Learning Update!


This week, we focused on using what we know about word families to help us figure out new, tricky words. The kids noticed word family words that they knew in a snap. When we took a closer look at those words, we noticed that words from the same family all end the same.


We then used that same word ending to help us figure out other, tricky words with the same word family ending.


We also talked about how good readers stop and check when their reading doesn’t look right, sound right, or make sense. This awareness is crucial for beginning readers who sometimes make the mistake of skipping or changing words. If your child does make a mistake, encourage him/her to fix it, by saying, “Something didn’t sound right (or look right) in the sentence/on that page. Can you find it?” After fixing the mistake, make sure your first grader rereads the corrected sentence to ensure comprehension.


We started a new unit of writing this week, focusing on making our stories easy for other people to read. We spent time focusing on neat handwriting, finger spaces, capital letters in the correct places, and end punctuation. We are seeing some huge growth in handwriting and finger spaces. Adding capital letters and punctuation to the right places is a bit trickier and we’ll keep working on this all year.



We spent time studying a new math concept: SUBTRACTION!!!  When we solve stories that involve “taking something away” we use a minus sign (-) to represent what happened.  For example, when given the story:

There were 5 cookies.  I ate 3.  How many are left?

Our first graders learned to represent this thinking with circle drawing, break-apart stick, and minus sign right through the circles that were taken away:

We also emphasized that a subtraction equation always begins with the total.  Then we show the “minus” partner, which means that our answer is actually a missing partner (rather than a missing total like an addition equation).  Our first graders “trained their brains” to count up the total and write that number first to accurately represent a subtraction story or circle drawing with an equation.

With our introduction to subtraction still very fresh and new, please support your child on their homework pages as they learn to understand the strategies involved with solving and representing subtraction stories!!!!


You may have notice that your child is coming home with their yellow handwriting workbook tonight. Since the beginning of the school year, we’ve focused on the pages teaching the correct formation of the capital and lowercase letters.  There are lots of additional pages that we didn’t complete and we wanted to send the books home for you to use as a resource.  Please keep the book handy and pull it out so your first grader can try a page from time to time.  We know that PRACTICE MAKES PERMANENT, so let’s keep practicing the correct way.  Thanks for your support from home!


Learning Update


 When we read with our first graders, there are three areas that we look for growth throughout the year: comprehension, accuracy, and fluency.  This week, we introduced a tool to aid the students in strengthening their reading comprehension.


This tool helps guide the students in retelling the events of a story in order.  When we use this tool, we start by reading a story.  When we finish reading, before moving on to another story, we see if we can remember the events of the story.  The kids practiced retelling the events across their fingers and then when they finished while they take a picture walk through the book to see if they remembered the events.

We also talked about how good readers think about their books as they read.  We focused on how when they finish reading one book, before moving on to their next book, they can stop and think.

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The kids have now met: Lips the Fish, Eagle Eye, Chunky Monkey, Stretchy the Snake, Flippy the Dolphin, Skippy the Frog, and Tryin’ Lion.  That is quite a list of strategies.  But, most importantly, when they have tried a strategy and have a good guess of what they think their tricky word is…they NEED to be careful.  Careful Caterpillar checks to make sure that their guess makes sense, looks right, and sounds right.  When the kids guess a tricky word, they need to ask themselves those three questions to self check and make sure that their word makes sense, looks right, and sounds right.  If it does, great! If it doesn’t, then good readers keep trying to figure it out!

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You may have noticed that your first grader’s blue folder was bursting with small moment stories. We have finished our first unit in writing and we spent the week celebrating our writing. Part of the celebration is bringing home all of their stories so they can share them with you! They have worked so hard on these stories! Ask your first grader to share these stories with you! I hope you enjoy them!

This past week we spent most of our writing time preparing a special story to share at our writing celebration! First, we picked out two stories that we are very proud of to revise on our own. Next, we revised our stories with the help of our partners to make sure our stories made sense. When we were revising be ourselves and with our partners, we followed this checklist…

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Then, we edited our stories by making sure they were easy to read.  After that, we got a chance to use colored pencils to add some color to our stories. Finally, on Friday, we celebrated!

