Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tinkering with Science

What do you find on the earths surface? Over the last couple of weeks our class has answered this question with rocks, soil, sand, clay and water. After discussing each of these elements we decided to create a tinkering project. Using clay, sand, soil, rocks and water the students created their own semi-biomes. With the help of a few of our fifth grade students our class worked in groups creating their own images of the earth surface. Imagination and creativity abounded.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Our Fall Festival

What an exciting time of year! Our pumpkins turned into a Down on the Farm (our favorite class book) display in the lobby as our children entered the building all week. We have Shawn's family to thank for donating the pumpkins!

The children were just so excited on Friday! They burst into the classroom in costumes of their favorite book characters. They loved the parade with its high fiving all of the upperclassmen lining both sides of the hall and then the walk through the Dining Room as the families snapped pictures! Then it was back to the room for Fall Centers. We couldn't have done it without Dahza's grandma, Autumn and Catherine's moms and Taylor's dad helping out. After lunch it was back to the room to cut the pumpkin that Soma's family had donated. We had a contest to see who could cut a length of yarn that was the same length as the circumference of the pumpkin. We'll be counting the seeds that were in the pumpkin on Monday and comparing them to our estimations! Next we used our pattern blocks to decide which shapes should be used for the eyes, nose and mouth of our jack-o-lantern. We used triangles for the eyes, a rhombus for the nose and then a trapezoid with rhombus fangs for the mouth! It was a spooky delight! After going to Media we decorated the photos that the children brought home.
Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Customize a free slideshow

Many of our families returned for the night adventures. The Ruark and Timmons' families gave out candy in front of our door for the trick-or-treaters and then joined the families for all the fun outside. We can't thank the families enough who agreed to donate their time to man our booth. Autumn's mom worked so hard that Autumn missed all of the trick-or-treating! We can't thank her enough for organizing all of of our families. Hope you all enjoyed the rest of your weekend!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

We Skyped the Fox!

What an unbelievable Friday we had! We started our Mem Fox celebration day by Skyping a first grade teacher in Australia, Amanda Marrinan! What an experience! It was actually 1:00 am in Australia, but the Aussie teacher stayed up to answer our questions. Each of our eight first grade classes had prepared a question to ask that included everything from her knowledge of the Crocodile Hunter and the Australian Zoo to her first hand knowledge of meeting Mem Fox and studying her books. She had even prepared some of the foods in her kitchen such as pavlova and lamington and had brought some Australian treats such as minties and tim tams for us to see! How often do children get to actually speak with someone from so far away? It was a GREAT moment!

After our Skyping experience, Mrs. Ruark introduced the first grade to Sam Shannon. Sam is a student at the University of North Florida. He was a student at Chets Creek and his mom, Kristin Shannon, is a fifth grade teacher. The Shannons actually lived in Australia when Sam was in first grade. He played an authentic didgeridoo which is an Australian aboriginal wind instrument. The instrument he brought to play and show the children had beautiful hand burned Australian animals and pictures. The children were fascinated by the sound!

Then it was back to the classroom for some Mem Fox Readers' Theatre! The children have been practicing all week and had a part in Koala Lou, Hattie and the Fox, or Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge, all books we have studied by Mem Fox. The children also tasted our American version of pavlova, a food mentioned in Possum Magic. Make sure to ask your child how they liked it! We even read some books by Mem that were new to us. Then it was on to making a crafty kangaroo and naming and writing all of the Australian animals that we have learned on the back of the kangaroo. You may be familiar with a kangaroo and a koala bear that live down under but how about a bandicoot, possum, wombat, or emu? We even learned about all of the poisonous snakes that live in the Outback!

We finished the day with a review of all the books, characters and Australian facts that we have learned in the last four weeks by playing our own first grade version of Mem Fox Bingo! Mem is a fascinating author, from the pattern books that she has written to the beautiful stories that she has written. We were able to visit her web site and even found videos of her reading many of the books with her Australian accent. Make sure to ask your child which book was their favorite!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Confessions of a Struggling Reader

There are many things we do as a class throughout the day but the most satisfying to me is skills block. This is where the students get their backbone in reading. We work on decoding, word attack, automaticity, encoding among many others. I guess this is so important to me because when I was growing up I struggled terribly as a reader. It took me forever to sound out words which slowed my fluency which also kept me from comprehending accurately. I would slouch in my seat praying that the teacher would not call on me to read aloud. My friends were so much further ahead of me in reading that I would never be in the same classes because I would have to go for remedial help. I felt stupid plain and simple. It wasn’t until my seventh grade year that my parents finally found a reading program at the State University of New York at Stony Brook that saved my educational life. They taught me how to hear myself when I read and to listen to the sounds of the words. I remember recording my voice on a tape recorder as I read through my Social Studies homework. I would play it over and over again.

