Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The UMS first graders!

I love this one--almost the entire first grade class of UMS! (There was at least one student home sick). We're on the steps of City Hall in Burlington, learning more about what we'll see at the Firehouse Gallery!

A successful field trip!

Firehouse Gallery
Wow! I was totally impressed by the UMS first grade students today! It was a full day, but I think everyone had a great time. We began our day at the Firehouse Gallery on Church Street, where we were treated to a guided tour of the entire gallery! Our tour guides and hosts were fantastic, and they knew how to engage the students' imaginations and higher-level thinking skills. They asked great questions, and our students gave thoughtful answers! Students were asked to think about the relationship between humans and our environment, which was the theme of the exhibit on display. Our visit ended with lunch in the Firehouse Gallery (it was too cold to eat outside). We were glad to have so many parents join us today for lunch!

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type at the Flynn Theater!
I have not yet been disappointed with a show at the Flynn, and today was no exception. Judging by the reaction of students at the show, they loved it too! The music was lively and the actors were superb! The storyline of the musical did vary from the book, which may have surprised some students. Our companion workshop prepared us well, though! Students even knew one of the songs in advance! Unfortunately, I could not take pictures of the show (no flash photography), so this part of our trip lives only in our memories, not in photos. Ask your child for details! :-)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Videos from our Flynn Companion Workshop

Here are the videos I promised from our workshop last week, which prepared children for the play we'll see tomorrow at the Flynn Theater--Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type!

This video shows the children participating in an "echo" activity. Catherine echoes an expression she sees in a photo of one of the actors on stage, and then the rest of the group echoes her expression. Several students had the opportunity to lead this activity, as Catherine does here.

In the video below, children are participating in a "call and response" activity. At this point in the story, the cows are angry because their demand for electric blankets in the barn has not been honored. So, they decide they won't give Farmer Brown anymore milk! We're excited to see if this is a part of tomorrow's play at the Flynn Theater!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Homework starts Monday!

Many students are excited that homework officially begins on Monday. Your child will bring home math and spelling homework. The math homework comes with two Family Letters that go along with each unit of our Everyday Math program. I am sending the letter for Units 1 and 2, so you can be aware of the skills children have been learning/practicing at school. There is a two-sided homework page for students to complete. Homework is due on Friday each week.

Your child will also bring home a spelling skills list. This goes along with our SWR (Spelling, Writing, Reading) program. The word family skills (phonetic words, which can be "sounded out") and the "red words" (words that have irregular spelling patterns) are included on this list. I have included a list of ideas for practice at home on the back of the SWR Skills page. There is no formal written homework for SWR, but children benefit greatly when these skills are practiced at home. The ideas list gives many fun, engaging activities to use at home.

Literacy Stations

I introduced the idea of Literacy Stations on Friday, and students seemed to love it! Each day, students will have time at the end of our literacy block to practice reading/writing skills in a variety of ways. While not all of our stations were open on Friday, here are some of the stations that will be included in Literacy Station time:
  • Writing
  • Classroom Library
  • Listening (books on CD/tape)
  • Art (reading directions to create art projects, writing/drawing, creating plays with props, etc.)
  • Puzzles/Games
  • Reading Loft
  • Buddy Reading
  • Word Study
  • Poetry/Song
  • Computers (for literacy games/web sites)
Within these stations, there will be several choices for students based on interest, readiness level, and learning style. Soon, students will learn how our station schedule works!


Math Assessment

Students took their first math assessment on Thursday, which covered the skills taught in Unit 1 of our Everyday Math program. I gave the assessment in small groups, and I told students that an assessment is a way for me to check in on their learning--it's nothing to be nervous about. I want children to understand that I will continually check to see how they are doing so I know what we need to practice and what's easy for them. I will send the math assessment early next week, with a short note explaining the scoring.

Curriculum Night

Thank you to parents who were able to attend Curriculum Night on Thursday. I hope you found the information useful and informative. We had a decent turnout, but I know several families could not attend. Please contact me if you would like any information about our first grade curriculum. If you were able to attend and have further questions, do not hesitate to call, email, or send a note!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Flynn Comes to UMS

We joined Miss Stevens' class for a special visit from Karen, a theater educator from the Flynn. Students seemed to greatly enjoy learning about the play they'll see next week-- Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type. Everyone's favorite activities seemed to be trying their different "moo voices" and singing the song Karen taught us. Miss Stevens made a great Farmer Brown! Here are a few photos from the workshop. Enjoy! I hope to upload a video soon. Stay tuned. :-)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Important Book

We started another "All About Me" project last week--a class book based on The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown. In Brown's book, she writes poetically about the importance of everyday things. I asked children to think of what makes them important and special, and they brainstormed many ideas. They then completed the following sentence and I scribed their words: The important thing about (name) is _______________." The children came up with some great ideas of what makes them unique.

Each student illustrated a page for our class book, and we recorded their "important statements" in the following video. Enjoy!

(Please note: I apologize that some clips are hard to hear...and one of the students was not in the room both times I recorded this. I will add him in soon!).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Math Explorations

During each math unit, there is one day devoted to math "exploration" time. During these lessons, students are invited to explore our many math tools in a variety of ways. Today, students explored pattern blocks, base-10 blocks, and geoboards. I explained to students that today they could use these tools in any way that was quiet and safe. Soon, we will be using these items to help teach math concepts. Giving students an opportunity to play with them beforehand often helps students be ready to use them as tools when the time comes.

