The children were very excited to take part in a scientific experiment this week.  This was a preview of concepts we will discuss in more detail later in the year during our unit on states of matter.  This project will be on display during Mill Run's Science Expo February 6th.  Here are the steps of our project:

Question:  Can two types of matter be in the same place at the same time?

Hypothesis:  We considered the materials needed and the procedure.  We each made a prediction of what we thought would happen.

Materials:  a bowl of water, a cup, and a paper towel


First, fill a bowl with water.

Then, crumple a small paper towel and stuff it in the bottom of a cup.

Next, turn the cup upside down and put it in the bowl.  Hold it firmly.  Count to ten.

After that, take the cup out of the bowl.

Finally, look inside the cup.

Results:  We discovered that the paper towel was still dry inside the cup.  We noticed that when we placed the cup in the bowl, it made a smacking sound when it touched the water.  Also, it took strength to hold the cup in position in the bowl. 

Conclusion:  We decided that two types of matter cannot be in the same place at the same time.  Air was trapped inside the cup, and the air kept the paper towel from getting wet. 

As we begin the third quarter, we are beginning some new units of study.

In math, we are beginning a quick unit focusing on place value.  We have been touching on place value all year during our calendar time within our morning meeting.  Key concepts in this unit include:
  • understanding the expanded form of a two-digit number (74 = 7 tens and 4 ones), 
  • representing a two-digit number with a visual diagram of tens and ones, and 
  • solving to find the number when you add or subtract one, or when you add or subtract one ten (74 + 1 = 75, 74 + 1 ten = 84).  

We will also continue using Reflex Math and the Math Masters program (aka Rocket Math) to measure our progress in recalling basic addition facts quickly and accurately.

In reading and writing, we will use question words to enhance our understanding and our work.  In reading, we will ask and answer wondering questions to monitor our understanding of the text.  For example, Where is the story taking place?  Who is important?  What has happened so far?  Why did the character do that?  How did they get here?  Providing the answers to questions like these can improve our written work as well.   

In social science, we are learning about famous Americans and their contributions to society.  Specifically, we will focus on Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington Carver, and Eleanor Roosevelt.  We have also learned about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.  Our "I can make a difference" essays, inspired by the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. are on display in the hallway.

Question:  If you were in charge of first grade curriculum for the Virginia Department of Education, what famous Americans would you add to our list?
One of my main goals in writing this year is to help build the children's confidence.  When students are first mastering sight words, new spelling patterns, and reading more difficult texts, writing can be a daunting task.

We are practicing each stage of the writing process, from getting ideas, drafting, revising, editing, and celebrating our writing.  At the beginning of the year, writing a pattern book was a huge accomplishment.  Now, in the middle of the year, the children have written a personal narrative.  They chose an incident from their lives when they had a strong feeling, and they wrote about what happened from the beginning, to the middle, and the end.  When they identified the heart of their story, they added paper right in the middle to stretch out the most important part.  Wow!    

We want to take a moment to thank you for your encouragement.  We would also like to share our "writers' mantra" that we use to begin our writing workshop each day.  Enjoy!
In case the 'embed' feature doesn't work, here is the link:  

January Math News


This is a very exciting time of year in first grade.  Many children make wonderful leaps of progress at this time.  This is true in math as well as in our other subjects.  

This week, I would like to give you a little more information about our approach toward addition and subtraction work at school.

We are using the Math Masters (or Rocket Math) program to build our ability to recall basic facts quickly and accurately.  We also want to increase gradually the number of facts recalled in one minute.

For problem solving, we want the children to be able to apply multiple strategies. The screen shot below shows four addition strategies we have practiced in class.  
Some strategies are better suited for different problems.  But the examples above give you a sense of how to apply them.  For the problem, "8 +4", students could find the answer by:

* Counting on from the larger number.  (In other words, don't waste time by counting from 1 to 8, then counting four more.  Just start with the larger number and count from there.)

*  Using a number line.  Start with the larger number and make "hops" to add the smaller number.  The number you land on is the answer.

* Drawing a picture.  The best way to make this work is to draw a picture in groups of fives or tens, to easily be able to see the new total.  In this example, we drew 8 circles and 4 triangles, starting with sets of 5.  Then it is very easy to see that the total is 5 + 5 + 2 = 12.

* Use a related fact.  Any useful fact can be applied to help solve a problem.  Often doubles help.  Often it is convenient to rearrange the numbers to make a set of 10, as shown above.  When using this strategy for subtraction, the related fact might be the corresponding fact family fact.  If I know that 8 + 4 = 12, then I know that 12 - 4 = 8.

We will continue to practice our computation skills in the second half of the year.  Thank you for your continuing support of our work at home!
Mrs. Piper, the first grade assistant at Mill Run, sent a thank you note to the class.  It reads, 
         Dear Mrs. Hayden's Class,
                Thank you for the Starbucks gift card.  It was so nice 
         of you to think of me this holiday season.
                Mrs. Piper

In content this week we are continuing our study of winter changes.  We are learning about the changes that people, animals, and trees make in winter.  You may want to discuss the following points with your child at home:
  • The temperature gets colder in winter.
  • If it is cold enough, we will have snow instead of rain.
  • The sun rises later and sets earlier in winter.
  • Plants conserve energy in winter.
  • Deciduous trees lose their leaves in winter.
  • Evergreen trees keep their leaves year round.  Most evergreen trees have needle-shaped leaves.
  • People wear heavy clothes to go outside in winter.
  • People may sled, ski, or go ice skating in winter.
  • Many animals must make changes to survive the winter.
  • Some animals (some bears, chipmunks, and mice) hibernate.
  • Some animals (some whales, monarch butterflies, and geese) migrate.
  • Some animals adapt.  The Arctic hare changes its fur from brown to white to camouflage with the snow.

We are beginning a supplemental math program in class to practice and master quick recall of basic math facts.  This program is called Math Masters, but your child may refer to it as "Rocket Math" since our score sheets have a picture of a rocket.  The quiz will come home either with a star, indicating that your child met his/her goal and will proceed to the next level, or with a smiley face, indicating that your child should continue to practice the facts on that page and will try again next time.  The goal number is derived from a quick measure of your child's writing speed.  That way the math masters assessment is truly individualized for each student.

Practicing math facts will be the substance of our math homework for the next several weeks.  If you would like to help your child with additional math fact review, please click this link:  to access a set of flashcards online.  Or, you can try the game called Scatter that is embedded below.  Just match the addends with the correct sum.