Tuesday, December 23, 2008


For our last week of school before winter break, we spent time studying snowflakes. We read the book Snowflake Bentley and learned about the man and scientist who spent his life studying snowflakes. We also made our own pretend snowflakes out of borax and pipe cleaners. This allowed the students to practice measurement and observe different phases of matter.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Winter Party

Today was the winter celebration and the end of the semester. Our class made fruit and yogurt parfaits, and snacked on pumpkin bread and mimi muffins. Students made snowflake picture frames, and were given pictures I took earlier this week outside in the snow.
Thank you to all of the parents and guests who came and helped or sent in donations. I wish you a safe and happy holiday season, and I will see you in 2009!

Today was the winter celebration and the end of the semester. Our class made fruit and yogurt parfaits, and snacked on pumpkin bread and mimi muffins. Students made snowflake picture frames, and were given pictures I took earlier this week outside in the snow.

Thank you to all of the parents and guests who came and helped or sent in donations. I wish you a safe and happy holiday season, and I will see you in 2009!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

GT is NOT...

I found this article online that outlines some of the myths about giftedness. I thought it was very interesting, and extremely relevant to the children I teach. I will link to the article, but I wanted to post some of the more important concepts. It was difficult for me to just pick a couple main points. They were all so good!

~"GT is NOT extra work to fill extra time. Rather, it IS an intellectual enhancer to fulfill potential. These kids don’t need “more of the same” or busy work. They don’t need you to keep them busy or quiet with more worksheets or extra credit. They want and NEED to learn! And that means providing them with opportunities for work and learning that are at THEIR readiness level – not at their age peers’ readiness level."

~"GT is NOT a test of what the kid does know. Rather, it IS an opportunity for the kid to go beyond – into what he DOESN’T know."

~"GT does NOT address only academic needs. Rather, it ALSO addresses social and emotional needs and validates gifts and talents. We do these kids a disservice if we provide them with an opportunity to accelerate their learning (skip a grade in Math, for example), if we haven’t previously and also provided them with opportunities to learn the social and emotional skills that will enable them to successfully tackle and conquer that challenge. Additionally, some of these kids can be crippled by perfectionism, procrastination, and high expectations. Pursuing and fulfilling their talents and potential will mean needing to learn how to overcome, or at least manage, those kinds of issues."


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

20th Castle Coin

Today was our second Castle Coin celebration. The students are doing a really good job of following the Mary Castle expectations. They voted to have a movie and popcorn celebration this afternoon. Keep up the good work everyone!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Cover a Flat

Students learned a new Menu Math game this week to help them practice their place value skills. The game, Cover a Flat, is played like Race for a Dollar, and consists of students using dice and trading their small pieces (cubes) into a rod (10 cubes), and ultimately into a flat (10 rods).

This unit will help students internalize the concepts needed to master double digit addition in January.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Gingerbread Glyph

This month we are learning and reading many of Jan Brett's books. One of the stories she wrote is called Gingerbread Baby. We made our own gingerbread people following a glyph, and I think they turned out really cute. Students also wrote about their glyph, and I was very happy to see that they used proper capitalization and punctuation. Even the second grade teacher Ms. Dorsel, commented on how impressed she was.

Monday, December 01, 2008

December Math: Place Value

Our new unit of study in math workshop this month is place value. We will be doing a lot of work in our math journals as students work to explain their ideas, and not as many worksheets. Today we talked about patterns on the 0-99 number chart. We will be filling the chart up over the next few day using clues from other numbers already in place. Today we used different strategies to place new numbers such as skip counting by 2's, 5's, and 10's. We reviewed how you can skip count by tens starting at any number. For example 2, 12, 22, 32, 42, etc. We also praticed telling what number is in the ones and tens place.