During our celebration time, we had a chance to share a favorite part of our story with the whole class. Next, we read our entire story to a small group. Once we were finished sharing, we came back together and had juice for our juice toast. I am so proud of how far these first graders have come as writers since the beginning of the year.


Our first grade mathematicians have learned to solve addition stories by drawing pictures, using circle drawings, and writing equations.

This week each of our math groups brainstormed solution strategies for solving equations with missing totals.  To solve 5 + 2 = ___, our first graders suggested…

…making a circle drawing underneath the partners:  

…counting the partners on all their fingers: 

A third strategy that we learned was: COUNTING ON!!!!  Counting on is more accurate and time saving than the first two methods.  When we count on, we underline the greater number and draw dots under the smaller number to show our math work.  Then, we clap and say the greater number, and count on by pointing to and counting the circles under the smaller number.

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We learned how to use our red quilt cards to increase our fact fluency.

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Mind Up:

We spent the week reviewing what we know about mindful listening, mindful seeing, and mindful movement. Another idea we have been talking about is how attitude affects how well you can handle situations, especially solving problems.  We introduced the words: optimistic thinker and pessimistic thinker.  We talked about how optimistic thinkers think with happy thoughts and are more likely to solve problems successfully.  Pessimistic thinkers are often defensive and react with anger when problems arise. The kids spent a good deal of time role playing different problems and sharing how an optimistic thinker would react as opposed to a pessimistic thinker.

For example: If someone takes the seat that we want at lunch

Pessimistic Thinking: “That person is so mean, it’s not fair, I was going to sit there.”

OPTIMISTIC THINKING“I can find another friend to sit by, I can try to sit there tomorrow.”

We agreed that we need to start practicing optimistic attitudes so that we can handle problems better on our own. We are going to practice taking a few deep breaths when a problem arises and thinking of the problem from a different point of view.  When these situations arise at home, remind your first grader to use optimistic thinking…ask them, “how can we think about this situation optimistically?”

Social Studies:

This week we discussed what it means to be a good citizen.  Each day we added another attribute to our “Good Citizen” chart.  Here is what we learned:

A Good Citizen…

1. FOLLOWS RULES.  We discussed reasons that we have rules such as rules help us learn, rules keep us safe, rules help make things fair, etc.

2. RESPECTS AUTHORITY.  We brainstormed a list of people who have power with authority (principal, teachers, bus drivers, moms, dads, etc.) and how they enforce rules. When we listen and respond to those in authority we are being respectful.

3. IS FAIR. We discussed what fairness looks like at school, and learned that fair isn’t always equal – it’s getting what you need in order to be successful.

4. IS RESPONSIBLE.  We learned about ways we can be responsible at school such as making sure that you have all of your tools ready (without being asked).  We are planning to begin classroom jobs next week to practice being responsible.

5. HONORS THE USA.  One way we can do this is to respect and remember symbols of the United States that represent our freedom such as the American Flag, White House, Liberty Bell, Statue of Liberty, and Bald Eagle.

If you notice your “first grade citizen” displaying any of the attributes above be sure to commend him/her on a job well done!

Weekly Update


Now that the kids have some solid reading time each workshop, we began introducing our accuracy strategies.  These strategies help our students decode tricky words while they are reading.  The first strategy that we talked about was Lips the Fish.  Get your lips ready and say the first few sounds of the word out loud. Next, Eagle Eye.  Now that you have gotten your lips ready for the first sound, look at the pictures for something that starts with that sound.

Then, Chunky Monkey.  If the picture didn’t help you, look for a chunk of the word that you know (ing, at, it, sh, ch, and). And then, Stretchy the Snake. Zoom in on the tricky word, s-t-r-e-t-c-h out the sounds in the words slowly. Then, crash the sounds together to figure out the word.

Flippy the Dolphin reminds us that when we are stretching out a word, to try the short vowel sound first and if that doesn’t work, FLIP IT and try the long vowel sound, and then the schwa sound.

