Friday, February 23, 2018

A Week in Review

Hello Everyone!

What a busy and fun week at PPS! The musical was such a success. I loved watching our group up there, singing their hearts out!


In our classroom we have a weekly tradition of partner reading with Mrs. Belaski's class. Her class comes to our room to share in partner reading. Mrs. Belaski was my mentor when I was student teaching at PPS, and suffice to say our teaching styles are very similar! This makes our weekly meeting a great opportunity to review the learning of the week and engage children in summarizing the learning intentions.
This Friday, we changed it up a little bit. We decided to do some partner writing! PPS will be kicking off our annual Kindness Week and Kindness Chain activities when we return to school after winter break. In preparation for that week, our whole school morning meeting was centered around the definition of kindness and how we could engage in random acts of kindness.
When Mrs. Belaski's class joined us this week, we brainstormed acts of kindness we could perform at school. Then, pairs of students from each classroom drew and wrote about kindness. Check out Twitter for pictures from today!


With the onset of third trimester, it is time to start a new genre of writing. We have learned how to write narrative stories from our own lives, write opinion pieces to persuade readers, and now we will begin informational writing.
The big goal for students in this genre is to be able to collect information about a topic and write all about a topic.
We start this work with a blend of science and writing in our animal behavior and seasons unit. This week, students selected three animals they wanted to learn more about. They chose an animal that hibernates, an animal that migrates, and an animal that adapts to changing seasons. After break, students will watch videos, engage in read alouds, and individual reading to learn as much about their animal before composing a writing piece about their animal.
I plan to use SeeSaw for this unit as well. It has been such a long time since our students have posted. I know they are really looking forward to using their blogging app again after the break!


In math we have spent time reviewing the learning of  second trimester. We have circled back to teen number games-remembering that teen numbers are 10 and some more.
We also have spent time talking about organization in recording math work. We used our math journals to solve oral number stories. We talked about how to represent addition and subtraction stories with pictures and with equations.
We used this time to review what the equal symbol means and how to use it in our equations. I have started to use the word "equations" more and more instead of referring to them as "number stories". When children first begin working with equations it is important to use the language of a story so children can keep the sequential pieces as they are working with concrete representations of oral equations. This helps children have a stronger understanding of what each operation actually means and they begin to conceptualize what is actually happening when we say "2+2=4". As students begin to abstract the concepts of addition and subtraction they no longer need the reminder of math being a story and we can make this subtle shift in language.

Check your folders for report cards tonight! Hope to see you at conferences!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

A week in review 2/12


It has felt great to get back to work this week! Between my broken foot and snow days, I feel like it has a long time since I have gotten quality time with our group!

This week has been awesome!! Tons of great learning and a lot of pride in our work!


This week, I needed to assess students on their letter/sound I.D. phonological awareness, and their sight words or snap words for our report cards. Report cards will be going home Friday, February 23rd. This will give you a chance to look it over before we meet for confrences on the 5th and 6th of March.

Phonological awarness and letter/sound I.D. were a big part of our work in first trimester and kids have made a lot of progress in their recognition and understanding of these concepts. As we have been spending our time in reading groups and decoding grade level text, sight words have been a big importance for us.

A note about sight words- you will here these words called by many names. Basically, we use the Fry Sight Word list at PPS. It is a list of over 600 words that are frequently in print. Readers should be able to recognize these words and not need to sound them out. This is why, in our classroom, we call these words "Snap Words". Sight Words is not a very friendly kindergarten phrase, sight does not have a lot of context for many kids, whereas, knowing something "in a snap" is a bit more concrete. For kindergarten, we have a list of 40 words we hope students are able to memorize. We understand 40 words is a lot of words! For the end of the year, if your child memorizes 20-40 words they are considered on grade level. At conferences, I will share with you the words your student still needs to learn so you can practice these at home.


