Saturday, January 31, 2009

Homemade Bears Are the Best!!


With a simple paper bear pattern that was sent home a few weeks ago, the children's homemade teddy bear creations were a sight to behold! We had blue bears and black bears, hippie bears and Yoda bears, Wookies and Gator bears. The children's (and parent's) creativity was amazing. Watching and participating in making these bears only added to the memories of our fantastic First Grade Sleepover of 2009!!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Sleepover - Family Night: Make and Take


It was a wonderful night of decorating pillowcases as a keepsake activity for the "First Grade Sleepover of 2009!" Children and parents enjoyed stamping and thinking up creative designs for their pillowcases. Later on in the week (after the paint was dry), students had the opportunity to sign the pillowcases of each classmate. The make and take was Tuesday, and throughout the week sleepover books were read and students wrote about their sleepover experiences in writer's workshop. Make and take night was a great precursor of the fun yet to come!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sleepover Preparation - Don't Forget Your Bear!


On Friday, January 30th, First Grade students will be creating wonderful memories with our traditional "sleepover" unit. The sleepover is a daytime event in which first grade students get to wear their pajamas to school, eat breakfast with their friends, and enjoy many fun activities throughout the day. (More about that in future posts.) From now until January 29th, we will be reading many sleepover books including "Ira Sleeps Over," "Franklin Has a Sleepover," "Camping Out," and "Bearsie Bear and the Surprise Sleepover." In Reader's Workshop, we are using sleepover books in order to practice asking and answering comprehension questions such as, "What was the problem in this story?" or "What genre is this book?" Also, we are preparing a Reader's Theater play using the book Bearsie Bear. In Writer's Workshop, students are writing narratives of past sleepovers at friends and grandma's house. In addition, functional writing or "How To" pieces can be written on "How to get ready for a sleepover." In a few weeks, we will also have a family night at school, where students and their parents can come and decorate a keepsake pillowcase for this special occasion. For homework, a family project of making their own homemade bear was given. A sample bear pattern was sent home and students have the opportunity to make a bear, choosing their favorite theme and fabric. Some of the past year's creations are shown in the above picture. First grade students love this sleepover tradition and remember it for years to come. So, this is one sleepover where you don't need your toothbrush, but don't forget your bear!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Jeopardy Anyone?


Spicing up Skills Block is always a great way to get the children excited about learning new things. After the charts are chanted and the morning message is corrected, we like to kick up Skills Block with fun and interactive activities. Upon our return to school in January, we reviewed diagnostic data, and noticed that our students were confused with some vowel patterns. So an activity last week was a chart divided into three parts to list words that make the "long a" sound: ai, ay, a__e. Words were said and students stated in which column the word should go. Another exercise was a sorting activity with a three column sheet and the words were sorted into the corresponding columns. This week, we decided to introduce the children to "Long A Jeopardy" and see if this high energy, fast paced game would also enhance understanding of these spelling patterns. A student is invited to pick a category, for instance, "ay" for 100 points. A clue is given, "This is something you do at recess." All of the students will then write "play" on their white boards and receive the 100 points. These spelling patterns are not only being noticed during this exercise, but also in Reader's and Writer's Workshop, where we want this understanding to transfer. "I'll take a__e for 200!"

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Test Taking Strategies ...beginning lessons


As students progress from Levels A through E (pre emergent to emergent reading), it is important to check for comprehension of the text. Asking questions before, during, and after reading is a great indicator for monitoring understanding of a story. In addition to verbally asking questions, we are teaching the students how to take a written comprehension test. For the next few months, we will be gradually teaching the children some beginning test taking strategies. Starting with simple lessons on how to find the best answer, how to bubble in an answer, and how to go back and highlight the answer are this month's goals. For example, questions such as "Where did this story take place?" or "What is the problem in the story" may be asked. We use mini stories (about a paragraph long) to start these exercises. We also use stories in our new reading series by Houghlin Mifflin to teach and expand these test taking skills. These stories are wonderful exercises in teaching the students how to read the story and then be able to go back in the text and prove their answers. Using a highlighter also helps in the excitement of locating the answer and then having the satisfaction of knowing that the answer is correct. By doing these exercises, students are learning basic test taking strategies that will help them in their school career and the bonus of having fun at the same time! No test taking anxiety around here!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Morning Readers: A Great Way to Start the Day!


From 8:30 to 8:55 a.m. (before the official start of school), students sit in the hallway and help themselves to a variety of books provided for their morning reading.
However, every other Tuesday, we have had a community volunteer come in and read several books to the class during this time. Gayle is wonderful at discussing the book she will be reading, asking questions to check for comprehension while she reads, and adding her own special touch to each book. She scours the library to find just the right books to read -- something that she thinks would be interesting to the children. The students love a break in the morning routine by having books read to them at this time and the chance to get into the classroom earlier! It is a bonus for kids to hear different people's reading styles and questioning techniques. Parents, if you are interested in becoming a morning reader, please let us know via the folder. It is a great way to start off the day!!