Saturday, September 29, 2012

Our first video project

I am so pleased with how well students are doing with the preparation for our "We Are Alike; We Are Different" video--the first video we will produce using the iMovie app for the iPad. This is the culminating project for the All About Me social studies unit in first grade. Students took part in selecting a partner for this project (ask your child about details on that, if you're interested), and then they worked with their partner to complete a Venn diagram to compare themselves to one another. Using the Venn diagram as a guide, students started to fill in a script for what they will say in their video clips with their partners. "Filming" will begin on Monday. :-)


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Reading strategies, SWR, and more

Has your child told you about Eagle Eye, Stretchy Snake, Skippy Frog, or Chunky Monkey yet? If not, ask him/her to tell you about them! Each of these characters represents a strategy students can use when stuck on a word while reading. Eagle Eye=Check the picture for clues; Stretchy Snake=Stretch the sounds in the word; Skippy Frog=Skip over the tricky word, read on, and then go back and reread; Chunky Monkey=Divide the word into smaller parts to try to figure it out, then blend it back together. We've practiced these strategies through our reading mini-lessons, read to self time, and then again during our sharing circle (as seen below).

Now that Miss Dube has taken over the first part of our SWR mini-lesson,  I could get a photo of Echo the Eagle and part of a whole-group lesson. SWR is our spelling/word study program, and we do lots of activities, but we begin each mini-lesson with sound and red word practice.
Routines are much more fun with a puppet!
Students practiced one of this week's SWR skills--names begin with an uppercase letter--using whiteboards and each other's names. 
Ask your child if he/she has shared during our Share Time. I hope to have everyone share each week. It's a wonderful way to share what's going on in our lives and to practice speaking and listening skills. Everyone should know his/her share day, but if not, please let me know!  
I love seeing creative uses for things in our classroom, and Emily block name is definitely creative! I love how she made it stand up!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Guidance and Unified Arts

I hope you've heard about our Guidance lessons with Mrs. McCleary on Tuesdays. She comes every Tuesday afternoon at 1:00 for about 30 minutes. Each week, she teaches about a different topic and she always has a fantastic book to go along with that topic. She has already been in our room for three Guidance classes. So far, she has taught about interrupting, personal space, and tattling. (All very relevant topics for 1st graders!) Yesterday, students brought home a page of tattling rules to teach someone at home. I have been lax about taking photos of our Guidance lessons, but Mrs. McCleary does have her own blog, which is linked here and in the tabs on my main blog page under "UMS/CSD Links."

Unified Arts:
We are trying to make the transition from referring to art, music, library, and P.E. as "specials" and be consistent with other schools in our district which refer to these classes as the "unified arts." Speaking of the unified arts--each of these wonderful teachers have blogs too, which can be found in the tab titled "unified arts" on my main blog page. I encourage you to check them out!


Have you heard about SWR yet? If not, it stands for Spelling, Writing, and Reading, and it's our spelling/phonics/word study program. Students participate in a mini-lesson each day just before lunch, when we review letters/sounds and practice Red Words (words that cannot be sounded out and must be memorized--similar to sight words in reading, but there are not nearly as many that we expect students to commit to memory for spelling). We also take time during the whole group lesson to present a word study skill that is relevant to the whole group's learning needs. Later, in the afternoon, we have our SWR station time. We have not yet started the actual stations, but each afternoon, students have been introduced to an activity that they will later be able to independently during station time. For instance, today students worked on handwriting notebooks and practiced red words using letter stamps. Next week, we try SWR station time. Each group (4-5 students) will visit one station per day: teacher, red words, word work, and technology. These stations will include several choices for practice with certain skills, except for the teacher station (this will be an activity led by me to help further your child's spelling development). 

To get the conversation going, ask your child about "Echo" the eagle and "Word Bird"! Also, ask your child what motions we've been doing for red word practice--perhaps you'll hear about jumping jacks, boxing, hula, or froggy jumps (among many others)! 

The letter stamps were popular today!
Such careful work!
Proper letter formation is taught/reviewed in first grade. One way we practice is in our handwriting notebooks.
Good old shaving cream makes a great way to practice letter formation and spelling words. It's a fun way to practice at home, too! 

Read to Self Time

We have been working hard at building stamina during our Read to Self time in Reading Workshop. We have talked about what "stamina" means (being able to do something for increasingly long periods of time without getting tired and giving up). Each day, we are slowly building our stamina for how long everyone can read quietly to themselves in one spot. So far, the class is up to 6 minutes of sustained Read to Self time. Way to go, everyone! Students tried out many spots before choosing their own special Read to Self spot this week. I will post photos soon of everyone in their special reading places. These places will change every few weeks or as needed.

In the meantime, here's a snippet of our Read to Self time taken sometime last week. You'll notice how quiet it is in the room--so important when we are working on becoming better readers! This will make for quality one-to-one reading conferences with me, as well as a great environment for conducting small group reading lessons.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Curriculum Night Packet

Thank you to those who were able to attend curriculum night on Thursday.  For those of you who were not able to make it I hope that you found a large packet of information in your child's green folder yesterday.  Although the packet does not include all that we discussed it does provide you with some important information.  The top two pages contain log in information specific to your child for both RAZ-Kids (a reading website) and Everyday Math E-Suites (an online version of our math program).  If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A peek at our week

Here are some snippets of the last couple days, in photos. I hope you agree that pictures really help give a glimpse into life in first grade! I think I need a dedicated classroom photographer. Soon, that will be the students. Hooray!

