Sunday, November 16, 2014

'RESEARCH and INQUIRY'-The New 'Show and Tell'



Our first grade classroom is learning how to set research goals, use various sources, organize information, and determine important points in order to enhance a presentation. One format we are using to help us learn these important skills is  Show and Tell  and the kids love it!

I chose one lesson in each of the first two units of Reading Wonders  that we've covered to this point as a springboard to their Show and Tell homework for the week. I've shared these homework assignments on the links below:

Unit 1 Week 5
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1Q0kOdRWQVDQXIwbTN6NXZNU1k/view?usp=sharing

Unit 2 Week 5
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1Q0kOdRWQVDanotaWZQOHFGRDQ/view?usp=sharing


The information and connections the children and their families came up with were fascinating. It's amazing to witness all the varied ways individuals can process the same topic!

We've created a Shared Research Board, a dynamic space on a wall of our classroom, where the insights, connections, research, knowledge and creative reflections of the children are displayed. The 'Essential Question' of the week is written at the top. Students are invited to add information as well as read the display as a workshop choice.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Workshop in the Differentiated Classroom


  2013-2014 FIRST GRADE HAPPENINGS 

Workshop has become a favorite time of day in my first grade classroom.
Here's a snapshot of some of the motivational activities the children enjoy.

















Saturday, December 28, 2013

January Blog Post




I count it a sincere privilege to teach the children of the fine families
 in Room 24 @ Brentwood Elementary School in Northern California. The loving support and encouragement you give your children is inspiring!

HAPPY NEW YEAR
from My Family to Yours
January, 2014



Saturday, August 24, 2013

It's Goal-Setting Conference Time at Brentwood School!

We're four weeks into the school year and ready for our Goal-Setting Conferences. The reason for these conferences is to establish an optimum learning environment for the children.

I'll be meeting individually with parent and child. We'll peruse first grade goals by looking over this year's expectations as stated on the report card and the California state benchmarks for first graders. Then we'll  review the beginning-of-the-year assessments to see what skills are in place and where we go from here. The wrap-up includes having parents, teachers, and students sign a compact for the first grade strategic plan during this school year.

I feel this is a very productive meeting-time because a reliable partnership of trust can be established between teacher and families. Parents and children have the opportunity to have their questions answered and their concerns addressed in a relaxed atmosphere.

We're fortunate to have these Goal-Setting Conferences at Brentwood School. It's time well-spent when it comes to preparing for a successful first grade year!


Saturday, November 17, 2012


~Family Time~



What Shall I Leave My Children?
The open sky, the brown earth, the leafy tree,
The golden sand, the blue water, the stars in courses
and the awareness of this.
Birdsong, butterflies, clouds and rainbows,
Sunlight, moonlight, firelight.
A hand reaching down for a small hand,
Impromptu praise, an unexpected kiss, a straight answer.
The glow of enthusiasm, and a sense of wonder,
Long days to be merry in and nights without fear.
The memory of a good home.
Anonymous



I always enjoy seeing and hearing about the family adventures, joys, and traditions that the Room 24 children and parents are establishing. The comfort and stability of the family is talked about by the first graders in my classroom on a daily basis. It reminds me of the precious times I cherish with my own family.



Every summer for the past 30-plus years my husband and I have spent a week of family time ~ hiking, fishing, deep-breath-resting, and relaxation in the mountain town of Graeagle in Plumas County, California. It started with just my husband and I...a few years later we brought our firstborn and three years later our youngest son joined us at 2 months of age! Throughout the years the grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, and cherished friends have joined in. Now our sons are continuing the tradition by introducing their lovely wives to our family retreat experience. Over the years I've come to realize that family traditions truly have the potential to inspire and comfort.


In her book, "The Joy of Family Traditions",Jennifer Trainer Thompson writes, 
"Family traditions do so much more than commemorate a milestone; they can serve as guideposts along the way, helping us to shape our daily lives and foster values—indeed, they can be an oasis in an increasingly hectic and busy world. Traditions can help us grow and flourish; they reflect and inspire the way we parent and how we honor the passage of time, achievement, and meaningful moments in our lives." 


~Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours~





Saturday, July 14, 2012

Ready~Set~Go!

It's 'Cornfest-time' in Brentwood, which means that school starts up just a couple weeks from now. Soon I'll be meeting my first grade class and their families ~I know it's going to be a great year! 

