Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Season's Greetings from everyone in Room 108! Consider this our winter check-in and a thank you for everything you all do to help us learn and grow together. This shot was taken before we took a trip to see the Nutcracker Ballet. The boys and girls were all very dapper and on their best behavior to witness and incredible rendition of one of the most timeless holiday ballets.

This week will be a kind of holiday celebration with lots of seasonal activities and independent, partner, small group, and whole class activities. Tuesday, December 15 will be the Mann All-School celebration for positive behavior in December. All students in the school will celebrate by playing board games for awhile in the afternoon. Children and staff will be decked out in Mann-Wear and have their favorite board games to share with their friends.

Hope to see many of you at our winter party on Wednesday, December 16 to revel in the season's spirit and excitement before our long winter break!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Winter Time

Brrrrr! There's no looking back now. The blustery winds have started blowing and the first snow has fallen. Although nothing has accumulated yet, the cold feeling of winter has set in. You can help ensure your child is prepared for cold weather recess by sending them to school with a winter coat, gloves, stocking hat and any other winter clothing you want. When the snow sticks around, you'll want to be sure to outfit your munchkin in snow pants and boots, along with the normal winter garb. Snow and ice also mean wetness so its a good idea to send an extra pair of socks for your child to keep in their locker. Please help out by making sure your child is bundled appropriately for the winter weather! (It would also be a great idea to teach your little one the responsibility of bundling up on their own. I will of course be there to make sure everything is ship-shape.)

This Wednesday, December 9 students will be attending a Ballet Legere performance of Peter Tchaikovksy's Nutcracker Ballet at the Chodl Theatre located in Cicero. This is a wonderful opportunity for children to see one of the most famous holiday classics. It's also a terrific way to incorporate manners and etiquette into our every day lives. For the performance, children are asked to "dress up" by wearing ballet appropriate attire. Please reinforce with your child the importance of manners and etiquette as we will be learning about them this week. Here is a little preview of the "Russian Dance" from Nutcracker ballet. The music is infamously recognizable and forever timeless.

This time of year seems to always become very busy with all kinds of holiday hubbub and seasonal changes and decorations. Student in Room 108 will be
reading, writing and learning about many of the more common holiday celebrations while being encouraged to respect the traditions and beliefs of other people and cultures. One of the most important aspects of this season is showing compassion for others and respecting traditions other families observe. Hopefully you can find time to discuss meanings of the holiday season with your child and help them understand how fortunate they are to have such wonderful opportunities as an American child.

Thanks for reading, dress warmly, and I will see you on the blacktop!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gobble, Gobble

After a very eventful five days of learning and experience, Thanksgiving week is upon us and that means only two days of school this week for Room 108. Monday will function like a regular academic school day, with our usual schedule of learning routines capped off by a festive activity with our fourth grade buddies. Tuesday will be more of a Thanksgiving infused academic day with an emphasis on social learning and group work.

Students in Room 108 have been working with our fourth grade buddies every Monday for quite awhile now and most of our activities have been inspired by holidays or seasonal awareness. Fourth graders are helpful in a variety of ways. The expectation for fourth graders is that they will model positive "Mustang Motto" behavior, assist first graders with reading and writing, while also encouraging hard work and effort. Many first graders have had one or two buddies for most of the year but partnerships will get shuffled around as the school year continues.

Speaking of the "Mustang Motto," Tuesday will be the all-school celebration for positive behavior. The entire school will celebrate another month of outstanding behavior by doing the "Cha-Cha Slide." To help get into our school spirit children and staff are asked to sport "Mann Wear" to school.

With a short week there will be no spelling words or library checkout time. If you want new library books, or forgot to return books last week, your child can bring them in on Monday or Tuesday to get some new ones for the long weekend. Children will also have a Thanksgiving Fun Packet to work on over the break. This packet is not required to be completed or returned to school, it is just something fun to work and a simple way to keep thinking skills sharp over the turkey break.

For those of you traveling this holiday, I hope your travels are smooth and safe. No matter what your Turkey Day plans, I hope they are full of family, friends and plenty of food. I think we all have plenty to be thankful for and I hope everyone shares their grateful thoughts with those closest to you. I am especially thankful for everyone involved in the first grade experience and all the outstanding support in the learning process. Thanks for reading and Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Spelling Counts

It's almost like when one holiday is over, the next is right around the corner. Can you hear the gobble of the turkeys? Can you smell the fresh baked pie? Do you taste the stuffing yet? Thanksgiving is fast approaching and the seasonal changes that come with it have been long underway. Students in Room 108 have been asked to use a variety of their senses and thinking skills to connect to the variety of aspects this wonderful holiday offers. From a book and biographical writing of Sarah Hale, to the step-by-step process of how to draw a turkey, Thanksgiving is a theme we will be gobbling up until the feast is upon us!

All the turkey talk is in addition to the standardized curriculum infused into our daily routine. Open Court reading is now in Unit 4 titled "Our Neighborhood at Work" and focuses on a the vast assortment of jobs, careers, and workers in our surrounding community. Major reading skills will include making connections, comprehension, drawing inferences, and comparing/contrasting. This unit matches nicely with our current social studies unit about our community. Children will be analyzing not only vocations and people of our community but also the physical characteristics of our neighborhood.

