Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Nutcracker Ballet

Season's Greetings Readers!  Wednesday was the annual field trip to the Nutcracker Ballet at the Chodel Theatre.  The boys and girls in Room 108 came well dressed with their best manners ready for action.  It was a fantastic performance capped off with a question and answer session from the performers in the ballet.  Thank you to the chaperones for your time and help.  I know the children liked your company as much as I did.  Added to this post are pictures of the girls and boys, respectively, in their very dapper ballet attire.  Oh they looked so good! (CLICK ON EITHER PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT.)

The end of this week also marked the delivery of report cards.  I want to tell you that some students have made outstanding personal progress so far this school year but that does not mean our work in first grade is done.  We are just getting started with the kinds of activities and lessons  that will make Room 108 a place of more excitement, enjoyment, and academics!  This is also a good time of reflection as we head into the holiday season.  There are many things that we (children, parents, and teacher) can improve on to make student learning that much better.  I hope you take a chance to review your child's report card with him/her and talk about some things that can be done to strengthen individual growth and development.  I will continue to do my best to make the first grade experience as engaging and productive for your child as possible.  

As always thanks for all your support, encouragement and for visiting my blog!  Stay warm out there and I will see you soon!  

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Let It Snow

The snow gear is a must and zipping up coats is now part of a first grade teacher's job description.  We have to take a little extra time when coming in and going out of the school so all the children can bundle up from head to toe.  But it seems so worth it when the children can play in the snow!  
Unit 4 is now underway in both reading and phonics but our routines and practices are still being polished.  Open-Court reading heads into "Our Neighborhood at Work" with stories about the people and jobs that help a successful community thrive.  Some of the phonics skills students will encounter are identifying and spelling of the long vowels.  There are a number of ways to make long vowels and this unit is just the beginning of the respective spelling patterns.  Everyday Mathematics is moving into measurement (temperature, inches, and other various units) and beginning to enforce basic fact practice.  Some other skills that will continue in this unit are telling time (to the quarter hour) and number order as applied in the creation of number scrolls.  
Social studies is expanding beyond the community to the state and country.  Along with building basic geography and map skills students will take a closer look at the United States' physical layout and begin to locate other states and their topographical features.  Science is shifting from the identification of properties and object characteristics to closer analysis and comparison.  Comparison is an important early skill in the development of investigation and inquiry based science methods.  
Please continue reading at home and practicing those basic addition and subtraction facts.  With fact practice your child can stay "ahead of the curve" with the upcoming strategies for basic facts in Everyday Math.  If you're looking for fun ways to practice facts and read just check out the assortment of links on the right hand side of my blog.  Thank you for those of you consistently keeping up with the HomeLinks and reading logs.  I know the students turning in their homework enjoy being able to comment on how they solved problems or their homework routines.  

December 10 is our Nutcracker field trip!  There will be more information sent out early next week but please have your child dressed nicely as we take this opportunities to discuss manners, politeness and appropriate behaviors at such a special event as a ballet!  

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gobble, Gobble!!

Hey readers!  Here is a quick update on the state of Room 108's academics so you can all rest easy and eat hearty over the nice long Thanksgiving weekend.  There is a packet of Thanksgiving fun for your child to work on if they (or you) so choose!  

We had a "Game Day" today and it seems the communication of this event was carried home fairly effectively through the students.  Just about every child said they ate a nice well rounded breakfast and felt ready for the big day.  And it definitely showed!  The children worked extremely hard in both the Unit 3 Open-Court Reading and Everyday Math assessments and were rewarded with a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving!  We also reviewed some of the concepts and vocabulary from our Social Studies series and had time to write a journal entry about what we plan on doing for the Thanksgiving holiday.  

The day capped off with a "Harvest Party" that was awarded to our classroom when one of the students' names was drawn way back during Walk to School Week.  Our guest party leader explained the meaning of harvest and talked about local organic farms.  It was quite a treat!

Thank you so much for all the support, communication and feedback this year!  (Don't forget to get your Scholastic orders in!) I look forward to the growth ahead for all of your children!  

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Legoland Field Trip

Hey Parents!  Monday, November 17 we are headed to LEGOLAND! Buses will be departing the school around 9:15am and returning around 12:45pm.  Please make sure you send your child to school with a full stomach along with a snack and lunch as usual.  ALL STUDENTS NEED TO PACK A HOME LUNCH as we will be returning to the school after the hot lunch service in the cafeteria.  
For more info on Legoland and the kind of things we will be seeing and doing click here.  
We look forward to an exciting day and you can bet your britches there will be a photo posted on the blog following it all!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Art Appreciation: Pointillism

Last Friday we had our first art appreciation session in Room 108.  It was a very enjoyable lesson on pointillism.  Seurat is probably the most well known pointillism artist.  Students were encouraged to draw their own backdrop or images and then fill them in using one of three pointillism techniques: glue and paper dots, marker dotting, or q-tips and paint.  Whatever their choice children created some very original pieces of work and seemed to have a great time doing it! 
Thank you to the Room 108 Art Appreciation Parents and especially the photographer for the pictures!  Enjoy the slideshow and make sure you have your speakers on for some Paul McCartney!  

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Kung Fu Fighting - Thank you Mr. Morrison!