 It is my hope that the families in our school community will be pleased with the educational atmosphere and opportunities offered to the children on our campus as the 2012-2013 begins:

~Welcome to Brentwood School~

Brentwood Grammar School was established in 1879 and was located across the street from the Methodist Church on Second Street in historic downtown Brentwood. A photo of the original school can be viewed on the city's website @
http://www.ci.brentwood.ca.us/service/history/history2.cfm

The school moved down the street from it's original location to 929 Second Street in 1939. Many former students have vivid memories of that charming building with it's indoor corridors and old radiators that clanked down the halls each morning. The comforting warmth in those hallways reflected the calming tone heard in each classroom.

In 1987 my family moved to Brentwood and I started teaching at Brentwood School. The school was still located on Second Street at that time and the town was still small with just over 5,000 residents. There were four public schools in town: Brentwood School housed the primary grades from kindergarten to third, Garin School had the fourth through sixth graders, Edna Hill was the only 'junior high', and Liberty was the only high school at the time.

In 1997 population growth demanded relocation once again. The school moved to a brand new building about a mile away at 200 Griffith Lane. To this day, many fine Brentwood School traditions continue such as a stellar Parents' Club and caring teachers who foster a love for high-interest instruction accompanied by solid academic standards. What a privilege to teach at this community gem called 'Brentwood School'.





Saturday, February 4, 2012

Establishing a Solid Routine


I'm currently getting back into a workout routine and, wow, it's not easy! It's a daily struggle but once it's done I have the satisfaction of saying I accomplished my goal. From past experience I know that once this habit is established it will no longer be difficult. It will be a part of my daily routine. With a small amount of initial discipline, I'm learning I can create a new habit and make it stick. Here's some good advice I recently read about creating a new habit:

1. Commit to Thirty Days – Three to four weeks is all the time you need to make a habit automatic. If you can make it through the initial conditioning phase, it becomes much easier to sustain. A month is a solid block of time to commit to a change.
2. Make it Daily – Consistency is critical if you want to make a habit stick. If you want to start exercising, go to the gym every day for your first thirty days. Going a couple times a week will make it harder to form the habit. Activities you do once every few days are trickier to lock in as habits, so make it a daily activity.

This strategy also applies to developing the habit of proficient reading....consistency is critical! May I encourage you and your child to take the 30 day challenge in regards to reading habits? Make reading together a daily activity. At the end of the 30 day challenge, I'm sure you'll both be glad you did it! Your child will be on the road to being a proficient reader and you will have the satisfaction of bolstering your child's literacy efficiency. Keep up the good work, dear families!


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Happy New Year Trails to You!


As we enter 2012, my first grade students will be starting a language arts unit that fits the new year theme. It's called 'Journeys'. A journey is another word for trip, vacation, or excursion. It may be a hike, voyage, stroll, flight or car ride toward a destination. I'll be asking them, "What journey did you enjoy most in 2011? What made this journey special? Where did you travel to? Who did you go with?" To help them answer these questions, I'll ask them to please bring in an object for 'Show and Tell' that reminds them of 'Journeys'. Some suggestions include a drawing or a photo of a favorite destination, or an artifact from a place they've visited. ...or perhaps they will look to 2012 and beyond and tell the class about a place they hope to journey to in the future. Either way, it will be great to hear all about their journeys!

I fondly remember a song about enjoying the journey when I was growing up. It was the theme song of a television show starring Roy Rogers and his wife Dale Evans Rogers called 'Happy Trails'. She and her husband, Roy Rogers, would sing it while riding their horses off into the sunset. It went like this:

Happy trails to you,until we meet again.
Happy trails to you,keep smilin' until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we're together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you, 'till we meet again.
Some trails are happy ones,others are blue.
It's the way you ride the trail that counts,here's a happy one for you.'

Here are a couple more quotations about this theme by two twentieth century American authors. I think the kids in Room 24 will understand these quotes and the adults in their lives will appreciate them.

"The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” -Don Williams, Jr.

“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.”
-Greg Anderson

Happy New Year to my first grade students and their families!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thanksgiving Preview

Next week my Brentwood School first graders will study a bit of American history...the journey of The Pilgrims to America. We will spend the week learning about the Pilgrims' experiences, their ship~ The Mayflower, and the first Thanksgiving feast.


To prepare my lessons about the first Thanksgiving I looked up some interesting information about the Pilgrims' brave adventure which began in 1620 when The Mayflower left Plymouth, England with 102 passengers and about 30 crew members on board. During the 66-day voyage, the Pilgrims faced many storms, two deaths and one birth of a baby boy appropriately named 'Oceanus'.


The captain probably had his quarters, or living space, at the back of the ship, called the stern. This was the driest and most comfortable area on the ship.The common sailors, or regular workers, had their quarters at the front of the ship, or bow.


