Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Break from Hendersonville NC

I know it's only our third day into spring break but I told you guys I would keep you updated on what the Ruark clan is up to on Spring Break. We are at our cabin in Hendersonville, North Carolina. As you can see from the pictures we have had one good sunset. That picture was taken off the back porch of our cabin. As for the others...well we have been relaxing and sleeping a lot. It has been pretty cold up here. The temperatures have been in the 30's so we have had a fire every day. As you can see our pugs Kiska and Snuffles are the laziest dogs in the world. Kiska likes to sit on Mr. Ruark's lap as he does his 900 situps everyday. They love laying in front of the fire and napping with us.
Well, I have to go for now but stay tuned for more updates. See you all on April 4th. Enjoy your break!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Kevin Henkes Day Celebration!

The RTR's celebrated Kevin Henkes Day on Friday in style. We played Kevin Henkes bingo, made purple purses, ties and sunglasses, watched Owen, Chrysanthemum and A Weekend with Wendell while we ate cheesy snacks. The mice cookies we made with icing were simply scrumptious. We ended our day with readers theater as the children acted out the many books of Kevin Henkes. In the words of one student "This is the best day ever!"

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Shared Reading and Readers' Theatre

The children have been practicing individual parts in plays, called Readers' Theatre. They have also been practicing group parts, called shared reading. Shared reading is reading that is done chorally or together. Reading together helps support readers who are having difficulty and helps all children learn to read with more expression. Listen as the children practice this type of choral reading of a Kevin Henkes Readers' Theatre script!

Untitled from dayle timmons on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

In the Computer Lab

We scheduled an appointment in the computer lab this week. Although we have a system for each of the children to get on the computer each week, it often takes most of their computer time just for the students to log on. Duval County requires a rather long username and password to log in each student. Students have to be able to use the shift key and the delete key. They have to be able to recognize the differences between the number 1 and the letter l and the number 0 from the upper and lowercase letters Oo - not always so easy for young students! The good news is that if they can ever master the process, it will not change from year to year. The username and password will stay the same, so it is worth the time it takes to teach our youngest children the process. We have done several lessons on how to log on to the classroom computers but the children hear a lesson on Monday and it takes some children until Friday to get a turn and actually apply the lesson. You can imagine the problem! So... we scheduled time in the lab with our Instructional Technologist Melanie Holtsman. Melanie took the children through the process of signing on step-by-step and let them practice. This way the practice followed directly after the instruction. Each of our children should be able to log in to the computers in the classroom with very little difficulty. Can they log in at home? We hope so!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Readers' Theatre

This past week we have been practicing Readers' Theatre! Readers' Theatre is a lot like reading a play except the actors don't have to memorize their lines or move around on the stage. Instead they stand in a straight line and read their part from a script. The purpose of Readers' Theatre is to practice reading like you are talking. Students practice reading fluently with expression. On Friday the groups that had been practicing in small groups all week, presented their Kevin Henkes story to the group. Next week the children will be reading new Kevin Henkes stories in new Readers' Theatre groups!

Weekend With Wendell Sheila Rae, the Brave
Lilly's Big Day

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Apple Batter

Guess who came to do a read aloud in our class? Mrs. Phillips! As part of her "March Madness," Principal Phillips is reading in every single classroom this month! She is reading some of our previous books-of-the-month. Yesterday she came in and did a delightful reading of the book Apple Batter which was a 2001 Chets Creek Book-of-the-month! The book is the story of perseverance. As she read the story Mrs. Phillips asked the children questions that caused them to think deeply about the characters and the story line. Make sure to ask your child about this opportunity to spend time with one of the best storytellers in the building!

