Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Shopping Experience

Business has been booming since we opened our stores on Monday!  With more than 300 shoppers in three days business owners needed to find ways to keep inventory stocked and customers satisfied.  Not to mention owners needed to keep close record of their sales and management side of things.  All in all, the business unit has been a great sample of what the business world holds.  Below you will see a walk-through of the Reynolds' Shop at the 4th Grade Mall.  Happy Shopping!

Thanks to all the parents and other family members for making it up to our corner of the school to shop.  It seemed that most of our customers had no problem spending their $10 credit cards! 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Reynolds Mall - Day 1

We are open for business!  See the commercials and advertisements for some of the Reynolds' Mall stores below.  (Commercials were an optional, free way to advertise businesses.)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Getting Down to Business

Business season is upon everyone in the fourth grade!  Last week students were introduced to the business unit and students found business partners, filled out a business proposal, and started manufacturing products.  Below are paragraphs from students that offer a little insight into the kinds of businesses they have created. 

My friends and I have made a business of Lego’s. We have made a gas station, cars and helicopters. We are going to make more Lego vehicles. We are going to raffle off stuffed animals. I sell tons of Lego’s with my friends Logan and peter and we sell, Lego’s for 3$ or less

The businesses my partners and I are running have lots of cool things. One thing we are selling is crazy bones. They are cool because they come in different figures. Our name is #1 Shop on Earth. Another thing we are selling paper airplanes. They are cool because some fly far and some fly high. The last thing we are selling are sports cards. They are cool because they come in different teams and different teams.

Our Ideas for Fun Stuff inc. are based on fun stuff to play with.  My partner Aidan and I have a crafts idea where Aidan and I make design strips and design airplane crafts. Another idea we had was to sell sports balls. Our idea for advertisement was to draw posters on  a piece of paper.

My friend and I are starting our own business. Our business idea is to sell yarn products such as necklaces, bracelets, and anklets. We are making a lot of these and we need a lot of yarn. We are also raffling off stuffed toys and bouncy balls.

    Our business is called MVS (most valuable store). At our store we will sell trading cards, raffle tickets we will raffle off a mystery box we will also sell,Toys and tattoos, pens, and book marks. All of these will be selling for 2.00 dollars or less. So all of this will be sold in the third floor pod in Mr. Reynolds classroom. Please look around the pod for posters. Don’t forget to buy from MVS.

In Mr. Reynolds class room my friends and I are starting a business. The name of are store is A.K.E Wacky Nick Knacks. We are selling all types of things. Three people own the store, they are Avery, Kelly, and Emma. We make bracelets, paper frogs, and bookmarks. We decorate pencils but we do not make the things we are going to raffle. We hope you visit are store.

I am going to start a business called “J’s and F’s Arts and Crafts” with Francis. For our business, we will have a well lit, comfortable store, and will welcome any customers. Baseball cards, bakugan, crazy bones, finger knitting, lanyards, paper airplanes and paper robots will be for sale. Reasonable prices will be charged.

            Hannah and  I  have a business.  Our business is called HanaLine.  The store sells  flubber, short stories, and crafts. The prices are flubber $2-3, short stories $1, and  crafts $1-2. We will also have a raffle. That is what we sell.  We hope you love it!!

This week we will be focusing on the financial aspects of operating a business.  Stay tuned!  

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Classroom Connections

Hello Readers!  The next phase of learning in our classroom is beginning to take shape; the classroom to home connection.  Any project or assignment that is given at school will have been introduced and practiced, at the minimum as an entire class, before being sent home.  Student responsibility to write assignments in their planner and keep track of due dates becomes increasingly important.  During the school week, students get blocks of independent work time to work on current assignments and projects.  All assignments are designed for students to complete with minimal support.  If your child is having a difficult time with a certain concept or skill, encourage them to ask for some help during independent work time.  The following list are important links to online learning extensions of our classroom.  If you have any questions or concerns about them, please contact me.  Students will be introduced to these websites and tools very soon but you are encouraged to explore them with your child at home. 

Math facts are crucial to success in mathematics.  Xtra Math is an online portal for children to practice math facts at their own pace.  At the end of the fourth grade year, it is expected that all fourth graders are able to demonstrate mastery of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts.  This site is a great tool to guide independent practice.  You should have seen a flier with login information come home with your child. 

Edmodo is a very new kind of learning tool.  The idea behind Edmodo is that children will have an online environment to communicate with their teacher and classmates.  Online etiquette and learning tools must be taught if students are expected to use them appropriately.  This is why Edmodo becomes a valuable tool.  Due to privacy and security concerns, our online learning community will only be available and viewable to individuals that are invited to join; this means only students and teachers.  Parents will need their child to login in order to see what everything is all about.  Student typing speed and skill will be increasingly important if we are to utilize learning tools to their greatest potential.  This is where Custom Typing comes into play. 

