Monthly Archives: March 2014

Writing Update!

This past week in Writer’s Workshop was filled with assessments! We spent the first part of our week reviewing the parts of a great small moment story.

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After our review, we had time to write our very best small moment story. We did it with no help, not even from our writing partner. I was very impressed with what these first grade writers know about good writing!

Later in the week, we were introduced to All About books. These are non-fiction books, all about a topic we know a lot about. After spending so much time reading non-fiction books, the first graders were very excited to try writing one of their own. Their first book will show me what they already know about All About books and how I can help them grow through our future lessons.

Math Update!

We continued to create graphs and make comparisons this week during our math switch time.  As our expertise grew so did our graphs.  Instead of comparing just two groups of objects most of our graphs now compare three categories of data, like the graph below:

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We are always trying to make comparisons between the data in each category (group) by finding the MAGIC NUMBER.  With three groups it’s a little harder to find the difference especially when comparing the top category of data with the bottom category of data.  If we use a pencil to cover up the extra information, finding the MAGIC NUMBER is a breeze.

The rest of our week was invested in solving comparison stories.  Our first graders learned a new strategy called: COMPARISON BARS.  Comparison bars are a visual tool for solving stories in which two amounts are being compared and the difference (magic number) is either known or unknown.  Check out the examples below:

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Please help your child use comparison bars on his or her homework pages this week.  Be sure to check their work.  This new strategy is still fragile and sometimes our first graders are unsure about where the known information should go.  (If the magic number (difference) is known.  This information always goes inside the circle.)  We will work at becoming experts at comparison stories this week, and we will wrap up Unit 6 with our assessment on Wednesday!

Social Studies Update!

We are learning about maps in Social Studies!  A lot of the kids had some great schema for maps.  They know… it is something that can help you if you get lost, something you use on a trip, something to help show you where you are, or to find a treasure!!  You may have seen a classroom map come home that was made from a “Bird’s Eye View.”  We talked about how when WE look at things, we see them one way- but when we look at a map, it looks different.  We pretended we were birds and could see right through the top of our classroom.  We discussed how things would look different from the top, we wouldn’t see the legs of chairs or tables, or the books on the shelves!  Since we are looking at the map from a different angle, we needed to make a key with our symbols so people would know what they were looking at!

We also read a book called, “Me On the Map” and learned about maps and globes.  We learned that there are symbols on maps and globes, too, to help us understand.  Where we see green, that is land, and where we see blue- we know that is water.  We know that each person has a special place on the map.    We then started studying our addresses!  We talked about all the different parts (name, street address, city, state, and zip code) and then gave the kids a chance to try writing it on their own.  We had three kiddos who knew their entire address already!!  We had those kids tell the class their address as I typed it into our Maps app and the kids got the biggest kick out of checking out where their friends lived and where their friends houses were in comparison to their friends and the school.  We’ll keep checking next week to see if any other classmates can remember all the parts of their addresses.

Practice your address at home…the trickiest parts are the numbers (house and zip code)!!

Social Studies Update!

This week we are starting our geography unit during our social studies time.  Check in with your first grader to see if he or she can say (or even write) your home address (including zip code).  I’ll be checking in with each student before break.  We will also have some fun map homework this week.  It’s completely optional.  Feel free to send it back to school whenever it’s convenient for you!

Math Update!

We began our Unit 6 in math this past week.  Our first grade mathematicians our now sorting, organizing, and comparing data.  What a blast!!

To start things off, we learned how to take random data and record it on a chart or graph.  Crossing out each object as we add it to our graph helps us to be accurate in our representation.

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After graphing the information, we were able to notice many things about the data we were studying.  Which group had the most?  Which group had the fewest?  How many in all?  And, we were also able to make comparisons – how many more orhow many fewer.  To compare our data, we drew matching pairs and then circled the magic number.

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The magic number represents the difference between the two groups being compared.  No matter if we are comparing how many more or how many fewer – the number is always the same (that’s why it’s magic!).

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When you are looking over your first grader’s homework be sure to check if he or she is circling the word that correctly matches the data.  Understanding when to circle more or fewer can be a little tricky especially if your first grader is reading the homework page on their own.  We always underline the group that is listed first, so we know which part of our graph to go back and study.

We can’t wait to learn more!

Reading Update!

This past week in reading, we talked about a few more strategies to use with tricky words.  We talked about how important it is for readers to check the endings of our tricky words to make sure they look right, sound right, and make sense.  When we tried all our strategies and still can’t find a good guess for a tricky word, then good readers mark those pages with a sticky note so that they can get some coaching on that word.  We worked together as a class this week to coach lots of readers with their tricky words.

Later in the week, we talked about how important it is to stop at confusing parts when they read.  So many time our readers are reading so fluently and they make small errors on words without noticing.  And then get further along on the page before they notice that something isn’t making sense.  When this happens, it is so important for our readers to stop and fix up the confusing part.  One of the ways to ensure that they are checking to make sure they understand all that is happening in their books is to use their CHECK FOR UNDERSTANDING CHECKMARK!  We practiced using our checkmarks after each page or two in our books to make sure that we aren’t confused about any parts.  If we were confused, we practiced going back and rereading to make sure that we are reading the words accurately.