Most ships at that time were merchant ships. This means that they were made for carrying cargo, like barrels of food or clothing. The cargo was probably stored in the lower decks of the ship, in one big open storage area. There were no windows on the lower deck because windows might let in seawater, and then all the cargo would get wet.


So, where did the Pilgrims stay on The Mayflower? That's right, they all had to live in the dark, damp, cold cargo decks down below the crew's quarters. The passengers were 'the cargo'!


I hope my first graders enjoy our study of the first Thanksgiving and the voyage of The Mayflower! For detailed information in a kid-friendly format, check out this excellent website on the subject:
http://www.scholastic.com/scholastic_thanksgiving/voyage/






Sunday, July 31, 2011

~Welcome to Brentwood School~

Brentwood Grammar School was established in 1879 and was located across the street from the Methodist Church on Second Street in historic downtown Brentwood. A photo of the original school can be viewed on the city's website @
http://www.ci.brentwood.ca.us/service/history/history2.cfm

The school moved down the street from it's original location to 929 Second Street in 1939. Many former students have vivid memories of that charming building with it's indoor corridors and old radiators that clanked down the halls each morning. The comforting warmth in those hallways reflected the calming tone heard in each classroom.

When I first started teaching at Brentwood School, in 1987, the community was still small with just over 5,000 residents. There were four public schools in town: Brentwood School housed the primary grades from kindergarten to third, Garin School had the fourth through sixth graders, Edna Hill was the only 'junior high', and Liberty was the only high school at the time.

In 1997 population growth demanded relocation once again. The school moved to a brand new building about a mile away at 200 Griffith Lane. To this day, many fine Brentwood School traditions continue such as a stellar Parents' Club and caring teachers who foster a love for high-interest instruction accompanied by solid academic standards. What a privilege to teach at this community gem called 'Brentwood School'.





Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cooperative Story Sequels





Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad stories offer a prime opportunity for a first grade writing and art lesson. The following brilliant idea comes from fellow first grade teacher, Carmen Wood. The steps took about 4 to 5 days to complete.


STORYTIME
To start, I read the Frog and Toad stories all week during storytime. Although we've read and studied these stories throughout the year, my first graders never tire of these delightful tales. We noticed that the main characters of each story were always Frog and Toad. Any additional characters were animals i.e. 'Bird', 'Mouse', 'Snake'. Toad was usually the one with the problem and Frog always seemed to have a solution to resolve the problem.

BRAINSTORM
Next, the kids and I brainstormed other interesting plots for Frog and Toad stories. I wrote their ideas on the board and then I gave them time to talk about their favorite ideas with a partner.

STORY PLANNERS
After a generous time of sharing our ideas, I handed out a story planner.The children began filling out the individual sections which included~Characters, Setting, Problem, Solution, Beginning, Middle, and End.


QUOTATION MARKS LESSON
The next day I read another Arnold Lobel Frog and Toad story to the class and pointed out the use of quotation marks. Then I shuffled through their story planners and chose one to use as a model for a 'quotation marks lesson'. My class worked together to come up with fun dialogue that would fit in the story as I wrote their ideas on the board. I passed out their story planners and asked them to try using quotation marks in their story. (They came up with the beginnings of some amazing dialogue!)
QWT
Each child was given blank writing paper and a 2x2 stick-note next to their story planners. Then I set the timer for 5 minutes and gave the students "Quiet Writing Time". I wrote words and phrases on the stick notes if spelling help was needed or a little help to jumpstart an idea. When the 5 minute timer rang, all of the kids begged for more time to write! So I set it again for 5 more minutes. This happened 4 times!

TEACHER EDIT
That night I went home and read over their story planners and their quick-writes and began typing out their ideas. I took the liberty to insert correct spelling, punctuation, grammar, and descriptive vocabulary to enhance their original story ideas before printing them in 24 font landscape mode. The next day I made 2 copies of each story~ one to read aloud to the class and one placed in front of each student author. Their reactions were priceless!

WATERCOLOR ILLUSTRATION
I passed out copies of the original Frog and Toad paperback books for drawing ideas and placed a trimmed 8 1/2 x 11 white construction paper in front of each child. Then they began drawing pencil pictures to illustrate their stories. When finished, the kids used a fine tip black marker to trace over their illustrations. Finally, the children carefully painted their detailed pen and ink drawings with watercolors. By the end of the week I had framed all of the stories and matching illustrations on 11 x 18 black construction paper and hung them up for all to read and admire!