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Hello Readers!  First and foremost I want to thank all of the Room 108 parents for their attendance at our recent parent/teacher conferences.  Overall the class is moving in a good direction and each day is an opportunity to for each child to learn something new.  Another big "Thank You" must be given to the Room 108 parents for the outstanding Halloween Bash!  It may have been a little wild at times, but this year's bunch of kids has a lot of energy.  Let's be thankful they all made it out of "Kung-Fu Fighting"  dancing with no bumps or bruises!  If you brought your camera to capture the action please be sure to send the photos/videos in to me so I can decorate the blog.
Now it's time to sink you into Room 108's "Progress."  It certainly is a buzz word right now but it is applicable in so many ways to the current state of needs in our nation and citizens.  Progress is about growing every single day and learning from what already is or has been done in hopes of improvement.  As new units unfold in Math, Reading, Phonics and Social Studies students are asked to build on prior knowledge as well as skills and concepts that have been introduced to them this school year.  Now in the fourth calendar month of first grade, we are nearing the end of the first trimester and the level of expectation is slowly rising.  Many students are now stronger decoders and readers which creates better opportunity for shared reading growth.  Our reading groups are now meeting two or three times a week and children are challenged to apply effort and skills every day.  
Everyday Math continues with familiar concepts such as number line hops, patterns, evens and odds, and clocks.  But Unit 3 goes a little deeper with the introduction of the dime,  counting by 4s, ordering clock times, and exploring the sums of even and odd numbers.  As children are reading more and becoming familiar with our math workbooks and activities they are being encouraged to "discover" answers and learn new concepts together.  Of course there will still be instruction for the whole class and small groups but students are now becoming more responsible for their own learning.  
Unit 3 in Open-Court is titled Things That Go, and as you guessed it, it includes transportation vocabulary and stories.  Daily phonics skills are being introduced and practiced daily with digraphs now being added.  A digraph is two letters that make one sound.  Early examples are /ch/, /sh/, /wh/, and /th/.  As students increase their phonemic awareness word recognition, reading fluency and comprehension will increase.  
Houghton Mifflin social studies also starts a new unit this week, Unit 2 titled Where We Live.  This unit expands on what children learned in the first unit about their communities and introduces vocabulary related to the Earth and its major features like continents, oceans, mountains and natural resources.  The book mentions four oceans but the International Hydrographic Organization has declared the Southern Ocean as the fourth largest of the five major oceans.  Click here for more info.
Delta/Foss science curriculum continues down the path of analysis, inference, composition, and other skills of observation and descriptions.  Some math and science skills are overlapping such as estimation, measurement, temperature reading, weather observations and discussion as well patterns and sequence.  National Geographic Young Explorer has been a terrific compliment for science and social studies as it examines animals, plants, geographic regions and other seasonal topics.  The website has a very cool feature that shows the magazine and reads it out loud as the children follow along.  Thanks PTO for the LCD projector to make this possible!

Keep up the reading at home along with addition/subtraction facts.  I hope the links on the right side of the blog are helpful in keeping you connected to what is going on academically in the classroom.  As always, if you have any questions or comments please share them!  See you on the blacktop!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Conferences and Game Day

Greetings Readers!  This installment of the blog is going to give you the basic information regarding "Game Day" in Room 108.  What "Game Day" revolves around are assessments. Open-Court Reading and Everyday Math have end-of-unit assessments for each unit.  I like combining these assessments into the same day and talk with the students about the value of preparation for an important day. Testing is not something that should be feared rather it can be viewed as an opportunity for every child to show what they know. What I encourage from you at home is to ensure your child eats a hearty dinner and gets plenty of rest the night before Game Day.  Then the day of, help your child to eat a well-rounded breakfast and come to school like any other day.  There is no need to stress about the assessments or feel a need to do any extra studying.  If your child attends school daily and participates in class lessons and activities he/she will be well prepared for Game Day. This kind of preparation and practice readies children for standardized tests, which they will take in future grades.  Assessments are also a strong cumulative evaluation tool to gauge student achievement. During conferences I will review Unit 1 math and reading assessment with each of you so you know exactly what the assessments look like.   I must say as a class, performance was very high for the first set of assessments.  

The second unit assessments will be administered next Thursday morning, October 23.  That day is also Wear Your Cap to School Day sponsored by Caps For Kids and New Era.  This is a great chance to support pediatric cancer.   I look forward to meeting with each of you to have a conversation about your child and his/her progress so far this year.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Walking to School...

Walking to school every day is a unique opportunity afforded to the students of Mann school and others that live close to the school they attend. So many children grow up and as adults reflect upon their bus experiences as a child. For Mann students those memories can be replaced with wonderful learning opportunities such as "Walk to School Week" and focusing efforts on environmental conservation and "Going Green." Thank you to the Mann PTO for organizing such an excellent theme and week full of environmental education! If you haven't had enough green info this week, check out The Daily Green.

As the behavioral learning continues in the classroom, so does the academic curve. Every day is a new chance to learn something new and useful whether it is something to do with manners, such as a boy letting a girl go first, or realizing that 5+5=10 no matter how many different objects are used to represent the numbers. Likewise, letters always make the same sound and when you put certain letters in a certain order they make a certain word and that word is spelled the same no matter where it is written. Consistency and repetition in school, and at home, induce greater learning potential within children. Students are very familiar with their Phonics, Everyday Math and Handwriting Without Tears workbooks that allow for individual guided practice and remediation for all lessons and whole class activities. Children are discovering very quickly that when they focus on the task at hand and work hard, they can complete their work in a timely manner which allows for more intriguing learning options such as books and sight word cards in the reading corner, math games and flash cards, and possibly the most popular of all, independent work time.

As we progress into the middle of October students will continue their investigation of the world in which they live. Communities have been identified and now students are encouraged to think on a broader scale to their state, nation and world. Children are discussing reasons families move, major events of their life, and potential effects of life changes such as parents getting new jobs. Exploration of other communities and peoples brings us into different animal and plant environments. These are the beginning understandings of ecosystems and Open-Court Reading has introduced animal families, diets, and living conditions. This has allowed for greater research of animal science and the needs of living creatures.

Please keep up with the Math Home Links and continue to fill out those reading logs. Extra extension activities at home should include addition facts, sight word recognition, reading (through decoding) along with questioning your child about what they are reading, as to encourage comprehension. Continue to check your child's Mail folder nightly and if you need anything from me please don't hesitate to ask. Thank you parents (and other readers) for your support and cooperation in the learning process. No one person can learn alone. It is with collective effort and motivation that education continues. Let's keep it up!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Upcoming Events...

This post is dedicated solely to the wide array of events happening in Room 108 in the next month.

October 6-10 - "Walk to School Week" - Our attempt to "Go Green" in a number of different ways
October 7 - Picture Day - please submit your order form
October 9 - Room 108 Garden planting - part of the "Go Green" PTO initiative
October 20-24 - Parent/Teacher Conferences - you will be sent a reminder of your scheduled time.
October 23 - Where Your Cap To School - New Era sponsored fundraiser for pediatric cancer!
October 31 - Halloween Party - parents are welcome and so are cameras! Room 108 is in need of some pictures to add to the blog - bring your camera and lets make a photo album!

