Wednesday, May 28, 2014

More interest-based inquiry

Have you heard about our visitor today? A frog hitched a ride in a student's backpack onto Bus 13 and into UMS. Once I heard the rumor, the little guy was set free...but not before I snapped a few photos. Naturally, students were abuzz with excitement about this! Students were so excited and many questions. So, once again (hooray for an inquiry mindset!), our reading mini-lesson time was devoted to answering two "burning questions." First, was this a frog or a toad? Second, what are those large, disc-like circles next to its eyes? Our research led us to many more questions and "Wow!" moments as we learned new and interesting facts about frogs. Some of our findings are below, in an annotated photograph we created with an iPad using the Skitch app. And, just when we thought we had determined the differences between frogs and toads, a student read the statement, "All toads are frogs." in one of our nonfiction texts. We'll resume our thinking and conversation tomorrow. :-)

In the "Skitch" below, we were trying to determine if the 'creature' was a frog or a toad. Our evidence that it's a frog is written in pink, with info about toads written in green. We used two nonfiction texts about frogs as our research sources.

We planted carrots!

All first graders were part of carrot planting yesterday morning in the garden plot next to the school, behind the Colchester Food Shelf. In the fall, they will help harvest them. Many of the carrots will be donated to the food shelf, and some will be served at a school lunch so everyone can sample them.

Seed tape is handy when dealing with tiny seeds.

Monday, May 26, 2014


I am not sure what other title to give this post, because the learning first graders do every day is nothing short of just that--amazing. But something special happened in our classroom on May 15th, and the memory of it sticks with me even now, almost two weeks later.

The question was raised--and truthfully I don't even remember why--"What do butterflies use to taste?" Naturally, several students shared what they thought was the correct answer. Healthy debate ensued. I had a lovely reading mini-lesson planned that day. I scrapped it. It was good, but it could wait. The energy and desire to find answers was sizzling in our classroom that day.  I couldn't miss this opportunity. I presented students with the simple challenge: Since we don't agree on the answer to this question, let's find out! I asked them, "How could we find the answer?" I was a happy teacher when students mentioned both digital and print sources. Our research and inquiry mindset is starting to show--in an authentic context!

Some students went to the library for books. Some students got online and search (a great kid-friendly search engine). Some used a subscription research site we have, PebbleGo. Others scoured our classroom library for books on the topic. Students worked alone, in pairs, and in groups. Some wrote about their findings, some drew, and some talked through their thinking together. It was wonderful--reading, writing, and wondering for a real purpose!

Using PebbleGo to try to find the answer...

Presenting his findings!
When we came back together, we looked at the evidence I had been collecting from students on an online "pinboard," Padlet. Some of their sources are pictured there. Many students shared their thinking and evidence aloud in front of the class. In the end, we all agreed that we had learned something new, and some even admitted their original thinking was wrong (a HUGE step for a first grader--believe me)!  It was AMAZING! I wish all of you could have been there. By the way, ask your first grade if he/she remembers what butterflies use to taste...

Here's our Padlet:

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Watch a chick hatch!

This was an exciting moment on Monday afternoon! This chick was one of nine to hatch. We started with 13 eggs. It happened at dismissal time but everyone saw at least most of the process. Thank goodness because the rest happened overnight!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Skyping with Alabama!

We had a very enjoyable Mystery Skype with a class in Alabama yesterday. They told us right away they had big news--they hatched chicks! We were so amazed and happy because, of course, we did too! After we asked questions to determine each other's location (always fun and challenging), the classes decided we should show a chick to the other class. The other class had a very different looking chick--ask your first grader for more details!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Breaking News!

The chicks are hatching! Two hatched today and several more are on the way. I got a lot of "footage" of the event on the iPad. Stay tuned. For now here's a peek at today's excitement...

It was helpful to "mirror" what was on the iPad to the whiteboard so everyone could monitor the hatching process. I simply put the iPad on the incubator in photo/video mode so we could all see in. When it looked like the hatch time was close, we gathered on the rug to watch!

Ask your first grader to tell you more about these photos! What a day it was in first grade! :)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Candling the Eggs

We were able to check the progress of our chicken eggs last week by candling them. Basically this means shining a bright light directly on the shell and looking for the shadow/movement of the embryo inside. Of our 13 eggs, 11 have started to develop and 2 did not. We will check on them again this week. Only about 9 more days until they are due to hatch!

An 'Opinion Sandwich'

Students learned how to use the "opinion sandwich" graphic organizer organize their thinking when writing an opinion piece. This is one of many ways students learned how to express their opinions during this unit of study. For some children, having a visual organizer can be a helpful way to organize thinking. The underlining in color on the piece we wrote as a class is not something students are expected to do. I did this as a way to help children see how each part of the "sandwich" came together in the final written piece.

Happy Mother's Day!

I hope everyone's Mother's Day was spectacular and that you enjoyed your homemade gifts!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Skype and Salsa!

We are studying Mexico as part of our "My Place in the World" social studies unit, so naturally we had to do a little Mexican cooking! Yesterday, the class helped make salsa. Our ingredients were tomatoes, cilantro, red onion, lime juice, and a little bit of salt. Mrs. Lucier had some cool chopping tools for us to use to blend and puree. Everyone sampled the salsa, even if they were pretty sure they wouldn't like it. Some students were surprised to find they did like our concoction. I thought it was fresh and delicious.

Doing Mystery Location Skype calls is also a direct connection to our current unit in social studies. Yesterday, we connected with Mrs. McGrath's class in Fishers, Indiana, a town just outside Indianapolis. We shared school mascots and a few facts about our schools after we'd figured out each other's location. As you can probably imagine, Vermont has proven to be a tricky state for the other classes to guess. One popular question is whether or not we border a body of water. We do, of course (Lake Champlain) but that's not as easily visible on most U.S. maps as the Great Lakes are. It's stumped many! 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Skype in Social Studies, Polygon Ponderings...

Mystery Skype

We've kept the Skype connections going strong throughout this first grade year! Using Skype has been a natural connection with the first grade social studies units "My Place in the World" and "Mapping." When we do the "Mystery Skype" activity to try to guess where our Skype buddies are, students are using geography and questioning skills to hone in on the exact location of the other class. This has helped to raise awareness of geographical features of our country (the Rocky Mountains, the Mississippi River, compass directions (north, east, south, west), Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, etc.). Our most recent Mystery Skype calls have been with classes in Utah and North Carolina. 

Students ask each other yes/no questions to get clues about each other's location.
Students have maps on clipboards to help them find the location of the other class. We put an x on states/regions we rule out through our questioning until we figure out where they are!
Polygon Ponderings

We had a new type of Skype call last week. This time, we met with a class in Indiana. They had two polygons in mind, and so did we. We took turns asking yes/no questions to determine which polygons were the "mystery polygons." This was a fun and valuable way to review the attributes of polygons, an important aspect of our studies in geometry.

After our call, students were given several polygon-related math choices to do. Some of the activities are pictured below.

There are many geometry related activities linked in the "Math" tab of this blog. Your child can use these at home too!
Pattern Block templates are wildly popular, and students enjoyed making different polygons using the pattern blog polygon shapes.
Making polygons with twist ties and straws
Geoboards--another favorite! Many students enjoyed connecting polygons to make new designs!

Not sure what a polygon is? Ask a first grader!