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Tuesday, October 31, 2017


Happy Halloween! Thanks to Ms. Sarah, Ms. Gina, Mr. Ben, Ms. Brandi, Ms. Kelly, Ms. Oahn (and more) for organizing and running such a fun Halloween breakfast and party.  Thanks to everyone who donated items to the party for us. We all had a lot of fun! A few photos are below - I couldn't choose just one of each child so I used these. Visit our crew photo album to see many more - of the children. Please feel free to add any photos that you took this morning, too.

John's dad, Mr. John, came in this afternoon and talked to us about being a firefight. We loved seeing all of his gear! Be sure to ask your child all about it. Thank you, Mr. John. Having you here this afternoon was a perfect way to end our day!

We really had a great day! Yes, even me! Thank you all!

Monday, October 30, 2017

What is an Expedition?

I have to confess that this is a challenging topic to write about because it is so big and difficult to explain. I have been learning about Expeditionary Learning for 10 years and I am still learning new things. But here goes...

First, I would recommend checking out these two resources:

Renaissance's Website Page about Expeditionary Learning - This is a wonderful and short explanation of Expeditionary Learning - not one of my long rambling explanations. By the way, if you don't use the school's website very often, I suggest that you check it out. I use the A to Z tab all the time to find things all the time. Our web designers did a great job.

Design Principles - Core Values of Expeditionary Learning - This short list will tell you all about the things that I love about Expeditionary Learning. I get inspired every time I reread this list. Please be sure to check it out.

So now that you have a bit of background information about Expeditions, I will try to explain Expeditions in first grade. Our first Expedition is primarily based on Social Studies standards. It aligns with the state standards for first grade but includes much more. We are trying to answer these questions:

· What is a family?
· How is my family the same and different from others in the classroom?
· How are families the same and different in the past and present?
· How are families the same and different in other places in the world?

While we are answering these questions, we will try to take a deeper look at diversity in the world. A regular first grade unit on this topic might talk about holidays around the world and touch lightly on one holiday and how it is experienced in 5 or 6 countries. In Expeditionary Learning we choose one topic (in this case a country) to study deeply and develop an understanding of how people are similar and different around the world. We will talk about other cultures as they come up but our deeper focus will be on China and how families there are similar and different from us.

So if you were to come into our classroom during our "Expedition" time, it might feel like a regular social studies class but if you listen to our discussions you will see/feel the difference. We talk about taking the perspective of other people, we talk about the words same and different and try to see that those words can have judgement added to their meaning if we aren't careful, we will talk about skin color, languages, writing, communication styles, social justice and understanding.

At the end of our study of families in China we will have 2 fieldwork experiences where the crew will get to put some of their new learning into action. We will go to Chinese Cultural School where we will have sessions on Cooking (making our own dumplings for lunch), The Art of Papercutting, Calligraphy/Chinese Character Writing, and Chinese Dance and Kung Fu - all taught by teachers from mainland China. The other experience will be to visit Pacific Ocean Market, an Asian market, and King's Land restaurant for an authentic dim sum lunch. While visiting both of these places the crew will be practicing their new learning about how to interact with others respectfully, how to experience and enjoy another culture, how to be patient when communicating with other people with different languages and accents and much more.

So while it can look similar and be similar to regular teaching practices, it goes much deeper and includes much more. I hope that you will see the difference as we move through the study.

You will definitely see the difference as your child moves up the grades at our school. As the kids get older and can handle more academic content, the Expeditions become more complex and they are phenomenal. Ours is very good but I am always so impressed with the Expeditions at the upper grades because they can read, write and discuss topics at such deep levels. You will be, too.

Important Dates
10/31 Halloween Parade and Breakfast ~ 9:00 am  Families can gather in the amphitheater out back to view the parade. Each child in the school will walk across the stage and share their costume.
11/6 Vision and Hearing Screening
11/7 No School ~ Conferences
11/8 Conferences in the afternoon
11/21 Thanksgiving Feast in the Cafeteria - all families are invited to attend. Our lunch time is 10:50 am.
11/22 - 11/24 Thanksgiving Break

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Learning Challenge

If you get this post by email, you will need to click through to go directly to the blog to view this video about learning or click here. It is worth your time.
The Learning Challenge with James Nottingham from Challenging Learning on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Bedtime Math

A great website/app for you to use at home with your child is Bedtime Math. This site tells a short story each day and then follows it up with three levels of math problems for wee ones, little kids and big kids. The idea is to read the story as a bedtime story and then think about the math problems that go along with the story - a great way to do a little reading and a little math each day. Click on the picture to visit the site. Bedtime Math is available as a website, app and books. Douglas County Public Library has some of the books in their collection.


The article below explains some research that shows how doing the Bedtime Math stories really helps kids, however, I just think the stories are interesting so that makes it a fun way to talk about math.

Where The Wild Fractions Are: The Power of a Bedtime (Math) Story

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


I imagine that some of you might have some questions about spelling after visiting our classroom this week. First I would ask that you read these two articles that do a really nice job of explaining how we teach spelling.

Why is my Kid Allowed to Make Spelling Mistakes?

Teacher to Teacher: Helping Children Become Better Spellers - What Parents Can Do

Spelling is taught in many different ways throughout our school day. Students do use invented or temporary spelling for words that they haven't learned yet when they are writing. We have a laminated word card that each child has on their desk or work space that they use to look up commonly used words in order to check their spelling. We also have a word work lesson 3 or 4 times a week where we talk about how words work and various spelling rules and strategies. Then during our reading groups we work on learning to read and write sight words that appear in the books that we are reading. Sight words are those words that you should know on "sight" and not have to "sound out". We also have several Exploration Stations that do word work activities and finally Ms. Wendy and some of our parent volunteers work with students one on one or in small groups on learning to read and write sight words. You will see a sight word booklet in your child's chair pocket. Ms. Wendy uses this booklet to track what words each child is working on with her or a parent volunteer and the students can use this booklet during writing time to help them spell their sight words correctly. You can ask your child to bring their sight word booklet home at any time to see what words they are currently working on - just be sure to help them remember to return it to school the next day so they can refer to it. If you still have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Every Child is a Writer

This video is a very nice explanation of the early writing process. It might answer any questions that have come up for you this week during student-led conferences. It is only 3 minutes long.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Gallery Walk

We started our new case study for our We Are Family Expedition. We will now be taking a deeper look at families in another culture (along with continuing to learn about the families in our own crew). Because we have so many great resources in the Denver Metro area that go along with our study, we chose to take a close look at families in China. We will compare how those families live to how we live to find similarities and differences. It will be very interesting! We began our study with a Gallery Walk and took a look at some artifacts from China to immerse us in the culture and generate lots of questions and a "need to know". There were so many interesting items to see. Check out the photos below.

Mr. G entertained the crews with stories and songs while the other adults set up and took down the gallery.