Everyday Math is now progressing into new concepts of measurement. Measuring will require new tools like thermometers and rulers, in addition to non-standard (human adapted) units of measurement like a digit, hand width or fathom. Students will continue to practice concepts like frames and arrows and number sequence while taking other skills to a deeper level, like telling time and coin counting. This section of Everyday Math matches nicely with our science topic of Solids and Liquids (formerly Properties of Matter) as students will soon be asked to distinguish and match traits of objects based on characteristics such as size, shape, and color.

Spelling words will be added as part of the writing process this week. Word patterns and spellings will match very closely to daily and weekly phonics skills and literature exposure. The spelling list will be posted on the right hand side of the blog starting on Mondays after school.

In parting, I will leave you with a very general and manageable Thanksgiving link from Scholastic. I don't know about you but I feel like I've learn something new about each holiday every year. I guess that comes with the territory. Thanks for reading and I'll see you on the blacktop!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Halloween Montage

An observation of Veteran's Day granted us an extended weekend and the next two and half weeks will be include the next level of growth leading up to the end of the first trimester, and Thanksgiving break. Game Day for Unit 3 will happen this Tuesday, November 10 with Unit 4 in reading and math beginning the next day. I understand there have been some students that have missed multiple days of school but everyone has done a great job keeping up with missed work. Thank you parents for taking such strong initiative in keeping your child connected with classroom content!

Thanks to those of you that sent pictures in from the Halloween celebration and art appreciation. You will be able to see some shots from Room 108 in the slideshow on the right hand sidebar. I created a simple video montage video using iMovie. The song choice was inspired by the recent theatre release of the Michael Jackson movie This Is It. I had a chance to see the movie and it was inspiring in the sense that Michael Jackson really was a tremendously talented entertainer who nearly perfected the art of performance. Thriller also has an eerily familiar Halloween feel. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Is It November Already?

Rain, rain go away and come again another day! If you don't we don't care, we'll just move our Halloween parade inside and still have a great time! Thank you everyone that came out for the Room 108 Halloween Celebration and for adapting with us to have the All-School Parade indoors. The costumes were classic, creative and some a bit spooky but what was clear was the energy and enjoyment beaming from students (and even some parents!) Hopefully the excitement continued through the holiday weekend for you all and will help carry us through the short, four-day week.

Looking ahead to the week, Unit 3 in Everyday Math and Open Court Reading will wrap up with the introduction of a few new skills and some review, before culminating in a Game Day on Tuesday, November 10. Math will include time telling to the half hour, introduction of the dime, continued coin counting practice, and number grid counting. Phonics skills will continue to focus on digraphs; two letter combinations that make one sound, like ch-, th-, sh-, ar, er, ir. Reading strategies will focus on summarizing, visualizing, and making connections.

Science and social studies will continue to alternate days and weeks. Science will still use organisms as a basis for observations, inference, and sorting skills while we continue to learn about the subject of science and it's embedded nature throughout the world around us. Social studies will keep on with geography skills like reading cardinal directions, using map keys, and following directions. We will also begin reading out of the Unit 2 big book titled, "Our Community."

In closing this week I will leave you with a link to the time telling game students played in the computer lab last week. The game is called "STOP THE CLOCK" and children need to match digital clocks to analog clock times to stop the clock in the quickest amount of time possible. We were working on telling time to the half hour, but if your child has a firm grasp of the half hour, your might challenge them with clocks to the quarter hours. This link, and more new links, are available under the "Math Maniac Links" section on the right hand side of the blog.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Things That Go, And Go, And Go!

Chugga, Chugga Choo, Choo!! The Room 108 Team keeps on the train through the end of October and whirlwind of action happening all around us! Last week was a busy one with conferences, book fair, and two half days of school. On Friday, many students participated in the New Era sponsored Wear Your Cap to School Day that raised money for the Caps For Kids foundation. Also on Friday we were all treated to an Art Appreciation lesson on Alexander "Sandy" Calder. The children were shown some superior pieces of Sandy's work and focused on his most popular creation, the mobile. Students were then given an opportunity to build their own fall inspired mobiles with sticks and leaves from trees, along with many other building items such as paper clips, pipe cleaners, and chop sticks.

Thanks to all the parents for all you did this week! Parent/teacher conferences ran very smoothly because of the punctuality and participation from those of you that were able to make it. The book fair was also a great success and students were thrilled to share book purchases with all their classmates! The art appreciation moms did an excellent job in promoting the work of Sandy Calder and helping children make inspired and very original mobiles!

This Friday, October 30th is another great chance to get involved in the classroom because we are having a Halloween Celebration! In addition, Mann is having an All-School Halloween Parade! It should be quite the costuming masquerade! Parents are encouraged to help out with the classroom party and attend the parade around the school block.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Unit 3 Underway

Hey Readers! With parent teacher conferences just around the corner, Unit 2 has been completed and Unit 3 in reading and math is underway. The challenge with the early months of first grade is that no one skill is taught to mastery meaning skills are merely introduced or reviewed before new concepts and skills are introduced again. Just about every concept, skill, strategy, and procedure in math and language arts is a foundational skill by which students will build further thinking, understanding, and application.

