Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Eggs are Here!

Today was the much-anticipated "egg-setting day." That is, our chick eggs arrived and they are now placed in the incubator! We talked about the chicken life cycle many times throughout the day and did many chick-related activities. Since it takes about 21 days for the chicks to hatch, we have plenty of time to explore the stages of development and get ready to be caregivers for the chicks when they arrive (approximately May 20th). 

Here are some photos from today:
We passed a (fake) egg during Morning Meeting and said, "I hope you have an EGGcellent day, _____." :-)

Nurse Kelly came in to wash the eggs and talk to everyone about hygiene when handling the eggs.

There's not much to see yet, but our incubator is a warm 100.5 degrees and should be the perfect environment for the developing embryos.

We used a plastic egg to practice turning the eggs. That will be an important job in our room for the next 18 days or so. 

We also had a Mystery Polygon Skype this morning and it was FUN! I will post about that (and other recent Skype calls) soon.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pajama Day (and welcome back)!

I hope everyone had a marvelous April vacation! I can't wait to see students bright and early tomorrow (Monday) morning. We ended spirit week before vacation with everyone's favorite day--pajama day! Students were comfortable and cozy all day long, and they were hard workers too! Our stuffed friends joined us for many parts of our day, including math, writing, reading, our 'brain breaks,' and even lunch and snack. There's a lot of excitement in store for this week in first grade, so I hope students got to bed early tonight! Watch the blog for details...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Math Update

A student excitedly told me today that, rather than watching a bit of TV before school, she is now doing extra math pages using her old math journal. Well, if that didn't make me smile, I don't know what would! ;-) Our conversation reminded me that I intended to write a brief note to families about the first Everyday Math journal that was sent home earlier this week. Don't be alarmed that there are some incomplete pages--we often joke that if we had students do every page, our program would have to be called "all day, every day" math. The journal is meant to supplement the learning, so while we do work in it every day, it's not a goal to finish every page at school. How your child uses it now that it's been sent home is up to you. We are now working in Volume 2 of the journal, which will go home at the end of the school year. The journal pages do provide valuable practice of previously taught math concepts, so I encourage students to work in them at home whenever time allows (but it's not required).

Also, just a reminder that there are MANY online math resources (and other subjects too) linked through this blog. Your child is welcomed and encouraged to access them from anywhere! That goes for Dreambox, Raz-Kids, Kidblog...anything! Please be in touch with questions.

Our Twitter Book Club--An Update

I think it's safe to say that everyone is enjoying our latest chapter book read aloud--My Father's Dragon. I know I am! The idea of Twitter as a communication tool for the class is still a relatively new one (for our students), but I think students are starting to get the idea about how we can share just about anything via Twitter. Tomorrow I'd like to try a video clip of our thoughts about the book. It's been a while since we collaborated via Twitter, and the last time we did it, it was about math! If you are curious, I invite you to check out the live feed. Connect and collaborate--that's what it's all about! 

Since the idea is to read a chapter per day and we do not have school next week, I plan to read a lot with students tomorrow (a perfect activity for pajama day)! We will resume after vacation. 

UMS "Fill a Bucket" Day

Have you filled a bucket today? Today was "Fill a Bucket" Day at UMS. While we should "fill buckets" every day, it was nice to have a special day to reflect on what it means to be a "bucket filler" and to work hard to fill everyone's bucket. What does it mean to be a bucket filler? In short, it means that you are kind to yourself and others with your actions and words. The idea of bucket filling (and bucket dipping--which is what we try NOT to do) comes from this book:

This book is a great reminder of how to be kind to one another.

We made buckets with cups today--complete with a pipe cleaner handle! Mr. Antonicci came into the classroom while students were busily writing "fill a bucket" notes to each other. His bucket was surely filled during his visit! :-)

There were smiles all around when students received kind notes in their buckets!

Making the buckets and writing the notes was fun too. Students wrote A LOT! Our note-writing time went for quite a while since everyone was getting into the spirit of bucket filling. These pictures were uploaded in reverse order--sorry about that! 

Passing the bucket and a compliment at Morning Meeting--check out that smile!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Happy Hat Day!

A photo from today's hat day--the first day of UMS Spirit Week! 

Another Marvelous Monday!

Not only was it a WARM Monday (wow--82 degrees by dismissal time!) but it was also quite magical in many ways! We started something brand new today--a virtual book club! We are connecting with classes throughout the USA (and a couple in Canada) to read the book, My Father's Dragon. It's a classic--have you read it? So far, so good. We will read a chapter each day and share our questions, thoughts, and ideas using the Twitter hashtag #1bc14. You can check our our contributions with this link: https://twitter.com/Sorenson1st. You can also go to Twitter and find the hashtag to see all the Tweets about the book. This is just another way to help students understand how we can connect and share in so many ways! It's fun to see some familiar classes participating, as we've done Mystery Skypes and blog buddies with several of the participating classes. We really have reached beyond the four walls of our classroom this year!

