Sunday, September 28, 2008

Standard-Based Bulletin Boards- Math Choice Time

One of the powerful components of our school are the Standard-Based Bulletin Boards. As teachers we compose a new board each month. We try to highlight a piece of our work from our room. We encourage teachers, parents and even students to read about our work. When you came to open house our first board was up and ready to read. Our board was about Math Choice Time.

You will notice that the math standards are always listed on the board. We also post the task to explain what the students were asked to accomplish. We try to include four pieces of student work with commentary explaining each child's work.

Math Choice Time is an integral part of our Math Workshop. During Choice Time all of the games we have taught during our work period are available for the students to play again. Sometimes we as teachers choose the first game each student plays if we need to check for mastery of a skill, and sometimes the students get to choose the first game. Math Choice time allows us to circulate around the room, ask questions and take students to the next level of understanding. We incorporate Math Choice Time into our schedule as least twice a week.

One activity the students had the opportunity to complete was Color the Border. They were able to choose two or three colors to complete the border in a pattern they made up.

Another activity was Staircases. The students had to copy the pattern of cube towers and then extend the pattern one step. Then work their way back down.

The third activity was called 12 Chips. The students were given 12 chips that were red on one side and yellow on the other. They were able to make any pattern using the chips then transfer that pattern onto the paper by coloring the circles.

The last activity was Break the Train. The students were given a completed pattern tower(train). They first had to copy the tower, then break it into pieces by units(cars).

If you did not get a chance during Open House to read the board, we would like to invite you to come at anytime to see it. It will stay up until the middle of October.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Progress Reports

Tomorrow you will receive your child's first progress report. For some of you it may be your first progress report you have seen since you were in school. When looking at your child's report, please realize your child does not understand what that form means. This information is for adults. That does not mean you can't make a plan with your child on what they will work on from the list. However, they have no understanding of grades.
If your child does not know most of the letter names the first place to start is to pick 5 letters to start with. Usually we recommend the letters in their name. If you choose to use flashcards make sure they do not have a picture on them. Also have the upper and lowercase letters on separate cards. If they need to learn most of the letters and you try to teach them all at once they will become overwhelmed. As you teach the letter names also teach the letter sounds. For the vowels, teach the short sound at this time.
The same idea works for the numbers. If they have most of the numbers from 1-30 to learn start with 1-10, then 11-20, and finally 21-30. They need to recognize the numbers and also be able to count objects that match the number. They should also work on putting the numbers in order.
If your child does not have satisfactory behavior you need to make a plan now to help your child improve their behavior. There should be consequences both positive and negative depending their daily choices.
Next week we will begin to set up conferences with anyone who would like one. Please keep an eye out for the form that will go home next week.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Chet Goes to Boston

This past weekend, I had a chance to travel with Mrs. Ellis to Boston. We left on Saturday. Boy, I'm not sure about the take off and landing's in a plane. It makes me close my eyes. It was a little scary. But I was a big bear and I did just fine. Once we landed we took a taxi to our hotel. Our hotel was the Omni Parker House. It is one of the most famous hotels in Boston. They are famous for creating the Boston Creme Pie. Yummy!
When you walk outside of the hotel, across the street is the place where the first public school was located. Ben Franklin, Samuel Adams and John Adams were all students who attended the school. The school is no longer there, now there is a church in that spot.
I also saw Paul Revere's house. This is a picture of me and Mrs. Ellis outside his home.

I tried looking in the Boston Harbor to see if any tea was left from the Boston Tea Party. But I didn't see any.

Another great building I saw was the Meeting House where they read the Declaration of Independence for the first time in Boston. It was from the balcony in the picture.

I loved all of the great food. I had lobster, crab cakes, Boston Creme Pie, and clam chowder. I hope I can go back again soon. Two days in Boston is not enough time. Maybe next time I can go with another friend. :)Chet

Friday, September 19, 2008

Partner Reading

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Trip Trap Trip Trap "Who's Learning New Vocabulary?"

We are eating up words just like billy goats! The Three Billy Goats Gruff is the second STAR book that we are learning new vocabulary from. The boys and girls love this classic story about the Gruff billy goats and the mean, ugly troll. The new vocabulary words are meadow, gobble, villian, wise, hooves and creak. Ask your child if they can describe what these interesting words mean. During Writer's Workshop the students wrote retellings of the story. The children are excited to show off their writing at our Open House on Monday night. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Donors Choose

Donors Choose is a wonderful organization that helps teachers find funding for small class projects or needs. We currently have a project we are looking to be funded. We are wanting audio tapes of our Star Books to help with our vocabulary instruction. We are also requesting story props to help the students retell the stories. The great thing about Donors Choose is that anyone can contribute toward a project. It doesn't have to be one family, but a group. It is also tax deductible. Another great serice to the teachers is they do all the shopping and shipping. After a project is funded, they ship the items we filled out on a wish list. If anyone is interested in helping us, please see the link on the side of our blog for further information.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Number Sense

For the past few days we have been using both our individual numbers lines and our rekenrek. Using a number line at home is a great way for your children to learn how to recognize and order the numbers. They are simple to make. You can use paper, adding tape, masking tape, a chalkboard or even the dirt in the yard. In class the students first learn how to count each number and move their finger in the right direction touching the numbers. Next we practice hopping. We tell them to start at 0 and hop two hops, now where is your finger? Then hop 4 more hops, where is your finger? We also practice hopping backwards.

We also worked on making "mental images" using the rekenrek. The beads on the rekenrek were hidden from view. We pushed over four beads.