If we still need help, then when you come to a tricky word, skip it (Skippy the Frog) and read the rest of the sentence. Once you have read to the end of the sentence, try it again (Tryin’ Lion) from the beginning of the sentence and make a good guess for the tricky word (using the context clues from the sentence).

We will review these strategies next week and practice a few more!


We have had a busy week in Writer’s Workshop! We know that good small moments stories have lots of details and one of those details includes using dialogue in our stories. We can add dialogue by either writing exactly what someone in our story said or we can add a speech bubble to our picture and write what our character said in the speech bubble.

 We also learned this week, how to finish our stories with a special ending  We talked about how when you give a gift, you finish by wrapping it up and tying a bow.  Stories are similar, our endings help “tie a bow” to our stories and help the reader know that our story is finished. We talked about how sharing some thoughts or feelings at the end of our story is a good way to finish. We used some sentence starters to help us think of some good ideas for endings.

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My favorite endings were the “I hoped” and “I thought” endings, and we had a chance to share some of our great endings with the rest of the class. We challenged the kids at the end of the week to see if they could start a new story that included all of the parts of a good small moment story.

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This week we began our second math unit.  Unit 2 will cover addition and subtraction strategies and provides the foundation for all of the math learning that will take place for the rest of this year and beyond.  As a first grade staff, we are always striving to meet the needs of each and every student.  In order to do this, we studied the data from our students’ pre-tests, and used this information to group together students with similar areas of expertise and areas of need. For this unit, many of our students will be taking part in a “math switch” in which they may be traveling to a different classroom, so that they are able to work in the group and with the teacher that will help them reach their full potential as a math learner.  Each group of math learners will be working on the same math concepts each day, but the pace and practice may look a little different.

This week all of our math groups learned how to draw pictures to solve story problems. This strategy worked well, except it took us a R-E-A-L-L-Y long time to draw pictures of some objects, such as castles, pencils, and rocks.

Later in the week, we tried a new strategy: circle drawings. We used a break apart stick and circles to show the partners in a story. Then we counted up the total in a snap!

We also learned about the math symbols, equal (=) and not equal (≠).  Numbers are equal (=) when they are exactly the same. This understanding of equality is an important math concept that students will apply when writing equations throughout this year.

Mind Up:

This past week of Mind Up was spent focusing in mindful listening.  We started by introducing the students to a new part of their brain.  You may have heard your first grader talking about their Reticular Activating System (RAS).  Ok, typing that sentence just made me laugh, but ask your first grader about their RAS and see what they have to share!

A few weeks ago, we had the students focus as hard as they could on their sense of hearing for a short amount of time and then discussed all the things they were able to hear.  We came up with a long list, but that was just our sense of hearing.  All of our senses are busy picking up different sights, tastes, smells, feelings, and noises and sending them to our brains.  Our RAS is the part of the brain that gathers all those messages and decides which senses are important enough to be passed on to the rest of the brain and which things can be ignored.  We talked about how when they are trying to listen to instruction in the classroom, we need to train our own RAS to know to ignore distractions like noises from other rooms, the hallway, outside, or friends sitting next to us and focus on the teaching.

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To strengthen our ability to focus our RAS, we did some listening exercises and the kids had to work hard to focus on certain sounds and really ignore all other distractions.  We took note of what our body does when we are focusing really hard and came up with the following list:

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If you were to walk the halls around first grade, you will often hear us asking the kids to show us what mindful listening looks like or to focus their RAS…you can use that at home, as well!

We then introduced using mindful seeing.  When we are mindful with our seeing, we are taking in all the details around us.  We talked about how it is important to be mindful of what expressions you see on people’s faces.

We talked a lot about what facial expressions show which feelings.  And then we talked about how we can be mindful see-ers and if we see someone who has an expression on their face that shows they are not feeling happy or good, then we can check in with them and see if there is anything we can do to help their feelings improve.