Mrs. Phillips' Reads to First Grade from Melanie Holtsman on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Puppet Project

Each year we ask families to work together to produce puppets of one of the Kevin Henkes books. The children have been deeply embedded in this author and his stories. The purpose of this project is to encourage the children to retell these beloved stories to their parents at home as they create ideas for the puppets. This year we tried to post some of the stories on this blog and to encourage the children to check out Kevin Henkes books from the Media Center so the books could be shared with families. It's hard to make puppets for a story you don't know! We even made puppets in class to show at least one way to make puppets easily. This year I even color copied the characters for each story and encouraged the children to take home the characters from their favorite story to give families of visual of the characters. Below is the evidence, of what we hope, was fun learning!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Zoo Celebration!

We had a wonderful time at the zoo today. The weather was perfect! We started at the Education Center and learned about life cycles, which was the perfect opening for our next Science unit. We learned that a corn snake is named for its markings like Indian corn. We learned that most snakes are helpful as they kill rats and mice. We even got to feel the snake and learned that it is smooth and not slimy. We saw a small owl that had been rescued after its wing was hurt and part of the wing had to be amputated. We learned that the owl was nocturnal but since living at the zoo he had adapted and mostly sleeps at night now. Both the snake and owl, along with butterflies and frogs all lay eggs. Then we got to feel the soft fur of a chinchilla and learned that it is a mammal and its babies are born live. We heard about animals that look like their parents and animals that don't. This is just the beginning of our new Science unit.

Before we knew it, it was time for a quick lunch and then a stroll through the zoo. We saw elephants and rhinos and even watched as the giraffes were fed. We saw baby giraffes and a zebra that was only a few weeks old, born on February 26. We caught one of the zoo helpers at the gorilla exhibit and were able to ask questions about the silver backs. We learned that gorillas cannot swim and that one had drowned at the zoo about eight years ago. We watched the monkeys and saw birds of all sorts. We didn't make it to the end of the zoo and Parker was very disappointed that we missed the kimono dragon at the far end, but that's just more to see on another day!

Sunday, March 6, 2011


I have been a teacher for over 30 years, 25 years in Florida, and I have never been as worried about the future of public school education as I am today! My own children have completed their time in our public schools and have both completed college. They had a strong public school education that well prepared them for the rigors of a post secondary education. But next year a new generation of my family will walk through the doors. My first grand daughter will enter Chets Creek as a Kindergartner. I am thrilled with the education that our children get at this A+ school, but I have to wonder how even more budget cuts will slash our ability to continue to provide the same quality education that has been our cornerstone. Will she continue to get Music, Art and PE? Will our school be able to squeeze out the dollars to provide character education and an outstanding bully prevention program? Will there be someone at the desk when she wants to check out a book from the Media Center? Will there be someone to read her beautiful stories and teach her to use the computer as she grows up in this technology-rich society. Will there be someone to warn her about social networks and teach her to infuse technology into every fiber of her learning? We our schools even be able to keep up with basic technology needs or will she have to learn from friends (both the good and the harmful) on the fly outside of school? If she is gifted or if she struggles with words and numbers, will there be a guidance counselor and special teachers to make sure that she learns to the best of her ability? Will her teachers continue to get quality professional development so that they can continue to learn and grow as new research becomes available? As I look at the cuts, all of this seems in jeopardy to me!

This is the time to step up and be counted - to advocate for those that have no voice of their own. We are asking you to use your voice to advocate for every child in our community. Now more than ever, our school system needs a funding source that they can count on. We cannot afford any more unfunded legislative mandates - things we are required to do but get no funds! We know that the State of Florida is facing an overwhelming budget shortfall; however, we need education to be funded FIRST so that we are investing in our future. If we really believe that our children are our future, then we need to make sure that our voice is heard. With just a few minutes of your time, you can ensure that our legislators know that public education is important. If you are unsure which of the legislators is a representative of your area, you can logon to There is a small box at the bottom right of the page that you can use by typing in your zip code to get a list of your respective legislators. Each call, letter or e-mail to our legislators counts! I have e-mailed my legislator. It's time for you to do the same. Our united effort will send a strong message throughout our community and our state and to our elected officials that we value public education. Take the time. Make a difference and let your child know that it is all of love of a very special child!