If you have been checking in on your child's Mail folder you should see the (almost daily) math home links and decodable books. When a new unit begins, there is a unit overview from Everyday Math that is sent home and it has no homework attached to it. That overview is for grown-ups to have an idea of the concepts and skills that will be introduced and worked on in the next unit. Some days flow more smoothly than others and in some cases, math gets squeezed at the end of the day and home links are a great way for your child to connect what they did cover in school with you at home. The same goes for decodable books, some days we focus on specific phonetic skills with other days being treated as review days. Typically what you see in your child's Mail folder is a snapshot of topics, concepts, skills and/or activities that took place that day. If you see nothing in their folder, that means most of the day involved whole class lessons with workbook and collected forms of assessment.

Keep your schedules up to date with the Upcoming Events section in the right hand column and thanks for sending your children to school with such great looking outfits and smiles for picture day! See you on the blacktop!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Walk to School Week

Hey Everyone! This week is Walk to School Week at Mann! This is a great chance for children to learn about the importance of conservation, waste-reduction, and well-being practices. Along with activities in the classroom and special area classes, students are encouraged to walk and bike (and scooter) to school to help eliminate using vehicles, which use nonrenewable resources to operate and put pollutants into the air. Below is a list of colors and themes for each day of the week. Be sure to encourage your child's participation in this great week! It may be a challenge for some but your effort in immeasurably appreciated (by humans and the Earth.)

Monday, October 5th: Students (and staff if they want to!) wear red for transportation safety and receive a hand stamp for walking to school.

Tuesday, October 6th: Students wear blue for water conservation and receive a book mark for walking to school.

Wednesday, October 7th (the official international walk to school day): Students wear green for the earth, come to school in “walking school buses” and receive a treat from Active Transportation Alliance and Whole Foods. At lunch time a 6’ evergreen tree will be planted behind the school by Hoy Landscaping. The students can watch the planting process during recess.

Thursday, October 8th: Students wear yellow for energy conservation and receive Mann Moolah for smoothies. At lunch time students will be rewarded with a hand stamp for bringing a zero waste lunch to school (using all recyclable containers with nothing ending up in a landfill).

Friday, October 9th: Students wear their favorite sports team for physical activity and receive a reusable container with a treat inside for walking to school. These containers are to be taken home for reuse and should not be thrown away!

“Walking School Buses” will also happen on Wednesday, October 14, 21 and 28

Thanks to the Parents of Mann School for putting all of this together!!!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Four-Square Writing

The four-square writing method can be used at almost every elementary level and can even be creatively adapted for middle school or high school writers. For first grade it helps to model writing at it's most basic level; combining words to make a sentence. With the fall season here, and weather as one of our science topics, students in Room 108 brainstormed together around the "fall" topic. Below are two examples of student work from our four-square writing activity. The front side is the brainstorm activity, done as a class. The topic "fall" is in the circle with the four squares identifying how fall looks, feels, smells, and things they like to do.

The second image is the reverse side of the four-square, which is completed independently. Each box is numbered on both sides so children know which box they are writing in when they are flipping back and forth. Each square on the reverse challenges students to piece together the words from the brainstorm into complete sentences with a capital letter and punctuation mark. For the "fall" topic, three of the four sentences begin with the word fall. When a sentence is complete, children are then to draw a picture that illustrates the sentence for the box.

The two images combine for a great example of a finished product from a four-square writing lesson. The two pictures are from two different students and show that students are not creating the same four sentences. The whole class brainstorm offers student to pick words and create sentences unique to their interpretation of the topic. In this case you can see that in square number four, one student likes to jump into leaf piles in the fall while the other likes to ride bike in the fall. Four-square writing requires an extended amount of student focus, effort, critical thinking and creativity about a topic. The fall four-square writing was a great success!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Falling Into Unit 2

Autumn is here which means the end of September and the start of colder weather is right around the corner. We have been pretty lucky over the last couple weeks of summer to have plenty of sunshine and gently cooling breezes to make the outdoors plenty inviting. As the new season grows on us in Room 108, students are developing skills of individual responsibility and learning to work hard. It's been quite rewarding to see how much progress has taken place for students in the still very young school year!

Open-Court Reading has Unit 2 titled Animals and focuses stories on a variety of animals, families and activities. Reading strategies students will be practicing are visualizing and predicting. Both strategies are important skills for engaging in stories and encouraging children to form thoughts and pictures in their minds. Phonics skills include initial and ending letter sounds of words, short vowel sounds, and blending (decoding) unfamiliar words. Writing skills like spelling, sentence structure, capitalization and punctuation are being introduced in as many ways as possible. Journaling will serve as the students greatest opportunity to explore writing in their own way. More structured writing lessons will model writing and offer focused approaches to writers' skills.

Everyday Math pushes ahead with the continuation of skills covered in unit one and introduces new concepts such as analog clocks (telling time to the hour and half hour), complements of 10 (an early concrete addition skill), number sequence, and using the number grid as a tool. If you are keeping up with math homelinks you will see many of these skills being reviewed often.

After one and a half (long) days (trapped in one room with 29 other first grade teachers) of science curriculum training courtesy of District 97 and our new publishing companies, Houghton Mifflin and Carolina's STC, science topics are finalized and will be brought into the classroom very soon. For more info on either publisher click on their name. The first grade units are Weather, Solids & Liquids, and Organisms. The units over lap each other and complement many of the other curricular pieces in a variety of ways. When we start science lessons in the classroom you should see letters and artifacts in your child's Mail folder.

