Friday, December 22, 2006

Winter Party

Thank you to everyone who helped at the Winter Party, especially Mrs. Deno who didn't even
get to come! The children had a wonderful time making snowflake CD's, decorating their picture frames, and playing relays and Giggle Belly. The fruit parfaits were very delicious. I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable break from school, and is able to spend time with friends and family.

Peace and Joy to All!

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Did you know that no two snowflakes are alike? Yesterday we read the book Snowflake Bentley and learned some facts about snowflakes and the man who dedicated his whole life to studying them. Afterwards the children made their own "snow" crystals using Borax and water. They created snowflake frames using pipe cleaners and then placed them into the Borax solution. Today when the students arrived at school, they found that their pipe cleaners were covered with crystals, and look like snowflakes. The children have also been creating paper snowflakes out of paper and are displaying them on our windows in our classroom.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Catalog Shopping

Today students learned a new Menu Math Game called Catalog Shopping. In this game the children choose some things to "buy" in a book order. They cut out the pictures and glue them into their math journal and write down how much each item costs. We discussed how to line up the numbers and decimal points when recording the prices. Then they practice adding the amounts with a calculator. Many students said they were interested in playing this game at home too. You can easily use any catalog or newspaper flyer to do this game at home.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Money, Money, Money!

We have been studying money in our class. We have lots of foreign coins that the students have been examining. Mr. Leraris has donated coins from his recent travels to our class coin collection. Other students have brought in their collections as well. We have money from many different countries including Mexico, China, France, England, Switzerland, Sweden, the Philippines, Germany, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Poland, and many others. Of course, we also have been practicing counting money during math workshop, and the students are interested in taking a trip to a local bank after the holidays.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hedgie the Hedgehog

We are on a mission to find Hedgie in our Author of the Month books. We are reading Jan Brett's books this month and one of the distinguishing features in her stories is that she draws an illustration of a hedgehog in most of her books. Students are eager to figure out which books have Hedgie and which books do not. Today we read The Umbrella, and many children were pouring over Jan's illustrations during study hall. I was fortunate to spend the day with Jan last year as the winner of her annual "Lunch on the Bus" contest and she shared many insights into how she creates her books and pictures. Usually she travels to the location where the book takes place. Perhaps you can join your child on his or her adventure to discover Hedgie in Jan's books.

Miss Smelser, Caroline (a former student), and Jan Brett

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Oh the Things We Can Think!

Our class has been using their brains a lot working on thinking skills. Thinking skills include such things as puzzles, analogies, chess, logic problems, patterns, brain teasers, etc. Our current focus is analogies. An analogy is a comparison between two items. It points out the similarities or likenesses between things that might be different in all other respects. Analogies cause us to think analitically about forms, usages, structures, and relationships. I have noticed the children have improved in their ability to see relationships the more we practice. For the moment we are focusing on picture analogies, but will move towards simple word analogies by the end of the year. Students will continue to practice and build upon these kind of thinking skills as they progress through the STRETCH curriculum in each grade.

Students have also been using LTOnline to play games that use thinking skills or logic. We will be using the ditrict website more often in the coming weeks. Look for more information to follow.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Our Courtyard

Our class has decided that that courtyard area right outside our classroom needs some improvement. Last week we picked up leaves and trash, weeded, and did general cleaning in the atrium. The students remember seeing the ducks last year when they visited and are hoping that they come back again. "We need to get it ready for them!" exclaimed one student. Today (weather permitting) we will be planting flower bulbs and emptying the pond of its water. The children had lots of ideas for what they would like to do. Much of it will need to happen in the spring, but we have all winter to plan. We will be writing to local businesses to see what they might be able to donate to our cause.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Thank you to Mrs. Leraris who came and shared her Native American moccasins today. She told us how her father receieved them from a Sioux American Indian whom he worked with years ago. These moccasins are believed to be about 75 years old. Mrs. Leraris also had another pair of moccasins that were not quite as old. Students were able to compare and contrast the two pairs. She reminded the children that the Native Americans used to tell each other stories (like her story her father told her about the moccasins), but that it is more helpful to us to write down the stories so that they cannot be lost or forgotten.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I did a writing prompt with the children about how to cook a turkey. The mini-lesson focused on using words like first, next, then, after, finally, etc. I thought you might enjoy reading how your children might prepare your holiday dinner.

