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06.01.17
Onward and Upward

The school year has ended, and now it's time for my sweet little first graders to spread their wings and fly. I have no doubt that they will do well as they continue on. They have come such a long way this year! Here are some of the highlights and accomplishments from their time in first grade:

Reading - My students learned how to decipher, understand, use, and refer to the Open Court wall cards. These cards have sound spellings on them and help the students decode words, read, and spell. They are quite a handy learning tool! The dramatic improvement in overall reading skills for the entire class does my heart good and makes me so proud of them. In fact, several of my kiddos are reading fluently by now, and a good number of them are not far behind.

Math - Boy, we were busy in math this year! Not only did we focus on math facts, but we also tackled big concepts, such as place value, the calendar, money, time, counting on from a number, words problems, fractions, and problem solving skills. My students have really improved their number sense, and that will serve them well in the years to come.

Writing - This year, we practiced several types of writing, but we spent the most time on sequencing. We learned that order matters! Some fun sequential writing topics were how to cook a turkey and how to decorate a Christmas tree. Our favorite topic, however, was the marble run. We split up into two teams, competed to assemble the biggest and best marble run, and then wrote about our competition in sequential order. I have to admit, that was probably the students' favorite event, and it certainly helped them to produce their best writing of the year!

Pumpkin Math - We can't forget the day our parents came in to help us carve pumpkins and count the seeds! We did lots of fun math activities that day, such as estimating the weight and circumference of our pumpkins. Thank you again to all of the parents for joining in!

Reindeer food and animal shelter field trip - As a super fun community service project, we made and sold reindeer food at Christmas time. We used our earnings to buy dog food at the Dogpatch pet shop, and then we took that food to the animal shelter to donate it to the animals in need. The students were 100% involved in their service project and thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience.

Spring Musical - The first graders enjoyed dressing up as Dalmations in 101 Dalmations. They put on a great show and performed like rock stars during their first St. James musical!

Field Day - Finally old enough to participate in Field Day, my first graders donned their new tye-dye shirts and headed out to the field for some friendly competition with their partners. Everyone had a great time and enjoyed being part of the experience!

I could go on and on about our good times together. This year was a fantastic year. I will miss this class and really loved watching them grow and learn! To my students, happy summer to all. Stay safe, be happy, and soar like I know you can!

Onward and Upward image

Onward and Upward image

Onward and Upward image

Onward and Upward image

Onward and Upward image

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03.28.17
Learning to Fly

Oh, my! We have been so busy in first grade that an entirely new season has begun since I last wrote! Where do I even start? After laying a strong foundation throughout the first semester of the year, I have enjoyed watching my students spread their wings and learn to fly these past couple of months. These sweet kiddos have come so far and are well on their way to becoming independent learners!
Each morning, we begin with DOL (daily oral language) and POD (problem of the day). Through this process, the children have learned to recognize and correct grammatical and punctuation errors in sentences, and they have also improved math skills such as pattern recognition and counting money.
In language, the first graders are learning the basics of writing. They complete a “Weekend News” report, or update, every Monday. They also read prompts on the board and respond to them in their journals. They have practiced sequential writing, persuasive writing, and opinion writing and have learned how to take notes, write a rough draft, revise and edit their work, and write a final copy. Their abilities are quite impressive! Also in language, the students have gone from listening to teacher read “big books” to using their very own hardback student anthologies. They were very excited the day these were handed out! It was a testament to just how far the children have come since the early days of first grade. Finally, in language, we have uncovered all but 5 of our Open Court wall cards, and we have learned all but a few sound spellings from the uncovered cards. We do our ABC chant frequently and play Riddle Me This for added phonics practice, but all in all, we are decoding and sounding out words quite beautifully! In fact, the students have made such progress with reading that recently, they read books of their own choosing to the kindergarten classes. They were each paired with a kindergartener and read to their heart’s content. It was a special time for my class and one that made me a very proud teacher!
In math, the students are studying such topics as place value to the hundreds place, using comparison symbols, telling time, skip counting, fractions, patterns, adding with / without regrouping, etc. Our program touches on many topics throughout each lesson for improved understanding and retention. The one constant, however, that never takes a day off, is math facts. If there is one thing I want to impress upon the minds of my students, it is the importance of knowing their facts. Ask any one of my kiddos if he or she ever gets a break from math facts practice, and they are sure to tell you no!
Last but not least, we have had lots of fun with science and social studies lately. After learning about our community, we expanded our learning and studied communities around the nation and around the globe. We compared and contrasted life in these various communities, and we got a glimpse of how we fit in to the big picture of our world. In science, we finished a unit on balance and motion and began a new unit on plants. We planted seeds and are just now beginning to see early signs of growth! We have learned about the different parts of plants and how they all work together to help plants grow. It promises to be a fun unit, and the students are very excited about watching their plants grow.

