Sunday, October 30, 2011

Excitement's Brewing!

 Happy New Week, and almost Happy New Month!  It's time to learn some new songs and poems.  Tuesday we'll start them, so ask your child about it. 

And Happy Halloween to those who celebrate!  I hope this weekend was safe and fun.  Here are some images from the decorations for our party.  The kids really did a great job and our room is ready for the fun...

Do you see the detail in all of these?  This is because the students have already embraced the element of making multiple tries and asking peers for feedback.  Bridget and Kaylie worked on their skeletons for days.  The two girls used an anatomy book we have of the human skeleton to research what our bones really look like.  They came a long way from their first guess at a skeletal shape.  We have so many bones and these students did some hard work to show fine details like the fingers and joint connections.  Deep work!  (As always you can click on the image to get a larger view!)

This line of inquiry lead the students to discuss skeletons in general. A few friends were surprised to realize that the skeleton images are really what's inside us all... The class thought up some homework for themselves:

What animals have skeletons?  
Which ones don't?  
Please bring in answers from your research to share with the group!!!

 This week we have been thinking about different ways to collect information.  This has lead us to look at what information is shown in each type of graphic organizer.

How do you organize your ideas? 
Have you shared your strategies with your child? 
Here are two from last week:

A new strategy came up while friends were writing stories.  Friends are thinking of words that they know they will be using often in their story and are looking them up first, then writing them on a little cheat sheet for reference.  This has inspired others to think more about common themes in their stories, which helps them in general!

This week's Cross Class Connection with the 8th graders was fun.  Lisa, the 8th grade teacher, made up an activity for us to get to know each other more.  Each time she showed a category on the projector, the two classes broke into four or five groups.  Then all the kids talked about why they picked that particular group.  The energy was high and full of excitement!

Much of this week's work was about the games and around the party theme.  Many character descriptions have been started as well as stories.  I will share more of this as it comes.  The games have brought up many interesting discussion about what makes a game fun and also fair.  Tomorrow we will take our two games for a test run.  What kinks will need to be fixed?  This is part of the fun of creating our own games, seeing if we have made it engaging enough and if all the rules and instructions make sense.  Stay tuned!!!

I cannot wait until tomorrow's party.   I put the finishing touches on my costume tonight and am eager to see what characters the students come as. Thanks to all the parents who are helping out!  (Also, notice the great penmanship and inventive spelling done by the sign-up committee members!)

 I will post party photos soon!

Have a lovely night!  Thankfully, Jennifer

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Preparing For Our First Class Party!

Hello First Grade Families!

How are you?  I am well.  I began knitting a scarf for my mum this weekend with some cotton/linen yarn that is lovely.  That makes me happy!  I hope you were able to do something that makes you happy this weekend, too.

This week we were busy planning for our up coming Character Party.  As we do with many things, we had a great discussion about Halloween and what about this was important to the class.  They decided that the most interesting part for them, lately, was the costumes and becoming a different persona.  We are tying this in with the interest in storytelling and how we have been trying to flesh out characters to make them more interesting.

Friends are encouraged to come up with the name for their character and write a short description about what makes them unique. They often like to read these descriptions to the class.  (See above) Already we have seen friends adding more details as the class continues to give feedback for each character.  We plan to create a character wall where you can find different personae to choose from when writing a new story.  It will be like a smorgasbord of possibilities for storytelling. 

Tomorrow we will finish up the sign ups for the party which will take place on Monday October 31st; All are welcome!  The morning celebration will include a non-scary and scary storytelling area, both with stories that the students have written as well as library books that families can bring in for us.  There will be a face painting station, a game station where students can play the two board games that they have created from scratch and also a snack station- of course!  All of this will be while we are wearing our fun costumes from home.