We, also, discussed mindful movement.  We started by finding our pulse and talking about being aware of the rate that our heart is beating.  After doing jumping jacks for 30 seconds, we noticed that our heart rate was much faster than when we were resting on the floor.  We talked about how our heart pumps faster when we are exercising to get more oxygen to our body so that we have energy to keep going.  But, our heart rate speeds up when we are nervous, excited, or scared as well.  We talked about being aware of how quickly our heart is beating and learned a way to calm ourselves down if we notice our hearts beating faster than they need to.  We talked about sitting up straight to allow for easier blood flow throughout our bodies and taking deep breaths (or yawning) to slow your heart rate and help calm ourselves.

We also talked about our body movement and how we need to be mindful of how we are moving.  Often, first graders are on the move and bump in to people or furniture around them without realizing it.  To practice being mindful of our surroundings, we each put a ruler on our head and walked around our room trying to keep it balanced on top.  The kids were very aware of where the furniture was, where their friends were, and what speed they were moving so that their ruler wouldn’t slip off.  Since having this discussion, we have talked about being mindful of our surroundings while we are moving around the room, especially around our mailboxes or iPad cart where space is limited (no pushing/shoving).

Weekly Update


We are continuing to work on Small Moment stories during Writer’s Workshop. This week we focused on using details in our writing. Good writers add details to their stories. Some details that we can add are…

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We also focused on making sure to s-t-r-e-t-c-h out each word in our story so that we can write down each sound that we hear. When writers write a word, we stretch it out slowly like a rubber band. We write down the first, middle, and last sounds that we hear in that word. First Graders are working very hard on writing their small moment stories! Way to go!!


Our first graders have been working so hard to grow their reading stamina and we have reached right around 15 minutes of sustained reading. Our goal is 20 minutes, so we are close!  Eventually, they will have at least two 20 minute blocks of read-to-self time each day. As we worked this past week to problem solve any distractions that arose, we also were able to focus on some important reading strategies.


We talked about how important it is to warm up as we read. We know to look at the pictures and think about what might happen in the story, but this week we focused on making a movie in our heads of the story and then checking that movie as we read to see if the story was matching our movie.  Sometimes the story matched our mental movie and sometimes our movie needed to change a little to match the words that we had read.  Good readers make a movie in their head as we warm up and then change their movie to match the story as they read the words.

Learning Update!


The kids have gotten quite good at finding books around the room that are ‘just right’ books to keep in their book boxes.  As the kids were reading this week, we noticed that some kids finished all the books in their book boxes and needed to start all over reading their books again.  This lead us into discussions of how readers set goals for how many books they will read each day.  And we introduced a bookmark that they used to set a goal and then keep track with tally marks to see how many books they actually read that day.


Before each reading block, the kids would think about how they did the day before and think about the book choices they had in their book boxes and then set a goal for how many books they would read that day.  We tracked our goals for a few days to see if our numbers were growing in how many books we were able to read each day.  It also helped us notice if we actually had picked books that were ‘just right’ for us as readers.  All in all, they spent a ton of time reading this week and building their reading stamina!


Way to go first graders!


We have been continuing our work on Small Moment stories this week.

We learned that good writers include the 3 W‘s in their writing:

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By including the 3 W’s on our first page, it helps the reader know what is going on in the story.

We also worked on sketching a quick plan of the beginning, middle, and end of our story before we even write the word, so that we can remember what we wanted each part of our story to include.


During our math time this week we continued to break apart larger numbers into smaller partners. We used whiteboards and markers, counters, stair steppers, and activities from our math workbook to visualize the partners, switch partners, and doubles partners for the numbers 8, 9, and 10. Challenging your first grader to write and show each set of partners in a variety of ways has helped to increase number sense and flexibility with these numbers.

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We also continued to use our knowledge of partners and patterns to practice addition (+0, +1, +2) and subtraction (-0, -1, -2) facts. This week in particular, we practiced adding and subtracting doubles partners (1+1, 2-1, 2+2, 4-2, 3+3, 6-3, etc.), and discovered that a number minus itself equals 0 (8-8 = 0).

Mind Up:

You might hear your student talking about our MIND UP time during the day.  Mind Up is a curriculum that helps teach students about their brains and how their brains work in order to help them be more proactive in how they approach learning and social interactions.