Learning to Fly image

Learning to Fly image

Learning to Fly image

Learning to Fly image

Learning to Fly image

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01.15.17
Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

****To see more photos from our class, click on PHOTO GALLERY in the web site menu above. They do not all fit in this post.*****

We have been quite busy in first grade! Shortly after Thanksgiving, we started focusing on our community service project. For this, the students worked together to assemble and decorate nearly 100 bags of reindeer food, and they also made about 50 reindeer candy canes. These items were sold in the cafeteria, and the students raised $170 through sales and donations. Now, the class looks forward to a field trip, when the children will use their earnings to buy dog food and cat food at the Dogpatch Pet Shop. Afterwards, they will visit the local animal shelter to donate their purchases and see the animals.

Christmas Around the World was another fun December activity. We made passports, used file folders as suitcases to hold souvenirs, and pretended to fly around the world as we learned about the different ways in which Christmas is celebrated in other countries. At the end of this unit, the students gave presentations about holiday traditions in their own country that they had chosen to study outside of the classroom. For the presentation, some dressed in country appropriate attire, some shared food from their country, and everyone had something to show. It was great practice in public speaking, and the students all did a great job!

Right before break, the students came to school in their pajamas for our Polar Express morning and Pajama Day! Together with second and third grade, they watched the Polar Express movie while enjoying popcorn and hot chocolate. Later that afternoon, we had a Christmas party, which involved cookie decorating, making edible necklaces, a penguin waddle relay race, and a gift exchange. What a fun way to spend the day!

Now that the second semester is under way, the curriculum is really picking up the pace! In language, we have gone through almost of all of the Open Court wall cards and are applying the spelling rules to our reading and writing. In fact, we have started weekly spelling tests, and it looks as though we have a classroom full of good spellers! We have also begun to do some journal writing and are making good progress in the reading department as well. In math, we are counting money using dimes and pennies. To make our learning a little more hand on, the students were recently paired together as customers and cashiers. The customers were able to “shop” for candy and gum and could choose any two flavors they wanted. Prices for each were listed on the board. The cashier had to write the price of each selected item on a receipt, and then the customer had to show the amount needed to buy each item. The customer then had to combine their money amounts, and the cashier had to write the total cost on the receipt. When each partner agreed on the numbers, the customer was allowed to eat their items! Then the customer and cashier switched places for one more round of shopping. In science, the students have started a new unit on balance and motion. We have discussed stable systems, balance, and counterweights as we explored how to balance shapes and even a pencil on a craft stick. The students have loved this unit and have had to rely on trial and error as well as teamwork to come up with their balancing solutions!

Happy New Year! image

Happy New Year! image

Happy New Year! image

Happy New Year! image

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11.08.16
Fall Fun!

In first grade, we like to mix learning with fun. Not long after enjoying an afternoon of Pumpkin Math, we celebrated Book Character Day with the entire lower school. Students arrived at school in costume and dressed as their favorite character from a book of their choice. They presented themselves in costume and did a great job of explaining why they chose their books and their characters. We wrapped up Book Character Day with a late afternoon Halloween party. Thanks to all of the parents who helped provide sweets and treats for our class!