Oh my gosh-writing! We also had our writing assessment this week. We have been learning how to write opinion pieces this trimester. Our assessment gives us an idea about the independence of our writers. In a typical writing workshop, teachers float around the room offering advice and feedback to writers. We prompt students to use strategies, like stretching out words or using a snap word list, to spell. During an assessment, I tell students that I am "spying" on them and can not help them!
I read students an article that was a debate about what makes the best pet, a cat or a dog. From there, students wrote their opinion of what makes the best pet.
For grading purposes, I look for students who are able to clearly state an opinion, provide reasons that supports their opinion with relevant and sufficient facts from the provided article, to have purposeful organization, provide a sense of closure, and to have developmentally appropriate spelling and conventions.
If you are thinking to yourself- "that is way to much for a 5/6 year old!" take my word for it, your students are very capable of all this rigorous work!! I was absolutely blown away in the growth each student made this trimester.
While were setting up for writing one day, we were talking about "because sentences" or reasons and how important it is to give a lot of reasons if you want to convince someone of your opinion. One student piped up and said, "Because is like a famous word! You have to write it so many times!" Every kid really latched on to that explanation of why you need a lot of reasons. They were so thrilled to show me all the times they wrote the famous word, "because".


Math lessons this week were centered around equations. We dug into understanding the symbols in an equation and their meaning. At this point, most students have a strong understanding + is adding to and makes a number bigger and that - is taking from and makes a number smaller.
Where many misconceptions are for mathematicians is the = sign! Most students see the equal sign to be the ending of an equation. That it tells you the answer. However, we want our students to have an understanding of equality and balanced equations. If students become rigid in thinking all equations are written 2+2=4, with the = coming before the answer, they are completely thrown off when equations are formatted differently. In higher level grades, it is very common for equations on assessments to be written ____=3-1. It is one of those "gotcha" moments where assessors want to see if students are paying close attention. I want kindergartners to have exposure to the idea that the equal sign simply means the amount on each side is the same. This is algebraic thinking they will need to solve things like x+2= 3+1.
We spent a lot of time this week playing games to represent amounts on either side of an equal sign and checking to see if they were the same amount. Check out my Twitter for some visuals about this work!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

A week in Review 1/29

Well, well, well...I write to you from my couch today. I, unfortunately, broke my foot and have needed to take some time off to rest! I made a brief appearance on Tuesday, so you may have heard about a big boot on my foot or maybe even about my crutches! I will be fine! Just six weeks in a boot 😩😩😩 I have been lucky to have awesome subs in the classroom who are able to ensure our students are sticking to the routine of the classroom and getting some productive work done!
I am planning to be back on Monday and I am looking forward to it!

In reading and writing this week, kids were busy working on their normal reading routine of private reading, partner reading, work on writing, and word work. They also have been adding on to their persuasive writing they started with me last week.

In math, the focus has been largely on teen numbers and place value. Ms. Santarcanglo has been in the room and teaching new games to reinforce the idea that numbers match a quantity and that where the digit is in a number can give you information. For example, I know that number is 14 because the 1 in the front is a group of 10 and I have 4 more. She also taught a game about combinations to 10. Having a strong understanding of how to build ten in many ways is the foundation for two digit addition and subtraction. "Making 10" is a strategy in first and second grade that is useful for solving problems like 42+39. Students can visualize needing 1 more to make a 10 with the 9 and having one left over to mentally compute a solution of 81.

I have been working on a note home about Valentine's Day that should be all set to go home tomorrow. Check your student's folder!



Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Week in Review 1/22

We continued our work with fluency this week. Many parents have asked why we use texts that, to us, do not seem engaging or very in-depth. Building accuracy has a lot to do with the books we choose and fluency plays an important role too. I really made a big deal this week when students figured out the pattern in their books. Patterns in books are more than just words that repeat, they help students understand what is happening in the book. I want students to know that once they know the pattern, they should expect to read those words again and again. They don't have to approach every page as if it is new. This frees up some of their attention to think about reading smoothly and focus on the words that change on each page. It also builds their self-monitoring skills. If they are attending to the pattern, hopefully, they will notice when the pattern changes, as it often does on the last page of the book.
Bringing our books to life also includes reading the punctuation. We talked about how punctuation is a "secret code" that gives us tips about how to read. To illustrate this, we used a book called "It's Super Mouse!" We practiced changing our reading voice depending on what punctuation was at the end of each sentence. A question mark makes our voice go up, an exclamation point shows we are excited, and a period is a full stop. In our book clubs, we went on punctuation hunts and talked about how each line should sound. I urged readers to check the end of a sentence before they read to get themselves ready to change their voices.
I hope some of you saw the video from a Reader's Share on my Twitter feed! The kids are begging me to share their books with the class under our document camera. I have really found myself stepping out of the way and the students are interested in giving each other insightful feedback, questions and comments about their books.
WritingWe had two major learning intentions this week in writing. We are learning to be in charge of our own writing and we worked on expanding our topics for persuasive writing.
Students have really tackled the work of convincing others to follow safety rules at school. Today, I modeled something that was out of the box. I said, "I think we should have P.E. every day!" and wrote it down on my paper. The room was full of excited cheers and tons of connections. We then brainstormed new topics to persuade others of. Things like having a chocolate fountain in the cafeteria, pizza day every day, and of course P.E. everyday came up as new topics to write about!