For more information about these learning tools, please visit the sites and read about them.  Learning should no longer need to be limited to the traditional classroom environment and is increased when students have multiple opportunities to connect things from school to home and as well as home to school.   

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mystery Speaker Program

I understand in the past there has been a mystery reader program of sorts in many classrooms at Mann.  I would like to do a similar classroom extension activity with the help of all our classroom parents.  I would like to have a Mystery Speaker program designed to inspire students to write.  Fourth grade focuses a lot of effort on improving writing skills with strategies and structured activities.  Writing practice and inspiration are two helpful ways to motivate children to improve writing skills.  A mystery speaker would be similar to an old fashioned “career day” event where a parent/guardian/adult comes into the classroom to talk with students about their profession, education, life experiences or anything else that you might see fit to motivate children to write.  I would also like for speakers to prepare a writing prompt or question that students can respond to immediately following a presentation.  Just like your children have very special abilities, skills and experiences to offer our classroom, so too do their parents!

This does not have to be an overly formal undertaking but can be whatever you make it.  I am willing to assist with anything you might need to speak/present.  The times that work best for our classroom schedule are Mondays from 12:45-1:05pm with writing time to immediately follow from about 1:05-1:25pm.  You do not need to stay for the writing time but are welcome to stay.  Lectures/presentations do not need to last 20 minutes but should be engaging and thought provoking for fourth grade students.  Be creative, exciting, and most of all make it valuable for children!  If you enjoy it, the students will too!  

If you are interested in taking part in this program to enrich our classroom writing and social studies activities, please pick a date from the list below that works with your schedule.  With your help, this program can be a great success!  The schedule is a first request basis.  

November 29; December  13; January 3, 10; February 7, 14, 28; March 14, 21; April 11, 18, 25; May 2, 9, 16, 23

I am willing to extend this activity to any adult you know that is willing to volunteer!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Student Projects

The week following parent/teacher/student conferences finds our classroom in an interesting position. After reviewing early student assessments and behaviors, we realize our learning is just beginning. This school year offers plenty of opportunity for students to investigate, collaborate, communicate and create. Students in our classroom are now beginning to work on a couple projects that will allow for connections between home, school and the rest of the world. It's very exciting for all of us to be able to demonstrate thinking and learning in our work!

One of the more exciting projects we are getting involved in this year is called the Global Virtual Classroom contest.  This project is designed for students to communicate and collaborate with students from schools around the world to create a website based on a theme.  The communication process has already begun as our students are reading and writing with children from a school in Chandler, Arizona and a school in the Russian Federation.  Indeed this is an excellent extension project that allows children a chance to learn and practice skills in all disciplines.  Click on the "GVC" tab at the top of the blog for more information and relevant links to our project.

Another project that is just starting is called The Sketchbook ProjectAs an initiative by our Art Appreciation parents, students in from our class will take turns writing and illustrating a continuation story titled "Science Project Gone Wrong".  As the sketchbook travels from child to child and home to home, children will be filling pages with original illustrations and writing.  When our book is complete it will be submitted to a traveling tour that will eventually make a stop in Chicago!  Be sure to ask your child to see our sketchbook when it travels to your home.  

The last note for this post will focus on our book buddy partnership with first grade students.  Every Friday our fourth graders travel down to a first grade classroom to work with "buddies" on first grade projects that involve a variety of academic and social skills.  Each fourth grader is paired up with one or two first graders as a role model.  This weekly interaction is great for everyone involved because it allows the "big kids" and "little kids" in our school to make an authentic relationship shaped by academic and social goals.  If you haven't talked with your child about their "buddy," ask them soon.  

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Differently Abled

Friday of last week all students at Mann School were treated to a very unique assembly with motivational speaker, Lloyd Bachrach. A para-Olympian, Lloyd talked with children about overcoming adversity and achieving dreams with the abilities you have. His story is one that is sure to inspire herds of people across the country and Mann students were so fortunate to witness his different abilities. 

His message can be summarized with his five keys to life success. He credits making his dreams come true by following these keys and getting some timely assistance from teachers, coaches, and other significant people in his life. He likes to call these people "dream makers." He certainly was a spectacle to behold. Thanks to the Mann PTO for inviting such a tremendous individual to speak to our students! 

1. Have high self-esteem.
2. Have a positive attitude.
3. Set goals for yourself.
4. Persevere - never give up!
5. Take care of your health - mind, body, and spirit.

