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.

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