Reminders - National Geographic and Legoland (Field Trip) checks are needed. Please submit yours if you have not.

Thank you for your reading and interacting with the Room 108 blog. I hope the links are of some help for guided browsing at home. And a big THANK YOU to all of you parents that ordered books for your children. You will get the books soon and the classroom library will continue to grow as you all continue to purchase from Scholastic!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Up and Running, Full Speed Ahead

After two full (five day) weeks of school the children have really settled in. Only subtle reminders are needed for routines and behavioral expectations are becoming ingrained in the minds of all. Now the trends take a new direction and begin to focus more directly on the content of the academic subject areas. Math, reading, language arts, social studies, science and handwriting are all very familiar along with their general focuses and concerns. Transitions are what get us from one subject to the other, from one room to the next, and from the playground into the lunchroom. These are also opportunities for the children to "get their squirms out" so they can hone in on classroom activities and instruction. The first grade ship has set sail and let me be the chipper captain to inform you all, "Thar be all me mateys aboard 'n they be gettin' eager to learn!"

Phonics and reading are piggybacking one another very nicely as we focus on one phonemic sound a day through isolation and recognition of it in as many words and sentences as we can. The decodables should be in the Mail folders almost daily with the phoneme of the day circled and tallied. These little books are also great practice for letter blending by sounding out words into individual letter sounds like this: s-t-o-p. The word building game has been introduced and students are learning how to change words with the simplest switch of one letter. Example: start with the word /ham/, change one letter to get the word /jam/. And of course there are stories from the big books and other literature books being read throughout the days and weeks. Engulfing children in literature is an important early literacy strategy.
Math is taking a turn from the number grid to more abstract concepts like time, dominoes, and rulers. Most of what is seen in Everyday Math is introduced first, and then revisited in later units. The biggest assist you can offer your child is to help them identify the plethora of mathematical possibilities around them every day. Help them to see the patterns and numbers everywhere. Another great way to help them is by practicing addition facts.
Social studies and science have been coupled with our 4th grade buddies lately because of the way the fourth graders are able to provide individualized instruction as well as modeling positive behavior (in most cases) for the first graders. The science aspect narrowed in on the properties of matter and the formation of molecules within the three forms of matter; solids, liquids, gas. Social studies is identifying characteristics of a leader, along with purpose for rules. For six and seven year olds rules can be quite a difficult concept to fully understand, but they are all grasping it more and more everyday.

Upcoming Dates of Importance
Friday, September 26 -
Melt into the Mustang Motto - popsicles to celebrate our behavior!
Saturday, September 27 - Last day for Scholastic Book orders
Monday, October 7 - PICTURE DAY - Make sure to submit your child's order fo
National Geographic Checks - right away

HomeLinks - just about every single night

Reading Logs - Now you can print out your own from home... And in color if you'd like! Traditional paper logs will still be coming home but just showing you where I found it.

Link of the week - National Library of Virtual Manipulatives - an online collection of many of the manipulatives we use in the classroom such as geoboards, pattern blocks, tangrams and many more. All the virtual spaces are accompanied with grade level appropriate problems and opportunities to excel in problem solving and thinking critically. I found myself tackling some of these activities in my own free time-very cool creation! You might want to walk your child through it the first couple times. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fall is Coming and so is Unit Two...

I can feel it in the air and I'm sure you can too. Fall is right around the corner and that means a few things for me; I get to start wearing sweats around my apartment, the leaves have begun turning color and baseball pennant races start heating up! The major league season started all the way back in April and so much has happened to bring all the teams to their current standings. I'm sure if you think all the way back to April about where your child was, it may seem like so much has happened to bring them to the point they're at now. I know I am seeing progress in Room 108 every day and it is still so very early in our academic "season!" Here we go...

Unit 1 is wrapping up this week in both math and reading with numbers and letters looking evermore familiar by the minute. What once was an 'a' is now the first letter in 'and' or 'apple'. What looked like an 'E' is now a backwards '3' and 9 is thought of as one less than 10. Soon students will see more than letters and words and sentences will become commonplace. As numbers grow larger and place value is recognized, addition will become more clearer as well. Unit 1 laid the foundation for instruction, lessons and purpose with Unit 2 going deeper into the discovery and introduction of new skills with better understanding and recognition for both subjects. Open-Court Reading's second unit title is "Animals." Everyday Math begins investigations with time and clocks, dominoes, rulers and the number grid (aka the hundreds chart).

A few reminders...
Students will soon be utilizing Time For Kids as a compliment to the Social Studies curriculum. Please turn in your check for your child's subscription if you have not already. TFK offers great issues in current events, themes, and trends along with excellent teacher and student resources, all age appropriate. Check out the website here for more information or to see more closely some of the topics we will be discussing.
There is a site I found recently that is definitely worth checking out with your child and it's called The Fact Monster. It offers a buffet of various resources for that insatiable academic appetite some of your children possess. Even if your child has one area he/she loves investigating, The Fact Monster will feed you information from a multitude of angles. Plus, its a great way to encourage reading!
Speaking of reading, Scholastic Book Orders are due next week (9/27/08). New books are always an exciting way to encourage enthusiasm for reading. Scholastic offers titles from all content areas and authors. You might be surprised at some of the incredible deals on some very familiar authors. I have been reading poetry from Shel Silverstein to the students during snack time and poems were a big part of the first unit in Open-Court Reading. May I suggest a book or two of his? Or maybe check out author/illustrator Eric Carle. He really has a talent that kids catch on to and love!

All in all the year is rolling and each day brings better attention, behavior and more effort. The more enthusiasm and participation each child offers to the class, the stronger our learning community will be. Thank you for reading and I will see you on the black top!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Week Three Came and Week Three Left

Hello Readers! Room 108 routines are getting polished and students are beginning a much closer investigation of their surroundings. Patterns are being identified all around us in the form of letters, words, numbers and people. We are locating important reference points in the room such as name tags on our desks, along with letters, words and punctuation marks posted on the walls. We are also getting to know our classmates much better. Independent work time has become one of the early favorite parts of the daily schedule because it affords students the freedom to explore more thoroughly the classroom, their classmates, and themselves. Free exploration is a great way to encourage creativity, identify individual special interests and execute individual choice.

