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Showing posts from 2008

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

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This slide show represents the past two weeks of activities going on in our classroom. We made a wreath and advent box for the holiday silent auction. The students participated in these projects - they helped paint the polka-dots on the wreath ornaments and we used their fingerprints to decorate the sides, top, and back of the lottery advent calendar (Santa and the reindeers and snowmen). (Our own Mrs, Shall was the lucky winner!) We had a Hanukah lesson demonstrated by a former student. Did you now that there are 17 different ways to spell "Hanukah"? She brought in a menorah, candles, and dreidel and taught the students about the "Festival of Lights." Afterwards, she taught the children how to play the dreidel game and also how to make one out of marshmallows, Hershey Kisses, and pretzel sticks. Also, during the week, pictures were taken of the children and they wrote a note inside the card that their holiday picture was going in.
Thursday was our holiday breakf…

Cinnamon Ornaments With A Dash of "How To"

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Some holiday crafts just need time to complete, especially drying time. The cinnamon ornament is one of them. On Wednesday, we decided to get a jump start on one of our favorite holiday crafts, the cinnamon ornament, and combine it with Writer's Workshop by revisiting "How to" writing. In making this ornament, students had the opportunity to experience, from ingredients to completed outcome...the step by step, day by day evolution of making this ornament. And what better way to evidence what the children have learned, via nonfiction writing, by having them write a "How To" (functional) writing piece?
As you can see from Chelsea's writing sample, we have a title, "How to make an Ornament." There are clear pictures that demonstrate the task. The pictures are labeled and there are captions under the pictures. Chelsea used transition words "first" and "then". Also, there is a "What you need" section under the writing. It…

"Can It" Make a Difference?

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As a community project for the holidays, we answered the call to collect as many cans of food as possible for our business partners BJs Wholesale Club. They were asking for 1000 cans from our school. To our delight, we collected approximately 250 cans of food from our class alone! In the beginning of the drive, we asked students to bring in food that they like, not what's in the back of the pantry. We told the students that we are very fortunate to have food and that many children go to bed hungry. To make the drive exciting, we allowed the students to ring the class bell for every can they brought in. Then in order to keep a running total, children used tally marks on the side of the box to log in how many cans we collected. Mrs. Shall told us that she hopes there's not going to be a hurricane because all of her canned food was vanishing! We are very proud of our parents and class -- we were the winners of the most cans brought in by a single classroom!!Can it make a differen…

The Plump and Perky Turkey - Shadow Puppet Play

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"The Plump and Perky Turkey" by Teresa Bateman was our "Book of the Month" in November. Our principal, Susan Phillips, asked us to think of a clever way to respond to the book so that it could be put on her "Book of the Month" Wiki. We thought and thought and then remembered Miss KK's (our Media Specialist) shadow puppet idea that she puts on for our First Grade Sleepover in January. Using that as an inspiration, we developed our own, "Plump and Perky Turkey" shadow puppet play. It took a about a week of practice to get it to the point you see now. We hope you enjoy the video and be on the look out for our next shadow puppet play, "The Night Before Christmas."

Reading Strategies - Embedding the Code

Even though we teach the basic reading strategies in Kindergarten and First Grade, students need to be reminded to open this "tool box" of strategies when they get stuck on a word or phrase. So many times we say, "Use your strategies." We verbally remind them to, "Look at the picture," "Did you use both vowel sounds?", and/or "Does it make sense?" But what happens if a child forgets his/her strategies or maybe the ones he/she remembers aren’t working? This has been a question that we have been asking ourselves. Also, how do we keep the strategies reviewed so that the children can "embed this code" into their schema? The following is a "Reading Strategies" song that we developed and are using before students go to independent or partner reading every day. If this helps even a few struggling readers and/or higher level readers who occasionally get stuck on a word, it's worth singing everyday.

Thanksgiving Feast in Room 104

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On Tuesday, our class celebrated a favorite holiday for many, Thanksgiving. For the past few weeks, we have been learning about the Pilgrims journey to the New World... how the Mayflower was the second ship (the Speedwell was the first, but it sprang a leak and it had to return to England.) The students learned how the Native Americans helped the settlers survive by teaching them how to grow crops and hunt in this new land. Also, students learned that the Pilgrim children were just like them - they loved to learn, play, and listen to stories. For our celebration day, we read a few books, namely,"The First Thanksgiving" and "The Plump and Perky Turkey." We decorated cookies to look like turkeys, pine cones that looked like turkeys, and crafted a "thankful turkey" with feathers that listed what we are thankful for. The best part of the whole day was our Thanksgiving Feast. Parents sent in food items and we supplied the "chicken nuggets" as our …