"The only limitations we have are the ones we place on ourselves." - Lloyd Bachrach

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Prairie and Grove Field Trip

Friday marked the first field trip of the year for our class.  It was a great outdoor excursion through a diverse Illinois Prairie and The Grove, a National Historic Landmark.  Most of the day was spent following a docent around and listening to interesting facts about Illinois' biodiversity and ecosystems.  A couple highlights included completing a scavenger hunt in a prairie and seeing a gigantic alligator snapping turtle at The Grove.  Thanks to our parent volunteer for her chaperoning and photography skills! 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mustang Motto Poster Contest!

Horse-shoe HOO-RAY! The growing cheer of good behavior at Mann is in it's third year and going stronger that ever.  Recently our school PBIS squad launched a "Mustang Motto" poster contest.  All classes grade one through five were asked to make posters and select one to represent each class at a grade level vote.  Each grade level was then asked to pick one to represent their grade at a school wide contest.  Congratulations to all contest entries but a special Horseshoe Hooray goes to the winning fourth grade poster from our classroom!  We are all thrilled to have one of our students represent fourth grade with her wonderful artwork.  Below is a picture of all poster entries from our classroom.  All posters were completed with great effort and creativity but the winning poster for our grade is the one in the bottom left hand corner. 

This week we are starting a novel study.  The first novel chosen is titled RULES by Cynthia Lord.  This book is a one I wanted to share with our class because of some perspectives it offers on a growing up.  Keep your eyes and ears peeled for more from this book as we move forward as a class.  Children will have different assignments to complete as part of our class literature groups.  This first novel study will also be a great way to introduce strong reading strategies and allow students to model and practice them on their own. 

Keep checking in and helping out with the home-to-school connection.  Your child and I both appreciate it!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Almost There

This week I was asked to submit my teacher schedule to the district and I was a bit surprised to see what I turned in.  After blocking time periods for all the required curriculum subjects, entering specials times, and classroom routines it was alarming how consistent our weekly schedule can be!  The first month of school has been anything but consistent because of all the required testing and early evaluation tools mandated for fourth grade.  Grade four is a special year in terms of standardized testing because students are required to write an extended response essay and complete a science section during their ISAT in the spring.  With MAP Testing finishing this week, a consistent daily schedule will be present itself next week.  

Another hiccup in our schedule this week was a visit from the author of The Sixty-Eight Rooms, Marianne Malone.  She talked a lot about the writing process and the need to spend ample time editing any piece of writing.  Her visit was very inspirational for anyone interested in writing, reading, art or a love of life.  She really seems to love what she does and it was presented well for all fourth and fifth graders.  Her first book is in bookstores now (like Oak Park's locally owned Magic Tree Books) and is a fiction story about the famous Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The last point for this week's post is the importance of checking your child's student planner daily/nightly.  Students can on occasion earn a Horseshoe Hooray for having their planner signed by a parent.  More importantly, it's a great practice to get into that connects students with school and home.  We fill in planners at the end of every day with activities from the school day and homework assignments.  Each child is responsible for their own work and the act of filling in a planner is modeled daily.  In addition to planners, many assignments are posted here on my blog.  Content areas can be located in the tabs at the top of the page.  Soon each content area will have it's own tab and assignments will be posted weekly.  All weekly assignments are due no later than Friday and can be completed and turned in before Friday.  Please help your child get into healthy academic habits that will promote their individual success. 

Thanks for reading and being involved in your child's education! 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Still Testing

As the school year settles down, many routines become ingrained in the minds of students.  Some learn quicker than others but more importantly, we all learn.  It's helpful to have a daily academic routine.  Many people thrive on consistency and predictability while others yearn for new experiences and unexpected challenges.  Whatever the personality, our classroom tries to cater them all with a variety of learning experiences, expectations, opportunities, and challenges.  

When the sporadic series of first month evaluation testing subsides, regular curriculum schedules can fall into place.  In order to complement some of our curricular programs, the fourth grade teachers deem is necessary to offer different kinds of activities, lessons, and worksheets.  A pair publications we like to use, especially for Social Studies, is Time For Kids and Scholastic News.  Both periodicals have great websites full of current events, young pop culture news, and tons of online activities.  

Open-Court Reading is the curriculum guide we use for whole class Basal reading.  While we are now reading about one story a week, that will not always be the case.  As the year progresses, our class will engage in novel studies and extension lessons.  Weeks when we do have an Open-Court story students will be assessed on their story comprehension, vocabulary, and writing analysis skills through a traditional paper and pencil test.  These tests are necessary components of fourth grade language arts and will prove helpful in preparation for standardized testing

The last item for this week's post is a mention of the not-to-far-off field trip to The Grove in Glenview, Illinois.  As a National Historic Landmark, The Grove is a wonderful place for students to learn about and explore the biodiversity of Illinois.  The changing season is prime time for an educational excursion to a site full of history and wildlife.  Check the "Upcoming Events" section on the right hand side of the blog for this trip and other happenings. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Labor Day Week

The past two days for students have been spent taking a Cognitive Ability Test, called CogAT for short.  The test is a measure of thinking ability by students and will be used to help curtail individualized instruction.  With a strict testing protocol in place, the exam offered a good opportunity to get familiar with paper and pencil testing procedures in fourth grade.  Computer based testing procedures will be taught and practiced next week when fourth graders take the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) for the first time.   

