March 23 - 27

If anyone has pictures from the Talent Show please send them to me  so I can post them here for the families who could not attend.  We got to see a preview on Thursday afternoon (several fifth graders performed their routines at an all-school assembly) and it sparked a lot of interest, but we understand that the show is too late for many students' bedtimes.  Congratulations to everyone who participated!

In reading this week we have been using a magnetic fishing pole to choose construction paper fish that have comprehension questions, literacy terms (e.g. fiction and nonfiction) and book parts (e.g. title page).  The class really enjoys the challenge of pulling a fish out without dropping it, and having a goal to guide their reading.  After 10-15 minutes of reading time, each student presents to the class or a partner their question and the answer(s) they found in one of their books.

We introduced a comprehension reading strategy: retelling the story to someone using ordinal words like First, Next, Then, Last.  Obviously not all stories have four even parts, but the idea is to reinforce telling a sequence of events in order (and eventually, the elements of cause and effect).

We also introduced two strategies to increase reading fluency:
1. Rereading (or practicing) a sentence over and over until we can read it like we are telling a story.
2. Looking at the characters' faces for clues about how they are feeling so we can read with the right expression.

Next week we will be reading some short plays to reinforce the importance of fluency.  I will be sure to record those readings and post the videos of them on here.

In writing we worked on adding details to our stories to stretch them out and make them more interesting.  We called this "zooming in."  Before writing we practiced telling our story to a partner, tracing our finger along the page as we talked so we could get a sense of how long our story could be.  We also talked about using interesting words and not just the ones we knew how to spell or find around the room.  Please encourage your child to keep a journal and write stories or letters on his/her own at home to build up his/her writing stamina and confidence!

In math this week we have been studying polygons and made some out of straws and yarn.  We had a range of polygons in the class, from triangles to trapezoids to rectangles to hexagons to octagons and even a tridecagon (13 sides).  Thanks to all the families who sent in three dimensional shapes so we could compare a circle to a sphere and a cylinder, among others.

We also learned a place value and regrouping game called "Race to 100" in which students roll a die and take that many individual cubes.  When a student gets more than 10 cubes s/he trades them in for a long (a group of 10 cubes), and then s/he gets 10 longs s/he trades them in for a flat (a group of 100 cubes).  There was so much enthusiasm for the game that we then played "Race to 1,000" and I made dice with higher numbers so the game wouldn't take all day.  We used base ten blocks but this game can be played at home with pennies, dimes and dollars, or other small items to represent ones, tens and hundreds.

The new sight words of the week are: soon, far, their, end, from 
We listed words that rhyme with "end" and "and" to compare the differences, and we next week will look at more words with the "oo" sound/spelling.

I will be at another Responsive Classroom workshop all day on Tuesday, March 31.  The April snack calendar has been updated online and a hard-copy was sent home with the print-out of this posting.
Have a great weekend!

Mr. Popper's Penguins

We just read about the act the penguins are going to perform.  The author listed three songs that Mrs. Popper plays on the piano for each of the three parts of their performance.  We listened to each of these songs on our computer so we could better visualize what was happening in the book.  Here they are for your family's listening enjoyment:
  1. The penguins parade around like they are marching in straight lines to Schubert's "Military March" 
  2. Two of the penguins (Nelson and Columbus) pretend to wrestle with each other by flapping their fins to the "Merry Widow Waltz "
  3. The penguins climb the cellar stairs and slide (toboggan) down them to "By the Brook " 

Coin Songs

On March 19 we learned four songs about coins (source: The Mailbox Magazine).  You can view the videos of us singing and read the lyrics with your child.  Enjoy!

Your child can also review coin values through the Everyday Math online games and learn about the history of each coin with the links listed below.

Penny  sung to the tune of BINGO

There is a coin that's worth one cent
and penny is it's name oh,
p-e-n-n-y, p-e-n-n-y, p-e-n-n-y,
and penny is it's name oh.

There is a coin that's brown and round
and penny is it's name oh,
p-e-n-n-y, p-e-n-n-y, p-e-n-n-y,
and penny is it's name oh.

There is a coin with President Lincoln
and penny is it's name oh,
p-e-n-n-y, p-e-n-n-y, p-e-n-n-y,
and penny is it's name oh.

Learn more about pennies

Nickel sung to the tune of I'm a Little Teapot

I'm a little nickel,
can't you see,
I have President Jefferson on me.
When you go to spend me
don't forget
that I am worth
exactly five cents.

 Dime sung to the tune of Ten Little Indians

One little, two little, three little pennies,
four little, five little, six little pennies,
seven little, eight little, nine little pennies,
ten pennies equals one dime

Learn more about dimes

Quarter sung to the tune of Clementine
Found a quarter, found a quarter,
found a quarter just now.
Just now I found a quarter,
found a quarter just now.
It is bigger, it is bigger,
it is bigger than the rest.
It is round and it is silver,
and it's worth twenty-five cents.