As always, we will continue to work every day with daily math review (minute math), timed tests for computation, mental math, and calendar. We will also be learning new menu math games this week to reinforce place value skills.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Native Amercian Picture Writing

We have been learning about the different Native American tribes this month, and how they compare with each other in regards to food, shelter, and clothing. It has been good for the students to understand that not all Native Americans lived in tipis or wore feathers, and to break down that stereotype. They are keeping track of the differences on a chart, and maintaining a pocket book of different activites related to each tribe.
This week we have been working with picture writing. This is the activity that all of the first graders did in my rotation for last week's fun Friday. However I took the activity a bit further in my classroom. Not only did the students write a story using the Native American pictures, they also had to retell it to me adding all of the little words that could not be represented by just pictures. We worked on story starters such as: "long ago, once upon a time, one summer, etc. Then they had to write the story using words, and also type it on the computer in Microsoft Word. Finally they rewrote the pictures on paper that they made to look like deer skin.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Castle Coin Pajama Party

Today was our Castle Coin Celebration for earning 10 coins with good behavior. We voted as a class and decided to have a pajama day. So, just for today we did Reading Working in our pajamas, ate lunch in our pjs, and even went to specials in our slippers. We also worked with Microsoft Word and typed our Native American stories in computer lab. At the end of the day we watched a Reading Rainbow movie about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fun Friday

Today was a first grade Fun Friday. Students rotated around to each of the different first grade classrooms and did different activities related to Thanksgiving and Native Americans. We practiced math, handwriting, reading, social studies, and following directions. Be sure to ask your child what his or her favorite activity was. We will be doing the activity I did in my classroom next Monday.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


As we continue our work in Writing Workshop, we have been working on writing longer stories and publishing them in small booklets. Today's lesson was about how to make a cover for the book. Students reviewed the features on a book cover and how to best place them for visual appeal.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Leaf Rubbings

Mrs. Simmons, the art teacher, shared an activity with me that she has done in the past with the 5th graders. Since we have been learning about leaves, I decided to let the students try it out. They created leaf rubbings using pastels as their medium. Here are some of their creations.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

New Student

We have a new student in our class today. Although she has been at Mary Castle for a month, she has just transferred into our classroom. The students were very kind to her as she was getting used to her new environmant today.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Leaf Man

Today we read the book Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert. We have been talking a lot about seasons and the changes that occur. We collected leaves outside and made out own pictures using nature's products. On Monday we will be doing some writing to go along with our creations.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Conner Prairie

On Wednesday we visited Conner Prairie and compared life long ago to life today. Students were also instructed to pay special attention to the flags as part of our flag project.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Week Ahead

Welcome back! I hope everyone had a fantastic Fall Break. This week will be a busy one in first grade.

  • ~We are starting a new unit in math, continuing and expanding our knowledge of money and time.
  • ~Students are enjoying their project time as they learn more about flags. Today they were so excited and wrapped up in their work that they were upset they had to stop and go to specials. Some examples of items they are working on are a timeline, fact books, flag picture books, mosaic creations, etc.
  • ~In reading workshop we are doing more with our reading groups and many students are enjoying taking quizzes on the computer.
  • ~Students are working on writing longer books in writing workshop, and practicing their editing and revising skills.
  • ~For social studies we are focusing on how things have changed from long ago and how they have stayed the same. This week we are also taking a look at the upcoming election.
  • ~In science we are also looking at how the outside world is changing and are studying the leaves this week.
  • ~We are continuing to work sudoku puzzles as part of our current thinking skill focus.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

Sudoku Puzzles

Today in first grade we worked on sudoku puzzles. We did a couple together, and as they learned new strategies and formulated the logic in their minds, students were able to solve more pieces of them. A few children had done them before, but to most this was a new experience. There are still a couple puzzles that are in their packet that they can show you at home.

It is important to do puzzles like this in our STRETCH class. This is one way we are different than the neighborhood classes, because we do purposely teach thinking skills. Students practice using logic and making judgements based on certain givens. We talk out the problems and I emphasize that there is more than one way to solve the puzzles. Students are encouraged to explain their logic and method of reasoning.

Here are some links to basic beginner puzzles.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Flag Project

We have begun working on a new project about flags. Students have helped to create a web about what they know about flags so far, and we are adding to it daily. They have also come up with many questions. We have answered a few so far such as: Who made the first flag? Why do people burn flags? How has the flag changed over time? What do the stars and stripes stand for? We have several groups investigating different areas of study: history, U.S. flag, making flags, flag etiquette, and symbols, shapes, & colors.