Today, students were given a break from classroom testing to visit the auditorium for a presentation from our Media Specialist and Reading teacher.  The two presented the Read to Feed program our school is participating in this year.  Each child will receive a packet that details the program and gives necessary information to get started with helping to build stronger communities around the world.   Starting the process  is simple.  All your child has to do is read! 

With so many different activities happening in the beginning of the school year, it may be difficult for students to get into a daily and nightly routine.  Please help your child by setting aside time after school or at night to read, complete homework assignments, and find enrichment activities.  Reading should be as routine for children as it is for adults.  Homework assignments should be written in student planners.  Enrichment activities can be things your child is working on at home or online activities and websites that focus on specific skills or brain development.  All fourth grade teachers at Mann have blogs set up with great links to get your child learning using online tools.  If there is a site you or your child has found that is especially engaging, please share it with me and I'll add it to one of my lists. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Product Game

As promised to my students, here is the link for the product game we played in class today.  It is also made available under the math links on the left hand side of the page.  Math facts, especially multiplication and division, are hugely important in mathematical success.  This game is also great because it brings a little strategery into play.  Have fun!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Spelling Words

Spelling words have been added to the right hand column of the blog.  Weekly spelling tests will accompany our classroom readings.  If a student gets one hundred percent on the weekly pretest, he/she will get a second "challenge" list to study during the week.  Occasional homework assignments may be assigned to help spelling word practice at home.  Challenge lists should be used for homework, if applicable.  

Fourth grade is a learning process for everyone, including me.  If you are unsure about a classroom procedure or having difficulty with communication from your child, please first check their student planner and then contact me.  Student responsibility is of the utmost importance in any child's learning experience.  I expect each child to take responsibility for their classwork and homework.  If an unusual circumstance is effecting your child's ability to complete any assignment, please  be sure to let me know.  Much more information is available at the Fourth Grade Curriculum night this Thursday, September 2 at 6:00pm in our classroom.  I hope to see you all there!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Welcome to a New School Year!

Fourth grade learning is officially underway with Mr. Reynolds!  It's very exciting to see so many familiar faces but equally exciting is the opportunity to meet new students.  I am anxious to get going with everything in the new school year and I will start with some new links.  
The OP97 main district website is going through a bit of a makeover.   With that, many other district pages are being required to get a new appearance for the purpose of a simpler user interface.  The new OP97 Library Homepage has an excellent collection of links and access to databases, including a catalog of Mann School's library.  There are links to many fourth grade home/school connections like Custom Typing and valuable resource sites.  I will also add links like these to my blog.
Mann School is piloting SMART's interactive whiteboards (commonly called a SMART Board) and our classroom is lucky enough to get one.  This great learning tool will be used to enhance a variety of curriculum lessons and assist in other student projects.  I am still learning the wires, so to speak, with this technology but am eager to adapt my instruction accordingly.  If your child is in my classroom, ask them about the starter activity we did today.  (Click here to see the result of our morning activity.) All parents will have an up-close look at the board during curriculum night.  Just another reason to be sure you are in attendance on Thursday, September 2 at 6:00pm!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Transition Time

Hello Readers!  It has been over a month since my last post and that's because I've had quite a lot going on.  As many of you know, I left the country for a month to study in Rome and explore other parts of Italy and Europe.  (I am currently sorting through literally thousands of pictures to find the best ones to share.) I returned just over a week ago and am getting my American footing back under me in preparation for the upcoming school year.  For me, summer is a great time to spend with family, explore new and old interests, and enjoy taking a break from the demanding formal academic world.  But for those of you that really know me, learning never stops and there is always something new to discover!  

Just around the corner is a new school year and my role is changing.  I will be teaching fourth grade and accepting a more formal responsibility as a technology leader in our school building.  Having said that, my blog will be shifting its focus a little bit from the first grade experience to a more general learning experience, with fourth grade focus.  Knowing there is a wide variety of viewers scouring this page encourages me to keep many of the good things about it while adding new features.  Some of what you find may be helpful for you and some may not.  But if I take something away that you like or use, please e-mail me ( and let me know.  

Keep your eyes peeled for changes in the blog appearance and be sure to refresh your mind for a new school year with some of the academic links!  

Monday, June 14, 2010

Happy Summer!

