Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

Rather than looking back, I decided that my last post for 2013 should be looking forward to 2014. There are many exciting things coming our way in first grade in 2014!

Therefore, students, families, and friends of the 1st graders in Room 6, I present to you "14 Exciting Things Still to Come in 1st Grade". It's going to be a great (rest of the school) year! Also, it was hard to choose just 14 things, since we always have amazing things happening in first grade. 

14 Exciting Things Still to Come in 1st Grade!

14. More science! We get to study weather and hatch chicks in our classroom! With our study of weather, we will get to meet a local meteorologist and create our own weather reports using a great new (to me) app on the iPad. 

13. Social Studies galore! Mapping and Our Place in the World/Mexico are our upcoming units! The study of Mexico will include COOKING! Yum!

12. Mystery Location Skypes--We will do lots more of these to work our geography muscles!

11. Mystery Number Skypes--Many classes across the country want to meet with us! Just next week we'll Skype with Ohio and South Dakota!

10. Flat Stanley Project--We will send a bit of Vermont around the world and learn about other countries too!

9. Trip to the Flynn Theater in Burlington! On January 22nd, we get to see a production entitled Dream Carver about a boy from Mexico with big dreams. 

7. More blogging on Kidblog, including posting videos and other multimedia! Soon, I will teach you about Wonderblogging and Wonderopolis! Students will also learn to email using their own Google accounts! Woohoo!

6. Online math learning with a tool our class and three others at UMS are piloting--Dreambox! More info on that to come VERY soon! You can access it anywhere!

5. New genres in Writing Workshop! Now that you're so good at writing personal narratives (small moments), you will learn how to write opinion pieces and reports! 

4. Nonfiction galore! We have already read lots of nonfiction, but we'll really dig into nonfiction texts in the coming weeks and months...get ready to learn many new things! 

3. The 100th Day of School! This is always an amazing day of learning and fun in 1st grade. We will make it extra special. Valentine's Day is fun at school too, and we will combine it with a "We Love to Read and Write Celebration" with our families. 

2. Annual UMS 1st Grade Bike Field Trip! This is a highlight of my year, and I can't wait to ride with all of you in June!

1. Oh my goodness! I'm already at #1?! I am not sure I can sum it up in just 14 items, so I will combine a few school-wide events at UMS to look forward to--the UMS Musical Performance in February at CHS, UMS Spirit Week in April, Field Day in June, School-Wide Meetings (our class will lead the meeting in May)...UMS sure is a happy school! (Oh, and did I mention we're going to hatch chicks?) ;-)

Happy New Year!

Hour of Code

Aimee Boucher, Technology Integration Specialist for K-5 in Colchester, captured an exciting moment during our "Hour of Code" on December 12th. She featured our class in our district's technology newsletter for staff.

Ms. Boucher also shared this quote, which summarizes why learning to code is so important:

Friday, December 20, 2013

Happy Holidays!

It is hard to take pictures on days like today when so much is going on! It was a happy day at school, with projects and our party and the general excitement about the vacation to come! Here are some of the photos I captured today!
Note: Many photos occurred at dismissal time so a lot of students had already gone home. :(  

In the photos below, students are opening the class gift from Mrs. Lucier and I! We decided to make our gift a "learning gift" this year. Students seemed thrilled to receive their own set of dice, twenty red and white chips to use for games, a notebook, a pencil, a candy cane, and a packet of games they can play using dice/chips. The opening process is pictured below, as well as the actual gift everyone received. If your child does not have his/her gift, it's because it was left behind at school.

Our holiday party was certainly spirited and pretty crowded! Thanks to all who were able to make it. Students rotated through three stations--snack, ornament making (a glittery reindeer, which also should have made it home with your child...but some were left behind), and cookie decorating. I truly appreciate so many people contributing items to our party and/or coming in to celebrate with us! Thank you!

