' text-to-text connections:


video video

video video

In writing we practiced adding details to both our words and our pictures. Some students are still struggling to keep their pencil moving on their paper for the entire 15-20 minutes of independent writing time. Many students are finding great resources to look up words they need to spell like their guided reading books, their word rings, and signs around the room. We wrote about what we like to do in different seasons (especially in the snow!), we wrote about pets after the tragic loss of two of our fish, and we wrote lists about a variety of topics from games we like to play, to candy we like to eat, to how to walk in line in the hall, to gymnastics moves we know. Some students were confused about the difference between a story that needs complete sentences and a list that can have individual ideas or phrases, so we will review those formats more next month. We will also look at how to write directions or instructions, which requires writers to think about their audience and to be very clear and specific in their vocabulary and illustrations.

In math we are reviewing numbers that add up to ten and doubles (2+2, 3+3...) to help us solve other addition problems. If you know 5+5=10 then it will be easier to solve 5+4 and 5+6. We are also reviewing story problems, including important words that tell you if you need to add or subtract like "all together" and "leftover." We are using many different problem solving strategies and practicing explaining our thinking so other people can understand what we did in our brain. Some examples of strategies students are using include drawing a picture, counting up or back, using tally marks, and using fingers. Look for pictures of story problems we have solved together on the Smartboard in this slideshow from the past two weeks:


NO SCHOOL DECEMBER 20-23! Have a safe and relaxing winter break!

December 7 - 11

This week we looked for word chunks and words within words when we read. The students were very adept at finding chunks like "sh," "ing," and "ch." We also found many of our sight words (an, day, to, he, me, my...) inside larger words. We have talked a lot about how practicing something hard makes you better at it. We are now re-reading our guided reading books independently for 10 straight minutes every day. Please remind your students to take 10-20 minutes each night to practice reading, and remind them of the importance of re-reading books again and again!

In writing we wrote about what we like to do in the snow and then in the other seasons of the year. We discussed what makes each season different than the others and what acitivites we like to do depending on the weather, and what we like to do no matter what the weather is like. Students are using many resources to remember how to spell unknown words: making their best guess based on what sounds they hear, looking at their word rings, finding words around the room, and remembering words they have read in their guided reading books.

This week in math we measured the length of many things around the room using nonstandard units (dominos, dice, our hands...). We also continued to study the penny and nickel, make the largest two digit number possible (reviewing place value), use tally marks, make up equations based on story problems, and find pairs of numbers that add up to ten. We also looked for patterns in addition and practiced adding doubles (5+5) to help us solve harder problems (if you know 5+5 it will be easier to figure out 5+6 or 5+4).

I have begun filling out second quarter progress reports which will go home at the end of the month. Please let me know if you would like to meet in January to discuss your child's academic and social achievement.

Dates to remember:
  • 12/23/09 Dismissal at 1:20
  • 12/24/09 - 1/1/10 No School
  • 1/4/09 - 1/8/09 Optional Intersession (contact office for enrollment inquiries)

November 30 - December 4



This week we got to go to the Strategies Lab and learn two new games: Safari Rush Hour (which is slightly harder than Rush Hour Jr as more parts move in more directions) and Hoppers Jr (in which you start with various frog arrangements and after hopping over them, you try to leave only 1 frog remaining on the board). Both games require thinking ahead a few steps and considering the consequences of your actions - universal skills! The students came up with the following new universal problem solving strategies that help them play these games and do other hard things: concentrate, stay calm, be in control, and relax.

We started learning about coins this week with our new math specialist. He taught us about what is pictured on each side of both the penny and the nickel, and we noticed many other interesting details on the coins. He also taught the students several new games: number line squeeze (using terms like "greater than" and "less than"), penny and nickel trading (learning that 5 pennies = 1 nickel and then practicing counting by 5s and 1s to see how much money you have at the end), and two digit top-it (making the largest two digit number with number cards and keeping track of your score with tally marks). We are also reviewing number pairs that add up to make ten through a variety of games.

In reading we reviewed getting our mouth ready to say the first letter(s) of an unkown word to help us make a good guess about what would make sense. Students are learning to notice consonant blends (sw, sp, sm...) and digraphs (th, ch, sh...) to help them figure out unknown words instead of just using the first letter alone. We are also starting to look for work chunks and little words we recognize inside big words (see photo where we found "an" in many words and names).

Students are learning the foundations of typing when we go to the computer lab twice a week. They also have opportunities to make Voicethread comments and play the games linked on this site when they go to the computer with a partner during reading and math centers.

