Saturday, November 23, 2013

Week in Review: 11/18/13

Conferences, Assessments, etc.
As always, it was a busy week in Room 6! Your child should have come home with his/her report card yesterday, as well as results from recent assessments (spelling and math). We will go over all of this at the conference next week, but I wanted to give families a chance to see it beforehand. I look forward to seeing everyone on Monday or Tuesday for the conference! Please be in touch with me if your conference time (listed on the report card envelope) does not work for you. I'd rather have short notice than no notice if you need to cancel or change your time. Thank you!

Now, for my "week in review"! (Please note, this is just a peek into parts of our days in first grade. I cannot possibly include everything--I'd be writing all weekend!) :-)

Mystery Skype
Our Mystery Skype this week (and it has become a weekly thing, for sure!) was with a class just outside New York City. We had a successful Mystery Number Skype, and the correctly guessed our number (12, because there are 12 girls in our class--next time our number will be 10 for ten boys!), and we guessed their number--24, because they have 24 students in their class. We are going to try using a number line on our laps next time, because we saw the boys and girls in NY using it very effectively. Our number grid on the bulletin board has worked well, but individual number lines will get everyone in on the action, and we're definitely ready to add this element. 

Our students are learning to ask great number questions.
It's neat to see classes just like us in other states!
Integrating Art and Literature
We explored a great website Mrs. Flanagan shared with us--BookFlix! The link to this site is on the right sidebar of this blog. I encourage you and your child to check it out! We looked at a fiction/nonfiction paired set of books about owls as a springboard for our owl art project. The first steps of our project are shown below and I will post pictures of the finished products on Monday. They are AMAZING! Our inspiration for the project came from a teacher in Vancouver I've connected with via Twitter and this blog post.

I'm excited to share the finished owls, but I did not take pictures of them yet--stay tuned!

Science: Solids and Liquids
Ask your child what makes a solid a solid and what makes a liquid a liquid. We've been thinking a lot about sorting things into those two categories, and children have become pretty proficient with it. We often think, "Does it hold its own shape?" to decide if it's a solid, and "Can it be poured?" or "Does it take on the shape of its container?" if it's a liquid. Yesterday, students got to see a solid change states twice! We took crayons and heated them in a toaster oven, then let them cool. So, they went from solid, to liquid, and then back to solid again (in a different form). Your child should have brought his/her new crayon home yesterday. Here are some pictures of the experiment:

Students worked on a solid/liquid/gas picture sort while waiting to do the crayon project.

More Science: Four Winds
We are so fortunate to have Bobbi and Tammy this year as our Four Winds volunteers! Bobbi is Marybeth's grandmother, and Tammy is Ian's mom. They are absolutely fantastic and the children and I look forward to their lessons in the classroom. We had a Four Winds lesson last Monday, and the topic was Leaf Litter. Students learned what happens to leaves after they fall from trees, and what other life forms are part of this ecosystem. In our explorations outdoors, we discovered lots of little critters eating away at the many leaves on the ground at the edge of the woods in the back of our school. Some of the things we discovered: slugs, worms, tiny green bugs, mushrooms, and millipedes. Using magnifying glasses made it that much more exciting! Check out some of the photos I took during our lesson, both indoors and out:

The big news this week is that we finished our class book, Making Ten, and sent it to first grade students at a private school in Newtown Square, PA. They, in turn, sent a book about making ten back to us. We haven't viewed their book yet, but we look forward to doing so when we return from the Thanksgiving vacation. Everyone had a part in making our interactive book, and it was created using an app called "Book Creator" for the iPad. The link to our book is here. You have to view it on an iPad/iPhone (or an Apple computer) either in the Book Creator app or iBook to see and hear our audio and video files. I will have it out in the hall at conferences for those who don't have access to an Apple product. 

We spent time this week reviewing counting money (pennies, nickels, and dimes), using dominoes to explore addition, and using a number line to help solve addition and subtraction facts. We had many hands-on activities during the week, as always, some of which are pictured in the collage below. Ask your child to explain the "Domino Parking Lot" game or one of our "Bump" games, or the "Roll and Cover" game they did on Friday with either a picture of pumpkin pie or a turkey. There are lots of ways to make learning hands-on and fun! 