Students made these "cute as a button" tree-shaped ornaments to give to families as a gift. Finding time to wrap them just didn't happen. I think they turned out very well! I made one too, and it's hanging on my tree with a photo of my boys. Again, this was sent home with every child, but a few were left behind! They are safe and sound in your child's mailboxes to go home after the new year.

Finally, students made these Santas yesterday. My boys keep saying they look like "Pete the Cat," which I think is very funny because I do not see a cat when I look at them, but in any case, it's always a fun project! These few were left behind in the classroom, which is good because I was able to take a picture of them!


Hey, look! We made the bulletin board of a class in Michigan! How awesome is that?! Do you follow us on Twitter? @Sorenson1st

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Look at these students happily reading books! What more could a first grade teacher want? :)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Our Math eBook Collaboration!

We had an excellent Skype call with Mrs. Lesher's first grade class at the Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square, PA this morning. Students were ready first thing, just as soon as they arrived at school and took off their winter gear. Ms. Powers, the technology coordinator at the other school, created a blog post about our experience! The video below is in her blog post, but I thought I should post it directly on this page to make it easier to see. We sent each other eBooks we created with the Book Creator app back at the end of November, so it was nice to be able to finally connect in a different way (Skype) to talk about our learning! This was a new type of collaboration for me, and I think it went very well!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Week in Review: 12/9/13

Hi everyone! I hope you are enjoying the snowy weekend! I know we are! My week in review will be a bit shorter this week, but there was no shortage of excitement in first grade! Here's a look...

We continued our study of solids and liquids last week and even made popsicles with juice to observe the change from liquid to solid. This week we will do more experiments, especially now that we have snow!

We also enjoyed another wonderful Four Winds science lesson thanks to Bobbi and Tammie! They taught the class about snags and rotting logs and how and why they are important. Ask your child to tell you what he/she learned. The time machine activity was popular and was a great illustration of how time, wind, rain, and insects work together to break down logs until they eventually return to the earth as soil. Students were very eager scientists when it came time to dig into some partially rotted logs. They found many interesting things in those logs, too!

Technology Integration
We use technology throughout our day in many ways, as you know, but we had a unique opportunity on Thursday afternoon. As part of Computer Science Education Week, we participated in an Hour of Code, which as I mentioned before, thousands of schools across the U.S. (and beyond) did too. In fact, CHS had a special Hour of Code opportunity that was describe in the CSD Spotlight last week. During our hour, Aimee Boucher, the K-5 Tech Integration Specialist, came to our classroom to teach students what coding/computer programming is and how it's useful. She started by showing us how coding works using a stuffed animal and arrows to signify commands to make it move. Then, Ms. Boucher introduced a website (Tynker) and app (Daisy the Dinosaur) that students were able to explore on laptops and the iPads. Students seemed to enjoy this special activity, and I know I learned a lot!

During math stations last week, I was able to teach everyone how to use PicCollage, one of my favorite apps for the iPad. I made the collages above using PicCollage, and it's an easy and fun way for students to share their learning. Watch for collages of the math learning shown in the photo below to show up on your child's Kidblog next week! 

Here's one example of the PicCollages that students made to track their math thinking using Rekenreks:

Social Studies
Although we are not officially into our study of mapping, our holiday card project has definitely prompted students to start thinking about where we are in the USA compared to the schools/classes we receive cards from each day. This project has been engaging for everyone--it's exciting to open the cards, read about other schools, and place the cards on the map in our classroom. The map also shows our blogging/Skype connections. I need to get a world map up there too, as we are going to be making some global connections starting in January! 
It's a little bit hard to see the blue yarn I used to connect the holiday cards we've received to the states from which they were sent. I will probably change that and will post a new picture. And, you can check out our map in person on Friday at the holiday party!

We also had two mystery number Skype calls last week--both with first grade classes in British Columbia, Canada. Very exciting! They were in different cities, but there were our first international Skype calls!


SWR: Students did not take a SWR check-up on Friday, as we need to do more working with writing plural words. We had a few schedule changes in the morning this week that prevented us from doing a daily SWR lesson. New skills will be added this week, and students will take a check-up on Friday morning.