More to come! Until then, I hope to see you soon on the blacktop!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

End of Unit = Game Day

Greetings Readers. As the brink of the fourth week in the new school arrives, the end of the first units in language arts and math follows close behind. Everyday Math and Open-Court Reading curriculums offer a nice mapping of units with lessons that can be planned in such a way that culminating assessments can be delivered on the same day. I coined the term "Game Day" for students in Room 108 to encourage enthusiasm for high performance and hopefully alleviate, an early age, many of the pressures that seem to surround standardized testing in higher grades. Over the past couple years I have used these assessment days as a way to practice test taking skills and procedures at the first grade level. As long as your child is coming to school daily, participating in whole class activities and giving their best effort, they will be prepared for assessments. What you can do to help ensure your child is ├╝ber-prepared for "Game Day" is make sure your child eats a hearty dinner, does some (at least 10-15 minutes) reading before bed time, and gets plenty of sleep. The morning of Game Day, ensure your child has a well balanced breakfast and their Mail folder and snack loaded in their backpack. These tasks may seem simple and routine for some but assist in preparing your child for a great day of thinking and performance at school. Assessments will be used as formalized evaluations of student ability, focus, skills, and effort. Parents can see assessments during parent/teacher conferences in October. The first Game Day will be this Tuesday, September 15.

Thanks to everybody that ordered books through Scholastic. Books should arrive late this week or early next week. Your purchases help to support our classroom library and increase resources available to ALL students in Room 108. Another great way to motivate reading at home is to utilize online reading resources. One of the most popular resources for Room 108 students in the past are Tumblebooks. Tumblebooks are like karaoke for children's books. Ha! That's the best short description I can offer. Check them out by following the link, click on "Tumblebooks at the New York Public Library" and then click "Story Books." There is a wide array of book topics and reading levels with many books offering games and activities to check comprehension and promote deeper reading insight. The link is permanently available on the right hand column of the blog.

In parting, I leave you with an interesting time lapse video I found when exploring technology and media literacy for elementary students. Other than being fascinated by the video, I hope it provides entertainment for you (and your child might like it too) with a realization that life can be viewed differently when given someone else's perspective. We have talked quite a bit about people and the world in our first unit of social studies titled "People Everywhere." This video reminds me of how small humans really are when compared against the gigantic expanses of the world's natural features. (I'm also becoming very interested in video and photography so if ANY OF YOU have any skill or knowledge about cameras, film and/or photography, please let me know. I'm just an amateur.)

Bathtub IV from Keith Loutit on Vimeo.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Moving On...

Happy Labor Day everyone! With two weeks of school in the proverbial record books, I hope you all had the opportunity to spend this long weekend relaxing and enjoying time with those closest to you. The first two weeks provided students a great introduction into first grade, chances to makes new connections and learn about their teacher, classmates, and classroom we will be learning in all year long. Hopefully the transformation into a new school year is winding down as we gear up and look ahead into the great expanse known as the first grade experience.

With the Room 108 Team assembled, classroom rules posted, a management plan in place, more than a week of practice under our belts, and a thorough review of early first grade skills underway, the responsibility for learning is starting to be shared amongst teacher, student and family. Responsibility is one of the three monickers that make up the Mustang Motto (Be respectful. Be responsible. Be compassionate.) and is especially important when it comes to learning. Lots of early conversation with students focus on goals and reasons for learning things in school. One of the great thing about first grade is that children are learning all kinds of skills that will be important for success throughout the rest of their life!

Tuesday of this week students in Room 108, and all over the nation, are invited to watch the president of the United States deliver a message to them (students) about the importance of education, goal setting, and working hard. This will be the first time since 1991 that the American President will deliver such a message. The broadcast will be available for viewing on C-SPAN and online for streaming via the White House website. If you won't be available to view the address, you can watch it later through the White House website, or you can read the remarks by clicking here. (You can also click on the link under September Events on the right.)

In parting I want to thank all the parents that made it out to curriculum night last week and for the incredible words of support and encouragement you offered. As we look ahead to the coming months together I want to remind you all, your child's learning experiences will be enhanced the more it involves you! See you on the blacktop!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Virtual Backpack

Just a quick post to alert you all of a new feature this year at Mann: the virtual backpack. As part of the "green" movement across District 97, buildings and staff are encouraged to provide paperless options for distribution of home and school communications.
The Thursday Packet is a large packet of information sent home weekly with students to keep Mann families connected with activities and important events happening in our school community. Now the Thursday Packet, and other flyers from the Mann Office are available in the virtual backpack. No longer will your child come home with masses of letters from the office, rather families will be directed to the virtual backpack, located on the Mann School homepage.

Remember, Curriculum Night is this Tuesday, September 1 beginning at 6:00pm in Room 108. I will go over the daily routine for the year, explain some of the intricacies of our classroom, as well as provide helpful strategies for guiding students to a successful first grade experience. I'm looking forward to meeting all the parents involved in Room 108 this year! Be sure to bring your calendar as there will be a sign-up sheet for fall parent/teacher conferences. (The week of October 19-23, 2009.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Let's Play Ball!