Learning About the Pilgrims and the Mayflower

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As we were walking to lunch a few weeks ago, one of our students said, "We need to get our Pow Wow stuff out like the other classes." It's hard for the current First Graders to understand that we don't have the Pow Wow celebration in First Grade, just Kindergarten. But it is a time to reflect and talk about our tribe from last year and discuss what we remember about it. For the past few weeks, we have been learning about the Pilgrims, Mayflower, and how the Native Americans helped these early settlers through harsh winters. We have been reading a few chapters a day of the book, "...If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620." This book is written in a question and answer format which is very familiar to the students because we just finished a writing unit on nonfiction question and answer books. Questions such as "Who were the Pilgrims?", "What could the children take with them on the trip?", and "Did the children go to school?" ar…

A Look at Nonfiction Writing - Question/Answer Books

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Our class has just finished a three week unit in Writer's Workshop on pattern books. A pattern book is a book that has a repeating line or phrase written in it. A familiar pattern book is "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" and "The House That Jack Built." We took pattern books a step further by diving into question/answer pattern books and then one step further into nonfiction question/answer books. These are books about a nonfiction topic (in this case Soccer). A repeating question is asked and an answer is given directly after the question. Carson added a few nonfiction conventions: a Table of Contents, captions and close-ups are added to the her nonfiction pattern book. This book has an extra added feature - look at the bottom of each page - it grows to incorporate a sketch of what the previous question was and the added element of the new answer. Read along and learn about soccer!

What is this thing? It is a soccer ball that kick with your feet and try to score a goal…

Every Day Counts - Everyday and Everyway!

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Every morning for about 10-15 minutes, we engage in math instruction that supplements our daily Math block. It is called Every Day Counts. The bulletin board is transformed into an interactive math roadway. Each month new activities are added to the board to provide a continuous learning experience for students. By building on concepts a little at a time, every day, children gain confidence in their mathematical thinking.
Students use the calendar to review the days of the week, analyze and predict patterns, match quantities with numbers, compare numbers, and develop number sense. A Number Builder is used for students to see number combinations, use the language of addition and subtraction, tell addition and subtraction stories, and record number sentences. Counting Tape and Ten Grids are used to compare and order quantities, group and count by tens, fives, and ones. The Clock helps students learn how many minutes in an hour, count by fives and ones, and read the minute hand. In Octob…

Oh Canada!!

Welcome to our class Matt! Thanks for the great introduction. In our class, we have several girls and boys who play soccer and softball. They write about their experiences in Writer's Workshop. Shortly, we will have some sample writing pieces on the blog to share. We hope that our blog will help you with your education courses and your future as an educator. We love our neighbors to the north and look forward to hearing from you.
O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

(Learned that from watching lots of Philadelphia Flyers hockey games!) (Sorry about the playoffs last year!)

Skills Block - Interactively Fun!

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We have a jammed-packed Skills Block in the morning. This is where the students get to practice phonics, phonemic awareness, and word building. Each day we "work on" a morning message. This message is written on the board and contains about three to four sentences. It usually includes what the day is; what the resource for the day is; and a miscellaneous sentence. The sentences do not contain any punctuation. They may contain any of the following: contractions, misspellings, punctuation, capitalization and/or vocabulary words. Students take turns putting quotation marks, commas, circling vocabulary words, and correcting misspellings. After this exercise, (about ten minutes), we take five minute increments and teach a few antonyms, new contractions, new word families, or introduce another skill. For the last ten minutes of the Skills Block, students have the opportunity to practice a learned skill. In the picture, the children are playing "Concentration" with contra…

A Special Halloween Surprise

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As a special Halloween treat, we had a big surprise for our students as they came in from recess. The table was set up for the world famous "Witchy Poo Brew" - (a Halloween Snack Mix). We mixed together "snake eyes" chocolate chip morsels, "butterfly wings" Fritos, blood drops "red hots", cat claws (sunflower seeds), worms (gummy worms), and the list went on and on. The students were "oooing" through the entire process. We dumped cupfuls of the ingredients into a large punch bowl and stirred as needed. When the children went to resource, we had the bowl "cooking". When they came back, they had a nice Halloween snack mix bagged up waiting for them at their desks.
However, the fun didn't stop there. We played our "Looking for Dracula" song one more time. This time, the kids were given their own set of "fangs" to use while singing the song. There were a lot of laughs this Halloween day...and hopeful one t…