Presenting the 2011, Room 24 Frog and Toad COOPERATIVE STORY SEQUELS :

One day Frog and Toad found Jaguar crying by a stream in the jungle.
“Why are you so sad Jaguar?”, said Frog.
“I’m lost and I don’t know my way home!” whispered Jaguar.
Frog got out his map and Toad held his hand and led him down the jungle path.
Then Frog said,“We will help you. Don’t worry.”

By Dillon


One day Frog and Toad decided to visit Lego-land with their friends Dog, Cheetah, Lion, Bear and Snake.They ran and played tag through winding pathways of tall Lego towers. It was fun! Then Toad decided to sit down and rest.
“Toad, Toad! Where are you?” cried Frog. Toad did not answer. “Are you OK?” said Frog. Toad did not answer.
“Hey Dog, Cheetah, Lion, Bear, and Snake please help me find Toad! yelled Frog. Then the friends searched for Toad. They found him resting.
“Come on Toad! Come play with us!”
“Oh..OK”, said Toad. And he did.

By Nick



Frog and Toad went to Las Vegas to visit Bear.
“Bear, I think you bite way too much”, said Toad.
Bear started to cry.
“Bear, I will train you not to bite”, said Frog.
“I would like that!” said Bear.
“I would like that too!” said Toad.

By Derek



One day the four friends: Frog, Toad, Hamster, and Guinea Pig went to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Here they saw a lake. But Hamster had a problem. He thought the water in the lake was hot lava.
“Oh no! What am I to do? I can’t get cross!” he said.
“Don’t worry, Frog and Toad and I will save you” said Guinea Pig. “Just put on this magic blindfold, and step into our magic boat. We will take you to the other side.” Hamster did what Guinea Pig said and he safely went to the other side.

By Julia

Frog and Toad went to Hollywood to visit Cheetah.
“Want to go to Lego-land?” said Cheetah. They ran very fast around Lego-land. Toad felt bad because he couldn’t run fast.
“Help me. I’m feeling sick”, said Toad.
“We will go back to your house Toad”, said Cheetah.
“We’re your friends and we want you to feel better”,said Frog.
“Thank you!” said Toad.
When they were going back to Toad’s house, Frog tripped.
“Let me help you Frog. I want you to feel better”, said Cheetah.
“Thank you!” said Frog.

By Ben



One day Frog, Toad, and Dolphin went to a forest. After they got there, Wolf snuck up on them.
“I will breathe fire on you!” said Wolf.
Just in time, Dolphin jumped in the water.
“I will rescue you guys!” said Dolphin. He started shooting water at the fire-breathing wolf. Afterwards Dolphin,Frog,and Toad had a picnic. They had P,B, and J with a pitcher full of lemonade. Frog, Toad and Dolphin lived happily ever after. The next day they promised to never, ever go to the forest again.

By Jessica


This is the story of Frog, Toad, and Pony. Where it took place was at Disneyland.
“Where’s Toad?” said Pony.
“He must be in Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. He sleeps way too much!” said Frog.
Frog thought and thought and then he came up with a plan.
“I will give Toad an alarm clock to help him wake up early. And I will sing him a lullaby to help him go to bed on time.”
So every night at 8:00 p.m. Frog sang Toad a lullaby and read him a story so he wouldn’t be grumpy in the morning. Every night Frog set Toad’s alarm for 6:00 a.m. the next day. It worked! Toad was never, ever, ever tired in the morning ever, ever, ever so tired again.

By Devyn


One day Frog,Toad and Duck were out riding in a boat on the river. Duck was the captain of the boat.
“This is so much fun Captain Duck!” said Toad. “Oops!” Toad said, as he fell right into the water.
“No problem.I will help you Toad!” said Frog. Captain Duck steered the boat close to Toad and they both pulled him out of the water.
“That was a close call.” said Toad. “Thank you!”

By Abby





One day three friends, Toad, Frog, and Guinea Pig went to Jed’s house to play.
Toad said, “I bet I can go faster than you!”
So they started running as fast as they could. But Toad started to complain, “You are running too fast! I’m jealous!” Frog and Guinea Pig kept running until they reached Jed’s house.
“Even though you aren’t first, you still did well. Keep practicing and you will get better”,said Frog.
“Good idea!” said Toad.

By Jed




Once upon a time Frog and Toad flew in a jet to Africa. Their friend Fox came too.
“Let’s go see if Leopard and Dog are home”,said Frog.
“But what if they aren’t home?” said Toad.
“If they aren’t home, then we won’t see them”, said Frog.
“You are right!”, said Toad.

By Melanie


Frog and Toad went to visit Lion in the far away jungle. It was scary walking on the jungle path.
“Hey, I think we are lost! Help!!”,said Toad.
Frog said, “OK, I will help you by giving you this map Toad.”
Frog and Toad figured out the map together and they found their way to Lion’s hut in the village.

