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I am a sixth-year Teacher in Stamford, CT. This year, I get to start a year in first grade with some of the most fabulous firsties! I spend lots of time thinking of new ways to help my students access the curriculum in a fun, engaging way! I recently started blogging about teaching tips and treasures!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Junior Achievement

For the next few weeks, we will be having visits from Junior Achievement! Mrs. Ursone is our volunteer and she is here today, teaching the kids about communities. Here's a peek into the classroom!



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hello Everyone - Just a Check IN!

If you currently read this blog and keep up with the classroom, please leave me a comment or shoot me a quick email to let me know! I am debating the usefulness of keeping this up as I seem to be getting just a few "hits" on each post. The last one I did, had just one reader.

Let me know! Thanks :-)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Check us out!

I hope you all had a fantastic weekend!

Just a couple of updates:

Our class had a math test today. It was primarily on counting money and comparing amounts. When we were done, we did math centers which included addition and subtraction fluency activities, word problem partner activities, and playing money Top-It. We had a great time, and were on task and focused. It was a great day!

In reader's workshop, my little guys and I discussed the importance of punctuation. We read books by Jan Thomas, which are fantastic easy-reader stories, and then in guided reading groups we further practiced noticing punctuation. We have also begun really paying attention to word endings and contractions, which should help our reading fluency. What is fluency, you ask? Fluency, in its simplest explanation, is "reading like you're talking"... at least, that's how we explain it to the kids! Children become fluent when they know most of the words they're reading, and are able to read them easily. This is why we reread books so often! When kids are fluent, they are better able to comprehend what they are reading. Practice reading daily with your scholars to help them become fluent readers!

ALSO, if you have not already seen it, Mrs. Young put out an email about a harvest party this week. This is NOT a Halloween celebration, as we do not celebrate Halloween at our school. Instead, we will be doing some pumpkin investigations and activities, roasting pumpkin seeds, and generally making it into a really FUN Friday! I appreciate anything you send in, in response to Mrs. Young's email.

TIS THE SEASON! Please send your child in appropriate clothing for chilly weather! This means jackets, mittens (when it becomes necessary, of course), hats, and boots. We still go outside when it's chilly! As long as the playground is useable, we are out there. Indoor recess is fun, but the kids enjoy running and frankly, they NEED to run off some steam! I cannot have your child outside if they are not dressed in the proper seasonal clothing. Please make sure to send this in! In addition - please label EVERYTHING. The downside to having 19 very similarly sized kids is that all of their gear generally looks the same. Even the kids eventually forget what belongs to whom, and this makes for a lot of items going to the lost and found. If there is an item of clothing that you notice your child is missing, PLEASE send me a note! I would love to give these adorable items back to you, instead of sending them to lost and found.

THANK YOU for completing all of your homework with your children. I know that most parents have to take a ton of time out of their days to get this work done, and sometimes, it is not the easiest work.... but trust me, everything we send home is a benefit to your kiddos, and I deeply thank you for helping reinforce the learning we do here at school!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Happy Friday!

Hello Parents - Happy Friday!

This week, our class did a CLOSE read of the book Pumpkin Town by Katie McKy in Reader's Workshop. The essential question was: How do the actions of the characters affect others?

Basically, a CLOSE read is: taking a deeper look at a text, analyzing all of the events, and developing a deeper understanding in order to be able to write about the text and answer analytical questions.

Our students still have a couple of lessons left on this book, and it's a funny story. Ask them what happened in the book! They should be able to tell you a beginning, middle and end to the story.

Writer's Workshop has been full of learning how to revise and add details. For the last few weeks, we have been writing with a beginning, middle and end. This week we focused on adding details. It helps to model telling a story and having a talk about the story. The kids know that if I have a question about the story, they missed a detail. They go back, put a little "carrot" -- ^ -- and add in their details! I am impressed with some of the work I have seen so far!

