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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Fall Voyage

Our Fall Voyage was wonderful! We had perfect weather with just one brief rain shower. The Jaguars and Star Wars Pikachus patrol groups had a great time, challenged themselves and learned so much.  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 our crew photo album which has lots of photos from our Voyage and then below the link are descriptions of the activities that we did during our Voyage:

Highlights for the Crew
  • Riding the big yellow school bus
  • Sleeping on bunk beds in the cabins
  • Skits at the campfire - yes, two actors did spit lots and lots of water on each other
  • Obstacle Course
  • Hike around the Lake
Highlights for the Teachers
  •  No one got sick
  • This year's crew set the record for going to bed on time and not getting up too early.
  • Not losing Lambie. We thought we lost a stuffed lamb named Lambie but it turns out he stayed home and didn't come to camp.
  • Watching the kids help each other out so often and being so kind to each other.
  • Watching them play carpet ball - they love this game!
  • There was very little crying.
  • Two teeth were lost and only one of them was never found. The other one came home in  a baggie.

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 and listen to 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 dependence on each other while on a short hike around the camp.

Recreational Activities

Alphabet Hike - At the beginning of this hike, we were each given a sticky note with a letter 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 Time – This was combined with another turn at the obstacle course. 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. This is where we had the most injuries - falls, bonked heads, etc. All were minor, though

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. Ki (Skylar's mom)
Ms. Karen (Lily's mom)
Ms. Jen (Tyler's mom)
Mr. Ryan (Trig's dad)
Mr. Ronnie (Evyn's dad)
Mr. Scott (Delaney's dad)
Mr. Dan (Nicholas' dad)

We are Crew!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Getting Ready for Voyage

We have been preparing to go on our Fall Voyage tomorrow. We got into our patrol groups and decided on a group name for each patrol. One patrol is called the Jaguars and the other is called the Star Wars Pikachus.

We also tried to do an activity called Community Sit. In this activity, each patrol gathers in a circle and then slowly moves into a seated position on each others' knees. If done correctly, the group ends up sitting down in this circle position. We worked and worked on this activity but haven't been completely successful yet. We will keep trying.

Another activity we tried was called Human Knot. This time we broke each patrol group in half so that the group would be smaller. Then we circled up and grabbed hands across the circle. Our hands were all tangled up in a knot in the center of the circle. The challenge then was to try to untangle the knot without letting go of each others' hands. We were all successful with this activity and so the next time we will try it with our whole patrol group. A few random photos of this are below - it was a little too busy during many of these activities to stop and take pictures.

Important Dates
8/29 and 9/2  CogAT Testing 9 am - for those who have signed up
8/30 - 8/31 Fall Voyage - we will return around 3:30 pm or so on 8/31
9/1 Day of Rest for First Grade
9/2 CogAT - last session to complete the test -  9 am
9/5 No School - Labor Day
9/7 Love and Logic Class for Parents begins 6:00 pm
9/30 Boot Camp
10/3 - 10/17 Fall Break
10/19 Crew Pictures and Individual Re-Takes
11/8 No School - Professional Development for Teachers
11/14 - 11/18 Book Fair
11/23 - 11/25 Thanksgiving Break
12/19 - 1/3 Winter Break  

Friday, August 26, 2016


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.

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)
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.

Arts and PE
Our Arts and PE class next week is Performing Arts (formerly known as Music).

Thursday, August 25, 2016


 "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.
Alex's mom reads a story to the crew for Alex's birthday treat.

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).

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. Looking for some great new-ish books:
Geisel (Dr. Seuss) Award Winners 2016
Past Geisel Award Winners
Nerdy Book Club Picture Book Winners 2015
Nerdy Book Club Early Readers and Chapter Book Winners 2015

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.

Library - We have library tomorrow. Please help your child remember to bring in his or her books.