Writing: This week's focus in writing was helping students learn how to use KidBlog on the laptops as opposed to the iPads. From now on, students will be writing on their KidBlogs during Writing Workshop on their sharing day. That way, everyone will have a new post each week. If your child did not post anything new last week, it was either due to absence or their blog post is still in draft form. I encourage children to blog from home as much as they wish! 

Reading: Vocabulary was the focus of last week's mini-lessons, along with distinguishing true/false statements after reading a book. We are starting a vocabulary wall with words we focus on when reading books together. The hope is that students will learn to pay attention to words they don't understand and will make attempts to determine the meaning by using their schema (background knowlege) and the context of the word in the text (pictures and words around it). See this link for more information. 

Word Work:
Each week, there are several choices of ways for students to practice words when they go to the Word Work station during our Daily 5 time. Last week, Wikki Stix were one of the choices. Several students did some pretty impressive word work using this tool, as seen in the photo below. :-)

Students will take an assessment for Unit 4 this week during our math block. The focus of this week's lessons will be improving "fact power" and knowing addition and subtraction facts within ten automatically. We will also review counting money and showing various amounts using a variety of coins. After the vacation, watch for information about the Dreambox website. Our class will be part of a two-month trial subscription for this site, and I will be looking for feedback from families about its usefulness/value. I am excited about the possibilities I see with this resource, and I am glad to be a part of the pilot/test period.

I hope you have a great week, and I hope to see you Friday afternoon (12/20/13) for our holiday party from 1:00-2:00 p.m.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sneak Peek!

We've had an exciting week! Today we participated in an "Hour of Code," which thousands of students across the country have done in honor of Computer Science Week. We also had a wonderful Four Winds lesson on Wednesday. Be sure to check the blog this weekend for our week in review! (And details about what's happening in the photos below...and, of course, much more!)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Week in Review: 12/2/13

Can you believe it's already December?! We are cruising towards the end of 2013, and our first graders are rolling right along with their learning. Here's a look at some of the week's activities.

Our current math unit focuses on measurement. So far, we have measured with rulers to the nearest inch, thermometers to the nearest two degrees, and tape measures (also to the nearest inch). We will move back into telling time this week, as we explore telling time to the quarter hour (measuring time). Next week, we will also learn about a "super power" I want all first graders to have--Fact Power! This means knowing addition and subtraction facts within 10 automatically. We have built a foundation for understanding what addition and subtraction are (and we will continue to do so throughout the year). The next step is to build automaticity (memorization) of math facts. We will do this through songs, recitation, games, and paper-pencil practice too. You can support your child's learning of basic facts through flash cards and other practice at home. We will first focus on +0, -0, and +1, -1 facts through ten (1+0, 2+0...10+0, etc.) and also doubles facts (1+1, 2+2...10+10).

Measuring with a tape measure--students measured each other's wrist, elbow, ankle, head, and hand span and recorded the measurements in their math journals.

This week, students enjoyed exploring some new math tools. Below, students are playing with Base 10 blocks. Just as they did with rulers and dominoes, students had a chance to play with the Base 10 blocks first, before they are introduced as a math tool. This is a popular activity, and it helps students focus on using the blocks as a tool when it comes time to use them for math purposes.

In the photos below, students are using a tool called a Rekenrek. For more about the Rekenrek, I recommend this link. As with the Base 10 blocks, students had time to explore the Rekenrek first, and then I brought the class together to learn about how to use it as a math tool. I was so impressed with the conversations I heard happening during the explore phase. Students naturally wanted to use it for counting, and many were eager to write down addition facts to match the beads on their Rekenreks. Some students even put theirs together to explore larger numbers. This group of children are curious and eager mathematicians, which makes math time very interesting and fun!

Here are some pictures taken by students from some math choice time last week...