Hey Everyone!  Hope summer is treating you well so far!  My summer travels kicked off with a little road trip through Illinois and Missouri down to Kansas City.  It was only a 9 hour drive and I was able to break it in half by visiting some family in St. Louis.  Of course, I had to see a baseball game in Kansas City.  It was the Royals vs. Detroit Tigers and the Royals won!  After the game we were treated to a magic show and fireworks display, kind of like the ones they do at U.S. Cellular Field.  Anyway, here is a video slideshow from the final weeks of school.  I know the school year is over but our first grade year was one to never forget.  Enjoy!  

Monday, May 24, 2010

End of the Year Items

Time together in first grade is rapidly coming to a close. It has been an interesting, but enjoyable journey! We have some exciting days planned the last two weeks of school.

Wednesday, May 26th - Olympic Day! 
Remember to wear your class t-shirt and gym shoes to school. You may also want to bring a water bottle and apply sunscreen before you come to school. The lunch options for Olympic Day will be a hot dog lunch provided to the children by the PTO, school hot lunch, or lunch from home.
Tuesday, June 1st - House Cleaning
We ask that your child bring a garbage bag to school so that we can do a thorough clean out of our desks and lockers.
Wednesday, June 2nd - Class Celebration 
We invite your child to bring a favorite board game to school. Additionally, your child should bring a handful of their favorite books as we are going to enjoy a read-in/game day together! As an added bonus, the children will have a pizza party snack in the afternoon. Please note this pizza party is not a substitution for a healthy lunch, merely a snack to enjoy together in the afternoon.
Thursday, June 3rd - Last Day of School 
Remember this day is only one hour, 7:55am-8:55am.

I hope you and your children are looking forward to the final days of school.  It's hard to believe it's already here, but the summer time awaits us all.  Thanks for reading and being involved in the Room 108 experience.  See you on the blacktop!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dream Creatures

Dream Creatures was the theme for the Eric Carle Project designed and completed with the guidance of our school's media resource teacher.  She did an outstanding job with first grade students!  She used the creatures of Room 108 students to create a "VoiceThread" slideshow of the finished products.  As you will hear in the VoiceThread, students recorded a description of their uniquely named creations.  Have a look and listen for yourself.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pro-Bike Show

Today students from Room 108 were given an exciting show as Matt Wilhelm, professional BMX flatland trick bikester, visited our school talk about bike safety and many other things.  Matt has travelled around the world to compete in BMX bike competitions and has quite a few awards and medals to his name.  In addition to bike safety, he talked to children about the importance of identifying and developing individual talents for the sake of earning college scholarships, financial rewards, and life opportunities.  By the end of his bike show he had the audience chanting "Never give up!" His message was well-received as he used bike tricks like "time-warp", "decade", and "Spiderman" to demonstrate his personal commitment to practice and never giving up.  The whole show was impressive and inspiring.  Attached is a short video of Matt using some teachers, myself included, as props to jump with his bike.  Luckily I had my iPhone to capture a first hand look at the jump.  For more videos of his tricks, head over to his multimedia loaded website.  

The whole program was made possible by our school's PTO.  They have offered great programs to our students in past years and this event was no exception.  Thank you Mann School PTO and all financial supporters of the PTO! 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

To all the mother's that contribute to the success of Room 108, we salute you!  The love, compassion, forgiveness, support, and comfort you offer us is immeasurable and unquantifiable.  Thank you moms!

With the end of the school year just around the corner, now is the time for teachers and school staff to find creative organized activities to motivate school children to finish the year strong.  One such activity took place this week at school.  A.C.E.S. (All Children Exercising Simultaneously) was organized by our physical education teacher and included the entire school doing a variety of dances.  Below you will find a couple video highlights of the event.  Fifth grade students were asked to be "Dance Leaders" for the younger grades.  You will see some of the fifth graders giving their best to show the littler children how to dance.  As you'll see, some of the first graders need more leadership than others!  

Unit 10 will be starting up this week in Everyday Math and Open-Court Reading.  Both of these units will be cumulative reviews of all the skills, concepts, and methods we have learned and practiced over the course of the school year.  It's very rewarding to see the way students apply thinking patterns, analysis, and problem solving skills during lessons and assessments now.  The past nine months of discipline and hard work really allows students to demonstrate their new knowledge bases.  Writing has become a more routine exercise in Room 108 as well.  With student vocabularies increased, handwriting improved, and spelling patterns applied, first graders are now starting to shape complete paragraphs full of details.  Keep your eyes in those Mail folders for writings and review activities!

The media resource teacher (the position formerly known as librarian) has generated an outstanding literary project themed around the author/illustrator Eric Carle.  His creative illustrations and early reader friendly stories like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear, Brown Bear are the inspiration for a project that asks first graders to go through the artist's process to create creatures of their own with stories they make up.  Students in Room 108 have gone through the first two steps with the third and final production coming this week.  Be sure to check the blog later this week for student work!

