Enjoy these pictures from the past few days!

Late April 2009

April 20 - 24

This week at recess first graders had some problems playing games that involved chasing, catching, picking up wood chips, and getting too rough, (especially when children feel frustrated during chases). We discussed why those types of games are not safe, and brainstormed alternative game options. Please help your child think of more safe games that he/she can play at recess, and encourage him/her to play with a variety of people so that no one feels left out. Thanks for your support with this important part of your child's social development.

 Seneca's Mom, Cindy, came in on Monday and Tuesday afternoons to teach the class a song she wrote when she was hiking the Grand Canyon several years ago and noticed the many fossils in the canyon walls.  It goes to the tune of the famous aria "La Donna e Mobile" and is about a cephalopod fossil.   I have posted the lyrics in a separate post here.  

She also gave us some dance lessons to help the students be more aware of the three dimensional shapes they can make with their bodies, and to begin to visualize the fossilization process.  We will continue with one more visit from her next Monday afternoon!

We have some amazing poets in our class who have enjoyed experimenting with many different types of poems.  We will choose some poems to make into a class book at the end of the month and I will encourage them to record themselves reading their writing aloud on here.

It's very important that first graders recognize which numbers can be added together to make ten (0+10, 1+9, etc).  We made up some stories about these useful pairs of numbers and began recording them on our Math Problem Solving Voicethread !

We began studying the words: friend, she, our, under, air  I recently discovered the website www.spellingcity.com  that provides spelling and sight word games, practice and quizzes that you can personalize with whatever words your child is working on.  

For Earth Day (April 22) we read Miss Rumphius and talked about ways we can take care of our planet and make the world even more beautiful.   Students then made Earth-shaped books where they wrote and illustrated their ideas.  These are on display in our hall and will come home in a few weeks.  We also started some lupine and other butterfly-friendly flowers in peat moss pellets!  We will watch them grow and eventually students will get to take some home and will plant the rest around our school to both support the local ecosystem and to make it more beautiful.

In math we worked on making change, or how much money you get back when you pay for something.  This is challenging for students as it involves both coin values and two-digit subtraction.  We also introduced the idea of fractions by talking about ways to divide up crackers fairly between people.  Students cut up rectangular paper “crackers” in different ways and practiced dividing up groups of manipulatives in different ways.  You can support this by using fractions in your everyday vocabulary, for example, when dividing up food between four members of the family you can say that everyone gets one fourth of the total.

Finally, I’m very excited to have two new tools in our classroom:  
SMARTboard and ThinkBlocks.  We will be sharing them with other teachers at our school, but they will primarily be in our classroom.  

Fossil song lyrics

Copyright by Cynthia Stevens   (sung to the tune of the aria La Donne e Mobile from La Traviata)

I am a cephalopod fossilized in the mud,
Swimming along one day- then buried in the crust.
Once a sea creature now I’m a geologic feature,
Imagine little me, preserved for immortality!
Remember me in the sea
I lived long ago,
Remember me in the sea,
I lived long ago.
I was looking rather thin,
‘til sediments filled my figure in.
I had no teeth or even bone,
Now I’m completely stone.
Trapped in the strata,
A bit of Paleozoic data,
One look and you’ll see,
300 million years of history!
Remember me in the sea,
I lived long ago,
Remember me in the sea,
I lived long ago.

April 6 - 10

Enjoy these pictures from the past two weeks:

This week we started studying poetry and the class came up with some truly beautiful poems!  After reading and listening to several poems, we came up with a list of poem features which included occasional rhyming, alliteration, feelings, and made-up words.  The class also noted that poems are like songs without music.  I will post recordings of students reading their poetry aloud on here after the April break.  I will also send home copies of students' writing before the next conferences so you can see the creative work they have been doing.  We are working on writing for the entire 10-15 minute writing time, building up to a 20 minute stamina.  Feel free to send in any family favorite poems or poetry books for your child to share with the class. 

In math we continued to study place value in two digit and three digit numbers.  I noticed in the homework from this week that some students struggled with the math box about writing numbers with a seven in the ones place or tens place.  For example: in the number 57, 7 is in the ones place (5 tens and 7 ones).  In the number 75, 7 is in the tens place (7 tens and 5 ones).  Please review this concept with your child as numbers come up in your daily lives....

We also worked on counting groups of coins (pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters) both with abstract symbols (a letter in a circle) and with real images of coins (both heads and tails).  Most students are able to accurately identify the pictures of the coins and their individual value, but counting up the totals, especially over $1.00, are still challenging.  Please help your child practice the strategy of counting the largest value coins first and saving the pennies for last. 

For students struggling to keep the larger amounts in their head, it can be helpful to break the task up into smaller amounts and write down the subtotals as you go.  For example, count all the quarters (cross them off as you go) and write down how much they add up to, then count the dimes and add their total to the total of quarters, etc.  Practicing with real coins will make solving problems with pictures of coins easier.  Students should be able to quickly recognize the value of two, three and four quarters.  Most students know that 4 quarters = 100 cents (1 dollar), but they typically do not recognize right away that 2 quarters = 50 cents and 3 quarters = 75 cents. 

