Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Veterans Day Poppies

We learned about Veterans Day last week and made poppies to honor our servicemen.

"Veterans Day: In 1918 on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the war of all war was declared at an end. November 11th was set aside as Armistice Day in the United States, to remember the sacrifices that men and women made during World War I in order to ensure a lasting peace. In 1958 this holiday was renamed Veterans Day in the US.

The Poppy was chosen to honor Veterans because it reminds us of a place called Flanders Field in Belgium where many soldiers from the first World War died in a bloody battle in a field of poppies. The poppies grow there between the crosses that mark their graves.
On Veterans' Day and Memorial Day, groups raise funds for their charitable activities by selling paper poppies made by disable veterans. A Poppy is a red flower which is worn to show others that you are remembering those who died for their country. "

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Money Games

This week in math we started a new unit of focus on money. Although we will still be doing some worksheets during this study, many of our activities will be based on role playing and manipulative games. We learned two new games today to practice recognizing coins and exchanging values of coins.
In the sock game two students play together and take turns reaching into a sock to pull out a coin. The other student is challenged to find the same coin just by touch. It sounds like a very simple game, but the kids really love playing it. In the process they internalize the names of the coins quickly.

The second game is called Race for a Dollar. Students take turns rolling a die and getting coins on each turn. For example if a 4 is rolled, then the student takes 4 pennies and places them on his game board. In each turn more coins are added to the board, and students trade in pennies for nickels and dimes, then quarters, and eventually a dollar. Whoever makes the dollar first wins the game. This game helps students learn about money combinations and equivalencies.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Frog Pond Game

We have begun playing a new menu math game today to encourage logical thinking. The Frog Pond Game is an adaptation of a Chinese logic game. It encourages students to think creatively, look for patterns related to the number ten, and refine strategies based on change. The game consists of a game board and 10 plastic frogs that are placed on the lilly pads. The two students take turns picking up either one or two frogs on their turn. It is their choice of how many to select. The goal is to be the person who picks up the last 1 or 2 frogs.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Butterfly Release

Today we said good-bye to our butterflies. We had 9 caterpillars spin chrysalises, and we waited patiently for them to emerge in the butterfly pavillion. Five of the butterflies were released today, but unfortunately not all of them survived. The students were very excited to crawl inside the tent with the insects. They loved seeing them up close.

We are finalizing our insect book this week and I hope to have it shipped and bound over Fall Break. I for one am glad to finally be done with all the little critters in our classroom. Thank you for your support, and for graciously sending in bugs for the last few weeks. I know the children have enjoyed this project and learned so much.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Today First Grade had another Fun Friday rotation and we learned about pumpkins. Did you know that the largest pumpkin ever recorded weighed as much as a small car?

Students practiced estimating and graphing today, as well as subtraction word problems. We learned about the life cycle of pumpkins too.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Eric Carle Painting

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

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


We finally had our walk-a-thon on Tuesday. Fortunately the weather turned out beautiful, and we were able to enjoy the activities. The students were very excited to see their parents and guests. The walk-a-thon is the biggest fundraiser for the school and the PFO uses the money to provide teachers materials and field trips. Thank you for all your support!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Insect Project

We have been working hard on our insect project and learning about lots of different kinds of critters. Today the students used the paint program on the computer to draw different insects. We also took time in the afternoon to do some research and conduct surveys. They asked the other classes questions about animals that are commonly mistaken for insects like worms, spiders, etc. The they used a new program on the computer to create graphs showing their results.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Insect Expert

Today Mrs. Wright from the Indy Parks department visited our classroom to talk to the students about insects. The children have been busy finding insects almost every day and some are bringing them to school to share. Today we learned about the different body parts of insects and sang a song to help us remember and identify them. We also went outside to look for insects and found many great specimens. Some of the critters the students found were: moths, butterflies, crickets, grasshoppers, cicadas, and a roly poly. We decided the roly poly wasn't really an insect because it had more than six legs. We also learned that all bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fun Friday: Apples

Today was another Fun Friday in first grade. This time our focus was apples. We did many activites for math and patterns, We read books about apples and watched a Reading Rainbow video about apples and cooking. Students also got to enjoy an applesauce treat at the end of the day. Yum!