Stay tuned to see how you can help out and join in!  The students are hard at work at getting everything ready.  Here is a list of how each student is helping to prepare:

Decoration Committee: Natanya, Rainli, Bridget, Silas, Avery, Kaylie, Milayna, Tennacee
Sign-up Committee:  Peyton, Solomon, Niko, Joey, Levi, Ocean
Games Committee: Henry, Abdullah, Greer, Paz, Aidan, Ben, Jayden, Parker
Face Painting Book Committee: Addison and Jenna

The committee concept has been a great lesson in communication, creating and keeping agreements and compromise.  Each group had to come up with themes or agreements to follow and also to multitask so that the work is all getting done efficiently.  These types of discussions are helping the students to realize the importance of clarifying questions and of raising above the back and forth type disagreements that won't support them to move forward as a group.  There is so much to be learned and so much fun to be had in all the preparation and follow-through!

Here are two snapshots from a discussion we had this week.  We are always sharpening the skill of brainstorming and of constructive critique.  Here two students shared the beginnings of their stories and the class gave them suggestions.  This got many friends' creative taste buds salivating!  These friends were really excited about the possibilities in writing our own stories.

Natanya explained her story was about Ocean and Natanya and a ghost. Her story begins, "One spooky night in the forest..." After Natanya explained the beginning concepts of her story,  some of the questions and comments that came up:
Avery: You could say how big the forest is.
Jennifer: So she could describe the setting a bit more?
Avery: Yeah.
Jayden: Maybe the ghost is going to scare them.
Solomon: Maybe you could say what the ghost's name is.
Natanya: My ghost's name is Spooky.
Henry: What color is the ghost?
Ocean: You could tell if the ghost is afraid of the characters.
Natanya: I think we should be scared 'cuz the ghost is really mean.
Jayden: Maybe there's two ghosts that like each other and they both scare... the people.
Aiden: They could be inside the people.
Henry: Could the ghost go through the wall?

Next we heard from Peyton.

(A pumpkin was asleep until boys came.  The evil pumpkin woke up.  then the pumpkin did an evil laugh.)

After Peyton shared what she had written so far, the friends commented:
Joey: What's the boys' names?
Bridget: Maybe, how old is the pumpkin?
Jayden: What's the evil pumpkin's name?
Henry:  What evil powers does he have?
Solomon: Does the pumpkin have arms and legs?
Addison: Is the pumpkin actually nice, but like, a part of a scary half scarecrow?
Henry: Can it go on fire?
Jenna: What do the boys do to the pumpkin?
Parker: Do the boys carve the pumpkin?
Paz: Does the pumpkin patch owner know what's happening?
Jennifer: Do we know that that's the setting?
Solomon: Does the pumpkin loose a tooth?
Parker: Is the pumpkin a mom or a dad?

What amazing questions!  I am often bowled over by the astuteness and creativity of this group!  I know that these type of brainstorm sessions are great for the writer, but also for all of us.  These students are bringing up elements that are essential to a story, such as plot, setting, a problem to be solved and character motivation.  It is also interesting to see how the student's life and the things that are important to a First Grader influence their ideas and questions.  For example, THREE times this week a student had a tooth fall out during a class discussion!

I hope you have enjoyed reading this and reliving this memory with your child.  I want to thank all you families who took time to bring your child for their Student Lead Conference.  It was so nice to see them show the confidence to speak about their work and to think about things they could still get good at.  It was a lovely week for me.  I feel lucky to know all of you and to be able to share in your child's learning.

I wish you a nice night!  Love, Jennifer

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Flow Between Home Ideas and School Ideas!

Hello Families!

How are you?  I am well.  The ideas flowing in and through our classroom are exciting.  The way kids have been bringing in work done at home is how homework should be: Home Excitement!  These kids can't wait to share and discuss what they did at home.  Awesome.

This week we received a middle name spelling, a story, a poem and a costume character description.  So cool!  Bridget brought in her description of her horse character named Rosey which inspired a discussion about what types of information to share when describing them to set up a story.  Here were some ideas brainstormed today:

It is great for friends to wear costumes any day of the year.  (As long as they are comfortable and have extra clothes just in case they want to change if necessary)  We have been taking this to a new level with these character descriptions.  Bridget's example today got many others excited about coming up with their own character names and telling us the specific info that makes that character unique.  I can't wait to see how each of their creativity comes out!

