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.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Each day after specials, students have the opportunity to rotate through different centers. These activities reinforce concepts we have been learning about in class. For example, in the science center students can can examine rocks and read books about them. In a math center, they are practicing addition facts. Currently there are two center choices each day, but we will be adding up to three assigned centers by the end of the year, as well as free choice for any other center area.

Monday, August 25, 2008


We are learning about rocks in science and using our FOSS kits. Today students examined a bag of rocks and recorded their observations in their science journals. They noticed things like color, shape, size, and how the rocks felt.

Today we also started using our language arts basals. Students received spelling lists today and will start taking spelling tests on Fridays. We are continuing to learn new word families. Today we practiced the -ap family and made several words that end in ap. Even for those students who are reading well, learning some basic phonic rules will aid them in figuring out unknown words when they read.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Happy Friday

We have a really great second week of school. Students have been working on a mini project and learning about China. I am excited to see some of the interesting objects the students have brought in to share. We also started our big project today on the topic of school. This will help the students get aquainted better with where they spend most of their day.

I am done with the DRA reading assessment and each child has their own bag of books. We will begin with the new LA series next week and also being spelling words. Remember that I have two different sets of words that we will be using depending on your child's reading level. Spelling tests will be on Fridays. Your child will need to be able to write each word correctly as I say it aloud.

Next week will will also be starting a new unit in math- addition. We will have a pretest on Monday, and then start learning different addition strategies based on this data.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


A characteristic common to many gifted individuals is perfectionism. This is something that I address many times throughout the school year. We talk a lot about doing your personal best and always trying. Nothing has to be perfect. It's difficult especially not being able to spell the words, and wanting to know how to write them in their daily work.

One of the books I read to the children is called ish. It is about a little boy named Ramon who likes to draw but is discouraged one day by his brother because his pictures aren't good enough. His little sister helps him realize that even if the drawing doesn't look exactly like it's subject, it's close enough. It might not look like a vase, but it is vase-ish. Soon he is drawing lots of pictures that are ish. We spent a lot of time today reminding each other that we can do things ishly. This will continue to be an important lesson as the year progresses, and we will revisit this topic as necessary.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Social Studies

Today we learned about the Pledge of Allegience. Students were very interested in learning about the meaning of the the pledge, as well as what the different parts of our flag were. We talked about the 13 original colonies, and how they became the beginning of the United States. We looked at the U.S. map to find out where they were located and why new states were added later on.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Thinking Skills

We have been working on becoming better thinkers in first grade. One way we do this is by playing games and solving puzzles. Students will have the opportunity to use the thinking skill games and activites all year. The use of critical thinking is one of the most valuable skills our students need today. Gifted children, especially, tend to take mental leaps. Supporting and nurturing these skills is crucial to the development of strong academic and lifelong problem-solving skills.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Golden Tickets

As we have been talking about the Mary Castle Expectations, we have implemented our school wide positive behavior program. If a teacher sees a student following the expectations, he or she can give that child a golden ticket as a reward. These tickets will be placed in a bucket in the office and drawn each day. Those whose tickets are drawn will have their picture taken and name announced on the morning announcements. Many of our students in first grade have already earned their first golden ticket!

Did you know that even a first grader can be a scientist? Today we did things that scientists do. We asked questions, we measured, we talked about experiments, and we used our senses. Hopefully we can do some experiments soon in class.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Reading Workshop

Each day for the rest of the year, students will be participating in Reading Workshop. Today we practiced what it should look like and sound like. Students should be reading to themselves during this time and looking at their own books. Everyone will be given their own bag of "just right" books to read as soon as I finish assessing the rest of the class.

In the next couple of weeks I will begin meeting with small groups of students to work on specific reading skills and strategies. I am excited to begin the reading instruction, as it is very rewarding to see how much the children grow as readers over the next year.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

First Day of School

Welcome to First Grade! Today we spent time getting to know each other and learning about how school works. Students learned the five Mary Castle Expectations:

  • Be Responsible

  • Be Respectful

  • Be Caring

  • Be Safe

  • Be a Peaceful Problem Solver

We also went on a scavenger hunt in the classroom to learn where everything is located. In math we graphed the different stuffed animals student brought from home. Students listened to the story of Chrysanthemum. Everyone's name is special and unique to them. We made each others' names with letters and learned who everyone is in class.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Meet Me on Monday

I hope to see many of you on Monday, August 11th. I will be available from 3-4 pm to meet new families, and show the classroom. You may drop off school supplies at this time as well. Remember school starts officially on Tuesday the 12th at 8:50 am. I'm looking forward to working with all of you and am anticipating a great new year.

See you soon!

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