We also found a huge praying mantis during our spelling test today. We kept it in our classroom for the afternoon, but decided to let it go at the end of the day. I was worried it might have babies over the weekend, and I did not want to return to class on Monday to a room full of tiny insects. My father found one once when he was a small boy and put it in a showbox in his closet. My grandmother found the box a while later and hundreds of baby bugs flew out scaring her senseless!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Today in class we did some yoga poses. The students really enjoyed doing the different exercises. Their favorite was the one that had them standing on one foot and reaching one hand to the ceiling. Some of us were very wobbly, but everyone had a lot of fun. We will be doing more of this once the weather turns colder and we are unable to go outside.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Doubles Painting

We have been learning about computation class the couple of weeks. One strategy that helps the students is using what they know about doubles to solve other problems. A double is a problem such as 5+5 or 8+8. We practiced our double facts by painting and making prints.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Fun Friday: Bubbles

Today students learned about bubbles. All of the first graders gathered together this morning to hear a bubble story. Each teacher had a different activity in their classroom related to bubbles. In my classroom, the students did a measuring activity and used the results to complete a puzzle. They also were given a piece of bubble gum and we tested to see who could and could not blow a bubble, as well as who could blow the biggest bubble. Another room had the students blowing traditional soap bubbles which they then got to take home. They also blew bubbles in another station, but this time used a straw and a bowl of soap to create mountains of bubbles. The final teacher created bubble and frog puppets to connect to the story we read this morning. We sang songs and read poems about bubbles, graphed our favorite activity, and watched a bubble movie that helped us learn about surface tension and why bubbles are round. They really liked seeing the experiments with the people inside the bubbles.

It was a great day for all!


Today we started our FOSS kits and our new unit on insects. Each student received 3-4 mealworms to keep on their table area. We will be watching to see what changes occur over the next few months. (Don't tell them if you know what's going to happen.) We made lots of observations today and noticed our mealworms have segments, six legs, and either mouthparts or antennae. We learned that they need air, water, food, and space to live. Students will be documenting their observations in their science journals as we progress through this unit.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Germs Make Me Sick

We have been talking a lot in class about staying healthy. We frequently wash our hands during the day, and students are expected to use hand sanitizer each time they enter the room (morning, after recess, after specials, etc.) We have reviewed how to properly cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough and how to avoid spreading germs. Today we watched a Reading Rainbow movie called "Germs Make Me Sick". The students were excited to see live germs and learned some valuable information from the film.

Please remember that if your child is sick, that they must be fever free for 24 hours before returning to school. As much as I want all the students to be here in class, I would rather they stay home and recuperate. I am hoping that with the recent headlines about flu season and H1N1, we will be able to remain healthy and it will not be the pandemic it is predicted to be.

I do not typically send home make-up work unless the child is absent for several days. Most of it can be made up in class, although much of what we do revolves around classroom discussions, games and activities that can't be done at home. If you are looking for ways to occupy your child while they are home, they can practice their reading, write a story about being sick, or practice their math facts. This depends on how they are feeling though, and is not to say I am encouraging you to make your child do homework.

I wish you all a safe and healthy year.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

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!

Monday, August 24, 2009


~Green folders should be emptied daily and returned with just the homework reading sheet. I would like to see what your child is reading each night.
~Please be sure to send lunch money with your child each week.
~Spelling test will be on Friday. I will read the words to your child and s/he will write them down on a paper. This week all the children have the same words, but next week they will be different.
~Daily snacks may be sent in with your child. Feel free to keep a couple day's worth in the backpack, but tell your child not to eat them all at once. One snack is all that is needed each day, not fruit and a granola bar.
~Mondays and Wednesday are PE days, so don't forget to wear tennis shoes.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Great Thinking

One area we focus on in STRETCH is the students' thinking skills. We have many games and activities for the children to choose from, and I also plan lessons to teach specific skills and strategies. For example, we will learn about chess later this year, reasoning, and different kinds of logic. This week I have a pattern set displayed and the students were challenged to create as many different designs as possible. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were building in 3D rather than making a flat design. This is the first time I have seen this in first grade using these specific materials and I was rather impressed. Here are some of there creations.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

First Day of School

I am happy to have shared a great first day of school with my new students. We made new friends today, and saw some old buddies from kindergarten as well. A lot of today revolved around discussing the Mary Castle Expectations, and going over procedures in our classroom. We practiced lining up and walking in the hallway.