  1. First I would catch the turkey. Second I would roast it. Then I will get the feathers off it. Next I will put it on the table so we can eat it. Finally we will eat it and last we will eat the very very last bite and throw the bones away.
  2. First I roast the turkey for an hour. Next I let it cool down. Then I slice it to help it cool down. Afterwards I put it on a platter. Before we eat it we put salt and pepper on the turkey. Finally we eat it. Then we are done with our turkey.
  3. First I buy a turkey. Then I stuff the turkey. Next I cook the turkey. The temperature is going to be 47 degrees. After I take it to the table. Finally I eat it.
  4. First I will buy the turkey. Second we must bake it at 95 degress. Then take the turkey out of the oven. After that I eat the turkey.
  5. First I will catch the turkey. Second cook the turkey for 60 minutes. Then I'm going to stuff the turkey. Finally I can enjoy it.
  6. First buy the turkey. Second roast the turkey. Finally eat the turkey.
  7. If I would make the turkey for Thanksgiving first I would go to the forest. Then I would shoot the turkey. Next I would cook the turkey at 340 degrees. Next I would cut the turkey. Finally I would eat the turkey.
  8. First buy the turkey. Second I stuff the turkey. Next I put the turkey in the oven. The temperature is 1000 degrees. Then I take the turkey out of the oven. Finally I eat the turkey.
  9. First I get the turkey. Then I stuff the turkey. Next I put seasonings on it. After that I will cook it. Finally I will eat it.
  10. First I will buy the turkey. Then I will stuff the turkey. Next I will roast it over a fire. I need to turn the handle. We will eat it.
  11. First I buy the turkey. Second I bring it home. Then I cook it. Next I turn the oven to 200 degrees Farenheit. Afterwards I take it out. I turn the oven off. Finally I eat it.
  12. First we hunt the turkey. Second we roast the turkey and then stuff the turkey. After that we bring the turkey to my Grandma and Grandpa's house. Finally we eat it.

I wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Native American Study

We have been studying different Native American tribes and comparing their food, shelter, and clothing. Students have learned that not all Native Americans lived in tipis or wore feathers in their hair. Some of them lived in igloos and ate fish. This week we have been studying the Sioux tribe. They hunted buffalo and used every part of the animal for something. Next week Mrs. Leraris will be bringing in some authentic Sioux moccasins for us to learn about in class.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Writing Workshop

This week, the students have been working on revising their writing. They have learned how to go back over their writing and add more details. One example I have used with the students is instead of eating a plain piece of bread, toasting a piece of bread and putting butter and jelly on it tastes much better. This is how their writing should be. By adding details to their writing, their books become more interesting and catches the reader's eye.

Next week, before the holiday break, the students will work on revising each other's work. The students will work with a partner and read each other's books. This will allow them to revise a book that is not their own.

I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving!
I will be out of town all next week visiting my family in Texas.


Students have been learning how to play chess this week. Some of the children have had a little experience with this game before now, and they are teaching the others to play. We have several chess boards, so most students have the opportunity to play if they choose to do so in the morning. We will be going over the specific moves and pieces in more detail next week. I teach and encourage the children to play chess because it significantly increases logical and mathematical skills. It promotes imagination and creativity. Chess teaches independence because students are forced to make important decisions influenced only by their own judgment. It also reinforces the thinking skills that we work on in STRETCH. Maybe you can play a game or two with your child this weekend.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Goodbye to the Sunflowers

This morning, Miss Smelser and I both decided that we should say goodbye to our sunflowers. After watering and watching them under our light for about a month, it just doesn't look like our sunflowers were going to start growing.

The students were a little disappointed when we told them the news, but were understanding when we told them that they would be working with 2nd graders in Ms. Dorsel's class next Spring. Ms. Dorsel's room is going to be starting a project next semester that will help make the outside of Mary Castle beautiful. The students of Ms. Dorsel's class have asked that our first graders help them plant sunflower seeds in the front of Mary Castle. The students were very excited about this idea!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Place Value

The past couple of weeks we have been working on a new unit in Math written by Marilynn Burns called Math By All Means: Place Value. As you probably have noticed, your child hasn't had many worksheets sent home with them. In this unit, the students practice writing and explaining how they got their answers as well as using a lot of manipulatives to understand the concept of place value.

Today the students got to play two place value games. The first one is called Cover the Flat. Ask your child how they played the game and what they learned from it. The next game was similar to the Star game. This time, the students were to draw a dollar sign for a minute and then group them.

Box Tops for Education

I hope you read the information that was sent home Thursday evening. This is a really easy way for our school to earn extra money. Every time your child brings back a sheet with 10 boxtops, he or she is entered in the drawing to win an Apple IPOD Shuffle. I always cut off the box tops and just put them in a container in the kitchen. I didn't realize how many new items have the box tops on them now- like Kleenex and Ziplock baggies. You can even ask other family members or organizations to help you collect them. If you need more copies of the sheet to turn into the drawing, just let me know and I'll send them home with your child. A couple of students have already returned sheets and asked for more. You might try giving a copy to people at church or work and asking them to turn it back in to you when they fill it.

