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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tasting Our Pickles

This is a flashback post to the Monday before our Voyage. That Monday afternoon before our Voyage, Ms. Charlene brought in the pickles we had made the week before. They are refrigerator pickles so they only needed to refrigerate for a day or two until they were ready. Most of us loved our pickles but a few didn't. Thanks to Ms. Charlene for helping us make and taste our pickles.

Read a good book or two.

Boot Camp ~ Click here for more information about our Boot Camp fundraising drive and/or click here to make a donation. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Reading Fluently

We have spent the last few weeks learning strategies or tools to help us decode or figure out words that we don't know.

While we will still continue to practice these strategies, our new focus is on reading fluently. Fluency is the ability to read in a smooth, flowing, connected way. This includes reading with expression and reading at a conversational pace. Reading fluently is important because it directly impacts reading comprehension. When we can read fluently we understand what we are reading better. We will work on reading in phrases rather than word by word (robot reading), reading at a "just right" speed - not too fast and not too slow, reading with expression (showing emotion when reading) and using punctuation marks as a guide to how our voice should sound.

Rereading helps with reading fluency a lot. Each time we reread a story or book, we get more fluent. It also helps to listen to a more experienced reader read fluently to get the feel of how reading should sound. So family read alouds, bedtime stories and audio books are great to use.

Reading fluently is another reason why we need to help our kids make good book selections. If they are choosing books that are too hard, they will not read fluently and will read word by word (robot reading). Then they will not deeply understand the book that they are reading and will feel frustrated with reading. So encourage your child to read easy or just right books to help with fluency and comprehension. Also encourage them to reread a story or parts of a story to make it sound more fluent. Make practice fun by showing them how reading sounds when you read to fast or too slow. After the giggles stop, see if they know what you should do to correct your reading.

Read a good book or two.
Math test tomorrow. Practice some of the skills listed on this post or use some of the practice pages I emailed home earlier.

Boot Camp ~ Click here for more information about our Boot Camp fundraising drive and/or click here to make a donation. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Part/Whole Thinking

For this first half of our first grade year, our big idea is that thinking about the parts that make up a whole helps us see patterns in the way things work and how things fit together. The second half of the year we will focus on how all of these parts work together in systems. To get a better understanding of how this works in first grade, check out the pictures below. (Click on the pictures to see a larger, easier to read version.)

Our first Expedition is called, We Are Family. Our first case study is a study of our own families and how they are alike and different. We have been using our math skills to create graphs with information about our families as you can see in the picture below. So far we have graphed the number of siblings we have, where our families live and what our families' favorite dinners are. This week we will take a look at our grandparents lives and see how their childhood was similar to or different from ours. We are learning that we are part of a family and part of our family history.

We are part of a crew. Our crew self-portraits are hanging above the whiteboard as a reminder that we are all part of a crew.

In the hallway outside our door, hang our family pictures. They are there to remind us that we are part of a family.

Part/ Whole Thinking shows up in all content areas. The picture below shows how we think about parts and wholes in math. We know that numbers can be broken down into parts to make them easier to work with. For example, 10 can be broken into 5 and 5 or 6 and 4 or 7 and 3 and so on. Thinking of numbers in terms of parts and wholes make addition and subtraction easier.

On the right hand side of this picture, we can see how we use part/whole thinking in reading and writing. We know that letters are parts of words, words are parts of sentences and sentences are parts of stories. Using part whole thinking in reading and writing helps us decode words, spell words, write in sentences and create stories.

Also, in math we have been using tally charts to notice similarities and differences among the crew. We can see that we are part of the crew in many different ways.

Part/Whole thinking helps us notice patterns in our world and feel like we have a place in this world. The sentences in the center of the top picture above say it all:
We are part of a family.
We are part of a crew.
We are part of a school.
We are part of a community.
We are part of the world.

Read a good book or two.
Try some of the math practice pages that I emailed home earlier.

Important Dates
10/2 Boot Camp ~ All students will need a sack lunch. No school lunch provided on this day.
10/3-10/18 Fall Break
10/19 No School ~ Teacher Work Day

Boot Camp ~ Click here for more information about our Boot Camp fundraising drive and/or click here to make a donation.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fall Voyage Part 2

Our Fall Voyage was wonderful! We had great weather. The Lightning Cheetahs and Lightning Kittens patrol groups had a great time, challenged themselves and learned so much. I must say that I think the highlight of the trip for many of the crew was our indoor campfire (due to fire bans in the area because of dry weather). Be sure to ask your child all about the skits and songs that our camp leaders performed for us. Of course, while they loved all of the activities, they also loved riding the bus and sleeping in the cabins.