We also read the book Chrysanthemum, and talked about our own names. We played a game to learn our friends' names and how they are spelled, and we also made a class graph to show how many letters each name contained.

I am hopeful that the buses run smoother tomorrow and students arrive home safely and on time. Everyday they should get better. See you all soon!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Student Assessment

The first grade teachers will be assessing all incoming first graders just before school starts this year. This will help us make decisions regarding your child’s reading and writing levels, and will allow us to match students with “just right” books from day one. We may also complete a short math evaluation as well if there is enough time left. This process will take approximately 20-30 minutes per child. If you are able to attend, please stop by Mary Castle Elementary on Friday, August 7th. I will be assessing students from 9am–12pm and from 2pm-6pm, in the Media Center. If you would like to reserve a specific time, please call the MEC office at 849-5672. You may also email me at michellesmelser@msdlt.k12.in.us. I hope to see you there.

Monday, June 15, 2009

News Pics

New photos have been added to the class Shutterfly site. You will need your password sent out by Mrs. Dorsey to access it. I will try to add the rest of the photos I have saved at school sometime this week.

Hope you are enjoying your summer!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Summer Library Hours

Don't forget that you can visit the school library during the month of June. Open hours are every Tuesday and Thursday from 3:30-5:30. The whole family can check out books and take quizzes on the computer. You might also want to practice math facts while you are there.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Theme Days & Thinking Skills

I think the students enjoyed the different themed days this week. On Tuesday we had silly sock day. On Wednesday it was hat day. Thursday was sports day, and today many students dressed as their favorite book character. They were lucky enough to have Miss Viola Swamp as their substitute today too.

We have had a busy week preparing for the end of the year. One thing we have been working on this week is Thinking Skills. We revisited analogies, and did a couple new ones too. Logic Links was a game using clues and deduction that the students really enjoyed on Thursday. We also worked on some more logic grids that we started a couple weeks ago.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Teacher Appreciation Thank You

I just wanted to thank you all again for the wonderful time I had last week. I really enjoyed the children's gifts of cards, books, sweet treats, and others. I am so fortunate to have such caring and thoughtful friends and students. Although the year is not over quite yet, I know I am sad to see the children growing up and preparing to leave first grade. It has been a fantastic year, and I have watched the students learn and accomplish so much. These last two weeks will fly by, so I hope I have the chance to tell each of you goodbye before summer. If not, then I wish you well, and I hope to see you in the fall.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Guest Speaker

Master Cooley came and talked to the class about martial arts per the invitation of one of our students. He was also kind enough to give us a demonstration of tae kwon do. The students really enjoyed learning about this martial art and were cautioned to not try any of the moves out at home.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Quilt Squares

We have been working on making quilt squares in Math Workshop this week. We read several books about quilts and patterns, and watched a Reading Rainbow video on it as well. Students selected a pattern to replicate on paper and discussed in their group how to make the shapes. Each shape begins as a square, and it was up to them to decide how to transform it into the triangles and rectangles found in the pattern.

I hope you will be able to visit the school next Thursday night for the Art and Education event. You will be able to see your child's artwork from special area class, as well as work they have done in our classroom.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Reading Workshop

Students have started several new series in the last week for Reading Workshop.

~I have one group working on Henry and Mudge. They are convinced they will be able to read all of the books in the series and take a quiz on them.

~Several students are reading the Magic Tree House books and traveling to far away places like the moon. They have passports to fill out for each adventure that will help them understand the stories better.