What does it mean to make your writing "come to life"? Well, in our writing workshop this week it meant making our characters move and talk. In our case, our characters are people in our Small Moment narratives, which are stories of things that have happened to us in our lives. For example, my latest shared story was about dropping a plastic grocery bag in the parking lot while talking to Mrs. Hughes. I needed that bag, so I chased it...and chased it...and chased it...until I finally got it when I was nearly to Middle Road! We can make our writing more interesting by using dialogue and showing action in our words and pictures. Students caught onto this idea quickly, and I cannot wait to get back to it--and have students share what they wrote--after vacation. Our writers are blossoming! Any time that I announce it's time for writing, I get a big "HOORAY"! And when it's time to stop, there's an audible groan. It makes my teacher heart smile. :-)

There's more, but I'll save it for a future post. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your weekend and I will see you for the parent-teacher conference.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Week in Review: 11/11/13

Hello, everyone! I hope that you had a great week! As promised, I'm back with a "week in review" update. And, as always, any and all feedback about the blog is much appreciated. 

The past couple of weeks have been busy for me, as I've been wrapping up assessments with students and working on their report cards. You will receive your child's report card on Friday, November 22nd. It will come home in the green folder. 

The focus of this week's math instruction was "frames and arrows" problems and counting coins--we added the dime to the mix and are now practicing counting pennies, nickels, and dimes. Students took the Unit 3 math assessment, and the results of this and the Unit 2 assessment will be sent in your child's green folder this week for you to review prior to conferences on November 25-26. Remember to read the Family Letter that comes home about once per month with your child's homework--it's an overview of what students are learning in math and ways you can support this learning at home. Counting money is a great (and practical) skill to practice at home, as is counting (by 1s, 2s, 5s, forward, backward...). 

Here are a few photos from our math workshop time this week:

Students enjoyed about 15 minutes of "math choice" one day this week. The lesson that day was a whole group lesson, so getting up and making a math choice felt good for everyone, and it helped make the rest of our work time more productive too! Learning to count pennies, nickels, and dimes is hard work!

Our whiteboard definitely makes instruction more interactive, and students sit with whiteboards in their laps to help them be more engaged in the learning and practicing the skills as we go. They come up to the whiteboard to explain their math thinking and to model solutions, too.

These students chose to practice math facts and number sentences on white boards. I was very impressed with their work!
Pattern blocks are always popular choice! Great designs!
This student wanted to play 'Penny Bowl'. There were ten pennies total. Six are outside the bowl. How many must be under the bowl?

We tried Mystery Number Skype this week! On Friday, we "met" with a class in Knoxville, Tennessee. We had a number between 0-30 ready for them, and they had a number ready for us. We took turns asking each other questions to try to figure out the mystery number. Here are some of the questions we asked:

Is your number even or odd?
Is your  number greater than ____? Is your number less than ___?
Is your number in the ones, teens, or twenties?

Our class chose 22 as our mystery number because we have 22 students in our class. The other class chose 21, as that is the number of students in their class. 
Students in Mrs. Sawyer's class in Tennessee took turns asking our class questions about our number, which we answered together. 
Then our class went up to the iPad to ask students in Mrs. Sawyer's class questions about their number.
On Friday, we started work on an interactive collaboration between our class and a class in Pennsylvania. We are both making iBooks about our math thinking. Our class is focusing on ways to make ten. We are making a book using the Book Creator iPad app, which we will send to the other class by next Friday. The other class is also making a book, which they will send to us. We will then meet via Skype to talk about our books together. Only half the class has started this project, so don't worry if your child isn't able to tell you about it yet! :-)

Students are taking pictures of ways to make ten and then importing the pictures into Book Creator. Later, they will annotate their pictures and record their voices telling about their math thinking.

Students are learning to use dominoes as a tool for thinking about addition and subtraction. Mrs. Lucier and I were VERY impressed by many students' ability to explain their thinking about how they figure out 'tricky' addition facts. Students are moving beyond the "I just know it" statement about how they solve things. Yippee! 
This week, we spent more time thinking about the main idea and supporting details of texts. Students are getting very good at identifying the main idea and supporting their thinking. 

We also revisited expectations for Reading Workshop. Together, we created large "anchor charts" to display what it should look like and sound like in our classroom during Read to Self time. We also discussed what the students' jobs are during this time and what the teachers' jobs are too. We spent a lot of time in September practicing these expectations, but our Read to Self time was not going as expected. Taking a step back to review expectations made a big difference! We did the same for the Daily 5 portion of our Reading Workshop. 