Fire Safety Month - A Visit from Fireman Chris

Today we had a special visitor come to our class and talk about fire safety. His name is Fireman Chris. Chris entertained the children by promoting fire safety in a kid-friendly way. The students listened and watched a fascinating slide show then asked numerous questions about smoke, fire, and the causes of house fires. Pictures were shown of kitchens, houses, and forests on fire. Did you know that there is a special fire truck just for putting out woods on fire? It's called a Woods Firetruck.
Fireman Chris put on his gear piece by piece to show the children how the clothing is layered to protect him when he has to go into a burning building. He talked through the oxygen mask and wanted children to see that they shouldn't be afraid if they see a fireman dressed like this, especially in a fire. Chris did demo lesson of crawling on the floor and feeling the wall, teaching the children to stay low to the ground and touch the wall to find their way out. Afterwards, the students ha…

Looking for Dracula - A Halloween Treat

Fall Festivities Abound!!

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The news is in -- our pumpkins won Dr. Jones' pick. We were excited at the announcement on Thursday!! Our Literary Character Parade was a fantastic success. Afterwards the students had centers that included arts and crafts activities. Enjoy the pictures of the day!

Aussie Pumpkins Like You've Never Seen Before!

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Fall is a wonderful time of year at our school. We have great traditions that make this time of year memorable for the children. There are three events that will take place this week that makes this season such a festive one. The Literary Pumpkin Contest, the Literary Character Parade, and the Fall Carnival.
The first event is the Literary Pumpkin Contest. Our entry this year is a representation of the book, "The ABCs of Australia." This is a favorite book of our class. Each child was assigned a letter of the Aussie alphabet. Students were assigned this as a "family project". All pumpkins were due this week and put on display in our school lobby. As you can see, they are great! We have the Aborigine, the Harbour Bridge, the Great Barrier Reef, kangaroos, cricket, a eucalyptus tree, and a yabby represented. I'll let you know if we win!!
The second event is the Literary Character Parade. Kindergarten and First Grade students are invited to come to school dressed a…

UNF Education Students Visit Weekly and More!

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For the past few weeks, we have had two University of North Florida Education Majors observe in our classroom as a requirement for their college course. C. and K. come in for a few hours on Wednesday and have the opportunity to observe a morning in our first grade class. They assist with literacy centers, work with small groups on literacy related activities and assist with individual students. Last week, K.'s assignment was to do a read aloud with the class and lead a group discussion of the book. The book was "The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree" by Gail Gibbons and the children made text-to-self and text-to-text connections with the book. It was followed by a writing activity. After previewing the guided reading books last week, they followed up by leading their own respective guided reading groups this week.
The experience they are getting by being in a classroom environment and seeing first hand the workings of a class is so much more valuable than reading about …

Partner Reading With Fourth Grade

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Reader's Workshop has a brand new twist to it on Fridays. Students from Mrs. Constande's and Ms. Anderson's Fourth Grade class has been partnering up with our class for part of our Reader's Workshop. Last Friday, they were introduced to each other. Their class shared a poem and got familiar with their new reading partners. This week, First Grade students brought their book bins to the floor to share with their their new partner. The fourth graders brought a questionnaire to get to know their little friends better. So after a few books were read, the questions were asked of the first grader. The topic: "What would you change if your were in charge of the world?" Some of the answers were thoughtful: "I would get rid of allergies" and some answerer were comical, "I would have a nicer sister!" At closing, we shared a few of these papers with the whole and group and had a great time learning about each other. These meetings will benefit b…

Guided Reading - An Intregral Piece of the Puzzle

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Now that the diagnostic testing is completed, we have formed what is called, "Guided Reading" groups. Children are grouped according to their instructional reading level. This is one level higher than their independent reading level. We meet with a small group of students (2-5) a few times a week which allows us one on one time to see, hear, and watch individual students in the reading process. Before reading, a leveled book is introduced. There is a conversation about it to build interest, especially for A-D readers. The next step is hearing the students read softly while we listen. As students are reading, we decide on what the teaching point will be, according to where a difficulty was noticed. After reading, students are engaged in meaningful talk about the book, asked comprehension questions, and strategies are reviewed (or introduced, as needed). Guided Reading allows us the opportunity to observe individual students in the reading process. When writing anecdotal notes…