By Blake



One day two friends named Frog and Toad went to Lego-land. They had fun climbing all over the legos.
He heard, “Help! Help!” Toad was screaming because he was sinking in the Legos.
“I will rescue you Toad”,said Frog. He searched for the arm of his jacket and pulled and pulled.
“I’m rescued!’,said Toad happily.

By Griffin



Once upon a time there were two friends named Frog and Toad. They were very good friends.
They like to swim together. When Mother’s Day came Toad forgot where his mother lived in Hollywood.
“Frog, I don’t know where my mother lives.”
“Do you need help? I will help you”,said Frog.
“Yes, thank you!”, said Toad.
So Frog helped him wake up early and they found her house together. That’s how Toad got to his Mother’s house.

By Aariah




Once upon a time Toad decided to move to Six Flags. His friends Frog,Rat, Dog, and Fox decided to visit him.
“How do you like it here Toad?”, said Frog.
“It’s too noisy living at Six Flags!”,said Toad.
Frog, Rat, Dog, and Fox had a solution.
“Here are some earplugs to help you Toad” they said.
“Thank you!”,said Toad.


By Michael





This is about Frog and Toad. One day Frog was sleeping and Toad went to the house of Frog. Toad shouted, “Wake up!”
Frog didn’t wake up.
“Toad, looked at the calendar of Frog and ripped off lots of pages until it said December.
“It’s December Frog! Time to wake up and open your presents”,said Toad.
“I will do it!”, said Frog.

By Yuliana





One day Wolf met Fox. “Fox, you would be a good snack, wouldn’t you...Yes, YOU would be a good snack!”, he shouted.
“No no!”,said Fox. “Help!”
Frog and Toad heard Fox crying for help and they ran as fast as they could run. As soon as they got there they saw that the wolf was trying to eat Fox.
They shouted the rule,“Treat others the way you want to be treated.” The Wolf said, “OK.”

By Tucker




Frog and Toad visited Six Flags one day. They had so much fun! The problem was Toad.
“I think I’m lost!”, said Toad.
“No, you aren’t lost”,said Frog. I’m right here!”

By Viernes



One upon a time Frog went to meet his old pal Leopard. Toad and Cheetah came too but they were really getting on each other’s nerves.
“You are a Furry-head”,said Toad to Cheetah.
“Well, you are a Wet-head”, said Cheetah to Toad.
Frog said, “I will teach you the ‘I message’ so you will learn to forgive each other.”
Then they became friends and lived happily ever after.”
The end.

By Vince



One day Frog and Toad were looking for Toad’s jacket.
“I can never find my jacket!” said Toad. Frog looked up in a tree. He found Toad’s jacket!
He yelled, “Toad, I think I found your jacket!”
Toad came to Frog. He saw his jacket. He said, “Thank you Frog!” He was proud of Frog. He was so happy. They had a great time together. It was the best day ever for them.
“Today was the best day ever!” said Frog.
“It was the best day ever for me too I think”,said Toad.
(And this is a very good story ever.)

By Jill



One day Frog, Toad, and Hamster wanted to visit Bird. Bird lived far away in Disneyland. Hamster said, “I could never exactly remember what nest she lives in.” Then they called Bird to find out.
“Bird, what nest do you live in?” asked Toad.
“Wait there...I’ll be right down!” said Bird.”
After that they went on the California Screamin.
“That’s fun, isn’t it?!” said Bird.

By: Taya




Once upon a time Dog and Fox decided to meet Frog and Toad. So they bought two train tickets to Reno. Dog brought cotton candy and Fox brought prizes for their new friends.
“I hope Frog and Toad like the prizes I brought for them”,said Fox.
“Do you think they will like the cotton candy?” asked Dog.
“I sure hope so!” said Dog.
“Of course they will!” said Fox.
“You’re right, they will!” said Dog.

By Taylor

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Plant Lessons


It's been a joy to watch your children as we revisit the study of plants once again this first grade year. I was amazed by the kids' excitement as we planted the lima beans and sunflower seeds last week. After we planted the seeds we watered them and placed them in the sunlight. Within just a day or two we watched them sprout!

Seeds have an outer layer called a seed coat, which provides protection and nourishment for the baby plant , or embryo, inside. Water loosens the coating and when a seed germinates, a small root begins to grow downward and a shoot grows upward. When the shoot breaks the surface, the plant is called a sprout. The sprout uses water and nutrients from the soil along with sunlight and air to grow and change into a seedling.