We had three Skype calls last week! We had two Mystery Number Skypes, one with Mrs. Langhus' class in Portland, Oregon, and one with Mrs. Beck's class in McGuire Airforce Base in New Jersey. We also were interviewed via Skype by a 2nd grade class in Dallas, Texas on Thursday afternoon. They are doing a study of weather (which we will be doing as well, beginning in January) and they asked questions of us about the weather in Vermont. We were able to ask them questions about their weather too, which made for some interesting comparisons! Believe it or not, it was warmer here than in Dallas last Thursday (but they had temps in the high 70s on Wednesday). :-)

Answering a weather question from students in Dallas. 
Asking students in Texas a question about their weather.
Talking to the second graders in Texas!
Morning Meeting
Below are two photos taken while doing a favorite Morning Meeting activity--The Cold Wind Blows. I am going to leave the explanation of this activity up to your child. Ask your child to tell you about it! We've played it many times, and it's a class favorite! Smiles all around!

Holiday Card Project
Our class is part of a project I found via Twitter called the Holiday Card Project. Over 1200 classrooms around the world are participating this year. Each classroom is put into groups of 30. We made 29 holiday cards and I mailed them on Saturday. They went to schools all around the USA, two went to Canada, and one to Mexico. We should receive a card from all of these schools as well. So far, we've received two, one from New Jersey and one from North Carolina. We are keeping track of the locations on a big map in our classroom. This project is a way to open students' eyes to the world around us and also to share some holiday spirit! The theme for this year's cards was "Hats, Scarves, and Mittens." We went with the mitten theme. :-)
Students created beautiful cards and put lots of time and care into their work! That's the spirit of giving!

All ready to be  mailed!
There was, of course, a lot more going on last week, but no pictures to go along with it. Here's a written snapshot of the rest of last week's learning:

SWR (Spelling): We continued to practice short vowel a and i word families, as well as proper sentence formation. Students were masters of the popular spelling game "Sparkle" on Friday. Ask your child to tell you how it's played. 

Writing: Last week, we spent more time thinking about how to bring our writing to life by unfreezing our characters by making them "move and talk." We also discussed how our stories are much more interesting when we tell them in "itsy bitsy" steps. We even sang the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" song to connect to this idea! I am starting to see students write more focused stories with richer detail. We will continue our work with personal narrative (small moment) writing until the break, and we will begin report writing in January.

Science: Because of our special weather-related Skype and our holiday card project, we didn't get to do as much science as planned last week. We'll be full speed ahead in our study of solids and liquids this week!

Reading: Last week, we studied authors' use of words in books, both in how word choice appeals to our senses and how authors sometimes use vocabulary we don't understand. We began to explore strategies for what readers can do when they encounter a word they don't know when reading (look at the picture, use the words around the unknown word to infer the meaning of the new word). I am trying to help students notice how authors' word choices can make their writing more interesting to read, in the hopes that students will transfer this idea into their own writing. Also, paying close attention to word choice and being thoughtful problem solvers when we come to words we don't know helps improve reading comprehension. 

Can you tell we're busy in first grade?! I hope you have a great week!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Welcome Back!

I had a wonderful start to my Monday, with many students telling me that they missed school over vacation. :) Wow! It also sounded like many families had fun adventures during Thanksgiving, which made for great writing in the Monday journals. We were going to take a hiatus from our Monday journals for a bit, but that plan was changed due to popular demand. Speaking of writing, I also sent home a stack of older writing from your child's writing folder. Some of these pieces are not finished, and that's ok. Your child can finish them (or not) at home. Keep in mind that we save pieces each month and revise/edit them to keep in your child's "First Grade Writing Binder," which will come home in June.

Here's a look at some parts of our day...

We practiced measuring during math-- with Unifix Cubes and standard rulers. We measured to the nearest inch with rulers.

There's not much snow left, but that doesn't stop students from making a snow man during recess!

Everyone will have a chance to be the " Whiz of is" or the "Star of Are" this week---just another fun way to help everyone remember our tricky red words!