Monthly Archives: January 2013


Our students are getting more and more acquainted with our ipads.  We have been studying the word: they.  And yesterday, we talked about how the word the is a chunk in the word they.  The kids brainstormed other words that have the word the hiding inside of them.   We shared our words with the class and emailed their words to me and here is a snap shot of a few of the different words the kids found:

Mind Up!

This week, we reviewed what we had learned about being a mindful listener and then introduced being a mindful see-er.  When we are mindful with our seeing, we are taking in all the details around us.  We talked about how it is important to be mindful of what expressions you see on people’s faces.

We talked a lot about what facial expressions show which feelings.  And then we talked about how we can be mindful see-ers and if we see someone who has an expression on their face that shows they are not feeling happy or good, then we can check in with them and see if there is anything we can do to help their feelings improve.

Math Update!

This week we practiced adding ones numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9), tens numbers (10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90) or both a ones and tens number together. Our first graders worked hard to notice which numbers they were working with so they could accurately represent each equation. In order to prove our work, we used ten sticks and circles to help us find the missing total.


Way to go first graders!!!

Math Workshop!

We took some time off from our science and social studies curriculum this past week to get our math workshop up and running!!!

Our math workshop is a time in our classroom that we are very excited about. Since some of our students travel to different classrooms for our math switch, our math workshop time allows us to check in with our students, hold math groups, teach new math games and review important skills. It is organized in a structure that is very similar to our reading workshop. Our students have the option of choosing from 3 choices: math by myself, math with someone, or math work. Each of these tasks provides the kids with opportunities to strengthen and deepen their understanding of our math concepts.

Before break we learned a handful of games and activities for each of these choices. Our plan now is to spend 2 days a week working in our math workshop. The additional 3 days will be spent working with our science or social studies concepts.

We will continue to keep you updated on new games that our students are introduced to during this math workshop time and if there is any additional practice or support that your can provide your child at home. Please e-mail if you have any questions or concerns about this opportunity.

Reading Update!

This week, we talked about how good readers read and think at the same time.  Sometimes when we are reading, we notice something from the story that reminds us of an event in our life.  We call this making text-to-self connections.  Good readers use these connections to better understand a story.  We introduced making connections with the book Koala Lou.  Koala Lou tries to get her overly busy mom to remember to tell her that she loves her by winning a race.  The kids had such great connections to the feeling of how happy it makes them when their mom tells them that she loves them.  They also connected to feeling sad when they lose a race or when their mom is too busy to talk with them. We practiced making connections to Little Critter books (I Was So Mad & Just A Mess). Afterward, we looked over the connections to see if they helped us to understand the book better.  We’ve learned that the best connections are the ones that connect to the big idea (heart) of a story/page.

Writing Update!

This week, we continued to work on writing persuasive letters.  The kids have loved sending the letters on their way and hearing the responses that come back!  Some of the students have been successful in persuading their audience and some have not, but I think they are equally motivated by both.  To make our letters the most persuasive they can be, the kids have learned to add the following to their letters:


An OPINION of something to be changed/fixed

REASONS why it should be changed/fixed

A possible SOLUTION to the problem

and a CLOSING with their SIGNATURE

Some example letters from the students:

(yes, I did agree to let the kids bring in a VERY small pillow to sit on if they need to cushion their very sore first grade backs (see letter below from Nicholas).  We’ll see how long it lasts!)

Mind Up!

You might hear your student talking about our MIND UP time during the day.  Mind Up is a curriculum that helps teach students about their brains and how their brains work in order to help them be more proactive in how they approach learning and social interactions.

Before we start our morning and afternoon curriculum, we take some time get our brains ready to be learners.  In the morning, we start with a brain exercise to wake our brains up and some deep breathing to calm ourselves down.  We call it our morning mind up.

In the afternoon, we take some time to learn something new about how our brain works.  So far, we have learned some key areas of the brain.  You may have heard your first grader talking about these three key parts of the brain: Prefrontal Cortex, Amygdala, and Hippocampus.  The prefrontal cortex is what we call our WISE LEADER, it is where our smart thinking happens (math, reading, etc.).  Our Hippocampus is where our memories are stored, we called is our MEMORY SAVER.  And the amygdala is the part of our brain the helps us stay safe when we are in danger, we call it our SECURITY GUARD.

We have talked through different scenarios with the kids about when each part of the brain might be working.  We talk about how when they hear a startling noise, it is the amygdala that is working quickly to keep them safe.  BUT, we also talked about how their amygdala is quick to make decisions that might not be necessarily appropriate in all situations.  For instance, if they are on the playground and a friend comes by and bumps into them unexpectedly, their amygdala might tell them to push that person away to keep themselves from harm.  But, in reality, pushing the other person isn’t the best way to handle that situation.  We have talked about how our prefrontal cortex is better at handling these situations but in order for the messages to get sent from the amygdala to the prefrontal cortex, the kids need to give their brains a few moments before reacting to the situation.  We talked about how taking a deep breath will help them to give the different parts of their brain time to communicate before reacting.  We will continue to help support the students in learning ways to handle situations like this.

We have also talked about how we need to be mindful learners.  When we are mindful of others, we are aware of our surroundings and others around us.  We talked about what mindful and unmindful behavior looks like for us:

Unmindful: Leaving your shoes in the middle of the living room

Mindful: Putting your shoes where they belong, out of the way

We also talked about mindful behavior at school and how everyone at school has to be mindful of everyone here, even teachers, custodians, and the principal.  We have been practicing strengthening our mindful listening by using good eye contact and ignoring other sounds.

Writing Update!

Since returning from Christmas break, we have started a new unit in writing.  We are digging into our opinion/persuasive letter writing unit.  The first few days, we spent a significant amount of time reading stories that had persuasive letters written in them.  They were so fun to read and the kids really got hooked on the humor that some of the authors used in their letters.  We read Click Clack Moo, Cows that Type, as well as I Wanna Iguana and I Wanna New Room.

After the kids had a chance to experience what an opinion letter sounds like, we started writing some of our own.  The first letters revolved around things the students wanted (a pet, game, a new seat, etc.).  Later we went on a trip around our school to see if we could come up with ideas of things in the school that we might want to fix or make better.  The kids jotted notes in their Tiny Topic Notebooks to remember ideas they had on our trip.  These notebooks may have made their way to your house as well.  Just as there are things we might want to change at school, there are things at home we might want to change too.  So, if your child’s notebook makes an appearance at your house, see if you can help your child brainstorm an idea or two that they might want to change or fix and then send that notebook right back to school!

We will spend the next week or two learning about what good writers add to their opinion letters in order to be the most persuasive.  So far we have learned that letters contain a greeting with the person’s name to whom you are writing, you state your opinion about something that you want changed, you give a really good reason why that change should happen, and you end with a closing and your name.  Once we have had a chance to draft, revise, and edit some letters, we will send a batch on their way to the appropriate people.  I hope that you will enjoy receiving these persuasive letters.  I have already had so much fun reading them.  Students have written to their parents trying to persuade them to agree to a later bedtime, to ask for a toy, and to lobby for a different snack!  We hope you will treasure each one of the letters your child writes to you and we hope you write back (no pressure to give in to their demands, all responses are part of the learning process)!