In reading we practiced four reading strategies in small groups:
  1. Comprehension: listening to a book on tape or storylineonline and then using the inflatable retelling cube to isolate which feature of the story students will recall (characters, setting, problem, solution, events, or favorite part).  Some students struggled to use the retelling cube in a responsible way.  We are continuing to develop students' independence to work together on academic activities in a small group with minimal adult support.
  2. Accuracy: choosing a word (or two) from a book and making new words by adding on to the end of the word (example: "work" can become "worker," "worked," or "works").  Most students did a good job choosing a word that could turn into new words with different endings!  Spelling was not a priority in this exercise, but it should help students attend to the whole word and not guess based on the first few letters.
  3. Fluency: choosing a page from a book to practice reading aloud and then reading that page in front of the class during the next day's Morning Meeting, paying attention to the characters' feelings.  You might have seen some of these pages come home for practice.  Please help your child to read with appropriate inflection and in a voice loud enough for the class to hear!
  4. Expand Vocabulary: choosing an interesting word from a book to use again later that same day in one's speech or writing.  I noticed that students tended to pick fairly common words for this activity (what, and, candles) so I will be challenging them to choose more unusual words next time.
The current word wall list will be coming home on Friday in the hand-outs.  Please take some time over the break to review the words with your child.  He/she should be able to automatically recognize the words (not have to sound them out or ask for clues) both in isolation and in the context of other print.  He/she should also be spelling those words correctly most of the time.  If you see your child misspell one of the words while writing, I suggest letting him/her finish the thought/sentence, and then encourage him/her to go back and check to make sure the words look right.  If they don't see the mistake(s), gently direct them to the word wall list as a resource.  Remember that recognizing the word accurately is an easier task than generating the word accurately!
While making time to read with your child is very valuable, it's also very important that your child have time to read independently each day.  Research shows that one of the main ways to help children become better readers is to give them ample opportunities to read and reread books at their independent level (no adult assistance needed).  We are working on building students' independent reading stamina up to 20 minutes.  Any time in your family's schedule that you can dedicate to your child's independent reading can make a big difference in their reading comprehension and fluency.
Thanks to all of you who have brought in many items for our classroom.  We have plenty of yogurt containers right now.  The "Creation Station" choice is still very popular and, as to be expected, we quickly go through the supplies in that area.  We would really appreciate re-stocking on any of the following items:

  • tape

  • glue sticks
  • balloons

  • corks

  • wrapping paper

  • odds and ends (springs, gift boxes, fabric, etc.)

March 30 - April 3

This week we used the jigsaw technique in math to practice explaining problem solving strategies to each other.  In a "jigsaw," each table of 4 students become "experts" in one kind of problem.  The tables then disperse into 4 new groups, with one expert from each kind of problem.  Each expert takes a turn explaining their problem to the rest of the group and then checks their work.  We have primarily used this on our "math box" pages as they provide both a review of skills previously taught, and a challenge/extension of those concepts.  I copied page 174 from students' math journals for homework on Friday so you can see a math box page yourselves.  On Friday morning, students took turns recording their problem solving strategies for this page on a new Voicethread: 

We also reviewed polygons and lines of symmetry this week.  Students continued playing Race to 100 with base ten blocks (regrouping ones into tens and tens into hundreds as they roll) and we added a recording sheet to keep track of their running totals.  You can continue your child's study of place value with these online games.

We have been talking a lot about how to be a good friend to everyone at school and not leaving people out, especially on the playground.  The class brainstormed several situations when people can feel left out (having exclusive membership clubs, saying someone can't join a game, etc), how that makes them feel (see list pictured here), and what to do when that happens: tell the people that it's not OK to do that, get help from a teacher or friend and think of a solution together.  This is an extension of the Second Step violence prevention curriculum our district has adopted.  We are in the process of developing skits around four common scenarios.  The class had a lot of fun role-playing the negative examples, but it has been a little harder to practice how to handle those situations.  Next week I will send home more details about the skits and who is performing in each so you can discuss them with your child over the April break (4/13 - 4/17).  We plan to perform the skits for the other classes in the Annex later this month and I will post videos of them on here, too! 

On Thursday we saw the fourth and fifth grade chorus concert at the main school.  Afterwards, we got to enjoy the sunshine on the big school playground for awhile.  As the weather continues to improve we will occasionally play some field games outside or go to the big school playground in lieu of having choice time in the afternoon.
 This week in writing we introduced a personalized spelling word list for each students' folder.  This is modeled after a tool used in second grade called a "Have-a-go" in which students "have a go" at trying to spell unfamiliar words a few times before looking up and writing down  the correct spelling.  They can then see how close their attempts to spell it on their own were, and reference that list in future writing activities.  Our list will only have 1 invented spelling attempt and we will only use it for up to 3 words each day we do writing/editing, so we can focus on the few words we are learning to spell and so we don't spend all of our time checking spelling.

In reading we began using an inflatable "re-telling cube" to assist in comprehension.  The cube has a prompt on each side: setting, characters, problem, solution, events, and favorite part.  We also began writing down our predictions on sticky notes and sharing with a partner whether they came true (or partially true).  In our rotation of reading activities we listened to new books on tape or stories read by actors on storylineonline and we also introduced a word wall dice game where you roll a die to determine which of six word wall activities you complete focused on the 5 words of the week: find the words of the week in books, make a mini-book using them, make them out of clay, rainbow write/paint them, make a list of rhyming words, or write them in sentences with a flap covering the 5 words.  

Current word wall words: best, talk, think, nice, him.  See the latest word wall list in the Friday hand-outs.  Next Wednesday we will begin to study: as, knock, off, pull, zip.  You can use this site to make word search or letter scramble activities to review any words with your child!

Check out this family event at the Johnson Museum of Art this Saturday, 10:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
Come enjoy a vibrant collection of original songs and skits about animals, the environment, food, and books with Tom Knight Puppets. The performance begins at 10:00 a.m. with artmaking to follow at 11:00 a.m. Fee: Free for Museum Members/$5 per family for nonmembers. Seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.