Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Week in Review: February 17-21, 2014

Have you seen our Skype and Blogging Connections map 
lately? We are a connected class! We'll add England and
the Bahamas to the list in March (and more)!
Last week was a productive week, even with the anticipation of vacation in the air. First graders came to school ready to learn, and we had another amazing week! Thank you to everyone who was able to come in for the parent-teacher conference last week. Sharing your child's growth and success in first grade is always a privilege! 
Ask your child to tell you why penguins are such strong and fast swimmers. Better yet, visit our class Kidblog pages! We learned more about penguins this week as part of our study of close reading of digital texts. 

Reading Challenge/Vacation Homework
Your child should have brought home his/her good fit book bag to help do the important job of reading during the break. I hope everyone participates in the Reading Challenge and logs their reading time to work towards a whole-school goal! If your child misplaced the recording sheet, simply record the title of the book and number of minutes read, along with the date, on any piece of paper. Happy reading!

I highly encourage students to write on Kidblog over vacation. It's a perfect opportunity to write with a purpose! They can access their Kidblog from this blog (right-hand sidebar) or via the Kidblog app if you have a smartphone or tablet. Our class username is mrssorensonsfirstgrade-4. You'll need that to log in using the app. 

Reading Workshop
Our study of nonfiction text features continued last week as students explored the Table of Contents, Headings, Labels, and Diagrams in books. We also continued our study of digital text and how accessing information from a website is same/different than with printed text. After studying text, photographs, and video footage of how penguins swim quickly, students were given the task to work with their literacy partners to create a picture to demonstrate their understanding using iPads and the Doodle Buddy (free!) app. Check out your child's blog (see right-hand sidebar) to see his/her work!

It's fun to co-teach with Mrs. Boucher!
Many students have learned to share jobs quite effectively
 and are able to collaborate to produce some amazing work!
This diagram of a penguin labels some of the things
 penguins have that make them powerful swimmers.
Writing Workshop
We focused a lot of our time last week on writing in the digital form--on our Kidblogs! Students created at least one new post about the penguin learning we did, and many also wrote about the chapter book we recently finished reading--Lulu and the Brontosaurus. Students also took time to the blog of Ms. Smith's class in Seattle, Washington, as it was their turn to be the focus class for our Primary Blogging Community (PBC). (We call them Blogging Buddies.) Students should check out their Kidblogs this week--the comments are pouring in, as we are this week's focus class, which means students from the other three PBC classes are commenting our our Kidblogs. Hooray! :-) 

Our reading focus of studying the Table of Contents in nonfiction books is helping prepare students to write their own TOC for their next nonfiction teaching books! After vacation, students will learn how to add important nonfiction features to their writing as they write about a topic of their choice (one they know a lot about). The TOC helps organize a writer's thoughts and provides a structure for the book. 

Blogging is writing!
When we return from vacation, we will begin a study of sharks to introduce students to the idea of research. We will write a nonfiction teaching book as a class to learn how to research and how to write about what we learn when reading books, reading websites, viewing videos, etc. Perhaps the most engaging form of research we'll do--an interview and lesson with Jillian, a shark videographer and researcher! Jillian will Skype with us live from the Bahamas on March 17th! Our class research will help students prepare to do their own research on a topic (of their choice) and write a report about what they learn!

Telling time to the five-minute interval and practicing addition/subtraction facts, and reviewing place value concepts were the main focuses last week. Telling time is hard! Please don't be alarmed if your child is struggling with this skill. While we will explore telling time on both analog and digital clocks to the nearest minute by the end of first grade, it is expected to be a developing skill. Time to the hour and half hour should be mastered by the end of first grade. Check the math tab on the top of this blog for resources to help practice telling time (and other) math skills.

