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).

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.

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:

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).

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:


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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):

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).