So far, we have learned some key areas of the brain.  You may have heard your first grader talking about these three key parts of the brain: Prefrontal Cortex, Amygdala, and Hippocampus.  The prefrontal cortex is what we call our WISE LEADER, it is where our smart thinking happens (math, reading, etc.).  Our Hippocampus is where our memories are stored, we called is our MEMORY SAVER.  And the amygdala is the part of our brain the helps us stay safe when we are in danger, we call it our SECURITY GUARD.

Crinkled Heart

Last week we wrapped up our discussion about kindness in our classroom and on the playground.  We’ve been talking about using a bug & a wish to stand up for ourselves, being bucket fillers who share compliments, and acting like a buddy, not a bully.

This afternoon we read the story Chrysanthemum, and used a paper heart to demonstrate what happened to Chrysanthemum whenever the girls in her class made fun of her name.  Whenever Chrysanthemum wilted from the bullys’ words, we crinkled the heart.  This happened over and over in the story.  Once we had finished reading, we tried to fix the heart with a band aid, but the wrinkles were still there and saying “I’m sorry.”.  The heart was a visual to show how our words and actions are hard to erase.

Ask your child about the crinkled heart and remind them to be a bucket filler at home and at school!


Learning Update


We are off to a great start with our wonderful math program.  During the first two weeks of school, we’ve been visualizing, representing, and breaking apart numbers using a variety of math tools: counters, stair steppers, and number cards.  When we break apart a number, we take a larger number and split it into two smaller numbers.  We call the two smaller numbers partners because when we add them together they equal the larger number.  So far, we’ve discovered the partners (and switch partners) for 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. (Check out the chart below!)  We have also used our knowledge about partners and patterns to solve addition (+0, +1, +2) and subtraction problems (-0, -1, -2).

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During our math routine, we have been hard at work practicing with our 120 number grid, money flip chart, number path , and secret code cards.  This routine involves a series of math activities that we will continue building on each day for the rest of the year to strengthen our students’ flexible with numbers.

Finally, thank you for helping your child complete the math homework that came home on Monday. We will continue to send home packets of work on Mondays and will give you a whole week to have your child complete them and return them to school the following Monday.


This week, we began readers’ workshop.  This is such a wonderful time in our classroom.  We have enjoyed reading some great stories together and we have started building the foundation of our independent reading time.  Readers get better at reading by practicing, so we focused this week on building their independence for reading by themselves (read to self time).  We are working together to figure out the best routines that will help us be successful during this time.  So far we have the following:


Just like great readers do, the kids have learned how to pick books that interest them and is  ‘Just Right’ for them.  We used the three strikes approach.  The students pick a book and then open to any page.  They read one page and every time they come to a word they don’t know, they would put one of their fingers up.  If they get to three fingers up, then that’s three strikes and that book is too tricky.  If they have fewer than three fingers up, then the book is ‘Just Right!’  It has also been fun to see their confidence and enthusiasm build with their independent reading time as we practice picking out and reading books each day.



During Writer’s Workshop, we have been writing small moment stories. A small moment story is a true story about you!

So far, we’ve learned that good small moment stories have a beginning, middle, and end. So, we’ve been writing across three page booklets and the kids have been doing a great job of stretching out their stories.

We also learned that good writers always keep working! We used the phrase “When you’re done – you’ve only just begun!”.  Good writers add details to their pictures and words, or they canstart a new story.


Remind your child that anything they do (soccer practice, reading a book together, play a game, visiting grandma and grandpa) can become a small moment story!!!

Clip Charts

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 8.24.05 PMIn Room 102, we are using a Rainbow Chart to monitor our class and individual behavior throughout the day. Each child now has their own mini Rainbow Chart to track his/her behavior choices. We also have a class chart which we will use to track our whole class behavior choices. Each child will color in the part of the chart where he/she ended the day to let you know how the day went. Green is Ready To Learn and your child will start on this section every day. He/she will clip up or down depending on the choices made throughout the day.  After you check your child’s blue folder, please be sure to sign the Parent Signature box on his/her Daily News.

To learn more about our positive behavior plan for this year, read this link posted on our First Grade Information Page: Behavior in First Grade.


Thanks so much!!!

Mrs. Smith :)