Students went "book shopping" in our leveled library this week. They now have 5 or more "good fit" books in their classroom book bags. Watch for these bags to come home soon for your child to read to you. Students learned the acronym 'I-PICK' to help choose good-fit books:
I choose a book
Purpose--I have a reason to want to read this book
Interest--The book is interesting to me in some way
Comprehend--I understand what I'm reading in this book
Know--I can read most of the words by myself
Miss Dube has taken over the Name of the Day routine during our SWR time (Spelling, Writing, Reading--our phonics/spelling program). Ask your child what we have been doing with everyone's names. Your students are word wizards!
We take lots of "brain breaks" throughout the day in first grade. Many involve movement, like the Beanbag Boogie, which is pictured above. We have a lot of great dancers in the room who like to get their wiggles out in that way!
It's good to take breaks from the academic routine with a little bit of free choice time, and the foam blocks are often in high demand!
Students learned about the crayon resist for practicing spelling words today. Ask your child what we did!
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Our Self Portraits, 2012

Drum roll, please! I think this might be a record (having this project finished so quickly), but the annual first grade self portrait project is DONE! Students created gorgeous portraits using the collage technique of cutting paper and gluing it onto other paper to create a likeness of themselves. I am SO impressed with their work. I think the finished products tell the story. Enjoy the slideshow. You can see them in person next time you're in the classroom, as they'll be hanging there all year.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Curriculum Night

The first grade curriculum night will take place on Thursday, September 20th from 6:30-7:30 p.m. This is a presentation for parents--childcare is not provided. I have created a very short survey about Curriculum Night. Please take a moment to fill this out even if you cannot attend. Thank you!

Scroll down on the image below for questions. Thanks!

Surveys in Kindergarten!

One of our recent math lessons was about tally counting. We watched a short video on BrainPop Jr. about using tally marks when taking a survey (this video in the link above is a free BrainPop video, but most require a subscription--we have a classroom subscription to use at school). We also practiced tally counting and discussed why counting with tallies could be useful. To practice using tallies, what better way than to actually give a survey?! So, we did. On Thursday and Friday, each math group took a mini-field trip--to one of our kindergarten classrooms! Students each had a question to ask the kindergarten students (and any teachers and other adults we encountered along the way). Ask your child what question he/she asked and about the results. It was a fun, valuable way to learn/review tally counting!

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Writing Workshop has begun!

Our Writing Workshop officially kicked off last Wednesday. Students have done several other writing assignments, but it was exciting to start the Writing Workshop (WW) routine. I have to say, I am very impressed already with students' writing. Everyone seems enthusiastic about writing and eager to get their thoughts and ideas onto paper! The WW begins with a mini-lesson, then students have independent writing time which will include a one-to-one conference with a teacher as often as possible (at least once per week). After writing time, students meet in a sharing circle to share about our writing in some way. The sharing circle can take many forms, which I will describe in future blog posts. 

Students were not finished with their pieces in this photo, but they were happy to show their progress! 
Our sharing circle on Friday was a "content share." Two students shared. They chose to read it (the other option was to have me read it to the class for them). Then, students in the class could give a compliment or ask a question. The hope is that some of the questions will generate more detailed writing. If someone asks a question about something the writer thinks should have been included in the writing, they can then go back and add it to their piece.
I was proud of our first two students who were brave enough to not only share their writing with the class, but also to read it aloud themselves. Hooray!

Popcorn Party!

We ended our day on Friday with a popcorn party! Students were very excited to earn 5 stars, which was 20 tally marks on our "Oh Yeah!" chart. Every 5 tallies earns a star. Tallies can be earned whenever the class does something great all together--listens to a signal, has a productive work time, cooperates to clean up a very messy classroom, lines up safely, etc. Congrats, class!

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chrysanthemum and Miss Dube

We are so very fortunate to have a wonderful student teacher in our classroom this year. Miss Dube is a student at St. Michael's College, and she will be with us until the end of November. Over the next few months, Miss Dube will slowly take on the responsibilities of the classroom until the week before Thanksgiving when she has her solo teaching week. I will still be at UMS all day, every day, but the solo week is a crucial part of the student teaching experience. I have full confidence that Miss Dube is a natural and will take over my job with ease. 

This week, Miss Dube has led the class in the greeting at Morning Meeting and read aloud after lunch. She is also in charge of one math station during our Math Workshop. Students loved Miss Dube's read aloud on Monday of Kevin Henkes' book Chrysanthemum. In this book, a girl named Chrysanthemum loves her name until she gets to school and students make fun of it. Miss Dube connected the unkind actions of others to a tissue paper heart. Every time a character said or did something unkind, students gave a thumbs down and someone shared what they noticed. Miss Dube crinkled the heart for each time something unkind happened. At the end, the heart was very wrinkled even after Miss Dube tried to smooth it out. The wrinkled heart represents how mean words affect us. We can say sorry, but it's important to think before we speak, because hurtful words are often remembered. When we make mistakes and hurt others' feelings, we can try to patch things up with apologies or doing kind deeds. The students each put a band-aid on the heart to represent that we need to try make reparations with people when we "hurt their hearts" with our words.  Such an important lesson! It's always OK to say we're sorry, but it's best to think carefully about what we say before we say it. 

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