Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Classroom updates 9/10-9/21

We have been moving along smoothly in Room 14! I have a few updates about the fantastic learning we have undertaken in the past two weeks!

Open House is on 9/27 from 6:30 to 7:30. This is an opportunity for you to walk through the classroom and school and see what your child has been working on! It is usually a very busy night, and I rely on your child to be the tour guide of their learning. It can be a little tricky, as parents sometimes want to use that time to discuss with me specifics of their child, however, I ask that you use this time to look at your student's work and set up a time outside of Open House if there are things you need to discuss with me.

Our  very important pal, Baby Echo has been visiting every day to help us recite our letters and the sounds that they make. Baby Echo is an owl finger puppet who is part of a literacy program our school uses, Wilson FUNdations. Baby Echo sits on my finger and when he is hiding the students watch and listen as I hold a flashcard, recite the letter name, a word associated with that letter, and then I produce the sound the letter makes. Then, when Baby Echo is out from behind the card, students echo what I just did. "A, apple, aaaaaaa" is something you may hear your student saying in the next few weeks. This practice is something we do every morning.
In conjunction with learning the names of letters and the sounds they make, we have been practicing handwriting. We also use a script as we instruction letter formation. This helps kids connect the letter name and sound with the physical motion. For example, a lowercase t is "pull down, and cross" We have practiced the letters t,b,f,m, and n. The way I introduce letters has to do with the shape as well as the frequency in which writer's need the letter. After we have a few more letters practiced, I will start sending home some optional homework around printing.
In writing, we have spent time creating our "All About Me" book. p. Each page tells a little bit about who we are and the things that we like. Having some guidance on the topic is allowing our young writers to grow more precise in their illustrations and bolster their awareness of the need for text on their page to explain their ideas.
Our writers are getting really great at a Writer's Share. We are practicing active listening and I have been encouraging students to look closely at each others work to give more specific feedback. We are slowing moving away from "I like your picture" to  "I like the way you drew your dog in that picture" or even "You did a nice job writing your letters!"

Science and Engineering

The Makerspace is open! Horray! Horray! This is a new undertaking in my classroom practice. A Makerspace is a place were students are challenged to create something out of recycled materials and collaborate with peers on creating. This space is very open-ended, and today we talked about why reusing materials matters. We discussed landfills, trash in the ocean, pollution, and littering. Our class agreed that we need to take care of our planet so plants and animals can stay healthy. 
Today, we practiced making a plan and then using recycled materials to follow our plan. It was fantastic to see every child approach this task with curiosity, creativity, and ingenuity. Kids made cameras, purses, ships, treasure boxes, telescopes, houses, spy gear, necklaces... all sorts of things! I have a shelf in my classroom for incomplete projects and some kids brought theirs home today. Check out Twitter for pictures!
I am ALWAYS looking for donations to our Makerspace. Any household recycling items are welcome...
Paper towel/toilet paper tubes
Old fabric
Plastic bottles, food containers(like strawberry containers, and washed jars)
Plastic lids or soda caps
Milk cartons
Aluminum Foil
Plastic Bags
Wrapping paper 

Send it in! We will figure out a way to use it!


We explored the concept of number and quantity deeply over the past two weeks. Students engaged in a variety of activities that were designed to help students recognize digits, subitize quantities, count with one to one correspondence, and look for patterns and relationships in number.
To subitize something means to be able to tell how many objects are in a set without counting them. We are working on subitizing quanties up to five. Kids created their own subitizing cards by putting stickers in different arrangements on an index card. Kids then played memory, quizzed each other, ordered and matched their subitizing cards. We also played a game "Top It" with the cards. You may be more familiar with the card game "War" where the higher card gets to keep the cards. Top it is the exact same game, just with a different name!
Kids also practiced counting with one to one correspondence. Often times, kindergarteners will count without assigining one number to one thing. We practiced counting strategies like the " doorbell count" and the "pull-away" count to remind students to only count an object once. We are reinforcing the idea that the last number said tells the total number of objects in a set. 
We also built number boards and number towers to help students recognize patterns in number. We want students to understand that as we count up, the quantity gets bigger by one each time and when we count down, the number gets smaller by one each time. Building towers is a great visual of how numbers grow as the ascend and get smaller as they descend.
We also solved this word problem on Monday:
"I had a birthday party. I invited 4 friends. I had 3 cupcakes. Do I have enough cupcakes? Yes or no?"

Students used their math notebooks to prove their solution. Most kids drew a picture with 4 people and 3 were holding cupcakes. They all agreed I needed one more cupcake to make sure everyone got one! When I wrote this problem, I wondered if a few kids were going to include the host! A few did, telling me, "Miss Donnelly, you need two more! Don't you want a cupcake?" 
This problem was part of the content students have been learning, but also, it was an important job to attend to details. This was the first time students represented their mathematical thinking on paper, and we spent time discussing how to make our work organized in a way that made it easy to understand.

I hope to see you all at Open House tomorrow night! You can see all this hard work in person :)


Saturday, September 8, 2018

First Two Weeks

Wow! What a fantastic start to our year together. There are so many new things to get used to! I know your students are returning home tired, but hope they come home smiling!

Thank you for class wishlist items! I really appreciate you donating to our classroom.