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We had so much fun practicing with some of our higher level comprehension books that force the kids to figure out tricky vocabulary words and really infer beyond the text to understand the story.


We first read the book The Stranger (Chris Van Allsburg).  This story really puts the kids to the test to see if they can be careful to pay attention to all the small details that are on each page and put them all together to figure out who the stranger is.  We stopped on each page to check for understanding  about the WHO? and WHAT? and by the end, the kids were so proud of all the thinking they were doing to figure out who this stranger really was.


Then, we spent time reading the book The Sweetest Fig, by Chris VanAllsburg.  The kids shared so many questions and connections, it was easy to see the thinking they were doing in order to figure out what was happening in this story.  We had lots of vocabulary questions to figure out in this book.  One of the questions was, ‘What is a fig?‘  I made a stop by the grocery store and found out that figs are often in fresh supply during the winter months and always stocked in the dried fruit section.  I brought in some dried figs and the kids were enthralled with them.  We had many adventurous first graders who were willing to try one and most of the kids loved them.  I am pretty sure they taste like raisins, that’s what they looked like at least.  I didn’t try one (not quite as adventurous as they are).  In the story, when the characters ate the sweet figs, their dreams came true. So, if your child was adventurous and tried a fig on Friday, don’t forget to…

Ask your first grader if their dreams came true!!!

There were a lot of questions that we needed to look outside of the book to find our answers (the story takes place in Paris, so there were lots of references to French things that the kids needed support with).  They wondered what the word franc meant and by some weird coincidence I happened to have quite a few French francs in the room that we were able to pass around.  We also talked about the Eiffel Tower and Great Danes.  The kids had such a blast with these books.  You should check some out at home!!

We ended the week talking about fluency.  We noticed that when we read a book, the first time we read for accuracy and comprehension and the second time we can read for fluency.  Our first graders are focusing on three different fluency strategies: scooping up their words, using our storytelling voice, and paying attention to punctuation.  When the students use these strategies, they are able to comprehend the story so much better and they are able to read their stories aloud for others to understand better, as well.  Next week, we will focus on reading with fluency to share our stories with friends.

Fun thinking from this week…check out some of these tricky words!!

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Help Wanted: Book Hospital!

Our first graders have been reading and reading and reading this year!  It is a delight to see them so excited over books.  Even when I see a book start to fall apart, it brings a little bit of joy to my heart knowing that it happened because so many kids have read that book.

We have been collecting books that need repair all year and I have only had time to repair a handful.  I was wondering if there was anyone out there that would be interested in taping up some our books with loose or ripped pages.  Anytime of the day would work or we could send them home with you, too.  Either way, the kids and I would really appreciate it.  Some of their favorite books are in the ‘hospital basket’ awaiting some much needed love.

Math Update!

We solved many equations with two-digit numbers this past week!!!  Our go-to strategy was using ten sticks and circles (if needed) to represent each number and then counting them up.
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We learned how to use the partners of 100 to solve equations that totaled 100.  The partners of 100 are very similar to the partners of 10; however, we are working with tens instead of ones.  This strategy came in handy for solving some of our two-digit equations as well.

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We also used our understanding of the relationship between addition and subtraction to solve equations.  This strategy helped us to quickly find the missing partner in an addition equation once we solved the subtraction equation.

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We ended last week with the Unit 5 assessment!!  Our first graders did AMAZING!!!  Look for this test to make its way home in your child’s blue folder this week.

Writing Update!

In Writer’s Workshop we have been adding leads and endings to our stories.

Our leads are our way to hook our readers into our stories. We can use weather, time of day, and seasons to get the reader’s attention.

Example: “On a hot summer day at lunchtime, we went swimming in the pool.” 

Our endings wrap up our stories and signal to the reader that our story is finished. We noticed that authors we were reading added their big idea or  heart of the story (lesson we can learn) at the end. We worked on wrapping up our stories like our mentor authors by using sentence starters like I really like… or … is so much fun.

Kendra’s Example: “I am so thankful that I don’t have to share a room with my little sister.”

We then prepared to celebrate all that we have learned in this unit of writing.  This unit has focused on using real authors as mentors and learning what they did, that we can also do in our writing.

So, we picked our best story and then checked to make sure it had everything we had learned from our mentors: exciting lead, show, NOT tell, ellipses, the heart of our story in the end, etc.  Once we had revised our stories to make them even better, we edited them to make them easy to read.  We looked for: finger spaces, neat handwriting, capital letters, punctuation, and word wall words.

Then, in preparation for our celebration, we studied our authors again and noticed that they had added a cover with a title, a dedication page, and an all about the author page. And just like them, we tried it too!  If the stories don’t entertain you, the about the authors pages will!   Keeping with the theme of using other authors as our mentors, part of our celebration included adding book reviews to our friends’ stories. Check out some of the compliments they added to the back of their classmates stories!