I hope you can tell when we meet for our parent/teacher conference just how much I enjoy sharing good news with you about all that your children are accomplishing at school.  This is one of the many things I love about teaching!

During our conferences, I am hoping to provide you with a snapshot of your child's adjustment to first grade as well as a quick overview of his/her academic progress.  Based on some very insightful questions that I have received in the first few conferences, I would like to provide a few notes for everyone.

The two formal literacy assessments that we conduct at Mill Run for first graders are the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (Pals) and the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA).  These assessments provide me with a wealth of data that I use to best differentiate reading, writing, and word study instruction for each child.  The Pals website has abundant information about the program, but best of all, it has a tab just for parents.  If you visit:  https://pals.virginia.edu/parents-monthly-activity.html, you will see background information about the assessment as well as ideas for parents to use at home for further enrichment.  

If you are looking for more context regarding your child's DRA score, one tool that is available to parents is "bookwizard" on the scholastic.com website.  Scholastic makes it very easy to search for books within a certain level.  However, please use this with caution!  It is much more important for a child to learn to love reading than to learn to identify with a particular level.  Levels are primarily useful at school in a small group, instructional context.  Also, many children change rapidly from one level to another.  So, for reading at home, please focus primarily on books that make your child happy.  :-)

This week, please remember that Wednesday, October 31 will be Mill Run's Book Character Dress Up Day.  Here are some key reminders:
     *  Students bring their costumes to school and change into them immediately before the parade.
     *  Students should have a copy of the book, the book cover, or a drawing of the book cover to carry during the parade.
     *  Parents arrive at the gym at 1:15 to form the audience for the parade.
     *  The parade will begin at 1:30.
     *  No masks, weapons, or scary items, please!
     *  In class this week, each student will have the chance to tell the class  about how they chose this particular character.

Finally, a huge round of applause goes to our fabulous runners who gave their best during the Run for Mill Run East last week.  I tried to catch photos of each student from our class during the run, but some of them were just too fast for me!  Outstanding!!!
 
 
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Thank you so much to one of our parent chaperons for sending along this batch of photos from the field trip.  It seemed easier to make a new slideshow than to add them to the first one, so I hope you don't mind checking two places for views of your child on the field trip!

Also, I received some very good questions about the word study homework from one student's parents.  I'm guessing that they are probably not alone in wondering about the oddball words, so I will copy my answer to them here, to share with all of you.  Please note, however, that the word lists are differentiated according to the children's spelling needs.  We will discuss this in more detail at our conference, but please know that not everyone has the same list. 

We have reviewed the sorts in class, including the oddballs, but it takes awhile to get used to the concept.  In a few weeks, all of this should be very routine for your children.  Here is a quick summary:

The oddball words are the ones that look like they should belong in the main feature categories, but they don't sound right.  So, one group's  words this week are sorting CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words with short /a/ sounds and short /o/ sounds.  'Cat' and 'sock' are the headers.  Jam, had, cab, ran, sad, map, and ham all belong under the heading 'cat.'  'Was' looks like it should belong there, but it's different.  It's an oddball.  Likewise, hot, mop, fox, box, mom, lot, etc, all belong under 'sock.'  They all have a short /o/ sound in the middle of the word.  'Boy' looks like it should belong there, since it has an o in the middle position, but it's a different sound.  It's an oddball.

For that set of words, 'was' and 'boy' are the only oddballs. If a word sort includes oddballs, they usually only have a small number, just to highlight the contrast. Spelling patterns in English can be so helpful, but it is critical to remember that there are exceptions. I hope that in older grades they discuss the reasons behind the exceptions, but for us, it's enough just to know that exceptions exist.

The spelling test on Friday will consist of ten words selected from each category of word study words. There will also be a sight word dictation sentence to bring in the word wall words.  These are the words in bold on the word wall page of this website. This sentence will be very simple at the beginning, e.g. "You can do it." "Look at me." "I can see you." This is another way for me to check not only that the children can apply the word wall words but also that the children remember to begin sentences with an upper-case letter and finish with the correct punctuation mark.

