Sunday, October 27, 2013

10/28/13 Newsletter

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I took these pictures last week during an informal peer-editing session in which the children were providing feedback to one another on narrative writings about fall activities.  During this session, the children were re-reading and checking to make sure the sentences made sense.
Our most recent junior teachers reading aloud to their friends during snack time... 




Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Last year I blogged about Spookley, the Square Pumpkin, by Joe Troiana and Susan Banta. I revised the activities a little this year and uploaded the new documents. 

Part of the last year's hallway display



Sometimes Halloween feels more like a season, than a one-day celebration, especially in a first grade classroom.  It doesn't take tricks or treats to get the kids motivated and excited about learning, they love all things "Halloween-educational"!  From poems, songs, math, and writing activities to learning about bats and carving pumpkins, we are busy with the Halloween theme.

We kicked off the "Halloween Season" with a class book about Halloween costumes.

The kids decided they wanted their friends to guess who's who, so they didn't put names on their pages.  I think class books provide meaningful writing experiences because the children write at their ability level.


"Which witch is which?" is another "Who am I?" activity.  The children worked on sentence writing, question sentences, beginning capital letter, end punctuation and descriptive words with this activity.  Everyone wrote three clues for their riddle, and some wrote more.  They traced a hat pattern that I've had for many years, then added stars, and made faces on an oval cut-out.  I cut 9"x2" strips of orange paper for the hair and the kids were so creative with their designs.
The writing is glued on a 9"x12" piece of construction paper that is folded in half.  The riddle is glued on the front and the children's names are revealed on the inside.

They wrote "I am..." in the speech bubble.  This page was glued on the inside.

 To work on the skill of distinguishing differences between fiction and nonfiction text, we read about bats.  Again, this is a topic that motivates first grade learners!
We combined a little fun and writing for the extension activity.



We are carving pumpkins tomorrow and I hope to share a lot of great pictures!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

10/21/13 Newsletter

Link for October 21, 2013 Classroom Newsletter


Our first quarter is ending this week so our students are finishing up a number of assessments, but we will definitely make time for movement and singing! 
With so many letters, this will be a challenge. 
My students love this song!


I hope to upload a video of my students singing this song sometime in the near future.  They sing this song so well!


Saturday, October 19, 2013


During teacher-parent conferences a couple weeks ago, a parent, curious about centers in my classroom, asked me to describe our daily routine.  As I was talking with her, I realized how difficult it is to describe literacy centers.  We use center titles, such as “read-to-someone” and “word work.”  What does that mean to someone whose not familiar with Daily Five or the Four Blocks© literacy framework?  There’s a lot that goes into designing and setting up the learning materials and environment, and it’s difficult to explain managing center activities.  The parent and I had extra time during our conference, so together we walked through a typical routine.  While it’s not possible for all parents to experience a “walk-through”, I thought I would use this post to explain a few things about centers in my classroom.  {I have some parents who check for updates on my blog and I think they’ll appreciate this information, plus, they love seeing pictures of their children.  (smile)}
We have five center rotations for about 75 minutes on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.  On Wednesday, the students have two specials (80 minutes) and computer (20 minutes) so I cannot run a full center rotation.  This picture (I apologize for poor quality!) shows the center board.  The number cards on the right are rotated, about every 12 – 15 minutes, with the children moving through all five centers during the center block. 




My listening station includes 5 inflatable seat cushions for the children to sit on while listening to books on CD or cassette.  Our Parent-School Organization (PSO) purchased several iPads for our school this year, and once e-books are purchased and uploaded, the iPads will be another option for the listening station.  This week, I am featuring Dr. Seuss books, and eventually the children will respond to some of the books on response sheets similar to these: 





The students choose their activity for the word work center, and the activities vary every week.  I try to include many of the phonics skills from the weekly story (McGraw Hill WONDERS program) in the differentiated activities.    At this time, the children choose:
1.       File Folder Games (blends, rhymes, vowels)
2.       Word and/or Sentence Building Puzzle Cards
3.       Wiki Sticks for practicing sight and spelling words
4.       Word Sorts

I use center folders to help the children develop organizational skills.  The folders are maintained in baskets by table groups.  They contain two activities: a word sort (differentiated word lists) and a ‘write the room’ activity.  I place the word list for the sort in the folders at the beginning of the week.  At this time, I am creating two word lists so that the children work with words at their developmental level.  Based on what I am seeing in the student’s writing and on their spelling tests, I will also include a third, more challenging list in the future. 

