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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!

Sunday, October 12, 2014


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!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Tuesday is so soon!

Getting ready to meet the kids - or "re-meet" them, in some cases! Just to give you an idea of what our room looks like: 

This was our room in the beginning of August! 

I spent lots and lots of time working on it. Though it is, of course, a work in progress... here it is, new and improved!:

And.... here is a picture of our gorgeous bulletin board:

I can't WAIT to see all of my first graders!  I'd like to extend an invitation to come in, drop of your kiddo on Tuesday, and come say hello. You probably want to see our new classroom, and see your child's teacher - and you're welcome to! I will caution that it will more than likely be a little crazy because it's the first day, but come in and say hi any day this week... and please, let me know about your child's dismissal information on Tuesday if he/she is NOT going to be bus. I have bus numbers for the class, but would like to know if your child is going home any other way.

Thanks! See you soon!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Happy New (School) Year!

I just got a peek at my class list!

I LOVE beginning a new school year, and can't wait to see my fantastic first graders. :-)

I may, just MAY, have a few of my munchkins from last year. I didn't get to keep my whole class, unfortunately... but I'm looking forward to seeing those of you that I DO have!

Hope you've had a wonderful summer... See you soon!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

In the Home Stretch!

It has been a literally EXHAUSTING stretch these past couple of months.

If you don't know about testing in the schools, I can assure you, we do plenty of it... So over the course of the last month, we have administered the final math test, administered the final phonics and sight words tests for this year, and administered the DRA2 test that I told you all about at conferences. The DRA2, for those of you who have not experienced it for other students, takes quite some time to administer... so let me tell you, it has been a long month and a half of testing! I will say this: My students did very well with their DRA tests, and I could not be prouder of their accomplishments!

That said, I am so psyched to finish the year out with these awesome Kindergarten Kids... and then begin my journey in FIRST GRADE next fall! I have been waiting for the official word to announce it, and I just got confirmation this week :-) I am so excited to begin this new chapter, and I think it was the perfect year to go to first, because I get to follow your kiddos up. I LOVE this class, and wish I could take them all with me into my first grade class too! That said, if you come into the classroom and notice it's looking a little bare, it's because we're packing everything up for the move up to my first grade room, and it's going to take quite some time to finish it out! Thanks to the generosity of donors from Donors Choose, we have been prepping for first grade standards, and we have PLENTY of materials to follow us to 1st.

So, what have we been up to the last month or so?...

Math: We are learning how to represent numbers with tens and ones. This means I show the kids  some number cards - 19, 16, 29, etc... and the kids have to show me how to make the number with tens and ones. We have also been working on learning our coins. We introduced this informally throughout the year, but it's a more formal instruction now. I am not expecting mastery, and don't want you to think that we expect it! By the end of the year all the kiddos really need to master is coin names for penny, dime, quarter and nickel.

Reading: We are working on comprehension skills... serious comprehension skills! We are still working on opinion, retelling, favorite part - and those things are still very important. At this point in the year, we're working on developing comprehension while reading. We want the kids to be able to make connections while reading, get involved in the character's feelings, and make predictions throughout a story. We also want kids to be able to infer, so we are beginning the process of guiding them toward author's purpose ( a hard concept for a K kid!).

Phonics: Well, my kids are awesome. We know all of our letters and sounds, though we still practice them regularly! We are still working on ending sounds, word families, and now, beginning blends (cl, br, bl, etc). We are learning the "ow" and "aw" and "ee" sounds in words - our kids have mastered the basics, so we're beginning to teach them more complex patterns now.

Writing: Well, this is my pride and joy. I don't know what it is about this class, but they are just fantastic writers! If you remember at the beginning of the year, I posted lots of kinder-kid writing. This is an example of what we are now doing in writing... and this is ONE STORY!:

 "One day I went to the water park in my car. I brung stuff with me."
 "Next when I got there I put on my bathing suit and my life jacket so I don't drown."
 "Then I went to the side and I played with my brother. He was too scared."
 I missed the first page of this in my picture taking, but what it says is: "Then I went to the pool but I couldn't swim in there because someone catapulted so I went back to the other side of the water park. There was a big bucket and my brother was scared of it."
 "Then it was bed time so I went to bed. I was SO sleepy."
 "Then it was morning. I put on my bathing suit and life jacket and went to the pool."
"I had an exciting day."

Do you all KNOW how exciting this is? Because... MOST of the stories are this good. I would love to have posted more, but that's a LOT of photos. :-) I have never seen K kids hold a story for this long or write quite so many details. And they honestly LOVE it. I know for some people it might seem like they're not spelling correctly, not developed enough, etc... but trust me when I tell you, this is FANTASTIC! Most of these kiddos can't WAIT until writing time and they could easily go for hours if we let them. I'm really most proud of their accomplishments in this area!

Upcoming Events:
Thurs 6/5: Field Trip to Stamford Nature Center
Thurs 6/12: Kindergarten Show
Fri 6/20: Last Day of School

I am going to have a little party with the kids during the last week of school. I was going to have it on the last day but may change that to the day before. If anyone is interested in coming in and doing some little activities with the kids.... please let me know what day works best for you! Thank you! I'm open to any day that week.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Happy Donors Choose Day to Us!

Look what came today! We're going to be ready made for first grade with all these new math tools! Thanks Donors Choose!