You can also visit the website at

Once there you can look at our school's earnings- (nothing so far this year!) and sign up. If you take the survey, you can earn more points for us. You can also shop through their website and online stores like Barnes and Nobles, Best Buy, Overstock, etc. will make a donation to our school too.

Thanks for your support.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

New Bugs!

We have new bugs in our classroom. Today we observed Wax worms. As a group we discussed the similarities and differences between our Meal worms and Wax worms. The students studied the Wax worms in their cups and came up with some very good ideas. They noticed the different colors of the worms, how fast they moved, and the environment that the meal worms live in. On the other hand, they noticed that the Wax worms and Meal worms have a similar shape, size and both crawl (but at different speeds).

We will be observing our worms for the next couple of weeks to see how they change. We will keep you posted on what we find out!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Visiting Second Grade

Last week we visited Ms. Dorsel's classroom and heard her students' book reports. They used a style called "jackdaw" based on the bird by the same name. This bird collects lots of things and hides them in its nest. Her students collected miscellaneous items that were connected to their story and then shared the book and collections. My students had a fun time listening to excerpts of new books and seeing their projects. I think they are excited and looking forward to next year when they will get to do the same.

Eric Carle Puppet Show

Today, all of the first grade classes at Mary Castle went on a study trip to Clowes Hall. The Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia presented three Eric Carle stories by using music, puppets and black lights. By using the black lights, the puppets seemed real. There were definitely parts that amazed me and made me think, "How did they do that?"

After we returned to back to school, the students got to write about their favorite part of the performance as well as draw a picture that goes along with their writing. We will make a class book with all of the students' work in it.

I will attach a link so you and your child can visit the Mermaid Theatre's website.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Place Value

We have been studying place value in math workshop. Students practice this concept by playing games, writing about how they solved problems, and discussing their ideas. By explaining their work, the children gain a better understanding of the concepts. Today we made number patterns on a hundreds board and wrote about them in our math journals. Some of the patterns the children created were:

  • All of the numbers with a four in the tens place.
  • All of the numbers with zero in them.
  • All of the even or odd numbers.
  • All of the numbers with the same digits in the ones or tens place.

The goal of this unit is to help children construct understanding of the 10's and 1's structure of our number system, and use that understanding when thinking about and working with numbers.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Author Celebration

In Writing Workshop today we had our second Author Celebration. Students have been working hard on writing books about "small moments" in their lives. Our writing program is based on Lucy Caulkins' Primary Units of Study. Students create books and practice writing strategies each day. At the end of a unit we have a "party" and share our work. I am so proud of the great stories I heard today in class.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Look...We've Changed!

What a surprise the students had today as they entered the classroom! Last night I moved some things around and added items to the classroom. This is to reflect the Reggio style of environment that we are embracing as part of our project-based learning. You will notice that I have moved two more of our tables from high to low, making it easy for the children to sit on the floor and work. Our window blinds have been raised for the last few weeks to let more natural sunlight into the classroom. Other supportive elements of the environment include mirrors, natural materials (like wood and fabric) and sensory items. Items placed in these areas are designed to stimulate the children's creativity and curiousity. The students were definately interested in the changes today. They couldn't believe all the neat things that were in store for them. The first three children who entered the room this morning all said "WOW" and then just looked in wonder before asking if they could really use and touch the things on the tables.

"The Reggio Emilia approach considers the school environment to be the "third teacher." Much attention is paid to the look and feel of the classroom. The objective is to create a pleasant atmosphere, where children, families and teachers feel understood and at ease. The environment is seen as a significant element of the education and a reflection of the school's culture over time. The focus on the environment represents the value placed on aesthetics, organization, thoughtfulness, provocation, communication and interaction. " (taken from the Innovative Teacher)

Look at the links on the right side of the blog for more information on the Reggio style of teaching.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

50th Compliment

At Mary Castle, we talk a lot about the Five Mary Castle Expectations. These expectations include being respectful, being responsible, being safe, being caring and being a peaceful problem solver. If a classroom is following these expectations in front of teachers or faculty around the school, they are likely to get a "compliment."

As a result of great behavior, Miss Smelser's class gained it's 50th compliment last week. The students will be rewarded for their great behavior by having a 50th compliment celebration. The students came up with some ideas on how they wanted to celebrate. After talking over all of the student's ideas, the children got to vote on how they would like to celebrate sometime this week.