Thank you so much to the families who contributed books from the book fair to our classroom! I really appreciate your generosity and the students loved reading the new stories. We have enjoyed Stick Man, I Don't Like To Read and next week we will read The Coin Counting Book.

November 23 - 25

During this short week we watched an online video about Thanksgiving then wrote and drew what we knew about Pilgrims, Native Americans, and what our family does on this holiday. We also read The Most Thankful Thing and talked about what we are thankful for.

On Tuesday the first graders rotated through three Thanksgiving/fall activities: making (and eating) real butter, making fall leaves out of tissue paper, and making turkeys out of coffee filters. The students really enjoyed the festivities! In our room we also designed some colorful fall trees using an outline of our hand/forearm for the tree branches/trunk and tissue paper for the leaves. This is a voicethread we started about how we made butter:



This week in reading we continued making good predictions about a book using our schema and any evidence we found in the book cover pictures and title. In these videos students practice making predictions based on what they already know about the topic (schema) and what they can see (evidence).

video video
video

In math we are reviewing how two-digit numbers are made up of groups of tens and ones. We are also reviewing how to write tally marks and how to make a number sentence to go with a story (for example: I have three gingerbread cookies and four cupcakes. How many treats do I have altogether? 3 + 4 = 7).

Please enjoy these pictures from the festivities this week, and have a safe and happy long weekend! See you back at school on Monday, November 30.

November 16 - 20

First graders got to enjoy a special turkey lunch in honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. We are thankful for the family members who came to visit that day! Please remember that students will be dismissed at 1:20 on Wednesday, November 25 and there is no school on Thursday, November 26 or Friday, November 27.



This week we practiced making predictions when we read. We talked about good predictions vs. silly predictions. We learned that a good prediction uses both your schema (what you already know about a topic) and some evidence (clues you can see). We are using this prompt for making predictions "I think __________ because ________." For example, "I think they will go to the park because their mom said if they cleaned up their room they could go and they cleaned it up." That word "because" is key!

We studied words that start with "sm" as in smile, smell, small, smash, and smart. Our new sight words are: went, do, my, he, she.

We also practiced finding groups of ten to make counting a large set of objects easier. In a group of 23 objects we found two groups of ten, then practiced counting them like this "10, 20, 21, 22, 23." It is hard for many students to jump from counting by 10s to counting by 1s. We have also been reviewing tally marks (reading them correctly is much easier than writing them) and different ways to make 10.

We have been discussing what strategies help us to play the games Rush Hour Jr. (in videos below) and Cover Your Tracks, which both require spatial reasoning, planning a sequence of moves, and thinking about alternate solutions.

video video

Students have discovered that many of the strategies that help in those games also help in other situations:
  • make sure you know the rules and have everything you need before you start
  • the more you practice, the better you get
  • don't give up (keep trying)
  • stop and think about what to do next
This week we used Skype to have a webchat with a first grade teacher and a technology integration teacher in Ithaca, NY! We will be chatting with their first graders in December to share ideas about what we are learning, to compare what first grade is like here vs. there, and to develop our communication skills. Special thanks to our technology integration support staff for helping make it go smoothly.

November 9 - 13



This week we wrapped up one round of centers and began several new ones. In reading we introduced a center where students write and draw their schema about a topic in a book. We have defined "schema" to mean what you already know about something. When readers activate the relevant schema it can help them make more accurate predictions about many parts of a story, including the vocabulary, plot, and characters. Similarly, we have been practicing making connections between events in a story and events in our own lives. In these videos students share some of their self-t0-text connections:

video video

In the last round of centers students made number sentence puzzles with two addends and this week they are reviewing those number pairs that add up to ten with several Smartboard activities. This is a video of a student making 3 + 7 = 10 with bears and then checking on his fingers. This week we opened a center in which students make as many different addition number sentences (equations) as possible that equal ten, and illustrate each with different colored markers on a tens grid. For example to show that 2 + 3 + 5 = 10 students would color in 2 blocks with a color, then 3 blocks with another color, and 5 blocks with a third color. We are also recreating pattern block designs that students made last week, working with base ten blocks to show two digit numbers in groups of tens and ones (in a game called Race to 100), and playing the two new spatial reasoning and problem solving games that we learned in the Strategies Lab: Cover Your Tracks and Rush Hour Jr. (pictured in the Voicethread below).

video

We started a typing game in the computer lab and have also been learning more about how to make comments in Voicethread. You can see some of our experiments with making comments using the keyboard, microphone, webcam and paintbrush. Thanks to those of you readers who were brave enough to leave a comment of your own, too! Seeing that we have an audience outside the classroom was very exciting.



