Thursday, December 30, 2010


We learned about different names for Santa Claus around the world, and on the Tuesday before vacation, students made a Santa of their own to take home! They turned out great...I hope yours decorated your home for the holidays! :-)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pictures from our holiday party

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Hot Potato...or should I say, "Hot Gift"!?!

I always get the students a little something before our holiday vacation...a little gift to say thanks for being such a wonderful community of learners and happy holidays! This year, instead of wrapping 19 gifts and using so much paper, I decided to put everything in one box and wrap it up. We'll play a variation of "Hot Potato" with our mystery gift box tomorrow. Everyone will get to pull one bow off the box and then we'll unwrap it to reveal what's inside! So, when your child comes home with a little something extra, you'll know the source. (And thanks, Mrs. D in Michigan for planting the seed of this idea!) 

P.S. I don't want to create any confusion--We DO have school on Wednesday, but I wanted to give the gift a little early since Wednesday will be a busier day. :-)

I hope seeing this box gets students excited for our Morning Meeting tomorrow! :-)

A bit are some photos as we prepared to unwrap the gift. Somehow I missed the actual opening of the gift! :-)


Explorations in Math

Today during math time we explored  surface area and how to use a pan balance. Students estimated how many index cards it would take the cover one of our tables. Then, they estimated how many pieces of standard copy paper it would take to cover the surface area of the table. We have some excellent estimators in our room! We discovered it takes 19 pieces of paper to cover our tables...we will answer the question of how many index cards tomorrow. Mr. Carter lead the group in an exploration of pan balances, where students had another opportunity to hone their estimation skills. At the other two stations--Roll-a-Reindeer addition fact practice with dice and math games on the computer. Fun!

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Sunday, December 19, 2010


We have been working on some projects that connect to our study of Holidays around the World. Some of these projects are ongoing, as they take a bit of time and precision. The "tin" ornaments we are making as part of our study of Las Posadas are a traditional decoration on Mexican Christmas trees. During our free choice time on Friday afternoon, several students chose to work more on their ornaments. It was a joy to watch them--they were laughing together and having great conversation, all while focusing very carefully on their artwork. I love when children who may not usually spend much time together are brought together by a common interest. That's what happened here. It brought a smile to my face, and it was a great way to end a very busy week!

These are a work-in-progress, but they already look great!
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Getting ready for snowy weather

It's snowy out there! As I wrote in the newsletter sent home on Friday, boys and girls need to be bundled up for our recess time. I realize that getting into this gear takes time, but I've also noticed that some students need a bit of practice in how to put on their winter gear. Many are losing quite a bit of recess time getting ready. So, Alex let me take a video of him getting ready to go outside. He did it in 1:45! Wow! I will show this video in class this week, but if you'd like to have a sneak peek at home, here it is!

Beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic...

Looking at the pictures lately, you'd think all we do is play and do art all day! :-) Rest assured, that is not the case (but it would be fun, wouldn't it!?). We work hard and play hard in first grade. I try to get students up and moving a lot, as I believe the movement helps our brains learn more effectively and efficiently (and brain research supports this notion). I also try to incorporate as much free choice exploration time as possible. As I've mentioned before, we aren't always able to get outside for an extra recess now that the winter weather is here. The children seem to LOVE our free choice time between Math Workshop and Reading Workshop. They are always asking me to take out my camera and record what they've done, and they're disappointed when I forget my camera! And, without doubt, children are learning during these play periods--they are learning to negotiate, share, cooperate, solve problems...just to name a few skills!

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

You CAN try this at home!

Today during our SWR time, I introduced students to a new website they can access during the school day and at home: This has been available through the blog for a while now, but today I showed students how they can use it to help them practice their spelling skills. We tried the "Teach Me" and "Play a Game" features. I will be adding more spelling lists soon so that students can do activities with words that are at their own ability level. Today I showed students the games using a  red word list for practice. We all enjoyed it, and everyone who wanted a turn was able to come to the interactive white board. Hooray!

Learn spelling and vocabulary

We tried a Memory game with red words...the children LOVED how much better they were at this game than I am. And I was seriously impressed with their visual memories. Wow! Guess I need to play a bit more Memory around my house! :-)
HangMouse was a popular game...we had to guess the mystery red word before waking up the cat.