Your children are "wowing" me with their reading thinking on a daily basis! I honestly cannot get through a read-aloud without many children raising their hands to share predictions, connections, questions, and things they notice about the texts we read. This is a very good "problem" to have! Readers are thinkers! It's hard to turn it off once you're in the habit of thinking about reading. Our "just for fun" read aloud times have become amazing reading conversations. As a result, children's reading comprehension skills are growing. Hooray!

This student came to me to share that two of his good fit books had the same main idea. He was right! They are both about someone being told they are too little to do something and then they prove that they can do it and are not too little. WOW!   
Below are some pictures of Read with Someone time in our classroom last week. Students do have a literacy partner who they typically sit with during writing/reading mini-lessons and work times, but it's been a bit tricky to get partnerships together recently due to students being out of the room for a variety of reasons. One day, I told students to just choose an available person for Read to Someone time and start reading. There were some magical matches...

We will discuss Read to Someone time as a class next week and decide how to make it work best.


Science/Social Studies
I do not have any pictures of the start of our solids/liquids unit in science, but it did begin last week. Students took a pre-assessment so I could see what they already knew about the topic. We then made a chart to record what we THINK we already know as a class and what we hope to learn. We watched a movie about solids/liquids/gases on the ever-popular BrainPopJr. website and took notes and shared our thinking. Next week we will explore the properties of solids and liquids and discuss/explore how matter can change state from solid to liquid and vice-versa. 

We are unofficially exploring map skills as we make connections via Mystery Skype sessions. Last week, we connected with a class in Oklahoma! No one in our class has ever been there, including me. Have you? 
Skyping with Mrs. Timmons' class in Oklahoma! Students loved learning that their state's abbreviation is OK!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Double This, Double That!

We always have fun at our Morning Meeting each day. Our Morning Meeting consists of a greeting, sharing, activity, and morning message. It's how we begin the day, and it's an important part of community building in our classroom.

 Here's one of the activities students learned not too long ago--Double This, Double That. I thought our audience out there would enjoy seeing and hearing first graders in action. Enjoy the video! I will have to post another like this later in the school year. It's amazing how fast students will get at this activity!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Recording the Main Idea of a Text

Wow! These first graders are really good at thinking about reading! Today, coming up with the main idea of today's focus text, Ira Sleeps Over, seemed like a breeze to them! Below is the graphic organizer we used today to track our thinking. This graphic organizer was created on an iPad app called Tools 4 Students. It's a nice resource to have, as I can store our charts electronically. There is simply not enough room on our walls to hang everything, so this is helpful. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Parent Accounts at KidBlog

A new Kidblog feature was announced yesterday (11-8-13), so if you want to be on the cutting edge, sign up for a Kidblog parent account! :-)

Here's an excerpt from the information on the Kidblog website:

"Parent accounts are more secure than generic Guest accounts because each parent has his or her own login credentials, so it's easier to identify comments and activity by specific parents. And unlike Guest accounts, parents can add an avatar and manage their own password. Teachers can also provide access for parents to see only their child's posts. Parents can be notified by email when their child publishes posts."

For directions on how to set up your parent account with Kidblog, click here. You will still be able to see other students' posts. I think this is important because several parents have commented on other children's blog posts, and they love it! The more support we offer our aspiring bloggers, the better!

Week in Review: 11/4/13

Although I usually post more than once per week, I am going to try a format that many of my teacher/blogger friends do, which is a week-in-review. These posts will be posted after each school week is finished, sometime between Friday and Sunday evening. 

These week-in-review posts will highlight happenings in each academic area, and I will likely post mini-updates throughout the week (as usual). 

We are moving right along in Unit 3 of our Everyday Math curriculum. The big concepts in this unit are patterns (not just with shapes, but patterns in numbers as well); time to the half hour; counting pennies, nickels, and dimes; and continued work with exploring strategies for addition and subtraction within 10. Students will take the Unit 3 assessment at the end of the week.