Each day this week we have observed the emerging plants up close and watched the transformation. Even though we had already studied this subject at the start of the school year, this botany lesson really came to life when we added a hands-on component! The next step will be an art lesson that shows what they are observing by making a quilt square that displays the four necessary elements of plant growth: water, sun, air and soil. How wonderful to find joy in the simple yet profound gifts of nature. May we always be amazed!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ringing in the New Year~First Grade Style!

Children everywhere recently heard the important adults in their lives proclaim new year beginnings for 2011~The new year provides us with an opportunity to reflect upon what's really important to us. It's a time to fine-tune our relationships, including our interactions with the little ones we influence. As we all have experienced, we know that a positive self-concept develops from feeling capable. In fact, many psychologists say our behavior is a reflection of our self-concept. With that in mind, what can adults do to encourage the children in their lives to start this year off right?

As a teacher, my passion is to encourage, motivate, nurture and support the children in my sphere of influence as well as provide tools for their loved ones. One of my favorite resources is The Institute of Love and Logic, founded by Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline M.D. I re-read their books often and actually keep their material and website close at hand as a daily reference. My 'new year read' is 'The Pearls of Love and Logic for Parents and Teachers'. Every time I pick it up, I can't help but apply the techniques...it's SO practical!

Each mini-chapter explains a pearl, such as: 'Self-Concept', 'Schoolwork', 'Grades', 'Fighting and Bickering', 'Whining and Complaining', 'Sibling Rivalry', 'TV and Mush-Brain', 'Avoiding Control Battles'...all very practical and concise lessons for parents, teachers, and other adults who influence our children.

I've learned effective behavioral techniques such as stating negative assertion, using the broken record, giving viable choices, showing empathy instead of anger, as well as developing a grab bag of catch phrase power messages to use as needed...Sound interesting? Then I encourage you to check out their website at http://www.loveandlogic.com

I'm confident that you will want to apply what you learn as 2011 takes shape! Happy New Year!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving Lessons~ 2010

This past week my Brentwood School first graders took a break from the rigorous first grade curriculum to study a bit of American history...the journey of The Pilgrims to America. We spent the week learning about the Pilgrims' experiences, their ship~ The Mayflower, and the first Thanksgiving feast. Our national holiday really stems from the feast held in the autumn of 1621 by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag to celebrate the colony's first successful harvest.

The Pilgrims' brave adventure began in 1620 when The Mayflower left Plymouth, England with 102 passengers and about 30 crew members on board. During the 66-day voyage, the Pilgrims faced many storms, two deaths and one birth. On November 11, 1620, The Mayflower reached what is now the shores of Massachusetts.

A highlight for me was seeing the children create charming oil pastels and watercolor paintings of The Mayflower. We recently studied vocabulary words in a Transportation Unit that included learning nouns like 'cargo' and 'ship'. I think this may have enriched their understanding of The Mayflower voyage! As the children drew their beautiful depictions of this merchant ship, they learned that it brought the English Colonists to New England in 1620. It was not at all like the cruise ships that many people travel on today.The Mayflower didn't have private cabins with windows and beds for each person. There were no TV's, air conditioners, fancy meals, shops, or swimming pools. Traveling on the ocean 400 years ago was a very different experience than it is today.

Most ships at that time were merchant ships. This means that they were made for carrying cargo, like barrels of food or clothing, or big pieces of wood, from one place to another to be sold. Before The Mayflower sailed to New England, it had been sailing around Europe carrying food and cloth. This cargo was probably stored in the lower decks of the ship, in one big open storage area. There were no windows on this deck because windows might let in seawater, and then all the cargo would get wet. A little water would leak in anyway, so this area was always cold, damp, and dark.

The storage deck also had very low ceilings. They didn't need to make the decks very high because barrels and boxes weren't very tall . The ship was built this way to save space for the decks where the sailors lived and to make the ship safer. A ship that was too tall might tip over and sink in the water.

The crew lived on the upper decks. There were about 26 crewmembers on The Mayflower on the journey from England. The Master, in charge of sailing the ship, was Christopher Jones (we would call him “captain” today.) He probably had his quarters, or living space, at the back of the ship, called the stern. This was the driest and most comfortable area on the ship.The common sailors, or regular workers, had their quarters at the front of the ship, or bow. There were also officers on The Mayflower, who were responsible for sailing and navigating the ship.

The ship carried 102 men, women and children in 1620, on its only trip to New England. So, where did the Pilgrims live on The Mayflower? That's right, they all had to live in the dark, damp, cold cargo decks down below the crew's quarters. The passengers were 'the cargo'!