Welcome back everyone! Room 108 is back on board for a new school year. The first full school day is officially in the books and there was an immense amount of enthusiasm and excitement from both students and teacher! The first week of school will serve as an adjustment period for every person in the classroom. We will all get acquainted with our new surroundings; classroom, peers, teacher and rules. One of the main features in Room 108 this year is the job chart, designed as a baseball field. Each student in the class has their name and class number on a jersey that will play different positions on the field. Each position has a corresponding job. Not only is this a great way to work in metaphor but it also encourages and guides children to think about classroom jobs as responsibilities for our team! Below is a picture of the field. Be sure to ask your child about it and other components of the room. The best way to stay involved in your student's learning experience is to talk with them every day about what is going on in their learning experience. Another way is to look in their "Mail" folder each day for important school related information.

The specials schedule is posted on the right hand side of the blog. To stay up to date with the happenings in Room 108 be sure to bookmark, subscribe or check back often to Mr. Reynolds' First Grade Blog. To be added to the parent e-mail list please e-mail me. Thanks to the many of you that have already introduced yourself to me on the blacktop. The coming days and weeks will be very exciting. I look forward to seeing everyone for curriculum night next week!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

California Adventure

Hey Everyone! It has been just over a month since my last post and I hope all of you have been enjoying the past month as much as me. Summer time is a great opportunity for travel, sports, family, holidays, barbeque, and all kinds of other things. I must say I have been keeping busy with all of the above and then some! 
This post was inspired by my recent visit to the big Legoland in Carlsbad, California. Given the way District 97 has started incorporating Legos into the curriculum and the first grade field trip to the Legoland location in Schaumburg, I thought it only fitting to see the theme park in southern Cal.

Oh and I also made Legoland a destination because one of my life best friends is currently employed in the park as a artist drawing caricatures. He has amazing talent and it was an incredible opportunity to be sitting in a chair with one of my best friends drawing me. Take a look for yourself and see if this is how you imagine Mr. Reynolds to look as a cartoon. Some of you out there may recall the Olympic Day shirts for the 'Reynolds' Rhinos,' well this caricature is drawn by the same artist.

Hopefully you and your family have had some enjoyable experiences thus far in the summer of 2009.  If not, there is still half the summer remaining before the first day of a new school year.  Remember, it will only be the summer of 2009 once!  Haha!  In parting, I will leave you with a link to a blog post about music.  I know there are many of you searching for new, good, and FREE music appropriate for ears of all ages.  Check out this post, and see what you find.  Happy listening!  

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Golden Apple Orientation

Tonight was a unique experience that welcomed me to the Golden Apple "Family". I was invited, as a 2009 Teacher of Distinction, to attend an orientation session at the headquarters on Michigan Avenue in Chicago where I became acquainted with Golden Apple staff and fellow "TODs". We were given a thorough background of the foundation and learned about the seemingly endless ways to get involved in preparing excellent teachers in the state of Illinois. I had no idea my nomination would lead to such an outstanding opportunity in the field of education! The biggest project currently is the Golden Apple Scholars program which filters determined and ambitious high school students into a scholarship program that prepares them to be teachers at "in-need" schools. These "scholars" are granted terrific development programs, many taught by Golden Apple Fellows, TODs, and staff, to better prepare them as successful teachers.

As the summer days begin passing by I have found a new purpose for the blog - to keep readers up to date with my experiences as they relate to the realm of education. Everybody has unique experiences in their life but what do we learn from them? How do we apply them? Are these experiences of great value or simply experiences of joy lacking application of a greater significance? I like purposeful and valuable experiences. Prepare yourself readers for a new venture in my blogging. I have stayed strictly focused on Room 108 for the past two years and will return to that foci again in the fall but this summer I am continuing my path as an "educational risk-taker" and am going to extend my posts to hopefully a greater audience.

The greatest value I took from orientation tonight was the incredible network of people in which now I am interwoven. The educators I met tonight have dedicated their lives to imparting knowledge, teaching skills, and providing guidance for the youth (future) of not just America anymore, but the world! The Golden Apple is a tremendous network and it grows as teachers and its members continue to learn, share and lead! I look forward to the days and opportunities ahead and am excited to share with you some of what I discover! Hope you keep up! (Twitter helps for that too!)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The End of the Year

It has finally come.  The day so many kids and teachers look forward to.  But now the feelings of excitement for summer and freedom are coupled with some feelings of sadness to know our time together in Room 108 is over.  This has been an outstanding in year in so many ways for children, parents, and teachers.  The last hour of school will be bittersweet indeed.  

So what now?  Are you going to escape the realm of academia?  If not, how are you going to keep your little students sharp for the fall?  Well a very simple way to stay intune with some basic academic concepts is to come right here, Mr. Reynolds' First Grade Blog!  I will continue to post over the summer and add links as I find them.  I've had some difficulty with my mobile posting applications but as I figure out what's wrong, posting via my iPhone will continue.  I will be doing a fair length of traveling this summer and will have lots of neat finds to share.  I'm sure of it!  

Thank you all for following along with Room 108 this year and I wish you the best of days this summer.  The students from our classroom are indeed much more able to learn now than ever before so feed them information, share with them knowledge, and most importantly involve them in as many learning experiences as possible!!  Learning never stops!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Eric Carle Project

Maybe you 'heard the tweets,' maybe you read the blog, or maybe you just heard the good ol' word of mouth about this project. Here is a picture sample of the kind of illustrations created during a tremendous author extension activity. Our school librarian brought the popular, uniquely talented, and self proclaimed 'picture writer' Eric Carle to life by guiding kids through one of his illustrating techniques. This technique had students wildly painting colored tissue paper, cutting it apart, and artistically using paint brushes with glue to paste them into all different kinds of bugs. This was an outstanding connection to many of the wonderul themes we have been exploring recently in first grade.