Thanks for reading and being involved in the Room 108 learning process.  It is together that we help children achieve their best.  See you on the blacktop!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

District Food Survey

District 97 is interested in getting your feedback about our food service program. Please visit this link to take a brief 12-question survey regarding a variety of topics, including food variety, overall satisfaction with the program, etc.  Even if you and your child do not participate in the school lunch program very often, your input is still desired.

You can also visit the student survey link to read the survey being administered to the students. The deadline for completing the survey is May 13. Any input you can provide regarding ways we can enhance our food service program will be greatly appreciated.

District 97 thanks you for participating!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Busy Week

The past week was action packed with the daily academic lessons but also plenty of independent, partner and small group work.  Mixed in with all of the formal academics were a variety of fun experiences like the Spring Sing, field trip to a nature museum and a bus evacuation drill.  At times some of the best learning experiences are never planned, instead they spontaneously evolve from a pattern of learning steps or interpersonal interactions gone awry.  However problems present themselves, there's always a chance to analyze and problem solve.  It's amazing what six and seven year old minds can think up when the right questions are asked.  Anyway, after a week full of [mostly] wonderful new experiences, here is a photo slideshow highlighting our trip to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago.  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Great Ball Game

The Great Ball Game was read, prepared, rehearsed and performed last week in Room 108.  The story is a play about animals and birds that are having difficulty deciding which group is better, while a confused bat struggles with his identity as either a bird or an animal.  The story was a great opportunity for students to practice oral reading and fluency skills.  In the pictures, you will see each student made their character out of construction paper and taped them on popsicle sticks to use during the performances.  The final picture is a shot of our "Storyteller" sitting next to the day and night scenes that were created collaboratively by all students together. 

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.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Swinging Ahead...

The upcoming weeks in Room 108 will be full of student projects that demand student thought, preparation, and application, among other skills.  Two major projects, in addition to the poetry theme mentioned in the previous post, include the planning and construction of a skyscraper and a travel log students will fill out as they use self-made passports to take virtual trips around the world!

Skyscrapers are a fascination to many around the globe.  Living close to Chicago makes these gigantic constructions more than just a ponderance of one's imagination, rather a reality of everyday life.  Given the close proximately of architectural feats such as the Willis [Sears], John Hancock, and Trump towers, a project has been started in collaboration with our 4th Grade Buddies, to learn about, design, and construct individual skyscrapers to create a Room 108 Skyline!  PBS has a great website about skyscrapers and has served as a support for the planning of this project.  I posted a video below with a collection of the world's tallest skyscrapers.  Some of the buildings have yet to be constructed completely.  Students were asked to use these designs as inspiration and research for the architectural rendering of their own models.

Check back for future posts about student passports, virtual travel around the globe and The Great Ball Game.  As part of our social studies learnings about cultures and citizenship, students will spend time exploring different geographical corners of the globe.  There's so much out to explore!  If you have any suggestions for destinations or kid friendly travel sites, please share in a comment below.  

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spring Time in April

April is poetry month and there is no better way to get into poetry than to read it... and write it!  There are plenty of ways to get started with both.  Poets like Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky are two household names in Room 108 and their books are available in our school library and the local Oak Park Public Library.  Other great authors are out there too!  Scholastic has a great poetry website to get you and/or your child exploring the wonderful world of poetry.  Keep your eyes open for student poetry and poems!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spirit Week

With all the excitement about the upcoming spring break, it only makes sense to channel some of that enthusiasm into daily school routines. This week is a student council sponsored Spirit Week infused with themed days encouraging students at all grade levels to wear fashioned clothing and styled appearances. Get ready for a wild week of energy and creativity! (Schedule for Spirit Week is on the right hand of the blog.)

Speaking of creativity, the recent St. Paddy's Day event in our classroom dealt with six and seven year olds trying to capture leprechaun's with their homemade Leprechaun Traps. The minds of first graders work in mysterious ways and their perspective on the world is startling unique and creative. Students were given the opportunity to share their trapping gadgets with kindergarteners and first graders, all St. Patrick's Day long.

(The whole class with their leprechaun traps.)

Room 108 was recently transformed into a temporary art studio once again for Art Appreciation. This time around the artist in focus was Giuseppe Arcimboldo. As an Italian artist, Arcimboldo created vivid works of mannerism using various living earthly creations like fruits, vegetables, animals, and the like. Using fruits and vegetable cut-outs as the paint, students created creatures of their own with unique interpretations of the world. To understand, you must simple watch the picture slideshow below.

Looking ahead, 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. You may have noticed a comprehension assessment in your child's Mail folder last week. All of these "tests" are completed as a whole class activity right now and will progress to small group and individual assignments as student abilities allow.
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!

