Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Right Placement is Important!

Hello First Grade Families!

This Monday we started off with a weird morning message.  I asked the students to read the message and then silently raise their hands while they are thinking to share their thoughts or comments.

Soon the hands went up.  The friends were confused, it sounded like I was saying that Explorations would happen in the afternoon, but that's not right!  We realized little things, for instance, depending on the punctuation placement, I could be saying, "How are you?" or, "How are you today?"  The friends soon began suggesting punctuation that would help clarify and make this easier to read.  The date in particular is an instance where the correct pause is important.  Here were two suggestions that didn't seem quite right:

And here's our final edit:

Monday morning was our Exploration Classes.  The students felt especially proud of their ability to stay with their work with Amy and their guest teachers!  Monday afternoon we used the time to continue exploring measurement.  We spent some time comparing our different tools and their relationships to each other.  
How many inches is a foot?
How many feet is a yard?
What abbreviations are used for each of these?

After we reminded ourselves of important information we measured the two snake skins!  This has been something exciting for the students.  Ever since Doug, Silas's dad, came and told us his snake was about to shed, we've been waiting to be able to see how long it is.  

Did you notice the problem the students had in the second to last image? (You can click on it to make it larger!) We realized that placement isn't just important with punctuation, but when using measuring tools.  The kids found it helps to be precise in where you put these down. Next, we had to do the math to figure the answers because of the choice of tools that the students made.  And now we know!  Thank you to Silas's family for bringing this in to stimulate our interest and give us such a cool opportunity for learning!

Next we were off to measure more items.  Please come in to class to check out their findings!  Have a great week!  Love, Jennifer

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Analysis and Ideas Shared

Hello First Grade Families!

This week has been full of lots of exciting momentum of thinking.  We have been brainstorming about our animal project and thinking about what elements we want to research and how to share this information when we are done.  The students were excited to let the brainstorm lead them to many ideas.  At first we began with two questions:

What would work would we do in our Animal Project?
How would we share the information we collect?

The students talked mainly about ways to research and drawing as a form of documentation.  The ways to share our info at the end ranged from a show, a book, info cards... The friends had ideas of selling the information, but then I asked what we'd do with the money.  One idea was to use it for field trips.  I asked how the money could help animals.  This lead us to brainstorm some more:

What animals might need our help?
What causes animals to become extinct or almost extinct?

Please stop into our class to check out the students ideas and stay tuned!  Next week we will come to some agreements and begin this new work.

Another idea that is growing and is connected to a lot of the work we've been involved in (water, journaling, animals) is the creation of diagrams.  I collected many examples on the internet of diagrams that show information.  The students became empowered by looking at these examples and noticing the different ways info is shared.  The students have been creating their own diagrams to explain information they want to explain.  Below you see some of their first tries showing new information.  As we continue to study other diagrams, the students will add more elements to make the information as clear and organized as possible!

 Explaining the movement of waves at the beach
 Showing how water comes from the wall to the faucet
 Showing a lake's reflection
  Explaining a frozen waterfall's parts
How the Water Treatment Plant Works
The list we wrote from our analysis discussions today.

Homework keeps coming in!  Friends have written stories and songs to share as well as taking many measurements around their house.  When friends have shared their measurements they are finding a few important factors.  We realized that it is very important to know if the measurement is feet or inches, when we look at the difference, they see how much this is!  They also realize that it is important to explain what measurement they are referring to.  Jayden explained that his couch was 28 inches high.  We looked at this amount and many thought that was a short couch.  Then Jaden explained that he meant that this measurement was the height of the arm of the couch.  This helped everyone better understand things.  

And today was Abdullah's last day before he moved to Stockton.  We had a lovely goodbye circle and some brownie treats that Abdullah's family brought.  We wish them all the best!  I hope you have a nice night!  

Love, Jennifer

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Our Week Full of Feelings

Hello First Grade Famililes!

This week will be a little hard for me, personally, and for the class too.  We will be saying goodbye to two dear friends, Paz and Abdullah.  Each family is making a hard, but important decision, for one because of a long commute and for another to move to Northern California to be close to their extended family.  I wish these two beautiful families all the best.  

I wanted to share this here because I know each boy is connected to many of your students.  Your child may be experiencing some feelings of loss or sadness, so I hope knowing this can help you make this week special, taking the time for necessary discussions about how we process saying goodbye to a good friend.  Here are some photos we took together today to make a memory of the friendship we share!

Last week was full of many special moments of learning shared in our presentations.  I send out appreciations to each of you family members for sharing the experience with us and for showing such support.  It was lovely to hear parents commenting on other student's presentation and work.  This community support is what we are hoping to foster and keep growing.

Our journal experiences have been so beautiful lately.  The students have been writing much more and trying to incorporate more info in their diagrams that correlate with their questions or info.  The students are able to do all of this in less time now.  Each week's journal entries show their growth.  I hope you can take the time this week to look through your child's journal together.  

Today we had over half the class sharing one or two spelling word that they had memorized!  The enthusiasm here is genuine.  The students seem to be inspiring each other.  And it is also amazing to ask what experience made them chose the words they are memorizing, as well as to find out each student's memorization strategy.  I hope you are getting to share in the students' excitement about learning new words.

Here is a little glimpse of something we have been trying to fully understand.  Today we met for a moment before we took our time to practice equations to address a subtraction issue that has been coming up lately.  I asked every student to hold up five fingers.  Next I asked them to stay silent while everyone takes time to figure out my next challenge and to raise their hand if they have a question or comment after what I would say next and give time for all students to think.  Then I asked the students to take seven away from the five fingers.  

Many hands began to go up.  Some friends took some time to think this out. Next, we began to share our thoughts.  One friend asked how this could work.  A second friend said you cannot do this.  Another friend told the group that the answer would be zero, then showed taking down the five fingers.  This is the big question I hoped to bring to light!  Does this make sense?  5-7=0?   Other students shared that you couldn't take seven fingers out of the five you had.    Jenna used the word, "Impossible".  At this time in the student's mathematical understanding, we are not going into negative numbers, but are staying with concrete representation that they can understand right now.  This discussion helped more students begin to realize that when subtracting, we need a larger number as the beginning quantity.    We will continue to practice this so that our brains begin to have a fluid understanding of these symbols: + and - and be able to use them with ease when problems arise.

I want to get this published so you can know about our goodbye feelings today.  I will share more soon.  

Have a great night, Jennifer