The students have enjoyed making many different kinds of flags. Two groups are working together to create a timeline showing the different flags over time in the United States. Other children are making their own flags using their imagination.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Writing Workshop

Students have been working on writing longer stories this week and putting them into booklets. We have also be practicing editing and revising our writing to make it better.

Monday, October 13, 2008


On Friday Mary Castle participated in their annual Walk-a-Thon to raise money that goes directly to the school and teachers. It is the main fundraiser for the PFO. Friday turned out to be a great day for the event, and our class was fortunate to have many parents and guests attend and walk with us.

For more pictures, please check out the slideshow in the upper left corner of the blog.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Clowes Hall

First grade visited Clowes Hall on Friday and watched a puppet show about three of Leo Lionni books, Swimmy, Inch by Inch, and Frederick. Please click on the link below for Memaid Theater's link and promotion photos and videos.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Air Force

As part of our Walk-a-Thon this year, we have been assigned a branch of the armed services. First grade has been studying the Air Force. Yesterday Mr. Reeves came and talked to us about what he did in the Air Force. We learned about their flag. Today another member of the military came and spoke to us about the different jobs you can do and about the Thunderbirds.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Clay Beads

As part of our FOSS kit we made clay beads and medallions to wear. Students learned how earth materials can be used in everyday life. We also reviewd the properties of rocks and clay that day.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Cadet Teacher

We have a cadet teacher named Alicia, who will be coming a couple of times per week to help out in the classroom in the afternoons. She is a senior at Lawrence North this year, and one of her classes requires that she perform some type of community service. I have known Alicia for many years. I actually taught with her mother my first year teaching over at Brook Park Elementary School. She taught the other first grade STRETCH class there for Mrs. Gravely's maternity leave. Alicia's father is also a teacher in the science deprtment at LN.

Alicia likes to play volleyball and sing in the choir. She is excited to work with the children this year.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Problem Solving

In centers this week, students are writing their own story problems using manipulatives. They are creating a story about some mice that get caught in a trap (or in some cases escape from it) Students then solve the problem and draw a picture to match it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sand Sculptures

Students made their own sand sculptures and learned about how to make the sand stick together with a matrix. Many of the students made volcanoes out of their sand. Others created animals such a a rabbit and a caterpillar. We also had a bowl, a stick, and others. This activity was from a lesson in the FOSS science kit.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Playing with Friends

Many parents have asked me about their child playing with others at recess. Today I noticed that at one point or another, every child played with another student or group of students while we were outside. Some still played alone at times, but at least everyone intereacted with others during the recess time. I know this can be a concern for you, but it is still fairly typical for children to play alone at this age. As long as they are intereacting with others at times, there is no need to worry. We have done several lessons on how to make friends and how to ask others to play in class this year.

What to do if your child would rather play alone
Written by Hilary Benson

Remember the classic children's story of Ferdinand the Bull? He was happy sitting under his favorite cork tree smelling the flowers, rather than butting heads with the other young bulls. His mother worried about Ferdinand being lonesome.

Here are some tips for parents who may have concerns about their own child's behavior:
Know your child. It can be tricky to figure out if a child is truly satisfied with his or her lack of friendships. Parents can usually tell when their child is happy. But kids who are unhappy may be masking disappointment, perhaps acting out their feelings in an aggressive manner. Others may internalize symptoms, appearing sad or withdrawn.

Talk with the child's teacher. A parent may learn a great deal by asking the teachers questions such as whether the child works with others on group projects or if he or she eats lunch alone. A parent can also talk with the recess supervisor about what happens on the playground, and whether a child stays on the sidelines of play, unsure of how to join the group.

Carol Johnson, a school counselor inthe Seattle Public School District, emphasizes the difference between kids who are shy but happy and kids who feel isolated because they are do not know how to make friends. "It is not necessarily that there is something wrong with that child, but they will in fact need help and suggestions for breaking into a peer group," Johnson says.

Facilitate friendships. Parents can act as "social coaches," says Dr. Carol Cole, a child psychologist in Seattle. Ask a child if there is someone he or she would like to have over to play. If a mom or dad can make the play dates happen, or if they hit on an activity the child truly enjoys, the young person may begin to forge friendships on their own. If that tactic fails, a parent can explore "friendship groups" or "social skills groups." Some schools and private-practice counselors facilitate these groups for the sole purpose of identifying words and actions that will plant the seed for young friendships.