March 16 - 20

On Tuesday we had a webchat with Samantha Sands from the Museum of the Earth to ask some follow-up questions we had after our field trip.  We learned about where the first dinosaur museum was, as described in the picture book The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins that we have in our classroom.  We also learned that local fossils we find in New York state are actually older than the dinosaurs!  Samantha said that families are welcome to bring local fossils to the Museum for help identifying what kinds of sea creatures they may include. 

This week in math we continued to study the value of a quarter and how to make the equivalent of a quarter using pennies, nickels and dimes.  We also reviewed measuring length in centimeters, counting seconds on a clock, and various ways to make a number using addition, subtraction, tally marks, and number words.  We played some math games in partners that reviewed skills like ordinal number (first, second, third...), telling time to the quarter hour, counting by 2s up to 100, and place value (32 = 3 tens and 2 ones).  Next week we will play more place value games to help students master the concept of the hundreds, tens, and ones place in a 3 digit number. 

In reading we studied word endings to help improve our accuracy and to further expand our vocabulary.  We looked for words in the books we were reading that can change depending on the ending (e.g. work, works, worked, working, worker...).  We also practiced developing our fluency by picking a sentence to reread until we could say it to the class as smoothly as we would if we were just talking.  Thanks to everyone who has been staying on top of the book envelopes that come home and making time in your schedule to listen to your child read these books.  An important way to improve your child's reading is to allow time for them to read everyday (both on their own and with/to others).

This week we also had a visit from children's book author Brad Herzog.  He shared how be became a writer (by reading lots of books) and where he has gotten ideas for books (everyday experiences like having the hiccups and going to the zoo).  He also shared a picture book he had written with his sons that he had made into a hardback book using illustory.  Special thanks to our librarian, Ms. Groff, for arranging his visit, sharing some of his books with our students during library time, and scheduling his day so each grade level could meet with him in a small group setting. 

Finally, we introduced three new games for choice time: Boggle, Farkle, and Mancala.  In addition to developing sportsmanship, communication and cooperation, these games can help develop spelling/vocabulary and counting/strategy skills.
I recently began to introduce the new word wall words on Wednesdays in order to to maximize students' retention of these words over the weekend.  So the list you'll see come home each Friday includes the current words.  For those of you looking to get ahead, next Wednesday we will begin to study: end, far, from, soon, their
Enjoy these pictures of students spelling out our current words with their bodies.  Photos are in this order: ask, once, many, new, wrong. (Note: wrong = two photos because the w was so wide!)

Please remember there is no school on Friday (March 20).  Have a nice weekend!

March 9 - 13

(pictures of animals made in art last week)

On Monday we went on our field trip to the Museum of the Earth with our partner class from Northeast Elementary School.  Before the trip we role played what it would be like to ride the bus next to our buddy and how to ask questions that require more than a "yes" or "no" answer to help keep the conversation going.  We also had a goal to find at least three things that we both liked before we arrived at the museum.  

When we got there we split into two groups and took turns completing a scavenger hunt (look for a copy of it coming home with the Friday hand-outs) and a presentation by Samantha Sands  in which students got to handle many fossils and learn about different kinds of dinosaurs.  We got to ride the bus to Northeast so our students could see what their school looked like, and then at the end of the day the bus dropped us off first so the other students could see what Belle Sherman looked like.  Thank you to all the family members who took time out of their day to join us there.

Scroll down to see pictures and hear student reflections on the experience.  Next week we will try to have a webchat with Samantha to ask some follow-up dinosaur questions and she will come to our school to deliver a copy of Digging Up Dinosaurs by Aliki for every student!
This week in math we have been looking at the second hand on the clock and seeing how many times we can do certain things in 15 seconds.  The students quickly figured out that 15 seconds occur every time the second hand goes past any 3 numbers on the clock.  They also noted that there are four groups of 15 seconds in a minute (15 + 15 + 15 + 15 = 60) and four groups of 15 minutes in an hour.
The trickiest part of the math this week was when we gathered data and then had to find the range (the difference between the highest and lowest numbers) and the middle point between those numbers.  We used a 100 chart and looked at shortcuts to find the range, like each row = a group of 10.  Friday's homework includes practice for this concept.

In reading we practiced making a prediction, checking to see if it was correct (or partially correct), and then finding the evidence that the prediction was based on.  Students did a great job using this strategy to improve their comprehension, and using a sticky note and pencil as tools to record their thinking.  Next week we will practice looking at word endings to improve our accuracy (works vs. worked vs. working) and illustrating/writing the main parts of the story to improve our comprehension.  We also made bookmarks this week to help us remember which book we were reading last and what page we were on.  I am trying to have students pick out a few books to read to someone outside of school at least once each week.  Thanks for getting the book envelopes back to school in a timely manner so we can send new books home!  Please use the notes page to share any feedback about the level of difficulty of the books and the attitude/effort/level of success you see from your child.