Another necessity for an easy to read book is spelling. Kindergarten is all about inventive spelling. At this juncture, I expect students to record a beginning and ending sound for every word. We are starting to encourage adding a middle sound to each word. We learned the rule this week that every word has a vowel. Children will still record what they are hearing and often times they exaggerate when they are sounding out words. For example, many writers this week were writing the word "fun" and would record "fon" on their paper. If you over over-emphasis that middle sound your mouth will sometimes end up in the shape of an "o" and that is what the kids write down. We are continuing to practice those tricky vowel sounds.
The other spelling strategies we talked about are using the room and checking the word wall. Students should record snap words in their writing. They have access to their word lists during writer's workshop to copy the words down. They don't need to have the spelling memorized but rather be able to pick the correct word off of the list. Using the room is a similar strategy. Students are prompted to use environmental print to spell words they need. For example, if they were trying to write about art class they could check the schedule board to see how to spell the word art.
The last strategy we learned this week was to listen for little words inside bigger words. We practiced writing words like "fountain" because they have a snap word at the end of the word. I intentionally picked words that are challenging to spell to require students to problem solve. With this repertoire of strategies, students must decide when to select a strategy. The goal is not spelling the word correctly, but rather be an independent writer.
In math this week we continued our work with teen numbers. We kept on saying that mantra "a teen number is 10 and some more!" We learned a new game called "Top It" which is exactly the same rules as War. We played this game with teen number cards and my focus was for students to recognize the digits in a teen number and be able to explain why their number was greater than, less than, or equal to their partners card.
We are quickly approaching the 100th Day of School and studnets are getting very excited about numbers!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A week in Review

Hello Families!
News and announcements:

Snow gear is very hard for our kinders to keep track of! If you have a chance, I encourage you to label your child's mittens, hats, and snowpants. I let the kids put their gloves on the heater to dry after recess and often times they get left there. If there is a label in them I can return the items to their cubby, rather than have them get scooped up by the wrong student. 
I hope you all received my note about writing, volunteering, and your child's writing from last trimester. Let me know if you did not see that in your student's go-home folder.


The new learning we tackled this week was centered around bringing our books to life. Fluency is a skill that emergent readers need to practice. As adult readers, we can read a passage and understand what we read because we can read automatically and often do not need to think about decoding words. Each time a student reads a familiar book, they begin to build their fluency which then leads to comprehension. Fluency is not something we practice with new books. New books we focus of using strategies (or powers) to read unfamiliar words. 

We started the week off with a read aloud from me where I read like a robot! A chorus of laughter broke out at my unexpected voice. This started a discussion about how our class can read their books like grown-ups. Their reading powers are getting so strong that they can read books with smooth voices. 

The other big news is we got really good at a new job in Daily 5! Work on Writing! We talked about how writing and reading work together. If you practice writing you can be a better reader. We have been using simple sentence starters to write in our journals. We are writing about things we like  and things we play. It is a great time for students to practice carrying on writing independently and creatively. The kids have been really excited to share their writing!


We kicked off our new unit of study this week. We are studying persuasive writing this trimester. We are moving our focus away from writing about our own lives to the idea that writing has the power to change the world! 
Students notice a problem, think about how to fix it, then write! Many writers have written to others at our school about following safety rules. For example. one student tried to convince others to stay off the ice at recess because you could slip! Our focus this week was staring our writing with "I think..." and adding a "because" sentence or reasons. 
As the trimester moves along, we will be using text to support our opinions with evidence. Using books can make your writing really, really convincing.