We enjoyed a Mystery Number Skype with Mrs. Barnett's class
 in Bannockburn, Illinois on Friday. They stumped us with the number
zero as their Mystery Number. We chose 111, because that's how many
days we've been in school.
When we return from vacation, we will begin a math unit on geometry--one of my very favorite topics to teach! We will study both two- and three-dimensional shapes, sharpen our understanding of using attribute words (thick/thin, small/large, red/blue, etc.) to compare and contrast objects, and explore the concept of symmetry. All math is hands-on, but the geometry unit is even more hands-on than  most. I love it, and I hope your child will too. 
These students are playing Time Match to reinforce and practice telling time.
I look forward to seeing everyone after vacation on March 5th! Here are a few more pictures from the hands-on part of a reading mini-lesson last week--exploring nonfiction features in nonfiction books. Have a great week!

Monday, February 17, 2014

We LOVE to Read and Write

Our celebration of literacy this afternoon was amazing! Thanks to all who could come! If you couldn't, don't worry--we'll have another reading/writing celebration in May. The slideshow video I shared during today's celebration is on this blog--check the video tab on top. Hooray for our awesome readers and writers!!! Enjoy these pictures!

Students had a "compliment card" for visitors to write in during our celebration today. It's always great to get feedback from others!

It was heart-warming to see so many visitors reading with students. Wonderful!

Our celebrations always include a tasty snack! Thanks to those who provided items for this part of our celebration!

Sharing a bite to eat after celebrating a love for literacy! :-)

We handed out Valentines today too...our "bag buddies" waiting patiently all weekend to be filled--the snow day delayed us, but it sure didn't change the level of excitement. It felt just like Valentines Day!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Too Much Noise!

I am proud of everyone who participated in the musical on Thursday evening! Thank you, parents, for braving the storm, and Ms. Mutz and students for your hard work! I managed to get a few photos and part of the "Hickety Pickety" song on video. Enjoy!

I didn't have enough storage to get the whole song, but I got some of it! 

Friday, February 14, 2014


Hello everyone! Great performance by the 1st graders last night! Photos to come soon. 

I told most of you, but our We LOVE to Read and Write Celebration will now be Monday, February 17th at 1:00 p.m. Students are very excited for it, and I do not want to make them wait much longer! We will do the Valentine exchange in the a.m. and have our reading/writing celebration in the afternoon with our guests, as originally planned for today. 

If you cannot attend on Monday, be assured there will be another celebration of your child's learning in the spring--I'll give plenty of notice before that event.

Conferences for our class are next Wednesday and Thursday afternoon/evening (February 19 and 20), which is a different schedule than the district calendar. Most of you have signed up. Please be in touch if you need to change your time or schedule a conference. I will not be holding conferences on March 3 and 4.

That's the news for now--watch for a blog post later this weekend. Happy Valentine's Day, and stay safe on the roads if you have to drive! 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Literacy Love

We've had a pretty amazing couple days! Everyone seems invested in their learning and up for a challenge. 

Digital texts

We continued our study of digital texts with Mrs. Boucher (tech integration specialist) and Mrs. Blake (district literacy coordinator). On Monday, students learned about the app Doodle Buddy and practiced taking notes about the most important parts of a digital text (a website about penguins). We will try to do more with it this week, but if our busy schedule doesn't allow (with the musical and Valentines Day this week), we'll continue next week. 

Reading Magic!

This morning when I got to school, I spilled a container of beads. As I started to pick them up, I glanced over at children's book boxes and noticed we had a problem to solve! Many students were "book shopping" from reading levels that were either too easy or too hard, and many also had too few or too many (is that possible!?) books in their bags. So we did a little "winter clean up" first thing after students arrived. Everyone helped reorganize the book baskets in our leveled library, and then everyone checked in with me about their 'good fit' reading level. As we just finished a round of assessments, I was able to easy help each child "shop" from the correct text reading level. We are fortunate to have lots of books in a variety of genres and topics. Everyone reloaded their book bags with 5-6 new books.

As I worked to help students select and sort books, those who were finished gathered around the room to read. I was thrilled to see such interested, engaged, and motivated readers! It was unplanned, but our morning reading time was a big success. Keep up the great work, first graders!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Nonfiction Features, New Technology!