To make a long "story" short, please congratulate your child for having great behavior!!

If you have any questions or concerns about your child watching a Disney or educational movie for their reward of getting 50 compliments, please let me or Miss Smelser know.

I hope you all had a safe and warm Halloween.

Happy Halloween!

Today we had some special guests come visit our classroom. Anna's grandparents were here visiting from Florida, and they came and read two Halloween stories to the class before lunch. We all enjoyed listening to the books, and then having lunch with our visitors. They then stayed for our recess and had fun watching the children play. I know Anna will miss her Grandma CeCe and Poppa when they return home.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Native American Unit

Today we started a new Social Studies Unit on Native Americans. Each of the students will be making a Native American "Pocket" book. Each of the pockets will hold crafts made by your child and important facts that they have learned. Throughout the month of November, we will be covering five different Native American tribes. For each of the different tribes, we will look at the kinds of clothing they wear, what they eat, their shelter (including where they lived in the United States) and family life. This will allow us to compare and contrast the different aspects of tribal life.

Pictures will be coming soon!

Conner Prairie

Last week students went on a study trip with the other first grade STRETCh class. We visited the Conner Prairie Living Museum to learn more about how things have changed, and as an introduction to the Lenape Native Americans. We will be making a book in class to demonstrate how things were then versus how they are today. We had a lot of fun visiting the school in 1836. Did you know that the children then had to go to school for six days a week, but only from December to February? The rest of the time they worked on their families' farms. We also enjoyed the Passport area with the flatboat model, and all of the interactive activities they had there.

This week we are using some of the items from that time period during our Centers. Students can practice writing on a slate, play old-fashioned games (like checkers, blocks, or nine pins), and read more about what children were like long ago.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Report Cards

Today the report cards for the first nine weeks are coming home. I hope you take the time to review it with your child. Remember to look at the positives and not just focus on what needs improvement. I was pleased with everyone's performance this grading period. Here are some tips I took from the

1. Take report cards seriously. While most teachers concede that report cards don't tell the whole story about a student's abilities, work habits and intelligence, parents should view the report as a critical piece of information about their child's academic progress. Whether pleased or disappointed by it, parents should use the report card as a point of discussion with their child and, if necessary, his teacher.

2. Praise a good report card. If your child brings home a good report card, be sure to let him know that you're proud of his accomplishments. And don't forget to put it in a prominent spot on the refrigerator!

3. Talk about a bad report card. Failure is a scary thing for any child. If your student doesn't do as well as expected on his report card, talk openly about it and reassure him that bad grades do not mean he is a failure. There could be many reasons for his performance that have nothing at all to do with ability or intelligence. Find out if he understands the work that is expected of him and if the teacher has talked to him about how to do better. You may also want to schedule a time for both you and your child to meet with his teacher to discuss a strategy for improvement.

4. Encourage good work habits. It's never too early to learn good work and study habits. Read to your child regularly even before he starts school and always make learning a part of family fun.

5. Give incentives. Like adults, children and teenagers are motivated by incentives. A trip to the movies, a small gift or a special dinner with Mom and Dad can be a nice reward for a good report card. Be careful, however, that the incentive does not appear to be a bribe or an end in itself. Children should ultimately strive for good grades out of a genuine interest in learning, personal pride and the understanding that success in school lays the groundwork for success later on in life.

6. Be involved in school. Generally speaking, students who excel have parents who are actively involved in their education and in their school. Show interest in what your child is learning by helping out with homework or volunteering in the classroom. If your child sees you involved at school, and attending school board and PTA meetings, he'll know that you think school is important.

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Infusion of the Arts

This afternoon, the class was involved in an Infusion of the Arts lesson by a Butler student, Ms. Caton, that has been working with our class throughout the semester. The lesson that was presented to the students combined acting with literacy and writing.

Ms. Caton started the lesson by reading the book The Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin. After reading the book, the students got to act out how they have seen their meal worms move. This was a very exciting activity for the students in which they got a chance to use their creativeness by acting out movements from their meal worms. Afterwards, the students got to write about their favorite part of the activity and explain why they liked it so much.

As a future teacher and having taken the Infusion of the Arts class in previous semesters at Butler, I have realized how important it is to include and combined art into every day lessons. The students have a chance to show their creativity as well as excel in their academics.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Our Eric Carle Book

We are making a book based on Eric Carle's book "Have You Seen My Cat?" Each year's class does a different book modeled after one of the books we have read in class. Since we have been investigating the sunflowers, we decided to make a book that goes along with our studies. Our book will be called "Have You Seen Van Gogh's Flowers?" Every student made a page for the book with a different kind of flower. The last page will be a representation of Vincent Van Gogh's famous sunflower painting. Families will be able to order the book, and it will be sent to be bound in hardback.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Buttons, Buttons, Buttons!

