There are many special events coming soon for our first graders!  Please mark your calendar for the following:

This week will be the last homework packet with a word study component.  Math homework will continue until May 24.  After Memorial Day, we encourage the children to continue reading every night.

There is no school on Monday, May 27 for Memorial Day.

On Thursday, May 30, our specials will run on a Monday schedule, so we will have P.E. but not library.

On Friday, May 31, at 1:00 pm Mill Run will hold the First Grade Awards Ceremony.  We will send an invitation with more information very soon.

Field Day will be on Monday, June 3, with the rain date being Tuesday, June 4.  Stay tuned for more information.

Thursday, June 6 is the last day of school.  We will have an End of the Year party from 1:00 - 2:00 pm.

Please have your child bring his/her backpack to school every day until the last day, since we will send materials home a little at a time during the last 6 or 7 days of school.  It's too much for the children to carry if we save it all for one day.

In academic news, we will finish our math unit on computation strategies this week.  This week and next, I will be giving several five-minute timed quizzes to assess the children's ability to recall addition and subtraction facts to 18.  I will also check ReflexMath to supplement these grades.  Thank you for reviewing math facts with your child.  Confidence is so important!

We are continuing with reading testing this week and next.  The children do not need to study to prepare for this.  Simply continuing healthy eating and sleeping habits is tremendously helpful.  As mentioned before, I will provide a summary of your child's scores in the fourth quarter report card.  They are doing quite well so far!

In Social Studies, we will finish the year with a study of Australia, Alaska, and Hawaii, focusing on geography and wildlife.

Finally, the LCPS Math Department recently sent a newsletter to teachers with some summer math activity suggestions.  I thought I would share them with you, so that you can explore these links at your leisure.  Enjoy!

Summer Math Activities!
Check out these interactive and engaging math activities to share with students and parents!
Click each title to link to the website.
At Home With Math
The ten everyday math activities on this site build math into the things most families already do—ordinary routines such as figuring out ways to save money, to share fairly, or to get somewhere on time. With these activities, children practice adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, and using other important math skills while doing tasks that are a regular part of life. Available in English and Spanish!
Math Playground
Give your brain a workout with Logic Games, Number Games, Thinking Blocks for word problems, and much more!
Math in the Home Activities
Math in the Home, Math at the Grocery Store, Math on the Go, and Math for the Fun of it—activities to engage students in problem solving, communicating, and reasoning about mathematics!

Yesterday the children participated in Mill Run's annual "Planting Day."  We are so grateful to the moms who came to help!  Special thanks to:  A.G.'s mom, E.G.'s mom, R.K.'s mom, and J.B.'s mom!  While small groups of students were taking turns planting, the rest of us were in the classroom working on a sunflower craft (pictured at right.)  Thank you all so much!  The children had so much fun, and I know they are proud to have helped make Mill Run more beautiful.

This week we also sent our Flat Stanleys off to visit our friends and relatives.  Please see the slideshow below.  Again, we couldn't have started this project without your generous help!  I will keep you all posted as the Stanleys return to us in a few weeks.  We will mark their destinations on a map and review their adventures together.

In classroom news, I will be in the building but away from our class on Tuesday for professional development.  I will have limited time on Tuesday to check email, so if you have an urgent need, please contact the school office.

We have slowed the rate at which we add words to the word wall.  At this point, the children should be able to read and write the current word wall words independently and with confidence.  This is a good time of year to review the word wall words again at home.  Thank you!

On Wednesday, we will begin the spring round of PALS testing, followed shortly by DRA testing.  All of the reading test components occur within the school day, so it will take several weeks to complete this process.  I will include your child's scores in the fourth quarter report card comments, but if you are concerned, please send me an email.  They all have achieved so much this year;  you will want to celebrate their success!

In math, we are returning to addition and subtraction strategies as well as practicing our math fact fluency on ReflexMath.  In science, we are studying plants and seeds.  

As always, please contact me with any questions!  Thank you!


Magnificent March


We are in need of several items in the classroom.  We have almost depleted our pencil supply for the year, so any donations of pencils are most appreciated!

Also, for an upcoming project, we will need an abundant supply of items that might be in your recycling bin.  Please send in any paper towel tubes, toilet paper tubes, various-size cardboard boxes (like cereal boxes, cracker boxes) and clean yogurt or tofu containers.  We will also be grateful for any donations of clear tape, masking tape, duct tape, and string.  If you're looking at something made of thin cardboard or plastic, and you're not sure, please send it in!  I promise to recycle any materials that come in that we don't use.  :-)  I don't want to spoil the surprise of why we need so many materials, so please stay tuned to the blog.  We will use these items the week of March 18.  Many, many thanks in advance for your help!!

We have already collected more than 400 box tops, so we are getting very excited about our chances to win the March contest.  Thank you to everyone for your help with this.  Every box top helps raise money for our school!  

In academic news, we will be finishing our math unit on fractions and moving into addition and subtraction.  We will build on strategies we practiced in the second quarter to solve harder problems and story problems.  We will also write our own problems.  When solving a story problem, students will be asked to show their thinking in pictures, numbers, or words.

