Saturday, March 30, 2013

Classroom Catch-Up: Week of March 25, 2013

Did you have a great week? I hope so! We certainly had a productive week in Room 6! Students are amazing me more with each passing day--they are just so hardworking and SMART! This point in first grade  is so much fun. Students are reading well, writing well, and they have the classroom routines down pat. We're at a point where students seem to craving learning, and lots of it! It's a time in the school year when we can dig deeper into our studies--ask questions, find answers, do experiments, and be in-depth thinkers about all we do.

Here's a glimpse into a bit of what we did last week...

We moved from the l-blends in spelling to the r-blends, which can be pretty tricky (especially the /dr/ and /tr/ sounds). Students are doing well with spelling these words in isolation (trim, trap, trick, drum, drip, etc.) but they are having a harder time writing them correctly in sentences. We will keep practicing! 

We are fully into our study of solids and liquids, and we have spent a lot of time discussing the properties of both solids and liquids and defining what makes a solid a solid and a liquid a liquid. A solid keeps its shape unless something is done to change it and liquids do not have a shape of their own and can be poured--these definitions have proven useful to first graders. We are now at the point when we can start experimenting with changing states of matter, which means lots of hands-on experiments! 
Students explored various liquids in containers to compare their properties.
We made slime/gak on Friday, which is actually a combination of glue, water, and liquid starch--three liquids which come together to form a new type of liquid that actually acted more like a solid the more we played with it and the less pliable it became. Is it a solid? Is is a liquid? You be the judge. :-)
Slime making is FUN! I missed taking photos of three students due to absences or they were just to quick to do the activity and I missed my opportunity. Looks like we'll be doing more slime making! It was a hugely popular activity. I hope it made it home safely--we put it in a giant Easter egg and then sealed it in a plastic baggie.

Morning Meeting/Math Meeting
We start each day with a Morning Meeting, as I am sure you know. We greet each other as soon as students come in and get settled, and then two students on the sharing schedule share. It's usually time for related arts by then (art, music, P.E., library), so we finish Morning Meeting when students return. The activity and Morning Message are last, and then we move into Math Meeting. I will post more about Math Meeting next week, as we voted as a class to change things a little bit in our Math Meeting structure. More on that to come...
Our Morning Meeting Activity is different each day. A song with movements, "Down on the Banks" is a  popular activity and is pictured above. I should post a video soon. It's a fun one!
Each day, the "Calendar Helper" on the job chart leads the class in the Math Meeting routine--singing about the days of the week/months of the year, coins/coin exchanges, and more. They also lead us in saying the date in two formats (e.g. Saturday, March 30th, 2013 and 3-30-13), as well as keeping track of our "Number of the Day" routine in which we add a base-10 block to our "Counting the Days of School" chart, a penny to our piggy bank, a tally  to the tally chart, and recording number models on the chart for the Number of the Day. Last Friday was our 127th day of 1st grade. Can you believe that? Students have become so good at this routine that I joke that I could probably leave the room and they could do it without me (but I won't). :-) A class favorite is passing the iPad to share some of our work on the whiteboard. 
Unit 8's math assessment was sent home last week. Please remember students should score 85% or above on Part A of the assessment to be considered as "meeting" the standard at this point in time for the skills assessed. Part B includes skills that have been taught, but are not yet expected to be mastered. I was very pleased with the overall class results on this assessment. Thank you for the math support at home! Homework has been sent each week, so if you haven't seen a copy of it, your child misplaced it. Please contact me if your child ever does not come home with both a SWR skills list and math homework assignment. I will always inform you if there is to be a week "off" from homework. Thanks! The Family Letter for Unit 9 will be sent home on Monday.
The "Mystery Number" on a mostly blank 100s grid had been a wildly popular activity during our math minilesson. Not only do students need to try to figure out what number goes in the highlighted space, they also need to explain their thinking--how did they figure out that 34 was the mystery number?
Our math sleuths are hard to stump! They can figure out all my mystery numbers--even the really hard ones!
Students are nearing completion of their All About books about a topic of their choice. On Friday, we had a publishing party to get lots of work done on our books--we made and decorated the covers with special writing tools and stickers, and students worked on coloring their illustrations and finishing their writing. Everyone also got to eat a Peep marshmallow--just as a special treat. They gobbled them up, so it's only this headless Peep I managed to catch on camera. :-)


We spent a lot of time last week focusing on reading to learn new information. My lessons were based in non-fiction texts, in which I modeled what good readers do when they discover new information while reading. First, they stop and think about it. Quite often, when we learn something new and interesting, we'll say, "Wow!" or, "That's interesting!" or, "I didn't know that!" When we do that, we're allowing the new information to sink in, which makes it more likely it will be remembered. Sometimes, we tell some this new piece of information, and when that's not possible, we sometimes write it down. 

For first graders, simply being aware that they should be paying attention to the words they read is a big deal. Sometimes, they get caught up in the act of decoding and forget to really pay attention to the meaning and message of what they are reading. Our lessons this week were just another way of coaching students to be thoughtful readers who are always thinking about what they read and making connections or adding new information to their schema (background knowledge). I invited to students to try taking notes as a strategy for tuning into new information in their reading. We tried it together as a class with the book Insects (shown below). We code our sticky notes with an L to indicate that we learned something new. L is for Learning. 

So far, students are really enthusiastic about keeping track of their new learning as they read, and I have learned some pretty interesting new facts during our share sessions after Read to Self time. And my sticky note supply is quickly dwindling, which I think is a GOOD thing! :-)

That's all I have for now. As always, stay tuned because there is lots more learning to come. Have a great Easter weekend!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

"Solids" Building Challenge!

We have now officially started our study of Solids and Liquids during science. I started with a pre-assessment to find what children already know about the topic and I found that the terms solids and liquids and what distinguishes to two is quite a new concept for most. We spent last week talking about various solid objects and the properties of many types of solids. We ended the week with a "Solids Building Challenge" in which every was given certain materials and asked to build with them. They had two choices for the challenge--to work alone or with a partner and to build a tower or to build a bridge (I said it didn't need to be big--only large enough that a mouse could cross it). Students had to work outside of their comfort zones in many cases, as the materials were (purposely) limited and they had to get creative with what was there. I saw many students start out frustrated and grow more and more excited as they experimented and problem solved. Many worked in teams and were exceptionally cooperative and productive. Our next step is to discuss why some materials work better than others for different parts of structures based on their properties (hardness, flexibility, etc). This week will be devoted to learning about liquids, and then I have many fun experiments planned to explore changing states of matter. It's going to be great!

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Digraph Search

These photos were taken on March 13th and got lost in the shuffle...everyone did a search for digraphs in books to reinforce how knowing the sounds /sh/, /ch/, /th/, and /wh/ is very helpful when reading too. Students found A LOT of examples of the digraphs in their books and were very proud to show their recording sheets to me and to read the words they found. Yay, first graders!

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Owl Pellets!

The first grade scientists were hard at work on Friday morning during our Four Winds session with Mrs. Rublee. The topic this month is Owls, and students were able to work in teams to dissect owl pellets to learn more about what owls eat and how their digestive system works. If you don't know what an owl pellet is, ask your first grader! They were such great scientists--no one was "grossed out" for too long and everyone participated with enthusiasm (or so it seemed!). 

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Taiko Performance Pictures

Here are some of the pictures I took at the performance last Thursday evening. Please forgive me if your child is not pictured. It was hard to take photos and try to keep up with what was happening with the performance. Thank you for coming and I hope you enjoyed the show--I know the students had fun performing!

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