Here's what else this week brought for Room 108 students:
Phonics is in the early stages of letter sounds and identification. Much of this is review but new letter stories and combinations are introduced each day along with more letter writing practice. Letter sounds are being combined to practice the skill of blending. Blending is an early reading strategy used to decode new, unfamiliar words. Phonics skills will be isolated in "Decodable" books. These books will be coming home in your child's mail folder when we have finished with them in class.
Open-Court Reading introduces children to a whole class reading approach and envelopes all children in one story or reading each day with comprehension at the focus. The first unit is titled "Let's Read" and uses word repetition and rhyme schemes to promote motivation for all readers. Many of the readings thus far have been very short and simple while isolating one comprehension skill such as prediction or visualization.
University of Chicago's Everyday Math begins with the first unit emphasizing number sense and tally marks, along with exploration of tools students will be utilizing in future investigations. Some of these tools include dominoes, pattern blocks and templates, tangrams, and geoboards. Writing of numbers and number sentences was also introduced and will be groomed in the future.
The Social Studies' theme for the beginning of the year is "School and Family." Children have been engaged in defining and relating to terms like community, family, helper, and caring. So far students have been able to determine what makes up a community and can describe aspects of successful communities. Students are also demonstrating what family and community look like daily with Mann school's Mustang Motto and Room 108 Rules.
The science curriculum starts out with a theme of "Matter" and puts an emphasis on the properties of different kinds of matter. Students are naming descriptive words and have begun organizing different objects according to their characteristics and properties.

Sandwiched in between the demands of curriculum and special area classes is an assortment of early school year requirements like fire drills and bus evacuation procedures. Children have been forced to experience indoor recess during some rainy days and cope with the unfortunate scenario of a substitute teacher. (I had to attend a required Handwriting Without Tears training session at the district office.) All in all I would say Room 108 is adjusting pretty well to the intricacies of first grade. I am looking forward to the coming weeks and diving deeper with the students into the great sea of learning.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Thank You(s) and the Second Week

I must start by sending out a warm thank you to all of my former students for their post cards, e-mails, and phone calls throughout the summer. I know the summer time for most is a time to be away from school and forget about anything "academic" but there were some of you that did not forget your first grade teacher. It was nice to hear about the trips to Minnesota, Michigan, California and many of the other places that were visited. It was also nice to hear from so many of the former Room 108 parents. You all have a special place in Room 108. For the foundation would not be the same without all your wonderful help. Thank you!

Onto the second week of school... in the new school year...
Routines, Routines, Routines! It can't be stressed enough early in the year. A successful classroom (and school) is built on consistency and high expectations. As the 5th full day of student attendance wraps up, Room 108 routines have become oh so necessary. We see them in the morning with our Mail folder, lunch choice and pencil sharpening. Again when we QUIETLY line up and practice our fire drill line with number order, which is also used on occasion when we travel to specials to limit our possibilities for noise in the hallway. And finally at the end of the day when all students check their mail, get their lunch box, and make a trip to their locker before putting their chair up and picking up any unnecessary items on the floor.

That is all for today. More information will be distributed at First Grade Curriculum Night - Thursday, September 4th, 2008 - 6:00-6:30pm - See you there!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The First Day of School

It's official! The 2008-2009 school year is in session with the first student contact day. Teachers and administrators alike have been working to make this year even better than the last. I am truly excited to have your children in my class and I am looking forward to guiding learning, inspiring creativity and of course developing better and stronger readers!

There will be plenty more posts to come. But for the time being please browse through my blog and see what kinds of things you can find. And be sure to check out the video post below for a good laugh!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A New School Year

Hello to all! It has been awhile since my last post and I have been busy with summer activities and events as I'm sure most of you have. Between graduate course work, traveling, and of course keeping up with the baseball season, I have been able to gain some experiences I hope to prove valuable for the upcoming school year. Here is a little sampling of what I have been doing.

Following the school year I taught a module (M.A.R.S.) and was Assistant Camp Director for Camp Invention which took place at Mann School. The camp was a great "hands-on" approach to problem based learning. Many of you may have heard some details of the camp and might want to get your child involved next summer. It's a great atmosphere for learning.
After Camp Invention wrapped up I finished finals for my first two graduate courses at Loyola University Chicago. After four years of undergraduate work and my first semester of teaching I still have the mindset of a student. I couldn't wait any longer and felt the need to continue my professional growth as to stay on the edge of educational research, theories, and methods. One of the greatest assets of my early graduate career is the network of people and experiences they have to share. It has been amazing to hear about the various ways educators work and the diverse kinds of education available to the youth of today.
That brings me to the end of June and my departure to Washington D.C. to represent Region 46, specifically the Oak Park Teachers' Association as a representative of Illinois at the National Education Association's Representative Assembly. (You might have to read that twice to piece it together, its ok.) As a member of my local teachers' union I felt this opportunity to be invaluable. As a rep at the "RA" I was able to hear first-hand some of the most pressing concerns for today's teachers. Not only was I able to witness debate and converse with educators from around the country, but I was encouraged to deliberate on tough matters and personally express my thoughts through a few different methods of voting. It truly was an experience that helped me understand how a democratic system operates through its largest body in the world. Yes, the NEA-RA is the largest democratic body in the world possessing around 9,000 reps from a union of just over 3.2 million members! It also gave me a deeper understanding of the educational system from a national point of view. The NEA strives for a GREAT public education for EVERY child. Teaching really is about harvesting the greatest potential from each individual learner.
The convention afforded me the opportunity to be in our nation's capitol for the fourth of July and never have I celebrated our country's birthday like that. I was sitting on the front lawn of the Capitol building watching "A Capitol Fourth," which was broadcasted on PBS. Another great place I found littered amongst the seemingly endless museums and exhibits was a new museum called the NEWSEUM. This place is dedicated to the history of "News" such as current events and general media. Take a look at the website if you are interested, it's quite fascinating.
Following my D.C. trip it was time to head back to Minnesota and spend time with my family. My parents still live in my hometown of Crookston, MN and it is a great place to get away from the busy city life and enjoy the northern part of the state with all its lakes and wilderness. While in Minnesota I was able to see my entire family which includes a younger brother and older sister. Some things I did with them were spend a weekend on Leech Lake fishing, eat at Zorbaz Pizza in the summer time hot spot of Detroit Lakes, MN and of course see my hometown team, the Minnesota Twins, defeat division rival the Cleveland Indians at the Metrodome. There is something about going home and spending time with family that creates a feeling unlike anything else.