We were treated to a visit from a math consultant on Monday, Lori Silvas, who visited with each grade level at UMS and did model lessons. Ours was the classroom in which the 1st grade model lesson took place. Not only was this excellent professional development for the teachers, the students clearly gained a lot from it as well, particularly in terms of being able to explain their "math thinking." A big emphasis in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is being able to explain one's thinking and find evidence/proof to justify our thinking. In math, saying "I just knew it" as an explanation for how one solves a problem is not enough--the CCSS requires that students explain how they know. A great way to be reflective as learners!
Ms. Silvas encouraged children to talk to each other about their answers and how they arrived at the answer. While we do a lot of discussion during math, I plan to help students form math partnerships to foster discussion during math mini-lessons.
How many dots on the ten frame? This was flashed for just a few seconds, and then students had to think and share how many dots they saw and how they knew the number. This was repeated for several numbers, 0-10 and can be extended to numbers in the teens and beyond.
The class learned a new game: Common Card Compare, which is a fantastic way to teach/reinforce understanding of numbers in the teens. Our new sets of ten frame cards are on the way!
Thank you for helping your child practice his/her SWR skills this week! I could definitely tell that students had been doing a little extra work at home, and that makes a real difference. Did you like the format of the Spelling Menu of practice ideas that I sent home on Monday? This was something new to me. If it's popular, I will send more like it. Next week, we will continue to work on the short a and short i word families (with an emphasis on the -ig and -id families). The new red word will be "said." This one is always tricky and will require extra practice. I highly recommend shaving cream on the table or countertop. It smells good and is a popular way to practice letters and words! We will continue to work on sentence rules and punctuation, as this is still not automatic for most students (sentences begin with an uppercase letter and end with a mark of punctuation). 

Your children are becoming amazing at sharing their thinking about reading! This week's focus was finding the main idea of a text and supporting details. Next week we will focus on learning more about characters, using details in a story to support our thinking. We will also revisit our decoding strategies, as many students have reverted to trying to "sound it out" whenever they are stuck on a word. While this strategy can be useful, it's important for readers to remember that there are many other ways to figure out unknown words. Our list of strategies is here:

We spent most of last week practicing "paying attention to the punctuation" in writing. This was a focus in reading instruction two weeks ago, so it was a natural connection to teach about how we can use punctuation in our writing to help our readers just as famous authors do for us. Students definitely understand how to read the punctuation, but using punctuation in independent writing is still an emerging skill. Don't worry if your child forgets to add an uppercase letter at the beginning of each sentence and a period at the end, but a gentle reminder to do so is definitely OK! :-) Next week, we will work on developing children's sense of character in their small moment (personal narrative) writing, which connects directly with our upcoming focus in reading.

Social Studies
Our study of community helpers wrapped up with the sharing about our interviews with family members. Students also added a post to their KidBlogs about what they want to do for a job when they grow up. We sure have a lot of aspiring teachers in the group! 

We've also started to explore geography concepts through our Mystery Skype and blogging connections. We will delve further into our studies of Mapping and Our Place in the World around the beginning of December. There are many exciting projects--and more Skype connections--to come!

The next several weeks will be dedicated to a unit on Solids and Liquids. We will continue this learning during our Weather unit in science in March-April. I will post more information about our exploration of Solids and Liquids as the unit progresses. Students will begin with a pre-assessment on Monday. 

Technology Integration
As I'm sure you've realized by now, use of technology is interwoven into learning activities throughout the day. I use it extensively as a teaching tool, and students are using it it many ways to enhance/share their learning. The photos below show some of our learning with technology last week.

We now have the RAZ-Kids app on all school iPads. This is a free app from Learning A-Z. If you have an iPad or another tablet, this is a way for students to access the resources. Of course, they can also access it via any computer. The biggest advantage of the app is the ability to EASILY record oneself reading and hear it played back instantly.
Students enjoyed using Word Wizard and the Magic Fish spelling/word building apps on the iPads this week at the Word Work station during Daily 5 time. These apps allow students to get instant feedback on their spelling skills, and the Word Wizard app reads words back to students after they build them. It also allows students to take spelling quizzes.
Word families on the Word Wizard app. This is also a great app to practice letters/sounds.
Students worked with their literacy partners to create a new blog post this week about community helpers. Please check our Kidblog site and leave comments!
I've posted about our connections in the Primary Blogging Community before, but this week was our first week to leave comments on another first grader's Kidblog. We are working with Mrs. Langhus' class in Portland, Oregon right now. We will continue to leave comments on their blogs next week until every child in their class has a comment. Our class will be the focus class next week so you will likely see more action on our students' Kidblogs. Very exciting! If you'd like to help your child leave a comment for a student in Mrs. Langhus' class, go to our Kidblog site, scroll down to the "Blogroll" on the right, and click on Mrs. Langhus' name. (Please have your child log-in to our Kidblog site first!)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Our first Mystery Skype was with a class in Wisconsin! They gave us tricky clues, but we narrowed it down by their hint about cheese (and we thought it was cool we had that clue too)! In the end we had it down to California or Wisconsin, and our relief map helped us see that California has mountains while Wisconsin does not. One of the clues said they have hills but no mountains and are by a big body of water (which we discovered is Lake Michigan) and a very long river (must be the Mississippi!). We used maps in the classroom, Google Earth, and the Kid Rex search engine in our research today.

