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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Fall Voyage

Our Fall Voyage was wonderful! We had perfect weather. The Happy Campers  and the Dolphins had a great time, challenged themselves and learned so much. Of course, while they loved all of the activities, they also loved riding the bus and sleeping in the cabins.

Need a hard boiled egg peeled? Ask Creighton. He is an expert!

Here is a link to our crew photo album which has lots of photos from our Voyage - chaperones will be adding their photos soon -  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.
  • Watching the kids help each other out so often and being so kind to each other.
  • Seeing how much the crew enjoyed being outside and each other.
  • There was very little crying.

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 social skills 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 feeling some items in a bag while blindfolded. We learned to use other senses rather than simply rely on sight to gather clues and make decisions.

Web of Life - During this activity, we learned a little bit about how plants and animals depend on each other and their environment.

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 in a Nature Hike Scavenger Hunt.

Recreational Activities

Alphabet Hike - At the beginning of this hike, we were each given a card 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. We had two rotations at this activity.

Solo Hike – The hike was with the group but at the midpoint of the hike we had solo time. 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.

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 (Kate's Mom)
Ms. Gina (Charlotte's Mom)
Ms. Candace (Owen's Mom)
Ms. Haven (Haven's Mom)
Mr. Zach (Bryant's Dad)
Mr. Ben (Trevor's Dad)
Mr. Anthony (Landon's Dad)
Mr. Brian (Chloe's Dad)
Mr. John (John's Dad)

We have library on Friday. Be sure to bring back your library books!

Monday, August 28, 2017


Charlotte broke her wrist last Friday falling off of the monkey bars. Today we got to see her x-rays and sign her cast. Her stuffed unicorn got a cast, too. It was fascinating!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Ms. Wendy

We are so lucky to have Ms. Wendy as the Educational Assistant in our classroom. She is new to Renaissance this year and is fitting in perfectly. She is with us most of the day with only an hour and a half out of the room for her lunch and to supervise another grade level's lunch and recess. Ms. Wendy helps us with so many things: tending to sick children, passing out band-aids, listening to stories, helping to solve problems that need to be solved, teaching reading, writing and math skills to small groups and individual students and so much more. We all really appreciate her help.

Arts and PE Class
We will have Art next week.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Mathematical Thinking

We are learning to share our ways of looking at mathematical situations and ways of solving mathematical problems with each other. We are noticing that most of the time there is more than one way to solve a problem or look at a situation. When we listen to each other explain how we figured something out we learn new ways to think about things. This helps us to be mathematically flexible which helps us not "get stuck" when working on math problems. Below are some photos of one way that we look at a mathematical situation - seeing dots on dot cards - in different ways.

We do a short (5 minute) daily activity that involves looking at dot cards. I flash a dot card picture (as seen below) to the crew for a few seconds. After I cover the picture, I ask the crew what they saw. They then tell me how many dots they saw and how they saw it. We have several students share how they saw the dots. Here are a few examples:

One student saw this as the same configuration of dots on a domino. She knew that this was 8 because this is how 8 appears on a domino.

Another student saw this as a row of 3, a row of 2 and another row of 3. He said that 3 + 3 + 2 = 8.

Another student saw the 6 dots on the sides like they are arranged on a 6 domino. She then added the two dots in the middle to get 8.

The next student saw the 3 + 2 + 3 =8 pattern but she saw it in columns instead of rows.

Another student remembered that we had previously seen a 9 dot arrangement on a previous day and noticed that this was the 9 dot pattern with one dot missing in the middle so it had to be 8.

Why do we do this? I explained to the crew that it is similar to reading - we can "sound out" every word we read but that would not be efficient. We need to have a bank of words that we just know so reading can move along quickly. This is true in math, too. We need to have strategies to deal with numbers so we don't have to count every dot to know how many dots there are in a pattern. We become more efficient using numbers.

This activity also helps us be able to break numbers apart into chunks that are easier to work with in our head. This makes us more flexible when adding and subtracting numbers. We will eventually begin to move on from dot cards and to visualizing numbers and basic addition and subtraction facts. Having the dot patterns in our minds can help us make that transition.

One other reason to do this short, daily activity is that it stimulates our creativity. We begin to look at things in more than one way. This helps us be open to finding more than one solution to our problems.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Getting Ready for Voyage

We have been preparing to go on our Fall Voyage next week. Our first activity was to get into our patrol groups and decided on a group name for each patrol. Ask your child what their patrol is called.

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 we are going to arrange a time to teach it to Mr. G's crew. A few random photos of this are below - it was a little too busy during many of these activities to stop and take pictures.

Tomorrow we will try 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.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


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 numbers and letters, especially lowercase letters.

Below are some photos of our beginning of the year writing samples. I didn't include the "translations" but you might enjoy a few of the stories even without the "translations".

Monday, August 21, 2017


We are beginning to think about why we read and all of the different ways we can read. My goal is to show the crew just how much fun reading stories can be. They are already very eager to listen to stories, look at books and read. We have been exploring some of the books in our room - both print and digital. We sometimes read books on our iPads or computers. Ask your child to tell you about his or her favorite book or favorite way to read.

Important Dates
8/16 The Beat 9:15 am
8/29 - 8/30 Fall Voyage for First Grade
8/31 Day of Rest for First Grade
8/31/17 Book orders due
9/4 No School - Labor Day
10/2 - 10/13 Fall Break
10/16 No School - Teacher Work Day
10/18 Crew Photos and Re-Take Photos
11/6 Vision and Hearing Screening
11/7 No School - Professional Development for Teachers
11/22 - 11/24 Thanksgiving Break