Phonics has been, as you can tell, all about Magic E. This means we're practicing poems with Magic E, spending time doing dictations, and discussing the rules for Magic E. The kids have also been identifying these words in their reading.

We are JUST finishing up our Unit 2 in math! Please make sure to check your child's folder this weekend, as we will be having a test on Monday. The kids and I went through the test today, but just in case, I would definitely spend time with them on reviewing the skills presented. The big idea, as you can tell, was counting money for this unit. We have just begun learning about number models (__+__=__). The kids have to practice, practice, practice writing these! I suggest giving them number stories at home and having them write a matching number model! (ex: I had 5 cookies. Mommy ate 1. How many do I have left?)



Please talk to your scholars about the importance of following directions at school. Lately, we are having a hard time following directions in the cafeteria, and after lunch in the classroom. Following directions is a skill we work on EXTENSIVELY in the classroom. We act out scenarios, read books about it, write about it, and practice following directions with projects. I would love the reinforcement of this at home. Thank you!

If you have not sent a change of clothes for your child, please do so as soon as possible. We have had bathroom accidents (although the kids are allowed to go without even asking me, sometimes they forget)... and if there are no clothes for them to change into, we have to ask you to bring a set of clothing. We keep no spare clothing here.

Please take a look at the following pictures to see if these clothes belong to your child:


These were found in the cubby area of my classroom. I know they belong to our students, but no one knows whose they are. I really need all clothing that comes to school to be labeled for this reason. IF  SOMEONE DOES NOT CLAIM THEM BY MONDAY, THESE WILL BE SENT TO THE LOST AND FOUND. Thank you for your help in identifying these!

In addition please send your child's money to school in a labeled baggie, envelope, or even with a post-it stating the child's name and what the money is for. Any money that comes in without a label on it, will be sent home until it does have a label ("Bob Smith, Lunch Money" would be fine). I received 5 different dollar amounts today from 5 different children... and when going through the folders, I cannot take the time to label each one. It really does throw us off schedule. I would really appreciate it if you would take the time to do this. It will make our day run smoother in the long run -- and at least this way, I will be sure the money is going to the right place. Again - thanks for your attention to this small detail!

I'll post some pictures in JUST a little bit for you to see what we're doing in the classroom!


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Jog-A-Thon!

Jog-A-Thon was this past Wednesday, and we had an awesome day! For those of you who were there, you saw how enthusiastic the kids were... that always makes the day better :-) In the morning, we had the jogging portion of the events. Unfortunately, this is the only time I get to make phone calls/go through folders, so I didn't get to see this part of the day... but I got to see the other events later! The kids came back from jogging, and we went to lunch and recess. Our second event for the day was dance class, and the kids LOVED it! It was awesome to watch! Here's some pictures from that part of our day:




They move sort of fast guys. :-) Sorry I couldn't get even better pictures!

At the end of the day, we went out to the tug of war. The fifth graders tug against the staff, and it's always fun. These kids in room 3 are now completely convinced they should be doing Tug of War, and were very sad they couldn't get in on the action. Many of them are flabbergasted that they will not be able to do this for another 4 years! It was adorable.


All in all, a great day! Thank you for those of you who turned in your pledge forms - every little bit helps, believe me.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Hitting the Ground Running!

First grade is fantastic. I mean it! I'm not saying the kids know how to do EVERYTHING, not at all... but they sure are able to work independently a WHOLE lot faster than in kindergarten!

As a result of this new independence level, we have begun math centers. I LOVE centers. Workstations, centers - whatever you want to call them, centers-based learning is proven, tried and true. The kids are really able to take ownership of their learning and figure out how to be independent workers. I teach them the GROUPS acronym to remember how to behave during group time:

G = Get along
R = Respect others
O = On task learning
U = Use quiet voices (voice level 1)
P = Participate
S = Stay with your group

It's a learning curve. Trust me. I'll be the first to admit it. Since we only began groups this week... let's just say I'm not looking for perfection. Eventually, the idea is that the kids will rotate through their math work using quiet voices, responding to a simple hand/sound signal to remind them to move. This is a dream right now, because we're still learning how to work independently. I will say that we're getting better as we keep practicing, and NOBODY was off task today!!! (In case you can't tell, this is awesome.)