Teen numbers are 10 and some more! That is a phrase we have really been exploring this week. Teen numbers are often referred to as "Tricky Teens." The number names don't follow a pattern as they do in other groups of ten. For example, twenty-two has a two in the tens place and a two in the ones place. But what about the number twelve? The number name does not provide clues to what the digits look like. We have been playing all sorts of games to build our teen number recognition and used many different types of manipulatives, like ten frames, blocks, and counters, to represent the quantity.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Week In Review 1/8/2018

Hello Everyone!

New Years Resolution- Blog more!

I apologize that my updates here have disappeared in the past months. Blogging is something that I often run out of time for but know families need.
I will be making a conscious effort to keep you better in the know about your student's academic life!


Since returning from break we have really been digging into to reading groups. Our reading time starts with a mini-lesson where I model a reading strategy or practice reading a text as a whole class. After my brief lesson students spend the next hour engaged in literacy rotations. We call this time "Daily 5". We call it this because strong readers and writers practice five different habits every day. We have time for three rotations. Depending on the day students will either be participating in Private Reading (a time to independently read) Partner Reading, Word Work (a daily phonics activity), Work on Writing, or Work with me.

In my group, I take 2-4 children at a time a practice reading grade-level text. We are currently working on integrating multiple reading strategies to read unfamiliar texts. In reading class, we call reading strategies our reading powers! We have six reading strategies:
1, Pointer Power- a reader uses their finger to point under each word. This way they are monitoring their reading and checking for one to one correspondence. Each word should get one tap to ensure the letters on the page match our ideas.
2. Reread Power- a reader can go back and try again if something does not make sense. This builds a reader's ability to self-correct. We want to encourage new readers to make mistakes and be able to hear their mistakes without an adult telling them. This builds independent readers!
3. Snap Word Power- a reader can find known words on the page, even before they try and read the whole page! I often say, "read what you know." This way, a reader has anchors as they try and make meaning of what is on the page.
4. Picture Power: a reader can get clues from pictures to read an unfamiliar word. In our texts, readers encounter words that can not be sounded out (or tapped out). A picture holds the meaning of a story for emergent readers. Before reading, we will look for clues and make predictions about what words we expect to see written.
5. Sound Power: a reader can make the first sound in a word. Sound Power is strongest when used with Picture Power. When a reader makes the first sound in a word and looks to the picture for evidence, they can make a match.
6. Persistence Power: a reader never gives up! This was our new power this week. We have been building our strategies in isolation and Persistence Power teaches readers that if you get to a tricky word, try a strategy. If your first strategy does not work try another!
Above all, remember you are a super reader!


This week we have been broadly working on the concept that parts make up a whole. Part of number sense is a number can be composed and decomposed. We want students to be able to break down numbers into combinations of smaller numbers. For example, 5 can be a group of 1 and 4 or a group of 2 and 3. This number sense allows students to be able to add and subtract fluently.
We also have been expanding our oral counting skills. In addition to counting by 1s through 100, they will count by 10s, and count on starting from numbers other than 1. This skill will again help students have an understanding of the relationship between numbers and build into addition and subtraction. Knowing what number comes next or what number comes before helps students mentally solve addition and subtraction problems.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Halloween Parade and Celebration

Hello Families,

I hope you have seen information about our Halloween Celebration and Parade from Ms. Millham's Family Newsletter. If you have not, let me know and I can forward that to you!

Our class plan is to have our celebration on Tuesday, October 31 from 1:30-2:!5. The parade starts at 1:50. From 1:30-1:50 our class will be getting on our costumes and taking pictures before we march in the parade. You are welcome to join us at this time to be part of the excitement! 

The parade will be a loop around the play structure and the basketball courts. If you would prefer to meet us out there, go for it! 

After the parade, we will all go back to our classroom to have a class party and eat some treats! I am looking for donations and ask that you use my online sign-up to let me know you would like to bring something. 

I appreciate your help and hope you can make it!