Finally, in art on Friday students made these colorful masks and I had just enough time to record their ferocious sound effects before dismissal:

video

New URL

Please note that I am now using the web address
firstgradesuperstars.blogspot.com

The old URL will redirect you to this address but to save time, please update your bookmarks.

Thanks!

November 2 - 6

We are still recovering from all the excitement of Dress Like a Book Character Day last week! On Friday we did a lesson using the Patterns of Thinking in which we made distinctions between the characters of Miss Nelson and Miss Swamp, and then studied the relationship between them and how that relationship ("dressed up as" or "pretending to be") was the same between me and Miss Swamp that day! Students were making good connections across the three books about these characters that we read last week. We are in the process of creating a Voicethread that will showcase their ideas:



YOU can add comments! Click on the picture above and you'll see a pop-up asking you to log-in or register. Registering is free and just requires an email address and password. Please try it out and show our students that there is a real audience reading/listening to their work.

This week we have been giving students individualized reading goals to guide them on which strategies they should be practicing during independent reading time each day. A copy of those will be coming home soon! With the whole class we have been talking a lot about using our schema to understand a story better. In other words, making connections between the text and our personal experiences to activate prior knowledge and relevant vocabulary. We're also using poetry to develop fluency (reading smoothly, like we talk):

video

In math we have been studying ways to make 10 with addition and subtraction, making and continuing patterns, and counting by 2s and 5s. Next week we will continue to work with the "tens facts" (0+10, 1+9, 2+8, 3+7, 4+6, 5+5) and begin to talk about reasonable magnitude (for example, which of these could be your age: 8 or 800). We also made a variety of graphs when we voted on names for our classroom fish! With Election Day this week I wanted to demonstrate the democratic process with something meaningful to the students. After many nominations and a close run-off, the results are in: Cinderella, Hannah Montana, and Michael (as in Jackson). They will live in our classroom library where they will enjoy hearing students read them stories.

In writing we have been building on lessons from our school counselor about problem solving, responsibility, and ways to be a kind friend at school. Before writing/drawing dialogs between characters demonstrating these concepts, we used the Patterns of Thinking method to break down the various places within school (playground, classroom, library...) and then the parts of those places (benches, swings, monkey bars...). This activity led to much more detailed illustrations and a wider variety of examples than I've seen in earlier discussions.

Enjoy these pictures from the classroom this week. Look for our new fish friends, someone's FIRST lost tooth, and TWINS (same shirt).

October 26-30



This week we had two birthday girls, wear red day to show support for making healthy and safe choices, and dress like a book character day!

We started many new reading and math centers. Students began by drawing and writing about the beginning, middle and end of stories we listened to together. This will help them to retell stories with more details. We read three books about Miss Nelson and Miss Viola Swamp, and students enjoyed trying figure out the mystery of just who Miss Swamp really was.

In reading we are also starting to record our reading goals and keeping those with us during independent reading and center times to help remind students what they should be focusing on. I'll be sending a copy of those goals home every few weeks so you can help your child practice those at home, too.

We have started studying addition facts to 10 and making puzzles with number equations. We are also continuing to develop our spatial reasoning and problem solving skills with shape puzzles and pattern block designs.

Thanks to the parent volunteer who came in this week and helped out in the computer lab where we've been making art designs and just started saving our pictures. Next week we'll begin doing more typing and using an online program called Voicethread to record student comments and read alouds. I'm really excited to get that up and running.

October 5 - 7



We got to see children's book author and illustrator Mo Willems talk about how he makes books and read his newest book online this past Tuesday! We have read several of his books in class and students love looking for the pigeon in each one. Special thanks to the teachers at our school who arranged for us to be one of only 200 elementary school sites in the country to get to participate in this exciting event.

During this short week we continued to practice our reading strategy of re-reading a sentence when we don't know a word. We also did a variety of activities with the words on our word rings.

In writing we published our first mini-books which will be in the class library for a few weeks before they come home. Students have really enjoyed reading each other's books and have been learning the importance of making their writing neat enough for someone else to read!

In math we continued to come up with creative ways to make a number using addition, subtraction and pictures. We also practiced counting by 5s to 100 and putting numbers in order through many of the online math games linked on this page.

We went to the Strategies Lab again and learned a new game: Shape By Shape. We will continue to play Sudoku Jr (4x4) after intersession as many students were still unsure of how to play (they were only using the colors to determine where the missing numbers could go instead of checking each column and row). Through these games students have been building stamina for problem solving and learning how to articulate their thought processes.