~Another group is reading the Beverly Cleary book Runaway Ralph. It is the sequel to The Mouse and the Motorcycle. Their focus is on vocabulary and critical thinking about the text.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Weather Scavenger Hunt

Today for science we went on a Weather Scavenger Hunt. We looked for items on our list such as "where rain has washed away soil" and "something that could be carried by the wind." Students are really enjoying the fact that we are able to do more lessons outside due to our lovely recent weather. I think it is supposed to rain this week though, so we may have to enjoy what we can now.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sidewalk Spelling

Today we practiced our spelling words outside with sidewalk chalk. It was a beautiful, albeit windy day. We have been working on homophones the last couple weeks. Next week will be our last one, and then we will move towards indiviualized spelling lists for each child. They will be able to choose some of the words on their list, and I will choose others based on what I am noticing in their writing. Any words they miss will be automatically added to the next week's list.

This is a picture of a student standing inside one of his words. He told me he was standing in a hole. (The spelling word was hole.) I thought it was clever. :)

Monday, April 20, 2009


Whirlicopters are like little paper helicopters. Students made 3 different ones and we designed several experiments to test their flight patterns. We learned about variables and how important it is to be consistent. There were so many things that could impact the results of our tests. We explored the effect of various copter materials on descent time, and set up and conducted scientific tests using a control, making predictions, observing and recording tests, and drawing conclusions.

This is always one of the students' favorite activities, and I know they really enjoyed this science lesson.

Friday, April 17, 2009

My Club: School Improvement

As I have mentioned earlier, students participate in Friday clubs this time of year. I decided to do a club on school improvement, and I have a couple of students from my class in my club, as well as others from first, second and third grade classrooms. Here are some pictures from week two. We are working on the courtyard this week.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hold and Fold

Today we worked with shapes some more in math workshop. Students were given a square piece of paper to manipulate and transform into other shapes based on initial folds we did together. The point of this lesson was to help students become more familiar with shapes they don't use all that often, as well as to help them understand that some familiar shapes do not all look exactly the same.

We were able to revisit vocabulary terms such as congruent, parallel, angle, corner, side, and rotate. We also reviewed prefixes and number word roots like penta, hex, and tri. Students discovered shapes that were different such as the pentagon and trapezoid, and realized that as long as the shape met the basic requirements it could still be the same shape and look different. For example all hexagons will not look the same, but they do all have six sides and six corners.

We did a lot of discussion today and students were encouraged to justify their answers and share how they discovered the different shapes. I was able to observe their willingness to take risks, and how inventive and flexible they could be in be with their work.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Hello Red Fox

We read the Eric Carle book Hello Red Fox for our author study, and as usual the children loved it. It is a story of a birthday party that shows that things are not always what they appear to be. This book is filled with characters that change colors before your eyes--a green fox turns red, a yellow butterfly, purple, and many, many more. It uses an optical illusion phenomenon called complimentary afterimage

Here is a link that explains what is happening and why we see the opposite colors when reading the book.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Analogies & Friday Clubs

Today we worked on analogies in class. Analogies are all about figuring out how things go together or are related. Thinking skills you can develop through analogies include reasoning and
information processing.

Students also went to their first club meeting today. Yesterday they were able to choose their top three, and were assigned an activity for the next month. Clubs will meet each Friday with a teacher, assistant, or parent volunteer, working with a small group of students from different classrooms and grade levels. Examples of this year's clubs include board games, card games, building, tea party, Spanish, sign language, and more. My club is about school improvement, and we will be working on cleaning up around the school, planting flowers, and creating a rock garden.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Geo Shapes

New games are always fun to play, especially when they are a part of our new unit on geometry. This game had students working together to be the first team to complete two shapes on their game board. Every team had a circle divided into fourths, as well as an irregular shape to fill with other pieces. Students had to make decisions about how to obtain new shape pieces for their section and which ones to discard after each turn.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Reading Tent

Students who pass a Reading Counts quiz can opt to sit in the reading tent on the same day. Only two students are allowed inside at any time though. This has been a fun new treat for the students, and they are enjoying it a lot.

Friday, March 27, 2009


In math we have been learning about area and measuring it in square units this week in math. Students have begun working with pentominoes and manipulating the 12 different pieces to complete puzzles and explore this measurement concept.

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