Posted by ShoZu

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Distinguished Classroom

The final weeks of school are buzzing by us all in Room 108 as we have been focused on final academic challenges and cherishing the limited amount of learning we have left together.  The month of May has evolved into reviewing a variety of skills and narrowing in the on the strategies that will prove most valuable in second grade!  It seems only days ago sentences were being pieced together, now paragraphs are beginning to emerge. Words used to look like letters jumbled together, now chapter books are merely a title.  Numbers used to appear with the greatest of confusion, now some are wondering if numbers go on forever. Those early September days are fading in the distance as sights are jumping ahead at a horizon full of opportunity and information!  

As Unit 9 zips along, knowledge is spouting everywhere.  Children are readily connecting skills to concepts, tying strategies to new problems, and unfolding new discoveries into foundations for further investigations.  Discussion is seemingly ongoing during whole class reading as students are beginning to understand stories and authors on a deeper level than previously known.  Participation is overflowing as students are eager to read aloud, answer a question, or share some unique insight.  Likewise, mathematical skills are bursting to be applied on new problems, games, and puzzles.  Now is truly an enjoyable time in the classroom as many students have earned the freedom to explore application in a variety of previously unknown ways.  

So what now?  Well an Olympic Week is set to take over the school next Tuesday, May 19.  In the spirit of "Chicago 2016" the school has chosen to embrace the Olympic mottos in a 16 day stretch leading up to our Olympic Day, June 3.  Each classroom has been randomly assigned a country to represent in an all-school Opening Ceremony.  Over the course of these days students will be presented themed lessons and activities in special area classes like Art, P.E., Music, and Spanish. Room 108 was selected to represent India!  Students located India on the map, identified bordering neighbors and geographical features, made personal connections to it's people, and are asking all kinds of questions!  Hopefully you know a thing or two about India, if not, here is the World Fact Book page for it.  (And the Wikipedia page, for good measure.)

Be sure to check the "Upcoming Events" on the right hand column of the blog.  It is loaded with important days for students in Room 108.  As the school year winds down there will be an assortment of special events and experiences designed to capture some of the final days we share together.  Hopefully you have had some time to talk with your child about the tremendous things that have occurred in our classroom over the course of the school year, but especially in the last month.  It is truly an honor and privilege to teach the children of this community and I hope everyone will enjoy the final weeks ahead.  

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Great Ball Game

Last week the students in Room 108 performed a play for kindergarteners. The children created scenery and created a stage for which to sit behind. When they read their parts, each child held up a self created puppet to depict their interpretation of their character. Plays and readers' theaters are a great way for children to strengthen reading skills such as comprehension and fluency.

Posted by ShoZu

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Tweet-Unit 9 is Here!-Tweet

The warm spring weather many have been waiting for is finally here! Now if the rain would hold off, everyone would have a chance to settle in for the warm months ahead.  Everything is affected by the rain; schools, baseball teams, cities and nature!  Staying indoors has urged Room 108 to becoming a Twitter classroom as well!  So I must be very straightforward and admit this recent Twitter fad has finally caught up with me and I am giving it a shot.  It is merely me, sending updates from the classroom and school, about the things Room 108 students are doing at that very moment.  All "tweets" are time stamped and sent directly from either my computer or iPhone.  Room 108 has already gained a few followers and I hope the trend continues.  It is impossible for anyone to capture EVERYTHING students experience in the course of a day (Let's be honest, many of your children don't even remember what happened at school today!) but technology is allowing for an interesting way to capture major events.  Hope you are able to occasionally follow!

Here is your "old-fashioned" curriculum update:
Unit 8 is over in both reading and math.  The new theme for reading is "Being Afraid" and focuses children on stories relating to fear.  Students are going to be engaged in constructing story diagrams and charts of all kinds to activate comprehension skills and make story connections.  Personal experience and thoughts are going to prove most valuable for children as they discuss selections with their peers throughout the unit.  Math is becoming a bit more challenging on a daily basis as the direction of Unit 9 heads into place value and fractions.  The number grids (hundred charts) are going to be utilized on a daily basis as a strategy to solidify awareness of place value, for most it will be ones, tens, and hundreds.  For others, the sky is the limit as numbers will be explored forwards and backwards, up and down, as well as diagonally.  Fractions hopefully become more engrained in children's mind as they use pattern blocks and paper strips to identify equal parts, comparing fractions, and dividing wholes.  

Science and social studies are aligning nicely as the end of the school year nears.  Insects have infested our entire classroom and science curriculum.  This works out well for geography skills and social studies as students are connecting bug types with geographic locations.  Insects, such as ants and bees, also provide a nice insight into the intricacies of communities and the dynamics of their citizens.  Don't be surprised if your child has already started, or begins soon, a sudden interest in creepy crawlies!  

Monday, May 4, 2009

Room 108 is now Twittering!

