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!