Last week we also spun the globe to find a spot to investigate.  Joey's finger landed on Russia.  If your child is interested, they might ask others what they know about this country.  When investigating we are asking questions to gain more knowledge and understanding.  Here are some examples of thing to look into:
What are special things about their culture there?  
What is the geography of this land?  
What language do they speak in this country?
What special foods do people eat?

Peyton's family has a giant nesting doll from Russia which she is writing about.  She is using an atlas to look up more.  Sometimes it is fun to check out books on topics of interest.  If you child did, we'd love for you to bring them in!

We have also been thinking about key words a lot and how they can help us with many things.  We did an activity on Monday where the friends were given a story starter and then they got into groups and came up with a possible next part to this story. Here is the story started we used:
"My dog jumped up and started barking..."

We used the concept of key words to help remind us of the story line. 
I wonder, can your child tell you the stories again using these key word lists as reminders?

This work required compromise and collaboration skills which we are always trying to sharpen.  The children reflected on this experience and added to our list about what works when teamwork is needed (you can find this on the wall by the sink in our classroom). 

We have been using key words also for our journaling experiences.  Today's topic was fish.  The students brainstormed words they might want the spelling of before their work.  This brainstorm of key words also helped others think of what they'd like to write about.  As we put the words on the list, the students explained how they are relevant to the topic.  This is something we are thinking about a lot in much of our writing:  keeping things relevant and clear.

If you notice the first item, name, this is for the fact that we are trying to think about a name for our class baby fish.  If you have ideas to share, please write them on the paper at the fish's table!

And finally, we are getting ready for a holiday the students are excited about.  With everything we try to make it meaningful, relevant and personal to the students in our class.  Holidays are no different.  In this case the students talked about what it means to them.  They didn't know too much about the history, but agreed they'd like to have some fun around this holiday.  Some of the important elements they wanted to include were costumes, characters and being scary.

Planning involves a great deal of fabulous learning experiences, so the students formed groups that are going to get all the things we need done.  One group will be writing sign ups for things we'd like to ask the parents for, help, food and books to read (scary and non scary).   We will have this fun on Halloween day.  All three day students are welcome to join us and also parents too!  I am certain the students are going to do a great job coordinating the whole thing so that we all may have lots of fun together.  Stay tuned for more info on this as they finish this up this week.

I am looking forward to our conferences that start tomorrow!  Have a great night, Jennifer

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Do you ever feel Tinglish?

Hello First Grade families!  This week was really nice. 
We got into some new concepts and new experiences.

This month we have been singing "My favourite Things" (from the sound of music).  We have been taking a ling at a time and discussing it.  Here are some of the students' thoughts on the line, "Snowflakes that stay on my noes and eyelashes".

Avery: Maybe she likes it when they stay there on her noes and eyelashes 'cuz it makes her look pretty.
Henry: Or maybe she likes the snowflakes on her eyelashes or noes to cool herself down.
Ocean: Maybe snowflakes, when she was closing her eyes, it gave her a chill and it went straight into her skin and makes her feel tinglish.  (This is her word that crosses ticklish and tingly)
Jennifer: Why would that be one of her favourite things?
Greer: She likes cooling off.
Jayden: I think she likes it 'cuz it makes her cold and feel good.
Bridget: Maybe the coldness makes her feel good 'cuz it's freezing and it feels good.
Henry: And it tickles her and she likes when it tickles her.

Since not all of us have had this feeling in our lives, this was an especially great explanation.  Have you ever felt snowflakes on your noes and eyelashes?  How would you describe that feeling?  Would you make up your own word too?

We also  began our Cross Class Connection with the 8th grade.  All classes are connected to another class on campus to have an opportunity to share their work, to read together and to be in a mentorship type roll.  The first grader's excitement level felt high when we did a getting to know you activity with the eight graders! 
(Photos to come!)