Creative boys

We are such a creative bunch in first grade this year, but it happened to be boys who requested that I take their picture yesterday. If they didn't remind me, sometimes I'd completely forget to record their creations. As I mentioned last week, we've had less outdoor time since the snow started to fall. It just takes so long to get in and out of all that outdoor gear for extra outside time in the morning. So, we've been having free choice every morning between math and Reading Workshop. It's been a great way for children to have some down time between intense learning periods. It's great to see their imaginations in full gear!

Pattern blocks never seem to get old with this bunch, and they never cease to amaze me with the time and care they put into their creations!
Same day, a little later...
Our theme of "Holidays around the World" continues... we started making "evergreen" crowns for St. Lucia Day...a  festival that takes place in Sweden, Italy, and many other European countries on Dec. 13th. It's also known as the "Festival of Lights" and is the beginning of Christmas celebrations. These crowns are traditionally worn in parades and other St. Lucia celebrations. 
Children had fun tearing paper to make leaves for their crowns. I will take a picture of everyone wearing their crowns tomorrow. We still need to add the candles!
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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Goodbye, Miss Heney!

We had a farewell party for Miss Heney on Friday afternoon, as I wrote about in the last post. Here are some photos from her party!
Students loved the slideshows. It was a fun way to reflect on the first few months of school. The slideshows are posted in the next post.
We gave Miss Heney lots of wonderful books to start her future classroom library. There were also a few other teacher-type items in the basket, including a first aide kit from Mrs. Kelly, our school nurse!
This is the collage we created as a class, using some of the community paper we made the week before. I am amazed at how great it looks...I want one for myself now! :-)
I brought in a small snack for everyone to enjoy.
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Friday, December 10, 2010

Thank you, Miss Heney!

This is a slideshow of photos of each child with Miss Heney. We showed it to her at her goodbye party today!

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I also created a Photo Story with pictures of our class since the beginning of the year. This is seven minutes long, and it includes photos set to music. I thought some people might enjoy seeing it, and I know the students are hoping to watch it again. :-)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bear Day Photos

We had a great day with our bears at school to celebrate our school theme of Be Enthusiastic About Reading. Our bears participated in most of the day, from our school-wide meeting, to math, to snack, to choice time, to Reading Workshop, and more! The whole school stopped to read with our bears for 15 minutes this afternoon. We did LOTS of reading today. Our bears loved it! :-)

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Sharing at our School-Wide Meeting!

We had a school-wide meeting first thing this morning to celebrate BEAR Day at UMS--Be Enthusiastic About Reading! We read a poem and sang two songs. Everyone loved it! The boys and girls did a great job up on "stage." Check them out! :-)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Happy Moments

We have many moments that make us smile a bit bigger throughout our days. Here are a couple from today...
Students have discovered the Lincoln Logs! We have had free choice time instead of our extra outside recess since they snow arrived. We will start going outside again next week, after the children have had a bit of practice getting their winter gear on and off in a timely manner. :-) They still go out for the recess after lunch. 
These two were SO proud of their excellent block organization. So was I!
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Monday, December 6, 2010

Videos from Reading Workshop

Today we talked about how quiet it needs to be during Read to Self and Partner Reading time during our Reading Workshop, in order to allow everyone to do their best reading work. We made a plan and practiced during the minilesson, and then I video recorded a bit of our reading times. We watched the video clips and assessed ourselves. We decided that the room sounded better during Partner Reading time and was a bit too noisy during Read to Self time. Such great self reflection! Everyone was so proud of themselves for having a GREAT Partner Reading session today. Wow! And the Flip video camera is a fantastic teaching/learning tool--it's quick and easy and gives immediate visual/auditory feedback.

I promised a couple of students that I would post these videos...

Read to Self time

Partner Reading time

Literacy happenings

Today, chart poem/song reading opened during literacy station time. Students enjoyed using sparkly star wands to follow along with the words as they read. We started publishing during Writing Workshop. We will have a writing celebration with Mrs. Hughes' class on Friday!

We sing this song at the end of each day!
These are only a few of the songs and poems we know...
Playing word study games can be fun!
Students each chose their favorite/best small moment story to edit and revise. They used brand new thin markers to make their revisions. I was SO impressed with everyone's willingness to make their writing better. WOW! So many children added more details, fixed spelling errors, added punctuation, and so on. We will be rewriting these stories into new booklets and adding colorful illustrations before our Writing Celebration on Friday.
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