We are also wrapping up our unit on matter and beginning a unit on force, motion, and energy.  Most likely this unit will continue into the fourth quarter, but we will begin by focusing on types of motion and pushes and pulls.

In reading, we are continuing to practice comprehension skills for fiction and nonfiction.  In nonfiction, we are paying attention to key vocabulary, the author's purpose for writing, and formulating questions that can be answered in the text.  In fiction, we are continuing to build fluency by reading in the character's voice, and we are thinking about our reading by visualizing what is happening and making inferences.

In writing we are finishing writing small moment personal narratives.  We have begun to work with a writing partner to help plan our writing and revision.  We are focusing on adding details to our writing to make our stories more vivid.

Coming Soon:

*  Picture day is Tuesday, March 12.  

*  Wednesday, March 13, we will attend an assembly provided by our wonderful PTO.  Wednesday is also "Wear Red" day for Youth Art Month.

*  The Mill Run Carnival is Friday, March 15.  By all accounts, this will be a fun family event.  "Just chill!"
Our study of our national symbols focused on the flag, the bald eagle, the Statue of Liberty, and the Washington Monument.  As you can see above, we culminated the unit with a project in the computer lab.  The children were asked to draw a picture and write at least three sentences about their favorite symbol using the Pixie software.

Now that we have finished the unit on U.S. Symbols, it is time to begin a quick unit on matter.  In this unit, we are focusing on science standard 1.3, which reads, "The student will investigate and understand how common materials interact with water.  Key concepts include
a) some liquids will separate when mixed with water, but others will not;
b) some solids will dissolve in water, but others will not; and
c) some substances will dissolve more readily in hot water than in cold water."  We will be squeezing in several experiments as well as building our nonfiction reading skills as we dive into our science textbook.  You are welcome to reinforce your child's learning at home by conducting simple experiments to see how various materials such as vinegar, milk, baking soda, powdered drink mix, sugar, salt, sand, oil, soil, and rocks act when mixed with water.  Making cookies for the sake of science?  Definitely.  It's a beautiful thing.  

In math, we have begun our study of fractions.  In first grade, we focus on halves, thirds, and fourths.  It is important that the children understand that a fraction represents a part of a whole, that fractions require the whole to be divided into equal parts, and that the fraction name tells the number of equal parts in the whole.  We will also learn how fractions can describe part of a set.  If I have three apples, two green and one red, I can say that 1/3 of the apples are red.  Studying fractions at home can be very fun at snack-time.  Pizzas can be divided into fractions, fractions of the pizza could have different toppings, and apples can be sliced into fractions as well.  Enjoy!

If you have the chance to visit Mill Run, please visit the bulletin board across from the cafeteria leading onto the kindergarten/first grade hallway.  Our class was responsible for decorating the bulletin board for the month of March.  We decided to link to Dr. Seuss' birthday and focus on reading.  Each student interviewed his/her reading buddy, comparing their buddy's answers to the children's own responses.  We asked:
  • Where do you like to read?
  • What do you do to become a better reader?
  • What is your favorite book?

Then, the children turned the interview responses into books.  A brief self-reflection like this can be a very powerful tool to increase one's own confidence in reading.  I encourage you to discuss the same questions at home as a family.  

As part of the Youth Art Month festivities, Mr. Browning is organizing a contest for three "color days"  The first color day will be Wednesday, March 6, and the color is blue.  Please help your child to pick out an all-blue outfit on Wednesday.  Thanks for your help!

Finally, many thanks go to AV's mom for sparking interest in the PTO BoxTop collection.  If we all work together to check our pantries, tissue boxes, and ziploc bag boxes, we might collect enough to place in the March contest.  Quite a few boxtops came in yesterday.  The students will count them on Monday, and we'll keep you posted with how many we have.  Thank you for your help!

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?
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:, 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 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!!!



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!

Our second week of school was very busy, despite the holiday on Monday!  Considering our work in reading, writing, math, and social studies, much of our learning reflects this theme:  gaining confidence.

The children are gaining confidence in our many school routines, including our lunchtime habits and even dismissal!  As you can see, Mr. Vickers has already stopped by the cafeteria to have a bite with our class. 

 We have also practiced many classroom routines with great success.  The children are participating in our large group poetry lessons, writing sight words, practicing spelling strategies, engaging in a variety of literacy stations, and choosing books for independent reading.  They have used a variety of math resources to explore number concepts, and they have explored many ways we stay safe and show good citizenship at school. 

Independent reading will be a central part of our reading program this year.  During independent reading, the children have the opportunity to apply decoding and comprehension strategies that we have reviewed together as a class.  One strategy that we discussed this week is that there are many ways to read a book.  It is important for readers to read the pictures as well as the text in a book.  Readers read the text to learn what the author wrote, but readers can also learn from the illustrations.  Details in pictures can help readers with decoding tricky words, making inferences in the story, and making predictions.  

Stay tuned as we add more strategies and your children continue to develop their love of reading!