Each year the children at Brentwood School will hear varied details of this important slice of American history in their classrooms. I hope our study of the Pilgrims' mode of transportation helped to bring our first grade vocabulary lessons to life.

For further study visit:
http://www.scholastic.com/scholastic_thanksgiving/voyage/

Happy Thanksgiving to my Room 24 families!
http://familyfun.go.com/thanksgiving/

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Getting the School Year Off To a Great Start!

It's so true that the role of the family takes center stage when it comes to supporting the learning process in a child's life! I recently listened to an interview of educator Cheri Fuller, author of 'School Starts at Home- Simple Ways to Make Learning Fun' talking about equipping kids for lifelong learning. She stated that more than 50 research studies show that when parents get involved in their child's learning, their kids are more likely to stay motivated. But what does that look like practically?

Establishing worthwhile routines can help. Just like the athlete who needs to put a regimen in place to be at his peek, your first grader needs basic routines to stay motivated.'Rou-tine':is defined as "an unvarying and constantly repeated formula." Consistency is the main ingredient!

Parent educator, Barbara Colorosso puts it this way:

"Our children are counting on us to provide two things: consistency and structure. Children need parents who say what they mean, mean what they say, and do what they say they are going to do. Our goal as a parent is to give life to our children's learning—to instruct, to teach, to help them develop self-discipline—an ordering of the self from the inside, not imposition from the outside."

Here are my picks for the top four daily routines to establish with a first grader:

1. Get studying! Set up a daily study time. Get into the habit of sitting down in a quite location, free of distractions, same time, same place where you and your child can focus on the homework assignments and get that sense of accomplishment from finishing a task. Remember to affirm your child for genuine effort rather than intelligence. Intelligence praising can lead to an attitude of 'I don't need to study."

2. Value writing! Good thinking and good writing go together. Reading and writing go hand in hand. Write notes to your child and value what they write, displaying those precious pieces.

3.Practice communicating! Ask your child to share a highlight of his/her day. Children who are communicative and respectful to parents will be to other adults as well. Daily face-to-face conversation, free of distractions can help a child relax and focus at home and at school.

4. Enjoy reading together with 'paired reading'! "Paired Reading" is a practice strategy that helps children improve their reading skills. It combines two powerful techniques:
*the tutor and the child reading together and * the tutor letting the child read alone while providing encouragement and supportive coaching.
1.) Start out by agreeing on a set time each day to read together for about 5 to 15 minutes.
2.) This technique can be used with assigned reading. After that, let the child choose from a selection of grade level appropriate books from your home collection or the library.
3.) Use a starting signal where you will both read the text aloud. "Together Reading" means you will have to adjust your speed to meet the child's needs. The reading should still have some flow so it sounds natural.
4.) If the child hesitates or misses a word, give the child the correct pronunciation and,if needed, the definition.
5.) Your child can tap you at anytime to signal that he/she wants to read independently. At this point you become a cheerleader, making lots of positive comments and giving help when needed.
6.) At the end of your session have a simple, relaxed conversation about what has been read.

I would love to hear of what works in your home! Please share a comment or two about the routines you find helpful.We're all in this together, for the children's sake!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Changes
My second graders are putting the finishing touches on their Open House projects and the 'end-of-the-year party' is being planned. It's time to wrap up another second grade year. This time will be different though as I set my sites on a new endeavor. After 13 years straight teaching second grade, I will be returning to the first grade classroom at Brentwood School! Although I've been teaching primary-aged children for the past 30-something years, each and every class has been unique. That's what I love about teaching...it is ever-changing and never boring! Looking back, my first assignment was in 1977 in San Francisco as a student teacher in a first grade classroom at a three-story school in the Western Addition of the city. The next year I started my career teaching a first/second combo class in the Bay Area suburb of Hayward, Ca. Then my husband and I decided to move our young family to the picturesque farm community of Brentwood, Ca right on the edge of the central valley in East Contra Costa County. In the fall of 1987, I began teaching reading intervention in our delightful hometown. Over the past 25 years in Brentwood, I've had the privilege of teaching kinders, first, second, and third graders to the best of my ability. I can truthfully say that I value each and every teaching position I've been given, especially because of the people I've met along the way. Each of these interesting and worthwhile assignments have become a part of my teaching experience. As I ride the wave of change once again and plunge back into first grade, I'm glad to say that my teaching career remains a dynamic adventure. And for that, I am very grateful.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Paired Reading the Dr. Seuss Way!