Here is a link to a photo album of photos that Ms. Wendy and I took and then below the link are descriptions of the activities that we did during our Voyage:

Why do we have a Fall Voyage?

We have a Fall Voyage for many reasons.

  • We take voyages to push students just a little bit out of their comfort zone. Real learning occurs when you are pushed out of your comfort zone and are challenged to try things you have not done before. For some first graders the biggest challenge is simply being away from home for a night and learning that they can trust other adults and themselves. For others the challenge is being responsible for themselves and their gear instead of counting on mom or dad to keep track of everything. Most are challenged in some way by the activities of the voyage. They must learn to work together, show perseverance when trying to find solutions to challenging problems, push themselves physically, and start to show independence in an age-appropriate manner.
  • I love the voyages because I get to see the students in a completely different environment and see other strengths that they have that might not show up in a classroom.
  • The voyages are also a great place for the students to practice the character traits that we have been working so hard to learn in class. Students also bring back some of the confidence and new skills that they learned on the trip and are able to apply them to academic learning.
  • We also all form tight bonds as a crew and are able to work very well together for the rest of the school year.

What did we do at Camp Elim?

In addition to eating, sleeping, packing, unpacking and taking care of ourselves, we also had time for some learning and some fun. Listed below are the activities we did along with a very short description.

Initiatives (Problem Solving Challenges)
Bag It – This activity had us choosing a rock and then finding the rock we put in the bag (can) while blindfolded. We learned to use other senses rather than simply rely on sight to gather clues and make decisions.

Camouflage Hide and Seek - A unique version of hide and seek that can be played in a wooded area. We learned about predators and prey in this fun game.

Nature Hunt at the Lake - This was a beautiful walk around a lake. We were challenged to really look at, listen to and smell what was around us. We had a list of things to look for and check off as we found them.

Web of Life - During this activity, we learned about a variety of plants and their adaptations while on a short hike around the camp.

Recreational Activities

Alphabet Hike - At the beginning of this hike, we were given a sheet with all of the letters of the alphabet on it. During the hike we had to look for things that started with that letter of the alphabet.

Obstacle Course – There were several physical challenges at this station. This activity was a huge hit with the crew.

Solo Hike – This was a short walk with a stop for a little solo time to reflect on the voyage. The kids chose spots within a set boundary and they sat by themselves just thinking, reflecting, writing or drawing about the Voyage and what they had learned.

Games - There were several fun running and very active games that were played indoors.

Thank You Chaperones!
We had a fantastic group of chaperones this year and we so appreciate their time and help on this Voyage. We couldn't have done it without them! Thanks to:
Ms. Amy (Halle's mom)
Ms. Katarina (Kaisa's mom)
Ms. Karen (JP's mom)
Mr. Rick (Ben's dad)
Mr. Travis (Tanner's dad)
Mr. Greg (Ali's dad)
Mr. Jay (Corbin's dad)

We are Crew!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Fall Voyage

Having a great time. The campfire was a big hit! Everyone is just fine and getting ready for bed now. Much more tomorrow.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Team Building

As we prepare for our Fall Voyage, the Lightning Cheetahs and the Lightning Kittens  are working hard to build their team building skills. Two of our most recent team building activities have been Community Sit and Human Knot. They were super challenging but lots of fun!

(Their first group activity was to choose their patrol name. Yes, " kittens" was almost unanimously voted in by both boys and girls in that group.)

Help pack your child's gear for the Voyage.
Read some great books.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Making Pickles

Yesterday, Ms. Charlene, (Ali's mom) came in and taught us how to make refrigerator pickles. We all got to meet with her in small groups of three students to learn how to make them and then to give it a try. We can't wait to try them on Monday after they have been refrigerated for the weekend. Thanks, Ms. Charlene for showing us another great treat that comes from a garden.

Help pack your child's gear for the Voyage.
Read some great books.

IA (Integrated Arts)
Our IA next week is Music.

Our crew got over 150 books from our book order. Wow! Thank you to all who ordered books. The crew is already enjoying them. You can always go to our crew account and order books online any time. It is very easy for me to just push "submit order" and then books will be delivered right to our classroom for your child.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

New Stations

We are always adding and changing our Exploration Stations. We rotate activities in and out of our stations. Some of the new ones that we just added are quite popular.

