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Thursday, January 18, 2018


 As I mentioned earlier, we have begun a study of nonfiction in our Reader's Workshop and Writer's Workshop. We are reading lots of nonfiction books and learning about the different features of nonfiction text - see the photos below for examples of these features. Also we have all selected an animal to research and learn more about so that we can write our own nonfiction books about the animal we chose. Ask your child to tell you what animal they are researching.

Home Learning ~ Read a good book or two or try an online book. Check out a Bedtime Math story or play a math game

Library Tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Word Work

We are learning about the many ways that long vowel sounds are spelled in words. We are taking an Expeditionary Learning approach to this study rather than a teacher directed approach. This means that we are searching all of our reading materials and noticing different ways that a sound might be spelled. Then we write out these words on sticky notes and sort them by type on a chart. We have had some amazing discussions about words and how they work. The crew is becoming very good at noticing and finding a wide variety of spellings for the different vowel sounds we have focused on so far. That is the goal of this study - to notice how words work and begin to make connections between words, letters, sounds and spellings. We are not trying to learn to spell all of these words perfectly. That comes later after we have a better understanding of how words work and are put together. Since we are taking an Expeditionary Learning type of approach to our word work that also means that we follow the lead of the students and study the things that they notice, find and have meaning for them. For example, I would not normally introduce the "eigh" spelling of the long "a" sound in first grade but since Creighton is in our crew, it came up quite naturally. The crew was surprised to notice that while it sounds like there is a letter "a" in Creighton's name, there isn't an "a" in his name. This led us to notice the spelling of the number eight in math and the word weigh as we were reading a nonfiction book about turtles. The crew loves to find more words throughout our days that follow some of these patterns and it is truly the best way to learn. Be sure to have discussions with your child when they notice things like this as they are reading roads signs in the car or books with you in the evenings.

Home Learning ~ Read a good book or two or try an online book. Check out a Bedtime Math story or play a math game.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Starting Our Days

The first bell rings at our school at 8:30 am each day. This is when students can enter the building and come to the classroom to get ready for the day. Since the second bell doesn't ring until 8:40 am when school starts, that gives us some time each morning to come in and read some good books. Lately I have been sitting on the floor with the crew during this 10 minute time instead of greeting them out in the hallway. I am enjoying this time with the crew so much. Last Thursday, I decided to get out some blocks and build with the crew instead of just chatting and reading books. The crew loved this idea so we have decided to have one morning each week be a building day while saving the other days for reading - which we also love.

Home Learning ~ Read a good book or two or try an online book. Check out a Bedtime Math story or play a math game.

Important Dates

2/16 No School - Professional Development Day for Teachers

2/19 No School - President's Day

2/22 First Grade Winter Voyage (Day trip - no day of rest)

3/6 Life is Art Fundraiser

3/19 - 4/2 Spring Break

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Learning Basic Math Facts

We are beginning to focus on learning basic addition and subtraction facts. Some of us are just beginning to learn them while others of us are much more comfortable with them. This is such an important skill to practice at this age. Familiarity with the basic addition and subtraction facts will make such a difference in your child's math career. I know I have mentioned this before but I have taught grades 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 (including Algebra). I can tell you that those students who had a solid foundation with their basic facts were so much more ready to tackle new math concepts and to use those basic facts to solve more complicated problems.  Now is the time to practice those facts with your child for a few minutes each day. We have begun to learn new games - both online and offline that will help us practice our basic facts. You can also help by asking your child to solve a fact as you are driving in the car and then ask them how they solved it or you can play various games both online and off to practice (rules for one game you can play are below). You can use whatever method you and your child enjoy. It's just important to work at it a little bit each day and to keep it fun and interesting.

Having said all of that, I do want to emphasize that what I feel is most important for students to learn in math is how and why things (like addition) work the way that they do. I want to develop their mathematical thinking and problem solving skills. If I had to choose between learning basic facts and developing mathematical thinking, I would absolutely choose mathematical thinking. Thankfully we don't have to make this choice. I will, however, always focus more on mathematical thinking in class and spend smaller amounts of time learning the basic facts. In our every day lives, we have so many tools at our disposal that can help with basic facts but we don't have tools that can do the deeper thinking and understanding for us so that is where my focus be.

Addition Top-It

The game is played with a deck of number cards, 4 cards for each number 0-9. (This can be a regular deck of cards with the face cards removed.) As many as four children can play, but at first, children should play the two-player game.

1. Shuffle the deck and place it on the desk with the cards face down.

2. At each turn, players turn over two cards and call out the sum. Players should check each other's sums.

3. The player with the higher sum takes all the cards. In case of a tie, players turn over two more cards and call out the sum. The player with the higher sum takes all the cards from both plays.