Thanks very much to this family for taking the risk and asking questions!  I hope that these answers are helpful to everyone!  :-)  

 

Pumpkins!

10/14/2012

 
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Many thanks to the parent chaperons for helping to make our field trip a success on Friday. Wow! Literally, we couldn't have done it without you!  Although I was disappointed by the lack of service provided by the farm, the students did not seem to mind.  In fact, I was tremendously impressed with our group's patience, cheerful attitude, and good manners.  If you were not able to join us at the farm, you should know that your children did a fantastic job.  Several parents were helping to take photos on Friday.  I will add them to the slideshow below as I receive them.  Stay tuned!

In other classroom news, we have completed our math unit on patterns.  Your student should be able to tell you the difference between a repeating pattern and a growing pattern.  She/he should be able to give you examples of both types of patterns and be able to represent those patterns in more than one way, e.g.  a clap-snap, clap-snap pattern could also be represented as an AB pattern or as a square-triangle pattern.  We will be studying sorting and two-dimensional shapes in the last few weeks of the first quarter.  For sorting, I am collecting buttons and lids.  If you happen to have any loose buttons in your junk drawer, we would love to have them for our math work.  Any lids that can be salvaged before you toss them in recycling would be wonderful.  I found about ten lids in my family's recycling bin yesterday - everything from laundry soap to a chip container.  We are hoping to have a wide variety of sizes, colors, and textures.

On Monday, your child will be bringing home our first homework packet of the year.  We will add components to the homework packet as the year progresses, but for now you will see three types of assignments on the cover sheet:  daily reading, word study, and an optional double-sided handwriting page.  Please initial at the top of the page to indicate that your child has completed the assignments.  Only the cover page needs to be returned on Friday.  Please let me know if you have any questions about homework.  

And, parent/teacher conferences will begin the week of October 22.  We will spend time discussing your child's adjustment to first grade, strengths and areas for improvement, and the results of your child's reading assessments.   These assessments are tremendously helpful to me as I work to focus our classroom instruction to meet the individual needs of each student.  If you have specific questions that you would like me to address during our conference, please send them to me as soon as possible.  

Thanks again and again for sharing your children with me.  I am the luckiest teacher in the school!


 

Seeing Stars

10/8/2012

 
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We had a wonderful week together in first grade.  At left, you see our counselor, Mrs. Fulkerson congratulating our first star citizen, NW!  Each month we will recognize a new star citizen, a student who goes above and beyond to follow the school code.  Congratulations!  

Below you will see another star, CM, who was chosen to participate in the African Acrobats assembly that was provided by our generous PTO!  You will also see Mr. Vickers taking part in the hat-juggling act and one of the performers in the midst of a terrifying stunt.  Oh my!  Needless to say, they reminded the children not to try this at home!  

Classroom Notes:
This week Mill Run is collecting coins to support Mill Run East, a school in the Philippines.  Small change can make a big difference, so thank you for allowing your children to participate.

Wednesday is picture day.  Our pictures will be taken first thing in the morning, so please make sure your child is on time.  You are welcome to send the order envelope in on Tuesday or Wednesday.  The children give the order envelope directly to the photographer.  Make-up pictures will be in November.

We are excited for our field trip this Friday, October 12th to Great Country Farms. Please make sure your child has the following for our fun day:
  • Sneakers (or other shoes suitable for walking at a farm)
  • Appropriate clothes for the weather
  • Please be prepared if rain is in the forecast. We plan on going, rain or shine.
  • Your child will receive his or her field trip shirt the morning of the trip, so be sure they can slip their shirt over top of their clothes.
  • Packed lunch, clearly labeled with your child's name.
If you are meeting us at the farm, please be prepared to pay $8 upon your arrival.

I will gladly accept donations of buttons for the class to use in an upcoming math project.  The goal is to have a wide variety of sizes, colors, and textures, so any button will be added to the button jar with great enthusiasm!  :-)