We are also working on keeping sharing a time for storytelling and not merely "show and tell."  PLEASE remind your child that he/she can bring in an artifact, souvenir, picture or other prop that supports the story they want to tell, but that this is not a time to just show a toy and say "I think this is cool."  We are trying to develop good listening and speaking skills.  We are also building our classroom community by helping students get to know each other better and feel safe opening up to each other.  I do not want anyone to feel like they have nothing to share if they don't have an expensive/new toy, or for it to deteriorate into oneupsmanship.  

For ideas on how you can help prepare your student for a successful sharing/storytelling experience, please see this online article from the Responsive Classroom program - the workshop series I am attending one day a week for the next several weeks.  Thank you for your support.  Also please continue the conversations we have been having about sitting next to different people when we sit in a circle for morning meeting and snack/sharing.  I will be assigning students to new seats at the tables over the weekend, too. 

Finally, thank you for all of the birthday cards and treats this week!  It was really fun to celebrate with the class on Thursday.  Enjoy these pictures from recent choice time and the birthday snack:

March 2 - 6

It has been a busy week!  I've really enjoyed having conferences with each of you and I appreciate everyone making accommodations for the two half days.  Please remember that I'm happy to meet with you again before the end of the year report cards come out if you have any new questions or concerns.

We got a "second grade style" desk that will stay in the room for the rest of the year.  Everyone will get a chance to do some work there to see what it will feel like next year, and it will serve as a quiet place to work for anyone who is too distracted at their group table.  I will also move everyone's seating assignments on the carpet and at the tables in a few weeks.

This week in math we introduced quarters and will continue to study them next week.  Students will be working on comparing two groups of coins and making a sum of money with different combinations of coins. In the Everyday Math curriculum the coins are often represented by the first letter of the coin name in a circle.  To reinforce the coin values, we have been drawing a dot for each group of five cents on these coin symbols; so a nickel gets one dot, a dime gets two dots, and a quarter gets 5 dots:
This strategy can help students who struggle to count a group of these coin symbols, especially when they are not in order (pennies do not get any dots and are counted last in the group, which involves switching from counting by 5s to 1s). You can try drawing these dots this when you help your child with his/her math homework and any extra challenge problems you give him/her! 
In reading this week we worked on predicting as a strategy to improve our reading comprehension.  We started using a sticky note to mark where in the book we made a prediction (cover, beginning or middle of the story...) and then checked how accurate our prediction was.  Next we will begin writing/drawing/recording our predictions and writing/drawing/recording what actually happened in the story, and then we will write/draw/record our predictions and our evidence on which our predictions are based. 

In reading we also practiced looking for letters that have more than 1 sound and trying both sounds  to improve our accuracy when we have to sound out unknown words.  We have displays in the room for Cc (/k/ like candy or /s/ like cereal), Gg (/g/ like gorilla or /j/ like giraffe) and the long/short vowel sounds. 
We continue to look for spelling patterns that can be a signal for which vowel sound the vowel will make (like silent e: rid vs. ride, and rhymes: day, bay, ray).

We had a good discussion about the importance of including everyone and making new friends.  We discussed what it can look like when people are left out on the playground and in the classroom, and that's not OK to tell someone that they can't play with you or to have a club that certain people cannot join.  We talked about how people felt when they were excluded, how to get help when it happens, and what we can do to prevent those situations from happening so no one feels sad. 

We came up with several ideas which we plan to develop into some short skits that we hope to perform for the Kindergarten classes to help teach them how to be a good friend to everyone.  In addition to supporting students working/playing/sitting with new people in the classroom, I'm also going to encourage students to invite friends from the other first grade and Kindergarten classes to come eat lunch and have choice with us in our room (and vice versa) to help develop new friendships.  Please discuss these important lessons with your child and ask them who they are trying to befriend.

On Monday we will meet our buddies from Northeast Elementary School when we go to the Museum of the Earth!  We will share a bus with our buddies and will work on some conversation skills to help make the bus ride fun for everyone.  We will complete a scavenger hunt, a hands-on fossil activity, and eat lunch at the museum with our buddies.  I will email those of you who volunteered to chaperone with more details.  After the field trip we will do several activities on dinosaurs and other extinct animals, then we will study endangered animals.

I want to let you know that you will see some substitutes once a week for the next six weeks as I will be  attending all-day teacher workshops on the Responsive Classroom approach to teaching.  This program aims to create a strong and safe school community that emphasizes social, emotional, and academic growth.  I have already studied this program's literature and am eager to learn more.  While I don't like to be out of the classroom, I really believe in the value and importance of this program and I appreciate that our district does, too (it's required of all teachers new to ICSD).

Next week's sight words will be: ask, many, new, once, wrong.