Thanks to everyone who has been coming in to school for their conferences this Thursday and Friday. Please remember there is no school on Monday (October 12) and then intersession runs October 13 - 23. Students do not need to bring a backpack to school during intersession. I sent home students' reading books and word rings for them to work on at home and then return to school on October 26.

Finally, we welcomed a new student to our class on Wednesday! He did a great job learning our schedule and everyone was a kind friend and good helper to him. We look forward to learning more about him after intersession.

September 28 - October 2



This week we opened up two new centers during reading and math time: computer and Smartboard. At both centers the students have been able to choose from the reading or math links on this website and take turns playing the games. This has provided a lot of practice in not only the reading and math activities, but also in using technology and taking turns. We also went to the computer lab this week where we practiced logging in and started experimenting with Pixie (an art program we will use to create an image for later use on Voicethread).

In reading we practiced the strategy of rereading a sentence when you don't know a word. Students called this "starting over" and we talked about how you may have to read a sentence 3 or 4 times before you can figure it out.

We introduced 5 new sight words we will continue to study next week: we, can, like, is, you. We learned how to do a new word study center that involves using sight words to make mini books, rhyming with sight words, looking for sight words in our books, making sight words with alphabet stamps, making and solving puzzles with sight words, and writing the sight words in many colors. I see some families have kept the copy of the 100 first grade sight words in their child's agenda book or homework folder for extra practice. Let me know if you need another copy of that!

In math this week we practiced making a number in many different ways (addition, subtraction, drawing a picture, tally marks, writing the word...). Students caught on quickly to the patterns and enjoyed thinking creatively to come up with as many different combinations as possible. We also worked on the logic games from the Strategies Lab and discussed more strategies we are using: make a guess then check if it is right, check in more than 1 way, rule out what it can't be, and look for a pattern.

Important Dates:
  • Progress Reports will go home on Tuesday, October 6
  • Conferences will be next Thursday, October 8
  • No School on Thursday, October 8 or Friday, October 9
  • Intersession is October 12 - 23
* CONFERENCES *

I sent home a confirmation sheet on Friday with your conference time. Please sign and return the bottom half of that page ASAP
. Conferences will take place in our classroom and typically students do not attend but it is OK if you need to bring your child with you. We have a tight schedule so please arrive on time. I look forward to meeting with you to discuss your child's progress during the first quarter of the school year! As always, feel free to contact me with questions or updates about your child anytime via email, phone call, or note.

September 21 - 25

What a busy week! We started out with Field Day on Monday which had first graders rotating through 7 different activities outside and in the gym. Many of these are games you could adapt to play with your family or at a birthday party. Discussing the rules of games is a good chance to talk about how to be a good sport, how to take turns, and how to recall a sequence of steps (first, next, then, last...). Ask your child to explain how to play each of these games:
  1. Hungry Hippo (beanbags in the gym)
  2. Parachute Play (in the gym)
  3. Car and Driver (one person with eyes closed being led by a buddy)
  4. Hoop Pass (stand in circle holding hands and move hula hoop around everyone)
  5. Ecology Circle (run so fast that newspaper sticks to front of shirt)
  6. Pizza Delivery (make circle around someone who is collecting pizza boxes)
  7. Ecology Pick Up (relay race collecting "trash" with a buddy)
We studied the following word wall words: the, I, see, me, go and practiced the following reading strategy for what to do when we don't know a word: Think about what makes sense (in the sentence and in the pictures), then check your guess with the letters you see.

In math we played several games that involve number ordering, number sequences and place value. Next week we will work on the concepts of 1/2 and 1/4 with pictures.

This week we also had a visit from one of the school counselors who gave an important lesson about bullies. We learned that bullies do mean things over and over again and they make the other person feel bad. We learned to tell the person to STOP and to get help from a grown-up.









We had our first visit to the Strategies Lab where we learned how to play 3 problem solving games (Clever Castle, Soduko Jr., and Bricky by Brick). I hope students will transfer the problem solving strategies they practice in the games to other situations in reading, math, writing, and playing with friends. We will be making a longer list next week, but so far the students have come up with the following strategies that helped them play the games successfully:
  • Don't give up
  • Don't worry about what level other people are on
We ended this week with Pajama Day! Thanks to all the families who participated. Students really enjoyed the chance to get dressed up and make it a special day.