Happy Monday everybody! After a beautiful weekend of bright sun and warm breezes Room 108 is rejuvenated in a variety of ways. That, of course, means the Room 108 blog has got to relay some of this rejuvenation your way. I am attempting to do that in the form of Twitter! That's right... Room 108 is now Twittering! Technology, and more specifically the Internet and social networks, are progressing at an alarming rate. I am simply trying to keep you and your children up to speed. For more information, visit the Twitter homepage. But to keep it short and simple, Twitter provides you with the answer to one question, "What are you doing?"

So if you needed another reason to visit the Room 108 blog on a more regular basis, already have Twitter and looking for another Twitterer to follow, or just want to find out what this thing is, here you go!!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Art Appreciation: Ceramic Art

Hey Everybody!  Art Appreciation made a takeover in Room 108 recently and the theme was ceramic art.  All thanks for the event goes to the art appreciation parents.  Below is the photo slideshow soundtracked with a tune from Belle & Sebastian's album The Life Pursuit. Hopefully you like it!  Muchas gracias to the unofficial Room 108 photographer!

Alright, enough is enough, I'm giving into the demand for BLOXORZ. This block flipping strategy game was introduced to me by a first grader last year and became an immediate amusement for many students, and me!  Some of you may already be familiar with this game, others may not have a clue.  And I'm willing to bet a few of you have children who have been trying to find this "block game where you need to make it fall through the hole."  Haha!  Well the shape it needs to fit through is not a hole, its a square, and hopefully your search is no longer.  Remember to save the passcodes!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Real Treat

Readers, Readers listen up, open your eyes and drink from the cup.  Take a sip of this poetry, that Mr. Bill Buczinsky shared with our students and me!  
Bill is a poet behind "A Child's Voice" an original organization dedicated to inspiring children to "play the game of poetry."  There were two performances, one for the primary grades and one for the intermediate grades.  Please ask your child about it because it was truly a unique, innovative and dynamic presentation of a timeless artform, Poetry.  

Room 108 has been through quite an experience over the past two weeks and I sure hope you've had time to talk with your child about unique learning experiences.  We were able to celebrate Earth Day (April 22) with an educational trip to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago.  The focus of the trip was insect life cycles and children participated in an insect specialist led set of activities titled "Migrating Monarchs."  The event featured the life and times of monarch butterflies and the incredible journey these metamorphisized caterpillars undergo each year.  The highlight of the nature museum might have been the Butterfly Haven which had over 1,000 butterflies representing more than 75 species!  Click here for an overview of the permanent exhibits at the museum.  (For pictures check out the Room 108 slideshow on the right hand column of the blog.)  

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thank You Everyone!

Today is a quick post and link courtesy of one of the parents of Room 108.  She came across this article on the web and thought it would be of interest to all the blog readers.  I think she is onto something.  Here it is.  Enjoy!  And THANK YOU everyone for all you have done to help the Room 108 experience.  None of this would be possible without all the positive support and encouragement you have offered.  (And of course for reading the blog!)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Batter Up

Now that Major League Baseball has officially begun, baseballs may be flying everywhere! Room 108 does not officially endorse any one team but the people inside of it definitely have their favorites! Students in the room are similar to baseball players as they want to keep their strikeouts to a minimum, their hits at a maximum but of course always learning and having fun playing the game!

Believe it or not, Unit 7 is done. Typically a unit lasts about four weeks and details all kinds of topics, culminating in a final day of assessment Room 108 knows as "Game Day." But as student development and unit themes progress, so does the curriculum layout of the academic calendar. The final Game Day is not beyond students but will instead be more of a celebration of knowledge and learning toward the end of the year. In the mean time, students will be engaged in more ongoing, as in day-to-day, activities that aren't simply captured in one lesson or activity. Instead lessons and activities may span multiple time frames, days, or even weeks! This kind of continuum offers students the opportunity to learn that not everything is done quickly or gained immediately rather contends the mind to engage and connect different subjects, contents and contexts.

Looking ahead to Unit 8 provides a spotlight on story reading and comprehension with greater emphasis on story understanding and strategies such as visualize, predict, connect, sequence, and conclude. Writing is going to round the bases with some poetry (also to honor national poetry month), four-square, and journaling; all very familiar writing experiences for students.
Mathematics is continuing to progress with focus on more abstract, and usually challenging topics, like MENTAL arithmetic, money (including making change), and fractions. All of these concepts will provide children with opportunities to manipulate numbers, strategies, and concepts with physical objects, save mental math of course. It should be quite a challenge to force all children to "do math" without the assistance of a number line, hundreds chart, calculator or even their fingers!

The biggest change of all academic stimuli will be our science topic. We have soared around the universe and are back on planet Earth to dig deep into the big world of BUGS! Insects is our new theme and there will be creepy, crawly critters all over Room 108! It certainly is an exciting time for children as the spring weather warms and the grass grows greener. Seems almost natural for children to start examining the tiny little six-legged bugs moving over everything outside, and sometimes inside too.

Let me also take this post as a chance to say an appreciative word of gratitude to all of my readers, supporters, and partipants in the Room 108 first grade experience. There has been quite a stir of excitement and energy swirling through the classroom in the recenet days and weeks. Hopefully everyone can keep up the action and efforts as we push forward into the final two months of the year!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

March Toward Independence...

The final week before spring break is just about over and it seems to have blown past all of us in Room 108.  From story reading and discussions, to publishing and space walks, the experiences for everyone have kept us busy!  For the long break I want to provide you with a list of good links to keep children thinking about the classroom and what many of them can't wait to get back to.  