As this may be the last post many of you read before Spring Break, I want to thank you for your continued commitment to the first grade experience and wish you a relaxing, rejuvenating, and refreshing time away from the academic structure of school. But remember, just because you are outside of the walls of the school, doesn't mean learning has to stop. There is something new and interesting to learn every day... you just have to find it!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Feeling Green

I've learned in Chicagoland that St. Patrick's Day is not merely one day for Irish blooded people to wear green, eat corned beef and soda bread, and pass out the "Luck o' the Irish" but instead appears to me as a celebration for everyone, that lasts at least a week, if not more. After coming to this realization, I have no choice but to include the holiday's buzz to fuel some classroom learning. (Have a click here for some online St. Patty's games.) With an extensive variety of creative and original leprechaun traps lining our classroom, no little green Irish creatures should feel safe in Room 108. If there is any gold anywhere, students will be sure to find it!

Bloxorz is a block-flipping, strategy game that fits very nicely into our current "shapes" unit of Everyday Math. is the host site with online games, activities and lessons designed for children ages 3-12 (according to the website) and has some great games for enriching concepts and skills students learn and practice in Room 108. Some of the games take concepts to a much deeper level. If you have a child interested in diving deeper, please help them learn a new game or two so they can continue on their personalized learning journey. Shapes will continue to be a presence in Room 108 for the rest of the school year so keep those reusable and recyclable examples from home moving into our classroom. We have some architectural design and construction to work on after spring break.

There is only one Shel Silverstein, but when you have read and re-read all of his work, there has to be another poet out there worth sharing... enter Jack Prelutsky. His works of prose, rhymes and illustrations are very quarky, clever and at times, downright random. Having said that, his poetry has been introduced to children in Room 108 as a progression of readings during classroom snack time. (Also getting mixed into snack time are the ever-popular Tumblebooks and curriculum videos from United Streaming.)

Looking ahead, it is merely two full weeks of school until District 97's spring break. Looks like just enough time to review and close out Unit 7 in reading and math before springing right into Unit 8 in both subjects. Thanks for all the outstanding support from home. See you on the blacktop!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Special Visit

Sometimes with six and seven year olds it can be difficult to ascertain just how much responsibility is shown for their own learning. But there was a special guest that stopped by Room 108 on Monday, and she got a first hand look at students taking ownership for their learning. Dr. Collins, Superintendent of District 97, made a surprise visit to Room 108 to see first-hand what kind of learning is taking place and I must say, the children were hard at work, just like every other day.

Students had just finished up morning journaling and had some time to decide what kind of language arts activities they wanted to work on. Each child is responsible for choosing what they engage themselves in next. It is the case, because they are still first graders, some need a little guidance in their selection process, but it still ultimately comes from their choice. It's a wonderful scene when 20 or so first graders are engaged in something they chose to work on.

Once she noticed some of the children were reading, she immediately wanted a couple children to read with her. The picture is Dr. Collins reading with a student in Room 108. All-in-all it was a great visit, and a nice moment of reflection for the kinds of things happening in our classroom on a daily basis.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Horseshoe Hooray!

Happy Casimir Pulaski Day! In honor of this historic war-time figure, public schools in the state of Illinois observe this day by not going to school. The final week of February brought what seemed to be a few days of hard work capped off by a couple days to participate in some different kinds of learning experiences and celebrate a month of positive behavior.

Thursday was titled "Hats Off to Good Behavior" and children to were allowed to wear hats in school all day, along with "Mann-Wear." Children also had the chance to win prizes for their great behavior if they're name was on one of the lucky "Horseshoe Hooray" slips drawn from the classroom bucket.

It was also a day for students in Room 108 to prepare for "Game Day" with the whole academic school day being dedicated to reviewing concepts and skills in language arts and math. The school day closed with a literature circle, led by our the media resource teacher (librarian), with a book titled Henry's Freedom Box. To enrich the book, children were all given a chance to climb inside a cardboard box to get an idea of what it would be like to mail yourself in a box.

With the end of one unit, comes the start of the next. Here is a little information to get you anticipating what students in ROom 108 will be learning in our next unit in math and language arts.

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 all the excitement and extra-fun activities, it might be a bit of a challenge for students to come back to school to dive into a new unit of learning. That's one of the great things about school, each day is a chance to learn something new!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Current Links

Here is a collection of links that are being posted to let kids explore during our class computer lab time.

A Pictorial History of US Currency, created by, displays twenty-three different pieces of US currency from throughout the history of the United States. We have been practicing a lot of coin counting again in the classroom and this link is an interesting one to show children how American money has changed over the years.

Math Run is a simple and fun game for practicing math skills. Math Run presents players with a scrolling series of mathematics problems. The players respond to each problem by using the right and left arrow keys on their keyboards. I like this simple fact game because it calculates "brain speed" at the top. How fast can your brain think?