Read a good book or two.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Crew Experts

We often talk about how we learn something new every day. We know that we aren't experts at some things YET but we know that if we work at it, one day we can be experts. Below is a chart of things we think we are experts at now. Enjoy. (Click on the picture to see a larger view.)

Read a good book or two - to your child become an expert at reading.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Our crew loves to write. We have been writing books about things that have happened to us in our lives and other topics. We read lots of books about writing and they really inspired us to be writers. One of our favorite books about writing was:

We read this book and loved it. Lincoln and his family donated a new copy to our classroom library.

We are learning so many things as we write:

  • writers think about what they are going to write about all the time
  • ideas are everywhere if you pay attention
  • we have to write stories carefully so that our readers can understand them
  • stories can be about small events in our lives
  • we can use other author's books as a place to get writing ideas (mentor texts)
  • we need to write neatly and carefully so people can read our great stories
  • we need to leave spaces between our words to make our stories easier to read
  • we need to use lowercase letters most of the time
  • writing can be hard but we can do hard things
  • we need to listen carefully to words to hear the sounds in them so we can spell them correctly (or at least better)

This week we begin writing books about our families to go along with our study of families. I know the crew will love that!

You can help at home by encouraging them to write notes and stories for you. They won't need much encouragement. You can also have them practice writing their letters, especially lowercase letters, using the techniques mentioned in yesterday's post about writing numbers.

We will continue to add to our writing checklist as we learn more ways to make our writing better. Some of us are already working on when to use uppercase letters, the rest of us will work on this later when we are ready.

This is our continuum of writing samples. We can judge our writing against these samples to see how well we are doing. Our goal is to write as well as the sample on the far right. Later we will add more samples to this continuum as we get better at writing.
Reading ~ Read a good book or two.

Monday, September 14, 2015


One day I asked the crew what the biggest difference between kindergarten and first grade was and after we talked about having fewer recesses in first grade, they said that we do more math in first grade. I thought I would share with you some of the things that we have been working on in math so far this year:
  • writing the numbers correctly and neatly
  • counting by 2s
  • counting by 5s
  • making tally marks
  • telling time to the hour
  • what comes before and after a number
  • one more, one less
  • counting on a number line
  • getting information from a data chart (like a tally mark chart)
  • what are calendars and timelines
  • grouping items to make them easier to count
  • solving number stories (word problems)
  • counting on a number grid
  • counting on from a number (start at 6 and count up 4 ~ 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • complements of 10 (5 and 5, 6 and 4, 7 and 3, and so on)
  • how to use a calculator
  • comparing lengths of objects
  • explaining our thinking to others and listening to their ideas
  • subitizing (earlier post about that here)
  • what does a million of something look like - This is not a normal first grade topic but it came up so we delved into it. Ask your child about the books we read on this topic.

This week we will be learning about:
  • pennies - how do you know it is a penny and how much is it worth
  • nickels - how do you know it is a nickel and how much is it worth
  • counting the value groups of pennies and nickels (counting by 5s, counting on from a number and using tally marks will help us with this)
  • writing number models using +, -, =  (5+6=11, 6-4=2, etc.)
  • more on reading a data chart and graphs
Feel free to talk with your child about any or all of these topics as they come up in your daily life. That is the best way to learn about many of them.

Also, some of the crew really needs to practice writing numbers so any extra practice they can do at home is great. Ask them to write their numbers and see if they need more practice. Fun ways to do this include:
  • write them in chalk on the driveway
  • use a clean paintbrush and paint them with water on the driveway or sidewalk
  • use special/fancy pens, markers, crayons and paper
  • write them on a whiteboard, chalkboard or magnetic board (MagnaDoodle)
  • have them write a number on your back with their finger and you guess what they are writing, then change places and you write on their back or you can write on each others' palms, too
  • have them write them in the air with their finger
It is normal for students to be writing some numbers backwards at this point in the year. We are starting to work on that and point out to them that they have some numbers that they need to "fix". The earlier they correct this the easier it is to correct.

Reading ~ Read a good book or two.