I have really enjoyed reading the introduction letters I have received. Thank you for taking the time to write to me about your families and your child. If you haven't sent in a letter yet, please do so soon! It helps me build my relationship with your student when I have a bit of background to connect, the name of your pets or the names of siblings, hobbies, and dislikes are all things you can include to help me get a picture of your student outside of our classroom.

Dismissal has been going smoothly in Room 14. THANK YOU! for providing the most up to date information and triple checking that we have the correct dismissal plan for your child.
I will be making permanent bus tags this week. I know the paper ones are flimsy and most tags ripped by day three! Now that we are certain, I can make laminated tags that should last the year.

We have used our morning literacy time this week to get acquainted with one another and our classroom. As I mentioned to the group at Smart Start, we spend a lot of time building routines and familiarity with each other before launching into academic curriculum.
We start the morning together on the carpet for our Morning Meeting. We greet each other, sing a song, play a name game, and then do a morning message. I use the morning message as an opportunity to sneak in some letter identification and practice listening for sounds.
We also learned how to use the art center, the playground equipment, how to have second snack on the carpet, how to use the bathroom, and how to "Whole Body Listen".
Whole Body Listening is about making sure every part of your body is focused on the speaker. We often go through a checklist to help students monitor their focus. This helps our group of 20 try to think about the same thing at the same time!
We started using our Reader's Notebook this week. If you saw my tweet, you know that this notebook will hold songs, poems, and other activities that will help build foundational reading skills. We added the words to "The Wheels on the Bus". Kids were very proud to "read" the words to each other. Next week, we will begin our work on reading environmental print and recognizing uppercase and lowercase letters.
We have launched our Writer's Workshop as well. We have practiced the first two steps of being a writer. Students know to start any piece of writing the first thing you have to do is...Think! We are focused this trimester on narrative writing-true stories from our own lives. This week, we built routines around using our writing folder, getting paper, getting pencils, and carrying on independently. It was incredible to see this group of students confidently begin the work of a writer. They drew pictures and orally told their stories to the class. At this stage, students are experimenting with what it means to write. My first goal is to build joy around writing and the routines needed to have a productive work time. Then, we will start learning about how to approximate words and tell each part of our story clearly.

Similar to literacy, teaching students how to use materials and their space allows them to have more independence in our classroom. We have a had a few math explore periods where students are able to play with manipulatives that they will later use to represent and understand math.
We used pattern blocks to build, used blocks to measure, played counting games, and began number writing.
We also got to use our math journals! An important part of our math work will be to represent our thinking with diagrams, numbers, and equations. Ms. Santarcangelo was in to teach us on Wednesday and Friday. She is know for her love of organization, so having her to teach the routine of math journals was awesome!
My favorite part of math class, and hopefully the students too, is Mini Math. It is a ten minute warm-up at the start of math class. Mini Math is what I call a Number Talk. Number Talks are a very popular warm-up where students lead the conversation. You may have seen my tweet of the types of images we are using to drive our talks. The picture of four smiley faces sparked conversations about counting strategies, addition, subitizing, and grouping. I sit back and they were adding on to other students ideas, offering feedback to each other, and participating in a high level of discourse!  (Amazing!!) It really is incredible to hear all the knowledge and creativity these students have with number sense and I love providing them with the opportunity to show it off!

I am so excited our year is underway! Let me know if you have any questions!

All the best,


Monday, August 27, 2018


Hello Families!

I am so thrilled to welcome you to Porters Point School! I hope you have enjoyed your summer and the fabulous weather!

I have spent the past couple of days tidying our classroom, making bulletin boards and getting names on cubbies and coathooks. I love setting everything up...all that is missing is our students!

Kindergarten is a big transition for students and parents alike! I want to assure you that I will work closely with families to make this big change comfortable for your child and hope to ease any worries you are having!

Consider this blog a place that will give you an insight into the big picture of our classroom. If you have scrolled through any of my posts from previous years, I update this blog with information about curriculum. If you are wondering what your child is learning about and ideas about how to make connections at home, this is the place to look!

On the side bar, you will see my Twitter feed. Twitter is where I post daily photos and videos from the classroom. You don't have to have a Twitter account to view my posts, however, I have heard from families they enjoy having a Twitter account so they are able to interact (comment and like) with posts. If you are at all familiar with your child saying, "I don't know." when you ask them how their day was, you can use my Twitter updates to start a conversation with them based on a photograph! It may get a conversation flowing!

E-mail is the best way to communicate with me and sending notes in their folders works well too. I will use e-mail and paper communication to update you about "nuts and bolts" of the school year. Think field trips, class celebrations, and volunteering opportunities. I also recommend checking the Porters Point homepage for updates and information.

I am so excited for this school year to begin! I have also spent a considerable amount of time this summer redesigning curriculum for our class. I am in a graduate program focused in math instruction. The work has been thought-provoking and lines up perfectly with our school district's adoption of new science standards. We are making an intentional shift to include more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (often referenced as STEM) into our elementary schools. I want our students to have hands-on opportunities to tinker, build, observe, experiment, and reason.  Kids learn best when they play! It will be great to have a chance to practice this philosophy this year.

I am so excited to meet everyone and begin a fantastic year!!

All the best,
Miss Donnelly

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!