As I said this is just a sampling of my activity this summer. I hope you were able to enjoy your summer break as much as I did. But as with all summer breaks, there comes an end and the beginning of another school year. Hopefully you are rejuvinated and excited to engage yourself in more learning experiences. For some pics from my summer check out the slideshow on the right hand side of my blog and for more info on some of the places just click on the highlighted hyperlinks throughout this post. Hopefully I will see you at Mann School soon!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

End of the Year Stuff...

The final days of school are approaching and it is time to celebrate the end of first grade! There are a number of first grade activities your child will be involved in and this letter is a guide to help the final days of school run smoothly.

Friday, May 30 – First Grade Read-In
Each child needs to bring 4 books, a water bottle, snack and drink, towel or blanket, board game or card game.

Monday, June 2 - Jungle Book
In the afternoon students will be watching Disney's "Jungle Book" while we take apart our classroom jungle. It will be a sad occasion but it is necessary so we can recycle all the jungle's pieces.

Tuesday, June 3 – Classroom Party - Reynolds 2:10-2:55pm
** Each child needs a large bag to bring all supplies and work home. Lockers, desks, and classroom will be cleaned thoroughly.

Wednesday, June 4 – Olympic Day
Each child needs athletic (gym) shoes, Olympic Day classroom
t-shirt, water bottle

Thursday, June 5 – Last Day of School
One hour of school – 8:00-9:00am

Thank you for your cooperation in making this year a fantastic one! I look forward to finishing the year with lots of celebration and fun!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Here is the link to the infamous game "Bloxorz" your child may have asked about. Click on "Math Games" and then click "Bloxorz." It really is extremely addicting and a great mental challenge. Enjoy!
ps. Ask you child what they know about Snafooz block puzzles...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Unit 10 Means Close to the End

The latter half of May is descending our way and recess time is in its prime. All the hard work in Room 108 is consistently rewarded with outdoor recess. I must say, the students in this classroom behave appropriately, maintain focus, and work hard with very few reminders these days. All the effort we have given throughout the school year has really been paying off. Hopefully these great habits can be maintained through the summer and brought back to the second grade staff, where ever your child may be. Having said that, learning is still ongoing...

Open-Court Reading wraps up Unit 9 "Being Afraid" with the story of Three Billy Goats Gruff. Unit 10 is themed "Homes" and begins and exploration into the many different kinds of homes all over the world. And we are not discovering and discussing just people homes, we are investigating homes for insects and animals as well. Phonics and Language Arts continue to be a review of the wide array of skills introduced throughout the year.

Everyday Math has walloped its final unit of introductory material as Unit 9 closed and promises to be a bit less threatening with Unit 10. Unit 10 is one big review of everything in the previous nine units and really nails down on the skills necessary for the start of second grade. At this point the most important "mathematical" practice for your child is addition and subtraction facts. Having quick knowledge of addition and subtraction will make the future of mathematics bright for your child. If you feel your child is already solid in their addition/subtraction facts then please challenge them with multiplication and division. The two go hand in hand and will boost your child's readiness for the next level.

Unit 3 of Social Studies has been elongated with our need to catch up on Time for Kids but will be closing out "The World of Work" with a final lesson devoted to factory work. As the unit finishes, students will be asked to discuss many of the aspects (such as vocabulary, job descriptions, work connections, and personal connections) of the working world as they see and understand it.

The study of insects is finally evolving... (In the form of darkling beetles of course!) Students have enjoyed the vast collection of insect life cycles shown in about as many different forms as we could find. (Books, movies, diagrams, worksheets, mobiles, collages, packets, slides, cut and paste activities, expository writing, and of course LIVE mealworms!) Thank you for all the great help you provided at home. Room 108 wouldn't look the same without it!

This Friday, May 16 Room 108 will be celebrating the summer birthdays at 2:30pm. Mrs. Anderson has offered to bring in a birthday treat. If you would like to offer something in addition for the classroom, in honor of your child's birthday, please feel free to donate a book to the classroom library, bring enough pencils for everyone in the class, or e-mail me if you have another idea.

*** Spring Sing - Wednesday, May 21 - 8:20am - Refreshments in Room 108 to follow

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Merry Merry Month of May

Ola Padres! Room 108 is in high gear at the end of the school year nears. It is the time of the year where first grade students really begin to blossom by displaying many of the great new skills they have worked so hard to gain and hone throughout the academic year. All children have grown in so many ways. It truly is a pleasure to witness and be a part of!

Open-Court Reading is now into Unit 9 and it is a review of the many phonics skills covered over the course of the year along with the introduction of more powerful vocabulary words. Students are starting to display concrete awareness of nouns, verbs, and adjectives while also grasping punctuation concepts like commas, contractions, and possessives. As we read as a class, in small reading groups, leveled readers, and whole class readers, children are encourage to ask questions, make predictions and inferences, summarize, and practice a number of other comprehension strategies.

Everyday Math is really dividing up into fractions! We have recently been analyzing fractions through manipulatives such as pattern blocks, base-10 blocks, paper folding and shading, and paper strips. Fridays in Math have become first grade game time in Miss V's room. This is a chance for the first grade students to get together in one classroom and play math games. Some of the games are review from earlier in the year while others are some of Miss V's specialties. Either way it is an excellent opportunity for children to interact with future classmates and practice many of the skills we have learned over the course of the year.