The other class guessed correctly that we are in Vermont. They said our clue about being in the Northeast by Canada really helped. 

I think this will be a great way to explore maps and geography in general. Do you know anyone who might want to Skype with us? Let me know:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mystery Skype!

Tomorrow we will do our first Mystery Skype with a classroom somewhere in the United States. I know where they are, but mum's the word! Our class came up with clues about our state today, which we will read to our mystery class via Skype. Here are our clues:
  • Our state has many farms.
  • Our state is known for producing delicious cheeses and maple syrup.
  • We have many mountains, which are great for hiking and skiing.
  • We are in the Northeast part of the United States.
  • Our state borders Canada.
  • Lake Champlain is on one of our state's borders.
Do you think they'll figure out where we are?! I am actually thinking we might want to leave the clue about being in the Northeast out...the other clues should lead them in that direction.

We will be conducting our research using books, maps, and a great kid-friendly search engine called KidRex. Have you heard of it? It's great! I'd recommend it if your child wishes to do some research of his/her own.

Official Site. Fun and Safe Search for Kids, by Kids.

We'll let you know how the Skype session goes--I tested the connection with the teacher this morning, so we're all set on that front (unlike last week's unsuccessful Skype attempt--though that ended up being pretty neat too, actually, thanks to Twitter!).

This lesson is a connection to an official first grade social studies unit which we will officially delve into in the coming weeks--My Place in the World. But, I also think developing an understanding of geography and interest in others is simply an important skill to learn--it's a wide and wonderful world! Let's get to know it better!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Wrapping up our study of Community Helpers

Our Community Helpers unit in social studies will conclude this week with sharing community helper interviews and writing a new blog post on our Kidblogs about what students want to be when they grow up. Last week, we did matching activity as a class in which students matched each community helper person with the tools he/she needs for the job. This is pictured below. Currently, students are working on a mini-book about what they might like to do as a job when they grow up, which will become part of their blog posts.

We were treated to a visit from the Colchester Center Volunteer Fire Department on Monday, October 28th. Since it was pouring rain, we did not get to go out to see the trucks and all of the equipment. Captain Jeff Leete assured me we could schedule a field trip to the firehouse (just down the street from our school) to see everything up close in person. We're excited to make that happen!

Halloween in Room 6

We had a week full of fun in Room 6 last week, with lots of Harvest/Halloween-themed activities. In math we measured with candy corn, created number stories  and patterns with Halloween counters, practiced dice skills with a game called "Roll a Skeleton," and used real pumpkins (thanks, Mrs. Lucier!) for wonderful math explorations (and a fun decorating project at our party on Thursday).

We also used fall/Halloween-themed literature for many of our reading mini-lessons, which was an enjoyable way to practice important reading skills. On Friday, Mrs. Lucier lead a very lively retelling of The Little Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid of Anything. Ask your child to tell you more about the props used during this retelling.

Did your child tell you about our special guests from Colchester High School on Thursday morning? What a treat! Some members of the Colchester Theater Company visited in costume to share parts of the upcoming CHS musical, "The Wizard of Oz." What talented students we have in Colchester!

Enjoy this slideshow of some of last week's activities, including photos from our Harvest Party on Thursday afternoon. Thanks to everyone who sent in food and/or attended the celebration!

Pumpkin Pizzazz!

As you have likely heard by now, Mrs. Lucier brought in a pumpkin for every student last week. This was very generous of her, and students were able to use the pumpkins for math exploration and a fun art activity during our Harvest Party on Thursday. I hope the pumpkins made it home safely! Here are pictures from the decorating activity on Thursday. Happy (belated) Halloween!