Jack Prelutsky - The poetic foundation for Room 108 is Shel Silverstein but the follow up poet is this outstanding wordsmith.  Prelutsky has a knack for expanding vocabularies and writing higher level wordplays than our foundational leader.  This is his homepage and it is excitingly kid-friendly.  (This is also an unofficial request for any Prelutsky books you may have occupying bookshelves or desks at home.)  Seeing as though we have read through just about everything Shel has put on paper, we need some more GREAT poetry for snack time!  

Number Twins - This overly addictive fact game was introduced in computer lab and was a quick favorite for those fact-minded brains.  The game can be reached via the Room 108 blog but sending specific web instructions with some children is like sending air mail via a hot air balloon: (interpretations left to your imagination.)  Bottom line, this game is fun and has tons of other "math" game links on the same page.  Notice the "sum" can be changed by clicking on the numbers directly above the playing board.  

Tumblebooks - Let's be honest, sometimes reading can be a chore for your child (and you!) so I bring to your mouse click one of the all-time favorite links for students: TUMBLEBOOKS.  Reading never seemed so engaging, enjoyable, and effortless.  Not to mention this strategy is a great way to build fluency.  There are books for all level readers, games and comprehension activities to match, and new books almost weekly!  If you haven't checked these things out yet, NOW is the time!

These links should keep students connected over the week long break.  If anyone needs more, look no further than the right hand side of the blog.  There is a vast array of links to choose from and they all have relevance to the learning experience of the children in Room 108!

For those of you traveling for spring break, I bid you a safe journey.  For all the locals hanging around, I wish upon you warm weather and lots of energy for outdoor spring activities!  It will seem like only a blink of your eyes until Room 108 is up and running again, all systems go, for the final two months of the academic year!  

Friday, March 20, 2009

If At First You Don't Succeed...

...try, try again!  After another great "Game Day" in Room 108 we are moving forward to a shorter, different curriculum feel of learning.  As the first day of spring is officially upon us first graders are elevating their thinking in all subject areas.  This week was a very busy week with a review day on monday, Game Day on Tuesday, Spring Share on Wednesday, Horseshoe Hooray First Grade celebration on Thursday, and Leprechaun Traps to share on Friday.  With such a busy week of activities, it may seem easy for the "kiddos" to overlook the fact that all the while they are learning new concepts and applying a variety of skills in new contexts.  Below is a picture from the all school celebration coined "SWISH into Superb Behavior."  Students participated in a variety of physical skill activities that accumulated team points.  

Reading has elevated the expectations for all students by giving each child an anthology book loaded with stories based on unit themes.  Unit 7 is themed "Keep Trying" with stories focused on lessons of failure and success.  Now reading comprehension strategies are of the utmost importance as we focus on the development of characters, sequence of events, and making connections with what we read.  

Math is shifting its focus as well into shapes of all kinds.  We will be working with two and three dimensional shapes with words like prisms, attributes, and polygons becoming more commonplace.  We will be constructing a "shapes museum" so keep your ears open for the details surrounding your child's learning.  Students will also be reviewing previous learned concepts with daily review workbook pages and exploration activities.  

With one week left before spring break the room will be going through some "spring cleaning" activities.  After the break we will be returning with some different unit themes and lots of fun new things to learn about in science and social studies.  


Thursday, March 12, 2009

The "March" Continues...

Greetings Readers of Room 108's blog!  We certainly were spoiled with the heat wave last week but brought back to the reality of early spring weather with temperatures below freezing this week.  Please continue to dress your children according to the daily weather report!  As spring time nears, so does individual growth toward first grade independence and heightened responsibility.  Many students are improving their ability to follow directions and work independently but as with anything in life, there is always room for improvement. 

Coming up next Tuesday is Game Day for Unit 6 in both Open Court Reading and Everyday Math.  The language arts assessment will focus on high frequency words, phonetical sounds and skills such as /oo/, /ow/, /ou/, and /oi/, along with early grammar skills and comprehension strategies such as sequencing.  The math assessment will reevaluate time telling skills, measurement, addition facts, and coin counting.  All the students in Room 108 should be prepared for these assessments if they have been in class, complete their work, and engage in whole class activities.  Some of the children are commenting on how much they like Game Days!  That is a very strong indicator of attitudes toward school and learning.    

Science and Social Studies continue to alternate days and times depending on current events and events happening around us.  The current Moon cycle phase has allowed for great literature extensions as well as moon phase activities.  Clear night skies have helped to inspire the viewing of constellations and recent closeness of Venus to the Moon has provided an extra ounce of energy to our sky gazing.  Weather charting has also been much more engaging because of the drastic differences in daily weather!  Social studies continues to expand on our place in the world with issues of Time For Kids and geography lessons focused on the United States and cardinal directions.  

In parting I will thank all of you that support Room 108 and our mission in education.  Each child is encouraged to grow, learn, and connect to the world every single day.  It is with the help of all you that makes this possible.  I've said it before, "No man is an island" and your child and I both need and appreciate your help.  It is an absolute privilege to have the encouragement and reinforcement that so many of you provide to the first grade experience.  Be sure to come see us all at the Spring Share performance next Wednesday, March 18 at 8:30am in the auditorium.  And if time permits,  join us for refreshments and healthy snacks at the "Cast Party" that follows!