Upcoming Events
Friday, May 9 - "Hi-Touch, Hi-Tech" - Room 108 - 9:30-10:30am
*Please submit payment and permission slip if you have not already done so.
Wednesday, May 21 - "Spring Sing" - First Grade @ 8:20am in the Auditorium
*"Munchies" in Room 108 to follow

Monday, April 21, 2008

Beautiful Weather Means Spring Energy

Greetings Readers! Room 108 has been filled with energy and excitement due to the gorgeous weather we've had over the past week. Our field trip to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum was outstanding and student behavior merited a mighty round of applause. (In addition they were all treated to a homemade chocolate chip cookie! Courtesy of a Room 108 parent, thank you!!) Pictures will be loaded soon to the Room 108 Flickr account and then visible on my blog slideshow immediately after. If you have any classroom pictures from this school year you would like to share, please e-mail me and I will give you the Flickr account login so you can upload the pics directly from your computer. Thank you to the parent volunteers for chaperoning (and taking pictures!) I also want to say "Thank You" to all of you that turned in a Scholastic book order. Your book purchases help in increase the volumes in Room 108 and they provide great motivation to all of our young readers!

Open-Court Reading led us to a performance of "The Great Ball Game" today. Students have been practicing diligently in preparation for their performances of this puppet show. We worked hard together to create a performance stage which included a night and day backdrop, along with individual puppets that matched the many parts of the play. If you are interested in finding out more, ask your child which part they played and what puppets they made. Room 108 performed for Mrs. Poteracki and Ms. Vasquez's first graders today and were great audience members for the other first grade classroom performances last Friday. Theater is a great way to improve comprehension, word recognition, and reading fluency skills. Who knew Room 108 was full of so many acting enthusiasts?!

Everyday Math is stepping forward into Unit 9 with Fractions and Place Value. Fractions is an introductory skill that will be improved upon in the coming years but can be practiced with very basic understandings such as halves, thirds, fourths, and so on. Place value will be an important skill as we progress towards double digit addition. It will also be a very important skill when beginning addition and subtraction concepts such as carrying and borrowing. If your child has become very quick with their addition facts please plow right ahead into subtraction. Everyday Math use the "Fact Families" and "Fact Triangles" as an attempt to practice both skills together. In accordance with good classroom behavior, students will be able to practice and display their operation skills with the many math games they have learned throughout the year. There are many new fact-based games that will be introduced in the coming days and weeks as well!

Science has been in a full on investigation and observation of insects and their life cycles. Currently students each have their own vile of mealworms. These mealworms are used for a case study of the metamorphosis that occurs in the life cycle. Students have been recording observations and charting the life cycle as it unfolds before their eyes. It has been a most exciting experience for everyone. At first many of the children were timid in their handling of the larva but now some of the students have been limited to observing through their viles because they can't seem to keep the insects off their faces!!

I hope all is well on the home front for all you involved in the Room 108 learning process. Let's look to kick the finals months of learning into high gear as we practice the many skills we have gained from the first grade experience! Thanks for all the positive support and feedback. See you on the blacktop!

- Mr. Reynolds

Friday, April 11, 2008

~ * Room 108 Reading News * ~

Scholastic Book Order – Due Back April 18, 2008
Attached to this flyer is the May issue of Scholastic SeeSaw book order. I want to highlight a few of the beginning chapter books found in the issue. Many of your children have made great strides in reading and are eager to begin chapter books. A great motivational tool for reading is to find an author, series, or collection of books that has a theme for your child to become familiar with. A to Z Mysteries, Magic Tree House, and Harry Potter series are all great collections to captivate and satisfy your child’s reading needs and urges.

Reading Logs and Book Links
Please continue to help your child log their reading. Along with the reading logs Room 108 will be using “Book Links” to connect what children read at home, to their life at school. Attached to this flyer you will find a couple pages of Book Links. Simple have your child fill in the information, bring it to school, they can share it with other children, and we will be collecting them as a class.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Jungle Plants Some Seeds

The life cycle is under way! Hopefully by now your child has told you what they did with the egg carton they brought in before spring break. Each student has learned about the necessities of plant life and is now the proud caretaker of their own egg carton garden. Children were able to select seeds from a large variety of flowers and carefully place each hopeful seed in a egg carton slot. The children were excited to connect the caretaking skills from Frog and Toad's "The Garden" to their own garden!

As the life cycle continues in Room 108 children will be exposed to a number of different kinds of insects and the features they all share and the features that make them unique. Living insects, such as meal worms and ants, will soon be filling the classroom and this has motivated the children to learn about them. We will continue to read, write, and discuss all about basics concepts of biology and botany. Hopefully the bright sun and warm weather will keep up!

Everyday Math is continuing to move right along with money and polygons but is now progressing with deeper concepts such as fractions and making change (subtraction.) Fractions can be difficult for many students but do not fret because this the first time many of the children have really examined what fractions are. (These is also the beginning steps of division.) Please continue to complete the Home Links and turn them in the next day. Thank you to those of you who have been consistently bringing in Home Link requests. It is a fantastic way for students to apply what they are learning in school to the things around them at home.
Open Court Reading is now in the middle of the Unit 8 titled "Games" and just about smack dab in the middle of the student anthology reading books. The big skills we are we are working on as we reading are comprehension skills such as summarizing, predictions, and making inferences. We are also connecting writing skills to our reading by making story maps and composing short excerpts of our favorite, or most interesting, parts of our stories. Many of the stories have silly game concepts or ideas that students are latching on to and becoming naturally engaged in reenacting, or inspired to create on their own.

** Upcoming Event **
April 16 - Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum - Please submit a signed permission slip and check payment if you have not already. Thank you!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Welcome Back!

Greetings Blogger Readers! Room 108 is back in session at Horace Mann School and the children came back with a ton of energy and great things to say about their spring break experiences. I enjoyed the break immensely and was fortunate to be able to embrace the baseball season with my family at a couple spring training "Cactus League" baseball games in Arizona. The weather here in Illinois is not exactly baseball friendly but it will soon look up and the sun will be shining again!

A big thanks and "stamp of approval" goes out to the students that took the initiative (or parent initiative) to work in their Creative Writing packet over the break. All of your children have creativity inside and it is a pleasure to read anything your child is willing to share. I want to also thank the families who have helped their child complete and return the Reading Logs. I am glad to know the log has become such a motivational tool!