Respect the child. Ingrid Olsen-Young, an expert in early childhood development in south Seattle, encourages well-meaning parents to choose words carefully. Use phrases like, "Hey, I noticed something," or "Let me help you be successful." By showing respect, parents should feel more comfortable nudging their children beyond their comfort zone.

When to seek professional help. When does isolation raise a red flag for long-term issues? True personality disorders are not typically diagnosed until adulthood. Still, professional counseling should be considered if the anti-social behavior is causing the child significant distress, perhaps keeping him or her from functioning in everyday activities. Also, parents should pay attention to how the child's social behavior changes over time. Cole says that most children develop the tools they need for making friends as they get older. She is most concerned about the children who go the other direction, showing more social anxiety as they age.
The vast majority of children who define "quality time" as time alone are perfectly happy, healthy and normal. If the child is able to nurture at least one friendship, exhibiting what experts call "social reciprocity," then parents can relax, and can cherish that child who enjoys the pleasure of his or her own company. ™


Friday, September 26, 2008

Reading with Expression

This week we have focused on reading with expression. We have read several short books that really need expressive voices to read or they make little sense. One of these books we read today was called Yo! Yes? I hope you can practice with your child at home this new skill when he or she is reading aloud.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Parent Volunteers

You may be wondering exactly what it means to be a parent volunteer in our classroom. My volunteers spend a little over an hour each morning on the classroom working one-on-one with students. Occasionally I may have them work with a small group or help with an activity in the classroom.

Every child has the opportunity to read to a parent each week, sometimes more than once depending on their need. Beginning readers typically read with a volunteer 2-3 times per week. Parents help them figure out unknown words using strategies I have shown them ahead of time that they can refer back to if needed. They also ask comprehension questions to the more fluent readers, and check to make sure they understand vocabulary and more challenging words and concepts.

Parents can also help prepare materials for me at home or do other misc. jobs as needed. I always love to have guest speakers in the classroom that can share their talents and interests with the children.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Math Facts

Students practice their math facts on the computer 2-3 times per week. The Math Facts program is just another tool we use to help the children learn their facts. We are still working with addition in Math Workshop, but are introducing subtraction to them also. We have begun working on fact families this week and relating addition number sentences to subtraction number sentences.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pebbles, Sand, and Silt

Today we spent much of the day working with our FOSS kit on Pebbles, Sand, and Silt. Students learned that rocks come in many different sixes and shapes and sorted them based on size. A tool they used was the sieve, or the screen. They distinguished between sand, small & large gravel, and small & large pebbles. We also worked exclusively with sand and water and are conducting an experiment to find out what happens when it is shaken up and left alone for the weekend. We also worked with clay and are doing the same experiment with it this weekend. I wonder how they will change by Monday? I have added many new pictures to the website, and I hope you will be able to look at them.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Menu Math

Each day in math workshop, students are able to to play games that reinforce skills and lessons we have been learning about in class. We call these choices "menu math". Some of the games students are able to choose from currently are double dominoes, addition war, the sock game, and Mathfacts on the computer. It is important that they be able to apply and transfer their knowledge to other content areas. Even though we do a timed test, daily math review, and have a new lesson each day, each one is only a part of what we do in math workshop. The more ways we can practice what we are learning, the better chance we have to remember and internalize it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


One of the best parts of school for many students is recess. Here are some photos I took today of the children playing. Remember to dress your child based on the changing weather. Especially at this time of year, some days he or she may need a jacket, and other days shorts is just fine.

We have talked about how to play with friends and how to ask others to play. If you feel like your child is having a difficult time adjusting to school and finding friends to play with, please let me know so that we can make a plan.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sorting Attributes

We have been learning about how items have different properties that can be sorted. Students have sorted rocks based on color, shape, size, and the way they feel. In centers this week the children are working on sorting lids into different categories, and are writing about their observations in their science journal.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Updates

We have had lots of fun this week and have learned many new things. We worked with our rock FOSS kit and went to the science lab again this week. In math we are continuing to learn different addition strategies and have practiced problem solving. Minute math seemed to be a struggle this week for many students. Even though we do many problems together, some children are still rushing through their work and not paying attention especially when new concepts are introduced. Next week we will be reviewing some of the commonly missed problems and students will have a chance to practice them again.