Unfortunately reading was not my only shortfall when it came to book smarts. I also had trouble with math. No matter how hard I tried it just didn’t make sense. Over the years I learned to compensate and actually became very successful in business. I worked hard for what I accomplished but nothing ever came easy. As the years passed I eventually became a mom to an amazing little girl. I remember thinking to myself when she was born “Please don’t let her struggle when she gets to school.” At the beginning of her third grade year she began to struggle severely with reading and math. We had her tested and she was diagnosed with severe Dyslexia. I broke down in tears thinking that I failed my daughter. That due to hereditary reasons she was guilty by gene association. Not long after her diagnosis I sat down on the couch with her one night and read the book Thank you, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco. This book is about a little girl who was ridiculed and picked on and felt stupid because she struggled in reading until a special teacher came along that taught her that she really wasn’t stupid. He taught her that she simply learned differently than most people. As I read the book to my daughter I began to cry. My daughter said “mom, why are you crying?” I said “because this little girl was me growing up.” She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said “you do understand.”

Skills block is my favorite time of the day because I am doing everything I can to keep my students from feeling the way I did growing up. I am bound and determined to do all I can to make my class ravenous readers through and through. Not everyone learns the same way. What a boring world this would be if we did.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Beginning/ Middle/ End

As we have been studying Mem Fox' books in our class, the children have begun to practice writing retellings of the books. After watching the teacher model a retelling of Koala Lou, the children then divided into partners and chose a different Mem Fox book to retell. They divided their papers into three sections. Before you know it, they had an entire retelling!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Comparing and Contrasting Books by Mem

Comparing and contrasting books is a good way for our children to begin to understand books across a single author. Today we demonstrated the way that Koala Lou and Possum Magic, both books by Mem Fox, are alike and the ways that they are different by using a Venn diagram. Next the students were divided into partners and allowed to select two other Mem Fox books to compare and contrast using their own Venn diagrams. What great work!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Swattin' Those Flies

There's nothing more fun than playing a game while we practice a skill. Welcome to the fly swatter game! This competition requires us to divide the class into two team, write high-frequency words on the board, call one word at a time and seeing who can swat the word first! Boys won today, but it's girls revenge tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sliding Through Science

What do we find on the earth’s surface? Well today the T&R’s explored the grounds of Chets Creek Elementary to find the answers. Our class has been discussing soil, sand, clay, rocks and water over the last few days. Today we got an up close and personal look at a few of these things. The students created slides by cutting out the centers of index cards and placing packing tape over the hole to make a microscope slide. We visited the garden that was recently planted where we found an abundance of topsoil. The students trampled the baseball field that is full of red clay and we took samples from the playground sand, as well as, from the gravel behind the school. After our outside adventure the students came back into their classroom science lab and looked closely at each sample. Through the use of magnifying glasses they wrote down what they observed in their science journals. As the students compared and contrasted the room filled with scientific thought and conversation. Bill Nye would be so proud!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Our Trip to the Corn Maze!

We had a great time at the farm! We went through a corn maze, went on a hayride and saw sunflowers and pumpkins, has lunch at a picnic table, bounced on the popper, played on the playground that had the coolest corn box and slide and even saw farm animals! We were exhausted coming home but what a day! What a day!

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
This free digital slideshow personalized with Smilebox

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How Many Am I Hiding?

As you can tell by now math games are a huge part of R&T's math workshop. These games are designed to engage the students in making sense of mathematical ideas. Today we played How Many Am I Hiding? This game teaches children how to break numbers apart. In this game, the students have to figure out what part of a number is hidden or missing. After breaking down into groups of two the students worked on combinations of 10. This is a difficult concept for the students to understand because they have to keep track of the total number of cubes, the number visible, and the number that is hidden.

As difficult as it is to grasp all of these strategies at once the class stayed focused. There is nothing better than learning and having fun at the same time. That's what it's all about!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge

Today we read the delightful story of Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by our favorite author Mem . who Wilfrid lived beside an old folk's home and helped Miss Nancy get her memory back. It is a delightful story that we will be revisiting for the next few days. On Wednesday Mrs. Ruark will bring a item from home that evokes a memory and will write her story for the children. On Thursday Mrs. Timmons will bring an item (make sure to ask your child what item they each brought to school!) On Thursday your child is invited to bring an item that reminds him of a favorite memory and then he will be invited to write the story of that memory. If you would like to hear the story or share it with your child, go to this web site and find the book. Maybe you have a memory item that you would like to share with your child!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Heads and Tails

Today we welcomed Mrs. Rebecca Roberts to our class. She is Chets Creek's newest teacher and will be joining our class for the afternoons for Math Workshop. Mrs. Roberts comes with experience in first grade and has recently moved to Jacksonville with her husband. We were so lucky to find her! Today she helped us while we played a game called "Heads and Tails." Each child was given 8 pennies. One of the partners dropped the pennies and then the other recorded how many heads and how many tails. As the children worked with the pennies they were really finding combinations of 8! We had a great time!