Here's some pictures from group time:

We made "phones" out of construction paper, markers and glue. I showed the kids how to make a phone keypad. Once they made it, they used their homework sheets from last night to "dial" their phone numbers! Even if the kids knew their phone numbers, it was good practice to actually dial it.

We played Top-It. I believe homework went home about Top-It, but it's basically the same thing as the card game "War" that I used to play when I was little. They're getting good at it! Time to throw some Addition Top-It in there.... basically, you put down two cards instead of one, then add them together! :-)

We used sight word stampers to stamp a sight word, practice tracing it, then write a sentence for it. The kids liked this because of the stamping. No.... it is not math related, but it's some much needed sight word practice!

The fourth center today was math journals. First, the kids had to complete a page of 5's and 6's - tracing, writing, and drawing them. Next, the kids had to play the Rolling for 50 game. The objective of today's lesson, which we did several times, was to use the number grid to count. This game asked the kids to roll the die, follow a chart to see how many spaces to move, and then move their marker accordingly.

I just love this picture of math journal time. These two worked so well together! They were having a great conversation about the rules... working cooperatively. I love it!



In addition to all of this fantastic math work, my students have been doing DRA tests (I will talk about those tonight at open house!), learning how to read with partners, and practicing their reading strategies. In writing, we are REALLY focusing on punctuation and capitalization. Capitals should be at the beginning of sentences, they should be used for proper nouns, and every single time the word "I" is used. Students need to know that periods go at the end of a sentence. I believe they know this, but we are working on attending to this rule during writing!

Phonics right now is all about short vowels. We began long vowels, but the kiddos seemed to be confused... so we backed up and started really actively reviewing short vowels instead! Any review of these skills at home would be so helpful as well.

Social Studies and Science have been all about apples. We had a lot of fun learning about apples and doing some sink/float experiments. The kids loved it! We are finishing up our apple unit tomorrow, and will move right into pumpkins. We are also going to be really studying air and weather, so you may hear your child begin to use some nice scientific weather words at home with you!

A few reminders:
1. PLEASE label your child's lunch money. I cannot do this daily. It takes my time away from the kids to have to label each bag or envelope of money that comes in. I appreciate your cooperation with this!
2. As it gets colder, please LABEL your child's jacket/sweater so I know who it belongs to. Unfortunately, though they bring them in, I'm ending up with a pile of unclaimed jackets and sweaters... but I don't know who they belong to! I am going to try to figure it out with your help tonight -- if not, then I am going to send them to lost and found. My kids will not claim them! :-(
3. Reading on RAZ Kids at night for your 15-30 mins of reading is ALWAYS an option. It is a fantastic way to get on-level books for your child. Dreambox is fun, and a good practice site for math skills... and I can see what the kiddos do at home, which is even better for me! PLEASE use these.... the district pays for them, and they are truly fantastic resources. Believe me... if I didn't think so, I would never encourage it this much! :-)
4. Please check your child's folder every night, and complete the homework. IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, email me! I am ALWAYS available at night for this sort of thing. I'm up. I'm free. I WILL respond. Nothing is more important than your kids getting what they need out of the homework and classwork. I want to make sure you have what you need to be successful.

Thanks for reading! Hope to see you tonight at open house!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

First Post in FIRST Grade!

We are 14 days in, families! Thank you for your support as I have been getting the kids into routines and re-learning/re-teaching the rules each day!

We are off to a great start! I love my class and couldn't be happier to have the most awesome group of kiddos. We are learning lots, and though a lot of what we're doing is review (as you see from what's coming home), we are getting the kiddos ready for a fun, learning-filled year ahead!