Writing Rubric - An "Oh I Get It!" Guide to Good Wriing

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We have just finished completing our Narrative Writing Rubric. It has taken a little over a week of mini lessons to get it together, but it was well worth the time. Each day, several examples in literature were used to explain certain aspects of their writing narrative. For instance, when teaching "great beginnings," several examples (Mem Fox)and non examples (Level A, B readers) were used to explain the meaning of a "great beginning." Actual student writing was also used to teach specific rubric elements. Students learned that a "great beginning" should have a time and place to help the reader with his/her mental image of the story. When this was understood, the process of getting the information on a chart was the next step. First students discussed what pictures should represent the writing at varying levels. They decided on the stages of a kangaroo. The approaching standard "great beginning" is represented by the kangaroo with a joey in the…

Mem Fox: Author Celebration Day

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Our Mem Fox Author Celebration Day was full of learning, fun and activities. Children listened to books about Australian animals, completed word searches, and had plenty of arts and crafts projects to make the day a success. Taste testing the lamington was a big hit (for all those who don't mind coconut). Students made didgeridoos, boomerang pins, Aussie hats, and platypus puppets. We also read books that our celebrated author wrote that we hadn't visited in our author study. Mem Fox will surely be remembered as a favorite author of our class and one of Australia's finest story tellers. We salute and thank you Mem for writing books that children all around the world enjoy and love!

Reader's Theater Presents: "Hattie and the Fox"

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In Reader's Workshop today, students practiced a retelling of "Hattie and the Fox" by Mem Fox. The children put on a Reader's Theater play in which they had the opportunity to play a part in the story. This is a rhythmic book which is bouncy and repetitive. It is based on the traditional hen-and-fox tale. The animals on the farm do not heed Hattie's warning of seeing a strange creature in the bushes. When warned the animals chant: "Good grief," said the goose; "Well, well," said the pig; "Who cares," said the sheep; "So what," said the horse; "What next?" said the cow. This refrain is repeated several times during the story until the animals scramble when Hattie screams, "It's a fox...it's a fox!!" This was a wonderful book to read during this last week of our author study because it was so different from the other stories we have read by her. Tomorrow will be our Author Celebration Day! We ar…

Math Investigations - It's My Choice

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After several math lessons, students have the opportunity to revisit what was learned through practice in what is called "Math Choice Time." Today was a "Choice Day." Students were invited to choose an activity that has been taught in the past week and work with a partner on this math activity. These Math "games" included: Counters in a Cup, Combinations of 10, Off/On, and Double Compare. All of these "games" are used to teach while having some fun with a partner. Students have the opportunity to play the game, discuss their strategies, and share their findings with the class.
In the game "Counters in a Cup" partners are given ten chips, a plastic cup and a sheet to log information. One student hides some of the 10 chips under a cup. The other student counts the chips that he/she sees and the figures out how many are under the cup. The data is entered on the sheet. In Combinations of Ten, students had the opportunity to make up their…

Venn Diagrams Help Organize Our Thinking

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Do you remember using Venn diagrams in school? It is a great graphic organizer and one that students of all ages like to use. After using them in Kindergarten, via Reader's Workshop by comparing Eric Carle books, Venn diagrams were utilized again, using two Mem Fox books. The students compared the books "Possum Magic" and "Koala Lou." They were asked to work in table groups. Each was given a drawn Venn Diagram and invited to write the titles of the books on each circle. Then reminded to write what is different about each book under the titles and in the middle, what the two books shared. Post it notes and copies of each book were supplied to each table so that each child could write their thoughts and place it in the corresponding circle. To hear and see the conversations about each book, the accountable talk, and the ability to work as a small group was amazing. What helped this activity run so smoothly was the student's familiarity and understanding of ea…

Writer's Workshop: Planning Details

Today during Writer's Workshop, student's were busy finishing up their pieces from this week. As some students were finishing, others were ready to start a new piece of writing. One child (video) asked if I would listen to his "planning of the story" that he is going to write. The lesson on "Planning Details" was a mini lesson about a week ago and how happy we are that it is now internalized. This student is looking at blank pages and telling what he is going to write on each page. This lesson was meant to encourage children to plan detailed stories before writing them. We have found that when students learn how to plan their writing, step by step and page by page, it helps them focus on the act of writing. As evidenced in the video, A. is busy planning the details that he is excited to write about. Planning - the key to a great Writer's Workshop. (FYI - the video will buffer the first time.)

Do You Do a Didgeridoo?