It's Dr. Seuss Week at Brentwood School. It's a time when the children enjoy the rhyme and repitition of Seuss-style literature and his humorously bold and colorful artwork Most second graders have moved through the beginning stages of reading and are now working on reading smoothly and focusing on meaning. Books by Dr. Seuss can get you far when it comes to developing a smooth and fluent oral reading presentation. I'd like to recommend using Dr. Seuss books for 'paired reading' as a powerful motivator to boost your child's literacy growth.
"Paired Reading" is a practice strategy that helps children improve their reading skills. It combines two powerful techniques:
*the tutor and the child reading together and * the tutor letting the child read alone while providing encouragement and supportive coaching.

1.) Start out by agreeing on a set time each day to read together for about 5 to 15 minutes.
2.) Let the child choose the reading material.
3.) Use a starting signal where you will both read the text aloud.. "Together reading" means you will have to adjust your speed to meet the child's needs. The reading should still have some flow so it sounds natural.
4.) If the child hesitates or misses a word, give the child the
correct pronunciation and,if needed, the definition.
5.) Your child can tap you at anytime to signal that he/she wants to read independently. At this point you become a cheerleader, making lots of positive comments and giving help when needed.
6.) Have simple, relaxed conversations about what has been read.

If Dr. Seuss books are used with this type of program everyday for 12 weeks you will see noticeable results!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Santa Wrote Us Back!

The kids in Room 24 have been practicing their letter-writing skills for quite a few weeks now. They've learned about date placement,as well as how to write the greeting, body, closing and signature of the friendly letter format. With all of this new-found knowledge they couldn't help but write letters to Santa Claus before going on our winter break. To our surprise, hand-written letters arrived from the North Pole on the last day before vacation! Santa's elf-helpers answered each and every question, drew pictures for the children and signed each letter with their official elf names! Although the elves' letters were a real treat, I was moreover impressed with the letters the children sent out. Each child's letter was written with beautiful handwriting and embellished with ornate drawings for Santa. And talk about thoughtful questions and unselfish attitudes...wow! The children definitely proved they are learning how to write an engaging friendly letter. No doubt Room 24 made the 'nice list' hall of fame this year!

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Cat, the Opossum and the Research Zone!

Over the past few weeks a second grader in my classroom has been talking and writing about her encounter with an evasive little critter. Her dramatic animal adventure is a good read! Here is part one of her first draft:
"It all began when Stupid draged a opossum in for my mom to surprise her...it was a gift. (Stupid is my mom's cat.We call him Stupid because he does some things that are stupid. For real!) My mom picked up the possum in a towel and set it in a bucket, and left it in the shed all day long. She put him in there so the cat couldn't get to him. When me and grama got home we checked on the opossum and he was still alive so we decided to take him to the Lindsey Museum. We headed there at comute time, so it took us a long time to get there. My grandma stoped in clayton to see if he was still breathing, and he was, so we kept going to Lindsey. Forty-five minutes later, we arived in the Lindsey parking lot and my grandma lifted the paper towel and the possum was gone! We searched the whole car and could not find him. Oh my goodness!!!" As Payton told her story, the children naturally asked for more information about this little creature. What does it look like? Where does it live? What does it eat?

The start of this dramatic animal adventure, so eloquently penned, became the catalyst that launched our second grade classroom into the Research Zone!!!

So, what exactly is 'research'?
It's a verb that means 'to study thoroughly.'
It's also a noun that means 'scholarly investigation; a close, careful study.'

In our case, each student has been asked to choose an animal they want 'to study thoroughly'.The ground rules for this in-class project are simple...

1. Read everything you can find about your chosen animal.

2. Name and classify your animal; whether it be a vertebrate or invertebrate, warm-blooded or cold, along with other defining characteristics.

3. Make a poster that shares at least four facts you've learned as you've researched, with either a photo or drawing of your animal.

4. Finally, share what you've learned with the class!

Now our library visits and computer lab lessons will become an opportunity to learn more about animals and the fundamentals of research and writing, propelled by this naturally motivating topic and second grade science standard. Of course, each student can take it a step further and write a dramatic animal adventure, whether it be real or make-believe! Now wouldn't THAT be interesting!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

It's a Brand New Year!



Last Tuesday was the first day of another school year! I'm getting to know 20 second graders and their loving families. It's always so refreshing to see the level of passionate care that parents have for their precious children. Attentive communication reigns as we discuss goals and expectations at Back to School Night. Many stay to visit a little longer than necessary. It's just so RIGHT to see families providing that level of respectful advocacy for the children's sake. It's a beautiful thing to observe and participate in as these families of second graders and I begin a year-long partnership.It's a brand new year filled with new opportunities ...And as we say every morning in Room 24,"What a great day to get up and get going!"