(Note: Base-10 blocks and geoboards are pictured here. Pattern blocks have been featured in previous posts.)

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We are readers!

Reading Workshop is in full swing! Yesterday, students learned four ways we can enjoy books: reading the words, using the pictures, remembering the story, and looking for words we know. I am so impressed with how engaged students are in their reading. It's wonderful to see such interest so early in the school year.

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An Amazing Opportunity!

The Flynn Theater is coming to 1st grade! We are happy to announce that all 1st grade students at UMS will be treated to a "companion workshop" to help them prepare for our upcoming field trip to the Flynn Theater! A professional teaching artist will visit our students next Tuesday to lead activities related to the performance of Click, Clack, Moo that we will see on September 30th.

I will post photos of this event afterwards. This will be my first time participating in a companion workshop for a Flynn show, and I am very excited for this opportunity for our students!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Our visit to the computer lab

We are very fortunate to have a computer lab at UMS, and we took advantage of that today during math time. Students practiced math skills using two games-- Top-It and the Number Grid Game. These are just two of many games available in the Everyday Math software, which complements the work we do using the Everyday Math curriculum in the classroom. Ask your child about our visit to the computer lab!

Red Word Practice

During our SWR/Word Study time each day, students practice what we call "Red Words." These are usually words that cannot be sounded out, so they must be memorized to learn how to write and read them. In order to commit these words to memory, we practice them in a variety of ways. Research shows that children benefit from going beyond pencil/paper and rote memorization, so we get children's bodies moving when we practice spelling! Here's a snippet of what our Red Word practice looks like. We add new Red Words each week, and as time goes on, I will introduce new fun ways to practice these words.

This snippet shows "tapping," "firecracker," and "stomping"--three of the body movements we use to practice Red Words.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I have heard a few students mention that they are looking forward to having homework. This is a common sentiment in first grade! All we can hope is that they continue to have such a positive attitude towards homework for many years to come. :-)

We will not be sending homework until the week of September 28th, as we like to wait until after First Grade Curriculum Night. We will be explaining homework expectations and answering questions at this event (September 24th, 6:30-7:30 p.m.). We hope to see you there!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Self Portraits and Choice Time

We have ended our days with time to work on our self portrait project and choice time. Our self portraits will take a while to complete, but it'll all be worth it! They always turn out well and then hang on our walls all year. We are using the collage technique to make the self portraits--cutting and gluing paper. First, students had to create a background with warm or cool colors using watercolor paint. Then students mixed red, yellow, white, and black paint to make their skin tone. They then traced the shape of their head and shoulders and cut it out to glue onto their background paper. Next week, students will complete their self portraits by adding facial features, hair, and clothing.

Reading Workshop

I told students on Tuesday that they are so lucky to be first graders because they get lots of time to read and explore books every day during our Reading Workshop (and other times during the day too). They seem pretty excited about Reading Workshop so far. We've started talking about the kind of readers we are by sharing our favorite books, finding books to read about topics we're interested in, and discussing and drawing our favorite places to read. Here are a few pictures from Friday's Reading Workshop. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A peek at our Writing Workshop

This video will give you a glimpse of the independent practice portion of our Writing Workshop. This is when students work on their writing pieces, and I go around to several students per day and hold writing conferences. I try to meet with each student once or twice a week for a conference. Enjoy the video!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Today, students practiced number formation for the numbers 1 and 2 in math. They got to use their Everyday Math Journals for the first time! I invited children up to our interactive whiteboard to write one of the numbers for the class. Everyone modeled top-down formation. That is, we always start at the top when forming letters and numbers. They loved using our "Magic Pen" on the interactive whiteboard (which we refer to as the "Smartboard").

Tomorrow, students will review number formation and I will be modeling number writing using Sketchcast, a great movie-like tool available online. Check out a sample below. My microphone is not currently working, so you can't hear my voice. If you could, I'd be "coaching" about how to form numbers 1 and 2. And I was "writing" with my mouse, so pardon the shaky-looking number one! :-)

A few photos from Week 1

Here are a few photos taken during a choice time last week. Students had many choices, but pattern blocks were the most popular by far! We began work on our big self-portrait project, which goes along with our "All About Me" science/social studies unit. Students chose warm or cool color paint for their backgrounds. Please keep checking back for more photos and information!

Our Classroom Jobs

Here's a photo of our job chart. Students have a different classroom job each day. Ask your child which jobs he/she has done so far!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Happy Friday Morning!

We have a great new technology tool in the classroom called a Flip Video camera. I took a short video of the students in line, right before they came into school today. Check it out!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Testing, testing, 1-2-3!

I am testing a great new photo-sharing application. These are photos from our Step-Up Day back in June. Please note two of our students were not there. :-(

Please stay tuned for more photos from this week! Coming soon!

The First Week of School

Wow! The first few days of school really flew by! I have really enjoyed getting to know all of the students, and I am looking forward a great year in first grade. This week, we wrote a newsletter with highlights from the first few days that will be sent home in your child's green folder on Friday. Each time we write a newsletter, I will add a link on the left side of this page for you to see this week's newsletter. Eventually, I hope the blog can take the place of a printed newsletter. But first I need to get into the new routine of blogging and figure out if this mode of communication works for most families.

Enjoy the long weekend!