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Today one of our read alouds was the book, "Do You Do A Didgeridoo?" by Nick Page. It was about a man who was looking for a didgeridoo in a music store. He begged, pleaded, and continually asked the owner, "Do You Do a Didgeridoo?" and the owner answered, "I didgeridon't!" At the end of the book, the owner found one in his store, and the man who once wanted it so badly, changed his mind. The children loved the sing/song rhythm of the book and of course, the topic of the didgeridoo. After the book was read, students learned that this instrument, used by the Aboriginal Australians, is made from tree branches that have been hollowed out by insects. There are no reliable sources stating the didgeridoo's exact age, though it is commonly claimed to be the world's oldest wind instrument.
The biggest surprise was yet to come. A student knew someone who had a didgeridoo and he brought it in to share with the class. It was a wonderful opportunity for ev…

Writing for Readers

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The children in our class have been writing since the first day of school and it is amazing to see the growth in just a few short weeks. They show an eagerness and confidence when asked to write a personal narrative and many of their stories span several pages. They are confident and happy writers and love sharing their "small moments" at the end of the workshop. By having the opportunity to write for forty minutes a day, students generate and produce stories that have great beginnings and lots of details. They are also learning how to reread and edit their work.
Today in Writer's Workshop, students had the opportunity to share their finished pieces with a friend. Each child had a partner and they took turns sharing their stories. They were encouraged to comment on their friend's writing, help to edit the piece, and compliment their partner's efforts. Afterwards, we came together and shared what our writer's have learned from this activity. "Writing for R…

Australia's Geography Is Our Topic Today

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We were very fortunate to have a guest speaker today. Dr. B. is a professor at the University of North Florida's Department of Economics and Geography (and also one of our student's father.) Dr. B. came to talk to the class about Australia's geography. A globe was used to explain the northern and southern hemispheres. It was explained that when it is summer here, it is winter there. During the presentation, Dr. B. showed maps comparing Australia's land mass with the United States. He showed both countries from space where students were able to tell green and brown coloring (vegetation and desert areas.) Students were shown elevation zones and pointed out the mountains and plains between both countries. There were rainfall and temperature maps where children discovered the climate differences between the two countries. All during the presentation, students asked questions and offered their knowledge of Australia. It was a wonderful way for First Grade students to learn …

Reader's Workshop Welcomes Mem Fox - Our Author Study

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For the next few weeks, we will be reading, studying and learning about the works of our author for our author study, Mem Fox. Mem was born in Melbourne, Australia in March 1946. Mem Fox declares herself first a teacher and then a writer. Her first book, Possum Magic, was rejected nine times over five years but went on to become (and continues to be, to this day) the best-selling children’s book in Australia, with over two million copies sold. Since Possum Magic, she has written 28 books for children.

The purpose of this author study is to guide and support student's comprehension and in-depth thinking as a response to literature. In this study, they will see how Mem Fox draws upon her everyday life to create her stories. Her themes include family love, birth and dying, and relationships between the old and young.

Today in Reader's Workshop, students were given baskets of Mem Fox books and invited to explore them. They noticed the characters: "Look how big his hands are!&q…

Writer's Sharing Writing Using Technology

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One of the most important components to the Writer's Workshop is the "share time" at the end of a lesson. This is where the teacher gets the opportunity to see if the mini lesson was understood by the student. A tool we use to share the actual writing is called an "Elmo." The children are very familiar with this technology because it is used quite frequently in the classroom. A child or two is invited to share his/her paper with the class when he/she has implemented the lesson taught. Students have the opportunity to see their writing up on a big screen and read it to the class. Their classmates can read along with the student and see the writing that their peers are producing. Having this visual helps other students improve upon their own works. After the writer reads his/her piece, the children give meaningful compliments on their friend's stories. For instance, "I like how you "stayed in the moment" or "You did a great job on punctuat…

High Flyin' Aussie Flag

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We are back from an unexpected and not welcomed Tropical Storm Fay. School was in session only two days the first week of school. The good news is that we are back, in one piece, and thankfully, will never see that storm again!!
On Monday, we visited the letter "F" in our "Australia ABCs" book. The topic was the flag of Australia. The children learned that 'Australia's flag shows Britain's flag in the upper left hand corner. The large star on the flag stands for the six states and two territories of Australia. The small stars stand for the Southern Cross, a group of stars you can see when you are south of the equator.' Students noticed similarities (colors and stars) and differences (no stripes and blue) with the United States' flag. We also talked about the Aborigine's flag - whose colors are black representing the people, yellow for the sun, and red for the earth.
In the morning, we had an outline of the flag at each student's table to …

Pictures From Our Aussie Adventure: Day 1 and 2

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