We went "low-tech" with our SWR lesson today about the -ing 'chunk.' We explored how -ing can be used like a word family (ring, sing, thing, bring, etc.) and it can also be added to the end of other words to show action that is happening now.

This oddly shaped pink thing will become part of our 'word family caterpillar,' which has grown quite long! 

Oh, now that I think about it more, we didn't go completely tech-free in our SWR lesson today...students loved this catchy video to help learn the newest red word--about! 

Of course, we did a lot more today, but that's a snippet of our day. Watch for a math update coming soon! 

Have a great week!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Opinion Writing, Track My Progress

Everyone seems invigorated by our latest writing unit of study--writing opinion/persuasive pieces! Before digging into writing about our opinions, we took time to determine the difference between fact and opinion and sorted statements such as "October has 31 days" and "October is the best month of the year" into each category. Ask a first grader to explain which one is fact and which one is opinion and why (we're really big into explaining our thinking, or giving evidence/proof). We've also practiced explaining our thinking/opinions through a Morning Meeting activity called "Would You Rather?" Students have enjoyed pondering choices such as, "Would you rather eat a whole pizza or a whole cake?" and "Would you rather live under the sea or in an igloo?" and "Would you rather jump in a pile of snow or a pile of leaves?" We take sides on the carpet and then students share their reason for choosing that side. It has made for interesting discussions!

Earlier this week, students wrote a piece about one of the "specials" they enjoy and had to give four reasons they think it's a great special. Every special was represented by at least one student. We plan to give these pieces of writing to the specialist teachers next week on "Fill a Bucket" day, as this writing will surely fill these teachers' buckets! Some students had the opportunity to share their writing yesterday--always a favorite activity in this class. We love to share!

As I wrote about in the winter, our class is part of a pilot of a program called "Track My Progress." Students are taking tests in both math and literacy. Here's a summary from their website about what it is: 

Track My Progress is a computer adaptive test. This means that the difficulty of the test questions adapt to the learning zone of the student. If a student is above grade level and answers initial questions correctly, the test will become more challenging as harder test questions are selected. If a student is below grade level poor performance on initial questions will lead the test to provide easier test questions. 

The information I receive from this test is individualized and has helped determine the direction of my instruction for students individually, in small groups and as a class. The content in the test is all directly aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Most students said the test was "fun" and "a little hard, but OK." Overall, it didn't seem stressful and it's good practice for the new state tests to come in 3rd grade. I am proud of everyone's efforts!

Here are some photos of students working on the iPad "Track My Progress" app today...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Friday Fun

We often refer to Friday as "Fun Friday" in first grade, but really I think every day is fun! I could give a positive name to every day of the week...Marvelous Monday, Terrific Tuesday, Wonderful Wednesday, Thoughtful Thursday...you get the idea. :-) In any case, it was a fun Friday last week, but not in the way I was expecting. Read on...

We begin every day with a greeting, and the ball toss greeting is a class favorite. Ask your first grader to explain the "challenge" ball toss greeting. Friday's greeting went especially smoothly--I saw great cooperation and teamwork! 

Students worked on PicCollage (a favorite iPad app) to show their math thinking about things divided into equal parts (an important concept related to fractions). Most everyone has now posted a collage to his/her Kidblog, so be sure to visit and leave a comment! If  your child does not yet have this new post, it's likely due to being absent a day or more last week. There is a lot of illness going around! :-(

The most recent topics in math have been fractions and equal shares. We have also reviewed counting money (now beyond $1.00) and representing 3-digit numbers with base ten blocks/notation.

What really caught my attention on Friday was the amount of collaboration  between students. They were sharing their ideas freely and helping one another navigate different options within the app. It's neat to watch them take ownership of their learning.

Perhaps the most magical part of Friday was our finish up/buddy reading time. Many students had things to finish, so we took some time after the reading lesson for this purpose. As students finished projects, I told them to read independently or with a partner until it was time to transition to our next activity. Well, the next activity never happened! It was the kind of afternoon that just felt right to "go with the flow." The room was calm and productive for over an hour! It was absolute magic to watch students huddled together with books for such an extended period of time. I didn't want to stop them--they were getting such great reading practice. Reading books together, talking about books, sharing thoughts and ideas--that's some amazing learning! We did end our afternoon with snack and a bit of free choice, in true 'Fun Friday' fashion, before heading off to art class.

Here are some pictures I captured of our magical reading afternoon...

I hope you had a great weekend and enjoyed the sunshine and warmer weather. It looks like spring is really here!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014