Friday, October 26, 2012

Fall Celebration Ideas

We start our fall celebration each year with a Literacy Parade.  Some children use their Halloween costumes and just find a book to match and others actually design a costume around a favorite book. As they arrive so full of excitement, we ooooh and ahhhh over the selections before we parade around the downstairs.
 We spend the rest of the day celebrating with fun activities that have a wee bit of academics.

We love "cooking" this year with our "Recipe for Success" theme so our first activity was making a ghost cookie.  The idea actually came from one of our mothers, that has her own cookie blog, that sent the teachers a few ghost cookies as a treat.  We simplified the cookie and the children loved this easy ghost - a Nutter Butter cookie covered with white icing and then two small chocolate chips for eyes and a larger one for the mouth.
When we did our Math Diagnostic earlier this year, we noticed that the students were really struggling with interpreting graphs so we took this opportunity to add some work with graphs. We looked for individually wrapped themed candies.  This year we found colored skulls and bones.  After each child graphed his candies and colored in his graph, we showcased different graphs, asking questions such as. How many more green bones than black skulls?  Which candies have equal amounts.  Make an equation using the red bones and green skulls.  Love that Math practice!

Also from our Math work, we put 10 candy corns and 10 candy pumpkins in a Ziploc for each child and then asked the children to make combinations of ten.  This is a play on our Math Investigations "peas and carrots" activity.  The children used these fun manipulatives to make the combinations and then shared their work in a typical math closing activity.
It seems like one of the things that often gets cut in our curriculum is art.  So... today we did our own version of pumpkin making.  Each pumpkin had its own personality!
After lunch we cut the traditional jack-o-lantern.  I am always amazed at the number of children who say they have never cut a jack-o-lantern. Every single child had a chance to stick a hand inside the pumpkin and pull out some "gunk".  Then we reviewed geometric shapes as we made a group decision on the shapes of the eyes, nose and mouth.  We lit the jack-o-lantern with a flashlight to shine tonight as the children came back to trick-or-treat during our annual school wide Fall Festival.  We saved the seeds to count and cook another day.
This year we also cut the top off one of the smaller pumpkins, cleaned it out, and replanted a few of the seeds inside the pumpkin.  The idea is to let the seeds sprout in the window and then replant the pumpkin (shell, soil and sprout) in a larger pot before the shell rots!  Will let you know how it goes.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Little Gardening

It was out to the garden today to plant radishes. I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity with our students. Each row is marked off  for interested first grade classes and the seeds are supplied. This is a massive effort for a school with over 1200 students! 

After our visit to the the garden the children came back to the room and wrote about their garden predictions.

Thank you Dr. Zenk and the entire Science Council for making this opportunity available!

Saturday, October 13, 2012


I think one of the most difficult things for a young first grader to do is to compare and contrast when they read - books, characters, themes, whatever.  So to begin teaching that skill, after we have talked deeply about characters, we have our students begin by comparing a character to themselves.  Who do they know better in the world than themselves?!

Although the new Common Core talks about changing directions and having children do less thinking about connections to their own lives and more thinking about the evidence that is actually stated or inferred in the story, very young children still need to think about what they know about stories before they begin and as they read. They do need to access their prior knowledge so that they can take that knowledge and put it with what the text says to form new opinions and interpretations.   They still need to think about times when the same thing happened to them so that they can understand the setting, the problem, the solution - so they can understand why a character does what she does.  That's not to say that our thinking and conversation don't need to be ratcheted up a level and that we then don't need to look for the direct evidence in the book to back up any claims we make.  We can't just talk off the text anymore.  The Common Core demands a much higher and deeper comprehension than we have expected from our youngest readers.

At least this is how my own thinking is going right now... as I grapple with these new expectations.  Below are some of the Venn diagrams that our students did as they were beginning to understand this very complex skill of comparing and contrasting.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Blend Project

After doing the Words Their Way assessment, we discovered that most of our students needed additional work on blends so we wrote a two week home project to assure that our students got some extra home practice working with blends.  Families were to look for four pictures for each of 16 blends.  They could use magazines or could google clip art.  To my surprise, all but one student completed the project (we did complete three of the projects at the MARC - our off-campus tutoring center - with second language students) and they were quite well done.  Some of the parents did complain about the work but when we gave the blends assessment, every single student scored 80% correct or above!  Rarely do we do a home project that is such an academic success.  We would certainly do this again!