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!