I must draw your attention to a new feature of the Room 108 blog. On the left hand column you will see a slideshow linked from a "Flickr" account created for our classroom. This slideshow will display photos taken from parents and myself and updated as often as pictures are available. (Big THANK YOU goes out to the creator and main picture suppliers) If you have any Room 108 pictures you would like to share on the blog please e-mail them directly to me.

Thanks to all you blog readers out there and please keep up the e-mail comments, posts, and questions!! See you on the blacktop!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Season is Changing...

As we wrap up the final week before spring break, Room 108 is preparing for an opportunity to reflect and project. Since the turn of the new year students have been working hard on a daily basis to gain and apply new skills in a number of content areas. The big challenge for everyone is connecting the skills and knowledge across the many academic domains. Things we learn in phonics can help us in reading, just as things we learn in math can help up in science. In Room 108 I try very hard to encourage thought and application from one subject to the next, and from inside the classroom to the rest of life. Students may not realize their clock partners and group work are helping them develop life skills necessary for future development, but it is happening and I can see flashes of it every day. As we all slow down our "academic" motors and prepare for some much deserved relaxation time, I ask you to look ahead to the rest of the academic year and identify some things you and your child can improve or expand on. I believe it is important to have interests in all areas of life, so I encourage you to explore some new horizons with your child in an attempt to broaden your spectrum of understanding. There is a seemingly endless number of fun, exciting, and educational opportunities are out there for us to experience!

Wednesday will be a "Game Day" for students as we wrap up Unit 7 in Open-Court Reading and Everyday Math. Monday and Tuesday have been massive review days as I want to refresh students memory with as many of the skills and stories we have experienced throughout Unit 7. As with all games days, please make sure your child has a good night's rest and well-balanced breakfast. Thursday will be a "Spring Cleaning" of sorts as we prepare our classroom for ten days of inactivity. Keep your eyes open for an assortment of materials collected in students' desks during the past couple months.

Report Cards
Thursday your child's report card will come home in their Mail folder. These grades are for the second trimester and reflect your child's academic and individual development from the end of the first trimester to now. It has been an absolute pleasure to watch the growth of your children socially, academically, and physically. Personalities have really begun to set in and the ever changing classroom constellation is being reshaped as development and growth occur. Thank you all for everything you have provided Room 108 and the support you have given me. These first two trimesters have been a truly incredible experience and I look forward to finishing the year in the same way!

School Reminders
** If you have not already done so, please have your child bring in a shoe box and egg carton. The shoe box will be used to create a solar system project and the egg carton will be used for a project during the life cycle study in science.
** Spring Sing Postponed - You should have seen a flier come home the Spring Sing being rescheduled for the week of May 19-23. Please make a note of this.
** Room 108 created some outstanding art work during an art appreciation devoted to Keith Haring and his unique style. Student work is currently on display in the Gym and was up during the Fun Fair.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Update in Room 108

Greetings to all! A lot has happened since the last post and the district web server is experiencing difficulties so my recent Readers have been unavailable. Here we go...

The recent game day proved again to be a strong evaluation for all students in the areas of math, reading, and phonics. Many of the skills covered in both assessments will be reviewed and assessed again before the year is over. Report cards will be sent home on March 20, 2008, the final day of school before spring break.

Unit 7 of Open Court Reading has graduated students from predecodables and personal readers into student anthologies. An anthology is a pretty traditional collection of literature focusing not on phonemic skills rather student comprehension and understanding. Important skills now become summarizing, making predictions, drawing inferences, and sequencing events. Many of these reading skills are assessed informally with teacher/student question and answers but there will be occasional worksheets dedicated to written answers. Unit assessments will also require students to do some reading and answering comprehension questions individually. The theme for this unit is "Keep Trying" emphasizing the importance of working hard and not giving up. Recent reading selections include the Itsy Bitsy Spider and selected Frog and Toad.

Everyday Math is also in Unit 7 which, as the Home Links have shown, focuses on Geometry. Students brought in many geometric shapes for the "Shape Museum" that has been constructed in the rear of the classroom. We are currently focusing on identifying names of polygons and three dimensional (3D) shapes. Attention is being paid to the shapes attributes such as the number of sides, corners, straight edges, side length, color, and patterns.
Please continue to work with your child on their addition facts because subtraction is right around the corner. Ongoing skills include: clock times, domino addition, coin counting/money exchange, base 10 blocks, place value, writing names for numbers, fact triangles (families.)

Social Studies has cracked into Unit 3 which introduces students to the "World of Work." The unit brings the reality of work as a means to gain money necessary for the purchase of goods. The first couple lessons focus on human wants and needs, differentiating between the two. It also identifies the needs as food, shelter, and clothing. As a class we have talked about how lucky we are to live in Oak Park, Illinois and not have to worry much about when and what they will eat, where to school, or sleep at night.

Science is slowly traveling throughout the solar system and universe as students become more familiar with the planets of our solar system in the Milky Way galaxy. The recent trip to Cernan Space Center was a tremendous venue to let students see space in a new and different way while also being allowed an opportunity to ask a professional astronomer questions about the universe we live in.

Upcoming Dates and Things to Remember:
Mann School Spirit Days - March 12-14 * Friday is Hot Chocolate Friday *
Wed, Crazy Hair Day; Thurs, Pajama Day; Fri, Mustang Day (Mann Wear)
March 21-30, 2008 - Spring Break

Thanks to all who sent in hand sanitizer and soap! Our students are extremely grateful! (So am I!) See you on the blacktop!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Reader Vol. 11

Here is the most recent installment of the Room 108 newsletter; Mr. Reynolds' Reader. Hope you enjoy it! One thing I did leave off the newsletter is a request for hand sanitizer. A majority of the first graders wash their hands in Room 108 or Mr. Jerkatis' Room. Students are asked to use soap and water in the bathroom, disinfecting wipes, or hand sanitizer. All of these supplies are running low, but the hand sanitizer is basically gone. If you feel so inclined, would you please donate either hand sanitizer or hand soap to our classroom? Thanks!