No sooner was Halloween over than we began discussing the election process. To make our learning more meaningful, we had a mock election in which we voted for our very own class president. We began with a discussion about campaigning. Each child came up with his or her own campaign promises, made a campaign poster, and shared their poster with the class. Next, everyone made their own voter registration cards. Keeping others' promises in mind, students then voted for one candidate in either the Boy party or the Girl party during our primary election. We used file folder "offices" as voting booths in order to maintain voting privacy, and students placed their ballots in a ballot box after casting their votes. The primary winners' names were placed on the final ballot, which was filled out on Election Day. After making it clear that this was all just for fun, and that we wouldn't really have a class president who would be making lots of big changes to our school day, I announced the results of our final election. The winner was a member of the Girl party. (According to the votes, the favorite campaign promise was that the school gym would be turned into a jungle!) Congratulations to all of the students for doing such a good job of working their way through the election process!

Fall Fun! image

Fall Fun! image

Fall Fun! image

Fall Fun! image

Fall Fun! image

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10.19.16
Learning is FUN!

Who ever would have known that learning could be so much fun?

In math, we are working on understanding place value. For starters, we are using linking cubes to show how many tens and ones are in two digit numbers. However, to better understand the concept of place value, we are playing around with our own made-up silly number names and practicing showing numbers in bases other than base ten. If this sounds confusing, just ask your first grader if he or she can tell you about zurkles and frumps!

In language, we are uncovering more wall cards and learning how to spell the sounds that they represent. We have talked about green box vowel sounds and which spellings follow them. The students are catching on to this quickly. If you ever need help spelling a word, your first grader just may be able to help you out! Also in language, we are reading many different types of literature that focus on friendship. We are discussing what it means to be a friend and realizing how lucky we are to have each other to learn from, be friends with, and play with at school.

Science has been one of everyone's favorites. As part of our study of air and weather, we began discussing wind. We lucked out with a particularly windy afternoon this week and were able to go outside to blow bubbles. This was a great way for the students to observe the effects of wind in different locations, and they had a blast running around chasing their bubbles!

Finally, it wouldn't be October in Mrs. Miller's class without Pumpkin Math! This was such a fun way to practice our math skills. Students invited their parents to come to the class and bring pumpkins. Parents and students then worked together to estimate their pumpkin's circumference, number of stripes, weight, and number of seeds. After they estimated, they measured and weighed to get the actual numbers and see how close they had been. After that, everyone got to carve their pumpkin! Thank you to all of the parents for sharing their time with our class!

Learning is FUN! image

Learning is FUN! image

Learning is FUN! image

Learning is FUN! image

Learning is FUN! image

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09.23.16
Growing our Brains!

After teaching second grade at St. James and staying home for a few years to raise my boys, I find myself once again back in the classroom. This time, however, I am teaching first grade, and I love it! Each morning, I am greeted by 14 sweet smiling faces that get my day off to just the right start. I am thankful for this opportunity to teach again and look forward to a wonderful year with my new students.

This week in first grade, we have worked on all sorts of activities to keep us busy and help grow our brains. In Language, we were introduced to several (alphabet) letter wall cards and listened to funny stories to help us remember the sounds for each card. We also learned different ways to spell the sounds represented by the cards. Lion Puppet has come out several times and worked with us as we practiced listening for and saying different sounds in the beginning and end of words. Ask your child about Mr. Lion! Also in Language, we learned about prewriting and how to brainstorm ideas using pictures and questions. After a group discussion of the students' ideas, each child began writing his or her own autobiography. The first two pages have been written and illustrated and look terrific!

Math has also been fun this week! After daily reviews of things such as calendar items, the weather, left and right, ordinal numbers, and our 100s chart, we have been practicing number writing, place value, addition and subtraction word problems, and doubles math facts. We are even learning a doubles rap to make memorizing fun and easy. Ask your child and see if they can say it for you!

Science was a big hit this week as the students made parachutes in their study of air and weather. We also experimented with tubes, syringes, and water and were able to see how air either prevented the flow of water or forced it through a tube and into a plastic bottle. The activities in science are very hands on and lend themselves to lots of excitement and great class discussions!
Jessica Miller

Growing our Brains! image

Growing our Brains! image

Growing our Brains! image

Growing our Brains! image

Growing our Brains! image

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