A few things:
1. PLEASE be sure to send your child's lunch money in a clearly labeled baggie, envelope, etc, with his/her name on it. I really need your help with this, as without an assistant in the room, there is no extra help to sort out the lunch money. What comes in the folder, is how it goes to the cafeteria. I am only concerned that your child's lunch money will get mixed in with someone else's and the cafeteria might think you owe them money. To prevent this, please send in your money clearly labeled!
2. Please send your child's homework each night. The exceptions to this are the spelling packet, which will be coming home next week, and the reading log, which can be returned on Friday. After open house, the reading log will be replaced by another sheet, a "book report" which children will be expected to complete weekly about the book of their choice. I really appreciate your help and assistance with your child's homework! It is important for the kids to develop good study habits and to understand that homework is a necessity, to practice learned skills. Thanks for taking the time to help them develop great habits!
3. It is chilly in the classroom. Sometimes, we sing the Frozen theme song for fun. (No, I'm not kidding.... the kids love it!) I am exaggerating a bit, of course... but it is important that your child keeps a sweater/hoodie in the classroom in case he/she gets cold. Please send it in with your child. If you want the kiddos to bring their sweaters home each day, that's fine too. I just want to make sure they are not too chilly!

Now, on to the awesome learning we're doing:
Reading: The first unit is all about rituals and routines. How do we use the reader's notebook? Do we remember how to independently read? How about partner reading? These are things we practice daily. We also are learning how to build stamina in reading. We explain stamina as "doing something for an extended amount of time without giving up". Your child will eventually be able to read independently for 20-30 minutes in the classroom. Right now, we're up to 8 minutes. We stop at the first sign of talking or doing the wrong thing, and reconvene on the rug to discuss the right way to do things. The children are learning great habits! Another huge part of the beginning of the year is remembering how to retell and to actively retain the story as we read. We are practicing this, and since it's DRA time, the kids are actively asked to retell their stories daily!

Writing: Students are simply writing stories with a beginning, middle and end right now. They are recalling how to do this, and working on editing - capitals, punctuation, etc. We are also working on adding details through pictures, and choosing seed ideas to write about. Each student has a writer's notebook that he/she writes in daily, and I am happy to say that they are doing a great job with their writing stamina. I love when my class loves to write! This is actually my all time favorite subject, and I hope that rubs off on my students!

Phonics: The name of the game is review, review, review. We are reviewing letters and sounds, simple CVC spelling (consonant/vowel/consonant), and short vowels. We are going to be introducing long vowels as well, and we just introduced the ph and -ck sounds. Please practice phonics skills with your children - especially the irregular spellings that are going to be coming up! I will do my best to provide you with strategies and ideas from the classroom to help with your scholar at home.

Math: The first unit in math is all about counting, remembering how to write numbers, and practicing tally marks. We also teach lots of rituals and routines, including calendar, weather, and counting the days of school. We did this in kindergarten, too -- but it is a little more intensive in first grade. We are also introducing the thermometer (tomorrow, in fact!) and teaching students how to "read" it. At first, we are going to just be introducing it - so don't be alarmed if your kiddo is not an expert immediately. He/she will get there! Please practice counting and writing your numbers at home. It is very important that your child master these skills before moving on to the harder skills in units to come. Counting and skip counting help with number patterns, number recognition, number sense... I could go on and on!

Social Studies/Science: We will soon begin our science unit on air and weather! Right now we're focusing on social studies. We are working on the rules, learning how to cooperate, and doing lots of character education in the meantime. We also began a mini-unit on apples. We are learning about different kinds of apples, describing them using the five senses, and creating charts to show our favorite kinds of apples (a math skill that comes in handy!). We will also be learning about Johnny Appleseed in the coming week and a half.



Whew! That was a lot of information. Sorry - the first one is ALWAYS long! Please let me know if you have any questions, as usual. I love hearing from parents!