We have been learning about attributes and how to sort items using different characteristics. Students worked with lots of buttons this week. We sorted and graphed them by color, number of holes, shape, size, thickness, etc. We also read the Frog and Toad story about Toad's lost button, and another button book about how buttons are all different.

This activity was part of a kit we ordered from IUPUI that connects literature with math. If you or someone you know is interested in this kit (or any other one), you can click the link below. All materials are provided and there is no cost. FedEx will deliver and pick up for free.
Teacher Resource Center

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

We've got bugs!

Today we started our FOSS kit on insects. Everyone was given two mealworms to keep and observe over the next couple months. We discussed living things and what they need: space, air, food, and water. Our mealworms will live in a vial on the students' tables, and in a community container at the science center. It will be interesting to see how these organisms change over time. Check back soon for updates.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Are Those Sunflowers Really Alive?

Yesterday Hannah wanted to know if the sunflowers in the vase were alive or if they were fake. We came up with a list of ways to experiment and find out the answer.

  • Can you smell them?
  • Do they feel real?
  • Do they look real?
  • Do they have seeds? - this lead to another discussion about how the flowers in the vase were different than the large sunflower we already had in the room.
  • The flowers are in water so they must be real. Can fake flowers be put in water? YES... what if we take a flower out of the water and see what happens?

Hence, we took out one flower and will see if it dies. Now of course, how will we know that it is dead?

  • It will turn brown or black.
  • The petals will fall off.
  • The seeds will fall out.

Here is day one:

Here is day two:

Some students are still not sure if the flowers are real or not. We talked about what might happen over the weekend. They decided that if the flower turns brown and the petals fall off it was real, but if it looks the same on Monday, then it is probably fake.

(Added Tuesday, October 17, 2006)
After much deliberation, we decided the flowers were real because they changed so much over the weekend. They turned brown and some of the petals fell out. Here is the latest picture:

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sunflower Project

Did you ever wonder how many seeds are in the middle of a sunflower head? How about how sunflowers grow or what they need to live? Well, my students did. We have been investigating these questions, and more, in our classroom the last couple of weeks. We have learned a lot about the seeds, looked at Vincent Van Gogh's sunflower art, and even taken a field trip to the neighborhood next door to visit Emma's garden where our sunflower grew. The students have made choices about the topics they are interested in learning more about each week. Some choices have included studying Van Gogh's artwork more in depth and creating their own sunflower art. Other choices have involved investigating the sunflower head and sorting and counting the seeds. Some students have been busy reading more about flowers and their needs.

This week many students focused on finding out how many seeds were in the sunflower head. Before we removed the seeds, we estimated and guessed how many there were. Guesses ranged from 100-10,000 seeds.

Students then removed the seeds and placed them in a jar. Nathan predicted that the jar would not be able to hold all of the seeds. He was right, and we had to place them into a baggie instead.

The next day students decided to sort the seeds into groups of ten. That was a lot of groups, so then they decided to put ten groups of ten to make 100. We put the 100 seeds into a small baggie.

Our results:
- 10 bags of 100...that made 1,000
- 4 more bags of 100
- 1 bag with 78 left over.

Altogether the sunflower had 1,478 seeds inside it! Many students guessed 1,000. They were pretty close. Even Miss Smelser and Ms. Wright didn't estimate that many.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Eric Carle Painting

We had so much fun being messy and creating our Eric Carle paper. We will soon be starting our book using this paper. Students finger painted, mable rolled, made collages, spatter painted, and used brushes to paint their designs. Look at some of our artwork.

Thank you to Mrs. Engler who was our parent volunteer who helped out in the classroom, and to Mrs. Simmons the art teacher who loaned us her room for the afternoon.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Welcome to Our Blog

Welcome to our blog! One of my colleagues mentioned he had made a blog for his classroom to keep parents posted about the going-ons in his room. I thought "What a fun idea!" I will try to add to the blog regularly, but not every single day. I hope you will visit and learn more about your child's class. We have so many exciting things that happen in our room, but not everything can make it into the newsletter.

Today we watched a video, Eric Carle: Picture Writer, in preparation for tomorrow's art project. Students will be making their own tissue paper paintings to use when we write our Eric Carle inspired book. They were very excited to see all of the different ways he painted: brush, brush tip, fingers, sponge, etc. I know they are anxious to try it out on Wednesday.

Check back tomorrow for pictures from our art project!

blogger templates | Make Money Online