Important Dates
9/22-9/23 ~ Fall Voyage
9/24 Day of Rest for 1st grade
9/25 No School ~ Professional Development Day for Teachers
10/2 Boot Camp ~ All students will need a sack lunch. No school lunch provided on this day.
10/3-10/18 Fall Break
10/19 No School ~ Teacher Work Day

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Salsa From Our School Garden

On Friday, we got to sample some salsa that Ms. Zina made with the tomatoes, peppers and onions we harvested from our school garden. Everyone agreed that it was very tasty! Thanks, Ms. Zina!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Silent Gallery Walk

Yesterday we had a silent gallery walk. During this walk we looked at artifacts that are related to the new Expedition that we are starting this week. It was hard to walk around silently and not share our ideas yet. We still didn't learn what our new Expedition was about. At this point we wanted to leave them wondering just a bit. This practice (called Mystery Piece) increases the engagement and the "need to know" about our new Expedition. Today we talked more about any thoughts we had overnight and I did share with them that our Expedition is called "We are Family" and that our first case study would be about our own families.  I am not sharing with them what our second case study will be about yet so please don't share if you already know. We have a Mystery Piece for that case study, too.

Pictures of my family and Ms. Wendy's family

More specific details about our Expedition are below. Some of these learning targets will be meet in other areas of study outside of our Expedition.

Enduring Understanding
  • There is diversity and sameness in the world/Parts impact the whole

Essential Question

  • How do people learn to get along in the world when there are so many similarities and differences?

Outcomes: Long Term Learning Targets:

  • I can analyze patterns and chronological order of events of the recent past.
  • I can compare and contrast characteristics of multiple sources of cultural differences.
  • I can analyze family and cultural traditions in the United States in the past.
  • I can analyze geographic tools such as maps and globes.
  • I can deconstruct my biases.
  • I can analyze how different groups and communities interact with each other and the environment.

Guiding Questions
  • What can we learn from studying the past?
  • What is important to understand about the rest of the world?

Reading ~ Read a good book or two.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


 "The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them."

  --  Mark Twain

That quote is my reading philosophy in a nutshell. My biggest goal for our crew is that they develop a love for reading and have books and authors that they love. Of course, I want them to be proficient readers, too, but if they are proficient and never actually read then what is the point. If they learn to love reading, then they will put in the time and effort to become good at it. So while I will be teaching reading strategies, fluency, comprehension, vocabulary, decoding and phonics, I will also be sharing lots and lots of great books with the crew to get them excited about reading.

How Do I Try to Do This?
1. We read books throughout the day for various subjects and reasons.
Sharing a book for Kaisa's birthday treat.
Exploring dictionaries

2. We have lots of books available in our room all the time.

3. I bring in collections of books from the library to share with the crew. Right now I have collections that have very funny stories but also have very few words. These are perfect for beginning of the year first graders.

Books by David Shannon

The Brownie and Pearl series by Cynthia Rylant

Books by Jeremy Tankard

Books by Jan Thomas

4. I talk about books with excitement and share my love of books with them.

5. I have them share their favorites with each other.

6. We learn that it is good to talk to our friends about books - that is how we learn about great new books to try.

7. We fill any spare moments with books and reading.

8. We start our day with reading. As the students come in they sit on the carpet and browse the bins that have our current collections from the library in them.

9. We post pictures of our favorite book characters on the wall and we have some stuffed animals of some of our favorite book characters.

10. We laugh out loud and join in with the reading of repeated parts of a books. This makes it more fun.

11. We read books and we also enjoy books on the computer or on our iPads. Tumblebooks is a favorite book reading site. It is on the Resources page of our crew blog. We have a subscription to it through the district and public library. You can access it from home, too. You will just need to enter your library card number and pin number (usually the last 4 digits of your phone number unless you have changed it). Another great source of books is our class Storia account through Scholastic books. We do enjoy reading in a variety of forms.

How Can You Help at Home?
1. Read to your child every day. Yes, even after they can read for themselves. Here is a link to a great article about a dad who read to his daughter every day until she went off to college:
Father-Daughter Reading Streak Lasts Nearly 9 Years

2. Share what you are reading with your child - books, magazines, cookbooks, instruction manuals, blogs, websites, street signs, newspapers, news sites online, etc.

3. Use different voices for different characters to make reading aloud more fun.

4. Have your child read to you.

5. Go to the public library - often.

6. Visit bookstores.

7. Have piles of books all around your home.

8. Enjoy the time you spend reading with your child.

9. Check out this link: Guerrilla Tactics to Get Your Child to Love Reading 

10. Check out this link: Read Kiddo Read

11. Check out this link: The Home and School Connection: Eight Ways to Foster Wild (Lifelong) Reading Habits 

12. Looking for some great new-ish books: The 2013 Nerdy Book Award Nominees

In the future I will write posts about fluency, comprehension, decoding, vocabulary and more but, for now, I want to try to make sure that our crew loves books and reading. Then they will be motivated to read those books that they love so much.

Reading ~ Read a good book or two.