September 14 - 18



This week we have been working on using quiet voices during reading and math centers so that I can work with small groups. The class came up with many ideas to help them remember to stay quiet, including playing soft music (if you can't hear the music, you're too loud), having a picture of me going "Shhh" that I can show them, and having to leave the center for a few minutes if it takes more than 1 reminder.

At the reading centers students have been making words with magnetic letters, listening to books on tape, reading a variety of books in the class library, reading and illustrating a color poem, and playing alphabet games.

In the math centers students have been counting to 100 by 2s, 5s, or 10s on a laminated 100 board with a dry erase marker, playing a card game where they look for numbers that add up to 5, making and writing numbers 0 - 10 with paint, and regrouping 1s into 10s and 10s into 100 with base ten blocks.

In writing we have been building our stamina to write and illustrate stories for up to 30 minutes. It has been really interesting to learn about the students' lives through their stories. We also made a class book using "ing" as in "What are you doing?" "I am coloring." Learning to identify chunks of letters that make a sound like that will help the students to become more independent readers.


video

September 7 - 11











This week we have used the Smartboard to play many interactive games online. These are all linked on the right side of this blog but for easy reference we played these games this week:

1. Spelling Match Game (we did long vowel sounds)
2. Picture Match Game (we did unit 3, higher unit = harder concepts)
3. Piggy Bank (this was too hard for most of the students)
4. Concentration (we did numbers 1-20 with shutters down)
5. Storyline Online (picture books read aloud by members of the Screen Actors' Guild. Turn the captions on!)

In reading we worked on taking a "picture walk" with new books, which involves looking through the illustrations to get an idea of the story and relevant vocabulary before reading the words. We also worked on how to be successful working independently in reading centers while I am working with small groups on guided reading lessons.

In math we learned a card game where students look for a number's "next door neighbor" (a number one more or one less). We also practiced writing and reading number words, and counting up from a number other than one.

In writing we worked on giving a title to a story, on adding words to our illustrations, and on using the alphabet actions chart we made to help us find the right letters for the sounds we hear. You can use the copy of that your child brought home to help with reading and writing activities at home.

Thanks for your support in using the school's agenda books each day. Most of the time your child's homework will simply be "read with family" (at least 20 minutes) and "be in bed by 8:00." Starting next week your child will bring home books from school to read and return the next day, and I will continue to send home a math or sight word activity once or twice a week.


President Obama's Speech to Students

On Tuesday, September 8, 2009 we watched the President's address to students at the end of the school day. Afterward, I recorded a few students' impressions of what they had heard him say and they picked up on a lot of the points he made.

I don't have the fancy software to combine the video clips into one movie and Picasa isn't cooperating with my file formats, so you have to click each clip below to hear the students!

video video video video video video video video video video video

August 30 - September 4

This week we started the poetry center where students will be working on reading poems with fluency and looking for sight words in the poem. Students were excited to start their own 3-ring binder of poems we have studied in class and they did a great job reading together and listening to each other
read.

We also opened the classroom library after discussing how it was the same/different than the school library. Students did a good job taking turns on our little rocking chair, sharing the books, and putting books back where they found them.

Later this week we will introduce the listening center, where students will listen to books on tape. We will learn some new math games that involve counting by 5s (0, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25...). We will be working on counting up starting from a number other than one (7, 8, 9, 10) and counting by 2s to 20 (2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20).

The student's alphabet actions pictures are complete and each student will be taking home a hand-out showing them all on Friday! Please use this as a reference when your child is reading and writing to help give prompts about what sounds each letter makes and what sounds they hear in words.


video

August 24 - 28

This week we introduced math and reading centers. The students are doing a good job learning how to work in a small group and stay on task for up to 20 minutes. Math centers included exploring the 100 pocket chart, playing two math partner games, counting objects and recording the totals, and coloring in sets of 10 on a 100 grid. Reading centers included making words and names with magnetic letters, writing words we find around the room, matching pictures of classmates with their names, making an alphabet book, and reading classroom books on the carpet.


We are also working on becoming independent writers who write down the sounds we hear in words and who can show a story in words and pictures. We have used ThinkBlocks to practice telling and listening to the different parts of our stories. Many students have been enjoying going to the library before school starts to enjoy browsing and checking out new books.


We have started sending homework folders and agenda notebooks home this week. Please take a moment to look in both the folder and the notebook each night and remind your child to bring them back to school each day. In addition to any math worksheet or note in their homework folder, students are expected to talk about their day at school and read for at least 20 minutes with someone at home.
We are very sad to say good-bye to two special friends this week who will be going to new schools for the rest of first grade! We wish them luck and hope they will stay in touch.


 

From ATES 2009-2010