{I’m in the process of creating a multi-page, (50 so far) multi level word sort document that includes a variety of options for the sorting page and differentiated word lists for vowel, blend, and digraph sorts which I’ll eventually upload to TPT.}
The work on writing center is an extension of writer’s workshop.  I’ll write more about writing instruction at another time.  I’m in the process of transitioning from a writing model similar to the format described in Writing Mini-Lessons for First Grade by Dorothy P. Hall, Patricia Cunningham, & Denise B. Boger to the Lucy Calkins writing program. 



In this picture, a center group is working on a class book page for a book about Halloween costumes.  This was a two-day writing activity.  The students wanted the book pages to be anonymous so they put up privacy folders while working on their pages.   This week, the children are working on two narrative writings, each for two days in order to include multiple steps in the writing process. 

The children work on the read-to-self center in our classroom library.  This is another center that allows for differentiated learning and choice.  The ability to make decisions to read selections that are developmentally appropriate is a skill we will work on all year.
The children have a read-to-someone center twice each day; after our class meeting each morning for 10-15 minutes and during center rotations.  In the morning, the children choose partners and their reading selections and read anywhere they choose in the classroom.  During center rotations, I meet with five different reading groups.
I hope this makes sense!  I’ll upload more pictures in the future of the word work and writing centers because those activities always change. 


Sunday, October 13, 2013

10/14/13 Classroom Newsletter

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In a previous post, I blogged about the “junior teacher” reading aloud to the students while the children eat their snacks.  It’s been such a great learning experience for so many reasons. 
In addition to the daily read-aloud, our classroom junior teachers have other responsibilities.  They are teacher assistant, messenger, mail delivery person, calendar and weather reporter and line leader.  What is most impressive to me ~ the junior teachers are prepared for their read aloud without reminders from me.  They are serious about this responsibility.  I’ve had some children tell me about their reading selection, days ahead of their scheduled day.  They’re motivated!

I love how the children carefully share the story illustrations and make eye contact with their audience as they move the books to show the pictures.  Just as we (teachers) monitor for active listening, they are checking in to make sure their peers are listening as well. Their proud, beautiful smiles tell another story…they have been reading their selections with someone at home, and they’re proud of their efforts!   I see many confident, motivated readers who are working on accuracy, and paying attention to other skills such as, pacing, tone, and appropriate pausing.


This has been a positive learning experience for me as well.  I’ve been able to pick up more information about my student’s reading interests and habits.   I love it!   I order through Scholastic Reading Clubs this year, and this month I used my points to order five books similar to books the students are reading.  I’ve also been able to observe and make notes about who’s making connections while listening to the text.  (The children show they are making a connection by “connecting” their pointer fingers on each hand.)

A few of the CCSS Speaking & Listening Standards have been a little tricky.  We are trying to move from more general questions about key details in the text - “What happened at the end?” -  to more specific questions about events and characters.  Collaborative conversations are challenging as well.  The children are doing a good job of listening to others with care and speaking one at a time about the texts, but they need a lot of modeling to learn how to build on others’ talk in conversations.  I have been working on modeling this social skill by responding to comments and encouraging the children to then respond to my comments.  (I’m working on this during small-group reading too.)  I think this is a tough skill for adults, and it makes sense that collaborative conversations are challenging for six and seven year olds as well. 

It’s pretty cool ... this daily read aloud routine came about in our classroom because one of our students was motivated to read to her friends.  She spread “the magic” and now, we’re all learning from one another.

 Junior Teacher Readers...









We had a few updates about our friend, and hope for his return to school this week.