Feed Fribbit Addition and Feed Fribbit Subtraction are more "child-friendly" fact games. These match better with Everyday Math facts because every once in awhile the user needs to select the missing number and is not always asked for the sum or difference to a problem. Fact families have been commonplace in the classroom over the last two weeks and this game supports that line of thinking.

Sticking with arguably the most popular sport trend in the classroom this week is a Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics webpage. This page is part of the "official" winter Olympics website and introduces children to the Olympic mascots and dreams behind being an olympian.

Hope you enjoy the links! Happy browsing and GO USA!

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Valentine Recap

A whirlwind of a Valentine week left plenty of need for a day off from school in observation of Presidents' Day. The past week in Room 108 saw an Art Appreciation session that introduced children to pop art sensation Andy Warhol. (Hopefully all the parents out there were surprised with a pop art creation from your young artist.) Finally, the week was capped off with a highly anticipated harmonica concert and enthusiastic Valentine's Day party! The video you see below are of the Room 108 students performing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat." Pictures from all the above mentioned events can be found in the slideshow on the right hand side of the blog.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Let me begin by first thanking everyone involved in the Room 108 first grade experience. Thank you parents for your attendance and valuable input and feedback regarding your child and their academic, social, emotional and behavioral development in the first half of this year. It is the team effort that has created the collaboration and support necessary to provide the best educational opportunities for all children to learn.

Looking ahead to unit 6 in both Open-Court Reading and Everyday Math brings a host of new skills and concepts but also a review and application of skills acquired in previous units. Unit 6 in reading is titled Journeys and uses stories about travel to enhance comprehension strategies like summarizing, making predictions, and making connections. Students will also be exposed to new vocabulary terms through reading about journeys like that of Captain Bill Pinkney.

Unit 6 for Everyday Math continues with a constant diet of addition facts, presented with a variety of manipulatives. Fact families should become a common term as students use these groups of three numbers to practice addition and subtraction relationships between numbers. Time-telling will resurface along with some measuring skills and continued practice with the hundreds chart.

Be sure to keep your calendars up to date with the upcoming events for Room 108 and keep up the good work with the homework. This week should be a great one with a big harmonica concert and Valentine's Day celebration. Hope to see you there!

Monday, January 25, 2010

It's Still Winter

Although warm weather melted some of this winter's snow blanket, the cold has returned and with it, the reality of winter. Timing for the drastic weather changes has been fitting for our Open-Court whole class readings and discussions on our current unit topic Weather. Unfortunately, timing orchestrated with the recent tragedy in Haiti, caused by one of the most extreme of all natural disasters, an earthquake. Haiti's tragedy has stirred tremendous conversation about tragedy and relief, while also creating awareness of our privilege and fortune in our local school community. If you have not already talked with your child about the catastrophe in the Caribbean, please do so. There are a number of different ways to offer relief for those who have suffered, for opportunities click here, or run a quick Google search for 'Haiti Relief'.

Weather has been an interesting topic to explore as children have a variety of personal experiences to offer in connection to our readings. As students share knowledge and connections, they are demonstrating understanding and application from what they read, to what they know. To extend the weather topic with geography and map reading skills, students were taken to the computer lab where each child logged onto The Weather Channel's sponsored website,, to analyze and interpret different kinds of weather maps, including the most common tell-tale of precipitation, Doppler radar. Ask your child to give you a little overview if you are curious. See what they learned!

Room 108 will soon be participating in a Box Tops 4 Education fundraiser project sponsored by the Mann Student Council. For the entire month of February, each classroom in the school is encouraged to collect 'Box Tops' from commonly purchased household items and bring them into their classroom's collection box. The class with the most box tops for the month will win a class party! Helps our class earn as many as possible by starting a collection immediately at home and sending them to school with your child. For a complete list, visit the Box Tops website, or just click here. (While you're at it, could you send any paper towel or toilet paper tubes, too please? It's for an upcoming project.)

This Thursday, January 28 marks our monthly All School Celebration of positive behavior modeled through the Mustang Motto. Be sure to have your child 'decked out' in their 'Mann Wear' and refreshed on the three parts of our motto. Conferences are also just around the corner. Hopefully, you have your time scheduled and are ready to get some detailed information (data, if you will) about your child's individual progress in their first grade experience. The upcoming Game Day on Friday, January 29th will serve as a timely assessment day prior to conference week. If your child has been coming to school daily, working hard, and trying their best, they will be plenty prepared for anything a Game Day has to offer. (Completing homework is also sure to be helpful when performing in school.)

If you made it this far, THANKS FOR READING (and feel free to make a comment or at least click a check box.) This school year is zipping by and student growth is really starting to expose itself in all kinds of unique ways! See you on the blacktop!