My second grade reading group learned to take Scholastic Reading Counts quizzes this week. These are tests on the computer that quiz you on questions from the books we are reading. Students can independently take quizzes in their level and see their progress immediately. Other students will be introduced to this program as the year progresses.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Rock Museum

We have continued our study of rocks this week and experimented with what happened when some of our rocks were placed in water. Students were excited to visit the science lab to do our experiments. We will be going there over the next few weeks to work with our FOSS kit. Students have also been bringing in their rocks from home to add to our rock museum. We have collected several different types already.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Doubles Painting

Today we learned about doubles in math, such as 2+2, 4+4, or 9+9. Learning doubles helps students remember patterns in numbers and they can also use them to learn other math facts. We painted and made doubles on our paper by folding the sheet in half.

Yesterday I started having two separate groups in math. Both groups are learning the same concepts, for example today the lesson was on doubles. However the children will complete different work depending on their math experiences and ability. This will allow everyone to still be exposed to the same concepts, but provide a challenge to those who need it, and additional practice time for others.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Spelling Tests

Today was our first spelling test. I can tell students worked hard practicing their words this week. The children had to write the ten words they studied as I said them in a sentence. I was pleased at how they handled having two separate lists this week. Nobody got confused during the test even though I gave both sets at the same time. Students also were tested on two bonus words this week, which are words we have practiced as a word family or as a special interest for the week. They will not know these words ahead of time. Each group has the same bonus words. We also will have a dictation sentence each Friday. It is graded for spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. I was pleased that everyone remember to capitalize the first word in the sentence today. Some children did not remember to put an ending mark (a period) even though I reminded them several times.

Congratulations on all your hard work. Next week we will have a new set of words for each group. Some words may repeat from week to week.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Typical Day

Today was a typical day in first grade. Students wrote in their journals upon arriving at school. After completing their daily prompt, they are free to work on thinking skills or read. We have our class meeting and work with the calendar and other skills. Today we practiced skip counting. Other days we count money, tell time, estimate, or problem solve.

We had reading workshop this morning and read a big book about the four seasons. We will refer back to this book next week when we do a formal writing prompt. I met with my reading group that is in the first grade reading basal, and we practiced our spelling words and read a new story about tap dancing. We also learned some new robust vocabulary words.

In writing workshop we practiced spelling rhyming words and played a game called Sparkle to practice our word family words. So far we have learned the "ack", "at", and "ap" families. All students are introduced to a new word family each week, even my fluent readers. However only the students who need it are working with these words on a daily basis with me or with an instructional assistant.

In math we are continuing to learn new strategies to practice our addition facts. Students drew dots to count for tricky problems today. We have talked about counting on our fingers and using cubes or other manipulatives already. Do not worry if yourchild is bringing home their incomplete timed test each day. All students will pass it eventually. I have a couple of children who have passed the first test, but it is not required at this time. We also watched a short 15 minute video about money.

Tomorrow we will have our first spelling test, and work some more on our school project.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Math Workshop

Each day in math students are completing a Minute Math page. It reviews concepts all year long. Right now we are doing these mostly together and students have as long as they need to complete their work. We are currently using the first grade text. Next semester we will move into the second grade math book and they will have 2-3 minutes to complete their work.

We also started timed tests this week to go along with learning about addition. Students are given 1 minute to complete their level before moving on to the next one. All answers must be correct and the numbers facing the correct direction in order to move to the next level. At the end of the year we will start over and they will have 45 seconds to finish 20 questions. We are learning about how numbers work and how to add numbers together. By the end of the year students should have their addition and subtraction facts memorized and know them automatically when questioned. We also have a Math Facts program on the computer that we will be learning next week to help us move toward this automaticity. Please practice adding at home to help your child succeed in class.

Children also engaged in hands on math each day as we are learning about addition. Concepts become more concrete through daily practice.

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