Another quick note... there will be a "Game Day" Thursday, February 28, 2008! Please check out Vol. 11 of the Reader for necessary preparation steps.

Here are a couple more links for all you web browsers...
Miss Vaquez' First Grade Blog
The Learning Planet - Outstanding resource for educational activities and printables, like word searches!
Solar System Slide Show
Addition Flash Cards
Subtraction Flash Cards

Below are some pictures from the Black History Month Assembly with Miss Lynn Allen.

Thanks for reading and keep up the great reinforcement of academic, behavioral, and social importance! Life is a process that can be motivated with improvement!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Worm Chalet

Hopefully your child has told you by now of the worm invasion in Room 108. We are taking part in a worm composting project supported and funded through a district wide grant. We are currently in the set up stages of the project where the worms are getting "familiar" with their new home. Students will be saving "worm" food scraps such as vegetables, some fruit (grapes, little apple and banana pieces), and plain white paper. There is to be no citrus fruits or bread because both spoil rapidly attracting fruit flies and mold.
This is an exciting project, captivating children in a number of content areas, along with responsibility and commitment. The worms will multiply over time while depositing compost into a lower tray in the "chalet." The compost will then be donated to local agricultural businesses.
Here are a few links to some interesting worm websites to explore with your child. Or they can explore them on their own... (Courtesy of Lori Malinksi)
Adventures of Herman the Worm
The "Yuckiest" Site on the Internet - All About Worms

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Return of Mr. Reynolds' Reader

I have come to discover that my Blog is not frequented as often as I anticipated. As I do in the classroom, I am adapting my instruction and communication to suit the needs of all involved. NotLink only will you still be able to keep up to date with Room 108 happenings on my blog, but you will also be able to download a pdf copy of Mr. Reynolds' Reader (once again). I have been advised to reproduce the once thought extinct newsletter in paper form. I hope it steers attention to this blog and is a helpful update for the parents of all the children in Room 108.
Thank you and happy reading!

Mr. Reynolds' Reader - Volume 1 Issue 10

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Unit 5 Completion

Today marks the completion of Unit 5 in both Open-Court Reading and Everyday Math. Wednesday, January 30, 2008 will be "Big Game Day" for students as they will complete assessments for both content areas.
Focused skills for the reading assessment will be vowel distinction (long versus short), high-frequency words (like sight words), select vocabulary, and word usage in context.
Skills isolated for the math assessment will be domino addition, base ten block counting, greater than-less than-equal to, money counting (and comparison), and "What's My Rule?"
If you child has been attending school regularly and actively participating, these assessments will go very well.

**Parent/Teacher Conference Week - February 4-8, 2008**
You should have received, in your child's Mail folder, your conference date and time. If you have any questions or need to reschedule please contact me as soon as possible.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Unit 5 continues...

It feels good to be healthy and back in the classroom. Thanks to those of you that sent me "Get Well" wishes as they were much needed. I battled off a pretty intense case of tonsillitis and am now at last back to full speed.

As Unit 5 continues in both Open-Court Reading and Everyday Math students are asked to apply many of their skills in new contexts. Phonics and reading have combined in what Open-Court labels "First Readers." These are small thin books given to the students to read and follow along individually. This format is in opposition to the Big Book format experienced until this point. Some of you may receive the next set of Sight Words (101-125) to begin practicing. The words are: over, new, sound, take, only, little, work, know, place, year, live, me, back, give, most, very, after, thing, our, just, name, good, sentence, man, think. Again these are words that should be recognized upon sight and may not necessarily be phonetically spelled.

Everyday Math continues down the path toward addition fact perfection. Basic addition facts will be covered and manipulated in a number of ways. Students have been learning ways of adding double digits with the assistance of base 10 blocks and counting coins. Number stories are also becoming commonplace in the math arena as students work on both comprehension and listening with a purpose, in this case numbers and operations.

Science continues with exploration of our solar system and the assortment of unique bodies within its realm. The universe and space have been captivating both the students' minds and interests as they are encouraged to wonder, ponder, and dream of the interesting features and endless possibilities offered up in outer space.

Social Studies continues down the path of the world we live. Children are being introduced to geographical features and ecological bodies and their purposes. Some keys terms thus far are land, continent, ocean, lake, and resources (non-renewable, renewable.) Please entertain your child's questions and interest in any or all of these areas.

** Parent Teacher Conferences **
Conferences are right around the corner. Please pay attention to your child's Mail folder and your e-mail inbox for your scheduled time. The schedule will remain the same as the fall with a few exceptions. Please contact me if you know there will be a conflict.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Welcome Back... the wheels keep spinning...

After a long needed, and appreciated, winter break Room 108 returns full speed ahead! I hope you all were able to relax and enjoy time with your family the same way I did. It seemed to me the children were anxious to get back to school because the room was full energy, enthusiasm and motivation!

All subjects started with a new unit guiding students towards the acquisition of new skills, broader understanding, and an introduction to all kinds of interesting new content. Open-Court reading started Unit 5 "Weather" and a quick review of long vowels sounds and spellings. Math also began Unit 5 focusing on the application of base-10 blocks and remediation of skills such as measuring, counting by twos and fives, basic addition facts, time telling (as small as 15 minutes intervals), and coin counting/exchange.

The science and social studies curriculums both started the second installment of content. The science unit is titled "Finding the Moon" and will focus on many aspects of the moon but will also expand into the basics of our solar system and Milky Way galaxy. The social studies unit is titled "Where We Live" and delves deeper into the surrounding environment of students and the terrain of the Earth.

You should have received, in your child's Mail folder, the first homework packet with an introduction letter and homework materials. As we move into the second half of the year, first graders are asked to begin taking more responsibility for their learning. This is an important step in child development and motivation for learning. When children take initiative to make choices relevant to their education, they begin to take ownership for their work and effort. Please take the time to go over the each homework packet with your child and encourage them to complete as much as possible on their own. If you have any questions about the packets or any of the new topics, information, and student work please contact me.

I look forward to the second half of the year and am excited to observe the continuing development and growth of your children and my students. Keep up all the hard work and support at home. It can make all the difference!