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!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Harmonica 101

Here are some pictures from our first harmonica class with John Milan. The local Oak Park artist has been teaching drums and harmonica in the area for over 30 years. His expertise will help guide first graders in their harmonica playing experience. Our next session is this Friday, January 15. Be sure to ask your child about their reaction to this learning experience!

(Photos courtesy of Patti Quilling, a representative of the Oak Park Education Foundation's Art Start program.)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Back At It Again In 2010

The first week back from winter break was a great success! Students were quick to remember their daily routines and just as eager to get back to working hard with everything. From our morning journal and phonics, to reading and math, and through writing and spelling words, children from Room 108 were positive, cooperative, and showed great signs of responsibility and respect. With all the excellent performance and effort, children earned plenty of independent work time and even a couple whole class recesses!

To celebrate the New Year, many cities have elaborate firework displays. Here is one that stuck out in my mind from the Fourth of July last year. I know it's not a New Year's Eve display but I think it's an outstanding display nonetheless. Happy New Year!!

Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks in New York City: Canon 5D mark II from Mike Kobal on Vimeo.

Friday marked the beginning of Room 108's Art Start experience with local musical professional, John Milan. He is teaching all Mann first graders to play the harmonica. "John," as he prefers the children to call him, will teach six sessions on consecutive Fridays with each session lasting approximately 50 minutes. Our first session covered the basics of playing the instrument and had the class play simple tunes like "London Bridge" and "Twinkle, Twinkle." John really motivated the kids with his opening rendition of the Star Wars theme song! Check back next week for more info and pictures from Harmonica 101. Many thanks to the Oak Park Education Foundation for funding the Art Start program and making these unique opportunities available to our students.

Homework packets went home on Friday as well. Homework packets will be sent home every Friday from now until spring break. Each packet is due by the following Friday, at the latest. Packets can be turned in as soon as they are completed. The idea of the packet is to provide some extra work for your child at home to strengthen skills taught at school, extend thinking, and provide some enrichment in a variety of content areas. If you have any questions about the packet or your child has misplaced it, e-mail me.

Room 108 has a full five day week ahead with another list of spelling words and all our specials. We will honor Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday on Friday with some activities and schools will be closed on Monday, January 18. That's all for now. With warmer weather this week, students should be lining up outside in the mornings. Hope to see you on the blacktop!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A New Year, New Things to Learn

Happy 2010!! Hopefully the new year brings plenty of opportunity for for new learning experiences and excitement for you and your family! 2009 was a great year for students in Room 108 going back to students from the spring and continuing on with a new group of first graders in the fall. Learning can be designed in a very organized and structured pattern for children but the children and their personalities are always unpredictable. As we look ahead to the second half of the first grade experience, expectations are heightened for student responsibility, behavior, and performance. Remember, success is relative to individual needs and measured by effort.

Unit 5 will be underway in both Everyday Math and Open Court Reading. New math concepts will focus on place value, number problems, as well as "easy" math facts and double digit addition. Other math skills will be frequently reviewed in a variety of methods such as games, worksheets, workbook pages and mental math. The Family HomeLink Letter for Unit 5 (and all future and past units) can be found here. The next unit in Open-Court Reading is titled Weather and will storm through a variety of stories aimed at enhancing knowledge and awareness of weather. Specific reading skills for the unit will include making predictions, cause and effect, summarizing, and making inferences. Some of you might want some additional resources for the unit or a refresher on some of the basic sight words, both can use this site as a starting point.

Most of this week will also include plenty of "refresher" activities like community circle, calendar, and of course our morning routine. The idea is to get back into the swing of things in Room 108 and at Mann School. There will be spelling words for the week and they will be available on the blog Monday after school. I hope you are all ready to get back into the school routine and had a blessed and restful winter break. In parting, I will leave you with a photo slideshow of pictures I took during the Zoolights Festival at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. I'm interested to know if any of you took your family, or any other loved ones, to this light festival or the one at the Brookfield Zoo. Please comment below to share!

(Music is courtesy of Mannheim Steamroller.)