This week lots of home extention ideas came up.  Here are a few:

Asking the spelling of your personal nickname (this is often a family choice)
Asking the story of when you were born
Measuring how tall you are, in inches or in feet
Asking your family why you choose to celebrate Halloween
Writing your own poem
Write your own reflective journal entry on your weekend adventures
Write your own story
Solve a math problem from a previous blog entry and show how you got your answer

I hope these ideas have been fun.  It is lovely to see the student's excitement when they share work they have brought in from home.  It has been inspiring others to do this as well.  I hope it is fun for you as parents to see their passion.

I am in between computers right now am needing to transfer info from my hard drive to this next computer, so bear with me...  I will post again soon.

I cannot wait to meet you this week for our STUDENT LEAD CONFERENCES!!!  I love the time with you to look at your child's great ideas and plan for the coming year.  I will see you all soon!

Have a lovely week!  Love, Jennifer

Monday, October 10, 2011

Asking our own questions to find Solutions!

Hello Families!

How are you?

After the last post, the friends had the time they needed to think up solutions for the social problems that they would like to see fixed.  It was gratifying for them to have so many solutions brought to the table.  Many are about self awareness, or being active in speaking up and about getting signs made to clarify agreements.  What problem solvers we have!

I have enjoyed watching the children connect with their curriculum ideas in new ways this week.  The kids are interested in so many things.

For the math challenge, some of the children began writing their own word problems.  This has gone along with much of our other work in that the children are trying to make these as clear as possible.  For instance in Avery's, he initially explained that the cars are out of time.  When others read this with him we realized that this wasn't clear.  He added a carrot to help others understand his concept better. 

With this work you can also see the children's attention to detail in their writing skills.  The children have been trying to make their work as readable as possible.  So much of our daily work overlaps with writing.  This makes clarity very important.

The water exploration has lead to some interesting discussions.  This week Ben worked further on his inquiry about this image:

His drawing and sentences are beginning to show what he wants to understand. (Sorry I can't get it to be horizontal, but if you click on the image it will be bigger at least!)

In our revisiting meeting today we had a discussion in which the students identified many forces that could be involved in what is shown in the above image.  Here is a clip of the discussion:

Ben read part of his composition: The force goes down.  How does the dirt grab the water?
Paz: I think the water grabs the dirt.
Peyton: It seems like the water is pushing the dirt down.
Solomon: Water makes paper crumble, so it makes the dirt crumble.
Avery: The water takes some of the dirt away every time it hits the road.
Here friends talked about the water flowing to the ocean, taking the dirt with it.
Solomon: Maybe it dissolves.
Jennifer: Like sugar dissolves in water?
This brought up some other ideas because most friends didn't think the dirt would totally dissolve into water, that it would be like mud and you could see that the water has the dirt still in it. 

We left the discussion with more friends who wanted to investigate the forces involved in water flow and erosion.  That is the goal of this type of discussion, too!  To get more students interested after seeing what others are thinking and theorizing about.  Stay tuned!!!

A fun way to think about the parts of sentences and to use up small portions of time between other things in our schedule has been a simple sentence game.  I write up a simple sentence and the kids come up with adjectives to add description and to give the reader more information.  Of course the kids' humor comes into play, too!

Then, at the end we played with verb options, too.  This fun practice for anytime!

I hope this helps you get a glimpse of the many ideas that the children are investigating right now.  They are so inquisitive and that is lovely to see alive in them.  They are also becoming so great at working together and solving problems.  We revisited the issues from the last post and many were ready to share their ideas readily after taking the time to think for themselves.  They came up with many possibilities in a small amount of time.  This felt very productive and made me feel lucky to be able to witness their fabulousness!

Our first park date was only with two families, but it was very nice.  Thank you to Henry and Ocean's family for coming out to connect and enjoy the day together!

I hope you enjoyed your weekend!  Love, Jennifer