Then we flashed the beads to the class. They had to draw exactly what was shown. They did not have time to count the beads. They had to notice that all but one red bead was used or the could have noticed that 6 beads were left on the other side. They get one more chance to double check their image before counting them as a class. The images got more difficult as we worked. Below are a couple of student examples.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

So many visitors, so few comments

Calling all parents and others that read our post. We are so excited that we have had over 1000 visitors in one months time. But we are sad that we have had so few comments from you. Since we made this blog for our parents to learn, we would like to know if you have any questions so far with any post we have written. Do you not understand a term, or do you want more info on something else we are doing in our class. Just ask and we would like to deliver.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Picture is Worth Lots of Words

This week the students have learned their second reading strategy. Using picture clues is an important step for pre-emergent readers. The boys and girls now know to "Look at the Pictures" as they read. A common mistake that many adults make when they read with their child is to cover up the pictures. They seem to feel that they are not trying to read the words if they are stating what they see going on in pictures. When looking at the pictures is used in combination with pointing to the words, students are more likely to not only pay attention to the pictures but also to the words on the page. Picture books are strategically written for young readers as they naturally make connections between the pictures they see and the letter sounds that make up the words on the page.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Literacy Stations

Today was an exciting day in Reader's Workshop because the students went to Literacy Stations for the first time. In our classroom, Literacy Stations are really small libraries. We have a total of 6 in our room. They are Gene Library, Math Library, Series Library, Book of the Month Library, Science Library, and Author Library.

Each day each table will be assigned a library to visit. While in that library they choose a book and sit on the floor to read. They are not sharing books at this time. They are looking at pictures, practicing the reading strategies, looking for words they know and just enjoying the books.

They stay in their area for about 15 minutes at this time. As the year progresses the time will increase. Once the students have learned this new ritual and routine, Mrs. Cothern and I will begin to pull small groups or having reading conferences. Because we are both engaged in small groups with students it is very important that each child knows exactly what their expectations are for their Literacy Stations.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Vocabulary - Caps For Sale

Today we began looking at certain words from Caps For Sale which is one of our "Star Books". We picked out two words that the students may not understand. The first word was disturb then ordinary. The students learned that disturb means to mess up and ordinary means normal. After brainstorming different examples, the students had a chance to draw a picture of each word. They could choose any example they understood. In our room we have a picture of jugs of milk that have been spilled for the word disturb.
For ordinary there is a picture of a normal farm with red buildings. To help your child learn and understand these new words keep an eye and ear out for them in books you read, conversations you have, or signs you see around the community. The more the students use the word, the quicker they will learn the meaning.

Stay tuned for more vocabulary words.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Reading Strategy - Point to the Words

This week we introduced our first reading strategy, "Point to the Words". It sounds like this is an easy strategy to use, however, if your child is reading a book with many words on the page it makes it more difficult. The students know that for every word said, you point to one word. Nursery Rhymes or familiar texts that they have heard many times are great to use for practice. We have been using Humpty Dumpty. We would like for every student to practice this strategy at home. You can use their Book in a Bag if it is a book with few words on each page, or write a simple sentence on a piece of paper for them to practice. They probably will not be able to read the words, but as you say the word they can point.

What is a "Word Wall"?

The boys and girls have been learning to use our classroom "Word Wall". On the long wall in the back of our room we display the alphabet. Underneath each letter there is a place to chart words. During skills block we focus on one letter. We talk about the way the upper case and lower case letter looks and the sound that it makes. Together we make a list of words that begin with the sound and we add them to our chart on the word wall. The students are learning to use the word wall as a resource. If they do not know how to write the letter then they can refer to the wall for help. Later in the year we will display "High-Frequency Word Walls" and "Spelling Pattern Word Walls". Word Walls are an important tool in every standards-based classroom.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Home Support

How can you help support us at home? The most important thing you can do is look at the blue home-school connection folder each night. You will need to look inside on the left side for any papers that are going home. For example, tonight you should have seen our newsletter and an ordering form for t-shirts. You should also glance on the right side encase there is a note from us. Next, you will turn to the back to look at the calendar. Please make sure you initial the date box after you have seen it. It is important to show your child that you care how their day went. Say a quick "Good Job" if they have a stamp.

If your child earned a card pulled, you need to read about the offense and have a conversation with your child. If this was the first day they had a card pulled, I would just remind them to follow the class rules and do better the next day. If your child has had a few cards pulled, the conversation needs to be more serious. The student needs to realize that making bad choices of not listening or following directions is unacceptable. If they have had a few cards pulled it might be time to take away something they treasure (XBOX, favorite toy, TV watching, dessert). You will want to find something they really like. If they cry when you take it away, you have probably found the perfect item. Remember you want to encourage the behavior not to come back. You will find if you support the cards being pulled at home, then very quickly your child will realize how important school is and their behavior will improve. Right now we are excited because we do not have anyone in this position :)

Monday, September 1, 2008


It is time for the students to bring home their Book-in-a-Bag. The book will be in a Ziplock Bag with your child's name on it. Children will choose one book from a library of books in our classroom to take home each night. As part of their homework you and your child will be responsible for reading the book together each night. The boys and girls will be responsible for bringing the book-in-a-bag to class each day so that they may return it and choose a new one. It is very important for the children to practice the book-in-a-bag ritual each and every day. At this time most of the books will need to be read to your child. Eventually the book will be leveled to match your child's ability. The most important thing right now is for your child to get into the habit of reading the book, putting it back into the ziplock bag, bringing it to school the next day to choose a new one, and starting the routine all over again. We will introduce the Book-in-a-Bag to the students during Reader's Workshop on Tuesday. Please help us by talking to your child about this important routine that good readers practice. Happy Reading!!