4. Play continues until there are fewer than 4 cards left in the deck. The player who took more cards wins.

Information for Parents
Learn math without fear, Stanford expert says 

You can find more math resources for parents on the Parent Resources page of our crew blog.

Fun apps,websites and board games to help practice basic math facts:

Hungry Fish

Resources page on our crew blog has links to several good websites for addition and subtraction practice

Board Games:
Tiny Polka Dots - many games can be played with this deck of cards - only one is shown at this link
Prime Climb - This game can be modified as your child grows up. You can start with addition and subtraction at first and add multiplication and division later.
Mobi - The Numerical Tile Game in a Whale Pouch
Shut the Box 

Home Learning ~ Read a good book or two or try an online book. Check out a Bedtime Math story or play a math game

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Little Moments From Our Day

Today Violet share a book that she has been working on at home. It was a magical story that included wonderful drawings of a dragon. I love that she wore the perfect shirt today to go along with her sharing.

We began working more in-depth on place value topics today. We used base-ten blocks to help us build numbers. On the first round, I asked the crew to build the number 24 with their blocks and this is how one child built it. I loved his out-of-the-box thinking. He actually built the number out of the blocks rather than using 2 tens and 4 ones to make the number. I must admit that he really did follow my directions. :)

Home Learning ~ Read a good book or two or try an online book. Check out a Bedtime Math story or play a math game.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Easing Back Into Our Routine

We had a great day! We have eased slowly back into our school routine. We began the day with a long sharing time so that we could all share a little bit out our breaks. The photographs were so helpful for that part of the day. Thank you for taking the time to send them in - I know that it added one more thing to your "to do" list but we appreciate it.

Then we did an activity called Book Speed Dating. We got out 25 bins of books and put them out on the tables. We had just a minute to take a look at the books in the bin in front of us before the bell rang and we had to move on to the next bin. Everyone found lots of books that they wanted to read and add to our take home bins. There was lots of sharing, reading and moving around - a great way to get back into the school routine.

We decided to put our winter break photos in a book rather than cutting them out and putting them up on the wall. We have already read it several times and will put it on our browsing shelf so we can all read it during Exploration Station time.

On our way back from lunch we passed the police officer assigned to our school and he struck up a conversation with some of the crew. We invited him into our classroom and he stayed for a while answering lots and lots of our questions. The crew also let him know that some of you (I won't name names) don't always wear your seatbelts and that some of you text while you drive. You will probably hear all about that tonight. :)

Later in the day, we got a package delivered from Mrs. Price's class in Australia. It contained a calendar and book for our classroom, a beautiful t-shirt for me and stickers for each crew member. It was such a surprise - for all of us. Thank you Mrs. Price and class! We love it all!

All of that a lots of reading, writing and math, too. We had one problem, though. We had too many books that we wanted to read in one day - a very good problem to have. We had to vote on our stack of new books to decide which one to read today. We choose to read Rosie Revere, Engineer and Shark Lady - excellent books about two very different kinds of scientists. We loved them.

Finally at the end of the day, Landon shared his published book. The crew was in awe. They all wanted to touch the pages because they were so shiny (they were color photocopies). They also loved the clear front cover, black back cover and the binding. They kept saying that it looked just like a real book. Landon and the crew all loved it.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Welcome Back to School!

Dear Crew,
I hope that you have had an exciting winter break, have read lots of great books and are ready to come back to school on Tuesday. I know I am ready. I can't wait to see you. I have really missed you.

I have enjoyed the pictures you sent me of what you did over break. I have gathered them in a Google doc that I will print and add to our crew wall. Be sure to go see the photos of your friends and to send me any photos that you would like to add.

Winter Break Fun

Here are a few things that we have to look forward to after break:

Winter Voyage
We will be going on our Winter Voyage on February 22nd. It will be so much fun! Here are a couple of photos from last year.

Patriotic Symbols
In between our Expeditions, we will take a little time to learn about patriotic symbols of the United States and some famous Americans. We will learn so many fascinating facts. Here are a few of the resources we will use. More are coming!

We will be reading and writing nonfiction books. We will mainly be reading about animals but we will add some other topics in later. You are going to love the books I have picked out for us.

New Build and Create Station
We will add a water color option to the Build and Create Station.

All of this and so much more like learning more about addition, subtraction and geometry, going to the school-wide cup stacking tournament on Wednesday and reading lots and lots of great books! I can't wait to see you and get started on Tuesday!

Home Learning ~ Read a good book or two or try an online book. Check out a Bedtime Math story or play a math game.

Important Dates

1/9 First Day Back After Break

1/12 No School - Professional Development Day for Teachers

1/15 No School - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

2/16 No School - Professional Development Day for Teachers

2/19 No School - President's Day

2/22 First Grade Winter Voyage (Day trip - no day of rest)

3/6 Life is Art Fundraiser

3/19 - 4/2 Spring Break