Nonfiction Texts

We spent a lot of time last week thinking about nonfiction text, both in reading and writing workshops. Mrs. Boucher, our technology integration specialist, lead the class in a great lesson about reading digital texts last Monday, using the National Geographic Kids website and a section about penguins. Since we access information in so many different ways now, it's important to to learn how to read both digital and printed texts and to know how to easily and efficiently navigate both.

We are working our way through learning about nonfiction text features found in printed texts, and last week we really dug into how headings, table of contents, and labels are helpful in both reading and writing. Students started to use headings in their own nonfiction teaching books to tell the reading what that page/section is mostly about. Using headings is an effective way to help organize our ideas for writing too--this page will be about ______, this page will be about _________, etc. 

Maps are an important feature found in many nonfiction texts--digital and printed. Here, students are studying a map of where various animals live.
Learning how to navigate a website is important, as information is located in many areas of the site. For example, tabs help us get to new sections to learn/see more information.
Students worked with their table groups to find headings in nonfiction books from our classroom library. They found many excellent examples and were able to tell why headings are helpful to the reader.
Looking for headings is fun, and it's hard to resist looking for interesting new information too!
Sharing their findings with an "elbow partner" (someone sitting next to them).
The book about stars in the above picture has headings on the side tabs and at the top of each page--cool format!
And....drumroll, please! Mrs. Hughes and I are part of another pilot--Chromebooks! We are very excited to explore this new tool in the classroom and determine it's potential uses/value as technology to invest in for the future. While iPads will continue to be an important technological tool in our classroom, it will be valuable to compare Chromebooks, iPads, and laptops for various learning purposes. We have five Chromebooks to share between our rooms for the remainder of the school year. HOORAY!!!!!!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Our Lulu Song

This one is for Mrs. Bright's class in Illinois! This is our rendition of the Lulu Song. :-)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Happy 100th Day!

We had a snowy, busy, and fun 100th day today! Here's a brief snapshot of some of what we did--more to come, but I'm pretty exhausted after a whirlwind day!
We began our day with a BrainPop Jr. video about 100.
Students worked on their 100th Day Digital Project plans...lots more on this to come!
One student wanted to count 100 books!
These students counted and built with 100 Legos!
100 buttons...
Creating a PicCollage to document the counting/creation.
We searched for (and found!) 100 Hershey Kisses numbered 1-100!

10 pieces of 10 things=a 100th Day snack!
Our 100th Day crowns have 100 tally marks too!

Students also did a 100th Day activity each of the four 1st grade classrooms today. Great fun...ask your child to tell you more! Now this teacher needs to catch some zzzzzzzzzzzs!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Chinese New Year!

One of our students shared a bit about her Chinese heritage with us last Friday. Jailee brought in books and a special snack to share with the class in honor of the beginning of the Chinese New Year. We enjoyed watching video snippets of the dragon and lion dances as well. One of our blog buddy classes in Canada also celebrated Chinese New Year last week, as written about on their blog. We may try the Chinese numeral banners during math time this week since we think they look pretty great! At the end of the Chinese New Year (15 days from when it starts), we will make Chinese Lanterns to mark the occasion. Thank you, Jailee and family, for sharing!


In science last week, we connected our learning about the water cycle to the formation of clouds. Clouds are, of course, and important part of the water cycle. On Thursday, students observed a "cloud in a jar" experiment. There was hot water and a lit match involved, so unfortunately this one couldn't be as hands-on as I would have liked. Some photos of the experiment are below.

The water at the bottom of the jar is hot to represent the water that is heated on earth and evaporates into the air as water vapor and rises. The match introduces particulate matter for the water vapor to attach to to form a cloud. This happens in the atmosphere as well--dirt, dust, smoke, etc. combines with water vapor to form clouds.
I held a bag of ice at the top of the jar to represent the colder air up in the atmosphere. Children observed as a visible cloud began to form as the water vapor hit the colder air.
When I removed the bag of ice from the top of the jar, the cloud began to rise out of the jar. That was quite exciting for everyone. I repeated this experiment several times so that everyone could get a chance to see it up close.

We enjoyed eating "cloud parfaits" as part of a class reward for excellent first grade behavior. They are also (loosely) connected to our study of weather/clouds. :-)